Iliad, Book 8, lines 245-253, in a manuscript of the late fifth or early sixth century CE
Translated by Samuel Butler
Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought
countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying
down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures,
for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the
son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with
And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the
son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence
upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had
dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the ships
of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great
ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo wreathed
with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but most of
all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.
"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods
who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach
your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for
her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."
On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting
the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon,
who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. "Old man," said
he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor yet coming
hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall profit you
nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my house at Argos
far from her own home, busying herself with her loom and visiting
my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the worse for
The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went by
the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo whom
lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow,
that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos with thy
might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your temple
with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats,
grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon the
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down furious
from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver upon his
shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage that trembled
within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with a face as
dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow
in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their hounds,
but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves, and all
day long the pyres of the dead were burning.
For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon
the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno,
who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon
them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.
"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving home
if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by war and
pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some reader
of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why Phoebus
Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we have
broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will
accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take
away the plague from us."
With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest of
augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He
it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius, through
the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him. With
all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-
"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of
King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear
that you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that
I shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the
Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger
of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse revenge
till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you will
And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon
you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose
oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his
hand upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth-
no, not though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost
of the Achaeans."
Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither
about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon
has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a
ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will
yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this pestilence
till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or ransom to her
father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus we may perhaps
With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart
was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on Calchas
and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth things concerning
me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was evil. You have
brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you come seeing
among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us because I would
not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of Chryses. I have set
my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even
than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and
feature, in understanding and accomplishments. Still I will give her
up if I must, for I would have the people live, not die; but you must
find me a prize instead, or I alone among the Argives shall be without
one. This is not well; for you behold, all of you, that my prize is
to go elsewhither."
And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond
all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have
no common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities
have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made
already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove grants
us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and fourfold."
Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not
thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade
me. Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss
and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize
in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or
that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall
rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the
present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her
expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis
also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax,
or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you
are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the
Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in insolence
and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your
bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not warring here
for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel with them.
They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests
on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great
space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence!
for your pleasure, not ours- to gain satisfaction from the Trojans
for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten
to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons
of the Achaeans have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich
city of the Trojans do I receive so good a prize as you do, though
it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When the sharing
comes, your share is far the largest, and I, forsooth, must go back
to my ships, take what I can get and be thankful, when my labour of
fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will
be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not
stay here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you."
And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no prayers
to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and above all
Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so hateful to me
as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill affected. What though
you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you so? Go home, then, with
your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons. I care neither
for you nor for your anger; and thus will I do: since Phoebus Apollo
is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send her with my ship and my followers,
but I shall come to your tent and take your own prize Briseis, that
you may learn how much stronger I am than you are, and that another
may fear to set himself up as equal or comparable with me."
The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy breast
was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and
kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his anger.
While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty sword from
its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had sent her
in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of Peleus by
his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others no man could
see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed from
her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are you here," said
he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the pride of Agamemnon,
son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall surely be- he shall pay
for this insolence with his life."
And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid
you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you alike.
Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at him
if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you- and
it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three times
as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and
"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must
do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear
the prayers of him who has obeyed them."
He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it
back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to
Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.
But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus, for
he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of
a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the host
in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this
as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes
from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you
are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward
you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great
oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor
shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem
upon the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and
now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the
decrees of heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter
they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the
day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand
of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your
heart with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest
of the Achaeans."
With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the
ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning fiercely
from his place upon the other side. Then uprose smooth-tongued Nestor,
the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the words fell from his lips
sweeter than honey. Two generations of men born and bred in Pylos
had passed away under his rule, and he was now reigning over the third.
With all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:-
"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean land.
Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be glad
at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are
so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you;
therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend
of men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels.
Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd
of his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus
son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men
ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought
the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them.
I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would
have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living
could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded
by them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent
way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl
away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles;
and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who
by the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon.
You are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon
is stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus,
check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who
in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but
this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord
of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be.
Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also
given him the right to speak with railing?"
Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried, "were
I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not me,
for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to
your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this girl,
for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else that
is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that others
may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your blood."
When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the
assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back
to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company,
while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of twenty
oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb
for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.
These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But
the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they purified
themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they offered hecatombs
of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore, and the smoke
with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up towards heaven.
Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did
not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty
messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to
the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and
bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others
and take her- which will press him harder."
