Study Guide

The Iliad Book 7

By Homer

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.

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