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    The Fury of Achiles in Homer’s Illiad and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

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    Through the stories in both Homer’s Illiad and Ovid’s Metamorphoses one can see the power and the fury of Achilles, one greatest Greek warriors in the Trojan War. In Homers Illiad, Homer illustrates the battle between Achilles Hector, who was the Prince of Troy. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ovid illustrates the battle between Achilles and Cycnus, who is the son of Neptune. In both battles, the outcome is the same both warriors are slain by Achilles. While both stories have the same ending with Achilles coming out victorious, they both paint very different stories of Achilles. In one, they describe Achilles almost as human, seeking revenge with no remorse. In the other, they show Achilles as pure rage, blinded by his own fury. By comparing both of the battle stories, one can tell the differences both Homer and Ovid try to express.

    In Homer’s Illiad, Book 22, the story starts with the god Apollo tricking Achilles, and making him run away from the battle in order to save the city Troy. After Achilles figures this out, he makes way to complete his task at hand. There at the Western Gate stood Hector standing his ground despite the attempts of pleading reasoning from his parents, Priam, and Hecuba, to come back inside the gates. Eventually, Hectors nerves got to him and began to run around the city trying to escape the chase of Achilles. After a few trips around the city, Athena steps in and tricks Hector by impersonating Hector’s brother. Athena tricks him by saying that together, Hector and the brother she is impersonating, they can fight Achilles. Hector takes the bait and turns to fight. Achilles tosses his spear, which misses, and then is retrieved and returned by Athena without Hector noticing. After Hector failed to be successful with his attempt at attacking Achilles he turned to his brother for help, who was not really ever there. He then realized he had been tricked and now knows his death is certain. Knowing this, he tries to reason with Achilles and asks for the losers body to be respected and returned to his family if he is killed. Achilles here shows no remorse, he denies his requests and kills him. Hector is then bound and drug around the cities walls by Achilles while Hector’s family must watch.

    Occuring nine years before Achilles’ battle with Hector, in the same war against Troy, Achilles is heard to have fought another man named Cycnus, who was much stronger and powerful than Hector from the Illiad. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, he shares a story of Achilles riding his chariot, destroying his foes with his spear. When Achilles spots Cycnus, he comes down on him from his chariot. Achilles threw his spear at Cycnus, and was able to hit him. Oddly though, the spear did no damage to Cycnus. Achilles was shocked by this. Cycnus stood and praised himself, because he believed nothing could hurt him and was invincible. Even so, Achilles continued to try to attack him and wound him, but in the end unsuccessful in doing so. Because Achilles was blindly attacking through fury, during one of his attacks Cycnus was able to pierce Achilles’ shield. Achilles was only to be saved by the tenth layer of his shield. This enraged Achilles, and Achilles was able to use the hilt of his sword to club Cycnus. Retreating from the hit, Cycnus tripped over a rock, and that’s where Achilles was able to mount the man and strangle him to death with his own helmet. Achilles went to go strip Cycnus of his armor, but before Achilles could strip Cycnus of his armor Neptune, who was the father of Cycnus, changed Cycnus into a swan (Page 471, Line 144).

    These stories show important and shared characteristics of Achilles. Both authors go through a lot to express Achilles’ fury. Homer writes, “Achilles exploded forward, fury incarnate behind the curve of his shield…(Page 215, Lines 342-343)” Similarly, Ovid writes, “Achilles exploded with rage, like a bull in an open arena, which savagely charges the scarlet cloak held up to provoke him…(Page 469, line 102),” along with, “Yelling with rage and frustration, he bounded down from his chariot, drawing his glittering sword to attack his imperturbable foe at close quarters.”

    One thing both shared and demonstrated were Achilles’ thirst for battles and his power for murdering people. In the midst of his battle with Cycnus he had to stop and make sure he had enough strength in his hand. To confirm his strength he flung his spear at Menoetes that was advancing towards him, and see if that had made any impact (Ovid, Page 469, Lines 112-118). To do this in the midst of his battle shows a true passion for combat. In Homer’s Illiad, Priam says, “He’s to much for you, son, he won’t stop at anything!… Don’t just hand Achilles the glory and throw your life away.(Page 206, Line 47-49)” For Priam to say that to his son, the best warrior of Troy, and that he has no chance against Achilles and that he is just throwing his life away, shows the power of Achilles in battle. In both stories, Achilles is shown to be incredibly cruel when dealing with his enemies. During his battle with Cycnus, he showed no mercy once Cycnus tripped over the rock. A few lines do much of the explaining such as, “Achilles thrust him down on his back right over the boulder, violently thrust him down and dashed him on the earth. Then pressing his shield with his knees hard down on his victim’s ribs, he pulled on the thongs of his helmet and tightened them under his chin till the man was throttled and beaten at last (page 470, Lines 138-143).” In Homer’s Illiad it is not much different. Homer tells of a time where Achilles drags a defeated Hector by his heels around the city behind a chariot (Page 218, Lines 441-443). While both show the rage of Achilles, Homer shows a more subtle, and human version of Achilles. Ovid in contrast, expresses that Achilles has only one thing to him and that is rage and an thirst for combat.

    Following the Battle in Homer’s Illiad, Achilles has a speech the Greeks, and talks about how he mourns over the death of his dear friend Patroclus, “Patroclus, whom I’ll never forget as long as I am among the living, Until I rise no more; and even if in Hades the dead do not remember, ever there I will remember my dear friend.(Page 217 Line 430-433)” This shows a more human side of Achilles. However, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, it was much different. During the battle with Cycnus, Achilles continuously throws spears at Cycnus, while being blinded by his rage and blood lust Cycnus is able to penetrate his shield. These actions do not show a thoughtful human, but it does depict a fury filled demi-god.

    Homer and Ovid both present two different battles involving Achilles with similar outcomes. Though the outcome was the same in both stories, it was done in many different ways. In Ovid’s book twelve of Metamorphoses, he describes the battle as a gruesome, and fury filled version of Achilles. Homer in the Illiad, however, depicts his story as Achilles being a man that can be seen mourning over a killed friend, following the victory over Hector. While Hector was not a difficult victory for Achilles, Ovid was able to put Achilles against a superior opponent who was impervious to harm. Doing this he was able to expand on the tremendous power of Achilles, and his already complex and imperfect character.

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    The Fury of Achiles in Homer’s Illiad and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. (2019, May 07). Retrieved from

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