The Iliad (bk I)
Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.
And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo wreathed with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.
"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."
On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. "Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall profit you nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my house at Argos far from her own home, busying herself with her loom and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the worse for you."
The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went by the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your temple with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their hounds, but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves, and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.
For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno, who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.
"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving home if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by war and pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some reader of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why Phoebus Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we have broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take away the plague from us."
With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest of augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius, through the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him. With all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-
"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear that you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that I shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse revenge till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you will protect me."
And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth- no, not though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the Achaeans."
Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this pestilence till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or ransom to her father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus we may perhaps appease him."
With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on Calchas and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth things concerning me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was evil. You have brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you come seeing among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us because I would not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments. Still I will give her up if I must, for I would have the people live, not die; but you must find me a prize instead, or I alone among the Argives shall be without one. This is not well; for you behold, all of you, that my prize is to go elsewhither."
And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove grants us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and fourfold."
Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me. Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the god."
Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours- to gain satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you."
And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no prayers to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and above all Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you so? Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for your anger; and thus will I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and take your own prize Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am than you are, and that another may fear to set himself up as equal or comparable with me."
The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy breast was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty sword from its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had sent her in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are you here," said he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."
And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you- and it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and obey."
"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear the prayers of him who has obeyed them."
He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.
But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus, for he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the Achaeans."
With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning fiercely from his place upon the other side. Then uprose smooth-tongued Nestor, the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the words fell from his lips sweeter than honey. Two generations of men born and bred in Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was now reigning over the third. With all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:-
"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean land. Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be glad at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you; therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels. Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles; and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who by the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon. You are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon is stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus, check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be. Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also given him the right to speak with railing?"
Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried, "were I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not me, for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this girl, for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else that is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that others may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your blood."
When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company, while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.
These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they purified themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore, and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up towards heaven.
Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and take her- which will press him harder."
He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon they went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them. They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did they speak, but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus, bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the blessed gods, by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's anger, that if ever again there be need of me to save the people from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans may fight by their ships in safety."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in prayer to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed to live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from Olympus, might have made that little glorious. It is not so. Agamemnon, son of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me of my prize by force."
As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father. Forthwith she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down before him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and said, "My son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you? Keep it not from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."
Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you what you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of Eetion, sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the Achaeans shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as the meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo, wreathed with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.
"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So he went back in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his prayer. Then the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the people died thick on one another, for the arrows went everywhither among the wide host of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness of his knowledge declared to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was myself first to say that we should appease him. Whereon the son of Atreus rose in anger, and threatened that which he has since done. The Achaeans are now taking the girl in a ship to Chryse, and sending gifts of sacrifice to the god; but the heralds have just taken from my tent the daughter of Briseus, whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.
"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin, when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of all this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans. Let the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to the foremost of the Achaeans."
Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have borne or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free from all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers: woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I will go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove, if he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your ships, nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from fight. For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the Ethiopians, and the other gods went with him. He will return to Olympus twelve days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with bronze and will beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to persuade him."
On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb. When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and made fast the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses led her to the altar to deliver her into the hands of her father. "Chryses," said he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your child, and to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that we may propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the Argives."
So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her gladly, and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims, while Chryses lifted up his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and rulest Tenedos with thy might. Even as thou didst hear me aforetime when I prayed, and didst press hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me yet again, and stay this fearful pestilence from the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering.
Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song, hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took pleasure in their voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on dark, they laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the ship, and when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they again set sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair wind, so they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft. As the sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. When they reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they drew the vessel ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong props beneath her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.
But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not to the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed at his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.
Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge her son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and besought him, saying-
"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give my son his due and load him with riches in requital."
Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time. "Incline your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you disdain me."
At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before the other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me. This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my head."
As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.
When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting, but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter, silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help it, one word of your intentions."
"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about? I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything. Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she was with you and had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill much people at the ships of the Achaeans."
"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven were on your side it would profit you nothing."
On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will then soon be in a good humour with us."
As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for there is no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to help you, he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."
Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing bustling about the heavenly mansion.
Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices, calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove, the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the golden throne by his side.
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The Iliad: Book 1
Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought
countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send
hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs
and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the
day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first
fell out with one another.
And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the
son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a
pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of
Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the
ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a
great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo
wreathed with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but
most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.
"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods
who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach
your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for
her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."
On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for
respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not
so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away.
"Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor
yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall
profit you nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my
house at Argos far from her own home, busying herself with her loom
and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the
worse for you."
The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went
by the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo
whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the
silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos
with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your
temple with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or
goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down
furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver
upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage
that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with
a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot
his arrow in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their
hounds, but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves,
and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.
For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon
the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno,
who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon
them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.
"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving
home if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by
war and pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some
reader of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why
Phoebus Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we
have broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will
accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take
away the plague from us."
With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest
of augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He
it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius,
through the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him.
With all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-
"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of
King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear that
you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that I
shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the
Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger
of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse
revenge till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you
will protect me."
And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon
you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose
oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand
upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth- no, not
though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the
Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither
about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon
has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a
ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will
yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this
pestilence till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or
ransom to her father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus
we may perhaps appease him."
With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart
was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on
Calchas and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth
things concerning me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was
evil. You have brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you
come seeing among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us
because I would not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of
Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I
love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she
is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments.
Still I will give her up if I must, for I would have the people
live, not die; but you must find me a prize instead, or I alone
among the Argives shall be without one. This is not well; for you
behold, all of you, that my prize is to go elsewhither."
And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond
all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no
common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities
have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made
already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove
grants us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and
Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not
thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me.
Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and
give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize
in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or
that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall
rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the
present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her
expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis
also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax,
or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are,
that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the god."
Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in
insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do
your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not
warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel
with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut
down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them
there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have
followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours- to gain
satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for
Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for
which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me.
Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive
so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better
part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the
largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can
get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now,
therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to
return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to
gather gold and substance for you."
And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no
prayers to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and
above all Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so
hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill
affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you
so? Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the
Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for your anger; and thus will
I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send
her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and
take your own prize Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am
than you are, and that another may fear to set himself up as equal
or comparable with me."
The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy
breast was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside,
and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his
anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty
sword from its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had
sent her in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of
Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others
no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that
flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are
you here," said he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the
pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall
surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."
And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid
you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you
alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at
him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you-
and it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three
times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore,
"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must
do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear
the prayers of him who has obeyed them."
He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it
back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to
Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.
But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus,
for he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of
a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the
host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this
as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes
from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you
are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward
you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great
oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor
shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon
the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the
sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of
heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall
look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your
distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector,
you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with
rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the
With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the
ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning
fiercely from his place upon the other side. Then uprose
smooth-tongued Nestor, the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the
words fell from his lips sweeter than honey. Two generations of men
born and bred in Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was
now reigning over the third. With all sincerity and goodwill,
therefore, he addressed them thus:-
"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean
land. Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be
glad at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are
so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you;
therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of
men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels.
Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of
his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus
son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men
ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought
the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I
came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would
have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living
could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by
them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent
way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl
away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles;
and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who by
the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon. You
are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon is
stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus,
check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who
in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but
this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord
of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be.
Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also
given him the right to speak with railing?"
Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried,
"were I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not
me, for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying
to your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this
girl, for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else
that is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that
others may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your
When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the
assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back
to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company,
while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of
twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a
hecatomb for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.
These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But
the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they
purified themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they
offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore,
and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up
Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did
not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty
messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to
the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and
bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and
take her- which will press him harder."
He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon
they went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to
the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by
his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them.
They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did
they speak, but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers
of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with
Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus,
bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the
blessed gods, by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's
anger, that if ever again there be need of me to save the people
from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad
with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans
may fight by their ships in safety."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis
from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them
to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then
Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and
looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in
prayer to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed
to live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from
Olympus, might have made that little glorious. It is not so.
Agamemnon, son of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me
of my prize by force."
As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was
sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father.
Forthwith she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down
before him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and
said, "My son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you?
Keep it not from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."
Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you
what you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of
Eetion, sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the
Achaeans shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as
the meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the
ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a
great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo,
wreathed with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans,
but most of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.
"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting
the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so
Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So
he went back in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his
prayer. Then the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the
people died thick on one another, for the arrows went everywhither
among the wide host of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness
of his knowledge declared to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was
myself first to say that we should appease him. Whereon the son of
Atreus rose in anger, and threatened that which he has since done. The
Achaeans are now taking the girl in a ship to Chryse, and sending
gifts of sacrifice to the god; but the heralds have just taken from my
tent the daughter of Briseus, whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.
"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and
if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid
of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in
that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin,
when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put
him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to
Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men
Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he
took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods
were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of all
this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans. Let
the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish
on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their
king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to
the foremost of the Achaeans."
Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have
borne or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free
from all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you
should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers:
woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I
will go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove,
if he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your
ships, nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from
fight. For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the
Ethiopians, and the other gods went with him. He will return to
Olympus twelve days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with
bronze and will beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to
On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been
taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb.
When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid
them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the
mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they
would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and
made fast the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed
the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses
led her to the altar to deliver her into the hands of her father.
"Chryses," said he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your
child, and to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that
we may propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the
So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her
gladly, and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the
altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the
barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims, while Chryses lifted up
his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O
god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and
rulest Tenedos with thy might. Even as thou didst hear me aforetime
when I prayed, and didst press hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me
yet again, and stay this fearful pestilence from the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done
praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of
the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the
thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some
pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on
the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood
near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the
thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut
the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till
they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished
their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his
full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough
to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and
handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering.
Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song,
hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took
pleasure in their voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on
dark, they laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the
ship, and when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they
again set sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair
wind, so they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft.
As the sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
When they reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they
drew the vessel ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong
props beneath her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.
But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not to
the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed at
his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.
Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to
Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the
charge her son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and
went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she
found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost
ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized
his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and
besought him, saying-
"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the
immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to
be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking
his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord
of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give
my son his due and load him with riches in requital."
Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still
kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time.
"Incline your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny
me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you
At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble
if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with
her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before the
other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back
now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will
bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me.
This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall
my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my
As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the
ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.
When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his
house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged
into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before the
coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting, but all
stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But
Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter,
silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began
to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you
been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in
secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help
it, one word of your intentions."
"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be
informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it
hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there is
no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to keep a
matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about?
I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in
everything. Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's
daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she was with you and
had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore,
that you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to
kill much people at the ships of the Achaeans."
"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find
it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you
the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you
say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid
you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven
were on your side it would profit you nothing."
On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat
down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout
the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and
pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you two
fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of
mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no
pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must
herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear
father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the
Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do
so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will
then soon be in a good humour with us."
As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his
mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best
of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you get a
thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for there is
no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to help you,
he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All
day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to
ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very little life
left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."
Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her
son's hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and
served it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the
blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing
bustling about the heavenly mansion.
Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they
feasted, and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied.
Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices,
calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light
had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame
Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove,
the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always
slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the
golden throne by his side.
We Sing to Thee, Thou Son of God
We sing to Thee, Thou Son of God,
Fountain of life and grace;
We praise Thee, Son of Man, whose blood
Redeemed our fallen race.
Thee we acknowledge God and Lord,
The Lamb for sinners slain;
Who art by heaven and earth adored,
Worthy o'er both to reign.
To Thee all angels cry aloud,
Through heaven's extended coasts: -
Hail! holy, holy, holy Lord
Of glory and of hosts.
The cherubim and seraphim
Incessant sing to Thee;
The worlds and all the powers therein
Adore Thy majesty.
The prophets' goodly fellowship,
In radiant garments dressed,
Praise Thee, Thou Son of God, and reap
The fulness of Thy rest.
The apostles' glorious company
Thy righteous praise proclaim:
The martyred army glorify
Thine everlasting name.
Through all the world, Thy churches join
To call on Thee their Head,
Brightness of majesty Divine,
Who every power hast made.
Among their number, Lord, we love
To sing Thy precious blood.
Reign here, and in the worlds above,
Thou Holy Lamb of God!
A princess' ordeal
In a backward forgotten land,
Where magic was yielded by man,
Lived a princess who wasn't bland,
Yet she was ignored by her clan,
She often craved to hear a rant,
She tried everything that one can,
But soon learned she'd no confidant,
With which to talk and gallivant,
Had she had someone she'd have been,
Less adventurous and caprice,
And ready for dangers unseen,
So she could live her life in peace,
A wizard that'd been made a flea,
By a foe that he tried to fleece,
Craved to reclaim what used to be,
So that he could quell his envy,
He hijacked the princess's life,
By filling her head up with advice,
With the intent of causing strife,
But his sway could not quite suffice,
So he took control of her mind,
And used the girl like a device,
Then proved himself a mastermind,
By changing how some were inclined,
But before he could pose a threat,
His deed had an adverse effect,
Which rightfully caused him to fret,
As it could be seen as suspect,
Changes which were hard to accept,
Soon made the princess imperfect,
All wished her beauty could be kept,
And as a result many wept,
The king wanted a cure found quick,
So he sought a witch to enlist,
Who claimed that she could heal the sick,
And knew all spells that did exist,
The cause of the blight stayed secret,
As the witch had been dishonest,
Such failure was hard to permit,
So she was put in a casket,
The course of action seemed quite rash,
But it made the problem vanish,
Which then caused the king to act brash,
And plan something yet more fiendish,
Within a nearby dragon's crèche,
The princess was left to perish,
The king was sure she'd lose her flesh,
As the beasts craved meat that was fresh,
What happened next was lucky then,
As it dodged want for a weapon,
For the wizard changed back again,
The princess spewed without pardon,
As soon as her sickness had gone,
And a flea had become human,
She found her consciousness was won,
As she and the wizard weren't one,
Separate the pair were not on par,
The dragons favoured the mature,
What happened next was quite bizarre,
The sights seen were hard to endure,
As there was so much blood and gore,
And the princess felt doomed for sure,
She waited for what was in store,
As her chance of escape was poor,
Unforeseen the dragons fell ill,
Their guts slowly began to swell,
And in time their hearts became still,
One after another they fell,
She'd been certain worse was install,
Such as tortures worthy of hell,
Which even the wicked appal,
So clearly it was a close call.
But there was danger still afoot,
Which could make brave persons distraught,
The peril in which she was put,
Was clearly worse than one had thought,
A great ferocious fire was set,
Which had no hope of being fought,
It resulted from the blood let,
Of the dragons that posed no threat,
The princess then thought herself mad,
As an angel swiftly appeared,
To save her from a fate that's sad,
And to shield from all that was feared,
The angel said to act with speed,
Because the flames of the fire neared,
The princess then promptly agreed,
And thus was fortunate indeed,
She got away without a scrape,
From that with which she strained to cope,
With her mind in such a bad shape,
She felt it was beyond her scope,
To get back home without a map,
Then a stranger gave her some hope,
She had thought it another trap,
But the stranger was a nice chap,
He told her to look to the north,
His words were shown to be the truth,
So the princess quickly went forth,
And reached where she had spent her youth,
She made sure that she moved with stealth,
In a manner that was uncouth,
Then surprised all with her good health,
And made eyes at her family's wealth,
None could believe that she was back,
Once the news had become public,
And there was nothing she did lack,
Due to presents from the lovesick,
For her absence led to heartache,
At first the king thought it a trick,
But soon realised his mistake,
And saw the girl wasn't a fake,
There was a rebuilding of trust,
But the princess was not honest,
For she felt revenge was a must,
She started scheming in earnest,
Help was enlisted from the best,
And her father's fate gained a twist,
Everything with which he'd been blessed,
Was seized at his daughter's request,
He didn't like his fall from grace,
But couldn't stop what came to pass,
His daughter governed in his place,
Her days of troubles were then sparse,
As she revelled in her success,
With the rest of the ruling class,
Living a life of great excess,
As a queen and not a princess.
- quotes about illness
- quotes about fire
- quotes about life
- quotes about fate
- quotes about forgiveness
- quotes about animals
- quotes about luck
- quotes about speed
- quotes about health
Viderat Adriacis quondam Neptunus in undis
Stare urbem et toto ponere Jura mari:
Nunc mihi Tarpeias quantumvis, Jupiter, Arces
Objice et illa mihi moenia Martis, ait,
Seu pelago Tibrim praefers, urbem aspice utramque,
Illam homines dices, hanc posuisse deos.
In Adriatick waves when Neptune saw,
The city stand, and give the seas a law:
Now i' th' Tarpeian tow'rs Jove rival me,
And Mars his walls impregnable, said he;
Let seas to Tyber yield; view both their ods!
You'l grant that built by men, but this by gods.
Hero And Leander. The Fourth Sestiad
Now from Leander's place she rose, and found
Her hair and rent robe scatter'd on the ground;
Which taking up, she every piece did lay
Upon an altar, where in youth of day
She us'd t' exhibit private sacrifice:
Those would she offer to the deities
Of her fair goddess and her powerful son,
As relics of her late-felt passion;
And in that holy sort she vow'd to end them,
In hope her violent fancies, that did rend them,
Would as quite fade in her love's holy fire,
As they should in the flames she meant t' inspire.
Then put she on all her religious weeds,
That decked her in her secret sacred deeds;
A crown of icicles, that sun nor fire
Could ever melt, and figur'd chaste desire;
A golden star shined in her naked breast,
In honour of the queen-light of the east.
In her right hand she held a silver wand,
On whose bright top Peristera did stand.
Who was a nymph, but now transformed a dove,
And in her life was dear in Venus' love;
And for her sake she ever since that time
Choosed doves to draw her coach through heaven's blue clime.
Her plenteous hair in curled billows swims
On her bright shoulder: her harmonious limbs
Sustained no more but a most subtile veil,
That hung on them, as it durst not assail
Their different concord; for the weakest air
Could raise it swelling from her beauties fair;
Nor did it cover, but adumbrate only
Her most heart-piercing parts, that a blest eye
Might see, as it did shadow, fearfully,
All that all-love-deserving paradise:
It was as blue as the most freezing skies;
Near the sea's hue, for thence her goddess came:
On it a scarf she wore of wondrous frame;
In midst whereof she wrought a virgin's face,
From whose each cheek a fiery blush did chase
Two crimson flames, that did two ways extend,
Spreading the ample scarf to either end;
Which figur'd the division of her mind,
Whiles yet she rested bashfully inclin'd,
And stood not resolute to wed Leander;
This serv'd her white neck for a purple sphere,
And cast itself at full breadth down her back:
There, since the first breath that begun the wrack
Of her free quiet from Leander's lips,
She wrought a sea, in one flame, full of ships;
But that one ship where all her wealth did pass,
Like simple merchants' goods, Leander was;
For in that sea she naked figured him;
Her diving needle taught him how to swim,
And to each thread did such resemblance give,
For joy to be so like him it did live:
Things senseless live by art, and rational die
By rude contempt of art and industry.
Scarce could she work, but, in her strength of thought,
She fear'd she prick'd Leander as she wrought,
And oft would shriek so, that her guardian, frighted,
Would startling haste, as with some mischief cited:
They double life that dead things' griefs sustain;
They kill that feel not their friends' living pain.
Sometimes she fear'd he sought her infamy;
And then, as she was working of his eye,
She thought to prick it out to quench her ill;
But, as she prick'd, it grew more perfect still:
Trifling attempts no serious acts advance;
The fire of love is blown by dalliance.
In working his fair neck she did so grace it,
She still was working her own arms t' embrace it:
That, and his shoulders, and his hands were seen
Above the stream; and with a pure sea-green
She did so quaintly shadow every limb,
All might be seen beneath the waves to swim.
In this conceited scarf she wrought beside
A moon in change, and shooting stars did glide
In number after her with bloody beams;
Which figur'd her affects in their extremes,
Pursuing nature in her Cynthian body,
And did her thoughts running on change imply;
For maids take more delight, when they prepare,
And think of wives' states, than when wives they are.
Beneath all these she wrought a fisherman,
Drawing his nets from forth the ocean;
Who drew so hard, ye might discover well
The toughen'd sinews in his neck did swell:
His inward strains drave out his blood-shot eyes,
And springs of sweat did in his forehead rise;
Yet was of naught but of a serpent sped,
That in his bosom flew and stung him dead:
And this by Fate into her mind was sent,
Not wrought by mere instinct of her intent.
At the scarf's other end her hand did frame,
Near the fork'd point of the divided flame,
A country virgin keeping of a vine,
Who did of hollow bulrushes combine
Snares for the stubble-loving grasshopper,
And by her lay her scrip that nourish'd her.
Within a myrtle shade she sate and sung;
And tufts of waving reeds above her sprung,
Where lurked two foxes, that, while she applied
Her trifling snares, their thieveries did divide,
One to the vine, another to her scrip,
That she did negligently overslip;
By which her fruitful vine and wholesome fare
She suffered spoiled to make a childish snare.
These ominous fancies did her soul express,
And every finger made a prophetess,
To show what death was hid in love's disguise,
And make her judgment conquer Destinies.
O, what sweet forms fair ladies' souls do shroud,
Were they made seen and forced through their blood;
If through their beauties, like rich work through lawn,
They would set forth their minds with virtues drawn,
In letting graces from their fingers fly,
To still their eyas thoughts with industry;
That their plied wits in numbered silks might sing
Passion's huge conquest, and their needles leading
Affection prisoner through their own-built cities,
Pinioned with stones and Arachnean ditties.
Proceed we now with Hero's sacrifice:
She odours burned, and from their smoke did rise
Unsavoury fumes, that air with plagues inspired;
And then the consecrated sticks she fired.
On whose pale flames an angry spirit flew,
And beat it down still as it upward grew;
The virgin tapers that on th' altar stood,
When she inflam'd them, burned as red as blood;
All sad ostents of that too near success,
That made such moving beauties motionless.
Then Hero wept; but her affrighted eyes
She quickly wrested from the sacrifice,
Shut them, and inwards for Leander looked,
Search'd her soft bosom, and from thence she plucked
His lovely picture; which when she had viewed,
Her beauties were with all love's joys renewed;
The odours sweeten'd, and the fires burned clear,
Leander's form left no ill object there:
Such was his beauty, that the force of light,
Whose knowledge teacheth wonders infinite,
The strength of number and proportion,
Nature had placed in it to make it known,
Art was her daughter, and what human wits
For study lost, entombed in drossy spirits.
After this accident (which for her glory
Hero could not but make a history),
Th' inhabitants of Sestos and Abydos
Did every year, with feasts propitious,
To fair Leander's picture sacrifice:
And they were persons of especial price
That were allowed it, as an ornament
T' enrich their houses, for the continent
Of the strange virtues all approved it held;
For even the very look of it repelled
All blastings, witchcrafts, and the strifes of nature
In those diseases that no herbs could cure;
The wolfy sting of avarice it would pull,
And make the rankest miser bountiful;
It kill'd the fear of thunder and of death;
The discords that conceit engendereth
'Twixt man and wife, it for the time would cease;
The flames of love it quench'd, and would increase;
Held in a prince's hand, it would put out
The dreadful'st comet; it would ease all doubt
Of threaten'd mischiefs; it would bring asleep
Such as were mad; it would enforce to weep
Most barbarous eyes; and many more effects
This picture wrought, and sprung Leandrian sects;
Of which was Hero first; for he whose form,
Held in her hand, clear'd such a fatal storm,
From hell she thought his person would defend her,
Which night and Hellespont would quickly send her.
With this confirm'd, she vow'd to banish quite
All thought of any check to her delight;
And, in contempt of silly bashfulness,
She would the faith of her desires profess,
Where her religion should be policy,
To follow love with zeal her piety;
Her chamber her cathedral-church should be,
And her Leander her chief deity;
For in her love these did the gods forego;
And though her knowledge did not teach her so,
Yet did it teach her this, that what her heart
Did greatest hold in her self-greatest part,
That she did make her god; and 'twas less naught
To leave gods in profession and in thought,
Than in her love and life; for therein lies
Most of her duties and their dignities;
And, rail the brain-bald world at what it will,
That's the grand atheism that reigns in it still.
Yet singularity she would use no more,
For she was singular too much before;
But she would please the world with fair pretext:
Love would not leave her conscience perplext:
Great men that will have less do for them, still
Must bear them out, though th' acts be ne'er so ill;
Meanness must pander be to Excellence;
Pleasure atones Falsehood and Conscience:
Dissembling was the worst, thought Hero then,
And that was best, now she must live with men.
O virtuous love, that taught her to do best
When she did worst, and when she thought it least!
Thus would she still proceed in works divine,
And in her sacred state of priesthood shine,
Handling the holy rites with hands as bold,
As if therein she did Jove's thunder hold,
And need not fear those menaces of error,
Which she at others threw with greatest terror.
O lovely Hero, nothing is thy sin,
Weigh'd with those foul faults other priests are in!
That having neither faiths, nor works, nor beauties,
T' engender any 'scuse for slubbered duties,
With as much countenance fill their holy chairs,
And sweat denouncements 'gainst profane affairs,
As if their lives were cut out by their places,
And they the only fathers of the graces.
Now, as with settled mind she did repair
Her thoughts to sacrifice her ravished hair
And her torn robe, which on the altar lay,
And only for religion's fire did stay,
She heard a thunder by the Cyclops beaten,
In such a volley as the world did threaten,
Given Venus as she parted th' airy sphere,
Descending now to chide with Hero here:
When suddenly the goddess' waggoners,
The swans and turtles that, in coupled pheres,
Through all worlds' bosoms draw her influence,
Lighted in Hero's window, and from thence
To her fair shoulders flew the gentle doves,--
Graceful _AEdone_ that sweet pleasure loves,
And ruff-foot Chreste with the tufted crown;
Both which did kiss her, though their goddess frown.
The swans did in the solid flood, her glass,
Proin their fair plumes; of which the fairest was
Jove-lov'd Leucote, that pure brightness is;
The other bounty-loving Dapsilis.
All were in heaven, now they with Hero were:
But Venus' looks brought wrath, and urged fear.
Her robe was scarlet; black her head's attire:
And through her naked breast shin'd streams of fire,
As when the rarified air is driven
In flashing streams, and opes the darken'd heaven.
In her white hand a wreath of yew she bore;
And, breaking th' icy wreath sweet Hero wore,
She forc'd about her brows her wreath of yew,
And said, 'Now, minion, to thy fate be true,
Though not to me; endure what this portends:
Begin where lightness will, in shame it ends.
Love makes thee cunning; thou art current now,
By being counterfeit: thy broken vow
Deceit with her pied garters must rejoin,
And with her stamp thou countenances must coin;
Coyness, and pure deceits, for purities,
And still a maid wilt seem in cozen'd eyes,
And have an antic face to laugh within,
While thy smooth looks make men digest thy sin.
But since thy lips (least thought forsworn) forswore,
Be never virgin's vow worth trusting more!'
When Beauty's dearest did her goddess hear
Breathe such rebukes 'gainst that she could not clear,
Dumb sorrow spake aloud in tears and blood,
That from her grief-burst veins, in piteous flood,
From the sweet conduits of her favour fell.
The gentle turtles did with moans make swell
Their shining gorges; the while black-ey'd swans
Did sing as woful epicedians,
As they would straightways die: when Pity's queen,
The goddess Ecte, that had ever been
Hid in a watery cloud near Hero's cries,
Since the first instant of her broken eyes,
Gave bright Leucote voice, and made her speak,
To ease her anguish, whose swoln breast did break
With anger at her goddess, that did touch
Hero so near for that she us'd so much;
And, thrusting her white neck at Venus, said:
'Why may not amorous Hero seem a maid,
Though she be none, as well as you suppress
In modest cheeks your inward wantonness?
How often have we drawn you from above,
T' exchange with mortals rites for rites in love!
Why in your priest, then, call you that offence,
That shines in you, and is your influence?'
With this, the Furies stopp'd Leucote's lips,
Enjoin'd by Venus; who with rosy whips
Beat the kind bird. Fierce lightning from her eyes
Did set on fire fair Hero's sacrifice,
Which was her torn robe and enforced hair;
And the bright flame became a maid most fair
For her aspect: her tresses were of wire,
Knit like a net, where hearts set all on fire,
Struggled in pants, and could not get releast;
Her arms were all with golden pincers drest,
And twenty-fashioned knots, pulleys, and brakes,
And all her body girt with painted snakes;
Her down-parts in a scorpion's tail combined,
Freckled with twenty colours; pied wings shined
Out of her shoulders; cloth had never dye,
Nor sweeter colours never viewed eye,
In scorching Turkey, Cares, Tartary,
Than shined about this spirit notorious;
Nor was Arachne's web so glorious.
Of lightning and of shreds she was begot;
More hold in base dissemblers is there not.
Her name was Eronusis. Venus flew
From Hero's sight, and at her chariot drew
This wondrous creature to so steep a height,
That all the world she might command with sleight
Of her gay wings; and then she bade her haste,--
Since Hero had dissembled, and disgraced
Her rites so much,--and every breast infect
With her deceits: she made her architect
Of all dissimulation; and since then
Never was any trust in maids or men.
O, it spited
Fair Venus' heart to see her most delighted,
And one she choos'd, for temper of her mind
To be the only ruler of her kind,
So soon to let her virgin race be ended!
Not simply for the fault a whit offended,
But that in strife for chasteness with the Moon,
Spiteful Diana bade her show but one
That was her servant vow'd, and liv'd a maid;
And, now she thought to answer that upbraid,
Hero had lost her answer: who knows not
Venus would seem as far from any spot
Of light demeanour, as the very skin
'Twixt Cynthia's brows? sin is asham'd of sin.
Up Venus flew, and scarce durst up for fear
Of Phoebe's laughter, when she pass'd her sphere:
And so most ugly-clouded was the light,
That day was hid in day; night came ere night;
And Venus could not through the thick air pierce,
Till the day's king, god of undaunted verse,
Because she was so plentiful a theme
To such as wore his laurel anademe.
Like to a fiery bullet made descent,
And from her passage those fat vapours rent,
That being not throughly rarified to rain,
Melted like pitch, as blue as any vein;
And scalding tempests made the earth to shrink
Under their fervour, and the world did think
In every drop a torturing spirit flew,
It pierc'd so deeply, and it burn'd so blue.
Betwixt all this and Hero, Hero held
Leander's picture, as a Persian shield;
And she was free from fear of worst success:
The more ill threats us, we suspect the less:
As we grow hapless, violence subtle grows,
Dumb, deaf, and blind, and comes when no man knows.
The Odyssey: Book 20
Ulysses slept in the cloister upon an undressed bullock's hide, on
the top of which he threw several skins of the sheep the suitors had
eaten, and Eurynome threw a cloak over him after he had laid himself
down. There, then, Ulysses lay wakefully brooding upon the way in
which he should kill the suitors; and by and by, the women who had
been in the habit of misconducting themselves with them, left the
house giggling and laughing with one another. This made Ulysses very
angry, and he doubted whether to get up and kill every single one of
them then and there, or to let them sleep one more and last time
with the suitors. His heart growled within him, and as a bitch with
puppies growls and shows her teeth when she sees a stranger, so did
his heart growl with anger at the evil deeds that were being done: but
he beat his breast and said, "Heart, be still, you had worse than this
to bear on the day when the terrible Cyclops ate your brave
companions; yet you bore it in silence till your cunning got you
safe out of the cave, though you made sure of being killed."
Thus he chided with his heart, and checked it into endurance, but he
tossed about as one who turns a paunch full of blood and fat in
front of a hot fire, doing it first on one side and then on the other,
that he may get it cooked as soon as possible, even so did he turn
himself about from side to side, thinking all the time how, single
handed as he was, he should contrive to kill so large a body of men as
the wicked suitors. But by and by Minerva came down from heaven in the
likeness of a woman, and hovered over his head saying, "My poor
unhappy man, why do you lie awake in this way? This is your house:
your wife is safe inside it, and so is your son who is just such a
young man as any father may be proud of."
"Goddess," answered Ulysses, "all that you have said is true, but
I am in some doubt as to how I shall be able to kill these wicked
suitors single handed, seeing what a number of them there always
are. And there is this further difficulty, which is still more
considerable. Supposing that with Jove's and your assistance I succeed
in killing them, I must ask you to consider where I am to escape to
from their avengers when it is all over."
"For shame," replied Minerva, "why, any one else would trust a worse
ally than myself, even though that ally were only a mortal and less
wise than I am. Am I not a goddess, and have I not protected you
throughout in all your troubles? I tell you plainly that even though
there were fifty bands of men surrounding us and eager to kill us, you
should take all their sheep and cattle, and drive them away with
you. But go to sleep; it is a very bad thing to lie awake all night,
and you shall be out of your troubles before long."
As she spoke she shed sleep over his eyes, and then went back to
While Ulysses was thus yielding himself to a very deep slumber
that eased the burden of his sorrows, his admirable wife awoke, and
sitting up in her bed began to cry. When she had relieved herself by
weeping she prayed to Diana saying, "Great Goddess Diana, daughter
of Jove, drive an arrow into my heart and slay me; or let some
whirlwind snatch me up and bear me through paths of darkness till it
drop me into the mouths of overflowing Oceanus, as it did the
daughters of Pandareus. The daughters of Pandareus lost their father
and mother, for the gods killed them, so they were left orphans. But
Venus took care of them, and fed them on cheese, honey, and sweet
wine. Juno taught them to excel all women in beauty of form and
understanding; Diana gave them an imposing presence, and Minerva
endowed them with every kind of accomplishment; but one day when Venus
had gone up to Olympus to see Jove about getting them married (for
well does he know both what shall happen and what not happen to
every one) the storm winds came and spirited them away to become
handmaids to the dread Erinyes. Even so I wish that the gods who
live in heaven would hide me from mortal sight, or that fair Diana
might strike me, for I would fain go even beneath the sad earth if I
might do so still looking towards Ulysses only, and without having
to yield myself to a worse man than he was. Besides, no matter how
much people may grieve by day, they can put up with it so long as they
can sleep at night, for when the eyes are closed in slumber people
forget good and ill alike; whereas my misery haunts me even in my
dreams. This very night methought there was one lying by my side who
was like Ulysses as he was when he went away with his host, and I
rejoiced, for I believed that it was no dream, but the very truth
On this the day broke, but Ulysses heard the sound of her weeping,
and it puzzled him, for it seemed as though she already knew him and
was by his side. Then he gathered up the cloak and the fleeces on
which he had lain, and set them on a seat in the cloister, but he took
the bullock's hide out into the open. He lifted up his hands to
heaven, and prayed, saying "Father Jove, since you have seen fit to
bring me over land and sea to my own home after all the afflictions
you have laid upon me, give me a sign out of the mouth of some one
or other of those who are now waking within the house, and let me have
another sign of some kind from outside."
Thus did he pray. Jove heard his prayer and forthwith thundered high
up among the from the splendour of Olympus, and Ulysses was glad
when he heard it. At the same time within the house, a miller-woman
from hard by in the mill room lifted up her voice and gave him another
sign. There were twelve miller-women whose business it was to grind
wheat and barley which are the staff of life. The others had ground
their task and had gone to take their rest, but this one had not yet
finished, for she was not so strong as they were, and when she heard
the thunder she stopped grinding and gave the sign to her master.
"Father Jove," said she, "you who rule over heaven and earth, you have
thundered from a clear sky without so much as a cloud in it, and
this means something for somebody; grant the prayer, then, of me
your poor servant who calls upon you, and let this be the very last
day that the suitors dine in the house of Ulysses. They have worn me
out with the labour of grinding meal for them, and I hope they may
never have another dinner anywhere at all."
Ulysses was glad when he heard the omens conveyed to him by the
woman's speech, and by the thunder, for he knew they meant that he
should avenge himself on the suitors.
Then the other maids in the house rose and lit the fire on the
hearth; Telemachus also rose and put on his clothes. He girded his
sword about his shoulder, bound his sandals on his comely feet, and
took a doughty spear with a point of sharpened bronze; then he went to
the threshold of the cloister and said to Euryclea, "Nurse, did you
make the stranger comfortable both as regards bed and board, or did
you let him shift for himself?- for my mother, good woman though she
is, has a way of paying great attention to second-rate people, and
of neglecting others who are in reality much better men."
"Do not find fault child," said Euryclea, "when there is no one to
find fault with. The stranger sat and drank his wine as long as he
liked: your mother did ask him if he would take any more bread and
he said he would not. When he wanted to go to bed she told the
servants to make one for him, but he said he was re such wretched
outcast that he would not sleep on a bed and under blankets; he
insisted on having an undressed bullock's hide and some sheepskins put
for him in the cloister and I threw a cloak over him myself."
Then Telemachus went out of the court to the place where the
Achaeans were meeting in assembly; he had his spear in his hand, and
he was not alone, for his two dogs went with him. But Euryclea
called the maids and said, "Come, wake up; set about sweeping the
cloisters and sprinkling them with water to lay the dust; put the
covers on the seats; wipe down the tables, some of you, with a wet
sponge; clean out the mixing-jugs and the cups, and for water from the
fountain at once; the suitors will be here directly; they will be here
early, for it is a feast day."
Thus did she speak, and they did even as she had said: twenty of
them went to the fountain for water, and the others set themselves
busily to work about the house. The men who were in attendance on
the suitors also came up and began chopping firewood. By and by the
women returned from the fountain, and the swineherd came after them
with the three best pigs he could pick out. These he let feed about
the premises, and then he said good-humouredly to Ulysses,
"Stranger, are the suitors treating you any better now, or are they as
insolent as ever?"
"May heaven," answered Ulysses, "requite to them the wickedness with
which they deal high-handedly in another man's house without any sense
Thus did they converse; meanwhile Melanthius the goatherd came up,
for he too was bringing in his best goats for the suitors' dinner; and
he had two shepherds with him. They tied the goats up under the
gatehouse, and then Melanthius began gibing at Ulysses. "Are you still
here, stranger," said he, "to pester people by begging about the
house? Why can you not go elsewhere? You and I shall not come to an
understanding before we have given each other a taste of our fists.
You beg without any sense of decency: are there not feasts elsewhere
among the Achaeans, as well as here?"
