The ideal of the selfless warrior is at least as old as the Greeks, who also understood the dangers of excessive pride. Homer’s Iliad perfectly captures the tension between hubris and humility in the conflict between Achilles and Hector, his two warrior-heroes who fought to the death. Achilles was beautiful, charismatic and vain. He was god-like in his abilities as a warrior and a seeker of personal glory.
Hector was also a great warrior, but he fought as a duty rather than a passion; he was the ideal citizen-soldier who went to war to protect his family, his city, and his community. Robert Schoultz, a former SEAL captain who teaches ethics and has written extensively about SEAL culture, uses the Achilles-Hector dichotomy to capture the same tensions among our modern-day warriors. Many young SEALs aspire to become like Achilles, Schoultz says, though Hector would be the truer representative of the SEALs ethos.