Book 17 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 17

Menelaus observes the death of Patroclus and runs to guard his body "like a mother cow lowing over a calf". (Book 17, line 5) The Trojan Euphorbus comes to take the body but King Menelaus will not yield. Euphorbus strikes at him and misses only to be killed by Menelaus. Menelaus intends to strip him of his armor but Apollo inspires Hector in the shape of a Trojan to stop chasing Achilles' chariot team. Hector releases a war - cry as he turns around and intimidates Menelaus who knows that he cannot stand against Hector and the other Trojan chiefs. Menelaus turns back and finds Ajax Telamon, explaining to him the plight of Patroclus' body.

Ajax and Menelaus charge towards Hector, they repulse the Trojan and Ajax stands over the body:

" a lion cornered round his young
When hunters cross him, leading his cubs through woods -
He ramps in all the pride of his power, bristling strength
The heavy folds of his forehead frowning down his eyes."
Book 17, lines 151-155

Glaucus scowls at Hector, calling him a girlish coward for retreating from his prize and the body of Sarpedon. Glaucus accuses him of lacking the nerve to fight Ajax. Hector calls Glaucus insolent claiming that he does not go after Ajax because he fears Zeus. Hector calls up the Trojan lines and puts on Achilles' armor, which he stole from the body of Patroclus. Zeus watches this with pity, knowing that the armor is not rightfully his and although he will have power now, he will ultimately fail.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 22
Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 15
Topic Tracking: Rage 13

Hector surges ahead inspiring the Trojan captains by saying "live or die - that is the lovely give-and-take of war." Book 17, line 262 He promises that the man who brings back the body of Patroclus will share the spoils. Ajax and Menelaus watch the coming crowd. And call other Greeks to help them. The onslaught of the Trojan army is "charging in as a heavy surf roars in against the rip/ at a river's mouth." Book 17, lines 299-300 The Greeks fight but the Trojans push them back. Ajax ploughs into the Trojan line like a boar, scattering the attackers.

A Trojan dragging the body of Patroclus is killed by Ajax. Hector hurls at Ajax and hits another Greek instead. In the face of Ajax's rage, the Trojan line would have been pushed back, but Apollo encourages Aeneas in the form of a Trojan. Apollo tells Aeneas to defend his country and Aeneas calls to Hector. The two sides exchange deaths and Ajax orders the Greeks to cluster around Patroclus. They heed his command:

"So on they fought like a swirl of living fire -
You could not say if the sun and moon still stood secure,
So dense the battle-haze that engulfed the brave
Who stood their ground to defend Patroclus' body."
Book 17, lines 421-424

The Trojans continue to assault them. The battle over the body rages on and the Greek captains encourage their men to fight to the death. Zeus breathes new fire into Achilles' horses and Automedon attempts to break towards Achilles' camp. He fights as he goes, like a vulture in geese and he asks another to take the reigns. Hector, seeing this, sends Aeneas in pursuit.

Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 16
Topic Tracking: Rage 14

Hector and Aeneas follow the chariot. Automedon and Alcimedon continue to fight and other Greeks enter in their defense. The battle rages around Patroclus' body. Zeus sends Athena to Menelaus in the form of Phoenix. Menelaus appeals to her and she fills his heart with daring, He kills the Trojan Podes, whom Hector prizes. Apollo exposes this death to Hector and drives him on telling him not to fear Menelaus.

Grief takes Hector and Zeus hurls a bolt of lightning, pushing back the Greek army. Idomeneus spears and wounds Hector and then retreats. Menelaus and Ajax realize that Zeus is favoring the Trojans. Ajax decides that a messenger ought to be sent to Achilles and tells Menelaus to find Antilochus to do the job. Antilochus is stunned by the news of Patroclus' death and weeps as he runs to Achilles. Ajax has Menelaus and Meriones pick up the body as he and others guard them. They move slowly in retreat.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 23

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