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Essay/Term paper: Achilles' doom

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Essays

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"To be, or not to be, that is the question. Whether "tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them."

Though written centuries after the death of Achilles, this quote from Shakespeare"s "Hamlet" speaks honestly of his life. The epic poem, "The Iliad" of Homer, is a story of the journey of his soul, and his attempts to escape his fate. He questions his fate set out for him by the gods, pondering whether or not he should die for the sake of war, and it is by this questioning of the divine judgment of the gods that he brings doom upon himself. It is known by himself, and by the gods, that he is to live a short, but glorious life, however it is not known how or when his life will come to an end. Achilles himself, wishes to live one of longevity without great glory, and therefore tries to escape his lot in life. Is it just for him to give his life for war, or should he live a life to satisfy himself? Throughout the "Iliad", Achilles" actions bring his eventual doom closer to reality than perhaps may have been planned.

"Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus" son Achilles and it"s devastation which put pain thousandfold upon the Achaians." The wrath of Achilles begins in Book One of "The Iliad." Agamemmnon, leader of the Greek army, takes Achilles booty prize, Briseis to replace his own concubine, Chryses, daughter of a priest of Apollo, who was returned to end the plague put on his people by the angry god, Apollo. Achilles feels unappreciated for all that he does for the army when Agamemmnon takes his girl to be his own. He leaves the army because he feels that the king has disrespected him. Thus begins the onset of his doom; by not fighting, and continuing to refuse to do so until after the death of his best friend, Patroklos, he defies his fate.

Once having decided to leave the fighting, he goes to speak to his mother, Thetis. He asks her to ask Zeus to allow the Trojan army to take over the fighting so that the Greeks realize how much they need him, and for them to come to an appreciation for him. Through his concern for his own ego, it is appearant to the reader that, knowing his fate, Achilles will do all that is in his power to stop the fate, or his doom, from being played out. It is also known that the gods do not favour those who try to defy them. Achilles does this, and his doom escalates throughout the poem.

As the poem, and the war progress, the Greeks find themselves without their greatest warrior, Achilles, and are under attack by the Trojans, due to the god"s intervention on Achilles" behalf. Agamemmnon sees how beneficial Achilles is to the army and sends some of his men to beg for his return. It is in the ninth Book of the poem that the Greeks offer to him many riches in exchange for his return to battle. He refuses their offers and relates to them,

"Fate is the same for the man who holds back, the same if he fights hard. We are all held in a single honour, the brave with the weaklings. A man dies still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much"

It is shown through this quote that he believes his life is more valuable than for it to be given up for the sake of battle. He has chosen to be content with living his life quietly for a long time, and is encouraging others to consider this life style as well. He attempts to run away from his fate by retiring from battle, and though his own selfishness, he brings on his damnation.

It has been said that it is difficult to change a person once they have made up their mind to do something. After refusing in Book Nine to return to battle, Achilles watches as his army loses again and again to the powerful, divinely driven Trojans. He, and his best friend and companion, Patroklos, watch as the fighting continues. The Greeks appeal once again to Achilles to leave behind his personal feelings and lead them to victory once again, but again, he refuses. Patroklos suggests that he should enter the war wearing Achilles" armour and rouse the Greeks to overpower the Trojans. Achilles" agrees to this and sends his best friend into battle to do his work. Unfortunately, Patroklos is not the great warrior that Achilles is, and the mighty Hecktor, of the Trojans forces, kills him.

Achilles watches the war patiently, awaiting the tide of change to pass by, from the Trojans to the Greeks, but it is to no avail. Then, the news of Partroklos death comes to him. Achilles is overcome with grief and pain. He calls to his mother Thetis now, in Book Eighteen and bears his sorrow to her. She says to her son,

"Why then child, do you lament? What sorrow has come to your heart now?…These things are brought to accomplishment through Zeus; in the way that you lifted up your hands and prayed for…"

She reminds him that it was he who asked for it to happen by praying to Zeus to give the Trojans the upper hand. To her remark, he replies, "But what pleasure is this to me, since my dear companion has perished, Patroklos, whom I loved beyond all other companions, as well as my own life. I have lost him…" It is now, at the realization that he, himself is responsible for the death of Patroklos that he sees how he has brought this "doom" upon himself through his selfishness and arrogance.

He reflects on his friend"s life, and sees how innocently and openly he accepts his fate to die in the war. It is also now that the matter of his own fate comes into play again in the poem. His mother, Thetis, reminds him, "Then I must lose you son, my child, by what you are saying, since it is decreed that your death must come soon after Hektor"s" Achilles is aware of this, acknowledges it, and says, "I must die soon, then; since I was not to stand by my companion when he was killed."

Returning now to the subject of the journey of Achilles" soul, it is important to note that from the beginning of the poem, Achilles has come along way from his initial sense of being too valuable to die in war, and now has seen his friend so unselfishly giving his life for the greater good of the people.

"I wish that strife would vanish away from among gods and mortals, and gall, which makes a man grow angry for all his great mind, that gall of anger that swarms like smoke inside of a man"s heart and becomes a thing sweeter to him by far than the dripping of honey. So it was here that the lord of men Agamemmnon angered me."

He accepts his fate, and accepts the fact that to die fighting for the greater good of a population is much more important than selfishly hiding from battle, not using his gifts.

There are many events in our lives that leave us with one question: What is the meaning of life? This question plagued Achilles" during the story of "The Iliad" and he progresses through it to accept the fact that it is not in his hands to decide his fate. "Now I shall go, to overtake that killer of a dear life, Hektor; then I will accept my own death, at whatever time Zeus wishes to bring it about, and the other immortals." Having brought this doom upon himself out of his own need for gratification early in the poem, Achilles" finally accepts, humbly that his actions have been the cause of his grief and loss over his dear companion, Partoklos. It is through his continual refusal to partake in his destiny that he brings his doom upon himself. It is one of the greatest sins one can commit, to deny the world of your gifts. It is impossible for us to control our fate, the gods (speaking in Ancient Greek terms) control our lives as they see fit and by reading this poem, it is possible to come to a deeper understanding of how we must accept it.


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