Study Guide

The Iliad

The Iliad Summary

In the tenth year of the Trojan War, tensions are running high among the Achaians (a super-ancient name for the Ancient Greeks). First, the priest Chryses comes to ask their leader, King Agamemnon, to release his daughter, whom Agamemnon was holding captive. When Agamemnon refuses, the priest prays to the god Apollo to send a plague against the Achaians.

After nine days of plague, the Achaians assemble again and demand that Agamemnon give the girl back. Agamemnon eventually agrees, but only if he gets to take Briseis, the girlfriend of Achilleus, the greatest warrior of the Achaians. Even though Achilleus gives her up, he becomes so enraged that he refuses to fight any more. That and he prays to his mother, Thetis, who happens to be a goddess, to pull some strings with the other gods so that the Achaians will start getting defeated in battle and realize how much they depend on him.

Achilleus's mom definitely spoils him. She gets Zeus, the king of the gods, to agree to Achilleus's request. Sure enough, the next day the Trojans make a successful counterattack, led by Hektor, their greatest warrior. Several days of violent fighting follow, at the end of which the Trojans have the Achaians pinned against the beach, and are threatening to burn their ships.

At this point, Achilleus's best friend Patroklos asks for permission to go into battle in Achilleus's place. Achilleus grants Patroklos's request, and even lets him wear his armor. Patroklos's gambit is successful —when the Trojans see him, they think he must be Achilleus and become absolutely terrified. The plan goes off the rails, however, when Hektor kills Patroklos—with the help of the god Apollo and a minor Trojan warrior named Euphorbos. Hektor then takes the armor off Patroklos's body.

When Achilleus learns of the death of his friend, he experiences terrible grief and swears revenge. He sends his mother, Thetis, to get a new suit of armor made especially for him by the fire-god, Hephaistos. The next day, Achilleus rejoins the battle and kills many Trojans, including Hektor in a one-on-one battle.

But Achilleus isn't satisfied. For the next few days, he continually abuses Hektor's body in gruesome ways, even after Patroklos has received a proper funeral. The gods don't like this, and send a message down to Achilleus telling him to give up the body. When the Trojan King Priam—Hektor's father—comes unarmed, by night, to ask for his son's body, Achilleus agrees. The two men eat together and experience a moment of shared humanity. Achilleus grants the Trojans a grace period to perform their funeral rituals. The poem ends with the funeral of Hektor—though we know that soon Achilleus will die and Troy will be captured.

  • Book 1

    • The poet prays to the Muse, the goddess of poetic inspiration. He wants her to tell him about the rage of Achilleus, and how it hurt the Achaians. He asks her to begin with the fight between Achilleus and Agamemnon.
    • Confused yet? Don't worry. You're supposed to be. What you've just experienced is one of every epic poet's favorite tricks: beginning the story in medias res or "in the middle of things." (In medias res is known to cause dizziness and loss of appetite for stories with less awesome openers. You can learn more about it and Homer's other poetic stylings in "Writing Style.")
    • Still, to be fair, Homer's Ancient Greek audience would have known a lot of background info that you might not, so let's take a moment to bring you up to speed. In other words, we hope you brought your rain jacket—because we're about to take a Journey Through The Mists Of Time!
    • Did we say Ancient Greek? We did. But you're not going to hear it all that often. That's because, even though the Iliad is over 2,000 years old, the story it tells is even older. Way back in the Bronze Age, when the Iliad takes place, people went by the names of dominant tribes or regions. The most general of these names are Achaians, Danaans, and Argives. To keep things simple, in these summaries we're going to stick to the name Achaians, but the others will turn up in your reading. With these three names, all you have to remember is that they all mean Greeks.
    • Misty enough for you? Don't worry, it'll get clearer. Right now, though, you're probably still wondering about those other names heard earlier—Achilleus and Agamemnon. Who are they?
    • For the moment, all you really need to know is that Agamemnon is the most powerful king of the Achaians, and Achilleus is his best warrior. (More detailed information can be found in our section on "Characters.") Both of them are part of the Achaian army that is making war against Troy, a city in modern Turkey.
    • To understand what this war is all about, you'll have to get filled in on—are you ready for this?— The Backstory.
    • Like many a Backstory, this one has to do with a Boy and a Girl. You know: Boy meets Girl, Boy falls in love with Girl, Boy and Girl run off together. Simple, right?
    • Sort of, except in this case there were complications. (There are always complications.) Here's how it all went down:
    • First of all, the Boy was none other than Paris, Prince of Troy. As for the Girl, whose name was Helen, she just happened to be the most beautiful woman in the world. And she was married to Menelaos, the King of Sparta, who didn't take too kindly to her running off with your standard-issue Trojan heartthrob.
    • To get his wife back, Menelaos turned to his brother, Agamemnon. Agamemnon raised an army and set sail for Troy. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned. Instead of being greeted as liberators, Agamemnon's army encountered stiff resistance and were forced to settle in for a long siege.
    • That was all nine years before our story begins. The Iliad starts in the tenth year of the war.
    • The point is, now that you know what the "things" are, it's high time we jumped "into the middle of" them!
    • The first scene of the Iliad finds Chryses, the priest of Apollo (god of the sun and a whole lot of other stuff), approaching the Achaian camp to ask for his daughter back. Shortly afterward, we learn that his daughter is being held captive by Agamemnon, who wants to keep her as his personal possession.
    • Ask and ye shall receive, right? Well, sometimes things aren't that simple. Even though the other Achaians say, "Let her go," Agamemnon says, "No way, José." Chryses leaves disappointed.
    • The thing is, being a priest of Apollo, Chryses has another trick up his sleeve—that is, er, robe. He prays to the god to punish the Achaians.
    • Apollo is only too happy to oblige. He comes down from Olympos and shoots at the Achaians with his bow. The arrows from his bow cause disease. The plague rages for nine days.
    • Understandably annoyed, Achilleus calls a meeting on the tenth day. He tells the Achaians that they should either sail home immediately, or get advice from a soothsayer on what to do instead.
    • On cue, the soothsayer Kalchas stands up, but he's afraid to speak his mind in case he angers the powers that be. Achilleus says, "I've got your back." With that reassurance, Kalchas reveals that the plague was caused by Apollo, who was avenging the kidnapping of his priest's daughter. Kalchas tells Agamemnon that he has to give the girl back.
    • The powers that be are now officially angry. Agamemnon starts by cursing out Kalchas. Once that's off his chest he says he'll give up Chryseis—this is the girl's name, which is kind of confusing—but only if he gets something equal in return. Otherwise he'll be dishonored.
    • Achilleus says, "Tough luck. You'll get your payback when we sack Troy. You can't take what's already been given to somebody else."
    • Agamemnon says there's no way he's giving up Chryseis without taking one of the other chieftains' women.
    • That's all it takes to make Achilleus furious. He threatens to quit the Achaian army altogether and go home. He says that the Trojans never did anything to him. If he's attacking Troy, it's only because Agamemnon asked him to, so the leader of the Achaians had better show him some respect.
    • But the leader of the Achaians doesn't appreciate challenges to his authority. He says that he will only give up Chryseis if he can take Achilleus's girl, Briseis.
    • Now Achilleus snaps. Or, almost. He is just wondering whether he should kill Agamemnon, when the goddess Athene comes down from Olympos, invisible to everyone except him.
    • Athene tells Achilleus that she was sent by the goddess Hera, who loves both men equally, and doesn't want either of them to get hurt. She says that, in the future, Achilleus will get paid back thrice over for whatever he suffers now. For the moment, though, he must immediately cease and desist. Achilleus puts his sword back in its scabbard.
    • Frustrated that he can't kill Agamemnon, Achilleus unleashes a merciless flow of disses against him. Achilleus tells Agamemnon that he's had it, he quits. He lets everyone know they'll be sorry they insulted him when they are suffering at the hands of Hektor—the best of the Trojan warriors.
    • At this point, Nestor, the resident old-timer in the Achaian army, stands up and makes a long, rambling speech about how he's the resident old-timer, and how everybody had thicker skin in the old days. Having thus established his street cred, Nestor tells Agamemnon not to take Achilleus's girl Briseis. Then he tells Achilleus not to stand up to a king.
    • But they don't listen. Agamemnon starts whining about how Achilleus doesn't respect his authority. Achilleus says that Agamemnon deserved everything he got. He says that he will give up Briseis without a fight, but if anybody tries to touch the rest of his stuff, it's curtains.
    • It also happens to be curtains for the meeting, and everyone disperses. Achilleus goes back to his own ship to hang out with his best friend Patroklos.
    • When heralds come from Agamemnon to take Briseis away, Achilleus tells them his quarrel isn't with them. He lets her go. She goes unwillingly.
    • Now Achilleus sits down on the shore and starts crying. He prays to his mother, Thetis, a sea-goddess, to come help him out.
    • She hears him and comes out of the sea. Achilleus tells her what happened, and asks her to put in a request with Zeus, the king of the gods. He wants her to get Zeus to help the Trojans drive the Achaians back against their ships, so that they'll know how much better off they were with Achilleus on their side.
    • Thetis laments because she knows a prophecy that this will set off a chain of events that will make the rest of Achilleus's brief life miserable. All the same, she says that she will speak to Zeus—as soon as the gods get back to Olympos from their twelve-day party with the Aethiopians.
    • In the meantime, Agamemnon sends Chryseis off on a ship to be returned to her father. He puts Odysseus in charge of this expedition.
    • Twelve days later, the gods get back to Olympos, and Thetis goes to see Zeus. She finds him sitting alone on the highest mountain peak. She reminds him how she once helped him out when the other gods tied him up. Even though Zeus is reluctant—he reminds Thetis how his wife Hera is always nagging him about helping out the Trojans—he agrees to Thetis's request.
    • As he predicted, as soon as Zeus walks out among the other gods, Hera starts nagging him. Zeus tells her to be quiet. Hephaistos, the blacksmith god, and the son of Zeus and Hera, tells his mother to make her peace with Zeus.
    • Once things are settled, the gods have a feast. Hephaistos bustles about, serving them. The gods laugh at him because he walks with a limp, and because the Olympian gods are never politically correct.
  • Book 2

    • While all the other gods and mortals are sleeping, Zeus is lying awake at night. He is wondering how he can help Achilleus and hurt the Achaians.
    • Finally, he decides to send a dream to Agamemnon. The dream, which takes the shape of Nestor, explains that Hera has brought all the other gods on board, that the city will soon be captured, and that the Achaians must attack immediately, in full force.
    • "Hot diggity!" Agamemnon says (yes, Agamemnon is a chump) the next morning, "That's better than black coffee." He immediately finds his generals and repeats the dream's message word-for-word. He says that they should attack Troy that day, but, first, they should make a test of the soldiers' loyalty. Agamemnon will tell the men they can go home; then the generals will hold them back.
    • Nestor agrees with this plan, and praises Agamemnon's ingenuity. The generals summon the troops, who gather to receive their instructions.
    • Agamemnon stands in front of the troops, holding his royal scepter. We get a time-out from the main story while Homer explains the origins of the scepter.
    • Once that's over with, Agamemnon tells the soldiers that Zeus has commanded them all to go home. The soldiers all start running for their ships.
    • The soldiers are all showing a bit too much enthusiasm. At least that's what Hera thinks, so she sends Athene down to put a stop to it.
    • Okay, so if you haven't noticed yet, Hera really has it in for the Trojans. In case you've been wondering why this is, you're in luck. It is now time for us to interrupt our regular programming to bring you: The Backstory's Backstory.
    • Many years before the Trojan War began, Zeus developed a crush on the sea-goddess Thetis. (Remember her? If not, check out our summary of Book 1.) Usually the king of the gods wouldn't think twice about making his move, except this time something held him back: he learned of a prophecy that said she would bear a child more powerful than its father.
    • Zeus didn't like the sound of that one bit. In fact, he disliked it so much that he immediately arranged for Thetis to be married off to someone much, much weaker than himself—the mortal prince Peleus.
    • (Okay, we know one of you mathematicians is going to point out that the child of Thetis and a mortal could still end up being more powerful than his father and Zeus. Maybe it's best to think of Zeus as trying to improve his chances.)
    • When the day of Peleus and Thetis's wedding arrived, all the gods were invited, except for Eris, the goddess of Hate (sometimes translated as "Strife"). But do you really think the goddess of Hate isn't going to show up uninvited?
    • Of course she crashed the party. Knowing she had to make her mark before being thrown out by security, Hate threw a golden apple into the midst of the crowd. Inscribed on the apple were the words "For The Most Beautiful." To nobody's surprise, the three most powerful goddesses—Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite—all claimed the apple for themselves.
    • Zeus knew better than to pass judgment in such a delicate matter. Instead, he sent the goddesses to the area around Troy. There, they would let the judge be the Trojan prince Paris—Paris who, even before he got into the wife-stealing business, was known to have a keen eye for the ladies.
    • The problem with Olympian Idol is that there can only be one winner. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who had promised to reward him with the most beautiful woman in the world if he picked her.
    • The problem with Aphrodite's promise was that the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, was already married to king Menelaos. When Aphrodite helped Paris sail to Sparta, capture Helen, and take her back to Troy—well, we already know how that turned out.
    • The problem with there only being one winner was that, in this case, the two losers were extremely powerful goddesses. Ever since Paris's judgment, Hera and Athene have been nursing a serious grudge against Paris and all other Trojans.
    • What about Peleus and Thetis, whose wedding started it all? Well, the child of their union was none other than Achilleus. But since he's currently out of commission, let's not worry about him for the moment.
    • This brings us to the end of The Backstory's Backstory—and right into the action, where Athene has been sent by Hera to stop the Achaians from sailing back home.
    • First Athene approaches Odysseus, her favorite among the Achaian warriors, and tells him to intervene.
    • Odysseus, who had been hanging back, and had not even touched his own ship, is only too happy to oblige. First he borrows Agamemnon's scepter, as a sign of authority. Then he goes among the soldiers; whenever he sees a soldier of high rank, he asks him politely not to run away. Whenever he sees a soldier of lower rank, he gives him the same message—by hitting him with the scepter!
    • Eventually, the Achaians come back to the assembly hall. Just when things are starting to settle down, though, up stands Thersites, the ugliest and most cowardly of the Achaians. Thersites says that they should all sail home, that Agamemnon is a big jerk, and that Achilleus could have mopped the floor with him if he'd wanted to.
    • Odysseus intervenes, tells Thersites off, and then beats him up with Agamemnon's scepter. The other soldiers cheer.
    • Now is the moment for Odysseus to follow this up with an inspiring speech. He reminds them of something that happened nine years earlier.
    • When the Achaians were making their way to Troy, they stopped for a while at the city of Aulis. One day, while making sacrifices, they saw a snake crawl out from under the altar. It slithered up a tree and promptly devoured a nest of eight sparrow hatchlings, plus the mother to boot.
    • Worried that this might be a bad omen, the Achaians asked the soothsayer Kalchas to interpret it for them. Kalchas explained that the nine sparrows the snake swallowed represented the nine years the Achaians would have to spend besieging Troy. The soothsayer then said that they would capture the city in the tenth year.
    • When Odysseus has finished his story, Nestor steps forward and calls for less gabbing and more stabbing. Being Nestor, he launches into a rambling speech complaining about those who only think for themselves and don't help the group effort (Achilleus, hint-hint?).
    • Finally he gets to the point: Agamemnon should arrange his soldiers in order of city of origin. That way, if they're unsuccessful in the battle, he'll be able to tell if the will of the gods is to blame, or just some incompetent commander.
    • Agamemnon thinks this is a great idea. He orders the soldiers to get all their equipment ready and have a hearty meal, so they'll all be ready for a long day of fighting.
    • While the soldiers eat breakfast, Agamemnon and the other generals make a sacrifice. Agamemnon prays to Zeus for success in battle, but Homer tells us that Zeus will not fulfill his request.
    • When everyone has eaten, Nestor tells Agamemnon to get everyone ready. Agamemnon agrees, the heralds announce the order, and the men begin to assemble.
    • What follows next is known as the Catalogue of Ships. Basically, it's a list of all the different contingents that make up the Achaian army, where they come from, who commands them, how many ships they have, and any other relevant background info. There are so many different names and numbers here that the poet actually has to call on the Muses again, just to help him remember everything.
    • Even though the Catalogue of Ships can make even hardcore Homer fans feel their eyes glaze over, it isn't without its highlights.
    • For example, keep an eye out for the tribe of the Abantes from Euboea, whom Homer describes as rocking the mullet haircut.
    • Later on in the Catalogue, Homer tells us about the Myrmidons—the tribe that Achilleus leads—and how they are not taking part in the preparations, in solidarity with their leader. We are told that, even if Achilleus isn't fighting now, the day is coming when he will again.
    • After the Catalogue of Ships comes the Catalogue of Chariots. We think you get the idea what this is all about. Once again, pay attention to the description of the Myrmidons, the only ones who are just training, not getting ready to fight.
    • While the Achaians are getting ready, Zeus sends Iris, the messenger of the gods, to warn the Trojans. Taking the shape of Polites, the son of the Trojan king Priam, Iris finds the Trojan elders in a meeting.
    • After she passes along Zeus's message, Hektor, the greatest Trojan warrior, declares the meeting adjourned.
    • The Trojans start assembling for battle on a ridge in front of Troy. Because Homer never misses an opportunity for some good cataloguing, he rounds out the book with a list of the Trojan forces and their allies.
  • Book 3

