Achilles Responds in a long-winded Speech
In response to the indemnities that Agamemnon is willing to retribute for, Achilles provides a long discourse on why he will not accept the material wealth and women that Agamemnon proposes to Achilles in return for his return to the fighting on behalf of the Argives. There is one passage in this speech that I believe is very important to and shows that Homer thought as did many much later philosophers about death and what life is, how we live and how we die. Often times the Iliad and the Odyssey are referred to as the ancient Greek bible, and this is ultimately true. For we can see many parallels between both Homer's epics and the Christian Bible. This next passage greatly coincides with a type of thought or reflection that we might find in the gospels or some other book of the Bible:
"No, what lasting thanks in the long run
for warring with our enemies, on and on, no end?
One and the same lot for the man who hangs back
and the man who battles hard. The same honor waits
for the coward and the brave. They both go down to Death,
the fighter who shirks, the one who works to exhaustion."
Fagles, Book 9, Ln 382-'87
This line is spoken by the great warrior as "proof" and reasons for why he feels much differently now about glory, war, and the consequences of death. Instead now of just searching for immortal ARETE, he instead is beginning to think that no matter what he does, the same fate will befall all men; it does not matter what he does on earth, for death becomes us all.
The afterlife of that time, Hades, was a much bleaker picture of life after death than the heaven of today's Chrisitan religions. (The following statement is made by looking at particular religions on an "evolutionary scale", meaning the religions themselves evolved over the years. For example, Mithra, and ancient Roman pagan god whom was worshipped just 200 years before Jesus Christ, was born on December 25, the same date as the later Christian savior. This is just one example of the influence that we can see on our modern religions, taken from previous past religions. However our statements to this effect do not profess an atheist view of the existence of G(g)od(s).)
Perhaps this is because religions are molded around the preference and the lifestyle of the people that practice them. Our cultures today, at least for instance in the United States, glorify immortal life and the ability to stay young for as long as possible. We loathe death, and we are mortally afraid (no pun intended...) of the coming day when the only sure thing in life will come. Maybe this shift in cultural view of death is the reason that we see our heaven generally so different from the Hades of the ancient Greeks. People today need to be able to think that they have a "wonderful place in the clouds" where they will go when they die. I for one do not try to claim that I don't need this view either, I think trying to imagine no life whatsoever after death is extremely scary and not something that I think a person would be able to face very easily.