The Iliad
Homer
Contributed by Joslyn Justiniano

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Book 13-14
Summary

Summary: Book 13

Zeus is pleased with the progress of the war, and he leaves the battlefield. Poseidon wants to assist the Achaeans. He realizes that Zeus has left, and he goes to see Great Ajax and Little Ajax while in the form of Calchas. He helps them feel more confident in their ability to hold back the Trojan assault. Additionally, he encourages the remainder of the Achaeans, who have gone to the sides of the ships in tears. They feel encouraged and more positive about the situation, and the Achaeans again make their stand against the Trojans. The Great Ajax and the Little Ajax (the two are referred to as the Aeantes, as this is the plural of Ajax) are able to push Hector back. Hector aims his lance at Teucer and throws it, but Teucer moves out of the weapon’s way. Poseidon’s grandson, Amphimachus, is hit and killed instead. Poseidon desires vengeance, and he gives Idomeneus great power. Meriones is then joined by Idomeneus in leading the forces in charging the Trojans. This is at the left wing of the Achaeans. Numerous Trojan soldiers are cut down by Idomeneus, who is eager to kill Deiphobus, a warrior. He makes a point of taunting this Trojan. Deiphobus summons Aeneas and other comrades for help. There is then an extended skirmish. Menelaus kills several Trojans, and Deiphobus is wounded.

Hector keeps up his assault on the right. However, the Trojans who are with him no longer have the energy they need as a result of having been terribly battered by the Great Ajax and the Little Ajax. Some of these men have gone back to the fortifications’ Trojan side. Those who have chosen to remain and fight are scattered on the battlefield. Polydamas encourages Hector to re-organize his forces. Hector goes to get Paris and attempts to bring his comrades together from the line’s left end. Unfortunately, he discovers them all to be dead or wounded. Hector is insulted by Great Ajax. On Ajax’s right, an eagle appears. For the Achaeans, this is a good omen.

Summary: Book 14

Leaving Machaon, who is wounded, in his tent. He leaves to go out by the ships to meet the other wounded commanders of the Achaean forces. The men look over the battlefield and recognize that their losses have been terrible. Agamemnon suggests that they give up and set sail, heading for home. Odysseus turns on him and says that the idea is disgraceful as well as cowardly. Diomedes encourages them to rally their troops. As they start to make their way to the line, Agamemnon is encouraged by Poseidon. Poseidon helps to strengthen the Achaean army.

Zeus is on Mount Ida, and Hera sees him. The god is overlooking Troy. Hera thinks up a plan to distract Zeus, so that he will be able to assist the Achaeans while he isn’t looking. She goes to see Aphrodite and tricks her into providing a breastband that is enchanted and woven with all the powers of Love and Longing. This breastband is intended to be able to drive even the sanest men mad. She then sets off to see the embodiment of Sleep. She promises to allow him to marry one of her daughters, and she persuades him to make Zeus go to sleep. Sleep accompanies her to the top of Mount Idea. He disguises himself as a bird, and he hides himself in a tree. Hera is seen by Zeus. Sleep makes Zeus seized by passion, and the god makes love to Hera and then falls asleep. Hera tells Poseidon that he is now able to bring the Achaeans to victory without Zeus’s interference. After they are regrouped by Poseidon, the Achaeans charge the Trojans. In the battle that ensues, Great Ajax uses a boulder as a weapon to knock down Hector to the ground. As a result, the Trojans are forced to carry Hector back to Troy. Now that Hector is gone, the Achaeans are able to defeat their enemies. There are many Trojan deaths, and the remainder of their forces return to the city.

Analysis

In Book 14, the scene with Hera and Zeus does very little to move the plot of the poem forward. Zeus has already left the battlefield, and he has ceased in his support of the Trojans. However, there is some comic relief. It is again interesting how the mortal world’s issues of life and death are so frequently determined by the gods’ petty disputes. It is here that we see a decisive change in the battle as a result of the fact that Aphrodite is gullible and Zeus is lustful. This is just one of  many times we see that the divinities are often not at all levelheaded or rational. They are subject to many of the emotions and needs as humans. It is notable that Home refrains from questioning or passing judgment on the temperaments of the gods. He simply accepts their faults and sensitivities.

While the Greeks are now again able to obtain power, the troops are rallied under leaders who are temporarily weakened. Aeantes and Menelaus are exceptions, but few of the Achaean warriors with whom the reader is familiar end up fighting in Books 13 and 14.  Diomedes, Odysseus, and Agamemnon have all incurred injuries, and Nestor must now take care of Machaon, the wounded healer. Menelaus does appear briefly on one occasion. The narrative is affected in several fascinating ways by the new focus on the second string of the Greeks. Firstly, it brings the focus on the commanders of the Trojans. Aeneas, Paris, and Hector all have important roles in this part of the work. Hector’s ability to lead, for example, is prominent. With Polydamas’s assistance, he is forced to decide how his army should be divided along the Achaean line. He must also decide whether his forces should retreat or be regrouped. In a similar way, by making fewer senior commanders stay in the middle of the fight on the side of the Achaeans, Homer can focus on the main Achaean characters’ tactical and leadership abilities. All of this is appropriate to the overall attention paid to war’s tactical rather than physical aspects in Book 13 and 14. There is less chaos and the movement among groups of men is more controlled in these books. Hector and Polydamas talk about the part of the line that requires reinforcement. Poseidon encourages the Achaeans to be more efficient in the redistribution of their arms between the weaker and stronger men. Even Hera’s deceptions and collaboration with Poseidon stand in stark contrast with the brutal force used by Zeus to help the Trojans in Books 8 through 12.

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