Book 3- Paris, Aphrodite and Helen

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  • Created on: 01-05-15 17:27

Book 3 summary

We expect a general engagement of the two armies, but this is delayed until near the end of book 4 (later in the single day which occupies the narrative from book 2 to book 7). Before the armies can clash, Paris issues a challenge to a duel which is joyfully accepted by Menelaos. The duel is to determine possesion of Helen and her goods, and to be accompanied by a general truce and the end of hostilities. Helen comes to the wall to watch the impending combat between her "two" husbands, and at Priam's request identifies for him leading Achaians that can be seen on the plain below. After elaborate preliminaries and the solemn ratification of the truce, the truce is fought and results in effective victory for Menelaos: but Aphrodite rescues Paris and sets him down in his bedroom. Then, in a scene distrubingly expressive of Aphrodite's power and Helen's helplessness under its influence, Aphrodite summons Helen and forces her to bed Paris.

The book is superbly constructed to introduce the world of Troy, and the attitudes and behaviour which typify important characters on the Trojan side - Paris, Hektor, Priam and most especially Helen. There is an immediate contrast between the manner of the Trojans and the Achaians as they advance to war: the Trojans are noisy and ill-disciplined, the Achaians silent and full of grim resolve, a contrast which reappears when the two sides later that day for the first time in full battle. And Paris, the first Trojan we meet, is not a fully heroic figure. He begins the book with empty bravado, dressed in flashy clothes quite inappropriate for real fighting, and ends the book resplendent in his scented bedroom, like one who just come from the dance, apparently unconcerned by the huge issues threatening his city for which he is wholly responsible. It is no accidental juxtaposition which ends book 2 with the vignette of the Trojan all Nastes, who "went into battle wearing gold like a girl, poor fool!". Achilleus killed him, and took the gold. In book 3 we can see the nature of the man, and the power of the goddedd, that led to the cause of the war. Divine power chooses suitable human channels, just as Athene selects the vain and foolish Pandaros for the breaking of the truce in book 4. The scene in which Aphrodite forces Helen to respond to the sexual appeal of Paris prefigures the seduction of Zeus by Hera in book 14. One point is that the power of Aphrodite works on gods and humand alike; the other is that divine world mirrors the world of men, but without real pain or consequence. Helen's contempt or Paris mixed with self-contempt, and her misery lies in the constant tension between feelings or repulsion and attraction. Paris is hated by all the Trojans, and the burden of this is felt most strongly by his brother Hektor, who must bear the major responsibility for protecting Troy against…


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