"I would rather work the soil as a serf on hire to some landless impoverished peasant than be King of all these lifeless dead"

Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles, black-figure neck-amphora, ca.520-10 BC
Public DomainAjax carrying the dead body of Achilles, black-figure neck-amphora, ca.520-10 BC - Credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons
This seems like a shockingly strange sentiment to come from one of the greatest heroes of Greek mythology, the man who chose ever-lasting glory over life. This statement really serves to show how different the theme of The Odyssey is to Homer’s earlier epic, The Iliad. If the latter is about war, death and glory, the former is most definitely about life. Achilles has achieved fame that Odysseus could only dream of, yet it is Achilles who envies Odysseus simply for being alive; it is Odysseus who will truly get to enjoy the admiration his reputation has earned. This sentence also illustrates just how depressing the Underworld is for its denizens, that not even Achilles’ hard-won glory can cheer him.