Ulysses made no answer, but bowed his head and brooded. Then a third
man, Philoetius, joined them, who was bringing in a barren heifer
and some goats. These were brought over by the boatmen who are there
to take people over when any one comes to them. So Philoetius made his
heifer and his goats secure under the gatehouse, and then went up to
the swineherd. "Who, Swineherd," said he, "is this stranger that is
lately come here? Is he one of your men? What is his family? Where
does he come from? Poor fellow, he looks as if he had been some
great man, but the gods give sorrow to whom they will- even to kings
if it so pleases them
As he spoke he went up to Ulysses and saluted him with his right
hand; "Good day to you, father stranger," said he, "you seem to be
very poorly off now, but I hope you will have better times by and
by. Father Jove, of all gods you are the most malicious. We are your
own children, yet you show us no mercy in all our misery and
afflictions. A sweat came over me when I saw this man, and my eyes
filled with tears, for he reminds me of Ulysses, who I fear is going
about in just such rags as this man's are, if indeed he is still among
the living. If he is already dead and in the house of Hades, then,
alas! for my good master, who made me his stockman when I was quite
young among the Cephallenians, and now his cattle are countless; no
one could have done better with them than I have, for they have bred
like ears of corn; nevertheless I have to keep bringing them in for
others to eat, who take no heed of his son though he is in the
house, and fear not the wrath of heaven, but are already eager to
divide Ulysses' property among them because he has been away so
long. I have often thought- only it would not be right while his son
is living- of going off with the cattle to some foreign country; bad
as this would be, it is still harder to stay here and be ill-treated
about other people's herds. My position is intolerable, and I should
long since have run away and put myself under the protection of some
other chief, only that I believe my poor master will yet return, and
send all these suitors flying out of the house."
"Stockman," answered Ulysses, "you seem to be a very well-disposed
person, and I can see that you are a man of sense. Therefore I will
tell you, and will confirm my words with an oath: by Jove, the chief
of all gods, and by that hearth of Ulysses to which I am now come,
Ulysses shall return before you leave this place, and if you are so
minded you shall see him killing the suitors who are now masters
"If Jove were to bring this to pass," replied the stockman, "you
should see how I would do my very utmost to help him."
And in like manner Eumaeus prayed that Ulysses might return home.
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were hatching a plot
to murder Telemachus: but a bird flew near them on their left hand- an
eagle with a dove in its talons. On this Amphinomus said, "My friends,
this plot of ours to murder Telemachus will not succeed; let us go
to dinner instead."
The others assented, so they went inside and laid their cloaks on
the benches and seats. They sacrificed the sheep, goats, pigs, and the
heifer, and when the inward meats were cooked they served them
round. They mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls, and the swineherd gave
every man his cup, while Philoetius handed round the bread in the
breadbaskets, and Melanthius poured them out their wine. Then they
laid their hands upon the good things that were before them.
Telemachus purposely made Ulysses sit in the part of the cloister
that was paved with stone; he gave him a shabby-looking seat at a
little table to himself, and had his portion of the inward meats
brought to him, with his wine in a gold cup. "Sit there," said he,
"and drink your wine among the great people. I will put a stop to
the gibes and blows of the suitors, for this is no public house, but
belongs to Ulysses, and has passed from him to me. Therefore, suitors,
keep your hands and your tongues to yourselves, or there will be
The suitors bit their lips, and marvelled at the boldness of his
speech; then Antinous said, "We do not like such language but we
will put up with it, for Telemachus is threatening us in good earnest.
If Jove had let us we should have put a stop to his brave talk ere
Thus spoke Antinous, but Telemachus heeded him not. Meanwhile the
heralds were bringing the holy hecatomb through the city, and the
Achaeans gathered under the shady grove of Apollo.
Then they roasted the outer meat, drew it off the spits, gave
every man his portion, and feasted to their hearts' content; those who
waited at table gave Ulysses exactly the same portion as the others
had, for Telemachus had told them to do so.
But Minerva would not let the suitors for one moment drop their
insolence, for she wanted Ulysses to become still more bitter
against them. Now there happened to be among them a ribald fellow,
whose name was Ctesippus, and who came from Same. This man,
confident in his great wealth, was paying court to the wife of
Ulysses, and said to the suitors, "Hear what I have to say. The
stranger has already had as large a portion as any one else; this is
well, for it is not right nor reasonable to ill-treat any guest of
Telemachus who comes here. I will, however, make him a present on my
own account, that he may have something to give to the bath-woman,
or to some other of Ulysses' servants."
As he spoke he picked up a heifer's foot from the meat-basket in
which it lay, and threw it at Ulysses, but Ulysses turned his head a
little aside, and avoided it, smiling grimly Sardinian fashion as he
did so, and it hit the wall, not him. On this Telemachus spoke
fiercely to Ctesippus, "It is a good thing for you," said he, "that
the stranger turned his head so that you missed him. If you had hit
him I should have run you through with my spear, and your father would
have had to see about getting you buried rather than married in this
house. So let me have no more unseemly behaviour from any of you,
for I am grown up now to the knowledge of good and evil and understand
what is going on, instead of being the child that I have been
heretofore. I have long seen you killing my sheep and making free with
my corn and wine: I have put up with this, for one man is no match for
many, but do me no further violence. Still, if you wish to kill me,
kill me; I would far rather die than see such disgraceful scenes day
after day- guests insulted, and men dragging the women servants
about the house in an unseemly way."
They all held their peace till at last Agelaus son of Damastor said,
"No one should take offence at what has just been said, nor gainsay
it, for it is quite reasonable. Leave off, therefore, ill-treating the
stranger, or any one else of the servants who are about the house; I
would say, however, a friendly word to Telemachus and his mother,
which I trust may commend itself to both. 'As long,' I would say,
'as you had ground for hoping that Ulysses would one day come home, no
one could complain of your waiting and suffering the suitors to be
in your house. It would have been better that he should have returned,
but it is now sufficiently clear that he will never do so; therefore
talk all this quietly over with your mother, and tell her to marry the
best man, and the one who makes her the most advantageous offer.
Thus you will yourself be able to manage your own inheritance, and
to eat and drink in peace, while your mother will look after some
other man's house, not yours."'
To this Telemachus answered, "By Jove, Agelaus, and by the sorrows
of my unhappy father, who has either perished far from Ithaca, or is
wandering in some distant land, I throw no obstacles in the way of
my mother's marriage; on the contrary I urge her to choose
whomsoever she will, and I will give her numberless gifts into the
bargain, but I dare not insist point blank that she shall leave the
house against her own wishes. Heaven forbid that I should do this."
Minerva now made the suitors fall to laughing immoderately, and
set their wits wandering; but they were laughing with a forced
laughter. Their meat became smeared with blood; their eyes filled with
tears, and their hearts were heavy with forebodings. Theoclymenus
saw this and said, "Unhappy men, what is it that ails you? There is
a shroud of darkness drawn over you from head to foot, your cheeks are
wet with tears; the air is alive with wailing voices; the walls and
roof-beams drip blood; the gate of the cloisters and the court
beyond them are full of ghosts trooping down into the night of hell;
the sun is blotted out of heaven, and a blighting gloom is over all
Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily. Eurymachus
then said, "This stranger who has lately come here has lost his
senses. Servants, turn him out into the streets, since he finds it
so dark here."
But Theoclymenus said, "Eurymachus, you need not send any one with
me. I have eyes, ears, and a pair of feet of my own, to say nothing of
an understanding mind. I will take these out of the house with me, for
I see mischief overhanging you, from which not one of you men who
are insulting people and plotting ill deeds in the house of Ulysses
will be able to escape."
He left the house as he spoke, and went back to Piraeus who gave him
welcome, but the suitors kept looking at one another and provoking
Telemachus fly laughing at the strangers. One insolent fellow said
to him, "Telemachus, you are not happy in your guests; first you
have this importunate tramp, who comes begging bread and wine and
has no skill for work or for hard fighting, but is perfectly
useless, and now here is another fellow who is setting himself up as a
prophet. Let me persuade you, for it will be much better, to put
them on board ship and send them off to the Sicels to sell for what
they will bring."
Telemachus gave him no heed, but sat silently watching his father,
expecting every moment that he would begin his attack upon the
Meanwhile the daughter of Icarius, wise Penelope, had had had a rich
seat placed for her facing the court and cloisters, so that she
could hear what every one was saying. The dinner indeed had been
prepared amid merriment; it had been both good and abundant, for
they had sacrificed many victims; but the supper was yet to come,
and nothing can be conceived more gruesome than the meal which a
goddess and a brave man were soon to lay before them- for they had
brought their doom upon themselves.
The Iliad: Book 3
When the companies were thus arrayed, each under its own captain,
the Trojans advanced as a flight of wild fowl or cranes that scream
overhead when rain and winter drive them over the flowing waters of
Oceanus to bring death and destruction on the Pygmies, and they
wrangle in the air as they fly; but the Achaeans marched silently,
in high heart, and minded to stand by one another.
As when the south wind spreads a curtain of mist upon the mountain
tops, bad for shepherds but better than night for thieves, and a man
can see no further than he can throw a stone, even so rose the dust
from under their feet as they made all speed over the plain.
When they were close up with one another, Alexandrus came forward as
champion on the Trojan side. On his shoulders he bore the skin of a
panther, his bow, and his sword, and he brandished two spears shod
with bronze as a challenge to the bravest of the Achaeans to meet
him in single fight. Menelaus saw him thus stride out before the
ranks, and was glad as a hungry lion that lights on the carcase of
some goat or horned stag, and devours it there and then, though dogs
and youths set upon him. Even thus was Menelaus glad when his eyes
caught sight of Alexandrus, for he deemed that now he should be
revenged. He sprang, therefore, from his chariot, clad in his suit
Alexandrus quailed as he saw Menelaus come forward, and shrank in
fear of his life under cover of his men. As one who starts back
affrighted, trembling and pale, when he comes suddenly upon a
serpent in some mountain glade, even so did Alexandrus plunge into the
throng of Trojan warriors, terror-stricken at the sight of the son
Then Hector upbraided him. "Paris," said he, "evil-hearted Paris,
fair to see, but woman-mad, and false of tongue, would that you had
never been born, or that you had died unwed. Better so, than live to
be disgraced and looked askance at. Will not the Achaeans mock at us
and say that we have sent one to champion us who is fair to see but
who has neither wit nor courage? Did you not, such as you are, get
your following together and sail beyond the seas? Did you not from
your a far country carry off a lovely woman wedded among a people of
warriors- to bring sorrow upon your father, your city, and your
whole country, but joy to your enemies, and hang-dog shamefacedness to
yourself? And now can you not dare face Menelaus and learn what manner
of man he is whose wife you have stolen? Where indeed would be your
lyre and your love-tricks, your comely locks and your fair favour,
when you were lying in the dust before him? The Trojans are a
weak-kneed people, or ere this you would have had a shirt of stones
for the wrongs you have done them."
And Alexandrus answered, "Hector, your rebuke is just. You are
hard as the axe which a shipwright wields at his work, and cleaves the
timber to his liking. As the axe in his hand, so keen is the edge of
your scorn. Still, taunt me not with the gifts that golden Venus has
given me; they are precious; let not a man disdain them, for the
gods give them where they are minded, and none can have them for the
asking. If you would have me do battle with Menelaus, bid the
Trojans and Achaeans take their seats, while he and I fight in their
midst for Helen and all her wealth. Let him who shall be victorious
and prove to be the better man take the woman and all she has, to bear
them to his home, but let the rest swear to a solemn covenant of peace
whereby you Trojans shall stay here in Troy, while the others go
home to Argos and the land of the Achaeans."
When Hector heard this he was glad, and went about among the
Trojan ranks holding his spear by the middle to keep them back, and
they all sat down at his bidding: but the Achaeans still aimed at
him with stones and arrows, till Agamemnon shouted to them saying,
"Hold, Argives, shoot not, sons of the Achaeans; Hector desires to
They ceased taking aim and were still, whereon Hector spoke. "Hear
from my mouth," said he, "Trojans and Achaeans, the saying of
Alexandrus, through whom this quarrel has come about. He bids the
Trojans and Achaeans lay their armour upon the ground, while he and
Menelaus fight in the midst of you for Helen and all her wealth. Let
him who shall be victorious and prove to be the better man take the
woman and all she has, to bear them to his own home, but let the
rest swear to a solemn covenant of peace."
Thus he spoke, and they all held their peace, till Menelaus of the
loud battle-cry addressed them. "And now," he said, "hear me too,
for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I deem that the parting of
Achaeans and Trojans is at hand, as well it may be, seeing how much
have suffered for my quarrel with Alexandrus and the wrong he did
me. Let him who shall die, die, and let the others fight no more.
Bring, then, two lambs, a white ram and a black ewe, for Earth and
Sun, and we will bring a third for Jove. Moreover, you shall bid Priam
come, that he may swear to the covenant himself; for his sons are
high-handed and ill to trust, and the oaths of Jove must not be
transgressed or taken in vain. Young men's minds are light as air, but
when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which
shall be fairest upon both sides."
The Trojans and Achaeans were glad when they heard this, for they
thought that they should now have rest. They backed their chariots
toward the ranks, got out of them, and put off their armour, laying it
down upon the ground; and the hosts were near to one another with a
little space between them. Hector sent two messengers to the city to
bring the lambs and to bid Priam come, while Agamemnon told Talthybius
to fetch the other lamb from the ships, and he did as Agamemnon had
Meanwhile Iris went to Helen in the form of her sister-in-law,
wife of the son of Antenor, for Helicaon, son of Antenor, had
married Laodice, the fairest of Priam's daughters. She found her in
her own room, working at a great web of purple linen, on which she was
embroidering the battles between Trojans and Achaeans, that Mars had
made them fight for her sake. Iris then came close up to her and said,
"Come hither, child, and see the strange doings of the Trojans and
Achaeans till now they have been warring upon the plain, mad with lust
of battle, but now they have left off fighting, and are leaning upon
their shields, sitting still with their spears planted beside them.
Alexandrus and Menelaus are going to fight about yourself, and you are
to the the wife of him who is the victor."
Thus spoke the goddess, and Helen's heart yearned after her former
husband, her city, and her parents. She threw a white mantle over
her head, and hurried from her room, weeping as she went, not alone,
but attended by two of her handmaids, Aethrae, daughter of Pittheus,
and Clymene. And straightway they were at the Scaean gates.
The two sages, Ucalegon and Antenor, elders of the people, were
seated by the Scaean gates, with Priam, Panthous, Thymoetes, Lampus,
Clytius, and Hiketaon of the race of Mars. These were too old to
fight, but they were fluent orators, and sat on the tower like cicales
that chirrup delicately from the boughs of some high tree in a wood.
When they saw Helen coming towards the tower, they said softly to
one another, "Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure
so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and
divinely lovely. Still, fair though she be, let them take her and
go, or she will breed sorrow for us and for our children after us."
But Priam bade her draw nigh. "My child," said he, "take your seat
in front of me that you may see your former husband, your kinsmen
and your friends. I lay no blame upon you, it is the gods, not you who
are to blame. It is they that have brought about this terrible war
with the Achaeans. Tell me, then, who is yonder huge hero so great and
goodly? I have seen men taller by a head, but none so comely and so
royal. Surely he must be a king."
"Sir," answered Helen, "father of my husband, dear and reverend in
my eyes, would that I had chosen death rather than to have come here
with your son, far from my bridal chamber, my friends, my darling
daughter, and all the companions of my girlhood. But it was not to be,
and my lot is one of tears and sorrow. As for your question, the
hero of whom you ask is Agamemnon, son of Atreus, a good king and a
brave soldier, brother-in-law as surely as that he lives, to my
abhorred and miserable self."
The old man marvelled at him and said, "Happy son of Atreus, child
of good fortune. I see that the Achaeans are subject to you in great
multitudes. When I was in Phrygia I saw much horsemen, the people of
Otreus and of Mygdon, who were camping upon the banks of the river
Sangarius; I was their ally, and with them when the Amazons, peers
of men, came up against them, but even they were not so many as the
The old man next looked upon Ulysses; "Tell me," he said, "who is
that other, shorter by a head than Agamemnon, but broader across the
chest and shoulders? His armour is laid upon the ground, and he stalks
in front of the ranks as it were some great woolly ram ordering his
And Helen answered, "He is Ulysses, a man of great craft, son of
Laertes. He was born in rugged Ithaca, and excels in all manner of
stratagems and subtle cunning."
On this Antenor said, "Madam, you have spoken truly. Ulysses once
came here as envoy about yourself, and Menelaus with him. I received
them in my own house, and therefore know both of them by sight and
conversation. When they stood up in presence of the assembled Trojans,
Menelaus was the broader shouldered, but when both were seated Ulysses
had the more royal presence. After a time they delivered their
message, and the speech of Menelaus ran trippingly on the tongue; he
did not say much, for he was a man of few words, but he spoke very
clearly and to the point, though he was the younger man of the two;
Ulysses, on the other hand, when he rose to speak, was at first silent
and kept his eyes fixed upon the ground. There was no play nor
graceful movement of his sceptre; he kept it straight and stiff like a
man unpractised in oratory- one might have taken him for a mere
churl or simpleton; but when he raised his voice, and the words came
driving from his deep chest like winter snow before the wind, then
there was none to touch him, and no man thought further of what he
Priam then caught sight of Ajax and asked, "Who is that great and
goodly warrior whose head and broad shoulders tower above the rest
of the Argives?"
"That," answered Helen, "is huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans,
and on the other side of him, among the Cretans, stands Idomeneus
looking like a god, and with the captains of the Cretans round him.
Often did Menelaus receive him as a guest in our house when he came
visiting us from Crete. I see, moreover, many other Achaeans whose
names I could tell you, but there are two whom I can nowhere find,
Castor, breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer; they are
children of my mother, and own brothers to myself. Either they have
not left Lacedaemon, or else, though they have brought their ships,
they will not show themselves in battle for the shame and disgrace
that I have brought upon them."
She knew not that both these heroes were already lying under the
earth in their own land of Lacedaemon.
Meanwhile the heralds were bringing the holy oath-offerings
through the city- two lambs and a goatskin of wine, the gift of earth;
and Idaeus brought the mixing bowl and the cups of gold. He went up to
Priam and said, "Son of Laomedon, the princes of the Trojans and
Achaeans bid you come down on to the plain and swear to a solemn
covenant. Alexandrus and Menelaus are to fight for Helen in single
combat, that she and all her wealth may go with him who is the victor.
We are to swear to a solemn covenant of peace whereby we others
shall dwell here in Troy, while the Achaeans return to Argos and the
land of the Achaeans."
The old man trembled as he heard, but bade his followers yoke the
horses, and they made all haste to do so. He mounted the chariot,
gathered the reins in his hand, and Antenor took his seat beside
him; they then drove through the Scaean gates on to the plain. When
they reached the ranks of the Trojans and Achaeans they left the
chariot, and with measured pace advanced into the space between the
Agamemnon and Ulysses both rose to meet them. The attendants brought
on the oath-offerings and mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls; they
poured water over the hands of the chieftains, and the son of Atreus
drew the dagger that hung by his sword, and cut wool from the lambs'
heads; this the men-servants gave about among the Trojan and Achaean
princes, and the son of Atreus lifted up his hands in prayer.
"Father Jove," he cried, "that rulest in Ida, most glorious in
power, and thou oh Sun, that seest and givest ear to all things, Earth
and Rivers, and ye who in the realms below chastise the soul of him
that has broken his oath, witness these rites and guard them, that
they be not vain. If Alexandrus kills Menelaus, let him keep Helen and
all her wealth, while we sail home with our ships; but if Menelaus
kills Alexandrus, let the Trojans give back Helen and all that she
has; let them moreover pay such fine to the Achaeans as shall be
agreed upon, in testimony among those that shall be born hereafter.
Aid if Priam and his sons refuse such fine when Alexandrus has fallen,
then will I stay here and fight on till I have got satisfaction."
As he spoke he drew his knife across the throats of the victims, and
laid them down gasping and dying upon the ground, for the knife had
reft them of their strength. Then they poured wine from the
mixing-bowl into the cups, and prayed to the everlasting gods, saying,
Trojans and Achaeans among one another, "Jove, most great and
glorious, and ye other everlasting gods, grant that the brains of them
who shall first sin against their oaths- of them and their children-
may be shed upon the ground even as this wine, and let their wives
become the slaves of strangers."
Thus they prayed, but not as yet would Jove grant them their prayer.
Then Priam, descendant of Dardanus, spoke, saying, "Hear me, Trojans
and Achaeans, I will now go back to the wind-beaten city of Ilius: I
dare not with my own eyes witness this fight between my son and
Menelaus, for Jove and the other immortals alone know which shall
On this he laid the two lambs on his chariot and took his seat. He
gathered the reins in his hand, and Antenor sat beside him; the two
then went back to Ilius. Hector and Ulysses measured the ground, and
cast lots from a helmet of bronze to see which should take aim
first. Meanwhile the two hosts lifted up their hands and prayed
saying, "Father Jove, that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power,
grant that he who first brought about this war between us may die, and
enter the house of Hades, while we others remain at peace and abide by
Great Hector now turned his head aside while he shook the helmet,
and the lot of Paris flew out first. The others took their several
stations, each by his horses and the place where his arms were
lying, while Alexandrus, husband of lovely Helen, put on his goodly
armour. First he greaved his legs with greaves of good make and fitted
with ancle-clasps of silver; after this he donned the cuirass of his
brother Lycaon, and fitted it to his own body; he hung his
silver-studded sword of bronze about his shoulders, and then his
mighty shield. On his comely head he set his helmet, well-wrought,
with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it, and he
grasped a redoubtable spear that suited his hands. In like fashion
Menelaus also put on his armour.
When they had thus armed, each amid his own people, they strode
fierce of aspect into the open space, and both Trojans and Achaeans
were struck with awe as they beheld them. They stood near one
another on the measured ground, brandishing their spears, and each
furious against the other. Alexandrus aimed first, and struck the
round shield of the son of Atreus, but the spear did not pierce it,
for the shield turned its point. Menelaus next took aim, praying to
Father Jove as he did so. "King Jove," he said, "grant me revenge on
Alexandrus who has wronged me; subdue him under my hand that in ages
yet to come a man may shrink from doing ill deeds in the house of
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it at the shield of
Alexandrus. Through shield and cuirass it went, and tore the shirt
by his flank, but Alexandrus swerved aside, and thus saved his life.
Then the son of Atreus drew his sword, and drove at the projecting
part of his helmet, but the sword fell shivered in three or four
pieces from his hand, and he cried, looking towards Heaven, "Father
Jove, of all gods thou art the most despiteful; I made sure of my
revenge, but the sword has broken in my hand, my spear has been hurled
in vain, and I have not killed him."
With this he flew at Alexandrus, caught him by the horsehair plume
of his helmet, and began dragging him towards the Achaeans. The
strap of the helmet that went under his chin was choking him, and
Menelaus would have dragged him off to his own great glory had not
Jove's daughter Venus been quick to mark and to break the strap of
oxhide, so that the empty helmet came away in his hand. This he
flung to his comrades among the Achaeans, and was again springing upon
Alexandrus to run him through with a spear, but Venus snatched him
up in a moment (as a god can do), hid him under a cloud of darkness,
and conveyed him to his own bedchamber.
Then she went to call Helen, and found her on a high tower with
the Trojan women crowding round her. She took the form of an old woman
who used to dress wool for her when she was still in Lacedaemon, and
of whom she was very fond. Thus disguised she plucked her by
perfumed robe and said, "Come hither; Alexandrus says you are to go to
the house; he is on his bed in his own room, radiant with beauty and
dressed in gorgeous apparel. No one would think he had just come
from fighting, but rather that he was going to a dance, or had done
dancing and was sitting down."
With these words she moved the heart of Helen to anger. When she
marked the beautiful neck of the goddess, her lovely bosom, and
sparkling eyes, she marvelled at her and said, "Goddess, why do you
thus beguile me? Are you going to send me afield still further to some
man whom you have taken up in Phrygia or fair Meonia? Menelaus has
just vanquished Alexandrus, and is to take my hateful self back with
him. You are come here to betray me. Go sit with Alexandrus
yourself; henceforth be goddess no longer; never let your feet carry
you back to Olympus; worry about him and look after him till he make
you his wife, or, for the matter of that, his slave- but me? I shall
not go; I can garnish his bed no longer; I should be a by-word among
all the women of Troy. Besides, I have trouble on my mind."
Venus was very angry, and said, "Bold hussy, do not provoke me; if
you do, I shall leave you to your fate and hate you as much as I
have loved you. I will stir up fierce hatred between Trojans and
Achaeans, and you shall come to a bad end."
At this Helen was frightened. She wrapped her mantle about her and
went in silence, following the goddess and unnoticed by the Trojan
When they came to the house of Alexandrus the maid-servants set
about their work, but Helen went into her own room, and the
laughter-loving goddess took a seat and set it for her facing
Alexandrus. On this Helen, daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, sat down,
and with eyes askance began to upbraid her husband.
"So you are come from the fight," said she; "would that you had
fallen rather by the hand of that brave man who was my husband. You
used to brag that you were a better man with hands and spear than
Menelaus. go, but I then, an challenge him again- but I should
advise you not to do so, for if you are foolish enough to meet him
in single combat, you will soon all by his spear."
And Paris answered, "Wife, do not vex me with your reproaches.
This time, with the help of Minerva, Menelaus has vanquished me;
another time I may myself be victor, for I too have gods that will
stand by me. Come, let us lie down together and make friends. Never
yet was I so passionately enamoured of you as at this moment- not even
when I first carried you off from Lacedaemon and sailed away with you-
not even when I had converse with you upon the couch of love in the
island of Cranae was I so enthralled by desire of you as now." On this
he led her towards the bed, and his wife went with him.
Thus they laid themselves on the bed together; but the son of Atreus
strode among the throng, looking everywhere for Alexandrus, and no
man, neither of the Trojans nor of the allies, could find him. If they
had seen him they were in no mind to hide him, for they all of them
hated him as they did death itself. Then Agamemnon, king of men,
spoke, saying, "Hear me, Trojans, Dardanians, and allies. The
victory has been with Menelaus; therefore give back Helen with all her
wealth, and pay such fine as shall be agreed upon, in testimony
among them that shall be born hereafter."
Thus spoke the son of Atreus, and the Achaeans shouted in applause.
The Odyssey: Book 2
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his
comely feet, girded his sword about his shoulder, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. He at once sent the criers round to call
the people in assembly, so they called them and the people gathered
thereon; then, when they were got together, he went to the place of
assembly spear in hand- not alone, for his two hounds went with him.
Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all
marvelled at him as he went by, and when he took his place' in his
father's seat even the oldest councillors made way for him.
Aegyptius, a man bent double with age, and of infinite experience,
the first to speak His son Antiphus had gone with Ulysses to Ilius,
land of noble steeds, but the savage Cyclops had killed him when
they were all shut up in the cave, and had cooked his last dinner
for him, He had three sons left, of whom two still worked on their
father's land, while the third, Eurynomus, was one of the suitors;
nevertheless their father could not get over the loss of Antiphus, and
was still weeping for him when he began his speech.
"Men of Ithaca," he said, "hear my words. From the day Ulysses
left us there has been no meeting of our councillors until now; who
then can it be, whether old or young, that finds it so necessary to
convene us? Has he got wind of some host approaching, and does he wish
to warn us, or would he speak upon some other matter of public moment?
I am sure he is an excellent person, and I hope Jove will grant him
his heart's desire."
Telemachus took this speech as of good omen and rose at once, for he
was bursting with what he had to say. He stood in the middle of the
assembly and the good herald Pisenor brought him his staff. Then,
turning to Aegyptius, "Sir," said he, "it is I, as you will shortly
learn, who have convened you, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I
have not got wind of any host approaching about which I would warn
you, nor is there any matter of public moment on which I would
speak. My grieveance is purely personal, and turns on two great
misfortunes which have fallen upon my house. The first of these is the
loss of my excellent father, who was chief among all you here present,
and was like a father to every one of you; the second is much more
serious, and ere long will be the utter ruin of my estate. The sons of
all the chief men among you are pestering my mother to marry them
against her will. They are afraid to go to her father Icarius,
asking him to choose the one he likes best, and to provide marriage
gifts for his daughter, but day by day they keep hanging about my
father's house, sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their
banquets, and never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of
wine they drink. No estate can stand such recklessness; we have now no
Ulysses to ward off harm from our doors, and I cannot hold my own
against them. I shall never all my days be as good a man as he was,
still I would indeed defend myself if I had power to do so, for I
cannot stand such treatment any longer; my house is being disgraced
and ruined. Have respect, therefore, to your own consciences and to
public opinion. Fear, too, the wrath of heaven, lest the gods should
be displeased and turn upon you. I pray you by Jove and Themis, who is
the beginning and the end of councils, [do not] hold back, my friends,
and leave me singlehanded- unless it be that my brave father Ulysses
did some wrong to the Achaeans which you would now avenge on me, by
aiding and abetting these suitors. Moreover, if I am to be eaten out
of house and home at all, I had rather you did the eating
yourselves, for I could then take action against you to some
purpose, and serve you with notices from house to house till I got
paid in full, whereas now I have no remedy."
With this Telemachus dashed his staff to the ground and burst into
tears. Every one was very sorry for him, but they all sat still and no
one ventured to make him an angry answer, save only Antinous, who
"Telemachus, insolent braggart that you are, how dare you try to
throw the blame upon us suitors? It is your mother's fault not ours,
for she is a very artful woman. This three years past, and close on
four, she has been driving us out of our minds, by encouraging each
one of us, and sending him messages without meaning one word of what
she says. And then there was that other trick she played us. She set
up a great tambour frame in her room, and began to work on an enormous
piece of fine needlework. 'Sweet hearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed
dead, still do not press me to marry again immediately, wait- for I
would not have skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
completed a pall for the hero Laertes, to be in readiness against
the time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women
of the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.'
"This was what she said, and we assented; whereon we could see her
working on her great web all day long, but at night she would unpick
the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in this way for
three years and we never found her out, but as time wore on and she
was now in her fourth year, one of her maids who knew what she was
doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work, so
she had to finish it whether she would or no. The suitors,
therefore, make you this answer, that both you and the Achaeans may
understand-'Send your mother away, and bid her marry the man of her
own and of her father's choice'; for I do not know what will happen if
she goes on plaguing us much longer with the airs she gives herself on
the score of the accomplishments Minerva has taught her, and because
she is so clever. We never yet heard of such a woman; we know all
about Tyro, Alcmena, Mycene, and the famous women of old, but they
were nothing to your mother, any one of them. It was not fair of her
to treat us in that way, and as long as she continues in the mind with
which heaven has now endowed her, so long shall we go on eating up
your estate; and I do not see why she should change, for she gets
all the honour and glory, and it is you who pay for it, not she.
Understand, then, that we will not go back to our lands, neither
here nor elsewhere, till she has made her choice and married some
one or other of us."
Telemachus answered, "Antinous, how can I drive the mother who
bore me from my father's house? My father is abroad and we do not know
whether he is alive or dead. It will be hard on me if I have to pay
Icarius the large sum which I must give him if I insist on sending his
daughter back to him. Not only will he deal rigorously with me, but
heaven will also punish me; for my mother when she leaves the house
will calf on the Erinyes to avenge her; besides, it would not be a
creditable thing to do, and I will have nothing to say to it. If you
choose to take offence at this, leave the house and feast elsewhere at
one another's houses at your own cost turn and turn about. If, on
the other hand, you elect to persist in spunging upon one man,
heaven help me, but Jove shall reckon with you in full, and when you
fall in my father's house there shall be no man to avenge you."
As he spoke Jove sent two eagles from the top of the mountain, and
they flew on and on with the wind, sailing side by side in their own
lordly flight. When they were right over the middle of the assembly
they wheeled and circled about, beating the air with their wings and
glaring death into the eyes of them that were below; then, fighting
fiercely and tearing at one another, they flew off towards the right
over the town. The people wondered as they saw them, and asked each
other what an this might be; whereon Halitherses, who was the best
prophet and reader of omens among them, spoke to them plainly and in
all honesty, saying:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, and I speak more particularly to the
suitors, for I see mischief brewing for them. Ulysses is not going
to be away much longer; indeed he is close at hand to deal out death
and destruction, not on them alone, but on many another of us who live
in Ithaca. Let us then be wise in time, and put a stop to this
wickedness before he comes. Let the suitors do so of their own accord;
it will be better for them, for I am not prophesying without due
knowledge; everything has happened to Ulysses as I foretold when the
Argives set out for Troy, and he with them. I said that after going
through much hardship and losing all his men he should come home again
in the twentieth year and that no one would know him; and now all this
is coming true."
Eurymachus son of Polybus then said, "Go home, old man, and prophesy
to your own children, or it may be worse for them. I can read these
omens myself much better than you can; birds are always flying about
in the sunshine somewhere or other, but they seldom mean anything.
Ulysses has died in a far country, and it is a pity you are not dead
along with him, instead of prating here about omens and adding fuel to
the anger of Telemachus which is fierce enough as it is. I suppose you
think he will give you something for your family, but I tell you-
and it shall surely be- when an old man like you, who should know
better, talks a young one over till he becomes troublesome, in the
first place his young friend will only fare so much the worse- he will
take nothing by it, for the suitors will prevent this- and in the
next, we will lay a heavier fine, sir, upon yourself than you will
at all like paying, for it will bear hardly upon you. As for
Telemachus, I warn him in the presence of you all to send his mother
back to her father, who will find her a husband and provide her with
all the marriage gifts so dear a daughter may expect. Till we shall go
on harassing him with our suit; for we fear no man, and care neither
for him, with all his fine speeches, nor for any fortune-telling of
yours. You may preach as much as you please, but we shall only hate
you the more. We shall go back and continue to eat up Telemachus's
estate without paying him, till such time as his mother leaves off
tormenting us by keeping us day after day on the tiptoe of
expectation, each vying with the other in his suit for a prize of such
rare perfection. Besides we cannot go after the other women whom we
should marry in due course, but for the way in which she treats us."
Then Telemachus said, "Eurymachus, and you other suitors, I shall
say no more, and entreat you no further, for the gods and the people
of Ithaca now know my story. Give me, then, a ship and a crew of
twenty men to take me hither and thither, and I will go to Sparta
and to Pylos in quest of my father who has so long been missing.
Some one may tell me something, or (and people often hear things in
this way) some heaven-sent message may direct me. If I can hear of him
as alive and on his way home I will put up with the waste you
suitors will make for yet another twelve months. If on the other
hand I hear of his death, I will return at once, celebrate his funeral
rites with all due pomp, build a barrow to his memory, and make my
mother marry again."
With these words he sat down, and Mentor who had been a friend of
Ulysses, and had been left in charge of everything with full authority
over the servants, rose to speak. He, then, plainly and in all honesty
addressed them thus:
"Hear me, men of Ithaca, I hope that you may never have a kind and
well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern you equitably; I
hope that all your chiefs henceforward may be cruel and unjust, for
there is not one of you but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled you as
though he were your father. I am not half so angry with the suitors,
for if they choose to do violence in the naughtiness of their
hearts, and wager their heads that Ulysses will not return, they can
take the high hand and eat up his estate, but as for you others I am
shocked at the way in which you all sit still without even trying to
stop such scandalous goings on-which you could do if you chose, for
you are many and they are few."
Leiocritus, son of Evenor, answered him saying, "Mentor, what
folly is all this, that you should set the people to stay us? It is
a hard thing for one man to fight with many about his victuals. Even
though Ulysses himself were to set upon us while we are feasting in
his house, and do his best to oust us, his wife, who wants him back so
very badly, would have small cause for rejoicing, and his blood
would be upon his own head if he fought against such great odds. There
is no sense in what you have been saying. Now, therefore, do you
people go about your business, and let his father's old friends,
Mentor and Halitherses, speed this boy on his journey, if he goes at
all- which I do not think he will, for he is more likely to stay where
he is till some one comes and tells him something."
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
abode, while the suitors returned to the house of Ulysses.
Then Telemachus went all alone by the sea side, washed his hands
in the grey waves, and prayed to Minerva.
"Hear me," he cried, "you god who visited me yesterday, and bade
me sail the seas in search of my father who has so long been
missing. I would obey you, but the Achaeans, and more particularly the
wicked suitors, are hindering me that I cannot do so."
As he thus prayed, Minerva came close up to him in the likeness
and with the voice of Mentor. "Telemachus," said she, "if you are made
of the same stuff as your father you will be neither fool nor coward
henceforward, for Ulysses never broke his word nor left his work
half done. If, then, you take after him, your voyage will not be
fruitless, but unless you have the blood of Ulysses and of Penelope in
your veins I see no likelihood of your succeeding. Sons are seldom
as good men as their fathers; they are generally worse, not better;
still, as you are not going to be either fool or coward
henceforward, and are not entirely without some share of your father's
wise discernment, I look with hope upon your undertaking. But mind you
never make common cause with any of those foolish suitors, for they
have neither sense nor virtue, and give no thought to death and to the
doom that will shortly fall on one and all of them, so that they shall
perish on the same day. As for your voyage, it shall not be long
delayed; your father was such an old friend of mine that I will find
you a ship, and will come with you myself. Now, however, return
home, and go about among the suitors; begin getting provisions ready
for your voyage; see everything well stowed, the wine in jars, and the
barley meal, which is the staff of life, in leathern bags, while I
go round the town and beat up volunteers at once. There are many ships
in Ithaca both old and new; I will run my eye over them for you and
will choose the best; we will get her ready and will put out to sea
Thus spoke Minerva daughter of Jove, and Telemachus lost no time
in doing as the goddess told him. He went moodily and found the
suitors flaying goats and singeing pigs in the outer court. Antinous
came up to him at once and laughed as he took his hand in his own,
saying, "Telemachus, my fine fire-eater, bear no more ill blood
neither in word nor deed, but eat and drink with us as you used to do.
The Achaeans will find you in everything- a ship and a picked crew
to boot- so that you can set sail for Pylos at once and get news of
your noble father."
"Antinous," answered Telemachus, "I cannot eat in peace, nor take
pleasure of any kind with such men as you are. Was it not enough
that you should waste so much good property of mine while I was yet
a boy? Now that I am older and know more about it, I am also stronger,
and whether here among this people, or by going to Pylos, I will do
you all the harm I can. I shall go, and my going will not be in vain
though, thanks to you suitors, I have neither ship nor crew of my own,
and must be passenger not captain."
As he spoke he snatched his hand from that of Antinous. Meanwhile
the others went on getting dinner ready about the buildings, jeering
at him tauntingly as they did so.
"Telemachus," said one youngster, "means to be the death of us; I
suppose he thinks he can bring friends to help him from Pylos, or
again from Sparta, where he seems bent on going. Or will he go to
Ephyra as well, for poison to put in our wine and kill us?"
Another said, "Perhaps if Telemachus goes on board ship, he will
be like his father and perish far from his friends. In this case we
should have plenty to do, for we could then divide up his property
amongst us: as for the house we can let his mother and the man who
marries her have that."
