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The Iliad

The Iliad Summary


Here you will find a The Iliad summary (Homer's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

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Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

The Iliad Summary Overview

Nine years into the Trojan War, the Achaean army seizes control of Chryse, a town allied with Troy. Two captivating maidens, Chryseis and Briseis, are taken captive in the clash, with Chryseis falling into the hands of Agamemnon, the Achaean leader, and Briseis taken by Achilles, their most formidable warrior. Despite a hefty ransom offered by Chryseis's father, a priest of Apollo, Agamemnon refuses to release her which results in a plague being unleashed on the Achaean camp by Apollo. Agamemnon eventually concedes to returning Chryseis but demands Briseis from Achilles as recompense, leading to a furious Achilles retreating to his tent and refusing to participate in the war. Having his mother, the sea-nymph Thetis, call upon Zeus to aid in the Achaeans' downfall, the war takes a dramatic turn with the Trojans violating a cease-fire agreement and receiving Zeus's protection. With the Trojans backed by Zeus and Achilles still refusing to battle, the Achaeans suffer great losses. Despite several days of intense combat including face-offs between Paris and Menelaus, and Hector and Ajax, the Achaeans make no headway. The onslaught of the Trojans forces the Achaeans to retreat behind their ship-protecting ramparts. While a nighttime reconnaissance mission by Diomedes and Odysseus provides a glimmer of hope, disaster ensues the next day with several Achaean leaders wounded, the Trojans breaching the ramparts, and a ship set ablaze. With the ships crucial to their survival, defeat seems inescapable for the Achaeans. Still reluctant to join the fight, Achilles agrees to Nestor's plan to have his dear friend Patroclus don his armor and fight in his stead. Despite initial success, the counterattack falters when Patroclus is killed by Hector. A battle ensues for the body and armor of Patroclus, with Hector securing the armor but the Achaeans retrieving the body. Learning of Patroclus's death at the hands of Hector sends Achilles into a fit of grief and rage, prompting him to reconcile with Agamemnon and reenter the war. With a new suit of armor forged by Hephaestus and brought by Thetis, Achilles returns to the battlefield, leading the Achaean army against a terrified Trojan army. Finally, after a dramatic duel, Achilles slays Hector and drags his body across the battlefield. After a period of mourning with athletic games in honor of Patroclus, Hector's body is returned to the Trojans following a plea from his father, King Priam. A temporary truce is agreed upon and Hector is given a hero's funeral.

book 1

The epic tale of Achilles' fury starts nine years into the Trojan War. During a raid on a Trojan-allied town, the Greek warriors shack two maidens, Chryseis and Briseis. Agamemnon, the Greek army's leader, claims Chryseis while Achilles, the mightiest Greek warrior, takes Briseis. Chryseis' father, priest of Apollo, Chryses, pleads for his daughter's return and offers a hefty ransom. Agamemnon's refusal leads Chryses to ask Apollo for assistance. In response, Apollo unleashes a deadly plague on the Greek camp. After ten days of agony, Achilles arranges a meeting to seek a solution. Calchas, a renowned seer, despite fearing Agamemnon's wrath, discloses that the plague is Apollo's revenge. Agamemnon agrees to return Chryseis but demands Briseis as a trade-off. Agamemnon's demand insults Achilles, leading to a heated argument. Achilles even contemplates withdrawing from the war. Agamemnon, in turn, threatens to seize Briseis from Achilles himself. As Achilles is about to attack Agamemnon, Athena, sent by Hera, intervenes, cooling his rage. Athena's intervention and wise words from Nestor, a counselor, prevent a potential fight. Agamemnon sends Chryseis back to her father that evening, and orders Briseis be taken from Achilles' tent. Achilles pleads to his mother, Thetis, and asks for Zeus to punish the Greeks. Thetis agrees to help after Zeus finishes his thirteen-day feast with the Aethiopians. At the same time, Odysseus, who is leading Chryseis back, offers sacrifices to Apollo upon arrival. Chryses is overjoyed to see his daughter and prays to Apollo to remove the plague. Apollo hears his prayer and Odysseus heads back. However, the end of the plague is just the start of more trouble. Achilles has been refraining from fighting since his dispute with Agamemnon. Thetis, after twelve days, seeks Zeus' help as promised. Although Hera, Zeus' wife, favors the Greeks, Zeus eventually consents. This angers Hera, but her son Hephaestus convinces her to avoid causing a conflict among the gods.

