Last Updated on April 28, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 638
As book 9 opens, the Achaians are in a panic. Agamemnon calls an assembly and tearfully suggests fleeing in their ships. It is Diomedes who finally protests against this plan, chastising Agamemnon for cowardice. He succeeds in rallying the Achaians to go on with the fight. Nestor then stands and suggests that a guard be set up outside the wall to protect against a surprise attack, and that a feast be held for the elders as they decide their plan of action.
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As the elders feast, Nestor points out that the present difficulty is a direct result of Agamemnon’s feud with Achilles. He suggests returning Briseis and making peace with Achilles so that he will return to fight with the Achaians. Agamemnon is now ready to admit fault, and he agrees to return Briseis to Achilles, along with a sworn oath that he has not touched her and a generous array of gifts. Phoenix, Ajax, and Odysseus, all friends of Achilles, are sent to give him the message.
Achilles warmly receives his friends into his hut, but he is still too angry to accept Agamemnon’s peace offering, explaining that even ten or twenty times the amount of treasure offered could not repay the wrong done to him. In the morning he plans to sail for home, and he advises his friends to do the same. Phoenix makes an emotional appeal to Achilles to change his mind and forgive, but to no avail. Odysseus and Ajax are sent to take the message back to Agamemnon, while Phoenix remains with Achilles.
Achilles’s answer shocks Agamemnon. Diomedes then declares that it was a mistake to have tried to entreat such a proud man with offers of great treasure. He advises them to get some sleep and in the morning do the best they can to defend their ships.
At this point, Agamemnon sees only disastrous consequences in the fighting to come. He is so frightened he completely loses sight of the omens he has been given as proof of eventual Achaian victory, and he advocates running away. He reveals himself in this book as lacking the substance and character necessary to be a great leader. He is completely dependent on his advisers to make important tactical decisions. It is Diomedes who reminds him of his dignity and duties as commander of the forces. Diomedes shows his mettle by announcing that even if everyone else runs away, he will stay and fight to the end, believing that Troy will eventually fall.
Nestor very diplomatically points a finger at Agamemnon, making it clear that he is at fault for much of the Achaian situation. Had Agamemnon not quarreled with Achilles, they would surely be in a better strategic position. It is very precarious to find fault with such a great leader, but Nestor is not afraid to speak the truth. Nestor again represents the voice of reason and good sense, and Agamemnon agrees.
Achilles, on the other hand, is not being at all reasonable. It is not enough for him that Agamemnon has admitted his error and requested his return to the battle. It is clear from this passage that Achilles is not interested in material things. He will not give up until Agamemnon is brought to his knees. While both men were acting childish, it originally seemed that most of the blame rested with Agamemnon. However, in refusing an honest apology and offer of recompense, Achilles now appears morally inferior. The oddity of Achilles’s refusal is highlighted in the stunned reaction of the Achaians when they hear the news. His tragic flaw becomes vividly apparent here as his pride stands in the way of his intellect. This incident is a turning point in the narrative, and for some time afterward, things will go very badly for the Achaians.