ACHILLES WAS NOT A HERO: 7 reasons why Brad Pitt’s portrayal in “Troy” is terribly wrong.

The “Hero” of The Iliad and of the 2004 movie Troy is, of course, fictional, but the book is based on real historical events. Troy is a (very) loose adaptation of The Iliad and the Achilles depicted in the book is nothing like Brad Pitt’s portrayal in the movie. We’ve compiled a list of things that the film’s depiction of the Greek hero has gotten very wrong.


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Achilles was merciless and bloodthirsty

"The Rage of Achilles" by Giovanni Batista Tiepolo.

“The Rage of Achilles” by Giovanni Batista Tiepolo. Source: Wikimedia

In Homer’s poem, the author does not downplay Achilles’ mean streak, especially after his fight with Agamemnon when he delights in watching the Greeks being slaughtered by the Trojans, and after that when Achilles fights for the Greeks again with unbelievable mercilessness. Hector’s murder and Achilles’ despicable treatment of his body is one of the well-known illustrations of what Achilles was like.

Movie!Achilles was humanized

Achilles dragging Hector's body in front of gates of Troy

Achilles dragging Hector’s body in front of gates of Troy. Source: Wikimedia

In contrast to the bloodthirsty and merciless character Homer presents in The Iliad, the Achilles portrayed by Brad Pitt in the 2004 film is humanized – he is relatable even to some extent. While he does do a lot of despicable things in the film, like murdering Hector and dishonoring his body, there are many moments in the film that make the spectator feel for the protagonist.

Romance in The Iliad and Troy

Achilles and Patroclus.

Achilles and Patroclus. Source: Wikimedia

It’s likely that the director chose to humanize Achilles in order to make him more appealing to the 21st century audience. In 2004, people wanted someone they could relate to, and were unlikely to be interested in watching an epic where a protagonist does nothing but murder and doesn’t have a love interest. Of course, in The Iliad, Achilles and Patroclus were heavily implied to be lovers, whereas in Troy, they were cousins – another major difference.

Briseis

Rose Byrne as Briseis in Troy. Source: Pinterest

Rose Byrne as Briseis in Troy. Source: Pinterest

In Troy, Briseis has a much more important role than in The Iliad – she even takes the place of Agamemnon’s killer. She also serves as a love interest for Achilles (Patroclus’ replacement perhaps?). It is never explicitly stated that he is in love with her, but many argue that he is. Achilles even tells her “You were my peace, in a lifetime of war”. Iliad!Achilles, on the other hand, was not a lover, but very much a fighter.

Hector was the true hero

Hector's last visit to his family

Hector’s last visit to his family. Source: Wikimedia

A tragic hero, whom many believe Achilles to be, is someone whose flaws bring his downfall. While Achilles has one fatal flow – his foot that wasn’t dipped into the River Styx – it can be argued to be too literal to trly make him a tragic hero. On the other hand, Hector had a flaw like that – his honor. Entering a losing battle is what brought his downfall. Achilles, however, acted like a spoiled brat for a large part of The Iliad, going even as far as manipulating his mother into punishing the Greeks so that they realise they can’t win without him.

Core of the story

Iliad. Book 8.

Iliad. Book 8. Source: Wikimedia

Homer makes it clear at the start of The Iliad that Achilles’ anger and refusals to fight battles are going to be one of the most significant plot points of the poem. While that makes him a central figure of the story, it does not make him a tragic hero portrayed by Brad Pitt in Troy. 

Achilles was a hero in nothing but his parentage

Thetis dipping Achilles into the River Styx

Thetis dipping Achilles into the River Styx. Source: Wikimedia

In The Iliad, Achilles is the son of a Greek Goddess Thetis, which, according to the Greek mythology, makes him a hero. However, while the film does make him look heroic, Homer did not write him that way. As you can see from the rest of the article, the only “heroic” thing about Achilles is his parentage and special abilities he had gained because of that, and because Thetis had dipped him into the River Styx when he was young, thus making him almost invincible.

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  • Boris

    I think this article doesn’t really understand the concept of historiography. By the standards of his time achilles was a great hero, especially for all the reasons stated here. His tempur tantrums were seen as justified by the greeks of his time, parentage was pretty much the only way a person was considered a hero (everyone was descended from some randy god) and he hardly manipulated his mother, she basically fed his petty desire for glory. Hector was also only a good guy by modern standards

  • humphrey

    The point of this article was to show difference between Brad Pit and Achilles. There is no point in doing that, because Troy was not an adaptation of Iliad at all. Achilles in Troy is not protected by dipping in Styx river, for example, so he can not be compared with the Achilles from the Iliad. Unfortunately for the writer of this text, Achilles was indeed revered as an ultimate hero (next to Heracles) in ancient Greece. The whole idea of heroism and virtue was a bit different back in those times, than it is in modern Western Society.
    If you read through entire Ancient Greek mythology, you will not find a single character that is “super” (they all have flaws, even the gods). There is no “knight in shining armor”. Their bad habits and negative actions were blamed on fate and gods, which was one of the points in everyday ancient Greek life – you can not defy fate and gods.
    So Achilles and Heracles were actually revered because they managed to overcome all the difficulties in their lives. We should never compare them to our “standards” of heroes, which have nothing to do with reality, unlike the ancient Greek heroes, who were flawed.

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