Book 18 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 18

Achilles watches the retreat from afar and worries about the fate of Patroclus. Antilochus arrives and confirms his worst fears. Grief overcomes Achilles as he falls to the ground weeping. He lets out a terrible cry and all the sea nymphs gather. Thetis addresses her sister nymphs and laments that she will not be able to embrace her son again. She approaches her son and asks him why he is weeping. Achilles curses his birth and says that he has lost the spirit to live. Thetis warns him that his death will follow Hector's and Achilles says, "Then let me die at once." Book 18, line 112 He promises to forget his rage and lie in peace once he has died. Thetis tells him that she will let him rush to his death, but only after she brings new weapons.

Thetis tells the other nymphs to go home because she plans to visit Hephaestus. Meanwhile, the Trojans keeps attacking the retreating Greeks. Hector rushes forward three times and is repulsed three times. Iris comes to Achilles and tells him to go to the trenches without armor to inspire the troops. Athena brings him the storm cloud shield and puts a flame over his head. Achilles shouts three times and the Trojans whirl in panic. Twelve Trojans die and Hera makes night fall.

The Trojans meet in a council and Polydamas advises them to retreat to the walls of the city before dawn in fear of Achilles. If they withdraw, they might be able to conserve their strength and guard the city. Hector becomes disgusted:

"No more, Polydamas! Your pleading repels me now.
You say go back again - be crammed inside the city.
Aren't you sick of being caged inside those walls?"
Book 18, lines 331-333

Hector commands them to eat, collect everything from the battlefield and stand again tomorrow because "[t]he god of war is impartial: he hands out death to the man who hands out death." Book 18, lines 359-360. The Trojans listen to Hector.

The Greeks mourn Patroclus all night long. Achilles laments that he promised Patroclus' father his safety. Achilles has Patroclus' wounds cleaned and the body bathed in olive oil. All night long the Greeks raise the funeral dirge.

Thetis arrives at the home of Hephaestus. Hephaestus recalls that Thetis saved his life when he was flung down from heaven so he asks her what he can do. Thetis explains what has happened and asks for a set of armor for her son. Hephaestus begins work immediately. The most intricate of the armor is the shield, made of triple-ply metal and carved with an elaborate scene. Hephaestus divides the shield into the world, the stars, the sea and the sun and moon with the ocean surrounding the entire circle in a ribbon of blue. On these he forms two cities, one possessing a wedding with a quarrel and a judge, the other with an army besieging it. The are soldiers fighting a fallow field and the harvesting of a king's estate. Young boys and girls dance near a herd of cattle and a meadow with grazing sheep. A crowd watches all of this. Beside the shield he makes a breastplate, a helmet, greaves and ankle straps, to protect Achilles' tender heels.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 24

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