Cultural Expectations and stuff like that!!!

Hmm yes, very formal, err-hem yes where was I… Ah that’s it! Cultural Expectations in the Iliad and Troy.

In the texts Troy and the Iliad, there were certain standards that each character was expected to live accordingly to. These included funeral rights and for heroes, the code of honor. These were valued ethics that all were expected to live to. But lets start out with funeral rights for now. In ancient Greece, Funeral rights are very important. Every fallen man has a right to be buried and treated with as much respect as any other soldier, some more than others (e.g famous heroes or members of royalty), and the omission of these rights was considered an insult to humanity itself. These rights are important for a soul must pay the ferryman Charon 2 coins if he wishes to be taken to the Acherusian lake and linger there until they drink from oblivion and are reborn. Without these, the soul wanders the underworld feeling no pain and no happiness. A soul must also be buried otherwise even with payment a soul cannot enter the land of the dead. In both texts, It is well known that Achilles, driven by his wrath, tied the corpse of Hector to his wagon and drove it several times around the walls of Troy. This leaves Hector possibly “Blind death and dumb” as Achilles phrased it and unable to pass unto the land of the dead in mythology. This is an act of absolute rage and brutally defies the traditional funeral rights of the ancient Greeks. This event is a major symbolization of the wrath of Achilles, but in both texts, Achilles is brought to tears by a weeping Priam who visits Achilles at night and begs for Hectors body. To make Priam beg alone for Hectors body clearly shows how important the respect of funeral rights were and also the Heroes code as at any point in his visit, Achilles could have ended the life of Priam and settled the war once and for all. Priam in the film says “You’re still my enemy tonight. But even enemies can show respect.” emphasizing on the importance of honor in the film.

Charon the Ferryman

This brings me on to the code of honor in the two texts. The code of honor is possibly the most highly valued code in the times of the Homeric heroes. It was believed that without honor, life is meaningless. I shall briefly go over the code of honor based on several sources now. Honor is gained through life threatening situations, a hero cannot maintain honor by avoiding these. A hero must value Honor above their own life. Honor can be gained by courage, physical ability, social status, possessions and also the difficulty of a trial he or she faces.
Now there is a need to think about these and relate them to the characters of the Iliad and the film. Specifically the first two, (avoiding threatening situations and honor above life). Hector is a key supporter of this idea of “honor”. An example being in the Iliad where he has the choice to not fight Achilles and lose his honor, or fight him and leave his life in the hands of the gods, (Hector has the choice —) “to take cover within the walls and suffer Poulydamas’ censure for not having done so immediately; to kill Achilles in combat, man to man; or to shed his armor, approach Achilles, and talk things out by offering to return Helen along with Alexandros’ spoils” – Book 22. We see here how Hector had to obey the code if he wanted to maintain honor and chose to have honor over life. This took courage and with Hectors’ social status we can see he was a very honorable character.


Another key supporter of this code of honor is obviously Achilles. Funeral rights may not be his cup of tea, but Achilles certainly cared about honor and immortality through memory. Achilles was never known to “chicken” (:D) out of challenging situations. Achilles always fought against his enemies and won each and every one of his battles (I wouldn’t consider Paris shooting him in the heel much of a battle). This gave him honor due to his courage, physical ability and how he never backed out of life threatening situations. In both texts, Thetis tells Achilles of how his “glory walks hand in hand with his doom”, and to verify this, in the Iliad Achilles says “‘For my mother Thetis the goddess of the silver feet tells me I carry two sorts of destiny toward the day of my death. Either, if I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans, my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting; but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers, the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be a long life left for me, and my end in death will not come to me quickly.”. Achilles chooses glory over death and thus gains everlasting honor just as mentioned in the code.

And so, from this post, you can see how cultural expectations(funeral rights) and codes of behavior(honor) were very relevant to the production of these two epic works of fiction. That sums up this post, Until next time 😀

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