He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon they
went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to the tents
and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by his tent
and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them. They stood
fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did they speak,
but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers of gods and
men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with Agamemnon who
has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus, bring her
and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the blessed gods,
by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's anger, that if
ever again there be need of me to save the people from ruin, they
shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad with rage and
knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans may fight
by their ships in safety."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis
from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with
them to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then
Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and looking
out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in prayer
to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed to
live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from Olympus,
might have made that little glorious. It is not so. Agamemnon, son
of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me of my prize by
As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was
sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father. Forthwith
she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down before
him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and said, "My
son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you? Keep it not
from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."
Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you what
you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of Eetion,
sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the Achaeans
shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as the
meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the ships
of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a great
ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo, wreathed
with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans, but most
of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.
"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting
the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon,
who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So he went back
in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his prayer. Then
the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the people died thick
on one another, for the arrows went everywhither among the wide host
of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness of his knowledge declared
to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was myself first to say that we
should appease him. Whereon the son of Atreus rose in anger, and threatened
that which he has since done. The Achaeans are now taking the girl
in a ship to Chryse, and sending gifts of sacrifice to the god; but
the heralds have just taken from my tent the daughter of Briseus,
whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.
"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and
if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid
of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in that
you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin, when
the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put
him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to
Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men
Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he
took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods
were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of
all this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans.
Let the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish
on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their king,
and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to the
foremost of the Achaeans."
Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have borne
or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free from
all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you
should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers:
woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I will
go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove, if
he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your ships,
nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from fight.
For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the Ethiopians,
and the other gods went with him. He will return to Olympus twelve
days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with bronze and will
beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to persuade him."
On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been
taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb.
When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid
them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the
mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they would
have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and made fast
the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed the hecatomb
for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses led her to the
altar to deliver her into the hands of her father. "Chryses," said
he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your child, and
to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that we may
propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the Argives."
So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her gladly,
and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the
god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle
over the victims, while Chryses lifted up his hands and prayed aloud
on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that
protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and rulest Tenedos with thy might.
Even as thou didst hear me aforetime when I prayed, and didst press
hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me yet again, and stay this fearful
pestilence from the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done
praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of
the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones,
wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat
on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on the wood fire and
poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged
spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had
tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces
upon the spits, roasted them till they were done, and drew them off:
then, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, they
ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied.
As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, pages filled the
mixing-bowl with wine and water and handed it round, after giving
every man his drink-offering.
Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song, hymning
him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took pleasure in their
voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on dark, they laid
themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the ship, and when
the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they again set
sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair wind, so
they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft. As the
sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep blue water,
and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. When they
reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they drew the vessel
ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong props beneath
her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.
But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not
to the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed
at his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.
Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus,
and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge her son
had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and went through
great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she found the mighty
son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat herself
down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with
her right she caught him under the chin, and besought him, saying-
"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the
immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is
to be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking
his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord
of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give
my son his due and load him with riches in requital."
Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still
kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time. "Incline
your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny me- for
you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you disdain
At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble
if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with
her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before
the other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back
now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will
bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me.
This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall
my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded
As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial
locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.
When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his
house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged
into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before
the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting,
but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat.
But Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter,
silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began
to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you
been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters
in secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could
help it, one word of your intentions."
"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to
be informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find
it hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there
is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to
keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about?
I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything.
Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's daughter Thetis
has been talking you over, for she was with you and had hold of your
knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that you have
been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill much people
at the ships of the Achaeans."
"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find it
out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the
more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say;
I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid you for
if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven were
on your side it would profit you nothing."
On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat
down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout
the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and
pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you
two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack
of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no
pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must
herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear
father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the
Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do
so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will
then soon be in a good humour with us."
As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his
mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the
best of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you
get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for
there is no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to
help you, he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly
threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at
sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay,
with very little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended
Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's
hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served
it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the blessed
gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing bustling about
the heavenly mansion.
Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted,
and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo
struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices, calling
and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light had faded,
they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Vulcan with
his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove, the Olympian
Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and
when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the golden
throne by his side.
