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The Trojan War - HEROES
 
 
 
 
 
 
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The Iliad
 

Translation by Ian Johnston, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.

(Note that the line numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text)
 

Book Thirteen - Book Eighteen

 
 
 


Book Thirteen

The Trojans Attack the Ships

[Zeus turns away from the battle; Poseidon secretly helps the Achaeans, talks to the two Ajaxes and other warriors; Hector keeps advancing until stopped by close-packed Achaeans; Poseidon talks with Idomeneus; Idomeneus and Meriones meet at the huts, then return to battle; Idomeneus' exploits in the fight; Aeneas moves against him; Menelaus on the battle field; Polydamas gives advice to Hector; Hector insults Paris; Ajax and Hector exchange boasts; the armies resume the fight.]

 

Thus Zeus brought Hector and the Trojans to the ships.
Then he left the soldiers there to carry on their strife,
their wretched endless war. He turned his shining gaze
away from them, looking far off into the distance,
at the land of Thracian horsemen, Mysians,
men who fight hand to hand, proud Hippemolgi,
who drink mare’s milk, to the most righteous men of all,
the Abii. Zeus no longer turned his radiant eyes
toward Troy, for in his heart he did not believe
a single one of the immortal gods would move 10
to give assistance to the Trojans or Danaans.

But mighty Earthshaker Poseidon was keeping watch. [10]
High on the tallest crest of wooded Samothrace
he sat looking down upon the war going on.
From that point, Mount Ida was clearly visible,
Priam’s city, too, and the Achaean ships.
He’d come up from the sea and seated himself there,
pitying Achaeans, as Trojans beat them back,
and nursing a powerful anger against Zeus.
Poseidon came down quickly from that rocky peak, 20
moving swiftly on his feet. Mountain peaks and woods
trembled under Poseidon’s immortal stride.
He took three paces—with the fourth he reached his goal, [20]
Aegae, where his famous palace had been built
of eternal gold and marble deep within the sea.
Going inside, he harnessed to his chariot
swift bronze-hooved horses with flowing golden manes.
Dressed in gold, he took his well-made golden whip,
climbed in the chariot, then set off across the waves.
From the depths, sea creatures played around him everywhere, 30
acknowledging their king. The joyful ocean parted.
He sped on quickly, keeping the bronze axle dry. [30]
The prancing horses carried him to the Achaean ships.

Half-way between Tenedos and rocky Imbros,
a wide cavern sits deep within the sea. In that spot,
Earthshaker Poseidon reined in his horses,
freed them from the chariot, and threw down ambrosia,
food for them to eat. Around their feet he placed
golden hobbles which they could not slip or break,
so they’d remain secure there till their lord’s return. 40
Then Poseidon moved on to the Achaean camp.

At that point, Trojans, like some fire or windstorm,
marched behind Hector, son of Priam, in a mass, [40]
shouting and screaming with excitement, hoping
to seize Achaean ships and kill the best men there.
But Poseidon, who encircles and shakes the earth,
roused the Argives, once he’d moved up from the sea.
Taking on the shape and tireless voice of Calchas,
he first spoke to the Ajaxes, both keen to fight.

“You Ajaxes, you must save Achaean troops. 50
Think of your fighting power, not cold flight.
In other places, I don’t fear the Trojans,
whose powerful arms have brought hordes of them [50]
across our wall. For well-armed Achaeans
will check them all. But I fear them here,
where we may experience disaster,
because of Hector, who leads their charge.
He’s like a man possessed, a blazing fire,
as if he were a son of mighty Zeus.
But perhaps some god will inspire the hearts 60
in both your chests, so you two can stand firm.
You could get other men to do the same.
Hector may be keen, but you could push him
back from our swift ships, even if Zeus himself
is driving him ahead.”

Poseidon finished speaking.
Then, the shaker and encircler of the earth
touched both men with his staff, infusing them [60]
with power, strengthening their legs and upper arms.
Then Poseidon left. Just as a swift-winged hawk
takes off while hovering above some high sheer rock, 70
swooping down over the plain to hunt another bird—
that how Earthshaker Poseidon went off then.
Swift Ajax, son of Oïleus, was the first
to recognize the god. At once he spoke to Ajax,
son of Telamon:

“Ajax, one of the gods
dwelling on Olympus, in a prophet’s shape,
tells us both to fight on by the ships.
For that man was no prophet Calchas, [70]
who reads our omens. It was easy for me,
as he went away, to see that from the back 80
by the markings on his feet and legs.
Besides, it’s easy to recognize the gods.
So now the spirit here in my own chest
is even keener than before to fight.
My upper arms have lots of energy.
I feel it also in my lower limbs.”

Telamonian Ajax then answered Oïlean Ajax:

“I’m ready to wrap my conquering hands
around my spear. My fighting power grows.
My feet can now move fast. So I’m eager 90
to meet Hector, son of Priam, one on one—
the man whose fury so desires this fight.” [80]

As the two Ajaxes talked like this to one another,
relishing the warlike spirit the god had put
into their hearts, the Encircler of the Earth
was encouraging Achaeans at the rear,
those whose spirits were recovering by the swift ships,
their limbs exhausted from their anguishing ordeals,
their hearts weighed down with sorrow at the sight
of Trojan soldiers coming over their great wall. 100
When they saw that, their eyes shed tears—they thought
they’d not escape destruction. Earthshaker Poseidon
moved round with ease, bringing strength into the ranks. [90]
He moved first to encourage Teucer and Leïtus,
then brave Peneleous, Thoas, Deïpyrus,
then Meriones and Antilochus, both skilled
in war shouts. He spoke to them—his words had wings:

“Shame on you Argives, nothing but young boys!
I’m counting on your strength to save our ships.
If you’re holding back in this grim fight, 110
then now’s the day the Trojans overcome us.
Alas! What my eyes witness here astounds me,
a dreadful thing I never thought would happen— [100]
Trojans moving up to our own ships,
men who previously were shy, like deer,
which in the woods are prey to jackals,
wolves, and leopards, as they wander round,
alone and frightened, with no will to fight.
Before now, Trojans never wished to stand
confronting the fierce fighting power 120
of Achaean arms, not even for a moment.
But now, far from their city, they fight here,
right by our hollow ships. And the reason’s this—
our leadership’s been bad, our army slack.
For those who quarrel with our general
won’t protect our fast-moving ships from harm, [110]
and so are being cut down among them there.
But even if wide-ruling Agamemnon,
heroic son of Atreus, is to blame,
if he really is the reason for all this, 130
because he treated swift Achilles badly,
in this battle we must hold back nothing.
Let’s fix all this—and quickly. In their hearts
fine men can change. It’s bad if you restrain
your fighting spirit any longer,
especially you, the best of all our troops.
Myself, I wouldn’t argue with a man
not keen to fight because he is a coward.
But in you my heart is disappointed.
Friends, by this hanging back you’ll help to make 140 [120]
an even worse disaster. Let each of you
feel shame and indignation in his heart.
A great battle has just started. Hector,
skilled at war cries, is fighting by our ships.
His force has smashed our gates, our long bolts, too.”

By rousing men this way, Earthshaker Poseidon
pushed Achaeans into action. Round both Ajaxes
soldiers made a stand and strongly held their ground.
If Ares had come there, he would have approved of them,
as would Athena, who inspires men in war. 150
Those known for their great bravery did not back off.
They fought lord Hector and the Trojans spear for spear, [130]
shield with layered shield, in close-packed formation,
shields linked together and helmet touching helmet,
troops shoulder to shoulder. As men moved their heads,
horsehair crests on shining helmet ridges touched—
that’s how densely packed they stood in that formation.
Their strong hands held the spears out so they overlapped.
Their minds were firm and fully ready for the fight.

The Trojans came on in a mass, led by Hector, 160
always charging forward, like a rolling boulder,
which some river in a winter flood dislodges
from a cliff beside its banks, its great flood eroding
what supports that lethal stone. In its fall, it bounces—
woods crash underneath it, as it accelerates [140]
in a straight line, unimpeded—then it hits the plain,
where, for all its impetus, its motion stops.
That’s how Hector threatened then to smash his way
with ease down to the sea, to Achaea’s huts and ships.
But when he ran into the tight-packed lines of men, 170
he came close but was held in check. Achaea’s sons
faced up to him with swords, with double-bladed spears,
and pushed him back. Shaken, Hector had to give ground.
He let out a piercing shout, calling to his Trojans:

“Trojans, Lycians, you Dardan spearmen, [150]
hold your place. Achaeans won’t keep me back,
not for long. Even though they’ve set themselves
in a defensive wall, I think they will retreat
before my spear, if the greatest of the gods,
Hera’s loud-thundering mate, inspires me.” 180

Saying this, Hector gave heart and spirit to each man.
Deïphobus, son of Priam, moved out before them,
full of ambitious hopes. Holding his round shield
in front of him, he stepped lightly forward,
under cover of that shield. Then Meriones
after taking aim, threw his shining spear at him.
He didn’t miss. He struck that round leather shield. [160]
But the spear did not break through. Before it could,
it snapped off at the socket. Then Deïphobus,
his heart afraid of warlike Meriones’ spear, 190
held his leather shield at arm’s length away from him.
But Meriones had withdrawn into the group
of his companions, upset at his double loss—
the victory and the spear which he’d just shattered.
He set off for the Achaean huts and ships,
to fetch another spear he’d left inside his hut.

The others kept on fighting. The din was constant.
The first to kill a man was Teucer, son of Telamon. [170]
He slew Imbrius, a spearman, son of Mentor,
who owned many horses. He’d lived in Pedaeum 200
before Achaea’s sons arrived. He married
one of Priam’s bastard daughters, Medesicaste.
When the curved ships of the Danaans came to Troy,
he went back. The people there thought much of him.
He lived with Priam, who honoured him as well,
as if he were his child. But the son of Telamon
with a long spear thrust hit Imbrius below the ear.
Teucer pulled the weapon back. Imbrius collapsed.
Just as an ash tree growing on a mountain top,
visible from every side, is chopped down by bronze, 210 [180]
its foliage crashing to the ground—that’s how he fell.
His armour, finely decorated bronze, rang out,
reverberating round him. Teucer then jumped out,
eager to strip away his armour, but as he charged,
Hector threw a shining spear at him. Teucer,
seeing it coming, safely dodged the bronze spear point.
But Hector’s spear hit Amphimachus, son of Cteatus,
Actor’s son, in the chest, as he was coming up,
about to join the battle. He fell with a crash,
his armour echoing around him. Hector ran up, 220
eager to tug away the helmet tightly bound
around the temples of brave Amphimachus.
But with his bright spear Ajax lunged at Hector, [190]
as he came forward. He didn’t touch his flesh,
for Hector was encased in terrifying bronze.
But Ajax struck the central boss on Hector’s shield,
and his great power pushed him back. Hector withdrew
and left the corpses, so Achaeans dragged them off.
Amphimachus was carried back to the Achaean troops
by Stichius and by noble Menestheus, 230
who led Athenian troops. The two Ajaxes,
still full of battle rage, hauled Imbrius away.
As two lions snatch a goat from sharp-toothed hounds,
then take it in their jaws off through thick underbrush,
holding it well off the ground, that’s how both Ajaxes [200]
held Imbrius up. They stripped off his armour.
In his anger at the killing of Amphimachus,
Oïlean Ajax hacked through the tender neck,
then, with a swing of his body, threw away the head,
like some ball, into the crowd. It fell into the dust, 240
right at Hector’s feet.

At that point, Poseidon,
angry that his grandson Amphimachus had died
in that harsh fight, went through Achaea’s huts and ships,
rousing Achaeans, planning trouble for the Trojans.
He met the famous spearman Idomeneus [210]
coming from a comrade who’d just left the fight.
A sharp bronze blow had struck him in the knee.
His companions brought him in. Idomeneus,
having issued his instructions to the healers,
was going to his hut, still eager to fight on. 250
The mighty Earthshaker spoke to him, making his voice
sound like Thoas, son of Andraemon, who ruled
Aetolians all through Pleuron and steep Calydon,
honoured by his people like a god:

“Idomeneus,
Cretan counsellor, what’s happened to those threats
Achaea’s sons once made against the Trojans?” [220]

Idomeneus, Cretan leader, then said in reply:

“As far as I know, Thoas, no one’s to blame.
For all of us are very skilled in fighting,
and no one is timid here or frightened, 260
or, gripped by doubts, holds back from evil war.
Somehow it must please Cronos’ mighty son
that Achaeans perish now without a name,
far from Argos. But Thoas, in times past,
you were a man who always stood his ground
and encouraged other men to do the same,
if you saw someone shirking. Don’t stop now.
Issue your instructions to each man.” [230]

Earthshaker Poseidon then replied:

“Idomeneus,
may the man who will not fight today, 270
and willingly, never return from Troy.
May he become a toy for dogs to play with.
But get your armour and then come with me.
If we’re to work well, we must work together,
although we’re only two. For courage
of the highest sort comes when men combine,
even among men worth very little,
and we two know how to battle with the best.”

Having said this, Poseidon went away, a god
among the toiling men, and Idomeneus 280
went into his well-made hut, strapped fine armour [240]
round his body, took two spears and then strode out,
looking like a lightning bolt which Cronos’ son
grips in his hand and hurls down from bright Olympus,
revealing in its dazzling flash a sign for mortal men,
that’s how, as he moved, bronze glinted on his chest.

Meriones, his brave attendant, met him
close by the hut. He’d come in search of a bronze spear.
Strong Idomeneus said to him:

“Meriones,
swift-footed son of Molus, the companion 290
I cherish most, why have you come here, [250]
leaving the war and giving up the fight?
Have you been hurt? Or wounded by a spear?
Are you in pain? Or have you come with news?
Me, I don’t want to stay here in my hut.
I want to fight.”

Wise Meriones then replied:

“Idomeneus, counsellor of bronze-armed Cretans,
I’ve come to get a spear, if by any chance
there’s one left in your huts. The one I had
shattered in pieces when I hit the shield 300
of that arrogant fighter Deïphobus.”

To this, Idomeneus, Cretan leader, then replied:

“Spears? As many as you want—in my hut [260]
twenty-one stand against the sunny wall,
Trojans spears I take from warriors I kill.
I never think of fighting hostile troops
from far away—that’s why I’ve got there
brightly shining spears and embossed shields,
with helmets, too, and body armour.”

Wise Meriones then answered Idomeneus: 310

“In my hut, too, and in my black ship,
there’s lots of Trojan loot. But it’s not close—
too inconvenient. For I can claim
I don’t neglect my fighting prowess.
Whenever battles start, I stand and fight
with men in front, in those encounters [270]
where men win glory. Other Achaeans
might not know my fighting quality, but you,
I think you’ve seen it for yourself.”

Idomeneus, leader of the Cretans, answered Meriones: 320

“I know your courage. Why talk that way?
If by the ships right now we were naming
the best men for an ambush, where one sees
a warrior’s courage most conspicuously,
where cowards and brave men truly show themselves—
for a coward’s colour always changes,
the man’s so nervous he just can’t sit still, [280]
shifting around, resting first on one foot,
then another, heart pounding in his chest,
his mind preoccupied with thoughts of death, 330
and his teeth keep chattering in his mouth,
while a brave man’s colour never changes,
he feels no great fear as he takes his place
in the group selected for the ambush,
no—he prays the killing will soon start.
In such a scene no one could challenge you,
or fault your battle rage or your strong arms.
For if, in the middle of the fighting,
some flying weapon hit you, or you were stabbed,
that weapon wouldn’t strike your neck or body 340
in the back. No, you’d be hit in front, [290]
in chest or stomach, as you charged ahead,
getting your joy from fighting at the front.
But let’s not chat about this any longer,
standing here as if we were young children.
That could make some people very angry.
Go in my hut. Get yourself a heavy spear.”

Idomeneus finished. Then Meriones,
like swift Ares, quickly took a bronze spear from the hut.
Filled with an urge to fight, he went with Idomeneus. 350
Just as man-killing Ares sets off to battle
accompanied by his son Terror, just as strong,
as fearless, who makes any man afraid, [300]
no matter how courageous he may be—the two of them
setting out from Thrace, having armed themselves to fight
Ephyreans or brave Phlegyans, giving glory
to one of them, without listening to either side—
that’s how Meriones and Idomeneus,
leaders of men, set off to battle, fully armed
in glittering bronze. Meriones was the first to speak: 360

“Son of Deucalion, where do you think
we should rejoin the fight? On the right side
of the whole army, the middle, or the left?
To my mind, this last place is the one
where long-haired Achaeans stand most in need.” [310]

Cretan leader Idomeneus answered Meriones:

“In the middle there are other men
to shore up the troops—the two Ajaxes,
Teucer, too, the best Achaean archer,
good in hand-to-hand combat as well. 370
Those warriors will give Hector, Priam’s son,
all he can handle, even if he’s keen
to fight and really strong. He’ll find it hard,
though in full battle frenzy, to overcome
their spirit, their all-powerful hands,
and then burn the fleet, unless Zeus himself,
son of Cronos, hurls a flaming firebrand [320]
on our swift ships. That son of Telamon,
great Ajax, will not yield to any mortal man
who eats Demeter’s grain, who can be smashed 380
by massive rocks or bronze. He’d not give way
in a stand-up fight, not even to Achilles,
who destroys ranks of men and is so fast—
in running no one can beat Achilles.
No, we should move toward the army’s left,
as you say, find out as soon as possible
if we’ll win glory or give it to another.”

Idomeneus spoke. Like swift Ares, Meriones
led the way until they reached the army,
where Idomeneus had instructed him to go. 390
When Trojans saw mighty Idomeneus, [330]
like some flame, and his attendant Meriones
in his richly shining armour, they called out
to each other in the crowd, then made a massive charge.

By the ships’ sterns both sides met in frantic battle.
Just as keen winds sometimes whip up gusts of air,
when dirt lies heavy on the roads, and stir up
all the dust into huge clouds—that’s how this fight
gathered momentum then. In that crowd, men’s hearts
were set to slaughter one another with sharp bronze. 400
That man-destroying combat bristled with long spears
gripped by men to hack each other’s flesh apart.
As troops moved up tightly bunched, men’s eyes went blind [340]
in the blaze of glittering bronze, glaring helmets,
finely polished body armour, gleaming shields.
It would take a hard man to find joy in the sight
of all that suffering and show no trace of sorrow.

Then two mighty sons of Cronos, at cross purposes,
made painful trouble for those mortal warriors.
Zeus wanted victory for Hector and his Trojans, 410
to give swift Achilles glory—not that he wished
Achaea’s army to be totally destroyed
in front of Troy, but he did want to honour Thetis, [350]
and her great-hearted son, as well, Achilles.
But Poseidon moved around among the Argives,
urging action, coming out in secret from the sea,
angry that Trojans were destroying Achaeans,
and incensed at Zeus. Both gods had a common father—
the same family, too—but Zeus was older and more wise.
So Poseidon avoided giving any overt help. 420
He did his work in secret through the army,
in human form, urging men to fight. So these two
looped the cords of powerful war and deadly strife
around both contending armies, then pulled them taut,
a knot no one could undo or slip away from,
a knot that broke the limbs of many fighting men. [360]

Idomeneus, though old enough to have grey hair,
called out to the Danaans and then charged the Trojans,
driving them away. He killed Othryoneus,
a man from Cabesus, who now lived in Troy. 430
He’d come recently, responding to the news of war.
He’d asked to marry Cassandra, most beautiful
of Priam’s daughters, without paying a bride price.
Instead he’d promised a great action, saying he’d drive
Achaea’s sons from Troy. Old Priam had agreed,
promising he’d give her to him. Othryoneus,
trusting the king’s promises, went off to fight.
Aiming his shining spear at him, Idomeneus threw. [370]
The spear struck him as he was striding forward.
The bronze breastplate he was wearing didn’t help him— 440
the spear lodged in his gut. He fell down with a crash.
Then Idomeneus cried out in triumph:

“Othryoneus,
of all mortal men I’d consider you
the happiest, if you’d accomplished
all those things you promised Dardan Priam,
so he’d give you his daughter. But come,
we’ll make you the same proposition—
and we’ll deliver. We’ll give you the loveliest
of Agamemnon’s daughters, bring her here
from Argos, so you can wed her, if you, 450
for your part, will join us to destroy
the well-built city Ilion. So let’s go. [380]
We can arrange the marriage contract
by our seaworthy ships. We’ll be generous
about your marriage price.”

As he said this,
warrior Idomeneus dragged him by the feet
through lines of fighting men. But Asius then stepped up
to guard Othryoneus. He was on foot,
going before his horses, which his charioteer
kept so close they breathed on Asius’ shoulders. 460
He’d set his heart on hitting Idomeneus.
But Idomeneus was too quick for him.
He hit Asius with a spear below his chin,
forcing the bronze straight through his neck. Asius fell.
Just as a mountain oak, poplar, or tall pine falls,
cut down by working men with freshly sharpened axes, [390]
to make timbers for some ship, that how Asius lay,
stretched out there before his chariot and horses,
gagging, his fingers clawing at the bloody dust.
His charioteer, scared out of whatever wits he’d had, 470
didn’t think of wheeling round his horses to escape
his enemies’ hands. Taking aim, bold Antilochus
speared him in the stomach. The bronze breastplate he wore
was no protection. The spear struck in his stomach.
He fell out of the well-made chariot gasping.
Antilochus, brave Nestor’s son, then drove the horses [400]
from the Trojans over to well-armed Achaeans.

Grieving the loss of Asius, Deïphobus
came up to Idomeneus and hurled his polished spear.
Idomeneus, seeing him clearly, dodged the spear, 480
covering himself with the round shield he carried,
one made of bull’s hide and shining bronze in rings,
with two cross braces fitted on. Idomeneus
crouched down underneath this shield. The flying bronze
grazed the metal with a rasping sound. But that throw
from the strong arm of Deïphobus wasn’t wasted. [410]
His spear hit Hypsenor, son of Hippasus,
his people’s shepherd, low down in the liver.
His legs collapsed. Deïphobus gave a noisy shout,
boasting aloud about his triumph:

“Now Asius 490
is avenged! As he goes down to Hades,
the mighty gatekeeper, his heart, I think,
will be pleased I’ve given him an escort.”

Deïphobus spoke. His boast depressed the Argives,
and gave special pain to warlike Antilochus.
Despite his sorrow, Antilochus did not forget
his comrade. He came running up and stood over him, [420]
with his shield above his body. Two loyal companions,
Mecistus, son of Echius, and Alastor, bent down,
then carried Hypsenor groaning to the hollow ships. 500

Idomeneus did not relent his fighting frenzy.
He kept on trying to wrap some Trojan soldier
in death’s dark night or to fall himself, defending
Achaeans from disaster. He killed Alcathous,
dear warrior son of divinely bred Aesyetes,
Anchises’ son-in-law. He’d married Hippodamia,
eldest of the daughters. Her mother and father
had set their heart’s love on her when she was at home. [430]
She surpassed all girls her age in beauty, work,
good sense. That’s why the very finest man in Troy 510
had married her. Now at Idomeneus’ hands
Poseidon slaughtered Alcathous. The god cast a spell—
he covered his bright eyes and froze his glistening limbs,
so he couldn’t flee or dodge the spear, but stood there,
motionless, like a pillar or some high leafy tree.
Warrior Idomeneus hit him with his spear
square in the chest, shattering the bronze breastplate,
which earlier had kept his skin untouched by death. [440]
But now it cracked aloud as the spear ripped through.
He fell with a crash, the spear stuck in his chest. 520
The power of his heart beat made that spear shaft quiver,
right to the butt, until great Ares stilled its force.
Idomeneus then spoke out, boasting aloud
about his triumph:

“Deïphobus,
since you like to brag this way, my friend,
shall we now call it even, three men killed
a fair exchange for one? Why don’t you step out—
face me here, so you can see for yourself
what kind of child of Zeus confronts you.
Zeus first fathered Minos to rule Crete. 530 [450]
Minos then fathered worthy Deucalion.
Deucalion fathered me, a king ruling
many men in spacious Crete. Now my ships
have brought me here as a destroying force,
against you, your father, and other Trojans.”

Idomeneus spoke. Deïphobus was of two minds—
should he step back and pick out a companion
from stout-hearted Trojans, or should he try to fight
all on his own? As he thought about his options,
he thought his best plan was to find Aeneas. 540
He met him standing at the back, among the crowd,
for Aeneas, who excelled among the warriors,
always resented Priam for not showing him [460]
enough respect. Deïphobus approached Aeneas,
then spoke to him—his words had wings.

“Aeneas, Trojan counsellor,
now you must defend your brother-in-law,
if you feel any grief. It’s urgent.
Come with me and fight for Alcathous,
who was your sister’s husband. He raised you
as an infant in his home. Now Idomeneus, 550
that celebrated spearman, has just killed him.”

Deïphobus finished. His words stirred the heart
in Aeneas’ chest. He strode off to face Idomeneus,
fiercely eager for this fight. But no fear gripped [470]
Idomeneus, as if he were some pampered child.
He stood his ground. Just as a wild mountain boar,
trusting its own strength, stands firm against a mob,
a crowd of men who chase it in some lonely place,
with hair bristling along its back, its eyes lit up,
like fire, gnashing its teeth ferociously, eager 560
to toss dogs and men aside—that’s just the way
the famous spearman Idomeneus stood then,
without backing off, as swift Aeneas came at him.
He called out to the companions he could see,
Ascalaphus, Aphareus, Deïpyrus, Meriones,
Antilochus—all famous for their war shouts.
Idomeneus yelled, urging them to help him—
his words had wings: [480]

“My friends—over here!
I’m alone, so bring some help. I’m worried.
Aeneas, who moves fast, is coming at me. 570
He’s powerful at killing men in battle.
He’s also in the flower of his youth,
when strength is at its peak. Were I his age
and both of us had equal courage,
he or I would soon win a huge victory.”

Idomeneus finished. All his companions,
united by a common spirit, came at his call.
They stood beside him as a unit, sloping their shields
down from their shoulders. On his side, Aeneas
called out to those companions he’d caught sight of— 580
Deïphobus, Paris, and Agenor—leaders, [490]
just as he was, of those Trojan warriors.
Men came up behind them. Just as a flock of sheep
follows the ram from pasture to their water,
filling the shepherd’s heart with joy, so Aeneas
was happy in his chest to see that band of soldiers
standing there around him.

The men now battled on,
close combat with long spears, over Alcathous.
As they lunged at one another in the crowd of men,
their bronze chests echoed with the fearful noise. 590
Two men stood out above the rest for bravery—
Aeneas and Idomeneus, equals of Ares, [500]
striving to slash each other’s flesh with ruthless bronze.
First, Aeneas threw a spear at Idomeneus,
who, seeing it coming, eluded the bronze spear,
which then impaled itself in earth, still quivering—
it had flown from that strong hand but missed its target.
Then Idomeneus struck Oenomaus in the stomach,
smashing the front plate on his body armour.
His bowels spilled out, as he dropped in the dust 600
and clutched the dirt. Idomeneus yanked his long spear
out of the corpse. But he couldn’t strip away [510]
any of the lovely armour on its shoulders,
for he was being attacked with flying weapons.
His lower limbs were no longer fast enough
for him to charge in quickly after his own spear
or dodge aside. He could keep grim death at bay
in pitched battle, but that’s all his legs could do—
they were too slow for him to run away from combat.
As Idomeneus retreated step by step, 610
Deïphobus tried to hit him with a shining spear—
he’d always hated Idomeneus—but he missed,
hitting Ascalaphus instead, a son of Ares.
The heavy spear passed straight through his shoulder.
He collapsed in the dust, hands clawing at the ground. [520]

Loud-voiced mighty Ares was not yet aware
his own son had fallen in the killing zone.
He sat on the highest part of Mount Olympus,
under golden clouds, confined by Zeus’ will,
along with the rest of the immortal gods, 620
forbidden to participate in warfare.

The close fighting over Ascalaphus continued.
Deïphobus stripped off the corpse’s shining helmet.
But Meriones, like swift Ares, jumped out
and speared him in the arm. The plumed helmet,
with a clang, fell on the ground. Like a vulture, [530]
Meriones leapt out again, pulled the heavy spear
out of his upper arm, then moved back to his group,
But Deïphobus’ blood brother Polites,
with both arms round his waist, hauled him from the fight, 630
until he came to his swift horses in the rear.
They were standing there, waiting for him,
with charioteer and finely decorated chariot.
These took him away, back to the city, tired out,
moaning heavily, blood dripping from his wounded arm.
The rest kept fighting, with no let up in the noise. [540]

Then Aeneas went at Aphareus, son of Caletor,
as he was facing him. His sharp spear hit his throat.
Aphareus’ head snapped back—his shield and helmet
fell down on him, and Death, which takes the living spirit, 640
gathered him in.

