I’ve been having some computer problems but am still almost on track as the read continues. I hope that you’re all enjoying it. Once you become familiar with the characters, the interplay between and around them is fascinating. In these next books, we learn more about Diomedes, are introduced to Hektor’s family and learn more about the ancient Greek worldview. And, of course, the gods work towards fate often in confusing ways, as the story unfolds.
Athene bestows favour upon Diomedes and he fights with extraordinary courage and success, but she then pulls Ares from the fighting so as not to anger Zeus unduly. Diomedes still ranges up and down the plain “scattering battalions” but Pandaros lets another arrow fly which pierces the right shoulder of Diomedes. After enlisting Sthenelos to pull the arrow through, Diomedes appeals to Athene for victory over the man who caused his injury. She answers, giving him strength and triple-rage, yet cautions him not to engage in battle with a god on either side unless it is Aphrodite; he is allowed to stab her with “the sharp bronze.”
As Diomedes vents his rage by kiling the Trojan warriors and their allies, Aineias searches for Pandaros, urging him to send an arrow at the raging Greek warrior. Pandaros reveals that he has already tried but a god must have turned his arrow. In fact, he thinks he recognizes that the warrior is Diomedes who is slaughtering men on their side, but if not him, perhaps a god. He then laments leaving home with his bow instead of choosing horses and chariot as he has had nothing but bad luck with it. Aineias offeres Pandaros his chariot to drive but the man refuses, saying that he will encounter Diomedes with his spear. Sthenelos recognizes the two mighty warriors and alerts Diomedes, counselling him to move closer to the fighting Achaians, however Diomedes say he will meet them, having victory over at least one and planning to capture the horses of Aineias, offspring of horses given by Zeus and stolen by Anchises, the father of Aineias (his mother was Aphrodite). And so, Pandaros throws his spear, gleeful when it pierces the middle of Diomedes’ shield, but Diomedes is not injured and he kills Pandaros with his spear. Aineias stands over the body, daring anyone to come forth, while Diomedes picks up a stone and hurls it, smashing the hip socket of Aineias. Yet Aphrodite protects her son, spiriting him away. While Sthenelos takes the horses of Aineias, Diomedes wounds Aphrodite who drops Aineias, but Apollo retrieves him and bears him away. Aphrodite retreats, injured, and begs her brother Ares to lend her horses to return to Olympos, and with Iris, she returns to be comforted by her mother, Dione, who tells her of gods who have suffered because of men and predicts a short life for Diomedes.
Meanwhile, Diomedes attempts, for the third time, to kill Aineias until Apollo warns him not to interfere with the gods and removes Aineias to his temple at Pergamos. Apollo then appeals to Ares to stop the raging Diomedes, and Ares appears to the Trojans as Akamas, lord of the Thracians, to spur them on to battle.
Sarpedon (a leader of the Lykians, an ally of the Trojans) abuses Hektor, claiming the allies of Troy perform all the fighting and stirs Hektor to rally the Trojans, and Aineias returns to his companions.
Fighting now begins in earnest, and Diomedes shivers at the sight of Hektor and Ares ranging together. He begs his companions to give ground as they should not battle with divinities. Tlepolemos, the son of Herakles, taunts Sarpedon, saying that he is a coward, not the equal of other men descended from Zeus and that he’s going to Hades (and in this monologue we learn that Troy has been sacked before). Sarpedon responds in kind:
“But I tell you, what you will win from me here will be death
and black destruction; and broken under my spear you will give me
slory, and give your sould to Hades of the famed horses.” (Lines 652 – 654)
They throw their spears, Sarpedon wounding Tlepolemos in the throat, yet getting a spear through his thigh. He is carried out of battle and Odysseus, seeing this confrontation, revenges himself upon the Lykians, even though the Achaians continually give way under the onslaught of Hektor and Ares.
Hera discovers Athene, and they appeal to Zeus to allow Athene to stop Ares raging and he agrees. Athene then appears to Diomedes, urging him not to give way but he reminds her that he was forbidden to engage the gods, except for Aphrodite. Throwing Sthenelos out of the chariot, Athene takes his place, giving Diomedes leave to fight. As Ares moves to engage them, she stabs him in the belly. Shocked, Ares returns to Olympos to exclaim bitterly over the injustice but Zeus silences him with harsh words”
“Do not sit beside me and whine, you double-faced liar.
To me you are most hateful of all gods who hold Olympos.
Forever quarrelling is dear to your heart, wars and battles.” (Lines 889- 891)
Yet Zeus heals him, and Hera and Athene return after their slaughter is done.
An aristeia is when a warrior completely dominates the battle. In this book, Diomedes has his aristeia, slaughtering countless warriors with a courage and confidence that indeed makes him stand out. Agamemnon had an aristeia in book II. Look for other examples as we read on.
I probably should have posted this earlier but better late than never! There is a concept in ancient Greek thought called xenia or the guest-host relationship. It is based on hospitality, in that when someone visits, you are obligated to treat them as a guest, and there was a formal ritual to follow. This concept was very important to the Greeks and I rather think it was so important that one could never be sure if the person you were hosting wasn’t a god in disguise. And you will see that it extends from generation to generation as seen by the exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos in the next book.