    • The two armies—Trojan and Achaian—have formed battle lines and are approaching each other on the plain.
    • Paris runs out in front of the Trojan army and starts prancing around.
    • On the Greek side, Menelaos sees Paris and thinks this looks like a good opportunity to kill him. He jumps out of his chariot and gets ready to attack.
    • Paris sees him, however, and merges back into the Trojan ranks.
    • When Hektor, Paris's brother, sees this, he starts taunting him, calling him a lover-boy who gets his city in trouble and then can't help out when the going gets tough.
    • Now that he's been publicly insulted, Paris says that Hektor's criticism is unfair. He says that he'll fight Menelaos one-on-one; whoever wins can take Helen. Then the war will be over.
    • Hektor thinks this is a good idea. He gets in front of the Trojan army and stops them from advancing.
    • The Achaian archers and rock-throwing-dudes think this is a good opportunity to get a few shots in at Hektor, but Agamemnon stops them. He wants to hear what Hektor has to say.
    • When Hektor announces the terms of Paris's challenge, Menelaos immediately agrees.
    • The two sides take off their armor and sit down on opposite sides of no-man's-land.
    • Meanwhile, back at the ranch (i.e., Troy), Iris, the messenger of the gods, appears to Helen in the shape of her sister-in-law and lets her know about the coming fight between Paris and Menelaos. Iris's words make Helen nostalgic for her former husband.
    • To get the best view of what's going on, Helen goes to the Skaian Gates (the most prominent gates of the city of Troy).
    • There on the ramparts, she finds Priam, the elderly Trojan king, along with some other old fogeys.
    • Priam's buddies start by commenting to one another on how beautiful Helen is. Then they agree that, all the same, they should send her back. She's caused too much trouble.
    • Priam is gentler towards Helen. He invites her to come over by him.
    • Priam points out various Achaian soldiers and asks her to explain to him who they are. Helen, who remembers them from her life back in Achaea, identifies first Agamemnon, then Odysseus.
    • Antenor, one of Priam's old buddies, reminisces about a time earlier in the war when Menelaos and Odysseus came to Troy together to ask for Helen back. He says that everyone was impressed with Menelaos's physique, but that Odysseus's speaking ability knocked everyone's sandals off.
    • Next, Helen identifies the "big" Aias, followed by Idomeneus. (Yes, there are two guys named Aias in the Achaian army, and, yes, they are known as "bigger" and "smaller." Because "big" Aias—also known as Telamonian Aias, after his father, Telamon—is the more famous one, we're going to use the name "Aias" to refer to him unless otherwise specified.)
    • After scanning the Achaian ranks, Helen says that she can't see her half-brothers, the twins Castor and Polydeukes (better known these days by their Roman names—Castor and Pollux).
    • Helen speculates that her brothers might not have joined the expedition because they couldn't endure hearing the insults everybody was slinging at their sister.
    • Homer tells us what Helen doesn't know: that Castor and Polydeukes are already dead and buried in their homeland of Lacedaemon (the area around Sparta).
    • Helen and Priam's people-watching is cut short when a herald arrives on the battlements to tell Priam that he's wanted down on the field to referee the fight between Menelaos and Paris.
    • Although Priam is filled with fear for his son, Paris, he agrees to head down.
    • Once he gets to where the fighters are waiting, Agamemnon performs a sacrifice and repeats the terms of the duel.
    • As soon as everything has been agreed upon, Priam goes back to the city. He can't stand to stay and watch what's about to happen.
    • Paris and Menelaos cast lots for who will cast the first spear. Hektor holds the lots in his helmet, and shakes it up. Paris's lot springs out first. He will have the first throw.
    • Paris and Menelaos put on their armor.
    • When both are ready, Paris throws his spear and hit Menelaos's shield but fails to pierce it.
    • Now it's Menelaos's turn. Before he throws his spear, however, he first says a prayer to Zeus. Menelaos's spear not only punches through Paris's shield, it also pierces his breastplate and his tunic, slightly wounding him.
    • Menelaos moves in for the kill. Unfortunately for him, his sword shatters on Paris's helmet. Not to be deterred, he grabs the helmet by the crest and starts dragging Paris around. Paris's chinstrap is choking him.
    • Seeing what is happening, the goddess Aphrodite comes down to help him. (To refresh your memory on why Aphrodite has a soft spot for Paris, check out The Backstory's Backstory in our summary of Book 2.) With her divine power, she snaps the chin-strap, freeing him. The helmet comes loose in Menelaos's hands.
    • After throwing the helmet away, Menelaos comes after Paris with his spear.
    • It looks like Paris is about to meet his end—but then, all of a sudden, Aphrodite wraps him in a cloud of mist and carries him back to Troy. In the Ancient equivalent of teleportation, she drops him off in his bedroom back home, safe and sound. It's good to have a goddess in your corner.
    • As if things weren't going well enough for Paris, now Aphrodite heads off to find Helen. Disguising herself as an old crone, the goddess finds her on the Skaian gates, and tells her to go home to her husband.
    • As it happens, though, Helen recognizes the goddess and curses her for meddling. (How does she recognize her? Partly by her youthfully rounded bosom. There are some things the goddess of love just isn't willing to disguise.) Helen asks Aphrodite, if she likes Paris so much why doesn't she marry him (shades of the schoolyard here). "Why don't you become a mortal too and see how it feels, huh?"
    • Aphrodite tells Helen to fall into line or else.
    • Helen falls into line. When she gets home, she finds Paris in their bedroom.
    • Helen curses him out, calls him a coward, and makes him admit that Menelaos beat him.
    • Paris does admit it, but he also claims that Menelaos only won thanks to Athene. (Uh... is it just us or did we not see any involvement by Athene in that fight?) Then he invites Helen into his bed. She complies (though we think it's probably only because Aphrodite threatened her).
    • Meanwhile, Menelaos is stalking around the battlefield looking for Paris.
    • Obviously, he can't find him. Homer tells us that even if the Trojans were hiding Paris, it wouldn't be out of affection—they all hate his guts.
    • Finally, Agamemnon says, "Whatever. Menelaos won, so you Trojans had better cough up Helen— and all her treasure."
  • Book 4

    • Up on Olympos, the gods are wondering what to do.
    • Zeus concedes that Menelaos won the fight with Paris (see the summary of Book 3 for details). He asks the other gods whether they should allow the two armies to resolve their differences peacefully, or, instead, stir up the fighting once again.
    • Hera says, "No way are we going to let there be peace, not after all the effort I've put into hurting the Trojans."
    • Zeus criticizes Hera, saying that her grudge against the Trojans has been blown way out of proportion. All the same, he says, "Go ahead, but whenever I've got a mind to destroy one of the cities you like, I'd best not find you standing in my way. After all, the Trojans have always honored me with excellent sacrifices."
    • Hera says, "Whatever. I like the cities of Argos, Sparta, and Mycenae. You can destroy them anytime you want—see if I care! But let's get down to business. We've got to end this truce. Let's make the Trojans break it, so they can take the heat."
    • Zeus says, "No sweat," and sends Athene down to rustle up some tussle.
    • Athene joins the Trojan ranks and takes on the shape of a Trojan fighter. In this disguise, she approaches Pandaros, the archer. She eggs him on to take a pot-shot at Menelaos.
    • She wins him over. While Pandaros is preparing his bow, Homer gives us the bow's backstory (made of the horns of a mountain-goat).
    • Once Pandaros is ready, he takes his shot. As the arrow speeds through the air, things are looking bad for Menelaos—until the goddess Athene invisibly swoops in and deflects it, so that it hits him in the hip.
    • When Agamemnon sees his brother bleeding (the blood running down his leg is famously compared to red dye on ivory), he gets worried.
    • Menelaos says, "It's only a flesh wound."
    • Even so, Agamemnon starts freaking out. He makes a confused (but not confusing, because we can grasp his state of mind) speech about how Zeus will punish the breakers of the truce (too bad we just saw him allow the truce to be broken), but also how if Menelaos dies the Achaians will sail home in defeat and the Trojans will lord it over them.
    • Agamemnon immediately starts calling out for Machaon, the greatest healer among the Achaian army.
    • Talthybios the herald goes off, finds him, and brings him back. Machaon attends to Menelaos's wound.
    • Meanwhile, the Trojans are starting to attack, and the Achaians have to prepare for battle in record time.
    • Agamemnon moves among the ranks, encouraging the courageous and brow-beating the cowardly.
    • He gives special praise to the warrior Idomeneus of Crete.
    • When he sees Aias and little Aias, he says he won't give them any commands—it would insult their enthusiasm.
    • Next Agamemnon comes upon Nestor, who is giving some tactical suggestions to the younger warriors.
    • Agamemnon praises him, and says if he were only a young man again, he would be an awesome warrior. Nestor agrees.
    • After that, Agamemnon comes upon Odysseus and some other guys who are chilling out at the back of the army. In fact, they're so far back that they haven't even heard the order to attack yet.
    • Agamemnon insults Odysseus and says, "What's the deal? You're always first in line when you're coming to one of my feasts. How come you're hanging back now?"
    • Odysseus tells him to back off, and not pass judgment until he sees him fighting.
    • Agamemnon says that he's just teasing him, no offense intended.
    • Next Agamemnon comes up to Diomedes and his buddy Sthenelaos. Agamemnon disses these guys severely, saying that their dads were much better warriors than they were.
    • Diomedes doesn't say anything in reply, but Sthenelaos mouths off at Agamemnon.
    • Diomedes tells him to keep his mouth shut. He explains that Agamemnon is just showing them some tough love.
    • Now the two armies are marching toward each other. The Achaians are marching in silence so they can hear the voices of their commanders. In contrast, the Trojan ranks are a cacophony of voices in different languages—representing all the Trojans' allies.
    • The god Ares is on the Trojan side, and the goddess Athene is on the side of the Achaians. Some minor divinities—personified forms of bad things like Strife, Hatred, etc.—are also in the mix.
    • At last, battle commences. There follow some gory descriptions of combat.
    • Aias and Odysseus each put in a good showing.
    • When the god Apollo sees the Trojans shrinking back, he calls out to them to cheer them up. He also lets him know that Achilleus isn't fighting for the Achaians.
    • There follow some more gory descriptions of combat.
  • Book 5

