The Iliad Book 24 Summary

Instructor: Christine Arnold

Christine taught high school English literature and tutored at the college level. Christine has a master's degree from Duke University.

In Book 24 of Homer's 'The Iliad', Priam of Troy goes to the Myrmidon camp and asks Achilles for Hector's body. The epic poem ends with the Trojans burying Hector. Read on for the summary of Book 24.

The Story So Far

As a refresher, in Book 22, Achilles, leader of the Greek Myrmidons, is very upset about his best friend's, Patroclus', death. Remember, Hector of Troy killed Patroclus in Book 16. So, Achilles decides to fight and get revenge.

Achilles Slays Hector
Achilles Slays Hector

Achilles stabs Hector in the throat. Then Achilles ties Hector's dead body to his chariot and drags it around Troy.

Achilles Drags Hector
Achilles Drags Hector

Keep in mind, honoring the dead is a core value for the Greeks and Trojans. Since Achilles drags Hector's body back to the Greek camp, the Trojans cannot honor Hector.

In Book 23, the Greek's properly mourn and honor Patroclus. This is important! Achilles and the Greeks honored Patroclus, but Priam and the Trojans are unable to honor Hector, because Achilles is keeping the body hostage!

Summary of Book 24

When Book 24 begins, we see that Achilles has been dragging Hector's body around Patroclus' grave for days. The god Apollo is watching and feels that Hector is being disgraced by Achilles. Apollo decides to protect the body, so Hector can be properly honored by the Trojans.

The god Zeus also decides to get involved and asks Achilles' mom, Thetis, for help. Zeus tells Thetis that he will give Achilles glory if Achilles returns Hector's body. Thetis delivers the message to Achilles.

While this is going on, Zeus calls on Iris (his messenger goddess) to deliver a message to Priam:

  1. Bring gifts to Achilles.
  2. Go alone, with an older herald.
  3. Don't fear death. Zeus will send you a guide (Hermes) to help you.
  4. Achilles won't kill you. He will obey the gods and return Hector's body.

Priam decides to go to the Myrmidon camp and get his son's body.

Priam goes on his journey with Idaeus, the older herald, and a wagon full of gifts. Hermes appears as a young, Greek soldier and tells Priam and Idaeus that he can help them sneak into the Myrmidon camp.

When they get there, Hermes reveals his true identity and then returns to the gods in Mt. Olympus. Idaeus stays with the wagon, and Priam goes into Achilles' tent.

When Priam sees Achilles, he kneels and kisses Achilles' hands. Priam says that he wants his son's body and that he has a ransom in return. Priam then says that he's done 'what no one on earth has ever done before-- / I put to my lips the hands of the man who killed my son~.'

Priam Begs Achilles
Priam Begs

After a heated conversation, Achilles decides to take the ransom and return Hector's body. Achilles and Priam feast and decide Priam will sleep in the Greek camp, and then return to Troy with Hector's body.

Achilles asks Priam how long the Trojans need to honor Hector. Priam says they need eleven days. After a quick nap, Priam returns to Idaeus and the wagon, which now has Hector's body.

When returning to Troy, Cassandra, Priam's daughter and Hector's sister, sees them from the tower walls. She cries to all of the Trojans that Priam is returning and has Hector's body! Immediately, Trojans begin spilling out of the city to welcome Priam and Hector home.

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