This was how they talked. But Telemachus went down into the lofty
and spacious store-room where his father's treasure of gold and bronze
lay heaped up upon the floor, and where the linen and spare clothes
were kept in open chests. Here, too, there was a store of fragrant
olive oil, while casks of old, well-ripened wine, unblended and fit
for a god to drink, were ranged against the wall in case Ulysses
should come home again after all. The room was closed with well-made
doors opening in the middle; moreover the faithful old house-keeper
Euryclea, daughter of Ops the son of Pisenor, was in charge of
everything both night and day. Telemachus called her to the store-room
"Nurse, draw me off some of the best wine you have, after what you
are keeping for my father's own drinking, in case, poor man, he should
escape death, and find his way home again after all. Let me have
twelve jars, and see that they all have lids; also fill me some
well-sewn leathern bags with barley meal- about twenty measures in
all. Get these things put together at once, and say nothing about
it. I will take everything away this evening as soon as my mother
has gone upstairs for the night. I am going to Sparta and to Pylos
to see if I can hear anything about the return of my dear father.
When Euryclea heard this she began to cry, and spoke fondly to
him, saying, "My dear child, what ever can have put such notion as
that into your head? Where in the world do you want to go to- you, who
are the one hope of the house? Your poor father is dead and gone in
some foreign country nobody knows where, and as soon as your back is
turned these wicked ones here will be scheming to get you put out of
the way, and will share all your possessions among themselves; stay
where you are among your own people, and do not go wandering and
worrying your life out on the barren ocean."
"Fear not, nurse," answered Telemachus, "my scheme is not without
heaven's sanction; but swear that you will say nothing about all
this to my mother, till I have been away some ten or twelve days,
unless she hears of my having gone, and asks you; for I do not want
her to spoil her beauty by crying."
The old woman swore most solemnly that she would not, and when she
had completed her oath, she began drawing off the wine into jars,
and getting the barley meal into the bags, while Telemachus went
back to the suitors.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. She took his shape,
and went round the town to each one of the crew, telling them to
meet at the ship by sundown. She went also to Noemon son of
Phronius, and asked him to let her have a ship- which he was very
ready to do. When the sun had set and darkness was over all the
land, she got the ship into the water, put all the tackle on board her
that ships generally carry, and stationed her at the end of the
harbour. Presently the crew came up, and the goddess spoke
encouragingly to each of them.
Furthermore she went to the house of Ulysses, and threw the
suitors into a deep slumber. She caused their drink to fuddle them,
and made them drop their cups from their hands, so that instead of
sitting over their wine, they went back into the town to sleep, with
their eyes heavy and full of drowsiness. Then she took the form and
voice of Mentor, and called Telemachus to come outside.
"Telemachus," said she, "the men are on board and at their oars,
waiting for you to give your orders, so make haste and let us be off."
On this she led the way, while Telemachus followed in her steps.
When they got to the ship they found the crew waiting by the water
side, and Telemachus said, "Now my men, help me to get the stores on
board; they are all put together in the cloister, and my mother does
not know anything about it, nor any of the maid servants except one."
With these words he led the way and the others followed after.
When they had brought the things as he told them, Telemachus went on
board, Minerva going before him and taking her seat in the stern of
the vessel, while Telemachus sat beside her. Then the men loosed the
hawsers and took their places on the benches. Minerva sent them a fair
wind from the West, that whistled over the deep blue waves whereon
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes and hoist sail, and
they did as he told them. They set the mast in its socket in the cross
plank, raised it, and made it fast with the forestays; then they
hoisted their white sails aloft with ropes of twisted ox hide. As
the sail bellied out with the wind, the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
Then they made all fast throughout the ship, filled the mixing-bowls
to the brim, and made drink offerings to the immortal gods that are
from everlasting, but more particularly to the grey-eyed daughter of
Thus, then, the ship sped on her way through the watches of the
night from dark till dawn.
The Iliad: Book 7
With these words Hector passed through the gates, and his brother
Alexandrus with him, both eager for the fray. As when heaven sends a
breeze to sailors who have long looked for one in vain, and have
laboured at their oars till they are faint with toil, even so
welcome was the sight of these two heroes to the Trojans.
Thereon Alexandrus killed Menesthius the son of Areithous; he
lived in Ame, and was son of Areithous the Mace-man, and of
Phylomedusa. Hector threw a spear at Eioneus and struck him dead
with a wound in the neck under the bronze rim of his helmet.
Glaucus, moreover, son of Hippolochus, captain of the Lycians, in hard
hand-to-hand fight smote Iphinous son of Dexius on the shoulder, as he
was springing on to his chariot behind his fleet mares; so he fell
to earth from the car, and there was no life left in him.
When, therefore, Minerva saw these men making havoc of the
Argives, she darted down to Ilius from the summits of Olympus, and
Apollo, who was looking on from Pergamus, went out to meet her; for he
wanted the Trojans to be victorious. The pair met by the oak tree, and
King Apollo son of Jove was first to speak. "What would you have
said he, "daughter of great Jove, that your proud spirit has sent
you hither from Olympus? Have you no pity upon the Trojans, and
would you incline the scales of victory in favour of the Danaans?
Let me persuade you- for it will be better thus- stay the combat for
to-day, but let them renew the fight hereafter till they compass the
doom of Ilius, since you goddesses have made up your minds to
destroy the city."
And Minerva answered, "So be it, Far-Darter; it was in this mind
that I came down from Olympus to the Trojans and Achaeans. Tell me,
then, how do you propose to end this present fighting?"
Apollo, son of Jove, replied, "Let us incite great Hector to
challenge some one of the Danaans in single combat; on this the
Achaeans will be shamed into finding a man who will fight him."
Minerva assented, and Helenus son of Priam divined the counsel of
the gods; he therefore went up to Hector and said, "Hector son of
Priam, peer of gods in counsel, I am your brother, let me then
persuade you. Bid the other Trojans and Achaeans all of them take
their seats, and challenge the best man among the Achaeans to meet you
in single combat. I have heard the voice of the ever-living gods,
and the hour of your doom is not yet come."
Hector was glad when he heard this saying, and went in among the
Trojans, grasping his spear by the middle to hold them back, and
they all sat down. Agamemnon also bade the Achaeans be seated. But
Minerva and Apollo, in the likeness of vultures, perched on father
Jove's high oak tree, proud of their men; and the ranks sat close
ranged together, bristling with shield and helmet and spear. As when
the rising west wind furs the face of the sea and the waters grow dark
beneath it, so sat the companies of Trojans and Achaeans upon the
plain. And Hector spoke thus:-
"Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am
minded; Jove on his high throne has brought our oaths and covenants to
nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till you either take
the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished at your ships. The
princes of the Achaeans are here present in the midst of you; let him,
then, that will fight me stand forward as your champion against
Hector. Thus I say, and may Jove be witness between us. If your
champion slay me, let him strip me of my armour and take it to your
ships, but let him send my body home that the Trojans and their
wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead. In like manner, if
Apollo vouchsafe me glory and I slay your champion, I will strip him
of his armour and take it to the city of Ilius, where I will hang it
in the temple of Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the
Achaeans may bury him at their ships, and the build him a mound by the
wide waters of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails
his ship over the sea, 'This is the monument of one who died long
since a champion who was slain by mighty Hector.' Thus will one say,
and my fame shall not be lost."
Thus did he speak, but they all held their peace, ashamed to decline
the challenge, yet fearing to accept it, till at last Menelaus rose
and rebuked them, for he was angry. "Alas," he cried, "vain braggarts,
women forsooth not men, double-dyed indeed will be the stain upon us
if no man of the Danaans will now face Hector. May you be turned every
man of you into earth and water as you sit spiritless and inglorious
in your places. I will myself go out against this man, but the
upshot of the fight will be from on high in the hands of the
With these words he put on his armour; and then, O Menelaus, your
life would have come to an end at the hands of hands of Hector, for he
was far better the man, had not the princes of the Achaeans sprung
upon you and checked you. King Agamemnon caught him by the right
hand and said, "Menelaus, you are mad; a truce to this folly. Be
patient in spite of passion, do not think of fighting a man so much
stronger than yourself as Hector son of Priam, who is feared by many
another as well as you. Even Achilles, who is far more doughty than
you are, shrank from meeting him in battle. Sit down your own
people, and the Achaeans will send some other champion to fight
Hector; fearless and fond of battle though he be, I ween his knees
will bend gladly under him if he comes out alive from the
hurly-burly of this fight."
With these words of reasonable counsel he persuaded his brother,
whereon his squires gladly stripped the armour from off his shoulders.
Then Nestor rose and spoke, "Of a truth," said he, "the Achaean land
is fallen upon evil times. The old knight Peleus, counsellor and
orator among the Myrmidons, loved when I was in his house to
question me concerning the race and lineage of all the Argives. How
would it not grieve him could he hear of them as now quailing before
Hector? Many a time would he lift his hands in prayer that his soul
might leave his body and go down within the house of Hades. Would,
by father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, that I were still young and
strong as when the Pylians and Arcadians were gathered in fight by the
rapid river Celadon under the walls of Pheia, and round about the
waters of the river Iardanus. The godlike hero Ereuthalion stood
forward as their champion, with the armour of King Areithous upon
his shoulders- Areithous whom men and women had surnamed 'the
Mace-man,' because he fought neither with bow nor spear, but broke the
battalions of the foe with his iron mace. Lycurgus killed him, not
in fair fight, but by entrapping him in a narrow way where his mace
served him in no stead; for Lycurgus was too quick for him and speared
him through the middle, so he fell to earth on his back. Lycurgus then
spoiled him of the armour which Mars had given him, and bore it in
battle thenceforward; but when he grew old and stayed at home, he gave
it to his faithful squire Ereuthalion, who in this same armour
challenged the foremost men among us. The others quaked and quailed,
but my high spirit bade me fight him though none other would
venture; I was the youngest man of them all; but when I fought him
Minerva vouchsafed me victory. He was the biggest and strongest man
that ever I killed, and covered much ground as he lay sprawling upon
the earth. Would that I were still young and strong as I then was, for
the son of Priam would then soon find one who would face him. But you,
foremost among the whole host though you be, have none of you any
stomach for fighting Hector."
Thus did the old man rebuke them, and forthwith nine men started
to their feet. Foremost of all uprose King Agamemnon, and after him
brave Diomed the son of Tydeus. Next were the two Ajaxes, men
clothed in valour as with a garment, and then Idomeneus, and
Meriones his brother in arms. After these Eurypylus son of Euaemon,
Thoas the son of Andraemon, and Ulysses also rose. Then Nestor
knight of Gerene again spoke, saying: "Cast lots among you to see
who shall be chosen. If he come alive out of this fight he will have
done good service alike to his own soul and to the Achaeans."
Thus he spoke, and when each of them had marked his lot, and had
thrown it into the helmet of Agamemnon son of Atreus, the people
lifted their hands in prayer, and thus would one of them say as he
looked into the vault of heaven, "Father Jove, grant that the lot fall
on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of rich Mycene
As they were speaking, Nestor knight of Gerene shook the helmet, and
from it there fell the very lot which they wanted- the lot of Ajax.
The herald bore it about and showed it to all the chieftains of the
Achaeans, going from left to right; but they none of of them owned it.
When, however, in due course he reached the man who had written upon
it and had put it into the helmet, brave Ajax held out his hand, and
the herald gave him the lot. When Ajax saw him mark he knew it and was
glad; he threw it to the ground and said, "My friends, the lot is
mine, and I rejoice, for I shall vanquish Hector. I will put on my
armour; meanwhile, pray to King Jove in silence among yourselves
that the Trojans may not hear you- or aloud if you will, for we fear
no man. None shall overcome me, neither by force nor cunning, for I
was born and bred in Salamis, and can hold my own in all things."
With this they fell praying to King Jove the son of Saturn, and thus
would one of them say as he looked into the vault of heaven, "Father
Jove that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power, vouchsafe victory
to Ajax, and let him win great glory: but if you wish well to Hector
also and would protect him, grant to each of them equal fame and
Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming
bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous
Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting with
one another- even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans, spring
forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his long
spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they beheld him,
but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart even of Hector
beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and withdraw into the ranks
behind him, for he had been the challenger. Ajax came up bearing his
shield in front of him like a wall- a shield of bronze with seven
folds of oxhide- the work of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far
the best worker in leather. He had made it with the hides of seven
full-fed bulls, and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze.
Holding this shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to
Hector, and menaced him saying, "Hector, you shall now learn, man to
man, what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides
lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. He now abides at
the ships in anger with Agamemnon shepherd of his people, but there
are many of us who are well able to face you; therefore begin the
And Hector answered, "Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, captain of the
host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that cannot
fight. I have been long used to the blood and butcheries of battle.
I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right or left, for
this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge among the
chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can delight the
heart of Mars; howbeit I would not take such a man as you are off
his guard- but I will smite you openly if I can."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it from him. It struck
the sevenfold shield in its outermost layer- the eighth, which was
of bronze- and went through six of the layers but in the seventh
hide it stayed. Then Ajax threw in his turn, and struck the round
shield of the son of Priam. The terrible spear went through his
gleaming shield, and pressed onward through his cuirass of cunning
workmanship; it pierced the shirt against his side, but he swerved and
thus saved his life. They then each of them drew out the spear from
his shield, and fell on one another like savage lions or wild boars of
great strength and endurance: the son of Priam struck the middle of
Ajax's shield, but the bronze did not break, and the point of his dart
was turned. Ajax then sprang forward and pierced the shield of Hector;
the spear went through it and staggered him as he was springing
forward to attack; it gashed his neck and the blood came pouring
from the wound, but even so Hector did not cease fighting; he gave
ground, and with his brawny hand seized a stone, rugged and huge, that
was lying upon the plain; with this he struck the shield of Ajax on
the boss that was in its middle, so that the bronze rang again. But
Ajax in turn caught up a far larger stone, swung it aloft, and
hurled it with prodigious force. This millstone of a rock broke
Hector's shield inwards and threw him down on his back with the shield
crushing him under it, but Apollo raised him at once. Thereon they
would have hacked at one another in close combat with their swords,
had not heralds, messengers of gods and men, come forward, one from
the Trojans and the other from the Achaeans- Talthybius and Idaeus
both of them honourable men; these parted them with their staves,
and the good herald Idaeus said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are
both of you valiant, and both are dear to Jove; we know this; but
night is now falling, and the behests of night may not be well
Ajax son of Telamon answered, "Idaeus, bid Hector say so, for it was
he that challenged our princes. Let him speak first and I will
accept his saying."
Then Hector said, "Ajax, heaven has vouchsafed you stature and
strength, and judgement; and in wielding the spear you excel all
others of the Achaeans. Let us for this day cease fighting;
hereafter we will fight anew till heaven decide between us, and give
victory to one or to the other; night is now falling, and the
behests of night may not be well gainsaid. Gladden, then, the hearts
of the Achaeans at your ships, and more especially those of your own
followers and clansmen, while I, in the great city of King Priam,
bring comfort to the Trojans and their women, who vie with one another
in their prayers on my behalf. Let us, moreover, exchange presents
that it may be said among the Achaeans and Trojans, 'They fought
with might and main, but were reconciled and parted in friendship.'
On this he gave Ajax a silver-studded sword with its sheath and
leathern baldric, and in return Ajax gave him a girdle dyed with
purple. Thus they parted, the one going to the host of the Achaeans,
and the other to that of the Trojans, who rejoiced when they saw their
hero come to them safe and unharmed from the strong hands of mighty
Ajax. They led him, therefore, to the city as one that had been
saved beyond their hopes. On the other side the Achaeans brought
Ajax elated with victory to Agamemnon.
When they reached the quarters of the son of Atreus, Agamemnon
sacrificed for them a five-year-old bull in honour of Jove the son
of Saturn. They flayed the carcass, made it ready, and divided it into
joints; these they cut carefully up into smaller pieces, putting
them on the spits, roasting them sufficiently, and then drawing them
off. When they had done all this and had prepared the feast, they
ate it, and every man had his full and equal share, so that all were
satisfied, and King Agamemnon gave Ajax some slices cut lengthways
down the loin, as a mark of special honour. As soon as they had had
enough to cat and drink, old Nestor whose counsel was ever truest
began to speak; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he
addressed them thus:-
"Son of Atreus, and other chieftains, inasmuch as many of the
Achaeans are now dead, whose blood Mars has shed by the banks of the
Scamander, and their souls have gone down to the house of Hades, it
will be well when morning comes that we should cease fighting; we will
then wheel our dead together with oxen and mules and burn them not far
from the ships, that when we sail hence we may take the bones of our
comrades home to their children. Hard by the funeral pyre we will
build a barrow that shall be raised from the plain for all in
common; near this let us set about building a high wall, to shelter
ourselves and our ships, and let it have well-made gates that there
may be a way through them for our chariots. Close outside we will
dig a deep trench all round it to keep off both horse and foot, that
the Trojan chieftains may not bear hard upon us."
Thus he spoke, and the princess shouted in applause. Meanwhile the
Trojans held a council, angry and full of discord, on the acropolis by
the gates of King Priam's palace; and wise Antenor spoke. "Hear me
he said, "Trojans, Dardanians, and allies, that I may speak even as
I am minded. Let us give up Argive Helen and her wealth to the sons of
Atreus, for we are now fighting in violation of our solemn
covenants, and shall not prosper till we have done as I say."
He then sat down and Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen rose to
speak. "Antenor," said he, "your words are not to my liking; you can
find a better saying than this if you will; if, however, you have
spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven robbed you of your
reason. I will speak plainly, and hereby notify to the Trojans that
I will not give up the woman; but the wealth that I brought home
with her from Argos I will restore, and will add yet further of my
On this, when Paris had spoken and taken his seat, Priam of the race
of Dardanus, peer of gods in council, rose and with all sincerity
and goodwill addressed them thus: "Hear me, Trojans, Dardanians, and
allies, that I may speak even as I am minded. Get your suppers now
as hitherto throughout the city, but keep your watches and be wakeful.
At daybreak let Idaeus go to the ships, and tell Agamemnon and
Menelaus sons of Atreus the saying of Alexandrus through whom this
quarrel has come about; and let him also be instant with them that
they now cease fighting till we burn our dead; hereafter we will fight
anew, till heaven decide between us and give victory to one or to
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They took
supper in their companies and at daybreak Idaeus went his wa to the
ships. He found the Danaans, servants of Mars, in council at the stern
of Agamemnon's ship, and took his place in the midst of them. "Son
of Atreus," he said, "and princes of the Achaean host, Priam and the
other noble Trojans have sent me to tell you the saying of
Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about, if so be that you
may find it acceptable. All the treasure he took with him in his ships
to Troy- would that he had sooner perished- he will restore, and
will add yet further of his own, but he will not give up the wedded
wife of Menelaus, though the Trojans would have him do so. Priam
bade me inquire further if you will cease fighting till we burn our
dead; hereafter we will fight anew, till heaven decide between us
and give victory to one or to the other."
They all held their peace, but presently Diomed of the loud
war-cry spoke, saying, "Let there be no taking, neither treasure,
nor yet Helen, for even a child may see that the doom of the Trojans
is at hand."
The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words that Diomed
had spoken, and thereon King Agamemnon said to Idaeus, "Idaeus, you
have heard the answer the Achaeans make you-and I with them. But as
concerning the dead, I give you leave to burn them, for when men are
once dead there should be no grudging them the rites of fire. Let Jove
the mighty husband of Juno be witness to this covenant."
As he spoke he upheld his sceptre in the sight of all the gods,
and Idaeus went back to the strong city of Ilius. The Trojans and
Dardanians were gathered in council waiting his return; when he
came, he stood in their midst and delivered his message. As soon as
they heard it they set about their twofold labour, some to gather
the corpses, and others to bring in wood. The Argives on their part
also hastened from their ships, some to gather the corpses, and others
to bring in wood.
The sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh risen into
the vault of heaven from the slow still currents of deep Oceanus, when
the two armies met. They could hardly recognise their dead, but they
washed the clotted gore from off them, shed tears over them, and
lifted them upon their waggons. Priam had forbidden the Trojans to
wail aloud, so they heaped their dead sadly and silently upon the
pyre, and having burned them went back to the city of Ilius. The
Achaeans in like manner heaped their dead sadly and silently on the
pyre, and having burned them went back to their ships.
Now in the twilight when it was not yet dawn, chosen bands of the
Achaeans were gathered round the pyre and built one barrow that was
raised in common for all, and hard by this they built a high wall to
shelter themselves and their ships; they gave it strong gates that
there might be a way through them for their chariots, and close
outside it they dug a trench deep and wide, and they planted it within
Thus did the Achaeans toil, and the gods, seated by the side of Jove
the lord of lightning, marvelled at their great work; but Neptune,
lord of the earthquake, spoke, saying, "Father Jove, what mortal in
the whole world will again take the gods into his counsel? See you not
how the Achaeans have built a wall about their ships and driven a
trench all round it, without offering hecatombs to the gods? The The
fame of this wall will reach as far as dawn itself, and men will no
longer think anything of the one which Phoebus Apollo and myself built
with so much labour for Laomedon."
Jove was displeased and answered, "What, O shaker of the earth,
are you talking about? A god less powerful than yourself might be
alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame reaches as far as dawn
itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their ships,
you can shatter their wall and Ring it into the sea; you can cover the
beach with sand again, and the great wall of the Achaeans will then be
Thus did they converse, and by sunset the work of the Achaeans was
completed; they then slaughtered oxen at their tents and got their
supper. Many ships had come with wine from Lemnos, sent by Euneus
the son of Jason, born to him by Hypsipyle. The son of Jason freighted
them with ten thousand measures of wine, which he sent specially to
the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus. From this supply the
Achaeans bought their wine, some with bronze, some with iron, some
with hides, some with whole heifers, and some again with captives.
They spread a goodly banquet and feasted the whole night through, as
also did the Trojans and their allies in the city. But all the time
Jove boded them ill and roared with his portentous thunder. Pale
fear got hold upon them, and they spilled the wine from their cups
on to the ground, nor did any dare drink till he had made offerings to
the most mighty son of Saturn. Then they laid themselves down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
The Odyssey: Book 16
Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and
were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the
men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,
but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and
noticing that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:
"Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one of
your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn him and
The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the
door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing
wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his
head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not
be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old
age, after ten years' absence in a foreign country and after having
gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as
though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:
"So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When
I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see you
any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have a good
look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you come into
the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to the town
generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on what the
suitors are doing."
"So be it, old friend," answered Telemachus, "but I am come now
because I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still
at her old home or whether some one else has married her, so that
the bed of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs."
"She is still at the house," replied Eumaeus, "grieving and breaking
her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day
As spoke he took Telemachus' spear, whereon he crossed the stone
threshold and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him
place as he entered, but Telemachus checked him; "Sit down, stranger."
said he, "I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who
will lay it for me."
Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green
brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for
Telemachus to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of
cold meat, the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he
filled the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine
also in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they
laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,
"Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew
bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not
come here by land"'
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "My son, I will tell
you the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a
great traveller. At this moment he is running away from a
Thesprotian ship, and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into
your hands. Do whatever you like with him, only remember that he is
"I am very much distressed," said Telemachus, "by what you have just
told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet
young, and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks
me. My mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and
look after the house out of respect for public opinion and the
memory of her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take
the best man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make
her the most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to
your station I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a
sword and sandals, and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if
you like you can keep him here at the station, and I will send him
clothes and food that he may be no burden on you and on your men;
but I will not have him go near the suitors, for they are very
insolent, and are sure to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly
grieve me; no matter how valiant a man may be he can do nothing
against numbers, for they will be too strong for him."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, it is right that I should say something
myself. I am much shocked about what you have said about the
insolent way in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a
man as you are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or
has some god set your people against you? May you not complain of your
brothers- for it is to these that a man may look for support,
however great his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are
and in my present mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed,
Ulysses himself, I would rather some one came and cut my head off, but
I would go to the house and be the bane of every one of these men.
If they were too many for me- I being single-handed- I would rather
die fighting in my own house than see such disgraceful sights day
after day, strangers grossly maltreated, and men dragging the women
servants about the house in an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly,
and bread wasted all to no purpose for an end that shall never be
And Telemachus answered, "I will tell you truly everything. There is
no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers, to
whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be. Jove
has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of
Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son
of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have
never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the
hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the
neighbouring islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying court to my mother, who will neither say point blank
that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they
are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so with
myself into the bargain. The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do
you, old friend Eumaeus, go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe
and have returned from Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then
come back here without letting any one else know, for there are many
who are plotting mischief against me."
"I understand and heed you," replied Eumaeus; "you need instruct
me no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better
let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend
the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,
and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they
tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has
neither eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after
his farm, but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones."
"More's the pity," answered Telemachus, "I am sorry for him, but
we must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything
their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return
of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back
again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother
to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him
hear it from her."
Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his
sandals, bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva
watched him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form
of a woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the
entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see
her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let
themselves be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs,
for they did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other
side of the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with
her eyebrows; whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the
main wall of the yards. Then she said to him:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell
your son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans
for the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will
not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray."
As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw a
fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him
younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,
filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she
went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was
astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he
might be looking upon a god.
"Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you
were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your
colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that
live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due
sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."
And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am
your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the
hands of lawless men."
As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on
to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but
Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:
"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain
hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of
himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old
and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second
ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come
down from heaven."
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably
astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will
come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and
much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.
What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who
does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At
one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man
with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who
live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."
As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his
father and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud
like eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of
their half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep,
and the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had
not suddenly said, "In what ship, my dear father, did your crew
bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be-
for you cannot have come by land?"
"I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the
Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the
habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took
me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,
after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These
things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now
come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about
killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the
suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they
are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we
two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must
find others to help us."
To this Telemachus answered, "Father, I have always heard of your
renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of is a
very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men cannot
stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors only, nor
twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their number at
once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium, and they
have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty young
Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all of them
well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and two men
who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you may
have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether
you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help
"Listen to me," replied Ulysses, "and think whether Minerva and
her father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find
some one else as well."
"Those whom you have named," answered Telemachus, "are a couple of
good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they
have power over both gods and men."
"These two," continued Ulysses, "will not keep long out of the fray,
when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return
home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as
before. Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised
as a miserable old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your
heart against my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost
out of the house, or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond
gently trying to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not
listen to you, for the day of their reckoning is at hand.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall
put it in my mind, I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this
you must collect all the armour that is in the house and hide it in
the strong store room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why
you are removing it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way
of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses
went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this
more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to
quarrel over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm
which may disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms
sometimes tempts people to use them. But leave a sword and a spear
apiece for yourself and me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can
snatch them up at any moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet
these people. There is also another matter; if you are indeed my son
and my blood runs in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is
within the house- neither Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of
the servants, nor even Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the
women alone, and let us also make trial of some other of the men
servants, to see who is on our side and whose hand is against us."
"Father," replied Telemachus, "you will come to know me by and by,
and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not
think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either
of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round of
the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will be
wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove the
women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless, but I
am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend to
that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought
Telemachus and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca.
When they had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the
land; their servants came and took their armour from them, and they
left all the presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a
servant to tell Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country,
but had sent the ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed
and made unhappy. This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when
they were both on the same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they
reached the House, the servant stood up and said to the queen in the
presence of the waiting women, "Your son, Madam, is now returned
from Pylos"; but Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately
that her son had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his
message he left the house with its outbuildings and went back to his
The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they
went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held a
council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the
first to speak.
"My friends," said he, "this voyage of Telemachus's is a very
serious matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now,
however, let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to
send after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can."
He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place
and saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,
and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,
"We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must
have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not
On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the
ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they
went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let any
one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of
Eupeithes, spoke first.
"Good heavens," said he, "see how the gods have saved this man
from destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands
all day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to
sleep, but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of
capturing and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite
of us. Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not
escape us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive,
for he is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our
side. We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in
assembly; he will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious
with us, and will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but
failed to take him. The people will not like this when they come to
know of it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our
own country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his
farm away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide
up his property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries
her have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish
Telemachus to live on and hold his father's property, then we must not
gather here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers
to Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who
will give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her."
They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the
son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among
all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of
Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to
Penelope than that of any of the other for he was a man of good
natural disposition. "My friends," said he, speaking to them plainly
and in all honestly, "I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It
is a heinous thing to kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first
take counsel of the gods, and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will
both help to kill him myself, and will urge everyone else to do so;
but if they dissuade us, I would have you hold your hands."
Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose
forthwith and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their
Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.
She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had
overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore
to the court attended by her maidens, and when she reached the suitors
she stood by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the
cloister holding a veil before her face, and rebuked Antinous saying:
"Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best
speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you
are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the
death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness
is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one
another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in
fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone
with some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at
peace with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything
he had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were
infuriated, and now you devour his property without paying for it, and
break my heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son.
Leave off doing so, and stop the others also."
To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, "Take heart, Queen
Penelope daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about
these matters. The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall
lay hands upon your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon
the face of the earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear
shall be reddened with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me
on his knees, held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat
into my hands. Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have,
and has nothing to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if
death comes to him from the gods, he cannot escape it." He said this
to quiet her, but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.
Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till
Minerva shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to
Ulysses and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old
and were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva
therefore came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke
of her wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that
the swineherd might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go
and tell Penelope.
Telemachus was the first to speak. "So you have got back,
Eumaeus," said he. "What is the news of the town? Have the suitors
returned, or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my
"I did not think of asking about that," replied Eumaeus, "when I was
in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon
as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to
Pylos, and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say
what I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the
hill of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour
with a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I
thought it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."
On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus
could not see him.
Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they
ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.
As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
The Odyssey: Book 5
And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends."
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey's end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you"'
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a
great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself
in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, "'There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant."
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night's rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.
The Iliad: Book 6
The fight between Trojans and Achaeans was now left to rage as it
would, and the tide of war surged hither and thither over the plain as
they aimed their bronze-shod spears at one another between the streams
of Simois and Xanthus.
First, Ajax son of Telamon, tower of strength to the Achaeans, broke
a phalanx of the Trojans, and came to the assistance of his comrades
by killing Acamas son of Eussorus, the best man among the Thracians,
being both brave and of great stature. The spear struck the projecting
peak of his helmet: its bronze point then went through his forehead
into the brain, and darkness veiled his eyes.
Then Diomed killed Axylus son of Teuthranus, a rich man who lived in
the strong city of Arisbe, and was beloved by all men; for he had a
house by the roadside, and entertained every one who passed; howbeit
not one of his guests stood before him to save his life, and Diomed
killed both him and his squire Calesius, who was then his
charioteer- so the pair passed beneath the earth.
Euryalus killed Dresus and Opheltius, and then went in pursuit of
Aesepus and Pedasus, whom the naiad nymph Abarbarea had borne to noble
Bucolion. Bucolion was eldest son to Laomedon, but he was a bastard.
While tending his sheep he had converse with the nymph, and she
conceived twin sons; these the son of Mecisteus now slew, and he
stripped the armour from their shoulders. Polypoetes then killed
Astyalus, Ulysses Pidytes of Percote, and Teucer Aretaon. Ablerus fell
by the spear of Nestor's son Antilochus, and Agamemnon, king of men,
killed Elatus who dwelt in Pedasus by the banks of the river
Satnioeis. Leitus killed Phylacus as he was flying, and Eurypylus slew
Then Menelaus of the loud war-cry took Adrestus alive, for his
horses ran into a tamarisk bush, as they were flying wildly over the
plain, and broke the pole from the car; they went on towards the
city along with the others in full flight, but Adrestus rolled out,
and fell in the dust flat on his face by the wheel of his chariot;
Menelaus came up to him spear in hand, but Adrestus caught him by
the knees begging for his life. "Take me alive," he cried, "son of
Atreus, and you shall have a full ransom for me: my father is rich and
has much treasure of gold, bronze, and wrought iron laid by in his
house. From this store he will give you a large ransom should he
hear of my being alive and at the ships of the Achaeans."
Thus did he plead, and Menelaus was for yielding and giving him to a
squire to take to the ships of the Achaeans, but Agamemnon came
running up to him and rebuked him. "My good Menelaus," said he,
"this is no time for giving quarter. Has, then, your house fared so
well at the hands of the Trojans? Let us not spare a single one of
them- not even the child unborn and in its mother's womb; let not a
man of them be left alive, but let all in Ilius perish, unheeded and
Thus did he speak, and his brother was persuaded by him, for his
words were just. Menelaus, therefore, thrust Adrestus from him,
whereon King Agamemnon struck him in the flank, and he fell: then
the son of Atreus planted his foot upon his breast to draw his spear
from the body.
Meanwhile Nestor shouted to the Argives, saying, "My friends, Danaan
warriors, servants of Mars, let no man lag that he may spoil the dead,
and bring back much booty to the ships. Let us kill as many as we can;
the bodies will lie upon the plain, and you can despoil them later
at your leisure."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all. And now the
Trojans would have been routed and driven back into Ilius, had not
Priam's son Helenus, wisest of augurs, said to Hector and Aeneas,
"Hector and Aeneas, you two are the mainstays of the Trojans and
Lycians, for you are foremost at all times, alike in fight and
counsel; hold your ground here, and go about among the host to rally
them in front of the gates, or they will fling themselves into the
arms of their wives, to the great joy of our foes. Then, when you have
put heart into all our companies, we will stand firm here and fight
the Danaans however hard they press us, for there is nothing else to
be done. Meanwhile do you, Hector, go to the city and tell our
mother what is happening. Tell her to bid the matrons gather at the
temple of Minerva in the acropolis; let her then take her key and open
the doors of the sacred building; there, upon the knees of Minerva,
let her lay the largest, fairest robe she has in her house- the one
she sets most store by; let her, moreover, promise to sacrifice twelve
yearling heifers that have never yet felt the goad, in the temple of
the goddess, if she will take pity on the town, with the wives and
little ones of the Trojans, and keep the son of Tydeus from falling on
the goodly city of Ilius; for he fights with fury and fills men's
souls with panic. I hold him mightiest of them all; we did not fear
even their great champion Achilles, son of a goddess though he be,
as we do this man: his rage is beyond all bounds, and there is none
can vie with him in prowess"
Hector did as his brother bade him. He sprang from his chariot,
and went about everywhere among the host, brandishing his spears,
urging the men on to fight, and raising the dread cry of battle.
Thereon they rallied and again faced the Achaeans, who gave ground and
ceased their murderous onset, for they deemed that some one of the
immortals had come down from starry heaven to help the Trojans, so
strangely had they rallied. And Hector shouted to the Trojans,
"Trojans and allies, be men, my friends, and fight with might and
main, while I go to Ilius and tell the old men of our council and
our wives to pray to the gods and vow hecatombs in their honour."
With this he went his way, and the black rim of hide that went round
his shield beat against his neck and his ancles.
Then Glaucus son of Hippolochus, and the son of Tydeus went into the
open space between the hosts to fight in single combat. When they were
close up to one another Diomed of the loud war-cry was the first to
speak. "Who, my good sir," said he, "who are you among men? I have
never seen you in battle until now, but you are daring beyond all
others if you abide my onset. Woe to those fathers whose sons face
my might. If, however, you are one of the immortals and have come down
from heaven, I will not fight you; for even valiant Lycurgus, son of
Dryas, did not live long when he took to fighting with the gods. He it
was that drove the nursing women who were in charge of frenzied
Bacchus through the land of Nysa, and they flung their thyrsi on the
ground as murderous Lycurgus beat them with his oxgoad. Bacchus
himself plunged terror-stricken into the sea, and Thetis took him to
her bosom to comfort him, for he was scared by the fury with which the
man reviled him. Thereon the gods who live at ease were angry with
Lycurgus and the son of Saturn struck him blind, nor did he live
much longer after he had become hateful to the immortals. Therefore
I will not fight with the blessed gods; but if you are of them that
eat the fruit of the ground, draw near and meet your doom."
And the son of Hippolochus answered, son of Tydeus, why ask me of my
lineage? Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the trees.
Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when spring
returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is it with the
generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old are passing away.
If, then, you would learn my descent, it is one that is well known
to many. There is a city in the heart of Argos, pasture land of
horses, called Ephyra, where Sisyphus lived, who was the craftiest
of all mankind. He was the son of Aeolus, and had a son named Glaucus,
who was father to Bellerophon, whom heaven endowed with the most
surpassing comeliness and beauty. But Proetus devised his ruin, and
being stronger than he, drove him from the land of the Argives, over
which Jove had made him ruler. For Antea, wife of Proetus, lusted
after him, and would have had him lie with her in secret; but
Bellerophon was an honourable man and would not, so she told lies
about him to Proteus. 'Proetus,' said she, 'kill Bellerophon or die,
for he would have had converse with me against my will.' The king
was angered, but shrank from killing Bellerophon, so he sent him to
Lycia with lying letters of introduction, written on a folded
tablet, and containing much ill against the bearer. He bade
Bellerophon show these letters to his father-in-law, to the end that
he might thus perish; Bellerophon therefore went to Lycia, and the
gods convoyed him safely.
"When he reached the river Xanthus, which is in Lycia, the king
received him with all goodwill, feasted him nine days, and killed nine
heifers in his honour, but when rosy-fingered morning appeared upon
the tenth day, he questioned him and desired to see the letter from
his son-in-law Proetus. When he had received the wicked letter he
first commanded Bellerophon to kill that savage monster, the Chimaera,
who was not a human being, but a goddess, for she had the head of a
lion and the tail of a serpent, while her body was that of a goat, and
she breathed forth flames of fire; but Bellerophon slew her, for he
was guided by signs from heaven. He next fought the far-famed
Solymi, and this, he said, was the hardest of all his battles.
Thirdly, he killed the Amazons, women who were the peers of men, and
as he was returning thence the king devised yet another plan for his
destruction; he picked the bravest warriors in all Lycia, and placed
them in ambuscade, but not a man ever came back, for Bellerophon
killed every one of them. Then the king knew that he must be the
valiant offspring of a god, so he kept him in Lycia, gave him his
daughter in marriage, and made him of equal honour in the kingdom with
himself; and the Lycians gave him a piece of land, the best in all the
country, fair with vineyards and tilled fields, to have and to hold.
"The king's daughter bore Bellerophon three children, Isander,
Hippolochus, and Laodameia. Jove, the lord of counsel, lay with
Laodameia, and she bore him noble Sarpedon; but when Bellerophon
came to be hated by all the gods, he wandered all desolate and
dismayed upon the Alean plain, gnawing at his own heart, and
shunning the path of man. Mars, insatiate of battle, killed his son
Isander while he was fighting the Solymi; his daughter was killed by
Diana of the golden reins, for she was angered with her; but
Hippolochus was father to myself, and when he sent me to Troy he urged
me again and again to fight ever among the foremost and outvie my
peers, so as not to shame the blood of my fathers who were the noblest
in Ephyra and in all Lycia. This, then, is the descent I claim."
