Iliad Book 3 Summary and Analysis
by Homer

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Book 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters
Alexandros (Paris): abductor of Helen and cause of the war; basically a coward

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and mother of Aneas

Helen: wife of Menelaos and mistress of Paris

Priam: father of Paris and King of Troy

Idaios: herald who urges Priam to make a truce with Agamemnon

Antenor: accompanies Priam to make truce with Agamemnon

The Trojans and Achaians approach each other to do battle. As they prepare to fight, Alexandros (Paris) challenges the best of the Achaians to a duel. However, when Menelaos agrees to fight, Paris cowardly shrinks back into the ranks. Hektor derides Paris for causing the war and then having no courage to fight. Paris is so shamed by his brother’s remarks that he agrees to duel with Menelaos for Helen and all of her goods, leaving the rest of the armies out of it.

The armies are overjoyed with this plan, and quickly lay down their armor and prepare to make a truce. Idaios the herald is sent to summon King Priam, who rides down in his chariot with Antenor to meet Agamemnon and Odysseus. Together they swear that the winner of the fight will keep Helen and all her goods. When the conditions have been met, the Achaians will return to their home. However, if Menelaos wins and Priam refuses to pay, the Achaians will fight the war to its end. Two lambs are sacrificed and everyone prays to Zeus, cursing any who offend the oath.

Hektor and Odysseus then measure out the dueling ground in a large open space between the two armies. Lots are shaken, and Paris draws the honor of throwing the first spear. Soon after the fighting begins, it becomes apparent that Menelaos is the better warrior. After inflicting a small wound, he knocks Paris to the ground and drags him triumphantly by the plume of his helmet to the Achaian onlookers. However, before he reaches his companions, Aphrodite wraps Paris in a thick mist and spirits him away from the battlefield. She deposits him in his bedroom and calls Helen to him.

Agamemnon declares Menelaos the victor of the duel, because he had been winning before Paris disappeared. He calls for the Trojans to give Helen and her possessions back, and to provide compensation. The book ends with the Achaians applauding their leader.

Discussion and Analysis
In the beginning of this book there is tension between Paris and the Trojans. While Paris was completely and solely responsible for causing the war that has now raged on for nine solid years, he is neither quick to take responsibility nor to do his fair share of the fighting. His act of bravado in challenging the best of the Achaians to a duel reveals his cowardice. Hektor expresses the views of the majority of Trojans when he taunts Paris. After the disappearance during the duel, it states that none of his companions would have hidden him, “since he was hated among them all as dark death is hated” (line 454). Hektor is in an awkward position. As Paris’ brother and commander of the forces, Hektor is duty-bound to protect him and to fight for him. However, it is Paris who has brought disruption to the social order of Troy and has put the family at risk. This is a recurring issue in the epic, and Hektor will continually chide Paris for his irresponsible behavior.

The actual duel between Menelaos and Paris over Helen acts as a capsulated version of the entire war. These three characters are, after all, the only ones involved in the original conflict. The duel would therefore seem more...

(The entire section is 920 words.)