Notes on The Iliad Themes

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The Iliad Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention

Books 1 - 4

Divine Intervention 1: Chryses appeal to Apollo causes the god to attack the Greek armies with plague. This intervention leads to the angering of Agamemnon at Calchas' prophecy and Achilles' withdrawal for battle. Apollo's intervention on Chryses' behalf begins the series of events that continue throughout the epic.

Divine Intervention 2: Athena prevents Achilles from losing his temper and attacking Agamemnon, promising him greater glory if he waits. Athena's intervention alters the course of the story line. If Achilles had attacked Agamemnon, by winning he would have disrupted the chain of command and by losing he would have ended the story line. Without Agamemnon there is no war, without Achilles there is no hero and no rage.

Divine Intervention 3: At Thetis' request, Zeus pledges that the Greeks will suffer defeat without Achilles in their ranks. Thetis, by interfering on her son's behalf, prompts Zeus to dictate the next seventeen books of the epic. Until the death of Patroclus the story that is told is that of a Trojan resurgence and the fulfillment of Achilles' request.

Divine Intervention 4: Zeus' dream causes Agamemnon to mount an attack that he would have otherwise not mounted. This is the beginning of a series of divine actions that support Zeus' pledge to Thetis. Agamemnon's preemptive attack opens the Greeks up to an eventual Trojan offensive and undermines their confidence.

Divine Intervention 5: Iris, Zeus' messenger, calls the Trojan captains to order so that they might meet the coming Greek assault. As the dream inspires Agamemnon to attack, Iris prompts the Trojan captains to make a timely assault. This intervention reinvigorates the Trojan line and overturns a stalemate that has lasted for nine years.

Divine Intervention 6: Aphrodite rescues Paris from an almost certain death and returns him the side of his lover, Helen. This action not only enrages the Greek captains but it also effectively renders the Trojans as 'oath-breakers'. By Greek terms a violation of a truce or agreement sworn to the Gods should result in death or some sort of retribution. Priam, the King of Troy, swears on the behalf of his sons. By not fulfilling their end of the agreement and depriving Menelaus, the Trojans seal their own demise.

Divine Intervention 7: Athena, ordered by Zeus, prompts Pandarus to shoot at Menelaus, restarting the battle. Once again, even though the tide of battle favors the Trojans, they are forced by divine powers to break a truce that they might not otherwise break. This intervention not only reinstates the battle, but it also further seals the demise of the Trojan city.

Books 5 - 8

Divine Intervention 8: Athena inspires Diomedes with the strength and the daring he needs to sustain his rampage. Athena's aid fills Diomedes with rage and produces carnage. This rampage directs the course of the battle for this entire book as Diomedes leads the Greek offensive and Trojan captains attempt to stand up to him.

Divine Intervention 9: Aphrodite saves her son Aeneas from death at the hands of Diomedes. This intervention is more indicative of gods struggling with gods than gods manipulating men. Aeneas is threatened only because Diomedes has been made stronger by the influence of Athena. Aphrodite rescues her son from danger as she continues to struggling with hostile gods.

Divine Intervention 10: Ares inspires Hector to lead the Trojans and defend their line against Diomedes' attack. Once again, in response to the action of Athena, a god aides a Trojan captain. Ares raises Hector's strength and fills him with rage so that he can rally the Trojan warriors and defend against the rampaging Greeks.

Divine Intervention 11: Apollo and Athena decide that they want a battle between champions. Hector is inspired to challenge a Greek warrior. The two opposed deities have tired of the chaos of battle and would rather see one champion die than many. Hector, foremost of the Trojans, is chosen for his talent in war and his stature. The Greeks must be shamed by Nestor before they volunteer to face the Trojan. By drawing lots, Ajax is selected to fight.

Divine Intervention 12: Zeus has decreed to the rest of the gods that he should be the only deity to interfere in the war. In order to turn the battle in the war he wants it, the king of the gods must resort to excessive force. Zeus throws thunder bolts to cause a Greek rout. Nestor loses his grip on his reigns. Zeus continues to throw bolts of lightning as the Greeks are pushed into their camp and the Trojans crowd against their walls.