book 2

Zeus, intending to aid the Trojans, sends Agamemnon a deceptive dream. In it, a figure resembling Nestor convinces him that a full-force attack will result in the capture of Troy. When he wakes, Agamemnon gathers his warriors for battle, but decides to test their bravery first. He falsely tells them he's considering ending the war and going home, only to be shocked when they hurry to their ships in agreement. Hera notices the Greeks retreating and informs Athena who then motivates Odysseus, the most articulate Greek, to stop them. Odysseus shouts a mix of encouragement and insults to rekindle their resolve. He recalls an old prophecy by the seer Calchas, who said it would take nine years to conquer Troy after a water snake ate nine sparrows. At the time, the Greeks pledged not to stop fighting until Troy was theirs. Following this, Nestor suggests Agamemnon organize his troops according to their cities and clans so that familiar faces fight together. The poet then lists the Greek forces, remembering each city contributing soldiers, the size of each contingent, and their leaders. The most fearless warriors, notably Achilles and Ajax, are highlighted. Zeus then dispatches a messenger to inform the Trojans about the Greeks' formidable line-up. Priam’s son Hector commands the Trojans to prepare for battle, and the poet proceeds to catalog their troops.

book 3

The Trojans, led by Prince Paris, move out from the city to face the Achaeans. Paris, who is responsible for the war by abducting the stunning Helen from her spouse, Menelaus, throws down the gauntlet for a one-on-one fight with any Achaean fighter. When Menelaus steps up to fight, Paris cowers and retreats into his army. Hector, Paris's brother and the head of the Trojan forces, reprimands Paris for his lack of courage. Prodded by Hector's rebuke, Paris finally consents to duel Menelaus, stating that their fight will determine who gets Helen, thus establishing peace. Hector conveys the terms to Menelaus who agrees. Both armies eagerly anticipate the end of the war. As the duo gets ready for the fight, the goddess Iris, in the guise of Hector’s sister Laodice, goes to Priam's palace to see Helen. Iris urges Helen to watch the imminent battle from the city's gates. Helen spots the city's leaders, including Priam. Priam enquires about the robust Achaeans he observes, and she points out Agamemnon, Ajax, and Odysseus. Priam is in awe of their might and magnificence but eventually departs, unable to watch his son Paris's life-or-death battle. The duel between Paris and Menelaus ensues, but neither manages to defeat the other. Menelaus's sword shatters over Paris's helmet. He then drags Paris through the dirt by his helmet, but Aphrodite, the Trojans' ally, breaks the helmet strap, leaving it in Menelaus's hands. Out of frustration, Menelaus goes to retrieve his spear to strike Paris, but Aphrodite transports Paris to his room in Priam's palace. She also brings Helen there. After scolding Paris for his cowardice, Helen shares the bed with him. Meanwhile, both the Trojans and the Greeks are looking for Paris, who appears to have vanished. Agamemnon asserts that Menelaus has won the duel, and he demands the return of Helen.

book 4

In the midst of the gods' own battles, Zeus believes Menelaus has emerged victorious in the duel, suggesting that the war should now cease in line with the humans' agreement. However, Hera, who passionately supports the Achaeans, desires nothing less than the utter annihilation of Troy. Consequently, Zeus relents and dispatches Athena onto the battlefield to reignite the conflict. Posing as a Trojan warrior, Athena fools Pandarus, the archer, into targeting Menelaus. When Pandarus shoots, Athena diverts the arrow to merely wound Menelaus, providing the Achaeans with a justification to resume fighting. Agamemnon then works to inspire the Achaean forces. Encountering Nestor, Odysseus, and Diomedes, he provokes their pride and reminds them of their fathers' heroic exploits. Combat erupts, with blood spilling across the battlefield. Despite the violence, no leading character suffers injury or death, but Odysseus and Great Ajax eliminate several lesser Trojan figures. The gods add to the chaos, as Athena stands with the Achaeans and Apollo aids the Trojans. Ultimately, attempts to establish peace have been completely unsuccessful.

