The Iliad Book 8 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 8 of Homer's 'The Iliad.' In this book, Zeus takes charge of the battle - and of the other gods! He tells everyone what to do, and he manipulates things in battle to favor the Trojans.

Zeus Asserts Himself

Book 8 of Homer's The Iliad opens with Zeus having a bit of a tantrum. He seems to be irritated that so many other gods have played a role in the battle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Now he's had enough, so he tells all the gods, ''If I see any god going to help either Trojans or Danaans on his own account, he shall get a thunderstroke and go home very uncomfortable.'' (Danaans is another word to mean the Greeks.)

Zeus seems intent on asserting his power and position above all other gods and men. ''Gods or men,'' Zeus declares, ''I am stronger than them all!''

Zeus Takes Control

After that chest-thumping tantrum, Zeus gets out his golden scales and tilts them in favor of the Trojans. Hector takes the lead for the Trojans in battle, and they surge ahead, causing great casualties among the Greeks. The elderly Nestor finds himself stranded in his chariot as Trojan soldiers bear down on him, and Diomedes comes to his rescue.

Later, Teucer hides behind Ajax's shields and tries to hit Hector with arrows. He is somehow unable to hit Hector, but he strikes down many other Trojan soldiers. It is not enough, though, thanks to Zeus's meddling. The Trojans surge on, and the Greeks are driven back.

Hera and Athena Get in Trouble

As Zeus toys with the mortals in battle, Hera and Athena (who both favor the Greeks) become more and more irritated as they watch. ''Shall we let our Danaans perish without an effort?'' Hera asks in exasperation. Together, the two of them decide to disregard Zeus's command to stay out of the battle. They suit up for war, harness their horses, and prepare to go down and fight for the Greeks.

Zeus sees this, however, and sends a messenger to tell them that if they don't back down, ''He will maim your horses under the car, he will smash the car to pieces and throw you out. Not in ten revolving years will you heal the wounds of his thunderbolt.'' These threats do the trick, and Hera and Athena both retreat to their golden couches, but they are ''very unhappy, indeed.''

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