Antilochus kept watching Thoön.
As he turned, he rushed up and stabbed him,
severing the vein which runs the full length of the back
up to the neck—Antilochus slashed through this vein.
Thoön fell, stretching his arms up from the dust,
reaching to his friends. Antilochus jumped on him
and began to strip the armour on his shoulders. [550]
But he kept his eyes alert, for he was surrounded,
with Trojan men on every side, thrusting their spears
at his broad shining shield. But their ruthless bronze 650
could not scratch the tender skin behind that shield,
for Earthshaker Poseidon was guarding Nestor’s son,
even in that hail of spears. So Antilochus
never moved far from his enemies. He kept going,
ranging around among them. His spear never stopped,
always in motion, quivering, his eager heart
keen to throw that spear at someone or attack him.

As Antilochus went through that crowd of men, [560]
he was observed by Adamas, son of Asius,
who charged close in—his sharp bronze spear struck 660
the middle of his shield. But dark-haired Poseidon,
unwilling to concede Antilochus’ life,
made the spear point fail—so part of it got stuck
in Antilochus’ shield, like the charred end of a stick,
and half fell on the ground. Adamas then withdrew,
returning to the group of his companions,
avoiding death. But Meriones went after him,
as he moved back, and hit him underneath his navel,
in the scrotum, the most agonizing way
for men to perish miserably in battle. 670
When that spear struck Adamas, he doubled up, [570]
bent down over the spear, writhing like a bull
which farmers in the mountains bind with willow shoots
and drag along by force, against the creature’s will.
That’s how Adamas, once hit, twitched there for a while,
but not for long. Warlike Meriones, running up,
pulled out his spear. Then darkness covered up his eyes.

At close quarters, Helenus then hit Deïpyrus,
striking his helmet with a massive Thracian sword,
knocking it off, so it fell to earth and rolled away 680
among the soldiers’ feet. Some Achaean picked it up.
Deïpyrus’ eyes grew cloudy, and darkness took him.

Atreus’ son Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, [580]
was overcome with grief. He stepped up, threatening
and waving a sharp spear at warrior Helenus.
Helenus pulled back on the centre of his bow.
They both let fly together—one with a sharp spear,
the other with an arrow from his bowstring.
Priam’s son hit Menelaus with his arrow—
on the front plate of his armour, in the chest. 690
The keen arrow bounded off. Just as black beans or peas
fly off a broad shovel on large threshing floors,
driven by the sharp wind or winnower’s strength— [590]
that’s how the arrow point glanced off the breast plate,
then flew aside, away from glorious Menelaus.
When Atreus’ son Menelaus, skilled at war shouts,
threw his spear, he hit Helenus in the hand,
the one which held the finely polished bow.
The bronze sliced through his hand into the bow.
Helenus drew back into the group of his companions, 700
escaping death. He let his hand hang by his side,
dragging the ash spear behind him, till brave Agenor
pulled it out. Agenor then bound up his hand
in a strip of twisted sheep’s wool and made a sling,
which his attendant carried for him, his people’s shepherd. [600]

Then Peisander made straight for glorious Menelaus.
But an evil fate was leading him towards his death,
destroyed at your hands, Menelaus, in lethal war.
When the two men had approached each other,
standing at close range, Menelaus threw but missed— 710
his spear point was deflected. Then Peisander struck,
hitting glorious Menelaus’ shield, but his bronze
could not break through. The broad shield withstood the blow,
which snapped the spear off at its socket. But in his heart,
Peisander still felt a joyful hope of victory.
The son of Atreus pulled out his silver-studded sword, [610]
then leapt at Peisander, who, from under his own shield,
produced a fine axe of well-cast bronze, with a long shaft
of finely-polished olive wood. The two men met.
Peisander struck Menelaus on his helmet ridge, 720
at the top, just underneath the horsehair crest.
But as Peisander charged, Menelaus hit him—
right on the forehead, just above his nose.
The bones cracked. Both his bloody eyes fell out
into the dirt beside his feet. Peisander doubled up
and then collapsed. Menelaus stepped on his chest,
stripped off his armour, crying out in triumph:

“You arrogant Trojans, who can’t get enough [620]
of war’s destructive noise, this is the way
you’ll go back from these ships of the Danaans, 730
who ride fast horses. You’re not reluctant,
where insults and dishonour are concerned,
to go after me, you worthless mongrel dogs,
without fearing in your hearts harsh anger
from thundering Zeus, god of hospitality,
who some day will destroy your lofty town.
For you carried off the wife I married,
lots of my property, and brought them here,
although she’d entertained you royally
in her own home. Now you’re madly eager 740
to throw deadly fire on our sea-going ships,
to kill Achaean warriors. But you’ll be stopped, [630]
no matter how much you now want to fight.
O Father Zeus, people say for wisdom
you exceed all others, men and gods alike.
Yet all this comes from you, the way you show
favours to these insolent men, these Trojans,
whose aggressive spirit has no limit,
who can never get enough of battle,
though they’re not winning in an equal fight. 750
To all things there is a limit set—to sleep,
to love, sweet songs, and gorgeous dancing.
A man would rather have his fill of these, not war.
But Trojans here are gluttons for a fight.”

After Menelaus spoke, he stripped the body, [640]
then gave its bloody armour to his comrades.
He went back and rejoined those fighting in the front.

The next man to charge against him was Harpalion,
son of king Pylamenes, who came to fight at Troy
following his dear father. But he never did return 760
to his own country. With his spear at close range,
he struck the centre of Menelaus’ shield,
but the bronze could not penetrate completely.
So he drew back into the throng of his companions,
escaping death. He looked around him carefully,
as he moved, so no warrior’s bronze would hit his flesh.
But on his way back, Meriones shot at him. [650]
The bronze-tipped arrow hit his right buttock, pushing
underneath the bone, going right into the bladder.
He sat down there, in the arms of his dear comrades, 770
choking his life away, convulsing on the ground,
like some worm. His dark blood gushed out, soaking the earth.
Brave Paphlagonians came up to help Harpalion.
They set him in a chariot and took him away,
full of sorrow, to sacred Ilion. His father
went back with them, in tears, for he could find
no satisfaction for the slaughter of his son.

Harpalion’s death made Paris really angry. [660]
For with the Paphlagonians he’d welcomed Paris
as his guest. In a fit of anger, Paris shot off 780
a bronze-tipped arrow. Now, there was a certain man
called Euchenor, son of Polyidus the prophet,
a rich, brave man, who lived at home in Corinth.
He’d set sail knowing full well his deadly fate,
for many times his brave old father, Polyidus,
had told him—he would either die in his own home
from some foul disease or be destroyed by Trojans
among Achaean ships. Euchenor thus escaped
both the stiff penalty exacted by Achaeans
and deadly sickness—he felt worthy in his heart. 790 [670]
The arrow Paris shot hit this man by his jaw,
right on the ear. At once his spirit left his limbs,
and hateful darkness carried him away.

Thus the men keep fighting like a blazing fire.
But Hector, dear to Zeus, hadn’t heard and didn’t know
how the Achaeans were killing off his army
at the left end of the ships. Glory in this battle
would soon have been awarded to Achaeans—
that’s how powerfully Earthshaker Poseidon,
who enfolds the earth, was driving Argives forward, 800
helping them with his own strength as well. But Hector
charged on from where he’d first breached the gates and wall,
smashing up the close-packed ranks of the Danaans, [680]
right to the ships of Protesilaus and Ajax,
drawn up on the beach beside the blue-grey sea.
By these ships the wall was lowest. So there the fight
with men and horses was particularly fierce.
There Boeotians fought, Ionians in long tunics,
Locrians, Phthians, and glittering Epeians.
But they had trouble standing up to Hector’s charge, 810
as he attacked the ships. They couldn’t push him back,
away from them, as he came up, like an inferno,
not even the finest men of the Athenians,
with their leader Menestheus, son of Peteos, [690]
alongside Pheidas, Stichius, and brave Bias,
with the Epeians led by Meges, son of Phyleus,
Amphion, Dracius, and the Phthians,
led by Medon and Podarces, both brave men.
Medon was a bastard son of noble Oïleus
and Ajax’s brother. But he lived in Phylace, 820
far from his native land, for he’d killed a man,
one related to Eriopis, his stepmother,
wife of Oïleus. Podarcus was Iphicles’ son,
child of Phylaces. These men in their armour
were fighting at the head of those brave Phthians,
standing with Boeotians to defend the ships. [700]

Ajax, son of Oïleus, would not move away
from Ajax, son of Telamon—he fought beside him.
Just as in a meadow a pair of wine-dark oxen
strain with the same heart to pull a jointed plough, 830
beads of sweat running from the bottom of their horns,
with nothing but a well-polished yoke between them,
as they labour down the furrows, till the plough
slices through the edges of the field—that’s the way
the two Ajaxes stood together then, side by side.
Telamonian Ajax had many comrades with him,
courageous soldiers, who’d relieve him of his shield [710]
when his sweaty limbs grew tired. But the Locrians
had not come forward with brave Oïlean Ajax—
they lacked courage for fighting in the killing zone, 840
for they had no plumed bronze helmets, no round shields,
and no ash spears. They’d come to Troy with Ajax
trusting in their bows and slings of twisted sheep’s wool.
Later they battled on with these, firing thick volleys,
breaking ranks of Trojans. So one group of men,
those with glittering weapons, fought at the front
against bronze-armed Hector and his Trojans, [720]
while another shot from safe positions at the back.
The arrows drained the Trojans’ fighting spirit.

The Trojans would then have been shamed into retreat, 850
moving back from the ships and huts to windy Troy,
if Polydamas hadn’t approached bold Hector, saying:

“You’re a difficult man to deal with, Hector,
for you don’t take advice. God has made you
more excellent in war than other men.
Thus, in council you want us all to think
you’re better than the rest. But in yourself
you can’t be everything at once. The gods
make one man superior in warfare, [730]
another in the dance, or singing, 860
or playing the lyre. For some others,
all-seeing Zeus puts wisdom in their hearts—
and from these men many people benefit,
many are saved, for such men know what’s right.
So I’ll say what I think it’s best to do.
All around you war’s fiery circle rages,
but some brave Trojans, having breached the wall,
are standing idle with their weapons.
Others, scattered around the ships, fight on—
but in small groups against a larger mass. 870
You should fall back, then summon here to you [740]
all our finest men. Then we can weigh our options—
whether we should assault the well-decked ships,
in the hope god wants to give us victory,
or whether, for safety’s sake, we leave the ships.
I’m afraid Achaeans may avenge the hurt
we gave them yesterday, since by their ships
there sits a man with appetite for war—
I think he may change his decision not to fight.”

Polydamas finished. His advice pleased Hector. 880
At once he jumped out of his chariot to the ground.
He took up his weapons and spoke—his words had wings: [750]

“Polydamas, keep all the best men here.
I’ll go back to battle over there,
returning when I’ve told them what to do.”

Saying that, Hector strode off, like a snowy mountain,
going by Trojans and allies, shouting instructions.
When these men heard what Hector wanted them to do,
they all came running over to Polydamas,
kind son of Panthous. Hector marched through the ranks 890
of their best warriors, looking for Deïphobus,
brave prince Helenus, Adamas, son of Asius,
and Asius, son of Hyrtacus. But these men
had not come through unscathed. Some were already dead, [760]
killed at Argive hands by the sterns of Achaea’s ships.
Others inside the wall had spear or arrow wounds.
On the left flank of that destructive battle,
Hector met Paris, husband of fair-haired Helen,
encouraging his comrades, urging them to fight.
Approaching him, Hector taunted Paris: 900

“You may be the best-looking man around,
but you’re a useless woman-mad seducer.
Where are Deïphobus, brave prince Helenus, [770]
Adamas, son of Asius, and Asius,
son of Hyrtacus? Where’s Othryoneus?
Tell me that. All of high Ilion
has been destroyed. Your own death is certain.”

Then noble Alexander answered Hector:

“Hector, you’re now blaming someone innocent.
At other times I have held back from war, 910
but not this time. When my mother bore me,
she did not produce a total coward.
Since the moment you told your men to fight
beside the ships, we’ve been in combat here,
in a constant struggle with Danaans.
Those comrades you just mentioned have been killed. [780]
Only Deïphobus and brave Helenus
have gone back, both wounded in the arm—
hit by long spears—but Zeus saved them from death.
But now, lead on where your spirit tells you, 920
we’ll follow you quite willingly. I don’t think
we’ll show a lack of courage while our strength holds out.
Once that goes, no matter how keen a man may be,
he can no longer continue in the war.”

Warrior Paris’ words won his brother’s heart.
They set off for the centre of that noisy battle,
with Cebriones, noble Polydamas, [790]
Phalces, Orthaeus, godlike Polyphetes,
Palmys, Ascanius, Morus, son of Hippotion,
men who’d come from fertile Ascania the day before 930
as reinforcements. Now Zeus incited them to war.
The Trojans advanced. Just like blasts of storming winds
striking the earth under Father Zeus’ thunder,
then with a roar slicing into the sea, whipping up
a crowd of surging waves across a booming ocean,
with lines of arching foam, one following another—
that how Trojans marched behind their leaders, [800]
in a tight formation, one behind the other,
glittering in bronze. Like man-destroying Ares,
Hector, son of Priam, led them. He held his shield 940
in front of him, an even circle made of hide,
densely packed, then covered with a solid layer
of hammered bronze, helmet gleaming round his temples.
He moved out, testing all parts of the Achaean lines,
to see if they’d retreat from him as he came forward
covered by his shield. But Achaean hearts stood firm.
The first fighter to challenge Hector was great Ajax,
who marched out with long strides and shouted:

“Come closer, [810]
you poor man. Why try to scare the Argives?
When it comes to fighting, we’re not ignorant. 950
Zeus’ harsh whip has lashed Achaeans back,
and your heart now wants to break our ships.
But we’ve got hands to raise in their defence.
In fact, I think it’s far more likely now
we’ll take your well-built city—these hands of ours
will smash it long before you seize our ships.
I say the time has come when you’ll run back,
praying to Father Zeus and other gods,
to make your horses with their lovely manes
fly as fast as hawks, when they speed through dust 960
to get you to your city on the plain.” [820]

As Ajax spoke, a bird flew out on the right,
a high-flying eagle. Encouraged by the omen,
the Achaean soldiers responded with a cheer.
Glorious Hector then said to Ajax in reply:

“What are you saying, you stupid boaster?
I wish it were as certain that I was
the son of aegis-bearing Zeus himself,
with Hera for my mother, and honoured
like Apollo or Athena, as I am that this day 970
brings disaster to the Argives—all of them.
You’ll lie among the dead, if you dare
to stand up to my long spear. It will slice [830]
your lily skin. Then once you fall down there,
beside Achaea’s ships, Trojan dogs and birds
will feed upon your flesh and fat.”

Hector spoke.
Then he advanced—the troops moved up behind him,
making a huge din, even from soldiers at the back.
On the other side, the Argives raised a shout.
They hadn’t lost their courage. They’d held their line 980
against the finest Trojans launching their attack.
The noise from both sides went up into bright Zeus’ sky

 


Book Fourteen

Zeus Deceived

[Nestor leaves his hut to look around, sees the Achaeans in retreat; Nestor meets the wounded kings inspecting the field; Agamemnon advises going home; Odysseus responds harshly to the suggestion; Diomedes advises them to visit the battle; Poseidon continues to encourage the Argives; Hera thinks of a plan to deceive Zeus; she prepares herself to look seductive; Hera gets a Aphrodite's love charms; Hera visits Sleep and gets his cooperation; Hera visits Zeus on Ida, has sex with him, and Zeus goes to sleep; Poseidon rallies the Argives and leads them into battle; Ajax wounds Hector badly with a rock; Hector withdraws; the killings continue on both sides, the Argives getting the better of the battle.]

 

As Nestor sat drinking wine, listening to the noise of war,
he said to Asclepius’ son:

“Noble Machaon,
think about how this battle will end up—
the shouting from our young men by the ships
is getting louder. You should sit here for now.
Drink some sparkling wine, till Hecamede
with the lovely hair draws you a warm bath
and washes the dried blood off your body.
I’ll go to a lookout, see what’s going on.”

Nestor took the well-made shield belonging to his son, 10
horse-taming Thrasymedes. It lay there in the hut, [10]
gleaming bronze. The son was fighting with his father’s shield.
Nestor took a strong spear with a sharp bronze point,
then stood outside the hut. At once he saw a shameful sight—
Achaeans in retreat, pushed back by their enemies,
high-hearted Trojans. The Achaean wall was breached.
Just as the great sea heaves with a sullen purple swell,
anticipating the swift passage of sharp winds—
but uncertainly—so its waves have no direction,
until some steady storm blows down from Zeus—that’s how 20
the old man was lost in thought, his heart divided [20]
between two courses. Should he seek out the crowd
of swift-riding Danaans, or see if he could find
Agamemnon, son of Atreus, his people’s shepherd?
As he thought it over, the best course seemed to be
to find the son of Atreus.

Meanwhile, the other men
kept up the fight, kept on butchering each other.
Around their bodies the unwearied bronze rang out,
as they thrust with swords and double-bladed spears.
Then Nestor came across the kings the gods sustain— 30
they were walking round among the ships—all the ones
whom bronze had wounded—Diomedes and Odysseus,
along with Agamemnon, son of Atreus.

They’d drawn their ships on shore beside the blue-grey sea, [30]
far from battle, dragging up their own ships first,
hauled them inland, then built the wall along the sterns.
The beach was wide, but not long enough for all the fleet.
The army didn’t have much space to hold the boats.
So they’d set the ships in rows, and thus filled up
the whole wide coastal bay between the headlands. 40
The kings had set out in one group together,
each one leaning on a spear, to see the fighting
and check the progress of the war. Deep in their chests
they were very troubled. When old Nestor met them,
the anxiety in their Achaean hearts
was even more acute. Mighty Agamemnon [40]
spoke to him and said:

“Nestor, son of Neleus,
great glory of Achaeans, why are you here?
Why have you left the battle? I’m afraid
that mighty Hector will make good those words 50
he used to threaten us, in that speech
he gave his Trojans, saying he’d not return
from our ships to Troy until he’d burned them
and slaughtered all the men. That’s what he said.
And now it’s happening. What chaos!
Other well-armed Achaeans in their hearts
must be angry with me, like Achilles, [50]
unwilling to continue fighting by our ships.”

Geranian horseman Nestor answered Agamemnon:

“What’s happened so far is over, done with— 60
not even high-thundering Zeus himself
could make that something else—our wall is down.
We put our faith in it as a firm defence
for ships and for ourselves. At this moment,
men are constantly in action by our ships,
with no relief. Whichever way you look,
even if you really try, you cannot tell
from what direction we are being attacked.
It’s all confused. The killing is haphazard. [60]
The battle shouts fill heaven. As for us, 70
if thinking is a help, we should consider
how these events will end. I’m not saying
we should rejoin the fight—that’s not expected
from those who have been wounded.”

Agamemnon, king of men, replied:

“Nestor,
since the men now fight at our ships’ sterns,
and since our strong wall and ditch are useless—
something crushing for Danaans, whose hearts
had trusted they’d provide a firm defence
and keep our soldiers and our ships secure— 80
from this I gather that almighty Zeus
must enjoy it when Achaeans perish [70]
without a name, right here, far from Argos.
I felt when Zeus was giving the Danaans
his full assistance, and I know it now,
when he gives the glory to the Trojans,
like blessed gods, while draining all our strength,
our fighting spirit. But come now, let’s agree
to what I propose. Let’s drag down those ships
drawn up there in line closest to the surf 90
and pull them all into the sacred sea,
and moor them with stones in deeper water,
until the coming of immortal night—
which may prevent the Trojans’ fighting.
Then we can shift the other ships. To flee
from ruin, even at night, brings no shame. [80]
It’s better to escape one’s own destruction—
to run off—than let it overtake you.”

In response to this, Odysseus scowled and said:

“Son of Atreus, how can such words as these 100
come from your mouth? I’m finished with you.
I wish you ruled some other army,
some useless men, and were not our leader.
Zeus sees to it that from our youthful days
to our old age we must grind away
at wretched war, till, one by one, we die.
Are you really willing to leave Troy,
city of wide streets, for whose sake we’ve borne
so many evils? You’d better keep that quiet— [90]
another Achaean man may hear the news, 110
learn what you’ve proposed in words no man
should ever let pass through his mouth at all,
no man whose heart has any understanding
of what’s appropriate to say, no one
who is a sceptred king whom men obey—
as many as those Argive troops you lead.
From what you’ve said, I think you’ve lost your mind.
In the middle of a fight, you tell us now
to drag our well-decked ships down to the sea,
so that, though Trojans may be winning now, 120
they’d get what they most pray for realized—
the complete annihilation of us all.
For once we drag our ships into the sea,
Achaeans then will never go on fighting— [100]
the whole time they’ll be looking over here
and pulling out from battle. Then your plan,
you leader of the army, will destroy it.”

Agamemnon, king of men, replied:

“Odysseus,
that harsh rebuke of yours has stung my heart.
But I’m not the man to tell Achaea’s sons 130
to drag our well-decked ships into the sea
if they’re not willing. So show me someone
with a better plan than mine—young or old—
I’ll welcome it.”

Then Diomedes,
skilled in battle shouts, spoke up:

“That man’s close by. [110]
We’ve no need to search too long, if you’ll listen,
without any one of you resenting me
because I’m younger than the rest of you.
I claim worthy descent through Tydeus,
who lies in Thebes hidden underground. 140
Portheus had three fine sons in Pleuron
and steep Calydon—Agrius, Melus,
and a third, Oeneus, my father’s father.
He was the most courageous of them all.
He stayed there, but my father roamed around.
He came to Argos. That was what Zeus willed— [120]
other gods, as well. He married a daughter
of Adrestus, lived in a prosperous home,
with many wheat-bearing fields and orchards
planted all through his estate—and many sheep. 150
He was the best of all the Argive spearman.
You must have heard all this and know it’s true.
So you would never label me by birth a coward,
a weakling, and thus demean what I advise,
if what I say is good. We must go back there,
to the battle, though we’re wounded. Once there,
we’ll stand back from combat, beyond the range
of flying weapons, in case someone is hit [130]
and gets more wounds. But we’ll urge on the others,
even those who, wallowing in their feelings, 160
have stood aside, without fighting up to now.”

They listened well to Diomedes and agreed.
So they set off, led by Agamemnon, king of men.

Famous Earthshaker Poseidon saw all this.
He walked among them in the shape of an old man.
Taking Atreus’ son Agamemnon by his right hand,
Poseidon talked to him—his words had wings.

“Son of Atreus, in Achilles’ chest
his destructive heart is really happy now, [140]
to see Achaeans slaughtered and in flight. 170
He’s not in his right mind, not in the least.
Well, he may be killed anyway—some god
may strike him. As for you, the blessed gods
aren’t angry with you over anything,
so Troy’s kings and leaders may yet make dust
while scurrying over this wide plain,
while you watch them running to their city,
back from these huts.”

Poseidon said these words,
then, as he raced off to the plain, let out a mighty roar—
as loud as the din from nine or ten thousand men 180
when on a battleground they first clash with Ares.
That’s how loud the sound was which came out then [150]
from powerful Earthshaker’s chest, infusing
great strength in each man’s heart to keep on going,
to fight on there and not to pause for rest.

As this was happening, on a peak of Mount Olympus
Hera of the golden throne was standing watching.
She recognized her brother-in-law at once,
as he kept busy in the war where men win glory,
for he was her brother and her husband’s, too. 190
Hera’s heart was pleased. She looked across at Zeus,
sitting on the highest peak on top of Ida,
with its many fountains. Hatred filled her heart.
So ox-eyed queen Hera then began considering
how she might deceive the mind of aegis-bearing Zeus. [160]
In her heart the best course of action seemed to be
to make herself look most attractive, go to Ida,
then see if Zeus would want to lie down with her,
embrace her, and make love. Then she could pour out
on his eyelids and his crafty mind a deep warm sleep. 200
She went off to her bedroom, which Hephaestus,
her dear son, had made for her, with close-fitting doors
set against their posts, secured with a secret lock,
which no other god could open. She went in there,
then closed the shining doors. First, with ambrosia [170]
she washed from her lovely body all the stains,
then rubbed her skin with fragrant oil, divinely sweet,
made specially for her. If this perfume were merely stirred
inside Zeus’ bronze-floored house, its scent would then diffuse
throughout heaven and earth. She used this perfume 210
all over her fair body, then arranged her hair.
With her own hands she combed her shining locks in braids,
a stunning style for an immortal goddess.
Then she wrapped around herself a heavenly robe,
which Athena made for her from silky fabric,
adorning it with gorgeous embroidery.
She pinned the robe around her breast with golden brooches. [180]
On her waist she put a belt with a hundred tassels.
Hera then fixed earrings in her pierced ear lobes,
each with three gemstones, an enchanting glitter. 220
Next the queen of goddesses placed on her head
a fine new dazzling shawl, white as the sun.
She then slipped lovely sandals over her sleek feet.

Once Hera had dressed her body in this finery,
she left the room and summoned Aphrodite.
Some distance from the other gods, she said to her:

“My dear child, will you agree to do [190]
what I ask of you, or will you refuse,
because you’re angry with me in your heart,
since I help Danaans and you aid the Trojans?” 230

Zeus’ daughter Aphrodite answered her:

“Hera,
honoured goddess, daughter of great Cronos,
say what’s on your mind. My heart tells me
I should do what you ask, if I can,
if it’s something that can be carried out.”

Then queen Hera, with her devious mind, replied:

“Then give me Love and Sexual Desire,
which you use to master all immortals,
and mortal men as well. I’m going to visit
the limits of this all-nourishing earth, 240 [200]
to see Oceanus, from whom the gods arose,
and mother Tethys, the two who reared me,
taking good care of me inside their home,
once they got me from Rhea, that time Zeus,
who sees far and wide, forced Cronos
underground, under the restless seas.
I’m going to visit them. And I’ll resolve
their endless quarrel. For a long time now,
they’ve stayed apart from one another,
not sharing love there in the marriage bed, 250
since anger fills their hearts. If my words
could reconcile the hearts in these two gods,
bring them to bed again, once more in love,
they’d think of me with loving reverence.” [210]

Laughter-loving Aphrodite answered Hera:

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me
to say no to your demand, since you sleep
in the arms of Zeus, the greatest of the gods.”

Aphrodite spoke, then loosened from her breasts
the finely decorated, embroidered garment 260
in which all her magic charms were fixed—for love,
erotic lust, flirtation, and seduction,
which steals the wits even of clear-thinking men.
Aphrodite put this in Hera’s hands, then said:

“Take this garment. Tie it round your breasts.
Everything is interwoven in the cloth. [220]
I don’t think you’ll come back unsuccessful
in getting what it is your heart desires.”

Aphrodite finished. Ox-eyed queen Hera smiled,
and, as she did so, put the garment round her breasts. 270
Then Aphrodite, Zeus’ daughter, went back home.

Hera sped off, leaving the crest of Mount Olympus.
She touched down on Pieria, lovely Emathia,
rushed by the highest mountains of Thracian horsemen—
her feet did not touch ground on those snow-covered peaks.
From Athos she went across the heaving sea,
coming to Lemnos, city of godlike Thoas. [230]
There she met Sleep, Death’s brother. Clasping his hand,
she spoke to him:

“Sleep, king of all men and gods,
if you’ve ever listened to what I say, 280
obey me now. I’ll be grateful always.
Lull Zeus’ radiant eyes to sleep for me,
when I’m stretched out for sex beside him.
I’ll give you as a gift a lovely throne,
indestructible gold which my own son
Hephaestus with his ambidextrous skills
will make for you. Under it he’ll set a stool, [240]
so you can rest your feet when drinking wine.”

Sweet Sleep then said in reply:

“Honoured goddess Hera,
daughter of mighty Cronos, I could with ease 290
bring some other immortal one to sleep,
even the streams of river Ocean,
the source of all of them. But I won’t come
near Zeus, lull him to sleep, unless he bids me,
asks in person. Your request some time ago
taught me my lesson, on that very day [250]
when Hercules, son of almighty Zeus,
set sail from Ilion, after he’d sacked
the Trojans’ city. That’s when I seduced
the mind of aegis-bearing Zeus, pouring 300
my sweetness over him. You then carried
evil in your heart for Hercules, driving
blasts of hostile winds across the sea,
taking him at last to well-settled Cos,
far from all his friends. When Zeus woke up,
he was incensed, throwing gods around his house,
looking, above all, for me. He’d have tossed me
from heaven into the sea, if Night,
who subdues gods and men, had not saved me. [260]
I ran away to her, and Zeus held back, 310
though still enraged, not wishing to offend
swift Night. Now here you are again, asking me
to do something I simply must not do.”

