The meeting between Odysseus and Achilles in the latter's tent in Book IX of Homer's The Iliad is a meeting which can be described as a confrontation of very different ideas of heroism. Odysseus sees heroism in romantic terms, in terms of its contribution to the community, whereas Achilles sees heroism in personal terms. Odysseus is willing to subsume his personal inclinations in the drive for the common goal of victory for the Achaeans. Achilles, wounded in his pride by the public affront of Agamemnon, puts himself above the consideration of everything else, even if it means the defeat of his people the Achaeans at the hands of the Trojans.
The Greeks, or Achaeans, are in danger of being routed by the Trojans, primarily because the proud and offended Achilles has withdrawn from the war because of the personal affront from Agamemnon. Without Achilles' men and his military brilliance, the Achaeans will lose the war to the Trojans, beyond any doubt. Odysseus is sent to Achilles's tent to try to persuade Achilles, his long-time friend, to set his pride aside and come back to fight the Trojans, who are preparing their final attack. Odysseus is a proud and courageous warrior himself, but he is willing to humble himself by being a messenger from Agamemnon to Achilles. Odysseus is willing to plead with Achilles, to offer him great honors and many gifts if he will only relent and return to do battle and save his people.
Achilles, however, will not relent. He has been too offended and he will not do anything to save his people, although he does suggest that somehow he will be able to stop the Trojans at his own tent and ship. However, Achilles leaves no doubt that he is letting his pride lead him down a path which spells disaster for the Achaeans.
This confrontation does represent a stark contrast in the two men's understanding of the meaning of heroism. To Odysseus, there is no heroism aside from its connection to the nation of ...