The Iliad By Homer Summary and Analysis Book XXIV

Summary

Nine days pass after the funeral, and on each of these days, Achilles ties the body of Hektor to his chariot and drags it around the barrow of Patroklos. The gods, however, continue to preserve the corpse so that it does not deteriorate or rot.

Zeus then holds a meeting of the gods where it is decided that Hektor's body will be redeemed and given a suitable burial. To make this possible, the gods order Thetis to explain to her son, Achilles, that it is the will of Zeus that he restore Hektor's body to Priam, Hektor's father.

Escorted by the god Hermes, Priam and an old servant enter the Achaian camp that night, unseen. Priam appeals to Achilles as a suppliant, reminding Achilles of the feelings that he has for his own dead father. Achilles is so moved by these reawakened memories of home and parents that he agrees to accept Priam's offer of ransom for Hektor's body. The two men, Achilles and Priam, each having his own sorrow, weep together. Then Achilles has dinner prepared and provides Priam with a bed for the night. He even oversees the preparations of Hektor's body and also grants the Trojans a 12-day truce so that they have sufficient time to conduct Hektor's funeral rites.

All the people of Troy come out to mourn Hektor's body. Andromache, Hekuba, and Helen, all of whom praise Hektor and describe their own reasons for regretting his death, lead the lamentations.

During the period of the truce, the Trojans gather wood in the mountains and burn Hektor's body on a large funeral pyre. His bones are then placed in a golden chest, which is buried in a shallow grave. Over this, a barrow is erected. Afterward, a great funeral banquet is served in Priam's palace.

Analysis

The wrath of Achilles is finally assuaged in Book XXIV. Many people have noted connections between the last Book and the first because both involve a father seeking the return of a child. Agamemnon's rejection of Chryses in Book I leads to all of the events of the Iliad. Achilles' kindness to Priam in Book XXIV ends the warrior's wrath and brings the work full circle — the war situation is not essentially different from the way it was at the start. With Hektor's burial accomplished and Achilles' death imminent, the great antagonists of the Iliad have been dealt with.

The events here are the final resolution of the dramatic story of the wrath, or the anger, of Achilles and its aftermath. Until now, Achilles has undergone no real change of heart and has learned no moral lesson from his experiences. His meeting with Hektor's father, Priam, however, is a crucial stage in his moral development. In their conversation, Achilles reveals the full depth of his affection for Patroklos and demonstrates his ability to understand another man's sorrow; the more humane and nobler side of his character begins to regain influence as he learns to accept reality and to have compassion for others. By finally relenting and restoring Hektor's body to Priam, Achilles obeys the will of the gods and experiences a partial moral rehabilitation. He is changed and chastened. But his brief flash of temper, when Priam exhibits a small degree of caution and suspicion, reveals that he still has many of his irrational traits.

The final scene of the Iliad is one of the most impressive contributions Homer made to the saga of Troy and Achilles. By concluding his poem with the rehabilitation of Achilles, rather than with the death of Achilles or the fall of Troy, he wrote the Iliad as a poetic composition with a high level of artistic balance and symbolic meaning. It begins with a wrong deed done by Agamemnon to a suppliant father (Chryses) and ends with a right deed done by Achilles, another victim of Agamemnon, to another suppliant father (Priam). The opening and closing episodes of the poem thus focus the reader's attention directly on its central theme — the personal development of Achilles.

Glossary

Hermes often called the Messenger God, he acted as the Guide, such as in Book XXIV, taking Priam to Achilles' tent.

Niobe Phrygian woman whose twelve children were killed by Apollo and Artemis. Niobe is usually associated with mourning and weeping.

omen a sign of impending doom. Natural events, such as the flight of an eagle, were often seen as omens.

ransom payment to make up for death or to secure the return of a dead body; sometimes referred to in the Iliad as "man money."

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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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