Ox-eyed queen Hera then answered him:

“Sleep,
why concern your heart about these matters?
Do you think all-seeing Zeus feels for Trojans
the same rage he felt then for Hercules,
his own son? But come, I’ll give you as your wife
one of the younger Graces. You can marry
Pasithea, whom you long for every day.” 320

Hera finished. Sleep was overjoyed and said: [270]

“All right, then. Swear to me by waters
of the inviolable river Styx, setting
one hand on the all-nourishing earth,
the other on the shimmering sea,
so all may witness our agreement,
even those gods underground with Cronos,
that you will give me one of the Graces,
Pasithea, whom I long for every day.”

White-armed goddess Hera agreed to Sleep’s request. 330
She made the oath, as he had asked, invoking
all the gods under Tartarus, those called the Titans.* [280]
Once she’d finished saying the oath, they both set off,
wrapping themselves in mist. They left behind them
the cities of Lemnos and Imbros, moving quickly,
then came to Mount Ida with its many springs,
mother of wild creatures, and arrived at Lectum,
where for the first time they left the sea. They walked
on dry land, shaking treetops underneath their feet.
Sleep then stopped, before Zeus’ eyes could see him, 340
climbed a high pine tree, at that time the tallest one
growing on Ida. It stretched up through the lower air
right into the sky. Concealed in that tree’s branches,
Sleep perched there, shaped like the clear-voiced mountain bird
which gods call Chalcis, but people name Cymindis. [290]

Hera moved quickly on to Ida’s peak, high Gargarus.
Cloud-gatherer Zeus caught sight of her. As he looked,
his wise heart became suffused with sexual desire,
as strong as when they’d first made love together,
lying on a couch without their parents’ knowledge. 350
Zeus stood up in front of her, called her, and said:

“Hera, what are you looking for, coming
down here from Olympus? Your chariot,
your horses are not here. You should use them.”

Queen Hera with her crafty mind then answered Zeus: [300]

“I’m going to visit the outer limits
of this all-nourishing earth, to Oceanus,
from whom gods came, and mother Tethys,
who looked after me in their own home.
They raised me well. I’ll try to mediate 360
their endless quarrel. For a long time now,
they’ve stayed apart from one another,
not sharing love there in the marriage bed,
since anger fills their hearts. As for my horses,
they’re standing at the foot of Ida,
with its many springs, to carry me
across dry land and sea. I’ve come here now,
down from Mount Olympus, to stop you
from being angry with me afterwards, [310]
if I say nothing about going to visit 370
deep-flowing Oceanus in his home.”

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered:

“Hera,
you can go there later. But why don’t we
lie down and make joyful love together?
I’ve never felt such sexual desire before
for any goddess, for any mortal woman.
It’s flooding through me, overpowering the heart
here in my chest—not even when I lusted for
Ixion’s wife, who bore me Peirithous,
a man as wise as gods, or Danaë, 380
with her enchanting ankles, daughter
of Acrisius, who gave birth to Perseus, [320]
most illustrious of men, nor the daughter
of famous Phoenix, who bore me Minos
and godlike Rhadamanthus, nor Alcmene,
who gave birth to Hercules in Thebes,
a mighty hearted son, nor Semele,
who bore that joy to mortals Dionysus,
nor fair-haired lady Demeter, nor Leto,
that glorious girl, not even for yourself— 390
I felt for none of these the love I feel
for you right now—such sweet desire grips me.”

Queen Hera with her cunning mind then said in reply:

“Most fearsome son of Cronos, what are you saying? [330]
If you now want us to make love lying here,
on Ida’s peaks, where anyone can see,
what if one of the immortal gods observes us,
as we sleep, then goes and tells the other gods?
I could not get up from this bed and go
into your home. That would be scandalous. 400
But if that’s your wish, if your heart’s set on it,
you have that bedroom your own son Hephaestus
had built for you. It has close-fitting doors
fixed into posts. Let’s go and lie down there,
since you’re so keen for us to go to bed.” [340]

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then answered her:

“Hera,
don’t be afraid that any god or man
will glimpse a thing. I’ll cover you up
in a golden cloud. Even sun god Helios
will not see the two of us, and his rays 410
are the most perceptive spies of all.”

Zeus finished. Then Cronos’ son took his wife in his arms.
Underneath them divine Earth made fresh flowers grow—
dew-covered clover, crocuses, and hyacinths,
lush and soft, to hold the lovers off the ground.
They lay together there covered with a cloud, [350]
a lovely golden mist, from which fell glistening dew.
Then Zeus slumbered peacefully on Mount Gargarus,
overcome with love and sleep, his wife in his embrace.

Sweet Sleep rushed to the Achaean ships, to inform 420
Poseidon, the Encircler and Shaker of the Earth.
Coming up to him, Sleep spoke—his words had wings:

“Poseidon, you could now help the Argives
quite readily and give them glory,
if only for a while—Zeus is fast asleep.
I’ve covered him with a delicious sleep.
Hera has seduced him on a bed of love.” [360]

Saying this, Sleep left there for some well-known tribes of men.
But he made Poseidon want to help Danaans,
even more so than before. He ran to those in front, 430
calling in a loud voice:

“You Argives,
are we really going to give the victory
to Hector, son of Priam—allow him
to take our ships and get the glory?
That’s what he says. He even boasts about it—
since Achilles stays beside his hollow ships,
anger in his heart. But we won’t miss him much
if the rest of us get fighting strength
and help each other. So come, let’s all follow [370]
what I suggest. Let’s arm ourselves with shields, 440
the best and biggest in our whole army,
cover our heads with gleaming helmets,
take in our hands the longest spears, and go.
I’ll lead us. I don’t think Hector, Priam’s son,
will hold, no matter how much he wants to fight.”

Poseidon spoke. The soldiers heard him and obeyed.
The kings themselves, though wounded, organized the men—
Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus. [380]
Moving among the warriors, they supervised
the exchange of weapons. The best men put on 450
the best equipment, the worst men got the worst.
Once their bodies were encased in gleaming bronze,
they marched out. Earthshaker Poseidon led them,
gripping in his powerful fist a fearful sword,
with a long edge, like a lightning bolt, which no man
in grim battle could withstand—his fear would hold him back.
On the other side, glorious Hector organized his men. [390]
Then he and dark-haired Poseidon launched the fight,
the most destructive moments of that battle,
one commanding Trojans, the other leading Argives. 460
The sea surged up to the Achaean huts and ships,
as the two sides met with a tremendous noise,
louder than ocean surf booming on shore, driven there
from the depths by the harsh North Wind, louder, too,
than roaring fire as it jumps to burn the trees
in some mountain clearing, louder than the wind
which howls through the highest branches of some oak tree,
a wind which at its worst makes the most piercing noise—
that’s how loud the shouting came from Trojans and Achaeans, [400]
terrifying screams, as they went at each other. 470

Glorious Hector first threw his spear at Ajax,
as he’d just turned to face him. The spear hit Ajax,
right where two straps intersected on his chest,
one for his shield, one for his silver-studded sword.
These saved his tender flesh. Hector was annoyed—
his weapon had flown from his hand and missed its mark.
He drew back into the group of his companions,
evading death. But great Telamonian Ajax
hit Hector with a rock as he was moving back—
there were many of them there rolling underfoot, 480 [410]
right where they fought, rock wedges used to prop the ships.
Ajax picked up one of these and struck Hector’s chest,
just above the shield rim, close to Hector’s neck.
The impact spun Hector like a top, reeling
round and round. Just like those times Father Zeus
uproots some oak tree with a lightning bolt—it falls,
with an awful smell of sulphur spreading from it,
which no one close by can look at without fear,
for Zeus’ lighting bolts fill men with terror—
that’s how mighty Hector fell down in the dust. 490
His spear dropped from his hand. His shield fell on him,
his helmet, too. The finely worked bronze armour [420]
round his body rattled. Raising a loud shout,
Achaeans ran up, hoping to drag Hector back.
Their spears flew thick and fast, but no one could wound him,
that shepherd of his people, with sword or spear.
Before that happened, the best men rallied by him,
Polydamas, Aeneas, lord Agenor,
Lycian leader Sarpedon, and noble Glaucus.
None of the others ignored Hector. In front of him, 500
they held round shields. His companions picked him up
and took him in their arms out of the fighting,
until they came to his swift horses waiting for him [430]
with their charioteer and richly ornate chariot
behind the battle lines. With chariot and horses
they took Hector, groaning badly, towards the city.
But when they reached the ford on that lovely river,
the swirling Xanthus, whose father is immortal Zeus,
they lifted him out and set him on the ground.
They poured on water to revive him. His eyes opened. 510
He rose to his knees, but then vomited dark blood
and fell down on his back again, lying on the ground.
Black night was covering up his eyes, for his spirit
was still overpowered by that blow from Ajax.

When Argives saw Hector carried back, they charged in, [440]
going at Trojans even more, their battle fury roused.
Far ahead of all the rest came Oïlean Ajax.
Jumping out with his sharp spear, he struck Satnius,
son of Enops, who’d conceived him with a Naiad nymph,
while he was tending cattle by the river banks 520
at the Satnioeis. Ajax, son of Oïleus,
famous spearman, came up and struck him in the side.
Satnius fell backwards. Trojans and Danaans
then fought on around him. Spearman Polydamas,
son of Panthous, came up to help. He threw and hit
Prothoënor, son of Areilycus, in his right shoulder. [450]
The heavy spear tore through the shoulder. He fell down—
lying in the dust and clawing dirt. Polydamas,
with a great shout, exulted in his triumph:

“I don’t think that spear flew in vain 530
from the strong hand of Panthous’ valiant son.
Some Argive has got it in his flesh.
I think as he goes down to Hades’ house,
he’ll use it as a walking staff.”

Polydamas’ loud boasting pained the Argives.
He especially roused the spirit in fierce Ajax,
son of Telamon. For Prothoënor fell [460]
right next to him. So Ajax quickly moved ahead
and hurled his shining spear. But jumping to one side,
Polydamas nimbly avoided his dark fate. 540
The spear hit Archelochus, Antenor’s son—
the gods had planned his death. It struck his spine up high,
where the head attaches to the neck—slicing through,
it cut both sinews. As he fell, his head, mouth, and nose
hit the earth well before his knees, and Ajax cried
to brave Polydamas:

“Consider this, Polydamas, [470]
and tell me the truth—is not this man here
worth killing to avenge Prothoënor?
He doesn’t seem to be unworthy,
or from inferior parents. He looks like 550
a brother of horse-taming Antenor,
perhaps his son—he looks a lot like him.”

Ajax shouted this, knowing very well the man he’d killed.
Trojans hearts were seized with grief. Then Acamas,
standing above his brother’s body, with his spear
struck Promachus, a Boeotian, as he was trying
to drag Archelochus by his feet. Over the body
Acamas shouted then in triumph:

“You Argive boasters,
how you love to threaten! Misery like this,
all this suffering, is not for us alone. 560 [480]
You too some day will be killed like this.
See how your Promachus now sleeps in death,
thanks to my spear. Whatever’s owed to me
for my brother has not been unpaid long.
That’s why in time of war a soldier prays
he leaves at home a brother to avenge him.”

Acamas shouted this, bringing grief to Argives.
He really stirred the heart of warlike Peneleus.
He charged at Acamas, who did not stay there
to confront the charge of noble Peneleus, 570
so he then struck Ilioneus, son of Phorbas,
who owned many flocks, a man whom Hermes loved [490]
above all Trojans, and he’d made him wealthy.
Ilioneus was the only child his mother bore
to Phorbas. But then he was hit by Peneleus,
below his eyebrows, just underneath his eye.
The spear knocked out the eyeball, went in his eye,
drove through his neck, and sliced the tendons at the nape.
Ilioneus collapsed, stretching out his arms.
Peneleus drew his sharp sword and struck his neck, 580
chopping head and helmet, so they hit the ground,
the spear still sticking from the socket of his eye.
Holding it up high, like a flowering poppy,
Peneleus shouted a loud boast at the Trojans: [500]

“Trojans, you can now tell the dear father
and mother of fine Ilioneus to lament
all through their house. When we Achaean lads
sail in our ships from Troy, then the wife
of this Promachus, son of Alegenor,
will not be celebrating the return 590
of her beloved husband.”

Peneleos finished.
The Trojans were shaken, limbs trembling. Every man
looked around to see how he could evade grim death.

Tell me now, you Muses living on Olympus,
which of the Achaeans was first to carry off
bloody trophies from the men who’d just been slaughtered,
when famous Earthshaker turned the tides of war. [510]
The first for that was Ajax, son of Telamon.
He hit Hyrtius, the son of Gyrtius,
who led the courageous Mysians. Then Antilochus 600
stripped spoils from Mermerus and Phalces.
Meriones killed Morus and Hippotion,
while Teucer slaughtered Prothoön and Periphetes.
and Menelaus hit Hyperenor in the side,
a shepherd to his people. As it went through him,
the spear forced out his guts. His life-spirit left him
through the wound, and darkness veiled his eyes.
But Ajax, swift son of Oïleus, killed the most. [520]
For none could match his speed on foot, as he ran,
chasing men in flight when Zeus forced them to flee. 610

 

Notes

*The Titans were the generation of immortal deities before Zeus. He overthrew them and imprisoned them (including his father, Cronos) deep under the earth.

 


Book Fifteen

The Battle at the Ships

[Trojans are being driven in retreat; Zeus wakes up on Ida, turns on Hera; Zeus instructs Hera to send Iris and Apollo to him; Hera returns to Olympus, gets Ares angry at Zeus; Athena restrains Ares; Iris and Apollo go to Zeus on Ida; Iris goes to Poseidon with Zeus' orders; Poseidon's resentment of Zeus; Poseidon withdraws from battle; Zeus sends Apollo to Hector; Apollo helps Hector recover; the battle starts again with Apollo leading the Trojans and pushing the Achaeans back; Apollo knocks down the wall and fills in the ditch; the armies fight around the ships; Ajax plays a leading role in defending the Achaeans; Hector seizes the stern of a ship, but Ajax holds Achaeans off with a long pike]

 

Trojans, in full retreat, passed the wall and ditch,
with many slaughtered by Danaans. Then they stopped,
regrouping by their chariots, pale with fear, terrified.
At that point Zeus, lying on the peaks of Ida
alongside Hera of the golden throne, woke up.
He stood up quickly, looked at Trojans and Achaeans,
saw Trojans running off with Argives driving them
from the back, among them god Poseidon.
He saw Hector lying on the plain, his companions
sitting round him. Hector was gagging painfully, 10 [10]
dazed and vomiting blood. The warrior who’d struck him
was not the weakest of Achaeans. Watching him,
the father of gods and men pitied Hector.
Looking at Hera with a fearful scowl, Zeus said:

“You’re impossible to deal with, Hera,
devising such deceitful tricks to get
lord Hector from the fight and make the army
run away. But I think you may be the first
to get rewarded for your wretched scheme,
when I flog you with my whip. Don’t you recall 20
the time I strung you up on high, putting
two anvils on your feet, tying your wrists
with unbreakable gold rope? You hung there, [20]
in the air among the clouds. Other gods,
all through Olympus, were very anxious,
but just stood there, unable to untie you.
If I’d caught one trying, I’d have grabbed him,
tossed him from the threshold so he hit ground,
his strength all gone. But even with all that,
I couldn’t ease the constant pain I felt 30
for god-like Hercules. You and North Wind
drove him with storm blasts over restless seas.
Your evil scheming later carried him
to well-settled Cos. I rescued him from there
and brought him back to horse-breeding Argos, [30]
but only after he’d endured too much.
I’ll remind you of these things once more,
so you’ll stop your malicious trickery,
so you’ll see the advantages you get
from this seduction, this couch where you lay 40
to have sex with me, when you came from the gods
intending to deceive me.”

Zeus spoke. Ox-eyed queen Hera
trembled as she answered—her words had wings:

“Let earth and wide heaven above be witnesses,
with the flowing waters of the river Styx,
on which the most binding, most fearful oaths
are made by blessed gods—let your sacred head,
our marriage bed as well, stand witnesses,
things on which I’d never swear untruthfully— [40]
the harm that Earthshaker Poseidon did 50
to Hector and the Trojans, to help Argives—
in all that I had no part. His own heart
pushed and drove him on. He saw Achaeans
being beaten by their ships and pitied them.
I’d not advise him to go against you,
lord of the dark cloud, but to follow you,
wherever you might lead.”

Hera finished.
The father of gods and men smiled and then replied—
his words had wings:

“Ox-eyed queen Hera,
if from now on you and I were of one mind, 60
as you took your seat among immortals, [50]
then, no matter how much Poseidon’s views
differed from our own, he’d quickly bring them
into line with yours and mine. If you’re being frank,
speaking the truth, go now to that group of gods,
and order Iris to come here with Apollo,
the famous archer, so she may visit
bronze-armed Achaean soldiers and instruct
lord Poseidon to stop fighting and return
to his own house. And Phoebus Apollo, 70
after reviving Hector for the fight,
will breathe new strength into him. He’ll forget [60]
that pain which now weighs down his spirit.
He’ll drive Achaeans back a second time,
once he’s turned them into cowards. They’ll run
back to Achilles’ ships with many oars.
The son of Peleus will send out his companion,
Patroclus, whom glorious Hector will then kill
in a spear fight right in front of Ilion,
after many other young men have gone down, 80
killed by Patroclus, including my own son,
godlike Sarpedon. Then, in his anger
at Patroclus’ death, godlike Achilles
will slaughter Hector. From that moment on,
I’ll make the Trojans steadily fall back,
leaving the ships, until Achaeans take [70]
steep Ilion, with Athena’s guidance.
Until that time, I’ll not restrain my anger,
nor let any other immortal god
assist Achaeans here, not before 90
Achilles’ wishes have been carried out,
as I first promised, nodding my assent,
that day when goddess Thetis held my knee
and begged me to bring honour to Achilles,
destroyer of cities.”

Zeus finished speaking.
White-armed goddess Hera obeyed him, leaving
Mount Ida for high Olympus. Just as the mind
races in a man who’s voyaged to many lands, [80]
when in his fertile head he recalls everything,
and thinks “I wish I were here! I wish I were there!”— 100
that’s how fast queen Hera hurried in her eagerness.
Reaching steep Olympus, she found immortal gods
together at Zeus’ palace in a meeting.
Seeing her, they all stood up and offered her
their cups in welcome. Ignoring all the others,
Hera took the cup of fair-cheeked Themis, the first
who came running up to meet her. Themis spoke to her—
her words had wings:

“Hera, why have you come? [90]
You look upset. Perhaps your husband,
the son of Cronos, has frightened you?” 110

Ox-eyed queen Hera then replied:

“Goddess Themis,
don’t question me like this. You know his moods,
how he can be so harsh and overbearing.
You should start the communal banquet now,
here in the palace. You’ll learn about these things
when all the immortals do—the evil plans
Zeus is proposing, something, in my view,
which won’t please all hearts alike, in gods or men,
although some may still enjoy our feast.”

Hera finished speaking. Then she sat down. 120 [100]
In Zeus’ palace gods were angry. Hera’s lips smiled,
but above her dark eyebrows her forehead frowned.
Irritated with them all, Hera then burst out:

“What fools we are to get incensed at Zeus
so stupidly! We’re still keen to get close to him,
so we can hold him back with words or force.
But he sits there, all by himself, without a care,
without a worry, claiming he’s supreme
among immortal gods, manifestly so,
for strength and power. So you just accept 130
whatever trouble he sends each of you.
In fact, I think bad trouble has now come [110]
to Ares—in that fight his son’s been killed,
his favourite man, Ascalaphus, whom Ares,
mighty war god, acknowledges as his.”

Once Hera finished, Ares struck his sturdy thighs
with the flat of his hands and, in his grief, burst out:

“Don’t blame me, you dwellers on Olympus,
if I go down now to Achaean ships,
to avenge my son’s slaughter, even if 140
it’s my fate to be struck by Zeus’ lighting,
to lie there with the dead in blood and dust.”

Ares finished. Then he told Terror and Flight
to yoke up his horses, while he dressed himself [120]
in his glittering armour. Now, at that moment,
feelings between Zeus and other immortal gods
could have become much harsher, more incensed,
if Athena, fearing what might happen to the gods,
hadn’t jumped up from the throne where she’d been sitting,
rushed out the door, seized Ares’ helmet from his head, 150
grabbed the shield from off his shoulders and the spear
out of his mighty fist, and thrown them to one side.
Then with these words Athena went at raging Ares:

“You idiot! Have you lost your mind, gone mad?
Do those ears of yours hear anything at all?
Where’s your common sense or your discretion?
Did not you get what Hera said just now, [130]
the white-armed goddess who’s come straight from Zeus?
Do you want a belly full of trouble,
forced to come back to Olympus, though in pain, 160
sowing seeds of danger for the rest of us?
For Zeus will abandon men immediately—
those proud Trojans and Achaeans—and come here,
to Olympus, then start to go at us.
He’ll lay his hands on each one of us in turn,
guilty or innocent. So I’m telling you—
set aside that anger for your son.
Better men with stronger hands than his
have already been destroyed and will be. [140]
It’s hard to keep the families and children 170
safe for everyone.”

Athena finished.
Then she made angry Ares sit down on his throne.
Hera called Apollo from the house with Iris,
messenger for the immortal deities.
Hera addressed them both—her words had wings:

“Zeus is ordering you two to go to Ida,
as fast as possible. Once you get there,
look in Zeus’ face, do what he commands.”

Having said this, queen Hera went inside the house,
sat on her throne. Flying off in a rush, the two gods 180 [150]
reached Ida with its many springs, mother of wild beasts.
They found all-seeing Zeus sitting on Gargarus,
wrapped in a finely scented cloud. The two approached,
came up, and stood there before cloud-gatherer Zeus.
Seeing them, Zeus’ heart felt no anger. They’d been quick
obeying his dear wife. Zeus spoke first to Iris—
his words had wings:

“Go now, swift Iris,
convey to lord Poseidon these instructions,
report it all precisely—he’s to stop, [160]
to leave the battle strife, and go away 190
to the group of gods or to his sacred sea.
If he won’t obey my orders and ignores them,
he should consider in his mind and heart
this point—no matter how mighty he may be,
he can’t stand up to me if I attack him.
For I can say I’m stronger than he is,
more powerful. And I’m the first born.
Yet his fond heart thinks it’s all right to claim
equality with me, whom all others fear.”

Zeus spoke. Swift Iris, with feet like wind, obeyed. 200
She set off from Mount Ida for sacred Ilion.
Just as snow or icy hail flies down from clouds, swept on [170]
by gales from North Wind, child of the upper sky,
that’s how quickly swift and eager Iris moved.
She stood close by the famous Earthshaker and said:

“A message for you, Encircler of Earth,
dark-haired god—I’ve brought it here from Zeus,
who holds the aegis. He orders you to stop,
to leave the battle strife. You’re to go away,
to the crowd of gods or to your sacred sea. 210
If you ignore and disobey his orders,
he threatens you he’ll come in person,
to stand in war against you. And Zeus says
you should avoid his hands, asserting [180]
he’s a stronger god than you, more powerful,
and was born first. Yet your fond heart
thinks nothing of claiming equality
with him, whom other gods all fear.”

The famous Earthshaker, enraged, replied:

“It’s unjust!
He may be best, but he speaks too proudly, 220
if he restrains me by force against my will,
for I’m as worthy of respect as he is.
We are three brothers, sons of Cronos,
born from Rhea—Zeus, myself, and Hades,
third brother, ruler of the dead. The whole world
was divided in three parts, and each of us
received one share. Once the lots were shaken,
I won the blue-grey sea as mine to live in [190]
for ever. Hades got the gloomy darkness,
Zeus wide heaven, with the upper air and clouds. 230
But earth and high Olympus still remained
to all of us in common. So I won’t go.
I won’t follow Zeus’ will. Let him stay,
for all his strength, happy with his third.
Let him not try to scare me with the power
of his hands, as if I were some coward.
It would be better if he’d use his threats,
his bluster, on those sons and daughters
which he himself produced. They, at least,
will have to listen to his orders.” 240

Swift Iris, with feet like the wind, replied: [200]

“Dark-haired Earthshaker, is that the message
I’m to take from you to Zeus, these harsh,
defiant words? Or will you change your mind?
For the finest hearts can change. The Furies,
as you know, always serve the elder one.”

Earthshaker Poseidon then said:

“Goddess Iris,
what you say is right. It’s commendable
when a messenger understands things well.
But this business brings harsh pain into my heart, 250
my spirit, when the deity whose share
is the same as mine and who’s been given
a common destiny, wants to abuse me [210]
with angry words. However, for now
I’ll concede, for all my indignation.
But I’ll tell you—this threat comes from my heart—
if, despite me, Athena, goddess of spoils,
Hera and Hermes and lord Hephaestus,
Zeus spares steep Ilion, if he’s unwilling
to destroy it and to give great power 260
to the Argives, let him know that with us
an anger will arise that no one can appease.”

With these words the Earthshaker left Achaean troops.
Going to the sea, he plunged in. Achaeans troops
missed his presence there among them.

Cloud-gatherer Zeus then spoke to Apollo: [220]

“Dear Phoebus,
go down to bronze-armed Hector. Poseidon,
who encircles and shakes the earth, has gone
back to the sacred sea and thus avoided
my harsh anger. If he’d fought it out with me, 270
others would certainly have heard about it,
even gods below, down there with Cronos.
But for me this is much better, and for him, too,
that before we came to blows he backed off,
away from my hands, despite his anger.
We’d have had to sweat it out to end it.
But take this tasselled aegis in your hand
and shake it well to scare Achaean warriors. [230]
And Apollo, far-shooting god, make Hector
your special care. Infuse him with great strength, 280
until Achaeans run back to their ships
and reach the Hellespont. From that point on,
I’ll figure out how in word and deed
Achaeans may get new relief from war.”

Zeus spoke. Apollo did not disobey his father.
Swooping down from Mount Ida like some swift hawk
killing pigeons, the fastest of all flying creatures,
he found lord Hector, wise Priam’s son, sitting up, [240]
no longer prone. He was just starting to recover,
to recognize his comrades round him. He’d stopped 290
gasping and sweating, for aegis-bearing Zeus
had revived his mind. Apollo, the far worker,
stood close to him and said:

“Hector, son of Priam,
why are you having fainting spells right here,
away from all the others? Are you in trouble?”

Hector of the shining helmet, still weak, replied:

“Which of the mighty gods are you, my lord,
questioning me face to face? Don’t you know
that Ajax, skilled at war cries, hit me,
as I was slaughtering his companions 300
by the ships’ sterns? He got me in the chest [250]
with a rock and stopped my frenzied fighting.
I thought today my heart would breathe its last,
that I’d be seeing the dead in Hades’ house.”

Lord Apollo, son of Zeus, then answered Hector:

“Take courage now. Cronos’ son has sent you
a powerful defender from Mount Ida,
to stand beside you as your protector,
Phoebus Apollo with his golden sword,
who’s helped you before, you and your city. 310
But come now, tell your many charioteers
to charge the hollow ships with their swift horses.
I’ll go ahead and smooth the horses’ path. [260]
I’ll turn back these Achaean warriors.”

With these words Apollo breathed power into Hector,
his people’s shepherd. Just as some horse in a stall
who at the manger has eaten well, then breaks his halter
and runs off across the plain at a thundering gallop,
eager for its usual bath in the flowing river,
exulting as it goes, with head held high, its mane 320
flowing across its shoulders, fully confident
of its own splendour, limbs carrying it lightly
to places where the mares are in the pasture,
that’s how quickly Hector moved his feet and limbs,
as he urged on his charioteers, once he’d heard [270]
Apollo’s voice.

Just as dogs and country farmers
chase a horned stag or wild goat, but the creature
saves itself in a sheer rock face or dark underbrush,
and men have no luck finding it, but their shouts
attract a bearded lion to their path, who scatters them, 330
despite their eagerness—that’s how Danaans
for a while continued to press on in groups,
thrusting away with swords and double-bladed spears.
But when they saw Hector moving among the ranks,
they were afraid. Each man’s heart sank to his feet. [280]
Then Thoas, Andraemon’s son, spoke out, the best man,
by far, among Aetolians, expert in the spear throw,
good at fighting hand to hand, and in assemblies
few Achaeans could beat him when young men argued.
Thinking of their situation, Thoas said:

“Here’s something— 340
My eyes are watching an amazing sight.
Hector’s got up again, evading death.
In our hearts we all hoped that he’d been killed
at the hands of Ajax, son of Telamon.
But some god has once more rescued Hector, [290]
saved the man who’s drained strength from many limbs
among Danaans. That will continue now,
I think, for he’s not standing there like that,
so keen to fight, against the will of Zeus,
the thunderer. But come, let’s all follow 350
what I propose. Let’s tell most of the men
to move back to the ships. Those among us
who claim to be the best men in the army
will make a stand. If we can reach him first
and hold him off with our extended spears,
for all his fury I think his heart will fear
to mingle with this Danaan company.”

