Book 3 Notes from The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 3

After the armies have gathered they begin to march towards each other. Homer maintains his nature simile for armies in this section. The two armies move toward each other like wild fowl or cranes and the dust is like "mist on the mountaintops" Book 3, line 10, at the front of the Trojan army. Menelaus sees him and hopes for revenge but as soon as Paris sights Menelaus, he sinks back into the line. Hector finds him and chastises him for stealing Helen in the first place. Paris says that this criticism is fair and requests a duel with Menelaus.

Hector announces this challenge. Menelaus accepts the challenge but requires Priam's oath.

Meanwhile, Iris has been sent to Helen to fill her with a longing for Menelaus. Within the walls of the city, Priam collects his entourage. Many of them lament Helen's beauty and her arrival in Troy. Priam speaks gently to Helen. The two look out over the battlefield and point out warriors. Helen points out Agamemnon and Priam expresses his envy of the Greek King's position. Helen also points out the broader Odysseus and the giant Ajax Telamon as well as Idomeneus. Heralds gather the offerings to be made before the battle while Priam speaks with Helen

Priam leaves the walls of the city to meet with Odysseus. Agamemnon swears that if Menelaus loses to Paris, then the Greeks will sail home, but if Paris loses, then the Trojans must surrender Helen and all of her treasures. He adds that if Priam and his sons do not pay this bounty, then he will fight it out to the end. Agamemnon makes his half of the sacrifice. Priam swears to the sacrifice but then announces that he cannot bear to watch the battle. Priam returns to the city.

Hector and Odysseus draw lots for the two combatants for the first spear throw. Both armies pray to Zeus, but Paris gets the honor. With Menelaus ready, Paris hurls a spear at him hitting him the middle of the shield but not wounding him. Menelaus hurls his spear at Paris, and, although he pierces the mail shirt, he does not wound him. Then Menelaus draws his sword only to shatter it on Paris' helmet. Angered by this, Menelaus grabs Paris by crest and begins to drag him away. Aphrodite comes to Paris' rescue and returns him to the walls of Troy. Here she urges Helen to go to him and make love to him. Helen questions the motivations of the goddess and Aphrodite responds harshly:

"Don't provoke me - wretched headstrong girl!
Or in my immortal rage I may just toss you over
Hate you as I adore you now - with a vengeance."
Book 3, lines 480-482

Helen bends to the will of Aphrodite, but when she comes to Paris she taunts him and says she wishes he had died by the hand of Menelaus, the better man. Paris, however, is unaffected and takes Helen to bed with him.

At the disappearance of Paris, Menelaus is enraged. Agamemnon announces that the Trojans have lost and demands Helen and the treasure.

Topic Tracking: Rage 3
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 6

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