The Iliad – Book 16 – 20


THUS did they fight about the ship of Protesilaus. Then Patroclus
drew near to Achilles with tears welling from his eyes, as from some
spring whose crystal stream falls over the ledges of a high precipice.
When Achilles saw him thus weeping he was sorry for him and said,
“Why, Patroclus, do you stand there weeping like some silly child that
comes running to her mother, and begs to be taken up and carried-
she catches hold of her mother’s dress to stay her though she is in
a hurry, and looks tearfully up until her mother carries her- even
such tears, Patroclus, are you now shedding. Have you anything to
say to the Myrmidons or to myself? or have you had news from Phthia
which you alone know? They tell me Menoetius son of Actor is still
alive, as also Peleus son of Aeacus, among the Myrmidons- men whose
loss we two should bitterly deplore; or are you grieving about the
Argives and the way in which they are being killed at the ships, throu
their own high-handed doings? Do not hide anything from me but tell me
that both of us may know about it.”
Then, O knight Patroclus, with a deep sigh you answered,
“Achilles, son of Peleus, foremost champion of the Achaeans, do not be
angry, but I weep for the disaster that has now befallen the
Argives. All those who have been their champions so far are lying at
the ships, wounded by sword or spear. Brave Diomed son of Tydeus has
been hit with a spear, while famed Ulysses and Agamemnon have received
sword-wounds; Eurypylus again has been struck with an arrow in the
thigh; skilled apothecaries are attending to these heroes, and healing
them of their wounds; are you still, O Achilles, so inexorable? May it
never be my lot to nurse such a passion as you have done, to the
baning of your own good name. Who in future story will speak well of
you unless you now save the Argives from ruin? You know no pity;
knight Peleus was not your father nor Thetis your mother, but the grey
sea bore you and the sheer cliffs begot you, so cruel and
remorseless are you. If however you are kept back through knowledge of
some oracle, or if your mother Thetis has told you something from
the mouth of Jove, at least send me and the Myrmidons with me, if I
may bring deliverance to the Danaans. Let me moreover wear your
armour; the Trojans may thus mistake me for you and quit the field, so
that the hard-pressed sons of the Achaeans may have breathing time-
which while they are fighting may hardly be. We who are fresh might
soon drive tired men back from our ships and tents to their own city.”
He knew not what he was asking, nor that he was suing for his own
destruction. Achilles was deeply moved and answered, “What, noble
Patroclus, are you saying? I know no prophesyings which I am
heeding, nor has my mother told me anything from the mouth of Jove,
but I am cut to the very heart that one of my own rank should dare
to rob me because he is more powerful than I am. This, after all
that I have gone through, is more than I can endure. The girl whom the
sons of the Achaeans chose for me, whom I won as the fruit of my spear
on having sacked a city- her has King Agamemnon taken from me as
though I were some common vagrant. Still, let bygones be bygones: no
man may keep his anger for ever; I said I would not relent till battle
and the cry of war had reached my own ships; nevertheless, now gird my
armour about your shoulders, and lead the Myrmidons to battle, for the
dark cloud of Trojans has burst furiously over our fleet; the
Argives are driven back on to the beach, cooped within a narrow space,
and the whole people of Troy has taken heart to sally out against
them, because they see not the visor of my helmet gleaming near
them. Had they seen this, there would not have been a creek nor grip
that had not been filled with their dead as they fled back again.
And so it would have been, if only King Agamemnon had dealt fairly
by me. As it is the Trojans have beset our host. Diomed son of
Tydeus no longer wields his spear to defend the Danaans, neither
have I heard the voice of the son of Atreus coming from his hated
head, whereas that of murderous Hector rings in my cars as he gives
orders to the Trojans, who triumph over the Achaeans and fill the
whole plain with their cry of battle. But even so, Patroclus, fall
upon them and save the fleet, lest the Trojans fire it and prevent
us from being able to return. Do, however, as I now bid you, that
you may win me great honour from all the Danaans, and that they may
restore the girl to me again and give me rich gifts into the
bargain. When you have driven the Trojans from the ships, come back
again. Though Juno’s thundering husband should put triumph within your
reach, do not fight the Trojans further in my absence, or you will rob
me of glory that should be mine. And do not for lust of battle go on
killing the Trojans nor lead the Achaeans on to Ilius, lest one of the
ever-living gods from Olympus attack you- for Phoebus Apollo loves
them well: return when you have freed the ships from peril, and let
others wage war upon the plain. Would, by father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo, that not a single man of all the Trojans might be left
alive, nor yet of the Argives, but that we two might be alone left
to tear aside the mantle that veils the brow of Troy.”
Thus did they converse. But Ajax could no longer hold his ground for
the shower of darts that rained upon him; the will of Jove and the
javelins of the Trojans were too much for him; the helmet that gleamed
about his temples rang with the continuous clatter of the missiles
that kept pouring on to it and on to the cheek-pieces that protected
his face. Moreover his left shoulder was tired with having held his
shield so long, yet for all this, let fly at him as they would, they
could not make him give ground. He could hardly draw his breath, the
sweat rained from every pore of his body, he had not a moment’s
respite, and on all sides he was beset by danger upon danger.
And now, tell me, O Muses that hold your mansions on Olympus, how
fire was thrown upon the ships of the Achaeans. Hector came close up
and let drive with his great sword at the ashen spear of Ajax. He
cut it clean in two just behind where the point was fastened on to the
shaft of the spear. Ajax, therefore, had now nothing but a headless
spear, while the bronze point flew some way off and came ringing
down on to the ground. Ajax knew the hand of heaven in this, and was
dismayed at seeing that Jove had now left him utterly defenceless
and was willing victory for the Trojans. Therefore he drew back, and
the Trojans flung fire upon the ship which was at once wrapped in
The fire was now flaring about the ship’s stern, whereon Achilles
smote his two thighs and said to Patroclus, “Up, noble knight, for I
see the glare of hostile fire at our fleet; up, lest they destroy
our ships, and there be no way by which we may retreat. Gird on your
armour at once while I call our people together.”
As he spoke Patroclus put on his armour. First he greaved his legs
with greaves of good make, and fitted with ancle-clasps of silver;
after this he donned the cuirass of the son of Aeacus, richly inlaid
and studded. He hung his silver-studded sword of bronze about his
shoulders, and then his mighty shield. On his comely head he set his
helmet, well wrought, with a crest of horse-hair that nodded
menacingly above it. He grasped two redoubtable spears that suited his
hands, but he did not take the spear of noble Achilles, so stout and
strong, for none other of the Achaeans could wield it, though Achilles
could do so easily. This was the ashen spear from Mount Pelion,
which Chiron had cut upon a mountain top and had given to Peleus,
wherewith to deal out death among heroes. He bade Automedon yoke his
horses with all speed, for he was the man whom he held in honour
next after Achilles, and on whose support in battle he could rely most
firmly. Automedon therefore yoked the fleet horses Xanthus and Balius,
steeds that could fly like the wind: these were they whom the harpy
Podarge bore to the west wind, as she was grazing in a meadow by the
waters of the river Oceanus. In the side traces he set the noble horse
Pedasus, whom Achilles had brought away with him when he sacked the
city of Eetion, and who, mortal steed though he was, could take his
place along with those that were immortal.
Meanwhile Achilles went about everywhere among the tents, and bade
his Myrmidons put on their armour. Even as fierce ravening wolves that
are feasting upon a homed stag which they have killed upon the
mountains, and their jaws are red with blood- they go in a pack to lap
water from the clear spring with their long thin tongues; and they
reek of blood and slaughter; they know not what fear is, for it is
hunger drives them- even so did the leaders and counsellors of the
Myrmidons gather round the good squire of the fleet descendant of
Aeacus, and among them stood Achilles himself cheering on both men and
Fifty ships had noble Achilles brought to Troy, and in each there
was a crew of fifty oarsmen. Over these he set five captains whom he
could trust, while he was himself commander over them all.
Menesthius of the gleaming corslet, son to the river Spercheius that
streams from heaven, was captain of the first company. Fair Polydora
daughter of Peleus bore him to ever-flowing Spercheius- a woman
mated with a god- but he was called son of Borus son of Perieres, with
whom his mother was living as his wedded wife, and who gave great
wealth to gain her. The second company was led by noble Eudorus, son
to an unwedded woman. Polymele, daughter of Phylas the graceful
dancer, bore him; the mighty slayer of Argos was enamoured of her as
he saw her among the singing women at a dance held in honour of
Diana the rushing huntress of the golden arrows; he therefore-
Mercury, giver of all good- went with her into an upper chamber, and
lay with her in secret, whereon she bore him a noble son Eudorus,
singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. When Ilithuia goddess
of the pains of child-birth brought him to the light of day, and he
saw the face of the sun, mighty Echecles son of Actor took the
mother to wife, and gave great wealth to gain her, but her father
Phylas brought the child up, and took care of him, doting as fondly
upon him as though he were his own son. The third company was led by
Pisander son of Maemalus, the finest spearman among all the
Myrmidons next to Achilles’ own comrade Patroclus. The old knight
Phoenix was captain of the fourth company, and Alcimedon, noble son of
Laerceus of the fifth.
When Achilles had chosen his men and had stationed them all with
their captains, he charged them straitly saying, “Myrmidons,
remember your threats against the Trojans while you were at the
ships in the time of my anger, and you were all complaining of me.
‘Cruel son of Peleus,’ you would say, ‘your mother must have suckled
you on gall, so ruthless are you. You keep us here at the ships
against our will; if you are so relentless it were better we went home
over the sea.’ Often have you gathered and thus chided with me. The
hour is now come for those high feats of arms that you have so long
been pining for, therefore keep high hearts each one of you to do
battle with the Trojans.”
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
serried their companies yet more closely when they heard the of
their king. As the stones which a builder sets in the wall of some
high house which is to give shelter from the winds- even so closely
were the helmets and bossed shields set against one another. Shield
pressed on shield, helm on helm, and man on man; so close were they
that the horse-hair plumes on the gleaming ridges of their helmets
touched each other as they bent their heads.
In front of them all two men put on their armour- Patroclus and
Automedon- two men, with but one mind to lead the Myrmidons. Then
Achilles went inside his tent and opened the lid of the strong chest
which silver-footed Thetis had given him to take on board ship, and
which she had filled with shirts, cloaks to keep out the cold, and
good thick rugs. In this chest he had a cup of rare workmanship,
from which no man but himself might drink, nor would he make
offering from it to any other god save only to father Jove. He took
the cup from the chest and cleansed it with sulphur; this done he
rinsed it clean water, and after he had washed his hands he drew wine.
Then he stood in the middle of the court and prayed, looking towards
heaven, and making his drink-offering of wine; nor was he unseen of
Jove whose joy is in thunder. “King Jove,” he cried, “lord of
Dodona, god of the Pelasgi, who dwellest afar, you who hold wintry
Dodona in your sway, where your prophets the Selli dwell around you
with their feet unwashed and their couches made upon the ground- if
you heard me when I prayed to you aforetime, and did me honour while
you sent disaster on the Achaeans, vouchsafe me now the fulfilment
of yet this further prayer. I shall stay here where my ships are
lying, but I shall send my comrade into battle at the head of many
Myrmidons. Grant, O all-seeing Jove, that victory may go with him; put
your courage into his heart that Hector may learn whether my squire is
man enough to fight alone, or whether his might is only then so
indomitable when I myself enter the turmoil of war. Afterwards when he
has chased the fight and the cry of battle from the ships, grant
that he may return unharmed, with his armour and his comrades,
fighters in close combat.”
Thus did he pray, and all-counselling Jove heard his prayer. Part of
it he did indeed vouchsafe him- but not the whole. He granted that
Patroclus should thrust back war and battle from the ships, but
refused to let him come safely out of the fight.
When he had made his drink-offering and had thus prayed, Achilles
went inside his tent and put back the cup into his chest.
Then he again came out, for he still loved to look upon the fierce
fight that raged between the Trojans and Achaeans.
Meanwhile the armed band that was about Patroclus marched on till
they sprang high in hope upon the Trojans. They came swarming out like
wasps whose nests are by the roadside, and whom silly children love to
tease, whereon any one who happens to be passing may get stung- or
again, if a wayfarer going along the road vexes them by accident,
every wasp will come flying out in a fury to defend his little ones-
even with such rage and courage did the Myrmidons swarm from their
ships, and their cry of battle rose heavenwards. Patroclus called
out to his men at the top of his voice, “Myrmidons, followers of
Achilles son of Peleus, be men my friends, fight with might and with
main, that we may win glory for the son of Peleus, who is far the
foremost man at the ships of the Argives- he, and his close fighting
followers. The son of Atreus King Agamemnon will thus learn his
folly in showing no respect to the bravest of the Achaeans.”
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
fell in a body upon the Trojans. The ships rang again with the cry
which the Achaeans raised, and when the Trojans saw the brave son of
Menoetius and his squire all gleaming in their armour, they were
daunted and their battalions were thrown into confusion, for they
thought the fleet son of Peleus must now have put aside his anger, and
have been reconciled to Agamemnon; every one, therefore, looked
round about to see whither he might fly for safety.
Patroclus first aimed a spear into the middle of the press where men
were packed most closely, by the stern of the ship of Protesilaus.
He hit Pyraechmes who had led his Paeonian horsemen from the Amydon
and the broad waters of the river Axius; the spear struck him on the
right shoulder, and with a groan he fell backwards in the dust; on
this his men were thrown into confusion, for by killing their
leader, who was the finest soldier among them, Patroclus struck
panic into them all. He thus drove them from the ship and quenched the
fire that was then blazing- leaving the half-burnt ship to lie where
it was. The Trojans were now driven back with a shout that rent the
skies, while the Danaans poured after them from their ships,
shouting also without ceasing. As when Jove, gatherer of the
thunder-cloud, spreads a dense canopy on the top of some lofty
mountain, and all the peaks, the jutting headlands, and forest
glades show out in the great light that flashes from the bursting
heavens, even so when the Danaans had now driven back the fire from
their ships, they took breath for a little while; but the fury of
the fight was not yet over, for the Trojans were not driven back in
utter rout, but still gave battle, and were ousted from their ground
only by sheer fighting.
The fight then became more scattered, and the chieftains killed
one another when and how they could. The valiant son of Menoetius
first drove his spear into the thigh of Areilycus just as he was
turning round; the point went clean through, and broke the bone so
that he fell forward. Meanwhile Menelaus struck Thoas in the chest,
where it was exposed near the rim of his shield, and he fell dead. The
son of Phyleus saw Amphiclus about to attack him, and ere he could
do so took aim at the upper part of his thigh, where the muscles are
thicker than in any other part; the spear tore through all the
sinews of the leg, and his eyes were closed in darkness. Of the sons
of Nestor one, Antilochus, speared Atymnius, driving the point of
the spear through his throat, and down he fell. Maris then sprang on
Antilochus in hand-to-hand fight to avenge his brother, and bestrode
the body spear in hand; but valiant Thrasymedes was too quick for him,
and in a moment had struck him in the shoulder ere he could deal his
blow; his aim was true, and the spear severed all the muscles at the
root of his arm, and tore them right down to the bone, so he fell
heavily to the ground and his eyes were closed in darkness. Thus did
these two noble comrades of Sarpedon go down to Erebus slain by the
two sons of Nestor; they were the warrior sons of Amisodorus, who
had reared the invincible Chimaera, to the bane of many. Ajax son of
Oileus sprang on Cleobulus and took him alive as he was entangled in
the crush; but he killed him then and there by a sword-blow on the
neck. The sword reeked with his blood, while dark death and the strong
hand of fate gripped him and closed his eyes.
Peneleos and Lycon now met in close fight, for they had missed
each other with their spears. They had both thrown without effect,
so now they drew their swords. Lycon struck the plumed crest of
Peneleos’ helmet but his sword broke at the hilt, while Peneleos smote
Lycon on the neck under the ear. The blade sank so deep that the
head was held on by nothing but the skin, and there was no more life
left in him. Meriones gave chase to Acamas on foot and caught him up
just as he was about to mount his chariot; he drove a spear through
his right shoulder so that he fell headlong from the car, and his eyes
were closed in darkness. Idomeneus speared Erymas in the mouth; the
bronze point of the spear went clean through it beneath the brain,
crashing in among the white bones and smashing them up. His teeth were
all of them knocked out and the blood came gushing in a stream from
both his eyes; it also came gurgling up from his mouth and nostrils,
and the darkness of death enfolded him round about.
Thus did these chieftains of the Danaans each of them kill his
man. As ravening wolves seize on kids or lambs, fastening on them when
they are alone on the hillsides and have strayed from the main flock
through the carelessness of the shepherd- and when the wolves see this
they pounce upon them at once because they cannot defend themselves-
even so did the Danaans now fall on the Trojans, who fled with
ill-omened cries in their panic and had no more fight left in them.
Meanwhile great Ajax kept on trying to drive a spear into Hector,
but Hector was so skilful that he held his broad shoulders well
under cover of his ox-hide shield, ever on the look-out for the
whizzing of the arrows and the heavy thud of the spears. He well
knew that the fortunes of the day had changed, but still stood his
ground and tried to protect his comrades.
As when a cloud goes up into heaven from Olympus, rising out of a
clear sky when Jove is brewing a gale- even with such panic stricken
rout did the Trojans now fly, and there was no order in their going.
