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.
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.”
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.