Thus did he speak, and the heart of Diomed was glad. He planted
his spear in the ground, and spoke to him with friendly words. "Then,"
he said, you are an old friend of my father's house. Great Oeneus once
entertained Bellerophon for twenty days, and the two exchanged
presents. Oeneus gave a belt rich with purple, and Bellerophon a
double cup, which I left at home when I set out for Troy. I do not
remember Tydeus, for he was taken from us while I was yet a child,
when the army of the Achaeans was cut to pieces before Thebes.
Henceforth, however, I must be your host in middle Argos, and you mine
in Lycia, if I should ever go there; let us avoid one another's spears
even during a general engagement; there are many noble Trojans and
allies whom I can kill, if I overtake them and heaven delivers them
into my hand; so again with yourself, there are many Achaeans whose
lives you may take if you can; we two, then, will exchange armour,
that all present may know of the old ties that subsist between us."
With these words they sprang from their chariots, grasped one
another's hands, and plighted friendship. But the son of Saturn made
Glaucus take leave of his wits, for he exchanged golden armour for
bronze, the worth of a hundred head of cattle for the worth of nine.
Now when Hector reached the Scaean gates and the oak tree, the wives
and daughters of the Trojans came running towards him to ask after
their sons, brothers, kinsmen, and husbands: he told them to set about
praying to the gods, and many were made sorrowful as they heard him.
Presently he reached the splendid palace of King Priam, adorned with
colonnades of hewn stone. In it there were fifty bedchambers- all of
hewn stone- built near one another, where the sons of Priam slept,
each with his wedded wife. Opposite these, on the other side the
courtyard, there were twelve upper rooms also of hewn stone for
Priam's daughters, built near one another, where his sons-in-law slept
with their wives. When Hector got there, his fond mother came up to
him with Laodice the fairest of her daughters. She took his hand
within her own and said, "My son, why have you left the battle to come
hither? Are the Achaeans, woe betide them, pressing you hard about the
city that you have thought fit to come and uplift your hands to Jove
from the citadel? Wait till I can bring you wine that you may make
offering to Jove and to the other immortals, and may then drink and be
refreshed. Wine gives a man fresh strength when he is wearied, as
you now are with fighting on behalf of your kinsmen."
And Hector answered, "Honoured mother, bring no wine, lest you unman
me and I forget my strength. I dare not make a drink-offering to
Jove with unwashed hands; one who is bespattered with blood and
filth may not pray to the son of Saturn. Get the matrons together, and
go with offerings to the temple of Minerva driver of the spoil; there,
upon the knees of Minerva, lay the largest and fairest robe you have
in your house- the one you set most store by; promise, moreover, to
sacrifice twelve yearling heifers that have never yet felt the goad,
in the temple of the goddess if she will take pity on the town, with
the wives and little ones of the Trojans, and keep the son of Tydeus
from off the goodly city of Ilius, for he fights with fury, and
fills men's souls with panic. Go, then, to the temple of Minerva,
while I seek Paris and exhort him, if he will hear my words. Would
that the earth might open her jaws and swallow him, for Jove bred
him to be the bane of the Trojans, and of Priam and Priam's sons.
Could I but see him go down into the house of Hades, my heart would
forget its heaviness."
His mother went into the house and called her waiting-women who
gathered the matrons throughout the city. She then went down into
her fragrant store-room, where her embroidered robes were kept, the
work of Sidonian women, whom Alexandrus had brought over from Sidon
when he sailed the seas upon that voyage during which he carried off
Helen. Hecuba took out the largest robe, and the one that was most
beautifully enriched with embroidery, as an offering to Minerva: it
glittered like a star, and lay at the very bottom of the chest. With
this she went on her way and many matrons with her.
When they reached the temple of Minerva, lovely Theano, daughter
of Cisseus and wife of Antenor, opened the doors, for the Trojans
had made her priestess of Minerva. The women lifted up their hands
to the goddess with a loud cry, and Theano took the robe to lay it
upon the knees of Minerva, praying the while to the daughter of
great Jove. "Holy Minerva," she cried, "protectress of our city,
mighty goddess, break the spear of Diomed and lay him low before the
Scaean gates. Do this, and we will sacrifice twelve heifers that
have never yet known the goad, in your temple, if you will have pity
upon the town, with the wives and little ones If the Trojans." Thus
she prayed, but Pallas Minerva granted not her prayer.
While they were thus praying to the daughter of great Jove, Hector
went to the fair house of Alexandrus, which he had built for him by
the foremost builders in the land. They had built him his house,
storehouse, and courtyard near those of Priam and Hector on the
acropolis. Here Hector entered, with a spear eleven cubits long in his
hand; the bronze point gleamed in front of him, and was fastened to
the shaft of the spear by a ring of gold. He found Alexandrus within
the house, busied about his armour, his shield and cuirass, and
handling his curved bow; there, too, sat Argive Helen with her
women, setting them their several tasks; and as Hector saw him he
rebuked him with words of scorn. "Sir," said he, "you do ill to
nurse this rancour; the people perish fighting round this our town;
you would yourself chide one whom you saw shirking his part in the
combat. Up then, or ere long the city will be in a blaze."
And Alexandrus answered, "Hector, your rebuke is just; listen
therefore, and believe me when I tell you that I am not here so much
through rancour or ill-will towards the Trojans, as from a desire to
indulge my grief. My wife was even now gently urging me to battle, and
I hold it better that I should go, for victory is ever fickle. Wait,
then, while I put on my armour, or go first and I will follow. I shall
be sure to overtake you."
Hector made no answer, but Helen tried to soothe him. "Brother,"
said she, "to my abhorred and sinful self, would that a whirlwind
had caught me up on the day my mother brought me forth, and had
borne me to some mountain or to the waves of the roaring sea that
should have swept me away ere this mischief had come about. But, since
the gods have devised these evils, would, at any rate, that I had been
wife to a better man- to one who could smart under dishonour and men's
evil speeches. This fellow was never yet to be depended upon, nor
never will be, and he will surely reap what he has sown. Still,
brother, come in and rest upon this seat, for it is you who bear the
brunt of that toil that has been caused by my hateful self and by
the sin of Alexandrus- both of whom Jove has doomed to be a theme of
song among those that shall be born hereafter."
And Hector answered, "Bid me not be seated, Helen, for all the
goodwill you bear me. I cannot stay. I am in haste to help the
Trojans, who miss me greatly when I am not among them; but urge your
husband, and of his own self also let him make haste to overtake me
before I am out of the city. I must go home to see my household, my
wife and my little son, for I know not whether I shall ever again
return to them, or whether the gods will cause me to fill by the hands
of the Achaeans."
Then Hector left her, and forthwith was at his own house. He did not
find Andromache, for she was on the wall with her child and one of her
maids, weeping bitterly. Seeing, then, that she was not within, he
stood on the threshold of the women's rooms and said, "Women, tell me,
and tell me true, where did Andromache go when she left the house? Was
it to my sisters, or to my brothers' wives? or is she at the temple of
Minerva where the other women are propitiating the awful goddess?"
His good housekeeper answered, "Hector, since you bid me tell you
truly, she did not go to your sisters nor to your brothers' wives, nor
yet to the temple of Minerva, where the other women are propitiating
the awful goddess, but she is on the high wall of Ilius, for she had
heard the Trojans were being hard pressed, and that the Achaeans
were in great force: she went to the wall in frenzied haste, and the
nurse went with her carrying the child."
Hector hurried from the house when she had done speaking, and went
down the streets by the same way that he had come. When he had gone
through the city and had reached the Scaean gates through which he
would go out on to the plain, his wife came running towards him,
Andromache, daughter of great Eetion who ruled in Thebe under the
wooded slopes of Mt. Placus, and was king of the Cilicians. His
daughter had married Hector, and now came to meet him with a nurse who
carried his little child in her bosom- a mere babe. Hector's darling
son, and lovely as a star. Hector had named him Scamandrius, but the
people called him Astyanax, for his father stood alone as chief
guardian of Ilius. Hector smiled as he looked upon the boy, but he did
not speak, and Andromache stood by him weeping and taking his hand
in her own. "Dear husband," said she, "your valour will bring you to
destruction; think on your infant son, and on my hapless self who
ere long shall be your widow- for the Achaeans will set upon you in
a body and kill you. It would be better for me, should I lose you,
to lie dead and buried, for I shall have nothing left to comfort me
when you are gone, save only sorrow. I have neither father nor
mother now. Achilles slew my father when he sacked Thebe the goodly
city of the Cilicians. He slew him, but did not for very shame despoil
him; when he had burned him in his wondrous armour, he raised a barrow
over his ashes and the mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing
Jove, planted a grove of elms about his tomb. I had seven brothers
in my father's house, but on the same day they all went within the
house of Hades. Achilles killed them as they were with their sheep and
cattle. My mother- her who had been queen of all the land under Mt.
Placus- he brought hither with the spoil, and freed her for a great
sum, but the archer- queen Diana took her in the house of your father.
Nay- Hector- you who to me are father, mother, brother, and dear
husband- have mercy upon me; stay here upon this wall; make not your
child fatherless, and your wife a widow; as for the host, place them
near the fig-tree, where the city can be best scaled, and the wall
is weakest. Thrice have the bravest of them come thither and
assailed it, under the two Ajaxes, Idomeneus, the sons of Atreus,
and the brave son of Tydeus, either of their own bidding, or because
some soothsayer had told them."
And Hector answered, "Wife, I too have thought upon all this, but
with what face should I look upon the Trojans, men or women, if I
shirked battle like a coward? I cannot do so: I know nothing save to
fight bravely in the forefront of the Trojan host and win renown alike
for my father and myself. Well do I know that the day will surely come
when mighty Ilius shall be destroyed with Priam and Priam's people,
but I grieve for none of these- not even for Hecuba, nor King Priam,
nor for my brothers many and brave who may fall in the dust before
their foes- for none of these do I grieve as for yourself when the day
shall come on which some one of the Achaeans shall rob you for ever of
your freedom, and bear you weeping away. It may be that you will
have to ply the loom in Argos at the bidding of a mistress, or to
fetch water from the springs Messeis or Hypereia, treated brutally
by some cruel task-master; then will one say who sees you weeping,
'She was wife to Hector, the bravest warrior among the Trojans
during the war before Ilius.' On this your tears will break forth anew
for him who would have put away the day of captivity from you. May I
lie dead under the barrow that is heaped over my body ere I hear
your cry as they carry you into bondage."
He stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and
nestled in his nurse's bosom, scared at the sight of his father's
armour, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his
helmet. His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hector took
the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the ground.
Then he took his darling child, kissed him, and dandled him in his
arms, praying over him the while to Jove and to all the gods.
"Jove," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even as myself,
chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength,
and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one say of him as he
comes from battle, 'The son is far better than the father.' May he
bring back the blood-stained spoils of him whom he has laid low, and
let his mother's heart be glad.'"
With this he laid the child again in the arms of his wife, who
took him to her own soft bosom, smiling through her tears. As her
husband watched her his heart yearned towards her and he caressed
her fondly, saying, "My own wife, do not take these things too
bitterly to heart. No one can hurry me down to Hades before my time,
but if a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is
no escape for him when he has once been born. Go, then, within the
house, and busy yourself with your daily duties, your loom, your
distaff, and the ordering of your servants; for war is man's matter,
and mine above all others of them that have been born in Ilius."
He took his plumed helmet from the ground, and his wife went back
again to her house, weeping bitterly and often looking back towards
him. When she reached her home she found her maidens within, and
bade them all join in her lament; so they mourned Hector in his own
house though he was yet alive, for they deemed that they should
never see him return safe from battle, and from the furious hands of
Paris did not remain long in his house. He donned his goodly
armour overlaid with bronze, and hasted through the city as fast as
his feet could take him. As a horse, stabled and fed, breaks loose and
gallops gloriously over the plain to the place where he is wont to
bathe in the fair-flowing river- he holds his head high, and his
mane streams upon his shoulders as he exults in his strength and flies
like the wind to the haunts and feeding ground of the mares- even so
went forth Paris from high Pergamus, gleaming like sunlight in his
armour, and he laughed aloud as he sped swiftly on his way.
Forthwith he came upon his brother Hector, who was then turning away
from the place where he had held converse with his wife, and he was
himself the first to speak. "Sir," said he, "I fear that I have kept
you waiting when you are in haste, and have not come as quickly as you
"My good brother," answered Hector, you fight bravely, and no man
with any justice can make light of your doings in battle. But you
are careless and wilfully remiss. It grieves me to the heart to hear
the ill that the Trojans speak about you, for they have suffered
much on your account. Let us be going, and we will make things right
hereafter, should Jove vouchsafe us to set the cup of our
deliverance before ever-living gods of heaven in our own homes, when
we have chased the Achaeans from Troy."
The Iliad: Book 14
Nestor was sitting over his wine, but the cry of battle did not
escape him, and he said to the son of Aesculapius, "What, noble
Machaon, is the meaning of all this? The shouts of men fighting by our
ships grow stronger and stronger; stay here, therefore, and sit over
your wine, while fair Hecamede heats you a bath and washes the clotted
blood from off you. I will go at once to the look-out station and
see what it is all about."
As he spoke he took up the shield of his son Thrasymedes that was
lying in his tent, all gleaming with bronze, for Thrasymedes had taken
his father's shield; he grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod spear, and
as soon as he was outside saw the disastrous rout of the Achaeans who,
now that their wall was overthrown, were flying pell-mell before the
Trojans. As when there is a heavy swell upon the sea, but the waves
are dumb- they keep their eyes on the watch for the quarter whence the
fierce winds may spring upon them, but they stay where they are and
set neither this way nor that, till some particular wind sweeps down
from heaven to determine them- even so did the old man ponder
whether to make for the crowd of Danaans, or go in search of
Agamemnon. In the end he deemed it best to go to the son of Atreus;
but meanwhile the hosts were fighting and killing one another, and the
hard bronze rattled on their bodies, as they thrust at one another
with their swords and spears.
The wounded kings, the son of Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon son
of Atreus, fell in Nestor as they were coming up from their ships- for
theirs were drawn up some way from where the fighting was going on,
being on the shore itself inasmuch as they had been beached first,
while the wall had been built behind the hindermost. The stretch of
the shore, wide though it was, did not afford room for all the
ships, and the host was cramped for space, therefore they had placed
the ships in rows one behind the other, and had filled the whole
opening of the bay between the two points that formed it. The kings,
leaning on their spears, were coming out to survey the fight, being in
great anxiety, and when old Nestor met them they were filled with
dismay. Then King Agamemnon said to him, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour
to the Achaean name, why have you left the battle to come hither? I
fear that what dread Hector said will come true, when he vaunted among
the Trojans saying that he would not return to Ilius till he had fired
our ships and killed us; this is what he said, and now it is all
coming true. Alas! others of the Achaeans, like Achilles, are in anger
with me that they refuse to fight by the sterns of our ships."
Then Nestor knight of Gerene answered, "It is indeed as you say;
it is all coming true at this moment, and even Jove who thunders
from on high cannot prevent it. Fallen is the wall on which we
relied as an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet. The
Trojans are fighting stubbornly and without ceasing at the ships; look
where you may you cannot see from what quarter the rout of the
Achaeans is coming; they are being killed in a confused mass and the
battle-cry ascends to heaven; let us think, if counsel can be of any
use, what we had better do; but I do not advise our going into
battle ourselves, for a man cannot fight when he is wounded."
And King Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, if the Trojans are indeed
fighting at the rear of our ships, and neither the wall nor the trench
has served us- over which the Danaans toiled so hard, and which they
deemed would be an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet- I
see it must be the will of Jove that the Achaeans should perish
ingloriously here, far from Argos. I knew when Jove was willing to
defend us, and I know now that he is raising the Trojans to like
honour with the gods, while us, on the other hand, he bas bound hand
and foot. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let us bring down
the ships that are on the beach and draw them into the water; let us
make them fast to their mooring-stones a little way out, against the
fall of night- if even by night the Trojans will desist from fighting;
we may then draw down the rest of the fleet. There is nothing wrong in
flying ruin even by night. It is better for a man that he should fly
and be saved than be caught and killed."
Ulysses looked fiercely at him and said, "Son of Atreus, what are
you talking about? Wretch, you should have commanded some other and
baser army, and not been ruler over us to whom Jove has allotted a
life of hard fighting from youth to old age, till we every one of us
perish. Is it thus that you would quit the city of Troy, to win
which we have suffered so much hardship? Hold your peace, lest some
other of the Achaeans hear you say what no man who knows how to give
good counsel, no king over so great a host as that of the Argives
should ever have let fall from his lips. I despise your judgement
utterly for what you have been saying. Would you, then, have us draw
down our ships into the water while the battle is raging, and thus
play further into the hands of the conquering Trojans? It would be
ruin; the Achaeans will not go on fighting when they see the ships
being drawn into the water, but will cease attacking and keep
turning their eyes towards them; your counsel, therefore, Sir captain,
would be our destruction."
Agamemnon answered, "Ulysses, your rebuke has stung me to the heart.
I am not, however, ordering the Achaeans to draw their ships into
the sea whether they will or no. Some one, it may be, old or young,
can offer us better counsel which I shall rejoice to hear."
Then said Diomed, "Such an one is at hand; he is not far to seek, if
you will listen to me and not resent my speaking though I am younger
than any of you. I am by lineage son to a noble sire, Tydeus, who lies
buried at Thebes. For Portheus had three noble sons, two of whom,
Agrius and Melas, abode in Pleuron and rocky Calydon. The third was
the knight Oeneus, my father's father, and he was the most valiant
of them all. Oeeneus remained in his own country, but my father (as
Jove and the other gods ordained it) migrated to Argos. He married
into the family of Adrastus, and his house was one of great abundance,
for he had large estates of rich corn-growing land, with much
orchard ground as well, and he had many sheep; moreover he excelled
all the Argives in the use of the spear. You must yourselves have
heard whether these things are true or no; therefore when I say well
despise not my words as though I were a coward or of ignoble birth.
I say, then, let us go to the fight as we needs must, wounded though
we be. When there, we may keep out of the battle and beyond the
range of the spears lest we get fresh wounds in addition to what we
have already, but we can spur on others, who have been indulging their
spleen and holding aloof from battle hitherto."
Thus did he speak; whereon they did even as he had said and set out,
King Agamemnon leading the way.
Meanwhile Neptune had kept no blind look-out, and came up to them in
the semblance of an old man. He took Agamemnon's right hand in his own
and said, "Son of Atreus, I take it Achilles is glad now that he
sees the Achaeans routed and slain, for he is utterly without remorse-
may he come to a bad end and heaven confound him. As for yourself, the
blessed gods are not yet so bitterly angry with you but that the
princes and counsellors of the Trojans shall again raise the dust upon
the plain, and you shall see them flying from the ships and tents
towards their city."
With this he raised a mighty cry of battle, and sped forward to
the plain. The voice that came from his deep chest was as that of nine
or ten thousand men when they are shouting in the thick of a fight,
and it put fresh courage into the hearts of the Achaeans to wage war
and do battle without ceasing.
Juno of the golden throne looked down as she stood upon a peak of
Olympus and her heart was gladdened at the sight of him who was at
once her brother and her brother-in-law, hurrying hither and thither
amid the fighting. Then she turned her eyes to Jove as he sat on the
topmost crests of many-fountained Ida, and loathed him. She set
herself to think how she might hoodwink him, and in the end she deemed
that it would be best for her to go to Ida and array herself in rich
attire, in the hope that Jove might become enamoured of her, and
wish to embrace her. While he was thus engaged a sweet and careless
sleep might be made to steal over his eyes and senses.
She went, therefore, to the room which her son Vulcan had made
her, and the doors of which he had cunningly fastened by means of a
secret key so that no other god could open them. Here she entered
and closed the doors behind her. She cleansed all the dirt from her
fair body with ambrosia, then she anointed herself with olive oil,
ambrosial, very soft, and scented specially for herself- if it were so
much as shaken in the bronze-floored house of Jove, the scent pervaded
the universe of heaven and earth. With this she anointed her
delicate skin, and then she plaited the fair ambrosial locks that
flowed in a stream of golden tresses from her immortal head. She put
on the wondrous robe which Minerva had worked for her with
consummate art, and had embroidered with manifold devices; she
fastened it about her bosom with golden clasps, and she girded herself
with a girdle that had a hundred tassels: then she fastened her
earrings, three brilliant pendants that glistened most beautifully,
through the pierced lobes of her ears, and threw a lovely new veil
over her head. She bound her sandals on to her feet, and when she
had arrayed herself perfectly to her satisfaction, she left her room
and called Venus to come aside and speak to her. "My dear child," said
she, "will you do what I am going to ask of you, or will refuse me
because you are angry at my being on the Danaan side, while you are on
Jove's daughter Venus answered, "Juno, august queen of goddesses,
daughter of mighty Saturn, say what you want, and I will do it for
at once, if I can, and if it can be done at all."
Then Juno told her a lying tale and said, "I want you to endow me
with some of those fascinating charms, the spells of which bring all
things mortal and immortal to your feet. I am going to the world's end
to visit Oceanus (from whom all we gods proceed) and mother Tethys:
they received me in their house, took care of me, and brought me up,
having taken me over from Rhaea when Jove imprisoned great Saturn in
the depths that are under earth and sea. I must go and see them that I
may make peace between them; they have been quarrelling, and are so
angry that they have not slept with one another this long while; if
I can bring them round and restore them to one another's embraces,
they will be grateful to me and love me for ever afterwards."
Thereon laughter-loving Venus said, "I cannot and must not refuse
you, for you sleep in the arms of Jove who is our king."
As she spoke she loosed from her bosom the curiously embroidered
girdle into which all her charms had been wrought- love, desire, and
that sweet flattery which steals the judgement even of the most
prudent. She gave the girdle to Juno and said, "Take this girdle
wherein all my charms reside and lay it in your bosom. If you will
wear it I promise you that your errand, be it what it may, will not be
When she heard this Juno smiled, and still smiling she laid the
girdle in her bosom.
Venus now went back into the house of Jove, while Juno darted down
from the summits of Olympus. She passed over Pieria and fair
Emathia, and went on and on till she came to the snowy ranges of the
Thracian horsemen, over whose topmost crests she sped without ever
setting foot to ground. When she came to Athos she went on over the,
waves of the sea till she reached Lemnos, the city of noble Thoas.
There she met Sleep, own brother to Death, and caught him by the hand,
saying, "Sleep, you who lord it alike over mortals and immortals, if
you ever did me a service in times past, do one for me now, and I
shall be grateful to you ever after. Close Jove's keen eyes for me
in slumber while I hold him clasped in my embrace, and I will give you
a beautiful golden seat, that can never fall to pieces; my
clubfooted son Vulcan shall make it for you, and he shall give it a
footstool for you to rest your fair feet upon when you are at table."
Then Sleep answered, "Juno, great queen of goddesses, daughter of
mighty Saturn, I would lull any other of the gods to sleep without
compunction, not even excepting the waters of Oceanus from whom all of
them proceed, but I dare not go near Jove, nor send him to sleep
unless he bids me. I have had one lesson already through doing what
you asked me, on the day when Jove's mighty son Hercules set sail from
Ilius after having sacked the city of the Trojans. At your bidding I
suffused my sweet self over the mind of aegis-bearing Jove, and laid
him to rest; meanwhile you hatched a plot against Hercules, and set
the blasts of the angry winds beating upon the sea, till you took
him to the goodly city of Cos away from all his friends. Jove was
furious when he awoke, and began hurling the gods about all over the
house; he was looking more particularly for myself, and would have
flung me down through space into the sea where I should never have
been heard of any more, had not Night who cows both men and gods
protected me. I fled to her and Jove left off looking for me in
spite of his being so angry, for he did not dare do anything to
displease Night. And now you are again asking me to do something on
which I cannot venture."
And Juno said, "Sleep, why do you take such notions as those into
your head? Do you think Jove will be as anxious to help the Trojans,
as he was about his own son? Come, I will marry you to one of the
youngest of the Graces, and she shall be your own- Pasithea, whom
you have always wanted to marry."
Sleep was pleased when he heard this, and answered, "Then swear it
to me by the dread waters of the river Styx; lay one hand on the
bounteous earth, and the other on the sheen of the sea, so that all
the gods who dwell down below with Saturn may be our witnesses, and
see that you really do give me one of the youngest of the Graces-
Pasithea, whom I have always wanted to marry."
Juno did as he had said. She swore, and invoked all the gods of
the nether world, who are called Titans, to witness. When she had
completed her oath, the two enshrouded themselves in a thick mist
and sped lightly forward, leaving Lemnos and Imbrus behind them.
Presently they reached many-fountained Ida, mother of wild beasts, and
Lectum where they left the sea to go on by land, and the tops of the
trees of the forest soughed under the going of their feet. Here
Sleep halted, and ere Jove caught sight of him he climbed a lofty
pine-tree- the tallest that reared its head towards heaven on all Ida.
He hid himself behind the branches and sat there in the semblance of
the sweet-singing bird that haunts the mountains and is called Chalcis
by the gods, but men call it Cymindis. Juno then went to Gargarus, the
topmost peak of Ida, and Jove, driver of the clouds, set eyes upon
her. As soon as he did so he became inflamed with the same
passionate desire for her that he had felt when they had first enjoyed
each other's embraces, and slept with one another without their dear
parents knowing anything about it. He went up to her and said, "What
do you want that you have come hither from Olympus- and that too
with neither chariot nor horses to convey you?"
Then Juno told him a lying tale and said, "I am going to the world's
end, to visit Oceanus, from whom all we gods proceed, and mother
Tethys; they received me into their house, took care of me, and
brought me up. I must go and see them that I may make peace between
them: they have been quarrelling, and are so angry that they have
not slept with one another this long time. The horses that will take
me over land and sea are stationed on the lowermost spurs of
many-fountained Ida, and I have come here from Olympus on purpose to
consult you. I was afraid you might be angry with me later on, if I
went to the house of Oceanus without letting you know."
And Jove said, "Juno, you can choose some other time for paying your
visit to Oceanus- for the present let us devote ourselves to love
and to the enjoyment of one another. Never yet have I been so
overpowered by passion neither for goddess nor mortal woman as I am at
this moment for yourself- not even when I was in love with the wife of
Ixion who bore me Pirithous, peer of gods in counsel, nor yet with
Danae the daintily-ancled daughter of Acrisius, who bore me the
famed hero Perseus. Then there was the daughter of Phoenix, who bore
me Minos and Rhadamanthus: there was Semele, and Alcmena in Thebes
by whom I begot my lion-hearted son Hercules, while Semele became
mother to Bacchus the comforter of mankind. There was queen Ceres
again, and lovely Leto, and yourself- but with none of these was I
ever so much enamoured as I now am with you."
Juno again answered him with a lying tale. "Most dread son of
Saturn," she exclaimed, "what are you talking about? Would you have us
enjoy one another here on the top of Mount Ida, where everything can
be seen? What if one of the ever-living gods should see us sleeping
together, and tell the others? It would be such a scandal that when
I had risen from your embraces I could never show myself inside your
house again; but if you are so minded, there is a room which your
son Vulcan has made me, and he has given it good strong doors; if
you would so have it, let us go thither and lie down."
And Jove answered, "Juno, you need not be afraid that either god
or man will see you, for I will enshroud both of us in such a dense
golden cloud, that the very sun for all his bright piercing beams
shall not see through it."
With this the son of Saturn caught his wife in his embrace;
whereon the earth sprouted them a cushion of young grass, with
dew-bespangled lotus, crocus, and hyacinth, so soft and thick that
it raised them well above the ground. Here they laid themselves down
and overhead they were covered by a fair cloud of gold, from which
there fell glittering dew-drops.
Thus, then, did the sire of all things repose peacefully on the
crest of Ida, overcome at once by sleep and love, and he held his
spouse in his arms. Meanwhile Sleep made off to the ships of the
Achaeans, to tell earth-encircling Neptune, lord of the earthquake.
When he had found him he said, "Now, Neptune, you can help the Danaans
with a will, and give them victory though it be only for a short
time while Jove is still sleeping. I have sent him into a sweet
slumber, and Juno has beguiled him into going to bed with her."
Sleep now departed and went his ways to and fro among mankind,
leaving Neptune more eager than ever to help the Danaans. He darted
forward among the first ranks and shouted saying, "Argives, shall we
let Hector son of Priam have the triumph of taking our ships and
covering himself with glory? This is what he says that he shall now
do, seeing that Achilles is still in dudgeon at his ship; We shall get
on very well without him if we keep each other in heart and stand by
one another. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say. Let us each
take the best and largest shield we can lay hold of, put on our
helmets, and sally forth with our longest spears in our hands; will
lead you on, and Hector son of Priam, rage as he may, will not dare to
hold out against us. If any good staunch soldier has only a small
shield, let him hand it over to a worse man, and take a larger one for
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. The son of
Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon, wounded though they were, set the
others in array, and went about everywhere effecting the exchanges
of armour; the most valiant took the best armour, and gave the worse
to the worse man. When they had donned their bronze armour they
marched on with Neptune at their head. In his strong hand he grasped
his terrible sword, keen of edge and flashing like lightning; woe to
him who comes across it in the day of battle; all men quake for fear
and keep away from it.
Hector on the other side set the Trojans in array. Thereon Neptune
and Hector waged fierce war on one another- Hector on the Trojan and
Neptune on the Argive side. Mighty was the uproar as the two forces
met; the sea came rolling in towards the ships and tents of the
Achaeans, but waves do not thunder on the shore more loudly when
driven before the blast of Boreas, nor do the flames of a forest
fire roar more fiercely when it is well alight upon the mountains, nor
does the wind bellow with ruder music as it tears on through the
tops of when it is blowing its hardest, than the terrible shout
which the Trojans and Achaeans raised as they sprang upon one another.
Hector first aimed his spear at Ajax, who was turned full towards
him, nor did he miss his aim. The spear struck him where two bands
passed over his chest- the band of his shield and that of his
silver-studded sword- and these protected his body. Hector was angry
that his spear should have been hurled in vain, and withdrew under
cover of his men. As he was thus retreating, Ajax son of Telamon
struck him with a stone, of which there were many lying about under
the men's feet as they fought- brought there to give support to the
ships' sides as they lay on the shore. Ajax caught up one of them
and struck Hector above the rim of his shield close to his neck; the
blow made him spin round like a top and reel in all directions. As
an oak falls headlong when uprooted by the lightning flash of father
Jove, and there is a terrible smell of brimstone- no man can help
being dismayed if he is standing near it, for a thunderbolt is a
very awful thing- even so did Hector fall to earth and bite the
dust. His spear fell from his hand, but his shield and helmet were
made fast about his body, and his bronze armour rang about him.
The sons of the Achaeans came running with a loud cry towards him,
hoping to drag him away, and they showered their darts on the Trojans,
but none of them could wound him before he was surrounded and
covered by the princes Polydamas, Aeneas, Agenor, Sarpedon captain
of the Lycians, and noble Glaucus: of the others, too, there was not
one who was unmindful of him, and they held their round shields over
him to cover him. His comrades then lifted him off the ground and bore
him away from the battle to the place where his horses stood waiting
for him at the rear of the fight with their driver and the chariot;
these then took him towards the city groaning and in great pain.
When they reached the ford of the air stream of Xanthus, begotten of
Immortal Jove, they took him from off his chariot and laid him down on
the ground; they poured water over him, and as they did so he breathed
again and opened his eyes. Then kneeling on his knees he vomited
blood, but soon fell back on to the ground, and his eyes were again
closed in darkness for he was still sturined by the blow.
When the Argives saw Hector leaving the field, they took heart and
set upon the Trojans yet more furiously. Ajax fleet son of Oileus
began by springing on Satnius son of Enops and wounding him with his
spear: a fair naiad nymph had borne him to Enops as he was herding
cattle by the banks of the river Satnioeis. The son of Oileus came
up to him and struck him in the flank so that he fell, and a fierce
fight between Trojans and Danaans raged round his body. Polydamas
son of Panthous drew near to avenge him, and wounded Prothoenor son of
Areilycus on the right shoulder; the terrible spear went right through
his shoulder, and he clutched the earth as he fell in the dust.
Polydamas vaunted loudly over him saying, "Again I take it that the
spear has not sped in vain from the strong hand of the son of
Panthous; an Argive has caught it in his body, and it will serve him
for a staff as he goes down into the house of Hades."
The Argives were maddened by this boasting. Ajax son of Telamon
was more angry than any, for the man had fallen close be, him; so he
aimed at Polydamas as he was retreating, but Polydamas saved himself
by swerving aside and the spear struck Archelochus son of Antenor, for
heaven counselled his destruction; it struck him where the head
springs from the neck at the top joint of the spine, and severed
both the tendons at the back of the head. His head, mouth, and
nostrils reached the ground long before his legs and knees could do
so, and Ajax shouted to Polydamas saying, "Think, Polydamas, and
tell me truly whether this man is not as well worth killing as
Prothoenor was: he seems rich, and of rich family, a brother, it may
be, or son of the knight Antenor, for he is very like him."
But he knew well who it was, and the Trojans were greatly angered.
Acamas then bestrode his brother's body and wounded Promachus the
Boeotian with his spear, for he was trying to drag his brother's
body away. Acamas vaunted loudly over him saying, "Argive archers,
braggarts that you are, toil and suffering shall not be for us only,
but some of you too shall fall here as well as ourselves. See how
Promachus now sleeps, vanquished by my spear; payment for my brother's
blood has not long delayed; a man, therefore, may well be thankful
if he leaves a kinsman in his house behind him to avenge his fall."
His taunts infuriated the Argives, and Peneleos was more enraged
than any of them. He sprang towards Acamas, but Acamas did not stand
his ground, and he killed Ilioneus son of the rich flock-master
Phorbas, whom Mercury had favoured and endowed with greater wealth
than any other of the Trojans. Ilioneus was his only son, and Peneleos
now wounded him in the eye under his eyebrows, tearing the eye-ball
from its socket: the spear went right through the eye into the nape of
the neck, and he fell, stretching out both hands before him.
Peneleos then drew his sword and smote him on the neck, so that both
head and helmet came tumbling down to the ground with the spear
still sticking in the eye; he then held up the head, as though it
had been a poppy-head, and showed it to the Trojans, vaunting over
them as he did so. "Trojans," he cried, "bid the father and mother
of noble Ilioneus make moan for him in their house, for the wife
also of Promachus son of Alegenor will never be gladdened by the
coming of her dear husband- when we Argives return with our ships from
As he spoke fear fell upon them, and every man looked round about to
see whither he might fly for safety.
Tell me now, O Muses that dwell on Olympus, who was the first of the
Argives to bear away blood-stained spoils after Neptune lord of the
earthquake had turned the fortune of war. Ajax son of Telamon was
first to wound Hyrtius son of Gyrtius, captain of the staunch Mysians.
Antilochus killed Phalces and Mermerus, while Meriones slew Morys
and Hippotion, Teucer also killed Prothoon and Periphetes. The son
of Atreus then wounded Hyperenor shepherd of his people, in the flank,
and the bronze point made his entrails gush out as it tore in among
them; on this his life came hurrying out of him at the place where
he had been wounded, and his eyes were closed in darkness. Ajax son of
Oileus killed more than any other, for there was no man so fleet as he
to pursue flying foes when Jove had spread panic among them.
The Iliad: Book 8
Now when Morning, clad in her robe of saffron, had begun to suffuse
light over the earth, Jove called the gods in council on the topmost
crest of serrated Olympus. Then he spoke and all the other gods gave
ear. "Hear me," said he, "gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as
I am minded. Let none of you neither goddess nor god try to cross
me, but obey me every one of you that I may bring this matter to an
end. If I see anyone acting apart and helping either Trojans or
Danaans, he shall be beaten inordinately ere he come back again to
Olympus; or I will hurl him down into dark Tartarus far into the
deepest pit under the earth, where the gates are iron and the floor
bronze, as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth, that
you may learn how much the mightiest I am among you. Try me and find
out for yourselves. Hangs me a golden chain from heaven, and lay
hold of it all of you, gods and goddesses together- tug as you will,
you will not drag Jove the supreme counsellor from heaven to earth;
but were I to pull at it myself I should draw you up with earth and
sea into the bargain, then would I bind the chain about some
pinnacle of Olympus and leave you all dangling in the mid firmament.
So far am I above all others either of gods or men."
They were frightened and all of them of held their peace, for he had
spoken masterfully; but at last Minerva answered, "Father, son of
Saturn, king of kings, we all know that your might is not to be
gainsaid, but we are also sorry for the Danaan warriors, who are
perishing and coming to a bad end. We will, however, since you so
bid us, refrain from actual fighting, but we will make serviceable
suggestions to the Argives that they may not all of them perish in
Jove smiled at her and answered, "Take heart, my child,
Trito-born; I am not really in earnest, and I wish to be kind to you."
With this he yoked his fleet horses, with hoofs of bronze and
manes of glittering gold. He girded himself also with gold about the
body, seized his gold whip and took his seat in his chariot. Thereon
he lashed his horses and they flew forward nothing loth midway twixt
earth and starry heaven. After a while he reached many-fountained Ida,
mother of wild beasts, and Gargarus, where are his grove and
fragrant altar. There the father of gods and men stayed his horses,
took them from the chariot, and hid them in a thick cloud; then he
took his seat all glorious upon the topmost crests, looking down
upon the city of Troy and the ships of the Achaeans.
The Achaeans took their morning meal hastily at the ships, and
afterwards put on their armour. The Trojans on the other hand likewise
armed themselves throughout the city, fewer in numbers but
nevertheless eager perforce to do battle for their wives and children.
All the gates were flung wide open, and horse and foot sallied forth
with the tramp as of a great multitude.
When they were got together in one place, shield clashed with
shield, and spear with spear, in the conflict of mail-clad men. Mighty
was the din as the bossed shields pressed hard on one another-
death- cry and shout of triumph of slain and slayers, and the earth
ran red with blood.
Now so long as the day waxed and it was still morning their
weapons beat against one another, and the people fell, but when the
sun had reached mid-heaven, the sire of all balanced his golden
scales, and put two fates of death within them, one for the Trojans
and the other for the Achaeans. He took the balance by the middle, and
when he lifted it up the day of the Achaeans sank; the death-fraught
scale of the Achaeans settled down upon the ground, while that of
the Trojans rose heavenwards. Then he thundered aloud from Ida, and
sent the glare of his lightning upon the Achaeans; when they saw this,
pale fear fell upon them and they were sore afraid.
Idomeneus dared not stay nor yet Agamemnon, nor did the two
Ajaxes, servants of Mars, hold their ground. Nestor knight of Gerene
alone stood firm, bulwark of the Achaeans, not of his own will, but
one of his horses was disabled. Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen had
hit it with an arrow just on the top of its head where the mane begins
to grow away from the skull, a very deadly place. The horse bounded in
his anguish as the arrow pierced his brain, and his struggles threw
others into confusion. The old man instantly began cutting the
traces with his sword, but Hector's fleet horses bore down upon him
through the rout with their bold charioteer, even Hector himself,
and the old man would have perished there and then had not Diomed been
quick to mark, and with a loud cry called Ulysses to help him.
"Ulysses," he cried, "noble son of Laertes where are you flying
to, with your back turned like a coward? See that you are not struck
with a spear between the shoulders. Stay here and help me to defend
Nestor from this man's furious onset."
Ulysses would not give ear, but sped onward to the ships of the
Achaeans, and the son of Tydeus flinging himself alone into the
thick of the fight took his stand before the horses of the son of
Neleus. "Sir," said he, "these young warriors are pressing you hard,
your force is spent, and age is heavy upon you, your squire is naught,
and your horses are slow to move. Mount my chariot and see what the
horses of Tros can do- how cleverly they can scud hither and thither
over the plain either in flight or in pursuit. I took them from the
hero Aeneas. Let our squires attend to your own steeds, but let us
drive mine straight at the Trojans, that Hector may learn how
furiously I too can wield my spear."
Nestor knight of Gerene hearkened to his words. Thereon the
doughty squires, Sthenelus and kind-hearted Eurymedon, saw to Nestor's
horses, while the two both mounted Diomed's chariot. Nestor took the
reins in his hands and lashed the horses on; they were soon close up
with Hector, and the son of Tydeus aimed a spear at him as he was
charging full speed towards them. He missed him, but struck his
charioteer and squire Eniopeus son of noble Thebaeus in the breast
by the nipple while the reins were in his hands, so that he died there
and then, and the horses swerved as he fell headlong from the chariot.
Hector was greatly grieved at the loss of his charioteer, but let
him lie for all his sorrow, while he went in quest of another
driver; nor did his steeds have to go long without one, for he
presently found brave Archeptolemus the son of Iphitus, and made him
get up behind the horses, giving the reins into his hand.
All had then been lost and no help for it, for they would have
been penned up in Ilius like sheep, had not the sire of gods and men
been quick to mark, and hurled a fiery flaming thunderbolt which
fell just in front of Diomed's horses with a flare of burning
brimstone. The horses were frightened and tried to back beneath the
car, while the reins dropped from Nestor's hands. Then he was afraid
and said to Diomed, "Son of Tydeus, turn your horses in flight; see
you not that the hand of Jove is against you? To-day he vouchsafes
victory to Hector; to-morrow, if it so please him, he will again grant
it to ourselves; no man, however brave, may thwart the purpose of
Jove, for he is far stronger than any."
Diomed answered, "All that you have said is true; there is a grief
however which pierces me to the very heart, for Hector will talk among
the Trojans and say, 'The son of Tydeus fled before me to the
ships.' This is the vaunt he will make, and may earth then swallow
"Son of Tydeus," replied Nestor, "what mean you? Though Hector say
that you are a coward the Trojans and Dardanians will not believe him,
nor yet the wives of the mighty warriors whom you have laid low."
So saying he turned the horses back through the thick of the battle,
and with a cry that rent the air the Trojans and Hector rained their
darts after them. Hector shouted to him and said, "Son of Tydeus,
the Danaans have done you honour hitherto as regards your place at
table, the meals they give you, and the filling of your cup with wine.
Henceforth they will despise you, for you are become no better than
a woman. Be off, girl and coward that you are, you shall not scale our
walls through any Hinching upon my part; neither shall you carry off
our wives in your ships, for I shall kill you with my own hand."
The son of Tydeus was in two minds whether or no to turn his
horses round again and fight him. Thrice did he doubt, and thrice
did Jove thunder from the heights of. Ida in token to the Trojans that
he would turn the battle in their favour. Hector then shouted to
them and said, "Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanians, lovers of close
fighting, be men, my friends, and fight with might and with main; I
see that Jove is minded to vouchsafe victory and great glory to
myself, while he will deal destruction upon the Danaans. Fools, for
having thought of building this weak and worthless wall. It shall
not stay my fury; my horses will spring lightly over their trench, and
when I am BOOK at their ships forget not to bring me fire that I may
burn them, while I slaughter the Argives who will be all dazed and
bewildered by the smoke."
Then he cried to his horses, "Xanthus and Podargus, and you Aethon
and goodly Lampus, pay me for your keep now and for all the
honey-sweet corn with which Andromache daughter of great Eetion has
fed you, and for she has mixed wine and water for you to drink
whenever you would, before doing so even for me who am her own
husband. Haste in pursuit, that we may take the shield of Nestor,
the fame of which ascends to heaven, for it is of solid gold, arm-rods
and all, and that we may strip from the shoulders of Diomed. the
cuirass which Vulcan made him. Could we take these two things, the
Achaeans would set sail in their ships this self-same night."
Thus did he vaunt, but Queen Juno made high Olympus quake as she
shook with rage upon her throne. Then said she to the mighty god of
Neptune, "What now, wide ruling lord of the earthquake? Can you find
no compassion in your heart for the dying Danaans, who bring you
many a welcome offering to Helice and to Aegae? Wish them well then.
If all of us who are with the Danaans were to drive the Trojans back
and keep Jove from helping them, he would have to sit there sulking
alone on Ida."
King Neptune was greatly troubled and answered, "Juno, rash of
tongue, what are you talking about? We other gods must not set
ourselves against Jove, for he is far stronger than we are."
Thus did they converse; but the whole space enclosed by the ditch,
from the ships even to the wall, was filled with horses and
warriors, who were pent up there by Hector son of Priam, now that
the hand of Jove was with him. He would even have set fire to the
ships and burned them, had not Queen Juno put it into the mind of
Agamemnon, to bestir himself and to encourage the Achaeans. To this
end he went round the ships and tents carrying a great purple cloak,
and took his stand by the huge black hull of Ulysses' ship, which
was middlemost of all; it was from this place that his voice would
carry farthest, on the one hand towards the tents of Ajax son of
Telamon, and on the other towards those of Achilles- for these two
heroes, well assured of their own strength, had valorously drawn up
their ships at the two ends of the line. From this spot then, with a
voice that could be heard afar, he shouted to the Danaans, saying,
"Argives, shame on you cowardly creatures, brave in semblance only;
where are now our vaunts that we should prove victorious- the vaunts
we made so vaingloriously in Lemnos, when we ate the flesh of horned
cattle and filled our mixing-bowls to the brim? You vowed that you
would each of you stand against a hundred or two hundred men, and
now you prove no match even for one- for Hector, who will be ere
long setting our ships in a blaze. Father Jove, did you ever so ruin a
great king and rob him so utterly of his greatness? yet, when to my
sorrow I was coming hither, I never let my ship pass your altars
without offering the fat and thigh-bones of heifers upon every one
of them, so eager was I to sack the city of Troy. Vouchsafe me then
this prayer- suffer us to escape at any rate with our lives, and let
not the Achaeans be so utterly vanquished by the Trojans."
Thus did he pray, and father Jove pitying his tears vouchsafed him
that his people should live, not die; forthwith he sent them an eagle,
most unfailingly portentous of all birds, with a young fawn in its
talons; the eagle dropped the fawn by the altar on which the
Achaeans sacrificed to Jove the lord of omens; When, therefore, the
people saw that the bird had come from Jove, they sprang more fiercely
upon the Trojans and fought more boldly.
There was no man of all the many Danaans who could then boast that
he had driven his horses over the trench and gone forth to fight
sooner than the son of Tydeus; long before any one else could do so he
slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Agelaus the son of Phradmon.
He had turned his horses in flight, but the spear struck him in the
back midway between his shoulders and went right through his chest,
and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell forward from his
After him came Agamemnon and Menelaus, sons of Atreus, the two
Ajaxes clothed in valour as with a garment, Idomeneus and his
companion in arms Meriones, peer of murderous Mars, and Eurypylus
the brave son of Euaemon. Ninth came Teucer with his bow, and took his
place under cover of the shield of Ajax son of Telamon. When Ajax
lifted his shield Teucer would peer round, and when he had hit any one
in the throng, the man would fall dead; then Teucer would hie back
to Ajax as a child to its mother, and again duck down under his
Which of the Trojans did brave Teucer first kill? Orsilochus, and
then Ormenus and Ophelestes, Daetor, Chromius, and godlike
Lycophontes, Amopaon son of Polyaemon, and Melanippus. these in turn
did he lay low upon the earth, and King Agamemnon was glad when he saw
him making havoc of the Trojans with his mighty bow. He went up to him
and said, "Teucer, man after my own heart, son of Telamon, captain
among the host, shoot on, and be at once the saving of the Danaans and
the glory of your father Telamon, who brought you up and took care
of you in his own house when you were a child, bastard though you
were. Cover him with glory though he is far off; I will promise and
I will assuredly perform; if aegis-bearing Jove and Minerva grant me
to sack the city of Ilius, you shall have the next best meed of honour
after my own- a tripod, or two horses with their chariot, or a woman
who shall go up into your bed."
And Teucer answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, you need not urge
me; from the moment we began to drive them back to Ilius, I have never
ceased so far as in me lies to look out for men whom I can shoot and
kill; I have shot eight barbed shafts, and all of them have been
buried in the flesh of warlike youths, but this mad dog I cannot hit."
As he spoke he aimed another arrow straight at Hector, for he was
bent on hitting him; nevertheless he missed him, and the arrow hit
Priam's brave son Gorgythion in the breast. His mother, fair
Castianeira, lovely as a goddess, had been married from Aesyme, and
now he bowed his head as a garden poppy in full bloom when it is
weighed down by showers in spring- even thus heavy bowed his head
beneath the weight of his helmet.
Again he aimed at Hector, for he was longing to hit him, and again
his arrow missed, for Apollo turned it aside; but he hit Hector's
brave charioteer Archeptolemus in the breast, by the nipple, as he was
driving furiously into the fight. The horses swerved aside as he
fell headlong from the chariot, and there was no life left in him.
Hector was greatly grieved at the loss of his charioteer, but for
all his sorrow he let him lie where he fell, and bade his brother
Cebriones, who was hard by, take the reins. Cebriones did as he had
said. Hector thereon with a loud cry sprang from his chariot to the
ground, and seizing a great stone made straight for Teucer with intent
kill him. Teucer had just taken an arrow from his quiver and had
laid it upon the bow-string, but Hector struck him with the jagged
stone as he was taking aim and drawing the string to his shoulder;
he hit him just where the collar-bone divides the neck from the chest,
a very deadly place, and broke the sinew of his arm so that his
wrist was less, and the bow dropped from his hand as he fell forward
on his knees. Ajax saw that his brother had fallen, and running
towards him bestrode him and sheltered him with his shield.
Meanwhile his two trusty squires, Mecisteus son of Echius, and
Alastor, came up and bore him to the ships groaning in his great pain.
glad when he saw
Jove now again put heart into the Trojans, and they drove the
Achaeans to their deep trench with Hector in all his glory at their
head. As a hound grips a wild boar or lion in flank or buttock when he
gives him chase, and watches warily for his wheeling, even so did
Hector follow close upon the Achaeans, ever killing the hindmost as
they rushed panic-stricken onwards. When they had fled through the set
stakes and trench and many Achaeans had been laid low at the hands
of the Trojans, they halted at their ships, calling upon one another
and praying every man instantly as they lifted up their hands to the
gods; but Hector wheeled his horses this way and that, his eyes
glaring like those of Gorgo or murderous Mars.
Juno when she saw them had pity upon them, and at once said to
Minerva, "Alas, child of aegis-bearing Jove, shall you and I take no
more thought for the dying Danaans, though it be the last time we ever
do so? See how they perish and come to a bad end before the onset of
but a single man. Hector the son of Priam rages with intolerable fury,
and has already done great mischief."
Minerva answered, "Would, indeed, this fellow might die in his own
land, and fall by the hands of the Achaeans; but my father Jove is mad
with spleen, ever foiling me, ever headstrong and unjust. He forgets
how often I saved his son when he was worn out by the labours
Eurystheus had laid on him. He would weep till his cry came up to
heaven, and then Jove would send me down to help him; if I had had the
sense to foresee all this, when Eurystheus sent him to the house of
Hades, to fetch the hell-hound from Erebus, he would never have come
back alive out of the deep waters of the river Styx. And now Jove
hates me, while he lets Thetis have her way because she kissed his
knees and took hold of his beard, when she was begging him to do
honour to Achilles. I shall know what to do next time he begins
calling me his grey-eyed darling. Get our horses ready, while I go
within the house of aegis-bearing Jove and put on my armour; we
shall then find out whether Priam's son Hector will be glad to meet us
in the highways of battle, or whether the Trojans will glut hounds and
vultures with the fat of their flesh as they he dead by the ships of
Thus did she speak and white-armed Juno, daughter of great Saturn,
obeyed her words; she set about harnessing her gold-bedizened
steeds, while Minerva daughter of aegis-bearing Jove flung her
richly vesture, made with her own hands, on to the threshold of her
father, and donned the shirt of Jove, arming herself for battle.
Then she stepped into her flaming chariot, and grasped the spear so
stout and sturdy and strong with which she quells the ranks of
heroes who have displeased her. Juno lashed her horses, and the
gates of heaven bellowed as they flew open of their own accord-
gates over which the Hours preside, in whose hands are heaven and
Olympus, either to open the dense cloud that hides them or to close
it. Through these the goddesses drove their obedient steeds.
But father Jove when he saw them from Ida was very angry, and sent
winged Iris with a message to them. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, turn
them back, and see that they do not come near me, for if we come to
fighting there will be mischief. This is what I say, and this is
what I mean to do. I will lame their horses for them; I will hurl them
from their chariot, and will break it in pieces. It will take them all
ten years to heal the wounds my lightning shall inflict upon them;
my grey-eyed daughter will then learn what quarrelling with her father
means. I am less surprised and angry with Juno, for whatever I say she
always contradicts me."
With this Iris went her way, fleet as the wind, from the heights
of Ida to the lofty summits of Olympus. She met the goddesses at the
outer gates of its many valleys and gave them her message. "What,"
said she, "are you about? Are you mad? The son of Saturn forbids
going. This is what he says, and this is he means to do, he will
lame your horses for you, he will hurl you from your chariot, and will
break it in pieces. It will take you all ten years to heal the
wounds his lightning will inflict upon you, that you may learn,
grey-eyed goddess, what quarrelling with your father means. He is less
hurt and angry with Juno, for whatever he says she always
contradicts him but you, bold bold hussy, will you really dare to
raise your huge spear in defiance of Jove?"
With this she left them, and Juno said to Minerva, "Of a truth,
child of aegis-bearing Jove, I am not for fighting men's battles
further in defiance of Jove. Let them live or die as luck will have
it, and let Jove mete out his judgements upon the Trojans and
Danaans according to his own pleasure."
She turned her steeds; the Hours presently unyoked them, made them
fast to their ambrosial mangers, and leaned the chariot against the
end wall of the courtyard. The two goddesses then sat down upon
their golden thrones, amid the company of the other gods; but they
were very angry.
Presently father Jove drove his chariot to Olympus, and entered
the assembly of gods. The mighty lord of the earthquake unyoked his
horses for him, set the car upon its stand, and threw a cloth over it.
Jove then sat down upon his golden throne and Olympus reeled beneath
him. Minerva and Juno sat alone, apart from Jove, and neither spoke
nor asked him questions, but Jove knew what they meant, and said,
"Minerva and Juno, why are you so angry? Are you fatigued with killing
so many of your dear friends the Trojans? Be this as it may, such is
the might of my hands that all the gods in Olympus cannot turn me; you
were both of you trembling all over ere ever you saw the fight and its
terrible doings. I tell you therefore-and it would have surely been- I
should have struck you with lighting, and your chariots would never
have brought you back again to Olympus."
Minerva and Juno groaned in spirit as they sat side by side and
brooded mischief for the Trojans. Minerva sat silent without a word,
for she was in a furious passion and bitterly incensed against her
father; but Juno could not contain herself and said, "What, dread
son of Saturn, are you talking about? We know how great your power is,
nevertheless we have compassion upon the Danaan warriors who are
perishing and coming to a bad end. We will, however, since you so
bid us, refrain from actual fighting, but we will make serviceable
suggestions to the Argives, that they may not all of them perish in
And Jove answered, "To-morrow morning, Juno, if you choose to do so,
you will see the son of Saturn destroying large numbers of the
Argives, for fierce Hector shall not cease fighting till he has roused
the son of Peleus when they are fighting in dire straits at their
ships' sterns about the body of Patroclus. Like it or no, this is
how it is decreed; for aught I care, you may go to the lowest depths
beneath earth and sea, where Iapetus and Saturn dwell in lone Tartarus
with neither ray of light nor breath of wind to cheer them. You may go
on and on till you get there, and I shall not care one whit for your
displeasure; you are the greatest vixen living."
Juno made him no answer. The sun's glorious orb now sank into
Oceanus and drew down night over the land. Sorry indeed were the
Trojans when light failed them, but welcome and thrice prayed for
did darkness fall upon the Achaeans.
Then Hector led the Trojans back from the ships, and held a
council on the open space near the river, where there was a spot ear
corpses. They left their chariots and sat down on the ground to hear
the speech he made them. He grasped a spear eleven cubits long, the
bronze point of which gleamed in front of it, while the ring round the
spear-head was of gold Spear in hand he spoke. "Hear me," said he,
"Trojans, Dardanians, and allies. I deemed but now that I should
destroy the ships and all the Achaeans with them ere I went back to
Ilius, but darkness came on too soon. It was this alone that saved
them and their ships upon the seashore. Now, therefore, let us obey
the behests of night, and prepare our suppers. Take your horses out of
their chariots and give them their feeds of corn; then make speed to
bring sheep and cattle from the city; bring wine also and corn for
your horses and gather much wood, that from dark till dawn we may burn
watchfires whose flare may reach to heaven. For the Achaeans may try
to fly beyond the sea by night, and they must not embark scatheless
and unmolested; many a man among them must take a dart with him to
nurse at home, hit with spear or arrow as he is leaping on board his
ship, that others may fear to bring war and weeping upon the
Trojans. Moreover let the heralds tell it about the city that the
growing youths and grey-bearded men are to camp upon its
heaven-built walls. Let the women each of them light a great fire in
her house, and let watch be safely kept lest the town be entered by
surprise while the host is outside. See to it, brave Trojans, as I
have said, and let this suffice for the moment; at daybreak I will
instruct you further. I pray in hope to Jove and to the gods that we
may then drive those fate-sped hounds from our land, for 'tis the
fates that have borne them and their ships hither. This night,
therefore, let us keep watch, but with early morning let us put on our
armour and rouse fierce war at the ships of the Achaeans; I shall then
know whether brave Diomed the son of Tydeus will drive me back from
the ships to the wall, or whether I shall myself slay him and carry
off his bloodstained spoils. To-morrow let him show his mettle,
abide my spear if he dare. I ween that at break of day, he shall be
among the first to fall and many another of his comrades round him.
Would that I were as sure of being immortal and never growing old, and
of being worshipped like Minerva and Apollo, as I am that this day
will bring evil to the Argives."
Thus spoke Hector and the Trojans shouted applause. They took
their sweating steeds from under the yoke, and made them fast each
by his own chariot. They made haste to bring sheep and cattle from the
city, they brought wine also and corn from their houses and gathered
much wood. They then offered unblemished hecatombs to the immortals,
and the wind carried the sweet savour of sacrifice to heaven- but
the blessed gods partook not thereof, for they bitterly hated Ilius
with Priam and Priam's people. Thus high in hope they sat through
the livelong night by the highways of war, and many a watchfire did
they kindle. As when the stars shine clear, and the moon is bright-
there is not a breath of air, not a peak nor glade nor jutting
headland but it stands out in the ineffable radiance that breaks
from the serene of heaven; the stars can all of them be told and the
heart of the shepherd is glad- even thus shone the watchfires of the
Trojans before Ilius midway between the ships and the river Xanthus. A
thousand camp-fires gleamed upon the plain, and in the glow of each
there sat fifty men, while the horses, champing oats and corn beside
their chariots, waited till dawn should come.
The Iliad: Book 10
Now the other princes of the Achaeans slept soundly the whole
night through, but Agamemnon son of Atreus was troubled, so that he
could get no rest. As when fair Juno's lord flashes his lightning in
token of great rain or hail or snow when the snow-flakes whiten the
ground, or again as a sign that he will open the wide jaws of hungry
war, even so did Agamemnon heave many a heavy sigh, for his soul
trembled within him. When he looked upon the plain of Troy he
marvelled at the many watchfires burning in front of Ilius, and at the
sound of pipes and flutes and of the hum of men, but when presently he
turned towards the ships and hosts of the Achaeans, he tore his hair
by handfuls before Jove on high, and groaned aloud for the very
disquietness of his soul. In the end he deemed it best to go at once
to Nestor son of Neleus, and see if between them they could find any
way of the Achaeans from destruction. He therefore rose, put on his
shirt, bound his sandals about his comely feet, flung the skin of a
huge tawny lion over his shoulders- a skin that reached his feet-
and took his spear in his hand.
Neither could Menelaus sleep, for he, too, boded ill for the Argives
who for his sake had sailed from far over the seas to fight the
Trojans. He covered his broad back with the skin of a spotted panther,
put a casque of bronze upon his head, and took his spear in his brawny
hand. Then he went to rouse his brother, who was by far the most
powerful of the Achaeans, and was honoured by the people as though
he were a god. He found him by the stern of his ship already putting
his goodly array about his shoulders, and right glad was he that his
brother had come.
Menelaus spoke first. "Why," said he, "my dear brother, are you thus
arming? Are you going to send any of our comrades to exploit the
Trojans? I greatly fear that no one will do you this service, and
spy upon the enemy alone in the dead of night. It will be a deed of
And King Agamemnon answered, "Menelaus, we both of us need shrewd
counsel to save the Argives and our ships, for Jove has changed his
mind, and inclines towards Hector's sacrifices rather than ours. I
never saw nor heard tell of any man as having wrought such ruin in one
day as Hector has now wrought against the sons of the Achaeans- and
that too of his own unaided self, for he is son neither to god nor
goddess. The Argives will rue it long and deeply. Run, therefore, with
all speed by the line of the ships, and call Ajax and Idomeneus.
Meanwhile I will go to Nestor, and bid him rise and go about among the
companies of our sentinels to give them their instructions; they
will listen to him sooner than to any man, for his own son, and
Meriones brother in arms to Idomeneus, are captains over them. It
was to them more particularly that we gave this charge."
Menelaus replied, "How do I take your meaning? Am I to stay with
them and wait your coming, or shall I return here as soon as I have
given your orders?" "Wait," answered King Agamemnon, "for there are so
many paths about the camp that we might miss one another. Call every
man on your way, and bid him be stirring; name him by his lineage
and by his father's name, give each all titular observance, and
stand not too much upon your own dignity; we must take our full
share of toil, for at our birth Jove laid this heavy burden upon us."
With these instructions he sent his brother on his way, and went
on to Nestor shepherd of his people. He found him sleeping in his tent
hard by his own ship; his goodly armour lay beside him- his shield,
his two spears and his helmet; beside him also lay the gleaming girdle
with which the old man girded himself when he armed to lead his people
into battle- for his age stayed him not. He raised himself on his
elbow and looked up at Agamemnon. "Who is it," said he, "that goes
thus about the host and the ships alone and in the dead of night, when
men are sleeping? Are you looking for one of your mules or for some
comrade? Do not stand there and say nothing, but speak. What is your
And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, son of Neleus, honour to the
Achaean name, it is I, Agamemnon son of Atreus, on whom Jove has
laid labour and sorrow so long as there is breath in my body and my
limbs carry me. I am thus abroad because sleep sits not upon my
eyelids, but my heart is big with war and with the jeopardy of the
Achaeans. I am in great fear for the Danaans. I am at sea, and without
sure counsel; my heart beats as though it would leap out of my body,
and my limbs fail me. If then you can do anything- for you too
cannot sleep- let us go the round of the watch, and see whether they
are drowsy with toil and sleeping to the neglect of their duty. The
enemy is encamped hard and we know not but he may attack us by night."
Nestor replied, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon,
Jove will not do all for Hector that Hector thinks he will; he will
have troubles yet in plenty if Achilles will lay aside his anger. I
will go with you, and we will rouse others, either the son of
Tydeus, or Ulysses, or fleet Ajax and the valiant son of Phyleus. Some
one had also better go and call Ajax and King Idomeneus, for their
ships are not near at hand but the farthest of all. I cannot however
refrain from blaming Menelaus, much as I love him and respect him- and
I will say so plainly, even at the risk of offending you- for sleeping
and leaving all this trouble to yourself. He ought to be going about
imploring aid from all the princes of the Achaeans, for we are in
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, you may sometimes blame him justly,
for he is often remiss and unwilling to exert himself- not indeed from
sloth, nor yet heedlessness, but because he looks to me and expects me
to take the lead. On this occasion, however, he was awake before I
was, and came to me of his own accord. I have already sent him to call
the very men whom you have named. And now let us be going. We shall
find them with the watch outside the gates, for it was there I said
that we would meet them."
"In that case," answered Nestor, "the Argives will not blame him nor
disobey his orders when he urges them to fight or gives them
With this he put on his shirt, and bound his sandals about his
comely feet. He buckled on his purple coat, of two thicknesses, large,
and of a rough shaggy texture, grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod
spear, and wended his way along the line of the Achaean ships. First
he called loudly to Ulysses peer of gods in counsel and woke him,
for he was soon roused by the sound of the battle-cry. He came outside
his tent and said, "Why do you go thus alone about the host, and along
the line of the ships in the stillness of the night? What is it that
you find so urgent?" And Nestor knight of Gerene answered, "Ulysses,
noble son of Laertes, take it not amiss, for the Achaeans are in great
straits. Come with me and let us wake some other, who may advise
well with us whether we shall fight or fly."
On this Ulysses went at once into his tent, put his shield about his
shoulders and came out with them. First they went to Diomed son of
Tydeus, and found him outside his tent clad in his armour with his
comrades sleeping round him and using their shields as pillows; as for
their spears, they stood upright on the spikes of their butts that
were driven into the ground, and the burnished bronze flashed afar
like the lightning of father Jove. The hero was sleeping upon the skin
of an ox, with a piece of fine carpet under his head; Nestor went up
to him and stirred him with his heel to rouse him, upbraiding him
and urging him to bestir himself. "Wake up," he exclaimed, "son of
Tydeus. How can you sleep on in this way? Can you not see that the
Trojans are encamped on the brow of the plain hard by our ships,
with but a little space between us and them?"
On these words Diomed leaped up instantly and said, "Old man, your
heart is of iron; you rest not one moment from your labours. Are there
no younger men among the Achaeans who could go about to rouse the
princes? There is no tiring you."
And Nestor knight of Gerene made answer, "My son, all that you
have said is true. I have good sons, and also much people who might
call the chieftains, but the Achaeans are in the gravest danger;
life and death are balanced as it were on the edge of a razor. Go
then, for you are younger than I, and of your courtesy rouse Ajax
and the fleet son of Phyleus."
Diomed threw the skin of a great tawny lion about his shoulders- a
skin that reached his feet- and grasped his spear. When he had
roused the heroes, he brought them back with him; they then went the
round of those who were on guard, and found the captains not
sleeping at their posts but wakeful and sitting with their arms
about them. As sheep dogs that watch their flocks when they are
yarded, and hear a wild beast coming through the mountain forest
towards them- forthwith there is a hue and cry of dogs and men, and
slumber is broken- even so was sleep chased from the eyes of the
Achaeans as they kept the watches of the wicked night, for they turned
constantly towards the plain whenever they heard any stir among the
Trojans. The old man was glad bade them be of good cheer. "Watch on,
my children," said he, "and let not sleep get hold upon you, lest
our enemies triumph over us."
With this he passed the trench, and with him the other chiefs of the
Achaeans who had been called to the council. Meriones and the brave
son of Nestor went also, for the princes bade them. When they were
beyond the trench that was dug round the wall they held their
meeting on the open ground where there was a space clear of corpses,
for it was here that when night fell Hector had turned back from his
onslaught on the Argives. They sat down, therefore, and held debate
with one another.
Nestor spoke first. "My friends," said he, "is there any man bold
enough to venture the Trojans, and cut off some straggler, or us
news of what the enemy mean to do whether they will stay here by the
ships away from the city, or whether, now that they have worsted the
Achaeans, they will retire within their walls. If he could learn all
this and come back safely here, his fame would be high as heaven in
the mouths of all men, and he would be rewarded richly; for the chiefs
from all our ships would each of them give him a black ewe with her
lamb- which is a present of surpassing value- and he would be asked as
a guest to all feasts and clan-gatherings."
They all held their peace, but Diomed of the loud war-cry spoke
saying, "Nestor, gladly will I visit the host of the Trojans over
against us, but if another will go with me I shall do so in greater
confidence and comfort. When two men are together, one of them may see
some opportunity which the other has not caught sight of; if a man
is alone he is less full of resource, and his wit is weaker."
On this several offered to go with Diomed. The two Ajaxes,
servants of Mars, Meriones, and the son of Nestor all wanted to go, so
did Menelaus son of Atreus; Ulysses also wished to go among the host
of the Trojans, for he was ever full of daring, and thereon
Agamemnon king of men spoke thus: "Diomed," said he, "son of Tydeus,
man after my own heart, choose your comrade for yourself- take the
best man of those that have offered, for many would now go with you.
Do not through delicacy reject the better man, and take the worst
out of respect for his lineage, because he is of more royal blood."
He said this because he feared for Menelaus. Diomed answered, "If
you bid me take the man of my own choice, how in that case can I
fail to think of Ulysses, than whom there is no man more eager to face
all kinds of danger- and Pallas Minerva loves him well? If he were
to go with me we should pass safely through fire itself, for he is
quick to see and understand."
"Son of Tydeus," replied Ulysses, "say neither good nor ill about
me, for you are among Argives who know me well. Let us be going, for
the night wanes and dawn is at hand. The stars have gone forward,
two-thirds of the night are already spent, and the third is alone left
They then put on their armour. Brave Thrasymedes provided the son of
Tydeus with a sword and a shield (for he had left his own at his ship)
and on his head he set a helmet of bull's hide without either peak
or crest; it is called a skull-cap and is a common headgear.
Meriones found a bow and quiver for Ulysses, and on his head he set
a leathern helmet that was lined with a strong plaiting of leathern
thongs, while on the outside it was thickly studded with boar's teeth,
well and skilfully set into it; next the head there was an inner
lining of felt. This helmet had been stolen by Autolycus out of
Eleon when he broke into the house of Amyntor son of Ormenus. He
gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to take to Scandea, and Amphidamas
gave it as a guest-gift to Molus, who gave it to his son Meriones; and
now it was set upon the head of Ulysses.
When the pair had armed, they set out, and left the other chieftains
behind them. Pallas Minerva sent them a heron by the wayside upon
their right hands; they could not see it for the darkness, but they
heard its cry. Ulysses was glad when he heard it and prayed to
Minerva: "Hear me," he cried, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, you who
spy out all my ways and who are with me in all my hardships;
befriend me in this mine hour, and grant that we may return to the
ships covered with glory after having achieved some mighty exploit
that shall bring sorrow to the Trojans."
Then Diomed of the loud war-cry also prayed: "Hear me too," said he,
"daughter of Jove, unweariable; be with me even as you were with my
noble father Tydeus when he went to Thebes as envoy sent by the
Achaeans. He left the Achaeans by the banks of the river Aesopus,
and went to the city bearing a message of peace to the Cadmeians; on
his return thence, with your help, goddess, he did great deeds of
daring, for you were his ready helper. Even so guide me and guard me
now, and in return I will offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer
of a year old, unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the
yoke. I will gild her horns and will offer her up to you in
Thus they prayed, and Pallas Minerva heard their prayer. When they
had done praying to the daughter of great Jove, they went their way
like two lions prowling by night amid the armour and blood-stained
bodies of them that had fallen.
Neither again did Hector let the Trojans sleep; for he too called
the princes and councillors of the Trojans that he might set his
counsel before them. "Is there one," said he, "who for a great
reward will do me the service of which I will tell you? He shall be
well paid if he will. I will give him a chariot and a couple of
horses, the fleetest that can be found at the ships of the Achaeans,
if he will dare this thing; and he will win infinite honour to boot;
he must go to the ships and find out whether they are still guarded as
heretofore, or whether now that we have beaten them the Achaeans
design to fly, and through sheer exhaustion are neglecting to keep
They all held their peace; but there was among the Trojans a certain
man named Dolon, son of Eumedes, the famous herald- a man rich in gold
and bronze. He was ill-favoured, but a good runner, and was an only
son among five sisters. He it was that now addressed the Trojans.
"I, Hector," said he, "Will to the ships and will exploit them. But
first hold up your sceptre and swear that you will give me the
chariot, bedight with bronze, and the horses that now carry the
noble son of Peleus. I will make you a good scout, and will not fail
you. I will go through the host from one end to the other till I
come to the ship of Agamemnon, where I take it the princes of the
Achaeans are now consulting whether they shall fight or fly."
When he had done speaking Hector held up his sceptre, and swore
him his oath saying, "May Jove the thundering husband of Juno bear
witness that no other Trojan but yourself shall mount those steeds,
and that you shall have your will with them for ever."
The oath he swore was bootless, but it made Dolon more keen on
going. He hung his bow over his shoulder, and as an overall he wore
the skin of a grey wolf, while on his head he set a cap of ferret
skin. Then he took a pointed javelin, and left the camp for the ships,
but he was not to return with any news for Hector. When he had left
the horses and the troops behind him, he made all speed on his way,
but Ulysses perceived his coming and said to Diomed, "Diomed, here
is some one from the camp; I am not sure whether he is a spy, or
whether it is some thief who would plunder the bodies of the dead; let
him get a little past us, we can then spring upon him and take him.
If, however, he is too quick for us, go after him with your spear
and hem him in towards the ships away from the Trojan camp, to prevent
his getting back to the town."
With this they turned out of their way and lay down among the
corpses. Dolon suspected nothing and soon passed them, but when he had
got about as far as the distance by which a mule-plowed furrow exceeds
one that has been ploughed by oxen (for mules can plow fallow land
quicker than oxen) they ran after him, and when he heard their
footsteps he stood still, for he made sure they were friends from
the Trojan camp come by Hector's orders to bid him return; when,
however, they were only a spear's cast, or less away form him, he
saw that they were enemies as fast as his legs could take him. The
others gave chase at once, and as a couple of well-trained hounds
press forward after a doe or hare that runs screaming in front of
them, even so did the son of Tydeus and Ulysses pursue Dolon and cut
him off from his own people. But when he had fled so far towards the
ships that he would soon have fallen in with the outposts, Minerva
infused fresh strength into the son of Tydeus for fear some other of
the Achaeans might have the glory of being first to hit him, and he
might himself be only second; he therefore sprang forward with his
spear and said, "Stand, or I shall throw my spear, and in that case
I shall soon make an end of you."
He threw as he spoke, but missed his aim on purpose. The dart flew
over the man's right shoulder, and then stuck in the ground. He
stood stock still, trembling and in great fear; his teeth chattered,
and he turned pale with fear. The two came breathless up to him and
seized his hands, whereon he began to weep and said, "Take me alive; I
will ransom myself; we have great store of gold, bronze, and wrought
iron, and from this my father will satisfy you with a very large
ransom, should he hear of my being alive at the ships of the
"Fear not," replied Ulysses, "let no thought of death be in your
mind; but tell me, and tell me true, why are you thus going about
alone in the dead of night away from your camp and towards the
ships, while other men are sleeping? Is it to plunder the bodies of
the slain, or did Hector send you to spy out what was going on at
the ships? Or did you come here of your own mere notion?"
Dolon answered, his limbs trembling beneath him: "Hector, with his
vain flattering promises, lured me from my better judgement. He said
he would give me the horses of the noble son of Peleus and his
bronze-bedizened chariot; he bade me go through the darkness of the
flying night, get close to the enemy, and find out whether the ships
are still guarded as heretofore, or whether, now that we have beaten
them, the Achaeans design to fly, and through sheer exhaustion are
neglecting to keep their watches."
Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "You had indeed set your heart
upon a great reward, but the horses of the descendant of Aeacus are
hardly to be kept in hand or driven by any other mortal man than
Achilles himself, whose mother was an immortal. But tell me, and
tell me true, where did you leave Hector when you started? Where
lies his armour and his horses? How, too, are the watches and
sleeping-ground of the Trojans ordered? What are their plans? Will
they stay here by the ships and away from the city, or now that they
have worsted the Achaeans, will they retire within their walls?"
And Dolon answered, "I will tell you truly all. Hector and the other
councillors are now holding conference by the monument of great
Ilus, away from the general tumult; as for the guards about which
you ask me, there is no chosen watch to keep guard over the host.
The Trojans have their watchfires, for they are bound to have them;
they, therefore, are awake and keep each other to their duty as
sentinels; but the allies who have come from other places are asleep
and leave it to the Trojans to keep guard, for their wives and
children are not here."
Ulysses then said, "Now tell me; are they sleeping among the
Trojan troops, or do they lie apart? Explain this that I may
"I will tell you truly all," replied Dolon. "To the seaward lie
the Carians, the Paeonian bowmen, the Leleges, the Cauconians, and the
noble Pelasgi. The Lysians and proud Mysians, with the Phrygians and
Meonians, have their place on the side towards Thymbra; but why ask
about an this? If you want to find your way into the host of the
Trojans, there are the Thracians, who have lately come here and lie
apart from the others at the far end of the camp; and they have Rhesus
son of Eioneus for their king. His horses are the finest and strongest
that I have ever seen, they are whiter than snow and fleeter than
any wind that blows. His chariot is bedight with silver and gold,
and he has brought his marvellous golden armour, of the rarest
workmanship- too splendid for any mortal man to carry, and meet only
for the gods. Now, therefore, take me to the ships or bind me securely
here, until you come back and have proved my words whether they be
false or true."