Hector’s fleet horses bore him and his armour out of the fight, and he
left the Trojan host penned in by the deep trench against their
will. Many a yoke of horses snapped the pole of their chariots in
the trench and left their master’s car behind them. Patroclus gave
chase, calling impetuously on the Danaans and full of fury against the
Trojans, who, being now no longer in a body, filled all the ways
with their cries of panic and rout; the air was darkened with the
clouds of dust they raised, and the horses strained every nerve in
their flight from the tents and ships towards the city.
Patroclus kept on heading his horses wherever he saw most men flying
in confusion, cheering on his men the while. Chariots were being
smashed in all directions, and many a man came tumbling down from
his own car to fall beneath the wheels of that of Patroclus, whose
immortal steeds, given by the gods to Peleus, sprang over the trench
at a bound as they sped onward. He was intent on trying to get near
Hector, for he had set his heart on spearing him, but Hector’s
horses were now hurrying him away. As the whole dark earth bows before
some tempest on an autumn day when Jove rains his hardest to punish
men for giving crooked judgement in their courts, and arriving justice
therefrom without heed to the decrees of heaven- all the rivers run
full and the torrents tear many a new channel as they roar headlong
from the mountains to the dark sea, and it fares ill with the works of
men- even such was the stress and strain of the Trojan horses in their
Patroclus now cut off the battalions that were nearest to him and
drove them back to the ships. They were doing their best to reach
the city, but he would not Yet them, and bore down on them between the
river and the ships and wall. Many a fallen comrade did he then
avenge. First he hit Pronous with a spear on the chest where it was
exposed near the rim of his shield, and he fell heavily to the ground.
Next he sprang on Thestor son of Enops, who was sitting all huddled up
in his chariot, for he had lost his head and the reins had been torn
out of his hands. Patroclus went up to him and drove a spear into
his right jaw; he thus hooked him by the teeth and the spear pulled
him over the rim of his car, as one who sits at the end of some
jutting rock and draws a strong fish out of the sea with a hook and
a line- even so with his spear did he pull Thestor all gaping from his
chariot; he then threw him down on his face and he died while falling.
On this, as Erylaus was on to attack him, he struck him full on the
head with a stone, and his brains were all battered inside his helmet,
whereon he fell headlong to the ground and the pangs of death took
hold upon him. Then he laid low, one after the other, Erymas,
Amphoterus, Epaltes, Tlepolemus, Echius son of Damastor, Pyris,
lpheus, Euippus and Polymelus son of Argeas.
Now when Sarpedon saw his comrades, men who wore ungirdled tunics,
being overcome by Patroclus son of Menoetius, he rebuked the Lycians
saying. “Shame on you, where are you flying to? Show your mettle; I
will myself meet this man in fight and learn who it is that is so
masterful; he has done us much hurt, and has stretched many a brave
man upon the ground.”
He sprang from his chariot as he spoke, and Patroclus, when he saw
this, leaped on to the ground also. The two then rushed at one another
with loud cries like eagle-beaked crook-taloned vultures that scream
and tear at one another in some high mountain fastness.
The son of scheming Saturn looked down upon them in pity and said to
Juno who was his wife and sister, “Alas, that it should be the lot
of Sarpedon whom I love so dearly to perish by the hand of
Patroclus. I am in two minds whether to catch him up out of the
fight and set him down safe and sound in the fertile land of Lycia, or
to let him now fall by the hand of the son of Menoetius.”
And Juno answered, “Most dread son of Saturn, what is this that
you are saying? Would you snatch a mortal man, whose doom has long
been fated, out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we shall not
all of us be of your mind. I say further, and lay my saying to your
heart, that if you send Sarpedon safely to his own home, some other of
the gods will be also wanting to escort his son out of battle, for
there are many sons of gods fighting round the city of Troy, and you
will make every one jealous. If, however, you are fond of him and pity
him, let him indeed fall by the hand of Patroclus, but as soon as
the life is gone out of him, send Death and sweet Sleep to bear him
off the field and take him to the broad lands of Lycia, where his
brothers and his kinsmen will bury him with mound and pillar, in due
honour to the dead.”
The sire of gods and men assented, but he shed a rain of blood
upon the earth in honour of his son whom Patroclus was about to kill
on the rich plain of Troy far from his home.
When they were now come close to one another Patroclus struck
Thrasydemus, the brave squire of Sarpedon, in the lower part of the
belly, and killed him. Sarpedon then aimed a spear at Patroclus and
missed him, but he struck the horse Pedasus in the right shoulder, and
it screamed aloud as it lay, groaning in the dust until the life
went out of it. The other two horses began to plunge; the pole of
the chariot cracked and they got entangled in the reins through the
fall of the horse that was yoked along with them; but Automedon knew
what to do; without the loss of a moment he drew the keen blade that
hung by his sturdy thigh and cut the third horse adrift; whereon the
other two righted themselves, and pulling hard at the reins again went
together into battle.
Sarpedon now took a second aim at Patroclus, and again missed him,
the point of the spear passed over his left shoulder without hitting
him. Patroclus then aimed in his turn, and the spear sped not from his
hand in vain, for he hit Sarpedon just where the midriff surrounds the
ever-beating heart. He fell like some oak or silver poplar or tall
pine to which woodmen have laid their axes upon the mountains to
make timber for ship-building- even so did he lie stretched at full
length in front of his chariot and horses, moaning and clutching at
the blood-stained dust. As when a lion springs with a bound upon a
herd of cattle and fastens on a great black bull which dies
bellowing in its clutches- even so did the leader of the Lycian
warriors struggle in death as he fell by the hand of Patroclus. He
called on his trusty comrade and said, “Glaucus, my brother, hero
among heroes, put forth all your strength, fight with might and
main, now if ever quit yourself like a valiant soldier. First go about
among the Lycian captains and bid them fight for Sarpedon; then
yourself also do battle to save my armour from being taken. My name
will haunt you henceforth and for ever if the Achaeans rob me of my
armour now that I have fallen at their ships. Do your very utmost
and call all my people together.”
Death closed his eyes as he spoke. Patroclus planted his heel on his
breast and drew the spear from his body, whereon his senses came out
along with it, and he drew out both spear-point and Sarpedon’s soul at
the same time. Hard by the Myrmidons held his snorting steeds, who
were wild with panic at finding themselves deserted by their lords.
Glaucus was overcome with grief when he heard what Sarpedon said,
for he could not help him. He had to support his arm with his other
hand, being in great pain through the wound which Teucer’s arrow had
given him when Teucer was defending the wall as he, Glaucus, was
assailing it. Therefore he prayed to far-darting Apollo saying,
“Hear me O king from your seat, may be in the rich land of Lycia, or
may be in Troy, for in all places you can hear the prayer of one who
is in distress, as I now am. I have a grievous wound; my hand is
aching with pain, there is no staunching the blood, and my whole arm
drags by reason of my hurt, so that I cannot grasp my sword nor go
among my foes and fight them, thou our prince, Jove’s son Sarpedon, is
slain. Jove defended not his son, do you, therefore, O king, heal me
of my wound, ease my pain and grant me strength both to cheer on the
Lycians and to fight along with them round the body of him who has
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He eased his pain,
staunched the black blood from the wound, and gave him new strength.
Glaucus perceived this, and was thankful that the mighty god had
answered his prayer; forthwith, therefore, he went among the Lycian
captains, and bade them come to fight about the body of Sarpedon. From
these he strode on among the Trojans to Polydamas son of Panthous
and Agenor; he then went in search of Aeneas and Hector, and when he
had found them he said, “Hector, you have utterly forgotten your
allies, who languish here for your sake far from friends and home
while you do nothing to support them. Sarpedon leader of the Lycian
warriors has fallen- he who was at once the right and might of
Lycia; Mars has laid him low by the spear of Patroclus. Stand by
him, my friends, and suffer not the Myrmidons to strip him of his
armour, nor to treat his body with contumely in revenge for all the
Danaans whom we have speared at the ships.”
As he spoke the Trojans were plunged in extreme and ungovernable
grief; for Sarpedon, alien though he was, had been one of the main
stays of their city, both as having much people with him, and
himself the foremost among them all. Led by Hector, who was infuriated
by the fall of Sarpedon, they made instantly for the Danaans with
all their might, while the undaunted spirit of Patroclus son of
Menoetius cheered on the Achaeans. First he spoke to the two Ajaxes,
men who needed no bidding. “Ajaxes,” said he, “may it now please you
to show youselves the men you have always been, or even better-
Sarpedon is fallen- he who was first to overleap the wall of the
Achaeans; let us take the body and outrage it; let us strip the armour
from his shoulders, and kill his comrades if they try to rescue his
He spoke to men who of themselves were full eager; both sides,
therefore, the Trojans and Lycians on the one hand, and the
Myrmidons and Achaeans on the other, strengthened their battalions,
and fought desperately about the body of Sarpedon, shouting fiercely
the while. Mighty was the din of their armour as they came together,
and Jove shed a thick darkness over the fight, to increase the of
the battle over the body of his son.
At first the Trojans made some headway against the Achaeans, for one
of the best men among the Myrmidons was killed, Epeigeus, son of noble
Agacles who had erewhile been king in the good city of Budeum; but
presently, having killed a valiant kinsman of his own, he took
refuge with Peleus and Thetis, who sent him to Ilius the land of noble
steeds to fight the Trojans under Achilles. Hector now struck him on
the head with a stone just as he had caught hold of the body, and
his brains inside his helmet were all battered in, so that he fell
face foremost upon the body of Sarpedon, and there died. Patroclus was
enraged by the death of his comrade, and sped through the front
ranks as swiftly as a hawk that swoops down on a flock of daws or
starlings. Even so swiftly, O noble knight Patroclus, did you make
straight for the Lycians and Trojans to avenge your comrade. Forthwith
he struck Sthenelaus the son of Ithaemenes on the neck with a stone,
and broke the tendons that join it to the head and spine. On this
Hector and the front rank of his men gave ground. As far as a man
can throw a javelin when competing for some prize, or even in
battle- so far did the Trojans now retreat before the Achaeans.
Glaucus, captain of the Lycians, was the first to rally them, by
killing Bathycles son of Chalcon who lived in Hellas and was the
richest man among the Myrmidons. Glaucus turned round suddenly, just
as Bathycles who was pursuing him was about to lay hold of him, and
drove his spear right into the middle of his chest, whereon he fell
heavily to the ground, and the fall of so good a man filled the
Achaeans with dismay, while the Trojans were exultant, and came up
in a body round the corpse. Nevertheless the Achaeans, mindful of
their prowess, bore straight down upon them.
Meriones then killed a helmed warrior of the Trojans, Laogonus son
of Onetor, who was priest of Jove of Mt. Ida, and was honoured by
the people as though he were a god. Meriones struck him under the
jaw and ear, so that life went out of him and the darkness of death
laid hold upon him. Aeneas then aimed a spear at Meriones, hoping to
hit him under the shield as he was advancing, but Meriones saw it
coming and stooped forward to avoid it, whereon the spear flew past
him and the point stuck in the ground, while the butt-end went on
quivering till Mars robbed it of its force. The spear, therefore, sped
from Aeneas’s hand in vain and fell quivering to the ground. Aeneas
was angry and said, “Meriones, you are a good dancer, but if I had hit
you my spear would soon have made an end of you.”
And Meriones answered, “Aeneas, for all your bravery, you will not
be able to make an end of every one who comes against you. You are
only a mortal like myself, and if I were to hit you in the middle of
your shield with my spear, however strong and self-confident you may
be, I should soon vanquish you, and you would yield your life to Hades
of the noble steeds.”
On this the son of Menoetius rebuked him and said, “Meriones, hero
though you be, you should not speak thus; taunting speeches, my good
friend, will not make the Trojans draw away from the dead body; some
of them must go under ground first; blows for battle, and words for
council; fight, therefore, and say nothing.”
He led the way as he spoke and the hero went forward with him. As
the sound of woodcutters in some forest glade upon the mountains-
and the thud of their axes is heard afar- even such a din now rose
from earth-clash of bronze armour and of good ox-hide shields, as
men smote each other with their swords and spears pointed at both
ends. A man had need of good eyesight now to know Sarpedon, so covered
was he from head to foot with spears and blood and dust. Men swarmed
about the body, as flies that buzz round the full milk-pails in spring
when they are brimming with milk- even so did they gather round
Sarpedon; nor did Jove turn his keen eyes away for one moment from the
fight, but kept looking at it all the time, for he was settling how
best to kill Patroclus, and considering whether Hector should be
allowed to end him now in the fight round the body of Sarpedon, and
strip him of his armour, or whether he should let him give yet further
trouble to the Trojans. In the end, he deemed it best that the brave
squire of Achilles son of Peleus should drive Hector and the Trojans
back towards the city and take the lives of many. First, therefore, he
made Hector turn fainthearted, whereon he mounted his chariot and
fled, bidding the other Trojans fly also, for he saw that the scales
of Jove had turned against him. Neither would the brave Lycians
stand firm; they were dismayed when they saw their king lying struck
to the heart amid a heap of corpses- for when the son of Saturn made
the fight wax hot many had fallen above him. The Achaeans, therefore
stripped the gleaming armour from his shoulders and the brave son of
Menoetius gave it to his men to take to the ships. Then Jove lord of
the storm-cloud said to Apollo, “Dear Phoebus, go, I pray you, and
take Sarpedon out of range of the weapons; cleanse the black blood
from off him, and then bear him a long way off where you may wash
him in the river, anoint him with ambrosia, and clothe him in immortal
raiment; this done, commit him to the arms of the two fleet
messengers, Death, and Sleep, who will carry him straightway to the
rich land of Lycia, where his brothers and kinsmen will inter him, and
will raise both mound and pillar to his memory, in due honour to the
Thus he spoke. Apollo obeyed his father’s saying, and came down from
the heights of Ida into the thick of the fight; forthwith he took
Sarpedon out of range of the weapons, and then bore him a long way
off, where he washed him in the river, anointed him with ambrosia
and clothed him in immortal raiment; this done, he committed him to
the arms of the two fleet messengers, Death, and Sleep, who
presently set him down in the rich land of Lycia.
Meanwhile Patroclus, with many a shout to his horses and to
Automedon, pursued the Trojans and Lycians in the pride and
foolishness of his heart. Had he but obeyed the bidding of the son
of Peleus, he would have, escaped death and have been scatheless;
but the counsels of Jove pass man’s understanding; he will put even
a brave man to flight and snatch victory from his grasp, or again he
will set him on to fight, as he now did when he put a high spirit into
the heart of Patroclus.
Who then first, and who last, was slain by you, O Patroclus, when
the gods had now called you to meet your doom? First Adrestus,
Autonous, Echeclus, Perimus the son of Megas, Epistor and
Melanippus; after these he killed Elasus, Mulius, and Pylartes.
These he slew, but the rest saved themselves by flight.
The sons of the Achaeans would now have taken Troy by the hands of
Patroclus, for his spear flew in all directions, had not Phoebus
Apollo taken his stand upon the wall to defeat his purpose and to
aid the Trojans. Thrice did Patroclus charge at an angle of the high
wall, and thrice did Apollo beat him back, striking his shield with
his own immortal hands. When Patroclus was coming on like a god for
yet a fourth time, Apollo shouted to him with an awful voice and said,
“Draw back, noble Patroclus, it is not your lot to sack the city of
the Trojan chieftains, nor yet will it be that of Achilles who is a
far better man than you are.” On hearing this, Patroclus withdrew to
some distance and avoided the anger of Apollo.
Meanwhile Hector was waiting with his horses inside the Scaean
gates, in doubt whether to drive out again and go on fighting, or to
call the army inside the gates. As he was thus doubting Phoebus Apollo
drew near him in the likeness of a young and lusty warrior Asius,
who was Hector’s uncle, being own brother to Hecuba, and son of
Dymas who lived in Phrygia by the waters of the river Sangarius; in
his likeness Jove’s son Apollo now spoke to Hector saying, “Hector,
why have you left off fighting? It is ill done of you. If I were as
much better a man than you, as I am worse, you should soon rue your
slackness. Drive straight towards Patroclus, if so be that Apollo
may grant you a triumph over him, and you may rull him.”
With this the god went back into the hurly-burly, and Hector bade
Cebriones drive again into the fight. Apollo passed in among them, and
struck panic into the Argives, while he gave triumph to Hector and the
Trojans. Hector let the other Danaans alone and killed no man, but
drove straight at Patroclus. Patroclus then sprang from his chariot to
the ground, with a spear in his left hand, and in his right a jagged
stone as large as his hand could hold. He stood still and threw it,
nor did it go far without hitting some one; the cast was not in
vain, for the stone struck Cebriones, Hector’s charioteer, a bastard
son of Priam, as he held the reins in his hands. The stone hit him
on the forehead and drove his brows into his head for the bone was
smashed, and his eyes fell to the ground at his feet. He dropped
dead from his chariot as though he were diving, and there was no
more life left in him. Over him did you then vaunt, O knight
Patroclus, saying, “Bless my heart, how active he is, and how well
he dives. If we had been at sea this fellow would have dived from
the ship’s side and brought up as many oysters as the whole crew could
stomach, even in rough water, for he has dived beautifully off his
chariot on to the ground. It seems, then, that there are divers also
among the Trojans.”
