The first word of Homer’s Iliad is “rage”. The story is about Achilles’s rage, initially directed against his own ungrateful commander Agamemnon and later at his opponent, the Trojan prince Hector.

Why did Homer choose this for his epic? The soul of a man ravaged by hate and anger. Achilles’s rage permeates the whole story as well as his life. At the start of the tale, Agamemnon and Achilles argue about a slave girl they have captured. Enraged by Agamemnon’s appropriation of his prisoner, Achilles retires from the Greek war effort against the Trojans. This marks a series in of setbacks for the Greeks under Agamemnon’s leadership.

Finally Agamemnon relents. But Achilles is set on his course. His anger at his own leader costs his side dearly till one of his friends donned his armour to raise the Greek morale. This also made him a target for the Trojans. Finally he was slain by Hector. The enraged Achilles killed Hector and dragged his naked body through the battlefield tied to his chariot.

Emulating this, after a vicious battle, Alexander the great also subjected his opponent to the same mutilation. Like Achilles, Alexander’s rage was also his undoing. In a drunken fight, he murdered his friend Clietus who had saved his life on many occasions. In rage, be ordered cities burnt and finally out of stubbornness, he led his army through a desert in his retreat from India killing more men than in most of his battles.

Rage consumes. Homer knew that. Though outwardly a story of battle and god’s, the Iliad is the story of lives destroyed by rage.


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