The Iliad Book 13 Summary

Instructor: Erin Burke

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

This lesson will summarize Book 13 of Homer's 'The Iliad.' Book 13 describes the continuing battle between the Greeks and Trojans. Zeus has departed for the time being and Poseidon is now involved, helping out on the Greek side.

Enter Poseidon

Zeus is getting a little bored with all this fighting. After helping the Trojans dominate, Zeus seems confident in their success and takes off. In his absence, his younger brother Poseidon sees an opportunity. He feels for the Greeks who are taking a pretty bad beating. He's also annoyed with his big brother. In a glorious scene, Poseidon roars down in a chariot pulled by magnificent horses. The sea parts as he rushes through, with dolphins leaping this way and that as he thunders toward the Greek ships. Once he gets there, though, he abandons all the fancy trappings and takes the form of a man named Calchas.

Here Comes Poseidon
Poseidon Enters the Fight

Poseidon's Pep Rally

In his human guise, Poseidon finds Ajax 1 and Ajax 2 - the Greek brothers collectively known as the 'Aeantes' (the plural of Ajax). Poseidon really whips them into a frenzy. He makes a rousing speech, commanding the Aeantes to gather their courage. His fiery words inspire the brothers, but words are not enough. Poseidon also uses god-like powers to bestow courage and strength upon them. He then swoops away. The Aeantes realize they have encountered a god, and they both feel invincible.

Poseidon has come in the nick of time for the Greeks. Most of the soldiers are exhausted and discouraged, some openly weeping. Seeing this, Poseidon gets intense. He makes an impassioned speech and shames the soldiers. He calls them weak, and tells them to pull themselves together already. He challenges them, asking where their pride has gone. His words light a fire under the Greek fighters, who come up alongside the two Aeantes. Quickly a formidable wall of soldiers takes shape, fighters shoulder-to-shoulder in tight formation, ready to withstand the Trojan charge.

Things Get Gory

And here come the Trojans, like an avalanche toward the wall of Greeks. Hector and his men come up against the human wall and chaos ensues. Homer doesn't hold back in describing the violence of hand-to-hand combat. Heads roll, entrails spill, blood gushes. Book 13 is not for the faint of heart!

Poseidon isn't finished. He flies into a rage when Hector kills his grandson. In response Poseidon renews his efforts on the Greek side. Poseidon takes on a human form again and speaks to Idomeneus. Idomeneus is inspired and armors up with his buddy Meriones. When the two reappear on the battlefield's left flank, blessed by Poseidon and wearing their splendid armor, an even more intense fight breaks out. It's a flurry of blood and flesh and armor shining in the sunlight, a terrible and yet thrilling scene.

Sibling Rivalry

Homer pauses to give some background in the spat between Poseidon and Zeus. Zeus has been helping out the Trojans because ultimately he wants more glory for Achilles, the Greek hero. Poseidon, acting the part of the obstinate little brother, goes against Zeus by helping the Greeks. But since Zeus is still more powerful, Poseidon has to be secretive - this is why he takes on human form when he goes among the soldiers.

More Gore and Some Trash Talk

The battle rages on. Idomeneus, freshly inspired by Poseidon, kills many Trojans. By the time he meets Deiphobus, Idomeneus is feeling pretty cocky from all the Trojan blood he's spilled. He taunts the man, calling him names and challenging him. Deiphobus responds by fetching Aeneas to help him meet the challenge. Further carnage ensues, and Idomeneus ends up wounding Deiphobus. And the battle goes on (it's starting to feel a little long). The Greeks seem to have gained the upper hand. Poseidon is still a presence, even intervening to break a spear that was on its way to kill a Greek. As more Trojans die, the Greeks remain cocky. Menelaus kills a soldier and jeers above his corpse in a decidedly un-sportsmanlike way.

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