The Differences Between The Main Characters Of Iliad & Chushingura: Hana no Maki Essay

Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki reveal two different cultures: ancient Greek and Japanese ones. The difference between the two cultures become obvious when the two works raise the theme of honor and shame which turn out to be view in different ways by ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais, while the latter viewed them as collective concepts, the former viewed them as highly personalized concepts.

Iliad by Homer is the epic work that reveals the cultural norms and traditions of the ancient Greek society. At the same time, the epic poem uncovers the lifestyle of ancient Greeks and their values. In this regard, the theme of honor is one of the main themes in this epic work, which uncovers the attitude of ancient Greeks to the concept of honor and reveals the honor as one of the primary concern of ancient Greek society, which uncovers the role of honor in Greek society. In this regard, Book I gives insights toward the understanding of the role of honor in the life of ancient Greek society. Greeks viewed honor as the primary concerns and one of the fundamental values and leaders of the ancient Greek society. At this point, it is possible to refer to such characters as Agamemnon and Achilles, which appreciate honor and reveal the full extent to which honor was important for ancient Greeks.

In fact, honor was an essential condition of a real leadership. Therefore, the true leader should have honor and be able to commit glorious acts. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that Agamemnon, the King of Greeks, manifests his honor openly as he pursues some glorious rewards for his achievements as the leader of the army and his people:

Still, I am willing to give her back, if such is the best way.

I myself desire that my people be safe, not perish.

Find me then some prize that shall be my own, lest I only

Among the Argives go without, since that were unfitting

(Homer, 1, 116-119).

Agamemnon’s primary concern is gaining some prize at all cost to meet his honor and to contribute to gaining respect among his people. In fact, Agamemnon’s honor turns out to be dominating over his reason and emotions. It is the honor that is the determinant factor that guides Agamemnon in his actions. At the same time, he may be even unaware of the impact of honor on his actions but he cannot resist and his honor determines his behavior.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that Agamemnon is the leader of Greeks in their war on Troja. He is the leader of all Greeks. Therefore, his honor is the manifestation of the true leader. In such a way, Homer gives implications that a leader cannot be deprived of honor. Instead, honord is an essential attribute of the leader. Otherwise, the leader would not gain respect of his people in the ancient Greek society.

At the same time, the most outstanding heroes of Greek army are also vulnerable to the overwhelming impact of honor. For instance, Achilleus is one of the main characters, whose honor often rules over his reason:

And now my prize you threaten in person to strip from me,

For whom I labored much, the gift of the sons of Achaians.

Never, when the Achaians sack some well-founded citadel of the Trojans, do I have the prize that is equal to your prize.

(Homer, 1, 161-164).

Therefore, gaining the prize is the primary concern of Achilleus, which he puts above the possible threat to his own life and the life of his people. Winning the prize turns out the goal that may cost the character the life but he does not really care about it because of his excessive honor and pursuit of glory as the ultimate goal of the life of a true Greek hero. In such a way, Homer uncovers the role of honor in the life of ancient Greek people throught the character of Achilleus.

Achilleus honor often determines his actions. For instance, he prefers to return home to save his face rather than to be dishonored, even if he can gain enormous wealth:

Now I am returning to Phthia, since it is much better to go home again with my curved ships, and I am minded no longer

to stay here dishonored and pile up your wealth and your luxury (Homer, 1, 169-171).

In such a way, the honor turns out to be prior to wealth and prosperity for Achilleus, who was a respectable character in ancient Greek society. Therefore, material values turn out to be unimportant for ancient Greeks as was the case of Achielleus, who refused from wealth to save his face. Instead, glorious and heroic acts driven by the honor of the main characters of the play comprised the core of the ancient Greek society’s set of values. In other words, ancient Greeks appreciated honor above all. This is why they glorified kings and heroes, whose honor drove them to commit heroic and glorious acts, sacrifice their life for the sake of glory and implementation of their personal ambitions.

Further events unfolding throughout the epic poem enhance the role of honor in the ancient Greek set of values as one of the major virtues for Greeks. In this regard, the first book of the epic poem sets clearly core values and norms of the ancient Greek society. At this point, the honor of ancient Greeks was apparently excessive because, just like in case of Achilleus, their honor was stronger than their natural instincts because they could easily put under a threat their life just to gain glory and to meet their ambitions.

At the same time, Iliad uncovers the milestone of Greek philosophy, which often neglected material values as being secondary. Instead, such virtues as honor, heroic acts, and the defense of interests of Greece and community were appreciated by ancient Greeks above all. Homer just depicts the impact of honor on actions of the main characters. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the author does not view actions of the main characters driven by honor as something extraordinary or unusual. On the contrary, he glorifies those characters, who are driven by honor, while he interprets their actions as good and virtuous (Fox, 195). For instance, the author apparently stands for Agamemnon and Achilleus, when they strive to get the prize, even if they suffer substantial losses in one way or another, while the prize itself is unimportant. What does matter for them is the fact of winning the prize because it is only through winning they can match their ambitions and feel satisfied. Therefore, Homer’s Iliad reveals the fact that honor was one of the main virtues in the ancient Greek society.

In this regard, Chushingura: Hana no Maki reveals the full extent to which Japanese views on honor and shame are different from ancient Greek ones. Japanese Samurais view the honor of their leader and clan as superior to their personal honor which is shaped on the ground of the honor of the clan above all. All their efforts aim at the regaining the honor of the crime after the forced suicide of their leader, who could not afford the shame and preferred to commit a ritual suicide instead of putting under a threat the honor of his clan. Revengeful Samurais attempt to restore the honor of the clan through the revenge on the death of their leader. If they do not revenge, the shame will be on them that reveals how the shame and honor become collective concepts in Japanese culture compared to the highly individualistic concepts in ancient Greek culture.

Thus, ancient Greek perception of honor was highly individualistic and different from the collective perception of these concepts in Japanese culture. This is why the main characters of Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki are so different.


Works Cited:

Fox, R.L. Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their myths in the epic age of Homer. New York: Allen Lane, 2008.

Homer. Iliad. New York: Penguin Classics, 2012.

Inagaki, H. Chushingura: Hana no Maki. Toho, 1962.

West, Martin (1999). “The Invention of Homer”. Classical Quarterly 49(364).

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: August 11, 2022] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2022]
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