Key Plot Points

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Last Updated on July 10, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 773

Agamemnon and Achilles Argue (Book 1): The Achaean commander Agamemnon is forced to give up his war prize, the woman Chryseis, for the sake of the Achaean army. He claims the woman Briseis from Achilles in retaliation, insulting Achilles’s honor as a warrior. Achilles refuses to continue fighting for the Achaeans. Achilles’s mother, the goddess Thetis, petitions Zeus (Jove in the Roman), the ruler of the gods, to grant victories to the Trojans until the Achaean commanders should regret the loss of Achilles from the field. 

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Menelaus and Paris Fight (Book 3): The Trojan and Achaean armies meet on the battlefield. Paris (Alexandrus in the Roman) steps forward as a champion for Troy, and Helen’s husband Menelaus offers to oppose him. Hector offers terms of peace according to the outcome of their single combat, but the goddess Aphrodite (Venus in the Roman) intervenes and protects Paris, returning him to safety within the city and ensuring the continuation of the conflict. 

Hector and Ajax Fight (Book 7): Hector offers himself as the Trojan champion, and Telemonian Ajax (or Ajax the Greater) wins a draw of lots to serve as the Achaean champion. The two are evenly matched, and their combat is ended with the fall of night. The two exchange gifts, and the armies agree to rest from fighting and take time to properly care for their dead. 

The Embassy to Achilles (Book 9): Disheartened by heavy losses, Agamemnon sends an envoy to entreat Achilles to return to the battle. Achilles receives his former comrades with respect, but he rejects their offers of gifts and apologies from Agamemnon. His pride is wounded, his personal glory compromised, and he tells the envoy that he has no personal quarrel with Troy and intends to leave with his army in the morning. 

Hector Penetrates the Achaean Camp (Book 12): Hector and the Trojans penetrate the Achaean defenses, gaining access to their ships and revealing just how desperate the Achaean army is without Achilles. Before the successful charge, Hector discounts a potential omen, an eagle dropping a snake after being bitten by it. While his comrades show concern and uncertainty, Hector chooses to trust in an earlier message from Jove that he will reach the ships before nightfall. 

Patroclus Fights in Achilles’s Armor (Book 16): Distraught over Achaean losses and the proximity of the Trojans to their ships, Patroclus borrows Achilles’s armor and leads his Myrmidons into the fight. Despite injunctions from Achilles not to drive the Trojans farther than from the ships, Patroclus instead leads the Achaeans all the way across the plain and to the walls of Troy. After a brutal rampage, he is disabled by the god Apollo and wounded by a Trojan, Euphorbus, before finally being killed by Hector. 

The Grief of Achilles (Book 18): Achilles learns of Patroclus’s death. His rage and loss is greater than his anger at Agamemnon, and he vows to return to the battlefield so that he may kill Hector and avenge Patroclus. His mother Thetis requests new armor for him to replace that taken by Hector, and the god Hephaestus (Vulcan in the Roman) obliges. 

Achilles Fights Scamander (Book 21): In his rage, Achilles fills the river Scamander that flows across the Trojan plain with bodies. The god of the river, Xanthus, confronts him to object. When Achilles disregards him, Xanthus brings the river itself against him, eventually flooding the whole of the plain. Though Achilles has been assured by the gods that it is not his fate to die by the river, it still requires the intervention of Vulcan to stop Xanthus’s pursuit of Achilles and return the river to its banks. 

Achilles Kills Hector (Book 22): Aided by Athena (Minerva in the Roman), Achilles pursues and slays Hector beneath the walls of Troy. Rather than return the body for an honorable burial, Achilles ties it to the back of his chariot and drags it back across the Trojan plain to the Achaean camp to be disgraced. 

King Priam Begs for Hector’s Body (Book 24): With the help of Hermes (Mercury in the Roman) and the implicit sanction of the gods, King Priam ventures to the Achaean camp and faces Achilles to offer a ransom for Hector’s body. He invokes images of Achilles’s own father as he describes his grief, and the two men share their pain. They dine together, and Achilles promises to grant the Trojans twelve days of peace in which to properly honor Hector’s death. Priam spends part of the night under Achilles’s hospitality before returning with Hector’s body to Troy. 

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