Study Guide

The Iliad Book 16

By Homer

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.

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