So it is this taking of Helen inspired by a divine beauty contest, that brings the men of Achaea to the city of Troy across the Aegean. King Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, both sons of Atrides, is the leader of the Argive forces because he controlled the most troops commanded by any other individual Achaean leader. Agamemnon is from the great bronze age city of Mycenae. It has been estimated that the Argive forces were comprised of about 1000 ships, sailing across the seas from Aulis!
The battle on this, the first day of battle that we see in Homer's Iliad, begins with a "council of gods", during which the gods consent to inspire the Argive fighters to rise up and fight! Agamemnon recieves a dream, winged to him by the most powerful immortal Zeus. The dream arrives in the form of Nestor, the wise king of Pylos. Zeus has the dream tell Agamemnon that he should attack tomorrow, and that if they do they will be able to easily take the streets and walls of Priam's city. Early in the morning, the head Argive leader began to speak to the highest kinds and other leaders in order about his plan to attack, and as he thinks, win Troy. Before telling the men straight-forwardly what he has in mind, Agamemnon tests the entire fleet of ships from all the Argives.
Eventually Agamemnon manages to get all his forces from Greece lined up, ready from Greece lived up, ready to face the equally preparing Trojans, rallying their troops after seeing the Achaeans moving into place. The armies quickly march to front each other, and the beauty of Troy, Paris, came forth from the lines of Trojans to challenge any Achaean man to do battle with him. Menelaus quickly accepted the chance to get at his rival, whom was one of the main causes and impetuses for the Trojan War to be fought. In a sense this battle between Paris and Menelaus is a microcosm of why the Trojan War is being fought, and between the two different foes. This opens our eyes even clearer to the fact that the armies have shed so much blood, and warred on for 9 years so far over one women, over the hurt pride and insulted reputation of King Menelaus. However this is the way of the peoples living in the regios of the Agean in the bronze age. The heroic is supreme, the greatest thing for a man is heroism and bravery, the worst cowardliness and injustices done to a man's pride. This is what an ideal society centers around.
The two began to battle between each other, with both armies looking on and hoping that this will be the end of their long, drawn out struggle over Helen at Troy. Menelaus manages to hit Paris with a spear, but by the use of his protecitve armor and own physical movements, is able to dodge a fatal blow. After this near miss, Aphrodite swoops down from Olympus to wisk Paris magically away, back to his room, where he becomes filled with a great desire for the flesh of the awesome beauty Helen. He is sitting at peace in his chambers, while the Trojans and Argives wait on the battle field for the next thing to happen. In the meantime, Helen is coaxed into making love with Paris again and refers to herself as a "whore". Helen and Paris make love in the Trojan prince's large, cut-out bed and there is great irony in their actions. For at the same moment Menelaus states to the Trojans that they have lost the deal, the deal sealed by a binding oath, they are told by Atrides son that they must surrender Helen and pay the Danaans retributions and indemnities for their victory at the very end of Book III with the lines, "So Atrides (Agamemnon) demanded. His armies roarded assent." - Fagles, Ln 540, Book 3.
Directly after Agamemnon declares the Achaean demand we enter into Book IV which begins with a conversation of the gods on olympus during which we hear of Zeus' wrangling with Hera and her counterpart Athena. Zeus seems to be mad that Athena and Hera, with all the help and assistance they have provided the Greeks with, they still have failed to raze the city of Troy. He taunts them and speaks of how so many men have had to die because the gods Hera and Athena, using the Achaeans as an artifice, are continually trying to bring down the city of Troy. The gods have two options basically set before them:
their temporary victory.
The three, Zeus, Hera, and Athena decide to inspire one of the Trojan archers to restart the fighting by firing an arrow at the son of Atrides, Menelaus. Athena is wisked down to the battlefield and inspires a Trojan archer to fling an arrow at the Argives, that will lead to the rekindling of the armies' deep-seeded enmity for each other and whet the desires for both sides to conquer even more. The bowman fires a powerful shot at the rightful husband of Helen, slightly wounding him in the leg. One of the Achaeans, Machaeon, began to work on the king's wound while the Trojans began to align into their battle columns. Seeing this, Agamemnon began to range the Argive ranks for battle. Both sides fight bravely in yet another bitter and filled-with-death battle, in the end yielding no greater ground to either force. The first day of the four days of battle described in the "present form" in the Iliad is over, and no advantage has been won by either side.
Now we come to Book V, which is the longest book so far in the Iliad. It is often entitled "Diomedes fights the gods", and this is anything but a misnomer for this section of Homer's tales. This account of "Diomedes' rage", which can be paralleled with that of Achilles' later to come in the battle field, is said to have been granted to him by the goddess of War, Athena. She bestows upon him great fighting prowess and the profound ability to defeat practically any mortal in battle, and as the name implies, one or two immortals! The first deathless god whom Tydides, Diomedes patronymic name, attacks is mighty Aphrodite. He stabs Aphrodite in the wrist and sends her screaming back to Olympus and whining about her injury. Aphrodite was trying to shield the great Trojan fighter Aeneas before she was disparaged by the war-crazed Diomedes. The god of archery, Phoebus Apollo then comes in on the action to help shield Aeneas from the great wrath of Tydides. A total of four times does Diomedes lunge at Aeneas, whom he realizes is protectively encapsulated by the power of Apollo. On the fourth try Diomedes does manage to slightly wound Aeneas, and at this Apollo quickly wings Aeneas off to the heights of Pergamus. Here Aeneas is healed and his wounds and injuries incurred are repaired, so that soon he may return to the field of war.