Diomed looked sternly at him and answered, "Think not, Dolon, for
all the good information you have given us, that you shall escape
now you are in our hands, for if we ransom you or let you go, you will
come some second time to the ships of the Achaeans either as a spy
or as an open enemy, but if I kill you and an end of you, you will
give no more trouble."
On this Dolon would have caught him by the beard to beseech him
further, but Diomed struck him in the middle of his neck with his
sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the
dust while he was yet speaking. They took the ferret-skin cap from his
head, and also the wolf-skin, the bow, and his long spear. Ulysses
hung them up aloft in honour of Minerva the goddess of plunder, and
prayed saying, "Accept these, goddess, for we give them to you in
preference to all the gods in Olympus: therefore speed us still
further towards the horses and sleeping-ground of the Thracians."
With these words he took the spoils and set them upon a tamarisk
tree, and they marked the place by pulling up reeds and gathering
boughs of tamarisk that they might not miss it as they came back
through the' flying hours of darkness. The two then went onwards
amid the fallen armour and the blood, and came presently to the
company of Thracian soldiers, who were sleeping, tired out with
their day's toil; their goodly armour was lying on the ground beside
them all orderly in three rows, and each man had his yoke of horses
beside him. Rhesus was sleeping in the middle, and hard by him his
horses were made fast to the topmost rim of his chariot. Ulysses
from some way off saw him and said, "This, Diomed, is the man, and
these are the horses about which Dolon whom we killed told us. Do your
very utmost; dally not about your armour, but loose the horses at
once- or else kill the men yourself, while I see to the horses."
Thereon Minerva put courage into the heart of Diomed, and he smote
them right and left. They made a hideous groaning as they were being
hacked about, and the earth was red with their blood. As a lion
springs furiously upon a flock of sheep or goats when he finds without
their shepherd, so did the son of Tydeus set upon the Thracian
soldiers till he had killed twelve. As he killed them Ulysses came and
drew them aside by their feet one by one, that the horses might go
forward freely without being frightened as they passed over the dead
bodies, for they were not yet used to them. When the son of Tydeus
came to the king, he killed him too (which made thirteen), as he was
breathing hard, for by the counsel of Minerva an evil dream, the
seed of Oeneus, hovered that night over his head. Meanwhile Ulysses
untied the horses, made them fast one to another and drove them off,
striking them with his bow, for he had forgotten to take the whip from
the chariot. Then he whistled as a sign to Diomed.
But Diomed stayed where he was, thinking what other daring deed he
might accomplish. He was doubting whether to take the chariot in which
the king's armour was lying, and draw it out by the pole, or to lift
the armour out and carry it off; or whether again, he should not
kill some more Thracians. While he was thus hesitating Minerva came up
to him and said, "Get back, Diomed, to the ships or you may be
driven thither, should some other god rouse the Trojans."
Diomed knew that it was the goddess, and at once sprang upon the
horses. Ulysses beat them with his bow and they flew onward to the
ships of the Achaeans.
But Apollo kept no blind look-out when he saw Minerva with the son
of Tydeus. He was angry with her, and coming to the host of the
Trojans he roused Hippocoon, a counsellor of the Thracians and a noble
kinsman of Rhesus. He started up out of his sleep and saw that the
horses were no longer in their place, and that the men were gasping in
their death-agony; on this he groaned aloud, and called upon his
friend by name. Then the whole Trojan camp was in an uproar as the
people kept hurrying together, and they marvelled at the deeds of
the heroes who had now got away towards the ships.
When they reached the place where they had killed Hector's scout,
Ulysses stayed his horses, and the son of Tydeus, leaping to the
ground, placed the blood-stained spoils in the hands of Ulysses and
remounted: then he lashed the horses onwards, and they flew forward
nothing loth towards the ships as though of their own free will.
Nestor was first to hear the tramp of their feet. "My friends," said
he, "princes and counsellors of the Argives, shall I guess right or
wrong?- but I must say what I think: there is a sound in my ears as of
the tramp of horses. I hope it may Diomed and Ulysses driving in
horses from the Trojans, but I much fear that the bravest of the
Argives may have come to some harm at their hands."
He had hardly done speaking when the two men came in and dismounted,
whereon the others shook hands right gladly with them and
congratulated them. Nestor knight of Gerene was first to question
them. "Tell me," said he, "renowned Ulysses, how did you two come by
these horses? Did you steal in among the Trojan forces, or did some
god meet you and give them to you? They are like sunbeams. I am well
conversant with the Trojans, for old warrior though I am I never
hold back by the ships, but I never yet saw or heard of such horses as
these are. Surely some god must have met you and given them to you,
for you are both of dear to Jove, and to Jove's daughter Minerva."
And Ulysses answered, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean
name, heaven, if it so will, can give us even better horses than
these, for the gods are far mightier than we are. These horses,
however, about which you ask me, are freshly come from Thrace.
Diomed killed their king with the twelve bravest of his companions.
Hard by the ships we took a thirteenth man- a scout whom Hector and
the other Trojans had sent as a spy upon our ships."
He laughed as he spoke and drove the horses over the ditch, while
the other Achaeans followed him gladly. When they reached the strongly
built quarters of the son of Tydeus, they tied the horses with
thongs of leather to the manger, where the steeds of Diomed stood
eating their sweet corn, but Ulysses hung the blood-stained spoils
of Dolon at the stern of his ship, that they might prepare a sacred
offering to Minerva. As for themselves, they went into the sea and
washed the sweat from their bodies, and from their necks and thighs.
When the sea-water had taken all the sweat from off them, and had
refreshed them, they went into the baths and washed themselves.
After they had so done and had anointed themselves with oil, they
sat down to table, and drawing from a full mixing-bowl, made a
drink-offering of wine to Minerva.
The Odyssey: Book 8
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Alcinous and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the
Phaecian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got
there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while
Minerva took the form of one of Alcinous' servants, and went round the
town in order to help Ulysses to get home. She went up to the
citizens, man by man, and said, "Aldermen and town councillors of
the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of you and listen to the
stranger who has just come off a long voyage to the house of King
Alcinous; he looks like an immortal god."
With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to
the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every
one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had
beautified him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller
and stouter than he really was, that he might impress the Phaecians
favourably as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well
in the many trials of skill to which they would challenge him. Then,
when they were got together, Alcinous spoke:
"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councillors of the
Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger,
whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or
other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the
matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for
others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has
been able to complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough.
Let us draw a ship into the sea- one that has never yet made a voyage-
and man her with two and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then
when you have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship
and come to my house to prepare a feast. I will find you in
everything. I am giving will these instructions to the young men who
will form the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town
councillors, you will join me in entertaining our guest in the
cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing
to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing
Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a
servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went
to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they
drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound
the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in
due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a
little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house
of King Alcinous. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts were
filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young;
and Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two
oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent
A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the
muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil,
for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had
robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the
guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him
on a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it
with his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals
by his side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he
was so disposed.
The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,
the muse inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more
especially a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit,
the quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that
they heaped on one another as they gat together at a banquet. But
Agamemnon was glad when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one
another, for Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the
stone floor to consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the
evil that by the will of Jove fell both Danaans and Trojans.
Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head
and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see
that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears
from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a
drink-offering to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed
Demodocus to sing further, for they delighted in his lays, then
Ulysses again drew his mantle over his head and wept bitterly. No
one noticed his distress except Alcinous, who was sitting near him,
and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So he at once said,
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough
now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due
accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers,
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A
servant hung Demodocus's lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the
cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the
chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of
several thousands of people followed them, and there were many
excellent competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus,
Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon,
Anabesineus, and Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was
also Euryalus son of Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was
the best looking man among the Phaecians except Laodamas. Three sons
of Alcinous, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from
the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all
flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long
way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow
that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then
turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be
the best man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at
throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus.
Alcinous's son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who
presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games, "Let
us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems
very powerfully built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of
prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much
lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man,
no matter how strong he is."
"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalus, "go up to your
guest and speak to him about it yourself."
When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the
crowd and said to Ulysses, "I hope, Sir, that you will enter
yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are
skilled in any of them- and you must have gone in for many a one
before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit all
his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his hands and
feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from
your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship
is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found."
Ulysses answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my
mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through
infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying
your king and people to further me on my return home."
Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then, that
you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight
in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in
ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of
their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be
much of the athlete about you."
"For shame, Sir," answered Ulysses, fiercely, "you are an insolent
fellow- so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in
speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence,
but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he
charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his
hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his
fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as
handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion.
This is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you
are, but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me
exceedingly angry, and you are quite mistaken, for I excel in a
great many athletic exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and
strength, I was among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I
am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on
the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite
of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me to the
So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a
disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the
Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it
back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in
the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of
its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any
mark that had been made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and
marked the place where it had fallen. "A blind man, Sir," said she,
"could easily tell your mark by groping for it- it is so far ahead
of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no
Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours."
Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,
so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men," said he, "come up
to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or
even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come
on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do
not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but
not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one's
own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a
sensible thing for a guest to challenge his host's family at any game,
especially when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground
from under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards
any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is
the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known
among mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the
first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are
taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who
could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy
and in practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of
those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not
like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus
the Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in
fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry
with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I
can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running
is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the
Phaecians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea;
my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from
which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as
having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been
made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been
uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you
will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your
chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get
home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all
kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as
wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent
sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so
now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing,
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers,
minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or
other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward.
It was their business to manage everything connected with the
sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the
dancers. Presently the servant came back with Demodocus's lyre, and he
took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in
the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was
delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and
how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars
made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's marriage bed, so
the sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very
angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy
brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to
forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that
they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he
went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains
like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as
though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of
all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept
no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his
house, burning with love for Venus.
Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as
he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he
is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose
speech is barbarous."
She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had
spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but
found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to
them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout
the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and
stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all
"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live
for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight
that I will show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always dishonouring
me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and
clean built, whereas I am a cripple- but my parents are to blame for
that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the
pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them.
They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie
there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep
much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me
the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but
On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling
Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but
the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of
all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with
inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had been,
whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:
"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how
limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest god
in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury,
"Messenger Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how
strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?"
"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the
chance, though there were three times as many chains- and you might
look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but would sleep with her if I
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but
Neptune took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set
Mars free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you
require, that he shall pay you all the damages that are held
reasonable among the immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is
bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should
go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his
damages, I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this case I
cannot and must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they
were free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus
to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant
with burnt offerings. Here the Graces hathed her, and anointed her
with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they
clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians
were charmed as they heard him.
Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was
no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus had
made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it
up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground
and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had
done throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance,
and at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one
another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a
great stamping with their feet. Then Ulysses said:
"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in
the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was
astonished as I saw them."
The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaecians
"Aldermen and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person of
singular judgement; let us give him such proof of our hospitality as
he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief men among you, and
counting myself there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean
cloak, a shirt, and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in
a lump down at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with
a light heart. As for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology
and a present too, for he has been rude."
Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying,
and sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus said,
"King Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you
require. He shall have sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt,
which is of silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn
ivory into which it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him."
As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and said,
"Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss
may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a
safe return, for I understand you have been long away from home, and
have gone through much hardship."
To which Ulysses answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and
may the gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss the
sword you have given me along with your apology."
With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards
sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants
of the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alcinous; here
his sons received them, and placed them under their mother's charge.
Then Alcinous led the way to the house and bade his guests take
"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best chest
we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper
on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath;
see also to the careful packing of the presents that the noble
Phaeacians have made him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper
and the singing that will follow. I shall myself give him this
golden goblet- which is of exquisite workmanship- that he may be
reminded of me for the rest of his life whenever he makes a
drink-offering to Jove, or to any of the gods."
Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as
fast as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to
a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water
became hot as the flame played about the belly of the tripod.
Meanwhile Arete brought a magnificent chest her own room, and inside
it she packed all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the
Phaeacians had brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from
Alcinous, and said to Ulysses:
"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once,
for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in your
When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast
with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an
upper servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was
very glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him
ever since he left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained
with her had taken as good care of him as though he had been a god.
When the servants had done washing and anointing him with oil, and had
given him a clean cloak and shirt, he left the bath room and joined
the guests who were sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof if the cloister, and
admired him as she saw him pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do
not forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first
that you owe a ransom for having saved your life."
And Ulysses said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may Jove
the mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home; so shall I
bless you as my guardian angel all my days, for it was you who saved
When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous. Supper was
then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in the
favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the midst of the company,
near one of the bearing-posts supporting the cloister, that he might
lean against it. Then Ulysses cut off a piece of roast pork with
plenty of fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said
to a servant, "Take this piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell
him to eat it; for all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute
him none the less; bards are honoured and respected throughout the
world, for the muse teaches them their songs and loves them."
The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus, who
took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the
good things that were before them, and as soon as they had had to
eat and drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus, "Demodocus, there is no
one in the world whom I admire more than I do you. You must have
studied under the Muse, Jove's daughter, and under Apollo, so
accurately do you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their
sufferings and adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must
have heard it all from some one who was. Now, however, change your
song and tell us of the wooden horse which Epeus made with the
assistance of Minerva, and which Ulysses got by stratagem into the
fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who afterwards sacked
the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will tell all the
world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."
The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where
some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while
others, hidden within the horse, were waiting with Ulysses in the
Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the
horse into their fortress, and it stood there while they sat in
council round it, and were in three minds as to what they should do.
Some were for breaking it up then and there; others would have it
dragged to the top of the rock on which the fortress stood, and then
thrown down the precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain
as an offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they
settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in that
horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives waiting to
bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the
sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and sacked the town,
breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they over ran the
city hither and thither and ravaged it, and how Ulysses went raging
like Mars along with Menelaus to the house of Deiphobus. It was
there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Minerva's
help he was victorious.
All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and
his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she
throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his
own city and people, fighting bravely in defence of his home and
children. She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies
gasping for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind
about the back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a
life of labour and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks-
even so piteously did Ulysses weep, but none of those present
perceived his tears except Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and
could hear the sobs and sighs that he was heaving. The king,
therefore, at once rose and said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus
cease his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like
it. From the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus began to
sing, our guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is
evidently in great trouble, so let the bard leave off, that we may all
enjoy ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it
should be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents
that we are making with so much good will, are wholly in his honour,
and any one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he
ought to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own
"Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment
nor reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more
polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which
your father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which
you were known among your neighbours and fellow-citizens. There is
no one, neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name
whatever, for people's fathers and mothers give them names as soon
as they are born. Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that
our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there.
For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as
those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand
what it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the
cities and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just
as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there
is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still I do
remember hearing my father say that Neptune was angry with us for
being too easy-going in the matter of giving people escorts. He said
that one of these days he should wreck a ship of ours as it was
returning from having escorted some one, and bury our city under a
high mountain. This is what my used to say, but whether the god will
carry out his threat or no is a matter which he will decide for
"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering,
and in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of the peoples
themselves, and of their cities- who were hostile, savage and
uncivilized, and who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane. Tell
us also why you are made unhappy on hearing about the return of the
Argive Danaans from Troy. The gods arranged all this, and sent them
their misfortunes in order that future generations might have
something to sing about. Did you lose some brave kinsman of your
wife's when you were before Troy? a son-in-law or father-in-law- which
are the nearest relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood?
or was it some brave and kindly-natured comrade- for a good friend
is as dear to a man as his own brother?"
Vida's Game Of Chess
ARMIES of box that sportively engage
And mimic real battles in their rage,
Pleased I recount; how, smit with glory's charms,
Two mighty Monarchs met in adverse arms,
Sable and white; assist me to explore,
Ye Serian Nymphs, what ne'er was sung before.
No path appears: yet resolute I stray
Where youth undaunted bids me force my way.
O'er rocks and cliffs while I the task pursue,
Guide me, ye Nymphs, with your unerring clue.
For you the rise of this diversion know,
You first were pleased in Italy to show
This studious sport; from Scacchis was its name,
The pleasing record of your Sister's fame.
When Jove through Ethiopia's parch'd extent
To grace the nuptials of old Ocean went,
Each god was there; and mirth and joy around
To shores remote diffused their happy sound.
Then when their hunger and their thirst no more
Claim'd their attention, and the feast was o'er;
Ocean with pastime to divert the thought,
Commands a painted table to be brought.
Sixty-four spaces fill the chequer'd square;
Eight in each rank eight equal limits share.
Alike their form, but different are their dyes,
They fade alternate, and alternate rise,
White after black; such various stains as those
The shelving backs of tortoises disclose.
Then to the gods that mute and wondering sate,
You see (says he) the field prepared for fate.
Here will the little armies please your sight,
With adverse colours hurrying to the fight:
On which so oft, with silent sweet surprise,
The Nymphs and Nereids used to feast their eyes,
And all the neighbours of the hoary deep,
When calm the sea, and winds were lull'd asleep
But see, the mimic heroes tread the board;
He said, and straightway from an urn he pour'd
The sculptured box, that neatly seem'd to ape
The graceful figure of a human shape:--
Equal the strength and number of each foe,
Sixteen appear'd like jet, sixteen like snow.
As their shape varies various is the name,
Different their posts, nor is their strength the same.
There might you see two Kings with equal pride
Gird on their arms, their Consorts by their side;
Here the Foot-warriors glowing after fame,
There prancing Knights and dexterous Archers came
And Elephants, that on their backs sustain
Vast towers of war, and fill and shake the plain.
And now both hosts, preparing for the storm
Of adverse battle, their encampments form.
In the fourth space, and on the farthest line,
Directly opposite the Monarchs shine;
The swarthy on white ground, on sable stands
The silver King; and then they send commands.
Nearest to these the Queens exert their might;
One the left side, and t'other guards the right:
Where each, by her respective armour known.
Chooses the colour that is like her own.
Then the young Archers, two that snowy-white
Bend the tough yew, and two as black as night;
(Greece call'd them Mars's favourites heretofore,
From their delight in war, and thirst of gore).
These on each side the Monarch and his Queen
Surround obedient; next to these are seen
The crested Knights in golden armour gay;
Their steeds by turns curvet, or snort or neigh.
In either army on each distant wing
Two mighty Elephants their castles bring,
Bulwarks immense! and then at last combine
Eight of the Foot to form the second line,
The vanguard to the King and Queen; from far
Prepared to open all the fate of war.
So moved the boxen hosts, each double-lined,
Their different colours floating in the wind:
As if an army of the Gauls should go,
With their white standards, o'er the Alpine snow
To meet in rigid fight on scorching sands
The sun-burnt Moors and Memnon's swarthy bands.
Then Father Ocean thus; you see them here,
Celestial powers, what troops, what camps appear.
Learn now the sev'ral orders of the fray,
For e'en these arms their stated laws obey.
To lead the fight, the Kings from all their bands
Choose whom they please to bear their great commands.
Should a black hero first to battle go,
Instant a white one guards against the blow;
But only one at once can charge or shun the foe.
Their gen'ral purpose on one scheme is bent,
So to besiege the King within the tent,
That there remains no place by subtle flight
From danger free; and that decides the fight.
Meanwhile, howe'er, the sooner to destroy
Th' imperial Prince, remorseless they employ
Their swords in blood; and whosoever dare
Oppose their vengeance, in the ruin share.
Fate thins their camp; the parti-coloured field
Widens apace, as they o'ercome or yield,
But the proud victor takes the captive's post;
There fronts the fury of th' avenging host
One single shock: and (should he ward the blow),
May then retire at pleasure from the foe.
The Foot alone (so their harsh laws ordain)
When they proceed can ne'er return again.
But neither all rush on alike to prove
The terror of their arms: The Foot must move
Directly on, and but a single square;
Yet may these heroes, when they first prepare
To mix in combat on the bloody mead,
Double their sally, and two steps proceed;
But when they wound, their swords they subtly guide
With aim oblique, and slanting pierce his side.
But the great Indian beasts, whose backs sustain
Vast turrets arm'd, when on the redd'ning plain
They join in all the terror of the fight,
Forward or backward, to the left or right,
Run furious, and impatient of confine
Scour through the field, and threat the farthest line.
Yet must they ne'er obliquely aim their blows;
That only manner is allow'd to those
Whom Mars has favour'd most, who bend the stubborn bows.
These glancing sidewards in a straight career,
Yet each confin'd to their respective sphere,
Or white or black, can send th' unerring dart
Wing'd with swift death to pierce through ev'ry part.
The fiery steed, regardless of the reins,
Comes prancing on; but sullenly disdains
The path direct, and boldly wheeling round,
Leaps o'er a double space at ev'ry bound:
And shifts from white or black to diff'rent colour'd ground.
But the fierce Queen, whom dangers ne'er dismay,
The strength and terror of the bloody day,
In a straight line spreads her destruction wide,
To left or right, before, behind, aside.
Yet may she never with a circling course
Sweep to the battle like the fretful Horse;
But unconfin'd may at her pleasure stray,
If neither friend nor foe block up the way;
For to o'erleap a warrior, 'tis decreed
Those only dare who curb the snorting steed.
With greater caution and majestic state
The warlike Monarchs in the scene of fate
Direct their motions, since for these appear
Zealous each hope, and anxious ev'ry fear.
While the King's safe, with resolution stern
They clasp their arms; but should a sudden turn
Make him a captive, instantly they yield,
Resolved to share his fortune in the field.
He moves on slow; with reverence profound
His faithful troops encompass him around,
And oft, to break some instant fatal scheme,
Rush to their fates, their sov'reign to redeem;
While he, unanxious where to wound the foe,
Need only shift and guard against a blow.
But none, however, can presume t' appear
Within his reach, but must his vengeance fear;
For he on ev'ry side his terror throws;
But when he changes from his first repose,
Moves but one step, most awfully sedate,
Or idly roving, or intent on fate.
These are the sev'ral and establish'd laws:
Now see how each maintains his bloody cause.
Here paused the god, but (since whene'er they wage
War here on earth the gods themselves engage
In mutual battle as they hate or love,
And the most stubborn war is oft above),
Almighty Jove commands the circling train
Of gods from fav'ring either to abstain,
And let the fight be silently survey'd;
And added solemn threats if disobey'd.
Then call'd he Phoebus from among the Powers
And subtle Hermes, whom in softer hours
Fair Maia bore: youth wanton'd in their face;
Both in life's bloom, both shone with equal grace.
Hermes as yet had never wing'd his feet;
As yet Apollo in his radiant seat
Had never driv'n his chariot through the air,
Known by his bow alone and golden hair.
These Jove commission'd to attempt the fray,
And rule the sportive military day;
Bid them agree which party each maintains,
And promised a reward that's worth their pains.
The greater took their seats; on either hand
Respectful the less gods in order stand,
But careful not to interrupt their play,
By hinting when t' advance or run away.
Then they examine, who shall first proceed
To try their courage, and their army lead.
Chance gave it for the White, that he should go
First with a brave defiance to the foe.
Awhile he ponder'd which of all his train
Should bear his first commission o'er the plain;
And then determined to begin the scene
With him that stood before to guard the Queen.
He took a double step: with instant care
Does the black Monarch in his turn prepare
The adverse champion, and with stern command
Bid him repel the charge with equal hand.
There front to front, the midst of all the field,
With furious threats their shining arms they wield;
Yet vain the conflict, neither can prevail
While in one path each other they assail.
On ev'ry side to their assistance fly
Their fellow soldiers, and with strong supply
Crowd to the battle, but no bloody stain
Tinctures their armour; sportive in the plain
Mars plays awhile, and in excursion slight
Harmless they sally forth, or wait the fight.
But now the swarthy Foot, that first appear'd
To front the foe, his pond'rous jav'lin rear'd
Leftward aslant, and a pale warrior slays,
Spurns him aside, and boldly takes his place.
Unhappy youth, his danger not to spy!
Instant he fell, and triumph'd but to die.
At this the sable King with prudent care
Removed his station from the middle square,
And slow retiring to the farthest ground,
There safely lurk'd, with troops entrench'd around.
Then from each quarter to the war advance
The furious Knights, and poise the trembling lance:
By turns they rush, by turns the victors yield,
Heaps of dead Foot choke up the crimson'd field:
They fall unable to retreat; around
The clang of arms and iron hoofs resound.
But while young Phoebus pleased himself to view
His furious Knight destroy the vulgar crew,
Sly Hermes long'd t' attempt with secret aim
Some noble act of more exalted fame.
For this, he inoffensive pass'd along
Through ranks of Foot, and midst the trembling throng
Sent his left Horse, that free without confine
Rov'd o'er the plain, upon some great design
Against the King himself. At length he stood,
And having fix'd his station as he would,
Threaten'd at once with instant fate the King
And th' Indian beast that guarded the right wing.
Apollo sigh'd, and hast'ning to relieve
The straiten'd Monarch, griev'd that he must leave
His martial Elephant expos'd to fate,
And view'd with pitying eyes his dang'rous state.
First in his thoughts however was his care
To save his King, whom to the neighbouring square
On the right hand, he snatch'd with trembling flight;
At this with fury springs the sable Knight,
Drew his keen sword, and rising to the blow,
Sent the great Indian brute to shades below.
O fatal loss! for none except the Queen
Spreads such a terror through the bloody scene.
Yet shall you ne'er unpunish'd boast your prize,
The Delian god with stern resentment cries;
And wedg'd him round with Foot, and pour'd in fresh supplies.
Thus close besieg'd trembling he cast his eye
Around the plain, but saw no shelter nigh,
No way for flight; for here the Queen oppos'd,
The Foot in phalanx there the passage clos'd:
At length he fell; yet not unpleas'd with fate,
Since victim to a Queen's vindictive hate.
With grief and fury burns the whiten'd host,
One of their Tow'rs thus immaturely lost.
As when a bull has in contention stern
Lost his right horn, with double vengeance burn
His thoughts for war, with blood he's cover'd o'er,
And the woods echo to his dismal roar,
So look'd the flaxen host, when angry fate
O'erturn'd the Indian bulwark of their state.
Fired at this great success, with double rage
Apollo hurries on his troops t' engage,
For blood and havoc wild; and, while he leads
His troops thus careless, loses both his steeds:
For if some adverse warriors were o'erthrown,
He little thought what dangers threat his own.
But slyer Hermes with observant eyes
March'd slowly cautious, and at distance spies
What moves must next succeed, what dangers next arise.
Often would he, the stately Queen to snare,
The slender Foot to front her arms prepare,
And to conceal his scheme he sighs and feigns
Such a wrong step would frustrate all his pains.
Just then an Archer, from the right-hand view,
At the pale Queen his arrow boldly drew,
Unseen by Phoebus, who, with studious thought,
From the left side a vulgar hero brought.
But tender Venus, with a pitying eye,
Viewing the sad destruction that was nigh,
Wink'd upon Phoebus (for the Goddess sat
By chance directly opposite); at that
Roused in an instant, young Apollo threw
His eyes around the field his troops to view:
Perceiv'd the danger, and with sudden fright
Withdrew the Foot that he had sent to fight,
And sav'd his trembling Queen by seasonable flight.
But Maia's son with shouts fill'd all the coast:
The Queen, he cried, the important Queen is lost.
Phoebus, howe'er, resolving to maintain
What he had done, bespoke the heavenly train.
What mighty harm, in sportive mimic flight,
Is it to set a little blunder right,
When no preliminary rule debarr'd?
If you henceforward, Mercury, would guard
Against such practice, let us make the law:
And whosoe'er shall first to battle draw,
Or white, or black, remorseless let him go
At all events, and dare the angry foe.
He said, and this opinion pleased around:
Jove turn'd aside, and on his daughter frown'd,
Unmark'd by Hermes, who, with strange surprise,
Fretted and foam'd, and roll'd his ferret eyes,
And but with great reluctance could refrain
From dashing at a blow all off the plain.
Then he resolved to interweave deceits, --
To carry on the war by tricks and cheats.
Instant he call'd an Archer from the throng,
And bid him like the courser wheel along:
Bounding he springs, and threats the pallid Queen.
The fraud, however, was by Phoebus seen;
He smiled, and, turning to the Gods, he said:
Though, Hermes, you are perfect in your trade,
And you can trick and cheat to great surprise,
These little sleights no more shall blind my eyes;
Correct them if you please, the more you thus disguise.
The circle laugh'd aloud; and Maia's son
(As if it had but by mistake been done)
Recall'd his Archer, and with motion due,
Bid him advance, the combat to renew.
But Phoebus watch'd him with a jealous eye,
Fearing some trick was ever lurking nigh,
For he would oft, with sudden sly design,
Send forth at once two combatants to join
His warring troops, against the law of arms,
Unless the wary foe was ever in alarms.
Now the white Archer with his utmost force
Bent the tough bow against the sable Horse,
And drove him from the Queen, where he had stood
Hoping to glut his vengeance with her blood.
Then the right Elephant with martial pride
Roved here and there, and spread his terrors wide:
Glittering in arms from far a courser came,
Threaten'd at once the King and Royal Dame;
Thought himself safe when he the post had seized,
And with the future spoils his fancy pleased.
Fired at the danger a young Archer came,
Rush'd on the foe, and levell'd sure his aim;
(And though a Pawn his sword in vengeance draws,
Gladly he'd lose his life in glory's cause).
The whistling arrow to his bowels flew,
And the sharp steel his blood profusely drew;
He drops the reins, he totters to the ground,
And his life issued murm'ring through the wound.
Pierced by the Foot, this Archer bit the plain;
The Foot himself was by another slain;
And with inflamed revenge, the battle burns again.
Towers, Archers, Knights, meet on the crimson ground,
And the field echoes to the martial sound.
Their thoughts are heated, and their courage fired,
Thick they rush on with double zeal inspired;
Generals and Foot, with different colour'd mien,
Confusedly warring in the camps are seen, --
Valour and fortune meet in one promiscuous scene.
Now these victorious, lord it o'er the field;
Now the foe rallies, the triumphant yield:
Just as the tide of battle ebbs or flows.
As when the conflict more tempestuous grows
Between the winds, with strong and boisterous sweep
They plough th' Ionian or Atlantic deep!
By turns prevail the mutual blustering roar,
And the big waves alternate lash the shore.
But in the midst of all the battle raged
The snowy Queen, with troops at once engaged;
She fell'd an Archer as she sought the plain, --
As she retired an Elephant was slain:
To right and left her fatal spears she sent,
Burst through the ranks, and triumph'd as she went;
Through arms and blood she seeks a glorious fate,
Pierces the farthest lines, and nobly great
Leads on her army with a gallant show,
Breaks the battalions, and cuts through the foe.
At length the sable King his fears betray'd,
And begg'd his military consort's aid:
With cheerful speed she flew to his relief,
And met in equal arms the female chief.
Who first, great Queen, and who at last did bleed?
How many Whites lay gasping on the mead?
Half dead, and floating in a bloody tide,
Foot, Knights, and Archer lie on every side.
Who can recount the slaughter of the day?
How many leaders threw their lives away?
The chequer'd plain is fill'd with dying box,
Havoc ensues, and with tumultuous shocks
The different colour'd ranks in blood engage,
And Foot and Horse promiscuously rage.
With nobler courage and superior might
The dreadful Amazons sustain the fight,
Resolved alike to mix in glorious strife,
Till to imperious fate they yield their life.
Meanwhile each Monarch, in a neighbouring cell,
Confined the warriors that in battle fell,
There watch'd the captives with a jealous eye,
Lest, slipping out again, to arms they fly.
But Thracian Mars, in stedfast friendship join'd
To Hermes, as near Phoebus he reclined,
Observed each chance, how all their motions bend,
Resolved if possible to serve his friend.
He a Foot-soldier and a Knight purloin'd
Out from the prison that the dead confined;
And slyly push'd 'em forward on the plain;
Th' enliven'd combatants their arms regain,
Mix in the bloody scene, and boldly war again.
So the foul hag, in screaming wild alarms
O'er a dead carcase muttering her charms,
(And with her frequent and tremendous yell
Forcing great Hecate from out of hell)
Shoots in the corpse a new fictitious soul;
With instant glare the supple eyeballs roll,
Again it moves and speaks, and life informs the whole.
Vulcan alone discern'd the subtle cheat;
And wisely scorning such a base deceit,
Call'd out to Phoebus. Grief and rage assail
Phoebus by turns; detected Mars turns pale.
Then awful Jove with sullen eye reproved
Mars, and the captives order'd to be moved
To their dark caves; bid each fictitious spear
Be straight recall'd, and all be as they were.
And now both Monarchs with redoubled rage
Led on their Queens, the mutual war to wage.
O'er all the field their thirsty spears they send,
Then front to front their Monarchs they defend.
But lo! the female White rush'd in unseen,
And slew with fatal haste the swarthy Queen;
Yet soon, alas! resign'd her royal spoils,
Snatch'd by a shaft from her successful toils.
Struck at the sight, both hosts in wild surprise
Pour'd forth their tears, and fill'd the air with cries;
They wept and sigh'd, as pass'd the fun'ral train,
As if both armies had at once been slain.
And now each troop surrounds its mourning chief,
To guard his person, or assuage his grief.
One is their common fear; one stormy blast
Has equally made havoc as it pass'd.
Not all, however, of their youth are slain;
Some champions yet the vig'rous war maintain.
Three Foot, an Archer, and a stately Tower,
For Phoebus still exert their utmost power.
Just the same number Mercury can boast,
Except the Tower, who lately in his post
Unarm'd inglorious fell, in peace profound,
Pierced by an Archer with a distant wound;
But his right Horse retain'd its mettled pride, --
The rest were swept away by war's strong tide.
But fretful Hermes, with despairing moan,
Griev'd that so many champions were o'erthrown,
Yet reassumes the fight; and summons round
The little straggling army that he found, --
All that had 'scaped from fierce Apollo's rage, --
Resolved with greater caution to engage
In future strife, by subtle wiles (if fate
Should give him leave) to save his sinking state.
The sable troops advance with prudence slow,
Bent on all hazards to distress the foe.
More cheerful Phoebus, with unequal pace,
Rallies his arms to lessen his disgrace.
But what strange havoc everywhere has been!
A straggling champion here and there is seen;
And many are the tents, yet few are left within.
Th' afflicted Kings bewail their consorts dead,
And loathe the thoughts of a deserted bed;
And though each monarch studies to improve
The tender mem'ry of his former love,
Their state requires a second nuptial tie.
Hence the pale ruler with a love-sick eye
Surveys th' attendants of his former wife,
And offers one of them a royal life.
These, when their martial mistress had been slain,
Weak and despairing tried their arms in vain;
Willing, howe'er, amidst the Black to go,
They thirst for speedy vengeance on the foe.
Then he resolves to see who merits best,
By strength and courage, the imperial vest;
Points out the foe, bids each with bold design
Pierce through the ranks, and reach the deepest line:
For none must hope with monarchs to repose
But who can first, through thick surrounding foes,
Through arms and wiles, with hazardous essay,
Safe to the farthest quarters force their way.
Fired at the thought, with sudden, joyful pace
They hurry on; but first of all the race
Runs the third right-hand warrior for the prize, --
The glitt'ring crown already charms her eyes.
Her dear associates cheerfully give o'er
The nuptial chase; and swift she flies before,
And Glory lent her wings, and the reward in store.
Nor would the sable King her hopes prevent,
For he himself was on a Queen intent,
Alternate, therefore, through the field they go.
Hermes led on, but by a step too slow,
His fourth left Pawn: and now th' advent'rous White
Had march'd through all, and gain'd the wish'd for site.
Then the pleased King gives orders to prepare
The crown, the sceptre, and the royal chair,
And owns her for his Queen: around exult
The snowy troops, and o'er the Black insult.
Hermes burst into tears, -- with fretful roar
Fill'd the wide air, and his gay vesture tore.
The swarthy Foot had only to advance
One single step; but oh! malignant chance!
A towered Elephant, with fatal aim,
Stood ready to destroy her when she came:
He keeps a watchful eye upon the whole,
Threatens her entrance, and protects the goal.
Meanwhile the royal new-created bride,
Pleased with her pomp, spread death and terror wide;
Like lightning through the sable troops she flies,
Clashes her arms, and seems to threat the skies.
The sable troops are sunk in wild affright,
And wish th' earth op'ning snatch'd 'em from her sight.
In burst the Queen, with vast impetuous swing:
The trembling foes come swarming round the King,
Where in the midst he stood, and form a valiant ring.
So the poor cows, straggling o'er pasture land,
When they perceive the prowling wolf at hand,
Crowd close together in a circle full,
And beg the succour of the lordly bull;
They clash their horns, they low with dreadful sound,
And the remotest groves re-echo round.
But the bold Queen, victorious, from behind
Pierces the foe; yet chiefly she design'd
Against the King himself some fatal aim,
And full of war to his pavilion came.
Now here she rush'd, now there; and had she been
But duly prudent, she had slipp'd between,
With course oblique, into the fourth white square,
And the long toil of war had ended there,
The King had fallen, and all his sable state;
And vanquish'd Hermes cursed his partial fate.
For thence with ease the championess might go,
Murder the King, and none could ward the blow.
With silence, Hermes, and with panting heart,
Perceived the danger, but with subtle art,
(Lest he should see the place) spurs on the foe,
Confounds his thoughts, and blames his being slow.
For shame! move on; would you for ever stay?
What sloth is this, what strange perverse delay? --
How could you e'er my little pausing blame? --
What! you would wait till night shall end the game?
Phoebus, thus nettled, with imprudence slew
A vulgar Pawn, but lost his nobler view.
Young Hermes leap'd, with sudden joy elate;
And then, to save the monarch from his fate,
Led on his martial Knight, who stepp'd between,
Pleased that his charge was to oppose the Queen --
Then, pondering how the Indian beast to slay,
That stopp'd the Foot from making farther way, --
From being made a Queen; with slanting aim
An archer struck him; down the monster came,
And dying shook the earth: while Phoebus tries
Without success the monarch to surprise.
The Foot, then uncontroll'd with instant pride,
Seized the last spot, and moved a royal bride.
And now with equal strength both war again,
And bring their second wives upon the plain;
Then, though with equal views each hop'd and fear'd,
Yet, as if every doubt had disappear'd,
As if he had the palm, young Hermes flies
Into excess of joy; with deep disguise,
Extols his own Black troops, with frequent spite
And with invective taunts disdains the White.
Whom Phoebus thus reproved with quick return --
As yet we cannot the decision learn
Of this dispute, and do you triumph now?
Then your big words and vauntings I'll allow,
When you the battle shall completely gain;
At present I shall make your boasting vain.
He said, and forward led the daring Queen;
Instant the fury of the bloody scene
Rises tumultuous, swift the warriors fly
From either side to conquer or to die.
They front the storm of war: around 'em Fear,
Terror, and Death, perpetually appear.
