The Iliad

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The Iliad Book 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, Zeus summons the gods to assembly, forbidding them to interfere any further in the war. He tells the gods that he is stronger than the rest of them put together, and that he will punish anyone who disobeys. With his pronouncement made, Zeus flies to Mount Ida, near Troy, to conduct the affairs of the war by himself.
By forbidding the gods from participating, Zeus seeks to gain greater control over the fate of the war. He is not all-powerful, as gods can disobey him, but his ban on intervention allows him to direct events as he pleases.
Themes
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The Achaeans and Trojans enter into battle once more. Zeus, holding a golden scale, tips the balance of the war in favor of the Trojans. Zeus sends thunder and lightning against the Achaeans, who are immediately seized with terror. Even the greatest Achaean heroes begin to flee the Trojans.
Zeus’ scale is a direct symbol of his ability to influence the outcome of the war. When he can influence the war so directly, his will is nearly identical with fate itself.
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In battle, Hector bears down on the elderly Nestor. Nestor is barely saved by Diomedes, who takes him into his chariot. Diomedes kills Hector’s chariot driver, but a thunderbolt from Zeus turns them back toward the ships. Diomedes, taunted by Hector, almost turns to face him, but the signs from Zeus are too strong. Hector encourages his men to fight onward to the Achaean fortifications.
Even though Zeus causes the tide to turn against the Achaeans, the Achaeans can still read Zeus’ omens, such as his thunderbolts. With this guidance, they are able to gain a limited amount of understanding about how to act in the situation.
Themes
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On Olympus, Hera shakes with anger in her desire to help the Achaeans, but Poseidon checks her rage. On the battlefield, the Achaeans are pushed back to their fortifications. Hera sends inspiration to Agamemnon, who encourages his troops to stand fast. Agamemnon prays to Zeus to save the Achaean army, and Zeus sends a sign of encouragement to Agamemnon in the form of an eagle. The eagle gives the Achaean army hope, and they begin to fight back.
Now that the gods other than Zeus cannot interfere directly on the battlefield, their influence is limited. Although Zeus has temporarily turned the tide of war against the Achaeans, he is still willing to send them a sign of hope, as they are ultimately destined to prevail in his larger scheme.
Themes
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Great Ajax and the archer Teucer, his half brother, work together as a team, with Teucer hiding behind Ajax’ massive shield. Teucer kills several Trojans. Agamemnon praises Teucer’s bravery. Teucer aims for Hector, but is only able to kill the men around him. Hector, seeing the threat, injures Teucer with a rock, ending his streak of kills. Zeus turns the tide of battle once again in favor of the Trojans.
Great Ajax and Teucer are related by blood, and their bond helps them work as an effective fighting team. Although Zeus has temporarily favored the Achaeans, he is easily able to swing the fortunes of battle back toward the Trojans.
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With Hector in command, the Trojans drive the Achaeans back into their fortifications. Hera and Athena take pity on the Achaeans and curse Hector. They decide to assist the Achaeans directly, despite Zeus’ warning, and arm themselves for battle. Zeus sees the goddesses preparing for battle, and sends his messenger Iris to order them to relent. Threatened by Zeus, the goddesses give up their plan to join the battle.
This time, Zeus is easily able to see when other gods are attempting to thwart his plans. Hera and Athena have their favorites among the Achaeans, and they are not totally aware of Zeus’ plan to aid the Trojans primarily as a means to give glory to Achilles. However, Zeus is much stronger and deals with them effortlessly.
Themes
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Zeus returns to Olympus and mocks Hera and Athena for their failed efforts. Hera tells Zeus of her pity for the Achaeans, and Zeus replies that she will have her chance to save them the next day, but until then many more Achaeans will die. He says that Hector will not quit the fight until Achilles returns from his absence.
Zeus begins to outline the details of his master plan, displaying his absolute control over the course of events. For the first time, he implies that Hector will be killed by Achilles.
Themes
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Night comes and the battle ceases until the next day. Hector, encouraged by the Trojan success, decides to make his camp on the battlefield, so as to not let the Achaeans escape in the night. He prays to Zeus that the Achaeans will finally be defeated the next day. The Trojans light many watch fires and wait for the dawn to come.
The Trojans are in firm command of the situation, as it seems possible that the Achaeans might try to sail away under the cover of darkness. Their decision to camp outside of their city is bold, suggesting they are ready to attack immediately the next day.
Themes
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
The Gods Theme Icon