Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 679
Teukros: Achaian warrior who kills many Trojans
Book Eight opens with a fierce warning from Zeus. He promises dire consequences to any immortal who attempts to help either the Trojans or the Achaians. Athene asks permission to give advice to the Achaians without actually aiding them in battle, and Zeus agrees. Zeus then leaves for Mount Ida, where he will have a clear view of the battlefield and will be left in peace to survey the action.
Meanwhile, both armies prepare for battle, and the fighting begins again in earnest. At noon, Zeus takes out his golden scales and weighs the fates of the Trojans and the Achaians. The fate of the Achaians sinks, while the Trojan’s fate is lifted high. Shortly after this, the Achaians lose courage, and fare badly in the fighting. They turn and run to the ships, and many are pinned in the space between the Trojans and the wall.
Hera then tries to convince Poseidon to aid the Achaians. Poseidon is afraid of the consequences of disobeying Zeus,though, and he refuses. Agamemnon, however, prays to Zeus, who pities the Achaians, not wanting them to be completely destroyed. Zeus sends an omen; an eagle with a fawn in its talons that is dropped next to the Achaian altar to Zeus. This sign rallies the Achaians for a time, but they are soon pushed back again to the ditch, and then back to the ships.
Hera and Athene are dismayed by the dire situation for the Achaians, and they harness a team of horses to take them into the battle. Zeus is furious when he sees what they have done, and issues a severe threat to them if they choose to intervene on behalf of the Achaians. The two goddesses agree to let fate run its course, and they turn back.
The fighting ends with nightfall, and the Trojans camp on the plain by the Achaian wall. Hektor orders the Trojans not to allow the Achaians to escape in their ships during the night. Food is brought from the city, and the Trojans build their fires and wait for dawn to resume the fighting.
Discussion and Analysis
This book opens with an example of the conflict between Zeus and the other immortals over the fate of the war. While the immortals are eager to lend their substantial strength to their favorite side, Zeus is continually warning them not to interfere. Here again, Zeus indicates that he favors bringing an end to the war, and strongly threatens the other gods to keep their distance. So forceful are his words that the assembly is shocked to hear them. Still, Athene is bold enough to request permission to give advice to the Achaians. Zeus surprisingly agrees. The impression we get from this behavior is of a stern parent reprimanding a group of unruly children. While the parent has ultimate control, he does not have control over every little action carried out by one of his charges. The children are constantly getting into trouble by not listening. Unsurprisingly, before the book is over, Hera and Athene are caught trying to enter the battle on behalf of the Achaians.
Another view of the immortals in this chapter involves the scales of fate. The scales are seen several times during the course of the narrative, and each time they show who will emerge victorious in the situation at hand. This time the scales weigh the outcome of the day’s fighting, and it is clear that the Trojans will hold the advantage. Shortly after, the battle on the field mirrors the outcome of the scales, and the Achaians are forced back to their ships. The scales of fate show that Zeus is not exactly in charge of the events happening on earth. Rather, he himself is bound by the limits of fate, and his actions merely serve to bring about fate’s predetermined outcome. The scales never represent supernatural intervention in the lives of man; instead, they reveal what must happen due to the nature of things.
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