Achilles debate - Ancient Greece Project
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Achilles debate

Achilles and Ajax playing chess
Achilles and Ajax playing checkers

Achilles, the hero of Homer's Iliad, learned that he had a choice. He could choose to live a long, healthy life ruling his small kingdom, with his children and grandchildren around him, and then die and be forgotten like other men. Or he could choose to die a glorious death as a hero in battle, as a young man, and people would remember him for thousands of years. Achilles chose to die young (according to the Greek story), and sure enough we still remember him today, three thousand years later.

What would you choose, if you had the same choice? Why? What are some arguments on the other side? Choose up sides and have one side argue for a long quiet life, and the other side argue for a hero's death. Then switch, and argue the other side, if there's time.

More about Achilles

Bibliography and further reading about Achilles:

The Iliad of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard. A retelling of the story.

The Iliad (Penguin Classics) by Homer. Translated by Robert Fagles. A great translation!

Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, by Kostas Myrsiades (1987).

Achilles, by Mike Chapman (2004). A brief biography of Achilles, with details that aren't in the Iliad about Achilles' childhood.

Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character, by Jonathan Shay (1995). A best-seller, about the relationship between the rage of Achilles and PTSD in Vietnam vets. Serious stuff.

Or check out the Encyclopedia Britannica's article on Achilles.

More about Achilles
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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