book 5

During a fierce fight, Pandarus injures the Achaean warrior Diomedes. Seeking vengeance, Diomedes implores Athena's help who bolsters him with extraordinary strength and ability to recognize gods in the battlefield. However, she advises him to only confront Aphrodite. Diomedes, now invincible, slays every Trojan he encounters, including the brash Pandarus. Aeneas, a renowned Trojan hero, suffers a wound by Diomedes. When Aphrodite, Aeneas's mother, rushes to his aid, Diomedes injures her too, causing her to retreat to Mount Olympus. Upon healing Aphrodite, Dione, her mother, and Zeus caution her against engaging in warfare. When Apollo replaces Aphrodite to assist Aeneas, Diomedes assails him as well, violating Athena's guidelines. Apollo reprimands Diomedes, pushes him away, and rescues Aeneas, leaving a look-alike of Aeneas behind to incite the Trojans. He also provokes Ares, the war god, to join the Trojan side. Assisted by the gods, the Trojans start overpowering in the battle. Hector and Ares's combined strength proves too formidable for the Achaeans, even intimidating Diomedes. The Trojan Sarpedon eliminates the Achaean Tlepolemus. In retaliation, Odysseus destroys numerous Trojans, but Hector slaughters even more Greeks. At this point, Hera and Athena seek Zeus's consent to help the Achaeans. Hera revives the Achaean soldiers' spirits while Athena backs Diomedes. Athena withdraws her previous restriction and pairs up with Diomedes in his chariot to confront Ares. As they charge at Ares, Diomedes injures him, causing Ares to flee to Mount Olympus. Despite Ares's complaints, Zeus maintains that Ares got the punishment he deserved. Finally, Athena and Hera also withdraw from the battlefield.

book 6

The Achaean army dominates the Trojans, leading them to retreat towards their city. Menelaus, having captured Adrestus, a Trojan, contemplates a ransom for his life. However, Agamemnon convinces him to execute him instead. Noticing the Trojans' dwindling strength, Nestor advises the Achaeans to focus on killing more enemies rather than looting weapons from the dead. The Trojans foresee defeat, prompting their seer, Helenus, to recommend Hector to seek his mother, Queen Hecuba's prayers at Athena's temple. Heeding Helenus's counsel, Hector tells his mother and her ladies-in-waiting what to do. Subsequently, Hector seeks out his brother Paris who's abandoned the battle, blaming his excessive sorrow. Hector and Helen admonish him for shying away from combat. Under duress, Paris eventually readies himself to re-enter the fight. Before doing the same, Hector spends time with his wife, Andromache, and their son, Astyanax. Andromache, observing the battle below, pleads with Hector not to return. He sticks to his resolve, maintaining that he can't avoid his destiny. After kissing Astyanax, Hector leaves. A distressed Andromache, certain of his impending death, grieves for him. En route to the battlefield, Hector encounters Paris, and the two brothers brace themselves to re-engage in the fight.

book 7

Hector and Paris's return intensifies the battle until Apollo and Athena arrange a duel to cease the day's combat. Hector boldly offers himself for one-on-one combat, with only Menelaus bold enough to accept. However, Agamemnon convinces him otherwise, aware that Hector is too strong for him. Aged Nestor, unable to fight, fervently encourages his fellow soldiers to take up the challenge. After some hesitation, nine Achaeans come forward. A random draw determines that Great Ajax will be the one to fight Hector. The duel between Hector and Ajax begins with spear throwing, but neither can gain an advantage. They then resort to their lances, with Ajax drawing first blood. But before they can engage with their swords, heralds intervene, calling off the fight due to the approaching night, as directed by Zeus. The two warriors part ways peacefully, exchanging gifts and forming a friendship pact. That evening, Nestor suggests that the Achaeans request a day's truce to bury their fallen. He also proposes the construction of camp fortifications. Simultaneously, King Priam of Troy proposes a similar idea for their own casualties. In a meeting, his advisor Antenor suggests Paris to hand over Helen to conclude the war. Paris declines but is willing to give back the plunder taken from Sparta. The next day, the Trojans present this offer to the Achaeans who, sensing desperation, turn down the offer. Nevertheless, both sides agree to a day of peace to mourn and bury their dead. Unknown to them, Zeus and Poseidon watch the Achaeans build their defenses, planning to demolish them once the men depart.