After more fighting, Ares, under the orders of Apollo, disguises himself as a Trojan fighter and rushes on to stir the desire for war and victory in all the Trojans' fighting hearts. After more fighting with both mortals and the immortal gods Hera, Athena, and Ares fighting directly among the troops, Book V ends with all the gods returning to Olympus or other locations. This ends the unique place in all of Homeric epic during which a mortal actually takes on the gods in battle and confrontation.We now see the action move on to the action of Hector returning to Troy.
Book VI begins with more fighting, including victories over Trojan fighters by Menelaus, Agamemnon, and even more for the perpetual Diomedes. One of King Priam's fifty sons and daughters, Helenus, is very wise seer. He begins to speak to Hector, who is fighting with Aeneas, of how Hector should return to Troy and find their mother. He should tell her to gather the all the noble women and go to Athena's shrine, there they shall promise to make sacrifices and other offerings to the gods so that Athena may work to help save the city of Troy from the oncoming onslaught of the Argive troops. Hector obeyed his brother¹s instructions verbatim, and after inspiring the Trojan ranks one last time before leaving and telling of how he must now shortly return to Troy to have the women make sacrifices to the gods, he begins to head back to his father's city immediately.
The next scene that Homer begins to discuss and we experience, is that once again of Diomedes and a Trojan fighter, meeting one-on-one for battle. In the normal way, both warriors talk and taunt each other superciliously and very haughtily, and of course talking about each other's lineage. As the conversation progresses between these two enemies prone to battle, the man who is opposing the lord of the war cry Diomedes, Glaucus whom is the son of Hippolochus, begins a lengthy discourse on his own family history. During the course of this Glaucus talks greatly about his father and his lineage, and Diomedes realizes that their past ancestors were friends and allies. It is because of this that we get to see a most unique and transcending thing occur. After learning of this Diomedes suggests that they call a truce among themselves. They will honor the respect that their fore-fathers had for each other, and steer clear of each other in the ongoing battle. They also agree to trade armor with each other, so that all the men may know that these two great warriors, Diomedes and Glaucus have made peace with each other and that neither will harm the other in any way.
At the end of Glaucus's speech, we also get a chance to look at a very prevalent and patent example of how Homer's works are and can be seen as the ancient Greek's "Bible" of proper decorum. Glaucus's father was Hippolochus, and Glaucus recalls and tells here of what he says he still remembers his father telling him:
"Always be the best, my boy, the bravest,
and hold your head up high above the others.
Never disgrace the generation of your fathers."
--The Iliad. Homer, translated by Fagles--Book 6, ln 247-249
This is a great representation of what one part of at least the son's moral code was composed of. This excerpt from Homer¹s great works gives us a glimpse into the mind and psyche of the ancient Greek during Homer's time. A man's honor and the honor which he brings or detracts from his fathers is obviously paramount. It is passages like these that we see show up later influencing such later works as the Christian Bible, the line "Never disgrace the generation of your fathers" can be equated with one of the Ten Commandments in Christian theology, "Honor thy mother and thy father." This commandment is simply the more "modern" facsimile and representation of the aforementioned Greek reference and their same ideals.
Homer now turns to the events that happen when Hector returns to Troy on the advice of his brother, Helenus. He reaches the Scaean Gates, the main gates of Troy, and eventually finds his mother Hecuba to tell her that she should go to the temple of Athena in the city with all the other Trojan women that she can tell and that they should pray to the goddess Athena and promise to make many sacrifices to her if she helps protect the city of Troy against the Argive besiegement in these the last few days of the long battle. The Trojan women make their prayers and sacrifices, however Athena refuses to acknowledge the prayers and requests of the Trojans, she is dedicated and loyal to the Achaean forces.
After meeting with his mother and refusing to answer hers and many of the other Trojan women's requests to hear about their husbands', brothers', and sons' conditions, Hector moves on to the house of Paris to seek out his brother's motives for standing idly by while all the men of Troy fight for his prize. When he gets to the lodgings of Paris, inside his father's massive palace, he finds Paris polishing and relishing his fine battle armor, however we see it is under-used. Hector also sees Helen in Paris's quarters, working with the other women of the house. He wings several stinging insults at his phlegmatic brother and urges him to come back and join the fighting. Paris, seemingly synthetically, replies that he was just about to and Helen was just changing the path that his mind was set on as to fighting in the battle against the Argives. We see a very sad image of Paris, in the light of what the Homeric hero was supposed to be, and what qualities a man of his stature should have had.
