Outline of Iliad
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1-7: Homer calls upon the goddess of poetry and inspiration (the MUSE) to sing of Achilleus’ anger. 8-52: Chryses, priest of Apollo , comes to the Greek camp to ransom his daughter, Chryseis , held captive by Agamemnon . He is insulted and sent away, and Apollo sends a plague on the Greeks. 53-305: Inspired by the goddess, Hera , Achilleus calls an assembly to deal with the plague, and the prophet, Kalchas , reveals that Apollo was angered by Agamemnon’s refusal to return the daughter of his priest. Agamemnon reluctantly agrees to give her back, but demands compensation. This provokes Achilleus’ anger, and, after they exchange threats and angry words, Agamemnon decides to take Achilleus’ “prize”, the captive woman, Briseis . The goddess, Athene , prevents Achilleus from killing Agamemnon by promising that he will one day be compensated with three times as many prizes.
Nestor ‘s efforts to make peace fail. 306-430: Agamemnon’s men take Briseis from Achilleus, and Achilleus prays to his divine mother, Thetis , for help. He says he will not fight, and he asks her to persuade Zeus to make the battle go badly for the Greeks so they will see that they should not have dishonored him. 430-87: Odysseus leads a group of Greeks to Chryse (the place!) to return Chryseis (the daughter!) to Chryses (the priest!). Meanwhile, Achilleus isolates himself from the other Greeks. 488-611: Thetis, begs Zeus to honor her son, Achilleus, by turning the battle against the Greeks so they will see that they need him. Afterwards, Zeus’ wife, Hera , bickers with him over his plan, and the lame god, Hephaistos , tries to make peace among them.
Zeus begins to fulfill his promise to Thetis to bring honor to Achilleus. First, he deceives Agamemnon with a dream that promises victory. Agamemnon calls the Greek leaders together to tell them his dream. He proposes to test the soldiers by saying that they are going home. When he does this, the soldiers run for the ships; only Odysseus is able to rally them and shame them into staying. A common soldier, THERSITES, protests and urges his fellow Greeks to go home, but Odysseus beats him down and reminds the Greeks that they had been promised victory when they set out. The troops
assemble and Homer lists all of the contingents in “the CATALOG OF THE SHIPS”. The Trojans arm to meet the Greeks, and Homer names their warriors and troops as well.
Paris challenges Menelaos to a duel; Helen is to be awarded to the winner. Helen joins Priam on the walls of Troy and names the Greek warriors for him. Then, Priam goes to the battlefield to swear an oath with Agamemnon to respect the results of the duel. Menelaos and Paris fight, but Aphrodite snatches Paris away, deposits him in his bedroom, and brings Helen to him.
At a council of the gods on MOUNT OLYMPOS, Zeus considers bringing the Trojan War to an end and sparing the city of Troy. Hera angrily objects, and Zeus sends Athene to break the truce. Athene persuades PANDAROS, a Trojan, to shoot an arrow at Menelaos. Menelaos is wounded, the truce is broken and, as Agamemnon rallies the troops, fighting breaks out.
Diomedes ‘ exploits on the battlefield dominate this section. After he wounds Aphrodite, Ares, the god of war, intervenes to help the Trojans. The goddesses, Hera and Athene, join in on the Greek side.
Diomedes and GLAUKOS , an ally of the Trojans, meet, but do not fight because they discover they are “GUEST-FRIENDS”: their grandfathers had visited each other and exchanged gifts. Hektor returns to Troy to ask the Trojan women to make a sacrifice to Athene to win her pity. He visits Helen and scolds his brother, Paris, for abandoning the battlefield. In a moving scene, Hektor explains his duty to fight, and says an emotional good-bye to his wife, Andromache , and their baby, ASTYANAX, before returning to battle.
Hektor proposes a duel with one of the Greeks. Aias is chosen by lot, but the duel ends in a draw as night falls. Both sides agree to a truce to bury the dead, and the Greeks fortify their camp.
The battle resumes. Zeus orders the gods to stay out, and the Trojans gainthe advantage. Hera and Athene try to help the Greeks, but are stopped by Zeus who foretells Patroklos ‘ death and Achilleus’ return to the fighting. At nightfall, Hektor persuades the Trojans to camp outside of the city in the hope of decisively defeating the Greeks the next day. Book 9
The Greek leaders hold an assembly. Agamemnon proposes to go home, but Diomedes and Nestor dissuade him. The aged king, Nestor, convinces him to return Briseis to Achilleus and offer him gifts in reconciliation. Odysseus , Aias and Phoinix , Achilleus’ tutor, go to Achilleus’ tent and offer him many gifts from Agamemnon, if he will return to battle. Achilleus rejects their appeals.
