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A GUIDE TO THE ILIAD†††††††† †††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† ††††††††† 7

 The Iliad has 15,693 lines. The poem opens in the tenth year of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans; the scene is the Greek (Achaian) camp on the Trojan plain; the story spans a period of 52 days.Homer's declared theme in the first line of the poem is the anger of Achilles. This anger and its consequences occupy four days.

** Book I

Apollo sends a plague on the Greeks in response to a request by his priest Chryses, whose daughter, Chryseis, is part of Agamemnon's booty. Agamemnon and Achilles quarrel over booty and leadership. Agamemnon returns Chryseis, but takes as a replacement Achilles' prize, Briseis. Achilles' appeal to his mother, Thetis, results in his withdrawal from battle. The book ends on Olympus, where a petty quarrel between the gods contrasts with the major quarrel between the two agathoi over time on earth.

Book II

 The events of books II to VII occupy a single day. Zeus' promise to Thetis in book I swings into action, with a false dream sent to Agamemnon. There follow the testing of the troops, the outburst of Thersites and Odysseus' "take-over" of the command ~ all these reinforce the criticisms aimed at Agamemnon by Achilles in book I. The Greek army gathers: catalogue of Greek forces; this is almost like a flashback serving to provide information required by the audience at the start of the poem.

** Book III

Paris/Menelaos duel = chance to meet the two men demanding Helen. We are also introduced to Helen and the Trojans; thus this book serves to emphasize the causes of the war.

Book IV
Starts on Olympus with the grim spectacle of the interplay between men and gods. Agamemnon reviews his troops, providing us with the opportunity to meet the leading Greeks. Full scale fighting breaks out.

Book V

Full scale fighting continues; Agamemnon's cruelty is shown. The "aristeia" of Diomedes. Physical presence of the gods on the battlefield, even of Aphrodite, who saves Paris, but is "wounded" as she tries to save Aeneas.

** Book VI

Trojans beaten back to Troy (Ilion). Hector urges women of Troy to help the war effort by making offerings to Athene. Diomedes/Glaucus meeting (xenia). Scenes in Troy with Hector and the women in his life -Hecuba, Helen and Andromache (Compare Paris in book III). Hector parts from Andromache, with foreboding of his death. Book highlights the suffering of innocents in war.

Book VII

Hector and Paris rally the Trojans. Hector/Aias duel, which darkness halts; the duellists exchange gifts. The Greeks reject Trojan conciliation proposal of the return of Helen's possessions (time). Truce for the cremation of Greek and Trojan dead. Greeks build wall and ditch to defend camp and Ships.


Starts on Olympus -gods forbidden to intervene in the fighting (contrast book V). Fighting equal until mid-day when Zeus uses his scales (see them again in book XXII and the Greeks are driven inside their new defences. The book ends (l. 489- end) with a glimpse of the Trojan camp at night (compare Henry V. Act 4 Prologue)

** Book IX

Greek leaders debate what to do in the crisis situation. Nestor blames Agamemnon for his folly of insulting Achilles who must now be reconciled to ensure that the Greeks do not lose the war. Embassy of Odysseus, Ajax and Achilles' tutor, Phoenix to Achilles. Each appeal to him in turn and offer him enormous recompense (time). Achilles' response is modified after each appeal, and he finally agrees to fight when the Trojans reach the huts and ships of his Myrmidons.

Book X

 Called the "Doloneia". Diomedes and Odysseus set out to spy on the Trojan camp (Nestor's idea) .En route , they capture the Trojan spy, Dolon, whom they kill after extracting information from him. In the Trojan camp, they kill Rhesus and steal his horses.

Book XI

 Full scale fighting; the "aristeia" of Agamemnon. Agamemnon, Diomedes and Odysseus are all wounded. ** Achilles sends Patroclus to Nestor (1. 598) to find out who is wounded. ** Nestor urges Patroclus to ask Achilles to allow Patroclus to return to battle (l. 795).

Book XII

 Full scale fighting. Trojans breach the Greek defensive wall.


 Zeus turns his eyes away from Troy, so Poseidon intervenes on the Greek side. Many Trojan leaders are wounded (compare Greeks in book XI )

Book XIV

Discussion between the three Greeks wounded in book XI and Nestor: this offers insight into their characters. Poseidon urges on the Greeks. ** Zeus seduced by Hera (1. 153ff); this allows battle to rage. Hector wounded.

Book XV

 ** Zeus awakes and prophesies the future (I. 54ff). Apollo smashes the Greek wall. Hector reaches the ships, opposed only by Ajax and demands fire.

** Book XVI Achilles allows Patroclus to fight, dressed in his (Achilles') armour. Achilles instructs Patroclus to stop once he has driven the Trojans from the ships. A Greek Ship is fired; Patroclus and the Myrmidons quench the fire and drive the Trojans back. Patroclus/Sarpedon duel. Patroclus attacks the walls of Troy and is killed by a combination of Apollo, Euphorbos and Hector.


Fighting over Patroclus' body. Menelaos/Euphorbos duel; (N.B. sympathetic treatment of Euphorbos, even though he was one of Patroclus' killers). Trojans strip Patroclus of his armour. Fighting over Patroclus' body.


Achilles informed of Patroclus' death; his grief (which heralds the beginning of the end of his withdrawal) is intense (I. 22). Thetis visits Achilles (compare book I). Achilles appears at the Greek ditch and the sight of him is enough to scare the Trojans from Patroclus' body. At a Trojan assembly, Hector rejects the advice to retreat into the city. The Greeks mourn for Patroclus all night long. Hephaistos makes new armour for Achilles.

** Book XIX

Thetis brings Achilles his new armour. Achilles calls an assembly (compare book I) and ** renounces his anger (I. 56ff).

** Agamemnon admits he was wrong (I. 78ff). Achilles eager for battle, but Odysseus insists on feeding the troops and on a public and formal reconciliation between Achilles and Agamemnon. Briseis and Achilles lament over Patroclus. Achilles arms for battle, and his horse prophesies his death.

Book XX

Zeus bids assembly of gods to side with humans, which they do. Achilles kills Priamís young son, Polydorus, and Hector attacks Achilles, but an image of him replaces the real Hector.

Book XXI

 Achilles rages on and is attacked by the river Xanthos. Full scale fighting, both human and divine. Trojans flee into the city.

** Book XXII

Hector stands outside Troy despite the pleas of his parents. When Achilles encounters Hector, the latter flees round the walls of Troy, with Achilles in hot pursuit. Aided by Athene, Achilles kills Hector and then proceeds to abuse the corpse. Inside Troy, there is lamentation for Hector.


Greeks lament for Patroclus. Funeral games are held.

** Book XXIV

Abuse of Hector's corpse continues. Gods decide that the corpse should be returned to Priam. Priam, helped by the gods, Visits Achilles inside the Greek camp and ransoms Hector's body. The poem ends with the funeral of Hector.

C. Spillane