As night falls, the Achaeans sleep soundly, except for Agamemnon, who watches the Trojan fires. Restless, he seeks out Nestor to create a new plan for the Achaeans. Menelaus is also unable to sleep and comes across his brother arming himself. Agamemnon tells Menelaus to gather the best Achaean captains while he speaks with Nestor.
Agamemnon and Menelaus are both deeply concerned for the fate of the Achaean expedition. Agamemnon needs victory as the leader of the Achaean forces: if the Trojans defeat him, it will show his weakness. Menelaus is Agamemnon’s brother, but the war concerns him directly through Helen, his wife who was stolen by Paris.
Agamemnon goes to Nestor and tells him about his anguish. Nestor tells him to wake other captains, but Menelaus has already done so. Nestor rouses Odysseus and Diomedes. When the captains have gathered, Nestor asks if anyone is willing to infiltrate the Trojan lines to gain some advantage or information. Diomedes immediately volunteers to lead the mission, and suggests that another man accompany him. Many men volunteer to go with him, but Diomedes chooses Odysseus.
The suggestion of the night raid displays a new aspect of the war. Combat between the two sides is not simply men dueling to the death in full armor. Intelligence and tactics are necessary to secure victory over the Trojans. By volunteering, Diomedes further solidifies his status as a great Achaean hero.
Diomedes and Odysseus arm themselves for battle, and Odysseus wears an ancient helmet lined with boar’s teeth, passed down for generations. Athena sends the men a lucky bird sign. They pray to Athena and set out into the night to infiltrate the Trojan lines.
Odysseus’ helmet is described as having an ancient lineage, just as the soldiers themselves have passed down the art of war to their sons for countless generations.
In the Trojan camp, Hector also plans a night mission to gain information, promising treasure to a volunteer. A soldier named Dolon accepts the challenge, offering to scout the Achaean camp. Dolon heads toward the Achaean ships, but Odysseus sees him coming. Odysseus and Diomedes plan to ambush Dolon in order to prevent his spying.
Hector’s decision to send out a scout creates a parallel to the Achaean mission, but with key differences. Dolon is not one of the best-known Trojan fighters, as Odysseus and Ajax are for the Achaeans. The skill of the Achaeans will allow them to gain an advantage.
Dolon passes by the hiding Diomedes and Odysseus, and the pair spring upon him, chasing him down. Dolon asks to be taken alive, and the Achaeans use the opportunity to gather information from him. Dolon tells the two all about the Trojan position, letting them know the best place to attack. Afterward, Diomedes kills Dolon, and the two head toward the Thracian camp that Dolon had suggested.
Dolon capitulates too easily to Diomedes and Odysseus, and his cowardice wins him nothing. He is killed all the same. The cunning of the Achaean heroes allow them to scout out a Trojan position where they hope to find favorable opportunities.
Diomedes and Odysseus come upon the Thracian camp, where the king is sleeping among his troops. Diomedes kills the sleeping soldiers while Odysseus steals the king’s team of horses. Diomedes thinks of killing more soldiers, but Athena alerts him that it is time to return to the Achaean camp.
The courage of Diomedes and Odysseus allows them both to reduce the number of their enemies and gain valuable plunder in the form of the horses. However, they still need the favor of Athena to escape unharmed.
Apollo sees the work of Athena and Diomedes, and immediately wakes up the Thracians. Diomedes and Odysseus flee from the scene, racing for the ships. The pair makes it back to the Achaean camp with the horses. Nestor praises the captured horses and Odysseus plays down the feat. The two men wash themselves and have a drink in praise of Athena.
Just as Athena is disposed toward helping the Achaeans, Apollo intervenes in favor of the Trojans and their allies. The night raid is a moment of heroism that allows the Achaeans to have hope after the difficult battling of the previous day.