The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As dawn rises, Zeus sets the goddess Strife upon the Achaeans, encouraging them to fight. Agamemnon puts on his exquisite armor and shield. Zeus causes the sky to rain blood and fills the Achaeans with panic. The Trojans prepare for battle as well, driven forward by Hector. The armies clash with Strife hovering over them, and many men are killed in combat.
The goddess strife is a personification of Zeus’ will, an avatar that hangs over the Achaean troops and makes their panic more tangible. Agamemnon’s armor indicates his massive wealth and attention to the art of war.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
The Achaeans begin to make progress against the Trojan lines. Agamemnon begins to kill many men, including two sons of Priam. Agamemnon is described as being like a lion, and kills the men who ask to be taken alive. The Trojans begin to flee under the pressure of Agamemnon’s fury. Agamemnon kills more men, and the Achaeans reach the Trojan gates.
Agamemnon has previously displayed as a wealthy but somewhat indecisive king, but here it is established that he is a strong leader and a powerful warrior. He will be remembered as a hero along with the other Achaean champions.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
Zeus sends his messenger Iris to Hector, telling the soldier to hold back and command his men until Agamemnon is wounded. After Agamemnon’s injury, Hector will be given the strength to drive the Achaeans back to the ships. Hector hears the message and commands his men to withstand the Achaean onslaught.
Zeus closely controls the progress of battle, giving Hector precise instructions. Zeus seems to be in charge of fate itself, as he clearly knows beforehand that the Trojans will soon injure Agamemnon.
Themes
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Agamemnon’s charge continues, but soon Coon, a son of Antenor, slashes his arm. Agamemnon kills Coon, but soon realizes he is wounded. He mounts his chariot and drives back to the Achaean camp. Hector recognizes the sign of Agamemnon’s wound and springs into action. He begins to drive the Achaeans back, killing many men as he advances.
As Coon injures Agamemnon, Zeus’ will is fulfilled. Zeus has turned the tide of the war in Hector’s favor, increasing his glory as the preeminent leader of the Trojan forces.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
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Odysseus and Diomedes stem the Trojan tide and prevent a complete disaster for the Achaeans. They turn and hold their ground, killing several Trojans. Hector charges them, and Diomedes throws his spear. It hits Hector’s helmet and dazes him. Hector retreats from the front line.
This is one of several close brushes with death that Hector will face during the poem. Hector’s injuries create suspense, but also are a presentiment of the more tragic death that awaits him.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
As Diomedes is stripping the armor from a Trojan conquest, Paris shoots him in the foot with an arrow. Cursing Paris, Diomedes mounts his chariot and returns to camp. Odysseus, left alone, bravely fights the Trojans surrounding him, but he is eventually wounded in the ribs by the Trojan Socus. Several Achaeans come to his aid, and Odysseus barely escapes.
It is fitting that Paris often wields a bow, as he was first shown as a man reluctant to engage in direct combat with his rivals. Odysseus has a moment of unquestioned bravery, fending off Trojans without any support from his comrades.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Hector continues his onslaught, pushing the Achaeans back. The healer Machaon is wounded by Paris, causing distress among the Achaeans. Nestor carries Machaon back to the Achaean camp in his chariot. While the Achaeans tend to their injured, Great Ajax holds the line firm while slowly retreating.
For the Achaeans, the possible death of a healer is serious news, as so many soldiers are constantly near death on the battlefield. The ranks of Achaean heroes begin to dwindle, as an injured fighter is of no use to the Achaeans.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Achilles watches the course of battle from the top of his ship. Noticing Machaon’s injury, he asks Patroclus to go to Nestor and inquire about the Achaean casualties, remarking that they must be desperate for his help. Patroclus reaches Nestor’s tent, and Nestor tells Patroclus which Achaean captains have been wounded. Nestor tells a story from his youth, and beseeches Patroclus to convince Achilles to return to battle.
Despite his seeming indifference, Achilles is very interested in the progress of the war. It has a direct result for him: the worse Achaean defeat is, the more Achilles is honored as a necessary part of their army. However, it also seems that Achilles has genuine compassion for his comrades among the Achaeans.
Themes
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Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Nestor recounts to Patroclus their departure from Phthia, for which Nestor was present, reminding Patroclus of his role as a guide and advisor to Achilles. He urges Patroclus to help convince Achilles to fight, but also offers an alternate plan. He suggests that Achilles could send Patroclus into battle in Achilles’ armor, at least for long enough to cast fear into the Trojans and prevent their advance. Patroclus leaves Nestor. On the way back to Achilles’ camp, Patroclus meets the wounded captain Eurypylus. Moved by his injury, Patroclus postpones his return to Achilles and treats Eurypylus’ wound.
Nestor correctly realizes that Patroclus is an important advisor to Achilles, providing him with comfort and a levelheaded opinion. Achilles’ pride is one piece of a fighter who is almost inhuman in his rage. Patroclus’ will never be as great as Achilles, but Patroclus’ friendship helps humanize the great warrior. Patroclus’ compassion is displayed by his response to Eurypylus.
Themes
Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon