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.
Achilles was merciless and bloodthirsty
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.