The Iliad Book 5 Summary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

The battle rages on in Homer's ''The Iliad''. While many brave men lose their lives, the gods intervene to spare the men they favor. This lesson will cover the events of Book 5 in Homer's epic poem.

Diomed's Super Strength

The battle between the Trojans and Achaeans has already claimed many lives, but it still rages fiercely as we begin Book 5 in Homer's The Iliad. Brave men from both sides have fallen. The gods have entered the battle, choosing their sides and heroes and giving aid. At the beginning of Book 5, it is Diomed's turn for godly help when Minerva gives him courage so that he might ''cover himself with glory.''

Have you ever watched an athlete who seems unstoppable? Sometimes, people say the gods must be on the athlete's side. In Diomed's case, this would be absolutely right. He flies across the battlefield, defeating many strong soldiers. During this whirlwind of fighting, the Trojan archer Pandarus sees the destruction Diomed is causing, and shoots an arrow. The arrow goes through Diomed's armor, piercing his shoulder. This injury gives the soldier pause.

Diomed withdraws from fighting for a moment to pray to Minerva for help. Not only does she respond to this plea by increasing his strength, but she also gives him a gift: the ability to see the gods on the battlefield. She warns him not to fight any of the gods, unless he sees Venus. If she shows up, he should wound her.

Now that he's been wounded, Diomed is like a ''lion'' when he rejoins the fighting. With this renewed strength, he is even deadlier than before.

Enter Aeneas

When Aeneas sees the ''havoc'' Diomed is causing, he searches for Pandarus and asks the archer to put an end to the soldier killing so many of their men. Pandarus recognizes Diomed's armor. He knows his shot earlier should have killed Diomed, and yet, he is still here.

Aeneas invites Pandarus to join him in his chariot. Together they will attack. Sthenelus sees them approaching and advises Diomed to retreat. Since Minerva told him to be afraid of no man, Diomed scoffs at this advice. With Minerva's help, Diomed's kills Pandarus.

Aeneas sees Pandarus fall and jumps down from his chariot fully armed to protect the body. While he guards the body, Diomed manages to pick up a giant stone that no man should be able to lift. With this superhuman strength he throws the boulder at Aeneas, knocking him unconscious. He is saved from death only because his mother Venus uses her dress to shield him.

Venus manages to protect her son, but Diomed has not forgotten Minerva's instructions and throws his spear at this weaker goddess. The spear hits her wrist. The injured goddess drops her son, but Apollo steps in and hides Aeneas in a ''cloud of darkness.'' While healing her, Venus's mother, Dione, consoles her by reminding her that ''no man who fights with gods will live long.''

Taking Care of Aeneas

Meanwhile, Apollo protects Aeneas's unconscious body. Despite knowing he is attacking a god, Diomed tries three times before Apollo warns him not to try and ''match yourself against gods.'' Diomed backs off, and Apollo brings Aeneas's body to his temple in Pergamus to be healed. While this healing is taking place, Apollo leaves a fake body as a place holder on the battlefield.

While soldiers fight around the body, Apollo asks Mars to take Diomed out of the battle. Mars takes the form of a fleet chief and urges the Trojans to fight on. As Mars fights among the Trojans, Apollo brings a healed and stronger Aeneas back. Seeing him helps morale, and the fighting continues.

The Goddesses Join the Fray

The Trojans push forward, but the Achaeans have their share of kills. Diomed, with his new ability to see the gods on the field, ''shook with passion'' to see Mars fighting alongside Hector, and advises his men to fall back to avoid fighting with gods. Sarpedon and Tlepolemus face each other, and though injured, only Sarpedon survives. An angry Ulysses seeks revenge, but it is not fated for him to kill Sarpedon. Instead, Ulysses kills a number of Trojans. But, Hector retaliates and with Mars's help pushes against the Achaean army.

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