Study Guide

The Iliad Book 8

By Homer

Book 8

  • Zeus calls all the gods together and forbids them to meddle any further in the war.
  • Then he rides his chariot over to Mount Ida in the neighborhood of Troy, just so he can keep tabs on what happens.
  • Shortly thereafter, the Achaians and Trojans start battling again.
  • The two armies remain fairly evenly matched—until Zeus decides to weigh their respective fates.
  • Holding up a giant scale, he places the fate of the Achaians on one side and that of the Trojans on the other. The Achaians' fate is heavier—bad news for them.
  • Zeus thunders and shoots lightning at the Achaians. These are the perks of being the god of the sky.
  • One person's perk is somebody else's "Knock it off, you jerk!" This time, that somebody else is the Achaians, who start running away. The only one to stand his ground is Nestor, but that's only because Paris killed one of his horses, thus disabling his chariot.
  • Diomedes goes to help him, and tries to call back Odysseus, whom he sees running away. Odysseus doesn't listen to him and keeps on running.
  • So Diomedes goes to help out Nestor all by himself. He puts him in his own chariot, gives him the reins, and the two warriors ride towards Hektor to take him out.
  • Diomedes throws his spear, misses Hektor, but kills his charioteer. This would have been the start of a major Achaian counterattack, except that Zeus doesn't want it that way. The god of thunder hurls a thunderbolt in front of Diomedes's chariot.
  • Nestor convinces Diomedes that it's time to turn back. Even so, while they are fleeing, Diomedes becomes so frustrated at Hektor's ongoing taunts, that three times he is about to turn around and face him. Each time, Zeus thunders, as if to say, "That's a no-no, Diomedes."
  • Meanwhile, Hektor, in hot pursuit, decides to make things even hotter. He calls out for fire to burn the Achaians' ships.
  • Up on Olympos, Hera doesn't like the looks of this one bit. She calls on Poseidon, the god of the sea, to come help the Achaians. But Poseidon only says, "Sorry, lady. I'm not going head-to-head with Zeus."
  • Now the Trojans, led by Hektor, have pinned the Achaians against their ships, inside of their recently constructed wall.
  • And yet, just when it looks like the Achaians are toast, Hera inspires Agamemnon to encourage his men; he does this, and also prays to Zeus, reminding him about how pious he has always been.
  • When Zeus hears this, he says, "Fair enough." As a positive sign to the Achaians, he sends an eagle, with a fawn gripped in its talons. Then the eagle drops the fawn and lets it go.
  • Seeing this, the Achaians are excited, and they start fighting back more vigorously against the Trojans. Once again, Diomedes is in the forefront of the battle.
  • Another big help for the Achaians is the archer Teukros, the half-brother of Aias. He kills many Trojans until Hektor knocks him out by throwing a huge rock at his neck. Teukros isn't killed, however, and Aias stands over him, protecting him.
  • Once again, the Trojans press the Achaians hard.
  • Hera is not pleased. This time, she asks Athene for help. At first Athene is hesitant, but then figures that she's such a daddy's girl that Zeus won't stay mad at her for long.
  • Once the two goddesses have gotten ready, they start riding their chariot down to the battlefield.
  • Unfortunately, it looks like Athene misread Zeus. When the god sees them en route, he sends Iris, the messenger of the gods, to tell them to stop or face serious consequences. Zeus's threats are so frightening that the goddesses obey and return to Olympos.
  • Now Zeus leaves Mount Ida and rides back to Olympos himself. Upon his arrival, he starts mocking the goddesses.
  • Hera says she's only trying to keep the Achaians from being utterly destroyed.
  • Zeus replies by saying, "Tough luck. I'm going to keep destroying them until Achilleus comes back to battle, when the fight has reached the ships, and when there is a struggle over the body of Patroklos." Then, for good measure, he throws in some insults for Hera.
  • Now night falls and the battle ends. The Trojans are disappointed because they were interrupted while they were winning. Understandably, the Achaians are overjoyed.
  • Hektor orders the Trojans to camp on the plain and set watch fires to help them detect any sign of the Achaians trying to sail away. He's determined that, if they do, it will only be under a hail of spears and arrows.
  • He also sends a message back to the city for the boys and old men to keep watch on the ramparts, and the women to start fires burning in each courtyard, so that they will be able to see any attempted night raid by the Achaians.
  • Hektor says that in the morning they will attack.
  • The thousand fires of the Trojans are likened to stars.

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