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Adelola Ajayi

Professor Santucci

CLAS 170

July 16, 2017

Kleos Throughout the Iliad

Throughout the Iliad there are many examples of kleos. Kleos is immortal fame or glory,

which many of the characters throughout the book exemplify, especially Achilles and Hector,

both great warriors in battle. These characters actions throughout the Iliad are driven by their

motivation to achieve kleos.

Achilles chose to fight to attain immortal glory forever, over going to his fathers house

who needs him, and having a shorter life. Achilles states that, if I stay here and fight, I'll never

return home, but my glory will be undying forever. If I return home to my dear fatherland my

glory is lost but my life will be long (Lombardo 98. 425-429). Achilles is determined to achieve

kleos, that is why he decided to go to Troy because of the prophecy his mother gave him. The

prophecy declares that if he goes to Troy he will not live long but he will have kleos, which is

very appealing to Achilles. However, by visiting his fathers land pursuing a long life, he will not

achieve kleos, and dying with no kleos means that his life, when he was alive, was not

meaningful enough to be discussed when he is dead. Achilles wants to be glorified in his death,

therefore choosing to be a fighter in the Greek army was his assurance that his name would be

glorified even in death. Achilles chooses not to live long and have a meaningful life because

everything he lives for is in hopes of acquiring this immortal fame.


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Achilles abandons the Greek army because of Agamemnon, who takes away Briseis,

Bring back the girl, fair cheeked Briseis, if he wont give her up Ill come myself (Lombardo

11. 336-337). When Agamemnon takes away Briseis, Achilles prays to his mother, Mother,

since you bore me for a short life only, Olympian Zeus was supposed to grant me honor...

Agamemnon has taken away my prize and dishonored me (Lombardo 11. 336-337); realizing

that the retrieval of his gift affects his immortal glory. Since, Agamemnon has taken away his

time that he has worked hard for through his arete, this makes Achilles lose respect for himself

and brings shame or disgrace to him which affects his immortal fame. Instead of attaining kleos,

he will be remembered as the most powerful of the Greek army losing his gift. Achilles actions

show that his ultimate motivation is how he will be viewed and talked about when he dies.

Odysseus throughout the Iliad knows that Achilles is driven by kleos. Therefore, when

Achilles becomes angry with Agamemnon and his actions do not reflect someone who wants to

receive immortal glory, Odysseus points his actions out and reminds him that what he does

affects his kleos. Odysseus states that, My son, as for strength, Hera and Athena will bless you

if they wish, but it is up to you to control your proud spirit. A friendly heart is far better. Steer

clear of scheming strife, so that Greeks young and old will honor you (Lombardo 94. 259-261).

Odysseus basically pleads with Achilles to not be prideful and let go of his anger. . Achilles

being angry affects his kleos because the Greek army is suffering by not having the best fighter

in battle, and by not defending his army, he would not be spoken highly of upon death. Being

friendly to Agamemnon would be better because his behavior now would not bring him any

kleos, since he is holding grudges against Agamemnon, and this is causing the Greek army to

suffer. Odysseus directly appeals to Achilles and his determination to achieve kleos to persuade

him to go back, he acknowledges the fact that if he were to go back the Greeks would honor him
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because he has decided to help the Greek army and return to being the best fighter. Achilles

downfalls were pointed out to redirect him to his main motivation during this war, which is to

receive immortal glory.

Achilles is always conscious of what people will think of him based on his actions.

Agamemnon argues that Achilles wants to rule everyone (Lombardo 10.303). However,

Achilles says that he will not be ruled by Agamemnon especially, and think of the names people

would call me if I bowed and scraped every time you opened your mouth. Try that on somebody

else not on me (Lombardo 10. 308-309). If Achilles were to bow down to Agamemnon, he

would risk his title to Agamemnon, seeming like the weaker warrior. If he had to bow down to

Agamemnon and worship his every move he would no longer achieve immortal fame, it wouldn't

be his immortal glory but would reflect more on Agamemnon. Bowing down to Agamemnon

affects Achilles kleos because everything he does while alive will affect his death, he cannot be

seen as someone who bows down to others, he should have that ultimate respect as the best

warrior on the Greek side. Every action Achilles takes shows that he worries about his actions

now because he knows it would affect his immortal fame, he cannot be remembered as a great

warrior who bowed down to someone who was not as great in battle.

Achilles is very prideful and would not accept Agamemnons gifts. Who will pay you

tribute as if you were a god and fulfill the shining decrees of your scepter. All this he will do if

you give up your grudge. But if Agamemnon is too hateful to you, himself and his gifts, think of

all the others suffering up and down the line, and of the glory you will win for them. They will

honor you like a god (Lombardo 95.299-305). If Achilles were to accept the gifts that

Agamemnon is offering to him, it would benefit Achilles kleos. The gifts would be a tribute to

Achilles, and how great of a warrior he is. Therefore, when he is dead he would be remembered
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by his gifts and what he did to receive these gifts while he was alive. But Achilles does not

accept these gifts because Agamemnon disrespected him and took his gift, resulting in Achilles

honor being compromised, therefore to keep the honor he has left, Achilles does not return to

fight with Agamemnon because he still wants the immortal fame and does not want him to take

any more of it away.

Another character that exemplifies kleos in the Iliad is Hector. Hectors actions show that

he is deeply motivated to achieve kleos, as the best fighter for the Trojan side, he ensures all his

actions will help to achieve immortal fame. One of the best, to fight in Troys first ranks,

defending my fathers honor and my own. Deep in my heart I know too well there will come a

day when holy Ilion will perish (Lombardo 79. 468-470). Hector here states that he is one of the

best in the Trojan army, and that he is defending his own honor by fighting. Hectors service to

the Trojan army, is to fight and to show that his fighting is for him to overall achieve more kleos.

The immortal fame is a drive for Hector, that is why he has become the best Trojan fighter. Also,

Hector continues to fight for the Trojan army because his kleos will benefit his son, And may

men say he is far better than his father when he returns from war, bearing bloody spoils, having

killed his man. And may his mother rejoice (Lombardo 80. 504-506). Astyanax in war would

give his father immortal fame because he would be referred to as the great warrior on the Trojan

side. Also, when his wife Andromache begs him to stay, Hector basically refuses and says that

he cannot because he needs to be important when he dies, All against your will, under great

duress. And someone, seeing you crying, will say, that is the wife of Hector, the best of all The

Trojans when they fought around Ilion (Lombardo 80. 482-485). Hector knows that death will

come and he is fighting to the death because he wants immortal glory.


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Hector wants to die an honorable death at the hands of Achilles, I swear: if Zeus gives

me the victory over you, I will not dishonor your corpse, only Strip the armor and give the body

back to the Greeks. Promise youll do the same (Lombardo 213. 281-285) And send my

body back home to be burned In honor by the Trojans and their wives (Lombardo 216. 380-

381). Hector does not want to be shamed in his death, so he pleads with Achilles to honor his

death and receive all his immortal glory.

Achilles and Hector are very driven to receive immortal fame, their actions throughout

the Iliad reflect this. Both characters analyze their own actions and determine how their actions

would affect their kleos. These characters throughout the Iliad work hard in war, getting arete

which contributes to their immortal glory, being great warriors and their legacy, they have left

behind. Kleos is very important to them both because they were the best fighters and would like

to be remembered greatly when they die, it is evident that they have worked to achieve their

immortal fame.
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Works Cited

Lombardo, Stanley The Essential Homer Indianapolis: Hackett, 2000.Print.