Thoas spoke. The others heard him and readily agreed. [300]
Those with Ajax, lord Idomeneus, Teucer,
Meriones, and Meges, like the war god Ares, 360
summoning the best men, recommenced the battle,
confronting Hector and his Trojans. Behind them,
most of the troops went back to the Achaean ships.

Trojans charged in a mass assault, led by Hector,
moving with huge strides. Phoebus Apollo marched
in front of Hector, his shoulders covered up in clouds,
holding the fearful aegis, with its double fringe
glittering ominously. The smith Hephaestus [310]
had given it to Zeus to make men run from war.
Apollo now held this aegis in his hands, 370
as he lead on the army. The Argives, closely packed,
stood their ground. Shrill war cries came from either side,
arrows flew from bowstrings, many spears were thrown.
Some impaled themselves in the flesh of quick young men.
Many fell halfway before they reached white skin,
skewered in the earth, still longing to taste flesh.
As long as Phoebus Apollo held the aegis steady
in his hands, on both sides weapons hit their mark—
men kept on dying. But when Apollo stared directly [320]
at the swift Danaans and then shook the aegis, 380
howling a horrific roar, he bewitched them all—
the spirit in their chests then lost the will to fight.
Just as two wild beasts stampede a herd of cattle
or large flock of sheep, coming suddenly in dark night,
with no herdsman present, that’s how Achaeans,
in their weakness, were then put to flight. Apollo
sent the panic, glorifying Hector and his Trojans.

Then, as men killed each other, the battle front collapsed.
Hector slew Stichius and Arcesilaus—
one a leader of bronze-armed Boeotians, 390 [330]
one a trusted comrade of brave Menestheus.
Aeneas slaughtered Medon and Iasus.
Medon was a bastard son of noble Oïleus,
thus brother to Ajax, but lived in Phylace,
far from his native land. For he’d killed someone,
a relative of his step-mother Eriopis,
wife to Oïleus. Iasus, a commander
of Athenians, was known as a son of Sphelus,
son of Bucolus. Polydamas killed Mecistus,
and Polites killed Echius fighting at the front. 400
Then lord Agenor slew Clonius, and from behind [340]
Paris struck Deïochus just below the shoulder,
as the latter fled from soldiers fighting in the front.
He drove the bronze spear straight through the man.

While Trojans were stripping armour from the corpses,
Achaeans jumped in the ditch they’d dug, on the stakes,
running to and fro, forced to withdraw behind their wall.
Hector then gave a great shout to his Trojans:

“Charge the ships. Leave the blood-stained spoils alone.
Whoever I see not moving to the ships 410
on the other side, I’ll make sure he dies
right there. His relatives, men and women, [350]
won’t be burying him, once he’s dead,
with the proper rites of fire. Instead,
the dogs will rip him up before our city.”

Saying this, Hector swung his whip down from his shoulders,
lashing on his horses, calling Trojans in the ranks.
They all shouted with him, then drove the horses
pulling chariots. A tremendous noise arose.
In front, Phoebus Apollo easily knocked down 420
the banks of the steep trench—with his feet he pushed dirt
into the middle, making a long broad causeway,
as wide as the distance a man can throw his spear
when he’s showing off his strength. Trojans poured through,
wave after wave of them, with Apollo leading on, [360]
holding up the priceless aegis. The Achaean wall
he easily demolished, as a child will scatter sand—
in a childish game beside the sea he builds a sand wall,
then with his hands and feet flattens it for fun.
That’s how you, archer Phoebus, at that time knocked down 430
what the Achaeans had built with so much effort,
such hard work. You sent them flying back in panic.
The Danaans halted to regroup beside their ships,
shouting to each other, lifting up their hands
to all the gods, with each man praying fervently.
Geranian Nestor, Achaea’s guardian, [370]
prayed most of all, hands stretched to starry heaven:

“Father Zeus, if, in wheat-yielding Argos,
any man has ever burned fat thighs
of bulls or sheep in sacrifice to you, 440
praying for his return, and you answered him,
nodding your head and promising assent,
Olympian god, remember that. Protect us
from a pitiful doom. Don’t let Trojans
destroy Achaeans in this way.”

Nestor prayed.
Counsellor Zeus, hearing the prayers of that old man,
son of Neleus, gave a great clap of thunder.
When Trojans heard aegis-bearing Zeus’ thunder,
they attacked the Argives all the more, drawing on [380]
their battle fury. Just as a great wave crashes 450
from the wide sea onto the planking of a ship,
driven by forceful winds whipping up the waves—
that’s how Trojans, with tremendous shouts, came down,
through the wall, driving their chariots to the fighting,
the hand-to-hand combat with double bladed spears
by the ships’ sterns. Trojans battled from their chariots,
Achaeans from high up on the planks of their black ships.
They’d climbed up on the decks to fight there with long pikes
lying in place for battles out at sea, jointed weapons
with forged bronze at the tip.

As long as Trojans and Achaeans 460
were fighting by the wall away from the swift ships,
Patroclus stayed sitting in Eurypylus’ hut, [390]
cheering him up with pleasant conversation,
relieving his black pain by spreading ointments
on his painful wound. But when he realized
Trojans were capturing the wall, while Danaans
were crying out and in retreat, Patroclus groaned.
Striking his thighs with the flat of his hands, he spoke
in evident distress:

“Eurypylus, I can’t stay
with you any longer here, though you need help. 470
For a fierce battle has begun. Your companion [400]
must look after you. I’ll run to Achilles,
to urge him on to fight. Who know? With god’s help,
I may rouse his spirit with my words.
A friend’s persuasion perhaps can do some good.”

Patroclus finished speaking and went off on foot.
Achaeans, with fewer numbers, still held firm
against advancing Trojans, but could not push them back
or dislodge them from the ships. Trojans could not break through,
get past Danaan ranks to assault the ships and huts. 480
Just as a carpenter’s line makes ship’s timber straight, [410]
when a craftsman’s hand applies it, a skilled expert
in all facets of his trade, inspired by Athena—
that’s how tensely poised the fighting in that battle stood.
Men fought in various groups from one ship to the next.

Hector went straight for glorious Ajax, both men
struggling over the same ship. Hector was unable
to push Ajax back and burn the ship, while Ajax
could not drive Hector off, now that Apollo
had brought him so far. Noble Ajax hurled his spear. 490
He hit Caletor, son of Clytius, in the chest,
as he was bringing fire to the ships. With a crash, [420]
he collapsed, and the burning torch dropped from his hands.
When Hector saw his cousin fall there in the dirt
by the black ship, right before his eyes, he called out
to his Trojans and Lycians with a powerful shout:

“Trojans, Lycians, Dardan spearmen,
don’t hold back from battle in this danger.
Save the son of Clytius, just in case
Achaeans strip his armour now he’s fallen 500
among this group of ships.”

Saying this,
Hector threw his bright spear at Ajax, but missed. [430]
Instead he hit Lycophron, son of Mastor,
from Cythera, one those attending Ajax.
Since he’d killed someone in holy Cythera,
he lived with Ajax. Hector’s sharp bronze struck him
on the head, above his ear, as he stood near Ajax.
He fell into the dust, tumbling from the stern
down to the ground. Then his limbs went slack.
Ajax shuddered and cried out to his brother:

“Teucer, my friend, 510
Mastor’s son, our worthy comrade, has been killed.
He lived with us when he arrived from Cythera.
In our house we honoured him just as we did
our parents. Proud Hector has now killed him. [440]
Where are your swift lethal arrows and the bow
Phoebus Apollo gave you?”

Ajax finished.
Teucer heard him and came up running to stand there,
beside Ajax, with his curved bow in his hand
and a quiver full of arrows. He began to shoot,
loosing arrows in quick succession at the Trojans. 520
He hit Cleitus, fine son of Peisenor, a companion
of Polydamas, noble son of Panthous,
who was holding chariot reins. He’d been busy
managing his horses, which he’d been driving
to where the ranks were most confused, as a favour
to Hector and his Trojans. But he was struck
by that evil no man can defend himself against, [450]
no matter how much he desires. The painful arrow
lodged behind his neck. He tumbled from the chariot,
forcing his horses to swerve aside—that made 530
the empty chariot rattle. Polydamas
saw this right away and was the first to rush
into the horses’ path. He then handed them
to Astynous, Protiaon’s son, firmly telling him
to keep them close and watch. Then Polydamas
went back to join those fighting at the front.

Taking out another arrow, Teucer tried to hit
bronze-armed Hector. That would have stilled his heart
and stopped his fighting at Achaean ships, if Teucer
had hit him as he was showing off how brave he was. 540 [460]
But the perceptive mind of Zeus guarding Hector
was paying attention. He robbed Teucer of that triumph
by snapping the fine bow’s tightly twisted string,
just as Teucer was lining up a shot at Hector.
The heavy bronze-pointed arrow flew awry.
The bow fell from his hands. Teucer, with a shudder,
spoke out to his brother Ajax:

“Look at that!
Some god is thwarting all our efforts in this fight.
He’s knocked the bow out of my hands and snapped
my freshly twisted bowstring. I strung it 550
just this morning so it would last a while
and I could shoot scores of arrows with it.” [470]

Great Telamonian Ajax then answered Teucer:

“My friend, leave your arrows and your bow—
set them down, since some god has broken them
to spite Danaans. Take hold of a long spear,
set a shield against your shoulder—fight the Trojans.
Encourage other troops to do the same.
They won’t take our well-decked ships without a fight,
even though they’re overpowering us, 560
so let’s concentrate our minds on battle.”

Ajax spoke. Teucer took his bow into his hut,
then slung a four-layered shield against his shoulder.
On his strong head he set a well-made helmet, [480]
with a horsehair crest which nodded menacingly.
He took a strong spear with a sharp point and set off,
running quickly to take his place by Ajax.

When Hector saw that Teucer’s arrow shot had missed,
he called in a loud voice to Trojans and to Lycians:

“Trojans, Lycians, Dardan spearmen, 570
be men, my friends. Recall your warlike power
among these hollow ships. For I’ve witnessed
with my own eyes how Zeus has cancelled out
an arrow shot at us by their best man.
It’s easy to see how Zeus assists men, [490]
those to whom he grants great victories,
or how he drains men’s strength, refusing
to protect them, as he now saps the power
among the Argives and works to help us,
as we fight by the ships. So stay together. 580
Should one of you meet his fate and die,
stabbed by a spear or cut down with a sword,
let the man die. To be killed defending
one’s own native land is no ignoble act.
The man’s wife is safe, his children live,
his house and land remain, if Achaeans leave,
returning to their country in their ships.”

With these words, Hector roused each man’s fighting spirit. [500]
On the other side, Ajax called out to his companions:

“For shame, Argives. Now the issue’s clear— 590
either we’ll be killed or we’ll be saved,
if we can push the danger from our ships.
Are you expecting, if the ships are taken
by Hector of the shining helmet,
you’ll all get to your native land on foot?
Don’t you hear frenzied Hector urging on
his men. He’s frantic now to burn the ships.
He’s inviting them to fight, not to a dance.
For us there’s no better choice or tactic
than to bring our arms and warrior strength 600 [510]
against them and keep fighting hand to hand.
It’s better to settle this once and for all—
whether we live or die—than be hemmed in,
fighting a long grim battle, as we are now,
among our ships against inferior men.”

Ajax’s words rallied the fighting spirit in each man.

Hector then killed Schedius, son of Perimedes,
leader of Phocians. Ajax slew Laodamas,
noble Antenor’s son, who led up troops on foot.
Polydamas slaughtered Otus of Cyllene, 610
comrade of Phyleus’ son, who led brave Epeians.
Seeing this death, Meges then attacked Polydamas, [520]
who slipped away from him, eluding Meges’ charge.
Apollo would not let Panthous’ son be killed
among those fighting in the front. But Meges
thrust his spear into Croesmus, right in his chest.
He fell with a crash. Meges started stripping armour
from his shoulders, but Dolops charged at him,
the bravest son of Lampus, son of Laomedon,
a skilled spear-fighter, who knew all there was to know 620
about fighting close in. Dolops moved up to Meges,
then with his spear struck the centre of his shield.
Meges’ thick armour with fitted breastplates saved him.
Phyleus had brought this armour from Ephyre, [530]
from the river Selleïs. A guest of his there,
Euphetes, ruler of men, had given it to him
to wear in war, protection from his enemies.
Now this armour saved his son’s flesh from destruction.
Meges then thrust his sharp spear at Dolops’ helmet,
striking it on top, on the bronze ridge, which held in place 630
the horsehair plume. He sheared it off. The whole plume,
a bright fresh purple, fell onto the dusty ground.
While Meges fought on, still expecting victory,
warlike Menelaus came to his assistance. [540]
Standing to one side, out of Dolops’ line of sight,
Menelaus speared his shoulder from behind.
The eager spear kept going, driving into Dolops’ chest.
He fell on his face. The two men hurried forward
to strip bronze armour from his shoulders. But Hector
shouted to his kinsmen one and all. The first man 640
he yelled at was strong Melanippus, Hicetaon’s son,
who used to graze his shambling herds in Percote,
when enemies were far away. Once Danaans
arrived in their curved ships, he’d gone back to Ilion, [550]
where Trojans held him in respect. He lived with Priam,
who honoured him as if he were a child of his.
Hector called to him, speaking some angry words:

“Melanippus, why are you so feeble?
Is that fond heart in you not worried
for your slain relative? Do you not see 650
how they’re busy stripping Dolops’ armour?
Come on, we can’t fight Argives from a distance.
We’ve got to stay with them until we kill them off,
or they capture Ilion completely,
butchering her people.”

Hector finished,
then led on. Godlike Melanippus followed.

Then great Telamonian Ajax roused the Argives: [560]

“Friends, be men. In your hearts remember shame.
In the killing zone let each man shame the rest.
That sense of shame saves more men than it kills. 660
Those who flee help no one, and they get no glory.”

Ajax spoke. The men were already keen to fight,
but they took his words to heart and fenced in the ships
within a hedge of bronze. Zeus drove the Trojans at them.
Then Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, urged Antilochus:

“Antilochus, no other Achaean warrior
is as young as you or quicker on his feet, [570]
or as brave in battle. So jump out there—
see if you can hit one of the Trojans.”

Menelaus finished speaking and moved back again. 670
But his words aroused Antilochus. He stepped forward,
ahead of those fighting at the front, glanced around,
and threw his shining spear. Trojans moved back,
as he made his throw. The spear wasn’t thrown in vain.
It hit proud Melanippus, Hicetaon’s son,
in the chest, as he was moving up to fight,
right beside his nipple. He collapsed with a crash,
and darkness fell upon his eyes. Then Antilochus
pounced on him, like a dog leaping on a wounded fawn,
which some hunter hits as it rushes from its den, 680 [580]
loosening its limbs. That how bold Antilochus
went after you, Melanippus, to strip your armour.
But Hector noticed him. He came up on the run
to face Antilochus directly. But the latter,
though an impetuous warrior, did not stand his ground.
He ran back, like some wild beast intent on mischief,
one that’s killed a dog or herder with the cattle,
and scampers off before a crowd of people gather.
That’s how Nestor’s son scurried back. Trojans and Hector,
shouting loudly, showered him with lethal weapons. 690 [590]
When he reached the crowd of his companions,
Antilochus turned round and made a stand there.

Trojans attacked the ships like ravenous lions,
fulfilling Zeus’ will. He kept on giving them
great fighting strength, while he drained Achaean hearts,
denying them glory, as he drove the Trojans forward.
Zeus’ heart was set on glorifying Hector,
son of Priam, so he might throw onto the ships
a blazing tireless fire and thus fulfil completely
that disastrous request from Thetis. Counsellor Zeus 700
was waiting to glimpse with his own eyes the blaze [600]
from a burning ship, for that would be the moment
he was going to push the Trojans from the ships
and give the glory to Danaans. With this in mind,
Zeus drove Hector, son of Priam, against those ships,
something Hector was furiously keen to do.
He raged like spear-fighting Ares or deadly fire
in the thickets of deep mountain forests.
He was foaming at the mouth. Below his eyebrows
the eyes were raging fire. The helmet round his temples 710
shook with menace, as Hector battled on, for Zeus, [610]
the god of heaven, was his protector, giving him
glory and honour, though he was but one man
among so many, for Hector’s life would soon cease.
Already Pallas Athena was pushing forward
that fated day when he’d die at the mighty hand
of Achilles, son of Peleus.

But now Hector
was striving to break through the warriors’ ranks,
probing them wherever he saw the largest groups,
the finest armour. But he could not break through, 720
for all his eagerness. In their defensive wall,
Achaeans held their ground. Just as a huge stone cliff
by the blue-grey sea stands firm against the wind [620]
howling straight at it or the surging surf which pounds it—
that’s how Danaans stood up to the Trojans then,
firmly with no falling back. But then Hector,
blazing all over like some fire, charged the throng,
falling on them as a fierce wave whipped up by a storm
crashes against a ship, which gets hidden in the foam,
blasts of wind shrieking past the sail, and sailors’ hearts 730
tremble with fear as they are carried off from death
inch by inch—that’s how hearts in those Achaean chests
were cracking. Hector charged them like a vicious lion [630]
going at cattle grazing in huge numbers
in the bottom wetlands of a spacious meadow,
guarded by a herdsman who still lacks the skills
to fight a wild beast for the mangled carcass
of some short-horn heifer—with the herd he goes
always beside the first or last ones of the group,
but the lion leaps into the middle and devours a cow, 740
as all the others scatter—that’s how Achaeans then
were all driven back in awe-struck terror by Hector
and Father Zeus.

But Hector killed only one man—
Periphetes of Mycenae, dear son of Copreus,
who used to take messages from king Eurystheus [640]
to mighty Hercules.* This dishonourable man
had a son with much more virtuous qualities—
he could run fast and was an excellent fighter,
and for his mind among the best in Mycenae.
But this man then gave Hector even greater glory. 750
For as he turned, he tripped against a shield rim,
the one he carried, which extended to his feet
and protected him from spears. He stumbled and fell.
The helmet round his temples gave a dreadful clang,
as he went down. Hector saw this at once, ran up,
stood by Periphetes, and struck him with his spear [650]
in the chest, killing him beside his dear companions.
Those men were sorry for their comrade, but could not help—
they were too afraid of godlike Hector.

By now they were in among the ships, encircled 760
by the outer row of those they’d dragged up first.
But Trojans kept on pouring in. So Argives were forced
to move back from the ships’ first row. But they stayed
in a single group beside the huts, not scattering
throughout the camp, held there by shame and fear.
They called out to one another continually,
especially Geranian Nestor, Achaea’s guardian.
He kept appealing to each man’s parents, saying: [660]

“Friends, be men. Let sense of shame from all men
fill your hearts. Remember, each of you, 770
your children, wives, possessions, and your parents—
whether alive or dead. They’re not here,
but, on their behalf, I beg you to stand firm.
Don’t let yourselves turn round and run away.”

With these words, Nestor boosted each man’s spirit.
Then Athena removed the strange cloudy mist
and cleared their eyes, so on both sides light streamed in,
back to the ships and out towards the battle groups. [670]
They saw Hector, skilled at war cries, his companions,
all the soldiers standing idle in the rear, 780
all those warriors battling on by their swift ships.

The spirit in great-hearted Ajax could not bear
to take up a position with Achaea’s sons
where there was no fighting. So with his huge strides,
he kept moving up and down the decks along the ships.
In his fists he held a long pike used in sea fights,
one with fitted with sockets—thirty feet in length.
Just as a man well skilled in guiding horses
harnesses together four chosen out of many, [680]
then drives them at a gallop from the plain 790
to some large city on a public highway,
while many men and women look at him amazed,
as he keeps leaping from one horse to another,
landing firmly, never slipping as they race ahead—
that’s how Ajax, with huge strides, kept on moving
over many decks on those swift ships, shouting
so his voice reached heaven, telling Danaans
in fearsome yells to defend their ships and huts.

Hector did not stay in the well-armed Trojan group,
but, like an eagle swooping down upon some flock 800 [690]
of winged birds feeding by a river bank—
wild geese or cranes or long-necked swans, he rushed
straight at the dark-prowed ships to take on Ajax.
With his mighty hand Zeus pushed him from the back,
while urging other warriors to accompany him.

The brutal fight began again among the ships.
You’d think they weren’t tired at all, but only starting—
they went at each other with such ferocity,
as they faced each other in that battle. Each side
fought for different reasons—Achaeans thought 810 [700]
they’d never escape that danger and would be destroyed—
for Trojans, the heart in each man’s chest was hoping
they’d fire the ships and kill Achaean warriors.
That’s what they thought as they fought one another.

Hector grabbed hold of a seaworthy ship, at the stern,
the fine fast boat which brought Protesilaus to Troy,
though it didn’t take him back to his own native land.*
In close combat by this ship, Achaeans and Trojans
were hacking at each other. By this point, the battle
was no more a matter of standing at some distance, 820
enduring showers of spears and arrows, but of fighting
at close quarters—united by a common spirit— [710]
battling with sharp axes, hatchets, long swords,
and double-bladed spears. Many lovely swords,
with dark mountings, fell to earth, from hands and shoulders
of those fighting warriors. Earth flowed black with blood.
Hector seized hold of that ship and would not let go—
gripping the ornamental marker on the stern,
yelling to his Trojans:

“Bring fire. Raise a general shout.
Now Zeus has given us a day that makes up 830
for everything—to seize the ships that came here, [720]
contravening the gods’ will, creating
many troubles for us, because our elders
in their cowardice restrained me, held back
my troops, when I was keen to fight it out
at the ships’ sterns. But if all-seeing Zeus
dulled our minds then, now he commands us,
now he drives us forward.”

Hector shouted.
Then Trojans attacked the Argives even more intensely.

Ajax could not hold his position any longer. 840
Assailed by flying spears, he backed off a little,
abandoning the deck on that well-balanced ship.
He moved to the raised platform, seven feet high,
and looked for Trojans, always jabbing with his pike, [730]
pushing from the ship any Trojan bearing tireless fire,
always yelling fearful shouts at the Danaans:

“Friends,
Danaan warriors, companions of Ares,
be men, my friends. Recall your battle fury.
Do we think we’ve got people to help out
somewhere behind us or some stronger wall 850
which will hold off our men’s destruction?
There’s no nearby city fenced with walls,
where we can defend ourselves or with many men
turn the tide of battle. No, we’re here,
on this plain crammed with well-armed Trojans,
our backs to the sea, far from our native land. [740]
The light that’ll save us lies in our hands,
not in holding back from battle.”

Saying this, Ajax kept on jabbing ferociously
with his sharp pike. Any Trojan who charged the ships 860
with blazing fire, seeking to please Hector,
found Ajax waiting to slice him with his pike.
He wounded twelve men in close fighting by the ships.

 

Notes

*In a fit of insanity brought about by Hera, Hercules killed his wife and children. When he asked the Delphic Oracle how he could atone for this act, the oracle told him to serve Eurystheus, king of Mycenae for twelve years. Eurystheus, with Hera’s help, set Hercules the famous twelve labours of Hercules.

*Protesilaus, as we learn in Book 2, was the first Achaean leader to jump on shore when the Argive fleet arrived at Troy. He was killed as he did so.

 


Book Sixteen

Patroclus Fights and Dies

[Patroclus begs Achilles to send him back to the war to help the Achaeans; Achilles agrees but sets conditions; Hector breaks Ajax's spear, sets fire to the ship; Achilles sends Patroclus to war with the Myrmidons; Patroclus arms himself, Achilles organizes the Myrmidons in fighting groups; Achilles prays to Zeus; Patroclus goes into battle, driving Trojans back from the ships; Trojans retreat; Sarpedon rallies the Lycians, fights Patroclus; death of Sarpedon; Apollo cures Glaucus' wound; the fight over Sarpedon's body; Trojans are driven back towards Troy, Hector kills Patroclus]

While the men kept on fighting at the well-decked ships,
Patroclus went to Achilles, his people’s shepherd,
shedding warm tears, like a fountain of dark water
whose stream flows over the lip of a sheer rock face.
Looking at him, swift-footed, godlike Achilles
felt pity. So he spoke to him—his words had wings:

“Why are you crying, Patroclus, like some girl,
an infant walking beside her mother,
asking to be picked up. She pulls the robe
and stops her mother strolling on ahead, 10
looking up at her in tears, until the mother [10]
lifts her up. You’re crying just like that girl,
Patroclus. Is there something you need to say
to the Myrmidons or me? Some news
from Phthia that only you have heard?
People say Menoetius, Actor’s son,
is still living, and Peleus is alive,
Aeacus’ son, among his Myrmidons.
If these two had died, then we’d have something
real to grieve about. Or are you feeling sad 20
for Argives as they’re being obliterated
among the hollow ships for all their pride?
Speak up. Don’t conceal what’s on your mind.
Then we’ll both understand.”

With a heavy sigh,
horseman Patroclus, you then replied: [20]

“Achilles,
Peleus’ son, by far the strongest of Achaeans,
don’t be angry with me. Such great despair
has overcome the Argives. For all those
who used to be the bravest warriors
are lying at the ships with sword and spear wounds— 30
powerful Diomedes, son of Tydeus,
hit by a spear, famous spearman Odysseus
with a stab wound, and Agamemnon, too.
An arrow struck Eurypylus in the thigh.
Many healers, exceptionally skilled
in various medicines, are with them now,
tending their wounds. But it’s impossible
to deal with you, Achilles. I hope anger
like this rage you’re nursing never seizes me. [30]
It’s disastrous! How will you be of use 40
to anyone in later generations,
if you won’t keep shameful ruin from the Argives?
You’re pitiless. Perhaps horseman Peleus
was not your father, nor Thetis your mother—
the grey sea delivered you, some tall cliff,
for you’ve an unyielding heart. If your mind
shuns some prophecy, or your noble mother
has told you news from Zeus, at least send me,
and quickly, with the others in our troop
of Myrmidons. I could be a saving light 50
for the Danaans. Give me your armour [40]
to buckle round my shoulders, so Trojans,
mistaking me for you, may stop the fight.
Then Achaea’s warrior sons could get some rest.
They’re worn out. War doesn’t offer much relief.
We’re fresh, so we should easily repulse
the Trojans tired of the battle noise
back from our ships and huts towards the city.”

Patroclus finished his entreaty. How wrong he was!
He was praying for his own death, his dreadful fate. 60
Swift-footed Achilles, with some heat, replied:

“My dear divinely born Patroclus,
what are you saying? I’m not concerned
with any prophecy I know about, [50]
nor has my noble mother said a thing
from Zeus. But dreadful pain came in my heart
and spirit when that man wished to cheat
someone his equal and steal away that prize,
and just because he’s got more power.
That really hurt, given that I’ve suffered 70
in this war so many pains here in my chest.
Achaea’s sons chose that girl as my prize.
I won her with my spear, once I’d destroyed
her strong-walled city. Lord Agamemnon
took her back, out of my hands, as if I were
some stranger without honour. But let that be— [60]
it’s over, done with. Besides, my spirit
didn’t mean to stay enraged for ever,
although I thought I wouldn’t end my anger
until the cries of warfare reached my ships. 80
Come, put my famous armour on your shoulders
and lead war-loving Myrmidons to battle,
since black clouds of Trojans now surround the ships,
expecting victory, and Argives stand
crammed in by the sea shore, with little space,
while a city full of Trojans comes at them
without fear, because they don’t see near them [70]
my helmet with its glittering front. Soon enough,
they’d be running back, filling the gullies
with their dead, if mighty Agamemnon 90
treated me with kindness—but now they fight
all through our camp. For there’s no spear raging
in the fists of Diomedes, son of Tydeus,
to protect Danaans from disaster.
I’ve not heard the voice of Agamemnon
crying out in his vile head. As for Hector,
that man-killer’s voice echoes everywhere,
shouting at Trojans, who fill all the plain
with their noise, as they defeat Achaeans
in this battle. Even so, Patroclus, 100 [80]
you must stave off disaster from the fleet.
Go after them in force—they may fire those ships
and rob us of the journey home we crave.
Now, pay attention to what I tell you
about the goal I have in mind for you,
so you’ll win me great honour and rewards,
so all Danaans will send back to me
that lovely girl and give fine gifts as well.
Once you push Trojans from the ships, come back.
If Zeus, Hera’s mate, who loves his thunder, 110
gives you the glory, don’t keep on battling
those war-loving Trojans with me absent. [90]
You would decrease my honours. Don’t let
the joy of fighting and of killing Trojans
lead you on to Ilion, just in case
some deathless Olympian god attacks you.
Apollo, the far-worker, loves his Trojans.
So make sure you come back here again,
once your saving light has reached our ships.
Let others keep on fighting in the plain. 120
O Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo—
if only no single Trojan or Achaean
could escape death, and just we two alone
were not destroyed, so that by ourselves
we could take Troy’s sacred battlements!” [100]

As these two were talking on like this together,
Ajax was losing ground, under attack from spears,
overcome by the will of Zeus and Trojans,
who kept throwing weapons. The bright helmet on his head
rattled dangerously as it was struck. Many hits 130
landed on the well-made armour on his cheeks.
His left shoulder was worn out from always holding up
his shining shield. But for all the onslaught with their spears,
the Trojans couldn’t budge him. Still, he was in trouble,
breathing heavily, sweat pouring down in rivulets
from every limb. He’d had no time for any rest. [110]
In every way, his desperate plight was getting worse.

