Study Guide

The Iliad Book 19

By Homer

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.

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