As he spoke he flung himself on Cebriones with the spring, as it
were, of a lion that while attacking a stockyard is himself struck
in the chest, and his courage is his own bane- even so furiously, O
Patroclus, did you then spring upon Cebriones. Hector sprang also from
his chariot to the ground. The pair then fought over the body of
Cebriones. As two lions fight fiercely on some high mountain over
the body of a stag that they have killed, even so did these two mighty
warriors, Patroclus son of Menoetius and brave Hector, hack and hew at
one another over the corpse of Cebriones. Hector would not let him
go when he had once got him by the head, while Patroclus kept fast
hold of his feet, and a fierce fight raged between the other Danaans
and Trojans. As the east and south wind buffet one another when they
beat upon some dense forest on the mountains- there is beech and ash
and spreading cornel; the to of the trees roar as they beat on one
another, and one can hear the boughs cracking and breaking- even so
did the Trojans and Achaeans spring upon one another and lay about
each other, and neither side would give way. Many a pointed spear fell
to ground and many a winged arrow sped from its bow-string about the
body of Cebriones; many a great stone, moreover, beat on many a shield
as they fought around his body, but there he lay in the whirling
clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless of his driving now.
So long as the sun was still high in mid-heaven the weapons of
either side were alike deadly, and the people fell; but when he went
down towards the time when men loose their oxen, the Achaeans proved
to be beyond all forecast stronger, so that they drew Cebriones out of
range of the darts and tumult of the Trojans, and stripped the
armour from his shoulders. Then Patroclus sprang like Mars with fierce
intent and a terrific shout upon the Trojans, and thrice did he kill
nine men; but as he was coming on like a god for a time, then, O
Patroclus, was the hour of your end approaching, for Phoebus fought
you in fell earnest. Patroclus did not see him as he moved about in
the crush, for he was enshrouded in thick darkness, and the god struck
him from behind on his back and his broad shoulders with the flat of
his hand, so that his eyes turned dizzy. Phoebus Apollo beat the
helmet from off his head, and it rolled rattling off under the horses’
feet, where its horse-hair plumes were all begrimed with dust and
blood. Never indeed had that helmet fared so before, for it had served
to protect the head and comely forehead of the godlike hero
Achilles. Now, however, Zeus delivered it over to be worn by Hector.
Nevertheless the end of Hector also was near. The bronze-shod spear,
so great and so strong, was broken in the hand of Patroclus, while his
shield that covered him from head to foot fell to the ground as did
also the band that held it, and Apollo undid the fastenings of his
On this his mind became clouded; his limbs failed him, and he
stood as one dazed; whereon Euphorbus son of Panthous a Dardanian, the
best spearman of his time, as also the finest horseman and fleetest
runner, came behind him and struck him in the back with a spear,
midway between the shoulders. This man as soon as ever he had come
up with his chariot had dismounted twenty men, so proficient was he in
all the arts of war- he it was, O knight Patroclus, that first drove a
weapon into you, but he did not quite overpower you. Euphorbus then
ran back into the crowd, after drawing his ashen spear out of the
wound; he would not stand firm and wait for Patroclus, unarmed
though he now was, to attack him; but Patroclus unnerved, alike by the
blow the god had given him and by the spear-wound, drew back under
cover of his men in fear for his life. Hector on this, seeing him to
be wounded and giving ground, forced his way through the ranks, and
when close up with him struck him in the lower part of the belly
with a spear, driving the bronze point right through it, so that he
fell heavily to the ground to the great of the Achaeans. As when a
lion has fought some fierce wild-boar and worsted him- the two fight
furiously upon the mountains over some little fountain at which they
would both drink, and the lion has beaten the boar till he can
hardly breathe- even so did Hector son of Priam take the life of the
brave son of Menoetius who had killed so many, striking him from close
at hand, and vaunting over him the while. “Patroclus,” said he, “you
deemed that you should sack our city, rob our Trojan women of their
freedom, and carry them off in your ships to your own country. Fool;
Hector and his fleet horses were ever straining their utmost to defend
them. I am foremost of all the Trojan warriors to stave the day of
bondage from off them; as for you, vultures shall devour you here.
Poor wretch, Achilles with all his bravery availed you nothing; and
yet I ween when you left him he charged you straitly saying, ‘Come not
back to the ships, knight Patroclus, till you have rent the
bloodstained shirt of murderous Hector about his body. Thus I ween did
he charge you, and your fool’s heart answered him ‘yea’ within you.”
Then, as the life ebbed out of you, you answered, O knight
Patroclus: “Hector, vaunt as you will, for Jove the son of Saturn
and Apollo have vouchsafed you victory; it is they who have vanquished
me so easily, and they who have stripped the armour from my shoulders;
had twenty such men as you attacked me, all of them would have
fallen before my spear. Fate and the son of Leto have overpowered
me, and among mortal men Euphorbus; you are yourself third only in the
killing of me. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart, you too
shall live but for a little season; death and the day of your doom are
close upon you, and they will lay you low by the hand of Achilles
son of Aeacus.”
When he had thus spoken his eyes were closed in death, his soul left
his body and flitted down to the house of Hades, mourning its sad fate
and bidding farewell to the youth and vigor of its manhood. Dead
though he was, Hector still spoke to him saying, “Patroclus, why
should you thus foretell my doom? Who knows but Achilles, son of
lovely Thetis, may be smitten by my spear and die before me?”
As he spoke he drew the bronze spear from the wound, planting his
foot upon the body, which he thrust off and let lie on its back. He
then went spear in hand after Automedon, squire of the fleet
descendant of Aeacus, for he longed to lay him low, but the immortal
steeds which the gods had given as a rich gift to Peleus bore him
swiftly from the field.


BRAVE Menelaus son of Atreus now came to know that Patroclus had
fallen, and made his way through the front ranks clad in full armour
to bestride him. As a cow stands lowing over her first calf, even so
did yellow-haired Menelaus bestride Patroclus. He held his round
shield and his spear in front of him, resolute to kill any who
should dare face him. But the son of Panthous had also noted the body,
and came up to Menelaus saying, “Menelaus, son of Atreus, draw back,
leave the body, and let the bloodstained spoils be. I was first of the
Trojans and their brave allies to drive my spear into Patroclus, let
me, therefore, have my full glory among the Trojans, or I will take
aim and kill you.”
To this Menelaus answered in great anger “By father Jove, boasting
is an ill thing. The pard is not more bold, nor the lion nor savage
wild-boar, which is fiercest and most dauntless of all creatures, than
are the proud sons of Panthous. Yet Hyperenor did not see out the days
of his youth when he made light of me and withstood me, deeming me the
meanest soldier among the Danaans. His own feet never bore him back to
gladden his wife and parents. Even so shall I make an end of you
too, if you withstand me; get you back into the crowd and do not
face me, or it shall be worse for you. Even a fool may be wise after
the event.”
Euphorbus would not listen, and said, “Now indeed, Menelaus, shall
you pay for the death of my brother over whom you vaunted, and whose
wife you widowed in her bridal chamber, while you brought grief
unspeakable on his parents. I shall comfort these poor people if I
bring your head and armour and place them in the hands of Panthous and
noble Phrontis. The time is come when this matter shall be fought
out and settled, for me or against me.”
As he spoke he struck Menelaus full on the shield, but the spear did
not go through, for the shield turned its point. Menelaus then took
aim, praying to father Jove as he did so; Euphorbus was drawing
back, and Menelaus struck him about the roots of his throat, leaning
his whole weight on the spear, so as to drive it home. The point
went clean through his neck, and his armour rang rattling round him as
he fell heavily to the ground. His hair which was like that of the
Graces, and his locks so deftly bound in bands of silver and gold,
were all bedrabbled with blood. As one who has grown a fine young
olive tree in a clear space where there is abundance of water- the
plant is full of promise, and though the winds beat upon it from every
quarter it puts forth its white blossoms till the blasts of some
fierce hurricane sweep down upon it and level it with the ground- even
so did Menelaus strip the fair youth Euphorbus of his armour after
he had slain him. Or as some fierce lion upon the mountains in the
pride of his strength fastens on the finest heifer in a herd as it
is feeding- first he breaks her neck with his strong jaws, and then
gorges on her blood and entrails; dogs and shepherds raise a hue and
cry against him, but they stand aloof and will not come close to
him, for they are pale with fear- even so no one had the courage to
face valiant Menelaus. The son of Atreus would have then carried off
the armour of the son of Panthous with ease, had not Phoebus Apollo
been angry, and in the guise of Mentes chief of the Cicons incited
Hector to attack him. “Hector,” said he, “you are now going after
the horses of the noble son of Aeacus, but you will not take them;
they cannot be kept in hand and driven by mortal man, save only by
Achilles, who is son to an immortal mother. Meanwhile Menelaus son
of Atreus has bestridden the body of Patroclus and killed the
noblest of the Trojans, Euphorbus son of Panthous, so that he can
fight no more.”
The god then went back into the toil and turmoil, but the soul of
Hector was darkened with a cloud of grief; he looked along the ranks
and saw Euphorbus lying on the ground with the blood still flowing
from his wound, and Menelaus stripping him of his armour. On this he
made his way to the front like a flame of fire, clad in his gleaming
armour, and crying with a loud voice. When the son of Atreus heard
him, he said to himself in his dismay, “Alas! what shall I do? I may
not let the Trojans take the armour of Patroclus who has fallen
fighting on my behalf, lest some Danaan who sees me should cry shame
upon me. Still if for my honour’s sake I fight Hector and the
Trojans single-handed, they will prove too many for me, for Hector
is bringing them up in force. Why, however, should I thus hesitate?
When a man fights in despite of heaven with one whom a god
befriends, he will soon rue it. Let no Danaan think ill of me if I
give place to Hector, for the hand of heaven is with him. Yet, if I
could find Ajax, the two of us would fight Hector and heaven too, if
we might only save the body of Patroclus for Achilles son of Peleus.
This, of many evils would be the least.”
While he was thus in two minds, the Trojans came up to him with
Hector at their head; he therefore drew back and left the body,
turning about like some bearded lion who is being chased by dogs and
men from a stockyard with spears and hue and cry, whereon he is
daunted and slinks sulkily off- even so did Menelaus son of Atreus
turn and leave the body of Patroclus. When among the body of his
men, he looked around for mighty Ajax son of Telamon, and presently
saw him on the extreme left of the fight, cheering on his men and
exhorting them to keep on fighting, for Phoebus Apollo had spread a
great panic among them. He ran up to him and said, “Ajax, my good
friend, come with me at once to dead Patroclus, if so be that we may
take the body to Achilles- as for his armour, Hector already has it.”
These words stirred the heart of Ajax, and he made his way among the
front ranks, Menelaus going with him. Hector had stripped Patroclus of
his armour, and was dragging him away to cut off his head and take the
body to fling before the dogs of Troy. But Ajax came up with his
shield like wall before him, on which Hector withdrew under shelter of
his men, and sprang on to his chariot, giving the armour over to the
Trojans to take to the city, as a great trophy for himself; Ajax,
therefore, covered the body of Patroclus with his broad shield and
bestrode him; as a lion stands over his whelps if hunters have come
upon him in a forest when he is with his little ones- in the pride and
fierceness of his strength he draws his knit brows down till they
cover his eyes- even so did Ajax bestride the body of Patroclus, and
by his side stood Menelaus son of Atreus, nursing great sorrow in
his heart.
Then Glaucus son of Hippolochus looked fiercely at Hector and
rebuked him sternly. “Hector,” said he, “you make a brave show, but in
fight you are sadly wanting. A runaway like yourself has no claim to
so great a reputation. Think how you may now save your town and
citadel by the hands of your own people born in Ilius; for you will
get no Lycians to fight for you, seeing what thanks they have had
for their incessant hardships. Are you likely, sir, to do anything
to help a man of less note, after leaving Sarpedon, who was at once
your guest and comrade in arms, to be the spoil and prey of the
Danaans? So long as he lived he did good service both to your city and
yourself; yet you had no stomach to save his body from the dogs. If
the Lycians will listen to me, they will go home and leave Troy to its
fate. If the Trojans had any of that daring fearless spirit which lays
hold of men who are fighting for their country and harassing those who
would attack it, we should soon bear off Patroclus into Ilius. Could
we get this dead man away and bring him into the city of Priam, the
Argives would readily give up the armour of Sarpedon, and we should
get his body to boot. For he whose squire has been now killed is the
foremost man at the ships of the Achaeans- he and his close-fighting
followers. Nevertheless you dared not make a stand against Ajax, nor
face him, eye to eye, with battle all round you, for he is a braver
man than you are.”
Hector scowled at him and answered, “Glaucus, you should know
better. I have held you so far as a man of more understanding than any
in all Lycia, but now I despise you for saying that I am afraid of
Ajax. I fear neither battle nor the din of chariots, but Jove’s will
is stronger than ours; Jove at one time makes even a strong man draw
back and snatches victory from his grasp, while at another he will set
him on to fight. Come hither then, my friend, stand by me and see
indeed whether I shall play the coward the whole day through as you
say, or whether I shall not stay some even of the boldest Danaans from
fighting round the body of Patroclus.”
As he spoke he called loudly on the Trojans saying, “Trojans,
Lycians, and Dardanians, fighters in close combat, be men, my friends,
and fight might and main, while I put on the goodly armour of
Achilles, which I took when I killed Patroclus.”
With this Hector left the fight, and ran full speed after his men
who were taking the armour of Achilles to Troy, but had not yet got
far. Standing for a while apart from the woeful fight, he changed
his armour. His own he sent to the strong city of Ilius and to the
Trojans, while he put on the immortal armour of the son of Peleus,
which the gods had given to Peleus, who in his age gave it to his son;
but the son did not grow old in his father’s armour.
When Jove, lord of the storm-cloud, saw Hector standing aloof and
arming himself in the armour of the son of Peleus, he wagged his
head and muttered to himself saying, “A! poor wretch, you arm in the
armour of a hero, before whom many another trembles, and you reck
nothing of the doom that is already close upon you. You have killed
his comrade so brave and strong, but it was not well that you should
strip the armour from his head and shoulders. I do indeed endow you
with great might now, but as against this you shall not return from
battle to lay the armour of the son of Peleus before Andromache.”
The son of Saturn bowed his portentous brows, and Hector fitted
the armour to his body, while terrible Mars entered into him, and
filled his whole body with might and valour. With a shout he strode in
among the allies, and his armour flashed about him so that he seemed
to all of them like the great son of Peleus himself. He went about
among them and cheered them on- Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon,
Thersilochus, Asteropaeus, Deisenor and Hippothous, Phorcys,
Chromius and Ennomus the augur. All these did he exhort saying,
“Hear me, allies from other cities who are here in your thousands,
it was not in order to have a crowd about me that I called you
hither each from his several city, but that with heart and soul you
might defend the wives and little ones of the Trojans from the
fierce Achaeans. For this do I oppress my people with your food and
the presents that make you rich. Therefore turn, and charge at the
foe, to stand or fall as is the game of war; whoever shall bring
Patroclus, dead though he be, into the hands of the Trojans, and shall
make Ajax give way before him, I will give him one half of the
spoils while I keep the other. He will thus share like honour with
When he had thus spoken they charged full weight upon the Danaans
with their spears held out before them, and the hopes of each ran high
that he should force Ajax son of Telamon to yield up the body- fools
that they were, for he was about to take the lives of many. Then
Ajax said to Menelaus, “My good friend Menelaus, you and I shall
hardly come out of this fight alive. I am less concerned for the
body of Patroclus, who will shortly become meat for the dogs and
vultures of Troy, than for the safety of my own head and yours. Hector
has wrapped us round in a storm of battle from every quarter, and
our destruction seems now certain. Call then upon the princes of the
Danaans if there is any who can hear us.”
Menelaus did as he said, and shouted to the Danaans for help at
the top of his voice. “My friends,” he cried, “princes and counsellors
of the Argives, all you who with Agamemnon and Menelaus drink at the
public cost, and give orders each to his own people as Jove vouchsafes
him power and glory, the fight is so thick about me that I cannot
distinguish you severally; come on, therefore, every man unbidden, and
think it shame that Patroclus should become meat and morsel for Trojan
Fleet Ajax son of Oileus heard him and was first to force his way
through the fight and run to help him. Next came Idomeneus and
Meriones his esquire, peer of murderous Mars. As for the others that
came into the fight after these, who of his own self could name them?
The Trojans with Hector at their head charged in a body. As a
great wave that comes thundering in at the mouth of some heaven-born
river, and the rocks that jut into the sea ring with the roar of the
breakers that beat and buffet them- even with such a roar did the
Trojans come on; but the Achaeans in singleness of heart stood firm
about the son of Menoetius, and fenced him with their bronze
shields. Jove, moreover, hid the brightness of their helmets in a
thick cloud, for he had borne no grudge against the son of Menoetius
while he was still alive and squire to the descendant of Aeacus;
therefore he was loth to let him fall a prey to the dogs of his foes
the Trojans, and urged his comrades on to defend him.
