Poem SummaryThe Achaians, under King Agamemnon, have been fighting the Trojans off and on for nine years, trying to retrieve Helen, the wife of Menelaos, and thus Agamemnon's sister-in-law. Paris, a son of the king of Troy, kidnaps Helen, who becomes the legendary "Helen of Troy" and "the woman with the face that launched a thousand ships."Yet, after years of Achaian attacks, Troy remains intact, and the Trojan army remains undefeated. The same cannot be said for the Achaian army. At present, the Achaian troops are dying from a mysterious plague. Hundreds of funeral pyres burn nightly. Finally, Achilles, the Achaians' most honored soldier, calls for an assembly to determinethe cause of the plague.A soothsayer reveals to the army that King Agamemnon's arrogance caused the deadly plague; he refused to return a woman who was captured and awarded to him as a "war prize." Reluctantly, Agamemnon agrees to return the woman, but, as compensation, he says that he will take the woman who was awarded to Achilles, his best warrior.Achilles is furious, and he refuses to fight any longer for the Achaians. He and his forcesretreat to the beach beside their ships, and Achilles asks his mother, the goddess Thetis, if she will ask Zeus, king of the gods, to help the Trojans defeat his former comrades, the Achaians. Zeus agrees to do so.The two armies prepare for battle, and Paris (the warrior who kidnapped Menelaos' wife,Helen) leaps out and challenges any of the Achaians to a duel. Menelaos challenges him and beats him, but before Paris is killed, the goddess Aphrodite whisks him away tothe safety of his bedroom in Troy.A short truce is called, but it is broken when an over-zealous soldier wounds Menelaos. During the battle that follows, Diomedes, an Achaian, dominates the action, killing innumerable Trojans and wounding Aphrodite, a goddess.The Trojans seem to be losing, so Hektor returns to Troy to ask his mother to offer sacrifices to Athena. She performs the rituals, but Athena refuses to accept them. Meanwhile, Hektor discovers Paris safe in his bedroom with Helen, and shames him into returning to battle. Then Hektor visits with his wife and their baby son. It is clear thatHektor is deeply devoted to his family, yet feels the terrible weight of his responsibility as commander-in-chief of the Trojan army.During the fighting that continues, the Achaians begin to falter, and at one point Athena,Zeus' daughter, fears that the entire Achaian army may be slaughtered. Thus, she and Apollo decide to have Hektor challenge one of the Achaian' warriors to a duel in order tosettle the war. Telamonian Aias (Ajax) battles Hektor so valiantly that the contest ends in a draw, and a truce is called.