The Iliad Book 7 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

This lesson provides an overview of Book 7 of Homer's 'The Iliad,' in which the gods arrange a duel between Hector of the Trojans and Ajax of the Greeks in order to stem the war's bloodshed.

Divine Intervention (Again)

In The Iliad, we see the gods intervening many times among the Greeks and the Trojans. They're almost like those annoying parents on the playground who hover around their kids and never let them do things on their own. It happens again in Book 7. Hector rejoins the battle after a brief visit with his wife and busily sets about killing the Greeks. Hector and his brother are both ''full of ardor for the battle'', and their presence gives the Trojans a breath of new life. The goddess Athena is alarmed to see her beloved Greeks falling in greater numbers, so ''she shot down from Olympos'' to help them out. But Apollo, who favors the Trojans, sees Athena on her way and goes out to meet her.

Apollo Proposes a Duel

''Let us put a stop to fighting for this day,'' Apollo says to Athena, and to that end, he proposes a duel between Hector and one challenger from the Greek side. Athena agrees, and they work their godly magic on the mortals to make it so. Hector is prepared and offers himself in combat to any one of the Greeks who would face him. Hector is a big guy, though, and none of the Greeks are very excited to fight him. Menelaos is irritated when no one volunteers. ''May you all rot into mud and water where you sit, weak and inglorious!'' he says to them, declaring afterward that he'll go out there and fight Hector himself.

A Challenger is Found

Menelaos would have fought Hector, too, if his brother Agamemnon hadn't talked some sense into him. ''Don't fight a better man than yourself just for a challenge!'' Agamemnon says. Menelaos sits down and takes of his armor. Nestor then arises and gives a rousing speech to the men assembled, which results in nine soldiers coming forward to offer themselves as a challenger to Hector. It's decided that they should each scratch a mark on a lot and cast all the lots into a helmet. Nestor then shakes the helmet (after praying for his favorite warriors). Great Ajax is chosen. Despite the communal reluctance at first, Ajax declares, ''I am glad indeed, for I think I shall conquer Prince Hector.''

The Battle

Great Ajax is such an imposing sight as he marches out to meet Hector that ''the Trojans felt their limbs tremble, and Hector's own heart beat fast.'' Hector and Ajax lob some insults at one another, and then they get down to business. They throw spears, they throw rocks, and they fight ''like a couple of lions or wild boars.'' Ajax wounds Hector and nearly knocks him over, but Apollo intervenes (again) to keep Hector on his feet. They carry on until night falls, at which point they call a truce. Each gives the other a gift to show they part in good will.

A Day for the Dead

After this amicable parting of the warriors, it's proposed that the two sides observe a day of truce in order to properly care for their dead. Culturally, the proper treatment of bodies after death was very important--especially for those who died in battle, which was seen as the most noble kind of death.

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