The very man that the Trojan War is basically being fought over in Homeric epic is seen as cowardly and very unmotivated about fighting for his own cause, in a way he can be viewed as an example of a subtle tyrant. While he is in Paris¹s quarters Helen encourages "her brother" to sit down beside her and rest for awhile. All the time she addresses herself and constantly refers to herself as a "" and a "whore". Hector refuses her request explicating that he still has to go see his wife and son before he returns to the battle where he is much needed. With that he leaves in search of his son and wife. He arrives at his Trojan home and finds that neither his wife, Andromache, nor his son, are at home. He vigorously questions some of the servants in his home and one tells him that they have gone with one servant to the watch tower, for they have heard that the fighting is becoming fierce, and the onslaught of the Argives becoming more and more powerful. On hearing this he immediately heads to seek them out where they have been said to have gone. When he reaches the Scaean Gates Andromache runs up to meet him lovingly and blithe to see him. The servant bearing his son is close behind Hector's wife. We now see perhaps one of the most intimate and moving scenes in all of Homeric epic. It is a meeting between Hector and Andromache, along with their son, and throughout the meeting Homer foreshadows that this is believed by many to be there last meeting. Andromache pleads with him to quit the fight and return with her and his son so that she may not know the grief and pains of being a widow, and raising their child without his dignified father. The two speak to each other and through their grief still manage to smile and laugh with their son. With all the battle and gore contained in Homer's famous war story, this is one spot where compassion and the large heart possessed by one of the most battle-hardened fighters is shown.
This portrayal of Hector and his wife shows and tells us that the greatest Trojan fighter, as well as all the other fighters, wish to return home to their wives and quit the endless torments of this war, the Argives so far from their homes.Book VI ends with Paris finally leaving his quarters and running to catch up with Hector. He apologizes for being so late into the battle, and after a minute Hector chides him and they embark to return to the fighting.
As brave Hector and the son of Priam Paris return to the battle, they immediately begin work on the Trojan side, each killing off one of their enemies, an Argive from across the Aegean. The Trojans begins to gain somewhat of an advantage in this most recent storm of fighting fury launched by them, so Athena comes down from Olympus immediately to assist the troops. Apollo spots her coming from Pergamus and rushes to meet her when she arrives. He speaks first and offers his plan for the day and his proposal, which Athena accepts. He proposes that they stop the mass fighting for the day and let them continue tomorrow. For how the divinities can interfere to stop this fight, Apollo tells Pallas Athena that they can have Hector challenge one of Achaea's fighters to an individual dual. They agree to this, and immediately they implant this thought and idea into the mind of Helenus, whom advised Hector to return to Troy earlier. So Helenus, in receiving this immortal message, tells Hector now that he should step to the front and challenge some great Argive fighter in man-to-man combat. Hector is glad with the chance he has to fight and once again outright accepts what Helenus tells him as being sent from the gods immortal.
So Hector begins to walk in no-man's land, seeking some brave Achaean fighter to face him. After he requests of the Danaans someone to fight him, there is no response from the hardened warriors. They all merely are "ashamed to refuse, and afraid to take his challenge." (Fagle's translation) So eventually Menelaus, king of Lacedaemon, jumps up, and proclaims that he will challenge the mighty fighter Hector. Agamemnon quickly quells his brother foolish claim and belief that he can successfully challenge one of the most terrifying and skilled Trojan fighters. Atrides' son tells Menelaus that they will find some other more qualified fighter to take on strong and brave Hector. Menelaus acquiesces, realizing that what his brother has stated is wise and true. After Agamemnon stultifies the temporal and emotive fighting spirit in his brother, the wise king of Pylos, Nestor, rises to speak, his mind set on rousing the Argive men so that at least one brave soldier will volunteer to fight on behalf of the Danaans against the powerful Hector. He speaks of when he was younger and fought in wars such as the Trojan War which they are now involved in. He tells of a similar situation such as they are involved in now and of how he was the man to volunteer and ended up slaying the most powerful man he ever killed on that occasion.
This speech, typical of the wise and advice-bearing Nestor, manages to inspire nine Achaean fighters to rise and proclaim that they will take on Hector. These nine fighters all scratched their mark on a rock, which they cast in Agamemnon's helmet, from which one of the fated stones was pulled. The rock was then shown to all the nine volunteers, and eventually it was identified as belonging to Great Ajax, who accepted the duty with pleasure and by telling the Argive fighters to pray to the gods so that he can defeat Hector. After applying all his armor Ajax makes his way to face Hector. This visage of the approaching Argive fighter inspires fear in the hearts of all the on-looking Trojan fighters as well as the anxious and worried Hector, knowing that he can not renege now since he was the one who inspired this for individual battle. Ajax marches right up to him and taunts him by telling him that he will show him the true quality of the Argive fighters along all their lines, and there are great fighters besides the mighty, sulking Achilles. Ajax tells Hector that he may lead off, and direct the first blow. After a short dialogue, Hector hurls his spear at Ajax, son of Telamon, striking full-force his shield, however it is unable to pierce the last layer of hide protecting the mortal flesh of Ajax.
