This lesson will summarize Book 19 of Homer’s ‘The Iliad.’ In Book 19, Achilles mourns Patroclus’s death and focuses all his rage toward the Trojans. He puts on his god-made armor and prepares to go into battle at last.
A Visit From Mom
As the day breaks, Achilles‘ goddess mother, Thetis, rushes toward her son. He grieves over Patroclus‘s body at the Greek ships.
Thetis delivers Achilles’ newly-made armor, which is a gift from Hephaestus, the god of fire. As such, it is greater than regular earthly armor. The only mortal worthy of it is Achilles, nearly a god himself. Indeed, the other soldiers can’t even look at the armor, turning away from its brilliant glare.
Achilles looks at it unflinchingly, and his rage grows stronger.He’s also overcome at the thought of his dear friend Patroclus’s body decaying. Pitying her son, Thetis tells him not to worry. She preserves Patroclus’s body with ambrosia and nectar. Even strapping Greek heroes need their mommy from time to time!
Clearing the Air With Agamemnon
Remember that pesky feud between Achilles and Agamemnon way back in Book 1? When Agamemnon took Achilles’ spoils of war, including the beautiful girl Briseis? Suddenly that doesn’t seem so important to Achilles.
His stubborn anger with Agamemnon has led the Greeks to the mess they are currently in. Enough, says Achilles. He’s over it. In light of what has happened to his best friend, the petty feud over a girl and some treasure means nothing. All that matters is defeating the Trojans and avenging Patroclus’s death.
The long-suffering Greeks are thrilled to hear that Achilles has finally come around. They’ve spent this entire time fighting without their strongest and best man. Agamemnon speaks next, and blames Zeus for clouding his judgement and driving him to take Achilles’ treasures. Agamemnon steps up and promises to return everything he took, including Briseis. Achilles waves the offer off. To him, nothing matters now except revenge.
A Pause Before the Fight
Achilles is ready to charge, but Odysseus reins him in. He points out that a long and intense battle awaits, and the Greeks need to eat and drink first. Agamemnon agrees, but Achilles resists. He contends they should battle now and only feast when they win and deserve it. And he, for one, will definitely not be eating a thing.Achilles seems nearly godlike in his single-minded determination and his lack of concern for earthly needs. Odysseus plays the age card and tells Achilles he knows a thing or two.
Sending hungry men to battle is not a good idea, and he argues that the men will be stronger and fight better if they are fortified.The Greeks disperse to eat and drink. In the meantime, the treasure from Agamemnon’s tents has been brought back to Achilles, including Briseis. Briseis sees the body of Patroclus and weeps over it, remembering him as a kind man. Next it is Achilles’ turn to lament Patroclus’s death. In a heart-wrenching scene, Achilles addresses his dead friend. He remembers how many times Patroclus prepared food for them during the battle.
He can’t believe that that person now lies before him, lost forever. Achilles asserts that he is more grieved by the loss of Patroclus than he would be for his own father.So great is Achilles’ grief that even powerful Zeus pities him. Zeus commands the goddess Athena to use her powers to nourish Achilles since he refuses to eat voluntarily.
The Moment We’ve Waited For
Finally, it is nearly time for the Greeks to go back into battle, with Achilles among them. The Greek fighters come swarming out of their ships like a blizzard. Achilles starts to armor up for battle.
His rage is intense – his teeth grind, his eyes blaze. He puts on the god-made armor and helmet and draws his spear, which was his father’s. This spear is so heavy that no other man has the strength to lift it.Achilles’ magnificent horses are yoked to the chariot. Achilles commands them to do their best and to bear him through the fighting alive.
It’s a bit of a surprise when one of the horses answers back! The horse called Roan Beauty speaks to Achilles through the intervention of the goddess Hera. The horse promises to keep Achilles safe this time, but warns that his death is imminent and will happen soon. It is the will of fate and cannot be changed.This prophecy angers Achilles, who doesn’t want to hear it. He understands that he won’t have a long life, but that’s beside the point.
Right now, all Achilles wants to do is avenge his dear friend’s death. Achilles lets out a cry – one imagines something like, ‘Let’s kill some Trojans!’ – and he drives the horses forward.
Book 19 of The Iliad opens with Achilles mourning the death of his dear friend Patroclus. Achilles’ goddess mother, Thetis, delivers his special armor, handmade by the god of fire, Hapheastus. The armor is so splendid the other mortals can’t even look at it.
Achilles clears the air with Agamemnon, acknowledging that their feud has no meaning now and that all he cares about is revenge. Agamemnon promises to return the treasure he took from Achilles, but can’t resist blaming Zeus for his role in the feud.Achilles wants to battle immediately, but Odysseus convinces him to let the men eat first. Achilles refuses to eat, and the goddess Athena eventually uses her powers to fortify him.
Achilles’ treasures are returned from Agamemnon, including the girl Briseis, who weeps when she sees the body of Patroclus.Finally, the waiting is over and the Greeks come out of their ships, ready for battle. Achilles dons his armor and gets his horses ready. Through the intervention of Hera, one of the horses speaks to Achilles and prophesies his soon-to-come death. Achilles brushes this off – he knows he doesn’t have long, but in the meantime all he wants to do is exact revenge.