Now the other gods and the armed warriors on the plain slept soundly,
but Jove was wakeful, for he was thinking how to do honour to Achilles,
and destroyed much people at the ships of the Achaeans. In the end
he deemed it would be best to send a lying dream to King Agamemnon;
so he called one to him and said to it, "Lying Dream, go to the ships
of the Achaeans, into the tent of Agamemnon, and say to him word to
word as I now bid you. Tell him to get the Achaeans instantly under
arms, for he shall take Troy. There are no longer divided counsels
among the gods; Juno has brought them to her own mind, and woe betides
The dream went when it had heard its message, and soon reached the
ships of the Achaeans. It sought Agamemnon son of Atreus and found
him in his tent, wrapped in a profound slumber. It hovered over his
head in the likeness of Nestor, son of Neleus, whom Agamemnon honoured
above all his councillors, and said:-
"You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one who has the welfare of his host
and so much other care upon his shoulders should dock his sleep. Hear
me at once, for I come as a messenger from Jove, who, though he be
not near, yet takes thought for you and pities you. He bids you get
the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you shall take Troy. There
are no longer divided counsels among the gods; Juno has brought them
over to her own mind, and woe betides the Trojans at the hands of
Jove. Remember this, and when you wake see that it does not escape
The dream then left him, and he thought of things that were, surely
not to be accomplished. He thought that on that same day he was to
take the city of Priam, but he little knew what was in the mind of
Jove, who had many another hard-fought fight in store alike for Danaans
and Trojans. Then presently he woke, with the divine message still
ringing in his ears; so he sat upright, and put on his soft shirt
so fair and new, and over this his heavy cloak. He bound his sandals
on to his comely feet, and slung his silver-studded sword about his
shoulders; then he took the imperishable staff of his father, and
sallied forth to the ships of the Achaeans.
The goddess Dawn now wended her way to vast Olympus that she might
herald day to Jove and to the other immortals, and Agamemnon sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly; so they called them
and the people gathered thereon. But first he summoned a meeting of
the elders at the ship of Nestor king of Pylos, and when they were
assembled he laid a cunning counsel before them.
"My friends," said he, "I have had a dream from heaven in the dead
of night, and its face and figure resembled none but Nestor's. It
hovered over my head and said, 'You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one
who has the welfare of his host and so much other care upon his shoulders
should dock his sleep. Hear me at once, for I am a messenger from
Jove, who, though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and pities
you. He bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you shall
take Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the gods; Juno
has brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides the Trojans
at the hands of Jove. Remember this.' The dream then vanished and
I awoke. Let us now, therefore, arm the sons of the Achaeans. But
it will be well that I should first sound them, and to this end I
will tell them to fly with their ships; but do you others go about
among the host and prevent their doing so."
He then sat down, and Nestor the prince of Pylos with all sincerity
and goodwill addressed them thus: "My friends," said he, "princes
and councillors of the Argives, if any other man of the Achaeans had
told us of this dream we should have declared it false, and would
have had nothing to do with it. But he who has seen it is the foremost
man among us; we must therefore set about getting the people under
With this he led the way from the assembly, and the other sceptred
kings rose with him in obedience to the word of Agamemnon; but the
people pressed forward to hear. They swarmed like bees that sally
from some hollow cave and flit in countless throng among the spring
flowers, bunched in knots and clusters; even so did the mighty multitude
pour from ships and tents to the assembly, and range themselves upon
the wide-watered shore, while among them ran Wildfire Rumour, messenger
of Jove, urging them ever to the fore. Thus they gathered in a pell-mell
of mad confusion, and the earth groaned under the tramp of men as
the people sought their places. Nine heralds went crying about among
them to stay their tumult and bid them listen to the kings, till at
last they were got into their several places and ceased their clamour.
Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his sceptre. This was the work of
Vulcan, who gave it to Jove the son of Saturn. Jove gave it to Mercury,
slayer of Argus, guide and guardian. King Mercury gave it to Pelops,
the mighty charioteer, and Pelops to Atreus, shepherd of his people.
Atreus, when he died, left it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes
in his turn left it to be borne by Agamemnon, that he might be lord
of all Argos and of the isles. Leaning, then, on his sceptre, he addressed
"My friends," he said, "heroes, servants of Mars, the hand of heaven
has been laid heavily upon me. Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise
that I should sack the city of Priam before returning, but he has
played me false, and is now bidding me go ingloriously back to Argos
with the loss of much people. Such is the will of Jove, who has laid
many a proud city in the dust, as he will yet lay others, for his
power is above all. It will be a sorry tale hereafter that an Achaean
host, at once so great and valiant, battled in vain against men fewer
in number than themselves; but as yet the end is not in sight. Think
that the Achaeans and Trojans have sworn to a solemn covenant, and
that they have each been numbered- the Trojans by the roll of their
householders, and we by companies of ten; think further that each
of our companies desired to have a Trojan householder to pour out
their wine; we are so greatly more in number that full many a company
would have to go without its cup-bearer. But they have in the town
allies from other places, and it is these that hinder me from being
able to sack the rich city of Ilius. Nine of Jove years are gone;
the timbers of our ships have rotted; their tackling is sound no longer.