Ajax in return hurled his spear at Hector in hopes of scoring early victory, his powerful spear managed to thrust through the great Trojan's shield, pierce his breastplate too, however the wily fighter was able to dodge his ultimate doom so far by his own physical movements. Both men then wrenched loose their lances from their shields and went after each other like absolute war-crazed fighters determined to get the better of the other in all-out battle. Hector stabbed at Ajax first, failing to wound him at all, then Ajax returned the blow by ramming hard into his shield and managing to graze his throat, the red blood pouring out. But even this did not stop battling Hector. He managed to hoist up a huge stone and cast it at Ajax, causing him to falter back, however he quickly got up and he too picked up a stone, one of even larger size, and cast this at wounded Hector. This causes the Trojan fighter to fall back and down he went, crushed under the weight of the rock and his own shield. At this point the fighting may have escalated even further into more blood-wrenching combat, but not for two smart men who rushed in to stop the lone battle between the two great and opposite opponents. For the day was waning down and it was better for them to stop from killing themselves just then, instead of waiting for tomorrow. Eventually Hector leads in proposing formally that they call a truce at least until the next day, and he speaks of how Ajax can return to the Argive ships and he to Priam's city, where his wife and the other women will be exuberant to see him returned home alive for the day.
Ironically, before parting, Hector and Ajax trade fine gifts to seal their pact. Hector returns to Troy and Homer briefly describes the banquet and dinner of the joyful at "victory", during which Agamemnon honors Telamonian Ajax. After they had finished eating and their desire for food and drink persisted no longer, the wise council of Nestor was heard. The king of Pylos advised that they stop the Achaeans fighting temporarily so that they may gather up the bodies and properly cremate them, those that had belonged to so many fallen Achaean fighters. He also advises that they build a wall, with a deep ditch surrounding its outside, to protect their camp and their ships from the chariot-driving Trojans if they are ever pushed back to the threshold of their own ships sometime during the battle. Homer's focus and tale now shifts to the heights of the city of Troy, where the elders and main players in the Trojan army are wrangling over what to do about Helen and the long and unending war that has been caused by Paris's stolen possession. Antenor, who gives council to King Priam, rises to speak and states his belief that the Trojans should just return Helen and all the other things that Paris looted and stole from Menelaus when he visited his city of Lacedaemon some ten years previous. Paris quickly rises to rebuke this idea of Antenor, and says that he will concede all the riches and material goods that he took from Menelaus, but he will not give up the beautiful and awe-inspiring Helen. Priam then speaks and concurs with Paris's proposed concessions to offer to the Argives, to see if they will end their pursuit to raze the walls of Troy. He decrees that as soon as the sunlight brakes that the herald Idaeus should venture to the Argive camp and their ships to present to them what they have decided, what Paris has decided, and that the herald should also request that the two armies can call a truce for the day geared to the purpose of collecting, cremating, and burying the bodies of their dead (this was the idea that Nestor had already proposed and thought of in the Achaean meeting).
So the next morning as the sun was rising, Idaeus traveled to the Danaans' camp near the sea and related the proposal and concessions of Paris, and subsequently the entire Trojan army. Idaeus addressed his message not only directly to the sons of Atrides themselves, but a large mass of other Achaean troops who were at the time present to hear the herald's announcement. After making his stentorian proclamation, the lord of the war cry Diomedes shouted out about how the Trojans were now under duress and that their city would soon fall to the Trojan forces. Agamemnon did not have to reply to the question asked directly at him as their leader, for the troops roared their assent to what Diomedes said, showing the Trojan herald their collective answer. Agamemnon did swear by Zeus however to honor the Trojan request about having the day-long truce in order to collect and cremate their dead. He never mentions how the Argives had already thought of the same thing.
So the entire day is spent by each army either burning their dead and then burying the remains or gathering the wood with which to light the pyres to burn their fallen comrades. Finally, the Argives complete their wall for defense if they should ever need it, with a deep trench cut-out out around it. The troops stationed by the water also receive a shipment of wine, which they pay for with such things as bronze and cattle. They party through the night and Book VII ends with all going to sleep.
Book VIII can be adequately entitled as "The Tide of the Battle Turns". The battle that we have experienced directly in the Iliad so far is over, and hence this book will begin what will be the second battle. The book begins with father Zeus lecturing and declaring his almighty wrath, decreeing that he wants no more immortal involvement in this Achaean versus Trojan conflict. He leaves the gods stunned, however Athena musters up the courage to speak and question him. She agrees with his statement, mainly because, as she overtly admits, no one can defy or get the better of Zeus. Zeus forbids any other immortal action on either side of the fighting so that he can fulfill the request of Achilles' mother, Thetis. He states as the punishment for going against his will being sent to Tartarus, any god that disobeys his supreme order. He then leaves Olympus on his magnificent chariot and flies between the earth and the skies to Mount Ida, where he ascends his throne so that he may watch over the entire plane of Ilium. From this spot he can fully watch the Argive forces as well as the walls of Troy.
