Unit 3: Adventure and The Hero’s Journey

The Trojan War Part 2: Achilles and Hector

“The Discovery of Achilles among the Daughters of Lycomedes,” by Jan de Bray, 1664, $\ccpd$

adapted from Stories of the Ancient Greeks by Charles D. Shaw, $\ccpd$

When Paris had carried off Helen to Troy, her husband Menelaus called on the Greek leaders to help him bring her back. That meant war, and some were very unwilling to risk their lives and the lives of their soldiers for such a cause. One named Odysseus persuaded several to go with him to the war, among them Achilles. The mother of this young man, Thetis, was unwilling to have him fight against Troy, so she dressed him like a girl and placed him among the daughters of a friendly king. Odysseus heard of this and put on the clothes of a traveling merchant. He went to the palace with rings and bracelets, belts and expensive clothing, and two or three good swords. The girls came out to see these treasures and were pleased with the jewelry. One among them did not look at the rings and nice clothes, but lifted the swords and tried their weight.

Odysseus said, “Young man, your dress is that of a girl, but your eye is that of a man. You are Achilles, and you must go with me to Troy to battle.”

Two years were spent in collecting ships and men. The entire company met at Aulis, ready to sail together. The fleet sailed and soon reached the coast of Troy. War began at once and lasted for nine years without feeling like it could ever end.

An intense argument arose between Achilles and Agamemnon, a king, leader of the Greek soldiers, and brother to Menelaus. They were fighting over who would get the spoils of war. As leader, Agamemnon wanted to take the best for himself, but Achilles argued because Agamemnon did not fight in the battle, but Achilles did. Achilles said he would fight no more but would go home to Greece.

The gods and goddesses took a deep interest in the case. Hera and Athena were angry at Paris and the Trojans, but Aphrodite was friendly to them. Ares took her side, but Poseidon helped the Greeks.

Illustrations by John Flaxman, in The Story of the Iliad by Alfred John Church, 1895, $\ccpd$
Gods helping the Trojans
Athena and Hera against the Trojans

Fighting went on more fiercely than ever. The Trojans won victory after victory, and the Greeks were driven to their ships. The enemy followed and were about to burn the ships when Poseidon went among the Greeks as an oracle and gave them new courage. Ajax the Greek met Hector of Troy, who threw his spear which struck but did no harm. Then Ajax took a huge stone and threw it with all his might. It fell on Hector like a falling mountain, and he sank to the ground, hurt and stunned. Zeus sent Apollo to cure him, and he soon was busy again in the fight.

The battle went against the Greeks. Some commanders were wounded, others were killed. Once more the Trojans reached the ships and were preparing to burn them.

A dear friend of Achilles, named Patroclus, went to the hero and said, “Oh, my friend! If you aren’t going to come and help us, lend me your armor and your soldiers so I can drive away these enemies before they destroy all our ships.”

Achilles said, “Take my armor and my men and drive away our enemies, but do not try to follow them without my help.”

The Trojans thought they saw the great Achilles with his troops coming against them. They fled, and Patroclus followed, driving them like sheep, until he met Hector. These two fought, and Patroclus fell. Then Hector took from him the armor of Achilles and put it on.

Hephaestus making armor for Thetis, by Giulio Romano, ca. 1492-1546, $\ccpd$

When Achilles heard that his friend was dead he started up and said, “I will go out and fight with Hector this very day.” His mother Thetis said, “Remember, you have no armor. Wait until tomorrow, and you shall have a suit better than the first.”

She hurried to Hephæstus, who made the armor, and at the dawn of day it lay at the feet of Achilles. He went into the battle and drove the Trojans inside the wall of their city.

Only Hector stood outside waiting to meet him, but when he saw Achilles coming he turned and ran. Achilles followed him three times around the city; then Hector stood and fought. The spear of Achilles pierced him, and he fell.

Achilles stripped the armor from the body, tied Hector’s feet behind his chariot, and drove around the city, dragging the dead hero through the dust. The Trojans stood weeping on the walls, among them the father and mother and wife of Hector, lamenting at the dreadful sight.

The Greeks took the body of Patroclus and burned it with many honors, but Hector’s corpse lay out upon the field. Priam, his father and king of Troy, filled a wooden chest with gold and rich clothing and other costly gifts. The gods helped him and his servants carry it to the tent of Achilles in exchange for the corpse of Hector. It was accepted, and the weeping company carried back those poor remains to the city and gave them the highest funeral honors.

Comprehension Questions

Answering the following questions according to the reading.

  1. Who is Odysseus?
  2. Who is Achilles?
  3. How does Odysseus find the disguised Achilles, and what is his disguise?
  4. Who are the Trojans?
  5. Which gods also fought in the Trojan War, and whose side were they on?
  6. Who is Ajax?
  7. Who is Hector?
  8. How would you describe Achilles’ feeling about going to war?
  9. What happened that made Achilles very angry?
  10. How did Achilles seek revenge on Hector?

Critical Thinking Questions

Answer the following questions. Compare your answers with a partner.

  1. Which event from the story is happening in this painting? Who can you identify from the story?
    In this painting, a man looks very distraught. His hand is on the arm of a dead body lying on a bed. Next to him is a woman holding armor, whispering to him. To the side are many soldiers who look surprised.
    by Benjamin West, 1806, $\ccpd$
  2. Which event from the story is happening in this illustration?
    In the illustration, a soldier is in a horse drawn chariot, which is dragging a man's body.
    Illustrations by John Flaxman, in The Story of the Iliad by Alfred John Church, 1895, $\ccpd$
  3. There is a famous brand of soap named Ajax. Follow the link to read their story. Why did they name their company after him?

CEFR Level: CEF Level B1


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