Diomedes and Odysseus volunteer to spy on the Trojan camp. They meet DOLON, a Trojan spy, and kill him, after he gives them information. They sneak into the Trojan camp, brutally murder Rhesos and twelve of his warriors, allies of the Trojans, and lead off their horses as spoils.
When battle resumes, several prominent Greek warriors are wounded and must leave the fighting. Achilleus watches and sends Patroklos to find out who was wounded. Nestor urges him to persuade Achilleus to return to battle or at least let Patroklos and his men fight for the Greeks.
Hektor and the Trojans storm the fortifications surrounding the Greek camp. The sea-god, Poseidon , rallies the Greeks, and Telamonian Aias and Aias Oileus defend the Greek ships. The wounded Greek warriors go back to the fighting. Hera seduces her husband, Zeus , to distract him and allow Poseidon to continue helping the Greeks. As the Greeks rally, Hektor is wounded. Zeus wakes up and threatens the other gods, forcing them to stop helping the Greeks. Then, Zeus outlines the future course of the battle and sends Apollo to revive Hektor. Hektor returns to the battle, drives the Greeks back to their ships, and tries to set the ships on fire.
Following Nestor ’s advice, Patroklos persuades Achilleus to let him wear his armor and lead their troops, the Myrmidons, into battle. Achilleus warns him to return once he has driven the Trojans from the ships. The Trojans are routed, and Patroklos kills one of their great allies, Sarpedon , a mortal son of Zeus. Zeus is persuaded by Hera not to intervene to save his son. Patroklos ignores Achilleus’ warning and is killed by Hektor with Apollo’s help.
The two sides battle over Patroklos’ corpse, after Hektor strips it of Achilleus’ armor.
Achilleus learns of Patroklos’ death, and Thetis, his mother, consoles him. He wants to join the battle, but Thetis reminds him that he has no armor. She promises to get new armor from Hephaistos, the smith of the gods. Achilleus’ warcry drives the Trojans away, and the Greeks finally recover Patroklos’ body. In the Trojan camp, Hektor rejects the advice of POULYDAMAS, a counsellor, that they withdraw to Troy. In the Greek camp, Achilleus mourns over Patroklos. Thetis asks Hephaistos to forge new armor for Achilleus, and Homer describes the elaborate decoration of the shield.
Achilleus calls an assembly, puts aside his quarrel with Agamemnon, and announces his return to battle. Agamemnon blames Zeus for their quarrel, presents gifts to Achilleus, and returns Briseis to him. They mourn for Patroklos, and Achilleus, who refuses to eat, is fed by the gods. Before he enters the battle, Achilleus’ horses prophesy his death.
Zeus urges the gods to join in the day’s fighting to prevent Achilleus from storming Troy “against destiny”. Achilleus leads the Greeks, and fights the Trojan hero, Aineias, son of Aphrodite, who is saved by the gods.
Achilleus brutally slaughters many Trojans in the Xanthos river, and the rivers of Troy attempt to drown him. The gods rescue him, and battle one another, while Zeus looks on. The Trojans are routed and flee to the city, seeking protection within its walls.
Priam and Hekabe, beg their son, Hektor, to return to the city, but he prepares to fight Achilleus. Hektor panics and Achilleus chases him around the walls of Troy. He makes a stand when Athene tricks him into thinking that one of his brothers, DEIPHOBOS, is with him. Achilleus kills Hektor and abuses his body by hitching it to his chariot and dragging it around the walls of Troy. Hektor’s parents and wife look on and mourn his death and the inevitable destruction of Troy.
Patroklos appears to Achilleus in a dream and urges him to hold a funeral for him so that his shade can enter Hades, the realm of the dead. Achilleus hosts splendid funeral games in Patroklos’ honor and distributes prizes to the competitors in the different athletic events.
The gods are outraged that Achilleus continues to mistreat the body of Hektor by dragging it around the Greek camp every day. They decide that Priam must be allowed to ransom the body of his son. Thetis tells Achilleus, and the gods inspire Priam to visit Achilleus’ tent and beg him to accept a splendid ransom for the body. Priam and Achilleus grieve together, the body is returned to Troy, and the Trojans mourn Hektor’s death.
The funeral of Hektor.
By showing us the reactions of Hektor’s loved ones back in Troy, the poet lets us share in the emotional connection forged between Achilleus and Priam. This scene provides a vivid picture of the humanity of the Trojans, which we know will be violated when the city falls. At the same time, the image of the hero’s funeral looks forward to the funeral of Achilleus, which we know will be coming from the constant foreshadowing of his death. The Iliad as Booker’s Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Voyage and Return Plot
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper. Plot Type :
Anticipation Stage and ‘Fall’ into the Other World
Achilleus gets in a fight with Agamemnon and refuses to fight alongside the other Achaians.