Both the Achaean and Trojan forces are roused from their nights sleep and begin to prepare for battle. Both forces storm out of their strongholds and charge closer and closer to the other. Eventually they meet at a spot, and the temporarily interrupted carnage kindles between the two foes once again. Now we see Zeus atop Mt. Ida, testing his giant scale, with the fate of either side balanced on opposite sides. The Argive fate hits the ground, the Trojan lifted high on the scale towards the sky. With this, Zeus begins to hurl lightning-bolts at the Achaean forces, causing all to fall back except the experienced Nestor. Nestor remains not by choice, but because one of the horses who leads his chariot is wounded a fatal blow by Paris's arrow. Hector would have been able to kill King Nestor right then and there if it had not been for the further bravery and prowess shown by the lord of the war cry Diomedes. Diomedes tried to acquire Odysseus' assistance in trying to save the king, but the son of Laertes never heard him call to him for help. So Diomedes, by himself, swooped in upon the hard-pressed Nestor and told him to board upon his chariot, since his was now immovable. Nestor did so and his aides took care to send his surviving team back to the Achaean camp. Then with Nestor at the reins, he and Diomedes charged at the driving Hector, Diomedes with a spear poised, ready to attack and score a fatal blow to Hector. Within range he hurled the projectile, however missing his man. He did with this throw though manage to spear the driver of Hector's chariot, causing him to fall off the cart and tumble to his death. Hector quickly found a replacement driver though, in the son of Iphitus, Archeptolemus. Zeus continues to wing lightning and misfortune down upon the Argives, and therefore Nestor eventually persuades Diomedes to turn around in retreat. Diomedes is torn because he knows partially that what Nestor says is logical, but he is afraid that he reputation will be tarnished some day by Hector, telling Trojan men and women of the "brave and solid" Diomedes, whom turned and fled from him in battle, back to the Achaean ships. Eventually they make it back, along the wall that Danaans had just built to protect themselves earlier, where there are so many Achaean chariots and fighters penned up against it, all because of one man! Hector is the only Trojan fighter really going after them, and he alone is inspiring so much fear in the Argives that they have all retreated in fear and are now standing helpless against their own wall. We now see Hera flaring mad, in the face of Poseidon, ashamed of all the Argive fighters are dealing with and the cowardliness with which they recede from the fighting and might Hector. She talks about how she wishes they could just assist the Achaeans, and Poseidon rebukes her by asking if what she is proposing is actually choosing to disobey the orders of almighty Zeus on Mt. Ida. They bicker back and forth until they come to a standstill in what they should do. Queen Hera now then tries to inspire some kind of rousing fury inside of Agamemnon to get his troops to fight so that they may save themselves from destruction at the hands of Hector, who will burn their ships if he can get at them.
The Trojans are now fighting within the trench, but still outside the wall. Hector and his troops were just about to set fire to the ships when Zeus looked with pity and compassion on the Argive forces. He sent an omen to show that he was giving some backing to the Achaeans, and because of this the warriors from across the Aegean were inspired to fight back and were able to drive the Trojans back somewhat. So the Achaean troops got immediately back into the fighting, but no man could match the might and prowess with which Diomedes flew back into the fight and immediately speared a Trojan captain. After Diomedes restarts the Argive killing and drawing of blood, the other great Achaean leaders follow close behind him, also scoring large victories against their Trojan enemies. The great deeds of the archer Teucer are now showcased and praised by Agamemnon after he fells many more Trojan fighters with his stealthy arrows. Agamemnon promises him that if they ever manage to plunder and sack the city of Troy that he will receive some wonderful booty, second only after King Agamemnon himself. Teucer replies to this by asking why Agamemnon feels the need to laud him on now, for he says that he has loyally labored and fought effectively ever since they first ventured to treacherous Troy.
Teucer represents one point in the story where Homer presents a warrior who fills out the requirements for the ideal fighter, in this case especially an archer. Teucer ends his dialogue by expressing his great frustration with not being able to bring down mighty Hector. This gives us an idea of how elusive and strong Hector must have been, and how Homer wants to portray him to us, for Teucer who has brought down so many other men, can not seem to fall this Trojan leader and master of war. Teucer then lets two more arrows fly at his primary target, Hector, and misses again twice, killing Priam's son Gorgythion and then on the second try Hector's friend and driver Archeptolemus. After being overcome with grief over the loss of yet another one of his friends and comrades, he calls to another one of his brothers to take the reins of his chariot, leaps down from his cart with a yell, and advances with thoughts of wrecking Teucer. He picks up a large boulder to hurl at Teucer, he launches it at the Achaean archer hitting him on the collarbone, falling and numbing the archer.
Luckily for the Argives, Ajax and several other men were quick to shield and aid Teucer so that he did not fall prey to more of Hector's blows. He was taken back to the Achaean ships where he could be taken care of further, and he would be able to escape the immediate danger of the fray erupting on the battle-field. The tide of the battle now turned once again, with the Trojans returning with more power to drive the Argives back to their wall. Hector of course led the charge and slaughtered lagging Achaean troops as they tried to return and retreat back to their stronghold. And the immortal goddess Hera looked on her beloved Argives with compassion and great pity, winging solemn and desperate words to Athena. Athena now concurs with Hera's show of emotion of pity towards the hard-pressed Achaeans, and lashes out with greatly emotive words to explicate the source and reason for her deep enmity for what her father, Zeus, is causing to occur, all due to the pleading and request of Thetis. Athena also dashes and defames Hector. Athena and Hector then head off in their great chariot to Troy, to go against what Zeus has decreed to all the gods, so that they may risk his wrath in order to assist the Argives. Zeus spots them on their way to assist in the fighting, and he immediately brakes into an immortal rage. He calls to his messenger Iris to deliver a quick message to the two women whom now disobey his direct order. He tells her that he will wound their horses that pull their immortal chariot through the air, smash their car, and greatly wound them with his powerful lightning bold. He tells her that he will teach his daughter a lesson about trying to fight against her father, as for Hera he does not seem so mad at her, for it is her custom to disobey and go against his will.
