Home > Achilles, Iliad, The > The Amorality of Achilles

The Amorality of Achilles

By the end of The Iliad, Homer shows us the dark depths of depravity that humans can achieve. His hero Achilles has become as evil as he can possibly be. By the time we get to Book 22, Achilles has slaughtered countless men (including Lycaon, who helplessly pleaded at his feet for his life to be spared), fought against a river, and desecrated Hector’s body by dragging it through the dirt in front of his family and refusing to let him be buried. Any sense of compassion or pity for his fellow man has long since been eschewed.

Homer gives us, in gripping detail, the classic struggle of mankind: Himself. We as a species are capable of the utmost horror simply by detaching ourselves from our humanity. When we become nothing more than intelligent beasts, nothing more than calculating copulators, nothing more than what the most strident materialist claims us to be… we are no longer humans, we are nightmares.

Anyone who lived through the brutal inhumanity of the 20th century should have no need for this to be explained. And yet it is a sad and telling truth that now more than ever do we need to heed Homer’s message.

When we separate ourselves from our souls by ignoring that we are persons, there is nothing that we are not capable of. The history of man is rife with example after example of this. There is nothing that can stop or even persuade a man (or men) that no longer have any moral tether to their own actions. Dostoevsky similarly put it this way: “Without God, all things are permitted”. Homer would have agreed.

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