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Armor of Achilles in the Iliad

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Expression is how one chooses to expose oneself to the public. Therefore, making it very important. Expression comes into play in almost everything one does. Expression not only comes out through actions, but also through choices and decisions as well. For example, choice of apparel is a form of expression, so in a way clothes themselves emphasize certain parts of us and give us the feel of another identity that clashes with our own. Ultimately, forming how others perceive us. In order for this identity to live successfully or live at all, like in the case of Patroclus from The Iliad, our apparel must be ours, made through our personal choices and decisions. If the choices of another effects our apparel, eventually it will betray us because half of the will, will clash against our own. For example, the case between Achilles and Hector. In the Iliad armor represents strength, courage and determination, and the identity of a person. So, by taking the armor of a soldier that we have killed, we have proof of our success in battle. Although, if we decide to wear someone else’s armor, we fate ourselves to a battle between our identity vs. the identity of the armor we put on. 

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Armor mixes with our own physical identity to form one identity. This combining of identities is displayed after Achilles gets the armor made by the god of fire, Hephaestus. The appearance of the armor at first scared the Myrmidons “all the Myrmidon ranks – none dared to look straight at the glare, each fighter shrank away. Not Achilles. The more he gazed, the deeper his anger went, his eyes flashing under his eyelids, fierce as fire” (page 489) The armor was not theirs and they didn’t have a strong identity themselves, so they couldn’t even look at the armor. Since it was crafted for Achilles by the god of fire, Because the armor was forged by the God of fire himself, the armor produces a fiery rage; therefore, causes Achilles eyes to turn “fierce as fire” when he looks at it. There is another important difference in armor other than the identity of the armor and of the person who wears it being different. The person who wears the armor is definitely vulnerable them self, but the armor is indestructible and invulnerable. After Hector spears Patroclus, Euphorbus suggests to the Achaeans that they should “Back [away] from the corpse and leave the bloody gear! I was the first Trojan, first of the famous allies to spear Patroclus down in the last rough charge. So, let me seize my glory among the Trojans now.” (page 442-443) Here, Euphorbus tries to claim Achilles armor. To support himself and justify his right to the armor, he says that he was the first to spear Patroclus, so the armor and credit belong to him only. When Patroclus and his armor depart ways, Patroclus goes to be buried on a funeral pyre and the armor is given to Hector. This goes on to prove that although the physical body has been erased, the armor will live on. Before all of this, Hector returned to Troy wearing his own set of armor to his wife and son. At one point he tried to reach for his son “But the boy recoiled, cringing against his nurse’s full breast, screaming out at the sight of his own father, terrified by the flashing bronze, the horsehair crest, the great ridge of the helmet nodding, bristling terror – so it struck his eyes. And his loving father laughed… and glorious Hector, quickly lifting the helmet from his head, set it down on6 the ground, fiery in the sunlight, and raising his son he kissed him.” (page 211) Hectors identity as a mortal is a devoted family man but to his baby son, his true identity is hidden behind the fear-provoking identity of the armor, which the baby sees and immediately withdrawals from. When Hector removes the mask, though, the baby recognizes his father instantly. This goes to prove that people will perceive us by our apparel and its identity, not just our mortal identity. Not only is armor important because of it having its own identity but because it’s proof of success or glory. One day, all personal success will be one and forgotten, it’s the trophy of armor that can live on and won’t be forgotten. It lives on past the physical lifespan because its nearly indestructible These signs of permanent glory were so necessary in a war of many short lifetimes, like we see in the Iliad. It’s strange to see an exchange of armor between two men, for it is an exchange of indestructible glory. For example, when Diomedes proposed a trade, “Look, plenty of Trojans there for me to kill… and plenty of Argives too—kill them if you can. But let’s trade armor. The men must know our claim: we are sworn friends from our fathers’ days till now!” (page 203) In contrast to the brutality of war, this exchange of armor is representative of an exchange in character. Here, Homer is introducing acts of compassion and respect that are the immediate results of this exchange of armor. This exchange is not based on strength but in contrast, the promises of friendship between ancestors and the attempt to honor their roots. All things considered, armor represents the parts of us that are unable to be broken and the glory we have achieved through our victories and successes. 

