I feel that Achilles refusal to relent is actually his way of standing up for standards and justice, to forge order in a world of royal caprice and arbitrariness. If it was simply power and wealth he wanted, then with his supernatural fighting skills, he could easily have displaced Agamemnon.
If Achilles had simply allowed Agamemnon to take Briseis away without a terrible display of protest, he would have become an enabler of tyranny and incompetence, which hurts the whole world and posterity. If he had been readily accepting of Agamemnon’s compensation, that would just lead to settlement culture where the high and mighty can repeatedly steal from subordinates and throw a coin back every now and then.
Thus, by pulling a high profile Atlas Shrugged, Achilles benefitted the little man everywhere by leveraging his demigod abilities to create an example of justice that will serve as a reminder to contemporary and future leaders to respect the property and women of their subjects, to show decisive competence in leadership and war (i.e. don’t cover up plague cause). Agamemnon had no right to be so greedy and incompetent when the whole city and lion’s share of loot would be his eventually.
Off course, looting, slavery, collective responsibility and bloody loss of life is unacceptable nowadays. However, back then, it was unfortunately a thing. So we must analyze it from the standards of the time.
As for the wrath and blood lust, I feel we must look at this from the perspective of hospitality and brotherhood and filial trust. In those unstable times, the only security was family and the social fabric (i.e. trade, commerce, civilization) was welded together by hospitality. Paris violated this by seducing Helen and stealing Menelaues’ fortune while a guest. If this went unpunished, then civilization would break down. They didn’t have hotels or vast police forces and social services back then; food, shelter, security was provided by households. Hospitality to them is just as important as the banking system is to us.
Thus Achilles actions after Patrolcus’ death and his general brutality towards the Trojans was to set an example so awe inspiring that people in the future would think twice before violating the code of hospitality and or enabling others who do so.
We should also note that Achilles does fully respect his mother’s orders and was hospitable to King Priam, giving him protection and consideration. Moreover, he did not neglect funeral rites but held honorable funeral for Patroclus and got 12 days truce so that Priam could hold a splendid funeral for Hector (despite the fact that they should have forced Paris to return Helen and the stolen money promptly to Menelaus).
Thus, I feel that despite the crudeness that his actions may appear to give, he is selfless in that he forfeits using his strength to live a life of hedonistic tyranny, but instead uses it as leverage to force justice, excellence, competence and order, thus benefitting civilization at large. So he was kind of like an unwritten constitution. And that is why he is remembered as a Hero.]]>