Achilles and Socrates

Published: 2021-06-12 13:40:04
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Ancient history is well known for the astonishing number of real and fictional heroes; and for those who seek to explore the relevance and the impacts of the real-life heroism in depth, ancient history offers unlimited opportunities for understanding the essence of historical heroism in its true colors. Achilles and Socrates are fairly regarded as the two of the few most prominent ancient heroes. Although Achilles was well-known for his physical power, and Socrates exemplified the force of philosophic thought, both have produced irreversibly positive impacts on the following generations and their fellow countrymen and have revealed the unlimited potential of the human physical and spiritual nature.
For historians and literature professionals, Achilles is considered one of the central cult figures for many epic narratives and numerous mythological episodes. Unfortunately, The Iliad appears the only one to have survived the long historical battles and the only one representing a complex picture of Achilles’ heroic character.
The Iliad positions Achilles as a man with unlimited physical power, whose close relationships with gods and whose spiritual integrity shaped the basis for his continuous heroic success. It is difficult to disagree to Michalakis (2007) who writes that Achilles’ “centrality to the poem is marked by his physical ability and his absence from the battlefield and by his reasoning and his strong emotions”. Nevertheless, where Achilles undertakes additional heroic responsibilities and acts as a true literary hero, the motives of his heroism do not go beyond a simple search for glory.
Moreover, Achilles readily displays his human flaws and does not conceal his true desire for a revenge which brightly contrasts his genuinely humane image: “but the heart of Achilles was set on meeting Hector son of Priam, for it was his blood that he longed above all things else to glut the stubborn lord to the battle” (Homer, 1910). In this context, his motives and his heroism stand out as dramatically different from those displayed and pursued by Socrates in his pursuit of the revolutionary philosophic thought.
True, in distinction from physical heroism for which Achilles was well-known, Socrates’ heroism is expressed through his desire to look deeper into the essence of the human life. His philosophy and real-life revelations expressed in Apology shape an undoubtedly heroic picture of Socrates. Moreover, where Achilles seems to be moved by the earthy considerations of pride and glory, Socrates seems to be motivated by his sincere desire to produce a new kind of positive doctrine which the following generations would use to take strategic philosophic decisions. Socrates does not try to deny the realities of life and the limitedness of the human against the forces of nature and gods.
His heroism stems from his desire to recognize that “you too, my friends, must face death with good hope, convinced of the truth of this one thing, that no evil can ever happen to a good man either in life or in death, nor are his fortunes neglected by the gods” (Guthrie, 1971). What seems to be similar between Achilles and Socrates is that both sought to leave their trace in the human history and both sought to produce irreversibly positive impacts on the generations that followed.
Moreover, as Achilles’ deeds proved the relevance of physical force in the battle against the enemy, Socrates’ achievements proved the relevance of the mental work and the training of mind as the instrument of spiritual refraction. In general, Achilles and Socrates shape a balanced image of an ideal personality. For Socrates as well as for Achilles living a good life on earth was the primary task (Guthrie, 1971); that is why they both can be equally considered the most prominent heroic personalities in ancient history.
Achilles and Socrates teach us that living a good life is the primary individual’s obligation. Moreover, whether in physical battle or in the process of training one’s mind, individuals are responsible for balancing their mental and physical abilities in ways that would help them pursue the principles of humanity, virtue, justice, and fairness over the life span.
Guthrie, W.K.C. (1971). Socrates. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved April 21, 2009
Homer. (1910). The Iliad. Plain Label Books. Retrieved April 21, 2009 from
Michelakis, P. (2007). Achilles in Greek tragedy. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved
April 21, 2009 from

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