Clearly identity of armor and the identity of the physical person its protecting can be very different. Instead of the two identities mixing together peacefully, a battle can occur between the mortal identity and the indestructible identity of the armor, if the person whose wearing it doesn’t have the right too do so. A good example of this idea can be found in the case of Patroclus. When Patroclus asks to wear Achilles armor he is ultimately asking for his own doom in the future. Although Achilles knows of this impending doom, he gives Patroclus his armor anyways but leaves him with a warning, “You must turn back—soon as you bring the light of victory to the ships.” (page 415) Patroclus isn’t an unreasonable man, by any means and at first, he does intend to do as Achilles says but the identity of the armor is Achilles, after all. The identity of Patroclus and the identity of Achilles now mix together and Patroclus acts just as Achilles would have in the situation. So of course, he couldn’t return back. How was he supposed to when the will of such a powerful armor was telling him to do otherwise and kill all Trojans and ransack Troy. So here it shows, that even though Patroclus originally did have good intentions and is a reasonable man, his thought process and decision-making skills were taken over by the identity of the armor, which was ultimately meant for Achilles. Their armor, being designed for Achilles probably would have done better for Achilles in this situation, but Patroclus is no Achilles. Ultimately leading to the death of Achilles from the identity of an armor that he could not compete with. Hector is also betrayed by armor that was unfairly taken by him, just as Patroclus was betrayed by Achilles armor that he borrowed. Achilles knew that “the rest of [Hector’s] flesh seemed all encased in armor, burnished, brazen –Achilles’ armor that Hector stripped from strong Patroclus when he killed him –true, but one spot lay exposed…there as Hector charged in fury brilliant Achilles drove his spear.”(page 552) Since the armor stays true to its previous owner, Hector was ultimately betrayed by it. Achilles knows the weak spots of the armor and uses this knowledge to his advantage and ends the battle. Hector believes that being in such a protective armor would protect him from Achilles and the armor is indeed indestructible, but Hector is still mortal, under the armor. The feeling that the armor is indestructible gives the person wearing it an unjust sense of protection and safety, this is where Hector was betrayed. He isn’t the true owner of the armor he wore so he could not have known the weak spots that Achilles did, being the true owner. Achilles actually feels so safe in his god made armor that he has the bravery to challenge the god of the river. When he then realizes that no armor can offer true protection, he shouts to Zeus, “Father Zeus! To think in all my misery not one god can bring himself to rescue me from this river! Then I’d face any fate. And no god on high, none is to blame so much as my dear mother –how she lied, she beguiled me, she promised me I’d die beneath the walls of the armored Trojans, cut down in blood by Apollo’s whipping arrows!” (page ??) In this situation Achilles is betrayed by his armor giving him a false sense of security. Achilles, who was so confident in his abilities and protection from his armor approached the river because he believed he would be protected but not even his armor could protect him from the god of the river could not be protected from the god of the river. 

False sense of security is seen in the Iliad in many different cases. The false sense of protection and security that Achilles has is the same of Hectors. This can be seen in Hector’s over confidence in the battle against Achilles. Another example where there is a false sense of security can be seen in the battle between Menelaus and Paris. Menelaus came up with new strategies at overcoming Paris, after his sword broke to pieces, he “grabbed his horsehair crest, swung him round, started to drag him into Argive lines and now the braided chin-strap holding his helmet tight was gouging his soft throat—Paris was choking, strangling. Now he’d have hauled him off and won undying glory. (page 140) Paris was strutting along the Trojan lines acting like he could take any Achaean on in a one to one battle. Yet, as soon as he saw a hero he would immediately disappear out of fear. This identity is one of his true mortal identity mixed with the identity of his armor. Therefore, it is easy to see that this extravagant armor is just for show and intimidation to mask what his mortal identity is. With this in mind, armor that is in constant battle with the mortal identity of who wears it, is bound to betray them. Which is seen when Paris’s own armor chokes him and is the thing holding him back from killing Menelaus. 

In conclusion, how one expresses themselves can become a second identity. Material objects such as the armor in the Iliad can express one’s character and values through its appearance. For example, how Paris chose a beautiful and intimidating armor, it was inefficient in protecting him. In Achilles case, his armor reflected the rage he had on the inside and his for Achilles, his armor reflected his own inner rage, his own fury. Expression should reflect our own decisions and not those of others. If we begin to “wear” the apparel of another their identity will ultimately clash with our own, resulting in a battle within one’s self. To be successful in our endeavors and achieve honor, we must wear our own “armor” and be careful not to start a battle between our internal and external selves. 

Works Cited

1.Homer. and Fagles, R. (1991). The Iliad. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

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