Even though it might be strange to describe the plot of the Iliad as one of “Voyage and Return,” if you bear with us, we think you’ll agree that it makes a bit of sense. (OK, we hope you’ll agree.) First of all, you have to bear in mind that Homer’s poem is a story about the anger of Achilleus. Because this anger has the effect of alienating Achilleus from other people, it makes sense to think about that departure from ordinary society as a sort of voyage, from which he must ultimately return. Achilleus’s decision not to fight anymore on behalf of his fellow Achaians is the first step of his voyage; he then seals the deal by getting Zeus to favor the Trojans in battle.
Initial Fascination or Dream Stage
Just as Achilleus hoped, the Achaians start getting defeated in battle. After a particularly bad day of fighting leaves the Trojans encamped on the plain, they decide it is time for drastic action. Nestor suggests they ask Achilleus for help, and Agamemnon throws in an offer of extravagant gifts if he will come back to the fold. Achilleus flat out refuses.
In treating this as the “Initial Fascination or Dream Stage,” we’re following the interpretation of Achilleus offered by Diomedes at the end of Book 9. He says that Agamemnon should never have offered Achilleus all those gifts, because nothing would inflate Achilleus’s ego more than to send them back. So long as the Achaians keep coming begging and he keeps playing hard to get, Achilleus is getting exactly what he wants.
When things get really bad for the Achaians, Patroklos begs Achilleus to let him lead the Myrmidons into battle. Achilleus agrees. Patroklos’s counterattack is successful, until he himself goes down in battle at the hands of the Apollo-Euphorbos-Hektor tag-team.
This is where Achilleus’s plan goes seriously wrong. Instead of leading to a situation where everybody realizes how much they need, love, and respect him, Achilleus’s actions have led to the death of the one person he valued most: his best friend Patroklos.
Swearing to avenge Patroklos, Achilleus gets a new suit of armor crafted by the smith Hephaistos. Then he charges back into battle, and eventually kills Hektor. Even this, however, is not enough to assuage his grief.
Achilleus completes his departure from ordinary human society by repeatedly abusing Hektor’s corpse and performing human sacrifice over the pyre of his friend Patroklos. His voyage into a world of his own making isn’t looking so fun anymore.
Thrilling Escape and Return
The gods take pity on Hektor and tell Thetis to tell Achilleus to give the body back. They also tell Priam to go ask for it back. When he gets to Achilleus’s place they experience a moment of shared humanity. They then negotiate a truce, so that the Trojans can bury Hektor in peace.
OK, so it might not be your typical “thrilling escape,” but Achilleus’s action of sharing a meal with Priam – the father of his mortal enemy – definitely marks a return to ordinary human life after so long spent way out on the edge. Ironically, this moment is overshadowed by the knowledge that Achilleus himself will die soon – meaning that he has rejoined humanity just before he is fated to leave it permanently. Three-Act Plot Analysis
For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved. Act I
Achilleus and Agamemnon fight over Briseis. Achilleus gets in a huff and refuses to fight for the Achaians anymore. Instead, he gets Zeus to beat up on the Achaians so they’ll know how much they miss him. After the Achaians do start getting beaten up, Agamemnon tries to put aside his differences with Achilleus, but Achilleus refuses.
Finally, when things are looking bad for the Achaians, Patroklos convinces Achilleus to let him lead the Myrmidons into battle, wearing Achilleus’s armor. This succeeds in driving the Trojans away from the Achaians’ ships, but then Patroklos is killed. Achilleus swears revenge, gets a new suit of armor from the gods, comes back into battle, and kills many Trojans, including Hektor.
Even after killing Hektor and burying Patroklos, however, Achilleus can’t let things rest. He keeps moping around, weeping, and abusing Hektor’s body until finally the gods decide to put a stop to it. They get Thetis, Achilleus’s mom, to convince him to give up the body, and send King Priam to ask for it. When he arrives, he and Achilleus share a moment of common humanity. They negotiate a truce between the armies so that Hektor can be buried in peace.
Human Work and the Natural World
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Often, in the Iliad, the poet will describe something – usually part of a battle – by a long, drawn-out simile. (For more details on the so-called “Homeric simile,” see our section on “Writing Style.”) In these similes, acts of warfare are typically compared either to peacetime human activities, such as handicrafts or tending sheep, or to elements of the natural world, such as waterfalls or lions.
Even though there is always some obvious connection between these two images, scholars have wondered if anything is going on at a deeper level. Are these scenes of peacetime and nature meant to contrast with the violence of war? Or are they to suggest that war is itself either a human activity like any other, or simply a part of nature? These questions are compounded by the famous Shield of Achilleus passage, which is usually interpreted as an image of the world as the Ancient Greeks understood it. This shield also depicts a mixture of human activities and nature, as well as peace and violence. In this way, what seem like poetic flourishes or a flight of descriptive fancy actually point to the philosophical heart of the poem.