The Iliad By Homer Summary and Analysis Book V

Summary

The battle continues with great fury, and both armies perform many acts of valor. During this particular day's fighting, the outstanding warrior is Diomedes, whom the goddess Athena has inspired with exceptional courage and skill.

When Pandaros (who wounded Menelaos) wounds Diomedes, the valiant Achaian soldier appeals to Athena for aid. She answers him by giving him additional courage, plus the privilege of being able to distinguish gods from men. She warns him, however, not to fight against any of the gods — with the exception of Aphrodite.

Diomedes returns to the front line and drives the Trojans back before him. He kills many Trojans, including Pandaros, and then he wounds Aeneas, the son of the goddess Aphrodite. Diomedes takes the splendid horses of Aeneas as a war prize and is about to finish off Aeneas himself when Aphrodite comes down to protect her son. Enraged at Aphrodite's interference, Diomedes pursues her and wounds her in the hand. With tears streaming down her face, Aphrodite flees in terror to Olympos and seeks solace from Dione, her mother. Zeus is angry at this turn of events and orders Aphrodite to stay off the battlefield in the future because warfare is not the same as love, her usual sphere of interest. Meanwhile, Apollo carries Aeneas off to safety in the temple at Pergamos.

Ares, the savage god of war, enters the Trojan ranks and helps Hektor rally his forces. With his aid, Hektor and the Trojan army again attempt to advance. But the Achaians, led by Diomedes and other Achaian heroes, are able to hold their ground. As the bloody battle progresses, however, the strong and brutal influence of Ares is felt, and the Achaians gradually begin to withdraw toward their camp.

Hera and Athena then fly to the aid of the Achaians, after gaining permission from Zeus to bring Ares under control. On the plains before Troy, Hera gives fresh strength to the Achaians while Athena brings the now-wounded Diomedes back to the fray. She advises him to have no fear of Ares or any other god. Diomedes gallops into combat, encounters Ares, and drives a spear into his belly. With a bellow of pain and fury, Ares leaves the field and heads for Olympos.

Finding Zeus, Ares complains about the harsh treatment he has received, but the god of war gets no sympathy from Zeus. Zeus tells him that because of his quarrelsome and cruel nature, he has no love for him, but because he is a god, his wound will heal. Athena and Hera then return to the Olympian palace, and the battle between the Achaians and the Trojans continues to rage, but now there are no gods fighting on either side.

Analysis

The aristeia of a warrior is defined simply as that warrior's greatest battle, the battle in which he reaches his peak as a fighter and hero. Throughout the Iliad, many of the characters have aristeias; Book V is the aristeia of Diomedes.

Book V, sometimes referred to as the Diomedia, has its own internal unity and may once have constituted an independent poem, or bardic lay, about the exploits of the Achaian hero Diomedes, which was adapted by Homer and included in the Iliad. The long account of the deeds of Diomedes has little to do with the main plot of the Iliad in any direct sense and could easily have been omitted or given in less detail, but it has several important artistic functions. Diomedes is a heroic Achaian figure, comparable to Achilles in prowess, gallantry, courage, and divine favor, but with the significant difference that he is always courteous, self-controlled, and respectful, even when in dispute with his king, Agamemnon. The tale of Diomedes presents an alternative model of a hero with whom to compare Achilles and by which to judge Achilles' defection from the army during the heat of battle. Diomedes has no more reason to fight for Menelaos than Achilles has. Diomedes has not received war prizes that equal those of Agamemnon or Achilles. Yet when battle arises and he is called upon to do his duty, Diomedes fights with unmatched intensity. Achilles sits in his tent. Additionally, the Diomedia is the first and most impressive of the long series of battle scenes and scenes of personal combat that now follow in the absence of Achilles.

Beginning with the high point of Diomedes' heroism, the Achaian successes will now steadily deteriorate into two culminating disasters: Achilles' rejection of Agamemnon's attempt at reconciliation (Book IX) and the Trojans' breaking through the Achaian wall protecting the Achaian ships (Book XII).

Aeneas, one of the Trojan heroes who appears in this book, was in later times claimed by the Romans as their legendary ancestor, and he became the hero of the Aeneid, a Classical Latin epic by the poet Virgil. The Aeneid chronicles the founding of Rome.

Aphrodite also joins in the fighting in this book, revealing her partisanship for the Trojans. She stands in contrast to Hera and Athena who favor the Achaians. Aphrodite sides with the Trojans because of Paris who had selected her as the most beautiful goddess (see Background to the Epic). Her entry into the battle here also connects her with Aeneas, who is her son.

That gods and goddesses enter the battle is an example of the anthropomorphic nature of Greek gods. That is, they have human shapes, emotions, and other qualities. Aphrodite's concern for her son and her favoritism toward the Trojans are her obvious motivations in entering the battle. Zeus generally tries to keep the gods out of the battle, though this effort often proves futile.

Glossary

Aeneas Trojan warrior, son of Anchises and Aphrodite. In legend, he is the only major Trojan warrior to escape from Troy.

aristeia the greatest battle of a hero. For example, Diomedes' aristeia occurs in Book V; Achilles' aristeia ends the Iliad.

brazen made of brass or bronze.

car chariot.

ichor the ethereal fluid flowing instead of blood in the veins of the gods.

Scamander river that flows through the plain on which Troy is located.

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On what day after the return of Hektor’s body to the Trojans will the battle begin again?




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