Tell me now, you Muses living on Olympus,
how the fire first got tossed onto Achaean ships.
It was Hector. He came up close to Ajax, 140
then with his great sword hacked at Ajax’s ash spear,
right behind the point. He cut straight through it.
Telamonian Ajax still gripped the spear,
but it was useless without its bronze spear head,
which fell some distance off, clanging on the ground.
The heart in mighty Ajax recognized gods’ work.
He shuddered, for he perceived how high-thundering Zeus
was denying completely all his fighting skill, [120]
wanting the Trojans to prevail. Ajax backed off,
out of range. Then onto that swift ship the Trojans threw 150
untiring fire, which spread itself immediately
in a fiery blaze that no one could extinguish.
The ship’s stern started to catch fire.

At that moment,
Achilles, slapping his thighs, said to Patroclus:

“Up now,
divinely born Patroclus, master horseman.
In the ships I see destructive flames going up.
Trojans must not seize our ships and leave us
with no way to escape. Put armour on—
and quickly. I’ll collect the soldiers.”

Achilles spoke. Patroclus dressed in gleaming bronze. 160 [130]
First, he fixed on his shins the beautiful leg armour,
fitted with silver ankle clasps. Around his chest
he put on the body armour of Achilles,
swift-footed descendant of Aeacus—finely worked
and glittering like a star. On his shoulders he then slung
his bronze silver-studded sword and a large strong shield.
On his powerful head he set the famous helmet
with its horsehair crest. The plume on top nodded
full of menace. Then Patroclus took two strong spears
well fitted to his grip. He’d didn’t choose Achilles’ spear, 170
for no Achaean man could wield that weapon,
so heavy, huge, and strong, except for brave Achilles. [140]
It was made of ash wood from the peak of Pelion.
Cheiron gave it to Achilles’ father to kill warriors.
Patroclus told Automedon to yoke the horses quickly,
the man he most esteemed after Achilles,
breaker of men, and the one he trusted most
to carry out his orders in a battle.
For Patroclus Automedon put swift horses
in the harnesses, Xanthus and Balius, who flew along 180
as swiftly as the wind. These horses Podarge,
the harpy, had conceived with West Wind, as she grazed [150]
in a meadow beside the stream of Oceanus.*
In the side traces he set Pedasus in harness,
a fine horse Achilles had taken for himself,
when he’d captured the city of Eëtion.
Though mortal, it kept pace with his deathless horses.

Meanwhile Achilles went to and fro among the huts,
getting all his Myrmidons to arm themselves.
They rushed out, like flesh-eating wolves, hearts full 190
of unspeakable fury, beasts which in the mountains
have caught and ripped apart some huge antlered stag.
Then in a pack they charge off, jaws all dripping blood, [160]
to lap black surface water with their slender tongues
in some dark spring, vomiting up clots of blood
from their crammed bellies, while in their chests their hearts
are resolute. That’s how the leaders and commanders
of the Myrmidons rushed around brave Patroclus,
comrade of swift Achilles, Aeacus’ descendant,
who stood among them there, urging on the horses 200
and the warriors carrying their shields.

Achilles had brought fifty ships to Troy—
in each were fifty men, his own companions. [170]
He’d picked five leaders whom he trusted to give orders.
His great power gave him overall command.
The first contingent was led by Menesthius,
with his flashing breastplate, son of Spercheius,
the river fed from heaven. Lovely Polydora,
Peleus’ daughter, had conceived Menesthius
with timeless Spercheius, a woman copulating 210
with a god. But in name Borus was his father,
son of Perieres, who’d married her in public,
after paying out a huge price for the bride.
The second group was led by warrior Eudorus,
a bastard child of Polymele, Phylus’ daughter, [180]
a lovely dancer. The god who slaughtered Argus,
mighty Hermes, fell in love when he noticed her
among the singing maidens in the chorus
dancing for Artemis, the golden-arrowed goddess
in the echoing hunt. Hermes the helper, 220
going at once into her upper room in secret,
had sex with her. She bore him a fine son, Eudorus,
outstanding as a warrior and speedy runner.
But when Eileithyia, goddess of labour pains,
brought him into the light and he saw sunshine,
then strong Echecles, Actor’s son, took Polymele
to his home, after giving an enormous bride price. [190]
Old man Phylus was very kind to the young boy.
He looked after him, surrounding him with love,
as if he were his son. The third commander 230
was warlike Peisander, son of Maemalus,
a man pre-eminent among the Myrmidons
for spear fighting, second only to Patroclus.
Phoenix led the fourth contingent, and Alcimedon,
splendid son of Laerces, was leader of the fifth.

Once Achilles had set all the ranks in order
behind their leaders, he addressed them sternly:

“My Myrmidons, let none of you forget [200]
those threats you spoke about by our swift ships,
while I was angry—you’d go on and on 240
against the Trojans. Each of you blamed me:

‘Cruel son of Peleus, surely your mother
suckled you with bile, you pitiless man,
who keeps his comrades by their ships
against their will. Why don’t we go home
in our seaworthy ships, since evil rage
has fallen on your heart?’

That’s what you men
complained about me in your meetings.
Now a great work of war awaits you,
the sort of enterprise you used to love. 250
So make sure each man’s heart is resolute,
as you go to battle with these Trojans.”

With these words, Achilles stirred the spirit in each man. [210]
As they heard their king, the ranks bunched up more closely.
Just as a man constructs a wall for some high house,
using well-fitted stones to keep out forceful winds,
that’s how close their helmets and bossed shields lined up,
shield pressing against shield, helmet against helmet,
man against man. On the bright ridges of the helmets,
horsehair plumes touched when warriors moved their heads. 260
That’s how close they were to one another. In the front,
ahead of all of them, two men stood fully armed—
Automedon and Patroclus—sharing a single urge,
to fight in the forefront of their Myrmidons. [220]
Achilles went into his hut and opened up the lid
on a beautifully decorated chest
placed on board his ship by silver-footed Thetis
for him to take. She’d packed it with cloaks and tunics,
and woollen blankets, too—protection from the wind.
There he kept an ornate goblet. Other than Achilles 270
no one used it to drink gleaming wine. With this cup
Achilles poured libations to no god but Father Zeus.
Taking this out of the chest, first he purified it
with sulphur, then rinsed it out in streams of water.
He washed his hands and drew some gleaming wine. [230]
Standing in the middle of the yard, he poured it out,
gazing up at heaven. Thunder-loving Zeus looked on.

“Zeus, king, lord of Dodona, Pelasgian,
you who live far off, ruling cold Dodona,
around whom live the Selli, your prophets, 280
with unwashed feet, who sleep upon the ground,
you heard me when I prayed to you before.
You gave me honour then by striking hard
at the Achaean army. So grant me now
what I still desire. I intend to stay
beside this group of ships, but I’m sending out
my comrade and my many Myrmidons. [240]
Send glory with him, all-seeing Zeus.
Strengthen the heart inside his chest, so Hector
sees if Patroclus can fight on alone 290
or if his hands are always conquering
only when I’m with him in the raging war,
in the centre of the havoc Ares brings.
But when he’s pushed the fight and battle noise
back from the ships, let him return to me,
here at my hollow ships, without a scratch,
with all his weapons and companions,
men who battle in the killing zone.”

So Achilles prayed.
Counsellor Zeus heard his prayer. He granted part of it, [250]
part he denied. Father Zeus agreed that Patroclus 300
should drive the battle fighting from the ships,
but not that he’d return in safety from the war.
Once Achilles had made his libation and prayed
to Father Zeus, he went back into his hut,
put the goblet in the chest, came out, and stood there,
before his hut, still wishing in his heart
to see the fatal clash of Trojans and Achaeans.

The armed warriors who went with brave Patroclus
marched out in formation, until, with daring hearts,
they charged the Trojans, immediately swarming out, 310
like wasps beside a road, which young lads love to torment, [260]
constantly disturbing them in their roadside nests—
those fools make mischief for all sorts of people.
If some man going past along the road upsets them
by accident, they all swarm out with fearless hearts
to guard their young—with that same heart and spirit
the Myrmidons then poured out from their ships
with a ceaseless roar. In a loud shout, Patroclus
called out to his companions:

“You Myrmidons,
companions of Achilles, son of Peleus, 320
be men, my friends, recall your fighting strength, [270]
so we may honour the son of Peleus,
by far the best Achaean at the ships,
with the finest comrades in a close combat.
Wide-ruling Agamemnon, Atreus’ son, will see
his folly in not honouring Achilles,
the best of the Achaeans.”

With these words,
Patroclus spurred the strength and heart in every soldier.
Then, in a massed group, they fell upon the Trojans.
Terrifying cries came from Achaeans by their ships. 330

When Trojans saw the brave son of Menoetius
with his attendant, both in glittering armour,
all their hearts were shaken and their ranks fell back. [280]
They thought Peleus’ swift-footed son by his ships
had set aside his anger and made friends again.
Each man glanced around, checking how he might escape
his own complete destruction.

Patroclus was the first
to throw his bright spear right at the central mass
where most troops clustered, by the stern part of the ship
of great-hearted Protesilaus. He hit a man, 340
Pyraechmes, who’d led Paeonian charioteers
from Amydon, by the broad flowing Axius.
Struck by that spear in his right shoulder, he fell down
screaming on his back there in the dust. Comrades round him, [290]
his Paeonians, ran off—Patroclus terrified them,
now he’d killed their leader and best fighter.
He drove them from the ships and doused the blazing fire.
The half-burnt ship he left there. The Trojans scattered,
making a tremendous noise. Danaans poured out
from among the ships throughout the constant uproar. 350
Just as from a high peak of some massive mountain,
Zeus, who gathers lightning, shifts a bulky cloud,
once more revealing all the peaks, high headlands,
and mountain glades, while from heaven the huge bright sky [300]
breaks open—that’s how Danaans saved their ships
from fire and could rest, if only for a moment,
since the fighting was not over yet. At this point,
Achaean troops had not fully pushed the Trojans
from the ships. They’d been forced back from the sterns,
but they still stood there, facing the Achaeans. 360
The leaders then began to slaughter one another
in the scattered fighting. First, Menoetius’ brave son
with his sharp spear struck Areilycus in the thigh,
as he was turning. He drove the bronze straight through, [310]
breaking the bone. Areilycus fell face down in the dirt.
Then warlike Menelaus hit Thoas in the chest,
in a place where it was open right beside his shield.
The blow collapsed his limbs. Meges, Phyleus’ son,
saw Amphiclus charging at him, but hit him first,
spearing the top of his leg, where a man’s muscle 370
is the thickest. The spear point sliced his tendons,
and darkness closed his eyes. Then the sons of Nestor
went into action. Antilochus jabbed his sharp spear
at Atymnius, driving the bronze point in his side,
so he fell forward. Maris, who was close by, [320]
angry about his brother, charged Antilochus
holding his spear, and then stood by his brother’s body.
But godlike Thrasymedes moved too quickly for him.
Before Maris could thrust, he lunged out at his shoulder.
He didn’t miss. The spear point sheared off muscle 380
at the bottom of his arm and broke the bone in two.
Maris fell with a crash, and darkness veiled his eyes.
Thus, these two, slaughtered by two brothers, went off
to Erebus. They’d been Sarpedon’s brave companions,
spearmen sons of Amisodarus—he’d reared
the raging Chimera, who’d killed so many men.*
Ajax, son of Oïleus, jumped out at Cleobulus, [330]
captured him alive, stuck in that confusion. Even so,
Ajax struck him with his sword across the neck,
draining his fighting strength. The sword grew warm with blood. 390
Dark death closed up his eyes, and strong Fate embraced him.

Then Peneleus and Lycon charged each other.
Each had thrown his spear and missed, wasting the throw.
So they went at one another once again with swords.
Lycon struck the helmet ridge on its horse-hair crest,
but his sword shattered at the hilt. Then Peneleus
slashed Lycon’s neck below the ear. The sword bit deep,
sinking the entire blade, so Lycon’s head hung over, [340]
held up on one side only by the uncut skin.
His limbs gave way.

Meriones, with quick strides, 400
caught up with Acamas, then hit him with his spear
in his right shoulder, as he was climbing in his chariot.
He tumbled out. A mist descended on his eyes.

Idomeneus’ pitiless bronze then struck Erymas
right in his mouth—the spear forced itself straight through,
below his brain, splitting his white skull apart,
smashing out his teeth. His eyes filled up with blood.
More blood spurted from his nose and open mouth.
Then death’s black cloud enveloped Erymas. [350]

Thus these Danaan leaders each killed his man. 410
Just as ravenous mountain wolves suddenly attack
young goats or lambs and seize them from the flock,
when in the mountains an inattentive shepherd
lets them wander off—once the wolves see them,
they attack at once, for those young lack the heart to fight—
that’s how Danaans then went after Trojans,
whose minds now turned to shameful flight, for they’d lost
their will to battle on.

Great Ajax kept on trying
to throw his spear at bronze-armed Hector.
But Hector’s battle skills kept his broad shoulders hidden 420 [360]
behind his bull’s hide shield, as he watched arrows
and thudding spears flying past. Hector realized
the tide of victory in that fight was changing,
but he stood there, trying to save his loyal companions.
Just as those times a cloud comes from Olympus,
moving from the upper air across the sky,
when Zeus brings on a rain storm—that’s how Trojans
fled yelling from the ships, crossing the ditch again
in complete disorder. Hector’s swift-footed horses
carried him and his weapons back, leaving behind, 430
against their will, the Trojans held up at the trench
dug by Achaeans. In that ditch many swift horses [370]
lost their master’s chariots when poles snapped at the end.
In pursuit, Patroclus, intent on killing Trojans,
yelled fierce orders to Danaans. Meanwhile, the Trojans,
shouting and scattering in panic, were jammed up
in every pathway. Under the clouds a high dust storm rose,
as sure-footed horses strained to get away,
leaving the huts and ships and rushing for the city.

Wherever Patroclus saw the biggest crowd 440
of soldiers in retreat, with a yell he charged at them.
Bodies kept rolling underneath his axle,
as men fell out when chariot cars rolled over.
His swift horses, those immortal beasts the gods gave [380]
as a priceless gift to Peleus, flew straight on
across the ditch, charging forward. Patroclus’ heart
was set on finding Hector, eager to strike him down.
But Hector’s own swift horses carried him away.
Just as in late summer rainstorms, the dark earth
is all beaten down, when Zeus pours out his waters 450
with utmost violence, when he’s enraged with men
who have provoked him with their crooked judgments,
corrupting their assemblies and driving justice out,
not thinking of gods’ vengeance, so all the rivers [390]
crest in flood, their torrents carving many hillsides,
as they roar down from the mountains in a headlong rush
toward the purple sea, destroying the works of men—
that’s how, as they sped on, the Trojan horses screamed.

When Patroclus had cut the Trojans’ front ranks off,
he pushed them back again towards the ships, 460
keeping them from the city they were trying to reach.
Between the ships, the river, and the lofty wall,
in that middle ground, he kept charging at them,
killing them, avenging deaths of many comrades.
There he first struck Pronous with his shining spear,
where Pronous’ shield had left his chest exposed. [400]
His limbs gave way, and he fell down with a thud.
Patroclus next rushed at Thestor, son of Enops,
who just sat crouching in his polished chariot,
paralyzed with terror, reins slipping from his hands. 470
Coming up, Patroclus struck him with his spear
right on the jawbone, smashing through his teeth.
Patroclus pulled his spear back, dragging Thestor
out across the chariot rail. Just as a man
sitting on a rocky point hauls up a monstrous fish
out of the sea, using a line and bright bronze hook—
that’s how Patroclus dragged Thestor from his chariot,
mouth skewered on the shining spear. He threw him down,
face first. As Thestor fell, his spirit abandoned him. [410]
Then Erylaus rushed up, but Patroclus struck him 480
with a rock right on his head, smashing the entire skull
inside his heavy helmet. Erylaus collapsed
face down in the dirt.

Death, who destroys men’s hearts,
flowed all around Patroclus, as he slaughtered
Erymas, Amphoterus, Epaltes,
Tlepolemus, son of Damastor, Echius,
Pyris, Ipheus, Euippus, and Polymelus,
son of Argeas—all these Patroclus laid out,
one by one, on the earth, which nourishes all men.

When Sarpedon observed his Lycian companions, 490
who wear no belt around their tunics, being cut down
by the hands of Menoetius’ son Patroclus, [420]
he called out to reprimand his godlike Lycians:

“Shame on you Lycians! Where are you running?
Now’s the time for you to fight on bravely.
I’ll stand up to this man, so I’ll find out
who it is that fights so well, who brings with him
so much destruction for the Trojans,
breaking the limbs of many fearless soldiers.”

Sarpedon finished. He jumped out of his chariot 500
down to the ground holding his weapons. On the other side,
when Patroclus saw him, he leapt from his chariot.
Then they rushed at each other, screaming like vultures
fighting with hooked talons and curved beaks, screeching [430]
on some rocky height.

Looking down on the two men,
the son of crooked-minded Cronos pitied them.
He spoke to Hera, his sister and his wife:

“Alas—Sarpedon, dearest of all men,
is fated now to die, killed by Patroclus,
son of Menoetius. My heart’s divided, 510
as I think this over. Should I snatch him up
while still alive and place him somewhere else,
in his rich land of Lycia, far distant
from this wretched fighting, or have him killed
at the hands of Menoetius’ son.”

Ox-eyed queen Hera then replied to Zeus:

“Dread son of Cronos, [440]
how can you say this? The man is mortal,
doomed long ago by Fate. Now you desire
to rescue him from miserable death.
Do as you wish. But we other gods 520
will not all agree with you. And I’ll tell you
something else—make sure you remember it.
If you send Sarpedon home alive,
take care some other god does not desire
to send his dear son from the killing zone.
Around Priam’s great city, many men,
sons of the immortals, are now fighting.
You’ll enrage those gods and make them bitter.
But if Sarpedon’s dear to you, if your heart [450]
feels pity for him, then let him be killed 530
in a fierce combat at Patroclus’ hands,
son of Menoetius. Once his living spirit
has abandoned him, send Death and sweet Sleep
to carry him away, back to the spacious land
of Lycia, where his brother and his kinsmen
will bury him with a mound and headstone.
That’s what appropriate for those who die.”

Hera spoke. The father of gods and men agreed.
But he shed blood rain down upon the ground, tribute
to his dear son Patroclus was about to kill 540 [460]
in fertile Troy, far from his native land.

The two approached within range of each other.
Patroclus threw and struck renowned Thrasymelus,
lord Sarpedon’s brave attendant, low in the gut.
His limbs gave way. Then Sarpedon charged Patroclus.
His bright spear missed him, but it struck a horse,
Pedasus, in its right shoulder. The horse screamed,
gasping for life, then fell down in the dust, moaning
as the spirit left him. The two other horses reared, [470]
their yoke cracked, and their reins got intertwined 550
with the trace horse Pedasus lying in the dust.
But famous spearman Automedon cleared the tangle.
Pulling out the long sword on his powerful thigh,
he dashed in and, without a pause, cut the trace horse loose.
The two other horses straightened out, then pulled
together in their harness. The two men kept going,
taking up again their heart-destroying combat.
Once more Sarpedon failed with his bright spear. Its bronze point
sailed past Patroclus’ left shoulder, missing him.
Then Patroclus, in his turn, threw his bronze spear, 560
which did not leave his hand in vain. It struck [480]
right between Sarpedon’s midriff and his beating heart.
Sarpedon toppled over, as an oak tree falls,
or poplar or tall mountain pine which craftsmen cut
with sharpened axes, to harvest timber for a ship—
that’s how he lay there stretched out before his chariot
and horses, groaning and clawing at the bloody dust.
Just as a lion moves into a herd, then kills a bull,
a sleek great-hearted steer among the shambling cattle,
which bellows as it dies right in the lion’s jaws— 570
that’s how Sarpedon, leader of the Lycian spearmen, [490]
struggled as he died, calling to his dear companion:

“Glaucus, my friend, you warrior among men,
now you must really show yourself a spearman,
a true courageous fighter. You must now
embrace this evil war, if you’re brave enough.
First, move round and urge the Lycian leaders
to make a stand here by Sarpedon. And then,
you fight over me in person with your bronze.
I’ll be a source of misery to you, 580
and shame as well, for all your days to come,
if Achaeans strip my armour now I’m down [500]
among the fleet of ships. So hold your ground
with force. Spur on the army.”

As he said this,
death’s final end covered Sarpedon’s eyes and nostrils.
Then Patroclus set his foot upon Sarpedon’s chest,
pulled his spear out of the body. The guts came with it.
So in the same moment he tugged out the spear point
and took Sarpedon’s life. Myrmidons reined in the horses,
snorting in their eagerness to bolt, now they’d left 590
their master’s chariot.

When Glaucus heard Sarpedon’s voice,
he was overcome with savage grief, his heart dismayed
that he could not have come to his assistance.
With his hand he grabbed and squeezed his wounded arm, [510]
still painful from being hit by Teucer’s arrow,
as he’d attacked him on that high defensive wall.
Teucer had been defending his companions
from disaster. So Glaucus prayed then to Apollo:

“Hear me, my lord. You may be in Lycia,
somewhere in that rich land, or here in Troy. 600
But you can hear a man’s distress from anywhere.
Bitter grief has now come in my heart.
For I have this cruel wound. Sharp pains
run up and down my arm, the flow of blood
won’t stop. The wound wears out my shoulder,
so I can’t grip my spear with any force, [520]
or move to fight against our enemies.
And our finest man has perished—Sarpedon,
child of Zeus, who would not assist his son.
But, my lord, heal my savage wound at least, 610
and ease my pain. Give me strength, so I can call
my Lycian comrades, urge them on to war,
and I can fight in person by the corpse
of our Sarpedon now he’s dead.”

So Glaucus spoke in prayer.
Phoebus Apollo heard him. He eased the pains at once,
stopped the dark blood flowing from the cruel wound,
and filled his chest with fighting strength. In his heart
Glaucus recognized with joy that the great god [530]
had quickly heard his prayer. First, he moved around
and spurred on Lycia’s leading men in every spot 620
to rally round Sarpedon. Then, with long strides,
he went among the Trojans—to Polydamas,
son of Panthous, and brave Agenor. He searched out
Aeneas and Hector dressed in bronze. Approaching him,
he spoke—his words had wings:

“Hector,
now you’re neglecting all your allies,
men who for your sake are far away from friends,
their native land, wasting their lives away.
You’ve no desire to bring assistance. [540]
Sarpedon, leader of Lycian spearmen, 630
lies dead, the man who protected Lycia
with his judgment and his power—slaughtered
by Ares on the bronze spear of Patroclus.
My friends, stand by him, keep in your hearts
your sense of shame, in case the Myrmidons
strip off his armour and mutilate his corpse,
in their anger at the dead Danaans,
the ones killed by our spears at their fast ships.”

Glaucus finished. Trojans were completely overwhelmed
with grief—unendurable and inconsolable. 640
For Sarpedon had always fought to guard their city,
although he was a distant stranger. Many soldiers [550]
followed him, and he was pre-eminent in war.
Full of furious passion, they went at Danaans,
Hector in the lead, angry about Sarpedon.
But Patroclus, Menoetius’ son, with his strong heart,
rallied the Achaeans. He spoke first to the Ajaxes,
both eager for the fight:

“You two Ajaxes,
now you must get your joy protecting us,
as you’ve done before, but even better. 650
The man who was the first to jump inside
Achaea’s wall lies dead—Sarpedon.
We must try to mutilate the body,
to seize and strip armour off its shoulders, [560]
slaughtering with our pitiless bronze
any of his comrades who defend him.”

Patroclus spoke. The Ajaxes both were fiercely eager
to fight off the enemy in person. Then both sides
reinforced their ranks—Trojans and Lycians,
Achaeans and Myrmidons. These forces struggled, 660
with terrific shouts across the dead man’s corpse.
The warriors’ armour rang out harshly. Then Zeus,
to make the fight for his dear son more difficult,
spread ominous darkness over that fierce battle.

At first the Trojans pushed bright-eyed Achaeans back,
for they hit a man who was by no means the worst [570]
among the Myrmidons—noble Epeigeus,
son of great-hearted Agacles. He’d once been king
of populous Boudeum, but he’d killed a man,
a noble relative. So he came a suppliant 670
to Peleus and silver-footed Thetis, who’d sent him
to follow man-destroying Achilles, to sail with him
to Troy and fight the Trojans. Glorious Hector
struck him as he grabbed the corpse—with a rock
he hit his head and split the skull completely open
inside his heavy helmet. Epeigeus collapsed,
face down on the corpse. Death, who destroys men’s hearts, [580]
flowed over him.

Grief for his dead companion
filled Patroclus. He moved through those fighting in the front,
like a swift hawk swooping down on daws or starlings. 680
That’s how fast, Patroclus, master horseman, you charged
the Lycians and Trojans then, with anger in your heart
for your companion. With a rock he hit Sthenelaus,
dear son of Ithaemenes, squarely in the neck,
snapping the tendons. Those fighting in the ranks in front,
including glorious Hector, moved back somewhat,
as far as a long javelin flies when it’s been thrown
by a man in competition showing off his strength, [590]
or in a battle with a murderous enemy—
that’s how far Achaeans forced the Trojans to move back. 690
Glaucus, leader of the Lycian spearmen, was the first
to turn around. He killed great-hearted Bathycles,
Chalcon’s dear son, who lived at home in Hellas,
a man pre-eminent among the Myrmidons
for a wealthy and successful life. With his spear,
Glaucus turned suddenly, as Bathycles came up
in pursuit, then struck him in the middle of his chest.
He fell down with a crash. Achaeans felt keen sorrow
that such a worthy man had fallen. But Trojans, [600]
elated, gathered in a crowd to make a stand 700
around him. Achaeans did not forget their courage—
they brought their fighting spirit to the Trojans.

Meriones killed a well-armed Trojan warrior,
Laogonus, daring son of Onetor, a priest
of Zeus at Ida, honoured by his people like a god.
Meriones threw and hit him underneath the jaw.
His spirit swiftly left his limbs, and he was carried off
by hateful darkness. Then Aeneas, hoping
to hit Meriones as he advanced under his shield,
threw his bronze spear at him. But Meriones, 710
looking right at Aeneas, evaded that bronze spear [610]
by bending forward. The long spear impaled itself
behind him in the ground, its shaft still quivering,
until strong Ares took away its power.
With anger in his heart, Aeneas then called out:

“Meriones, you’re a lovely dancer,
but if my spear had hit you, your dancing days
would have ended for all time to come.”

Famous spearman Meriones then replied:

“Aeneas,
you may be brave, but it’s hard for you 720 [620]
to crush the fighting strength of every man
who stands to defend himself against you.
For you, too, are made of mortal stuff.
If I threw, if my bronze spear hit you
in the middle of your body, then no matter
what your courage, or how much trust you place
in your strong hands, you’d quickly give me glory,
and your life to famous horseman Hades.”

Meriones spoke. But then Menoetius’ noble son
reprimanded him:

“Meriones, why do you, 730
an honourable man, talk on like this?
My friend, Trojans won’t move back from the corpse
because someone abuses them with words.
They won’t budge until the earth holds many men.
Our task here is to battle with our hands. [630]
The assembly is the place for speeches.
We don’t need more talk. We need to fight.”

Saying this, Patroclus led off, and Meriones,
that godlike man, went too. Then the turmoil started—
just like the din woodcutters make in mountain forests, 740
a noise heard far away—that’s how it sounded then,
the clamour rising from the widely travelled earth,
a clash of bronze and leather, well-made ox-hide shields,
as they fought there with two-edged spears and swords.
Not even a man who knew Sarpedon very well
could recognize him then, covered with blood and dirt
and weapons, from the soles of his feet up to his head. [640]
For men were swarming round the corpse like farmyard flies
clustering by buckets full of milk in springtime,
when milk overflows the pails—that how those warriors 750
buzzed around Sarpedon then.