Our wives and little ones at home look anxiously for our coming, but
the work that we came hither to do has not been done. Now, therefore,
let us all do as I say: let us sail back to our own land, for we shall
not take Troy."
With these words he moved the hearts of the multitude, so many of
them as knew not the cunning counsel of Agamemnon. They surged to
and fro like the waves of the Icarian Sea, when the east and south
winds break from heaven's clouds to lash them; or as when the west
wind sweeps over a field of corn and the ears bow beneath the blast,
even so were they swayed as they flew with loud cries towards the
ships, and the dust from under their feet rose heavenward. They cheered
each other on to draw the ships into the sea; they cleared the channels
in front of them; they began taking away the stays from underneath
them, and the welkin rang with their glad cries, so eager were they
Then surely the Argives would have returned after a fashion that was
not fated. But Juno said to Minerva, "Alas, daughter of aegis-bearing
Jove, unweariable, shall the Argives fly home to their own land over
the broad sea, and leave Priam and the Trojans the glory of still
keeping Helen, for whose sake so many of the Achaeans have died at
Troy, far from their homes? Go about at once among the host, and speak
fairly to them, man by man, that they draw not their ships into the
Minerva was not slack to do her bidding. Down she darted from the
topmost summits of Olympus, and in a moment she was at the ships of
the Achaeans. There she found Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel, standing
alone. He had not as yet laid a hand upon his ship, for he was grieved
and sorry; so she went close up to him and said, "Ulysses, noble son
of Laertes, are you going to fling yourselves into your ships and
be off home to your own land in this way? Will you leave Priam and
the Trojans the glory of still keeping Helen, for whose sake so many
of the Achaeans have died at Troy, far from their homes? Go about
at once among the host, and speak fairly to them, man by man, that
they draw not their ships into the sea."
Ulysses knew the voice as that of the goddess: he flung his cloak
from him and set off to run. His servant Eurybates, a man of Ithaca,
who waited on him, took charge of the cloak, whereon Ulysses went
straight up to Agamemnon and received from him his ancestral, imperishable
staff. With this he went about among the ships of the Achaeans.
Whenever he met a king or chieftain, he stood by him and spoke him
fairly. "Sir," said he, "this flight is cowardly and unworthy. Stand
to your post, and bid your people also keep their places. You do not
yet know the full mind of Agamemnon; he was sounding us, and ere long
will visit the Achaeans with his displeasure. We were not all of us
at the council to hear what he then said; see to it lest he be angry
and do us a mischief; for the pride of kings is great, and the hand
of Jove is with them."
But when he came across any common man who was making a noise, he
struck him with his staff and rebuked him, saying, "Sirrah, hold your
peace, and listen to better men than yourself. You are a coward and
no soldier; you are nobody either in fight or council; we cannot all
be kings; it is not well that there should be many masters; one man
must be supreme- one king to whom the son of scheming Saturn has given
the sceptre of sovereignty over you all."
Thus masterfully did he go about among the host, and the people hurried
back to the council from their tents and ships with a sound as the
thunder of surf when it comes crashing down upon the shore, and all
the sea is in an uproar.
The rest now took their seats and kept to their own several places,
but Thersites still went on wagging his unbridled tongue- a man of
many words, and those unseemly; a monger of sedition, a railer against
all who were in authority, who cared not what he said, so that he
might set the Achaeans in a laugh. He was the ugliest man of all those
that came before Troy- bandy-legged, lame of one foot, with his two
shoulders rounded and hunched over his chest. His head ran up to a
point, but there was little hair on the top of it. Achilles and Ulysses
hated him worst of all, for it was with them that he was most wont
to wrangle; now, however, with a shrill squeaky voice he began heaping
his abuse on Agamemnon. The Achaeans were angry and disgusted, yet
none the less he kept on brawling and bawling at the son of Atreus.
"Agamemnon," he cried, "what ails you now, and what more do you want?
Your tents are filled with bronze and with fair women, for whenever
we take a town we give you the pick of them. Would you have yet more
gold, which some Trojan is to give you as a ransom for his son, when
I or another Achaean has taken him prisoner? or is it some young girl
to hide and lie with? It is not well that you, the ruler of the Achaeans,
should bring them into such misery. Weakling cowards, women rather
than men, let us sail home, and leave this fellow here at Troy to
stew in his own meeds of honour, and discover whether we were of any
service to him or no. Achilles is a much better man than he is, and
see how he has treated him- robbing him of his prize and keeping it
himself. Achilles takes it meekly and shows no fight; if he did, son
of Atreus, you would never again insult him."