    • In order to make sure the Trojans get a good thumping, Athene gives extra power and courage to Diomedes.
    • In the heat of the battle, Diomedes is approached by two Trojans, Phegeus and Idaios. We are told that these guys are the sons of some guy called Dares, who is a priest of the god Hephaistos (we met this god back in Book 1).
    • Phegeus and Idaios throw their spears at Diomedes but both miss.
    • When Diomedes throws his spear, however, he kills Phegeus. He would kill Idaios too, except that the god Hephaistos swoops down from the sky and carries the Trojan to safety. Hephaistos does this so the boys' father will not be completely heartbroken at losing two sons.
    • Elsewhere on the battlefield, Athene convinces Ares to back off for a while and let the mortals duke it out for themselves. Ares—who's apparently a pushover—agrees.
    • Various gruesome depictions of warfare follow. When a character is killed, we usually get a little backstory on where they come from, what they do in peacetime, etc.
    • Meanwhile, Diomedes is seriously on the warpath.
    • Pandaros, the Trojan archer, decides to take Diomedes out. He lets fly an arrow and hits him in the right shoulder.
    • Proud of his shot, Pandaros urges the Trojans on.
    • Diomedes calls Sthenelaos to come pull out the arrow. Sthenelaos is happy to oblige.
    • After the arrow has been removed, Diomedes prays to Athene to be able to spear the guy who shot him.
    • Athene comes to him, tells him she has instilled his father's strength in him. As an added bonus, she also takes away the mist from his eyes, so that he can tell who's a mortal and who's a god. She tells him that if any god challenges him, he should maintain eye contact and back away slowly. Any god, that is, except for Aphrodite. Athene tells Diomedes that if he sees the goddess of love, he should go on the attack.
    • Diomedes roars back into action, and kills various opponents.
    • Meanwhile, the Trojan warrior Aineias (you can read more about his subsequent adventures in Virgil's Aeneid—or on Shmoop's coverage of the Aeneid) is looking for Pandaros.
    • When he finds him, Aineias says, "Why don't you take another shot at Diomedes?"
    • Archers can be a prickly bunch, however, and now Pandaros gets all defensive. He says that some god must be helping Diomedes. Then he starts complaining about the bad luck he's been having—it's not even lunchtime, he's already shot Menelaos and Diomedes, and they're both still alive.
    • Aineias suggest they team up in one chariot. That way, they can speed in for an attack against Diomedes, and then easily speed back out again if the going gets rough.
    • Pandaros says, "You've got yourself a deal. You drive, I'll spear."
    • When Aineias and Pandaros are getting in range of Diomedes, Sthenelaos catches sight of them and warns the Achaian warrior.
    • Diomedes says, "No worries. You go for the horses, I'll take out one of these jokers."
    • Just at that moment, Pandaros starts taunting Diomedes, and throws his spear at him. Once again, however, Pandaros is close but no cigar. The spear goes through Diomedes's shield but fails to pierce his breastplate.
    • When Diomedes throws his own spear, he hits Pandaros in the face, killing him.
    • To protect his fallen comrade, Aineias leaps down from his chariot. Seeing his chance, Diomedes picks up a huge rock and throws it at Aineias. It crushes his hip and he sinks to the ground.
    • Now Diomedes is going in for the kill. Luckily for Aineias, however, his mommy is there to protect him. This is lucky because his mom just happens to be the goddess Aphrodite. She wraps him in her cloak to protect him from enemy weapons, and starts to carry him away.
    • While Sthenelaos steals the fallen Trojans' horses, Diomedes uses his Athene-brand super-vision and attacks Aphrodite, stabbing her in the wrist.
    • Because Aphrodite is incapacitated, Apollo swoops down, wraps Aineias in a mist of invisibility, and continues carrying him to safety.
    • In the meantime, Diomedes mocks Aphrodite for her generally meddlesome nature.
    • Without even making a comeback, Aphrodite flees the scene. Iris, the messenger of the gods, comes down to lead her to safety on Mount Olympos.
    • Once she gets there, Aphrodite runs into her mother, Dione, and complains about her rough treatment at the hands of Diomedes. She is astonished that the Achaians dare to make war on the gods!
    • Dione, who's been around the block a few times, doesn't think it's such a big deal. She reminds Aphrodite of past occasions in which gods have suffered physical violence at the hands of mortals.
    • Then, Dione wipes the ichor (this is what gods have instead of blood) from Aphrodite's wrist and heals her wound.
    • Now that the injury is healed, it's time for some insult. Hera and Athene start making fun of Aphrodite in front of Zeus.
    • Zeus tells Aphrodite she was asking for it, and should stay away from fighting in the future.
    • Back on the battlefield, Diomedes is still going after Aineias, who is still being carried off by the god Apollo.
    • Apollo successfully defends Aineias from Diomedes's attacks, and issues the Achaian warrior a stern warning not to mess with the gods.
    • Diomedes backs off and Apollo successfully ferries Aineias out of the battle, and deposits him in his own temple on a sacred mountain. There Apollo's mother and sister, the goddesses Leto and Artemis, heal Aineias's wounds.
    • So that nobody suspects anything, Apollo creates a ghostly replica of Aineias which he sends down to keep fighting. The Trojans rally around this replica.
    • Now Apollo calls on Ares, god of war, to go after Diomedes. Apollo enters the fray and incites the Trojans to keep on slugging.
    • At this point, Sarpedon, the commander of the Lykians, a tribe allied with the Trojans, starts taunting Hektor because he isn't in the thick of the action. Sarpedon says, "We Lykians are busting our butts for you Trojans; how come you aren't putting in some effort for yourselves?"
    • Hektor feels like he just got burned. He jumps out of his chariot and starts whipping his men into order, and leads them on a counterattack.
    • Now Apollo sends the real Aineias—who by this point is fully recovered—back into the battle.
    • Everyone is too busy to ask him what happened.
    • The battle rages on. Losses are suffered on both sides.
    • Suddenly, Menelaos rejoins the battle.
    • Meanwhile, Ares is sticking close by Hektor, protecting him from harm and helping him kick some tail.
    • Because Diomedes can see the god helping Hektor, he warns the other Achaians to steer clear of the Trojan hero.
    • In the midst of the fray, there is an encounter between two warriors who are both descended from Zeus. Tlepolemos, who is fighting for the Achaians, is the son of Herakles (better known by his Roman name, Hercules), and is therefore Zeus's grandson. Sarpedon, whom we've already met, is Zeus's son.
    • These estranged relatives start by hurling insults at each other, and then graduate to hurling spears, both at the same time.
    • Sarpedon hits Tlepolemos in the neck, killing him. Tlepolemos's spear hits Sarpedon in the thigh.
    • While Sarpedon is helped off the scene by his entourage, the Achaians drag Tlepolemos's body back among their ranks.
    • Now, Odysseus is wondering whether he should go after Sarpedon, or whether he should just attack the Lykians who serve under him. Because it isn't fated for Odysseus to kill Sarpedon, the goddess Athene makes him decide to give the Lykians a licking.
    • Odysseus doesn't make much progress, however, because Hektor makes a counterattack against him.
    • In the meantime, Sarpedon is carried off to safer ground, where his wound is dressed. His spirit briefly leaves his body, but then returns. He is alive.
    • Understandably, the Achaians are backing away from the tag-team of Hektor and Ares, who are currently killing opponents left and right.
    • Up on Olympos, Hera and Athene don't like the looks of this. They decide to put a stop to Ares's rampage themselves.
    • In describing the goddesses' preparations, Homer not only includes a segment of Pimp My Chariot, but also works in an Extreme Makeover: Hoplite Warrior Edition.
    • As the goddesses are riding away from Olympos, Hera asks for and receives Zeus's permission to whoop Ares's behind.
    • Once they arrive on the ground, Hera starts insulting the Achaians to egg them on. Athene goes to find Diomedes, who is nursing his wound from Pandaros's arrow.
    • Athene starts by insulting him, calling him a wuss and half the man his father was.
    • Diomedes says, "I'm only hanging back because of what you said. You said don't fight any gods except for Aphrodite. I stabbed her alright, but now Hektor has Ares backing him up. What am I supposed to do?"
    • Now Athene reveals her true colors: "Forget Ares," she says, "we can take him."
    • Athene knocks Sthenelaos out of his chariot and mounts beside Diomedes. The two of them drive on towards Ares; Athene helps Diomedes spear the god in the gut.
    • After letting out a shriek as loud as an entire army, Ares runs crying up to Olympos. There, he starts whining to Zeus about what Diomedes did to him. He also complains about how Athene helped out Diomedes.
    • Zeus scolds him, basically saying, "You can dish it out but you can't take it."
    • The king of the gods says he would have banished Ares long ago—he just has a soft spot for his son. He calls Apollo to come heal Ares's wounds.
    • Then Hebe, the goddess of youth, washes Ares and decks him out with some stylish new duds. Ares sits down and relaxes.
    • Hera and Athene come back to Olympos.
  • Book 6

    • The battle rages on.
    • At one point, the Trojan warrior Adrestos is thrown from his chariot when it crashes.
    • Menelaos goes up to him to kill him, but Adrestos begs for mercy. He says his father will be able to pay a big ransom if Menelaos takes him alive.
    • Menelaos is about to spare him, when Agamemnon comes along and starts calling his brother a wuss. "What did the Trojans ever do for you?" He says. "We should kill them all."
    • Unfortunately, Menelaos gives in to peer pressure and knocks Adrestos away from him. Agamemnon then spears him, killing him.
    • Now Nestor comes along and tells the soldiers to stop wasting their time stealing things from the bodies of their enemies. His point could be summed up as: "Less grabbing, more stabbing!"
    • The Trojans are about to retreat when Helenos, a son of Priam, goes up to Aineias and Hektor and tells them to rally the troops and fight in front of Troy's gates.
    • Helenos also adds a special message for Hektor: he should go back to the city and tell the older women to find the best, loveliest robe they can, and present it to the statue of Athene in the temple on the heights. They should also promise to sacrifice twelve young female cows in her honor. In return, they should pray for the goddess to protect them from Diomedes.
    • Helenos says the Trojans are now more afraid of Diomedes than they ever were of Achilleus.
    • Hektor does as he's told. First he rallies the Trojans, then he tells them to hold out while he goes on his mission. Then he heads off.
    • Now, the Trojan warrior Glaukos is about to engage in battle with Diomedes. Diomedes, impressed with his opponent's courage, asks him who he is. (He also wants to make sure that he isn't a god—he's done enough fighting with divinities for one day.)
    • Glaukos first says, "Who cares who I am? People are born and die all the time like leaves." After that, though, he mellows out a bit and tells a long story about his ancestor.
    • Glaukos's story goes back to the city of Corinth in the region of Argos. Back in the day, the queen of Argos had the hots for Bellerophontes, a young warrior. (If his name rings a bell, you might know him by the more usual English spelling of "Bellerophon.") Bellerophontes, however, being an honorable man, wouldn't mess around with the king's wife.
    • Feeling rejected, the queen decided to get back at Bellerophontes by telling the king that he had been putting the moves on her.
    • The king of Argos didn't like the sound of this one bit. He decided to send Bellerophontes on a mission to Lykia. He gave him some tablets to take with him, on which were scratched symbols instructing the king of Lykia to do something nasty to Bellerophontes.
    • (This story is the origin of the expression "Bellerophontic letters," in which someone is made the unwitting bearer of a message harmful to them. For a parallel, think of what happens to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Alternatively, think of a time when you tricked someone—or maybe were tricked yourself?—into saying something stupid in a foreign language.)
    • When Bellerophontes arrived in Lykia, the king asked to see his references. As soon as he read what they said, he immediately sent Bellerophontes off to do battle with the horrible Chimaira—a beast with the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a snake. The king was pretty sure that would finish him off.
    • (This creature is better known in English by its Latin spelling, "Chimera." In fact, "chimera" —uncapitalized—is a common English noun. Check out its definition here.)
    • Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), Bellerophontes defeated the Chimaira handily. He also made light work of the next enemies the king sent him to fight: the tribe of the Solymoi, and the Amazons, a tribe of female warriors. He even defeated an ambush the king set to kill him on his way back to Lykia.
    • When Bellerophontes got back, the king was so impressed that he said, "Hey! You're awesome! I don't want you to die—I want you to marry my daughter! And stay with me here in Lykia!" (Or something to that effect.)
    • Bellerophontes apparently thought this was a good way to patch things up, because Glaukos tells us that he and the princess of Lykia did settle down, and ended up having three children. The children's names were Isandros, Hippolochos, and Laodameia.
    • Here's how they turned out. Isandros was killed by the god Ares. Laodameia had a fling with the god Zeus, and became the mother of Sarpedon, whom we've met already. Hippolochos was the father of Glaukos. In this way, Glaukos finally wraps up his story.
    • When Diomedes hears this, he is overjoyed. It turns out that his grandfather, a guy called Oeneus, once hosted Glaukos at his place back in Argos. They also exchanged gifts. This means that they were bound by ties of "guest-friendship," a very sacred relationship.
    • Okay, this calls out for explanation. That's why we interrupt our program (hey, if Glaukos can do it with his long family tree, why can't we?) to bring you the following Historical Context Lesson.
    • The good thing is, "guest-friendship" (called xenia in Ancient Greek) isn't all that complicated. Basically, it was a form of ritual friendship between members of different clans or social groups. Such friendships often sprang up between travelers and their hosts—hence the name. The start of such a friendship would be symbolized by some sort of ritual, often including the exchange of gifts.
    • Once this ritual had been performed, the guest-friends were linked by a bond similar to that of family. Just like a family connection, the guest-friendship connection was passed on the offspring of the respective guest-friends—just like what happens with Glaukos and Diomedes. This brings us to the end of our Historical Context Lesson.
    • Because Diomedes and Glaukos now regard each other as family, this makes it pretty much impossible for them to kill each other. (As Diomedes puts it, there are plenty of other people on each side for them to kill.) Instead, the two warriors exchange armor as a token of respect. (Though we are also told that Zeus confuses Glaukos so that he gets the short end of the stick—exchanging his own gold armor for Diomedes's bronze.) Then they part ways.
    • Meanwhile, Hektor has arrived back at Troy. First he heads to the palace of his father, King Priam.
    • There Hektor finds Hekabe, his mother. She tries to get him to relax with some wine and make a sacrifice to the gods. He says, "No way, I've got more important axing to do. And anyway, if I was going to make a sacrifice I'd have to clean myself up and stuff." Instead, he repeats Helenos's message about the women offering a robe to Athene.
    • Hekabe and the other women pick out their finest robe, and go up to Athene's temple. There, they make their sacrifice and pray for success. We are told the goddess ignores their prayer.
    • At the same time, Hektor goes and finds Paris back in his house. He cusses him out for not fighting.
    • Paris says he accepts the criticism—but also claims he was just about to head back to the fighting. He says Helen was just getting him ready
    • At this point, Helen approaches Hektor and tells him how she wishes she had either had a better husband or had died in infancy, instead of causing so much trouble. She also tells Hektor to relax with her.
    • Hektor says that he has to go see his wife and son.
    • When Hektor arrives at home, however, his wife and child aren't there. A servant tells him they have gone to the Skaian Gates.
    • Sure enough, once Hektor gets there, he finds Andromache holding their baby son, Skamandrios, whom the citizens have nicknamed "Astyanax," meaning "Lord of the City."
    • Andromache asks Hektor why he has to keep fighting. She predicts that he will be killed in battle. She explains that Hektor is all she has in the world—after her father and brothers were all killed by Achilleus. (Andromache mentions that Achilleus had the decency to give her father a proper burial —this is important to keep in mind for later in the book.)
    • She also tells Hektor how her mother was once taken prisoner by Achilleus and held for ransom. Soon after she was released, however, she was killed by disease.
    • Andromache suggests that Hektor should make the Trojans pull back to fight from a defensive position in front of the weakest point in the Trojan walls. This is the same place where a large fig tree grows.
    • Hektor says that he is troubled by the same thoughts as his wife. All the same, he insists on following the warrior's code. He grimly foresees the day on which Troy will be conquered, and when his wife will be forced into slavery. He says he would rather die before that day.
    • Now Hektor goes to embrace his son, but the boy is terrified of his helmet. This makes his parents laugh. Hektor removes his helmet, picks up his son, and prays to Zeus to make him a better warrior than his father.
    • At this point Hektor tries to reassure Andromache, saying that, if he is killed, that means it was fated, and no one can escape the fates. He tells her to go back to her weaving work in the home.
    • Andromache appears to obey her husband, but when she gets home, instead of working, she leads the household women in mourning for Hektor—even though he is still alive.
    • Meanwhile, Hektor meets up with Paris, who is now enthusiastic about rejoining the battle.
    • Hektor encourages Paris, telling him that he's a good warrior, he just has to keep his chin up.
  • Book 7