At first the Trojans drove the Achaeans back, and they withdrew from
the dead man daunted. The Trojans did not succeed in killing any
one, nevertheless they drew the body away. But the Achaeans did not
lose it long, for Ajax, foremost of all the Danaans after the son of
Peleus alike in stature and prowess, quickly rallied them and made
towards the front like a wild boar upon the mountains when he stands
at bay in the forest glades and routs the hounds and lusty youths that
have attacked him- even so did Ajax son of Telamon passing easily in
among the phalanxes of the Trojans, disperse those who had
bestridden Patroclus and were most bent on winning glory by dragging
him off to their city. At this moment Hippothous brave son of the
Pelasgian Lethus, in his zeal for Hector and the Trojans, was dragging
the body off by the foot through the press of the fight, having
bound a strap round the sinews near the ancle; but a mischief soon
befell him from which none of those could save him who would have
gladly done so, for the son of Telamon sprang forward and smote him on
his bronze-cheeked helmet. The plumed headpiece broke about the
point of the weapon, struck at once by the spear and by the strong
hand of Ajax, so that the bloody brain came oozing out through the
crest-socket. His strength then failed him and he let Patroclus’
foot drop from his hand, as he fell full length dead upon the body;
thus he died far from the fertile land of Larissa, and never repaid
his parents the cost of bringing him up, for his life was cut short
early by the spear of mighty Ajax. Hector then took aim at Ajax with a
spear, but he saw it coming and just managed to avoid it; the spear
passed on and struck Schedius son of noble Iphitus, captain of the
Phoceans, who dwelt in famed Panopeus and reigned over much people; it
struck him under the middle of the collar-bone the bronze point went
right through him, coming out at the bottom of his shoulder-blade, and
his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the ground.
Ajax in his turn struck noble Phorcys son of Phaenops in the middle of
the belly as he was bestriding Hippothous, and broke the plate of
his cuirass; whereon the spear tore out his entrails and he clutched
the ground in his palm as he fell to earth. Hector and those who
were in the front rank then gave ground, while the Argives raised a
loud cry of triumph, and drew off the bodies of Phorcys and Hippothous
which they stripped presently of their armour.
The Trojans would now have been worsted by the brave Achaeans and
driven back to Ilius through their own cowardice, while the Argives,
so great was their courage and endurance, would have achieved a
triumph even against the will of Jove, if Apollo had not roused
Aeneas, in the likeness of Periphas son of Epytus, an attendant who
had grown old in the service of Aeneas’ aged father, and was at all
times devoted to him. In his likeness, then, Apollo said, “Aeneas, can
you not manage, even though heaven be against us, to save high
Ilius? I have known men, whose numbers, courage, and self-reliance
have saved their people in spite of Jove, whereas in this case he
would much rather give victory to us than to the Danaans, if you would
only fight instead of being so terribly afraid.”
Aeneas knew Apollo when he looked straight at him, and shouted to
Hector saying, “Hector and all other Trojans and allies, shame on us
if we are beaten by the Achaeans and driven back to Ilius through
our own cowardice. A god has just come up to me and told me that
Jove the supreme disposer will be with us. Therefore let us make for
the Danaans, that it may go hard with them ere they bear away dead
Patroclus to the ships.”
As he spoke he sprang out far in front of the others, who then
rallied and again faced the Achaeans. Aeneas speared Leiocritus son of
Arisbas, a valiant follower of Lycomedes, and Lycomedes was moved with
pity as he saw him fall; he therefore went close up, and speared
Apisaon son of Hippasus shepherd of his people in the liver under
the midriff, so that he died; he had come from fertile Paeonia and was
the best man of them all after Asteropaeus. Asteropaeus flew forward
to avenge him and attack the Danaans, but this might no longer be,
inasmuch as those about Patroclus were well covered by their
shields, and held their spears in front of them, for Ajax had given
them strict orders that no man was either to give ground, or to
stand out before the others, but all were to hold well together
about the body and fight hand to hand. Thus did huge Ajax bid them,
and the earth ran red with blood as the corpses fell thick on one
another alike on the side of the Trojans and allies, and on that of
the Danaans; for these last, too, fought no bloodless fight though
many fewer of them perished, through the care they took to defend
and stand by one another.
Thus did they fight as it were a flaming fire; it seemed as though
it had gone hard even with the sun and moon, for they were hidden over
all that part where the bravest heroes were fighting about the dead
son of Menoetius, whereas the other Danaans and Achaeans fought at
their ease in full daylight with brilliant sunshine all round them,
and there was not a cloud to be seen neither on plain nor mountain.
These last moreover would rest for a while and leave off fighting, for
they were some distance apart and beyond the range of one another’s
weapons, whereas those who were in the thick of the fray suffered both
from battle and darkness. All the best of them were being worn out
by the great weight of their armour, but the two valiant heroes,
Thrasymedes and Antilochus, had not yet heard of the death of
Patroclus, and believed him to be still alive and leading the van
against the Trojans; they were keeping themselves in reserve against
the death or rout of their own comrades, for so Nestor had ordered
when he sent them from the ships into battle.
Thus through the livelong day did they wage fierce war, and the
sweat of their toil rained ever on their legs under them, and on their
hands and eyes, as they fought over the squire of the fleet son of
Peleus. It was as when a man gives a great ox-hide all drenched in fat
to his men, and bids them stretch it; whereon they stand round it in a
ring and tug till the moisture leaves it, and the fat soaks in for the
many that pull at it, and it is well stretched- even so did the two
sides tug the dead body hither and thither within the compass of but a
little space- the Trojans steadfastly set on drag ing it into Ilius,
while the Achaeans were no less so on taking it to their ships; and
fierce was the fight between them. Not Mars himself the lord of hosts,
nor yet Minerva, even in their fullest fury could make light of such a
Such fearful turmoil of men and horses did Jove on that day ordain
round the body of Patroclus. Meanwhile Achilles did not know that he
had fallen, for the fight was under the wall of Troy a long way off
the ships. He had no idea, therefore, that Patroclus was dead, and
deemed that he would return alive as soon as he had gone close up to
the gates. He knew that he was not to sack the city neither with nor
without himself, for his mother had often told him this when he had
sat alone with her, and she had informed him of the counsels of
great Jove. Now, however, she had not told him how great a disaster
had befallen him in the death of the one who was far dearest to him of
all his comrades.
The others still kept on charging one another round the body with
their pointed spears and killing each other. Then would one say, “My
friends, we can never again show our faces at the ships- better, and
greatly better, that earth should open and swallow us here in this
place, than that we should let the Trojans have the triumph of bearing
off Patroclus to their city.”
The Trojans also on their part spoke to one another saying,
“Friends, though we fall to a man beside this body, let none shrink
from fighting.” With such words did they exhort each other. They
fought and fought, and an iron clank rose through the void air to
the brazen vault of heaven. The horses of the descendant of Aeacus
stood out of the fight and wept when they heard that their driver
had been laid low by the hand of murderous Hector. Automedon,
valiant son of Diores, lashed them again and again; many a time did he
speak kindly to them, and many a time did he upbraid them, but they
would neither go back to the ships by the waters of the broad
Hellespont, nor yet into battle among the Achaeans; they stood with
their chariot stock still, as a pillar set over the tomb of some
dead man or woman, and bowed their heads to the ground. Hot tears fell
from their eyes as they mourned the loss of their charioteer, and
their noble manes drooped all wet from under the yokestraps on
either side the yoke.
The son of Saturn saw them and took pity upon their sorrow. He
wagged his head, and muttered to himself, saying, “Poor things, why
did we give you to King Peleus who is a mortal, while you are
yourselves ageless and immortal? Was it that you might share the
sorrows that befall mankind? for of all creatures that live and move
upon the earth there is none so pitiable as he is- still, Hector son
of Priam shall drive neither you nor your chariot. I will not have it.
It is enough that he should have the armour over which he vaunts so
vainly. Furthermore I will give you strength of heart and limb to bear
Automedon safely to the ships from battle, for I shall let the Trojans
triumph still further, and go on killing till they reach the ships;
whereon night shall fall and darkness overshadow the land.”
As he spoke he breathed heart and strength into the horses so that
they shook the dust from out of their manes, and bore their chariot
swiftly into the fight that raged between Trojans and Achaeans. Behind
them fought Automedon full of sorrow for his comrade, as a vulture
amid a flock of geese. In and out, and here and there, full speed he
dashed amid the throng of the Trojans, but for all the fury of his
pursuit he killed no man, for he could not wield his spear and keep
his horses in hand when alone in the chariot; at last, however, a
comrade, Alcimedon, son of Laerces son of Haemon caught sight of him
and came up behind his chariot. “Automedon,” said he, “what god has
put this folly into your heart and robbed you of your right mind, that
you fight the Trojans in the front rank single-handed? He who was your
comrade is slain, and Hector plumes himself on being armed in the
armour of the descendant of Aeacus.”
Automedon son of Diores answered, “Alcimedon, there is no one else
who can control and guide the immortal steeds so well as you can, save
only Patroclus- while he was alive- peer of gods in counsel. Take then
the whip and reins, while I go down from the car and fight.
Alcimedon sprang on to the chariot, and caught up the whip and
reins, while Automedon leaped from off the car. When Hector saw him he
said to Aeneas who was near him, “Aeneas, counsellor of the
mail-clad Trojans, I see the steeds of the fleet son of Aeacus come
into battle with weak hands to drive them. I am sure, if you think
well, that we might take them; they will not dare face us if we both
attack them.”
The valiant son of Anchises was of the same mind, and the pair
went right on, with their shoulders covered under shields of tough dry
ox-hide, overlaid with much bronze. Chromius and Aretus went also with
them, and their hearts beat high with hope that they might kill the
men and capture the horses- fools that they were, for they were not to
return scatheless from their meeting with Automedon, who prayed to
father Jove and was forthwith filled with courage and strength
abounding. He turned to his trusty comrade Alcimedon and said,
“Alcimedon, keep your horses so close up that I may feel their
breath upon my back; I doubt that we shall not stay Hector son of
Priam till he has killed us and mounted behind the horses; he will
then either spread panic among the ranks of the Achaeans, or himself
be killed among the foremost.”
On this he cried out to the two Ajaxes and Menelaus, “Ajaxes
captains of the Argives, and Menelaus, give the dead body over to them
that are best able to defend it, and come to the rescue of us
living; for Hector and Aeneas who are the two best men among the
Trojans, are pressing us hard in the full tide of war. Nevertheless
the issue lies on the lap of heaven, I will therefore hurl my spear
and leave the rest to Jove.”
He poised and hurled as he spoke, whereon the spear struck the round
shield of Aretus, and went right through it for the shield stayed it
not, so that it was driven through his belt into the lower part of his
belly. As when some sturdy youth, axe in hand, deals his blow behind
the horns of an ox and severs the tendons at the back of its neck so
that it springs forward and then drops, even so did Aretus give one
bound and then fall on his back the spear quivering in his body till
it made an end of him. Hector then aimed a spear at Automedon but he
saw it coming and stooped forward to avoid it, so that it flew past
him and the point stuck in the ground, while the butt-end went on
quivering till Mars robbed it of its force. They would then have
fought hand to hand with swords had not the two Ajaxes forced their
way through the crowd when they heard their comrade calling, and
parted them for all their fury- for Hector, Aeneas, and Chromius
were afraid and drew back, leaving Aretus to lie there struck to the
heart. Automedon, peer of fleet Mars, then stripped him of his
armour and vaunted over him saying, “I have done little to assuage
my sorrow for the son of Menoetius, for the man I have killed is not
so good as he was.”
As he spoke he took the blood-stained spoils and laid them upon
his chariot; then he mounted the car with his hands and feet all
steeped in gore as a lion that has been gorging upon a bull.
And now the fierce groanful fight again raged about Patroclus, for
Minerva came down from heaven and roused its fury by the command of
far-seeing Jove, who had changed his mind and sent her to encourage
the Danaans. As when Jove bends his bright bow in heaven in token to
mankind either of war or of the chill storms that stay men from
their labour and plague the flocks- even so, wrapped in such radiant
raiment, did Minerva go in among the host and speak man by man to
each. First she took the form and voice of Phoenix and spoke to
Menelaus son of Atreus, who was standing near her. “Menelaus,” said
she, “it will be shame and dishonour to you, if dogs tear the noble
comrade of Achilles under the walls of Troy. Therefore be staunch, and
urge your men to be so also.”
Menelaus answered, “Phoenix, my good old friend, may Minerva
vouchsafe me strength and keep the darts from off me, for so shall I
stand by Patroclus and defend him; his death has gone to my heart, but
Hector is as a raging fire and deals his blows without ceasing, for
Jove is now granting him a time of triumph.”
Minerva was pleased at his having named herself before any of the
other gods. Therefore she put strength into his knees and shoulders,
and made him as bold as a fly, which, though driven off will yet
come again and bite if it can, so dearly does it love man’s blood-
even so bold as this did she make him as he stood over Patroclus and
threw his spear. Now there was among the Trojans a man named Podes,
son of Eetion, who was both rich and valiant. Hector held him in the
highest honour for he was his comrade and boon companion; the spear of
Menelaus struck this man in the girdle just as he had turned in
flight, and went right through him. Whereon he fell heavily forward,
and Menelaus son of Atreus drew off his body from the Trojans into the
ranks of his own people.
Apollo then went up to Hector and spurred him on to fight, in the
likeness of Phaenops son of Asius who lived in Abydos and was the most
favoured of all Hector’s guests. In his likeness Apollo said, “Hector,
who of the Achaeans will fear you henceforward now that you have
quailed before Menelaus who has ever been rated poorly as a soldier?
Yet he has now got a corpse away from the Trojans single-handed, and
has slain your own true comrade, a man brave among the foremost, Podes
son of Eetion.
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Hector as he heard, and he made
his way to the front clad in full armour. Thereon the son of Saturn
seized his bright tasselled aegis, and veiled Ida in cloud: he sent
forth his lightnings and his thunders, and as he shook his aegis he
gave victory to the Trojans and routed the Achaeans.
The panic was begun by Peneleos the Boeotian, for while keeping
his face turned ever towards the foe he had been hit with a spear on
the upper part of the shoulder; a spear thrown by Polydamas had grazed
the top of the bone, for Polydamas had come up to him and struck him
from close at hand. Then Hector in close combat struck Leitus son of
noble Alectryon in the hand by the wrist, and disabled him from
fighting further. He looked about him in dismay, knowing that never
again should he wield spear in battle with the Trojans. While Hector
was in pursuit of Leitus, Idomeneus struck him on the breastplate over
his chest near the nipple; but the spear broke in the shaft, and the
Trojans cheered aloud. Hector then aimed at Idomeneus son of Deucalion
as he was standing on his chariot, and very narrowly missed him, but
the spear hit Coiranus, a follower and charioteer of Meriones who
had come with him from Lyctus. Idomeneus had left the ships on foot
and would have afforded a great triumph to the Trojans if Coiranus had
not driven quickly up to him, he therefore brought life and rescue
to Idomeneus, but himself fell by the hand of murderous Hector. For
Hector hit him on the jaw under the ear; the end of the spear drove
out his teeth and cut his tongue in two pieces, so that he fell from
his chariot and let the reins fall to the ground. Meriones gathered
them up from the ground and took them into his own hands, then he said
to Idomeneus, “Lay on, till you get back to the ships, for you must
see that the day is no longer ours.”
On this Idomeneus lashed the horses to the ships, for fear had taken
hold upon him.
Ajax and Menelaus noted how Jove had turned the scale in favour of
the Trojans, and Ajax was first to speak. “Alas,” said he, “even a
fool may see that father Jove is helping the Trojans. All their
weapons strike home; no matter whether it be a brave man or a coward
that hurls them, Jove speeds all alike, whereas ours fall each one
of them without effect. What, then, will be best both as regards
rescuing the body, and our return to the joy of our friends who will
be grieving as they look hitherwards; for they will make sure that
nothing can now check the terrible hands of Hector, and that he will
fling himself upon our ships. I wish that some one would go and tell
the son of Peleus at once, for I do not think he can have yet heard
the sad news that the dearest of his friends has fallen. But I can see
not a man among the Achaeans to send, for they and their chariots
are alike hidden in darkness. O father Jove, lift this cloud from over
the sons of the Achaeans; make heaven serene, and let us see; if you
will that we perish, let us fall at any rate by daylight.”
Father Jove heard him and had compassion upon his tears. Forthwith
he chased away the cloud of darkness, so that the sun shone out and
all the fighting was revealed. Ajax then said to Menelaus, “Look,
Menelaus, and if Antilochus son of Nestor be still living, send him at
once to tell Achilles that by far the dearest to him of all his
comrades has fallen.”
Menelaus heeded his words and went his way as a lion from a
stockyard- the lion is tired of attacking the men and hounds, who keep
watch the whole night through and will not let him feast on the fat of
their herd. In his lust of meat he makes straight at them but in vain,
for darts from strong hands assail him, and burning brands which daunt
him for all his hunger, so in the morning he slinks sulkily away- even
so did Menelaus sorely against his will leave Patroclus, in great fear
lest the Achaeans should be driven back in rout and let him fall
into the hands of the foe. He charged Meriones and the two Ajaxes
straitly saying, “Ajaxes and Meriones, leaders of the Argives, now
indeed remember how good Patroclus was; he was ever courteous while
alive, bear it in mind now that he is dead.”
