The Iliad By Homer Summary and Analysis Book VIII

Summary

In the morning, the Trojan forces come out of the city and the armies clash again. Zeus watches over the fighting from nearby Mount Ida and decides to give the day's victory to Troy. A furious battle ensues, and soon the Achaians are driven from the field in complete disorder. Most of the commanders flee also, and old Nestor is saved from Hektor's spear only by the courage of Diomedes.

Hera, who has always been a fanatical hater of the Trojans, tries to convince Poseidon to join her in helping the Achaians. The sea god, however refuses.

Hektor is everywhere, fighting bravely and cheering on his men. Hera and Athena prepare to intervene, but Zeus notices their approach. He repeats his earlier warning through his messenger, Iris, and the goddesses return to Olympos. Meanwhile, the Achaian forces are driven back behind the fortifications protecting their ships.

Hektor orders his army to camp on the plain for the night to prevent the Achaians from sailing off to safety in the darkness and to retain the advantage for the morning's assault. Supplies are brought from Troy, and the Trojan fires burn in front of the Achaian wall.

Analysis

In Book VIII, the Achaian, Teucer, hides behind the shield of Aias and kills several Trojans with his arrows. This style of fighting is unusual in the Iliad and seems almost dishonorable compared to most of the fights. Ennis Rees, who did the original Modern Library translation of the Iliad, has called the description of Teucer's battle, "The little aristeia of Little Teucer," which is as good a description as any.

Pandaros and Meriones are also mentioned as archers. The use of archery was probably associated only with certain of the Achaian kingdoms, possibly Lycia. In the Odyssey, Odysseus strings his bow and proceeds to kill many of the suitors with arrows, so that archery may also have been practiced in Ithaca.

Many critics and commentators have mentioned the beautiful simile that ends Book VIII. In the simile the watch fires of the Achaian camp are compared to the stars. The simile ends with an image of the horses standing, waiting for dawn. The peacefulness of the simile contrasts with the barbarity of the fighting that has occurred in Books VII and VIII. The simile also suggests a kind of optimism for the Greeks. They have been sorely pressed by the Trojans in Book VIII, but the scene around the campfire suggests a kind of serenity that belies concerns about defeat.

Glossary

charioteer the driver of a chariot. The fighter was not responsible for driving, only for fighting.

driver another term for charioteer.

herald an official messenger, usually allowed to pass through enemy lines to deliver a message.

Ida central mountain in the Troad range. Favorite seat of Zeus. Ida is probably the second most frequently mentioned mountain in the Iliad after Olympos.

Tartarus lowest part of the Greek underworld where Zeus' defeated enemies were sent.

tripod three-legged iron pot, used for cooking.

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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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