Book 12 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 12

Under shelter, Patroclus continues to help Eurypylus. The walls around the Greek camp, although built without the blessing of Poseidon, stand up to the assault for the time being. Hector fights like a whirlwind, described like a boar who turns on the hunters and dogs that pursue him. Hector keeps pushing the chariots into the trench, but Polydamas advises him to get off and storm the wall on foot. Hector leaps to the ground and five battalions follow him led by Polydamas, Paris, Helenus, Aeneas and Sarpedon.

The Trojan Asius, from the third battalion, refuses to leave behind his horses and is summarily speared by Idomeneus. The Trojans charge the wall after the chariot charge of Asius and many of the Greeks retreat to defend the ships. Although Asius makes a prayer to Zeus for victory, the father of the gods decides that Hector will have the glory. As they attack the walls, the Trojans feel the sting of the Greek missiles. The Greeks are depicted as wasps or bees defending their home. Hector rallies the captains and breaches the wall. Zeus gives a sign:

"For suddenly, just as the men tried to cross,
A fatal bird sign flashed before their eyes,
An eagle clutching a monstrous bloody serpent in both talons,
Still alive, still struggling - it had not lost its fight,
Writhing back to strike it fanged the chest of its captor
Right beside the throat - and agonized by the bites
The eagle flung it away to earth, dashed it down
Amidst the milling fighters, loosed a shriek
And the bird veered off along the gusting wind."
Book 12, lines 230-239

All the men watch this omen and for a moment the charging Trojans pause. Polydamas addresses Hector and asks him to hear his advice even though he always criticizes him in the assemblies. He tells Hector that this is not a fortuitous sign but Hector does not want to listen to him. He refuses to put his trust in birds:

"No, no put our trust in the will of mighty Zeus,
King of the deathless gods and men who die.
Bird signs!
Fight for your country - that is the best, the only omen!"
Book 12, lines 278-281

Hector calls Polydamas a coward and continues the charge. The Trojans attempt to strip down the walls. The Greeks begin to strike back, but Zeus pushed Sarpedon through the wall.

Sarpedon breaks into the Greek camp and pauses to call for his friend Glaucus. The two express their desire to not be in battle and to be allowed to enjoy simple things, to live forever. He says that death awaits them and Glaucus charges forward. The Greek troops begin to rally. A Greek sends a herald to Ajax for Agamemnon and Teucer. Little Ajax remains. Ajax kills some more men and throws a rock into the battle. Teucer hits Glaucus with an arrow. Sarpedon keeps fighting next to him. Teucer also hits him with an arrow, but Zeus strengthens the warrior and he keeps fighting. He calls in more Trojan troops as he singlehandedly holds the breach in the wall. The clashing of the two armies at this one junction is compared to farmers fighting over a boundary. Zeus gives Hector greater strength. He squares off in front of the wall, lifts a giant stone and hurls it through the gates. Hector calls the Trojans to advance and they flood into the camp.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 16

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