Study Guide

The Iliad Book 12

By Homer

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.

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