Thus railed Thersites, but Ulysses at once went up to him and rebuked
him sternly. "Check your glib tongue, Thersites," said be, "and babble
not a word further. Chide not with princes when you have none to back
you. There is no viler creature come before Troy with the sons of
Atreus. Drop this chatter about kings, and neither revile them nor
keep harping about going home. We do not yet know how things are going
to be, nor whether the Achaeans are to return with good success or
evil. How dare you gibe at Agamemnon because the Danaans have awarded
him so many prizes? I tell you, therefore- and it shall surely be-
that if I again catch you talking such nonsense, I will either forfeit
my own head and be no more called father of Telemachus, or I will
take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the assembly
till you go blubbering back to the ships."
On this he beat him with his staff about the back and shoulders till
he dropped and fell a-weeping. The golden sceptre raised a bloody
weal on his back, so he sat down frightened and in pain, looking foolish
as he wiped the tears from his eyes. The people were sorry for him,
yet they laughed heartily, and one would turn to his neighbour saying,
"Ulysses has done many a good thing ere now in fight and council,
but he never did the Argives a better turn than when he stopped this
fellow's mouth from prating further. He will give the kings no more
of his insolence."
Thus said the people. Then Ulysses rose, sceptre in hand, and Minerva
in the likeness of a herald bade the people be still, that those who
were far off might hear him and consider his council. He therefore
with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus:-
"King Agamemnon, the Achaeans are for making you a by-word among all
mankind. They forget the promise they made you when they set out from
Argos, that you should not return till you had sacked the town of
Troy, and, like children or widowed women, they murmur and would set
off homeward. True it is that they have had toil enough to be disheartened.
A man chafes at having to stay away from his wife even for a single
month, when he is on shipboard, at the mercy of wind and sea, but
it is now nine long years that we have been kept here; I cannot, therefore,
blame the Achaeans if they turn restive; still we shall be shamed
if we go home empty after so long a stay- therefore, my friends, be
patient yet a little longer that we may learn whether the prophesyings
of Calchas were false or true.
"All who have not since perished must remember as though it were yesterday
or the day before, how the ships of the Achaeans were detained in
Aulis when we were on our way hither to make war on Priam and the
Trojans. We were ranged round about a fountain offering hecatombs
to the gods upon their holy altars, and there was a fine plane-tree
from beneath which there welled a stream of pure water. Then we saw
a prodigy; for Jove sent a fearful serpent out of the ground, with
blood-red stains upon its back, and it darted from under the altar
on to the plane-tree. Now there was a brood of young sparrows, quite
small, upon the topmost bough, peeping out from under the leaves,
eight in all, and their mother that hatched them made nine. The serpent
ate the poor cheeping things, while the old bird flew about lamenting
her little ones; but the serpent threw his coils about her and caught
her by the wing as she was screaming. Then, when he had eaten both
the sparrow and her young, the god who had sent him made him become
a sign; for the son of scheming Saturn turned him into stone, and
we stood there wondering at that which had come to pass. Seeing, then,
that such a fearful portent had broken in upon our hecatombs, Calchas
forthwith declared to us the oracles of heaven. 'Why, Achaeans,' said
he, 'are you thus speechless? Jove has sent us this sign, long in
coming, and long ere it be fulfilled, though its fame shall last for
ever. As the serpent ate the eight fledglings and the sparrow that
hatched them, which makes nine, so shall we fight nine years at Troy,
but in the tenth shall take the town.' This was what he said, and
now it is all coming true. Stay here, therefore, all of you, till
we take the city of Priam."
On this the Argives raised a shout, till the ships rang again with
the uproar. Nestor, knight of Gerene, then addressed them. "Shame
on you," he cried, "to stay talking here like children, when you should
fight like men. Where are our covenants now, and where the oaths that
we have taken? Shall our counsels be flung into the fire, with our
drink-offerings and the right hands of fellowship wherein we have
put our trust? We waste our time in words, and for all our talking
here shall be no further forward. Stand, therefore, son of Atreus,
by your own steadfast purpose; lead the Argives on to battle, and
leave this handful of men to rot, who scheme, and scheme in vain,
to get back to Argos ere they have learned whether Jove be true or
a liar. For the mighty son of Saturn surely promised that we should
succeed, when we Argives set sail to bring death and destruction upon
the Trojans. He showed us favourable signs by flashing his lightning
on our right hands; therefore let none make haste to go till he has
first lain with the wife of some Trojan, and avenged the toil and
sorrow that he has suffered for the sake of Helen. Nevertheless, if
any man is in such haste to be at home again, let him lay his hand
to his ship that he may meet his doom in the sight of all. But, O
king, consider and give ear to my counsel, for the word that I say
may not be neglected lightly. Divide your men, Agamemnon, into their
several tribes and clans, that clans and tribes may stand by and help
one another. If you do this, and if the Achaeans obey you, you will
find out who, both chiefs and peoples, are brave, and who are cowards;
for they will vie against the other. Thus you shall also learn whether
it is through the counsel of heaven or the cowardice of man that you
shall fail to take the town."