Zeus’ bright eyes never once
glanced from that brutal combat, gazing down
and thinking in his heart of many different things
about how lord Patroclus ought to meet his death,
wondering whether glorious Hector should cut him down [650]
with his bronze in that bitter fighting there
over godlike Sarpedon and then strip the armour
from his shoulders, or whether he should multiply
grim misery for still more men. As Zeus pondered,
he thought the best plan would be to let Patroclus, 760
brave companion of Achilles, son of Peleus,
drive the Trojans and bronze-armed Hector back again
towards their city, destroying the lives of many men.
So Zeus first took the courage out of Hector’s heart,
so that he jumped into his chariot and turned in flight,
calling to other Trojans to run back, for he knew
that Zeus’ sacred scales were changing. The Lycians,
though brave, did not hold their ground. They all fled back,
once they’d seen their king struck through the heart, lying there [660]
in the pile of bodies. Many men had fallen down 770
on top of him, when Cronos’ son intensified
fierce conflict. So the Achaeans stripped Sarpedon,
pulling the gleaming bronze from off his shoulders.
Menoetius’ brave son gave it to his companions
to carry to the hollow ships. At that moment,
cloud-gatherer Zeus spoke to Apollo:

“Up now,
dear Phoebus, and move Sarpedon out of range.
When you’ve cleaned the dark blood off his body,
take him somewhere far away and wash him
in a flowing river. Next, anoint him 780
with ambrosia, and put immortal clothes [670]
around him. Then you must hand him over
to those swift messengers Sleep and Death,
twin brothers, to carry off with them.
They’ll quickly place him in his own rich land,
wide Lycia, where his brothers and kinsmen
will bury him with mound and headstone,
as is appropriate for those who’ve died.”

Zeus finished. Apollo did not disobey his father.
Descending from Mount Ida to that lethal war, 790
he carried lord Sarpedon quickly out of range.
Once he’d taken him a long way off, he washed him
in a flowing river. Next, he anointed him
with ambrosia and put immortal clothing round him. [680]
Then Apollo gave Sarpedon up to Sleep and Death,
swift messengers, twin brothers, to take with them.
They quickly set him down in spacious Lycia,
his own rich land.

Patroclus then called to his horses
and to Automedon to pursue the Trojans,
the Lycians, as well. How blind he was, poor fool! 800
If he’d done what the son of Peleus had told him,
he’d have missed his evil fate, his own dark death.
But Zeus’ mind is always stronger than a man’s.
He can make even a brave man fearful, rob him
of his victory with ease. And Zeus can rouse a man
for battle, as he did then, putting desire to fight [690]
into Patroclus’ chest.

Who was the first warrior you killed,
Patroclus, and who the last, that time the gods
called you on to death? Adrestus was the first,
then Autonous, Echeclus, Perimus, son of Megas, 810
Epistor, and Melanippus. Then Patroclus killed
Elasus, Mulius, and Pylantes. The other Trojans,
each and every one of them, set their minds on flight.
At that point Achaea’s sons would have captured Troy
and its high gates, at Patroclus’ hands, as he raged
with his frenzied spear, but for Phoebus Apollo, [700]
who stood there on the well-built wall, intending
to destroy Patroclus and assist the Trojans.
Three times Patroclus started to climb up a corner
on that high wall. Three times Apollo shoved him back, 820
his immortal hands repelling the bright shield.
But when Patroclus, for the fourth time, came on
like some god, Apollo, with a terrific cry,
shouted these winged words at him:

“Go back,
divinely born Patroclus. This city
of proud Trojans, according to its fate,
will not be ravaged by your spear, nor even
by Achilles, a far better man than you.”

Apollo spoke. Patroclus drew back a little, [710]
evading the anger of Apollo, the far shooter. 830

Meanwhile, Hector pulled his sure-footed horses up
beside the Scaean Gate, uncertain what to do—
drive back to the confusion and then battle on,
or tell his soldiers to gather there inside the walls.
As he was thinking, Phoebus Apollo approached
in the form of Asius, a strong young man,
horse-taming Hector’s uncle, Hecuba’s blood brother,
Dymas’ son, who lived by the river Sangarius
in Phrygia. In that shape, Apollo, Zeus’ son, [720]
spoke out:

“Hector, why withdraw from battle? 840
That’s not worthy of you. I wish I were
more powerful than you, as much as you’re
superior to me. Then you’d quickly leave
this battle in disgrace. But come on,
drive your strong-footed horses at Patroclus,
so you can kill him, and then Apollo
can give you glory.”

Saying these words, Apollo left,
a god among the toiling men. Glorious Hector
then told fiery Cebriones to lash the horses on,
drive them to battle. Apollo slipped into the throng 850
of fighting men. He totally confused the Argives,
conferring glory on Hector and his Trojans. [730]
The rest of the Danaans Hector left alone,
not killing any of them. His sure-footed horses
were heading at Patroclus, who, for his part,
jumped down from his chariot to the ground, holding a spear
in his left hand. In his right hand, he gripped a stone,
a large jagged rock, his fingers wrapped around it.
Taking a firm stance, he went for Hector right away.
He threw the rock and didn’t waste his throw—he hit 860
Cebriones, Hector’s charioteer, a bastard son
of famous Priam, as he held onto the reins.
The sharp rock struck him on the forehead, bashing in
his eyebrows, breaking through the skull. His two eyes [740]
dropped down onto the ground, in the dust right at his feet.
Like a diver, Cebriones toppled over,
out of the well-made chariot. His spirit left his bones.
Then, horseman Patroclus, you made fun of him:

“Well now,
there’s an agile man! What a graceful diver!
If he were on the fish-filled seas somewhere, 870
he’d feed a lot of men by catching oysters,
jumping over in the roughest water,
judging from that easy dive he made
out of his chariot onto the plain. I suppose
these Trojans must have acrobats as well.” [750]

This said, Patroclus rushed at warrior Cebriones,
moving like a lion who, while savaging some farm,
is hit in the chest, so his own courage kills him.
That’s how you, Patroclus, rushed at Cebriones,
in your killing frenzy. Opposing him, Hector 880
leapt from his chariot down to the ground. The two men
then battled over Cebriones, like two lions
struggling on a mountain peak over a slaughtered deer,
both ravenous, both filled with fighting fury—
that’s how those two masters of the war shout fought,
Patroclus, Menoetius’ son, and glorious Hector, [760]
over Cebriones, both keen to slash each other’s flesh
with pitiless bronze. Hector grabbed the corpse’s head,
refusing to let go. At the other end, Patroclus
gripped the feet. A desperate struggle then ensued 890
among the Trojans and Danaans fighting there.
Just as East and South Winds challenge one another
in mountain forests, shaking up deep stands of oak,
ash, and tapering cornel trees, hurling slim branches
one against the other, with tremendous noise
as the branches snap—that’s how Trojans and Achaeans [770]
collided with each other in that conflict.
Neither side had any thought of ruinous flight.
Around Cebriones many spears were driven home,
many winged arrows flew from bowstrings, many boulders 900
crashed on shields, as men kept fighting round him.
But the great man Cebriones, proud of his glory,
just lay there in the swirling dust, his horsemanship
now quite forgotten.

As long as the sun kept moving through
the middle sky, weapons from both sides found their mark—
men kept on dying. But when the sun came to the point
which shows the time has come to unyoke oxen,
then Achaeans, contravening Fate, were stronger. [780]
They dragged warrior Cebriones out of range,
away from shouting Trojans, and stripped the armour 910
off his shoulders. Then Patroclus charged the Trojans,
intent on slaughter. Three times he assaulted them,
like war god Ares, with terrific shouts. Three times
he killed nine men. But when he attacked a fourth time,
then, Patroclus, you saw your life end. For Phoebus,
a terrible god, in that grim fight came up against you.
Patroclus failed to see Apollo, as he moved
through the confusion, for he advanced towards him [790]
hidden in thick mist. Apollo stood behind him.
Then with the flat of his hand, he struck Patroclus 920
on his back, on his broad shoulders—that made his eyes
lose focus. Next, Phoebus Apollo knocked the helmet
from his head. The horsehair crest rolled with a clatter
under horses’ feet. The dust and blood then stained
the helmet’s plumes. Up to that time, gods had not let
that helmet with its horsehair plume get smudged with dirt,
for it was always guarding godlike Achilles’ head,
his noble forehead, too. Later Zeus awarded it
to Hector to carry on his head, as his death loomed. [800]
In Patroclus’ hands, his heavy long-shadowed spear, 930
thick and strong, with its bronze point, was completely smashed.
His tasselled shield and strap fell from his shoulders
down on the ground. Next, Apollo, Zeus’ son, loosened
the body armour on Patroclus. His mind went blank,
his fine limbs grew limp—he stood there in a daze.
From close behind, Euphorbus, son of Panthous,
a Dardan warrior, hit him in the back,
with a sharp spear between the shoulder blades.
Euphorbus surpassed all men the same age as him
in spear throwing, horsemanship, and speed on foot.
He’d already knocked twenty men out of their chariots, 940 [810]
and that was the first time he’d come with his own chariot
to learn something of war. Euphorbus was the first
to strike you, horseman Patroclus, but he failed
to kill you. Pulling the spear out of Patroclus’ flesh,
Euphorbus ran back again to blend in with the throng.
He didn’t stand his ground, even though Patroclus
had no weapons for a fight. So Patroclus,
overwhelmed by the god’s blow and spear, withdrew,
back to the group of his companions, avoiding death.

But when Hector noticed brave Patroclus going back, 950
wounded by sharp bronze, he moved up through the ranks,
stood close to Patroclus and struck him with his spear, [820]
low in the stomach, driving the bronze straight through.
Patroclus fell with a crash, and Achaea’s army
was filled with anguish. Just as a lion overcomes
a tireless wild boar in combat, when both beasts
fight bravely in the mountains over a small spring
where they both want to drink, and the lion’s strength
brings down the panting boar—that’s how Hector,
moving close in with his spear, destroyed the life 960
of Menoetius’ noble son, who’d killed so many men.
Then Hector spoke winged words of triumph over him:

“Patroclus, you thought you’d raze our city, [830]
robbing our women of their life of freedom,
taking them in ships to your dear native land.
You fool! In front of them, Hector’s horses,
swift of foot, came out to fight. With the spear
I’m the very best war-loving Trojan,
and I’ve saved them from their fatal day.
Now vultures will eat you here. You poor wretch, 970
even Achilles, for all his courage,
was no use to you. Though he stayed behind,
he must have given you strict orders as you left,

‘Don’t return to me, horseman Patroclus,
at the hollow ships, until you’ve slashed blood [840]
all over man-killing Hector’s tunic
from his own chest.’

That’s what he must have said
to win you over to such foolishness.”

Then you, horseman Patroclus, your strength all gone,
replied:

“Boast on, Hector, for the moment. 980
Zeus, son of Cronos, and Apollo
have given you victory. They overcame me
easily, for they personally removed
the armour from my shoulders. If twenty men
came to confront me, just like you,
all would have died, slaughtered by my spear.
But deadly Fate and Leto’s son have slain me—
and Euphorbus. So you’re the third in line [850]
at my death. But I’ll tell you something else—
bear this in mind—you’ll not live long yourself. 990
Your death is already standing close at hand,
a fatal power. For you’ll be destroyed
at brave Achilles’ hands, descendant of Aeacus.”

As Patroclus said these words to Hector,
the finality of death flowed over him.
His spirit fluttered from his limbs and went to Hades,
lamenting its own fate, the loss of youthful manhood.
As Patroclus died, splendid Hector spoke to him:

“Patroclus, why predict my own death for me?
Who knows? It may happen that Achilles, 1000 [860]
son of fair-haired Thetis, is hit first
by a spear of mine and gives up his life.”

As he said this, Hector set his foot down on the corpse,
pulled the bronze spear from the wound, and pushed the body
backwards. Then with that spear he set off at once,
going after Automedon, godlike attendant
to the swift-footed kinsman of Aeacus,
eager to strike at him. But he’d been carried off
by those swift immortal horses, the priceless gift
presented by the gods to Peleus.

 

Notes

*In Greek mythology, the Harpies were hostile flying monsters with the head and torso of a woman and with the tail, legs, wings, and talons of birds.

*The Chimera was a destructive monster with a composite body made up of different animals. For a description of the Chimera and the story of its death at the hands of Bellerophon, see Iliad, Book 6.228 ff. (Johnston translation).

 


Book Seventeen




The Fight Over Patroclus

[The men fight over the body of Patroclus; the exploits of Menelaus in that fight; Apollo rouses Hector to attack, Menelaus retreats; Ajax and Menelaus then move up over the body; Glaucus upbraids Hector; Hector attacks again, with Zeus' support; the battle goes back and forth over the body; Zeus spreads fog over the battle field; Apollo rouses Aeneas to fight; the horses of Achilles mourn Patroclus, refusing to move; Automedon takes them into battle with Zeus' help; Hector and Aeneas go after Achilles' horses, but are pushed back; Athena rouses Menelaus to fight on; Apollo does the same for Hector; Achaeans are driven back; Zeus lifts the fog from the battle; Menelaus goes to Antilochus, tells him to give Achilles the news of Patroclus' death; the Achaeans move off with the body of Patroclus, back towards the ships]

 

In that battle, warlike Menelaus, son of Atreus,
noticed that the Trojans had just killed Patroclus.
Dressed in gleaming armour, he strode through the ranks
of those fighting in the front, then made a stand
over the corpse, like a mother beside her calf,
lowing over her first born, with no experience
of giving birth till then. In just that way,
fair-haired Menelaus stood above Patroclus.
In front of him he held his spear and a round shield,
eager to kill anyone who might come at him. 10
But Euphorbus, son of Panthous, with his ash spear,
also knew that brave Patroclus had been killed. [10]
Moving up close to the dead body, he spoke out,
addressing warlike Menelaus:

“Divinely raised Menelaus, son of Atreus,
leader of men—go back. Leave this corpse.
Abandon these battle trophies. No Trojan
and no famous ally hit Patroclus
before I struck him with my spear
in that murderous fight. So let the Trojans 20
give me the honour and the fame. If not,
I’ll steal your sweet life with one spear throw.”

With a great scowl, fair-haired Menelaus then replied:

“By Father Zeus, such arrogant boasting
has no great merit. The spirit in a leopard, [20]
lion, or ferocious boar, whose chest
contains the fiercest and the strongest fury—
none of these, it seems, can match the arrogance
in sons of Panthous with their long ash spears.
But not even horse-taming Hyperenor, 30
strong as he was, got much enjoyment
from his youthful vigour, once he’d mocked me,
as he waited when I came against him,
calling me the most unworthy warrior
among Danaans. I don’t think he went home
to cheer up his dear wife and worthy parents
on his own two feet. So if you stand here
against me, I’ll drain your strength as well,
just as I did his. In fact, I’d advise you [30]
to retreat, get back to your companions. 40
Don’t oppose me, in case you run into
something unwelcome. From experience
there are lessons even fools can learn.”

Menelaus spoke,
but he failed to sway Euphorbus, who replied:

“Now, indeed, divinely raised Menelaus,
you’ll surely make up for my brother’s death,
Hyperenor, whom you killed. You speak
in triumph about widowing his wife
in her new bridal home, bringing sorrow,
grief beyond enduring, to his parents. 50
I may provide them with a way of easing
their sad misery, if I bring home your head
and armour and toss them in the hands
of Panthous and queen Phrontis. In any case, [40]
we won’t delay our struggle long. Let’s start—
fight on, whether for victory or flight.”

Saying this, Euphorbus struck Menelaus’ round shield.
But the bronze did not break through. The powerful shield
bent back the point. Then Menelaus, Atreus’ son,
praying to Father Zeus, charged in clutching his spear, 60
as Euphorbus was moving back. He struck him
at the bottom of his throat, putting his full weight
behind the blow, with confidence in his strong fists.
The spear point drove straight through Euphorbus’ soft neck.
He fell with a thud, his armour clanging round him. [50]
His hair, as lovely as the fine curls on the Graces,
with braids in gold and silver clips, was soaked in blood.
Just as a man tends a flourishing olive shoot,
in some lonely place with a rich source of water,
a lovely vigorous sapling stirred with the motion 70
of every breeze, so it bursts out in white blossoms—
but then a sudden stormy wind arising rips it
from its trench and lays it out prone on the earth—
that’s how Menelaus, son of Atreus, cut down
Panthous’ son, Euphorbus of the fine ash spear.
He then began to strip the armour off. [60]

Just as a mountain lion, trusting its own strength,
snatches the finest heifer from a grazing herd,
seizing her first by the neck in its powerful jaws,
then breaks the neck and savagely rips that cow apart, 80
gorging itself on blood and all the entrails,
while around it dogs and herdsmen cry out in distress,
again and again, but at a distance, unwilling
to confront the beast, pale in the grip of fear—
in just that way, no Trojan’s heart was brave enough
to move up and fight against fine Menelaus.
Then Atreus’ son would have easily carried off [70]
the celebrated armour of the son of Panthous,
if Phoebus Apollo had not been offended.
He urged Hector, swift Ares’ equal, to challenge 90
Menelaus. Taking on the likeness of a man,
Mentes, leader of the Cicones, Apollo
addressed Hector with these winged words:

“Hector,
now you’re going after something you’ll not catch,
chasing the horses of warrior Achilles,
descendant of Aeacus. No mortal man,
except Achilles, can control or drive them,
for an immortal mother gave him birth.
Meanwhile, warrior Menelaus, Atreus’ son,
standing by Patroclus, has just killed 100
the best man of the Trojans, Euphorbus, [80]
son of Panthous, ending his brave fight.”

With these words, Apollo withdrew again, a god
among the toiling men. A bitter cloud of sorrow
darkened Hector’s heart. Looking through the ranks of men,
he quickly noticed Menelaus stripping off
the famous armour, with Euphorbus on the ground,
lying there, blood flowing from his open wound.
Armed in his gleaming bronze, Hector marched ahead
through those fighting in the front, with a piercing shout, 110
like the inextinguishable fires of Hephaestus.
Hearing that penetrating yell, Atreus’ son
grew worried. He spoke to his courageous heart: [90]

“Here’s trouble. If I leave this fine armour
and Patroclus, who lies here because he tried
to avenge my honour, some Danaan,
seeing this, will call me a disgrace.
But if I fight Hector and his Trojans
all by myself out of a sense of shame,
then they’ll surround me—many warriors 120
against one man. Hector’s gleaming helmet
is bringing all the Trojans straight at me.
But why’s my fond heart debating about this?
When a man wants to cross what gods have willed,
fighting a man the gods are honouring,
then some disaster soon rolls over him.
So none of the Danaans seeing me here [100]
moving back from Hector will find that shameful,
seeing that Hector fights with gods’ assistance.
But if I could find Ajax, skilled in war shouts, 130
the two of us, drawing on our fighting strength,
might come back, even against god’s will,
so we could find a way to save this corpse,
for Achilles’ sake, the son of Peleus.
In this bad situation, that’s what’s best.”

As Menelaus thought these matters over
in his mind and heart, the Trojan ranks moved forward,
with Hector in the lead. Menelaus then backed off,
leaving the corpse behind. He kept looking round,
like a bearded lion which dogs and men chase off— 140 [110]
their spears and shouts drive it from the farm. The beast’s heart,
though brave, grows cold, moving from that farmyard
against its will—that’s how fair-haired Menelaus
backed off from Patroclus. He turned round, standing firm,
once he’d reached the company of his companions.
He looked for mighty Ajax, son of Telamon,
and soon observed him on the left flank of the army,
rallying his companions, urging them to fight.
For Phoebus Apollo had made them all fall back
in an amazing panic. Going off on the run, 150
Menelaus came up to Ajax, then spoke out:

“Ajax, my friend, come here. Let’s hurry over [120]
to defend the dead Patroclus. Let’s see whether,
for Achilles’ sake, we can at least retrieve
the naked corpse. Hector with his bright helmet
already has the armour.”

Menelaus spoke,
rousing the heart in warlike Ajax, who moved up
among those fighting in the front. With him went
fair-haired Menelaus. Once Hector had stripped off
the famous armour from Patroclus, he then tried 160
to drag away the body, so with his sharp bronze
he could hack Patroclus’ head from off its shoulders,
then pull back the corpse to give to Trojan dogs.
But Ajax moved in close with his shield up, like a wall.
So Hector gave ground, withdrawing to the company
of his companions, then jumped up in his chariot. [130]
He gave the splendid armour to some Trojans
to carry to the city, something that would bring him
special glory. Ajax then covered Menoetius’ son
with his broad shield and made his stand there, like a lion 170
over its cubs, a beast which hunters run across
in the forest as it leads its young along.
The lion shows off its power and contracts its brows
into fine slits which conceal its eyes—that’s how Ajax
defended warrior Patroclus. With him there,
on the other side, stood war-loving Menelaus,
son of Atreus, heart filled with utmost sorrow.

Then Glaucus, son of Hippolochus, commander [140]
of the Lycians, looking at Hector with a frown,
criticized him harshly:

“Hector, to look at you, 180
you’re the finest man we’ve got, but in battle
you’re sadly lacking. That fame you have
as a courageous warrior is misplaced.
You’re a man who runs away. Consider now,
how are you going to save your city
only with those soldiers born in Ilion?
For no Lycian will set out to fight
against Danaans for your city’s sake,
since there’s apparently no gratitude
for taking on our enemies without a rest. 190
How can you rescue a lesser warrior
from the thick of battle, ungrateful man, [150]
when Sarpedon, once your companion,
your guest, you abandon to the Argives,
to become their battle spoils, their trophy.
He often served you well—both your city
and you personally, while he was alive.
But now you lack the courage to protect him
from the dogs. So now, if any Lycian man
will listen to me, we’ll go home, and Troy 200
will witness its utter devastation.
If Trojans now could fill themselves with courage,
a resolute and dauntless spirit, the sort
men have when they defend their native land,
struggling hard against a hostile army,
then we’d haul Patroclus back to Ilion
at once. If we pulled him from the battle [160]
and brought the corpse to Priam’s mighty city,
Argives would quickly trade the lovely armour
belonging to Sarpedon, and we could then 210
take his body back to Troy. Their dead man
attended on the greatest of the Argives,
who leads the best spear fighters by their ships.
But you don’t dare stand up to Ajax
in the thick of battle, look that brave warrior
in the eye, or confront him one on one,
since he’s a better man than you.”

Hector of the gleaming helmet, looking angry, then replied:

“Glaucus, why would a man like you speak out [170]
so arrogantly? My friend, I thought you had 220
a better mind than any other man
living in fertile Lycia. But now,
on the basis of what you’ve just said,
I find your thinking questionable.
You say I didn’t stand to fight great Ajax.
I’m not afraid of war, the din of chariots,
but there’s always something more powerful,
the mind of Zeus, who bears the aegis.
Zeus makes even brave men run away,
stealing their victory with ease, or in person 230
rouses men to fight. But come, my friend,
stand here beside me. Look at what I do,
whether I’m a coward all day long, [180]
as you allege, or whether I’ll prevent
Danaans, for all their fighting frenzy,
from defending dead Patroclus.”

Hector spoke.
Then, with a great shout, he called out to his Trojans:

“Trojans, Lycians, Dardan spearmen,
be men, my friends. Recall your battle fury,
until I can put on the lovely armour 240
of great Achilles, which I stripped off
the great Patroclus, once I’d killed him.”

With these words, Hector of the shining helmet
left that furious conflict and strode quickly off
with rapid strides, following his companions, [190]
the men taking the famous armour of Achilles
towards the city. He caught them a short distance off.
Then, standing apart from that dreadful fight,
he changed his armour. He gave his own equipment
to war-loving Trojans to carry to the city, 250
sacred Ilion, then put on the immortal armour
of Achilles, son of Peleus, which heavenly gods
had given to Achilles’ well-loved father.
Once he’d grown old, Peleus gave it to his son,
who, for all his father’s armour, did not reach old age.

From far away, cloud-gatherer Zeus gazed down on Hector,
as he dressed himself in the battle armour
of Peleus’ godlike son. Shaking his head, Zeus [200]
then spoke to his own heart:

“You poor wretch,
you’re not considering your own death at all— 260
it’s getting closer. So you’re putting on
the immortal armour of the finest man,
who makes other men afraid. You’ve just killed
his comrade, a kind, courageous man,
and then vainly stripped the armour off
his head and shoulders. But for the moment,
I’ll give you great power, to compensate you,
since you’ll not be coming back from battle,
or handing over to Andromache
the glorious armour of the son of Peleus.” 270

The son of Cronos spoke, then nodded his dark brow.
He changed the armour so it suited Hector’s body. [210]
Then the fearful war god Ares entered Hector,
filling his limbs with strength and courage. He set off,
to the tremendous shouts of all his famous allies,
as he paraded there in front of them, dazzling them all
with the armour of the great-hearted son of Peleus.
Hector moved around with words of encouragement
to everyone—Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon,
Thersilochus, Asteropaeus, Deisenor, 280
Hippothous, Phorcys, Chroraius, and Ennomus,
who read omens found in birds. Hector urged them on—
his words had wings:

“Listen to me,
you countless tribes of allies, you neighbours. [220]
I called you here, each from your own city,
not because I wished a large display
or needed it, but so you might help me
rescue Trojan wives and little children
from warrior Achaeans. With this in mind,
I squander the resources of my people, 290
with food supplies and presents, to strengthen
hearts in each of you. So now let everyone
turn round and face the enemy directly,
whether to survive or die. For in that choice
we find the joy which we derive from war.
Patroclus is dead, but whoever pulls him
to horse-taming Trojans here and makes Ajax [230]
move away—I’ll give him half the spoils,
keeping the other half myself, and he’ll get
a share of glory equal to my own.” 300

Hector finished. Trojans then threw their full weight
straight at the Danaans, holding spears up high,
their hearts hoping they would drag that body
away from Ajax, son of Telamon. What fools!
By that corpse Ajax took many of their lives.

Then Ajax said to Menelaus, skilled at war shouts:

“Divinely reared Menelaus, my friend,
I don’t expect we two will be returning
from this battle. I’m not concerned so much
about Patroclus’ corpse, which soon enough 310 [240]
will be food for Trojan dogs and birds,
but I fear for my own head, and yours, as well,
which may be in danger. Hector’s become
a war cloud which envelops everything.
And our complete destruction’s plain to see.
So come, call out to Achaea’s finest men.
One of them may hear.”

Ajax finished.
Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, followed his advice.
He shouted to Danaans with a piercing yell:

“Friends, rulers and leaders of Achaeans, 320
all you who drink your wine at public cost
with Agamemnon and Menelaus, [250]
sons of Atreus, all you who rule your people,
to whom Zeus has given honour and glory,
it’s difficult for me to see precisely
what each of you is doing—this conflict
rages on so fiercely. But all of you
must come here, even if not called by name,
for you’ll feel shame and anger in your hearts,
if Patroclus should become a toy 330
for Trojan dogs to play with.”

Menelaus stopped.
Swift Ajax, son of Oïleus, heard him clearly.
He was the first to come running through the battle
to meet Menelaus. After him came others—
Idomeneus and his companion Meriones,
the man-killing war god’s equal, and others, too.
But what man has a mind which could name all those [260]
who came up behind these warriors in that conflict
to reinforce Achaeans?

Trojans then drove forward
in a single group with Hector leading them. 340
Just as a huge wave roars into a flowing stream
at the mouth of a river fed from heaven,
with headlands on both sides of the shoreline
echoing the boom of salt water surf beyond—
that’s how Trojans roared as they came on in attack.
Achaeans held firm around Menoetius’ son,
united by a common spirit, behind a fence
of their bronze shields. The son of Cronos
cast a thick mist down on their glittering helmets,
for Zeus had not felt hostile to Patroclus 350 [270]
in earlier days, when he was alive and comrade
to Achilles. So Zeus did not want Patroclus
to become merely a plaything for the dogs
of his Trojan enemies. Thus, he encouraged
Patroclus’ companions to defend him there.
At first the Trojans drove bright-eyed Achaeans back,
so they retreated from the body, leaving it behind.
But the Trojans, though confident with their long spears,
did not kill anyone, for all their eagerness.
Still, they did begin to drag away the body. 360
But the Achaean pull back was only temporary,
for Ajax quickly rallied them. Of all Danaans
he was the finest in his looks and actions [280]
after the son of Peleus. Ajax strode around
through those fighting in the front, like a mountain boar
who scatters dogs and strong young men with ease,
as it wheels through forest clearings—that’s how Ajax,
splendid son of noble Telamon, easily pushed back
the Trojan ranks, as he moved among them. They stood there,
over Patroclus, wanting desperately to haul him off, 370
back to their city, and win glory for themselves.