All meet in arms, and man to man oppose,
Each from their camp attempts to drive their foes;
Each tries by turns to force the hostile lines;
Chance and impatience blast their best designs.
The sable Queen spread terror as she went
Through the mid ranks: with more reserved intent
The adverse dame declined the open fray,
And to the King in private stole away:
Then took the royal guard, and bursting in,
With fatal menace close besieged the King.
Alarm'd at this, the swarthy Queen, in haste,
From all her havoc and destructive waste
Broke off, and her contempt of death to show,
Leap'd in between the Monarch and the foe,
To save the King and state from this impending blow.
But Phoebus met a worse misfortune here:
For Hermes now led forward, void of fear,
His furious Horse into the open plain,
That onward chafed, and pranced, and pawed amain.
Nor ceased from his attempts until he stood
On the long-wished-for spot, from whence he could
Slay King or Queen. O'erwhelm'd with sudden fears,
Apollo saw, and could not keep from tears.
Now all seem'd ready to be overthrown;
His strength was wither'd, ev'ry hope was flown.
Hermes, exulting at this great surprise,
Shouted for joy, and fill'd the air with cries;
Instant he sent the Queen to shades below,
And of her spoils made a triumphant show.
But in return, and in his mid career,
Fell his brave Knight, beneath the Monarch's spear.
Phoebus, however, did not yet despair,
But still fought on with courage and with care.
He had but two poor common men to show,
And Mars's favourite with his iv'ry bow.
The thoughts of ruin made 'em dare their best
To save their King, so fatally distress'd.
But the sad hour required not such an aid;
And Hermes breathed revenge where'er he stray'd.
Fierce comes the sable Queen with fatal threat,
Surrounds the Monarch in his royal seat;
Rushed here and there, nor rested till she slew
The last remainder of the whiten'd crew.
Sole stood the King, the midst of all the plain,
Weak and defenceless, his companions slain.
As when the ruddy morn ascending high
Has chased the twinkling stars from all the sky,
Your star, fair Venus, still retains its light,
And, loveliest, goes the latest out of sight.
No safety's left, no gleams of hope remain;
Yet did he not as vanquish'd quit the plain,
But tried to shut himself between the foe, --
Unhurt through swords and spears he hoped to go,
Until no room was left to shun the fatal blow.
For if none threaten'd his immediate fate,
And his next move must ruin all his state,
All their past toil and labour is in vain,
Vain all the bloody carnage of the plain, --
Neither would triumph then, the laurel neither gain.
Therefore through each void space and desert tent,
By different moves his various course he bent:
The Black King watch'd him with observant eye,
Follow'd him close, but left him room to fly.
Then when he saw him take the farthest line,
He sent the Queen his motions to confine,
And guard the second rank, that he could go
No farther now than to that distant row.
The sable monarch then with cheerful mien
Approach'd, but always with one space between.
But as the King stood o'er against him there,
Helpless, forlorn, and sunk in his despair,
The martial Queen her lucky moment knew,
Seized on the farthest seat with fatal view,
Nor left th' unhappy King a place to flee unto.
At length in vengeance her keen sword she draws,
Slew him, and ended thus the bloody cause:
And all the gods around approved it with applause.
The victor could not from his insults keep,
But laugh'd and sneer'd to see Apollo weep.
Jove call'd him near, and gave him in his hand
The powerful, happy, and mysterious wand
By which the Shades are call'd to purer day,
When penal fire has purged their sins away;
By which the guilty are condemn'd to dwell
In the dark mansions of the deepest hell;
By which he gives us sleep, or sleep denies,
And closes at the last the dying eyes.
Soon after this, the heavenly victor brought
The game on earth, and first th' Italians taught.
For (as they say) fair Scacchis he espied
Feeding her cygnets in the silver tide,
(Sacchis, the loveliest Seriad of the place)
And as she stray'd, took her to his embrace.
Then, to reward her for her virtue lost,
Gave her the men and chequer'd board, emboss'd
With gold and silver curiously inlay'd;
And taught her how the game was to be play'd.
Ev'n now 'tis honour'd with her happy name;
And Rome and all the world admire the game.
All which the Seriads told me heretofore,
When my boy-notes amused the Serian shore.
The Odyssey: Book 11
Then, when we had got down to the sea shore we drew our ship into
the water and got her mast and sails into her; we also put the sheep
on board and took our places, weeping and in great distress of mind.
Circe, that great and cunning goddess, sent us a fair wind that blew
dead aft and stayed steadily with us keeping our sails all the time
well filled; so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear and
let her go as the wind and helmsman headed her. All day long her sails
were full as she held her course over the sea, but when the sun went
down and darkness was over all the earth, we got into the deep
waters of the river Oceanus, where lie the land and city of the
Cimmerians who live enshrouded in mist and darkness which the rays
of the sun never pierce neither at his rising nor as he goes down
again out of the heavens, but the poor wretches live in one long
melancholy night. When we got there we beached the ship, took the
sheep out of her, and went along by the waters of Oceanus till we came
to the place of which Circe had told us.
"Here Perimedes and Eurylochus held the victims, while I drew my
sword and dug the trench a cubit each way. I made a drink-offering
to all the dead, first with honey and milk, then with wine, and
thirdly with water, and I sprinkled white barley meal over the
whole, praying earnestly to the poor feckless ghosts, and promising
them that when I got back to Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren
heifer for them, the best I had, and would load the pyre with good
things. I also particularly promised that Teiresias should have a
black sheep to himself, the best in all my flocks. When I had prayed
sufficiently to the dead, I cut the throats of the two sheep and let
the blood run into the trench, whereon the ghosts came trooping up
from Erebus- brides, young bachelors, old men worn out with toil,
maids who had been crossed in love, and brave men who had been
killed in battle, with their armour still smirched with blood; they
came from every quarter and flitted round the trench with a strange
kind of screaming sound that made me turn pale with fear. When I saw
them coming I told the men to be quick and flay the carcasses of the
two dead sheep and make burnt offerings of them, and at the same
time to repeat prayers to Hades and to Proserpine; but I sat where I
was with my sword drawn and would not let the poor feckless ghosts
come near the blood till Teiresias should have answered my questions.
"The first ghost 'that came was that of my comrade Elpenor, for he
had not yet been laid beneath the earth. We had left his body
unwaked and unburied in Circe's house, for we had had too much else to
do. I was very sorry for him, and cried when I saw him: 'Elpenor,'
said I, 'how did you come down here into this gloom and darkness?
You have here on foot quicker than I have with my ship.'
"'Sir,' he answered with a groan, 'it was all bad luck, and my own
unspeakable drunkenness. I was lying asleep on the top of Circe's
house, and never thought of coming down again by the great staircase
but fell right off the roof and broke my neck, so my soul down to
the house of Hades. And now I beseech you by all those whom you have
left behind you, though they are not here, by your wife, by the father
who brought you up when you were a child, and by Telemachus who is the
one hope of your house, do what I shall now ask you. I know that
when you leave this limbo you will again hold your ship for the Aeaean
island. Do not go thence leaving me unwaked and unburied behind you,
or I may bring heaven's anger upon you; but burn me with whatever
armour I have, build a barrow for me on the sea shore, that may tell
people in days to come what a poor unlucky fellow I was, and plant
over my grave the oar I used to row with when I was yet alive and with
my messmates.' And I said, 'My poor fellow, I will do all that you
have asked of me.'
"Thus, then, did we sit and hold sad talk with one another, I on the
one side of the trench with my sword held over the blood, and the
ghost of my comrade saying all this to me from the other side. Then
came the ghost of my dead mother Anticlea, daughter to Autolycus. I
had left her alive when I set out for Troy and was moved to tears when
I saw her, but even so, for all my sorrow I would not let her come
near the blood till I had asked my questions of Teiresias.
"Then came also the ghost of Theban Teiresias, with his golden
sceptre in his hand. He knew me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of
Laertes, why, poor man, have you left the light of day and come down
to visit the dead in this sad place? Stand back from the trench and
withdraw your sword that I may drink of the blood and answer your
"So I drew back, and sheathed my sword, whereon when he had drank of
the blood he began with his prophecy.
"You want to know,' said he, 'about your return home, but heaven
will make this hard for you. I do not think that you will escape the
eye of Neptune, who still nurses his bitter grudge against you for
having blinded his son. Still, after much suffering you may get home
if you can restrain yourself and your companions when your ship
reaches the Thrinacian island, where you will find the sheep and
cattle belonging to the sun, who sees and gives ear to everything.
If you leave these flocks unharmed and think of nothing but of getting
home, you may yet after much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm
them, then I forewarn you of the destruction both of your ship and
of your men. Even though you may yourself escape, you will return in
bad plight after losing all your men, [in another man's ship, and
you will find trouble in your house, which will be overrun by
high-handed people, who are devouring your substance under the pretext
of paying court and making presents to your wife.
"'When you get home you will take your revenge on these suitors; and
after you have killed them by force or fraud in your own house, you
must take a well-made oar and carry it on and on, till you come to a
country where the people have never heard of the sea and do not even
mix salt with their food, nor do they know anything about ships, and
oars that are as the wings of a ship. I will give you this certain
token which cannot escape your notice. A wayfarer will meet you and
will say it must be a winnowing shovel that you have got upon your
shoulder; on this you must fix the oar in the ground and sacrifice a
ram, a bull, and a boar to Neptune. Then go home and offer hecatombs
to an the gods in heaven one after the other. As for yourself, death
shall come to you from the sea, and your life shall ebb away very
gently when you are full of years and peace of mind, and your people
shall bless you. All that I have said will come true].'
"'This,' I answered, 'must be as it may please heaven, but tell me
and tell me and tell me true, I see my poor mother's ghost close by
us; she is sitting by the blood without saying a word, and though I am
her own son she does not remember me and speak to me; tell me, Sir,
how I can make her know me.'
"'That,' said he, 'I can soon do Any ghost that you let taste of the
blood will talk with you like a reasonable being, but if you do not
let them have any blood they will go away again.'
"On this the ghost of Teiresias went back to the house of Hades, for
his prophecyings had now been spoken, but I sat still where I was
until my mother came up and tasted the blood. Then she knew me at once
and spoke fondly to me, saying, 'My son, how did you come down to this
abode of darkness while you are still alive? It is a hard thing for
the living to see these places, for between us and them there are
great and terrible waters, and there is Oceanus, which no man can
cross on foot, but he must have a good ship to take him. Are you all
this time trying to find your way home from Troy, and have you never
yet got back to Ithaca nor seen your wife in your own house?'
"'Mother,' said I, 'I was forced to come here to consult the ghost
of the Theban prophet Teiresias. I have never yet been near the
Achaean land nor set foot on my native country, and I have had nothing
but one long series of misfortunes from the very first day that I
set out with Agamemnon for Ilius, the land of noble steeds, to fight
the Trojans. But tell me, and tell me true, in what way did you die?
Did you have a long illness, or did heaven vouchsafe you a gentle easy
passage to eternity? Tell me also about my father, and the son whom
I left behind me; is my property still in their hands, or has some one
else got hold of it, who thinks that I shall not return to claim it?
Tell me again what my wife intends doing, and in what mind she is;
does she live with my son and guard my estate securely, or has she
made the best match she could and married again?'
"My mother answered, 'Your wife still remains in your house, but she
is in great distress of mind and spends her whole time in tears both
night and day. No one as yet has got possession of your fine property,
and Telemachus still holds your lands undisturbed. He has to entertain
largely, as of course he must, considering his position as a
magistrate, and how every one invites him; your father remains at
his old place in the country and never goes near the town. He has no
comfortable bed nor bedding; in the winter he sleeps on the floor in
front of the fire with the men and goes about all in rags, but in
summer, when the warm weather comes on again, he lies out in the
vineyard on a bed of vine leaves thrown anyhow upon the ground. He
grieves continually about your never having come home, and suffers
more and more as he grows older. As for my own end it was in this
wise: heaven did not take me swiftly and painlessly in my own house,
nor was I attacked by any illness such as those that generally wear
people out and kill them, but my longing to know what you were doing
and the force of my affection for you- this it was that was the
death of me.'
"Then I tried to find some way of embracing my mother's ghost.
Thrice I sprang towards her and tried to clasp her in my arms, but
each time she flitted from my embrace as it were a dream or phantom,
and being touched to the quick I said to her, 'Mother, why do you
not stay still when I would embrace you? If we could throw our arms
around one another we might find sad comfort in the sharing of our
sorrows even in the house of Hades; does Proserpine want to lay a
still further load of grief upon me by mocking me with a phantom
"'My son,' she answered, 'most ill-fated of all mankind, it is not
Proserpine that is beguiling you, but all people are like this when
they are dead. The sinews no longer hold the flesh and bones together;
these perish in the fierceness of consuming fire as soon as life has
left the body, and the soul flits away as though it were a dream. Now,
however, go back to the light of day as soon as you can, and note
all these things that you may tell them to your wife hereafter.'
"Thus did we converse, and anon Proserpine sent up the ghosts of the
wives and daughters of all the most famous men. They gathered in
crowds about the blood, and I considered how I might question them
severally. In the end I deemed that it would be best to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh, and keep them from all
drinking the blood at once. So they came up one after the other, and
each one as I questioned her told me her race and lineage.
"The first I saw was Tyro. She was daughter of Salmoneus and wife of
Cretheus the son of Aeolus. She fell in love with the river Enipeus
who is much the most beautiful river in the whole world. Once when she
was taking a walk by his side as usual, Neptune, disguised as her
lover, lay with her at the mouth of the river, and a huge blue wave
arched itself like a mountain over them to hide both woman and god,
whereon he loosed her virgin girdle and laid her in a deep slumber.
When the god had accomplished the deed of love, he took her hand in
his own and said, 'Tyro, rejoice in all good will; the embraces of the
gods are not fruitless, and you will have fine twins about this time
twelve months. Take great care of them. I am Neptune, so now go
home, but hold your tongue and do not tell any one.'
"Then he dived under the sea, and she in due course bore Pelias
and Neleus, who both of them served Jove with all their might.
Pelias was a great breeder of sheep and lived in Iolcus, but the other
lived in Pylos. The rest of her children were by Cretheus, namely,
Aeson, Pheres, and Amythaon, who was a mighty warrior and charioteer.
"Next to her I saw Antiope, daughter to Asopus, who could boast of
having slept in the arms of even Jove himself, and who bore him two
sons Amphion and Zethus. These founded Thebes with its seven gates,
and built a wall all round it; for strong though they were they
could not hold Thebes till they had walled it.
"Then I saw Alcmena, the wife of Amphitryon, who also bore to Jove
indomitable Hercules; and Megara who was daughter to great King Creon,
and married the redoubtable son of Amphitryon.
"I also saw fair Epicaste mother of king OEdipodes whose awful lot
it was to marry her own son without suspecting it. He married her
after having killed his father, but the gods proclaimed the whole
story to the world; whereon he remained king of Thebes, in great grief
for the spite the gods had borne him; but Epicaste went to the house
of the mighty jailor Hades, having hanged herself for grief, and the
avenging spirits haunted him as for an outraged mother- to his ruing
"Then I saw Chloris, whom Neleus married for her beauty, having
given priceless presents for her. She was youngest daughter to Amphion
son of Iasus and king of Minyan Orchomenus, and was Queen in Pylos.
She bore Nestor, Chromius, and Periclymenus, and she also bore that
marvellously lovely woman Pero, who was wooed by all the country
round; but Neleus would only give her to him who should raid the
cattle of Iphicles from the grazing grounds of Phylace, and this was a
hard task. The only man who would undertake to raid them was a certain
excellent seer, but the will of heaven was against him, for the
rangers of the cattle caught him and put him in prison; nevertheless
when a full year had passed and the same season came round again,
Iphicles set him at liberty, after he had expounded all the oracles of
heaven. Thus, then, was the will of Jove accomplished.
"And I saw Leda the wife of Tyndarus, who bore him two famous
sons, Castor breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer. Both
these heroes are lying under the earth, though they are still alive,
for by a special dispensation of Jove, they die and come to life
again, each one of them every other day throughout all time, and
they have the rank of gods.
"After her I saw Iphimedeia wife of Aloeus who boasted the embrace
of Neptune. She bore two sons Otus and Ephialtes, but both were
short lived. They were the finest children that were ever born in this
world, and the best looking, Orion only excepted; for at nine years
old they were nine fathoms high, and measured nine cubits round the
chest. They threatened to make war with the gods in Olympus, and tried
to set Mount Ossa on the top of Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion on the
top of Ossa, that they might scale heaven itself, and they would
have done it too if they had been grown up, but Apollo, son of Leto,
killed both of them, before they had got so much as a sign of hair
upon their cheeks or chin.
"Then I saw Phaedra, and Procris, and fair Ariadne daughter of the
magician Minos, whom Theseus was carrying off from Crete to Athens,
but he did not enjoy her, for before he could do so Diana killed her
in the island of Dia on account of what Bacchus had said against her.
"I also saw Maera and Clymene and hateful Eriphyle, who sold her own
husband for gold. But it would take me all night if I were to name
every single one of the wives and daughters of heroes whom I saw,
and it is time for me to go to bed, either on board ship with my crew,
or here. As for my escort, heaven and yourselves will see to it."
Here he ended, and the guests sat all of them enthralled and
speechless throughout the covered cloister. Then Arete said to them:
"What do you think of this man, O Phaecians? Is he not tall and good
looking, and is he not Clever? True, he is my own guest, but all of
you share in the distinction. Do not he a hurry to send him away,
nor niggardly in the presents you make to one who is in such great
need, for heaven has blessed all of you with great abundance."
Then spoke the aged hero Echeneus who was one of the oldest men
among them, "My friends," said he, "what our august queen has just
said to us is both reasonable and to the purpose, therefore be
persuaded by it; but the decision whether in word or deed rests
ultimately with King Alcinous."
"The thing shall be done," exclaimed Alcinous, "as surely as I still
live and reign over the Phaeacians. Our guest is indeed very anxious
to get home, still we must persuade him to remain with us until
to-morrow, by which time I shall be able to get together the whole sum
that I mean to give him. As regards- his escort it will be a matter
for you all, and mine above all others as the chief person among you."
And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, if you were to bid me to
stay here for a whole twelve months, and then speed me on my way,
loaded with your noble gifts, I should obey you gladly and it would
redound greatly to my advantage, for I should return fuller-handed
to my own people, and should thus be more respected and beloved by all
who see me when I get back to Ithaca."
"Ulysses," replied Alcinous, "not one of us who sees you has any
idea that you are a charlatan or a swindler. I know there are many
people going about who tell such plausible stories that it is very
hard to see through them, but there is a style about your language
which assures me of your good disposition. Moreover you have told
the story of your own misfortunes, and those of the Argives, as though
you were a practised bard; but tell me, and tell me true, whether
you saw any of the mighty heroes who went to Troy at the same time
with yourself, and perished there. The evenings are still at their
longest, and it is not yet bed time- go on, therefore, with your
divine story, for I could stay here listening till to-morrow
morning, so long as you will continue to tell us of your adventures."
"Alcinous," answered Ulysses, "there is a time for making
speeches, and a time for going to bed; nevertheless, since you so
desire, I will not refrain from telling you the still sadder tale of
those of my comrades who did not fall fighting with the Trojans, but
perished on their return, through the treachery of a wicked woman.
"When Proserpine had dismissed the female ghosts in all
directions, the ghost of Agamemnon son of Atreus came sadly up tome,
surrounded by those who had perished with him in the house of
Aegisthus. As soon as he had tasted the blood he knew me, and
weeping bitterly stretched out his arms towards me to embrace me;
but he had no strength nor substance any more, and I too wept and
pitied him as I beheld him. 'How did you come by your death,' said
I, 'King Agamemnon? Did Neptune raise his winds and waves against
you when you were at sea, or did your enemies make an end of you on
the mainland when you were cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or
while they were fighting in defence of their wives and city?'
"'Ulysses,' he answered, 'noble son of Laertes, was not lost at
sea in any storm of Neptune's raising, nor did my foes despatch me
upon the mainland, but Aegisthus and my wicked wife were the death
of me between them. He asked me to his house, feasted me, and then
butchered me most miserably as though I were a fat beast in a
slaughter house, while all around me my comrades were slain like sheep
or pigs for the wedding breakfast, or picnic, or gorgeous banquet of
some great nobleman. You must have seen numbers of men killed either
in a general engagement, or in single combat, but you never saw
anything so truly pitiable as the way in which we fell in that
cloister, with the mixing-bowl and the loaded tables lying all
about, and the ground reeking with our-blood. I heard Priam's daughter
Cassandra scream as Clytemnestra killed her close beside me. I lay
dying upon the earth with the sword in my body, and raised my hands to
kill the slut of a murderess, but she slipped away from me; she
would not even close my lips nor my eyes when I was dying, for there
is nothing in this world so cruel and so shameless as a woman when she
has fallen into such guilt as hers was. Fancy murdering her own
husband! I thought I was going to be welcomed home by my children
and my servants, but her abominable crime has brought disgrace on
herself and all women who shall come after- even on the good ones.'
"And I said, 'In truth Jove has hated the house of Atreus from first
to last in the matter of their women's counsels. See how many of us
fell for Helen's sake, and now it seems that Clytemnestra hatched
mischief against too during your absence.'
"'Be sure, therefore,' continued Agamemnon, 'and not be too friendly
even with your own wife. Do not tell her all that you know perfectly
well yourself. Tell her a part only, and keep your own counsel about
the rest. Not that your wife, Ulysses, is likely to murder you, for
Penelope is a very admirable woman, and has an excellent nature. We
left her a young bride with an infant at her breast when we set out
for Troy. This child no doubt is now grown up happily to man's estate,
and he and his father will have a joyful meeting and embrace one
another as it is right they should do, whereas my wicked wife did
not even allow me the happiness of looking upon my son, but killed
me ere I could do so. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your
heart- do not tell people when you are bringing your ship to Ithaca,
but steal a march upon them, for after all this there is no trusting
women. But now tell me, and tell me true, can you give me any news
of my son Orestes? Is he in Orchomenus, or at Pylos, or is he at
Sparta with Menelaus- for I presume that he is still living.'
"And I said, 'Agamemnon, why do you ask me? I do not know whether
your son is alive or dead, and it is not right to talk when one does
"As we two sat weeping and talking thus sadly with one another the
ghost of Achilles came up to us with Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax
who was the finest and goodliest man of all the Danaans after the
son of Peleus. The fleet descendant of Aeacus knew me and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, what deed of daring
will you undertake next, that you venture down to the house of Hades
among us silly dead, who are but the ghosts of them that can labour no
"And I said, 'Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the
Achaeans, I came to consult Teiresias, and see if he could advise me
about my return home to Ithaca, for I have never yet been able to
get near the Achaean land, nor to set foot in my own country, but have
been in trouble all the time. As for you, Achilles, no one was ever
yet so fortunate as you have been, nor ever will be, for you were
adored by all us Argives as long as you were alive, and now that you
are here you are a great prince among the dead. Do not, therefore,
take it so much to heart even if you are dead.'
"'Say not a word,' he answered, 'in death's favour; I would rather
be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than
king of kings among the dead. But give me news about son; is he gone
to the wars and will he be a great soldier, or is this not so? Tell me
also if you have heard anything about my father Peleus- does he
still rule among the Myrmidons, or do they show him no respect
throughout Hellas and Phthia now that he is old and his limbs fail
him? Could I but stand by his side, in the light of day, with the same
strength that I had when I killed the bravest of our foes upon the
plain of Troy- could I but be as I then was and go even for a short
time to my father's house, any one who tried to do him violence or
supersede him would soon me it.'
"'I have heard nothing,' I answered, 'of Peleus, but I can tell
you all about your son Neoptolemus, for I took him in my own ship from
Scyros with the Achaeans. In our councils of war before Troy he was
always first to speak, and his judgement was unerring. Nestor and I
were the only two who could surpass him; and when it came to
fighting on the plain of Troy, he would never remain with the body
of his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in
valour. Many a man did he kill in battle- I cannot name every single
one of those whom he slew while fighting on the side of the Argives,
but will only say how he killed that valiant hero Eurypylus son of
Telephus, who was the handsomest man I ever saw except Memnon; many
others also of the Ceteians fell around him by reason of a woman's
bribes. Moreover, when all the bravest of the Argives went inside
the horse that Epeus had made, and it was left to me to settle when we
should either open the door of our ambuscade, or close it, though
all the other leaders and chief men among the Danaans were drying
their eyes and quaking in every limb, I never once saw him turn pale
nor wipe a tear from his cheek; he was all the time urging me to break
out from the horse- grasping the handle of his sword and his
bronze-shod spear, and breathing fury against the foe. Yet when we had
sacked the city of Priam he got his handsome share of the prize
money and went on board (such is the fortune of war) without a wound
upon him, neither from a thrown spear nor in close combat, for the
rage of Mars is a matter of great chance.'
"When I had told him this, the ghost of Achilles strode off across a
meadow full of asphodel, exulting over what I had said concerning
the prowess of his son.
"The ghosts of other dead men stood near me and told me each his own
melancholy tale; but that of Ajax son of Telamon alone held aloof-
still angry with me for having won the cause in our dispute about
the armour of Achilles. Thetis had offered it as a prize, but the
Trojan prisoners and Minerva were the judges. Would that I had never
gained the day in such a contest, for it cost the life of Ajax, who
was foremost of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus, alike in
stature and prowess.
"When I saw him I tried to pacify him and said, 'Ajax, will you
not forget and forgive even in death, but must the judgement about
that hateful armour still rankle with you? It cost us Argives dear
enough to lose such a tower of strength as you were to us. We
mourned you as much as we mourned Achilles son of Peleus himself,
nor can the blame be laid on anything but on the spite which Jove bore
against the Danaans, for it was this that made him counsel your
destruction- come hither, therefore, bring your proud spirit into
subjection, and hear what I can tell you.'
"He would not answer, but turned away to Erebus and to the other
ghosts; nevertheless, I should have made him talk to me in spite of
his being so angry, or I should have gone talking to him, only that
there were still others among the dead whom I desired to see.
"Then I saw Minos son of Jove with his golden sceptre in his hand
sitting in judgement on the dead, and the ghosts were gathered sitting
and standing round him in the spacious house of Hades, to learn his
sentences upon them.
"After him I saw huge Orion in a meadow full of asphodel driving the
ghosts of the wild beasts that he had killed upon the mountains, and
he had a great bronze club in his hand, unbreakable for ever and ever.
"And I saw Tityus son of Gaia stretched upon the plain and
covering some nine acres of ground. Two vultures on either side of him
were digging their beaks into his liver, and he kept on trying to beat
them off with his hands, but could not; for he had violated Jove's
mistress Leto as she was going through Panopeus on her way to Pytho.
"I saw also the dreadful fate of Tantalus, who stood in a lake
that reached his chin; he was dying to quench his thirst, but could
never reach the water, for whenever the poor creature stooped to
drink, it dried up and vanished, so that there was nothing but dry
ground- parched by the spite of heaven. There were tall trees,
moreover, that shed their fruit over his head- pears, pomegranates,
apples, sweet figs and juicy olives, but whenever the poor creature
stretched out his hand to take some, the wind tossed the branches back
again to the clouds.
"And I saw Sisyphus at his endless task raising his prodigious stone
with both his hands. With hands and feet he' tried to roll it up to
the top of the hill, but always, just before he could roll it over
on to the other side, its weight would be too much for him, and the
pitiless stone would come thundering down again on to the plain.
Then he would begin trying to push it up hill again, and the sweat ran
off him and the steam rose after him.
"After him I saw mighty Hercules, but it was his phantom only, for
he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely Hebe to
wife, who is daughter of Jove and Juno. The ghosts were screaming
round him like scared birds flying all whithers. He looked black as
night with his bare bow in his hands and his arrow on the string,
glaring around as though ever on the point of taking aim. About his
breast there was a wondrous golden belt adorned in the most marvellous
fashion with bears, wild boars, and lions with gleaming eyes; there
was also war, battle, and death. The man who made that belt, do what
he might, would never be able to make another like it. Hercules knew
me at once when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, my poor
Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind
of life that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Jove, but I
went through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman to one
who was far beneath me- a low fellow who set me all manner of labours.
He once sent me here to fetch the hell-hound- for he did not think
he could find anything harder for me than this, but I got the hound
out of Hades and brought him to him, for Mercury and Minerva helped
"On this Hercules went down again into the house of Hades, but I
stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come
to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are gone
before, whom I would fain have seen- Theseus and Pirithous glorious
children of the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me
and uttered such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest
Proserpine should send up from the house of Hades the head of that
awful monster Gorgon. On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered
my men to go on board at once and loose the hawsers; so they
embarked and took their places, whereon the ship went down the
stream of the river Oceanus. We had to row at first, but presently a
fair wind sprang up.
The Odyssey: Book 19
Ulysses was left in the cloister, pondering on the means whereby
with Minerva's help he might be able to kill the suitors. Presently he
said to Telemachus, "Telemachus, we must get the armour together and
take it down inside. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why you
have removed it. Say that you have taken it to be out of the way of
the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses went
away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this more
particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel
over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm which may
disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes
tempts people to use them."
Telemachus approved of what his father had said, so he called
nurse Euryclea and said, "Nurse, shut the women up in their room,
while I take the armour that my father left behind him down into the
store room. No one looks after it now my father is gone, and it has
got all smirched with soot during my own boyhood. I want to take it
down where the smoke cannot reach it."
"I wish, child," answered Euryclea, "that you would take the
management of the house into your own hands altogether, and look after
all the property yourself. But who is to go with you and light you
to the store room? The maids would have so, but you would not let
"The stranger," said Telemachus, "shall show me a light; when people
eat my bread they must earn it, no matter where they come from."
Euryclea did as she was told, and bolted the women inside their
room. Then Ulysses and his son made all haste to take the helmets,
shields, and spears inside; and Minerva went before them with a gold
lamp in her hand that shed a soft and brilliant radiance, whereon
Telemachus said, "Father, my eyes behold a great marvel: the walls,
with the rafters, crossbeams, and the supports on which they rest
are all aglow as with a flaming fire. Surely there is some god here
who has come down from heaven."
"Hush," answered Ulysses, "hold your peace and ask no questions, for
this is the manner of the gods. Get you to your bed, and leave me here
to talk with your mother and the maids. Your mother in her grief
will ask me all sorts of questions."
On this Telemachus went by torch-light to the other side of the
inner court, to the room in which he always slept. There he lay in his
bed till morning, while Ulysses was left in the cloister pondering
on the means whereby with Minerva's help he might be able to kill
Then Penelope came down from her room looking like Venus or Diana,
and they set her a seat inlaid with scrolls of silver and ivory near
the fire in her accustomed place. It had been made by Icmalius and had
a footstool all in one piece with the seat itself; and it was
covered with a thick fleece: on this she now sat, and the maids came
from the women's room to join her. They set about removing the
tables at which the wicked suitors had been dining, and took away
the bread that was left, with the cups from which they had drunk. They
emptied the embers out of the braziers, and heaped much wood upon them
to give both light and heat; but Melantho began to rail at Ulysses a
second time and said, "Stranger, do you mean to plague us by hanging
about the house all night and spying upon the women? Be off, you
wretch, outside, and eat your supper there, or you shall be driven out
with a firebrand."
Ulysses scowled at her and answered, "My good woman, why should
you be so angry with me? Is it because I am not clean, and my
clothes are all in rags, and because I am obliged to go begging
about after the manner of tramps and beggars generall? I too was a
rich man once, and had a fine house of my own; in those days I gave to
many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who he might be nor what he
wanted. I had any number of servants, and all the other things which
people have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased
Jove to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too
come to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your
fellows; have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress,
and lest Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he
may do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by
Apollo's will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will
note anything done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no
longer in his boyhood."
Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, "Impudent
baggage, said she, "I see how abominably you are behaving, and you
shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,
that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband, for
whose sake I am in such continual sorrow."
Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, "Bring a seat with
a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his
story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some
Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as
soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, "Stranger, I
shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town and
"Madam;" answered Ulysses, "who on the face of the whole earth can
dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven
itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,
as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its
wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring
forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,
and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here in
your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know my race
and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more increase my
sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit weeping and
wailing in another person's house, nor is it well to be thus
grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even
yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears
because I am heavy with wine."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,
whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my
dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs
I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to
the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from
all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca
itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can
therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to
people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time
brokenhearted about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once,
and I have to invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first
place heaven put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my
room, and to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine
needlework. Then I said to them, 'Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead,
still, do not press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would
not have my skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
finished making a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready against the
time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of
the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.' This was what I
said, and they assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great
web all day long, but at night I would unpick the stitches again by
torch light. I fooled them in this way for three years without their
finding it out, but as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year,
in the waning of moons, and many days had been accomplished, those
good-for-nothing hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who
broke in upon me and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was
forced to finish my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see
how I can find any further shift for getting out of this marriage.
My parents are putting great pressure upon me, and my son chafes at
the ravages the suitors are making upon his estate, for he is now
old enough to understand all about it and is perfectly able to look
after his own affairs, for heaven has blessed him with an excellent
disposition. Still, notwithstanding all this, tell me who you are
and where you come from- for you must have had father and mother of
some sort; you cannot be the son of an oak or of a rock."
Then Ulysses answered, "madam, wife of Ulysses, since you persist in
asking me about my family, I will answer, no matter what it costs
me: people must expect to be pained when they have been exiles as long
as I have, and suffered as much among as many peoples. Nevertheless,
as regards your question I will tell you all you ask. There is a
fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly
peopled and there are nine cities in it: the people speak many
different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans,
brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.
There is a great town there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned who every
nine years had a conference with Jove himself. Minos was father to
Deucalion, whose son I am, for Deucalion had two sons Idomeneus and
myself. Idomeneus sailed for Troy, and I, who am the younger, am
called Aethon; my brother, however, was at once the older and the more
valiant of the two; hence it was in Crete that I saw Ulysses and
showed him hospitality, for the winds took him there as he was on
his way to Troy, carrying him out of his course from cape Malea and
leaving him in Amnisus off the cave of Ilithuia, where the harbours
are difficult to enter and he could hardly find shelter from the winds
that were then xaging. As soon as he got there he went into the town
and asked for Idomeneus, claiming to be his old and valued friend, but
Idomeneus had already set sail for Troy some ten or twelve days
earlier, so I took him to my own house and showed him every kind of
hospitality, for I had abundance of everything. Moreover, I fed the
men who were with him with barley meal from the public store, and
got subscriptions of wine and oxen for them to sacrifice to their
heart's content. They stayed with me twelve days, for there was a gale
blowing from the North so strong that one could hardly keep one's feet
on land. I suppose some unfriendly god had raised it for them, but
on the thirteenth day the wind dropped, and they got away."
Many a plausible tale did Ulysses further tell her, and Penelope
wept as she listened, for her heart was melted. As the snow wastes
upon the mountain tops when the winds from South East and West have
breathed upon it and thawed it till the rivers run bank full with
water, even so did her cheeks overflow with tears for the husband
who was all the time sitting by her side. Ulysses felt for her and was
for her, but he kept his eyes as hard as or iron without letting
them so much as quiver, so cunningly did he restrain his tears.
Then, when she had relieved herself by weeping, she turned to him
again and said: "Now, stranger, I shall put you to the test and see
whether or no you really did entertain my husband and his men, as
you say you did. Tell me, then, how he was dressed, what kind of a man
he was to look at, and so also with his companions."
"Madam," answered Ulysses, "it is such a long time ago that I can
hardly say. Twenty years are come and gone since he left my home,
and went elsewhither; but I will tell you as well as I can
recollect. Ulysses wore a mantle of purple wool, double lined, and
it was fastened by a gold brooch with two catches for the pin. On
the face of this there was a device that showed a dog holding a
spotted fawn between his fore paws, and watching it as it lay
panting upon the ground. Every one marvelled at the way in which these
things had been done in gold, the dog looking at the fawn, and
strangling it, while the fawn was struggling convulsively to escape.
As for the shirt that he wore next his skin, it was so soft that it
fitted him like the skin of an onion, and glistened in the sunlight to
the admiration of all the women who beheld it. Furthermore I say,
and lay my saying to your heart, that I do not know whether Ulysses
wore these clothes when he left home, or whether one of his companions
had given them to him while he was on his voyage; or possibly some one
at whose house he was staying made him a present of them, for he was a
man of many friends and had few equals among the Achaeans. I myself
gave him a sword of bronze and a beautiful purple mantle, double
lined, with a shirt that went down to his feet, and I sent him on
board his ship with every mark of honour. He had a servant with him, a
little older than himself, and I can tell you what he was like; his
shoulders were hunched, he was dark, and he had thick curly hair.
His name was Eurybates, and Ulysses treated him with greater
familiarity than he did any of the others, as being the most
like-minded with himself."
Penelope was moved still more deeply as she heard the indisputable
proofs that Ulysses laid before her; and when she had again found
relief in tears she said to him, "Stranger, I was already disposed
to pity you, but henceforth you shall be honoured and made welcome
in my house. It was I who gave Ulysses the clothes you speak of. I
took them out of the store room and folded them up myself, and I
gave him also the gold brooch to wear as an ornament. Alas! I shall
never welcome him home again. It was by an ill fate that he ever set
out for that detested city whose very name I cannot bring myself
even to mention."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam, wife of Ulysses, do not disfigure
yourself further by grieving thus bitterly for your loss, though I can
hardly blame you for doing so. A woman who has loved her husband and
borne him children, would naturally be grieved at losing him, even
though he were a worse man than Ulysses, who they say was like a
god. Still, cease your tears and listen to what I can tell I will hide
nothing from you, and can say with perfect truth that I have lately
heard of Ulysses as being alive and on his way home; he is among the
Thesprotians, and is bringing back much valuable treasure that he
has begged from one and another of them; but his ship and all his crew
were lost as they were leaving the Thrinacian island, for Jove and the
sun-god were angry with him because his men had slaughtered the
sun-god's cattle, and they were all drowned to a man. But Ulysses
stuck to the keel of the ship and was drifted on to the land of the
Phaecians, who are near of kin to the immortals, and who treated him
as though he had been a god, giving him many presents, and wishing
to escort him home safe and sound. In fact Ulysses would have been
here long ago, had he not thought better to go from land to land
gathering wealth; for there is no man living who is so wily as he
is; there is no one can compare with him. Pheidon king of the
Thesprotians told me all this, and he swore to me- making
drink-offerings in his house as he did so- that the ship was by the
water side and the crew found who would take Ulysses to his own
country. He sent me off first, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
but he showed me all treasure Ulysses had got together, and he had
enough lying in the house of king Pheidon to keep his family for ten
generations; but the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the high oak tree, and know whether after
so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly or in secret.
