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BOOK X: Diomedes and Odysseus

Summary

Agamemnon and Menelaos find it difficult to sleep now that the defeat of the Greeks seems to be a possibility. The two wake Nestor, Aias, Diomedes, Odysseus, and Idomeneus and summon them to a meeting to form a plan of action. They decide to send Diomedes and Odysseus into the enemy camp to learn about the Trojan plans.

Ironically, the Trojans have decided to spy on the Greeks as well. Hector chooses Dolon to go into the Greek camp and promises him the horses of Achilles if he is successful. Diomedes and Odysseus encounter Dolon as they head towards the Trojan camp. Shaking with fear, the Trojan spy begs for mercy and promises a rich reward if he is spared. He then tells everything he knows about the placement of the Trojan troops and describes where Rhesus and the Thracians are encamped. After gaining the information he desires, Diomedes kills the pitiful Trojan, still begging for mercy. He strips the body of its armor to be presented as a sacrifice to Athena.

Diomedes and Odysseus continue to cautiously make their way and enter the camp of the Thracian king, Rhesus. They slaughter his cohorts and kill the king. Odysseus next unties the famed horses of Rhesus to take as his prize. The two Greeks then depart at the admonition of Athena. The Thracians are soon awakened by Apollo and find their camp in bloody shambles and their horses stolen.

When Diomedes and Odysseus arrive at the Greek camp, they received a glorious reception from Nestor and the other leaders. After washing the dust from themselves, they settle down to eat, drink, and offer thanks to Athena.


Notes

Set in the dead of night and away from the battlefield, Book X differs in scene and action from most books of the Iliad. Its connection with the developing plot seems to be twofold: it highlights the fact that the Greeks must stoop to espionage now that Achilles has refused to return to help them; and it foreshadows the fact that the tide of battle will now turn in favor of the Greeks.

Book X is also interesting in its character studies. Two of the key Greek leaders, Agamemnon and Menelaos, are shown to be depressed and unable to sleep. Determined to find a way to stop the defeat of the Greeks, they wake their fellow leaders in order to plan a course of action. The strong and vigorous Diomedes and the crafty Odysseus volunteer to go into the Greek camp to cause havoc and seek information. Their mission is successful, as they kill Theseus and his cohorts and steal the horses of Rhesus.

In sharp contrast, the effort of the Trojans to spy upon the Greeks ends in miserable failure. Dolon, the weak and ugly Trojan spy, is captured by the noble Greek spies before he enters the Greek camp. After Diomedes and Odysseus exact from him the information that they want about the positions of the Trojan troops, they kill him mercilessly.

Homer intentionally has a striking contrast between the heroic Greek spies and the pathetic Dolon, for it reveals the general characteristics inherent in each side. The Trojan force is made up largely of armies from the East. They are notoriously poor fighters according to the Greek standard. From the battle of Marathon to the victories of Alexander the Great over the Persians, the Greeks revealed their superiority over their Eastern foes.

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