Comparing and Contrasting Iliad and Oedipus: an Exploration of Tragic Heroes

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 794 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Words: 794|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Jun 14, 2024

Table of contents

  1. The Tragic Heroes: Achilles and Oedipus
  2. Implications of Fate and Hubris
  3. The Role of Gods
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

Tragic heroes have long fascinated readers and scholars alike, captivating us with their flawed but compelling characters. Two timeless examples of such heroes are found in the works of Homer's Iliad and Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. Despite being set in different times and exploring distinct themes, both epics delve deep into the human condition, showcasing the consequences of hubris and the inexorable power of fate. This essay aims to analyze the similarities and differences between these two masterpieces, shedding light on the tragic hero archetype and its significance in ancient Greek literature.

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The Tragic Heroes: Achilles and Oedipus

Both Achilles and Oedipus epitomize the tragic hero archetype, displaying exceptional qualities alongside profound flaws. In Iliad, Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, possesses immense strength and courage, making him virtually invincible. However, his hubris and rage ultimately lead to his downfall, causing immense suffering for himself and those around him. Similarly, Oedipus, the protagonist of Oedipus Rex, is a noble and intelligent king. Yet, his relentless pursuit of the truth and his tragic flaw of pride result in the revelation of his heinous crimes, leading to his own self-blinding and exile.

The theme of fate plays a significant role in both narratives. In the Iliad, Achilles is aware of his destiny to die young but achieve immortal glory. He must choose between a long, mundane life or a short but legendary one. This internal conflict highlights the inevitability of fate and the choices individuals must make in the face of it. On the other hand, Oedipus, unaware of his true lineage, unknowingly fulfills a prophecy that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Despite his best efforts to avoid this fate, his actions unwittingly lead him to its fulfillment.

Implications of Fate and Hubris

The intertwining themes of fate and hubris shape the narratives of both Iliad and Oedipus Rex. In the Iliad, Achilles' hubris is evident in his refusal to fight for the Greek army after a dispute with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks. This decision leads to a series of tragic events, including the death of his dear friend Patroclus and his eventual return to the battlefield to avenge him. Achilles' pride ultimately brings about his demise, emphasizing the destructive nature of hubris and the importance of humility.

Similarly, Oedipus exhibits hubris through his relentless pursuit of the truth, despite warnings from the blind prophet Tiresias and others. His arrogance blinds him to the reality of his crimes, leading him to unknowingly condemn himself. This demonstrates the tragic consequences of excessive pride and the limitations of human knowledge. Moreover, the audience is reminded of the powerlessness of mortals against the forces of fate, which ultimately triumph over individual desires and ambitions.

The Role of Gods

The gods play a significant role in both Iliad and Oedipus Rex, shaping the destinies of the characters and influencing their actions. In the Iliad, the gods actively intervene in the affairs of mortals, often manipulating events to further their own agendas. For instance, Zeus, the king of the gods, favors the Trojans, while Hera supports the Greeks. This divine interference amplifies the tragic nature of the war, as mortals become mere pawns in the gods' power struggle.

Similarly, in Oedipus Rex, the gods' influence is evident through the prophecies and oracles that guide the actions of the characters. Oedipus's tragic fate is predetermined by the gods, and his attempts to escape it only serve to fulfill the prophecy further. The gods' omnipotence and their ability to shape human lives highlight the powerlessness of individuals in the face of divine will.


Through the examination of Iliad and Oedipus Rex, it is evident that both works explore the concept of tragic heroes and their inevitable downfalls. The characters of Achilles and Oedipus embody the complexities of human nature, showcasing the flaws and strengths that make them relatable and engaging. The themes of fate and hubris are central to both narratives, emphasizing the consequences of excessive pride and the indomitable power of destiny. Moreover, the presence of gods in both works further highlights the influence of higher powers on mortal lives. These timeless epics continue to captivate readers, reminding us of the enduring allure and significance of tragic heroes in ancient Greek literature.

As we reflect on the parallels between Iliad and Oedipus Rex, we are prompted to contemplate our own lives and the choices we make. The tragic heroes' journeys serve as cautionary tales, urging us to embrace humility and recognize the limitations of our knowledge. Ultimately, these works compel us to question the extent of our agency in the face of fate, leaving us with a profound appreciation for the enduring power and relevance of these literary masterpieces.


Sophocles. Oedipus Rex. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Books, 1984.

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Homer. Iliad. Translated by Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics, 1998.

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Comparing and Contrasting Iliad and Oedipus: An Exploration of Tragic Heroes. (2024, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
“Comparing and Contrasting Iliad and Oedipus: An Exploration of Tragic Heroes.” GradesFixer, 14 Jun. 2024,
Comparing and Contrasting Iliad and Oedipus: An Exploration of Tragic Heroes. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 15 Jul. 2024].
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