    • Hektor and Paris get back to the battle and breathe new life into the Trojans.
    • In fact, the Trojans start doing so well that the goddess Athene decides to come down from Olympos and put a stop to all their fun.
    • On her way down, however, she gets intercepted by the god Apollo, who at the moment is helping the Trojans. Apollo suggests that they put an end to the battle for today; the two sides can always keep slugging it out tomorrow.
    • Athene says, "Okay, but how?"
    • Apollo says, "Piece of cake. We'll just get Hektor to challenge one of the Achaians to a one-on-one fight."
    • This sounds fine to Athene, so she sends a telepathic message to the Trojan warrior Helenos, who is receptive to that sort of thing.
    • Helenos then passes the word on to Hektor, who calls for an end to the fighting.
    • At this point, Hektor calls out his challenge to the Achaians. The stakes will be much more basic this time than they were in the fight between Menelaos and Paris (see Book 3). Whoever wins gets to keep the dead man's armor, but must return his body to his comrades to receive a proper funeral.
    • When the Achaians hear Hektor's challenge, however, they all start quaking in their sandals.
    • Nobody has the courage to take him up on it.
    • Finally, Menelaos volunteers, but Agamemnon quickly talks him out of it. He makes Menelaos admit that he's no match for Hektor.
    • Hektor calls out his challenge again. Once again, the Achaians are all too chicken.
    • Now Nestor speaks up, and talks about how, back in the day, the great warrior Peleus (who happens to be the father of Achilleus) would have been ashamed to see such a bunch of cowards.
    • This being Nestor, he then goes on to make a long speech about how hardcore he was when he was young.
    • Nestor's story has its desired effect of shaming the Achaians into action. As soon as he's finished, a whole bunch of guys—including Agamemnon, Diomedes, Aias and little Aias, and Odysseus—all volunteer.
    • They cast lots. The lot falls to Aias—who couldn't be more overjoyed.
    • Aias strides out into no-man's-land to begin the fight. Homer gives us a little backstory on his gigantic shield.
    • Aias taunts Hektor to psych him out, but Hektor just says, "Bring it on!"
    • They fight. Hektor is slightly wounded in the neck by Aias's spear. In response, he picks up a huge rock and hurls it at Aias, but it just bounces off the Achaian warrior's shield. In response to this response, Aias picks up an even huger rock and hurls it at Hektor, knocking him over.
    • Luckily for Hektor, the god Apollo swoops in and picks him up.
    • The two warriors would now have started going at it with swords, except that two heralds—the Trojan Idaios and the Achaian Talthybios—suddenly rush in to stop the fight. They say that Zeus loves both men, and doesn't want to see them hurt.
    • Aias says he's willing to stop the fight if Hektor is. Hektor says, "Fine by me."
    • Hektor then suggests that they exchange gifts, as a token of mutual respect. Aias agrees. Hektor gives his opponent his sword; in return, Aias gives his belt. Each warrior then goes back to his own army.
    • That night, the Achaians have a feast. At the feast, Nestor says that they should gather the dead for burial. He also suggests that, once they have burned the dead in accordance with custom, they should heap earth on the funeral pyres. In this way, they can make a giant fortification to protect the ships from future Trojan attacks. The other leaders agree.
    • Meanwhile, back in Troy, a meeting is taking place. The aged Antenor, a buddy of king Priam, says that they should give Helen back. He says that they are now in violation of the agreement behind Paris's fight with Menelaos.
    • But Paris flat-out refuses. He says he's willing to give up the treasure he stole along with Helen, but nothing more.
    • Priam instructs Idaios to convey Paris's message to the Achaians the next morning. He also instructs him to ask the Achaians for safe passage to gather and bury their dead.
    • The next day, Idaios delivers the message. In response to the first part, Diomedes says that they should reject the offer of treasure. He thinks the Trojans are trying to weasel out of getting their butts whipped by making a lame deal. The other Achaians cheer in response.
    • Agamemnon tells Idaios that he agrees with the Achaians on this point. That said, he also recognizes the need to bury the dead. Accordingly, he agrees to a truce.
    • That day, Achaians and Trojans gather their dead and burn them on pyres.
    • The next day, the Achaians erect their fortifications over the burnt-out pyres, in accordance with Nestor's specifications.
    • Up on Olympos, Poseidon, the god of the sea, is perturbed by what he sees. He complains to Zeus that the mortals have undertaken such a huge plan without even making sacrifices to him.
    • Zeus says, "When the war's over your waves can destroy that wall like it's nobody's business. Just let them have their little wall for the time being."
    • Poseidon agrees.
    • That night, the Achaians feast again, with supplies brought specially from home.
    • Meanwhile, Zeus is thinking about how he can harm both armies.
  • Book 8

    • Zeus calls all the gods together and forbids them to meddle any further in the war.
    • Then he rides his chariot over to Mount Ida in the neighborhood of Troy, just so he can keep tabs on what happens.
    • Shortly thereafter, the Achaians and Trojans start battling again.
    • The two armies remain fairly evenly matched—until Zeus decides to weigh their respective fates.
    • Holding up a giant scale, he places the fate of the Achaians on one side and that of the Trojans on the other. The Achaians' fate is heavier—bad news for them.
    • Zeus thunders and shoots lightning at the Achaians. These are the perks of being the god of the sky.
    • One person's perk is somebody else's "Knock it off, you jerk!" This time, that somebody else is the Achaians, who start running away. The only one to stand his ground is Nestor, but that's only because Paris killed one of his horses, thus disabling his chariot.
    • Diomedes goes to help him, and tries to call back Odysseus, whom he sees running away. Odysseus doesn't listen to him and keeps on running.
    • So Diomedes goes to help out Nestor all by himself. He puts him in his own chariot, gives him the reins, and the two warriors ride towards Hektor to take him out.
    • Diomedes throws his spear, misses Hektor, but kills his charioteer. This would have been the start of a major Achaian counterattack, except that Zeus doesn't want it that way. The god of thunder hurls a thunderbolt in front of Diomedes's chariot.
    • Nestor convinces Diomedes that it's time to turn back. Even so, while they are fleeing, Diomedes becomes so frustrated at Hektor's ongoing taunts, that three times he is about to turn around and face him. Each time, Zeus thunders, as if to say, "That's a no-no, Diomedes."
    • Meanwhile, Hektor, in hot pursuit, decides to make things even hotter. He calls out for fire to burn the Achaians' ships.
    • Up on Olympos, Hera doesn't like the looks of this one bit. She calls on Poseidon, the god of the sea, to come help the Achaians. But Poseidon only says, "Sorry, lady. I'm not going head-to-head with Zeus."
    • Now the Trojans, led by Hektor, have pinned the Achaians against their ships, inside of their recently constructed wall.
    • And yet, just when it looks like the Achaians are toast, Hera inspires Agamemnon to encourage his men; he does this, and also prays to Zeus, reminding him about how pious he has always been.
    • When Zeus hears this, he says, "Fair enough." As a positive sign to the Achaians, he sends an eagle, with a fawn gripped in its talons. Then the eagle drops the fawn and lets it go.
    • Seeing this, the Achaians are excited, and they start fighting back more vigorously against the Trojans. Once again, Diomedes is in the forefront of the battle.
    • Another big help for the Achaians is the archer Teukros, the half-brother of Aias. He kills many Trojans until Hektor knocks him out by throwing a huge rock at his neck. Teukros isn't killed, however, and Aias stands over him, protecting him.
    • Once again, the Trojans press the Achaians hard.
    • Hera is not pleased. This time, she asks Athene for help. At first Athene is hesitant, but then figures that she's such a daddy's girl that Zeus won't stay mad at her for long.
    • Once the two goddesses have gotten ready, they start riding their chariot down to the battlefield.
    • Unfortunately, it looks like Athene misread Zeus. When the god sees them en route, he sends Iris, the messenger of the gods, to tell them to stop or face serious consequences. Zeus's threats are so frightening that the goddesses obey and return to Olympos.
    • Now Zeus leaves Mount Ida and rides back to Olympos himself. Upon his arrival, he starts mocking the goddesses.
    • Hera says she's only trying to keep the Achaians from being utterly destroyed.
    • Zeus replies by saying, "Tough luck. I'm going to keep destroying them until Achilleus comes back to battle, when the fight has reached the ships, and when there is a struggle over the body of Patroklos." Then, for good measure, he throws in some insults for Hera.
    • Now night falls and the battle ends. The Trojans are disappointed because they were interrupted while they were winning. Understandably, the Achaians are overjoyed.
    • Hektor orders the Trojans to camp on the plain and set watch fires to help them detect any sign of the Achaians trying to sail away. He's determined that, if they do, it will only be under a hail of spears and arrows.
    • He also sends a message back to the city for the boys and old men to keep watch on the ramparts, and the women to start fires burning in each courtyard, so that they will be able to see any attempted night raid by the Achaians.
    • Hektor says that in the morning they will attack.
    • The thousand fires of the Trojans are likened to stars.
  • Book 9

    • Meanwhile, in the Achaian camp, everyone is in a panic.
    • Agamemnon makes a defeatist speech to the other leaders, saying that they're now going to be forced to head home in shame.
    • Diomedes challenges Agamemnon. He says, "You insulted me, saying I'm not as good as my dad— and everyone knows how I showed you! No way am I going home on your crew. Me and Sthenelaos are going to keep fighting even if it's only the two of us."
    • Nestor stands up and makes a speech agreeing with Diomedes. Then he turns to more practical matters, saying they should serve the men dinner.
    • While everyone eats, Agamemnon hosts a private gathering for his commanders.
    • There, Nestor proposes that they ask Achilleus for help.
    • Agamemnon agrees. He says that he was not in his right mind when he insulted Achilleus in front of everyone else. (For those of you who have read Shakespeare's Hamlet, this might remind you of Hamlet's excuse to Laertes for driving his sister Ophelia to suicide.)
    • Agamemnon lists a whole bunch of awesome stuff he plans to give to Achilleus if he will come back and fight for the Achaians. And we mean awesome stuff—including, but not limited to, Briseis back unharmed (that is, with a guarantee that he never slept with her), lots of plunder from Troy, seven captive women, and seven cities to rule. Oh yeah, and marriage with one of Agamemnon's daughters.
    • To deliver this offer, Nestor now picks out some of the most esteemed Achaian warriors: Aias, Odysseus, and Phoinix. He also sends along the two heralds, Eurybates and Odios.
    • After everyone prays for success, these guys head off.
    • When they get to Achilleus's tent, they find the great warrior singing, playing the lyre, and hanging out with his best buddy Patroklos.
    • Achilleus welcomes them warmly, and cooks and serves them dinner.
    • When they've all finished eating, Odysseus makes the offer. He tells Achilleus how bad things are going for the Achaians. Then he reminds him how his father Peleus must have instructed him to be good to his friends and rein in his fearsome temper.
    • Then he recites Agamemnon's offer word-for-word.
    • When he's done with that, he throws in a special message: "If all that stuff doesn't convince you, at least think of us, your friends. Plus, you can kill Hektor and win great glory."
    • Achilleus's lengthy response expresses in no uncertain terms his absolute refusal of this offer and contempt for Agamemnon. In fact, he announces his intention to sail home the very next day.
    • Achilleus argues that no price Agamemnon can offer is worth his own life. Achilleus reveals that he is thinking about this because of a prophecy his mother told him: if he stays in Troy, he will have a short but glorious life, but, if he goes home, he will have a long life without glory.
    • The great warrior has made up his mind to take the second option. He encourages the other Achaians to sail home as well. Actually, he tells Phoinix to stay with him in his tent so they can leave together first thing in the morning.
    • Phoinix is astonished at this offer and says he can't accept it.
    • Then he tells a long story about his own origins and connection to Achilleus.
    • It turns out that, back in the day, Phoinix's father had taken a mistress, and his mother was having none of it. She pleaded with Phoinix to sleep with the mistress to wean her off her taste for older men. (Sorry, but it's there in the Greek!)
    • Phoinix agreed. Unfortunately, Phoinix's father didn't take it well. This started some serious tension in the household, prompting Phoinix to run away from home—and the country.
    • Phoinix stopped running when he came to the house of Peleus, Achilleus's father. Peleus took him in and treated him as one of his own sons. In this way, Phoinix became a sort of mentor to the young Achilleus, whom he came to regard as his own son.
    • Okay, Phoinix, you're probably saying, get to the point already! Don't worry, he does—and it's much as you'd expect. He tells Achilleus that he didn't go through all the trouble of raising him just to have him freak out on him now.
    • He tells him not to be so inflexible, and reminds him that even the gods change their minds when they hear the prayers of mortals.
    • Then Phoinix tells another long story. This time there is an obvious moral.
    • Many years ago, the town of the hero Meleagros was being besieged by a rival tribe. The thing is, Meleagros wouldn't help out his fellow citizens.
    • Why? Well, first of all, Meleagros was in a fight with his mom, who had cursed him and prayed for his death. (Meleagros killed her brother, so she has some reason to be mad at him.) Secondly, he was just lying around all day in bed with his wife, Cleopatra. (Not the famous one.)
    • Anyway, Meleagros's fellow citizens tried their darndest to get him to help them, even offering him lots of treasure if he did. But Meleagros kept refusing.
    • It wasn't till the enemies were on the point of capturing the town that Cleopatra finally got up the gumption to tell Meleagros to take action. This time he listened, and promptly snatched his city from the jaws of defeat.
    • The only thing is, when he had finished, the citizens refused to give him any of the stuff they had offered him earlier—all because he'd acted like such a jerk.
    • As you've probably guessed by now, Phoinix thinks Achilleus should take the treasure now while the offer's still good—you never know what might happen in the future.
    • But Achilleus still refuses to help the Achaians in battle. Then he repeats his request that Phoinix spend the night in his tent—though now he softens his earlier threat and says he'll think about sailing away in the morning.
    • The other warriors take this as their cue to leave. First, though, Aias criticizes Achilleus for being so inflexible. He says that even parents whose children have been murdered have let their anger go when they were paid appropriate amends.
    • But Achilleus is simply hell-bent on hurting the Achaians any way he can. He says that he will not start fighting until Hektor and the Trojans start burning his very own ships.
    • At this point, Odysseus, Aias, and the heralds leave, but Phoinix stays with Achilleus as he requested.
    • When the others get back to the council and tell everyone what happened, everyone is dumbstruck.
    • Finally, though, Diomedes speaks up. Basically, he says, "Forget Achilleus. We can do fine without him." He criticizes Agamemnon for making his offer—which only wound up inflating Achilleus's ego even more.
    • Then Diomedes says he expects to see Agamemnon fighting in the front lines tomorrow.
  • Book 10

    • Agamemnon can't sleep. Over in his own tent, Menelaos can't either. The two warriors get ready and run outside, where they run into each other. They agree that they need a plan to save the Achaians.
    • Agamemnon tells Menelaos to go call together the leading chieftains. As for himself, he will go find Nestor.
    • When Agamemnon finds Nestor, he suggests they go check on the sentries.
    • Nestor says he agrees, but asks if they shouldn't call together some other guys first.
    • Agamemnon says, "Menelaos is already on it."
    • Soon enough, all the VIPs meet up where the sentries are. (The sentries are all doing fine.)
    • Nestor proposes that someone should infiltrate the Trojan lines to see what they're up to.
    • Diomedes volunteers, but says he's got to take someone good with him as backup.
    • Agamemnon agrees, and instructs him to make his choice purely on the basis of merit—he shouldn't be influenced by who's the most powerful king.
    • Diomedes picks Odysseus. They both start getting ready.
    • Just when they're about to head out, Athene sends a heron down as a signal that she is watching over them. Although it is too dark to see it, the men hear its cry. They pray to Athene, and then head out.
    • Meanwhile, among the Trojans, Hektor asks for someone to go spy on the Achaians. Some guy called Dolon volunteers. He says that, in return for this service, he should receive Achilleus's chariot when the war's over.
    • Hektor says, "It's yours," and Dolon runs off into the night.
    • Too bad for Dolon that Odysseus and Diomedes see him coming. They play dead amid the corpses on the battlefield and wait for him to run past him.
    • Then they chase him down. Dolon surrenders quickly, and Odysseus promises they won't kill him.
    • The two Achaians press their captive for details about the layout of the Trojan camp.
    • Dolon tells them about the marvelous horses and chariot of the Thracian King Rhesos, an ally of the Trojans.
    • Now that he's told them what they want to know, Dolon tries to negotiate the terms of his ransom. Unfortunately, the negotiations are cut short—or rather, the negotiator is—when Diomedes beheads Dolon.
    • Odysseus and Diomedes now make their way into the Trojan camp, where they find the sleeping King Rhesos and his men, just as Dolon described.
    • While Odysseus unhitches the horses, Diomedes murders the lot of them in their sleep.
    • Then the two Achaians make a quick getaway, with the horses, back to their camp. They stop en route to pick up the fancy armor Diomedes stripped from Dolon.
    • When they get back to base, they offer prayers of thanks to Athene.
  • Book 11

