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Duty, Loyalty, and Family Devotion


The warriors on both sides are generally dutiful, but Hector's sense of duty to himself, his family and people is compelling. When his wife Andromache begs him to remain safely inside Troy's walls, he responds:

"My heart recoils, for I was raised to be brave
and always to fight among the forward Trojans,
winning fame for myself, my father too."


Homer's warriors display the loyalty often ascribed to modern soldiers: loyalty to each other rather than to leaders.

Thus, while it is hard to find indication of fealty to Agamemnon, the warriors frequently show fidelity to their fellows.

In book 11 Odysseus is wounded, cut off from the Greek force. Menelaus hears Odysseus call for help and tells Ajax:

"We two should cross the plain to rescue him,
or I fear he will not survive out there,
tough though he is, and we lose one of our best."

Compare the statement of U.S. Rear Adm. Joseph Maguire after sixteen Navy Seals and Army Special Forces died on duty in Iraq on June 28, 2005, when their helicopter was downed during a daylight attempt to rescue four comrades who radioed for help:

"When we've got four Seals on the ground, four brothers who say, 'We're under fire, we've been shot, we need help now,' we can't wait for the night. . . . The covenant we have with each other is that we will leave no man on the battlefield." (New York Times, July 9, 2005, p. 1, col. 3).

Family Devotion

Agamemnon's devotion to his brother surfaces in book 4 after Menelaus is wounded--slightly as it turns out--by an arrow shot in violation of the two sides' joint oath of truce.

Agamemnon asserts that the treachery will assure the fall of Troy,

"unless you leave me bereft, Menelaus,
having filled your measure of life and died.
In that case I would return to Argos, wretched,
as all Greeks would go their fathers' lands.
We would leave here prizes for Troy to vaunt:
Helen and your bones, rotting under ground,
your task in Troy never to be fulfilled."

On the Trojan side family devotion peaks in the final book when Priam puts his life in serious jeopardy by venturing into Achilles' lodge to beg for the corpse of his son Hector.

Return to main Themes page to select another topic.

See Wikipedia entry for Duty.

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