In his tent, Nestor discusses the battle with the wounded Machaon. Nestor leaves his tent and immediately sees the carnage surrounding the Achaean camp. He meets the wounded captains Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Diomedes. Agamemnon, afraid that Hector’s forces will prevail, suggests again that the Achaeans should sail for home. Odysseus harshly criticizes Agamemnon, telling him to keep quiet for fear that the soldiers might hear and lose their courage. Diomedes, though the youngest, asserts his place among the captains and advises that although they are injured, they can still help rouse the men into battle.
Agamemnon once again displays some questionable leadership among the Achaean captains. Agamemnon is the richest Achaean, but on the battlefield his opinion is not the most important. Diomedes, although younger than Agamemnon, gives the better advice because he stands by the courage of his convictions.
Poseidon comes to Agamemnon’s side and reassures him that the Trojans will be turned back. On Olympus, Hera watches the actions of Poseidon and is pleased. She plots to help her brother by further diverting Zeus’ attention away from Troy. Hera decides to dress in all of her finery and enchant Zeus with her beauty. She bathes, perfumes her body, and puts on her best robes.
Hera is another goddess who seeks to engineer plans behind Zeus back, demonstrating Zeus’ fallibility. Hera realizes that love is sometimes capable of overcoming the most strict and warlike attitudes.
Hera goes to Aphrodite and asks her for a favor. Aphrodite agrees, and Hera tells her that she plans to reconcile two Titans who no longer make love. Deceived by Hera’s lie, Aphrodite lends her a magical breastband that will make any man feel love and longing for its wearer. Hera takes the breastband from Aphrodite.
Aphrodite’s breastband underscores the power of feminine charms, even in the context of battle. If Hera can cloud Zeus’ judgment, her effort is as powerful as any decision made on the battlefield.
Hera flies to the dwelling places of the god Sleep. She asks the god to put Zeus to sleep for her, and Sleep is initially resistant. He recalls that he once performed the same task for Hera, and that Zeus nearly punished him severely for it. However, Hera promises Sleep one of the Graces as a wife, a young goddess that Sleep has longed for. Sleep agrees to put Zeus to sleep.
Sleep is another example of a god who is also a clear personification of a human action. The fact that Zeus can be put to sleep makes him more like a human, and again suggests that he does not have complete control of fate.
Hera flies to Mount Ida, where Zeus is enthroned. Sleep hides nearby in the form of a bird, waiting to perform his task. As soon as Zeus sees Hera, he lusts after her. Hera tells him the same lie about reconciling the two Titans, and Zeus tells her not to hurry, suggesting that they make love instead. Hera puts up a token resistance, but Zeus wraps them in a cloud of gold while they make love. Afterward, Sleep causes Zeus to slumber.
Hera is able to successfully execute her plan, indicating that other gods are capable of intervening in human affairs against the will of Zeus. Zeus is unable to resist Hera’s charms, displaying the power sexuality to sway even the most powerful wills.
Sleep sends word to Poseidon that Zeus is asleep and that he may do as he pleases. Poseidon orders the Achaeans to take up larger shields and move forward. The Trojans and Achaeans collide once again, and Hector and Great Ajax engage each other. Hector cannot pierce Ajax’s armor, but Ajax hurls an enormous boulder at Hector, bowling him over and nearly knocking him out. The Trojan captains surround Hector and drag him clear of the fighting. They splash water on his face and Hector vomits, overwhelmed by the blow.
With Zeus asleep, Poseidon is able to continue the Achaean resurgence. An Achaean victory runs against Zeus’ plan but gives glory to the Achaean heroes. Hector is almost killed again by Ajax, demonstrating his mortality. The Trojans depend almost completely on Hector’s strength: if he dies, there is no one to replace him.
The Aeantes continue their onslaught, and the two sides trade kills, taunting each other over the bodies that fall. Eventually, the strength of the Achaeans prevails, and the Trojans are routed back toward their city.
Poseidon’s will is executed, and the Aeantes are especially honored, having driven Hector back from nearly capturing the ships.