    • Zeus sends the goddess Hate down to rouse the Achaians for battle.
    • Agamemnon starts things rolling.
    • Now Zeus sends panic among the troops, and makes the heavens rain blood. Yikes.
    • Hate is the only god taking part in this battle, but Zeus is watching from above.
    • When the fight begins, Agamemnon kills various dudes—including some who are begging for mercy.
    • The Trojans start fleeing toward Troy, with Agamemnon in pursuit.
    • Seeing this, Zeus sends a message down to Hektor via Iris. He tells Hektor that, as long as Agamemnon is going berserk, he and the Trojans should fight defensively. That said, as soon as they see Agamemnon get wounded, they have Zeus's permission to get Bronze Age on his hiney.
    • After Iris delivers this message, Hektor gets the Trojans into defensive battle lines.
    • The Achaians keep coming at them hard.
    • The poet asks the muse to help him remember all the dudes that Agamemnon fought with—he is killing that many.
    • Before killing one guy—Koon—Agamemnon receives a stab in the forearm. He keeps fighting for a while, but eventually realizes he has to go back to the ships.
    • When Hektor sees this, he calls on his soldiers to really give it to the Achaians.
    • Hektor kills various Achaian warriors.
    • Seeing this, Odysseus shouts out to Diomedes, his new partner in crime (see the summary of Book 10) and asks him, "Why aren't we stopping this guy?"
    • Odysseus and Diomedes lead a counterattack and kill various Trojan warriors.
    • Finally, Hektor comes bearing down upon Odysseus and Diomedes. Although they are frightened, they don't back down.
    • Diomedes throws his spear and hits Hektor in the head—but it deflects off his helmet!
    • Hektor withdraws to a safer spot and braces himself while he briefly blacks out. Then he regains consciousness: he's okay.
    • The fighting rages on.
    • Then, suddenly, Paris hits Diomedes in the foot with an arrow. He starts taunting his victim, but Diomedes calls him a wuss for fighting with a bow from far away.
    • Then Diomedes pulls out the arrow and gets his charioteer to take him back to the ships.
    • Now Odysseus is left without any other Achaians around him. In an instant, he is surrounded by Trojans. He fights them off (i.e., kills them all) but is wounded.
    • When a second round of Trojans encircles him, things are looking bad. He starts calling out for help.
    • Menelaos and Aias hear him and come to his aid. Together, they defeat that group of Trojans.
    • The fighting rages on. Eventually, the Achaians start to get forced back.
    • Hektor is partly responsible for giving the Trojans the upper hand. Part of the credit also goes to Paris, who shoots Machaon, the Achaian healer, in the shoulder. This makes the Achaians scared.
    • To get him out of harm's way, Nestor puts Machaon in his chariot and takes him back to the ships.
    • The next Achaian warrior to have to hold his own against a large number of adversaries is Aias— that is, until a group of Achaians comes to help him out.
    • Meanwhile, Nestor and Machaon arrive back at the Achaian camp.
    • Achilleus, who has been watching the battle from the stern of his beached ship, sees them go by.
    • He calls Patroklos out of his tent to double-check that it really was Machaon.
    • Patroklos obeys—and, the poet tells us, in that instant his doom is sealed.
    • When Patroklos gets to where Nestor and Machaon are and confirms the injured man's identity, he turns to go.
    • But Nestor holds him back, and spells out for him just how much kitty litter is hitting the fan out there. He says that he wishes he were able to help and then—you guessed it—tells a long story about how awesome he was back in the day.
    • Then Nestor tells Patroklos about the day he and Odysseus came to the house of Peleus looking for recruits. He reminds him how eager he and his playmate Achilleus were to join the expedition.
    • Nestor also reminds him of the advice their fathers gave them: how Achilleus's father, Peleus, told his son always to be the best warrior. But Menoitios, the father of Patroklos, told him that his role was to give good advice. "Even though Achilleus is stronger," Menoitios said back then, "you are older and wiser."
    • Now Nestor gets to the point. He suggests that Patroklos should lead the Myrmidons—these are the tribe of warriors that follow Achilleus—into battle. Maybe he could even wear Achilleus's armor, to strike terror into the hearts of the Trojans.
    • Patroklos is thrilled by this suggestion and runs off to find Achilleus.
    • Along the way, he encounters the Achaian warrior Eurypylos, who has been injured by an arrow.
    • Eurypylos gives Patroklos even more of the bad news on how they're doing.
    • Patroklos helps Eurypylos back to his tent and removes the arrow.
  • Book 12

    • While Patroklos assists Eurypylos, the battle continues.
    • The Achaians have now retreated inside their wall.
    • The poet tells us how, one day, the gods will destroy the wall—for it was built without the proper sacrifices. (It's like they never applied for a building permit.)
    • Now the Trojans are wondering how to cross the ditch encircling the wall.
    • A Trojan warrior, Poulydamas, suggests they dismount and make a massive attack on foot. Hektor agrees.
    • The only one who doesn't is Asios, who madly tries to drive his chariot through the gates before the Achaians close them.
    • Asios doesn't succeed, in part because of the brave defensive fighting of Polypoites and Leonteus, two staunch members of tribe of the Lapithai (an Achaian ally).
    • A furious battle now erupts at this gate.
    • Just when it looks like the Trojans are about the breach the wall, an eagle flies overhead, on the left (this was viewed as unlucky), and carrying a snake. The snake is still alive, and keeps biting the eagle until it finally lets it go.
    • The Trojans think this looks bad for them, and hesitate.
    • Poulydamas urges Hektor to respect the sign and not attack the Achaian ships.
    • Hektor sharply rebukes him and calls him a coward.
    • Led by Hektor, the Trojans press on and start trying to tear down the wall.
    • So far, the spirited resistance of the two Aiases prevents them from being wholly successful.
    • Now Sarpedon encourages his cousin Glaukos to join him in leading a renewed assault.
    • The Achaian warrior Menestheus, who is manning the defenses at that part of the wall, sends a message to the two Aiases and Teukros to come give him some backup.
    • When they arrive, they immediately start killing Trojans. Teukros injures Glaukos with an arrow, but Zeus prevents his son Sarpedon from receiving any mortal injury.
    • Now is Sarpedon's time to shine. With his bare hands, he tears a huge hole in the wall and encourages the Trojans to come in after him.
    • The result, however, is a deadlocked battle in the gap in the wall: neither army can advance, yet neither can retreat. Many men are killed.
    • Hektor, however, releases the pressure valve. How? Well, he picks up a giant rock and hurls it at the gates of the wall, shattering them.
    • Then he rushes in alone.
    • Trojans start streaming in through the gates and also over the wall. Things are looking bad for the Achaians.
  • Book 13

    • Thinking he's got the battle ball rolling, Zeus leaves the scene. He doesn't think any other god is going to interfere now.
    • Fat chance! At it turns out, Poseidon thinks it's high time he got a piece of the action. After getting his chariot in order, he rides to the vicinity of Troy. He parks his horses and chariot in a conveniently located underwater cave. (These aren't your usual horses.)
    • Then he walks up onto the beach, where he takes on the form of the Achaian seer Kalchas. In this shape, he encourages both Aiases to defend a certain position where the battle line is weakest.
    • Then he fills them with courage. Little Aias realizes that a god has contacted them. Aias agrees. They rush into battle.
    • Next, Poseidon incites other Achaian warriors, calling them cowards for hanging back. He also tells them to stop bellyaching because Agamemnon turned Achilleus against them.
    • A spirited Achaian resistance arises around the two Aiases.
    • Hektor leads the charge against them.
    • Various warriors get killed.
    • Poseidon, walking among the soldiers, takes the form of the Achaian warrior Thoas. Disguised as Thoas, he gets in a conversation with Idomeneus about how they've really got to keep fighting.
    • Idomemeus says, "I know. We're all trying our hardest. Some god must be helping the Trojans."
    • As Idomeneus then rushes back to battle, he encounters Meriones, another Achaian warrior.
    • When Idomeneus asks him what he's doing there, Meriones explains that he broke his spear and was heading to his tent to get another. He asks if he can borrow one from Idomeneus.
    • Idomeneus says, "That's cool. I've got tons of spears back in my tent."
    • Meriones says, "Hey! I've got tons of spears in my tent, too. I'm not a coward or something!"
    • Idomeneus says, "I know you aren't. Go grab one."
    • Meriones runs off, grabs a spear, and then catches up with Idomeneus, who is still heading back to the fight. Now they can go together.
    • They head where the fighting is thickest.
    • In the midst of the battle, Poseidon is fighting hard for the Achaians. He retains a mortal form so that Zeus won't see him meddling.
    • Idomeneus kills various opponents—including Asios, the guy who charged his chariot at the Achaian gates in Book 12.
    • This makes the Trojan Deïphobos furious. He throws a spear at Idomeneus, misses, and kills an Achaian guy called Hypselon.
    • In response, Idomeneus kills a Trojan soldier named Alkathoös.
    • Now Idomeneus starts taunting Deïphobos, saying, "Why don't you fight me yourself?"
    • Deïphobos steps up to the challenge—but first calls on Aineias to come help him out.
    • Seeing Aineias on the way, Idomeneus calls his buddies over for backup.
    • In response, Aineias calls his buddies over for backup.
    • A huge fight breaks out between these guys over the dead body of Askalaphos—the Achaians wanting to strip off its armor, the Trojans wanting to take it home for proper burial.
    • Various men are killed.
    • Finally, Meriones stabs Deïphobos in the hand. Luckily for Deïphobos, his brother Polites drags him out of the fighting, sticks him on his chariot, and sends him back to Troy.
    • More men get killed in gruesome fashion.
    • The focus turns on Menelaos after the Trojan Helenos kills the Achaian Deipyros.
    • Menelaos goes in for revenge, throwing a spear at Helenos at the same time as Helenos throws an arrow at him.
    • Helenos's arrow deflects off Menelaos's chest, but Menelaos's spear destroys Helenos's hand.
    • Helenos flees the scene.
    • Menelaos kills some more guys.
    • Elsewhere on the battlefield, Hektor presses on his assault.
    • Even so, the Trojans might have been beaten back if it weren't for the strategic thinking of Poulydamas.
    • Poulydamas urges Hektor to concentrate their forces at a certain safe location, so that they can decide their next move. Hektor agrees.
    • The only problem is, when he goes to gather his chieftains, he discovers that most of them are either dead—like Asios and Adamas—or licking their wounds back in Troy—like Deïphobos and Helenos.
    • Hektor does find Paris, however, and immediately starts insulting him, calling him a wuss.
    • Paris says, "Hey! That's no fair. I'm trying my best!"
    • Now Hektor and Paris run into the thick of the fight.
    • Aias throws out an insult against Hektor.
    • When he's done, an eagle flies by on the right—a good omen—and the Achaians cheer.
    • Hektor answers with a challenge of his own.
    • Both sides rush into battle.
  • Book 14

    • After he's done helping the injured healer Machaon, Nestor steps out of the tent to see how the battle's going. He doesn't like what he sees: the Achaians are getting their butts whipped.
    • Nestor is debating whether he should go join the battle himself, or whether he should go report to Agamemnon. He decides on the latter course of action.
    • He finds Agamemnon sitting with Diomedes and Odysseus away from the fighting. All three are injured.
    • Nestor tells Agamemnon the bad news.
    • Agamemnon thinks they're beat. He suggests they should just start moving the ships down into the water.
    • Odysseus says, "No way. As soon as the men see that we're starting to sail off, they won't keep fighting. There will be total disorder and the Trojans will kill us all."
    • Agamemnon says, "Fine. So what do you other brainiacs think we should do?"
    • Eventually, Diomedes speaks up. He says that the three of them should go back to the battle.
    • Even if they don't join in the fighting, they can still shout out encouragement to the men.
    • Everyone thinks this is a good idea, so they head out.
    • On their way, they encounter the god Poseidon, in disguise. He tells Agamemnon that the gods aren't entirely against them – the day will come when the Trojans will turn tail and run.
    • Then Poseidon races off with a shout as loud as nine or ten thousand men, instilling great courage in the hearts of the Achaians.
    • Up on Mount Olympos, Hera sees what Poseidon is doing and is overjoyed. All the same, she is afraid of what might happen if Zeus catches wind of it. She decides to distract him—with the power of a woman's touch.
    • First she dolls herself up all nicely, then she calls Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to put on some finishing touches. Specifically, she wants to borrow loveliness and desirability. (You can think of this as asking to borrow Aphrodite's prized bottle of Chanel Number 5.)
    • The would-be cover girl's cover story is as follows: she wants to go start some chemistry between Okeanos, god of the ocean, and the sea-goddess Tethys, whose relationship is on the rocks.
    • Aphrodite is thrilled with this idea, and forks over the goods.
    • Now Hera heads off to find Zeus. On the way, however, she pays a visit to Sleep, the brother of Death.
    • Hera asks him to knock Zeus out as soon as she's had a chance to use her wiles on him.
    • Sleep hesitates, recalling a previous occasion when he helped Hera put Zeus under—only to have Zeus give him a royal thumping when he woke up.
    • Hera says, "Don't worry about it. And anyhow, if you help me, I'll let you have one of the younger Graces as your wife—Pasithea, the one you've had a crush on for so long." (The Graces were goddesses of, well, gracefulness, beauty, etc.)
    • Sleep says, "Oooh, yes." And off they go.
    • When they reach Mount Ida, where Zeus is, Sleep takes the form of a bird, and Hera heads up to find the god.
    • As soon as Zeus sees her, he is instantly overpowered with lust.
    • He asks her where she's going.
    • Hera tells him the same story she told Aphrodite.
    • Zeus says, "That can wait. Right now: you, me, right here."
    • Hera says, "Right here? Won't somebody see us?"
    • Zeus says, "Not to worry. I'll wrap the mountain in a cloud of mist." Which he does.
    • Once they're done, Sleep knocks Zeus unconscious. Then he speeds down to find Poseidon on the beach of Troy.
    • Sleep tells Poseidon to hurry up and kick some Trojan butt while Zeus is still asleep.
    • Now Poseidon leads the Achaians on the attack.
    • Hektor throws a spear at Aias, but it is deflected where his shield- and sword-straps overlap.
    • In response, Aias throws a huge rock at Hektor, hitting him in the chest.
    • Some guys grab Hektor and pull him out of harm's way. They put him on a chariot and take him back towards Troy, stopping by the River Xanthos. There they splash some water on him. He throws up and blacks out.
    • Back on the battlefield, the Achaians, encouraged by the departure of Hektor, press on with new energy.
    • Various soldiers on both sides are killed in gruesome fashion.
  • Book 15

