The Iliad Book 9 Summary

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

In Book 9 of 'The Iliad', The Achaeans, staring defeat in the face, make a last-ditch effort to get Achilles to stop pouting in his tent and join the fight. It doesn't go well.

The Story So Far

As a quick review before getting into the action in Book 9 of Homer's 'The Iliad,' the Achaeans are in bad shape with their war against the Trojans. After forbidding the other gods from getting involved in the war, Zeus did exactly that in Book 8, helping Hector and the Trojans to push the Achaeans further back, with the plan to burn their ships and finish them off for good.

Zeus tells Athena and Hera, who are on the Achaean side, that the Achaens' only shot is if Achilles gets into the battle. Achilles, you might remember, has been pouting in his tent since nearly the beginning of the story, after getting insulted by Agamemnon. And, despite being a whiny manbaby, Achilles is also the Achaeans' best warrior and only hope for success.

Summary of Book 9

As Book 9 starts, the Achaeans are fully freaking out. Agamemnon is showing his strong leadership skills by crying and declaring the war a failure. He's ready to just pack it in and go home before the Trojans kill them all, but Diomedes and Nestor propose trying a last-ditch effort to get Achilles to come out and play.

They decide to make Achilles an offer of all kinds of treasure and goodies (including marriage to one of Agamemnon's daughters), and they send Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix to Achilles' tent to make the offer. They find Achilles and his friend Patroclus chilling and playing the lyre.

Odysseus makes the offer, but Achilles rejects it and says that tomorrow he will return home to Phthia, where he will live a long boring life instead of the short but exciting one he was supposed to have. Phoenix, who helped raise Achilles, tries pleading with him, and tells a long story of an ancient warrior, Meleager, who abandoned his friends in a moment of anger.

But all the goods, girls, and pleas from old friends do no good with Achilles. He still refuses to forgive Agamemnon, and Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix go back to camp with the bad news. Things are not looking good.

Analysis

Though there is not a lot of plot in Book 9, it is an important one for developing the character of Achilles, who we haven't seen a lot of since he retreated to his tent early in the story.

Perhaps most importantly, this book discusses Achilles' history and the idea of fate, the Greek belief that all human actions are determined for us by the gods. Achilles is turning his back on his fate and on the Greek ideas of heroism and glory.

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