The battle continues between the Achaeans and the Trojans. The Achaeans, including Great Ajax and Diomedes, kill several Trojans. Menelaus almost spares the Trojan Adrestus’ life in exchange for ransom, but Agamemnon convinces Menelaus to kill him. The Achaeans push forward.
Menelaus’ decision not to spare Adrestus indicates a new intensity in the state of the war. Previously, capturing a soldier for ransom would have been normal, but now the Achaeans are determined to take no prisoners.
Helenus, a seer and a son of Priam, tells Aeneas and Hector to stand fast and to rally the troops. He also tells Hector to return to the city in order to organize a Trojan sacrifice to Athena, “if only she’ll pity Troy.” Hector obeys, first driving his soldiers forward, then turning back to Troy.
The Trojans realize that certain gods and goddesses, such as Athena, are disposed against them. As the tide of battle turns, the Trojans hope that a meaningful sacrifice might change Athena’s opinion of Troy, or at least dispose her toward mercy.
The Trojan ally Glaucus meets Diomedes on the battlefield. Diomedes tells Glaucus that he has never noticed him before, and that he will fight him if he is mortal. Glaucus responds that Diomedes shouldn’t ask about his birth, as men are “Like the generations of leaves…as one generation comes to life, another dies away.” Glaucus recounts the story of Bellerophon, his heroic ancestor. Diomedes asks that they part as friends, as their grandfathers knew each other from the time of heroes.
Glaucus’ statement on the mortality of men emphasizes his own bravery, as he is unafraid to take his place among the dead. The encounter between Glaucus and Diomedes represents almost a kind of chivalry between soldiers. Both men recognize that their ancestors are heroes of the past, causing the two to have a mutual respect.
Hector reaches the gates of Troy and tells the people to “Pray to the gods.” He goes to Priam’s palace and seeks out his mother Hecuba, who offers him wine. He refuses the offer and tells her to prepare a large sacrifice to Athena to help turn back the Achaeans. Hecuba gives orders to gather women and the materials for the sacrifice. The sacrifice is offered, but Athena refuses to hear the Trojan prayers.
Hector’s return to Troy gives the reader a glimpse of life inside the city. Hector receives attention and care from his mother, but he is not in a position to accept it, as he must hurry back to help fend off the Achaean onslaught.
Hector comes across Paris in his chambers, polishing his armor. Hector and Helen berate Paris for shirking the battlefield. Paris claims that he is stricken by grief, but agrees that Hector’s criticism is fair. He agrees to arm himself and catch up with Hector as he returns to battle.
Paris and Hector are a study in contrasts: Hector cares deeply about protecting the city and all of its inhabitants, whereas Paris is so consumed by his own grief that he is incapable of being any use.
Hector speeds to his own house, but his wife Andromache is not there. A servant tells him that she has gone to Troy’s tower to watch the fighting. Hector runs to the gates, where he meets Andromache and their infant son Astyanax. Andromache weeps for the past loss of her family to the Achaeans, and asks for Hector to stay within Troy’s walls, fearing that she will become a widow. Hector tells her he must fight so that all of Troy is not destroyed.
Hector is shown to be a family man, caring deeply for his wife and son. Such family ties are the very things that the Trojans are fighting to preserve. If the Achaeans prevail, then everyone inside Troy’s walls will be doomed to slavery and the destruction of their mighty civilization. And yet, at the same time, war forces men from their families. There is honor and glory to be gained in war, but much to be lost as well, particularly for those left behind.
Hector reaches down to cradle his son, but Astyanax is frightened, not recognizing his father in full battle armor. Hector removes his helmet and kisses his son. Hector says a prayer for his son, hoping he will become a strong warrior, and tells Andromache not to mourn him too soon. He tells her that no man escapes his fate, and urges her to go back to her work.
Hector’s son represents the promise of a future generation of men who will grow up to take the places of their fathers. Astyanax is frightened by Hector’s helmet, a sign of his youth, but also a sign of the thing he might grow up to become if he survives the war.
Hector puts his helmet back on and heads back into battle. The women of Troy begin to mourn Hector, convinced that he will never return from battle with the Achaeans. Paris joins Hector as they run back into battle. Hector scolds Paris, calling him a good soldier who hangs back, and the two head forward into battle.
The Trojan women’s lament for Hector seems to predict his death, indicating that his demise is fated. Paris gives a partial compliment to Paris, showing that he has more good qualities than his looks, though it also suggests that Paris’ failures as a soldier is not his skill or strength but his courage.