I went in to catch up on book 7 of The Iliad, only to find I have far less to say about it than book 6. Hector and Paris storm into the fray, and Paris actually takes down a man. Athena, seeing that her Greeks are actually losing, storms down, meaning to help them out. Apollo intercepts her with a plan: we can stop this fighting entirely if we just make Hector challenge someone to single combat. (Because, I guess, single combat did such a good job of halting the war the first time around.) Athena agrees and, speaking through Helenus, urges Hector to action. Hector strides right into the no-man’s-land-between the armies and issues his challenge.
Finally Menelaus rolls his eyes and says, “Fine, I’ll fight him!”
At which point Agamemnon says, “Don’t be an idiot, he’ll kill you!” and suddenly all the other Greeks, eager to cover up their cowardice, tumble over one another in their enthusiasm to jump in and fight Hector instead. Lots are drawn. Great Ajax wins. Hector does some quaking of his own.
They hack at each other for a while. Then Zeus sends men from both sides to break things up, convince the men that it’s getting dark, why not stop until tomorrow? Ajax says, “Hey, he’s losing, make him call the truce.” Hector, who is indeed losing says, “Okay, okay, I ask for a truce.” And they stop fighting and agree to go bury their dead. The Greeks decide that while they’re at it dead, maybe they’ll put up a few extra trenches and walls and other defenses. Making one think maybe the Trojans weren’t faring all that badly after all.
Back in Troy, the Trojans seem to think otherwise. A Trojan, Antenor, makes a suggestion: let’s just give those Greeks Helen and all her treasure and tell them to get out of here. Paris, not surprisingly, disagrees. Well, mostly disagrees: they can have the treasure, sure, but Helen, no way.
A herald, Idaeus, delivers Paris’ halfway offer to the Greeks:
Priam and noble Trojans command me to report,
if it proves acceptable, pleasing to one and all,
the offer of Paris who caused are long and hard campaign.
All the treasures that filled his hollow ships
and the prince hauled home to Troy–
would to god he’d drowned before that day!–
he’ll return them all and add from his own stores.
But the lawful wife of Menelaus, renowned Menelaus,
he will not give her up, Paris makes that clear,
though all Troy commands him to do precisely that.
Is it just me, or does Idaeus sound none-too-pleased with Paris himself? Is there anyone in Troy who isn’t fed up with Paris?
If Paris lived today, I like to think his family would have staged an intervention by now.