The Iliad, Book XIII

Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII
Book VIII Book IX Book X Book XI Book XII Book XIII Book XIV Book XV 
Book XVI Book XVII Book XVIII Book XIX Book XX Book XXI Book XXII

Battle Rages in the Greek Camp

While the Greeks and Trojans were fighting beside the Greeks’ ships, Zeus turned his attention elsewhere as he did not expect any god to interfere. However, Poseidon took advantage of Zeus’ distraction and arrived at the Greek camp just in time to prevent the Greeks being overwhelmed by the Trojans.

Disguised as the prophet Calchas, Poseidon encouraged the two Ajaxes to face and defeat Hector. They both recognised that a god had addressed them and were reinvigorated, as were the rest of the Greeks by Poseidon moving through their ranks, appealing to their bravery and shaming them for allowing the Trojans to be so near to destroying their ships.

Calchas presides at the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, the daughter of Agamemnon, as the divine price of the winds required to carry the fleet to Troy. Roman fresco from Pompeii. Naples Archaeological Museum.

The Greeks rallied behind the two Ajaxes to face the Trojans, led by Hector, and they forced Hector to momentarily retreat. His brother, Deiphobus, who took his place, survived a spear throw from Meriones whilst Teucer was almost killed by Hector, who in turn was almost killed by Ajax. Poseidon was angry when his grandson, Amphimachus, was killed by Teucer and, returning to the Greeks disguised as Thoas, encouraged Idomeneus to lead a renewed attack against the Trojans.

Idomeneus met his attendant, Meriones, who had returned to get another spear, and after agreeing what constituted bravery in battle, they both made for the left of the battle as the two Ajaxes and Teucer were holding back the Trojans in the middle. Zeus, at this point, whilst not wanting the Greeks to be destroyed, was on the Trojans’ side to honour Achilles who had withdrawn from the fighting, whilst Poseidon was on the side of the Greeks but only dared help them disguised as a human.

Achilles remains in his tent. Attic red-figure kylix, Vulci, c. 480.

Whilst the gods performed this tug of war with men’s lives, many were killed on both sides. Idomeneus with his spear wounded in the stomach Othryoneus, who was betrothed to Cassandra, promising Priam he would drive the Greeks away as his wedding gift. Asius tried to rescue Othryoneus as he was being dragged away but was killed by Idomeneus. Deiphobus then unsuccessfully tried to kill Idomeneus with his spear, killing Hypsenor instead in revenge. Both Deiphobus and Idomeneus boasted of their kills and sought others’ help in their quest to slaughter the other.

Aeneas was one of those joining Deiphobus as his brother in law, Alcathous, had been killed by Idomeneus. The fighting was fierce and great warriors were killed on both sides. Whilst Hector had the upper hand near the gate he had broken through, the Greeks, with the help of Poseidon, were winning on the left with the two Ajaxes holding firm and the Locrians causing havoc with their arrows. The Trojans would have retreated had not Polydamas persuaded Hector to rally them once again and, with Paris by his side, he led the attack where they had been losing, despite being taunted by Ajax, whilst the Greeks were heartened by the omen of an eagle flying on the right. The roar of battle reached far afield, even to Olympus.

Book XII Book XIV