Honor in Troy

In the movie Troy, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, honor is certainly a very strong motivation for action. There are quite a few instances in which the characters are forced to consider their own honor, and the honor of their family, as well as their country before making a decision or performing an action. These considerations of honor may go against one’s instinct or personal desires.

One scene in particular that portrays honorable actions conflicting with instinctive reflexes is the battle between Paris and Menelaus. Both men are fighting for their own honor, and Menelaus is also retaliating for the dishonor that Paris committed against him by sneaking his wife Helen away from him. Paris knows that the honorable action would be to battle to the death with Menelaus for honor and for Helen, but once Paris realizes he is losing the fight, his human instinctive fear of death gets the better of him, and he takes refuge at the feet of his older brother, Prince Hector. Menelaus is very upset by Paris quitting the battle, because winning a battle simply by default is not an honorable victory.

(Timestamp: 01:12:24)

The scene between Achilles and his mother Thetis, the goddess of water, exhibits a strong sense of foreshadowing. Achilles expresses that he is torn between going to fight for Agamemnon against the Trojans, and staying in Larissa. His mother, being a goddess with supernatural powers, prophesies:

Stay in Larissa. You will find Peace. You’ll find a wonderful woman. You will have sons and daughters, And they will have children. And they will love you. When you are gone, they will remember you. But when your children are dead, and their children after them… Your name will be lost. If you go to troy, glory will be yours. They will write stories about your victories For thousands of years. The world will remember your name. But if you go to troy. You will never come home. For your glory walks hand-in-hand with your doom. And I shall never see you again.

(Timestamp: 0:24:45)

Achilles’s decision after this conversation speaks to his character and his true desires, because it portrays to the audience that honor, glory, and a name that lives on long after he is gone is much more important to him than the joy and peace that a long life and a family would bring him. It is interesting though, that Achilles does seem to end up falling in love with Briseis while he is away at war. Thetis predicted that he would die while away at war, which is true, but Achilles did not die in direct combat. Instead, Paris caught Achilles  with his guard down while he was saving Briseis from the Greek attack on Troy. This scene signals to the audience that Achilles dies unfulfilled, and although his name would become immortal, he regretted choosing glory and honor over the love of a wife and a family.

-Emily Darst

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Honor in Troy

  1. rpasser

    I think it should be brought up that the slaying of Menelaus by Hector is perhaps the most dishonorable event in the movie. Stealing the heart of another man’s wife is one thing, but completely disregarding the terms and conditions set by an agreement is something entirely worse. To go against your own word, as Paris did, is disgraceful. However, to support someone who has gone against his word is even worse. By killing Menelaus, Hector not only robbed the king from regaining his lost honor, but also tarnished his own honor in an irredeemable way.

    Although It may sound as though I am criticizing Hector’s actions, I am not. One of the reasons I wanted to bring this is up is because it fits perfectly with your notion of a conflict between love and honor. Hector obviously struck down Menelaus because he loved his younger brother and didn’t want to see him die.

  2. taalib2010

    Indeed, the idea of “honor” in the movie Troy is significant. Numerous characters actions rely on honor as you stated but there are other variables that affect their behavior as well. Just as you mentioned, love has a strong influence on characters and how they react, just like Hector saving his brother Paris. This situation for Hector is like a double sided sword, because if he saves his brother he interrupts the battle of honor but he will save his brother Paris. On the other hand, if he does not get involved in the combat, then he may be perceived and blamed equally for his brothers demise for allowing his brother to get slain in front of his eyes. This decision has to be a tough one for him but he decides to save his brother and appear less honorable than before to the audience.
    Other characters such as, Achilles are also faced with the controversy of choosing between honor opposed to glory, love or pride. Just as you stated, Achilles is struggling with the decision to whether or not he should go honor his name for ever and let it live in glory or stay home and find a beautiful wife and start a family. Another example is when Achilles goes to revenge the life of his cousin against Hector. Achilles is kills Hector but drags the body away on his carriage. Hectors father attempts to retrieve the dead boys body and even mentioned how the traditional way is to burry his own body. As you specified, many character struggle between honor and other variables that could affect that end result.

  3. As has been stated honor is a very important concept in the film Troy, serving as a motivator for many of the characters. Agamemnon wants the honor of ruling the world, Menelaus to cleanse the dishonor of his wife leaving him. The conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles is based on an attempt by Agamemnon to show Achilles his place and thus dishonor him. Throughout the movie characters show that despite the high importance they seem to place on honor they can and will act against it like Hector saving Paris and Achilles choosing Briseis over glory.

  4. The film Troy is all about honor. In fact, the film is about battling for what each character believes is honorable. I think it was most interesting that each character had a least some justification for their actions no matter how weak or strong that justification was. Each character holds themselves to their own moral law and seeks revenge in order to honor the virtue of what they believe in or who they love. I think this argument is significant, and I also believe that dishonor is a huge theme in the film as well.

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