Iliad Book 2 Summary and Analysis
by Homer

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Book 2 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Thersites: obnoxious, insubordinate Achaian

Iris: messenger goddess sent by Zeus to warn Trojans of attack

Book Two opens with Zeus’ plan to aid Achilleus in his revenge. Zeus sends Agamemnon the message that the gods are now on the Achaian side, and that they will be victorious in their campaign against Troy. To convey the message, Zeus sends Dream in the form of Nestor.

Agamemnon wakes from his dream convinced that the Achaians will now defeat Troy. At the same time, Zeus sends his messenger Rumour among the armies to urge them on to battle. The armies are called together and Agamemnon tests them by telling them to give up and go home. To his surprise, the men are overjoyed and cheer loudly as they race to the ships that will take them home.

However, Hera is not pleased with this reaction, and she sends Athene down to urge the men back to the fight. Athene reminds Odysseus of the many men already dead, and how pointless their deaths will be if the cause is not won. Odysseus then takes Agamemnon’s scepter and urges the men back to the battle, egging them on with taunts of their weakness and cowardly nature. Eventually the prodding is rewarded, and the troops turn back. However, one warrior, Thersites, refuses to listen to Odysseus’ reasoning. He insults and taunts Agamemnon and argues for abandoning him in Troy. When Odysseus rebukes him and beats him with the scepter, all of the armies applaud. Thersites has no defenders.

Odysseus urges the armies to stay and fight, reminding them of the sign they received before taking on the cause. A snake devoured eight sparrow chicks and then the mother sparrow before turning to stone. Then Nestor addresses the assembly, reminding the men of the pledges they had made to the cause and of the lightning seen on the right side of the boats as they sailed to Troy, signifying victory. The men are convinced to stay.

Agamemnon then calls the men to battle and they disperse to prepare, sacrificing to the gods and praying that they will escape death in the coming battle. Athene circulates among the men raising their strength for the fight. The narrator then gives us a long list of the army divisions of the Achaians. Indicated here are the leader of each army, the land they are from, and how many ships they brought with them to Troy.

The messenger goddess Iris is sent to the Trojans to warn them of the Achaian attack. The Trojan army and its allies prepare for battle and exit the city gate to fight, led by Hektor. The chapter ends with a list of the army divisions fighting for Troy.

Discussion and Analysis
In Book Two we see two prominent examples of personification: Dream and Rumour. Zeus is said to send his “messengers” Dream and Rumour in order to accomplish some purpose. The reader can clearly see that the gods are not just aware of the actions of men, but are constantly manipulating them. When Zeus sends Dream in the form of Nestor, he consciously chooses the person that Agamemnon most respects and trusts. Zeus knows that this increases the possibility of Agamemnon believing and acting on the message. Similarly, Rumour is sent to disseminate a certain mood among the troops—to put an idea into their heads. However, while Dream succeeded in convincing Agamemnon of the message from Zeus, Rumour was apparently unsuccessful in spurring the army on to battle. As soon as they are given the opportunity, they are more than ready to abandon the cause.

A major conflict in this book is presented by Thersites. While Thersites comes across as being obnoxious and laughable,...

(The entire section is 935 words.)