The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Zeus awakes from his slumber and sees the catastrophe created in his absence. Feeling pity for Hector, he curses Hera for her disobedience, promising to punish her. Hera, trying to escape blame, swears that she did not make Poseidon help the Achaeans. Zeus accepts her oaths and tells her they must reign in Poseidon. He asks Hera to summon Iris and Apollo. Iris will send a message to Poseidon, telling him to stand down. Apollo will rouse Hector and give him new strength to lead the Trojan charge. Zeus tells Hera that his plan is simply to bring Achilles back into battle, and that Troy will eventually fall to the Achaeans.
Although Zeus can be deceived, the deception is only temporary. He is still much more powerful than the other gods. However, Hera deceives Zeus again and is able to escape his wrath. She also learns the whole of Zeus’ plan for the war, including the news of an intended Achaean victory. Now husband and wife work in tandem to bring Zeus’ will to pass.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Hera agrees to Zeus’ plan and returns to Olympus. She tells the god Themis about Zeus’ unrelenting anger, and remarks to the gods that there is no use in defying Zeus. Ares, angered at the death of his son Ascalaphus, attempts to return to the battle, but Athena checks him with a stern warning. Hera summons Apollo and Iris and tells them to go to Zeus at once.
Ares is another god who loses a child in battle. His rage is heartfelt, but is still no use against Zeus’ stern decree. It is possible that Ares’ rage would actually assist Zeus here, but Athena shrewdly blocks him in order to protect the Achaeans.
Themes
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Zeus gives Iris her message for Poseidon, telling him to back down. Zeus warns that he is too powerful for Poseidon, even though Poseidon “never shrinks from claiming to be my equal.” Iris delivers the message. Poseidon is outraged at Zeus’ arrogance, claiming his share of the world’s power as Zeus’ brother. Iris persuades him to temper his response, and Poseidon begrudgingly yields to Zeus.
Poseidon is subdued by the now awake Zeus, who is simply too strong for Poseidon to oppose. Zeus is determined to exercise his will over the battle. Poseidon may complain, but it is clear that he will not challenge his brother’s dominance.
Themes
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Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
On Zeus’ orders, Apollo goes to Hector and rouses him from his stupor. Hector says that he thought he was going to die, but Apollo reassures him and fills him with new strength. With Hector at the Trojan front again, the tide of battle turns. The Achaeans, seeing that Hector has returned intact from a near-fatal blow, recognize that Zeus is now against them. The Achaeans’ best fighters hold their ground, allowing the other troops to retreat back to the ships.
Apollo intercedes once again to allow Hector to lead the Trojan forces. A mortal like Hector can never be sure when his time to die has come, but Apollo knows that he has a further place in the plans of the Gods. On the Achaean side, the soldiers recognize that the gods are against them (at least for the moment) but show heroism in the orderliness of their retreat.
Themes
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Apollo assists the Trojans in battle, and Hector’s forces begin to progress, killing many Achaeans. Apollo tears down the wall and fills up the Achaean trench, allowing the Trojan chariots to enter the Achaean camp. The Trojans advance to the Achaean ships, and the Achaeans fight them off from the tops of their decks.
With Apollo’s assistance, Hector increases his fame by driving the Achaeans back to their ships. If the Trojans succeed in capturing or destroying the ships, then all of the Achaeans will be slaughtered, having no way to escape home.
Themes
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The Gods Theme Icon
Patroclus, still tending to Eurypylus, hears the Trojans storm the ramparts and rushes back to Achilles. The Trojans and Achaeans are locked in combat in front of the ships, and neither side is able to advance. Great Ajax and Hector once again encounter each other in battle. Teucer kills several Trojans, but Zeus breaks his bowstring just before he can take aim at Hector.
This scene illustrates Zeus’ meticulous command of the war’s progress, breaking Teucer’s bowstring just in time to save Hector. Patroclus’ path to Achilles also prepares Achilles’ return to battle.
Themes
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The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon
Love and Friendship Theme Icon
Hector notices Teucer’s bow break and takes it as a sign from Zeus. He rallies his troops to push forward, just as Great Ajax urges his men to hold their ground in front of the ships. More men are killed on both sides, but Zeus plans a further Trojan breakthrough, hoping to lure Achilles back into battle. Ajax valiantly defends the line from the top of the ships, using a long pike, but Hector eventually reaches the stern of an Achaean ship, demanding that the Trojans bring fire to set it ablaze. Under Trojan pressure, even Ajax is forced to abandon the ship.
The Trojans are close to storming the Achaean ships, but it is clearly indicated that the Trojan advance is simply part of Zeus’ larger plan to ultimately increase Achilles glory. The ships are both vessels and homes for the Achaeans, and their destruction would be the final blow in the war. Although Zeus has already planned the course of events, many heroes score magnificent kills in the fighting.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon
Fate and Free Will Theme Icon