With this Menelaus left them, looking round him as keenly as an
eagle, whose sight they say is keener than that of any other bird-
however high he may be in the heavens, not a hare that runs can escape
him by crouching under bush or thicket, for he will swoop down upon it
and make an end of it- even so, O Menelaus, did your keen eyes range
round the mighty host of your followers to see if you could find the
son of Nestor still alive. Presently Menelaus saw him on the extreme
left of the battle cheering on his men and exhorting them to fight
boldly. Menelaus went up to him and said, “Antilochus, come here and
listen to sad news, which I would indeed were untrue. You must see
with your own eyes that heaven is heaping calamity upon the Danaans,
and giving victory to the Trojans. Patroclus has fallen, who was the
bravest of the Achaeans, and sorely will the Danaans miss him. Run
instantly to the ships and tell Achilles, that he may come to rescue
the body and bear it to the ships. As for the armour, Hector already
has it.”
Antilochus was struck with horror. For a long time he was
speechless; his eyes filled with tears and he could find no utterance,
but he did as Menelaus had said, and set off running as soon as he had
given his armour to a comrade, Laodocus, who was wheeling his horses
round, close beside him.
Thus, then, did he run weeping from the field, to carry the bad news
to Achilles son of Peleus. Nor were you, O Menelaus, minded to succour
his harassed comrades, when Antilochus had left the Pylians- and
greatly did they miss him- but he sent them noble Thrasymedes, and
himself went back to Patroclus. He came running up to the two Ajaxes
and said, “I have sent Antilochus to the ships to tell Achilles, but
rage against Hector as he may, he cannot come, for he cannot fight
without armour. What then will be our best plan both as regards
rescuing the dead, and our own escape from death amid the battle-cries
of the Trojans?”
Ajax answered, “Menelaus, you have said well: do you, then, and
Meriones stoop down, raise the body, and bear it out of the fray,
while we two behind you keep off Hector and the Trojans, one in
heart as in name, and long used to fighting side by side with one
On this Menelaus and Meriones took the dead man in their arms and
lifted him high aloft with a great effort. The Trojan host raised a
hue and cry behind them when they saw the Achaeans bearing the body
away, and flew after them like hounds attacking a wounded boar at
the loo of a band of young huntsmen. For a while the hounds fly at him
as though they would tear him in pieces, but now and again he turns on
them in a fury, scaring and scattering them in all directions- even so
did the Trojans for a while charge in a body, striking with sword
and with spears pointed ai both the ends, but when the two Ajaxes
faced them and stood at bay, they would turn pale and no man dared
press on to fight further about the dead.
In this wise did the two heroes strain every nerve to bear the
body to the ships out of the fight. The battle raged round them like
fierce flames that when once kindled spread like wildfire over a city,
and the houses fall in the glare of its burning- even such was the
roar and tramp of men and horses that pursued them as they bore
Patroclus from the field. Or as mules that put forth all their
strength to draw some beam or great piece of ship’s timber down a
rough mountain-track, and they pant and sweat as they, go even so
did Menelaus and pant and sweat as they bore the body of Patroclus.
Behind them the two Ajaxes held stoutly out. As some wooded
mountain-spur that stretches across a plain will turn water and
check the flow even of a great river, nor is there any stream strong
enough to break through it- even so did the two Ajaxes face the
Trojans and stern the tide of their fighting though they kept
pouring on towards them and foremost among them all was Aeneas son
of Anchises with valiant Hector. As a flock of daws or starlings
fall to screaming and chattering when they see a falcon, foe to i’ll
small birds, come soaring near them, even so did the Achaean youth
raise a babel of cries as they fled before Aeneas and Hector,
unmindful of their former prowess. In the rout of the Danaans much
goodly armour fell round about the trench, and of fighting there was
no end.


THUS then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
fleet runner Antilochus, who had been sent as messenger, reached
Achilles, and found him sitting by his tall ships and boding that
which was indeed too surely true. “Alas,” said he to himself in the
heaviness of his heart, “why are the Achaeans again scouring the plain
and flocking towards the ships? Heaven grant the gods be not now
bringing that sorrow upon me of which my mother Thetis spoke, saying
that while I was yet alive the bravest of the Myrmidons should fall
before the Trojans, and see the light of the sun no longer. I fear the
brave son of Menoetius has fallen through his own daring and yet I
bade him return to the ships as soon as he had driven back those
that were bringing fire against them, and not join battle with
As he was thus pondering, the son of Nestor came up to him and
told his sad tale, weeping bitterly the while. “Alas,” he cried,
“son of noble Peleus, I bring you bad tidings, would indeed that
they were untrue. Patroclus has fallen, and a fight is raging about
his naked body- for Hector holds his armour.”
A dark cloud of grief fell upon Achilles as he listened. He filled
both hands with dust from off the ground, and poured it over his head,
disfiguring his comely face, and letting the refuse settle over his
shirt so fair and new. He flung himself down all huge and hugely at
full length, and tore his hair with his hands. The bondswomen whom
Achilles and Patroclus had taken captive screamed aloud for grief,
beating their breasts, and with their limbs failing them for sorrow.
Antilochus bent over him the while, weeping and holding both his hands
as he lay groaning for he feared that he might plunge a knife into his
own throat. Then Achilles gave a loud cry and his mother heard him
as she was sitting in the depths of the sea by the old man her father,
whereon she screamed, and all the goddesses daughters of Nereus that
dwelt at the bottom of the sea, came gathering round her. There were
Glauce, Thalia and Cymodoce, Nesaia, Speo, thoe and dark-eyed Halie,
Cymothoe, Actaea and Limnorea, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe and Agave,
Doto and Proto, Pherusa and Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphinome and
Callianeira, Doris, Panope, and the famous sea-nymph Galatea,
Nemertes, Apseudes and Callianassa. There were also Clymene, Ianeira
and Ianassa, Maera, Oreithuia and Amatheia of the lovely locks, with
other Nereids who dwell in the depths of the sea. The crystal cave was
filled with their multitude and they all beat their breasts while
Thetis led them in their lament.
“Listen,” she cried, “sisters, daughters of Nereus, that you may
hear the burden of my sorrows. Alas, woe is me, woe in that I have
borne the most glorious of offspring. I bore him fair and strong, hero
among heroes, and he shot up as a sapling; I tended him as a plant
in a goodly garden, and sent him with his ships to Ilius to fight
the Trojans, but never shall I welcome him back to the house of
Peleus. So long as he lives to look upon the light of the sun he is in
heaviness, and though I go to him I cannot help him. Nevertheless I
will go, that I may see my dear son and learn what sorrow has befallen
him though he is still holding aloof from battle.”
She left the cave as she spoke, while the others followed weeping
after, and the waves opened a path before them. When they reached
the rich plain of Troy, they came up out of the sea in a long line
on to the sands, at the place where the ships of the Myrmidons were
drawn up in close order round the tents of Achilles. His mother went
up to him as he lay groaning; she laid her hand upon his head and
spoke piteously, saying, “My son, why are you thus weeping? What
sorrow has now befallen you? Tell me; hide it not from me. Surely Jove
has granted you the prayer you made him, when you lifted up your hands
and besought him that the Achaeans might all of them be pent up at
their ships, and rue it bitterly in that you were no longer with
Achilles groaned and answered, “Mother, Olympian Jove has indeed
vouchsafed me the fulfilment of my prayer, but what boots it to me,
seeing that my dear comrade Patroclus has fallen- he whom I valued
more than all others, and loved as dearly as my own life? I have
lost him; aye, and Hector when he had killed him stripped the wondrous
armour, so glorious to behold, which the gods gave to Peleus when they
laid you in the couch of a mortal man. Would that you were still
dwelling among the immortal sea-nymphs, and that Peleus had taken to
himself some mortal bride. For now you shall have grief infinite by
reason of the death of that son whom you can never welcome home-
nay, I will not live nor go about among mankind unless Hector fall
by my spear, and thus pay me for having slain Patroclus son of
Thetis wept and answered, “Then, my son, is your end near at hand-
for your own death awaits you full soon after that of Hector.”
Then said Achilles in his great grief, “I would die here and now, in
that I could not save my comrade. He has fallen far from home, and
in his hour of need my hand was not there to help him. What is there
for me? Return to my own land I shall not, and I have brought no
saving neither to Patroclus nor to my other comrades of whom so many
have been slain by mighty Hector; I stay here by my ships a bootless
burden upon the earth, I, who in fight have no peer among the
Achaeans, though in council there are better than I. Therefore, perish
strife both from among gods and men, and anger, wherein even a
righteous man will harden his heart- which rises up in the soul of a
man like smoke, and the taste thereof is sweeter than drops of
honey. Even so has Agamemnon angered me. And yet- so be it, for it
is over; I will force my soul into subjection as I needs must; I
will go; I will pursue Hector who has slain him whom I loved so
dearly, and will then abide my doom when it may please Jove and the
other gods to send it. Even Hercules, the best beloved of Jove- even
he could not escape the hand of death, but fate and Juno’s fierce
anger laid him low, as I too shall lie when I am dead if a like doom
awaits me. Till then I will win fame, and will bid Trojan and
Dardanian women wring tears from their tender cheeks with both their
hands in the grievousness of their great sorrow; thus shall they
know that he who has held aloof so long will hold aloof no longer.
Hold me not back, therefore, in the love you bear me, for you shall
not move me.”
Then silver-footed Thetis answered, “My son, what you have said is
true. It is well to save your comrades from destruction, but your
armour is in the hands of the Trojans; Hector bears it in triumph upon
his own shoulders. Full well I know that his vaunt shall not be
lasting, for his end is close at hand; go not, however, into the press
of battle till you see me return hither; to-morrow at break of day I
shall be here, and will bring you goodly armour from King Vulcan.”
On this she left her brave son, and as she turned away she said to
the sea-nymphs her sisters, “Dive into the bosom of the sea and go
to the house of the old sea-god my father. Tell him everything; as for
me, I will go to the cunning workman Vulcan on high Olympus, and ask
him to provide my son with a suit of splendid armour.”
When she had so said, they dived forthwith beneath the waves,
while silver-footed Thetis went her way that she might bring the
armour for her son.
Thus, then, did her feet bear the goddess to Olympus, and
meanwhile the Achaeans were flying with loud cries before murderous
Hector till they reached the ships and the Hellespont, and they
could not draw the body of Mars’s servant Patroclus out of reach of
the weapons that were showered upon him, for Hector son of Priam
with his host and horsemen had again caught up to him like the flame
of a fiery furnace; thrice did brave Hector seize him by the feet,
striving with might and main to draw him away and calling loudly on
the Trojans, and thrice did the two Ajaxes, clothed in valour as
with a garment, beat him from off the body; but all undaunted he would
now charge into the thick of the fight, and now again he would stand
still and cry aloud, but he would give no ground. As upland
shepherds that cannot chase some famished lion from a carcase, even so
could not the two Ajaxes scare Hector son of Priam from the body of
And now he would even have dragged it off and have won
imperishable glory, had not Iris fleet as the wind, winged her way
as messenger from Olympus to the son of Peleus and bidden him arm. She
came secretly without the knowledge of Jove and of the other gods, for
Juno sent her, and when she had got close to him she said, “Up, son of
Peleus, mightiest of all mankind; rescue Patroclus about whom this
fearful fight is now raging by the ships. Men are killing one another,
the Danaans in defence of the dead body, while the Trojans are
trying to hale it away, and take it to wind Ilius: Hector is the
most furious of them all; he is for cutting the head from the body and
fixing it on the stakes of the wall. Up, then, and bide here no
longer; shrink from the thought that Patroclus may become meat for the
dogs of Troy. Shame on you, should his body suffer any kind of
And Achilles said, “Iris, which of the gods was it that sent you
to me?”
Iris answered, “It was Juno the royal spouse of Jove, but the son of
Saturn does not know of my coming, nor yet does any other of the
immortals who dwell on the snowy summits of Olympus.”
Then fleet Achilles answered her saying, “How can I go up into the
battle? They have my armour. My mother forbade me to arm till I should
see her come, for she promised to bring me goodly armour from
Vulcan; I know no man whose arms I can put on, save only the shield of
Ajax son of Telamon, and he surely must be fighting in the front
rank and wielding his spear about the body of dead Patroclus.”
Iris said, ‘We know that your armour has been taken, but go as you
are; go to the deep trench and show yourelf before the Trojans, that
they may fear you and cease fighting. Thus will the fainting sons of
the Achaeans gain some brief breathing-time, which in battle may
hardly be.”
Iris left him when she had so spoken. But Achilles dear to Jove
arose, and Minerva flung her tasselled aegis round his strong
shoulders; she crowned his head with a halo of golden cloud from which
she kindled a glow of gleaming fire. As the smoke that goes up into
heaven from some city that is being beleaguered on an island far out
at sea- all day long do men sally from the city and fight their
hardest, and at the going down of the sun the line of beacon-fires
blazes forth, flaring high for those that dwell near them to behold,
if so be that they may come with their ships and succour them- even so
did the light flare from the head of Achilles, as he stood by the
trench, going beyond the wall- but he aid not join the Achaeans for he
heeded the charge which his mother laid upon him.
There did he stand and shout aloud. Minerva also raised her voice
from afar, and spread terror unspeakable among the Trojans. Ringing as
the note of a trumpet that sounds alarm then the foe is at the gates
of a city, even so brazen was the voice of the son of Aeacus, and when
the Trojans heard its clarion tones they were dismayed; the horses
turned back with their chariots for they boded mischief, and their
drivers were awe-struck by the steady flame which the grey-eyed
goddess had kindled above the head of the great son of Peleus.
Thrice did Achilles raise his loud cry as he stood by the trench,
and thrice were the Trojans and their brave allies thrown into
confusion; whereon twelve of their noblest champions fell beneath
the wheels of their chariots and perished by their own spears. The
Achaeans to their great joy then drew Patroclus out of reach of the
weapons, and laid him on a litter: his comrades stood mourning round
him, and among them fleet Achilles who wept bitterly as he saw his
true comrade lying dead upon his bier. He had sent him out with horses
and chariots into battle, but his return he was not to welcome.
Then Juno sent the busy sun, loth though he was, into the waters
of Oceanus; so he set, and the Achaeans had rest from the tug and
turmoil of war.
Now the Trojans when they had come out of the fight, unyoked their
horses and gathered in assembly before preparing their supper. They
kept their feet, nor would any dare to sit down, for fear had fallen
upon them all because Achilles had shown himself after having held
aloof so long from battle. Polydamas son of Panthous was first to
speak, a man of judgement, who alone among them could look both before
and after. He was comrade to Hector, and they had been born upon the
same night; with all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed
them thus:-
“Look to it well, my friends; I would urge you to go back now to
your city and not wait here by the ships till morning, for we are
far from our walls. So long as this man was at enmity with Agamemnon
the Achaeans were easier to deal with, and I would have gladly
camped by the ships in the hope of taking them; but now I go in
great fear of the fleet son of Peleus; he is so daring that he will
never bide here on the plain whereon the Trojans and Achaeans fight
with equal valour, but he will try to storm our city and carry off our
women. Do then as I say, and let us retreat. For this is what will
happen. The darkness of night will for a time stay the son of
Peleus, but if he find us here in the morning when he sallies forth in
full armour, we shall have knowledge of him in good earnest. Glad
indeed will he be who can escape and get back to Ilius, and many a
Trojan will become meat for dogs and vultures may I never live to hear
it. If we do as I say, little though we may like it, we shall have
strength in counsel during the night, and the great gates with the
doors that close them will protect the city. At dawn we can arm and
take our stand on the walls; he will then rue it if he sallies from
the ships to fight us. He will go back when he has given his horses
their fill of being driven all whithers under our walls, and will be
in no mind to try and force his way into the city. Neither will he
ever sack it, dogs shall devour him ere he do so.”
Hector looked fiercely at him and answered, “Polydamas, your words
are not to my liking in that you bid us go back and be pent within the
city. Have you not had enough of being cooped up behind walls? In
the old-days the city of Priam was famous the whole world over for its
wealth of gold and bronze, but our treasures are wasted out of our
houses, and much goods have been sold away to Phrygia and fair Meonia,
for the hand of Jove has been laid heavily upon us. Now, therefore,
that the son of scheming Saturn has vouchsafed me to win glory here
and to hem the Achaeans in at their ships, prate no more in this
fool’s wise among the people. You will have no man with you; it
shall not be; do all of you as I now say;- take your suppers in your
companies throughout the host, and keep your watches and be wakeful
every man of you. If any Trojan is uneasy about his possessions, let
him gather them and give them out among the people. Better let
these, rather than the Achaeans, have them. At daybreak we will arm
and fight about the ships; granted that Achilles has again come
forward to defend them, let it be as he will, but it shall go hard
with him. I shall not shun him, but will fight him, to fall or
conquer. The god of war deals out like measure to all, and the
slayer may yet be slain.”
Thus spoke Hector; and the Trojans, fools that they were, shouted in
applause, for Pallas Minerva had robbed them of their understanding.
They gave ear to Hector with his evil counsel, but the wise words of
Polydamas no man would heed. They took their supper throughout the
host, and meanwhile through the whole night the Achaeans mourned
Patroclus, and the son of Peleus led them in their lament. He laid his
murderous hands upon the breast of his comrade, groaning again and
again as a bearded lion when a man who was chasing deer has robbed him
of his young in some dense forest; when the lion comes back he is
furious, and searches dingle and dell to track the hunter if he can
find him, for he is mad with rage- even so with many a sigh did
Achilles speak among the Myrmidons saying, “Alas! vain were the
words with which I cheered the hero Menoetius in his own house; I said
that I would bring his brave son back again to Opoeis after he had
sacked Ilius and taken his share of the spoils- but Jove does not give
all men their heart’s desire. The same soil shall be reddened here
at Troy by the blood of us both, for I too shall never be welcomed
home by the old knight Peleus, nor by my mother Thetis, but even in
this place shall the earth cover me. Nevertheless, O Patroclus, now
that I am left behind you, I will not bury you, till I have brought
hither the head and armour of mighty Hector who has slain you.