And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, you have again outdone the sons of
the Achaeans in counsel. Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo,
that I had among them ten more such councillors, for the city of King
Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we should sack it.
But the son of Saturn afflicts me with bootless wranglings and strife.
Achilles and I are quarrelling about this girl, in which matter I
was the first to offend; if we can be of one mind again, the Trojans
will not stave off destruction for a day. Now, therefore, get your
morning meal, that our hosts join in fight. Whet well your spears;
see well to the ordering of your shields; give good feeds to your
horses, and look your chariots carefully over, that we may do battle
the livelong day; for we shall have no rest, not for a moment, till
night falls to part us. The bands that bear your shields shall be
wet with the sweat upon your shoulders, your hands shall weary upon
your spears, your horses shall steam in front of your chariots, and
if I see any man shirking the fight, or trying to keep out of it at
the ships, there shall be no help for him, but he shall be a prey
to dogs and vultures."
Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans roared applause. As when the waves
run high before the blast of the south wind and break on some lofty
headland, dashing against it and buffeting it without ceasing, as
the storms from every quarter drive them, even so did the Achaeans
rise and hurry in all directions to their ships. There they lighted
their fires at their tents and got dinner, offering sacrifice every
man to one or other of the gods, and praying each one of them that
he might live to come out of the fight. Agamemnon, king of men, sacrificed
a fat five-year-old bull to the mighty son of Saturn, and invited
the princes and elders of his host. First he asked Nestor and King
Idomeneus, then the two Ajaxes and the son of Tydeus, and sixthly
Ulysses, peer of gods in counsel; but Menelaus came of his own accord,
for he knew how busy his brother then was. They stood round the bull
with the barley-meal in their hands, and Agamemnon prayed, saying,
"Jove, most glorious, supreme, that dwellest in heaven, and ridest
upon the storm-cloud, grant that the sun may not go down, nor the
night fall, till the palace of Priam is laid low, and its gates are
consumed with fire. Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of Hector
about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite the dust
as they fall dying round him."
Thus he prayed, but the son of Saturn would not fulfil his prayer.
He accepted the sacrifice, yet none the less increased their toil
continually. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal
upon the victim, they drew back its head, killed it, and then flayed
it. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers
of fat, and set pieces of raw meat on the top of them. These they
burned upon the split logs of firewood, but they spitted the inward
meats, and held them in the flames to cook. When the thigh-bones were
burned, and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up
small, put the pieces upon spits, roasted them till they were done,
and drew them off; then, when they had finished their work and the
feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so
that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and
drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak. "King Agamemnon,"
said he, "let us not stay talking here, nor be slack in the work that
heaven has put into our hands. Let the heralds summon the people to
gather at their several ships; we will then go about among the host,
that we may begin fighting at once."
Thus did he speak, and Agamemnon heeded his words. He at once sent
the criers round to call the people in assembly. So they called them,
and the people gathered thereon. The chiefs about the son of Atreus
chose their men and marshalled them, while Minerva went among them
holding her priceless aegis that knows neither age nor death. From
it there waved a hundred tassels of pure gold, all deftly woven, and
each one of them worth a hundred oxen. With this she darted furiously
everywhere among the hosts of the Achaeans, urging them forward, and
putting courage into the heart of each, so that he might fight and
do battle without ceasing. Thus war became sweeter in their eyes even
than returning home in their ships. As when some great forest fire
is raging upon a mountain top and its light is seen afar, even so
as they marched the gleam of their armour flashed up into the firmament
They were like great flocks of geese, or cranes, or swans on the plain
about the waters of Cayster, that wing their way hither and thither,
glorying in the pride of flight, and crying as they settle till the
fen is alive with their screaming. Even thus did their tribes pour
from ships and tents on to the plain of the Scamander, and the ground
rang as brass under the feet of men and horses. They stood as thick
upon the flower-bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer.
