Agamemnon did much more than rob from Achilles his concubine, that in his hubris he stripped from Achilles not his armor but worse, stripped from him his honor and his glory, making him lose face before his comrade. Indeed, gaining respect and avoiding shame is critical for warriors, and men in any age. […]
So, the Iliad begins with an enemy camp meeting that went badly, but ends with an enemy camp meeting that went well, reconciling Achilles both to Priam and the death of his best friend Patroclus. But in the middle there is an aborted enemy camp meeting that should have taken place but never did, sealing forever the fate of doomed Troy.
These warrior stories are captivating because they are stories about breaking conventions, when conventions are broken to increase virtue, fate unfolds favorably, but then conventions are broken and virtue decreases, fate takes a tragic turn.
Even in our modern culture we never totally escape the warrior ethos. That is why the Iliad is timeless. Men are not allowed to have problems, especially at work. When men look weak, they are toast. None of us want to walk and talk like Bernard Goetz on a New York subway; we don’t want to walk like a wimp, we don’t want to be thug bait, we strive to never show fear, and if we succeed we can conclude that the big city is really a safe place as we arrive home safe once more. We would rather be dirty Harry; me, Smith, and Wesson. […]