Compare the Greek and the Medieval ideas of the hero
There are heroes in different time period throughout the history. People hope to be protected by heroes especially when the society is unstable and battles occur. There are legends about heroes in the Greek and the Medieval age. In the Iliad which was written by Homer, there were poetries that about the Greek heroesin the legendary war between the Trojans and armies from the Greek city-states outside the city-state of Troy ( Mcknight in Homer, Iliad Extract A). The Death of Arthur which was written by Sir Thomas Malory mentioned tales of legendary King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (Mcknight in Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract H). This essay will compare the similarity and differences such as their attitude to enemies, their purpose of fighting and their attitude to women between the heroes in these two periods of times. The strengths and weaknesses of the idea of heroes in the Greek and the Medieval and the reasons for the differences between those heroes.
The quality that both the Greek and Medieval heroes had was the braveness to fight until the end. The Greek hero Hector refused to stay at home and chose to fight with Achilles because he thought cowardice was against his nature and he should not hide like a coward and refuse to fight (Homer, Iliad Extract 6.3). The Medieval knight Sir Bors also did not afraid to fight against Pridam le Noire who was the most feared man in the land (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 16.7). Also, in the combat, Sir Bors kept on fighting until he was nearly exhausted (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 16.8). This was the common quality that heroes had in both times.
The Medieval and The Greek heroes treated their defeated enemies in different way. For the Medieval knights, even they defeated their enemies, they should not be cruel to them, and instead they should give mercy to them if they ask for (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 3.15). In The Death of Arthur, Sir Bors defeated Sir Pridam. Sir Pridam cried for mercy and promised he would never wage war against his lady. Sir Bors accepted that and left him alone without killing him (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 16.8). Therefore, they were more benevolent to their enemies.
The Greek heroes in The Iliad were totally different. In The Iliad, after Achilles triumphed over Hector, Hector asked him not to throw his body to dogs and found his family to pay ransom for taking his body back home (Homer, Iliad Extract 22.5). However, Achilles did not let his body back to home; he outraged Hector even after he died. He slit the tendons at the back of both Hector’s feet heel to ankle, inserted leather straps and tired them to the top of his chariot leaving his head to drag. Then he started the horses and Hector’s body raised a cloud of dust and it fell thick upon his once handsome head (Homer, Iliad Extract 22.7). The Greek heroes were more cruel to their enemies than the Medieval.
For the purpose of fighting, the Medieval knights should not fight in an unjust quarrel over any law or over property. Sir Bors helped the lady to fight against Pridam la Noire not for his own sake; he fought for the unreasonable disinheritance of the lands (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 16.7). That other lady which made war against the lady in the high tower actually had no right to have the land back. That evoked the chivalrous spirit of Sir Bors and so he decided to help her. Therefore they should fight for justices and not for the reward they may have afterward.
However, the Greek hero Achilles actually fought for his loot. When king Agamemnon took away his prize, Briseis, he withdrew from the fighting (McKnight in Homer, Iliad Extract B). When King Agamemnon sent Odysseus to apologize to Achilles, he refused the offer and complained that he was given too little by the king for his merits in battle. He was angry because he got no thanks for struggling with the enemy all the days (Homer, Iliad Extract 9.2). For Achilles, he fought for reputation and prize, if he couldn’t have what he expected he lost the ambition to fight. He just fought for property but bit for his country or justice. That is different from the chivalrous spirit of the Middle-Ages knights.
The Middle-Ages knight should always help ladies, maidens and gentlewomen, or die. When Sir Bors knew that the lady in the high tower forced to find a knight against Sir Pridam, he immediately said that he would comfort her (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 16.7). He helped her to fight in the combat without asking for any reward. It was his nature to help women in need.
In contrast, the Greek heroes did not respect to women so much. Andromache cried and begged Hector not to fight with Achilles because she was afraid that he would be defeated and left her alone on the earth (Homer, Iliad Extract 6.1). His mother also wailed and wept to ask him not to meet Achilles in single combat because he was a savage (Homer, Iliad Extract 22.2). Despite that, Hector did not listen and he still attended the combat alone and at last defeated by Achilles. It can be shown that the Greek heroes did not respect to women as much as the Middle-Ages heroes.
There are strengths and weaknesses for the rules sat for the Greek and Medieval heroes. The rules sat for the knights to obey in The Death of Arthur had many strengths. An ideal knight should avoid treason and wrongful quarrels (Cooper 1998:13). That can ensure that all the people killed by or fought with knights are people that may threaten others and worth to be punished. They should not be cruel and give mercy to people who ask for (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 3.15). This can reduce the violent act of knights and maintain a peaceful society. Also the rule which required knights to help all women helps to reduce the discrimination against women. These are the strengths of the rules for knights to obey in the Middle Ages.
There were also some weaknesses in the rules. The rule that the quarrels a knight fight should come from God or his lady was unfair to others(Cooper 1998:13). In The Death of Arthur, Sir Launcelot said to the holy hermit that all his fighting deeds that he had done, he did for the queen’s sake, and he did battle for her no matter whether it was right or wrong (Molary’s Death of Arthur Extract 13.20). This blindness in love was selfish and unfair to all the other people who need help. Also, not only women who needed their help, children and elderly needed protection as well. Therefore, the rule which said knights should help ladies, maidens and gentlewomen (Malory’s Death of Arthur Extract 3.15) should be changed.
In contrast, there were not many strengths in the Greek heroes. the only strength was they were courageous. Like Hector and Achilles, they were both good at fighting and not afraid to death. Hector had trained himself like a good soldier and took his place in the front line to win glory for his father and himself (Homer, Iliad Extract 6.3). Although, he fought the glory himself, the braveness was worth to be learnt by people. Countries need soldiers who are brave as Hector to protect their citizen. This is a strength that can contribute to the society.
However, there are some weaknesses in the Greek heroes. They were cruel and did not give mercy to people. Achilles outraged the body of Hector even he begged to him. Also as King Agamemnon said “sedition, violence and fighting” were the breath of life for Achilles (Homer, Iliad Extract 1.2). That means he likes battles and fighting. However, battle will only cause pain to people therefore it is harmful to society. He was not fighting for revenge or the defense of loved ones; he was just so intense to gain his honours (Sowerby 1995:9). The intensive aspiration of glory can be dangerous as people can achieve it unscrupulously.
There are several reasons for the difference between Greek and Medieval Heroes. Firstly, the Greek heroes treat their enemies cruelly and would not let the enemies alive once they defeated them. This is because they would rather have a glorious death than hold on to an insignificant life (Sowerby 1995:8). Therefore, once they were defeated, they would rather death than beg for life. For the Medieval knights, they were influenced by the Christian idea so much that they could not kill anyone and should give to their enemies as well.
The Medieval knights fight for their loved ones because true love was important for them. Also there was a rule that they should help all kinds of women (Homer, Iliad Extract 1.2). For the Greek heroes, they did not fight for love because they thought glory was more important. They would rather fight for themselves or for their kings. They fought because they wanted to become famous and had the loot as reward. They are the reasons for the difference in the purpose of fighting.
In conclusion, the Greek and Medieval heroes were all good at fighting and brave. However, the Greek heroes treated their enemies cruelly and kill them without any mercy but the medieval knights could not commit murder. The Greek heroes had ambition to fight for honours and glory while the Medieval heroes should fight for justice or love. Also, the Medieval knights could fight only for their loved ones but the Greek would not do that. These are also strengths and weaknesses in both the Greek and the Medieval heroes.
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