The Iliad By Homer Summary and Analysis Book VII

Summary

Hektor and Paris rejoin the Trojan forces, and the battle begins again. Athena and Apollo, after witnessing the continued slaughter, decide to end the day's combat by arranging a duel between Hektor and one of the best Achaian warriors. The time consumed by this duel will result in a recess for both armies.

The Greeks cast lots and Telamonian Aias is chosen as the Achaian champion. He and Hektor engage in a ferocious duel, but neither warrior is able to overcome the other. Finally, because it is growing dark, the two men are parted by heralds, and they exchange gifts as tokens of their respective valor.

That night, each of the armies has a feast celebrating the safe return of its champion. In the Achaian camp, Nestor proposes that a short truce be arranged so that funerals for the dead can be held; he also wants to use this time for his fellow Achaians to build a wall and a trench to defend their ships.

In Troy that same evening, one of the Trojan noblemen, Antenor, suggests that Helen be returned to Menelaos. Paris refuses to give up his new wife, but he offers to restore all of Helen's property to Menelaos, plus some of his own as an indemnity. Wise old Priam, Hektor's father, sends a messenger to Agamemnon with this proposition, as well as a request for a truce during which the Trojans can bury their dead. The Achaians refuse the offer by Paris, but both sides agree on the truce.

The next morning, the two armies collect their dead and conduct the funeral rites. At a council on Olympos, Zeus warns the gods that he is at last planning to bring the Trojan War to a finish and that any interference in favor of either side will be punished severely. However, when Athena asks to be allowed to advise the Achaians, Zeus consents.

Analysis

Most of Books VII and VIII involve battles, such as the duel between Hektor and Aias at the center of Book VII and the renewed but brief battle that is the subject of Book VIII. A number of incidents make up a typical duel such as the duel between Hektor and Aias. Each of these characteristics may not be in every duel, but all of them are so typical that they may have been part of the mnemonic material that poets fell back on during their recitations.

Before fighting, the combatants may establish their own lineage and then taunt the opponent. This type of speech is not unlike contemporary "trash talk" in sports. After the initial sparring, the battle is described in detail with each spear thrust and parry explained. Wounds are described graphically and with clear anatomical references, including the exact cause of death. Sometimes a dying warrior has final words while the victor often exults over the body. The armor of the dead warrior is removed and claimed by the victor, a symbolic taking of identity. In Book XVII, Hektor actually puts on the armor of Achilles that Patroklos was wearing. Finally, the body of the fallen warrior may be desecrated or returned to the enemy according to the feelings of the victor.

Glossary

buckler a small, round shield held by a handle or worn on the arm. Buckler seems to be synonymous with any shield in the Iliad.

bronze alloy of copper and tin. Frequently used in metalworking and decoration at the time of the Trojan War. Bronze was often used as a symbol in Greek literature for the age of the Trojan War, i.e., the Bronze Age.

carrion birds any birds that scavenge on dead flesh (carrion) such as vultures or crows.

Cronus early god in Greek mythology. Son of Uranus and father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, and Demeter.

funeral pyre a pile, especially of wood, on which a dead body is burned in a funeral rite.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz