Odysseus confronts and beats Thersites , a common soldier who voices discontent about fighting Agamemnon's war. After a meal, the Greeks deploy in companies upon the Trojan plain. The poet takes the opportunity to describe the provenance of each Greek contingent. When news of the Greek deployment reaches King Priam , the Trojans respond in a sortie upon the plain.
In a list similar to that for the Greeks, the poet describes the Trojans and their allies. While Helen tells Priam about the Greek commanders from the walls of Troy, both sides swear a truce and promise to abide by the outcome of the duel. Paris is beaten, but Aphrodite rescues him and leads him to bed with Helen before Menelaus can kill him.
Agamemnon rouses the Greeks, and battle is joined. Apollo faces Diomedes and warns him against warring with gods. Many heroes and commanders join in, including Hector , and the gods supporting each side try to influence the battle. Emboldened by Athena, Diomedes wounds Ares and puts him out of action. Hector enters the city, urges prayers and sacrifices, incites Paris to battle, bids his wife Andromache and son Astyanax farewell on the city walls, and rejoins the battle.
The Greeks agree to burn their dead, and build a wall to protect their ships and camp, while the Trojans quarrel about returning Helen. Paris offers to return the treasure he took and give further wealth as compensation, but not Helen, and the offer is refused. A day's truce is agreed for burning the dead, during which the Greeks also build their wall and a trench. The Trojans prevail and force the Greeks back to their wall, while Hera and Athena are forbidden to help. Night falls before the Trojans can assail the Greek wall.
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They camp in the field to attack at first light, and their watchfires light the plain like stars. Agamemnon admits his error, and sends an embassy composed of Odysseus, Ajax, Phoenix , and two heralds to offer Briseis and extensive gifts to Achilles, who has been camped next to his ships throughout, if only he will return to the fighting. Achilles and his companion Patroclus receive the embassy well, but Achilles angrily refuses Agamemnon's offer and declares that he would only return to battle if the Trojans reached his ships and threatened them with fire.
The embassy returns empty-handed. Achilles sends Patroclus from his camp to inquire about the Greek casualties, and while there Patroclus is moved to pity by a speech of Nestor 's.
Hector, ignoring an omen, leads the terrible fighting. The Greeks are overwhelmed and routed, the wall's gate is broken, and Hector charges in. The Trojan seer Polydamas urges Hector to fall back and warns him about Achilles, but is ignored.
Against the mounting discontent of the Greek-supporting gods, Zeus sends Apollo to aid the Trojans, who once again breach the wall, and the battle reaches the ships. Achilles relents and lends Patroclus his armor, but sends him off with a stern admonition not to pursue the Trojans, lest he take Achilles' glory. Patroclus leads the Myrmidons into battle and arrives as the Trojans set fire to the first ships. The Trojans are routed by the sudden onslaught, and Patroclus begins his assault by killing Zeus's son Sarpedon , a leading ally of the Trojans.
Patroclus, ignoring Achilles' command, pursues and reaches the gates of Troy, where Apollo himself stops him. Patroclus is set upon by Apollo and Euphorbos , and is finally killed by Hector. Achilles is urged to help retrieve Patroclus' body but has no armour. Bathed in a brilliant radiance by Athena, Achilles stands next to the Greek wall and roars in rage. The Trojans are dismayed by his appearance, and the Greeks manage to bear Patroclus' body away. Polydamas urges Hector again to withdraw into the city; again Hector refuses, and the Trojans camp on the plain at nightfall.
Patroclus is mourned. Meanwhile, at Thetis' request, Hephaestus fashions a new set of armor for Achilles, including a magnificently wrought shield. Achilles fasts while the Greeks take their meal, straps on his new armor, and takes up his great spear. His horse Xanthos prophesies to Achilles his death. Achilles drives his chariot into battle. Achilles, burning with rage and grief, slays many.
The river, angry at the killing, confronts Achilles but is beaten back by Hephaestus' firestorm. The gods fight among themselves. The great gates of the city are opened to receive the fleeing Trojans, and Apollo leads Achilles away from the city by pretending to be a Trojan.
When Achilles approaches, Hector's will fails him, and he is chased around the city by Achilles. Finally, Athena tricks him into stopping, and he turns to face his opponent. After a brief duel, Achilles stabs Hector through the neck.
