Three of the main characters in the books of the Iliad and the Odyssey are Achilles, Odysseus, and Hector. Achilles and Odysseus are both Greek warriors that fight in the Trojan War. Hector, on the opposite side, is the best fighter on the Trojans’ side. All three of these characters are respected and revered as heroes among all of their people and are some of the most important characters in the Iliad and the Odyssey. They all have their individual uniqueness, however, but differ significantly in each of their relationships with their families, the way that they lead their troops in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and also in the way that they view and interact with the power of the gods.
One of the biggest ways that Achilles and Odysseus differ is in the way that each of them leads their troops and performs their roles within each of their respected communities. Achilles, on the one hand, is one of the greatest warriors among the Greeks, but takes a stand with the Myrmidons by refusing to continue on in the journey to fight in Troy because he is never rewarded. He describes himself as a little bird that feeds her little chicks whatever she can but does without herself (p. 96), and is stubborn and almost unwilling to help. One of the main reasons that he refuses to continue to fight is because Agamemnon took his war prize, Briseis, and views that as the last straw to fight in the Trojan War. Even though he does this, however, he is still respected by the Greeks and the Myrmidons. When the fighting comes to his doorstep he decides to finally fight the Trojans. On the other hand, Odysseus seems as though he is an agreeable character and sort of a peacekeeper for the Greeks and does whatever he can to help, even if that means doing some of Agamemnon’s dirty work. For example, in Book 1 of the Iliad on page 14, Odysseus finds himself returning Chryseis to her father after Agamemnon took her as a war prize. Also, we see him defending Agamemnon and bringing order to the troops after Thersites insults and continues to try to stir up trouble for Agamemnon and the rest of the Greeks (p. 22-23). Furthermore, we see him apologizing to Achilles for Agamemnon (p. 93) and asking him to come back with the Greeks to fight in Troy. So Odysseus usually wants to maintain the peace, keep order, and not dissent too much throughout the Iliad.
Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus also are different in the way that they view the gods. Achilles, being the stubborn warrior that he is, is not afraid of the gods in any way and is not even afraid to talk back to them. For instance, when Achilles is tricked by Apollo on his way into Troy, he is outraged and tells Apollo that if he could then he would get even (p. 205). Of course, when he needs the gods’ help, he is not afraid to go about getting it any way he can either. In the beginning of the Iliad, he asks his mother Thetis to talk with Zeus about making the Greeks suffer a little bit (p. 13). Hector, on the flip side, reveres the gods greatly and is well-liked by the gods. For example, Zeus calls Hector a “man close to my heart (p. 210)” when he is being chased by Achilles. Also, when Hector finally does die he attributes it to the will and the plan of the gods, saying that it must have been chosen long ago by Zeus and Apollo (p. 214). In addition, earlier in the Iliad he mentions that he has too much reverence for Zeus to pour a libation to him with unwashed hands (p. 74), which shows that he has a special respect and admiration for the gods. On a totally different level, however, Odysseus is very different in how he interacts with the gods. A specific situation comes when he travels home from Troy. Although he gains sorrow from most of the gods, he manages to be in conflict throughout his journey with the god of the sea, Poseidon. After he blinds Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus, in Book 9 of the Odyssey, Poseidon wants to get even with Odysseus and prevent him from getting back to his homeland.
Yet another way that these three characters have different personalities can be seen in the relationships with their families and friends. Hector, leading the way with the close ties to his family, devotes a specific time for saying goodbye to his wife, Andromache, as well as to his son. He tells Andromache that his pain for the Trojans, if they lose the war, would pale in comparison to the pain he would feel for her if she lost him to Hades (Iliad, p. 80). Odysseus and Achilles, on the other hand, have no qualm about going into battle. Yes, Odysseus does long for his wife in the Odyssey on his way back home, but he is more concerned with getting vengeance with the suitors and taking his rightful place. And Achilles does not seem to even have the same type of loyalty that both Odysseus and Hector have. For example, in Book 9 of the Iliad we see him rejecting Odysseus’ and Ajax’s request that he join the rest of the troops in battle. He does not feel obliged, at that moment, to help the Greeks on their way to Troy to recover Helen, but then ends up lamenting Patroclus’ death later in the Iliad because he himself chose not to fight.
Through all of the examples that have been identified, Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus do all appear to take very different paths in the way that they are portrayed throughout the Iliad and the Odyssey. First, they are different in their leadership skills; second, all of their opinions and actions towards the gods show that they all have different beliefs and how much stock that they actually put into the power of the gods. Lastly, we see that all three of the characters’ interactions with their families and friends result in very different outcomes. So although Achilles, Hector, and Odysseus are the greatest warriors among their people, they are all surprisingly diverse in the specific actions and personalities that they decide to take on.