The Rage of Achilles

The rage of Achilles is the subject of Homer's Iliad.  His death is taken from Apollodorus.

During the first nine years of the war, when the Greeks were attacking the towns allied with Troy, Agamemnon claimed the girl Chryseis as his concubine.  Chryseis was the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo.

Chryses journeys to the Greek camp, to regain his daughter.  He offers Agamemnon a large ransom, but the great king refuses.  He had become infatuated with Chryseis, and is determined to take her home with him to Mycenae when the war is over.  He says that he even prefers her to his wife Clytemnestra.  But the other Greeks hear Chryses' plea, and implore Agamemnon to return the girl and accept the ransom.

Agamemnon refuses, and sends the man away.  Chryses then prays to Apollo, asking him to send a plague upon them.  Apollo hears his prayer, and for nine days he rains his plague-carrying arrows down on the Greek camp.  Animals and men alike die.

On the tenth day, the Greeks gather around AgamemnonAchilles speaks for them, insisting that Agamemnon return Chryseis, and end the plague.  The seer Calchas also speaks, assuring Agamemnon that this is indeed the cause of the plague.  Agamemnon agrees, but demands compensation in return.  He and Achilles argue over this matter, who points out that none of the Greeks, except for Menelaus and Agamemnon, have any reason to fight the Trojans at all.  Therefore, it is only fair that Agamemnon be willing to make the sacrifice.

Agamemnon had never cared for the swift Achilles, who seems to delight in war and carnage.  He says that he will return Chryseis, but in her place he will claim Briseis, a concubine of Achilles.  Enraged, Achilles looks to draw his sword.  At this moment, Athena flies down from Olympus.  She was sent by Hera, who cares for both men and wants to see the Greeks succeed against Paris and the TrojansAchilles obeys the goddess, but promises that eventually Agamemnon will regret his actions, as the Greeks are all dying.

The wise Nestor rises, attempting to reconcile the two warriors.  He reminds them that he has known far greater men than them, and these great heroes listened to his advice.  Nestor tells Agamemnon not to take Briseis, and he tells Achilles not to fight Agamemnon, whom he can not possibly hope to beat.

Unfortunately, Nestor's advice falls on deaf ears.  Agamemnon takes the girl, and Achilles promises to not fight again for the GreeksAchilles then prays to his mother Thetis for help.  He asks her to go to Zeus and beg him to help the Trojan cause.  In this way, when the Greeks are pinned against their ships, Agamemnon will clearly see the mistake he has made.  Thetis agrees to do as her son has asked.

For a time, the Greeks hold their own.  Eventually, with Zeus's aid, the Trojans begin to push back them back.  Hector and the Trojans slowly begin to gain the momentum.  Seeing the fortune of his forces, Agamemnon, under the advice of Nestor, sends Odysseus, Ajax and Phoenix to Achilles' tent.  They entreat Achilles to return to battle.  He offers to return the girl Briseis, as well as a handsome reward.  Achilles pride has been hurt too deeply, however, and does not accept.

He is, however, worried that the Greeks may lose.  He allows his friend Patroclus, while wearing his armor, to lead the Myrmidons back into the battle.  When the Trojans see Patroclus, they think Achilles has returned.  The Trojans panic and flee.

Three times, Patroclus and his soldiers storm the walls of Troy itself, only to be repulsed by the god ApolloHector, however, becomes enraged at the death of Sarpedon by the hand of Patroclus.  Ignoring the other Greeks, Hector steers his chariot straight towards PatroclusPatroclus hurls a rock, killing Hector's driver.  During the fight for the corpse, Patroclus is wounded by a Greek soldier.  Hector, seeing Patroclus is wounded, finishes him off.  Hector strips the body of Achilles' armor and wares it as his own.

When he learns of his friend's death, Achilles, now filled with rage, returns to the fight unarmed. The Trojans turn and flee at his sight.  Achilles' mother Thetis comes down and gives her son new armor, forged by Hephaestus himself.  Achilles then chases them from behind, preying on the slow. 

Most notable among his victims is Penthesileia, queen of the Amazons, who turns back to attack him.  The Amazons had come to fight for the Trojans, and had inflicted great damage upon the Greeks.

As the other Trojans flee into Troy, Hector remains alone outside the walls to fight, trying in vain to rally his troops.  As Achilles approaches, Hector panics and flees.  The swift Achilles pursues him from behind.  They run three times around the walls of Troy.  Watching from above, Zeus wants to save Hector, but Athena convinces him otherwise.  She flies down to the earth, and tricks Hector into stopping, making him think that she was Deiphobus coming to his aid.

In their duel, Achilles spears Hector in the neck.  He then taunts the dying man, saying that he will not be buried.  Struggling for breath, Hector foretells Achilles' death at the hands of Paris and Apollo, and then dies.  Achilles then strips the body and ties it to his chariot.  Day after day, he drags the body around the walls of Troy as revenge for the death of Patroclus.

After twelve days, the gods could take no more.  Thetis was ordered to convince Achilles to return the body.  Hermes went to Troy, and accompanied Priam to Achilles' tent.  The old man arrived, crying and begging for his son's body.  Achilles relented from his rage and agreed to return the body.  He even agrees to keep the Greeks from fighting for ten days, so that Hector may be buried properly.

Soon after, however, Achilles' life was ended, as had been prophesized many years earlier.  From the walls of Troy, Paris shot an arrow, which, guided by Apollo, struck the heel of Achilles and killed him.  After Achilles fell, a huge battle ensued for his corpse.

Source(s):

  1. HomerIliad.

  2. ApollodorusBibliotece.