HOMER: The Iliad [Book XXI]

In Book XXI of Homer’s Iliad, the entire Trojan army flees from the wrath of Achilles. Some Trojans run towards the city, some run towards the river Scamander. Achilles chases those who fled to Scamander and slaughters all but tweleve Trojans, whom he intends to offer as sacrifices to the shade of Patroclus.

During the slaughter, Achilles kills so many Trojans that the water turns red. This greatly angers the river Scamander, which is actually a god. Scamander warns Achilles to cease killing the Trojans in his waters. “Do your grim work on land. My fair waters are now filled with corpses, nor can I find any channel by which I may pour myself into the sea for I am choked with dead, and yet you go on mercilessly slaying. Trouble me no further.”

Achilles disregards Scamander’s warning and continues to chase and kill the Trojans in the river. Scamander begins to attack Achilles with waves. Achilles nearly drowns, but Juno and Vulcan save him by sending winds and fire against Scamander, forcing the river god to abandon his assault on Achilles.

Assaulted no longer by Scamander, Achilles chases the rest of the Trojans to Troy. At this moment, Troy is in great peril because its gates are open to allow the retreating Trojans to enter the city. Therefore, the Trojan Agenor decides to fight and distract Achilles for a sufficient amount of time in order to allow all the Trojans to enter the city and close the gates. Agenor hurls a spear at Achilles and strikes him just below the knee. Fortunately for Achilles, his newly forged greaves protect him from the blow. Then, just as Achilles aims to strike, the god Apollo conveys Agenor away from Achilles and places him safely behind the city walls.

Achilles’ military prowess must have been frightening for the Trojans to behold. After witnessing Achilles easily slaughtering many of their comrades, it is likely that many of the Trojans believed Achilles was a god. This makes Agenor’s decision to confront Achilles much more heroic and inspiring.

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