Achilles is described by Homer (7) as the best of the Greeks (at Iliad, 1.244)ö because he is a doer of deeds and speaker of words (at Iliad, 9.433)ö without equal among either the Greeks or the Trojans. When the Iliad opens, the first sentence offered by Homer (7) is ôsing, o goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.ö Many of the ill effects suffered by the Greeks in their prolonged siege of Troy can be directly traced to the actions and attitudes of Achilles, who, despite being ôthe best of the Greeksö was also a man consumed by ambition, pride, anger, and the desire to obtain revenge against others for the lights he perceived as having been inflicted upon him. The thesis to be explored herein is that the actions of Achilles prolonged the struggle against Troy and diverted the Greeks from focusing on their primary goal û the recapture of Helen and the destruction of the Trojan enemy and Troy itself.
Achilles, according to Homer (7-9), becomes angry when Agamemnon takes from him a captive girl. Achilles then vows that he will fight no more for Agamemnon and, more significantly, has his mother, the sea nymph Thetis, secure the aid of Zeus for the Trojans. Not only does this provoke the wrath of the goddess Hera on behalf of the Greeks, it also significantly delays the destruction of Troy, leading to a substantial loss of life for both sides.
Thomas R. Martin (44) offered an analysis of the complex character of Achilles, calling him both an incomparable warrior and a man whose ôoverriding concern in word and action is with the glorious reputation (kleos) that he can win with his 'excellence.Æö Achilles was preoccupied with and even fearful of the disgrace that he would feel in the eyes of others were he to fail to live up to the code of excellence. Under this code said Martin (44), ôfailure and wrongdoing produced public shame.