Book 11 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on June 12, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 671

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Machaon: wounded Achaian carried out of battle by Nestor

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Eurypylos: wounded Achaian who asks Patroklos to tend his wound

As dawn breaks, the Achaians and Trojans arm for battle. Both sides fight fiercely, and the Achaians successfully break the Trojan line, forcing the enemy all the way back to the city walls. Then, however, the Trojans rally and soon Agamemnon is hit in the arm with a spear. He fights for a while, but eventually gives in to his wound and leaves the field. Shortly thereafter, Antenor shoots Diomedes through the foot with an arrow and he too is out of the battle. Then Odysseus is stabbed through his shield, and he also retreats to the camp. Aias continues fighting bravely, holding back the Trojans almost single-handedly.

Meanwhile, Achilleus watches the action from the stern of his ship. He senses that the Achaians now sorely need him, and that they will be brought to their knees to beg him to return to the battle. When he sees Nestor taking a wounded man from the battle, he sends Patroklos to him for news. Patroklos reaches Nestor and is informed of the day’s events. Nestor begs Patroklos to use his influence on Achilleus to convince him to bring his fresh troops into the battle. He also suggests that if Achilleus will not go, he could send Patroklos with the Myrmidon army. Nestor points out that if Patroklos wears Achilleus’ great armor, the Trojans may mistake him for Achilleus and retreat to the city.

Patroklos is moved by Nestor’s speech and sets off to return to Achilleus. On the way he is met by Eurypylos, wounded in the thigh by an arrow. Eurypylos gives a grim account of the Achaian position and requests that Patroklos help him with his wound. Patroklos cannot refuse, and stops to tend the wound.

Discussion and Analysis
In very short succession, each of the strongest Achaian fighters is wounded and unable to fight. It has been argued that these events are a direct result of Achilleus’ stubborn refusal to set aside his pride and accept Agamemnon’s generous offer of reconciliation. With or without these injuries, Achilleus and his troops are sorely missed. Watching the action from the safety of his ship, Achilleus does not decide to rush in and help his fellow warriors defend themselves. Instead, he distastefully revels in the Achaian’s distress. In his pride, he believes that this rout will lead them to come begging on their knees for his return.

Rather than show his interest in the events of the battle, Achilleus sends Patroklos to obtain information. Patroklos is Achilleus closest friend and companion, and he represents the human side of Achilleus. While Achilleus broods, Patroklos acts on his concern for the Achaians by approaching Nestor. Patroklos hears the dire news of the battle from Nestor, after which the wise old warrior offers yet another of his encouraging speeches. His goal is to convince Patroklos to use his influence with Achilleus to have him change his mind and enter the battle. He also offers an alternate plan. If Achilleus will not relent and go to war himself, perhaps he can send Patroklos dressed in his armor. The mere sight of the great armor may turn the tables for the Achaians. The importance of this plan is that Nestor is offering Achilleus a way to help his fellow Achaians without losing face. Nestor wisely realizes that Achilleus is held back only by his pride, and that he actually has great affection for the Achaian warriors.

Patroklos is prevented from returning immediately to Achilleus by Eurypylos. Even though Patroklos has urgent news to bring to his companion, he cannot ignore the plight of the wounded Eurypylos, who requests his aid. This episode dramatically underscores the generous and caring nature of Patroklos. Such behavior is in stark contrast to that of Achilleus, who sits on the sidelines watching the Achaians fall, knowing all the while that his help could save many lives.

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