The ancient Greeks had strict criteria for individuals to follow if they were to be seen as heroes. Above all, a man needed to be a skilled warrior, but this was not the only requirement. To be a hero, a warrior had to respect authority, both governmental and religious. The Greeks gave heroes no room for pride. These men were to be modest, not only giving credit to their culture and the gods for any great deeds they had done, but also accepting everything that happened as Fate, not scenarios they had created for themselves. In other words, they did not make themselves what they were; rather, they had been predestined to become it.
The final requirement of being a hero was coolness. Heroes were not permitted to be blinded by rage or have mood swings. In The Iliad, two Greeks are presented to the reader as heroes. They are Achilles and Diomedes. Although they are both good contenders for the title of hero, Diomedes is by far the better of the two. Diomedes is one of the finest and bravest of the Greek warriors. He is respectful to all authority figures and has little or no pride. Always wise and reasonable, he may be the vision of the perfect nobleman. Both Achilles and Diomedes easily meet the first requirement, that a hero must have skill on the battlefield.
Throughout The Iliad, Homer tells of their incredible (though usually god-aided) feats during the many battles of the Trojan War. Perhaps the greatest example of Achilles fighting skill is when he fights with and kills Hector, the greatest of the Trojan warriors (260-261). However, this fight may have never happened if Athena had not disguised herself as one of Hectors brothers and convinced him to fight (260). That was not enough though, as Athena then helped Achilles win the fight (260-261). This seems to be the case with all of Achilles battles.
A god, goddess, or gods help him in battle by strengthening and encouraging him and his men, or they rally a Trojan army into entering a futile final battle. Diomedes is also guilty of receiving help from the gods. After praying for Athenas aid, Diomedes proceeds to not only slay Pandaros (who wounded him earlier) and many other Trojans, but also wound Aeneas in his hip and his mother Aphrodite in her hand (60-64). Later on in the same battle, Diomedes thrusts his spear through the belly of Ares, also done with the help of Athena (73). Another example of Diomedes skill comes when he and Odysseus spy on the Trojan camp.
Diomedes goes ahead of Odysseus and strikes down so many Trojans that the ground was reddened with blood (124). Even before this, Diomedes prayed again to Athena for help. It seems no Greek warrior could fight their own battles; instead, they requested help from the gods. This fact makes it difficult to discern the better fighter between Achilles and Diomedes, but the common choice would probably be Achilles because of his legendary status and he was the son of an immortal. Achilles fails miserably at respecting anyone in authority, whether governmental or religious.
He not only disrespects King Agamemnons authority, but also the goddess Athena herself. This lack of respect begins when Achilles calls an assembly of the Greeks, something only Agamemnon was able to do (12). He then proceeds to insult the king, telling him he is greedy, shameless, a cheater, and a drunk (14-15). To top it off, Achilles contemplates drawing his sword to strike down Agamemnon, and is only stopped by Athena grabbing his hair (14-15). (Needless to say, killing the leader of your nation would be the ultimate act of disrespect to the government.
Although he does so badly with respect for government authority, Achilles has no problem respecting human religious authority, only because he has no encounters with priests, prophets, and etceteras. However, he does show some disrespect to Athena for stopping his murder of King Agamemnon. Instead of following the goddess orders whole-heartedly, he does it quite reluctantly and talks back in the process (15). Diomedes is the opposite of Achilles in the area of respect and demonstrates a great respect for government authority.
He risks his own life to save the aging Greek commander Nestor and help him escape from Hector after many other Greeks had already fled (94). As far as Diomedes respect for religious authority, he does not encounter any priests or so on either. He does however, follows Athenas orders exactly after she tells him not to fight with any of the gods except Aphrodite (who he later wounds in the hand) (60, 64). With Diomedes complete respect for government authority and following Athenas orders exactly, it is incredibly easy to see that Diomedes is the better of the two contenders within this requirement.
Humility is another requirement Achilles fails to meet. His excessive pride is seen throughout The Iliad. When he tells Agamemnon that he is withdrawing himself and all his forces from the Trojan War, Achilles makes it sound as if he has done greater things than anyone, putting himself on a pedestal (15). Never does Achilles credit anyone or anything for his success, including the gods. It is always he himself who has done something. Although Achilles is so prideful about his deeds, he is able to accept Fate (somewhat blindly however).
As he reprimands his horses as if it were their fault Patroclos was killed, one of them tells Achilles his death is near (235). Achilles tells the horse he knows this, indicating he accepts it (but he may not have remembered earlier advice on how to escape it) (236). Diomedes does not credit himself for his accomplishments. He usually gets around glorifying himself by thanking the gods. Before his duel with Glaucos, Diomedes goes through his lineage, which could be interpreted as crediting previous generations for his skill and success (76).
He is seen (with Odysseus) crediting Athena for a successful reconnaissance mission in the Trojan camp (126). As well as being humble, Diomedes accepts fate and acts accordingly. At one point, Agamemnon thinks the war is lost and wishes to return home, but Diomedes declares that the entire Greek force can leave, but he will stay because Troy is fated to fall (102-103). Achilles pride contributes to his downfall (not mentioned in The Iliad), and it also shows Diomedes to have far less hubris than his egotistical fellow Greek warrior. Coolness may be the requirement Achilles is furthest from meeting.
Almost every time his name is mentioned, he is in some fit of rage. His very first tantrum is when he about kills Agamemnon, only being stopped by Athena (14-15). His next episode of anger comes after the death of Patroclos, but it is actually helpful to the Greeks. Achilles charges over the battlefield, destroying all Trojan warriors he crossed paths with (239-244). The final act of Achilles great anger is after he kills Hector. Achilles is still deeply hurt by the death of his friend Patroclos, so he drags Hectors body behind his chariot (after allowing other Greeks to pierce it with spears), mutilating it (262-263).
Diomedes has only one fit of anger, but this could be blamed on Athena rather than poor anger-management techniques. Fueled by divine strength, Diomedes begins to single-handedly drive back the Trojans (60-63). He is about to kill Aeneas, but Aphrodite saves her son, angering Diomedes, who thrusts his spear into her hand (63-64). Throughout the rest of The Iliad, Diomedes is portrayed as a cool-headed individual. This trait may be best exhibited in the nighttime spying mission with Odysseus in which he completes the mission because he keeps calm and does not become fueled by rage (115-126).
Diomedes is obviously the cooler-headed between himself and Achilles, who was always losing his temper at one thing or another. The ancient Greeks had strict criteria for individuals to follow if they were to be seen as heroes. Those requirements were skill in battle, respect for authority, humility, and coolness under fire. Not many men met all requirements, including Achilles, but they were still viewed as heroes. Between Achilles and Diomedes, Diomedes was the better choice for the title of hero.
He was one of the finest Greek soldiers. Diomedes was respectful of authority, humble about his successes, and was very levelheaded. Achilles had great fighting skill as well; however, he had trouble respecting authority and keeping his cool, both results of his excessive pride. If Achilles had not been so prideful, he could have been a much greater warrior and hero, perhaps achieving status equal to the gods. He simply had too much pride. Diomedes was humble; therefore, it was easier for him to respect authority and keep a level head.