Iris was able to block the path and deed that Hera and Athena were planning before they could leave Olympus. She related to the two immortal goddesses the threat waged by almighty Zeus at them. With little resistance, Hera turned to Athena and they admitted to themselves that it was entirely in vain to try to fight their powerful leader. Zeus then mounts his own chariot to return from his post on Mt. Ida to return to Mt. Olympus where he assumes his throne. Hera and Athena sit alone in the palace, and Zeus mocks them in their failed attempts to deceive him and his plans for the outcome of the war. Athena, true to her nature, does not reply to his cutting taunts, however Hera is not able to hold her tongue back as easily, and lashes out at the father immortal. She once again pleads on behalf of the fallen Achaeans, and professes that all she and Athena want to do is advise the Argives so that all their troops are not killed by the decree and fate set for them by almighty Zeus, whom they have no power against. Zeus replies with disparaging comments for his white-armed wife. We now return to the plane of Troy, where night has fallen, at the disappointment of the momentum-gaining Trojans, and at the utmost relief of the Achaeans who desperately need a respite from their prolonged requirement of battle and the massive losses that they continued to incur, the help of their divine proponents absent and of to no avail. Hector addresses all the Trojan troops along with Priam's allies to tell them the plans for their anxious night. We now see a greater confidence growing within the mind and heart of Hector, a man who has thought staunchly that he is fighting a loosing a cause, now who has new hope for defeating his enemies. The troops light many large watch fires in order to make sure that the Argives will not try to escape during the night on their ships.
This is a complete antithesis to the attitude and will of the Trojans just the day before. The day prior the Trojans were offering to give back Menelaus all the riches that Paris took with him when he seduced Helen, trying to get the Achaean force to think of just taking back the plunder and saving more death from befalling the Argives, as well as their enemies in Troy. The second day of battle here ends, and the men and stallions wait for dawn to rise once more.
At this point we will now provide current critical interpretations of each main character's characterization. We choose this point for no particular reason, due to no major coming or past event immediately in the epic.
Achilles- the greatest Achaean fighter remains in solitude in his encampment, cut-off from the rest of the characters and neglected by Homer without any mention of his name whatsoever since the end of Book I, up until the next book we are about to talk of. We see that his mother's request to Zeus to bring advantage to the Trojans, so that the Argives will realize how much they really do need him and how stupid they were for alienating him, is working, and Zeus is fulfilling his promise to Thetis.
Agamemnon- the king of Mycenae is still the out-right leader of the Achaeans and maintains his desire and for war with the Trojans, always with the supreme goal in mind of finally razing and taking the walls of mighty Troy.
Menelaus- the king of Lacedaemon, another son of Atrides, also shares the same staunch resolve and attitude as his brother towards the Trojans and on the issue of the war mainly seen between him and Paris--he, along with all the other Achaeans refuse to return to their homes with only Paris conceding back to him all the plunder, plus some of his own stores, that he stole with Helen from Lacedaemon.
Hector- this man, the greatest warrior fighting to defend the city of Troy, is a valiant and brave fighter; we also see the very passionate and human side of this seemingly callous fighter in a scene from Homer when he meets with and talks with his wife and son; Hector is the kind of person that can deal with situations where he knows that the side he is fighting for is already beat, however he still fights with the same alacrity.
Paris- this Trojan's personality and actions form part of the reasons why many equate the Argives with good and the Trojans with bad; he is extremely phlegmatic when it comes to acts of war and is not so eager as he should be, seeing that he is seen as being the main cause of the war, to go out and fight to defend all the people of his city of Troy; he is much more concerned with "lyre-playing and love-making".
Diomedes- in Book V we see this awesome Achaean fighter take on the immortals themselves-he takes on Aphrodite, stabbing her in the wrist, and he stabs the mighty god of war Ares in the gut; this son of the famous Tydides is a very brave fighter, and as we also mentioned before saved Nestor from the approaching death that could have been dealt him by the savage Hector.