As countless swarms of flies buzz around a herdsman's homestead in
the time of spring when the pails are drenched with milk, even so
did the Achaeans swarm on to the plain to charge the Trojans and destroy
The chiefs disposed their men this way and that before the fight began,
drafting them out as easily as goatherds draft their flocks when they
have got mixed while feeding; and among them went King Agamemnon,
with a head and face like Jove the lord of thunder, a waist like Mars,
and a chest like that of Neptune. As some great bull that lords it
over the herds upon the plain, even so did Jove make the son of Atreus
stand peerless among the multitude of heroes.
And now, O Muses, dwellers in the mansions of Olympus, tell me- for
you are goddesses and are in all places so that you see all things,
while we know nothing but by report- who were the chiefs and princes
of the Danaans? As for the common soldiers, they were so that I could
not name every single one of them though I had ten tongues, and though
my voice failed not and my heart were of bronze within me, unless
you, O Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing Jove, were to recount
them to me. Nevertheless, I will tell the captains of the ships and
all the fleet together.
Peneleos, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothoenor, and Clonius were captains
of the Boeotians. These were they that dwelt in Hyria and rocky Aulis,
and who held Schoenus, Scolus, and the highlands of Eteonus, with
Thespeia, Graia, and the fair city of Mycalessus. They also held Harma,
Eilesium, and Erythrae; and they had Eleon, Hyle, and Peteon; Ocalea
and the strong fortress of Medeon; Copae, Eutresis, and Thisbe the
haunt of doves; Coronea, and the pastures of Haliartus; Plataea and
Glisas; the fortress of Thebes the less; holy Onchestus with its famous
grove of Neptune; Arne rich in vineyards; Midea, sacred Nisa, and
Anthedon upon the sea. From these there came fifty ships, and in each
there were a hundred and twenty young men of the Boeotians.
Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt in
Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche a noble maiden
bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had gone with
Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with her. With
these there came thirty ships.
The Phoceans were led by Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of mighty
Iphitus the son of Naubolus. These were they that held Cyparissus,
rocky Pytho, holy Crisa, Daulis, and Panopeus; they also that dwelt
in Anemorea and Hyampolis, and about the waters of the river Cephissus,
and Lilaea by the springs of the Cephissus; with their chieftains
came forty ships, and they marshalled the forces of the Phoceans,
which were stationed next to the Boeotians, on their left.
Ajax, the fleet son of Oileus, commanded the Locrians. He was not
so great, nor nearly so great, as Ajax the son of Telamon. He was
a little man, and his breastplate was made of linen, but in use of
the spear he excelled all the Hellenes and the Achaeans. These dwelt
in Cynus, Opous, Calliarus, Bessa, Scarphe, fair Augeae, Tarphe, and
Thronium about the river Boagrius. With him there came forty ships
of the Locrians who dwell beyond Euboea.
The fierce Abantes held Euboea with its cities, Chalcis, Eretria,
Histiaea rich in vines, Cerinthus upon the sea, and the rock-perched
town of Dium; with them were also the men of Carystus and Styra; Elephenor
of the race of Mars was in command of these; he was son of Chalcodon,
and chief over all the Abantes. With him they came, fleet of foot
and wearing their hair long behind, brave warriors, who would ever
strive to tear open the corslets of their foes with their long ashen
spears. Of these there came fifty ships.
And they that held the strong city of Athens, the people of great
Erechtheus, who was born of the soil itself, but Jove's daughter,
Minerva, fostered him, and established him at Athens in her own rich
sanctuary. There, year by year, the Athenian youths worship him with
sacrifices of bulls and rams. These were commanded by Menestheus,
son of Peteos. No man living could equal him in the marshalling of
chariots and foot soldiers. Nestor could alone rival him, for he was
older. With him there came fifty ships.
Ajax brought twelve ships from Salamis, and stationed them alongside
those of the Athenians.
The men of Argos, again, and those who held the walls of Tiryns, with
Hermione, and Asine upon the gulf; Troezene, Eionae, and the vineyard
lands of Epidaurus; the Achaean youths, moreover, who came from Aegina
and Mases; these were led by Diomed of the loud battle-cry, and Sthenelus
son of famed Capaneus. With them in command was Euryalus, son of king
Mecisteus, son of Talaus; but Diomed was chief over them all. With
these there came eighty ships.
Those who held the strong city of Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae;
Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old; Hyperesia,
high Gonoessa, and Pellene; Aegium and all the coast-land round about
Helice; these sent a hundred ships under the command of King Agamemnon,
son of Atreus. His force was far both finest and most numerous, and
in their midst was the king himself, all glorious in his armour of
gleaming bronze- foremost among the heroes, for he was the greatest
king, and had most men under him.