    • The Achaians, making a comeback, drive the Trojans out of their encampment.
    • When Zeus wakes up beside Hera and looks down, what he sees makes him furious.
    • He is especially angry to see Poseidon helping out the Achaians—not to mention the fact that Hektor is barely conscious.
    • Zeus lashes out at Hera, complaining about how she tricked him.
    • Hera makes a solemn oath that she wasn't the one who gave Poseidon the idea. (A technicality.)
    • Zeus says, "Fine. We can patch things up, but you've got to go to Olympos right now and get me Iris and Apollo."
    • Then Zeus announces what will come to pass: the Trojans will keep pressing on as far as the ships of Achilleus, then Achilleus will send Patroklos into battle in his place. Patroklos will kill Zeus's son Sarpedon; then Hektor will kill him. Achilleus will kill Hektor and the tide of the war will turn—ultimately leading to the destruction of Troy. That's a lot of killing.
    • Hera obediently heads for Olympos. When she gets there, she complains about how Zeus is acting, but then says it's not worth fighting with him. For example, she says, Ares will have to put up with the fact that he lost his son, Askalaphos.
    • Unfortunately, this remark only sets off Ares. He rages out of the room and starts to head down to the battle, but Athene catches up to him and stops him.
    • Next, as promised, Hera sends Iris and Apollo to meet Zeus on Ida.
    • When they get there, Zeus first sends Apollo down to revive Hektor. The god finds him awake, but still in a daze. Apollo reveals himself to the Trojan hero, and tells him to return to the battle: the god will clear a path for him.
    • Now, filled with new courage, Hektor drives on against the Achaians.
    • When the Achaian Thoas sees him coming, he encourages the greatest Achaian warriors to stand up in resistance.
    • The Achaians put on a brave front—until Apollo puts the fear of god into them, literally. Then they run in fear.
    • Now the Trojans kill various Achaians and start stripping off their armor.
    • When Hektor sees this though, he urges them to press onward to the true prize: the destruction of the Achaians' ships. He says he'll kill any man who hangs back.
    • The Trojans start racing into the Achaian camp, while Apollo helps tear down their wall and uses the debris to fill up the ditch surrounding it.
    • Soon enough, the Trojans have pushed the Achaians so far back that they are reduced to fighting from the decks of their own beached ships with long spears made for sea-battles.
    • Seeing what is happening, Patroklos leaves the injured Eurypylos, whom he had been helping, and runs off to find Achilleus.
    • Meanwhile, Hektor is leading a group of Trojans in trying to set fire to a ship defended by Aias and some others.
    • At some point, Teukros tries to shoot an arrow at Hektor. He would have hit him, too, except that Zeus snaps the string of his bow and makes the missile shoot erratically away.
    • Hektor, seeing what happened to Teukros, calls out encouragement to the other Trojans.
    • Aias stirs on the Achaians by reminding them that this fight is for life and death.
    • Various soldiers are killed in the furious struggle.
    • Hektor puts the Achaians to flight, but they regroup a ways back, with Nestor encouraging them not to panic.
    • But Hektor presses on at the ships, and the fight there becomes intense at close quarters.
    • The book ends with Aias standing on deck, fighting off all comers with a really big spear.
  • Book 16

    • When Patroklos reaches Achilleus, he is in tears.
    • Achilleus makes fun of him for crying, but Patroklos defends himself. He tells off Achilleus for being a jerk, and asks for permission to lead the Myrmidons into battle—as Nestor suggested back in Book 11.
    • Achilleus agrees, and tells Patroklos to take his armor. The only condition he imposes is that Patroklos should only drive the Trojans off the ships. "Don't go any further," he says, "or you'll make me look stupid."
    • Meanwhile, in the heat of the fighting, Aias has no more energy to defend the ship he's been guarding. He backs off, and the Trojans start to burn it.
    • Seeing this, Achilleus urges Patroklos to get moving.
    • Patroklos arms himself in Achilleus's gear, taking everything except his spear, which only Achilleus is strong enough to wield effectively.
    • Achilleus meanwhile gets his Myrmidons in order. They are all spoiling for a fight.
    • Achilleus gives them a speech to encourage them, and then goes back to his hut. There he prays to Zeus to give Patroklos courage and success. He also asks that, once he has driven the Trojans off the ships, he come home safe and unharmed.
    • We are told that Zeus grants the first part of the prayer, but not the second.
    • Patroklos leads the Myrmidons out to battle. The Trojans are stuck with terror, thinking it is Achilleus. They are driven back.
    • The battle rages on. There are many gruesome killings, as we've come to expect.
    • Patroklos in particular is killing lots of Trojans.
    • When Sarpedon sees this, he tells off his fellow Lykians for not standing up to Patroklos. He decides to take him on himself.
    • Zeus, looking down on this, laments the fact that his son Sarpedon is about to be killed. He asks Hera for permission to remove him from the battle and save him from his fate.
    • But Hera says "No way. As soon as you start doing that, then all the gods are going to want to save their own children. You're not the only one with a kid in this fight, buster."
    • Down on the ground, Sarpedon and Patroklos close for battle.
    • Patroklos throws his spear and kills Sarpedon's chariot driver.
    • Sarpedon then kills Patroklos's horse.
    • When Sarpedon throws his second spear, however, he misses.
    • But the next spear of Patroklos hits Sarpedon in the heart.
    • With his dying breath, Sarpedon calls on Glaukos to rally the Lykians and defend his body.
    • Glaukos rushes to obey, but first prays to Apollo to heal the wound he received in the arm from Teukros's arrow. Apollo grants the request.
    • Now feeling as good as new, Glaukos thanks the god and organizes the Lykians around the body of Sarpedon. Then he runs off to rally the Trojan leaders, reminding them of the debt they owe to Sarpedon's greatness.
    • A huge battle erupts around the corpse. Zeus darkens the sky.
    • Mainly, though, Zeus is on the lookout for ways to kill Patroklos. He decides to let Patroklos have a bit more glory before his time to go.
    • Zeus puts fear into the heart of Hektor, and turns the Trojans in flight toward their city.
    • Then, he sends down Apollo to whisk Sarpedon's body out of the fighting, to cleanse him, and then take him home to Lykia for proper burial. Apollo does so.
    • Patroklos presses on to Troy. He might have broken into the city if the god Apollo, standing on the rampart, had not pushed him back.
    • In response to Patroklos's fourth attempt, the god tells him that he is acting against the decrees of fate—that not even Achilleus will take the city. Patroklos backs off.
    • Now Hektor is wondering whether to withdraw the Trojans inside the walls. Apollo takes the form of a Trojan warrior and tells him to keep fighting on the plain.
    • Hektor drives his chariot back into the battle.
    • As luck would have it, Hektor immediately comes face to face with Patroklos. Patroklos throws a rock and kills Hektor's chariot driver, Kebriones.
    • Hektor jumps down from his chariot and a fight breaks out over the body of Kebriones.
    • Others on both sides join in, and it turns into a free-for-all.
    • Eventually, though, the god Apollo stops him. He strikes Patroklos between the shoulders, knocks the helmet off his head, shatters his spear, detaches his shield, and pries off his breastplate. Yikes.
    • Suddenly defenseless, Patroklos is speared in the back by Euphorbos, a Trojan warrior, who then darts away.
    • Now Hektor comes up to Patroklos and stabs him in the guts—dealing a mortal wound.
    • Hektor mocks his fallen adversary. The dying Patroklos insults him right back. He says, "You were only the third person to kill me. First came Apollo, then Euphorbos. And besides, I can see your death coming."
    • Hektor says, "Whatever, man."
    • Patroklos dies.
    • The battle continues.
  • Book 17

    • Menelaos gets in a fight with Euphorbos—the first man to spear Patroklos in Book 16—over Patroklos's body.
    • Menelaos kills Euphorbos and starts stripping off his gear, but then backs down in the face of stronger Trojan numbers. Oh yeah, and he also recognizes that the god Apollo is aiding Hektor.
    • Next Menelaos goes and gets Aias, who comes to help defend the body. By this point, however, it is already too late to preserve his armor—Hektor has taken it.
    • Aias stands over Patroklos and the Trojans back off.
    • Now Glaukos starts cursing Hektor, calling him a wuss. Glaukos says th Lykians should desert, for all the thanks they get for being such good allies of the Trojans. He wants to know how come they didn't put more effort into defending Sarpedon.
    • Glaukos says that they should capture Patroklos's body and then use it as leverage to ransom back Sarpedon's body and his armor from the Achaians. (Apparently Glaukos doesn't know that Apollo has already taken his body back to Lykia, his homeland.)
    • Even though Hektor tells Glaukos off for his insolence, he nonetheless instructs his comrades to work at capturing the body of Patroklos.
    • As for Hektor himself, though, he first takes a time-out to put on the armor he stripped from his body—that is, the armor of Achilleus.
    • Looking down on Hektor, Zeus pities him. He decides to give him strength for the next little while —knowing his time isn't long.
    • Once he's all decked out in his new armor, Hektor leads his troops on the attack. He promises to share the spoils of war with them.
    • Seeing them coming, Aias and Menelaos worry about their own ability to hold off so many adversaries. They call out for backup.
    • A furious battle erupts over the corpse of Patroklos.
    • Zeus envelops the fighters in mist and puts courage into the Achaians. He never disliked Patroklos while he was alive.
    • Even so, the Achaians are forced to give him up. They rally though, when the Trojans start to drag him off.
    • Various dudes are killed on both sides.
    • When the Trojans are beaten back and about to return inside the city walls, Apollo appears to Aineias in the form of a Trojan warrior. He tells him to keep up the fight: Zeus is with them.
    • Aineias recognizes that a god has addressed him, and urges the Trojans back into the fight.
    • Meanwhile, in the camp, Achilleus doesn't yet know of the death of his friend, and hopes to see him soon.
    • In the battle, besides the corpse, the horses from Achilleus's chariot refuse to return to the Achaian camp. Instead, they stand by weeping and soiling their manes in the dust.
    • Zeus pities them and inspires the Myrmidon warrior Automedon to take them back to the ships.
    • He also imparts to the horses a little of that ol' get up and go.
    • Things don't go as planned though, because instead of heading straight back, Automedon starts killing dudes from the chariot.
    • Seeing him, Alkimedon, another Myrmidon, says, "Hey, you can't fight everyone alone!"
    • Automedon says, "Hmm. You're right. You take the chariot back, I'll dismount and fight this out on foot."
    • After they do the switch, however, Hektor sees Alkimedon riding off. He calls to Aineias and says, "Let's go steal that chariot and those horses."
    • Aineias instantly agrees.
    • When Automedon sees them coming, he decides to defend the chariot while Alkimedon keeps riding it.
    • The poet's focus now shifts back to the fight around Patroklos. There, Athene comes down in the shape of Phoinix and berates Menelaos for not being helpful.
    • She fills him with power and sends him back to the fight. There, Apollo is still backing up Hektor.
    • As the fight rages back and forth, Aias calls to Menelaos to tell Antilochos, the son of Nestor, to go find Achilleus and let him know of Patroklos's death.
    • After Menelaos finds him and gives him the instructions, Antilochos runs off on his errand—even though he really doesn't want to be the bearer of bad news.
    • Menelaos rejoins the fighting beside Patroklos.
    • He says he doubts Achilleus will come and help them. "How can he fight without armor?" he wonders.
    • Then, suddenly, Meriones and Menelaos scoop up Patroklos and start making their escape. They are defended by Aias and little Aias. With the Trojans in hot pursuit, they must struggle every step of the way.
  • Book 18

    • Back at the ships, Achilleus sees the Achaians fleeing back down the plain. He fears the worst.
    • He is worried because of a prophecy his mother once told him—that, while he was still alive, the best of the Myrmidons would die. Now Achilleus interprets this to mean Patroklos.
    • Now Antilochos reaches Achilleus and, in tears, delivers his message.
    • Overcome with grief, Achilleus pours soot and ashes on his head and clothes, defiling himself.
    • Then he falls on the ground like a dead man.
    • The captive women among the Myrmidon dwellings hear him and come over. They start wailing around him.
    • Meanwhile Antilochos holds Achilleus's hands—to make sure he doesn't kill himself in his grief.
    • At this point, Achilleus lets out a terrible cry. It is so loud that it reaches his mother Thetis, where she sits at the bottom of the sea.
    • Thetis comes to see her son, followed by a train of nymphs. Thetis laments that there is nothing she can do for Achilleus—he is doomed—but she will go anyway.
    • The nymphs make a circle around him on the beach, while Thetis cradles Achilleus like an infant, asking him what the matter is. She reminds him that, now that the Achaians have gotten their butts kicked, Zeus has granted all of Achilleus's wishes.
    • But Achilleus doesn't think any of that is worth it now that Patroklos is dead.
    • In fact, Achilleus now wishes he had never been born. He says he has lost the will to live—unless he can kill Hektor.
    • Thetis reminds Achilleus that he is now doomed to die: it is his fate that he will die soon after Hektor.
    • Achilleus says, "I don't care. Let me die then."
    • He curses the rage that made him fight with Agamemnon. Now he says that he'll patch things up with the Achaian king. Now it's time for killing some Trojans.
    • Thetis says, "Fine. But you still don't have any armor—Hektor stole it from Patroklos. At least wait until tomorrow. Then I'll bring you some new armor from the gods."
    • She sends the nymphs back under the sea and heads off to see Hephaistos—god of fire and metal-working—on top of Mount Olympos.
    • Meanwhile, on the field, the battle for Patroklos's corpse rages on inconclusively.
    • Iris, messenger of the gods, comes down from Olympos and tells Achilleus to go and rescue Patroklos.
    • He protests that, first of all, he has no armor, and, second of all, he promised not to fight until his mom comes back with more.
    • But Iris says, "Just go out to the trench and show yourself to the Trojans. They'll be so afraid to see you that they'll just turn tail and run."
    • Achilleus complies. But when he gets to the trench, Athene hangs Zeus's shield on his shoulder. Then she crowns his head in a flaming cloud. Not too shabby.
    • Achilleus lets out a huge cry—which Athene echoes.
    • Together, they make three cries in total. The combined effect of this infernal—er, that is, divine—racket is to drive all the Trojans off in terror.
    • The Achaians use this opportunity to bring Patroklos back.
    • Achilleus laments over him.
    • Then night comes.
    • In the Trojan council, Poulydamas worries about the consequences of Achilleus rejoining the action. He argues that they should pull back within the city's walls.
    • But Hektor is having none of it—not after all that they've (i.e., he) has accomplished.
    • "What if it was Achilleus?" He says. "I'll never run from him." (Bear this statement in mind when you get to Book 22.)
    • Hektor says they should stay on the plain, and the other Trojans agree.
    • Meanwhile, the Achaians are lamenting Patroklos. Achilleus leads the lament.
    • He is torn by grief that he couldn't bring Patroklos home safe to his father, as he promised. Now they will both die at Troy.
    • Achilleus swears that he won't bury Patroklos until he has killed Hektor.
    • Then he commands his comrades to wash and anoint Patroklos's corpse.
    • From Olympos, Zeus and Hera are watching what's going on.
    • Meanwhile, Thetis arrives in Hephaistos's workshop.
    • There, she is greeted by Hephaistos's wife, the goddess Charis (her name could be roughly translated as "Sexiness"). Charis then gets Hephaistos.
    • Hephaistos is glad to see Thetis. He remembers how she once helped him when his mother Hera threw him off Mount Olympos, disgusted that he was lame. He asks her what he can do for her.
    • Thetis laments the imminent death of her son and explains the whole situation.
    • Hephaistos says, "I also wish I could save him from death. As for the armor problem? That's no problem at all."
    • He tells her to wait in the sitting room while he goes off to his workshop.
    • There, with the help of his mechanical equipment, he first fashions a magnificent shield.
    • He decorates the shield with a representation of the entire world—bounded by the heavenly bodies and the ocean. Within these boundaries, he shows the polarities of human life: war and peace, city and country, conflict and celebration.
    • (Alexander Pope's celebrated eighteenth century translation of the shield passage may be read here.)
    • Then Hephaistos makes the rest of the armor and gives it to Thetis. She takes it down to Troy.
  • Book 19

