The Iliad Book 3 Analysis Essay

The Iliad Book 3

After the armies have gathered they begin to march towards each other. Homer maintains his nature simile for armies in this section. The two armies move toward each other like wild fowl or cranes and the dust is like "mist on the mountaintops" Book 3, line 10, at the front of the Trojan army. Menelaus sees him and hopes for revenge but as soon as Paris sights Menelaus, he sinks back into the line. Hector finds him and chastises him for stealing Helen in the first place. Paris says that this criticism is fair and requests a duel with Menelaus.

Hector announces this challenge. Menelaus accepts the challenge but requires Priam's oath.

Meanwhile, Iris has been sent to Helen to fill her with a longing for Menelaus. Within the walls of the city, Priam collects his entourage. Many of them lament Helen's beauty and her arrival in Troy. Priam speaks gently to Helen. The two look out over the battlefield and point out warriors. Helen points out Agamemnon and Priam expresses his envy of the Greek King's position. Helen also points out the broader Odysseus and the giant Ajax Telamon as well as Idomeneus. Heralds gather the offerings to be made before the battle while Priam speaks with Helen

Priam leaves the walls of the city to meet with Odysseus. Agamemnon swears that if Menelaus loses to Paris, then the Greeks will sail home, but if Paris loses, then the Trojans must surrender Helen and all of her treasures. He adds that if Priam and his sons do not pay this bounty, then he will fight it out to the end. Agamemnon makes his half of the sacrifice. Priam swears to the sacrifice but then announces that he cannot bear to watch the battle. Priam returns to the city.

Hector and Odysseus draw lots for the two combatants for the first spear throw. Both armies pray to Zeus, but Paris gets the honor. With Menelaus ready, Paris hurls a spear at him hitting him the middle of the shield but not wounding him. Menelaus hurls his spear at Paris, and, although he pierces the mail shirt, he does not wound him. Then Menelaus draws his sword only to shatter it on Paris' helmet. Angered by this, Menelaus grabs Paris by crest and begins to drag him away. Aphrodite comes to Paris' rescue and returns him to the walls of Troy. Here she urges Helen to go to him and make love to him. Helen questions the motivations of the goddess and Aphrodite responds harshly:

"Don't provoke me - wretched headstrong girl!
Or in my immortal rage I may just toss you over
Hate you as I adore you now - with a vengeance."
Book 3, lines 480-482

Helen bends to the will of Aphrodite, but when she comes to Paris she taunts him and says she wishes he had died by the hand of Menelaus, the better man. Paris, however, is unaffected and takes Helen to bed with him.

At the disappearance of Paris, Menelaus is enraged. Agamemnon announces that the Trojans have lost and demands Helen and the treasure.

Topic Tracking: Rage 3
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 6

New Characters
Alexandros (Paris): abductor of Helen and cause of the war; basically a coward

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love and mother of Aneas

Helen: wife of Menelaos and mistress of Paris

Priam: father of Paris and King of Troy

Idaios: herald who urges Priam to make a truce with Agamemnon

Antenor: accompanies Priam to make truce with Agamemnon

The Trojans and Achaians approach each other to do battle. As they prepare to fight, Alexandros (Paris) challenges the best of the Achaians to a duel. However, when Menelaos agrees to fight, Paris cowardly shrinks back into the ranks. Hektor derides Paris for causing the war and then having no courage to fight. Paris is so shamed by his brother’s remarks that he agrees to duel with Menelaos for Helen and all of her goods, leaving the rest of the armies out of it.

The armies are overjoyed with this plan, and quickly lay down their armor and prepare to make a truce. Idaios the herald is sent to summon King Priam, who rides down in his chariot with Antenor to meet Agamemnon and Odysseus. Together they swear that the winner of the fight will keep Helen and all her goods. When the conditions have been met, the Achaians will return to their home. However, if Menelaos wins and Priam refuses to pay, the Achaians will fight the war to its end. Two lambs are sacrificed and everyone prays to Zeus, cursing any who offend the oath.

Hektor and Odysseus then measure out the dueling ground in a large open space between the two armies. Lots are shaken, and Paris draws the honor of throwing the first spear. Soon after the fighting begins, it becomes apparent that Menelaos is the better warrior. After inflicting a small wound, he knocks Paris to the ground and drags him triumphantly by the plume of his helmet to the Achaian onlookers. However, before he reaches his companions, Aphrodite wraps Paris in a thick mist and spirits him away from the battlefield. She deposits him in his bedroom and calls Helen to him.

Agamemnon declares Menelaos the victor of the duel, because he had been winning before Paris disappeared. He calls for the Trojans to give Helen and her...

(The entire section is 920 words.)

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