Divine Intervention 13: At Agamemnon's plea, Zeus gives the Greeks a sign that he has not completely forsaken them: a doe dropped by an eagle. This inspires the Greeks to rally. Zeus takes pity on the Greeks because he has decreed that they must suffer a rout giving them a temporary resurgence.

Books 9 - 12

Divine Intervention 14: Diomedes asks for a sign from Athena favoring his foray into the enemy's camps. Athena sends a heron. Inspired by this sign, Diomedes and Odysseus continue on their night raid, compared to lions as they sneak into the Trojan camp. The venture is successful and the pair return to their own camp with spoils, unscathed.

Divine Intervention 15: Apollo rouses a Trojan to defend the raided camp. In response to Athena's support of the Greek marauders, Apollo wakes a Trojan to limit the damage done by the pair. The gods struggle against each other using the mortals as pawns.

Divine Intervention 16: Zeus gives Hector the strength to storm the Trojan walls and break down the doors. With this act, Zeus continues his commitment to a Greek rout allowing the Trojans to breach the walls and threaten the ships themselves. Hector hefts a giant rock and smashed the gate allowing the Trojan masses to flow into the camp.

Books 13 - 16

Divine Intervention 17: The wills of Zeus and Poseidon struggle as Zeus tries to sustain the Trojan storming of the Greek camps and Poseidon tries to repulse it. The divine brothers ply their abilities on the mortals. Poseidon challenges his bother's authority as he inspires the Greek leaders with the strength to return to battle. As Zeus turns away, the Trojans continue to attack and Poseidon intensifies his involvement.

Divine Intervention 18: Poseidon takes the form of a mortal Greek and encourages Agamemnon to reenter battle. In the form of a Greek veteran, Poseidon gives Agamemnon the confidence he needs to return to battle and raise a significant defense against the Trojans. The group of wounded captains return to visibility and rally their warriors.

Divine Intervention 19: Poseidon reenters the battle and encourages the Greeks, resulting in the wounding of Hector. Because Hera has guaranteed that Zeus will be sleeping, Poseidon is brave enough to take a greater part in the battle. Under his inspiration, Hector receives a head wound and is forced to withdraw from battle. This loss undermines the Trojan confidence and advances the Greek rally. Poseidon intervenes against his brother and continues to struggle for his own interests.

Divine Intervention 20: Apollo leads the Trojans to causes another Greek rout. After Zeus awakens to see Hector wounded, he bursts into rage and has Iris threaten Poseidon so that he will stop helping the Greeks. Apollo goes to the aid of the Trojans and leads Hector back into battle where he rallies his captains and regains his losses.

Divine Intervention 21: As the Trojans are driven back to the walls of Troy by the Patroclus and the surging Myrmidons, Apollo flees with them. Although Patroclus has been warned that he should only push the Trojans out of the Greek camp, he doesn't heed the advice. Instead he pushes to the walls of Troy where Apollo warns him to stop attacking. Patroclus continues attacking and Apollo strikes him with an arrow. Patroclus is finished off by Hector. The death of Patroclus, foretold by Zeus, is the only act that can overcome Achilles' rage at Agamemnon and make him return to battle. This intervention is instrumental in the advance of the story-line.

Books 17 - 20

Divine Intervention 22: Hector seizes Achilles' armor off Patroclus' body. Zeus pities Hector and foresees his death, allowing him a few moments of glory. As a result the Trojan prince tears into the Trojan line and strikes down many.

Divine Intervention 23: Zeus pushes back the Greeks with a thunderbolt as Apollo exposes the death of a friend to encourage Hector. Zeus' intervention simultaneously enrages the Greeks and encourages the Trojans. By exposing the death of a friend to Hector, Apollo increases his rage and sends the warrior reeling into battle.