book 8

Zeus forbids the other gods from intervening in the war. He then heads to Mount Ida, where he measures the destinies of Troy and Achaea. The Achaean fate dips lower. Zeus hurls lightning bolts at the Achaean forces, shifting the battle to the Trojans' advantage, instigating fear and retreat among the Greeks. During this wave of Trojan supremacy, Hector encounters Nestor, trapped in the battleground. Diomedes rescues Nestor in the nick of time, but Hector chases them, hoping to drive them back to their Greek defences and incinerate their vessels. Witnessing the Achaeans crumble, Hera motivates Agamemnon to inspire his warriors. He invokes their bravery, pleads for courage, and prays for Zeus's mercy. Zeus finally responds with a sign—an eagle clutching a fawn—whch renews the Achaeans' fighting spirit. As the Achaeans labor to regain their strength, Teucer, the archer, strikes down several Trojans. But then Hector injures him, tipping the scales of the battle once more. Hector pushes the Greeks to their fortifications and all the way to their ships. Athena and Hera, distressed by the Greeks' suffering, decide to join the battle, but Iris, sent by Zeus, warns them of the repercussions. Acknowledging Zeus's superiority, Athena and Hera resign and return to Mount Olympus. Upon Zeus's return, he informs them that the upcoming morning would be their final opportunity to preserve the Achaeans, adding that only Achilles can halt the Greek massacre. That night, the assured Trojans set up a camp outside their city's walls. Hector instructs his troops to ignite hundreds of fires to block any covert escape by the Greeks. The Greeks are saved by the nightfall, but Hector is determined to annihilate them the next day.

book 9

The Trojans are on the edge of pushing the Achaeans back to their vessels, which leaves the Achaean soldiers feeling dejected in their camp. Agamemnon, their leader, is seen crying and concedes defeat in the war. He even suggests going back to Greece, shamefaced. However, Diomedes stands up and asserts his resolution to continue fighting, regardless of others' decisions. He lifts the soldiers' spirits by reminding them of the predestined fall of Troy. Nestor, too, advocates for staying the course and proposes making amends with Achilles. Acknowledging the soundness of this suggestion, Agamemnon decides to lure Achilles back into the Achaean fold with an attractive offer of gifts. A delegation, including eminent warriors like Odysseus, Great Ajax, and Phoenix, is chosen by the king to convey his proposal to Achilles. They find Achilles in his tent playing the lyre with his close friend Patroclus. Despite Odysseus putting forth Agamemnon's offer, Achilles declines. He announces his plan to go back to Phthia, his native land, choosing a long, mundane life over a short, illustrious one, which is his fate if he stays. Achilles invites Phoenix, who had a hand in his upbringing in Phthia, to accompany him. Phoenix, however, makes a heartfelt appeal for Achilles to remain, referencing the tale of Meleager, a warrior who also refused to fight in anger, to emphasize the need to heed the cries of desperate allies. Nonetheless, Achilles remains resolute, still reeling from Agamemnon's offense. The mission to convince Achilles fails, and the Achaean army is once again plunged into gloom.

book 10

Agamemnon and Menelaus, unlike the rest of the Greek leaders, stay awake and rouse the others. Gathering outside their fort, they strategize their next steps. Nestor proposes spying on the Trojans, a mission that Diomedes eagerly accepts. He is joined by Odysseus and they depart for the Trojan camp, taking Athena's sign - a calling heron - as protection. On the other side, the Trojans also plan for surveillance. Hector picks Dolon, a swift but unattractive scout, to discover if the Greeks intend to flee. As a reward, he promises Dolon Achilles' chariot and horses when the Greeks are defeated. As Dolon embarks on his mission, he bumps into Diomedes and Odysseus. Fearing for his life, he divulges the Trojans' and their allies' locations. He exposes the newly-arrived Thracians as an easy target. Dolon is then killed by Diomedes and stripped of his armor. Diomedes and Odysseus head to the Thracian camp. They eliminate twelve soldiers and King Rhesus, seizing Rhesus's chariot and horses. Warned by Athena of a potential divine retaliation, they race back to the Greek camp on Rhesus's chariot. On their return, they are warmly greeted by Nestor and the rest of the Greeks who had feared for their safety.

