The Iliad, Book XX

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

Aeneas Fights Achilles

As the Greeks, led by Achilles, and the Trojans lined up for battle, Zeus called the gods to an assembly and gave them permission to help whichever side they wished, his reasoning being that Troy would not withstand a Greek onslaught with Achilles leading them. The gods immediately took sides: Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes and Hephaestus on the Greek side, Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Scamander and Aphrodite on the Trojan side.

Detail of Achilles fighting in the Trojan War from a Greek Vase.

The addition of the gods to the conflict along with Zeus’ thundering and Poseidon’s shaking of the earth almost caused the Underworld to crack open. God fought god as Achilles sought out Hector. Apollo, however, sent Aeneas to face him and the other gods decided not to intervene. Both warriors first exchanged insults and their history to date: Achilles recounting how he had driven Aeneas from Mount Ida and Aeneas describing his ancestors from the time of Dardanus. After hurling their spear at each other, Aeneas drew his sword and Achilles picked up a huge rock which, had he not been prevented by Poseidon from throwing it, would have killed Aeneas (Aeneas was fated to survive Troy and he and his descendants save the Trojan line from extinction). Poseidon carried Aeneas off and reprimanded him for facing Achilles, the only Greek who could kill him. Achilles was disgusted that he had been cheated of killing Aeneas and knew it must have been with the help of a god.

Then both Hector and Achilles inspired their respective troops. Apollo advised Hector not to take on Achilles from the front but to retreat into the midst of his army and Hector obeyed until, in his killing spree, Achilles killed Priam’s youngest son, Polydorus. Hector, overcome with grief, charged at Achilles but he was not fated to fight him at this point; Hector’s spear throw was thwarted by Athena and Apollo snatched him away. Achilles, in his anger, continued his killing spree and the ground and his chariot were sprayed with blood.

Book XIX Book XXI