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The Iliad Essay, Research Paper
Aaron Rorabaugh Rorabaugh 1
The scene opens on the last year of the Trojan war. The war had raged for
ten years, with the invading Greeks fighting against Troy. Apollo has sent a plague
to the Greeks because Agamemnon, king and leader of the Greeks, dishonored a
daughter of Apollo’s priest. When the reason for the plague is discovered,
Agamemnon becomes angry and defiant, unhappy to give the daughter back to her
father to appease Apollo. Achilles, a superior Greek warrior, challenges
Agamemnon’s arrogance, but Agamemnon turns his anger to Achilles, and demands
that Achilles give a slave girl to him as a compensation. Achilles fills with rage, but
Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, calms both men down so that they do not fight with
swords. Instead they argue, and Achilles withdraws from the Greek camp, refusing
to fight until Agamemnon apologizes.
Meanwhile, on Olympus, the home of the gods, the gods are taking sides in
the conflict. Aphrodite persuades Zeus to give glory to the Trojans, if only
temporarily. Zeus agrees, which angers his wife Hera, who favors the Greeks.
Many Greek leaders want to abandon the war against Troy, because they are weary.
This is not the will of Zeus, and so he sends a false message in dream form to
Agamemnon, encouraging him to fight, and promising him an easy victory.
Agamemnon asks the warriors if they want to leave, hoping for a rallying
answer, but instead, all of them start heading for their ships. Odysseus, a clever
warrior, makes a speech and motivates the Greeks to stay and fight. Paris, the
beautiful and cowardly son of the Trojan king Priam, starts to boast and defies any
Greek to fight him. Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, takes this boast. Both sides
agree to a truce, and the winner of this single combat will win the war. Paris is
overmatched, but he is saved by divine intervention by Aphrodite. The truce
becomes tense, and is broken by Pandarus. Athena assists in helping Pandarus to
throw a spear that grazes Menelaus. The battle begins in earnest. Aprhodite, Ares,
and Apollo assume human form and fight to help the Trojans. Diomedes, a Greek
warrior, has great fortune in fighting, wounding both Aphrodite and Ares so that
they have to leave the battlefield.
The Battle has quieted for a moment. Glaucus and Hippolochus, two family
friends but now on opposing sides, meet and are able to exchange a few words of
friendship. During the Lull, Paris and Hector return to the battle. Hector says
goodbye to his wife and son, and makes a speech about accepting fate. Hector offers
to fight another single combat battle, and Ajax accepts. They fight until nightfall.
During the night, the Greeks build a defensive wall and steal a few hours of
sleep before dawn. Zeus decrees that the gods will no longer interfere in the war.
The truce does not last past dawn, and the Trojan army gains position on the
Greeks. Hector leads, but he cannot break the Greek defense before night. The
Greeks do not sleep, and keep watch all night. Agamemnon offers a full retreat, this
time in earnest, but Diomedes becomes angry and convinces the Greeks to stay.
Ajax and Phoenix travel to visit Achilles and beg for his return. Achilles is happy to
see them, but he refuses to return to the battle, and becomes angry when they offer
bribes of wealth.
Agamemnon cannot sleep, and so to ease his mind, he sends Diomedes and
Odysseus on a spy mission. They break into the Trojan camp, kill a slow-witted spy,
and slay many other Trojans as they sleep. The fighting continues in the morning,
and Agamemnon leads a charge. Paris wounds Diomedes, and Odysseus is almost
taken prisoner. Achilles hears the fighting from his ship. He sends Patroclus, his
dear friend, to see what is going on. The Greek line breaks, and the Trojans enter
the Greek camp. The Greeks are on the verge of defeat, and they begin to retreat to
their ships. Posiedon, god of the sea, appears to the Greeks in the form of Calchas
the prophet, and motivates them to continue fighting. Ajax helps Posiedon, and the
Greeks fight alongside their ships. The Greeks hold the Trojans back.
Agamemnon again suggests retreat, and Odysseus and Diomedes oppose him,
and the Greeks stay. Hera, Zeus’ wife, drugs him so Posiedon can assist the Greeks
without interference from Zeus. Zeus wakes up from his drug-induced sleep, and
forces Posiedon to stop aiding the Greeks. The Trojans try another attack, but it is
repulsed largely due to Ajax.
Meanwhile, Patroclus has entered the Greek camp and is moved to tears by
the suffering of his fellow soldiers. Patroclus begs Achilles for permission to fight
using Achilles’ armor. Achilles agrees, but he warns Patroclus not to fight too
dangerously, or chase enemies. Patroclus becomes absorbed in the fighting,
and fights beyond his ability. Hector kills Patroclus. Hector takes Achilles’ armor
off of Patroclus. The Greek warriors rush to defend Patroclus’ body. Many Greeks
fight to save his body, and Menelaus and Meriones are successful. Achilles learns of
Patroclus’ death, and he cries and mourns. Achilles mother, the sea-nymph Thetis,
comforts her son by asking Hepheastus, blacksmith of the gods to make him a suit of
divine armor. Hepheastus makes a suit of armor that shows scenes from Greek
history, of the past, of the current war, and of the future. Thetis presents the armor
to her son Achilles, and also helps to preserve Patroclus’ body.
Achilles abandons his argument with Agamemnon, and they make amends.
Before Achilles enters battle, he is told of the prophesy of his death by Furies, gods
that prophesize. Achilles accepts his fate, and begins to fight. Because the gods
cannot battle the mortals, they begin to battle each other about the outcome of the
Meanwhile, Achilles is attacking Hector, to avenge Patroclus. Achilles is
almost ambushed by Aeneas, a Trojan, but Posiedon protects Achilles. Achilles
again tries to kill Hector, but Hector is saved by Apollo. Achilles kills many other
Trojans to try to reach Hector. Achilles kills every Trojan he sees without mercy.
He forces the Trojans to retreat to the Scamander river. Achilles even fights the
river, which is god-like. The river defeats him, but leaves him alive. Achilles leaves
the river, and rides to the gates of Troy.
The Trojans have retreated into the city walls. Achilles demands that Hector
fight him in single combat. Hector agrees, although he is urged to stay by his father
King Priam and his wife. Achilles chases Hector around the city walls three times,
and Hector is protected by Athena posing as Deiphobus. Hector decides to stand
and fight, and he believes he is being protected by a benevolent god. Hector
foolishly throws away his spear, and when he asks for another one, there is no god
to provide it, because Athena has abandoned him.
Hector asks Achilles for mercy in his death, but Achilles refuses, and tortures
Hector before killing him. Achilles ties Hector’s body to his chariot, and rides
around the gates of Troy three times with Hector’s body dragging behind. The
Greeks finish their mourning for Patroclus with funeral games of sport. They have
a feast, and burn the body of Hector.
Zeus decrees that Priam will be allowed to have Hector’s body. Zeus sends
Hermes with Priam, and they enter the Greek camp. Priam begs for Hector’s body
back at the feet of Achilles. Achilles weeps with Priam, and grants his request.
Achilles also grants Priam a truce to properly mourn his son. The city of Troy
mourns Hector for 9 days, and then they have a meal, and burn his body on a