The Iliad, Book XV

Overview
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
Book XXIII Book XXIV

Zeus Lays Down the Law

When Zeus awoke and saw the Greeks, with Poseidon’s help, pursuing the fleeing Trojans and Hector lying on the ground unconscious, he realised he had been tricked by Hera and angrily threatened her. Hera feigned innocence.

Zeus then turned events around irreparably: he ordered Hera to send Iris to Poseidon to tell him to withdraw from the fighting and to send Apollo to bring Hector back into the fighting and then to instil panic into the Greeks so that they retreated; Achilles would then send Patroclus into the fighting to be killed by Hector who in turn would be killed by Achilles; the Greeks would then mount regular attacks until they had captured Troy; he himself would remain hostile to the Greeks until Achilles had regained his honour, as he had promised Thetis; until then no gods were to help the Greeks.

Iris and Zeus, painting by Michel Corneille the Younger, 1701.

Hera reinforced Zeus’ message to the other gods and Athena had to restrain Ares from taking vengeance for the death of his son. When Iris delivered Zeus’ message, Poseidon was angry and thought Zeus’ intervention unreasonable but he agreed to withdraw on condition Troy was eventually captured by the Greeks. Apollo inspired Hector to return to the fighting, telling him that he was under the protection of Zeus and himself, and the Greeks turned and fled when they saw him.

At the suggestion of Thoas, the majority of the Greeks returned to their ships while he himself and the best Greek warriors made a stand against the advancing Trojans. However, as Hector and Apollo approached, the Greek warriors panicked and fled and many were killed. Apollo destroyed the Greek defences and the Trojans chased the Greeks to their ships. When the Greeks prayed to Zeus to be saved, the subsequent thunderclap from Zeus was interpreted by the Trojans as a good omen for them and they attacked more fiercely than ever, although neither side gained the upper hand.

Hector fights Ajax. Attic red-figure kylix, c. 485-480 BC. Louvre.

In a fight between Hector and Ajax, neither was able to conquer the other. Hector kept the Trojans’ spirits high by reminding them that Zeus was on their side and ensured that everyone played their part while Ajax reminded the Greeks their ships and honour were at stake. Again, there were fierce clashes and many casualties on both sides. Despite Zeus’ support of Hector and the Trojans, for a long time they were unable to break through Greek resistance. When they did, the Greeks fell back but, after they were rallied, firstly by Nestor and then by Ajax as he moved from ship to ship, they fiercely fought the Trojans again. Hector finally managed to gain control of one of the Greek ships, intending to set fire to it, but Ajax prevented anyone with a torch coming near. Meanwhile, Patroclus, seeing what was happening, went to try to persuade Achilles to return to the fighting.

Book XIV Book XVI