Divine Intervention 24: Thetis acquires new weapons for her son Achilles so that he can reenter the battle and avenge Patroclus. Hephaestus forges these weapons for her. Thetis warns her son again of his fate as she attempts to save his life. She does not succeed. Because he cannot fight without armor, she goes to Hephaestus and gets him to produce unparalleled weaponry. These weapons aid Achilles in his rampage and his defeat of Hector.

Divine Intervention 25: Thetis presents Achilles with his new arms and Athena strengthens him. Achilles is inspired by his new weapons, but he still refuses to it in deference to his fallen comrade. Athena nourished the Greek captain so that he will be able to fight. The intervention of these two goddesses transforms a grieving man into a powerful warrior capable of completing his destiny.

Divine Intervention 26: Apollo sends Aeneas after Achilles to divert the Greek warrior from his search for Hector. This distraction is an intervention meant only to delay the inevitable. Hector is going to die, but if no one stands up to Achilles before he dies many other Trojans will also suffer. Apollo uses Aeneas to defend other Trojans and delay the death of Hector.

Divine Intervention 27: Poseidon distracts Achilles to save Aeneas and Apollo thwarts Achilles' attempt on Hector. Poseidon, though usually favoring Greeks, cannot bear to see Aeneas die at the hands of Achilles, so he rescues the son of Aphrodite. As Achilles gets closer to Hector, Apollo delays the inevitable for a little longer.

Books 21 - 24

Divine Intervention 28: Xanthus, horrified by Achilles' rampage, asks the hero to stop killing men in his waters. Achilles has been filling the waters of the river with corpses and blood. He refuses to stop the killing and, overhearing Apollo talking with Xanthus, he attacks the river god. Xanthus surges up and chases the Greek warrior, stalling his rampage.

Divine Intervention 29: Xanthus attacks Achilles for not agreeing to cease the carnage. Achilles prays to the gods. Poseidon strengthens the Greek. Hephaestus pushes the river back with fire at Hera's request. The gods continue to use mortals as pawns in their own struggles, but the challenge each other and struggle over the course of the war. Hera and Hephaestus stop Xanthus so that Achilles can continue and destroy Hector.

Divine Intervention 30: Apollo inspires Agenor to stand his ground against Achilles, so that the Greek warrior will not enter the city of Troy. Apollo knows that Hector is doomed, but he desires to delay the fall of the city. Agenor stands against Achilles and gives the Trojans time to secure the gates. Apollo rescues the mortal and puts him near the river Xanthus.

Divine Intervention 31: Hector's confidence leaves him as Achilles approaches and he flees around the walls of the city. Achilles chases him three times around the city. On the fourth, Athena takes the form of Deiphobus which makes Hector think that he is not standing up to Achilles alone. Once again confident, the Trojan hero turns and attacks Achilles with his spear. When he turns to get a second spear, she has disappeared.

Divine Intervention 32: Hector dies because of the gods: Zeus decided his fate and Athena deceived him. Athena's deception in the form of Deiphobus transforms Hector's fear into a false courage sealing his fate. When he reaches for a second spear and no one is there, he knows that he is doomed. Hector's death is part of a decree made early on by Zeus--all part of Achilles' retribution and the metamorphosis of his rage.

Divine Intervention 33: Zeus intercedes to save Hector's body and he has Thetis instruct her son Achilles and sends Iris to Priam. Both goddesses encourage their prospective parties to be open to negotiation. Thetis makes her son soften his anger and Iris makes Priam humble. Although Zeus decreed the death of Hector, he also secures the sanctity of his body and the ensuing afterlife.

Divine Intervention 34: Not only does Hermes guide Priam into the Trojan camp, but he also wakes him up so that he may retreat successfully. Because Thetis only went to Achilles, no other Greeks would be willing to receive Priam. By entering the Greek camp, Priam's life was put into imminent danger. Through Hermes' assistance, Priam is able to enter and leave the camp undetected.

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