constantly to prove themselves greater than anyone else, and it is this quality that marks them out as heroes and as men capable of protecting those who rely on them displaying this quality. There is only one occasion in the Iliad when a true hero compromises his heroic ideals in favour of a more pragmatic approach and it is marked for this reason and for the fact that it does not result in calamity. In Book 4 (370-418), Agamemnon abuses Diomedes for skulking by his horses and not being keen to engage the Trojans in war. He recalls how Diomedes' father, Tydeus, would never have acted in such a way. Such a rebuke would be a serious blow to the honour of a hero, yet Diomedes chooses to accept the criticism, rather than take offence, as Achilles has done. He even chides his companion Sthenelos who responds angrily to Agamemnon's slight. For, he states, Agamemnon is right to encourage his troops in such a way, since it is he who will stand or fall by the success or failure of the Achaean mission. Such clear-sighted thinking is unique for a hero when his honour is called into question, and it is notable that the incident has no lasting repercussions. Furthermore, Diomedes' stature as a true Homeric hero is confirmed by his later success on the battlefield, and, most explicitly, by his attempts to fight the gods.

Life and Death

The stark choice that faces the hero is emphasised by the way in which Homer treats the contrast between life and death. Unlike other mythological worlds, the Homeric world provides no comfort for the hero that there is a glorious life after death. His earthly glory may live on, but for him death is final. Unlike the gods, whose immortality is constantly stressed, the hero will die and it is this that provides the pathos in his predicament. For, in order to win glory, he must place himself in positions where death is likely and eventually inevitable. Even after death, the potential for mutilation of his body means that his honour can still be sullied. This is why we see such frenzied fighting over the bodies of Sarpedon and Patroclus, and why it is so important to Priam that he recover the corpse of Hector. In order to complete the hero's glory, he must be given a burial appropriate to his stature.

The finality of death - the fact that, once dead, the hero cannot return to influence events - raises the stakes. He must seek to utilise his vitality while still alive, while being aware at all times of the proximity of his extinction. Thus, we see that every hero is prone to moments of fear, mostly explicitly realised in Hector, who, having steeled himself to stay outside Troy and face Achilles, is struck by panic and flees. It is this paradox, that by facing death the hero glorifies his life, that raises the heroic predicament to the sublime. The fragility of life is necessarily intertwined with the pursuit of greatness.

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