The poet invokes a muse to aid him in telling the story of the rage of
, the greatest
Greek hero to fight in the Trojan War. The narrative begins nine years after the start of the
war, as the Achaeans sack a Trojan-allied town and capture two beautiful maidens,
, commander-in-chief of the Achaean army, takes Chryseis as his
prize. Achilles, one of the Achaeans’ most valuable warriors, claims Briseis. Chryseis’s father, a
who serves as a priest of the god
, begs Agamemnon to return his
daughter and offers to pay an enormous ransom. When Agamemnon refuses, Chryses prays to
Apollo for help.
Apollo sends a plague upon the Greek camp, causing the death of many soldiers. After ten
days of suffering, Achilles calls an assembly of the Achaean army and asks for a soothsayer to
reveal the cause of the plague.
, a powerful seer, stands up and offers his services.
Though he fears retribution from Agamemnon, Calchas reveals the plague as a vengeful and
strategic move by Chryses and Apollo. Agamemnon flies into a rage and says that he will
return Chryseis only if Achilles gives him Briseis as compensation.
Agamemnon’s demand humiliates and infuriates the proud Achilles. The men argue, and
Achilles threatens to withdraw from battle and take his people, the
, back home to
Phthia. Agamemnon threatens to go to Achilles’ tent in the army’s camp and take Briseis
himself. Achilles stands poised to draw his sword and kill the Achaean commander when the
, sent by
, the queen of the gods, appears to him and checks his anger.
Athena’s guidance, along with a speech by the wise advisor
, finally succeeds in
preventing the duel.
That night, Agamemnon puts Chryseis on a ship back to her father and sends heralds to have
Briseis escorted from Achilles’ tent. Achilles prays to his mother, the sea-nymph
, to ask
, king of the gods, to punish the Achaeans. He relates to her the tale of his quarrel with
Agamemnon, and she promises to take the matter up with Zeus—who owes her a favor—as
soon as he returns from a thirteen-day period of feasting with the Aethiopians. Meanwhile,
the Achaean commander
is navigating the ship that Chryseis has boarded. When he
lands, he returns the maiden and makes sacrifices to Apollo. Chryses, overjoyed to see his
daughter, prays to the god to lift the plague from the Achaean camp. Apollo acknowledges his
prayer, and Odysseus returns to his comrades.
But the end of the plague on the Achaeans only marks the beginning of worse suffering. Ever