The Iliad Book Summary, by Homer, Robert Fagles, Bernard Knox

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1-Page Summary of The Iliad

Nine years after the start of the Trojan War, a Greek (Achaean) army sacks Chryse, a town allied with Troy. During that battle, they capture two beautiful maidens named Briseis and Chryseis. Agamemnon takes Chryseis as his prize, and Achilles claims Briseis for himself. The father of one of those girls offers an enormous ransom in return for her daughter’s freedom but is refused by Agamemnon. Apollo then sends a plague upon the Achaean camp because of this refusal to release his priest’s daughter.

After many Achaeans died, Agamemnon consulted the prophet Calchas to determine the cause of the plague. When he was told that Chryseis caused it, he reluctantly gave her up but then demanded Briseis from Achilles as compensation. Furious at this insult, Achilles returned to his tent in the army camp and refused to fight in battle any longer. He wanted revenge on all those who wronged him and asked his mother Thetis to enlist Zeus’ help for a Trojan victory. Both sides had declared a cease-fire with each other (the Trojan side breached it).

Achilles withdraws from the battle and Paris kills Menelaus. The Achaeans suffer great losses while Diomedes fails to defeat Hector. Even Odysseus’ efforts are fruitless and the Trojans advance towards their camp. They set fire to one of the ships, which is a huge loss for them because it means they will have no way home if they lose this war.

Achilles is concerned for his friends, but he still refuses to help them. Nestor suggests a plan that will allow Patroclus to take Achilles’ place and fight while wearing his armor. The plan works, and Patroclus helps the Achaeans push the Trojans back toward their city. However, Apollo knocks off Achilles’ armor, and Hector kills Patroclus. Both sides try to claim the body of Patroclus as well as his armor (which was made by Hephaestus). Menelaus leads an effort that allows them to bring both back to camp safely. When Achilles discovers that Hector killed Patroclus, he feels grief and anger at what has happened; therefore he changes his mind about fighting in this war anymore because it’s not worth it without him being there with all of his power or strength. Then when Thetis goes up on Mount Olympus and asks if they can make her son some new armor so that she can give it to him tomorrow morning before battle begins again, they agree because they want her son back into battle so badly after seeing how much sorrow he went through when losing one of his closest friends from war who died in battle against a Trojan warrior named Hector who stole away with both of their lives right before their eyes like nothing had ever happened at all which is why everyone wants him back out there more than anything else in the world since no one wants anyone else going through what they did especially since now we have lost two very close members within our own family circle which means we must get even stronger ourselves if we are ever going to win this ongoing war once again just like always.”

Meanwhile, Achilles has been told that the Trojan army is camped outside Troy. However, when he arrives at the battlefield and sees them running away in fear, he chases after them and kills everyone who crosses his path. He even fights with a river god because of all of the bodies floating downriver. Eventually, Hector gets tired of running away from Achilles and decides to fight him instead. Athena helps him by making him turn around so that they can have a fair fight. In this duel between two great warriors, Achilles finally defeats Hector by killing him with his sword and tying his body to his chariot for everyone to see as he drags it back through the city streets on its way home. Every day for nine days afterward, Achilles drags Hector’s corpse across Patroclus’ funeral bier while people celebrate Patroclus’ life with athletic games in honor of their fallen comrade.

The Iliad Book Summary, by Homer, Robert Fagles, Bernard Knox

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