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The Iliad Book 11 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

Book 11 of Homer's ~'The Iliad~' is another bloody one. The Greeks wake in the morning, roused by a war cry from the gods. They surge into battle and make much progress at first, but they end the day beaten back once more.

War Cry

In Book 11 of The Iliad, Zeus takes a break from his direct involvement in the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans. He sends an emissary instead: ''Zeus sent Discord towards the Achaian ships, carrying in her dreadful hands a portent of war.'' The reader will remember from Book 10, many soldiers and leaders among the Greek forces are on the brink of abandoning Troy to go home to their families. Discord (aptly named) stands outside the Greek camp and gives ''a loud and dreadful war cry.'' It must have been a doozie of a war cry, because not only did it ''put strength into the heart of every man in that host,'' but somehow, only because of this war cry, ''in a moment, battle seemed to them sweeter than a happy voyage to their native land.''

Bloody Battle

After the Greeks are riled up to battle by Discord's war cry, a substantial lot of killing and dying happens. We are told that the two sides come together and cut one another down like farmers harvesting wheat. Agamemnon, Menelaus's brother, is especially successful. He kills so many soldiers that the writer has trouble remembering who they all are. It is a gory business. In one victory, Agamemnon ''spattered bone and brain'' inside a man's helmet. He falls on his victims ''like a lion''. Even when they beg, Agamemnon shows no mercy. One begging soldier was cut down on the spot, and then Agamemnon ''cut off his hands and head, and sent the body trundling along like a roller.'' Pretty gruesome!

Zeus Protects Hector

Zeus, watching the battle from afar, sees Agamemnon killing Trojans right and left, so he suggests to Hector, the hero of the Trojan army, that he should stay out of the way while Agamemnon is ''full of fury dealing death in the forefront of his host.'' Hector seems pretty glad to obey. He gives his soldiers a bit of extra encouragement, and then scoots himself off to safety. In accordance with Zeus's advice, Hector keeps himself tucked away until he sees Agamemnon succumb to an injury on the battle field.

Hector's Turn to be Bloody

After being stabbed in the arm, we are told that Agamemnon fights on courageously for a while. Soon, however, his wound becomes so painful that he needs to be taken back to camp for treatment. Hector sees this moment of weakness and takes the opportunity to charge onto the battlefield. As Agamemnon retreats, Hector begins to kill Greeks in with the same kind of slaughter Agamemnon had been raining down on the Trojans. We read, ''the heads of men fell in heaps before Hector.''

Odysseus and Diomedes Take a Stand

The Greek army begins to retreat as Hector chops off more and more heads. Only Odysseus and Diomedes stand firm and fight back. Fortunately for their sakes, they are pretty much super heroes with the backing of gods, so they actually do a pretty good job of fighting off dozens of Trojan soldiers on their own. Diomedes even succeeds in knocking Hector out of the fight. He launches a spear at Hector's head. The spear is stopped by Hector's helmet, but it hits him hard enough to knock him out. Hector drags himself into his chariot and retreats while Diomedes chases after him, shouting insults.

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