Whenever a king is enraged at a lesser man, / even if he should swallow his wrath for the moment / he will nurse his grievance until he can take revenge.
Calchas seeks to ensure Achilles will support him no matter what he claims Apollo wants. He worries about what Agamemnon will do in response. Calchas knows that Agamemnon, as a king, is used to getting his own way, and that Calchas is putting himself in the line of fire by opposing Agamemnon’s actions. While Calchas’s comment speaks broadly of “a king,” it is clear it is Agamemnon’s specific wrath he fears.
I am certain of this; deep in my heart I know / that a day will come when the city of Troy / will be devastated, and Priam, and Priam’s people; / and Lord Zeus himself will shake his dark storm shield upon them / in anger at their bad faith.
Agamemnon leads the battle against Troy with utmost certainty that he is doing the will of Zeus and is therefore guaranteed success. Agamemnon himself is often described as a great warrior, and we can tell his confidence comes in part from his own merit and the merit of his best soldiers. However, his attacks in The Iliad are spurred on by his belief in Zeus’s patronage. This quote shows even a great warrior and king must rely on the favor of the gods.
I am much afraid that Hector will make good the threat that he once announced in the Trojan assembly, saying / he would never go back to Ilion . . . until he had . . . slaughtered out men. / These were his words, and now they are coming true.
Agamemnon is brave in battle until his men are struggling. At the beginning of Book 14, he wants to turn and retreat rather than continue to sustain losses by the Trojans. Although this decision could save the lives of many of his men, The Iliad and Agamemnon’s advisors view it as an act of cowardice. The text uplifts the characters who are willing to throw themselves into the fray, and often looks down on characters like Agamemnon who may value their safety and self-preservation. Agamemnon certainly cares about his reputation as king, and elsewhere he does not want to forfeit to the Trojans. However, here the text paints his desire to retreat as a moment of weakness rather than as a legitimate tactical decision.