book 11

Zeus causes panic among the Achaean forces by raining blood upon them, leading to heavy casualties. However, they start to recover by afternoon, with Agamemnon leading the charge and causing significant damage to the Trojans. Upon Zeus' command, Iris instructs Hector to attack after Agamemnon gets wounded. Agamemnon, indeed, gets injured by Coon, Antenor’s son, but not before killing Coon's brother. Agamemnon's injury eventually forces him to withdraw. As anticipated, Hector seizes the moment, launching an attack, and pushing back the Achaeans. Despite the panic and potential retreat, Odysseus and Diomedes inspire their troops, with Diomedes striking Hector's helmet with a spear. Paris responds by shooting an arrow at Diomedes, putting him out of action. Odysseus, now alone, fights off the Trojans until he is severely injured by Socus. Ajax manages to save Odysseus, taking him back to camp. Hector continues his assault, which the Greeks resist at first. But when Machaon, their healer, is injured by Paris, chaos ensues. Hector and his troops push Ajax into retreat while Nestor takes Machaon back to the tent for recovery. Achilles, observing the situation, sends Patroclus to check on Machaon. Nestor reveals the extent of the Achaean commanders' injuries to Patroclus and pleads with him to convince Achilles to rejoin the fight. He also suggests that Patroclus could pose as Achilles to intimidate the Trojans. Patroclus agrees to Nestor's request and attends to the wounds of Eurypylus, an injured warrior fighting alongside Ajax.

book 12

The Achaean defenses, foreseen to be demolished by the divine when Troy collapses, currently withstand the onslaught. Trojan chariots are hindered by a trench. Hector, encouraged by young leader Polydamas, directs his troops to abandon their chariots and rush the walls. As the Trojans are about to cross the trenches, an eagle drops a snake amongst them. Polydamas sees this as an omen of failure, but Hector remains undeterred. Glaucus and Sarpedon, two Trojans, surge towards the defenses. Menestheus, supported by Great Ajax and Teucer, resists valiantly. Sarpedon breaches first, followed by Hector who demolishes a gate with a boulder. Panic-stricken Achaeans retreat against their ships as the Trojans flood through the broken defenses.

book 13

Satisfied with the status of the war, Zeus departs from the battlefield. With Zeus absent, Poseidon seizes the opportunity to aid the Achaeans. Disguised as Calchas, he emboldens Little Ajax and Great Ajax to stand against the Trojans. He also revives the spirit of the other Achaeans, who had retreated tearfully to the sides of their ships. With their morale renewed, the Achaeans resume their resistance against the Trojans. The two Aeantes manage to repel Hector. Hector's spear, aimed at Teucer, misses and instead kills Amphimachus, Poseidon's grandson. In retaliation, Poseidon fills Idomeneus with unstoppable fury. Alongside Meriones, Idomeneus leads a counterattack on the Achaean's left flank, cutting down numerous Trojans. His main target, however, is Deiphobus. He locates and taunts him, which results in Deiphobus summoning Aeneas and others for backup. In the ensuing fight, Deiphobus is injured and Menelaus slays multiple Trojans. Hector Elsewhere, Hector continues his attack on the right. However, his accompanying Trojans are exhausted from their clash with the Aeantes. Some have retreated to the Trojan side, while the rest fight from dispersed locations. Polydamas convinces Hector to reassemble his troops. Collecting Paris, Hector attempts to rally his allies at the left end of the line, only to find them either injured or dead. Great Ajax taunts Hector, and a favorable sign for the Achaeans appears in the form of an eagle on Ajax's right.

book 14

Nestor departs from the injured Machaon in his tent and joins other hurt Achaean leaders near the ships. Observing the battlefield, they understand the enormity of their defeat. Agamemnon suggests retreating and sailing away, an idea that Odysseus condemns as cowardly and shameful. Diomedes encourages everyone to rally their soldiers and as they do so, Poseidon boosts Agamemnon and amplifies the strength of the Achaean force. Seeing Zeus on Mount Ida above Troy, Hera plots to divert his attention to secretly assist the Achaeans. She tricks Aphrodite into providing her a magic garment, full of Love and Longing's power, potent enough to make even the most sensible man insane. She then convinces Sleep to send Zeus into slumber by promising him one of her daughters in wedlock. Sleep, in the form of a bird hidden in a tree, follows her to Mount Ida. Spotting Hera, Zeus is consumed by desire because of the enchanted garment. They become lovers and Zeus dozes off as expected. Hera alerts Poseidon, informing him that he can now freely guide the Achaeans to victory. Poseidon reorganizes them and they attack the Trojans. During the ensuing clash, Great Ajax fells Hector with a rock, forcing the Trojans to transport their hero back to Troy. With Hector's departure, the Achaeans easily defeat their opponents, resulting in heavy Trojan casualties as their army retreats to the city.