Helen- this incomparable mortal women, in terms of beauty, to any other mortal women remains in the palace of Priam; we have seen her at two spots so far in Homer's epic: 1. Reviewing the champions as she sits with Priam overlooking the field from the wall of Troy and 2. when Aphrodite brings Paris back to his room after his man-to-man battle that was prematurely ended by the goddess of love, Paris is filled with a great for Helen and so she eventually makes her way from her room to the quarters of Paris, where after trying to resist Paris and haranguing him for being such a whimp compared to her rightful husband, the two make love in Paris' finely made wooden bed
Odysseus- the king of Ithaca definitely has a much smaller role and menial role, however a visible one, in Homer's Iliad than compared to the Odyssey; he possesses the qualities of a stereotypical Homeric hero and is seen as righteous and brave; he originally tried to get out of fighting in the Trojan war, however once he was there he committed himself to the fall of Troy
Priam- the king of Troy is a stately and stubborn man who is sometimes too easy to give-in to his son, Paris's, demands or will; he wishes that they could just give Helen back to the Argives, but mysteriously he stands on the word of his son and what he wants as to the matter, even as the king of Troy
Now we will delve into the positions and prerogatives of the Olympian gods:
(The order in which we present the following list of the gods is in no particular order regarding the hierarchy of the Pantheon)
Zeus- in the beginning of the epic, Zeus is neutral and really does not seem to care to be too involved in the politics and happenings of the Trojan war; however, later on when Achilles' mother begs him for his assistance in granting what her son has asked of the almighty father, he begins to work for the Trojans and we have seen him so far tipping the "scales of fate", casting doom and defeat down upon the Achaeans
Hera- the white-armed goddess is the complete antithesis of her husband in regards to the matter, she supporting ardently her beloved Argives; she works in conjunction with the goddess of war Athena, perpetually the two try to plot how to finally bring down the walls of Troy; Zeus keeps a kind of more indifferent outlook on Hera going against his will that no gods should interfere in the war accept he, he says himself that he has become accustom to her wanton ways and has accordingly become acclimated and callous to her disobedience
Athena- obviously this goddess of war is the chief proponnet of the Argives in the Trojan war, and the biggest immortal foe for the Trojans and their city of Troy. Athena and Hera take on the main role of being the Danaan defenders while they aren¹t on their own land
Poseidon- so far Poseidon has played no real role in the Iliad except for when Hera tries to persuade him to disobey Zeus and help the Argives against Zeus' decree that no immortal may interfere with the Achaean forces in a way that would benefit them over the Trojans; he will play a much more profound role though in the Odyssey, where he plays the part of being the voyage-wrecker of sly Odysseus.
Ares- the vengeful and cheating god of war is on the side of the Trojans in this war, opposite his counterpart of Athena; Ares is seen as being more of a "slacker" when it comes to making sure that his side has somewhat of an immortal advantage and advocate, compared to the diligent and relentess Athena.
Apollo- this god of the arts and the moon is not really seen as having any particular side, although we do see him wreaking havoc on the Argive camp in the very first books of the war story due to Agamemnon's taking of Chryseis from one of the god's priests.
We now return to the action of the epic, and we shall now begin to see which side will beat down the other outside the mighty walls of Troy.
So as we ended Book 8 with the Trojans over-estimating their chances and Hector finally voicing some optimisim in his forces, a great antithesis to what he had said before to Andromache, we now begin Book 9 with a great Argive distraught. Agamemnon is pacing through the camp nervously, anxious and worried about the fate his fellow fighting-men. He calls together a silent assembly so that the encamped Trojans will not learn of any movement of anticipation of the Danaans camped near their ships against the back of the sea. Once again we see the great leader voice his idea of fleeing back to Greece and forgetting all the torments and problems of war. The men are not sure whether he is just testing them again or whether he is for real this time, so they really don't respond either way. The first to speak from the forces mustered is the stentorian Diomedes. He voices that Agamemnon should not speak as he does and that the Argives will never flee the plains of Troy until the city has fallen at their feet, he remarks that he and his fellow countryman, Sthenelus, will stay and fight by themselves if need-be. The other Achaeans assent to this decree by the lord of the war cry, and then mighty and bloviating Nestor rises to speak. He agrees with Diomedes statements, however he reminds him that he himself is much older, and therefore much wiser in the ways of wisdom and advice to kings and military rulers. He suggests to Agamemnon that he place sentries at points along the wall, and call together a gathering of the Achaean elders so that they may provide him with helpful advice and counsel on their current predicament.
At the dinner Nestor provides for us another long-winded speech, basically in which he encourages Agamemnon that he must make amends with Achilles so that the Achaean have any chance in the world against the Trojans. Agamemnon quicly agrees to this consolation by the king from Pylos, for he now realizes how great and with what severity his isolated anger has affected the entire Argive position. He agrees to present many gifts to Achilles, including the woman he first stole to cause such a problem. An assembly is sent to Achilles, where he was camped with his fellow Myrmidons. One of the three "messengers" from Agamemnon is Odysseus. The three messengers from Atrides' son, reach the camp of Achilles where he is sitting across from his friend Patroclus, playing on his lyre.
The envoys greet Achilles, and Achilles dually greets them quite warmly, once again showing us that his anger is only with the Argive commander, and not with the men that still remain loyal to him. Odysseus takes the lead as the man to discuss and give the discourse that Agamemnon tells the men to bestow upon the mighty sprinter. Odysseus tells Achilles of the entire itinerary of gifts and retribution that Atrides' son promises to the brave Achilles if he acquiesces to coming back to defend the Argives black ships. After Odysseus tells the toll of the entire amount of gifts and prizes that Agamemnon offers, Achilles responds in a long-winded speech. He says that he will not accept the king's offer after he has wronged him so, and that no prize will ever turn his staunch and callous heart. Once again, we see that what Achilles is right, even though he does eventually return to the fight, it is no promise of women or Argive citadels that brings him around, only the death of a man that he loved perhaps more than anyone else in the world.
