The Iliad Book 15 Summary

Instructor: Erin Burke

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

This lesson will summarize Book 15 of Homer's 'Iliad.' In Book 15, Zeus and the gods intervene to help give the Trojans the upper hand. We know, though, that the favor of the gods will ultimately fall on the Greeks, and the Trojans days of glory are limited.

Zeus Is Back

Zeus wakes up after being seduced and duped by Hera. He realizes immediately that while he was 'distracted' (i.e. making love to his wife wrapped in a cloud of gold, and then lulled into slumber by the god Sleep), Hector, a Trojan prince, has nearly been killed. Zeus is pretty ticked at Hera for orchestrating Hector's assault and the rout of the Trojans. Hera plays dumb, batting her eyelashes and claiming she had nothing to do with it - it was all Poseidon, she swears! Zeus is satisfied with her explanation and tells her they must unite against Poseidon. He orders Hera to get Iris and Apollo to come and help.

Zeus then reveals his master plan for the war. His support for the Trojans is only temporary, meant to highlight the great warrior Achilles' glory even more when he finally rejoins the battle. Zeus also reveals that the course of the war is already determined. He knows that Hector will kill Patroclus, which will finally spur Achilles to re-enter the fighting and ultimately lead the Greeks to victory.

The Good Wife

Hera is done with deception and seduction, at least for the time being. She swiftly follows Zeus' orders, heading off to Mount Olympus to summon Iris and Apollo. While she's there, she does talk some smack about her husband, complaining about him and his annoying rage. Still, she admits, there's not much she or the other immortals can do but put up with Zeus - he is the most powerful, after all. Hera commands Iris and Apollo to go see Zeus ASAP to receive their orders, and then returns to her throne.

Iris' Task

The two immortals report to Zeus, and Iris gets her job first. Zeus commands her to give a message to Poseidon, who is currently raining down pain on the Trojans. Iris is to tell him to stop at once on the order of his brother, Zeus, and if he doesn't, he'll regret it. Iris obediently heads over to Poseidon and relates the message.

Poseidon doesn't take it well - he can barely contain his rage at his big brother's arrogance. Poseidon claims to be Zeus' equal and just as powerful as Zeus is. Iris persuades him to rethink this and Poseidon finally gives in, but threatens that if the Greeks aren't ultimately the winners of the war, the rift between him and Zeus will never heal. With that Poseidon disappears into the ocean. He does love a dramatic exit.

Apollo's Turn

Seeing that Iris has completed her mission, Zeus turns to Apollo. Apollo's job is to go to Hector and invigorate him with new strength and courage. This is a tall order, since the last time we saw Hector he was bent over, vomiting and near death. Apollo swoops off down to Hector, who is still dazed but slowly coming to. Apollo's approach is to first taunt Hector, asking why he's so far from his troops. Defensive, Hector answers, explaining about the huge boulder to the chest he took from Ajax. Apollo drops the taunting act and reassures Hector, telling him that Zeus is on his side and has sent Apollo to save him.

Apollo Helps Hector
Apollo Helps Hector

The Trojans Are Coming! The Trojans Are Coming!

Thanks to Apollo, Hector is refreshed. He rejoins the ranks, and when the Greeks see him, their hearts collectively sink. This is bad news for them. The Greek Thoas tries to rouse his troops, calling for the best fighters to hold their ground and defend their ships while the rest of the Greeks fall back. The elite Greek fighters respond, falling into line and holding fast in front of their ships.

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