Book 21 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 21

Achilles splits the Trojan line at the River Xanthus. The Trojan men "[s]pun like locusts swarming up in the air, whipped by rushing fire." (Book 21, lines 13-14) He wades into the river leaving his spear on the bank and kills many men, taking twelve captive. He meets Lycaon, a Trojan who has already been captured and ransomed once. Lycaon grasps Achilles' knees as he is about to be struck and asks to be spared. Achilles hesitates as Lycaon tells him that he is a half brother to Hector. Achilles calls him a fool and kills him anyway:

"Nothing can save you now -
Not even your silver whirling, mighty - tiding river -
Not for all the bulls you've slaughtered to it for years,
The rearing stallions drowned alive in its eddies...die! -
Even so - writhing in death till all you Trojans pay
For Patroclus' blood and the carnage of Achaeans
Killed by the racing ships when I was out of action."
Book 21, lines 149-155

As Achilles exults over Lycaon's body, the river god Xanthus gets more angry. He inspires Asteropaeus with the courage to stand up to Achilles. The two speak and then Asteropaeus, being ambidextrous, hurls two spears at once. One hits Achilles' right arm.. Achilles hurls and misses. Asteropaeus tries to draw his spear three times but Achilles kills him. Achilles exults some more and continues to slaughter Trojans. Xanthus demands that he stop because he is cluttered with blood and corpses. Achilles agrees to stop killing in the river, but pledges to keep killing.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 28
Topic Tracking: Rage 16

Xanthus appeals to Apollo and chastises him for not saving more Trojan lives. Achilles overhears this and dives in the river to attack the god. Xanthus surges and throws the floating corpses at Achilles. Then he hits the Greek with a giant wave. Achilles grasps an elm branch, but the entire tree comes out at its roots. Achilles continues to flee and Xanthus follows. As Xanthus gets closer, Achilles calls out to Zeus:

"Father Zeus! To think in all my misery not one god
Can bring himself to rescue me from this river!
Then I'd face any fate. And no god on high,
Non is to blame so much as my dear mother -
How she lied, she beguiled me, she promised me
I'd lie beneath the walls of the armored Trojans
Cut down in blood by Apollo's whipping arrows!"
Book 21, lines 307-314

Poseidon and Athena move towards him. Poseidon gives Achilles courage to keep running and fighting. Xanthus appeals to another river for help alluding to the coming fall of Troy. Hera calls to Hephaestus and he uses fire to push back the river.

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 29

The gods reenter the battle. Ares and Athena clash and Ares is wounded with a rock. Aphrodite leads the god of war from the battle. Athena charges at Aphrodite. Poseidon tells Apollo that they have disgraces themselves by not fighting and that Apollo should not support the Trojan cause because of the ancient deception of Laomedon. Apollo turns and runs, afraid to face his father's brother in battle. His sister Artemis taunts him as he flees and Hera treats this as a challenge. Leto and Hermes agree not to fight each other.

Apollo returns to the city of Troy and Priam orders the main gates to be thrown open so that the Trojan men, fleeing Achilles, may enter the city. In all the confusion, the Greeks would have entered the city, but Apollo inspired the Trojan Agenor to stand his ground:

"God forbid that Achilles sees me turning tail,
Heading from town and out to open country -
He'll come after me full tilt and run me down!
And then no way to escape my death, my certain doom -
Achilles is far too strong for any man on earth.
Wait... what if I face him out before the walls?
Surely his body can be pierced by bronze, even his -
He has only one life, and people say he's mortal:
It's only the son of Cronus handing him the glory."
Book 21, lines 648-656

He taunts Achilles and hits his shin with a spear. Achilles, protected by his armor, keeps coming, although he has been slowed down. Apollo rescues Agenor and takes him near the River Xanthus. The rest of the Trojans retreat into Troy. Achilles chasses after Apollo, enraged

Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 30

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