The Iliad Book 1: The Rage of Achilles Story Summary

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The Iliad Book 1: The Rage of Achilles Story Summary
At the beginning of the story, Homer is asking the goddess’ to be his muse, or inspiration. He is reminding readers where the story left off by telling them that Achilles is feeling rage because of the clash between him and Agamemnon.

Apollo is the god that started the fight between Achilles and Agamemnon. He did this because he was mad at the king. He felt that Agamemnon spurned, or rejected, Apollo’s priest, Chryses. Chryses was coming to get his daughter, Chryseis, back. He tells Agamemnon that he can take over and plunder Troy as long as he sets his daughter free.

The Greeks would like to see Agamemnon accept this ransom, or gift, but he has no interest. Instead, Agamemnon threatens Chryses and tells him to not tempt his wrath if he wants to leave alive.

Chryses obeyed Agmemnon and leaves. As he is leaving on his ship, he prays to Apollo for help. Apollo listens and journeys down from Mt. Olympus to begin his attack on the Greeks.

Apollo kept this fight up for nine days. Achilles is ready to end this war and sail home, but he wants to ask Apollo what the purpose of this battle was. He believes that he and his men did no wrong to deserve so many lost lives in this fight.

Achilles asks Calchas for help because Calchas has the ability to see into the past and the future. Calchas then has a long narrative dialogue geared towards Achilles. He tells Achilles that he will share his wisdom with him if Achilles promises to defend him from king Agamemnon because he can foresee the king becoming very angry. Achilles agrees.

Calchas continues to tell Achilles that Agamemnon turned his back on Chryses and refused the priest’s new ransom. He says that Apollo will not stop until Chryseis is returned to her father, Chryses.

Agamemnon now returns and he his furious. He claims that Calchas’ prophecies always bring him hardship. Finally, Agamemnon states that he will give Chryseis back even though he thinks very highly of her. He will do this because it is the best thing to do for all of the Greeks. He states that since he is willing to do this, the Greeks must find him a new prize. Achilles explains to Agamemnon that this is not possible because they have already plundered every area and there are no other prizes to be rewarded. He promises Agamemnon that in the future he will be paid back b asking Zeus to destroy Troy.

Agamemnon is angry at this idea. He feels that the Greeks are cheating him. He threatens that if he is not given a prize then he will steal Achilles, Ajax, or Odysseus’ prize. Finally, he says they will settle this dispute later. He tells everyone that they are to board the ship and it will be Achilles job to calm Apollo down and stop the fighting from continuing.

Achilles is furious at this point and is tired of Agamemnon’s greed and states that this is not his problem. He and his men did nothing wrong, but Agamemnon acts as if he could care less about the lives of his men. They do all of the fighting, yet Agamemnon is the one that receives the reward. Agamemnon fire back at Achilles and tells him that he does not have to stay. He says that he has plenty of other men to help him and he is attempting to break down Achilles self-esteem. He threatens Achilles by telling him that he will send his men on their way with Chryseis on board, but he will stay back and take Achilles prize, Briseis, from him.

Achilles is really upset now. He’s having an internal conflict about what to do – should he kill Agamemnon or just chill out? His self-conscious makes him pull out his sword and as he does this, Athena (sent by Hera) comes down to talk some sense into Achilles. She tells him to put away his weapon and to use his words to threaten Agamemnon with what will happen in the future. Athena promises him that one day Achilles will have a huge amount of gifts and Agamemnon will be left with nothing, so he needs to put his rage aside.

Achilles complies and states that he is aware of the fact that if he obeys her, the gods will be more likely to listen to his prayers. Achilles puts his weapon away and lashes back at Agamemnon with a long, narrative dialogue. Basically, Achilles calls Agamemnon out for all of his faults. He promises Agamemnon that one day he will come back and kill all of his followers and armies.

Suddenly, Nestor appears and counsels the two men, trying to get them to make amends. Agamemnon finally orders the return of Chryseis and abducts Briseis from Achilles. Achilles swears that he will nevr again help the Greeks fight. He convinces Thetis, he mother, to persuade Zeus to help the Trojans defeat the Greeks.

The gods all return to Mt. Olympus and Thetis remembers what her son has asked of her. She prays to Zeus asking him to honor Achilles. She asks him to grant the Trojans victory and victory until the Greeks finally pay Achilles back for all of his hard work.

Quiz Review
I. Introduction to Greece and Book One: The Iliad

  1. When did Homer live?

  2. What Trojan prince kidnaps Helen in the “Story Before the Story”?

  3. What does in medias res mean?

  4. Homer bagn his epic poem with an invocation to whom?

  5. What physical handicap did Homer supposedly have?

  6. The Iliad is describing which famous war?

  7. Homer uses describing words for Achilles, such as “swift runner” and Athena as “grey-eyed goddess”. What is the epic convention called for these descriptive names?

  8. What is the theme of the Iliad? (Hint - it’s the first word in the story.)

  9. Which Greek king is Achilles fighting with in Book 1?

  10. Which immortal is punishing the Greeks at the beginning of the story?

  11. At the end of book 1, Achilles mother flies to Mt. Olympus to beg which god for help?

  12. When do historians believe the Trojan War took place? You must know whether it was in B.C. or A.D.

  13. The belief in many gods is called what?

  14. Which Greek city-state is considered the birthplace of democracy?

  15. What are some major contributions the Romans made to western civilization?

II. You need to know who the following people are and why they are important.

1. Zeus 2. Aphrodite 3. Agamemnon

4. Hades 5. Menalaus 6. Priam

7. Ares 8. Achilles 9. Athena

10. Chryseis
III. Vocabulary
Incensed (adj.) – very angry; enraged

Ex. Incensed by the high prices of gasoline, the citizens demanded that their elected officials find a solution to the economic crisis.

Plunder (verb) – to rob by force in warfare

Ex. The Vikings burned monasteries, plundered villages and murdered priests during the Dark Ages.

Sacrosanct (adj.) – very holy; sacred

Ex. To a Yankees fan, Yankee Stadium is the sacrosanct destination of the world’s greatest baseball players.

Brazen (adj.) – literally, of brass; shamelessly bold

Ex. Fighting is considered such a brazen violation of the rules of a game that the offending players are usually severely penalized.

Harrowed (verb) – distressed; tormented

Ex. The harrowed teacher asked the rambunctious kindergarten class to put their heads on their desks and remain silent.

Bereft (adj.) – deprived or robbed

The bereft mother wept over the body of her dead child.

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