Home Forums Litterae Forum The Iliad Achilles the traitor?

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    What is patriotism? Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus, Ajax et al all commanded armies from different Greek cities who were fighting together against a common foe i.e. the Trojans. Does Achilles’ abstinence from the fighting make him a traitor?


    Linda Oreilly

    ‘Patriotism: devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.’ Dictionary.com

    With 5 armies going at it, 5 different cultures and pride as a ruling passion (pride: a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc. per Dictionary.com. And being the most pathological, in my opinion, in the pride hierarchy of definitions), Achilles is not viewed as a traitor. His wealth, charm, good looks and history of successful engagements in warfare, and of course his lineage protects him. Such was the thinking of the time.

    I found some info here: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/history/21h-301-the-ancient-world-greece-fall-2004/assignments/pa1_iliad_rev_dn.pdf

    Reading The Iliad with today’s attitudes I consider many of the warriors to be small-minded traitors. But that was then.
    I hope over the course of many years to achieve a more full-bodied opinion.


    Alan Birnie

    “Does Achilles’ abstinence from the fighting make him a traitor?” Socrates, I think your question raises an important question relevant even today. If we pose the question in this way: Can someone defy the law and be a hero? Linda’s point that a patriot is someone who loves their country would be generally accepted as being accurate. I also agree with you Linda that wealth, charm, and lineage are mporatnt determinants in forming people’s opinions. They are also merely superficial factors which do not address the root question. It seems to me that the real question is: Under what circumstances is it acceptable to defy the law? So, can we regard Achilles, and anyone else who has the temerity to defy social conventions, or the law, as being heroes. My opinion is that we can, if the issues raised are of great moral concern to society. Please feel free to challenge my opinion!

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