Book 16 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 16

Patroclus approaches Achilles in tears and Achilles asks him why he is:

"Like a girl, a baby running after her mother,
Begging to be picked up, and she tugs her skirts,
Holding her back as she tries to hurry off - all tears,
fawning up at her she takes her in her arms..."
Book 16, lines 8-11

Patroclus tells Achilles of all the wounded Greek warriors and curses Achilles for his stubbornness. Achilles gives him permission to enter the battle leading the Myrmidons in his armor. He warns him, however, that he must not lust for battle too much and should retreat after the Trojans have been pushed out of the camp. He expresses a desire to take the walls of Troy with Patroclus by his side.

Meanwhile, Ajax and Hector continue to struggle by the ships. Hector lunges at Ajax and forces him to draw back, wounded. Hector burns a ship as Patroclus rushes to prepare for battle. He dons Achilles' armor and hefts his spear. Achilles rouses the Myrmidons who are said to be wild as wolves in a pack. The fifty ships of the Myrmidon fleet are divided into five battalions, one of which is led by Pisander (3). Achilles addresses the Myrmidons and encourages them to fight with rage remembering how their leader has been dishonored. The Myrmidons enter the battle:

"[T]ight as a mason packs a good stone wall,
That fights the ripping winds - crammed so close
The crested helmets, the war-shields bulging, jutting
Buckler-to-buckler, helm-to-helm, man-to-man massed tight
And the horsehair crests on glittering helmet horns brushed
as they tossed their head the battalions bulked so dense."
Book 16, lines 251-257

Achilles retrieves a special cup and pours libation to Zeus praying for Patroclus to come back unharmed having gained glory. The Myrmidons swarm like bees as Patroclus sounds the charge and fills them with courage.

The Trojans see the coming Myrmidons and believe that Achilles has finally come to battle. The Greeks start to push the Trojans back many are wounded and the Greek captains are compared to wolves coming down on goats or lambs. Ajax comes up against Hector but misses again and Hector is carried away by his horses. Patroclus continues to push the Greeks and chase the fleeing Trojans. He cuts some off near the warships and slaughters them. Menelaus cuts through the Trojans, striking Thoas (2) in the chest. Sarpedon rallies the Trojans to rescue their trapped compatriots. Zeus laments the fate of his son Sarpedon, but Hera tells him that if he rescues his son the other gods will want to rescue theirs. She attempts to comfort him by reminding him that there are solemn honors due to the dead. Zeus showers the earth with tears of blood.

Topic Tracking: Rage 11

Patroclus kills a Trojan and Sarpedon hurls at him by misses and hits a horse. Automedon reaches forward and cuts the horse free. Patroclus hurls and hits Sarpedon in the heart, he falls like an oak or poplar. Sarpedon calls to Glaucus asking for vengeance.

Grief overcomes Glaucus who prays to Apollo to heal his wound so that he may save Sarpedon's body. After Apollo grants his prayer, Glaucus gathers Trojan captains to retrieve the corpse. The Greeks rally around the body planning to mutilate it, but Zeus makes night fall to make this more difficult.

As the two sides clash over the body many men fall and for a moment the Trojans hesitate. Meriones kills a Trojan captain and Aeneas tries to exact his revenge but fails. Meriones taunts the Trojans even though Patroclus tells him to save his breath. Zeus intervenes once again and makes Hector a coward so he will call the Trojan retreat. Patroclus strips the armor from Sarpedon's corpse and Zeus sends Apollo to save his body from any further disgrace.

Patroclus, ignoring Achilles' warning to stop fighting as soon as the camp was clear, pursues the fleeing Trojans up to the walls and the Scaean gates. He charges the gates three times and is repulsed by Apollo each time. On his fourth attempt, Apollo speaks:

"Patroclus, Prince, go back! It is not the will of fate
That the proud Trojans' citadel fall before your spear,
Not even before Achilles - far greater man than you!"
Book 16, lines 825-828

Patroclus obeys the god, but does not retreat altogether. Meanwhile, Hector remains indecisive on whether to rally his men outside the gates or move them inside the city and man the walls. Apollo takes the form of Asius and encourages him not to stop fighting with the additional possibility of killing Patroclus. Hector orders Cebriones back into battle. Patroclus almost kills him with a stone and taunts the as he takes Cebriones' armor. Hector leaps down to regain the armor and we see the armies clash like the east and west winds. Patroclus charges another three times and his spear is shattered. Apollo hits him from behind and loosens his grip on his spear as well as knocking off his helmet and breastplate. Euphorbus spears him, but he does not fall. Hector watches all of this and spears him again. As Patroclus hits the ground, Hector gloats over him and says his body will be food for the vultures. Patroclus retorts with his dying breath:

"Hector! Now is your time to glory to the skies...
Now the victory is yours.
A gift of the Son of Cronus, Zeus - Apollo too -
They brought me down with all their deathless ease,
They are the ones who tore the armor off my back.
Even if twenty Hectors had charges against me
They'd all have died here, laid low by my spear.
No, deadly fate in league with Apollo killed me,
From the ranks of men, Euphorbus. You came third,
And all you could do was finish off my life...
One more thing - take it to heart, I urge you -
You too won't live long yourself, I swear."
Book 16, lines 985-997

Patroclus prophesies Hector's death at the hands of Achilles and Hector continues to taunt him after he dies. Automedon flees the battle with his chariot.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 21
Topic Tracking: Rage 12

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