Iliad Books 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
by Homer

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Books 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis

New Character
Thoas: advises the Achaians to retreat to their ships

Nestor leaves his hut to observe the battle and sees that the Trojans have broken through the Achaian wall. He soon encounters Diomedes, Odysseus, and Agamemnon, and they discuss strategy. Agamemnon proposes that they drag the ships into the sea and sail away under cover of darkness. He sees no point in fighting the Trojans when the gods are on their side. Odysseus chides him for his lack of courage. He points out that if the Achaians know they will retreat in their ships, they will lose the spirit for fighting and be destroyed on the battlefield before they reach the shore. Diomedes then proposes that the three wounded leaders go back to the fighting to encourage the men, and they all agree to do so.

Hera looks down from Olympus and happily sees Poseidon on the battlefield spurring on the Achaians. She immediately thinks of a plan to keep Zeus out of his way. She bathes and perfumes herself, dresses herself in beautiful clothing, and borrows the magic Band of Love and Desire from Aphrodite. She then enlists the aid of Sleep, promising him one of the Graces in marriage if he will put Zeus to sleep after she has lain with him. She goes to Zeus on Mount Ida, and he is overwhelmed with desire for her, wraps them in clouds and lies with her. Sleep then overtakes him.

Aias and Hektor meet in combat, and Hektor is brought down with a large stone. As he is carried from the battlefield, the Achaians are spurred on and force the Trojans back. As Book Fifteen opens, the Trojans are pushed back across the ditch on the far side of the wall. When Zeus awakens and sees the Trojans in retreat and Hektor lying wounded on the field, he is furious with both Hera and Poseidon. Zeus then lays out the major events that will take place in the battle. Iris is sent to order Poseidon to leave the battle, and Apollo is sent to panic the Achaians, spur on the Trojans, and strengthen Hektor.

When the Achaian army sees Hektor back in the fighting, they are afraid and retreat back to their ships. The Trojans press forward through the wall and the panicked Achaians pray to the gods for their lives. The fighting now takes place among the Achaian ships, and Hektor calls for fire to burn them.

Discussion and Analysis
Agamemnon is ready to give up and sail for home. He interprets the signs as an indication that the gods now favor Troy, and no longer believes that the Achaians will eventually be victorious. Agamemnon is again showing his weakness and inability to lead. This time it is Odysseus who harshly reminds Agamemnon of his position of responsibility. Odysseus is not quite as diplomatic as Diomedes when facing Agamemnon. He calls Agamemnon a “catastrophe,” and reminds him that if they flee, all the fighting of the last nine years would be in vain. Also, it is a tactically dangerous proposition. Many men would certainly be lost in attempting to escape. Agamemnon is in such a state of panic...

(The entire section is 802 words.)