The Iliad, Book V

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The Wrath of Diomedes

Athena inspired Diomedes to throw himself into the thick of the fighting in order to win great glory. When attacked by the Trojan brothers Phegeus and Idaeus, they from their chariot, he on foot, he killed Phegeus with his spear but Idaeus was saved and withdrawn from battle by Hephaestus.

Roman copy of a statue of Diomedes by Kresilas, c. 430 BC. Glyptothek, Munich. (c) Matthias Kabel

After Athena persuaded Ares to leave the fighting, the Greeks began to gain the upper hand as their leaders killed Trojan leaders. As Diomedes stormed across the battlefield killing many Trojans, he was wounded in his right shoulder by Pandarus with an arrow. After his charioteer, Sthenelus, pulled out the arrow, Diomedes prayed to Athena to let him kill Pandarus. Athena revitalised him, giving him the power to distinguish between men and gods and saying he should not engage with any god except Aphrodite.

After being wounded, Diomedes was roused to even greater anger and determination and engaged on another killing spree. Pandarus rued the fact that he had not brought his chariot to Troy from which to fight and speculated that a god must have helped Menelaus and Diomedes as he had wounded both with his arrows and yet they had survived.

The Combat of Diomedes, painting by Jacques-Louis David, 1776.

Aeneas suggested that he and Pandarus confront Diomedes from Aeneas’ chariot. Pandarus said he would dismount from the chariot and fight Diomedes with his spear. However, Diomedes was warned of their coming by Sthenelus and he suggested they retreat from these great warriors. Diomedes refused and aimed, if he could, to steal Aeneas’ chariot horses which were descended from those Zeus had given to Tros in recompense for stealing his son, Ganymede. Diomedes was saved from injury from Pandarus’ spear by his body armour and then threw his own spear which killed Pandarus.

When Aeneas leapt from his chariot, wishing to protect and retrieve Pandarus’ body, he was hit on the hip by a large rock thrown by Diomedes. Aeneas lost consciousness and would have died had not his mother, Aphrodite, recused him. Sthenelus, following Diomedes’ instructions, took Aeneas’ horses. Diomedes, meanwhile, pursuing Aphrodite, wounded her in the hand and caused her to drop Aeneas, who was rescued by Apollo.

Diomedes attacking Aeneas, who is helped by Aphrodite on a red-figure krater.

Aphrodite returned to Mount Olympus in Ares’ chariot driven by Iris. Aphrodite complained to her mother, Dione, about Diomedes stabbing her. Dione gave her examples of other gods who had suffered at the hands of mortals, Ares, Hera and Hades; Diomedes was fated to die at Troy and not return home to his family. Dione then healed Aphrodite’s wound. Zeus told Aphrodite to attend to matters of love not war.

Diomedes, meanwhile, tried to kill Aeneas and had to be warned off by Apollo, who protected Aeneas and removed him from the battlefield; Artemis and Leto healed Aeneas’ injuries and made him stronger than ever. Apollo temporarily placed a phantom of Aeneas on the battlefield. At Apollo’s instigation Ares, disguising himself as Acamas, the Thracian leader, inspired and reinvigorated the Trojans. He spoke first to Priam’s sons, urging them to battle while Sarpedon did the same to Hector. Ares threw a veil of darkness over the fighting to help the Trojans and brought the real Aeneas back into the fighting which also inspired the Trojans.

Diomedes and Athena attacking Ares.

The Greeks were also inspired to stand their ground and fight by their leaders, Ajax, Odysseus, Diomedes and Agamemnon. There were more casualties on both sides and Diomedes ordered the Greeks to retreat when he saw Ares protecting Hector. The Trojans maintained their attacks led by Hector until Hera realised that the Trojans were winning because of Ares’ help and so she in her chariot and Athena with her aegis and helmet armed themselves for battle.

Hera told Zeus about Ares’ help to the Trojans and asked his permission to go against Ares and chase him from the battlefield. Zeus gave it. Leaving her chariot, Hera inspired the Greeks to chase the Trojans back into their city while Athena went to Diomedes and reprimanded him for not fighting. Diomedes told Athena that Ares was fighting on the side of the Trojans and he was following her instructions not to fight any of the gods except Aphrodite. Athena drove Diomedes’ chariot against Ares, making herself invisible, so that Ares only saw Diomedes approaching. As Ares tried to kill Diomedes with his spear, Athena caught it, giving Diomedes the opportunity to stab Ares in the stomach with his spear, aided by Athena. Ares screamed with pain and retreated to Mount Olympus where he complained to Zeus about Athena’s interference and Zeus’ indulgence towards her. Zeus had no sympathy for Ares but did order Paeeon to heal his wound.

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