The Iliad, Book XXI

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

The Wrath of Achilles

Achilles split the Trojan forces in two, driving half to the plain in front of Troy, although Hera hampered their escape with dense fog, and pushing half into the River Scamander where he slaughtered a substantial number. He also took prisoner twelve young men whom he intended to sacrifice at Patroclus’ burial. Achilles then, despite his pleas for mercy, killed another of Priam’s sons, Lycaon, whom he had previously captured and sold into slavery, followed by Asteropaeus, a descendant of the river god, Axius, and left them both to be eaten by fish, unburied.

The Rage of Achilles, fresco by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1757.

As Achilles continued his killing spree the River Scamander, in human form, asked him to stop killing in his river as the dead bodies were preventing the flow of water. When Achilles did not stop, Scamander made his waters flood, hiding the living Trojans, flinging the dead bodies on land and almost drowning Achilles until Poseidon and Athena told him to fight against the current, reassuring him he was not destined to die in this way. As Scamander sought the help of the River Simois and was about to engulf Achilles, Hera sent Hephaestus to start a fire on the plain and counter Scamander’s waters. Scamander admitted defeat and withdrew.

The Fight of Achilles against Scamander and Simoeis, fresco by Auguste Couder, 1819.

Some of the gods then took sides and began to fight each other, to the amusement of Zeus: Athena defeated Ares and then Aphrodite, Apollo refused to fight Poseidon over mortals: Artemis was annoyed at this, calling her brother a coward, but Hera beat Artemis round the ears and she ran away, upset, and complained to Zeus. Hermes also refused to fight her mother, Leto.

Priam meanwhile was afraid as he watched Achilles killing large numbers of Trojans. He ordered the gates of Troy to be opened until all his people were safely inside but, because of this, Troy might well have been captured by the Greeks were it not for the intervention of Apollo: he helped to save Troy firstly by inspiring Agenor to face Achilles and then by covering Agenor in a mist, withdrawing him from the battlefield, disguising himself as Agenor and drawing Achilles away from the gates of Troy as Achilles chased him. While Achilles was distracted, the Trojans returned to the safety of their city.

Book XX Book XXII