So you may know he is safe and will be here shortly; he is close at
hand and cannot remain away from home much longer; nevertheless I will
confirm my words with an oath, and call Jove who is the first and
mightiest of all gods to witness, as also that hearth of Ulysses to
which I have now come, that all I have spoken shall surely come to
pass. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with the end of this
moon and the beginning of the next he will be here."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true you
shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who see
you shall congratulate you; but I know very well how it will be.
Ulysses will not return, neither will you get your escort hence, for
so surely as that Ulysses ever was, there are now no longer any such
masters in the house as he was, to receive honourable strangers or
to further them on their way home. And now, you maids, wash his feet
for him, and make him a bed on a couch with rugs and blankets, that he
may be warm and quiet till morning. Then, at day break wash him and
anoint him again, that he may sit in the cloister and take his meals
with Telemachus. It shall be the worse for any one of these hateful
people who is uncivil to him; like it or not, he shall have no more to
do in this house. For how, sir, shall you be able to learn whether
or no I am superior to others of my sex both in goodness of heart
and understanding, if I let you dine in my cloisters squalid and ill
clad? Men live but for a little season; if they are hard, and deal
hardly, people wish them ill so long as they are alive, and speak
contemptuously of them when they are dead, but he that is righteous
and deals righteously, the people tell of his praise among all
lands, and many shall call him blessed."
Ulysses answered, "Madam, I have foresworn rugs and blankets from
the day that I left the snowy ranges of Crete to go on shipboard. I
will lie as I have lain on many a sleepless night hitherto. Night
after night have I passed in any rough sleeping place, and waited
for morning. Nor, again, do I like having my feet washed; I shall
not let any of the young hussies about your house touch my feet;
but, if you have any old and respectable woman who has gone through as
much trouble as I have, I will allow her to wash them."
To this Penelope said, "My dear sir, of all the guests who ever
yet came to my house there never was one who spoke in all things
with such admirable propriety as you do. There happens to be in the
house a most respectable old woman- the same who received my poor dear
husband in her arms the night he was born, and nursed him in
infancy. She is very feeble now, but she shall wash your feet."
"Come here," said she, "Euryclea, and wash your master's age-mate; I
suppose Ulysses' hands and feet are very much the same now as his are,
for trouble ages all of us dreadfully fast."
On these words the old woman covered her face with her hands; she
began to weep and made lamentation saying, "My dear child, I cannot
think whatever I am to do with you. I am certain no one was ever
more god-fearing than yourself, and yet Jove hates you. No one in
the whole world ever burned him more thigh bones, nor gave him finer
hecatombs when you prayed you might come to a green old age yourself
and see your son grow up to take after you; yet see how he has
prevented you alone from ever getting back to your own home. I have no
doubt the women in some foreign palace which Ulysses has got to are
gibing at him as all these sluts here have been gibing you. I do not
wonder at your not choosing to let them wash you after the manner in
which they have insulted you; I will wash your feet myself gladly
enough, as Penelope has said that I am to do so; I will wash them both
for Penelope's sake and for your own, for you have raised the most
lively feelings of compassion in my mind; and let me say this
moreover, which pray attend to; we have had all kinds of strangers
in distress come here before now, but I make bold to say that no one
ever yet came who was so like Ulysses in figure, voice, and feet as
"Those who have seen us both," answered Ulysses, "have always said
we were wonderfully like each other, and now you have noticed it too.
Then the old woman took the cauldron in which she was going to
wash his feet, and poured plenty of cold water into it, adding hot
till the bath was warm enough. Ulysses sat by the fire, but ere long
he turned away from the light, for it occurred to him that when the
old woman had hold of his leg she would recognize a certain scar which
it bore, whereon the whole truth would come out. And indeed as soon as
she began washing her master, she at once knew the scar as one that
had been given him by a wild boar when he was hunting on Mount
Parnassus with his excellent grandfather Autolycus- who was the most
accomplished thief and perjurer in the whole world- and with the
sons of Autolycus. Mercury himself had endowed him with this gift, for
he used to burn the thigh bones of goats and kids to him, so he took
pleasure in his companionship. It happened once that Autolycus had
gone to Ithaca and had found the child of his daughter just born. As
soon as he had done supper Euryclea set the infant upon his knees
and said, you must find a name for your grandson; you greatly wished
that you might have one."
'Son-in-law and daughter," replied Autolycus, "call the child
thus: I am highly displeased with a large number of people in one
place and another, both men and women; so name the child 'Ulysses,' or
the child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother's
family on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a
present and will send him on his way rejoicing."
Ulysses, therefore, went to Parnassus to get the presents from
Autolycus, who with his sons shook hands with him and gave him
welcome. His grandmother Amphithea threw her arms about him, and
kissed his head, and both his beautiful eyes, while Autolycus
desired his sons to get dinner ready, and they did as he told them.
They brought in a five year old bull, flayed it, made it ready and
divided it into joints; these they then cut carefully up into
smaller pieces and spitted them; they roasted them sufficiently and
served the portions round. Thus through the livelong day to the
going down of the sun they feasted, and every man had his full share
so that all were satisfied; but when the sun set and it came on
dark, they went to bed and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the sons of
Autolycus went out with their hounds hunting, and Ulysses went too.
They climbed the wooded slopes of Parnassus and soon reached its
breezy upland valleys; but as the sun was beginning to beat upon the
fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus, they came
to a mountain dell. The dogs were in front searching for the tracks of
the beast they were chasing, and after them came the sons of
Autolycus, among whom was Ulysses, close behind the dogs, and he had a
long spear in his hand. Here was the lair of a huge boar among some
thick brushwood, so dense that the wind and rain could not get through
it, nor could the sun's rays pierce it, and the ground underneath
lay thick with fallen leaves. The boar heard the noise of the men's
feet, and the hounds baying on every side as the huntsmen came up to
him, so rushed from his lair, raised the bristles on his neck, and
stood at bay with fire flashing from his eyes. Ulysses was the first
to raise his spear and try to drive it into the brute, but the boar
was too quick for him, and charged him sideways, ripping him above the
knee with a gash that tore deep though it did not reach the bone. As
for the boar, Ulysses hit him on the right shoulder, and the point
of the spear went right through him, so that he fell groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. The sons of Autolycus busied
themselves with the carcass of the boar, and bound Ulysses' wound;
then, after saying a spell to stop the bleeding, they went home as
fast as they could. But when Autolycus and his sons had thoroughly
healed Ulysses, they made him some splendid presents, and sent him
back to Ithaca with much mutual good will. When he got back, his
father and mother were rejoiced to see him, and asked him all about
it, and how he had hurt himself to get the scar; so he told them how
the boar had ripped him when he was out hunting with Autolycus and his
sons on Mount Parnassus.
As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and had
well hold of it, she recognized it and dropped the foot at once. The
leg fell into the bath, which rang out and was overturned, so that all
the water was spilt on the ground; Euryclea's eyes between her joy and
her grief filled with tears, and she could not speak, but she caught
Ulysses by the beard and said, "My dear child, I am sure you must be
Ulysses himself, only I did not know you till I had actually touched
and handled you."
As she spoke she looked towards Penelope, as though wanting to
tell her that her dear husband was in the house, but Penelope was
unable to look in that direction and observe what was going on, for
Minerva had diverted her attention; so Ulysses caught Euryclea by
the throat with his right hand and with his left drew her close to
him, and said, "Nurse, do you wish to be the ruin of me, you who
nursed me at your own breast, now that after twenty years of wandering
I am at last come to my own home again? Since it has been borne in
upon you by heaven to recognize me, hold your tongue, and do not say a
word about it any one else in the house, for if you do I tell you- and
it shall surely be- that if heaven grants me to take the lives of
these suitors, I will not spare you, though you are my own nurse, when
I am killing the other women."
"My child," answered Euryclea, "what are you talking about? You know
very well that nothing can either bend or break me. I will hold my
tongue like a stone or a piece of iron; furthermore let me say, and
lay my saying to your heart, when heaven has delivered the suitors
into your hand, I will give you a list of the women in the house who
have been ill-behaved, and of those who are guiltless."
And Ulysses answered, "Nurse, you ought not to speak in that way;
I am well able to form my own opinion about one and all of them;
hold your tongue and leave everything to heaven."
As he said this Euryclea left the cloister to fetch some more water,
for the first had been all spilt; and when she had washed him and
anointed him with oil, Ulysses drew his seat nearer to the fire to
warm himself, and hid the scar under his rags. Then Penelope began
talking to him and said:
"Stranger, I should like to speak with you briefly about another
matter. It is indeed nearly bed time- for those, at least, who can
sleep in spite of sorrow. As for myself, heaven has given me a life of
such unmeasurable woe, that even by day when I am attending to my
duties and looking after the servants, I am still weeping and
lamenting during the whole time; then, when night comes, and we all of
us go to bed, I lie awake thinking, and my heart comes a prey to the
most incessant and cruel tortures. As the dun nightingale, daughter of
Pandareus, sings in the early spring from her seat in shadiest
covert hid, and with many a plaintive trill pours out the tale how
by mishap she killed her own child Itylus, son of king Zethus, even so
does my mind toss and turn in its uncertainty whether I ought to
stay with my son here, and safeguard my substance, my bondsmen, and
the greatness of my house, out of regard to public opinion and the
memory of my late husband, or whether it is not now time for me to
go with the best of these suitors who are wooing me and making me such
magnificent presents. As long as my son was still young, and unable to
understand, he would not hear of my leaving my husband's house, but
now that he is full grown he begs and prays me to do so, being
incensed at the way in which the suitors are eating up his property.
Listen, then, to a dream that I have had and interpret it for me if
you can. I have twenty geese about the house that eat mash out of a
trough, and of which I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great
eagle came swooping down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into
the neck of each of them till he had killed them all. Presently he
soared off into the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard;
whereon I wept in my room till all my maids gathered round me, so
piteously was I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese. Then
he came back again, and perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me
with human voice, and told me to leave off crying. 'Be of good
courage,' he said, 'daughter of Icarius; this is no dream, but a
vision of good omen that shall surely come to pass. The geese are
the suitors, and I am no longer an eagle, but your own husband, who am
come back to you, and who will bring these suitors to a disgraceful
end.' On this I woke, and when I looked out I saw my geese at the
trough eating their mash as usual."
"This dream, Madam," replied Ulysses, "can admit but of one
interpretation, for had not Ulysses himself told you how it shall be
fulfilled? The death of the suitors is portended, and not one single
one of them will escape."
And Penelope answered, "Stranger, dreams are very curious and
unaccountable things, and they do not by any means invariably come
true. There are two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies
proceed; the one is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come
through the gate of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn
mean something to those that see them. I do not think, however, that
my own dream came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should
be most thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say-
and lay my saying to your heart- the coming dawn will usher in the
ill-omened day that is to sever me from the house of Ulysses, for I am
about to hold a tournament of axes. My husband used to set up twelve
axes in the court, one in front of the other, like the stays upon
which a ship is built; he would then go back from them and shoot an
arrow through the whole twelve. I shall make the suitors try to do the
same thing, and whichever of them can string the bow most easily,
and send his arrow through all the twelve axes, him will I follow, and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly and so abounding in
wealth. But even so, I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam wife of Ulysses, you need not defer
your tournament, for Ulysses will return ere ever they can string
the bow, handle it how they will, and send their arrows through the
To this Penelope said, "As long, sir, as you will sit here and
talk to me, I can have no desire to go to bed. Still, people cannot do
permanently without sleep, and heaven has appointed us dwellers on
earth a time for all things. I will therefore go upstairs and
recline upon that couch which I have never ceased to flood with my
tears from the day Ulysses set out for the city with a hateful name."
She then went upstairs to her own room, not alone, but attended by
her maidens, and when there, she lamented her dear husband till
Minerva shed sweet sleep over her eyelids.
The Iliad: Book 21
Now when they came to the ford of the full-flowing river Xanthus,
begotten of immortal Jove, Achilles cut their forces in two: one
half he chased over the plain towards the city by the same way that
the Achaeans had taken when flying panic-stricken on the preceding day
with Hector in full triumph; this way did they fly pell-mell, and Juno
sent down a thick mist in front of them to stay them. The other half
were hemmed in by the deep silver-eddying stream, and fell into it
with a great uproar. The waters resounded, and the banks rang again,
as they swam hither and thither with loud cries amid the whirling
eddies. As locusts flying to a river before the blast of a grass fire-
the flame comes on and on till at last it overtakes them and they
huddle into the water- even so was the eddying stream of Xanthus
filled with the uproar of men and horses, all struggling in
confusion before Achilles.
Forthwith the hero left his spear upon the bank, leaning it
against a tamarisk bush, and plunged into the river like a god,
armed with his sword only. Fell was his purpose as he hewed the
Trojans down on every side. Their dying groans rose hideous as the
sword smote them, and the river ran red with blood. As when fish fly
scared before a huge dolphin, and fill every nook and corner of some
fair haven- for he is sure to eat all he can catch- even so did the
Trojans cower under the banks of the mighty river, and when
Achilles' arms grew weary with killing them, he drew twelve youths
alive out of the water, to sacrifice in revenge for Patroclus son of
Menoetius. He drew them out like dazed fawns, bound their hands behind
them with the girdles of their own shirts, and gave them over to his
men to take back to the ships. Then he sprang into the river,
thirsting for still further blood.
There he found Lycaon, son of Priam seed of Dardanus, as he was
escaping out of the water; he it was whom he had once taken prisoner
when he was in his father's vineyard, having set upon him by night, as
he was cutting young shoots from a wild fig-tree to make the wicker
sides of a chariot. Achilles then caught him to his sorrow unawares,
and sent him by sea to Lemnos, where the son of Jason bought him.
But a guest-friend, Eetion of Imbros, freed him with a great sum,
and sent him to Arisbe, whence he had escaped and returned to his
father's house. He had spent eleven days happily with his friends
after he had come from Lemnos, but on the twelfth heaven again
delivered him into the hands of Achilles, who was to send him to the
house of Hades sorely against his will. He was unarmed when Achilles
caught sight of him, and had neither helmet nor shield; nor yet had he
any spear, for he had thrown all his armour from him on to the bank,
and was sweating with his struggles to get out of the river, so that
his strength was now failing him.
Then Achilles said to himself in his surprise, "What marvel do I see
here? If this man can come back alive after having been sold over into
Lemnos, I shall have the Trojans also whom I have slain rising from
the world below. Could not even the waters of the grey sea imprison
him, as they do many another whether he will or no? This time let
him taste my spear, that I may know for certain whether mother earth
who can keep even a strong man down, will be able to hold him, or
whether thence too he will return."
Thus did he pause and ponder. But Lycaon came up to him dazed and
trying hard to embrace his knees, for he would fain live, not die.
Achilles thrust at him with his spear, meaning to kill him, but Lycaon
ran crouching up to him and caught his knees, whereby the spear passed
over his back, and stuck in the ground, hungering though it was for
blood. With one hand he caught Achilles' knees as he besought him, and
with the other he clutched the spear and would not let it go. Then
he said, "Achilles, have mercy upon me and spare me, for I am your
suppliant. It was in your tents that I first broke bread on the day
when you took me prisoner in the vineyard; after which you sold away
to Lemnos far from my father and my friends, and I brought you the
price of a hundred oxen. I have paid three times as much to gain my
freedom; it is but twelve days that I have come to Ilius after much
suffering, and now cruel fate has again thrown me into your hands.
Surely father Jove must hate me, that he has given me over to you a
second time. Short of life indeed did my mother Laothoe bear me,
daughter of aged Altes- of Altes who reigns over the warlike Lelegae
and holds steep Pedasus on the river Satnioeis. Priam married his
daughter along with many other women and two sons were born of her,
both of whom you will have slain. Your spear slew noble Polydorus as
he was fighting in the front ranks, and now evil will here befall
me, for I fear that I shall not escape you since heaven has delivered
me over to you. Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart,
spare me, for I am not of the same womb as Hector who slew your
brave and noble comrade."
With such words did the princely son of Priam beseech Achilles;
but Achilles answered him sternly. "Idiot," said he, "talk not to me
of ransom. Until Patroclus fell I preferred to give the Trojans
quarter, and sold beyond the sea many of those whom I had taken alive;
but now not a man shall live of those whom heaven delivers into my
hands before the city of Ilius- and of all Trojans it shall fare
hardest with the sons of Priam. Therefore, my friend, you too shall
die. Why should you whine in this way? Patroclus fell, and he was a
better man than you are. I too- see you not how I am great and goodly?
I am son to a noble father, and have a goddess for my mother, but
the hands of doom and death overshadow me all as surely. The day
will come, either at dawn or dark, or at the noontide, when one
shall take my life also in battle, either with his spear, or with an
arrow sped from his bow."
Thus did he speak, and Lycaon's heart sank within him. He loosed his
hold of the spear, and held out both hands before him; but Achilles
drew his keen blade, and struck him by the collar-bone on his neck; he
plunged his two-edged sword into him to the very hilt, whereon he
lay at full length on the ground, with the dark blood welling from him
till the earth was soaked. Then Achilles caught him by the foot and
flung him into the river to go down stream, vaunting over him the
while, and saying, "Lie there among the fishes, who will lick the
blood from your wound and gloat over it; your mother shall not lay you
on any bier to mourn you, but the eddies of Scamander shall bear you
into the broad bosom of the sea. There shall the fishes feed on the
fat of Lycaon as they dart under the dark ripple of the waters- so
perish all of you till we reach the citadel of strong Ilius- you in
flight, and I following after to destroy you. The river with its broad
silver stream shall serve you in no stead, for all the bulls you
offered him and all the horses that you flung living into his
waters. None the less miserably shall you perish till there is not a
man of you but has paid in full for the death of Patroclus and the
havoc you wrought among the Achaeans whom you have slain while I
held aloof from battle."
So spoke Achilles, but the river grew more and more angry, and
pondered within himself how he should stay the hand of Achilles and
save the Trojans from disaster. Meanwhile the son of Peleus, spear
in hand, sprang upon Asteropaeus son of Pelegon to kill him. He was
son to the broad river Axius and Periboea eldest daughter of
Acessamenus; for the river had lain with her. Asteropaeus stood up out
of the water to face him with a spear in either hand, and Xanthus
filled him with courage, being angry for the death of the youths
whom Achilles was slaying ruthlessly within his waters. When they were
close up with one another Achilles was first to speak. "Who and whence
are you," said he, "who dare to face me? Woe to the parents whose
son stands up against me." And the son of Pelegon answered, "Great son
of Peleus, why should you ask my lineage. I am from the fertile land
of far Paeonia, captain of the Paeonians, and it is now eleven days
that I am at Ilius. I am of the blood of the river Axius- of Axius
that is the fairest of all rivers that run. He begot the famed warrior
Pelegon, whose son men call me. Let us now fight, Achilles."
Thus did he defy him, and Achilles raised his spear of Pelian ash.
Asteropaeus failed with both his spears, for he could use both hands
alike; with the one spear he struck Achilles' shield, but did not
pierce it, for the layer of gold, gift of the god, stayed the point;
with the other spear he grazed the elbow of Achilles! right arm
drawing dark blood, but the spear itself went by him and fixed
itself in the ground, foiled of its bloody banquet. Then Achilles,
fain to kill him, hurled his spear at Asteropaeus, but failed to hit
him and struck the steep bank of the river, driving the spear half its
length into the earth. The son of Peleus then drew his sword and
sprang furiously upon him. Asteropaeus vainly tried to draw
Achilles' spear out of the bank by main force; thrice did he tug at
it, trying with all his might to draw it out, and thrice he had to
leave off trying; the fourth time he tried to bend and break it, but
ere he could do so Achilles smote him with his sword and killed him.
He struck him in the belly near the navel, so that all his bowels came
gushing out on to the ground, and the darkness of death came over
him as he lay gasping. Then Achilles set his foot on his chest and
spoiled him of his armour, vaunting over him and saying, "Lie there-
begotten of a river though you be, it is hard for you to strive with
the offspring of Saturn's son. You declare yourself sprung from the
blood of a broad river, but I am of the seed of mighty Jove. My father
is Peleus, son of Aeacus ruler over the many Myrmidons, and Aeacus was
the son of Jove. Therefore as Jove is mightier than any river that
flows into the sea, so are his children stronger than those of any
river whatsoever. Moreover you have a great river hard by if he can be
of any use to you, but there is no fighting against Jove the son of
Saturn, with whom not even King Achelous can compare, nor the mighty
stream of deep-flowing Oceanus, from whom all rivers and seas with all
springs and deep wells proceed; even Oceanus fears the lightnings of
great Jove, and his thunder that comes crashing out of heaven."
With this he drew his bronze spear out of the bank, and now that
he had killed Asteropaeus, he let him lie where he was on the sand,
with the dark water flowing over him and the eels and fishes busy
nibbling and gnawing the fat that was about his kidneys. Then he
went in chase of the Paeonians, who were flying along the bank of
the river in panic when they saw their leader slain by the hands of
the son of Peleus. Therein he slew Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus,
Mnesus, Thrasius, Oeneus, and Ophelestes, and he would have slain
yet others, had not the river in anger taken human form, and spoken to
him from out the deep waters saying, "Achilles, if you excel all in
strength, so do you also in wickedness, for the gods are ever with you
to protect you: if, then, the son of Saturn has vouchsafed it to you
to destroy all the Trojans, at any rate drive them out of my stream,
and do your grim work on land. My fair waters are now filled with
corpses, nor can I find any channel by which I may pour myself into
the sea for I am choked with dead, and yet you go on mercilessly
slaying. I am in despair, therefore, O captain of your host, trouble
me no further."
Achilles answered, "So be it, Scamander, Jove-descended; but I
will never cease dealing out death among the Trojans, till I have pent
them up in their city, and made trial of Hector face to face, that I
may learn whether he is to vanquish me, or I him."
As he spoke he set upon the Trojans with a fury like that of the
gods. But the river said to Apollo, "Surely, son of Jove, lord of
the silver bow, you are not obeying the commands of Jove who charged
you straitly that you should stand by the Trojans and defend them,
till twilight fades, and darkness is over an the earth."
Meanwhile Achilles sprang from the bank into mid-stream, whereon the
river raised a high wave and attacked him. He swelled his stream
into a torrent, and swept away the many dead whom Achilles had slain
and left within his waters. These he cast out on to the land,
bellowing like a bull the while, but the living he saved alive, hiding
them in his mighty eddies. The great and terrible wave gathered
about Achilles, falling upon him and beating on his shield, so that he
could not keep his feet; he caught hold of a great elm-tree, but it
came up by the roots, and tore away the bank, damming the stream
with its thick branches and bridging it all across; whereby Achilles
struggled out of the stream, and fled full speed over the plain, for
he was afraid.
But the mighty god ceased not in his pursuit, and sprang upon him
with a dark-crested wave, to stay his hands and save the Trojans
from destruction. The son of Peleus darted away a spear's throw from
him; swift as the swoop of a black hunter-eagle which is the strongest
and fleetest of all birds, even so did he spring forward, and the
armour rang loudly about his breast. He fled on in front, but the
river with a loud roar came tearing after. As one who would water
his garden leads a stream from some fountain over his plants, and
all his ground-spade in hand he clears away the dams to free the
channels, and the little stones run rolling round and round with the
water as it goes merrily down the bank faster than the man can follow-
even so did the river keep catching up with Achilles albeit he was a
fleet runner, for the gods are stronger than men. As often as he would
strive to stand his ground, and see whether or no all the gods in
heaven were in league against him, so often would the mighty wave come
beating down upon his shoulders, and be would have to keep flying on
and on in great dismay; for the angry flood was tiring him out as it
flowed past him and ate the ground from under his feet.
Then the son of Peleus lifted up his voice to heaven saying, "Father
Jove, is there none of the gods who will take pity upon me, and save
me from the river? I do not care what may happen to me afterwards. I
blame none of the other dwellers on Olympus so severely as I do my
dear mother, who has beguiled and tricked me. She told me I was to
fall under the walls of Troy by the flying arrows of Apollo; would
that Hector, the best man among the Trojans, might there slay me; then
should I fall a hero by the hand of a hero; whereas now it seems
that I shall come to a most pitiable end, trapped in this river as
though I were some swineherd's boy, who gets carried down a torrent
while trying to cross it during a storm."
As soon as he had spoken thus, Neptune and Minerva came up to him in
the likeness of two men, and took him by the hand to reassure him.
Neptune spoke first. "Son of Peleus," said he, "be not so exceeding
fearful; we are two gods, come with Jove's sanction to assist you,
I, and Pallas Minerva. It is not your fate to perish in this river; he
will abate presently as you will see; moreover we strongly advise you,
if you will be guided by us, not to stay your hand from fighting
till you have pent the Trojan host within the famed walls of Ilius- as
many of them as may escape. Then kill Hector and go back to the ships,
for we will vouchsafe you a triumph over him."
When they had so said they went back to the other immortals, but
Achilles strove onward over the plain, encouraged by the charge the
gods had laid upon him. All was now covered with the flood of
waters, and much goodly armour of the youths that had been slain was
rifting about, as also many corpses, but he forced his way against the
stream, speeding right onwards, nor could the broad waters stay him,
for Minerva had endowed him with great strength. Nevertheless
Scamander did not slacken in his pursuit, but was still more furious
with the son of Peleus. He lifted his waters into a high crest and
cried aloud to Simois saying, "Dear brother, let the two of us unite
to save this man, or he will sack the mighty city of King Priam, and
the Trojans will not hold out against him. Help me at once; fill
your streams with water from their sources, rouse all your torrents to
a fury; raise your wave on high, and let snags and stones come
thundering down you that we may make an end of this savage creature
who is now lording it as though he were a god. Nothing shall serve him
longer, not strength nor comeliness, nor his fine armour, which
forsooth shall soon be lying low in the deep waters covered over
with mud. I will wrap him in sand, and pour tons of shingle round him,
so that the Achaeans shall not know how to gather his bones for the
silt in which I shall have hidden him, and when they celebrate his
funeral they need build no barrow."
On this he upraised his tumultuous flood high against Achilles,
seething as it was with foam and blood and the bo&ies of the dead. The
dark waters of the river stood upright and would have overwhelmed
the son of Peleus, but Juno, trembling lest Achilles should be swept
away in the mighty torrent, lifted her voice on high and called out to
Vulcan her son. "Crook-foot," she cried, "my child, be up and doing,
for I deem it is with you that Xanthus is fain to fight; help us at
once, kindle a fierce fire; I will then bring up the west and the
white south wind in a mighty hurricane from the sea, that shall bear
the flames against the heads and armour of the Trojans and consume
them, while you go along the banks of Xanthus burning his trees and
wrapping him round with fire. Let him not turn you back neither by
fair words nor foul, and slacken not till I shout and tell you. Then
you may stay your flames."
On this Vulcan kindled a fierce fire, which broke out first upon the
plain and burned the many dead whom Achilles had killed and whose
bodies were lying about in great numbers; by this means the plain
was dried and the flood stayed. As the north wind, blowing on an
orchard that has been sodden with autumn rain, soon dries it, and
the heart of the owner is glad- even so the whole plan was dried and
the dead bodies were consumed. Then he turned tongues of fire on to
the river. He burned the elms the willows and the tamarisks, the lotus
also, with the rushes and marshy herbage that grew abundantly by the
banks of the river. The eels and fishes that go darting about
everywhere in the water, these, too, were sorely harassed by the
flames that cunning Vulcan had kindled, and the river himself was
scalded, so that he spoke saying, "Vulcan, there is no god can hold
his own against you. I cannot fight you when you flare out your flames
in this way; strive with me no longer. Let Achilles drive the
Trojans out of city immediately. What have I to do with quarrelling
and helping people?"
He was boiling as he spoke, and all his waters were seething. As a
cauldron upon 'a large fire boils when it is melting the lard of
some fatted hog, and the lard keeps bubbling up all over when the
dry faggots blaze under it- even so were the goodly waters of
Xanthus heated with the fire till they were boiling. He could flow
no longer but stayed his stream, so afflicted was he by the blasts
of fire which cunning Vulcan had raised. Then he prayed to Juno and
besought her saying, "Juno, why should your son vex my stream with
such especial fury? I am not so much to blame as all the others are
who have been helping the Trojans. I will leave off, since you so
desire it, and let son leave off also. Furthermore I swear never again
will I do anything to save the Trojans from destruction, not even when
all Troy is burning in the flames which the Achaeans will kindle."
As soon as Juno heard this she said to her son Vulcan, "Son
Vulcan, hold now your flames; we ought not to use such violence
against a god for the sake of mortals."
When she had thus spoken Vulcan quenched his flames, and the river
went back once more into his own fair bed.
Xanthus was now beaten, so these two left off fighting, for Juno
stayed them though she was still angry; but a furious quarrel broke
out among the other gods, for they were of divided counsels. They fell
on one another with a mighty uproar- earth groaned, and the spacious
firmament rang out as with a blare of trumpets. Jove heard as he was
sitting on Olympus, and laughed for joy when he saw the gods coming to
blows among themselves. They were not long about beginning, and Mars
piercer of shields opened the battle. Sword in hand he sprang at
once upon Minerva and reviled her. "Why, vixen," said he, "have you
again set the gods by the ears in the pride and haughtiness of your
heart? Have you forgotten how you set Diomed son of Tydeus on to wound
me, and yourself took visible spear and drove it into me to the hurt
of my fair body? You shall now suffer for what you then did to me."
As he spoke he struck her on the terrible tasselled aegis- so
terrible that not even can Jove's lightning pierce it. Here did
murderous Mars strike her with his great spear. She drew back and with
her strong hand seized a stone that was lying on the plain- great
and rugged and black- which men of old had set for the boundary of a
field. With this she struck Mars on the neck, and brought him down.
Nine roods did he cover in his fall, and his hair was all soiled in
the dust, while his armour rang rattling round him. But Minerva
laughed and vaunted over him saying, "Idiot, have you not learned
how far stronger I am than you, but you must still match yourself
against me? Thus do your mother's curses now roost upon you, for she
is angry and would do you mischief because you have deserted the
Achaeans and are helping the Trojans."
She then turned her two piercing eyes elsewhere, whereon Jove's
daughter Venus took Mars by the hand and led him away groaning all the
time, for it was only with great difficulty that he had come to
himself again. When Queen Juno saw her, she said to Minerva, "Look,
daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, that vixen Venus is again
taking Mars through the crowd out of the battle; go after her at
Thus she spoke. Minerva sped after Venus with a will, and made at
her, striking her on the bosom with her strong hand so that she fell
fainting to the ground, and there they both lay stretched at full
length. Then Minerva vaunted over her saying, "May all who help the
Trojans against the Argives prove just as redoubtable and stalwart
as Venus did when she came across me while she was helping Mars. Had
this been so, we should long since have ended the war by sacking the
strong city of Ilius."
Juno smiled as she listened. Meanwhile King Neptune turned to Apollo
saying, "Phoebus, why should we keep each other at arm's length? it is
not well, now that the others have begun fighting; it will be
disgraceful to us if we return to Jove's bronze-floored mansion on
Olympus without having fought each other; therefore come on, you are
the younger of the two, and I ought not to attack you, for I am
older and have had more experience. Idiot, you have no sense, and
forget how we two alone of all the gods fared hardly round about Ilius
when we came from Jove's house and worked for Laomedon a whole year at
a stated wage and he gave us his orders. I built the Trojans the
wall about their city, so wide and fair that it might be
impregnable, while you, Phoebus, herded cattle for him in the dales of
many valleyed Ida. When, however, the glad hours brought round the
time of payment, mighty Laomedon robbed us of all our hire and sent us
off with nothing but abuse. He threatened to bind us hand and foot and
sell us over into some distant island. He tried, moreover, to cut
off the ears of both of us, so we went away in a rage, furious about
the payment he had promised us, and yet withheld; in spite of all
this, you are now showing favour to his people, and will not join us
in compassing the utter ruin of the proud Trojans with their wives and
And King Apollo answered, "Lord of the earthquake, you would have no
respect for me if I were to fight you about a pack of miserable
mortals, who come out like leaves in summer and eat the fruit of the
field, and presently fall lifeless to the ground. Let us stay this
fighting at once and let them settle it among themselves."
He turned away as he spoke, for he would lay no hand on the
brother of his own father. But his sister the huntress Diana,
patroness of wild beasts, was very angry with him and said, "So you
would fly, Far-Darter, and hand victory over to Neptune with a cheap
vaunt to boot. Baby, why keep your bow thus idle? Never let me again
hear you bragging in my father's house, as you have often done in
the presence of the immortals, that you would stand up and fight
Apollo made her no answer, but Jove's august queen was angry and
upbraided her bitterly. "Bold vixen," she cried, "how dare you cross
me thus? For all your bow you will find it hard to hold your own
against me. Jove made you as a lion among women, and lets you kill
them whenever you choose. You will And it better to chase wild
beasts and deer upon the mountains than to fight those who are
stronger than you are. If you would try war, do so, and find out by
pitting yourself against me, how far stronger I am than you are."
She caught both Diana's wrists with her left hand as she spoke,
and with her right she took the bow from her shoulders, and laughed as
she beat her with it about the ears while Diana wriggled and writhed
under her blows. Her swift arrows were shed upon the ground, and she
fled weeping from under Juno's hand as a dove that flies before a
falcon to the cleft of some hollow rock, when it is her good fortune
to escape. Even so did she fly weeping away, leaving her bow and
arrows behind her.
Then the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, said to Leto, "Leto, I
shall not fight you; it is ill to come to blows with any of Jove's
wives. Therefore boast as you will among the immortals that you
worsted me in fair fight."
Leto then gathered up Diana's bow and arrows that had fallen about
amid the whirling dust, and when she had got them she made all haste
after her daughter. Diana had now reached Jove's bronze-floored
mansion on Olympus, and sat herself down with many tears on the
knees of her father, while her ambrosial raiment was quivering all
about her. The son of Saturn drew her towards him, and laughing
pleasantly the while began to question her saying, "Which of the
heavenly beings, my dear child, has been treating you in this cruel
manner, as though you had been misconducting yourself in the face of
everybody?" and the fair-crowned goddess of the chase answered, "It
was your wife Juno, father, who has been beating me; it is always
her doing when there is any quarrelling among the immortals."
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile Phoebus Apollo entered the
strong city of Ilius, for he was uneasy lest the wall should not
hold out and the Danaans should take the city then and there, before
its hour had come; but the rest of the ever-living gods went back,
some angry and some triumphant to Olympus, where they took their seats
beside Jove lord of the storm cloud, while Achilles still kept on
dealing out death alike on the Trojans and on their As when the
smoke from some burning city ascends to heaven when the anger of the
gods has kindled it- there is then toil for all, and sorrow for not
a few- even so did Achilles bring toil and sorrow on the Trojans.
Old King Priam stood on a high tower of the wall looking down on
huge Achilles as the Trojans fled panic-stricken before him, and there
was none to help them. Presently he came down from off the tower and
with many a groan went along the wall to give orders to the brave
warders of the gate. "Keep the gates," said he, "wide open till the
people come flying into the city, for Achilles is hard by and is
driving them in rout before him. I see we are in great peril. As
soon as our people are inside and in safety, close the strong gates
for I fear lest that terrible man should come bounding inside along
with the others."
As he spoke they drew back the bolts and opened the gates, and
when these were opened there was a haven of refuge for the Trojans.
Apollo then came full speed out of the city to meet them and protect
them. Right for the city and the high wall, parched with thirst and
grimy with dust, still they fied on, with Achilles wielding his
spear furiously behind them. For he was as one possessed, and was
thirsting after glory.
Then had the sons of the Achaeans taken the lofty gates of Troy if
Apollo had not spurred on Agenor, valiant and noble son to Antenor. He
put courage into his heart, and stood by his side to guard him,
leaning against a beech tree and shrouded in thick darkness. When
Agenor saw Achilles he stood still and his heart was clouded with
care. "Alas," said he to himself in his dismay, "if I fly before
mighty Achilles, and go where all the others are being driven in rout,
he will none the less catch me and kill me for a coward. How would
it be were I to let Achilles drive the others before him, and then fly
from the wall to the plain that is behind Ilius till I reach the spurs
of Ida and can hide in the underwood that is thereon? I could then
wash the sweat from off me in the river and in the evening return to
Ilius. But why commune with myself in this way? Like enough he would
see me as I am hurrying from the city over the plain, and would
speed after me till he had caught me- I should stand no chance against
him, for he is mightiest of all mankind. What, then, if I go out and
meet him in front of the city? His flesh too, I take it, can be
pierced by pointed bronze. Life is the same in one and all, and men
say that he is but mortal despite the triumph that Jove son of
Saturn vouchsafes him."
So saying he stood on his guard and awaited Achilles, for he was now
fain to fight him. As a leopardess that bounds from out a thick covert
to attack a hunter- she knows no fear and is not dismayed by the
baying of the hounds; even though the man be too quick for her and
wound her either with thrust or spear, still, though the spear has
pierced her she will not give in till she has either caught him in her
grip or been killed outright- even so did noble Agenor son of
Antenor refuse to fly till he had made trial of Achilles, and took aim
at him with his spear, holding his round shield before him and
crying with a loud voice. "Of a truth," said he, "noble Achilles,
you deem that you shall this day sack the city of the proud Trojans.
Fool, there will be trouble enough yet before it, for there is many
a brave man of us still inside who will stand in front of our dear
parents with our wives and children, to defend Ilius. Here
therefore, huge and mighty warrior though you be, here shall you cue.
As he spoke his strong hand hurled his javelin from him, and the
spear struck Achilles on the leg beneath the knee; the greave of newly
wrought tin rang loudly, but the spear recoiled from the body of him
whom it had struck, and did not pierce it, for the gods gift stayed
it. Achilles in his turn attacked noble Agenor, but Apollo would not
vouchsafe him glory, for he snatched Agenor away and hid him in a
thick mist, sending him out of the battle unmolested Then he
craftily drew the son of Peleus away from going after the host, for he
put on the semblance of Agenor and stood in front of Achilles, who ran
towards him to give him chase and pursued him over the corn lands of
the plain, turning him towards the deep waters of the river Scamander.
Apollo ran but a little way before him and beguiled Achilles by making
him think all the time that he was on the point of overtaking him.
Meanwhile the rabble of routed Trojans was thankful to crowd within
the city till their numbers thronged it; no longer did they dare
wait for one another outside the city walls, to learn who had
escaped and who were fallen in fight, but all whose feet and knees
could still carry them poured pell-mell into the town.