So extrapolating from that, when Paris originally visited Menelaus, xenia was given. By stealing Helen, Paris damaged and disrespected that xenia which would have been an enormous insult in itself. One may ask if the war, even though Helen is the focus, is more about dishonouring xenia instead of the abduction of a wife?
The fighting continues with Telamon Aias, Diomedes, Odysseus, Agamemnon, Menelaus and other warriors slaughtering their way through the Trojan ranks. Adrestos becomes a supplicant of Menelaus, begging him to ransom his life and Menelaus agrees, however Agamemnon strides forward, declaring, “let not one live” and stabs him dead.
Nestor stirs the Achaians to greater combat with a rousing speech and Ilion (Troy) would have lost ground if not for Helenos, son of Priam, who urges Hektor to return to the city and get the women to promise hecatombs at the temple of Athene to save the Trojans, as Agamemnon is going beserk with bloodlust and they now fear him more than Achilles (who, of course, is still fuming at his ships).
Glaukos, a Trojan warrior, encounters Diomedes, and Diomedes inquires if he is a god since he will not fight a god, but if he is a man, he invites him to his destruction. Glaukos offers a philosophical response:
“High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask of my generation?
As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity.
The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber
burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning.
So one generation of men will grow while another
dies.” (Lines 145-150)
Yet he gives his genelogoy, including a story of Bellerophontes, who was seduced by Proitos’ wife, Anteia, but he virtuously resisted her advances so she plotted to have him killed (This story sounds similar to the Biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife). He relates other heroic deeds of his ancestor. After his great story of his forefathers, Diomedes, to his delight, recognizes him as a guest-friend, as their grandfathers exchanged hospitality and gifts years ago. The two warriors pledge to avoid each other in battle and exchange armour so all will know they are friends, yet Zeus took the wits of Glaukos and he accepted bronze instead of gold.
Hektor reaches the Skaian gates, and as he enters the palace, he is greeted by his mother, Hekabe, and his sister, Laodike. His mother offers him sweet wine and tells him to pray but he instructs her to pray and made offerings instead, while he searches for Paris. Hekabe makes offerings to Athene who “turned her head from her,” but Hektor discovers Paris in his chamber handling his armour and, upon Hektor’s rebuke, Paris offers an excuse that he is giving himself over to sorrow, but he will accompany Hektor to the battle and will surely outpace him (good grief!). Helen speaks endearing words to her “brother,” urging him to rest but he refuses, telling her to urge Paris to combat and then leaves to search out his wife (Andromache). She is not with the other women and he is informed that when she heard that the Trojans were losing, she rushed to the wall, “like a woman gone mad,” the nursemaid with his baby (Astyanax) trailing after. When Andromache meets him, she begs him to remain inside the citadel as Achilles slaughtered most of her family, and she has no one but him. Hektor counters that he must fight for great glory, even though he knows Ilion will perish and his most grievous thought is of his wife being taken captive; he hopes that he will meet death before he witnesses such a sight. His son wails at the sight of him in his helmet, yet Hektor laughs, removes the helmet and takes his son in his arms. Taking pity on his wife’s distress, he speaks of fate and then returns to battle. Andromache returns to their house where she and her handmaidens mourn him yet while he lives. Paris, gleeful in battle armour, meets up with Hektor who calls him a “strange man,” and while he praises his ability to fight, he disparages his cowardice and is ashamed of him.
Is it my imagination or is this book ripe with irony? Diomedes encounters a guest-friend, Glaukos, and they will not fight yet Glaukos accepts less than his due. Hektor, their great warrior, is urged by the women of Troy to drink wine and rest and not fight. And Paris, though he is hiding from the fighting, is found handling his armour. And then Hektor is fighting even though he knows Troy will perish. Irony is commonly used for emphasis so what can we understand better from these examples?
I was puzzled over why the armour exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos was unequal. Why did Zeus addle Glaukos’ wits? Was this a damaging of the xenia between them that was initiated by their grandfathers? However, there is a parallel between this scene and the war of the Trojans. Why would Troy fight a war, outmanned 10 to 1, over one woman that is stolen by a younger son who is not well-respected? There is a complete imbalance in their actions, just as there is imbalance in the exchange of armour between these two warriors, once again a Greek triumphing over a Trojan.
Although it says the Trojans would nearly be overrun if not for Helenos telling Hektor to offer sacrifices to Athene, when Hektor’s mother, Hekuba, offers hecatombs, Athene turns her face away as if she will not respond. So did Helenos’ command make it sound as if Athene would respond? Confusing ……
A Sympathetic Enemy
Homer’s sympathy for the “enemy” continues as the Trojans are seen in a very human light. In book VI, we have a very sweet, poignant scene between Hektor and his family that is as tragic as it is touching, given what we know will happen. Homer continues a compassionate portrait of the Trojans, perhaps even more sensitive to the Trojans than the Greeks. Any ideas as to why he might portray them in this light?