Sunday, 14 October 2012

Cultural Expectations in the Iliad and Troy – Burial Rites

In both the Iliad and Troy, when Achilles defeats and kills Hector in battle, he proceeds to tie Hector’s body to his chariot, and to the horror of Priam (Hector’s father), he proceeds to drag Hector’s body around the outskirts of Troy, dirtying and mutilating the corpse. To do this shows an incredible amount of disrespect towards Priam. However burials are so important to Priam that in desperation he sneaks into the Greek camp, putting his own life at risk, and pleads to Achilles:

“Do you really think death frightens me now? I watched my eldest son die, watched you drag his body behind your chariot. Give him back to me. He deserves a proper burial, you know that. Give him to me.“

And in the Iliad:

“If thou indeed art willing that I accomplish for goodly Hector his burial, then in doing on this wise, O Achilles, wilt thou do according to my wish”

In both cases Hector is granted a proper burial and his body is burnt upon a funeral pyre. In the film the burial is so important to Priam that he kisses Achilles hand, saying:

“I have endured what no one on earth has endured before. I kissed the hands of the man who killed my son. “

A vase depicting Achilles fighting Hector

This emphasizes the importance of burial rites for the dead as a cultural expectation and expected code of behaviour in the ancient world, as the father a Troy’s greatest warrior pleads with the greatest warrior of the Greeks to give Hector a burial, and Achilles obliges, despite Hector having killed Patroclus(in the film he is cousin of Achilles, in the Iliad he is his closest friend).

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