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Before dying, Hector reminds Achilles that he, too, is fated to die in the war. Achilles takes Hector's body and dishonours it by dragging it behind his chariot. The Greeks hold a day of funeral games, and Achilles gives out the prizes. Led by Hermes , Priam takes a wagon out of Troy, across the plains, and into the Greek camp unnoticed. He clasps Achilles by the knees and begs for his son's body. Achilles is moved to tears, and the two lament their losses in the war. After a meal, Priam carries Hector's body back into Troy. Hector is buried, and the city mourns. The many characters of the Iliad are catalogued; the latter half of Book II, the " Catalogue of Ships ", lists commanders and cohorts; battle scenes feature quickly slain minor characters.
Much debate has surrounded the nature of the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus, as to whether it can be described as a homoerotic one or not. Some Classical and Hellenistic Athenian scholars perceived it as pederastic ,  while others perceived it as a platonic warrior-bond. In the literary Trojan War of the Iliad , the Olympian gods, goddesses, and minor deities fight among themselves and participate in human warfare, often by interfering with humans to counter other gods.
Unlike their portrayals in Greek religion, Homer's portrayal of gods suited his narrative purpose. The gods in traditional thought of fourth-century Athenians were not spoken of in terms familiar to us from Homer.
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In Greek Gods, Human Lives: What We Can Learn From Myths , Mary Lefkowitz discusses the relevance of divine action in the Iliad , attempting to answer the question of whether or not divine intervention is a discrete occurrence for its own sake , or if such godly behaviors are mere human character metaphors.
The intellectual interest of Classic-era authors, such as Thucydides and Plato , was limited to their utility as "a way of talking about human life rather than a description or a truth", because, if the gods remain religious figures, rather than human metaphors, their "existence"—without the foundation of either dogma or a bible of faiths—then allowed Greek culture the intellectual breadth and freedom to conjure gods fitting any religious function they required as a people.
These beliefs coincide to the thoughts about the gods in polytheistic Greek religion.
In the article "Greek Religion" A. For example, Poseidon is the god of the sea, Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty, Ares is the god of war, and so on and so forth for many other gods. This is how Greek culture was defined as many Athenians felt the presence of their gods through divine intervention in significant events in their lives. Oftentimes they found these events to be mysterious and inexplicable.
In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , psychologist Julian Jaynes uses the Iliad as a major piece of evidence for his theory of Bicameralism , which posits that until about the time described in the Iliad , humans had a far different mentality from present day humans. He says that humans during that time were lacking what we today call consciousness. He suggests that humans heard and obeyed commands from what they identified as gods, until the change in human mentality that incorporated the motivating force into the conscious self. He points out that almost every action in the Iliad is directed, caused, or influenced by a god, and that earlier translations show an astonishing lack of words suggesting thought, planning, or introspection.
Those that do appear, he argues, are misinterpretations made by translators imposing a modern mentality on the characters. Some scholars believe that the gods may have intervened in the mortal world because of quarrels they may have had among each other. Homer interprets the world at this time by using the passion and emotion of the gods to be determining factors of what happens on the human level.
The emotions between the goddesses often translate to actions they take in the mortal world. For example, in Book 3 of The Iliad, Paris challenges any of the Achaeans to a single combat and Menelaus steps forward.
Menelaus was dominating the battle and was on the verge of killing Paris. The partisanship of Aphrodite towards Paris induces constant intervention by all of the gods, especially to give motivational speeches to their respective proteges, while often appearing in the shape of a human being they are familiar with. Once set, gods and men abide it, neither truly able nor willing to contest it. How fate is set is unknown, but it is told by the Fates and by Zeus through sending omens to seers such as Calchas.
Men and their gods continually speak of heroic acceptance and cowardly avoidance of one's slated fate. No, deadly destiny, with the son of Leto, has killed me, and of men it was Euphorbos; you are only my third slayer. And put away in your heart this other thing that I tell you. You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already death and powerful destiny are standing beside you, to go down under the hands of Aiakos' great son, Achilleus.
Here, Patroclus alludes to fated death by Hector's hand, and Hector's fated death by Achilles's hand. Each accepts the outcome of his life, yet, no-one knows if the gods can alter fate. The first instance of this doubt occurs in Book XVI.