    • In the morning, Thetis delivers the armor made by Hephaistos.
    • She finds Achilleus weeping over Patroklos and embracing his body.
    • Achilleus is pleased with the armor, but he is distracted by another, more immediate worry. Won't Patroklos's body start to disintegrate?
    • Thetis tells him not to worry. She puts some ambrosia and nectar—the food of the gods, and a reliable cure-all—into the corpse's nose. These will stave off the body's destruction.
    • Meanwhile, Achilleus goes off and, in front of the other Achaians, formally swears off his rage at Agamemnon.
    • Agamemnon accepts Achilleus's apology and, for his part, says that what he did to him was nothing personal. He claims that it was sheer madness to steal Achilleus's girl.
    • Agamemnon explains how Zeus himself has suffered at the hands of the goddess of Delusion.
    • Then Agamemnon promises to give Achilleus the gifts he promised him earlier.
    • Achilleus says, "Whatever. Bring the gifts or don't bring them. I just want to fight."
    • Odysseus tells him to calm down, saying, "It's breakfast of champions time. How can we kill Trojans without eating our breakfast first?"
    • Then Odysseus tells Agamemnon to present the treasure, swear that he never slept with Briseis (Achilleus's girlfriend, remember?), and promise to be more fair in the future.
    • Agamemnon agrees, tells some guys to go get the stuff, and other guys to start a feast.
    • Achilleus doesn't like this one bit. He says, "How can you guys think of feasting when our friends are lying dead? I'm not eating a thing, not with my friend dead."
    • Odysseus says, for the second time, "Don't be a fool. We've got to eat so we can fight properly."
    • Then he leads some guys off to get the treasure. When it arrives, Agamemnon takes the oath.
    • Then they sacrifice a boar and the army eats.
    • The Myrmidons take the gifts to Achilleus's tent. When Briseis sees the body of Patroklos, she starts weeping. She says that Patroklos was always kind to her, and had promised that he would convince Achilleus to take her as his lawful wife.
    • Achilleus still refuses to eat. A few chieftains stay with him and listen while he laments the death of Patroklos.
    • Zeus also watches. He sends Athene down to give him some divine food (there's your reliable ambrosia again) without him knowing it. (Think of this as a divine I.V.) She does this.
    • Now the Achaians arm themselves for battle, as does Achilleus.
    • Then Achilleus mounts his chariot and addresses his horses. He tells them off for leaving Patroklos dead on the field. He tells them to do a better job this time.
    • The horse Xanthos answers him—at that instant, Hera infused him with the power to speak. Xanthos says that it wasn't their fault Patroklos died; it was Apollo who killed him. "Even if we ran as fast as the wind," he says, "you're still going to die at the hands of a man and a god."
    • Then the Furies—the gods of vengeance—silence Xanthos. (Why? We don't know.)
    • Achilleus rebukes his horse for prophesying his death. Then he drives them out to vanish.
  • Book 20

    • Zeus calls all the gods to assembly. He says that, now that Achilleus has come back to the fight and is super mad, he's worried that Troy will be conquered before its time.
    • He tells the gods that they have now free rein to get involved—just to make sure things don't get out of hand.
    • So down they go: Athene, Hera, Poseidon, and Hermes on the Achaians' side; Ares, Apollo, and Artemis on the Trojans'.
    • Apollo takes the form of Priam's son Lykaon and urges Aineias to take on Achilleus. "Come on," he says, "we all heard you boasting you could do it when you were drunk. Now's the time!"
    • Aineias says, "I fought him once before—and he would've beat me if it weren't for the help of the gods."
    • But then Apollo says, "You're the son of Aphrodite. Achilleus is the son of Thetis—a lesser divinity. If you take him on, you can beat him."
    • That's all Aineias needs to hear. Now, fired up, he charges after Achilleus.
    • Hera, who has been watching all this, asks Poseidon if they should intervene.
    • Poseidon says, "Nah. Let's just wait and see if any of the other gods, like Ares or Apollo, try to start something. If they do, we'll make short work of them."
    • So they sit down on the sidelines—probably chomping on some ambrosial peanuts and crackerjacks.
    • Achilleus and Aineias approach each other for combat.
    • Achilleus asks, "What's your problem? You think if you kill me you'll be some sort of big man or something? Back off, buddy."
    • But then Aineias says, "Me back off? Check out my family tree." He then proceeds to recite, in great detail, his family tree—and then concludes, "But enough talk. Let's fight."
    • They throw their spears. Aineias's spear deflects off Achilleus's shield. Achilleus's spear punches through the shield of Aineias, but passes over his shoulder.
    • Then Achilleus draws his sword and runs at Aineias, who lifts up a huge rock and prepares to defend himself.
    • Poseidon, looking on, turns to Athene and says, "We should save Aineias. He shouldn't have to die just because Apollo tricked him into thinking he could take Achilleus. Besides, he's always given us sacrifices—and he and his descendents are destined to survive."
    • (This reference to the future of Aineias's descendents is the hook on which the Roman poet Virgil would later develop the legend of the Aeneid. According to this version, Aineias—or "Aeneas," as his name is spelled in Latin—and a small band of Trojans survived the fall of their city, and eventually made it to Italy, where they founded the precursor to the city of Rome. You can read all about their exciting adventures in Shmoop's guide to Virgil's Aeneid.)
    • In reply, Hera says, "Whatever. Do what you want."
    • At that, Poseidon walks over, drifts a mist over Achilleus's eyes, picks up Aineias, and carries him over to the sidelines of the battle, where he drops him. Then he tells Aineias to stay out of the frontlines of battle for as long as Achilleus is alive. Once he's dead, Poseidon says, Aineias can have at it.
    • Then Poseidon goes back to Achilleus and takes the mist off his eyes. Achilleus is decidedly nonplussed to find his enemy gone, but he accepts it, figuring that some god must have interfered.
    • He urges the Achaians into battle.
    • On the other side, Hektor is encouraging the Trojans.
    • Apollo approaches Hektor and tells him not to go head-to-head against Achilleus. If he does, Apollo says, he will be killed. Hektor merges into the ranks of his army.
    • Achilleus is fighting in the front of his army, killing many Trojans.
    • After Achilleus kills Hektor's brother, Polydoros, Hektor loses it. He rushes in to attack Achilleus against Apollo's orders.
    • Achilleus is pleased to see him coming, and tells him to "Bring it on."
    • In response, Hektor tells Achilleus that he knows how tough he is—but all it will take is one lucky blow with a spear to bring him down.
    • (Compare Hektor's observation to that of the preacher in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes: "I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." For a comparison of alternative translations of this passage (9:11), check out this website.)
    • The problem is, luck only goes so far. Sometimes the gods just aren't with you. Thus, when Hektor throws his spear at Achilleus, Athene blows it away.
    • But when Achilleus then tries to get Hektor, Apollo swoops in and pulls him out of harm's way.
    • Achilleus realizes the jig is up—for now—and goes on to kill other Trojans in gruesome fashion.
  • Book 21

    • Achilleus pins the Trojans against the River Xanthos (not to be confused with Achilleus's horse of the same name. The river is also known as Skamandros).
    • There, he drives half of them toward the city; the other half he pushes into the river itself.
    • Then he dives in and starts furiously killing people, staining the water red with blood.
    • After he's had his fill of that, he grabs twelve young Trojans, hauls them up on the bank, and ties them up. Then he gives them to some friends of his to take back to the ships as prisoners.
    • At this point, he sees crawling up onto the bank someone he recognizes—Lykaon, a son of Priam. Some time earlier, Achilleus had captured Lykaon and sold him into slavery. As it turns out, though, someone ransomed him, and he has now been back in Troy eleven days.
    • Achilleus throws his spear at Lykaon, but Lykaon dodges it and grabs Achilleus's knees, begging for mercy.
    • Achilleus makes a fearsome speech, saying, "No way. But don't worry. I'll die soon too, so it's all okay." Then he kills Lykaon with his sword and throws him into the river.
    • Achilleus mocks Lykaon because the river will take him far out to sea, so no one will ever bury him.
    • This makes the river angry. (Yes, you heard that right. The Ancients thought of rivers as gods.) For the moment, though, nothing comes of it.
    • Next Achilleus gets in a fight with another Trojan, Asteropaios.
    • Asteropaios boasts of his ancestry, and how he was the son of the River Axios.
    • Achilleus says, "Big deal. My great-grandfather is Zeus."
    • Achilleus kills Asteropaios and throws his body in the River Skamandros.
    • Now Skamandros is really angry. He tells Achilleus to stop clogging his water with dead Trojans.
    • In reply, Achilleus says, "Fine. But I'm still going to keep killing lots of Trojans."
    • At that, Skamandros goes off and complains to Apollo. He asks him to protect the Trojans until the sun goes down.
    • When Achilleus hears this, however, he gets angrier than before—so angry, in fact, that he jumps into the river and starts attacking it.
    • Alright, so, as you could probably have guessed, fighting a river is not a good idea.
    • Soon enough, Achilleus is running across the plain with the river chasing after him, sometimes curling up into huge waves and trying to crash on his head.
    • Understandably, Achilleus prays for help. Poseidon and Athene come down and reassure him that it isn't his fate to be killed by the river. They also tell him that, once he's killed Hektor, he shouldn't continue on to capture Troy. Instead, he should head back to the ships.
    • When the two gods leave, however, Achilleus's battle with the river continues.
    • In fact, it starts looking like it's about to get a lot worse—because now Skamandros calls on his brother, Simoeis (the other river crossing the Trojan plain), to come help him out.
    • Just when it looks like Achilleus is about to play his last round of two-on-one, however, Hera calls on Hephaistos, god of fire, to come help him.
    • Hephaistos's solution is to set fire to all the corpses on the field—thus making a vast wall of flame to contain the two rivers within their banks. He also sets fire to all the plants along those banks, just to make sure.
    • Soon enough, Skamandros promises he won't make any further effort to save the Trojans from disaster.
    • At this point Hera calls off Hephaistos.
    • Meanwhile, the gods are joining the battle.
    • Ares stabs at Athene, but fails to pierce her divine shield.
    • In revenge, however, Athene picks up a huge rock and hurls it at him. She hits him in the neck and knocks him onto the ground.
    • Then, when Aphrodite comes and starts leading Ares out of the battle, Athene runs up to her and starts punching her breasts.
    • Both Ares and Aphrodite collapse.
    • Now Poseidon comes up against Apollo. He asks him why he's fighting for the Trojans. He reminds Apollo of some backstory—which we haven't heard until now. You ready for this?
    • Here's the deal. Apparently, many, many years ago, Zeus compelled Poseidon and Apollo to spend one year as slaves for the Trojan King Laomedon—the father of Priam.
    • Apollo's job was to herd all the sheep on Mount Ida. Poseidon's was to build the wall of Troy.
    • As if that wasn't bad enough, when the year was up, Laomedon refused to pay them and sent them packing. That's the end of Poseidon's story.
    • Poseidon says he can't believe that Apollo would help out the Trojans after having been their slave.
    • Apollo doesn't answer Poseidon's question; he says, "I'm not fighting you. You're too tough."
    • Don't worry, you're not the only one who finds this kind of lame. So does the goddess Artemis, Apollo's sister, who starts taunting him and calling him a coward.
    • But then Hera cusses her out and boxes her ears, making her drop her bow and arrows.
    • When Artemis arrives back on Mount Olympos, she complains to Zeus about what happened. He doesn't do anything about it.
    • In any case, all the other gods now withdraw from the battle and reassemble on the holy mountain.
    • Meanwhile, Achilleus keeps killing lots of guys on the plain. Then, he drives the survivors in the direction of the city.
    • On the ramparts, Priam is horrified. He commands that the city's gates be opened.
    • At this point, Achilleus might have burst in and captured the city, if it weren't for Apollo, who instilled strength into the Trojan hero Agenor.
    • Agenor stands in front of the walls and challenges Achilleus.
    • He throws his spear and hits Achilleus in the shin, but his armor deflects it.
    • When Achilleus goes to kill him, however, Apollo carries Agenor away (funny how that happens), and then takes on his form.
    • The disguised Apollo then leads Achilleus on a wild goose chase over the plain of Troy. This distraction gives the other Trojans enough time to get into the city.
  • Book 22

    • Eventually, Apollo lets Achilleus know that he duped him.
    • Achilleus is mad, and races back to Troy.
    • Priam sees him coming and cries out to Hektor, who has stayed outside the walls to face the Achaian warrior.
    • Priam urges his son to come inside the walls.
    • He predicts that his death will mean the destruction of Troy.
    • Hektor's mother, also on the rampart, exposes her breast to remind her son of the role she played in nurturing him. She, too, asks him to take pity on her and come inside the walls.
    • But Hektor refuses to listen. He is too full of pride to turn back—all because he disregarded Poulydamas's advice from the night before not to remain on the beach now that Achilleus has returned to the battle (see our summary of Book 18 for details).
    • Hektor figures that it would be better to kill Achilleus now and be done with it.
    • He briefly considers trying to reason with him—say, offering to give Helen back along with free pick from among Troy's treasures—but then he realizes that Achilleus would just kill him anyway.
    • And yet, just when Achilleus comes close, Hektor's nerve fails him. He turns tail and runs (so much for his boasting back in Book 18).
    • Hektor runs three times around the walls of Troy—always with Achilleus in hot pursuit.
    • Up on Olympos, Zeus wonders whether they should free Hektor from his fate or let him die.
    • But Athene explodes on him, saying, "What are you talking about? No way! This is his fate. You can't let him out of it."
    • "Relax, I was only kidding," Zeus says. "Do whatever you want."
    • Meanwhile, the heroes are still running around the walls of Troy—Achilleus unable to catch up, and Hektor unable to get away, in what the poet likens to a horrible nightmare.
    • The fourth time around, however, Zeus lifts up the golden scales of fate, just as he did with his son Sarpedon back in Book 16. He puts each warrior's fate on the scales. Hektor's heavier fate sinks down towards the underworld.
    • At this point, Athene appears beside Achilleus and tells him that he's about to be victorious.
    • Then she flies off and stands by Hektor. She takes the form of Deïphobos, Hektor's brother. She tells him that they should fight Achilleus together.
    • Hektor is overjoyed, thinking that his brother has come out of the city to help him.
    • Hektor faces Achilleus and stands his ground. He suggests that they make a pact: "If I kill you, I won't mutilate your body, and, after I've stripped your armor, I'll even give you back to your comrades for proper burial."
    • Achilleus refuses, however, saying that "No pacts are made between humans and lions."
    • Then Achilleus throws his spear—but Hektor ducks it.
    • Hektor thinks he's sitting pretty. The only problem is, Athene grabs Achilleus's spear and gives it back to him without Hektor noticing.
    • Now Hektor throws his spear, but it deflects off Achilleus's shield.
    • Hektor calls on Deïphobos to give him another spear—but Deïphobos isn't there.
    • That's when Hektor realizes that he's been tricked—and that he is doomed. All the same, he resolves to go down fighting.
    • Hektor charges at Achilleus with his sword, but Achilleus stabs him in the neck with his spear—narrowly missing his windpipe. This means that, even though he is mortally wounded, Hektor is still able to speak.
    • The dying Hektor asks Achilleus once again to spare his body from the dogs.
    • Once again, Achilleus refuses, in even more fearsome terms than before. He says that he wishes he were angry enough to hack off Hektor's flesh and eat it raw.
    • Hektor says that he recognizes Achilleus won't be won over. But then he predicts that, some day soon, Apollo and Paris will kill him outside the Skaian Gates.
    • Then Hektor dies. Achilleus taunts him.
    • Then the Achaians catch up to them. Each of them stabs Hektor's body. They all mock him.
    • Achilleus speaks warmly to his comrades and gives the gods credit for his victory.
    • He considers continuing with the fight, but then remembers Patroklos back by the ships. He decides to return—as he was instructed to do.
    • Then Achilleus does something outrageous: he pierces the tendons at the back of Hektor's feet and then threads rawhide cords through the holes. He attaches these cords to the back of his chariot, and starts dragging Hektor's dead body over the plain, his head dragging in the dust.
    • Up on the wall, Hektor's terrified mother starts tearing out her hair in grief.
    • Hektor's father, Priam, has to be forcibly restrained from running out of the walls and begging Achilleus to give his son back.
    • He rolls around in the mud, defiling himself with filth.
    • Back at their home, Hektor's wife, Andromache, has not yet heard the news. She is preparing a bath for when her husband returns from fighting. Then she hears wailing outside.
    • She runs to the wall and sees Achilleus dragging Hektor's body back to the ships of the Achaians.
    • She starts lamenting, predicting a grim future for their son without a father to protect him.
  • Book 23