book 15

Upon awakening, Zeus notices the chaos Hera and Poseidon have caused in his absence. Hera attempts to shift the blame to Poseidon, but Zeus reassures her, stating his lack of preference for the Trojans over the Achaeans. He promises to support the Achaeans again, while reminding her of the imminent fall of Troy and Hector's destiny to kill Patroclus before dying. He then requests Hera to call upon Iris and Apollo. Iris is assigned to instruct Poseidon to vacate the battlefield, which he grudgingly agrees to, while Apollo boosts Hector and his allies' morale. Backed by Apollo's strength, Hector leads an offensive on the Achaeans. The Achaean leaders resist initially but retreat as Apollo joins the fray. Apollo smooths the path to the Greek fortifications, allowing the Trojans to break down the ramparts once more. The intense battle reaches the ships, narrowly missing the Greek camp. The area around the ships becomes a battlefield for close combat. Great Ajax and Hector cross paths once more. The archer Teucer strikes down numerous Trojans, but his bowstring snaps under Zeus's intervention as he targets Hector. While Ajax motivates his soldiers from the ships, Hector manages to re-energize the Trojans. Gradually, the Trojans gain ground until Hector is within reach of a ship.

book 16

Patroclus pleads with Achilles to let him don his armor, as Achilles still abstains from battle. Achilles consents, but instructs Patroclus to merely defend the ships. As the first ship starts burning, Patroclus gears up and Achilles dispatches his idle Myrmidon soldiers to support him. He supplicates Zeus for Patroclus and the ships' safe return. The narrator discloses that only one prayer will be answered. Patroclus, garbed in Achilles' armor, shifts the tide of war, causing the Trojans to fall back from the Greek ships. Hector pulls away, leading to the Trojans getting entrapped in trenches. Patroclus goes on a killing spree, eliminating every Trojan he meets. Sarpedon, Zeus's son, is doomed when Zeus resigns to his fate after Hera's counsel. Sarpedon falls to Patroclus' spear, sparking a battle over his armor. Hector makes a short-lived return to the front to reclaim the armor. Zeus plans to kill Patroclus for murdering Sarpedon, but allows him to first scatter the Trojans. He inflicts Hector with fleeting cowardice, prompting him to flee. Ignoring Achilles' orders, Patroclus chases the Trojans to Troy's gates. Apollo interferes just as the city seems on the brink of falling, repelling Patroclus from the gates. Apollo convinces Hector to attack Patroclus, but Patroclus takes down Cebriones, Hector's chariot driver. Both armies tussle over Cebriones' armor. In the midst of the mayhem, Apollo covertly wounds Patroclus, enabling Hector to kill him. Hector mocks the dying Patroclus who, in his last breath, prophesies Hector's coming death.

book 17

A clash ensues over the body of Patroclus. Euphorbus, the first Trojan to wound Patroclus, attempts to remove Achilles' armor from him but is slain by Menelaus. Encouraged by Apollo, Hector sees Euphorbus fall and intervenes. With the assistance of Great Ajax, Menelaus gets Hector to retreat, thereby preventing Patroclus’s body from being desecrated or seized. However, the armor is already in Hector's possession. Glaucus criticizes Hector for neglecting Patroclus’s body, hinting at the potential to exchange it for Sarpedon’s body. Ignoring him, Hector vows to reward any Trojan who can retrieve Patroclus’s body with half the war's loot. In anticipation of Hector’s impending fate, Zeus momentarily grants him overwhelming strength. In response, Ajax and Menelaus rally more Greeks, eventually forcing the Trojans, including Hector, to flee towards the city walls. Aeneas, rejuvenated by Apollo, spurs the retreating men to continue the battle, but despite their efforts, they fail to secure Patroclus’s body. Automedon, Achilles’ charioteer, joins the battle when Zeus grants his horses new vigor. Hector attempts to kill Automedon to seize the chariot, but Automedon evades his attack and kills a Trojan instead, stripping him of his armor as a consolation for Patroclus’s spirit. Athena, in the guise of Phoenix, invigorates Menelaus while Apollo, posing as a Trojan, emboldens Hector. Unaware of Patroclus’s demise, Achilles is summoned for help by Antilochus, who is sent by Menelaus. Zeus steers the battle towards the Trojans, but gives Menelaus and Meriones enough time to remove Patroclus’s body.