Then Hippothous, noble son of Pelasgian Lethous,
began to drag the body by the feet back through the crowd.
He’d tied his shield strap round both ankle tendons, [290]
eager to please Hector and the Trojans. But right away
he faced a danger which no one could avert,
no matter how much he might want to. For Ajax,
moving quickly through the throng, struck him at close range
on the bronze cheek piece of his helmet. The spear point
smashed through the helmet with its horsehair crest, driven on 380
by the force of Ajax’s mighty fists in that huge spear.
Blood and brains gushed from the wound and oozed together
along the socket of the spear. The strength drained out of him
where he was standing. Hippothous let go the feet
of brave Patroclus, allowing them to fall and lie there.
Then he collapsed, falling face down on the body, [300]
far away from rich Larissa. He did not repay
his parents for the work they’d done to rear him—
he did not live long enough, slaughtered on the spear
of great-hearted Ajax.

Hector then threw his shining spear 390
at Ajax. But he was directly facing Hector,
so he saw it coming. Ajax dodged the weapon,
but only just. It hit Schedius, by far the best
of men from Phocis, son of great-hearted Iphitus,
who lived at home in celebrated Panopeus,
ruling many men. Hector’s spear struck this man
right on the collar bone. The bonze point drove on through
and came out by his shoulder. He fell with a crash, [310]
his armour rattling round him. Then Ajax struck,
hitting warlike Phorcys, Phaenops’ son, in the gut, 400
as he stood over Hippothous. Breaking the plate
on body armour, the bronze sliced out his innards.
Phorcys fell in the dust, fingers clawing at the earth.
At that point glorious Hector and his foremost men
drew back. With a tremendous shout, Argives dragged off
the bodies of dead Hippothous and Phorcys.
They began to strip the armour from their shoulders.

Right then war-loving Achaeans would have driven Trojans
back to Ilion, conquered by their own cowardice, [320]
with Argives winning glory beyond what Zeus decreed, 410
through their own strong power. But Apollo himself
stirred up Aeneas, taking on the form of Periphas,
the herald, son of Epytos, who’d grown old
serving as herald to Aeneas’ old father.
He was wise and well-disposed towards Aeneas.
In this man’s form, Apollo, son of Zeus, spoke up:

“Aeneas, can you not defend steep Ilion
in defiance of some god? I’ve seen other men
who trusted their strong power and courage
and with their numbers held their country 420 [330]
against Zeus’ will. But Zeus wants us to win
far more than the Danaans, and you all suffer
countless fears and won’t keep battling on.”

He finished. Aeneas recognized Apollo,
the far shooter, once he’d looked into his face.
Aeneas then shouted out, addressing Hector:

“Hector and the rest of you commanders,
both Trojans and allies, it would be shameful
if war-loving Achaeans drive us back
all the way to Ilion, if we’re beaten 430
by our cowardice. Some god’s just told me—
he came and stood beside me—that even now
in this fight high counsellor Zeus is helping us.
So let’s go straight at these Danaans, [340]
and not let them carry dead Patroclus
back to their ships without a battle.”

Aeneas finished.
He strode far ahead of all the fighters at the front,
then stood there. Trojans rallied round and made a stand,
facing the Achaeans. With his spear, Aeneas
then struck down Leocritus, son of Arisbas, 440
the courageous companion of Lycomedes.
As he fell, war-loving Lycomedes pitied him.
He moved in close, stood there, and threw his shining spear.
It hit Apisaon, a son of Hippasus,
shepherd of his people, below his abdomen,
right in the liver. Apisaon’s limbs collapsed.
He’d come from fertile Paeonia, their best man [350]
in a fight after Asteropaeus, and his fall
filled warrior Asteropaeus with sorrow.
He charged ahead, ready to fight Danaans. 450
But that was now impossible. For they stood there,
in a group around Patroclus, holding up their shields
on every side, with their spears extending outward.
Ajax moved around among them all, giving orders,
telling them that no man should move back from the corpse
or stride out to fight in front of massed Achaeans.
They must all stand firm around the body, fighting
hand to hand. That’s what mighty Ajax ordered. [360]
Dark blood soaked the earth. The pile of dead bodies grew,
as they fell—Trojans, proud allies, Danaans, too, 460
all together. For as Danaans fought, they shed
their own blood also. But far fewer of them died,
for they were careful to protect each other
from complete destruction in that fighting crowd.

So they fought on, like blazing fire. You couldn’t tell
whether sun and moon still shone, for in that fight
a mist surrounded all the best men standing there
beside Menoetius’ dead son. Meanwhile, other Trojans [370]
fought other well-armed Achaeans undisturbed,
under a clear sky, bright sunshine all around them, 470
no clouds above the entire earth or on the mountains.
So they fought more casually, keeping their distance,
staying out of range of each other’s painful weapons.
But soldiers in the centre were suffering badly
in the fog and fighting. The pitiless bronze
was wearing down the finest men.

But two warriors,
Thrasymedes and Antilochus, well-known men,
had not yet learned about the death of lord Patroclus.
They thought he was still alive, fighting the Trojans
in the front ranks of the throng. These two were fighting 480 [380]
some distance off, watching their companions, keeping track
of who was killed or fleeing back, as Nestor had instructed,
when he’d urged them into battle by their black ships.

Throughout that entire day the great combat raged,
a bitter conflict. The men kept toiling on without a pause,
sweat dripping on their knees and legs, under their feet,
and running down men’s eyes and hands, as both sides
battled over swift-footed Achilles’ brave companion.
Just as a man gives his people a huge bull’s hide
to stretch, after soaking it in fat, and they stand, 490 [390]
once they’ve picked it up, in a circle pulling hard,
so the moisture quickly leaves the hide, as the fat
soaks in under the tension of so many hands
stretching the entire skin as far as it will go—
that’s how those men on both sides pulled at the corpse,
back and forth in a narrow space, hearts full of hope—
Trojans seeking to drag it back to Ilion,
Achaeans to their hollow ships. Around Patroclus
the conflict grew intense. Neither Ares nor Athena,
who incite warriors to battle, if they’d seen that fight, 500
would have disparaged it, not even if they’d been
intensely angry. That’s how destructive Zeus made [400]
the conflict for men and horses that day men fought
over Patroclus.

Godlike Achilles, at this time,
knew nothing of Patroclus’ death, for they were fighting
under the walls of Troy, away from the fast ships.
He’d never imagined in his heart that Patroclus
was dead. He thought he was alive and would return
once he’d reached the gates. He didn’t think
he’d lay waste the city with him or without him, 510
for often Achilles had learned this from his mother,
listening to her in private, when she’d told him
what great Zeus had planned. But at that time, Thetis [410]
said nothing of the evil which had taken place,
the death of his companion, his dearest friend by far.

But those beside the corpse kept holding their sharp spears,
with no pause in the fighting. The mutual slaughter
continued on. Bronze-armed Achaeans talked together,
using words like these:

“My friends,
there’d be no glory for us if we went back 520
to the hollow ships. So let the black earth
open here for each of us. That would be better
for us all by far than if we leave this corpse
for horse-taming Trojans to carry off,
back to their city, winning glory.”

Great-heated Trojans, too, spoke words like these: [420]

“Friends, if we’re all fated to be killed together
by this man, let no one leave the battle.”

Men talked like this to strengthen their companions.
Then they fought on, the smash of iron rising up 530
through the bronze sky. But the horses of Achilles,
descendant of Aeacus, stood some distance from the fight,
weeping from the time they first learned their charioteer
had fallen in the dust at the hands of Hector,
killer of men. Automedon, brave son of Diores,
often lashed them with a stroke of his quick whip, [430]
and often spoke to them with soothing words or threats,
but the two weren’t willing to withdraw back to the ships
by the broad Hellespont, or go towards Achaeans
locked in battle. They stayed beside their ornate chariot, 540
immobile, like a pillar standing on the tomb
of some dead man or woman, heads bowed down to earth.
Warm tears flowed from their eyes onto the ground,
as they cried, longing for their driver. Their thick manes,
covered in dirt, trailed down below their harnesses
on both sides of the yoke. Looking at those horses, [440]
as they mourned, the son of Cronos pitied them.
Shaking his head, Zeus spoke to his own heart:

“Poor horses!
Why did we give you to king Peleus,
a mortal man, for you’re immortal, ageless? 550
Was it so you’d experience sorrow
among unhappy men? For the truth is this—
of all the things which breathe or move on earth,
nothing is more miserable than man.
But at least Hector, Priam’s son, won’t mount you
or drive your finely decorated chariot.
That I won’t permit. Is it not enough
he wears his armour and then brags about it? [450]
I’ll put strength into your legs and hearts,
so you can carry Automedon safely 560
from this battle back to the hollow ships.
For I’ll still grant glory to the Trojans,
to keep on killing till they reach the ships,
at sunset, when sacred darkness comes.”

Saying this, Zeus breathed great strength into those horses.
The two shook out their manes, so the dirt fell on the ground.
They then set off towards the Trojans and Achaeans,
quickly pulling the fast chariot along with them.
Behind them Automedon joined the fighting,
though still grieving for his comrade, swooping down 570 [460]
in that chariot like a vulture on a flock of geese.
He easily escaped the Trojan battle noise
and then with ease charged into the large crowd once more.
But in these attacks he didn’t kill a man,
as he rushed to chase them down. It was impossible,
for in the sacred chariot he was by himself.
He couldn’t wield a spear and manage those swift horses.
But at last one of his companions noticed him,
Alcimedon, son of Laerces, Haemon’s son.
Standing behind the chariot, he cried to Automedon: 580

“Automedon, what god put inside your chest
this useless plan, stealing your common sense? [470]
You’re fighting against the Trojans by yourself,
in the front ranks of the crowd. Your comrade
has been killed, and on his shoulders Hector
is now wearing the armour of Achilles—
he celebrates his glorious triumph.”

Automedon, son of Diores, replied:

“Alcimedon, what Achaean warrior
is better able to control and guide 590
these strong immortal horses than yourself,
except Patroclus, a man as wise as gods,
while he was alive? Now he’s met his death,
his fate. So take the shining reins and whip.
I’ll get down from the chariot and fight.” [480]

Automedon spoke. Then Alcimedon, springing up
into that fast chariot, quickly grabbed the reins and whip.
Automedon jumped out. Seeing this, glorious Hector
at once spoke to Aeneas, who was close by:

“Aeneas, counselor to bronze-armed Trojans, 600
I see the two-horse team of swift Achilles
coming to this fighting with poor charioteers.
That pair I’d like to capture, if your heart
is willing, since those men lack the courage
to confront the two of us, if we attack,
or to stand and fight against us both.”

Hector spoke. Anchises’ strong son was not unwilling. [490]
So the two moved straight ahead, guarding their shoulders
under bull’s hide shields, tanned and tough, with thick bronze
hammered out on top. With them went Chromius, 610
and godlike Aretus, fully hoping in their hearts
they’d kill the men, then drive those strong-necked horses off.
What fools! They would not return from Automedon
without shedding their own blood. Then Automedon
prayed to Father Zeus, and his dark heart was filled
with strength and courage. Immediately he spoke out
to Alcimedon, his loyal companion: [500]

“Alcimedon,
make sure you keep the horses close to me,
so they breathe right on my neck. I don’t think
Hector, son of Priam, will check his fury, 620
until he’s killed the pair of us and climbed
behind the fine manes of these horses
belonging to Achilles, then driven in flight
the Argive ranks, or himself been slaughtered
among the front-line fighters.”

Automedon finished,
then shouted to both Ajaxes and Menelaus:

“You Ajaxes, both Argive leaders, Menelaus,
leave that corpse to the rest of our best men,
who’ll stand firm around it. Protect the two of us
from ruthless fate while we’re still living. 630 [510]
For Hector and Aeneas, Troy’s best men
in this harsh fight, are coming hard against us.
But these things lie in the lap of the gods,
so I’ll attempt a throw—whatever happens,
it’s all up to Zeus.”

Saying this, Automedon
hefted his long-shadowed spear and threw it, hitting
the round shield of Aretus, which didn’t stop it.
The bronze went straight on through, severed his belt,
then drove low in his stomach. Just as a strong man
with a sharp axe strikes a farm ox right behind its horns, 640 [520]
slicing clean through sinews, so the ox stumbles forward
and falls down—that’s how Aretus jerked forward and then fell
onto his back. Once that sharp spear impaled itself,
quivering in his organs, his limbs gave way.
Then Hector threw his bright spear at Automedon,
but since he was directly facing Hector,
he saw the bronze spear coming and evaded it
by leaning forward. The long spear stuck in the ground
behind him, its shaft trembling until great Ares
stilled its force. Now they would have charged each other 650 [530]
and fought hand to hand with swords, but the Ajaxes
made them move apart for all their battle fury.
They came through the crowd answering their comrade’s shout.
Hector, Aeneas, and godlike Chromius,
afraid of both Ajaxes, moved back once again,
leaving Aretus lying there with a mortal wound.
Automedon, swift Ares’ equal, stripped the armour,
boasting in triumph:

“I’ve managed here
to ease somewhat my heart’s grief for the death
of Menoetius’ son, though the man I’ve killed 660
is a lesser man than he.”

With these words,
he took the blood-stained spoils and put them in the chariot. [540]
Then he got in, feet and upper arms all bloody,
like a lion that’s just gorged itself on cattle.

Then once more over Patroclus the bitter fight
resumed—fierce and full of sorrow. Athena
stirred up the conflict, coming down from heaven,
sent by wide-seeing Zeus to urge on the Danaans.
For his mind had changed. Just as for mortal men
Zeus bends his coloured rainbow down from heaven, 670
an omen prophesying war or some harsh storm,
upsetting flocks and stopping men from work [550]
upon the earth—that’s how Athena then placed herself
in the Achaean throng, wrapped in a purple mist.
She stirred up all the men, giving encouragement
first to courageous Menelaus, son of Atreus,
who was close by her. Taking the form of Phoenix,
in his untiring voice she said:

“Surely, Menelaus,
you’ll be disgraced, have to hang your head in shame,
if Achilles’ fine and loyal companion 680
is ravaged by swift dogs beneath Troy’s walls.
So be brave. Stand firm. Encourage all your men.”

Menelaus, expert in war shouts, answered her: [560]

“Old Phoenix, you venerable old man,
if only Athena would give me strength,
defend me from this shower of weapons,
I’d be happy to stand above Patroclus,
protecting him. His death has touched my heart.
But Hector has the power of deadly fire.
He won’t stop cutting men down with his bronze, 690
for Zeus is giving him the glory.”

Menelaus’ words pleased the bright-eyed goddess,
Athena, for he’d first prayed to her of all the gods.
She put strength into his shoulders and his knees.
Then in his chest she set the persistence of a gnat, [570]
which, no matter how much one brushes it away
from someone’s skin, keeps on biting—it finds human blood
so sweet—with that stamina she filled up his dark heart.
Standing over Patroclus, he hurled his shining spear.
Among the Trojans was a rich, brave man called Podes, 700
son of Eëtion, to whom Hector granted
special honour among men as his companion,
his good friend at a feast. Fair-haired Menelaus
struck him with his spear, as he began to flee.
He hit him on the belt. The bronze drove straight on through.
Podes fell with a thud. Then Menelaus, Atreus’ son, [580]
dragged the corpse away from Trojans into the crowd
of his companions.

At that point, Apollo
came up close to Hector to reinforce his spirit.
He took the form of Phaenops, son of Asius, 710
of all Hector’s guests the one he liked the most.
Phaenops lived at home in Abydos. In his shape,
Apollo, son of Zeus, spoke out:

“Hector,
which of the Achaeans will now fear you,
since you’re afraid of Menelaus,
who so far has been a feeble spearman?
But all by himself he’s snatched a body
from the Trojans and gone off with it.
He’s killed your trusty comrade Podes,
Eëtion’s son, a noble front-line warrior.” 720 [590]

As he spoke, black clouds of grief enveloped Hector.
He strode by the foremost fighters, armed in gleaming bronze.
Then the son of Cronos took his tasselled aegis,
all glittering, hid Ida behind clouds, then flashed
his lightning, with a tremendous peal of thunder,
as he shook the aegis, awarding victory
to Trojans and making Achaeans run away.

The first to begin the rout was Peneleus,
a Boeotian. Standing there facing the enemy,
as usual, he was hit in the shoulder by a spear 730
from Polydamas, who’d come in close to throw.
It was a glancing blow, but the point of the spear
sliced quite near the bone. Then at close quarters, Hector [600]
attacked Leitus, son of great-hearted Alectryon.
Hector sliced his wrist, and so his fighting ended.
Looking around him anxiously, Leitus drew back—
he knew if he couldn’t grip his spear, he had no hope
of fighting Trojans. As Hector went at Leitus,
Idomeneus threw and struck his body armour
on the chest, right beside the nipple. But the long spear 740
broke at the socket. The Trojans gave a shout.
Then Hector threw a spear at Idomeneus,
Deucalion’s son. He missed him, but not by much.
He did hit Coeranus, Meriones’ comrade, [610]
his charioteer, who’d followed him from well-built Lyctus.
Idomeneus had come from the curving ships that day
on foot and would’ve given the Trojans a great triumph,
if Coeranus hadn’t quickly driven up
with his swift-footed horses. For Idomeneus
he came as a saving light, protecting him 750
from ruthless fate. But the act cost him his life
at the hands of man-killing Hector, who struck him
underneath his jaw and ear. The spear smashed his teeth,
roots and all, splitting his tongue in half. Coeranus
tumbled from the chariot. The reins fell on the ground.
Meriones stooped down and scooped them from the plain [620]
with his own hands, then spoke to Idomeneus:

“Now lash these horses on until you reach
our swift ships. For you recognize yourself
that Achaeans will not win this victory.” 760

Meriones finished. And so Idomeneus
whipped the fair-maned horses back to the hollow ships,
for by now a fear had fallen on his heart, as well.

Great-hearted Ajax and Menelaus also knew
that Zeus had turned the tide of battle now, giving
victory to the Trojans. The first one to speak
was Telamonian Ajax:

“Here’s a problem.
Even a fool can see that Father Zeus
is now personally helping Trojans. [630]
All their flying weapons hit a target, 770
whether a brave man throws them or a coward—
Zeus makes them all fly straight. In our case,
all our throws fall wasted on the ground.
But come, let’s sort out the best course of action,
so we both can drag the corpse and then get back
in person to bring joy to our companions.
They must be anxious as they watch us here,
thinking we can’t check the fighting frenzy
of man-killing Hector, his all-conquering hands,
and we’ll withdraw to our black ships. I wish 780
some comrade would report back quickly [640]
to Peleus’ son, for I don’t think he’s learned
the dreadful news of his dear comrade’s death.
But I can’t see any Argive who could do that.
Men and horses are all shrouded in this mist.
Father Zeus, rescue these Achaean sons
from this fog, make the sky clear, let us see
with our own eyes. Since it gives you pleasure,
kill us, but do in the light of day.”

As he finished, Ajax wept. Father Zeus pitied him. 790
At once he dispersed the mist, scattering the haze.
The sun shone down, and all the fight came into view. [650]
Then Ajax spoke to Menelaus, skilled at war shouts:

“Look now, divinely raised Menelaus,
see if you can spot Antilochus alive,
son of great-hearted Nestor. Get him to go
with speed to rouse up fiery Achilles,
by telling him his companion, the man
he loves the most by far, has just been killed.”

Ajax spoke. Menelaus, expert at war shouts, agreed. 800
He went off like some lion moving from a farm,
exhausted by his attacks on dogs and men,
who prevent it tearing flesh out of some cow,
keeping their watch all night—but ravenous for meat, [660]
the beast keeps charging in without success, for spears
rain down, thrown by keen hands, then burning sticks,
which, for all his fierce desire, make him afraid,
so he slinks away at dawn in disappointment—
that’s how Menelaus, skilled at war cries,
left Patroclus, much against his will—he feared 810
Achaeans might be pushed back in painful flight,
leaving the corpse a trophy for the enemy.
He issued many orders to Meriones
to the Ajaxes, as well:

“You two Ajaxes,
Argive leaders, and you, Meriones,
let each man bear in mind the kindnesses [670]
of poor Patroclus, who, when he was alive,
knew how to treat every man with care.
Now fatal death has overtaken him.”

With these words, fair-haired Menelaus went away, 820
glancing warily in all directions, like an eagle,
which, men say, has the sharpest sight of all the animals
flying in the sky—a bird which, while soaring high,
doesn’t miss the swiftly running hare crouched down
under a leafy bush, and, swooping low, seizes it
at once, and then tears out its life—that’s how, Menelaus,
raised by gods, your bright eyes kept searching all around
through groups of many comrades, seeking Nestor’s son, [680]
to see if he was still alive. Then Menelaus,
quickly seeing him on the left flank of the battle 830
encouraging his companions, urging them to fight,
came up to him. Then fair-haired Menelaus said:

“Divinely raised Antilochus, come here,
so you can learn the painful news, something
I wish had never happened. You already know,
I think, for your own eyes can see it,
how some god is rolling this disaster
over the Danaans, giving victory
to the Trojans. The best Achaean,
Patroclus, has been slaughtered, a huge loss 840 [690]
for the Danaans, who miss him badly.
You must run quickly to Achaean ships
to tell Achilles, so he can bring the corpse
in safety to his ship—the naked body,
for now Hector of the gleaming helmet
wears his armour.”

Menelaus finished speaking.
Hearing that news, Antilochus was overwhelmed.
For a long time he stood in shock, speechless. His eyes
filled up with tears, his strong voice failed. But even so,
he did not neglect what Menelaus told him. 850
Giving his armour to his noble comrade
Laodocus, who drove the horses close beside him,
he set off on the run. As he wept, his swift feet [700]
took him from the battle, bearing the bad news
to Achilles, son of Peleus. And then your heart,
divinely raised Menelaus, had no desire
to help defend the hard-pressed comrades left there
by Antilochus, men of Pylos, who felt his loss
severely. But to assist them, Menelaus
sent godlike Thrasymedes. Then he went in person 860
to stand by warrior Patroclus. Running over,
he took up a position by both Ajaxes and said:

“I’ve sent Antilochus to our fast ships,
to swift Achilles. Still, I don’t expect
he’ll come out now, no matter how enraged
he is with godlike Hector. He can’t fight [710]
at all against the Trojans without armour.
But now we should consider for ourselves
the best thing we should do, so we’ll be able
to haul off the corpse and leave this Trojan tumult, 870
escaping our own death and our destruction.”

Great Telamonian Ajax then answered him:

“Glorious Menelaus, everything you say
is true enough. So you and Meriones
stoop down and lift the body quickly,
as fast possible. Take it from this fight.
We’ll hold off the Trojans and godlike Hector,
standing behind you with a single heart, [720]
just as we share one name. We’ve stood firm before,
holding our positions by each other, 880
in the face of Ares, the fierce god of war.”

Ajax spoke. Then they raised the body off the ground,
lifting it high with one great heave. Behind them,
Trojans soldiers gave a shout, as they saw Achaeans
hoisting up the corpse. They went after them like hounds
charging ahead of youthful hunters, as they chase
some wounded wild boar, keen to rip it into pieces,
but once it wheels around on them, sure of its strength,
they run back in fear, scattering in all directions—
that’s how groups of Trojans kept following them a while, 890 [730]
thrusting at them with swords and double-bladed spears,
but when both Ajaxes turned round to stand against them,
their colour changed, and no one dared rush forward
to battle for the dead.

So these men worked hard
to bring that body from the battle to the hollow ships,
in the face of a fierce conflict, like some fire
suddenly rushing at a city full of people,
setting it alight, so houses fall among the flames,
as winds whip the inferno on. That’s how the din
of chariots and spearmen coming up against them 900 [740]
kept resounding as they moved along. But like mules
throwing their great strength into their work, as they haul
a beam or huge ship timber on an uneven path
down from the mountains, hearts worn out with the strain,
as they work on covered in sweat—that’s how these men
strove hard to carry off the corpse. Behind them,
both Ajaxes held off the enemy. Just as
a wooded ridge which cuts across a plain holds back
a flood, even the strong flow of some harsh rivers,
pushing their waters back to go across the plain, 910 [750]
for the strength of their current cannot rupture it—
that’s how both Ajaxes held back the Trojans then
in that fight. But Trojans kept up their pursuit,
especially two of them—Aeneas, Anchises’ son,
and glorious Hector. Just as a flock of daws or starlings
flies off in screaming fear, once they see a falcon
as it comes after them, bringing death to all small birds—
that’s how the young Achaean soldiers ran off then,
away from Hector and Aeneas, screaming in panic,
forgetting all their fierce desire for battle. 920
As Danaans fled, plenty of fine weapons fell [760]
around the ditch. But there was no let up in the war.

 


Book Eighteen

The Arms of Achilles

[Antilochus brings the news to Achilles of Patroclus' death; Achilles collapses in grief; Thetis hears his grief, talks to her sister Nereids, then visits Achilles, promises to bring him new armour from Hephaestus; Iris visits Achilles with a message from Hera; Achilles displays himself to the Trojans by the ditch and wall; Trojans debate what to do; Polydamas advises retreat; Hector opposes him; Achaeans take Patroclus' body back to the ships, begin their laments over Patroclus; Thetis visits Hephaestus, requests new armour for Achilles; Hephaestus makes new armour, especially a new shield; Thetis leaves with the armour]

As the men fought on like a blazing fire raging,
swift-footed Antilochus came to Achilles
with his news. He found Achilles by his beaked ship,
sensing in himself what had already happened,
speaking with a troubled mind to his own great heart:

“Why are long-haired Achaeans once again
retreating to their ships, being beaten back
across the plain in terror? I hope the gods
have not done something that will break my heart.
My mother told me once they’d do that, 10
when she told me that while I was alive
the best man of the Myrmidons would leave [10]
the sun’s light at the hands of Trojans.
So it must be the case that the fine son
of Menoetius is dead, that reckless man.
I told him to return back to the ships,
once he’d saved them from consuming fire,
and not face up to Hector man to man.”

As Achilles in his mind and heart was thinking this,
noble Nestor’s son approached, shedding warm tears. 20
He told him the agonizing truth:

“Son of warlike Peleus,
you must hear this dreadful news—something
I wish weren’t so—Patroclus lies dead. [20]
Men are fighting now around the body.
He’s stripped. Hector with his gleaming helmet
has the armour.”

Antilochus finished speaking.
A black cloud of grief swallowed up Achilles.
With both hands he scooped up soot and dust and poured it
on his head, covering his handsome face with dirt,
covering his sweet-smelling tunic with black ash. 30
He lay sprawling—his mighty warrior’s massive body
collapsed and stretched out in the dust. With his hands,
he tugged at his own hair, disfiguring himself.
The women slaves acquired as battle trophies
by Achilles and Patroclus, hearts overwhelmed
with anguish, began to scream aloud. They rushed outside
and beat their breasts around warlike Achilles. [30]
Then all the women’s legs gave way, and they fell down.
Across from them, Antilochus lamented,
eyes full of tears, as he held Achilles by the hand. 40
Achilles’ noble heart moaned aloud. Antilochus
feared he might hurt himself or slit his throat
with his own sword. Achilles gave a huge cry of grief.
His noble mother heard it from the ocean depths
where she was sitting by her ancient father.
She began to wail. Then around her gathered
all the divine daughters of Nereus deep in the sea—
Glauce, Thaleia, Cymodoce, Nesaea,
Speio, Thoe, ox-eyed Halië, Cymothoë, [40]
Actaia, Limnoreia, Melite, Iaera, 50
Amphithoe, Agave, Doto, Proto,
Pherousa, Dynamene, Dexamene,
Amphinome, Callianeira, Doris, Panope,
lovely Galatea, Nemertes, Apseudes,
Callianassa. Also there were Clymene,
Ianeira, Ianassa, Maera, Orithyia,
Amatheia with her lovely hair, and others,
Nereus’ daughters living in the ocean depths.
They filled the glistening cave, beating their breasts. [50]
Thetis led them all in their laments:

“Sister Nereids, listen, 60
so all of you, hearing what I say,
will understand my heart’s enormous sorrow.
Alas, for my unhappy misery,
that to my grief I bore the best of men.
For when I gave birth to a fine strong boy
to be an excellent heroic warrior,
when he’d grown as tall as some young sapling,
for I’d raised him like a lovely orchard tree,
I sent him out in the beaked ships to Ilion,
to war against the Trojans. But now, 70
I’ll never welcome him back home again, [60]
returning to the house of Peleus.
While he’s still alive and sees the sunlight,
he lives in sorrow. When I go to him,
I can provide no help. But I shall go
to look on my dear child, to hear what grief
has overtaken him while he remains
detached from all the fighting.”

