Zeus, pleased with the Trojan dominance, takes his eyes off of the battlefield, not suspecting than other gods might interfere with his plan. Poseidon notices his inattention and decides to assist the Achaeans. Taking the form of Calchas, Poseidon gives courage to the two Aeantes, telling them that if they hold fast, their men will follow suit. The Aeantes encourage the men around them, and Poseidon’s voice reaches the entire Achaean army. Holding a tight formation, the Aeantes begin to push back Hector.
Through the preceding books, Zeus seems to have complete control over the war, making him master of the fates of men. Here it is shown that Zeus is not actually all-seeing, and that other gods can successfully interfere in his affairs. Fate itself is a force outside the control of any single god.
The battle rages on, and the Aeantes are locked in battle with Hector. Hector tries to kill Teucer, but misses and kills Amphimachus, Poseidon’s grandson, instead. Poseidon is filled with rage and drives the Achaeans onward. Poseidon speaks to Idomeneus, urging him forward to revenge Amphimachus. Idomeneus and his aide Meriones rearm themselves and rejoin the battle on the Trojans’ left flank.
Poseidon is another god with close ties to the war, both in the form of relatives and in his desire to give strength to the Achaean fighters. Poseidon bestows honor upon Idomeneus, who becomes another hero whose feats of strength are chronicled by the poet.
Homer briefly remarks on the clash of wills between Zeus and Poseidon. Zeus favors the Trojans in order to give Achilles more glory, but Poseidon is determined to secretly protect the Achaean forces. In battle, Idomeneus fulfills Poseidon’s will, killing several Trojans. He meets Deiphobus in combat, one of Priam’s finest sons. The two trade insults, and Deiphobus enlists the help of Aeneas against Idomeneus. Eventually Idomeneus wounds Deiphobus, and he is taken back to Troy. As the battle continues, Menelaus and Antilochus kill several Trojans.
Homer uses the gods as one way of explaining the mysterious or unexplainable. The dynamic between Zeus and Poseidon explains one part of the cosmos in terms of a sibling rivalry. It seems that one part of Poseidon’s support for the Achaeans is a desire to contradict his older brother.
Back at the center of the battle, Hector is unaware of the wounds inflicted on the Trojans elsewhere. He drives his Trojans on, but the Aeantes stand fast in front of their troops, and the Trojans begin to lose their will to fight.
Hector and the Aeantes are constantly at the center of the battle, suggesting their central roles for their respective armies.
Polydamas rushes to Hector’s side and asks him to listen to his good advice. He asks Hector to draw the troops back and regroup. Hector agrees, and moves to the other side of the line to give commands. He reaches the other end of the battle to find that many of his commanders have been killed or wounded. Hector finds Paris and asks him where Deiphobus and others have gone. Paris answers him and tells Hector that he is not a coward. Paris’ fiery response raises Hector’s spirits.
Although Hector had previously ignored Polydamas advice, Hector is ultimately a man of sound judgment. He is not too proud to admit that he is wrong, suggesting him as a type of contrast to the stubbornness of Achilles. He is a complex man, and even loves his brother Paris despite the troubles that he has brought upon the Trojans.
With new resolve and some fresh reinforcements, Hector once again pushes the Trojans forward. Great Ajax taunts Hector, and another eagle sweeps past the Achaeans, which the Achaeans take as a positive omen. Hector criticizes Ajax’ “loose talk,” and tells him that he will die with the rest of the Achaeans.
Hector's unflagging desire to defeat the Achaeans is a testament to his strength and his will to protect Troy. However, he cannot control the will of the gods, as Zeus is more than willing to demonstrate.