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Book 7

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of Book 7 of Homer's epic poem The Iliad.

The Iliad | Book 7 | Summary

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Summary

The return of Hector and Paris reinvigorates the Trojan troops. Alarmed, Athena rushes back toward the battle, but Apollo proposes they end the fighting for the day with a duel. Athena sends a telepathic message to the seer Helenus: Hector should challenge the strongest Achaean to fight. Prompted by wise old Nestor, Achaean heroes volunteer, and Great Ajax is selected by drawing lots.

Hector is intimidated by the giant, but he doesn't waver. He attacks boldly, but each blow is blocked by Ajax's huge shield. Ajax's return blows come very close to wounding Hector seriously, and he finally knocks him over with a great rock. Because night is coming on, they agree to end the duel, exchanging goodwill gifts.

Neither side is eager to resume fighting the next day. A Trojan adviser suggests returning Helen, but Paris will not give her up. However, he does offer the treasure he took with her, plus more. Sensing weakness, the Achaeans reject Paris's treasure but agree on a day for burial of the battle dead. They also take the opportunity to build a wall with a trench in front of it around their ships. Sea-god Poseidon objects to the wall, but Zeus chides him, saying he can wash it away as soon as they leave.

Analysis

Homer builds parallels throughout The Iliad in which an event in one group is mirrored in a scene of another group. (See the conflicts in Book 1, first between mortals and then between the gods.) In Book 7, the desires and actions of Achaeans and Trojans mirror each other in many ways. In the duel Hector attacks with a weapon; then Ajax counterattacks with the same weapon, usually doing a bit more damage. After the duel both sides go home and eat, and both wish to bury their dead. Homer references the grief of the Trojans as they burn their dead to describe the grief of the Achaeans. In so doing, Homer lays the foundation of compassion that finally finds its way to Achilles when Priam petitions him for the body of his slain son, Hector. Common cause and the recognition of it binds enemies to the same principles of honor.

Burial rituals were extremely important to the ancient Greeks. As Patroclus's ghost points out in Book 23, they believed that a person's spirit could not enter the world of the dead until they were properly buried. In The Iliad, bodies are usually burned on pyres. The remaining bones are either interred in a decorative jar or box, or are buried in an earth tomb mounded over the site of the fire.

Like many of the gods's reactions, Poseidon's anger at the end of the chapter is petty—he mostly seems worried that the Achaeans's wall is going to take away from the glory of the wall he built around Troy. But it's also a reminder of an important principle: The gods should always be respected because they can wipe away human works at a whim.

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