The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Trojans assail the Achaean fortifications. The fortress is destined to be destroyed, but only after the fall of Troy itself. Poseidon and Apollo will tear down the ramparts using the gathered fury of the area’s rivers, setting the landscape aright.
The will of the gods easily outlasts the temporary wills or structures of men. Zeus, not the Trojans, controls the fate of the fortress, and he has decided that natural forces will destroy it in the future.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Hector leads the charge against the Achaean ramparts. His strength is described as being like a wild boar. His comrade Polydamas advises that the Trojans dismount from their chariots, as they will not be able to cross the ditch the Achaeans have dug. Hector agrees to the plan, and the Trojans attempt to storm the fortifications on foot.
Hector’s strength is described using a familiar hunting metaphor, linking battle with the pastoral cycle of Greek life. Polydamas’ advice signals that the Trojans will fight on foot, implying that there will be a great deal of killing at close quarters.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
Wartime Versus Peacetime Theme Icon
The Trojan ally Asius attempts to attack the Achaean gate in his chariot, in defiance of Hector’s order. Two Achaean spearmen, Polypoetes and Leonteus, hold back the Trojan charge, hurling rocks at the advancing troops. Asius fails to break through the Achaean defense, and curses Zeus for his failure.
Asius’ attempt to charge the Achaean fortifications in his chariot is a sign of bad strategy. Zeus has decided that the glory accorded for being the first to storm the ramparts will not belong to Asius.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
As Hector and Polydamas try to storm the ramparts, they see an omen, an eagle holding a bloody serpent in its talons. The serpent bites the eagle, which releases it from its grip. Polydamas takes this as a sign that the Trojan assault will fail, but Hector ignores his advice, saying, “Fight for your country—that is the best, the only omen!” He drives the Trojans forward, and the Achaean wall seems to be barely holding.
The eagle and bloody serpent is an example of the unclear way in which the gods send signals of fate to men. Hector’s refusal to yield to the omen is a sign of his both of his bravery and of his poor judgment. His position that men must fight for the country no matter no what is noble, but it will not save him from defeat.
Themes
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The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
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Rocks from the ramparts are flying like snow, and the two Aeantes roam the walls, holding back each Trojan point of entry. The Lycians Sarpedon and Glaucus attack the ramparts, and the Achaean captain Menestheus calls to Great Ajax to help repulse their powerful advance. Ajax and Teucer kill several men but are unable to prevent Sarpedon from finally breaching the Achaean wall. Soon after, Hector shatters the Achaean gate with an enormous boulder. The Trojans swarm through the gateway.
The melee between many different Trojans and Achaeans demonstrates the constant tension of power between the two forces. Any individual man can make a contribution that might break through and turn the tide of the war.
Themes
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