book 18

After hearing about Patroclus's death from Antilochus, Achilles is utterly devastated. He gives a distressing cry that reaches his mother, Thetis, who comes from the sea with her sisters to comfort him. Achilles expresses his desire to avenge his friend's death by killing Hector, albeit aware that this path will lead to his early demise. Thetis agrees to request a new set of armor for her son from the god Hephaestus, asking Achilles to hold off on his revenge for a day. Thetis leaves, and Iris, sent by Hera, arrives to instruct Achilles to present himself on the battlefield. His mere presence is enough to instill fear in the Trojans and make them retreat from the fight for Patroclus's body. Athena accompanies Achilles as he leaves his tent and releases an intimidating roar, which sends the Trojans running. That night, both armies strategize for the next day. Polydamas suggests to the Trojans to fall back to the city since Achilles is rejoining the fight, but Hector calls this suggestion cowardly. He insists on continuing the attack they carried out the previous day, a reckless idea that manages to win over the Trojans, thanks to Athena clouding their judgment. Meanwhile, the Achaeans start mourning for Patroclus. Achilles orders his men to cleanse Patroclus's injuries in preparation for burial, promising he will not bury him until Hector is dead. Thetis visits Hephaestus's home, pleading with him to create a fresh set of armor for Achilles. Hephaestus crafts a helmet, breastplate, and a stunning shield adorned with intricate designs of constellations, fields, cities, and children at play.

book 19

Thetis gives Achilles the armor made by Hephaestus and vows to protect Patroclus’s remains. Achilles summons his soldiers for a gathering. During this meeting, Agamemnon and Achilles amend their differences, and Agamemnon gifts Achilles the presents he pledged for his return to combat. He also gives back Briseis to Achilles. Eager to get back into battle, Achilles declares his immediate return to war. Odysseus convinces him to let the troops eat first. However, Achilles won't eat until he has defeated Hector. Throughout breakfast, he grieves for Patroclus and recalls past memories. Briseis, too, mourns her loss as Patroclus had been kind to her when she was taken from her home. Zeus, touched by the scene, instructs Athena to sate Achilles’ hunger with nectar and ambrosia. Afterward, Achilles puts on his armor and gets onto his chariot. He reprimands his horses, Roan Beauty and Charger, for abandoning Patroclus in battle. Roan Beauty informs him that it was a god who let Patroclus perish, and Achilles is destined to meet the same fate. Despite this reminder, Achilles is already aware of his impending doom and understands that he seals his fate by fighting for his friend.

book 20

As the Achaeans and Trojans gear up for war, Zeus calls the gods to Mount Olympus. He is aware that Achilles' uncontrolled presence on the battlefield may cause considerable damage to the Trojans, potentially leading to the premature fall of the city. Consequently, he lifts his earlier ban on divine participation in the war, allowing the gods to descend to earth. Yet, the gods opt to be spectators instead of actively partaking in the battle, settling on hillsides with a view of the battlefield to witness how their mortal favourites manage alone. Apollo, before settling into a non-interventionist position, spurs Aeneas to confront Achilles. The two formidable warriors come face-to-face on the battlefield and throw insults at each other. Just as Achilles is on the brink of fatally wounding Aeneas, Poseidon, showing compassion for the Trojan—much to the annoyance of the pro-Greek gods—transports Aeneas to safety. Hector steps forward next, but Apollo advises him not to provoke a fight openly but to wait until Achilles approaches him. Initially, Hector complies, but witnessing Achilles' effortless decimation of the Trojans, including one of his brothers, he once again challenges Achilles. Unfortunately for Hector, the battle does not go in his favour, forcing Apollo to rescue him for the second time.

book 21

During a fierce battle, Achilles chases a group of Trojans into the river Xanthus, also known as Scamander. He ruthlessly kills Lycaon, Priam's son, by the riverside. Asteropaeus, strengthened by the river god, bravely confronts Achilles, but is also killed. Achilles, seeking revenge for Patroclus' death, mercilessly slays many Trojans, filling the river with bodies. This angers the river god, who convinces Achilles to stop throwing bodies into the water, but not to cease his killing. The river, favoring the Trojans, calls upon Apollo for assistance. Unmoved, Achilles challenges the river, only to be swept downstream. The river nearly drowns Achilles, but divine intervention saves him. Hephaestus, aided by Hera, sets the field ablaze and forces the river to retreat. Up in the heavens, the gods squabble as they watch the human conflict unfold. Athena triumphs over Ares and Aphrodite. Poseidon dares Apollo to intervene, but Apollo refuses, arguing it isn't worth fighting over mere mortals. Artemis teases Apollo for his reluctance, which infuriates Hera, who then attacks her. In the meantime, Priam, witnessing the massacre on the battlefield, opens Troy's gates to his retreating soldiers. Achilles chases after them, coming dangerously close to capturing the city. However, Agenor, the Trojan prince, distracts Achilles by challenging him to a duel. When Agenor is secretly saved, Apollo impersonates him to buy the Trojans enough time to retreat safely back to Troy.

