The Battle Between Egoism and Altruism in the Iliad

Topics: Altruism, Iliad, Greek mythology Pages: 3 (903 words) Published: November 4, 2012
The Battle Between Egoism and Altruism in The Iliad

Being that I am a recovering addict, I have been looking at my actions more in depth and have come to the realization that all of my actions had a motive to them I believe. I was acting on egoism rather than altruism. Altruism is defined as the unselfish concern of the welfare of others while egoism is defined as the belief that self-interest is the motive for all human conduct. Upon doing my fourth step inventory, I was able to see how my actions were used to manipulate people into having them do what I wanted, which would be a form of egoism. Although I may have thought I was acting altruistically, analysis proved that I was not doing a good deed expecting nothing in return. The same can be seen in The Iliad, particularly in the characters Achilles and Hector. The struggle between altruism and egoism in both characters is notable throughout the epic poem and shows that neither character is inherently good or inherently selfish.

The epic poem opens in Book One with a quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. Achilles is forced to give up his prize, Briseis, to Agamemnon when Agamemnon must surrender his prize, Chryseis, in order to end the plague that Apollo has placed on the Achaeans. This is the first instance where you can clearly see Achilles acting egoistically as he makes the decision not to return to fight for Agamemnon. Achilles is not looking out for the best interest of his comrades and would rather have them be punished so he will maintain his pride and glory in the long run.

Achilles’ motives change from being that of a true egoist to becoming more altruistic as the poem continues. Achilles sends Patroklos into battle with the Achaeans in hope that he will be glorified while not having to risk his life. This action is clearly egoistic as Achilles is looking for the easy way to be remembered for eternity without having to put the risk in and risking his dear friend’s...
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