Study Guide

The Iliad Book 17

By Homer

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.

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