I’ve been extremely impressed with a couple of the character moments I’m finding in Book 11 of the Illiad and I felt that I just wanted to share a couple of them really quickly because, for some reason, they just kind of spoke to me.
“… Hector rejoined his men
and sinking down onto one knee, propped himself
with a strong hand planted against the earth–
and the world went black as night across his eyes.”
Illiad, p 308, Lines 414-418
First, there is this moment on page 308 of my Fagles edition, wherein a spear glances off of Hector’s helmet in the heat of battle. It doesn’t kill him, but his reaction to it is extremely human and I chuckled a little and added the caption “I need a moment” in my head for the simple fact that he really does seem to need a moment in order to process what it is that almost happened to him. Up until this point, I don’t really recall Hector having many brushes with death and on the contrary is one of the main dealers of death. Up until now, it probably hasn’t really occurred to Hector that there is a possibility that he can die. But, you know, maybe I’m reading too much into it, as I do.
The second moment that I loved was, of course (OF COURSE), a moment with Diomedes:
Diomedes gets shot in the foot. When I read this, I cringed, mostly because I can only imagine how much getting show in the foot with (presumably) a piece of bronze can hurt. This male posturing in the midst of a raging battle just looks so weird to me. Men are fighting all around and Diomedes is pinned to the floor, but him and Paris have time to gloat. There’s always time to gloat, evidently. Then I guess it is a fair statement to say that this is the nature of war, or at least ancient war. In other fictionI have read regarding older battle styles, it doesn’t seem uncommon for rivals to be able to identify each other on the field.
And finally there is this: “…but from that moment on his doom was sealed.” Poor, loyal Patroclus. By coming to his friend when he was called, he seals his own fate. It’s just unfortunate that no matter what anyone in this epic, there are certain people who have to die in order for Achilles to realize his mortality and quit pouting.