Iliad Essay Fate

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In order to commemorate the loss of their loved one we see repeatedly how individuals will tear their hair, roll in the dust and befoul their faces by rubbing ashes on them (18.22).

This could perhaps be seen as an attempt to bring themselves closer to the deceased by defiling their own bodies.

In the Iliad at least six funeral rites or cremations are mentioned; Andromache tells of Achilles cremating her father, Eetion (6.416), a group burial of Greeks and of Trojans (7.422), Sarpedon is carried to the underworld by Apollo(16.678), Patroclus’ funeral rites and games (taking up almost the entirety of book 23) and the cremation of Hector (24.785).

The sheer volume of the Iliad given over to description of funerary rites emphasises that this was clearly a key part of Homeric culture.

Achilles initially withdraws from the battle due to a slight to his honour and pride by Agamemnon, but returns in order to win his eternal glory; therefore he leaves over an insult to his ‘time’ but returns to gain what is ultimately more important: ‘kleos’.

Achilles is presented with a choice of two destinies; either live a long life but be forgotten when he dies or to die young and achieve eternal glory.

This is seen in the case of Hector, although he initially flees from the intimidating sight of Achilles, when he stops he is ready to die.

He must meet the requirements that his heroic status demands by transforming his death into a path to eternal glory: “Let me at least sell my life dearly and not without glory, after some great deed for future generations to hear of”(22.305).

In particular this is exhibited by the events that surround Patroclus’ death, not only is their a fight over his corpse but a whole book of the poem is needed to do justice to the funeral games that Achilles’ holds in his honour.

The funeral games are of deep significance not only in their commemoration of the dead but also due to the choice of ritual.


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