The true hero, the true subject, the centre of the Illiad, is force. Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man’s flesh shrinks away. In this work at all times, the human spirt is shown as modified by its relation to force, as swept away, blinded, by the very force it imagined it could handle, as deformed by the weight of the force it submits to.
Achilles is given a clear choice. He is told that he carries two destinies:
“If I stay here and fight beside the city of the Trojans,/my return home is gone, but my glory shall be everlasting;/but if I return home to the beloved land of my fathers,/the excellence of my glory is gone, but there will be long life/left for me, and my end in death will not come quickly.”
The primacy of honor is memorialized in Achilles’ choice to stay and fight. The conflict between what the hero must do for honor as opposed to even life itself is replicated in other ways in the hero’s situation.
In the role of the hero, one finds the prelude to the tensions and conflicts that structure the polis at later centuries. The political community as a community exists only on the battlefield, where the collective good of the community can be the primary concern of the hero. The community both sustains and provides for the warrior-hero and sends him to possible death…the warrior-hero experienced the conflict between the collective good as an end in itself, and as an instrument of his own glory and honor. The highest good for the warrior-hero is not, as Socrates/Diotoma point out in the Symposium, a quiet conscience, but the enjoyment of public esteem, and through this esteem, immortality.
-from Money, Sex, and Power – Toward a Feminist Historical Materialism, by Nancy C. M. Hartsock