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BOOK VI: Hector And Andromache

Summary

The battles between the Trojans and the Greeks are fierce and bloody, and the leaders must constantly encourage their troops. Nestor reminds the Greeks that their mission is to kill, not to take the spoils of war. Hector walks through the Trojan ranks and encourages his men. Without the interference of the gods, the Greeks succeed in repelling the Trojans.

During the fighting, there are many individual combats, which are described; the Greeks win most of them. Telemonian Aias strikes down Acamas; Diomedes kills Teuthranides; Euryalos brings down Dresos and Opheltios; Astyolas is killed by Polypoites; Odysseus murders Pidytes; Nestor's son, Antilochos, strikes down Ableros; and King Agamemnon kills Elatos and Adrestos, who has been captured alive by Menelaos.

As the Greeks push the Trojans further into retreat, Hector goes into Troy to ask the women to prepare sacrifices to the gods, hoping to appease them and win them to their side. In his absence, the fighting becomes less intense, and Homer focuses on a meeting between Diomedes, the Greek warrior, and Glaucus, a Trojan warrior. After challenging each other to a duel, they realize that their grandfathers had been friends. As a result, they agree to a friendship pact between themselves and pledge to avoid each other on the battlefield. As a symbol of their friendship, they exchange armor.

In Troy, Hector asks Hecube, his mother, to prepare the offerings and present them in the temple of Athena. He then goes to look for his brother, Paris. When he finds him at home with Helen, he is irate and calls him irresponsible for not being on the battlefield. He chastises Paris for causing the war and the deaths of many Trojans. Paris apologizes and promises to enter the battle. Helen, overhearing the argument and still in conflict with herself, bemoans the fact that she has ever left Sparta and Menelaos.


After leaving Paris, Hector goes to see his wife, Andromache, and their infant son, Astyanax. She pleads with him not to return to battle, explaining that all of her other relatives have been killed by the Greeks and he is all she has left. Even as she begs, Andromache knows that Hector will return to the battlefield. When Hector turns to his son to take him in his arms, the child is frightened by the plumes on his helmet. Showing his sensitive side, Hector removes the helmet and takes the baby into his arms. He then prays to Zeus that his son will be great. Then with a final farewell, Hector returns to the battle, accompanied by Paris.

Notes

As Homer continues to narrate the fighting, he spotlights the victories of the Greeks in general and Diomedes in particular. Even though Athena is not present to help him, Diomedes continues his murderous rampage, unchecked by the Trojans. Aias, Odysseus, Agamemnon, and other Greek leaders have similar successes. As a result, the Trojans are forced into retreat. Hector, concerned about the well being of his troops, leaves the battlefield to go into Troy and make arrangements for offerings to the gods.

In the lull of the fighting, Homer spotlights a meeting between Diomedes and Glaucus. At first the Greek and the Trojan challenge each other to a duel. Then, however, they discover that their grandfathers were friends. According to the heroic code, they must honor this bond of friendship. As signs of their friendship, they promise to avoid each other on the battlefield, and they exchange armor. This reconciliation between enemies foreshadows the reconciliation that will take place between Achilles and Priam in Book XXIV.

In Troy, Hector meets with his wife to discuss the arrangements for the sacrificial offering to the gods. He then goes to locate his irresponsible brother, who has been absent from the fighting. When he finds Paris entertaining himself with Helen, he is furious and chastises his brother for starting the war and then refusing to fight in it. He further accuses him of causing the deaths of thousands of Trojans. Once again, Homer masterfully points out the great differences that exist between Hector and Paris. Paris will use any excuse to avoid the battlefield. In contrast, Hector is eager to return there, even though Andromache, his wife, pleads with him to stay behind with her and their infant son, Astyanax. He knows that he must fight to prevent his wife and child from being taken captive by the Greeks. Through his actions and beliefs, Hector shows that he is a proud, dutiful, wise, and honorable man, once of the most noble in the entire poem. Unfortunately, he will be destroyed, just as Troy is to be destroyed, and he has a sense of his own doom, which he expresses in this section.

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