In both HousmanÆs poem, ôTo An Athlete Dying Youngö and in HomerÆs The Iliad, the heroes of the works share much in common, particularly the impact of war on their fate or destiny.
In HousmanÆs poem, the young athlete was once carried ôshoulder-highö through a town of ôcheeringö townsfolk (Housman 1). Now, his corpse is carried through the town, presumably a casualty of war. Once he was a victorious athlete, heroic and lauded, but now he is the ôTownsman of a stiller townö (Housman 1). In other words, not only has the life of the athlete been dramatically altered by war, but so have been the moods and lives of those in the town who used to cheer.
In The Iliad, the story revolves around two other heroic figures of conquest, Achilles, the Achaian hero, and the Trojan hero Hektor. When Hektor kills AchillesÆ beloved friend Patroklos, mainly because Achilles was sulking over the loss of his girl who was a spoil of war, he becomes irate and eventually kills Hektor. Hektor is also a noble warrior, but becomes the prey of Achilles, ôHektor was in fury and raged, as when destructive fire or spear-shaking Ares rages among the mountains and dense places of the deep forestö (Homer 325).
Both Hektor and Achilles are aided or thwarted by the gods, but both illustrate free will in their actions. Achilles allows Patroklos to replace him in battle and wear the special suit of armor made for him by the gods. Hektor chooses to allow the actions of his selfish brother to determine the fate of an entire kingdom. AchillesÆ ôprideö and ôarroganceö drive him to violate the dead body of Hektor, an action that sets into motion a chain of events which will result in his own death and destruction (Homer 63). Both Homer and Housman appear to suggest that there are no winners and no heroes in war, as there are when men compete in athletic contests instead of ones of military combat.