Twelve noble sons of Trojans will I behead before your bier to
avenge you; till I have done so you shall lie as you are by the ships,
and fair women of Troy and Dardanus, whom we have taken with spear and
strength of arm when we sacked men’s goodly cities, shall weep over
you both night and day.”
Then Achilles told his men to set a large tripod upon the fire
that they might wash the clotted gore from off Patroclus. Thereon they
set a tripod full of bath water on to a clear fire: they threw
sticks on to it to make it blaze, and the water became hot as the
flame played about the belly of the tripod. When the water in the
cauldron was boiling they washed the body, anointed it with oil, and
closed its wounds with ointment that had been kept nine years. Then
they laid it on a bier and covered it with a linen cloth from head
to foot, and over this they laid a fair white robe. Thus all night
long did the Myrmidons gather round Achilles to mourn Patroclus.
Then Jove said to Juno his sister-wife, “So, Queen Juno, you have
gained your end, and have roused fleet Achilles. One would think
that the Achaeans were of your own flesh and blood.”
And Juno answered, “Dread son of Saturn, why should you say this
thing? May not a man though he be only mortal and knows less than we
do, do what he can for another person? And shall not I- foremost of
all goddesses both by descent and as wife to you who reign in
heaven- devise evil for the Trojans if I am angry with them?”
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Thetis came to the house of
Vulcan, imperishable, star-bespangled, fairest of the abodes in
heaven, a house of bronze wrought by the lame god’s own hands. She
found him busy with his bellows, sweating and hard at work, for he was
making twenty tripods that were to stand by the wall of his house, and
he set wheels of gold under them all that they might go of their own
selves to the assemblies of the gods, and come back again- marvels
indeed to see. They were finished all but the ears of cunning
workmanship which yet remained to be fixed to them: these he was now
fixing, and he was hammering at the rivets. While he was thus at
work silver-footed Thetis came to the house. Charis, of graceful
head-dress, wife to the far-famed lame god, came towards her as soon
as she saw her, and took her hand in her own, saying, “Why have you
come to our house, Thetis, honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Come inside and let me set refreshment before you.”
The goddess led the way as she spoke, and bade Thetis sit on a
richly decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also
under her feet. Then she called Vulcan and said, “Vulcan, come here,
Thetis wants you”; and the far-famed lame god answered, “Then it is
indeed an august and honoured goddess who has come here; she it was
that took care of me when I was suffering from the heavy fall which
I had through my cruel mother’s anger- for she would have got rid of
me because I was lame. It would have gone hardly with me had not
Eurynome, daughter of the ever-encircling waters of Oceanus, and
Thetis, taken me to their bosom. Nine years did I stay with them,
and many beautiful works in bronze, brooches, spiral armlets, cups,
and chains, did I make for them in their cave, with the roaring waters
of Oceanus foaming as they rushed ever past it; and no one knew,
neither of gods nor men, save only Thetis and Eurynome who took care
of me. If, then, Thetis has come to my house I must make her due
requital for having saved me; entertain her, therefore, with all
hospitality, while I put by my bellows and all my tools.”
On this the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his thin legs
plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and
gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he took a sponge and
washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and brawny neck; he donned
his shirt, grasped his strong staff, and limped towards the door.
There were golden handmaids also who worked for him, and were like
real young women, with sense and reason, voice also and strength,
and all the learning of the immortals; these busied themselves as
the king bade them, while he drew near to Thetis, seated her upon a
goodly seat, and took her hand in his own, saying, “Why have you
come to our house, Thetis honoured and ever welcome- for you do not
visit us often? Say what you want, and I will do it for you at once if
I can, and if it can be done at all.”
Thetis wept and answered, “Vulcan, is there another goddess in
Olympus whom the son of Saturn has been pleased to try with so much
affliction as he has me? Me alone of the marine goddesses did he
make subject to a mortal husband, Peleus son of Aeacus, and sorely
against my will did I submit to the embraces of one who was but
mortal, and who now stays at home worn out with age. Neither is this
all. Heaven vouchsafed me a son, hero among heroes, and he shot up
as a sapling. I tended him as a plant in a goodly garden and sent
him with his ships to Ilius to fight the Trojans, but never shall I
welcome him back to the house of Peleus. So long as he lives to look
upon the light of the sun, he is in heaviness, and though I go to
him I cannot help him; King Agamemnon has made him give up the
maiden whom the sons of the Achaeans had awarded him, and he wastes
with sorrow for her sake. Then the Trojans hemmed the Achaeans in at
their ships’ sterns and would not let them come forth; the elders,
therefore, of the Argives besought Achilles and offered him great
treasure, whereon he refused to bring deliverance to them himself, but
put his own armour on Patroclus and sent him into the fight with
much people after him. All day long they fought by the Scaean gates
and would have taken the city there and then, had not Apollo
vouchsafed glory to Hector and slain the valiant son of Menoetius
after he had done the Trojans much evil. Therefore I am suppliant at
your knees if haply you may be pleased to provide my son, whose end is
near at hand, with helmet and shield, with goodly greaves fitted
with ancle-clasps, and with a breastplate, for he lost his own when
his true comrade fell at the hands of the Trojans, and he now lies
stretched on earth in the bitterness of his soul.”
And Vulcan answered, “Take heart, and be no more disquieted about
this matter; would that I could hide him from death’s sight when his
hour is come, so surely as I can find him armour that shall amaze
the eyes of all who behold it.”
When he had so said he left her and went to his bellows, turning
them towards the fire and bidding them do their office. Twenty bellows
blew upon the melting-pots, and they blew blasts of every kind, some
fierce to help him when he had need of them, and others less strong as
Vulcan willed it in the course of his work. He threw tough copper into
the fire, and tin, with silver and gold; he set his great anvil on its
block, and with one hand grasped his mighty hammer while he took the
tongs in the other.
First he shaped the shield so great and strong, adorning it all over
and binding it round with a gleaming circuit in three layers; and
the baldric was made of silver. He made the shield in five
thicknesses, and with many a wonder did his cunning hand enrich it.
He wrought the earth, the heavens, and the sea; the moon also at her
full and the untiring sun, with all the signs that glorify the face of
heaven- the Pleiads, the Hyads, huge Orion, and the Bear, which men
also call the Wain and which turns round ever in one place, facing.
Orion, and alone never dips into the stream of Oceanus.
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of
men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were
going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by
torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the
youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood
each at her house door to see them.
Meanwhile the people were gathered in assembly, for there was a
quarrel, and two men were wrangling about the blood-money for a man
who had been killed, the one saying before the people that he had paid
damages in full, and the other that he had not been paid. Each was
trying to make his own case good, and the people took sides, each
man backing the side that he had taken; but the heralds kept them
back, and the elders sate on their seats of stone in a solemn
circle, holding the staves which the heralds had put into their hands.
Then they rose and each in his turn gave judgement, and there were two
talents laid down, to be given to him whose judgement should be deemed
the fairest.
About the other city there lay encamped two hosts in gleaming
armour, and they were divided whether to sack it, or to spare it and
accept the half of what it contained. But the men of the city would
not yet consent, and armed themselves for a surprise; their wives
and little children kept guard upon the walls, and with them were
the men who were past fighting through age; but the others sallied
forth with Mars and Pallas Minerva at their head- both of them wrought
in gold and clad in golden raiment, great and fair with their armour
as befitting gods, while they that followed were smaller. When they
reached the place where they would lay their ambush, it was on a
riverbed to which live stock of all kinds would come from far and near
to water; here, then, they lay concealed, clad in full armour. Some
way off them there were two scouts who were on the look-out for the
coming of sheep or cattle, which presently came, followed by two
shepherds who were playing on their pipes, and had not so much as a
thought of danger. When those who were in ambush saw this, they cut
off the flocks and herds and killed the shepherds. Meanwhile the
besiegers, when they heard much noise among the cattle as they sat
in council, sprang to their horses, and made with all speed towards
them; when they reached them they set battle in array by the banks
of the river, and the hosts aimed their bronze-shod spears at one
another. With them were Strife and Riot, and fell Fate who was
dragging three men after her, one with a fresh wound, and the other
unwounded, while the third was dead, and she was dragging him along by
his heel: and her robe was bedrabbled in men’s blood. They went in and
out with one another and fought as though they were living people
haling away one another’s dead.
He wrought also a fair fallow field, large and thrice ploughed
already. Many men were working at the plough within it, turning
their oxen to and fro, furrow after furrow. Each time that they turned
on reaching the headland a man would come up to them and give them a
cup of wine, and they would go back to their furrows looking forward
to the time when they should again reach the headland. The part that
they had ploughed was dark behind them, so that the field, though it
was of gold, still looked as if it were being ploughed- very curious
to behold.
He wrought also a field of harvest corn, and the reapers were
reaping with sharp sickles in their hands. Swathe after swathe fell to
the ground in a straight line behind them, and the binders bound
them in bands of twisted straw. There were three binders, and behind
them there were boys who gathered the cut corn in armfuls and kept
on bringing them to be bound: among them all the owner of the land
stood by in silence and was glad. The servants were getting a meal
ready under an oak, for they had sacrificed a great ox, and were
busy cutting him up, while the women were making a porridge of much
white barley for the labourers’ dinner.
He wrought also a vineyard, golden and fair to see, and the vines
were loaded with grapes. The bunches overhead were black, but the
vines were trained on poles of silver. He ran a ditch of dark metal
all round it, and fenced it with a fence of tin; there was only one
path to it, and by this the vintagers went when they would gather
the vintage. Youths and maidens all blithe and full of glee, carried
the luscious fruit in plaited baskets; and with them there went a
boy who made sweet music with his lyre, and sang the Linus-song with
his clear boyish voice.
He wrought also a herd of homed cattle. He made the cows of gold and
tin, and they lowed as they came full speed out of the yards to go and
feed among the waving reeds that grow by the banks of the river. Along
with the cattle there went four shepherds, all of them in gold, and
their nine fleet dogs went with them. Two terrible lions had
fastened on a bellowing bull that was with the foremost cows, and
bellow as he might they haled him, while the dogs and men gave
chase: the lions tore through the bull’s thick hide and were gorging
on his blood and bowels, but the herdsmen were afraid to do
anything, and only hounded on their dogs; the dogs dared not fasten on
the lions but stood by barking and keeping out of harm’s way.
The god wrought also a pasture in a fair mountain dell, and large
flock of sheep, with a homestead and huts, and sheltered sheepfolds.
Furthermore he wrought a green, like that which Daedalus once made
in Cnossus for lovely Ariadne. Hereon there danced youths and
maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another’s
wrists. The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well
woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with
garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold that hung by
silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with
merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and
making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes
they would go all in line with one another, and much people was
gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to
them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in
the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.
All round the outermost rim of the shield he set the mighty stream
of the river Oceanus.
Then when he had fashioned the shield so great and strong, he made a
breastplate also that shone brighter than fire. He made helmet,
close fitting to the brow, and richly worked, with a golden plume
overhanging it; and he made greaves also of beaten tin.
Lastly, when the famed lame god had made all the armour, he took
it and set it before the mother of Achilles; whereon she darted like a
falcon from the snowy summits of Olympus and bore away the gleaming
armour from the house of Vulcan.


NOW when Dawn in robe of saffron was hasting from the streams of
Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals, Thetis reached the
ships with the armour that the god had given her. She found her son
fallen about the body of Patroclus and weeping bitterly. Many also
of his followers were weeping round him, but when the goddess came
among them she clasped his hand in her own, saying, “My son, grieve as
we may we must let this man lie, for it is by heaven’s will that he
has fallen; now, therefore, accept from Vulcan this rich and goodly
armour, which no man has ever yet borne upon his shoulders.”
As she spoke she set the armour before Achilles, and it rang out
bravely as she did so. The Myrmidons were struck with awe, and none
dared look full at it, for they were afraid; but Achilles was roused
to still greater fury, and his eyes gleamed with a fierce light, for
he was glad when he handled the splendid present which the god had
made him. Then, as soon as he had satisfied himself with looking at
it, he said to his mother, “Mother, the god has given me armour,
meet handiwork for an immortal and such as no living could have
fashioned; I will now arm, but I much fear that flies will settle upon
the son of Menoetius and breed worms about his wounds, so that his
body, now he is dead, will be disfigured and the flesh will rot.”
Silver-footed Thetis answered, “My son, be not disquieted about this
matter. I will find means to protect him from the swarms of noisome
flies that prey on the bodies of men who have been killed in battle.
He may lie for a whole year, and his flesh shall still be as sound
as ever, or even sounder. Call, therefore, the Achaean heroes in
assembly; unsay your anger against Agamemnon; arm at once, and fight
with might and main.”
As she spoke she put strength and courage into his heart, and she
then dropped ambrosia and red nectar into the wounds of Patroclus,
that his body might suffer no change.
Then Achilles went out upon the seashore, and with a loud cry called
on the Achaean heroes. On this even those who as yet had stayed always
at the ships, the pilots and helmsmen, and even the stewards who
were about the ships and served out rations, all came to the place
of assembly because Achilles had shown himself after having held aloof
so long from fighting. Two sons of Mars, Ulysses and the son of
Tydeus, came limping, for their wounds still pained them; nevertheless
they came, and took their seats in the front row of the assembly. Last
of all came Agamemnon, king of men, he too wounded, for Coon son of
Antenor had struck him with a spear in battle.
When the Achaeans were got together Achilles rose and said, “Son
of Atreus, surely it would have been better alike for both you and me,
when we two were in such high anger about Briseis, surely it would
have been better, had Diana’s arrow slain her at the ships on the
day when I took her after having sacked Lyrnessus. For so, many an
Achaean the less would have bitten dust before the foe in the days
of my anger. It has been well for Hector and the Trojans, but the
Achaeans will long indeed remember our quarrel. Now, however, let it
be, for it is over. If we have been angry, necessity has schooled
our anger. I put it from me: I dare not nurse it for ever;
therefore, bid the Achaeans arm forthwith that I may go out against
the Trojans, and learn whether they will be in a mind to sleep by
the ships or no. Glad, I ween, will he be to rest his knees who may
fly my spear when I wield it.”
Thus did he speak, and the Achaeans rejoiced in that he had put away
his anger.
Then Agamemnon spoke, rising in his place, and not going into the
middle of the assembly. “Danaan heroes,” said he, “servants of Mars,
it is well to listen when a man stands up to speak, and it is not
seemly to interrupt him, or it will go hard even with a practised
speaker. Who can either hear or speak in an uproar? Even the finest
orator will be disconcerted by it. I will expound to the son of
Peleus, and do you other Achaeans heed me and mark me well. Often have
the Achaeans spoken to me of this matter and upbraided me, but it
was not I that did it: Jove, and Fate, and Erinys that walks in
darkness struck me mad when we were assembled on the day that I took
from Achilles the meed that had been awarded to him. What could I
do? All things are in the hand of heaven, and Folly, eldest of
Jove’s daughters, shuts men’s eyes to their destruction. She walks
delicately, not on the solid earth, but hovers over the heads of men
to make them stumble or to ensnare them.
“Time was when she fooled Jove himself, who they say is greatest
whether of gods or men; for Juno, woman though she was, beguiled him
on the day when Alcmena was to bring forth mighty Hercules in the fair
city of Thebes. He told it out among the gods saying, ‘Hear me all
gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as I am minded; this day
shall an Ilithuia, helper of women who are in labour, bring a man
child into the world who shall be lord over all that dwell about him
who are of my blood and lineage.’ Then said Juno all crafty and full
of guile, ‘You will play false, and will not hold to your word.
Swear me, O Olympian, swear me a great oath, that he who shall this
day fall between the feet of a woman, shall be lord over all that
dwell about him who are of your blood and lineage.’
“Thus she spoke, and Jove suspected her not, but swore the great
oath, to his much ruing thereafter. For Juno darted down from the high
summit of Olympus, and went in haste to Achaean Argos where she knew
that the noble wife of Sthenelus son of Perseus then was. She being
with child and in her seventh month, Juno brought the child to birth
though there was a month still wanting, but she stayed the offspring
of Alcmena, and kept back the Ilithuiae. Then she went to tell Jove
the son of Saturn, and said, ‘Father Jove, lord of the lightning- I
have a word for your ear. There is a fine child born this day,
Eurystheus, son to Sthenelus the son of Perseus; he is of your
lineage; it is well, therefore, that he should reign over the
“On this Jove was stung to the very quick, and in his rage he caught
Folly by the hair, and swore a great oath that never should she
again invade starry heaven and Olympus, for she was the bane of all.
