Iliad: Book 10 | Marauding Through the Night

Deacon Harrison Garlick and Adam Minihan sit down to talk about Book 10 of the Iliad, Marauding Through the Night.

In this episode we will discuss:

  • What happens in Book 10?
  • Hector calls for a spy.
  • Diomedes goes on a rampage
  • What else should be observed in book 10?

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53. What happens in book ten?

Agamemnon cannot sleep (9.04). He is tormented by the thousand fires of the Trojans camped around his black ships (10.14), and he tears “his hair out by the roots” (10.18). He dresses for war and leaves his tent—only to run into his brother, Menelaus, who is also unsettled (10.30). Menelaus gives Agamemnon the idea of sending out spies against the Trojans (10.45). After waking the other Achaean warlords, Agamemnon holds a war council in which Nestor proposes someone should infiltrate the Trojans (10.241). Diomedes volunteers and selects Odysseus to go with him (10.284). Meanwhile, amongst the Trojans, Hector also calls for a spy, and the warrior Dolon, an ugly but fast fellow (10.369), agrees to go (10.366). 

In the black of night and out in the no man’s land between the armies, Odysseus sees Dolan running, and Odysseus and Diomedes hide amongst the corpses as Dolan goes past at a “dead run” (10.409). The two Achaeans capture Dolon who, in turn, blurts out every detail he knows about the Trojan encampment (10.478, 493) under the assumption he will be taken captive (10.511). Diomedes then decapitates Dolon and his “shrieking head went tumbling in the dust” (10.327). Odysseus and Diomedes elect to attack an outpost described by Dolon, a group of Thracian warriors in league with Troy (10.501, 535). Athena blesses Diomedes (10.557), and he slaughters thirteen Thracians in their sleep—including their king (10.571). Apollo wakes a Thracian who sounds the alarm, and Odysseus and Diomedes ride the slain king’s magnificent horses back to the Achaean camp (10.631). The book ends with Odysseus and Diomedes, now bathed and seated for a meal, pouring out a libation to Athena, the goddess who watches over them (10.670).

54. What else should be observed in book ten?

Agamemnon believes he and Menelaus should do the work of waking up the lesser warlords themselves (10.80); and, similarly, Diomedes notes that it is Nestor, not some younger solider, that has awakened him (10.195). One may interpret this to show the gravity of the situation and the ownership the higher Achaean warlords are exhibiting in this moment. Notice that Nestor unfairly critiques Menelaus for sleeping (10.134), and Agamemnon corrects Nestor but not without stating that Menelaus does tend toward inaction (10.139). Agamemnon’s critique of his brother seems contrary to the pattern we have observed of Menelaus being quick to volunteer for some danger and Agamemnon drawing him back. Given the role of archers in the Iliad, it is notable that Homer reveals that Odysseus carries a bow (10.304). 

In book ten (and eleven), Homer will utilize a great deal of animal similes and imagery. One may note that many of the characters in book ten bear an animal hide, e.g., Agamemnon’s lion hide (10.27), Menelaus’ leopard hide (10.34), Diomedes’ lion hide (10.209), and Dolon’s wolf pelt and weasel cap (10.390). One is left to discern what lesson, if any, Homer intends here. 

Finally, book ten shows a certain comradery between Diomedes and Odysseus who are both cared for by Athena. One could assert that the two Achaean reflect the two general traits of Athena: her military tactics in Odysseus and her raw martial prowess in Diomedes. It should be noted, however, that Odysseus will later show his military prowess, and Diomedes has already proven himself to be a counselor (i.e., his bookend speeches in book nine). We could debate the degrees of these traits in both men, but overall they both seems to reflect the primary aspects of the goddess of wisdom.

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