Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 931
Pandaros: the Trojan who breaks the truce by shooting an arrow at Menelaos
Talthybios: herald of Menelaos who summons Machaon to heal Menelaos’ wound
Machaon: healer who treats Menelaos’ wound
Idomeneus: leader of the Cretan forces who pledges loyalty to Agamemnon
Diomedes: one of the strongest Achaian warriors
Stethenelos: companion of Diomedes
Ares: God of War who helps the Trojans
Antilochos: first Achaian to kill a Trojan warrior
Telamonian Aias: one of the strongest Achaian warriors
Antiphos: son of Priam and strong Trojan warrior
Hektor: son of Priam and leader of the Trojan forces
Apollo: god who fights on the Trojan side
Aineias: son of Aphrodite and counselor to the Trojans, wounded by Diomedes
Dione: mother of Aphrodite who heals her wound
Sarpedon: Trojan warrior who urges Hektor to rally his troops
Paieon: healer god who treats Ares’ wound
Book Four opens with a meeting of the gods, who discuss the outcome of the duel in the last chapter. Zeus recommends ending the war, as Menelaos was decidedly the winner. However, Hera and Athene are bent on destroying Troy completely, and argue against a truce. In the end, Athene is sent to provoke further fighting.
She accomplishes her goal by persuading Pandaros to gain glory for himself by killing Menelaos. Pandaros takes her advice and shoots an arrow at Menelaos. The arrow reaches its mark and draws blood, but is not fatal. The action produces the desired results, and both sides are stirred to battle. The fighting is fierce, and a great number of soldiers are killed on both sides.
As Book Five opens, the battle is still waging. The center of attention here is Diomedes, who, with help from Athene, performs many courageous acts. When Diomedes is wounded by Pandaros, Athene gives him the advantage of recognizing the gods on the battlefield. She warns him, however, not to engage any of the gods in combat except Aphrodite whom she despises.
Diomedes continues to kill many Trojans, and eventually wounds the son of Aphrodite, Aineias. Aphrodite quickly comes to her son’s rescue, leading him out of the battle. Diomedes, however, intent on finishing the job of killing Aineias, chases them and wounds Aphrodite in the hand with his spear. Aphrodite drops her son and runs off to Olympus hurt and frightened. Zeus orders her to stay out of the war as she is not trained in warfare. Apollo then carries Aineias to safety.
The advantage goes back and forth as the gods lend their aid to one side and then the other. At a point when Ares is spurring the Trojans on to the upper hand, Athene and Hera urge Diomedes on and he badly injures Ares with his spear. The God of War angrily leaves the field and heads for Olympus to complain to Zeus. Zeus, however, is not sympathetic, and tells Ares his violent nature led to his wound. The battle on earth continues without help from the gods on either side.
Discussion and Analysis
At this point in the story, it looks as though the war will end, Helen will be returned to Menelaos, and the Achaians will sail for home. Zeus is concerned for the mortals. However, Hera and Athene have a long-standing grudge against Troy and want to see the city destroyed. The decision of the immortals to encourage further conflict will bring about the deaths of many warriors on both sides.
When Athene chooses Pandaros to break the truce, she knows that he is not incredibly bright. The war has now been raging for nine long years. Both armies are tired of the fighting and eager to return to their families. This became evident in Book One as the Achaians quickly took Agamemnon up on his plan to sail home, and also in the joyful reaction of both sides to settling the matter once and for all with a duel between Paris and Menelaos. Athene chooses Pandaros precisely because she knows she can convince him to go for glory and forget the consequences. If he can kill Menelaos, he knows that his name will live on and he will be a hero of the Trojans. This is an expansion of the theme of mortality versus immortal glory. It is also an example of the gods simply encouraging men to do what they desire to do anyway. Athene does not intercede supernaturally to continue the war. She simply relies on the nature of Pandaros, who very humanly ignites renewed conflict.
Book Five deals almost exclusively with the brave deeds of Diomedes, and has been called the “Diomedia.” Some critics believe that this section of the Iliad was composed as a separate story and added to the Iliad later. This theory is based on the fact that the chapter does nothing to advance the plot of the conflict between Achilleus and Agamemnon.
However, it is also true that Diomedes presents a strong contrast to Achilleus. While the two men are both strong in battle, favored by the gods, and leaders of men, Diomedes shares none of Achilleus’ impetuousness. While Achilleus is back at the ships nursing his grudge against Agamemnon, Diomedes is in the heart of the conflict and fights bravely even after he is badly injured. While Diomedes is never slighted in the same way as Achilleus, there are examples throughout the Iliad of disagreements between Diomedes and Agamemnon. In every one of these cases, Diomedes calmly defers to Agamemnon without complaint, even when Agamemnon is not acting wisely. His unfailing tact and courtesy are in sharp contrast to Achilleus’ long-held anger.
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