Then he whirled her round with a twist of his hand, and flung her down
from heaven so that she fell on to the fields of mortal men; and he
was ever angry with her when he saw his son groaning under the cruel
labours that Eurystheus laid upon him. Even so did I grieve when
mighty Hector was killing the Argives at their ships, and all the time
I kept thinking of Folly who had so baned me. I was blind, and Jove
robbed me of my reason; I will now make atonement, and will add much
treasure by way of amends. Go, therefore, into battle, you and your
people with you. I will give you all that Ulysses offered you
yesterday in your tents: or if it so please you, wait, though you
would fain fight at once, and my squires shall bring the gifts from my
ship, that you may see whether what I give you is enough.”
And Achilles answered, “Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, you
can give such gifts as you think proper, or you can withhold them:
it is in your own hands. Let us now set battle in array; it is not
well to tarry talking about trifles, for there is a deed which is as
yet to do. Achilles shall again be seen fighting among the foremost,
and laying low the ranks of the Trojans: bear this in mind each one of
you when he is fighting.”
Then Ulysses said, “Achilles, godlike and brave, send not the
Achaeans thus against Ilius to fight the Trojans fasting, for the
battle will be no brief one, when it is once begun, and heaven has
filled both sides with fury; bid them first take food both bread and
wine by the ships, for in this there is strength and stay. No man
can do battle the livelong day to the going down of the sun if he is
without food; however much he may want to fight his strength will fail
him before he knows it; hunger and thirst will find him out, and his
limbs will grow weary under him. But a man can fight all day if he
is full fed with meat and wine; his heart beats high, and his strength
will stay till he has routed all his foes; therefore, send the
people away and bid them prepare their meal; King Agamemnon will bring
out the gifts in presence of the assembly, that all may see them and
you may be satisfied. Moreover let him swear an oath before the
Argives that he has never gone up into the couch of Briseis, nor
been with her after the manner of men and women; and do you, too, show
yourself of a gracious mind; let Agamemnon entertain you in his
tents with a feast of reconciliation, that so you may have had your
dues in full. As for you, son of Atreus, treat people more righteously
in future; it is no disgrace even to a king that he should make amends
if he was wrong in the first instance.”
And King Agamemnon answered, “Son of Laertes, your words please me
well, for throughout you have spoken wisely. I will swear as you would
have me do; I do so of my own free will, neither shall I take the name
of heaven in vain. Let, then, Achilles wait, though he would fain
fight at once, and do you others wait also, till the gifts come from
my tent and we ratify the oath with sacrifice. Thus, then, do I charge
you: take some noble young Achaeans with you, and bring from my
tents the gifts that I promised yesterday to Achilles, and bring the
women also; furthermore let Talthybius find me a boar from those
that are with the host, and make it ready for sacrifice to Jove and to
the sun.”
Then said Achilles, “Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, see to
these matters at some other season, when there is breathing time and
when I am calmer. Would you have men eat while the bodies of those
whom Hector son of Priam slew are still lying mangled upon the
plain? Let the sons of the Achaeans, say I, fight fasting and
without food, till we have avenged them; afterwards at the going
down of the sun let them eat their fill. As for me, Patroclus is lying
dead in my tent, all hacked and hewn, with his feet to the door, and
his comrades are mourning round him. Therefore I can take thought of
nothing save only slaughter and blood and the rattle in the throat
of the dying.”
Ulysses answered, “Achilles, son of Peleus, mightiest of all the
Achaeans, in battle you are better than I, and that more than a
little, but in counsel I am much before you, for I am older and of
greater knowledge. Therefore be patient under my words. Fighting is
a thing of which men soon surfeit, and when Jove, who is wars steward,
weighs the upshot, it may well prove that the straw which our
sickles have reaped is far heavier than the grain. It may not be
that the Achaeans should mourn the dead with their bellies; day by day
men fall thick and threefold continually; when should we have
respite from our sorrow? Let us mourn our dead for a day and bury them
out of sight and mind, but let those of us who are left eat and
drink that we may arm and fight our foes more fiercely. In that hour
let no man hold back, waiting for a second summons; such summons shall
bode ill for him who is found lagging behind at our ships; let us
rather sally as one man and loose the fury of war upon the Trojans.”
When he had thus spoken he took with him the sons of Nestor, with
Meges son of Phyleus, Thoas, Meriones, Lycomedes son of Creontes,
and Melanippus, and went to the tent of Agamemnon son of Atreus. The
word was not sooner said than the deed was done: they brought out
the seven tripods which Agamemnon had promised, with the twenty
metal cauldrons and the twelve horses; they also brought the women
skilled in useful arts, seven in number, with Briseis, which made
eight. Ulysses weighed out the ten talents of gold and then led the
way back, while the young Achaeans brought the rest of the gifts,
and laid them in the middle of the assembly.
Agamemnon then rose, and Talthybius whose voice was like that of a
god came to him with the boar. The son of Atreus drew the knife
which he wore by the scabbard of his mighty sword, and began by
cutting off some bristles from the boar, lifting up his hands in
prayer as he did so. The other Achaeans sat where they were all silent
and orderly to hear the king, and Agamemnon looked into the vault of
heaven and prayed saying, “I call Jove the first and mightiest of
all gods to witness, I call also Earth and Sun and the Erinyes who
dwell below and take vengeance on him who shall swear falsely, that
I have laid no hand upon the girl Briseis, neither to take her to my
bed nor otherwise, but that she has remained in my tents inviolate. If
I swear falsely may heaven visit me with all the penalties which it
metes out to those who perjure themselves.”
He cut the boar’s throat as he spoke, whereon Talthybius whirled
it round his head, and flung it into the wide sea to feed the
fishes. Then Achilles also rose and said to the Argives, “Father Jove,
of a truth you blind men’s eyes and bane them. The son of Atreus had
not else stirred me to so fierce an anger, nor so stubbornly taken
Briseis from me against my will. Surely Jove must have counselled
the destruction of many an Argive. Go, now, and take your food that we
may begin fighting.”
On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his own
ship. The Myrmidons attended to the presents and took them away to the
ship of Achilles. They placed them in his tents, while the
stable-men drove the horses in among the others.
Briseis, fair as Venus, when she saw the mangled body of
Patroclus, flung herself upon it and cried aloud, tearing her
breast, her neck, and her lovely face with both her hands. Beautiful
as a goddess she wept and said, “Patroclus, dearest friend, when I
went hence I left you living; I return, O prince, to find you dead;
thus do fresh sorrows multiply upon me one after the other. I saw
him to whom my father and mother married me, cut down before our city,
and my three own dear brothers perished with him on the self-same day;
but you, Patroclus, even when Achilles slew my husband and sacked
the city of noble Mynes, told me that I was not to weep, for you
said you would make Achilles marry me, and take me back with him to
Phthia, we should have a wedding feast among the Myrmidons. You were
always kind to me and I shall never cease to grieve for you.”
She wept as she spoke, and the women joined in her lament-making
as though their tears were for Patroclus, but in truth each was
weeping for her own sorrows. The elders of the Achaeans gathered round
Achilles and prayed him to take food, but he groaned and would not
do so. “I pray you,” said he, “if any comrade will hear me, bid me
neither eat nor drink, for I am in great heaviness, and will stay
fasting even to the going down of the sun.”
On this he sent the other princes away, save only the two sons of
Atreus and Ulysses, Nestor, Idomeneus, and the knight Phoenix, who
stayed behind and tried to comfort him in the bitterness of his
sorrow: but he would not be comforted till he should have flung
himself into the jaws of battle, and he fetched sigh on sigh, thinking
ever of Patroclus. Then he said-
“Hapless and dearest comrade, you it was who would get a good dinner
ready for me at once and without delay when the Achaeans were
hasting to fight the Trojans; now, therefore, though I have meat and
drink in my tents, yet will I fast for sorrow. Grief greater than this
I could not know, not even though I were to hear of the death of my
father, who is now in Phthia weeping for the loss of me his son, who
am here fighting the Trojans in a strange land for the accursed sake
of Helen, nor yet though I should hear that my son is no more- he
who is being brought up in Scyros- if indeed Neoptolemus is still
living. Till now I made sure that I alone was to fall here at Troy
away from Argos, while you were to return to Phthia, bring back my son
with you in your own ship, and show him all my property, my
bondsmen, and the greatness of my house- for Peleus must surely be
either dead, or what little life remains to him is oppressed alike
with the infirmities of age and ever present fear lest he should
hear the sad tidings of my death.”
He wept as he spoke, and the elders sighed in concert as each
thought on what he had left at home behind him. The son of Saturn
looked down with pity upon them, and said presently to Minerva, “My
child, you have quite deserted your hero; is he then gone so clean out
of your recollection? There he sits by the ships all desolate for
the loss of his dear comrade, and though the others are gone to
their dinner he will neither eat nor drink. Go then and drop nectar
and ambrosia into his breast, that he may know no hunger.”
With these words he urged Minerva, who was already of the same mind.
She darted down from heaven into the air like some falcon sailing on
his broad wings and screaming. Meanwhile the Achaeans were arming
throughout the host, and when Minerva had dropped nectar and
ambrosia into Achilles so that no cruel hunger should cause his
limbs to fail him, she went back to the house of her mighty father.
Thick as the chill snow-flakes shed from the hand of Jove and borne on
the keen blasts of the north wind, even so thick did the gleaming
helmets, the bossed shields, the strongly plated breastplates, and the
ashen spears stream from the ships. The sheen pierced the sky, the
whole land was radiant with their flashing armour, and the sound of
the tramp of their treading rose from under their feet. In the midst
of them all Achilles put on his armour; he gnashed his teeth, his eyes
gleamed like fire, for his grief was greater than he could bear. Thus,
then, full of fury against the Trojans, did he don the gift of the
god, the armour that Vulcan had made him.
First he put on the goodly greaves fitted with ancle-clasps, and
next he did on the breastplate about his chest. He slung the
silver-studded sword of bronze about his shoulders, and then took up
the shield so great and strong that shone afar with a splendour as
of the moon. As the light seen by sailors from out at sea, when men
have lit a fire in their homestead high up among the mountains, but
the sailors are carried out to sea by wind and storm far from the
haven where they would be- even so did the gleam of Achilles’ wondrous
shield strike up into the heavens. He lifted the redoubtable helmet,
and set it upon his head, from whence it shone like a star, and the
golden plumes which Vulcan had set thick about the ridge of the
helmet, waved all around it. Then Achilles made trial of himself in
his armour to see whether it fitted him, so that his limbs could
play freely under it, and it seemed to buoy him up as though it had
been wings.
He also drew his father’s spear out of the spear-stand, a spear so
great and heavy and strong that none of the Achaeans save only
Achilles had strength to wield it; this was the spear of Pelian ash
from the topmost ridges of Mt. Pelion, which Chiron had once given
to Peleus, fraught with the death of heroes. Automedon and Alcimus
busied themselves with the harnessing of his horses; they made the
bands fast about them, and put the bit in their mouths, drawing the
reins back towards the chariot. Automedon, whip in hand, sprang up
behind the horses, and after him Achilles mounted in full armour,
resplendent as the sun-god Hyperion. Then with a loud voice he
chided with his father’s horses saying, “Xanthus and Balius, famed
offspring of Podarge- this time when we have done fighting be sure and
bring your driver safely back to the host of the Achaeans, and do
not leave him dead on the plain as you did Patroclus.”
Then fleet Xanthus answered under the yoke- for white-armed Juno had
endowed him with human speech- and he bowed his head till his mane
touched the ground as it hung down from under the yoke-band. “Dread
Achilles,” said he, “we will indeed save you now, but the day of
your death is near, and the blame will not be ours, for it will be
heaven and stern fate that will destroy you. Neither was it through
any sloth or slackness on our part that the Trojans stripped Patroclus
of his armour; it was the mighty god whom lovely Leto bore that slew
him as he fought among the foremost, and vouchsafed a triumph to
Hector. We two can fly as swiftly as Zephyrus who they say is fleetest
of all winds; nevertheless it is your doom to fall by the hand of a
man and of a god.”
When he had thus said the Erinyes stayed his speech, and Achilles
answered him in great sadness, saying, “Why, O Xanthus, do you thus
foretell my death? You need not do so, for I well know that I am to
fall here, far from my dear father and mother; none the more, however,
shall I stay my hand till I have given the Trojans their fill of
So saying, with a loud cry he drove his horses to the front.


THUS, then, did the Achaeans arm by their ships round you, O son
of Peleus, who were hungering for battle; while the Trojans over
against them armed upon the rise of the plain.
Meanwhile Jove from the top of many-delled Olympus, bade Themis
gather the gods in council, whereon she went about and called them
to the house of Jove. There was not a river absent except Oceanus, nor
a single one of the nymphs that haunt fair groves, or springs of
rivers and meadows of green grass. When they reached the house of
cloud-compelling Jove, they took their seats in the arcades of
polished marble which Vulcan with his consummate skill had made for
father Jove.
In such wise, therefore, did they gather in the house of Jove.
Neptune also, lord of the earthquake, obeyed the call of the
goddess, and came up out of the sea to join them. There, sitting in
the midst of them, he asked what Jove’s purpose might be. “Why,”
said he, “wielder of the lightning, have you called the gods in
council? Are you considering some matter that concerns the Trojans and
Achaeans- for the blaze of battle is on the point of being kindled
between them?”
And Jove answered, “You know my purpose, shaker of earth, and
wherefore I have called you hither. I take thought for them even in
their destruction. For my own part I shall stay here seated on Mt.
Olympus and look on in peace, but do you others go about among Trojans
and Achaeans, and help either side as you may be severally disposed.
If Achilles fights the Trojans without hindrance they will make no
stand against him; they have ever trembled at the sight of him, and
now that he is roused to such fury about his comrade, he will override
fate itself and storm their city.”
Thus spoke Jove and gave the word for war, whereon the gods took
their several sides and went into battle. Juno, Pallas Minerva,
earth-encircling Neptune, Mercury bringer of good luck and excellent
in all cunning- all these joined the host that came from the ships;
with them also came Vulcan in all his glory, limping, but yet with his
thin legs plying lustily under him. Mars of gleaming helmet joined the
Trojans, and with him Apollo of locks unshorn, and the archer
goddess Diana, Leto, Xanthus, and laughter-loving Venus.
So long as the gods held themselves aloof from mortal warriors the
Achaeans were triumphant, for Achilles who had long refused to fight
was now with them. There was not a Trojan but his limbs failed him for
fear as he beheld the fleet son of Peleus all glorious in his
armour, and looking like Mars himself. When, however, the Olympians
came to take their part among men, forthwith uprose strong Strife,
rouser of hosts, and Minerva raised her loud voice, now standing by
the deep trench that ran outside the wall, and now shouting with all
her might upon the shore of the sounding sea. Mars also bellowed out
upon the other side, dark as some black thunder-cloud, and called on
the Trojans at the top of his voice, now from the acropolis, and now
speeding up the side of the river Simois till he came to the hill
Thus did the gods spur on both hosts to fight, and rouse fierce
contention also among themselves. The sire of gods and men thundered
from heaven above, while from beneath Neptune shook the vast earth,
and bade the high hills tremble. The spurs and crests of
many-fountained Ida quaked, as also the city of the Trojans and the
ships of the Achaeans. Hades, king of the realms below, was struck
with fear; he sprang panic-stricken from his throne and cried aloud in
terror lest Neptune, lord of the earthquake, should crack the ground
over his head, and lay bare his mouldy mansions to the sight of
mortals and immortals- mansions so ghastly grim that even the gods
shudder to think of them. Such was the uproar as the gods came
together in battle. Apollo with his arrows took his stand to face King
Neptune, while Minerva took hers against the god of war; the
archer-goddess Diana with her golden arrows, sister of far-darting
Apollo, stood to face Juno; Mercury the lusty bringer of good luck
faced Leto, while the mighty eddying river whom men can Scamander, but
gods Xanthus, matched himself against Vulcan.
The gods, then, were thus ranged against one another. But the
heart of Achilles was set on meeting Hector son of Priam, for it was
with his blood that he longed above all things else to glut the
stubborn lord of battle. Meanwhile Apollo set Aeneas on to attack
the son of Peleus, and put courage into his heart, speaking with the
voice of Lycaon son of Priam. In his likeness therefore, he said to
Aeneas, “Aeneas, counsellor of the Trojans, where are now the brave
words with which you vaunted over your wine before the Trojan princes,
saying that you would fight Achilles son of Peleus in single combat?”
And Aeneas answered, “Why do you thus bid me fight the proud son
of Peleus, when I am in no mind to do so? Were I to face him now, it
would not be for the first time. His spear has already put me to Right
from Ida, when he attacked our cattle and sacked Lyrnessus and
Pedasus; Jove indeed saved me in that he vouchsafed me strength to
fly, else had the fallen by the hands of Achilles and Minerva, who
went before him to protect him and urged him to fall upon the
Lelegae and Trojans. No man may fight Achilles, for one of the gods is
always with him as his guardian angel, and even were it not so, his
weapon flies ever straight, and fails not to pierce the flesh of him
who is against him; if heaven would let me fight him on even terms
he should not soon overcome me, though he boasts that he is made of
Then said King Apollo, son to Jove, “Nay, hero, pray to the
ever-living gods, for men say that you were born of Jove’s daughter
Venus, whereas Achilles is son to a goddess of inferior rank. Venus is
child to Jove, while Thetis is but daughter to the old man of the sea.
Bring, therefore, your spear to bear upon him, and let him not scare
you with his taunts and menaces.”
