The history of wars and battles can be dated back almost to the beginning of time and has since been a prominent motif in stories from various cultures and religions. Centuries later, descriptions of fighting styles to warriors to weapons, has greatly evolved. Despite the constant evolution of the ways fighting is portrayed, one thing has remained consistent over the years: the reason for initiating war. When a man’s pride is wounded, the idea that he will stop at nothing to restore it, can be seen throughout literature in many different cultures.
Through the malicious and extravagant battles exhibited in The Iliad, the idea that vengeance is sought once an individual’s pride has been harmed and can only be resolved by combat, is developed. Achilles’ desire to avenge Hector for mistakenly killing Patroclus can be seen during the events of the battle between the two adversaries. When Achilles first heard the news that his cousin, Patroclus, was killed by Hector, he was enraged and realized that the death was not just a casualty of the war, it was meant to serves as an attack on his pride.
This fueled Achilles’ drive to get revenge on Hector in order to restore his pride and his cousin’s honor. When Hector and Achilles came within sight of each other, it became clear that “the man [Hector] running off in front was a brave warrior, but the man [Achilles] going after him was greater” (Homer, Iliad 22. 95-96). In powerful Achilles’ eyes, there was no mercy to be spared on Hector for “wolves and lambs don’t share a common heart– they always sense a mutual hatred for each other” (Homer, Iliad 22. 30-331). After killing Hector, Achilles was finally satisfied with his revenge and even wished “to have the heart and strength to carve you [Hector] up… for what you’ve done to me”, (Homer, Iliad 22. 436-437) demonstrating how important it was for Achilles to bring full justice to the man who hurt his pride.
In his last words, Hector was able to express that he “may bring down on you [Achilles] the anger of the gods that very day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo… slaughter you… ” (Homer, Iliad 22. 51-454), threatening that the gods will get revenge for what Achilles had done to Hector. In response, arrogant Achilles was overly-satisfied with his previous actions and cried out “die there! As for my own death, I accept it whenever Zeus… see fit to bring it to me” (Homer, Iliad 22. 460-462). Achilles’ words reinforce the idea that man needs to take brutal revenge upon those who wound him in order to restore lost pride and that revenge can become an allconsuming and greedy thought.
Menelaus’ yearn to bring vengeance to Paris for stealing his wife, Helen, was portrayed in the duel between the two men through the thoughts and actions of man. The feud between the two opponents began after Paris captured Menelaus’ wife and took her to be his own, wounding Menelaus’ pride. Since then, Menelaus looked for an opportunity to make Paris pay for what he did in order to restore his dignity. Eventually, he got a chance to avenge Paris “and he rejoiced like a famished lion finding a large carcass… devouring it at once” (Homer, Iliad 3. 1-23).
The extended metaphor used by Homer is able to further exemplify how hungry Menelaus was for revenge. Cowardly Paris, sensing the unforgiving justice Menelaus would deliver, ran away to his brother, Hector, who he was able to talk sense into Paris. “And can you now not face Menelaus? If so, you’d learn the kind of man he is whose wife you took” (Homer, Iliad 3. 55-57). The dialogue between the two brothers supports the idea that one should not only expect, but accept another’s revenge it if they hurt a man’s pride.
When Paris and Menelaus finally came face to face, it was decided that there was no mercy to be given as Menelaus prayed that he “may be revenged on this man, who first committed crimes” and to “let him die at my [Menelaus’] hands” (Homer, Iliad 3. 388-390). Through the conflict between Menelaus and Paris, the idea that revenge is necessary when a man’s pride is hurt, was demonstrated. In response to Achilles wounding King Agamemnon’s pride by refusing to fight in the Trojan war, the king delivered his revenge by threatening to take away Achilles’ pride in return.
The conflict began because Agamemnon was unwilling to give up his treasure, Chryseis, and believed that he should be “owed another prize” so he “wouldn’t be the only Argive left without a gift” (Homer, Iliad 1. 126-127). Tensions began to rise between Achilles and Agamemnon as each of the powerful men voiced their opinions about the fairness of Agamemnon’s demands. Eventually, the argument got to a breaking point when Achilles decided to “return home now to Phthia… ” because he didn’t “fancy staying here unvalued, to pile up riches, treasures just for you [Agamemnon)” (Homer, lliad 1. 85-188).
Achilles attempted to deliver revenge on the king for his disrespectful behavior by refusing to fight for him. His refusal to fight reinforces the importance of combat in Greek society and how not choosing to fight is seen as a big deal. Pride wounded by Achilles’ act of defiance, Agamemnon lashed out one last time by claiming to “take your [Achilles’] prize, faircheeked Briseis” (Homer, Iliad 1. 200-201). By wounding man’s pride, the need to get revenge was established through the dialogue exchanged between the two rival Greeks.