Book 15 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 15

The Greeks continue to push the Trojan line back, but Zeus wakes to see Hector vomiting and Poseidon in the battle. He berates Hera and threatens to search out the gods who helped her. Hera swears to him that Poseidon attacks without her knowledge. Zeus sends Hera away charged with finding Iris to tell Apollo to rouse Hector and take him back into battle. He orders that Patroclus enter battle dressed like Achilles and foretells the death of Sarpedon. Then he orders that Patroclus be killed in order to incite Achilles' wrath and bring him back into battle. Achilles, thus enraged, will kill Hector and following his death, Troy will fall. It is in this manner that he plans to fulfill his pledge to Thetis.

Hera leaves Mount Ida and returns to Mount Olympus. Themis questions her considerable state of disarray and Hera asks not to be burdened with repeating her trials. Hera, herself, decries their foolishness in challenging Zeus and acknowledges that everyone who does so suffers. She points out that Ares has just lost a son in the battle. Ares cries out and claims the right to avenge his son. He prepares for battle, but Athena rises, warning him again about Zeus' wrath and telling him his attempts are futile:

"So now, I tell you, drop this anger for your son.
By now some fighter better than he, a stronger hand
Has gone down in his own blood, or soon will go.
It is no small labor to rescue all mankind,
Every mother's son."
Book 15, lines 166-170

Hera relays the Zeus' message for Iris and Iris goes to tell Poseidon that he had better quit the battle or be attacked by the stronger and older Zeus. Iris is compared to snow or hail as she flies down to the god of the sea. The message outrages Poseidon and he rails at the arrogance of his brother. He points out that Zeus, Hades and himself are three brothers who split the rule of creation into Sky, Underworld and Sea respectively, leaving land as common ground. Poseidon alleges that Zeus has no more authority than he does over land. Iris stops this tirade and asks the god for a better answer. Poseidon says that if Troy does not eventually fall he will continue his rage, but for the time being he will yield.

Apollo finds Hector regaining his strength. He presents him with Zeus' Storm cloud shield and asks him why he is not with his troops. Hector explains that he was hit by a boulder. Apollo tells him to have courage. With these words Hector becomes stronger and rushes off to battle. Here he charges the Greeks with new found fervor and the defenders are astonished at his recovery. Thoas (1) is the first Greek to comment:

"Look - a genuine miracle right before my eyes!
Hector's escaped again, he's risen from the dead!
And just as each of us hoped with all his heart
He'd dropped and died at the hands of giant Ajax.
But again some god swoops down and saves this Hector -
And hasn't he wiped out enough of us already?
Now he'll make more slaughter, well I know.
He'd never be at the front, smashing our lines
Unless Old Thunder, Zeus, had put him on his feet."
Book 15, lines 339-347

Thoas recommends that the captains rush forward to meet his assault to encourage their own men and delay his advance. He orders many of the soldiers to withdraw and protect the ships. Hector rushes in and Apollo accompanies him holding the storm shield. With this shield he deflects all arrows and spears flung by the Greeks. As he looks into their eyes he shakes their courage and many flee, stampeding like beasts. Hector slaughters many and commands his troops to storm the ships. He threatens the stragglers of his own army with death if they do not hurry up. Apollo leads them into the trench again. Nestor prays to Zeus who releases a clap of thunder as a sign only to further encourage the Trojans. They storm the walls.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 20

Patroclus has remained with Eurypylus during all of this, but when he sees the panic of the Greek forces he is overcome by guilt and leaves with the intention of rousing Achilles. Hector continues to push through the Greeks as Ajax kills a Trojan. Hector attempts to attack Ajax, but he hits another Greek instead. Ajax calls out to Teucer. Teucer shoots one Trojan and then takes careful aim at Hector. Zeus, however, desires to protect Hector and causes Teucer's bowstring to snap. Teucer laments his broken string, but Ajax tells him to leave it and pick up a spear. Hector notices that Teucer has stopped shooting and calls up the Trojans again, inspiring them:

"So fight by the ships, all together. And that comrade
Who meets his death and destiny, speared or stabbed,
Let him die! He dies fighting for fatherland -
No dishonor there!
He'll leave behind him wife and sons unscathed,
His house and estate unharmed- once these Argives
Sail for home, the fatherland they love."
Book 15, lines 574-580

Ajax, in turn tries to rally the Greeks explaining that it is a shame to die in such a small space defending the ships from inferior men. The Greeks stand their ground, each side of battle killing men.

Menelaus withdraws from battle, having spurred on Antilochus. Antilochus kills a Trojan. Hector sees this happening and charges as the Trojans shower the Greeks with missiles. Hector is compared to a fire charging at the main force and a lion lunging as the Achaeans stampede. The Trojans storm the ships and the Greeks begin to hold their ground. Nestor rallies the Greeks as he tells them to stand and fight, remembering their families. Ajax leaps from ship to ship fighting off the invaders. Hector comes down on Greeks as an eagle swoops on a flock of birds. Hector calls for a torch to burn the ships and Ajax stands with a pike killing men as they run up to him.

Topic Tracking: Rage 10
Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 14

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