Book 6 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on April 28, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1011

Book 6 continues on the same day of fighting, and the Achaians have the advantage. Adrestos is captured by Menelaus and pleads for his life, promising ransom. While at first Menelaus has pity, a sharp rebuke from Agamemnon convinces him not to spare the Trojan’s life. Nestor urges the Achaians to continue their assault and not stop to gather the spoils.

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The Achaians succeed in pushing the Trojans to retreat. Helenus then advises Hector to return to Troy and gather the women together to beseech Athena for help with Diomedes. Hector agrees and heads for the city, urging the warriors to keep up the fight while he is gone.

Meanwhile, Diomedes and Glaucus face each other for a duel. However, before beginning any fighting, Diomedes asks Glaucus to identify himself, since he has never seen him before. It soon becomes apparent that the grandfathers of the two men were friends. The men decide to honor this pact of friendship and to refrain from fighting each other. Armor is exchanged as a sign of their bond.

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When Hector reaches Troy he is met by his mother, Hecuba, and he tells her to gather the women together and make sacrifice to the goddess Athena. He then goes to the house of Alexandros (Paris) and finds him at home in the company of Helen. Hector angrily points out that the rest of the Trojans are fighting valiantly in a battle that Paris caused while he lolls about at home. Paris tells Hector that Helen had just convinced him to join the battle and that he was on his way.

Hector then goes to find his wife. He finds her with his son, Astyanax, watching the battle from the city walls. Andromache pleads with her husband not to return to the battle. She has lost her father and her brothers to Achilles and does not wish to lose Hector as well. Hector, however, is duty-bound to return to the fighting. He admits to feeling that Troy will fall eventually to the Achaians, but he cannot shirk his responsibilities. He reminds Andromache that his fate is in the hands of the gods either way and then leaves to return to battle.

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Analysis

In this chapter we have the vivid picture of Adrestos pleading for his life, offering Menelaus great ransom. This is one of several examples throughout the Iliad of captured warriors grabbing the knees of their captor in a desperate gesture of supplication. In this case, Menelaus is moved by the display and is ready to let Adrestos live. Agamemnon, however, feels no such pity. He reproves Menelaus for letting the man manipulate his feelings. Then he ruthlessly kills Adrestos himself. In every other instance of this pleading, the end will be the same. Mercy is not applauded by the Achaians. Perhaps this is one reason why Agamemnon is considered such a mighty warrior, while Menelaus is seen as his inferior in battle. Great warriors in this culture must be ruthless and unfeeling.

As Diomedes and Glaucus meet each other in battle, they pause to determine each other’s background. The Iliad is full of similar, long accounts of ancestry and family achievements. An individual’s identity is strongly tied to his heritage. When these two warriors discover a friendship between their grandparents, they immediately make a pact of friendship. It is clear from this behavior that bonds of friendship supersede all other obligations—even when the bond was made two generations earlier. This incident is in sharp contrast to the barbaric behavior of the battle all around them. While Diomedes can, and is obligated to, slaughter any and all other Trojans, he will not harm Glaucus. The bond of friendship is a central tenet of the heroic code, and its influence is seen several times throughout the epic.

In this book we find Paris again shirking his duties. He lounges at home with Helen, surrounded by the women of his household, while the battle continues without him. When Hector once again gives him an angry lecture about responsibility, Paris responds that he was on his way back to the battle. Nothing about Paris’s behavior supports this claim. Most likely he was just being cowardly and letting the other Trojans fight his battle for him. Paris’s actions are particularly irksome to Hector, who takes his responsibility very seriously.

At the end of this book, Hector admits to Andromache that he is fairly certain the Trojans will be defeated in the end. Yet even facing near certain defeat, Hector does not try to escape his responsibilities. He has a duty as commander of the forces to fight to the end. Hector has a strong belief in fate and knows that the will of the gods will be done regardless of the behavior of mortals. While he fears for his wife and son after the fall of Troy, he must accept fate and uphold his duties.

Hector’s strong ties to family and their obvious importance to him have led some critics to state that he symbolizes family values and unity. Hector’s wife and son are prominent in the lliad, as are his parents. He often thinks of them, and he fears for their safety. He is aware that if Troy is taken, his wife will be given to an Achaian as a war prize, and his son will most likely be killed. Andromache here represents the innocence of everyday life. Her exchange with Hector underlines the loss caused to those who remain behind when any warrior is killed. The prominence of Hector’s family in the epic is in sharp contrast to the Achaian heroes, who rarely speak of home and family. This is partly due to the fact that the Achaian homeland is far away, and they cannot be a part of the action. However, there is a difference in Hector’s attitude and a softer quality to his leadership. Though fearful and brave in battle, he lives for more than glory in war. This will become clearer as the epic progresses.

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