Book 11 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 11

Dawn rises the next day and Strife goes to the Achaeans. Battle thrills the Greek troops as Agamemnon speaks to them to raise their morale. He dresses in his war clothing and surprises even the goddesses Hera and Athena. The chariot teams prepare themselves in the trenches. On the Trojan side the troops mass around Hector:

"Hector bore his round shield in the forefront, blazing out
Like the Dog Star through the clouds, all withering fire
Then plunging back into the cloud - rack massed and dark -"
Book 11, lines 69-71

The army moves forward like a gang of reapers and they lunge like wolves. The soldiers kill and are killed as their bronze weapons gleam in the sun. By mid-morning the Greeks break into the Trojan line. Agamemnon kills like a lion who kills the young of a fleeing deer. Two Trojans, Hippolochus and Pisander (1), beg to be spared but Agamemnon kills them anyway.

Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 9

Zeus pulls Hector out of range of the weapons. The Greeks push the Trojans back to the edge of the Scaean gates and the movement stops. Agamemnon continues to slaughter and Zeus sends Iris to Hector to instruct him to stay away from the middle of the fray until Agamemnon is struck by a weapon.

More Trojans fight Agamemnon and die by his hand. Agamemnon is speared by a Trojan The blood clots in his wound and the pain is very great:

"sharp pain came bursting in on Atrides' strength
Spear - sharp as the labor-pangs that pierce a woman,
Agonies brought on by the harsh birthing spirits,
Hera's daughters who hold the stabbing power of birth -
So sharp the throes that burst on Atrides' strength."
Book 11, 313-317

Agamemnon climbs onto his chariot and has the driver turn away from the battle. Hector recognizes this as Zeus' sign and he begins to call up the Trojan warriors driving them "like a huntsman/ crying on his hounds." Book 11, lines 339-340 He kills almost a dozen Greek captains and the Achaean line begins to flee. Odysseus calls to Diomedes asking him to make a stand with him. The pair rage into the Trojan as "two wild boars.../ fling themselves on the yelping packs that hunt them." Book 11, lines 377-378 As they fight, Hector spots them and begins to make his way towards them. Diomedes calls this to the attention of Odysseus and the two Greeks hurl spears at the Trojan hero. Hector blacks out from a hit to the head, sustained because his helmet was gift from Apollo. Hector is carried away from the battle by his chariot. Paris draws his bow, aiming at Diomedes, and shoots. The arrow pierces Diomedes in the foot. Paris taunts the marauding Greek, but Diomedes returns the insult:

"You scratch my foot and you're vaunting all the same -
But who cares? A woman or an idiot boy could wound me so."
Book 11, lines 457-458

Odysseus pulls the arrow out for him and Diomedes returns to the ships. For a moment Odysseus is afraid and considers leaving the battle but he decides that he does not want to be a coward. He fights like a wild boar in a thicket but a Trojan pierces his shield with a spear and grazes his ribs. Odysseus kills the man but the Trojan line exults at his wound. Odysseus calls to his companions three times. Menelaus hears his call and takes Ajax with him to rescue Odysseus who is still attacking. Menelaus guides Odysseus as Ajax guards the way.

Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 10

Ajax continues to kill Trojans and is said to be wild as a swollen river. Nestor struggles in the lines fighting and holding his own but Idomeneus pulls him out of battle. Idomeneus explains that a good healer is worth a troop of men. Machaon has been wounded by one of Paris' arrows and Idomeneus wants Nestor to take him to the ships. Cebriones watches the Trojans get repulsed by the Greeks and rouses Hector. Hector returns to battle. Zeus puts doubt into the mind of Ajax and causes him to retreat, driven like a lion by dogs. Ajax becomes isolated. Eurypylus and another Greek come in to help him, one is shot down by Paris. The Greeks rally into a wedge.

Meanwhile, Achilles watches the battle and sends Patroclus to ask Nestor who has fallen. Nestor questions him about Achilles. Nestor curses his age and relays a tale of his prowess as a warrior in his youth, criticizing Achilles' unwillingness to help his compatriots:

"... So such was I
In the ranks of men... or was it all a dream?
This Achilles
He'll reap the rewards of that great courage of his
Alone, I tell you - weep his heart out far too late
When are troops are dead and gone."
Book 11, lines 907-910

Nestor reminds Patroclus that although Achilles is more noble he was entrusted with the duty of advising him. He implores Patroclus to tell Achilles to fight or at least to allow Patroclus and the Myrmidons to fight without him. Patroclus stars back towards Achilles. At the ships of Odysseus he laments the state of the battle and runs into Eurypylus who asks for some attention to his wounds. Patroclus helps him.

Topic Tracking: Rage 7

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