With these words,
Thetis left the cave. Her sisters went with her in tears.
Around them sea waves parted, until they came 80
to fertile Troy. They emerged, climbing up on shore,
one after another, right where the Myrmidons
had dragged up their ships in close-packed formation
near swift Achilles. Then his noble mother moved [70]
beside him, as he was groaning bitterly.
With a sharp cry, she cradled her son’s head, then spoke.
As she grieved, she talked to him—her words had wings:

“My child, why are you crying? What sorrow now
has come into your heart? Speak out. Hide nothing.
Zeus has given you what you begged him to 90
when you stretched your hands out to him—
all Achaea’s sons by their ships’ sterns
are hemmed in there, desperate for your help,
suffering a terrible ordeal.”

With a heavy groan,
swift-footed Achilles then answered Thetis:

“Yes, Mother,
Olympian Zeus has indeed accomplished
what I asked. But what pleasure’s there for me, [80]
when Patroclus, my beloved companion,
has been destroyed, the man I honoured
as my equal, above all my comrades. 100
I’ve lost him and the armour, which Hector took,
once he’d killed him, that massive armour,
so wonderful to look at, which the gods
gave as a priceless gift to Peleus
on that day they placed you in the bed
of a mortal man. If only you had stayed
among the eternal maidens of the sea
and Peleus had married a mortal wife.
But now there’ll be innumerable sorrows
waiting for your heart, once your child is killed. 110
You won’t be welcoming him back home again. [90]
My own heart has no desire to live on,
to continue living among men,
unless Hector is hit by my spear first,
losing his life and paying me compensation
for killing Menoetius’ son, Patroclus.”

Through her tears, Thetis then answered Achilles:

“My son, from what you’ve just been saying,
you’re fated to an early death, for your doom
comes quickly as soon as Hector dies.” 120

Swift-footed Achilles answered her with passion:

“Then let me die, since I could not prevent
the death of my companion. He’s fallen
far from his homeland. He needed me there [100]
to protect him from destruction. So now,
since I’m not returning to my own dear land,
and for Patroclus was no saving light
or for my many other comrades,
all those killed by godlike Hector while I sat
here by the ships, a useless burden 130
on the earth—and I’m unmatched in warfare
by any other Achaean armed in bronze,
although in council other men are better—
so let wars disappear from gods and men
and passionate anger, too, which incites
even the prudent man to that sweet rage,
sweeter than trickling honey in men’s throats,
which builds up like smoke inside their chests, [110]
as Agamemnon, king of men, just now,
made me enraged. But we’ll let that pass. 140
For all the pain I feel, I’ll suppress the heart
within my chest, as I must. So now I’ll go
to meet Hector, killer of the man I loved.
As for my own fate, let it come to me
when Zeus and the other deathless gods
determine. For not even strong Hercules,
the man lord Zeus, son of Cronos, loved the most,
escaped his death. He was destroyed by Fate
and by malicious Hera’s anger, too.
And so for me. If a like fate has been set, 150 [120]
then once I’m dead, I’ll just lie there. But for now,
let me seize great glory—let me make
so many Trojan and Dardan matrons weep,
and with both hands wipe tears from their soft cheeks,
and set them on to constant lamentation,
so that they’ll know I’ve long refrained from war.
Don’t keep me from battle. Though you love me,
you’ll not convince me.”

Silver-footed Thetis
then said to Achilles:

“My child, what you say is true—
it’s no bad thing to protect companions 160
when they’re in trouble from complete disaster.
But now the Trojans have your lovely armour, [130]
all your glittering bronze. It’s on the shoulders
of Hector with the shining helmet—
he boasts about it. But I don’t think
his triumph will last long, since his death
is coming closer. But you must not rejoin
Ares’ conflict until with your own eyes
you see me in the morning here again.
I’ll return at sunrise, and I’ll bring you 170
lovely armour made by lord Hephaestus.”

Saying this, Thetis turned away from her own son
to address her ocean sisters:

“Now you must plunge [140]
into the broad lap of Ocean and go find
the Old Man of the Sea in our father’s house.
Tell him everything. I’ll go to high Olympus,
to that famous artisan Hephaestus,
to see if he is willing to give my son
some splendid glittering armour.”

Thetis spoke.
Her sisters quickly plunged under the waves. 180
Then the silver-footed goddess Thetis went away
to fetch that lovely armour from Olympus
for her beloved son.

As Thetis’ feet carried her
towards Olympus, Achaeans were running back,
with a huge noise, fleeing man-killing Hector,
until they reached their ships beside the Hellespont. [150]
But those well-armed Achaeans couldn’t extricate
Achilles’ comrade, dead Patroclus, from the spears,
for they’d been overtaken by Trojan warriors
and chariots once again, with Hector, Priam’s son, 190
as furious as fire. Three times glorious Hector,
from behind, seized the corpse’s feet, keen to drag it off,
shouting furiously to his Trojans. Three times,
the two Ajaxes, clothed in their full battle strength,
beat him from the corpse. But Hector kept on coming
without a pause, confident of his fighting power.
Sometimes he charged right at them in the frenzied crowd.
Sometimes he just stood there and gave a mighty yell,
but he never yielded any ground. Just as shepherds [160]
are unable to drive off from their farmyard 200
a tawny ravenous lion by some carcass—
so the two warrior Ajaxes could not push Hector,
Priam’s son, back from that body. And now Hector
would have seized that corpse, winning infinite glory,
if swift Iris with feet like wind had not come down,
speeding from Olympus to the son of Peleus,
with a message that he should arm himself for war.
Hera had sent her, unknown to Zeus and other gods.
Standing by Achilles, Iris spoke—her words had wings:

“Rouse yourself, son of Peleus, most feared of men. 210 [170]
Defend Patroclus. For on his behalf
a deadly conflict rages by the ships—
men are butchering each other, some trying
to protect the dead man’s corpse, while others,
the Trojans, charge in to carry it away
to windy Ilion. The one most eager
to haul the body off is glorious Hector,
whose heart is set on hacking off the head
from its soft neck. He’ll fix it on a stake
set in the wall. So get up. No more lying here. 220
Your heart will be disgraced if Patroclus
becomes a plaything for the dogs of Troy—
his mutilated corpse will be your shame.” [180]

Swift-footed godlike Achilles then asked her:

“Goddess Iris, which of the gods sent you
with this message to me?”

Swift Iris,
with feet like wind, then said to Achilles:

“Hera sent me, Zeus’ glorious wife.
Cronos’ son, who sits on high, doesn’t know,
nor do any other immortal gods 230
inhabiting snow-capped Olympus.”

Swift-footed Achilles then questioned Iris:

“But how can I rejoin that conflict?
Those men have my armour. My dear mother
has told me not to arm myself for war,
not until my own eyes see that she’s come back. [190]
She promised to bring me splendid armour
from Hephaestus. I don’t know anyone
whose glorious equipment I could use,
with the exception of the shield of Ajax, 240
son of Telamon. But I expect he’s out there
with his spear among the front-line warriors
in that conflict over dead Patroclus.”

Wind-swift Iris then answered Achilles:

“We know well enough your lovely armour
is in Trojan hands. But you should go now,
just as you are, to the ditch. Show yourself
to Trojans. It may happen that the Trojans,
afraid of you, will pull back from battle,
giving Achaea’s exhausted warlike sons 250 [200]
a breathing space. For rests in war are rare.”

With these words, swift-footed Iris went away.
Then Achilles, loved by Zeus, moved into action.
Around his powerful shoulders Athena set
her tasselled aegis. Then the lovely goddess
wrapped his head up in a golden cloud, so from him
a fiery light blazed out. Just like those times when smoke
from a city stretches all the way to heaven,
rising in the distance from an island under siege
by an enemy, where men fight all day long 260
in Ares’ hateful war, struggling for their city—
then at sunset, they light fires one by one, [210]
beacons flaming upwards to attract attention
from those on near-by islands, so their ships will come
to save them from destruction—that’s how the light
blazed then from Achilles’ head right up to heaven.
He strode from the wall, then stood there by the ditch.
But recalling what his mother had said to him,
he didn’t mingle with Achaeans. As he stood there,
he cried out. From far away, Pallas Athena 270
added her voice, too, causing great consternation
among the Trojans. As thrilling as a trumpet’s note
when it rings clearly, when rapacious enemies [220]
besiege a city—that’s how sharp and piercing
Achilles’ voice was then. When the Trojans heard it,
that brazen shout Achilles gave, all their hearts
were shaken. Their horses with the lovely manes
turned back the chariots, anticipating trouble
in their hearts. Charioteers were terrified, seeing
the fearful inextinguishable fire blazing 280
from the head of the great-hearted son of Peleus.
For Athena, goddess with the glittering eyes,
kept it burning. Three times godlike Achilles yelled
across that ditch. Three times Trojans and their allies
were thrown into confusion. At that moment,
twelve of their best men were killed by their own chariots [230]
and their own spears. Achaeans then, with stronger hearts,
pulled Patroclus out of spear range and laid him on a cot.
His dear companions gathered mourning round him,
Achilles with them, shedding hot tears when he saw 290
his loyal companion lying on a death bed,
mutilated by sharp bronze. He’d sent him out to war
with chariot and horses, but never welcomed him
at his return.

Then ox-eyed queen Hera
made the unwearied sun, against his will, go down [240]
into the stream of Ocean. So the sun set.
Godlike Achaeans now could pause for some relief
from the destructive killing of impartial war.

For their part, once Trojans drew back from that harsh fight,
they untied swift horses from their chariots and then, 300
before they thought of food, called for a meeting.
There everyone stayed standing. No one dared sit down,
all terrified because Achilles had appeared,
after his long absence from that savage conflict.
The first to speak was Polydamas, Panthous’ son,
a prudent man, the only one who weighed with care [250]
the past and future. He was Hector’s comrade,
both born on the same night. As a public speaker,
he was the better of the two, but Hector
far surpassed him with a spear. Bearing in mind 310
their common good, Polydamas addressed them:

“My friends, consider both sides of this issue.
For my part, I advise us to return
into the city—we should not stay here,
on the plain, waiting for dawn beside the ships.
Our walls are far away. While Achilles
kept up his anger at lord Agamemnon,
Achaeans were easier to fight against.
Personally, I was glad to spend the night
by their swift ships, hoping then we’d capture 320 [260]
those curved vessels. But now I really have
a dreadful fear of Peleus’ swift-footed son.
He has a reckless heart—he’s not a man
to rest content in the middle of the plain,
where Trojans and Achaeans have a share
of Ares’ battle fury. No, he’ll fight on
for our city and our women. So let’s go back,
return into the city. Trust me when I say
that’s how things will go. For now, sacred night
has stopped the swift-footed son of Peleus. 330
But if tomorrow he moves into action
fully armed and encounters us still here,
we’ll recognize him well enough. Anyone
who gets away and makes it back to Ilion [270]
will be a happy man. For dogs and vultures
will eat many Trojans. I don’t want to hear
that such events have happened. If we all
follow my advice, although reluctantly,
tonight we’ll collect our forces in one group.
Walls, high gates, and doors with fitted planks, 340
polished and bolted shut, will guard the city.
But in the morning early, we’ll arm ourselves,
then take up our positions on the walls.
If Achilles comes from the ships keen to fight
for our walls, then he’ll be disappointed.
He’ll go back to his ships, once he’s worn out [280]
his strong-necked horses with too much running,
scampering around below our city wall.
His heart won’t let him force his way inside,
and he’ll not lay waste our city, not before 350
our swift dogs eat him up for dinner.”

With a scowl, Hector of the flashing helmet then replied:

“Polydamas, what you say displeases me—
you tell us to run back to the city
and stay inside it. Haven’t you already
been cooped up long enough within those walls?
In earlier days, all mortal men would claim
that Priam’s city was rich in gold and bronze.
But now those splendid treasures are all gone. [290]
Many goods from our own homes we’ve sold. 360
They went to Phrygia or fair Maeonia,
once great Zeus, in anger, turned against us.
But now, when crooked-minded Cronos’ son
allows me to win glory by the ships,
hemming the Achaeans in beside the sea,
this is no time, you fool, to say such things
before the people. Not a single Trojan
will take your advice. I won’t permit it.
But come, let’s all follow now what I suggest.
You must take your dinner at your stations 370
all through the army, making sure you watch,
with every man awake. Any Trojan
too concerned about his property [300]
should gather it up and give it to the men
for common use. Better that one of us
gets use from it than that Achaeans do.
Tomorrow morning early, right at dawn,
we’ll fully arm ourselves with weapons,
then take keen battle to those hollow ships.
If indeed it’s true that lord Achilles 380
is returning to that battle by the ships,
if he wants that, so much the worse for him.
I won’t run from him in painful battle,
but stand against him, fighting face to face,
whether great victory goes to him or me.
In war the odds are equal, and the man
who seeks to kill may well be killed himself.”

Hector spoke. The Trojans roared out in response. [310]
The fools! Pallas Athena had robbed them of their wits.
They all applauded Hector’s disastrous tactics. 390
No one praised Polydamas, who’d advised them well.
Then throughout the army they ate their dinner.

Meanwhile, Achaeans mourned Patroclus all night long
with their elegies. Among them, Peleus’ son
began the urgent lamentations, placing
his murderous hands on the chest of his companion,
with frequent heavy groans, like a bearded lion,
when a deer hunter in dense forest steals its cubs—
the lion comes back later, then sick at heart [320]
roams through the many clearings in the forest, 400
tracking the man’s footprints, in hopes of finding him,
as bitter anger overwhelms the beast—just like that
Achilles, amid his groans, addressed his Myrmidons:

“Alas, what a useless promise I made then,
the day I tried to cheer Menoetius up
at home, telling him when I’d sacked Ilion,
I’d bring his splendid son back there to him,
in Opoeis, and with his share of trophies.
But Zeus does not bring to fulfilment
all things which men propose. Now both of us 410
share a common fate, to redden the same earth
right here in Troy. Old horseman Peleus [330]
will not be welcoming me at my return
back to his home, nor will my mother Thetis.
For in this place the earth will cover me.
And now, Patroclus, since I’m journeying
under the earth after you, I’ll postpone
your burial till I bring here Hector’s head,
his armour, too, the man who slaughtered you,
you courageous man. I’ll cut the throats 420
of twelve fine Trojan children on your pyre,
in my anger at your killing. Till that time,
you’ll lie like this with me by my beaked ships,
and round you Trojan and Dardanian women
will keep lamenting night and day, shedding tears, [340]
the very women we two worked hard to win
with our strength and our long spears, by looting
prosperous cities of mortal men.”

After these words, godlike Achilles told his comrades
to place a large tripod on the fire, so they could wash 430
the blood clots from his comrade’s corpse. On the blazing fire,
they set a cauldron with three legs, poured water in it,
then brought split wood to burn below the water.
Fire licked the cauldron’s belly and made the water hot.
Once it had boiled inside the shining bronze,
they washed him, rubbed oil thickly over him, [350]
and filled his wounds with ointment nine years old.
Then they placed Patroclus on a bed, covering him
with a fine woollen cloth from head to foot
and a white cloak on the cloth. Then all night long, 440
the Myrmidons around swift-footed Achilles
mourned Patroclus with their lamentations.

Then Zeus spoke to Hera, his sister and his wife:

“You’ve got what you wanted, ox-eyed queen Hera.
Swift-footed Achilles you’ve spurred into action.
From your own womb you must have given birth
to these long-haired Achaeans.”

Ox-eyed queen Hera
then replied to Zeus: [360]

“Most dread son of Cronos,
what are you saying? Even a human man,
though mortal and ignorant of what I know, 450
can achieve what he intends for someone else.
And men say I’m the finest of all goddesses
in a double sense—both by my lineage
and my marriage to the ruler of the gods.
So why should I not bring an evil fortune
on these Trojans when they’ve made me angry?”

Thus these two conversed with one another then.

Meanwhile, silver-footed Thetis reached Hephaestus’ home.
Made of eternal bronze and gleaming like a star, [370]
it stood out among the homes of the immortals. 460
The crippled god had constructed it himself.
She found him working with his bellows, moving round,
sweating in his eager haste. He was forging
twenty tripods in all, to stand along the walls
of his well-built house. Under the legs of each one
he had fitted golden wheels, so every tripod
might move all on its own into a gathering of the gods
at his command and then return to his own house.
They were wonderful to look at. His work on them
had reached the stage where finely crafted handles 470
had still not been attached. He was making these,
forging the rivets. As he was working on them [380]
with his great skill, silver-footed goddess Thetis
approached more closely. Noticing her, Charis,
lovely goddess with the splendid veil, came forward—
she was wife to the celebrated crippled god.
Taking Thetis by the hand, she called her name, and said:

“Long-robed Thetis, why visit our house now?
You’re a welcome and respected guest, but to this point
you haven’t come by very much. Do step inside. 480
Let me show you our hospitality.”

With these words, the goddess led her inside the house.
She asked Thetis to sit in a silver-studded chair,
beautifully finished, with a footstool under it. [390]
Then she called the famous artisan Hephaestus:

“Come here, Hephaestus. Thetis needs to see you.”

The celebrated lame god then replied to Charis:

“Here’s a fearful honoured goddess in my home,
the one who saved me when I was in pain,
after my great fall, thanks to my mother, 490
that shameless one, eager to conceal me,
because I was a cripple. At that time,
I would have suffered heartfelt agonies,
if Thetis and Eurynome, daughter
of circling Ocean stream, had not taken me
into their hearts. With those two, for nine years [400]
I made many lovely things—brooches,
spiral bracelets, earrings, necklaces—
inside their hollow cave. The Ocean stream
flowed round me, always with the roar of surf. 500
No one else knew, neither god nor mortal man.
But Thetis and Eurynome—the ones
who rescued me—they knew.* And now Thetis
has come into my home. So I must give her
full recompense—fair-haired Thetis saved my life.
But Charis, show her now our hospitality.
I’ll put away my bellows and my tools.”

Huge god Hephaestus got up from the anvil block [410]
with laboured breathing. He was lame, but his thin legs 510
moved quickly under him. He placed his bellows
far from the fire and collected all his work tools,
then stored them in a silver chest. With a sponge,
he wiped his face, both hands, thick neck, and hairy chest.
Then he pulled on a tunic and came limping out,
gripping a sturdy staff. At once he was helped along
by female servants made of gold, who moved to him.
They look like living servant girls, possessing minds,
hearts with intelligence, vocal chords, and strength.
They learned to work from the immortal gods. 520 [420]
These women served to give their master detailed help.
Hephaestus came limping up to Thetis and sat down
in a shining chair. Then, clasping her hand, he spoke:

“Long-robed Thetis, why have you come here,
to our house, an honoured welcome guest?
To this point, you haven’t come here often.
But say what’s on your mind. My heart tells me
I shall do it, if I can accomplish it,
if it’s something that can be carried out.”

Thetis answered him in tears:

“Oh, Hephaestus, 530
is there any goddess on Olympus
who’s suffered so much painful sorrow [430]
in her heart to equal the unhappiness
that Zeus, son of Cronos, loads on me
more than any other god? Of all goddesses
living in the sea, he made me subject
to a mortal man, Peleus, son of Aeacus.
So I had to put up with a man in bed,
though much against my will. Now he lies there,
in his home, worn out by harsh old age. 540
And I have still more pain. He gave me a son
to bear and raise as an outstanding warrior.
The boy grew up as quickly as a sapling.
Then, when I had reared him like a tree
in a fertile garden, I sent him off
in the beaked ships to fight at Ilion
against the Trojans. I’ll never welcome him [440]
returning home to the house of Peleus.
And while he still lives to glimpse the sunlight,
he lives in sorrow. When I visit him, 550
I cannot help him. Achaea’s sons chose for him
as his prize a girl, whom great Agamemnon
seized right out of his arms. In grief for her,
his heart has pined away. Then the Trojans
penned Achaeans in by their ships’ sterns,
not letting them come out. The senior men
among the Argives pleaded with my son.
They promised splendid gifts. But he refused, [450]
declining to protect them from disaster.
But then he sent Patroclus to the war, 560
dressing him in his own armour, providing
a force of many men. They fought all day
around the Scaean Gates, and that very day
would have utterly destroyed the city,
if Apollo had not killed Menoetius’ son,
after he’d inflicted bloody carnage.
He killed him at the front, giving Hector
all the glory. That’s why I’ve come here now,
asking at your knees if you’d be willing
to give my son, who is fated to die soon, 570
a shield, helmet, good leg armour fitted
with ankle clasps, and body armour, too.
His previous equipment was all taken [460]
when Trojans killed his loyal companion.
Now my son lies in the dust, heart filled with pain.”

The famous crippled god then answered Thetis:

“Cheer up. Don’t let these things afflict your heart.
I wish I could hide him from distressful death,
when his cruel fate arrives, as surely
as I know there’ll be fine armour for him— 580
such splendid armour that it will astound
all the many men who chance to see it.”

With these words, Hephaestus left her there, going to start
his bellows. He directed them right at the fire,
then told them to start working. So the bellows,
twenty in all, started blowing on the crucibles, [470]
each one emitting just the right amount of air,
sometimes blowing hard to help when he was busy,
sometimes gently, whatever way Hephaestus wished,
so his work could go ahead. He threw on the fire 590
enduring bronze and tin, precious gold and silver.
Next, he placed the great anvil on its block, took up
a massive hammer in one hand and in the other his tongs.

The first thing he created was a huge and sturdy shield,
all wonderfully crafted. Around its outer edge,
he fixed a triple rim, glittering in the light, [480]
attaching to it a silver carrying strap.
The shield had five layers. On the outer one,
with his great skill he fashioned many rich designs.
There he hammered out the earth, the heavens, the sea, 600
the untiring sun, the moon at the full, along with
every constellation which crowns the heavens—
the Pleiades, the Hyades, mighty Orion,
and the Bear, which some people call the Wain,
always circling in the same position, watching Orion,
the only stars that never bathe in Ocean stream.*

Then he created two splendid cities of mortal men. [490]
In one, there were feasts and weddings. By the light
of blazing torches, people were leading the brides
out from their homes and through the town to loud music 610
of the bridal song. There were young lads dancing,
whirling to the constant tunes of flutes and lyres,
while all the women stood beside their doors, staring
in admiration.

Then the people gathered
in the assembly, for a dispute had taken place.
Two men were arguing about blood-money owed
for a murdered man. One claimed he’d paid in full,
setting out his case before the people, but the other [500]
was refusing any compensation. Both were keen
to receive the judgment from an arbitration. 620
The crowd there cheered them on, some supporting one,
some the other, while heralds kept the throng controlled.
Meanwhile, elders were sitting there on polished stones
in the sacred circle, holding in their hands
the staffs they’d taken from the clear-voiced heralds.
With those they’d stand up there and render judgment,
each in his turn. In the centre lay two golden talents,
to be awarded to the one among them all
who would deliver the most righteous verdict.

The second city was surrounded by two armies, 630
soldiers with glittering weapons. They were discussing [510]
two alternatives, each one pleasing some of them—
whether to attack that city and plunder it,
or to accept as payment half of all the goods
contained in that fair town. But those under siege
who disagreed were arming for a secret ambush.
Their dear wives and children stood up on the walls
as a defence, along with those too old to fight.
The rest were leaving, led on by Pallas Athena
and Ares, both made of gold, dressed in golden clothes, 640
large, beautiful, and armed—as is suitable for gods.
They stood out above the smaller people with them.
When the soldiers reached a spot which seemed all right
for ambush, a place beside a river where the cattle [520]
came to drink, they stopped there, covered in shining bronze.
Two scouts were stationed some distance from that army,
waiting to catch sight of sheep and short-horned cattle.
These soon appeared, followed by two herdsmen
playing their flutes and not anticipating any danger.
But those lying in ambush saw them and rushed out, 650
quickly cutting off the herds of cattle and fine flocks
of white-fleeced sheep, killing the herdsmen with them.
When the besiegers sitting in their meeting place [530]
heard the great commotion coming from the cattle,
they quickly climbed up behind their prancing horses
and set out. They soon caught up with those attackers.
Then they organized themselves for battle and fought
along the river banks, men hitting one another
with bronze-tipped spears. Strife and Confusion joined the fight,
along with cruel Death, who seized one wounded man 660
while still alive and then another man without a wound,
while pulling the feet of one more corpse from the fight.
The clothes Death wore around her shoulders were dyed red
with human blood. They even joined the slaughter
as living mortals, fighting there and hauling off
the bodies of dead men which each of them had killed. [540]

On that shield Hephaestus next set a soft and fallow field,
fertile spacious farmland, which had been ploughed three times.
Many labourers were wheeling ploughs across it,
moving back and forth. As they reached the field’s edge, 670
they turned, and a man came up to offer them
a cup of wine as sweet as honey. Then they’d turn back,
down the furrow, eager to move through that deep soil
and reach the field’s edge once again. The land behind them
was black, looking as though it had just been ploughed,
though it was made of gold—an amazing piece of work!

Then he pictured on the shield a king’s landed estate, [550]
where harvesters were reaping corn, using sharp sickles.
Armfuls of corn were falling on the ground in rows,
one after the other. Binders were tying them up 680
in sheaves with twisted straw. Three binders stood there.
Behind the reapers, boys were gathering the crop,
bringing it to sheaf-binders, keeping them busy
Among them stood the king, a sceptre in his hand,
there by the stubble, saying nothing, but with pleasure
in his heart. Some distance off, under an oak tree,
heralds were setting up a feast, dressing a huge ox
which they’d just killed. Women were sprinkling white barley
on the meat in large amounts for the workers’ meal. [560]

Next, Hephaestus placed on that shield a vineyard, 690
full of grapes made of splendid gold. The grapes were black,
the poles supporting vines throughout were silver.
Around it, he made a ditch of blue enamel,
around that, a fence of tin. A single path led in,
where the grape pickers came and went at harvest time.
Young girls and carefree lads with wicker baskets
were carrying off a crop as sweet as honey.
In the middle of them all, a boy with a clear-toned lyre
played pleasant music, singing the Song of Linos, [570]
in his delicate fine voice. His comrades kept time, 700
beating the ground behind him, singing and dancing.*

Then he set on the shield a herd of straight-horned cattle,
with cows crafted out of gold and tin. They were lowing
as they hurried out from farm to pasture land,
beside a rippling river lined with waving reeds.
The herdsmen walking by the cattle, four of them,
were also made of gold. Nine swift-footed dogs
ran on behind. But there, at the front of the herd,
two fearful lions had seized a bellowing bull. [580]
They were dragging him off, as he roared aloud. 710
The dogs and young men were chasing after them.
The lions, after ripping open the great ox’s hide,
were gorging on its entrails, on its black blood,
as herdsmen kept trying in vain to chase them off,
setting their swift dogs on them. But, fearing the lions,
the dogs kept turning back before they nipped them,
and stood there barking, close by but out of reach.

Then the famous crippled god created there a pasture
in a lovely valley bottom, an open ground
for white-fleeced sheep, sheep folds, roofed huts, and pens. 720

Next on that shield, the celebrated lame god made [590]
an elaborately crafted dancing floor, like the one
Daedalus created long ago in spacious Cnossus,
for Ariadne with the lovely hair.* On that floor,
young men and women whose bride price would require
many cattle were dancing, holding onto one another
by the wrists. The girls wore fine linen dresses,
the men lightly rubbed with oil wore woven tunics.
On their heads the girls had lovely flower garlands.
The men were carrying gold daggers on silver straps. 730
They turned with such a graceful ease on skilful feet,
just as a potter sits with a wheel between his hands, [600]
testing it, to make sure that it runs smoothly.
Then they would line up and run towards each other.
A large crowd stood around, enjoying the dancing magic,
as in the middle two acrobats led on the dance,
springing, and whirling, and tumbling.

On that shield, Hephaestus then depicted Ocean,
the mighty river, flowing all around the outer edge.

When he’d created that great and sturdy shield, 740
he fashioned body armour brighter than blazing fire, [610]
a heavy helmet shaped to fit Achilles’ temples,
beautiful and finely worked, with a gold crest on top.
Then he made him leg guards of finely hammered tin.

When the famous lame god had made all the armour,
he took it and set it there before Achilles’ mother.
Then, like a hawk, she sped down from Olympus,
carrying the gleaming armour of Hephaestus.

 

Notes
*In some Greek myths, Hephaestus, child of Hera and Zeus, was born deformed in his legs. As a result Hera threw him away from Mount Olympus. He landed in the Ocean where Thetis and Eurynome, sea goddesses, raised him.

*The phrase about not bathing in Ocean’s stream refers to the fact that at the latitude of Greece, these stars do not disappear below the horizon.

*The Song of Linos is a traditional harvest song.

*Daedalus was a legendary craftsman of surpassing skill. He created the famous Labyrinth in Crete and, according to this comment, a dancing ground for Ariadne, a princess of Crete.

 
 
 
 

 
 

The Trojan War - HEROES

   

Paris and Helen

Agamemnon
Achilles
Iphigenia
Peleus and Thetis
Chiron
Hector and Andromache

   

Odysseus
Penelope
Cyclops

 


The Odyssey of Homer
illustrations by John Flaxman

 
 
 
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