    • When they get back to camp, Achilleus doesn't immediately let his Myrmidons take off their gear. Instead, he commands them all to drive around the body of Patroklos and say their farewells.
    • He himself mourns by the corpse, and promises to sacrifice his twelve Trojan prisoners in Patroklos's honor.
    • Achilleus throws Hektor face down in the dirt in front of his friend's body.
    • Next he commands the Myrmidons to eat—even though he himself is taken off to feast with the other Achaian leaders.
    • Even at the feast, however, he refuses to wash the blood off himself.
    • After the feast, Achilleus lies down by the sea.
    • As soon as he falls asleep, the ghost of Patroklos appears to him. Patroklos asks Achilleus to burn his body quickly. He explains that his spirit can't be accepted into the underworld until his body has been disposed of.
    • Knowing that Achilleus will die soon, the ghost of Patroklos requests that their bones and ashes be mingled together in a single urn. That way, they can be together in death just as they grew up together.
    • Achilleus tries to embrace the ghost, but his hands pass through it. With a shriek, the apparition vanishes, and Achilleus wakes up. It is morning.
    • That day, the Achaians make a pyre for Patroklos.
    • Standing beside it, Achilleus cuts off a lock of hair he had planned to give to the River Spercheios, in his homeland, upon his return. Now, since he won't be going home, he places the lock in the hand of his dead friend.
    • Then Achilleus dismisses the rank-and-file soldiers to their meal, but keeps the chieftains to witness the funeral.
    • Achilleus slaughters a great many animals on the pyre—plus the twelve Trojan prisoners.
    • Achilleus boasts to Patroklos how he will feed Hektor to the dogs.
    • Then we are told that, without Achilleus knowing it, Aphrodite is guarding Hektor's corpse from wild animals. At the same time, Apollo has drawn a cloud over it to protect it from the harmful rays of the sun.
    • Meanwhile, Patroklos's pyre isn't blazing.
    • Achilleus prays to the North and West winds to act as bellows.
    • Iris brings them the message—and the fire gets going. It blazes all night.
    • In the morning, Achilleus, after briefly succumbing to sleep, wakes up and tells the others to put out the fire with wine.
    • Then he instructs them to gather the bones of Patroklos and place them in an urn. Once this is done, they should raise a burial mound over the urn—but not a huge one. Soon enough, it will need to be excavated so that his bones can be mingled with those of his friend.
    • The men do as they are commanded.
    • Achilleus still won't let them go, however. He keeps his men nearby so they can participate in funeral games—athletic competitions held in honor of the dead man.
    • Achilleus calls everyone to assembly and sets out prizes for the contests—horses, cauldrons, women, the usual. The first competition will be a chariot race.
    • Various men come forward to compete in the event—or simply to serve as spectators.
    • Among the prospective competitors is Nestor's son, Antilochos.
    • As you might have guessed by now, this provides Nestor with a perfect opportunity to make a long speech showing how he's a know-it-all at chariot racing, too. Actually, what he has to say is interesting. Basically, he's trying to get Antilochos to focus on his horsemanship. Nestor argues that skill wins the race, not the speed of your horses.
    • As the competitors get ready, Phoinix heads out to the turn post to act as referee.
    • And… they're off!
    • A warrior named Eumelos takes the lead, followed by Diomedes.
    • Apollo sabotages Diomedes by stealing his whip, but then Athene finds it and gives it back to him. For good measure, she also smashes the yoke of Eumelos's chariot, making him wipe out.
    • Diomedes surges ahead, trailed by Menelaos, while Menelaos is followed by Antilochos.
    • Antilochos tells his horses that they've got to beat Menelaos or they'll be slaughtered. As you can imagine, this is strong encouragement. They pick up the pace.
    • Antilochos gets an advantage when, through some white-knuckle brinksmanship, he cuts Menelaos off at the entrance to a narrow part of the course, a sunken riverbed.
    • The racers round the turn and start coming in for the homestretch.
    • Back at the finish line, Idomeneus and little Aias get in an argument over who is in the lead. Idomeneus says it isn't Eumelos anymore, but he can't tell who it is.
    • Little Aias firmly maintains that it is still Eumelos.
    • They are about to get in a bet about it, but Achilleus tells them to knock it off.
    • As it turns out, Diomedes comes in first, followed by Antilochos. Menelaos comes in third, but we are told that he would have passed Antilochos if he'd only had time.
    • Fourth is Meriones; Eumelos comes in last.
    • Seeing Eumelos, Achilleus pities him; he knows that he was the best charioteer and was unfairly robbed of victory. Achilleus proposes giving him the second-place trophy.
    • But Antilochos—who came in second—speaks up for himself. He says to Achilleus, "You can give him a consolation prize if you want, but don't do it in front of everybody. I want my mare." (A mare had been selected as the second-place prize.)
    • Achilleus appreciates Antilochos's courage and says, "Right you are. I'll give him a breastplate. You get the mare."
    • But then Menelaos starts making a stink. He says that he should have second prize, and complains that Antilochos only beat him by deliberately cutting him off. He says that Antilochos can only keep his prize if he's willing to swear by the gods that he didn't use any foul play. (This is basically the ancient version of a lie-detector test.)
    • Antilochos backs down. He says that he would gladly give his prize to Menelaos.
    • Menelaos is so impressed with Antilochos's manners that now it is his turn to be generous. He says, "No, I'll give you the mare."
    • After this exchange, Achilleus gives out the rest of the prizes. This leaves one left over, however: a two-handled jar, the fifth-place prize that would have gone to Eumelos. But now Eumelos has received a breastplate instead.
    • Achilleus decides to give the jar to Nestor as a sort of lifetime achievement award.
    • Nestor accepts the award graciously, and then tells them all a story about how awesome he used to be back in the day.
    • The next event is boxing.
    • A guy called Epeios says that no one can beat him.
    • As it turns out, he's right. He knocks the challenger Euryalos out cold.
    • Next comes wrestling. The first place prize is a large tripod worth twelve oxen. The second place prize is a woman skilled at handicrafts. They say she's worth four oxen.
    • Odysseus goes up against Aias. They are starting on their third round when Achilleus declares a draw. He tells them to share the prizes (we are not told how).
    • Next comes the footrace. We are told that little Aias would have won this event if it weren't for Athene, who helped Odysseus close the gap by making Aias slip in some cow dung. Adding insult to injury (or is it the other way around?) he even gets some on his face. Bummer.
    • Antilochos, who comes in last place in the footrace, praises the warriors of the older generation. He says that the only person who could have beaten Odysseus was Achilleus.
    • Pleased with this flattery, Achilleus gives Antilochos an extra prize.
    • Then Aias and Diomedes have a duel with spears—the idea is that the winner is whoever draws blood first.
    • When it looks like Diomedes is about to get the better of his opponent; however, the spectators shout out that the fight should be called a draw.
    • All the same, Achilleus gives the first prize to Diomedes.
    • Next comes archery. Teukros comes in second behind Meriones because he fails to make appropriate prayers to Apollo, god of archery.
    • Then comes spear throwing. A bunch of dudes show up, but Achilleus just gives the prize to Agamemnon, because he knows he's the best.
    • Agamemnon, in turn, gives his prize to Talthybios the herald.
  • Book 24

    • When the games are over and the crowds disperse, Achilleus keeps grieving for Patroklos.
    • Days pass, but his grief does not.
    • Each day, he fastens Hektor's corpse to the back of his chariot, and drags him three times around Patroklos's burial mound.
    • Apollo, however, uses his divine power to prevent any damage to Hektor's corpse.
    • The gods pity Hektor. They consider sending Hermes, god of trickery, down to earth to steal his body.
    • Hera, Poseidon, and Athene refuse, however. They all hate Troy, though for different reasons. (Here the poet reminds us of Paris's fateful judgment in Olympian Idol. Check out our recap of The Backstory's Backstory in the summary of Book 2.)
    • Countering them, Apollo argues that Hektor always honored the gods, that he shouldn't be deprived of a proper funeral, and that Achilleus's behavior is completely inappropriate.
    • Hera doesn't like this one bit. She thinks it sounds as though Apollo is trying to make Hektor and Achilleus equal—even though Achilleus's mother is a god, whereas both Hektor's parents are mortal.
    • Zeus tells Hera to cool it. He says that she's right, but that the gods still love Hektor. Then again, he says that they can't steal his body, because Thetis is constantly watching it. Instead, they've got to bring Thetis up to Olympos and tell her that Achilleus must give Hektor back to Priam in exchange for a ransom.
    • Iris goes down under the sea, finds Thetis mourning for her son, and brings her up to Olympos.
    • There, Zeus tells her that the gods had been considering sending Hermes down to steal the body, but have instead decided to give Achilleus a break. He also says that he has sent Iris down to tell Priam to go to the Achaian ships with gifts for Achilleus.
    • Thetis descends to Troy and finds Achilleus on the beach while others are preparing breakfast.
    • She says, "Wouldn't you rather be sleeping with a woman? It would make you feel better."
    • Then she delivers Zeus's message.
    • Achilleus says, "Whatever, fine."
    • Then Zeus sends Iris down to Priam with the following message: "Go alone, with only a herald to drive the cart that will transport the body back to Troy. And have no fear. Achilleus honors the gods and will not hurt you."
    • Iris goes down and finds Priam wallowing in dung in his misery. The whole palace is wailing. Iris delivers the message.
    • Priam tells his sons to prepare the cart.
    • When he tells his wife what he's doing though, she refuses, thinking it's pointless. Then she echoes Achilleus's rage at her son, saying how she wishes she could cut off Achilleus's flesh and eat it raw.
    • Then Priam starts gathering treasure. He yells at the Trojans who are gawking at him. He also yells at his remaining sons, calling them worthless.
    • Before he heads out, Hekabe makes him and the herald pour out libations and pray.
    • Priam prays to Zeus for a sign, and he gets one: the god sends down an eagle, flying on the right.
    • Then they head out. Zeus sends down Hermes to guide them.
    • Hermes meets Priam and the herald on the plain, taking the form of a young Myrmidon warrior.
    • He tells Priam that the body of Hektor has not been destroyed despite Achilleus's abuses. He offers to take them to Achilleus's lodging.
    • Hermes leads them through the camp to the lodging, then reveals his true identity. He tells Priam to go in alone, then books it back to Olympos.
    • Priam goes in to see Achilleus. He falls to his knees and begins kissing Achilleus's hands—the hands that killed so many of his sons.
    • Achilleus is taken aback. He grasps Priam by the hand and gently pushes him back.
    • Then they share a silent moment of grief, each thinking of his own loved ones.
    • Achilleus sees his own father, Peleus, in Priam.
    • Now Achilleus speaks, reflecting on the mix of happiness and sadness that Zeus gives to all mortals. Now, explicitly, he compares Peleus to Priam.
    • Priam asks to go immediately with his son's body, but Achilleus refuses. He says "I know the gods sent you. Don't annoy me or I'll lose my temper and kill you."
    • Priam settles down.
    • Then Achilleus goes out of the room and tells the servant-women to bathe and clothe Hektor's body. He tells them to do it where Priam won't be able to see it. He is worried that if Priam sees Hektor's body and gets upset, he, Achilleus, will become enraged and will kill him—despite his divine protection.
    • Then Achilleus comes back to rejoin Priam. Now he says they should eat together. Achilleus tells the mythological story of Niobe, who, even though she lost all her children, eventually began to eat again. Achilleus argues that they should follow suit.
    • Achilleus goes over to the fire and prepares them a meal.
    • Then he brings it over and they eat together. They share a moment of silence gazing at each other in admiration.
    • Priam breaks the silence by saying that he's tired and has to go to bed.
    • Achilles tells some servants to prepare a bed for the old men on the porch.
    • He tells him that he wants him to sleep outside of the main shelter because Achaian captains keep coming in to confer with him. He doesn't want any of them seeing Priam and deciding he'd make a nice prisoner.
    • Then Achilleus asks Priam how many days he will need to bury Hektor. He promises to hold the Achaians to a truce for the duration of that period.
    • Priam says they will need nine days to mourn him, one day to burn him on his pyre, and another day to build a high grave mound over the body. He says that on the twelfth day they can fight.
    • Achilleus promises to fulfill this request. The two men shake hands.
    • Then Priam goes out to sleep on the porch. Achilleus goes to sleep beside Briseis.
    • But then, a short time later, Hermes comes and wakes up the two Trojans on the porch. He says it's time for them to go.
    • Hermes leads them in safety out of the Achaian camp, and back across the plain as far as the River Xanthos. Then he departs.
    • Priam and the herald continue with the body back to Troy.
    • The first to see them approaching is Priam's daughter Kassandra, who was watching from the rampart. As soon as she sees Hektor's body, she starts loudly wailing.
    • When they get inside the city, the first to throw themselves upon Hektor's body are his wife Andromache and his mother Hekabe.
    • Andromache laments that he has left her and their son. She predicts that she and her son will one day become slaves of some Achaian—either that or her son will be hurled to his death from the ramparts by some Achaian, just because Hektor killed someone dear to him. She recalls that Hektor himself was a merciless soldier.
    • She laments that Hektor did not die in his bed, where he could have given her some last word to remember him by.
    • The next to lament is Hekabe. Her sadness is mingled with relief that she has Hektor back in her halls, his body somehow preserved.
    • Next is Helen. She laments at having been brought to Troy by Paris. She praises Hektor for always having been kind to her, and for always warding off the cruel words of others.
    • Then Priam commands that wood be brought into the city for Hektor's funeral pyre. He announces the truce he had made with Achilleus.
    • The closing lines of the poem recount the funeral rites for Hektor, just as Priam described them to Achilleus.
    • The Trojans lament for nine days. On the tenth, they burn his body. On the eleventh, they gather what remains and heap a grave mound over it. They post sentries around it to make sure it isn't attacked by the Achaians. That night they have a feast.
    • Then the poet concludes: "Such was their burial of Hektor, breaker of horses."