book 22

Hector is the last Trojan standing outside the city walls. Priam watches from the safety of the wall, pleading with his son to join him, but Hector, having previously commanded the Trojans to camp outside, is too embarrassed to retreat. When Achilles, who was chasing after the Apollo-disguised Agenor, returns, Hector faces him. Although Hector contemplates negotiating, he quickly recognizes the futility of this and starts running. He circles the city thrice, pursued relentlessly by Achilles. Zeus considers intervening but Athena convinces him that Hector's time is due. Thus, Zeus weighs their destinies on a golden scale, and Hector's fate sinks. On his fourth loop around the city, Athena, disguised as Hector's comrade Deiphobus, convinces him to fight Achilles together. Hector halts, turning to confront Achilles. They exchange spear throws without hitting each other. When Hector turns to Deiphobus for a lance and finds him missing, he realizes he has been deceived by the gods. Despite this, he charges at Achilles who is familiar with the weak points of the armor Hector is wearing, having previously belonged to Patroclus. Achilles lands a fatal blow to Hector's throat. As he lies dying, Hector begs Achilles to allow his body to be returned to the Trojans, but Achilles decides to leave his body to be mauled by animals. The Achaeans gather around Hector's body, each taking a stab. Achilles then ties Hector's body to his chariot, dragging it through the dirt. Watching this from the city walls, King Priam and Queen Hecuba are devastated and express their sorrow loudly. Hearing them, Andromache rushes out of her chamber and breaks down at the sight of her husband's body being desecrated.

book 23

Achilles and his Myrmidon soldiers are still grieving Patroclus at their camp. Even as Achilles starts eating again, he remains unwashed until he can bury Patroclus. In a dream, the apparition of Patroclus implores Achilles to bury him so his spirit can journey to the underworld. The following day, Achilles carries out a grand funeral, sacrificing twelve Trojan captives of the Achaeans. He implores the winds for help and lights Patroclus's pyre. After Patroclus's bones are buried the next day, Achilles organizes a series of contests to honor him. The games, joined by commanders and soldiers alike, offer splendid rewards and feature boxing, wrestling, archery, and a chariot race. Diomedes, helped by Athena, wins the chariot race. Achilles thinks of taking the award from the runner-up, Antilochus, to give to the last participant, who was cheated out of victory by Athena for Diomedes to win. Antilochus is outraged by this proposal. Menelaus escalates the dispute by accusing Antilochus of cheating in the race. Tensions finally calm as the men reconcile their differences.

book 24

Achilles relentlessly grieves for Patroclus and dishonors Hector’s corpse, pulling it around Patroclus's grave. Apollo shields Hector’s body from harm and decay, warding off dogs and scavengers. Twelve days post Hector’s demise, Apollo convinces Zeus to make Achilles release Hector’s body for a ransom. Zeus dispatches Thetis to relay the message to Achilles, and Iris to tell Priam to start the ransom. Hecuba is afraid that Achilles will slay Priam, but Zeus calms her fears by sending an eagle as a positive sign. Priam and his charioteer, Idaeus, set off with a chariot loaded with riches. Zeus dispatches Hermes, in the guise of a kind Myrmidon soldier, to escort Priam through the Achaean camp. Upon reaching Achilles’ tent, Hermes unveils his identity and leaves Priam and Achilles alone. A tearful Priam pleads with Achilles for Hector’s body, invoking thoughts of Achilles' own father, Peleus, and their bond. Achilles sheds tears for his father and Patroclus. He consents to the ransom and agrees to return the body. During the night, Priam sleeps in Achilles' tent. However, Hermes wakes him, cautioning him not to rest among foes. Priam and Idaeus, after waking up, put Hector in their chariot and quietly exit the camp. Upon first sight of Hector’s body, all the women of Troy, from Andromache to Helen, lament loudly. For nine days, the Trojans prepare Hector’s funeral pyre—Achilles has granted them a break from fighting. On the tenth day, the Trojans ignite Hector’s pyre.

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