The Iliad Book 10 Summary

Instructor: Erin Burke

Erin has taught college level english courses and has a master's degree in english.

This lesson will summarize the action in Book 10 of Homer's 'The Iliad'. Book 10 involves both the Greek and Trojan sides sending out spies during the night.

Too Stressed to Sleep

It's late and most of the Greek army lie sleeping by their ships. Agamemnon, however, is having trouble getting some shut-eye. He knows that the Trojans have the momentum. Agamemnon looks out and sees the Trojans' fires and hears their music. The Trojans are super confident after their thrashing of the Greeks that day, and Agamemnon is so worried he is literally pulling his hair out. He finally gets up with the idea of going to see Nestor, the wise old counselor.

Meanwhile, Agamemnon's brother Menelaus can't sleep, either. He's also worried about the fact that the Greeks appear to be losing. Not only that, he feels guilty -after all, the whole reason the Greeks are in this war is because of his wife, Helen. It was her kidnapping by the Trojans that led to this whole mess. Menelaus gets up and finds his brother getting his armor on, and Agamemnon instructs Menelaus to round up some men. In the meantime, Agamemnon finds Nestor, who is also awake. The two get Odysseus and Diomedes and some others. They meet up with Menelaus and his group.

Late-Night Espionage

The group of warriors settle down in a ditch, happy to find an open spot that is free of corpses (they don't ask for much). Nestor cuts right to the chase, asking for volunteers to spy on the Trojans. Diomedes pipes up. He wants to go with a partner - two spies are better than one. Diomedes chooses Odysseus because he's daring and brave and also the goddess Athena is partial to him. And everyone knows having a goddess on your side is a major perk.

The two men armor up, and Homer takes a little break to describe Odysseus' tricked-out helmet. It has leather and hide and even boar teeth on it, but what really makes it special is its lineage. It has been passed down through several generations of warriors. When the business about the helmet is over, we return to the action. Odysseus and Diomedes head out on their mission. On the way, they receive a good omen from Athena in the form of a heron. Odysseus and Diomedes offer prayers to Athena asking for her help.

Meanwhile, the Trojans aren't just sitting pretty over in their camp. Hector has called a few of his best men together and he is asking for volunteer spies, too. Finally Dolon says he'll go. Who the heck is Dolon? Good question. He's nowhere near the caliber of the Greek spies, Odysseus and Diomedes. Dolon is the only volunteer, and he wants the horses and chariot of Achilles himself as a reward. Sure, Dolon, whatever you say. Before Dolon even leaves we are told that he will not be returning.

Clash of the Spies

Dolon sets off and is immediately spotted by Odysseus and Diomedes. It is clear that he is fated to fail and not a match for the two Greek spies. The Greeks chase him and then Diomedes throws a spear just to scare him, missing on purpose. Dolon stops, terrified, his teeth chattering in fear, and begs for his life, promising extravagant ransoms from his dad. He's really pretty pathetic compared to those strapping brave Greeks. Odysseus and Diomedes toy with Dolon, playing nice at first and telling him not to worry - they just want information.

Dolon spills everything. He tells them that Hector sent him to spy and had promised Achilles' horses and chariot. Odysseus scoffs at this - as if Dolon could control Achilles magnificent horses! Dolon then tells them that Hector is meeting with his advisors, and some Trojans are awake, but most of the Trojan allies are sleeping. In particular, the newly arrived Thracians are sleeping, and by the way, they have these amazing horses. After giving this information, Dolon naively asks if he can go, and Diomedes responds by promptly cutting off his head. We saw that one coming a mile away, even if poor Dolon didn't!

The Meeting of the Spies
Dolon, Odysseus, and Diomedes

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