Book 20 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 20

The Greeks line up for battle and Zeus calls all the gods to an assembly. Poseidon is the first to speak and he asks Zeus why they have been assembled. Zeus says "These mortals do concern me, dying as they are." Book 20, line 26 He tells that gods that they may go forward and fight for whatever side they wish because if Achilles fights unheeded, the Trojans will not be able to hold him. Hera, Poseidon, Athena and Hermes go to help the Greeks. Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Xanthus and Aphrodite go to help Troy. Achilles blazes into battle, gods and mortals fight side by side. Ares and Athena release their war cries. Gods challenge gods. Achilles burns to find Hector, but Apollo pushes Aeneas after him in the form of a Trojan soldier. Aeneas is afraid to fight Achilles because he has been defeated by him before, but Apollo encourages him to pray to Zeus because he is closer in heritage to the father of the gods than Achilles.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 26

Hera spots Aeneas and tells Poseidon and Athena to turn him around so that Achilles will not doubt his own courage. The gods sit back and watch from both sides of the battle. Achilles meets Aeneas ans asks him why he has ventured so far forward and tells him that Zeus will not favor him now. Aeneas reminds him of his lineage and his closer relationship to Zeus, but then he stops himself:

"What do we need with wrangling, hurling insults?
Cursing each other here like a pair of nagging women
Boiling over with petty, heartsick squabbles, blustering
Into the streets to pelt themselves with slander
Much of it true, much not. Anger stirs up lies."
Book 20, lines 291-295

Aeneas hurls a spear but cannot pierce Achilles' shield. Achilles throws, pierces the shield but misses Aeneas' body. Aeneas is dazed. Poseidon shows Hera what is happening and says he wants to save Aeneas because he is innocent. Hera tells Poseidon that he is free to do whatever he wants to do. Poseidon puts a mist in front of Achilles' eyes and rescues Aeneas, leaving Achilles his spear. Poseidon orders Aeneas to cease fighting until Achilles is dead. Achilles stares with disgust at the divine magic thinking that "the deathless gods must love Aeneas too!" (Book 20, line 396)

Achilles returns to the battle line and rallies his troops. Hector rallies the Trojans in turn planning to engage Achilles. Apollo tells Hector to await Achilles in the main lines so he will not be killed. Achilles pushes on and Hector draws back. Achilles kills many Trojans among whom is Polydorus (1), a brother of Hector. Upon seeing his brother's death, Hector rushes forward. Achilles taunts him and tells him that he is rushing to his death. Hector replies:

"Well I know you are brave, and I am far weaker.
True - but all lies in the lap of the great gods.
Weaker I am, but I still might take your life
With one hurl of a spear - my weapon can cut too,
Long before now its point has found its mark!"
Book 20, lines 492 - 496

Hector throws his spear but is thwarted and Achilles charges. Apollo moves Hector out of the way and Achilles screams in rage.

Achilles continues his killing spree and rages "like an inhuman fire raging on through the mountain gorges." (Book 20, line 554)

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 27
Topic Tracking: Nature Imagery 18
Topic Tracking: Rage 15

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