Achilles tells the men to return home and tell the Achaeans of his response, however he does tell Phoenix, one of the men in the envoy, to stay with him for the night and sail off with them in the morning. Phoenix, at hearing this, first fears for the sake of the entire Argives and questions Achilles nervously whether that is really what he is planning to do in his mind. He does agree to stay with Achilles though, and camp for the night with the Myrmindons.
During the assembly to Achilles the Achaeans had three chances, three voices to try to win over the mighty Achilles' wrath. Odysseus' voice is primarily used just to replicate the terms provided by Agamemnon. Next is Phoenix, Achilles' tutor, he uses the idea and theme of "old times" and a "traditional" motif to try to win over the pride and damaged reputation of Achilles. He too fails. Finally, Ajax is the last to try to incapcitate the rage of the famous sprinter. His tone is the most oppressive. He says the exact same things that the two previous ambassadors have, however he says it the most harshly, thereby making his plea and speech to Achilles the seemingly most vociferous. So quite crestfallen that their efforts were in mortal vain, the envoy now returns to the Achaean camp to tell the others of what has happened.
Upon returning to the camp, Odysseus tells all men, especially Agamemnon whom he was sent on behalf of, of Achilles' response. The first man to speak out, as we have seen him do now at least a couple times, is the lord of the war cry Diomedes. Diomedes suggests that the Achaeans all simply sleep now and wait until dawn. For he foreshadows that Achilles will fight one day, as soon as his fighting spirit comes around for whatever reason. He is right.
Following Tydides' son's advice, the whole of the Achaean army retired to sleep. However King Agamemnon did not. He was brooding over the potential fate of doom, and trying to muster a plan within himself about how to go about some type of action that very night. His fear and anguish that he feels not only for himself, but for the entire Achaean forces, is beautifully portrayed in these lines:
"Now as he scanned across the Trojan plain,
Agamemnon marveleld in horror at those fires,
a thousand fires blazing against the walls of Troy,
and the shrill of pipes and flutes and low roar of men."
The fires he refers to are the fires that we previously being described as being likened to glorious stars in the night sky. So we see how before they were portrayed more as beauty linked to nature, now they are seen to symbolize the fear and anxiety of the Achaean chief as he worries over the future battles to come. This is the poetic genius that we see in Homer and allows us more substantial proof that there clearly was only one author of the Iliad. He uses the contrast of how he describes and mentions certain subjects or actions, such as this example of the Trojan fires, to have an underlying and intrinsic symbolism and plot development.
After Homer provides us with more description of how Agamemnon was fretting over what to do, Agamemnon pulls on his war gear and prepares for some rousing action. At the very same time Menelaus is doing the very same thing, and quickly comes to visit his brother at the hull of his ship, whom he finds preparing equally and worrying as he.
The two sons of Atrides decide that they will raise many of the other famous and skilled warriors to place more sentries on the Argive wall and make sure the current ones there are on the job and have not been overcome by sleep. One of the first men they rouse from sleep is King Nestor of Pylos, whom immediately delves into ripping Menelaus for assuming he is sleeping and not involved in these toils of war, the war being fought metaphorically at least, for him. However Agamemnon quickly, easily reproaches him and lets him know that his brother "was up before he even was", and even though this isn't the exact truth, Agamemnon is still justified in telling Nestor this because it is very close to the truth and by intensifying Menelaus' action just a little for the better, it helps to shape Nestor's opinion of both sons of Atrides even more.
After Nestor prepares himself he and Agamemnon proceed to waken Odysseus and Diomedes, whom Nestor wakes by kicking him with his foot. Odysseus agrees to go with them and Nestor simply tells Diomedes to summon Aias and Meges.
The men that have assembled at this time proceed to make rounds of all the sentries and encourage them to keep up their watch. The leaders discuss different ideas and plans that they could carry out for the night, and Nestor suggests that they send someone to spy on the Trojan forces to get some kind of inkling as to what they are planning to do. Diomedes quickly volunteers, true to his nature, and only asks that at least one other go with him. Several volunteer for this post, but he eventually chooses Odysseus. Odysseus attitude after Diomedes picks him and begins to praise him betrays the inclination on Odysseus' part that he really didn't want to go.
At this same time Hector addresses the leader of his army and requests that a scout go to the Achaean ships to determine whether they are planning to leave or not. The only person that volunteers is the swift-footed Dolon. He tells Hector that he will go on the stipulation that he promise to give him Achilles' horses and chariot when they conquer the Argives. Hector promises and Dolon sets off.
Odysseus and Diomedes spy Dolon coming and allow him to pass them in the darkness before they begin to chase him. They quickly realize what his purpose is and so therefore give chase. Dolon is fooled in his own mind into thinking they are Trojans with further instructions for his mission, however he soon finds out how mistaken he truly is. He begs for mercy and the sparing of his life, for his father is rich and he tells the two Argives that they will be able to attain a hefty ransom for his return.