Iliad Paris Essay


Character Analysis

Nothing sums up Paris's status in the Iliad like the end of Book 3. When Menelaos is looking for Paris—whom Aphrodite has carried off to safety—we learn that, even if the Trojans knew where he was, they wouldn't hide him, "since he was hated among them all as dark death is hated" (3. 454).

There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, as we are reminded at the beginning of Book 24, Paris chose Aphrodite over Hera and Athene in a beauty contest, thus setting off a chain of events that led to the Trojan War. Most notable among these events was the kidnapping of Helen; even though the Iliad takes place long before Gallup polls, we're guessing that the average Trojan was in favor of giving her back. (See the old men's grousing in the beginning of Book 3.)

The other big reason people hate Paris is that he doesn't pull his weight in battle, preferring to strut around like a one-man fashion show. Even his weapon of choice—the bow—was often regarded as a cowardly form of combat. And yet, as the Iliad foreshadows, it is with this weapon (plus the help of the archer god, Apollo) that Paris will kill Achilleus at the Skaian Gates.

Paris is one of the main characters in the Iliad; at least he is the one who is responsible for the war, in author s opinion and in mine also. First, one of the most valuable for us, characteristic of Paris we can read in Book 3 (38-57). This is a description of Paris by Hektor - his own brother. Words of hate were said not somewhere in the forest, not to some god or human, but directly to Paris. We can assume that it wasn t the first time when Paris heard it from his brother. We can also understand from Hektor s words that not only simple people of Troy hated Paris, but also his own relatives: better had you never be born, or killed unwedded . From Hektor s words we can also understand that Hektor doesn t think that Paris is a brave man. We don t have any reasons not to believe Hektor in this, we can rely on his words as on respectable source.

What else we can understand about Paris from Hektor s words? Paris is beautiful, desirable to women. Paris likes women, likes to dance and rest. Homer shows all these qualities from negative side; we can understand that they were not respectable in Ancient Greek society. Nevertheless, Homer shows that even such a man as Paris had some honor Paris agrees to fight, and he knows he has very little chance to win.

Agreeing to fight (3.58-75) Paris shows that even after all that evil which was done by him he still tries to rebuild his Honor. But, we must remember that he agreed to this fight after 9 years of war; 9 years it took him to get up the courage.

After the fight (6.350-353), we, from Helen s words, recognize some new but not surprising Alexander s quality: I wish I had been wife of a better man this is, one who knew modesty and all things of shame that man say . I think, that in these two passages (3.38-57 and 6.350-353) Homer, expresses all his hate to Paris. Probably, it is supposed that ancient Greeks who had listened to Iliad should have hated Paris after this as much as Homer did.

Where do we find Paris after the battle with Menelaus? In the bath! At the time when Trojans and Achaeans fight, he takes a bath. People die because he couldn t finish his agreement this especially irritates Hektor, when he finds Paris. (It is interesting that that the most beautiful woman in the world does not attract Hektor at this moment. I think, that Homer in this passage (3.359-368) shows his great respect to Hektor, and urge the reader to respect Hektor also.)

Homer never shows anybody only from the bad side or only from the good side. In the end of Book 6 (510-530) Paris comes to the wall in the armor and offers his help in the battle something that nobody expected from him. And, though Hektor is ashamed of Paris, he values every fighter, and especially Paris, hoping that in the fight Paris will restore his honor.

As I said already, Homer shows us Paris, as every character in the Iliad, from the good and bad sides (mostly from bad though). It is clear that Paris is negative personage in the Iliad, which is supposed to show to us human s weak sides, like irresponsibility, short-mindedness, immodesty, shameless, cowardice. But from the other side, he agrees to fight, he comes to the wall, he is not supposed to do it, but he does. Here Homer shows that there are no completely lost people for society. One can always find some courage in his heart even if it takes 9 years for it.

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