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The Iliad, The Characters Continuously Performed Tasks

In the excerpts we read from The Iliad, the characters continuously performed tasks that were considered to be courageous for the sake of honor. With the motive of the task being courage, the tasks were automatically regarded as noble, but there are underlining suggestions that the majority of the “honorable” tasks were selfish. This was especially intriguing to me because it differs from the Asian honor system that I am more familiar with. One example is when Hector, the mighty warrior of Troy, accepts the challenge of the goddess Pallas Athena to combat man-to-man one of Acheas best.

Hector realizes that if he won the brawl, he would leave a mark in history for all times. Dying faithfully for his country would also do him honor. In his own words, “and my fame will never die”. (Line 105, page 217) In the midst of a battle between the two sides, Hector raises and speaks of his challenge. He asks that if there were to be a death the body may be recovered properly and returned to the appropriate homes; in essence, he asks this so that his people would be able to give his body the honorable funeral session to remember his great courage.

Also, by speaking to both sides at the same time, he creates a bold image of himself. The response of the men is as follows “A hushed silence went through all the Achean ranks, ashamed to refuse, afraid to take his challenge” (Line 6-7, page 217) They too knew that by accepting this challenge one would show great courage and be honored by his people. When the Great Ajax of Achea accepted the challenge, Hector became frightened, but he knew that as the challenger, shying away would be shameful.

Hectors being frightened shows that his first motive of the challenge was to receive great honor for himself and not because he was courageous. In the Asian honor system, the motivations to complete tasks for the honor of ones house, ones family, ones people, or ones country is not self-indulged. Tradition teaches an Asian person at a young age that oneself is less significant than the group he or she represents, and showing respect to the elders is also taught at a young age.

Therefore, with the thought of oneself being less significant than the entire group represented, and the thought that a person should follow an elders directions without questions, the possibility of one to pursue the thoughts of self-interest is eliminated. Because these values are taught early in life, the concepts of the values are later understood, which enforces the values and the continuity of the values through the generations.

Of course, as in all cultures, there will always be a liberal person who will not follow this system, but the majority of the Asians to this day still hold this value true. In Homers Iliad, the hidden self-indulged motives were more evident than those in the Asian honor system were today. Although both cultures contain an honor system, this difference shouldnt be considered insignificant because it reveals the differences in the entirety of the two cultures. It is the small differences in cultures that make each one unique.

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