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Heroes are defined by their humanity Only after Achilles accepts his fate and comes to terms with his own mortality does he regain his humanity and only then can he be considered a hero The Iliad opens with the rage of Peleus son Achilles Iliad 11 and closes with the burial of Hector breaker of horses Iliad 24944 The bracketing of the poem with descriptions of these two men suggests both their importance and their connection to one another They lead parallel lives as the top fighters in their respective armies and as the poem progresses their lives and deaths become more and more closely linked They each struggle to fulfill the heroic ideal and they both grapple with temptations that lure them away from heroism While Hector embodies the human heroic ideal Achilles strives to surpass human heroism to achieve some identification with the divine These delusions of grandeur diminish Achilles greatly despite his efforts he can never be immortal and a mortal god besides being an oxymoron would be decidedly pitiful Achilles heroism therefore is incumbent on his acceptance of his humanity Achilles entangles Hector in his struggle to come to terms with his own mortality by recognizing himself in his enemy Hector comes to represent the humanity of Achilles against which Achilles rebels and which he tries to destroy in his desire to be immortal Their fates are therefore linked and the death of the one necessitates the death of the other In finally giving over Hectors body to Priam Achilles is at his most heroic for in this action he accepts his fate his mortality and his humanity The two men are lured away from heroism in opposite directions Hector by his connections to home and family and Achilles by his connections to the gods To be a hero is to sacrifice ones own personal and familial ties in favor of facing death and striving for glory In the
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