As he spoke he put courage into the heart of the shepherd of his
people, and he strode in full armour among the ranks of the foremost
fighters. Nor did the son of Anchises escape the notice of white-armed
Juno, as he went forth into the throng to meet Achilles. She called
the gods about her, and said, “Look to it, you two, Neptune and
Minerva, and consider how this shall be; Phoebus Apollo has been
sending Aeneas clad in full armour to fight Achilles. Shall we turn
him back at once, or shall one of us stand by Achilles and endow him
with strength so that his heart fail not, and he may learn that the
chiefs of the immortals are on his side, while the others who have all
along been defending the Trojans are but vain helpers? Let us all come
down from Olympus and join in the fight, that this day he may take
no hurt at the hands of the Trojans. Hereafter let him suffer whatever
fate may have spun out for him when he was begotten and his mother
bore him. If Achilles be not thus assured by the voice of a god, he
may come to fear presently when one of us meets him in battle, for the
gods are terrible if they are seen face to face.”
Neptune lord of the earthquake answered her saying, “Juno,
restrain your fury; it is not well; I am not in favour of forcing
the other gods to fight us, for the advantage is too greatly on our
own side; let us take our places on some hill out of the beaten track,
and let mortals fight it out among themselves. If Mars or Phoebus
Apollo begin fighting, or keep Achilles in check so that he cannot
fight, we too, will at once raise the cry of battle, and in that
case they will soon leave the field and go back vanquished to
Olympus among the other gods.”
With these words the dark-haired god led the way to the high
earth-barrow of Hercules, built round solid masonry, and made by the
Trojans and Pallas Minerva for him fly to when the sea-monster was
chasing him from the shore on to the plain. Here Neptune and those
that were with him took their seats, wrapped in a thick cloud of
darkness; but the other gods seated themselves on the brow of
Callicolone round you, O Phoebus, and Mars the waster of cities.
Thus did the gods sit apart and form their plans, but neither side
was willing to begin battle with the other, and Jove from his seat
on high was in command over them all. Meanwhile the whole plain was
alive with men and horses, and blazing with the gleam of armour. The
earth rang again under the tramp of their feet as they rushed
towards each other, and two champions, by far the foremost of them
all, met between the hosts to fight- to wit, Aeneas son of Anchises,
and noble Achilles.
Aeneas was first to stride forward in attack, his doughty helmet
tossing defiance as he came on. He held his strong shield before his
breast, and brandished his bronze spear. The son of Peleus from the
other side sprang forth to meet him, fike some fierce lion that the
whole country-side has met to hunt and kill- at first he bodes no ill,
but when some daring youth has struck him with a spear, he crouches
openmouthed, his jaws foam, he roars with fury, he lashes his tail
from side to side about his ribs and loins, and glares as he springs
straight before him, to find out whether he is to slay, or be slain
among the foremost of his foes- even with such fury did Achilles
burn to spring upon Aeneas.
When they were now close up with one another Achilles was first to
speak. “Aeneas,” said he, “why do you stand thus out before the host
to fight me? Is it that you hope to reign over the Trojans in the seat
of Priam? Nay, though you kill me Priam will not hand his kingdom over
to you. He is a man of sound judgement, and he has sons of his own. Or
have the Trojans been allotting you a demesne of passing richness,
fair with orchard lawns and corn lands, if you should slay me? This
you shall hardly do. I have discomfited you once already. Have you
forgotten how when you were alone I chased you from your herds
helter-skelter down the slopes of Ida? You did not turn round to
look behind you; you took refuge in Lyrnessus, but I attacked the
city, and with the help of Minerva and father Jove I sacked it and
carried its women into captivity, though Jove and the other gods
rescued you. You think they will protect you now, but they will not do
so; therefore I say go back into the host, and do not face me, or
you will rue it. Even a fool may be wise after the event.”
Then Aeneas answered, “Son of Peleus, think not that your words
can scare me as though I were a child. I too, if I will, can brag
and talk unseemly. We know one another’s race and parentage as matters
of common fame, though neither have you ever seen my parents nor I
yours. Men say that you are son to noble Peleus, and that your
mother is Thetis, fair-haired daughter of the sea. I have noble
Anchises for my father, and Venus for my mother; the parents of one or
other of us shall this day mourn a son, for it will be more than silly
talk that shall part us when the fight is over. Learn, then, my
lineage if you will- and it is known to many.
“In the beginning Dardanus was the son of Jove, and founded
Dardania, for Ilius was not yet stablished on the plain for men to
dwell in, and her people still abode on the spurs of many-fountained
Ida. Dardanus had a son, king Erichthonius, who was wealthiest of
all men living; he had three thousand mares that fed by the
water-meadows, they and their foals with them. Boreas was enamoured of
them as they were feeding, and covered them in the semblance of a
dark-maned stallion. Twelve filly foals did they conceive and bear
him, and these, as they sped over the rich plain, would go bounding on
over the ripe ears of corn and not break them; or again when they
would disport themselves on the broad back of Ocean they could
gallop on the crest of a breaker. Erichthonius begat Tros, king of the
Trojans, and Tros had three noble sons, Ilus, Assaracus, and
Ganymede who was comeliest of mortal men; wherefore the gods carried
him off to be Jove’s cupbearer, for his beauty’s sake, that he might
dwell among the immortals. Ilus begat Laomedon, and Laomedon begat
Tithonus, Priam, Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon of the stock of Mars.
But Assaracus was father to Capys, and Capys to Anchises, who was my
father, while Hector is son to Priam.
“Such do I declare my blood and lineage, but as for valour, Jove
gives it or takes it as he will, for he is lord of all. And now let
there be no more of this prating in mid-battle as though we were
children. We could fling taunts without end at one another; a
hundred-oared galley would not hold them. The tongue can run all
whithers and talk all wise; it can go here and there, and as a man
says, so shall he be gainsaid. What is the use of our bandying hard
like women who when they fall foul of one another go out and wrangle
in the streets, one half true and the other lies, as rage inspires
them? No words of yours shall turn me now that I am fain to fight-
therefore let us make trial of one another with our spears.”
As he spoke he drove his spear at the great and terrible shield of
Achilles, which rang out as the point struck it. The son of Peleus
held the shield before him with his strong hand, and he was afraid,
for he deemed that Aeneas’s spear would go through it quite easily,
not reflecting that the god’s glorious gifts were little likely to
yield before the blows of mortal men; and indeed Aeneas’s spear did
not pierce the shield, for the layer of gold, gift of the god,
stayed the point. It went through two layers, but the god had made the
shield in five, two of bronze, the two innermost ones of tin, and
one of gold; it was in this that the spear was stayed.
Achilles in his turn threw, and struck the round shield of Aeneas at
the very edge, where the bronze was thinnest; the spear of Pelian
ash went clean through, and the shield rang under the blow; Aeneas was
afraid, and crouched backwards, holding the shield away from him;
the spear, however, flew over his back, and stuck quivering in the
ground, after having gone through both circles of the sheltering
shield. Aeneas though he had avoided the spear, stood still, blinded
with fear and grief because the weapon had gone so near him; then
Achilles sprang furiously upon him, with a cry as of death and with
his keen blade drawn, and Aeneas seized a great stone, so huge that
two men, as men now are, would be unable to lift it, but Aeneas
wielded it quite easily.
Aeneas would then have struck Achilles as he was springing towards
him, either on the helmet, or on the shield that covered him, and
Achilles would have closed with him and despatched him with his sword,
had not Neptune lord of the earthquake been quick to mark, and said
forthwith to the immortals, “Alas, I am sorry for great Aeneas, who
will now go down to the house of Hades, vanquished by the son of
Peleus. Fool that he was to give ear to the counsel of Apollo.
Apollo will never save him from destruction. Why should this man
suffer when he is guiltless, to no purpose, and in another’s
quarrel? Has he not at all times offered acceptable sacrifice to the
gods that dwell in heaven? Let us then snatch him from death’s jaws,
lest the son of Saturn be angry should Achilles slay him. It is fated,
moreover, that he should escape, and that the race of Dardanus, whom
Jove loved above all the sons born to him of mortal women, shall not
perish utterly without seed or sign. For now indeed has Jove hated the
blood of Priam, while Aeneas shall reign over the Trojans, he and
his children’s children that shall be born hereafter.”
Then answered Juno, “Earth-shaker, look to this matter yourself, and
consider concerning Aeneas, whether you will save him, or suffer
him, brave though he be, to fall by the hand of Achilles son of
Peleus. For of a truth we two, I and Pallas Minerva, have sworn full
many a time before all the immortals, that never would we shield
Trojans from destruction, not even when all Troy is burning in the
flames that the Achaeans shall kindle.”
When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went into the battle
amid the clash of spears, and came to the place where Achilles and
Aeneas were. Forthwith he shed a darkness before the eyes of the son
of Peleus, drew the bronze-headed ashen spear from the shield of
Aeneas, and laid it at the feet of Achilles. Then he lifted Aeneas
on high from off the earth and hurried him away. Over the heads of
many a band of warriors both horse and foot did he soar as the god’s
hand sped him, till he came to the very fringe of the battle where the
Cauconians were arming themselves for fight. Neptune, shaker of the
earth, then came near to him and said, Aeneas, what god has egged
you on to this folly in fighting the son of Peleus, who is both a
mightier man of valour and more beloved of heaven than you are? Give
way before him whensoever you meet him, lest you go down to the
house of Hades even though fate would have it otherwise. When Achilles
is dead you may then fight among the foremost undaunted, for none
other of the Achaeans shall slay you.”
The god left him when he had given him these instructions, and at
once removed the darkness from before the eyes of Achilles, who opened
them wide indeed and said in great anger, “Alas! what marvel am I
now beholding? Here is my spear upon the ground, but I see not him
whom I meant to kill when I hurled it. Of a truth Aeneas also must
be under heaven’s protection, although I had thought his boasting
was idle. Let him go hang; he will be in no mood to fight me
further, seeing how narrowly he has missed being killed. I will now
give my orders to the Danaans and attack some other of the Trojans.”
He sprang forward along the line and cheered his men on as he did
so. “Let not the Trojans,” he cried, “keep you at arm’s length,
Achaeans, but go for them and fight them man for man. However
valiant I may be, I cannot give chase to so many and fight all of
them. Even Mars, who is an immortal, or Minerva, would shrink from
flinging himself into the jaws of such a fight and laying about him;
nevertheless, so far as in me lies I will show no slackness of hand or
foot nor want of endurance, not even for a moment; I will utterly
break their ranks, and woe to the Trojan who shall venture within
reach of my spear.”
Thus did he exhort them. Meanwhile Hector called upon the Trojans
and declared that he would fight Achilles. “Be not afraid, proud
Trojans,” said he, “to face the son of Peleus; I could fight gods
myself if the battle were one of words only, but they would be more
than a match for me, if we had to use our spears. Even so the deed
of Achilles will fall somewhat short of his word; he will do in
part, and the other part he will clip short. I will go up against
him though his hands be as fire- though his hands be fire and his
strength iron.”
Thus urged the Trojans lifted up their spears against the
Achaeans, and raised the cry of battle as they flung themselves into
the midst of their ranks. But Phoebus Apollo came up to Hector and
said, “Hector, on no account must you challenge Achilles to single
combat; keep a lookout for him while you are under cover of the others
and away from the thick of the fight, otherwise he will either hit you
with a spear or cut you down at close quarters.”
Thus he spoke, and Hector drew back within the crowd, for he was
afraid when he heard what the god had said to him. Achilles then
sprang upon the Trojans with a terrible cry, clothed in valour as with
a garment. First he killed Iphition son of Otrynteus, a leader of much
people whom a naiad nymph had borne to Otrynteus waster of cities,
in the land of Hyde under the snowy heights of Mt. Tmolus. Achilles
struck him full on the head as he was coming on towards him, and split
it clean in two; whereon he fell heavily to the ground and Achilles
vaunted over him saying, “You he low, son of Otrynteus, mighty hero;
your death is here, but your lineage is on the Gygaean lake where your
father’s estate lies, by Hyllus, rich in fish, and the eddying
waters of Hermus.”
Thus did he vaunt, but darkness closed the eyes of the other. The
chariots of the Achaeans cut him up as their wheels passed over him in
the front of the battle, and after him Achilles killed Demoleon, a
valiant man of war and son to Antenor. He struck him on the temple
through his bronze-cheeked helmet. The helmet did not stay the
spear, but it went right on, crushing the bone so that the brain
inside was shed in all directions, and his lust of fighting was ended.
Then he struck Hippodamas in the midriff as he was springing down from
his chariot in front of him, and trying to escape. He breathed his
last, bellowing like a bull bellows when young men are dragging him to
offer him in sacrifice to the King of Helice, and the heart of the
earth-shaker is glad; even so did he bellow as he lay dying.
Achilles then went in pursuit of Polydorus son of Priam, whom his
father had always forbidden to fight because he was the youngest of
his sons, the one he loved best, and the fastest runner. He, in his
folly and showing off the fleetness of his feet, was rushing about
among front ranks until he lost his life, for Achilles struck him in
the middle of the back as he was darting past him: he struck him
just at the golden fastenings of his belt and where the two pieces
of the double breastplate overlapped. The point of the spear pierced
him through and came out by the navel, whereon he fell groaning on
to his knees and a cloud of darkness overshadowed him as he sank
holding his entrails in his hands.
When Hector saw his brother Polydorus with his entrails in his hands
and sinking down upon the ground, a mist came over his eyes, and he
could not bear to keep longer at a distance; he therefore poised his
spear and darted towards Achilles like a flame of fire. When
Achilles saw him he bounded forward and vaunted saying, “This is he
that has wounded my heart most deeply and has slain my beloved
comrade. Not for long shall we two quail before one another on the
highways of war.”
He looked fiercely on Hector and said, “Draw near, that you may meet
your doom the sooner.” Hector feared him not and answered, “Son of
Peleus, think not that your words can scare me as though I were a
child; I too if I will can brag and talk unseemly; I know that you are
a mighty warrior, mightier by far than I, nevertheless the issue
lies in the the lap of heaven whether I, worse man though I be, may
not slay you with my spear, for this too has been found keen ere now.”
He hurled his spear as he spoke, but Minerva breathed upon it, and
though she breathed but very lightly she turned it back from going
towards Achilles, so that it returned to Hector and lay at his feet in
front of him. Achilles then sprang furiously on him with a loud cry,
bent on killing him, but Apollo caught him up easily as a god can, and
hid him in a thick darkness. Thrice did Achilles spring towards him
spear in hand, and thrice did he waste his blow upon the air. When
he rushed forward for the fourth time as though he were a god, he
shouted aloud saying, “Hound, this time too you have escaped death-
but of a truth it came exceedingly near you. Phoebus Apollo, to whom
it seems you pray before you go into battle, has again saved you;
but if I too have any friend among the gods I will surely make an
end of you when I come across you at some other time. Now, however,
I will pursue and overtake other Trojans.”
On this he struck Dryops with his spear, about the middle of his
neck, and he fell headlong at his feet. There he let him lie and
stayed Demouchus son of Philetor, a man both brave and of great
stature, by hitting him on the knee with a spear; then he smote him
with his sword and killed him. After this he sprang on Laogonus and
Dardanus, sons of Bias, and threw them from their chariot, the one
with a blow from a thrown spear, while the other he cut down in
hand-to-hand fight. There was also Tros the son of Alastor- he came up
to Achilles and clasped his knees in the hope that he would spare
him and not kill him but let him go, because they were both of the
same age. Fool, he might have known that he should not prevail with
him, for the man was in no mood for pity or forbearance but was in
grim earnest. Therefore when Tros laid hold of his knees and sought
a hearing for his prayers, Achilles drove his sword into his liver,
and the liver came rolling out, while his bosom was all covered with
the black blood that welled from the wound. Thus did death close his
eyes as he lay lifeless.
Achilles then went up to Mulius and struck him on the ear with a
spear, and the bronze spear-head came right out at the other ear. He
also struck Echeclus son of Agenor on the head with his sword, which
became warm with the blood, while death and stern fate closed the eyes
of Echeclus. Next in order the bronze point of his spear wounded
Deucalion in the fore-arm where the sinews of the elbow are united,
whereon he waited Achilles’ onset with his arm hanging down and
death staring him in the face. Achilles cut his head off with a blow
from his sword and flung it helmet and all away from him, and the
marrow came oozing out of his backbone as he lay. He then went in
pursuit of Rhigmus, noble son of Peires, who had come from fertile
Thrace, and struck him through the middle with a spear which fixed
itself in his belly, so that he fell headlong from his chariot. He
also speared Areithous squire to Rhigmus in the back as he was turning
his horses in flight, and thrust him from his chariot, while the
horses were struck with panic.
As a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought- and the
dense forest is in a blaze, while the wind carries great tongues of
fire in every direction- even so furiously did Achilles rage, wielding
his spear as though he were a god, and giving chase to those whom he
would slay, till the dark earth ran with blood. Or as one who yokes
broad-browed oxen that they may tread barley in a threshing-floor- and
it is soon bruised small under the feet of the lowing cattle- even
so did the horses of Achilles trample on the shields and bodies of the
slain. The axle underneath and the railing that ran round the car were
bespattered with clots of blood thrown up by the horses’ hoofs, and
from the tyres of the wheels; but the son of Peleus pressed on to
win still further glory, and his hands were bedrabbled with gore.