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Book XX: The Victories of Achilles

Summary

Summoning all the deities to an assembly on Mt. Olympus, the Father of the Gods tells his underlings that they can return to the battlefield. The gods take to their heels immediately. Hera, Athena, Hephaistos, and Poseidon rush to help the Greeks, but decide to watch for awhile and see how the situation develops. Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, Leto, and Xanthus are on the Trojan side. Ares quickly acts to inspire Aeneas to go forth and meet Achilles.

Aeneas and Achilles come forth and converse before fighting. Achilles reminds Aeneas of their last meeting, from which the Trojan was forced to flee. Aeneas retorts that he is a brave warrior of noble background and gives his full genealogy. When the fight begins, Achilles gains the upper hand, striking the shield of Aeneas and causing the Trojan to fall. He is quickly carried from the battlefield by Poseidon, who realizes that Aeneas must live to carry on his family line. Achilles turns his attention to other Trojans.

Hector is eager to strike back at Achilles, but Apollo warns him not to move against the Greek hero alone. Then when Achilles kills Hector's brother, Polydoros, Hector can contain himself no longer. He challenges Achilles by casting his spear, which is diverted by Athena. Achilles reacts by charging like "something more than a man." Apollo is forced four times to wrap Hector in a protective mist. Since Achilles realizes that Hector is being aided by the gods, he turns his attention elsewhere and kills seven other Trojan warriors.


Notes

Now that the initial plan of Zeus and the promise to Thetis have been accomplished and fulfilled, the King of the Immortals directs a new plan of action. He knows that if he allows Achilles to rampage unchecked, many Trojans will meet their doom before Destiny decrees it. Working towards restoring a harmonious balance in the universe, he allows all of the gods to enter the battle on the side of their choice. He knows that the plan will work to restrain Achilles.

As the fight begins, the gods aiding the Greeks are content to leave Achilles alone, for he is fighting with unbelievable power. The gods on the Trojan side, however, immediately become involved, aiding and rescuing their favorite warriors. It is ironic that Poseidon, who favors the Greeks, actually acts to save Aeneas from certain death at the hands of Achilles. He knows that Aeneas must be preserved in order to continue his noble lineage, which he has so carefully explained to Achilles.

Although Hector has been warned by Apollo not to fight Achilles alone, he cannot contain himself when the Greek hero kills his brother. He challenges Achilles by throwing a spear at him, which Athena diverts. When Achilles charges back, Hector must be continually aided by Apollo, who wraps the Trojan in a protective mist. Achilles realizes that he cannot yet fight Hector, for it is not fated by the gods at this point. Before decisively facing his Trojan rival, Achilles must prove himself against many other Trojan warriors, who are aided by their gods. In truth, Achilles' real opponents are not Aeneas and Hector, but Ares and Apollo. In spite of the gods helping the Trojans, Achilles has many victories on the battlefield, killing some seven warriors.

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