And those that dwelt in Lacedaemon, lying low among the hills, Pharis,
Sparta, with Messe the haunt of doves; Bryseae, Augeae, Amyclae, and
Helos upon the sea; Laas, moreover, and Oetylus; these were led by
Menelaus of the loud battle-cry, brother to Agamemnon, and of them
there were sixty ships, drawn up apart from the others. Among them
went Menelaus himself, strong in zeal, urging his men to fight; for
he longed to avenge the toil and sorrow that he had suffered for the
sake of Helen.
The men of Pylos and Arene, and Thryum where is the ford of the river
Alpheus; strong Aipy, Cyparisseis, and Amphigenea; Pteleum, Helos,
and Dorium, where the Muses met Thamyris, and stilled his minstrelsy
for ever. He was returning from Oechalia, where Eurytus lived and
reigned, and boasted that he would surpass even the Muses, daughters
of aegis-bearing Jove, if they should sing against him; whereon they
were angry, and maimed him. They robbed him of his divine power of
song, and thenceforth he could strike the lyre no more. These were
commanded by Nestor, knight of Gerene, and with him there came ninety
And those that held Arcadia, under the high mountain of Cyllene, near
the tomb of Aepytus, where the people fight hand to hand; the men
of Pheneus also, and Orchomenus rich in flocks; of Rhipae, Stratie,
and bleak Enispe; of Tegea and fair Mantinea; of Stymphelus and Parrhasia;
of these King Agapenor son of Ancaeus was commander, and they had
sixty ships. Many Arcadians, good soldiers, came in each one of them,
but Agamemnon found them the ships in which to cross the sea, for
they were not a people that occupied their business upon the waters.
The men, moreover, of Buprasium and of Elis, so much of it as is enclosed
between Hyrmine, Myrsinus upon the sea-shore, the rock Olene and Alesium.
These had four leaders, and each of them had ten ships, with many
Epeans on board. Their captains were Amphimachus and Thalpius- the
one, son of Cteatus, and the other, of Eurytus- both of the race of
Actor. The two others were Diores, son of Amarynces, and Polyxenus,
son of King Agasthenes, son of Augeas.
And those of Dulichium with the sacred Echinean islands, who dwelt
beyond the sea off Elis; these were led by Meges, peer of Mars, and
the son of valiant Phyleus, dear to Jove, who quarrelled with his
father, and went to settle in Dulichium. With him there came forty
Ulysses led the brave Cephallenians, who held Ithaca, Neritum with
its forests, Crocylea, rugged Aegilips, Samos and Zacynthus, with
the mainland also that was over against the islands. These were led
by Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel, and with him there came twelve
Thoas, son of Andraemon, commanded the Aetolians, who dwelt in Pleuron,
Olenus, Pylene, Chalcis by the sea, and rocky Calydon, for the great
king Oeneus had now no sons living, and was himself dead, as was also
golden-haired Meleager, who had been set over the Aetolians to be
their king. And with Thoas there came forty ships.
The famous spearsman Idomeneus led the Cretans, who held Cnossus,
and the well-walled city of Gortys; Lyctus also, Miletus and Lycastus
that lies upon the chalk; the populous towns of Phaestus and Rhytium,
with the other peoples that dwelt in the hundred cities of Crete.
All these were led by Idomeneus, and by Meriones, peer of murderous
Mars. And with these there came eighty ships.
Tlepolemus, son of Hercules, a man both brave and large of stature,
brought nine ships of lordly warriors from Rhodes. These dwelt in
Rhodes which is divided among the three cities of Lindus, Ielysus,
and Cameirus, that lies upon the chalk. These were commanded by Tlepolemus,
son of Hercules by Astyochea, whom he had carried off from Ephyra,
on the river Selleis, after sacking many cities of valiant warriors.
When Tlepolemus grew up, he killed his father's uncle Licymnius, who
had been a famous warrior in his time, but was then grown old. On
this he built himself a fleet, gathered a great following, and fled
beyond the sea, for he was menaced by the other sons and grandsons
of Hercules. After a voyage. during which he suffered great hardship,
he came to Rhodes, where the people divided into three communities,
according to their tribes, and were dearly loved by Jove, the lord,
of gods and men; wherefore the son of Saturn showered down great riches
And Nireus brought three ships from Syme- Nireus, who was the handsomest
man that came up under Ilius of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus-
but he was a man of no substance, and had but a small following.
And those that held Nisyrus, Crapathus, and Casus, with Cos, the city
of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian islands, these were commanded by Pheidippus
and Antiphus, two sons of King Thessalus the son of Hercules. And
with them there came thirty ships.
Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis; and
those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called
Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over which
Achilles was in command. But they now took no part in the war, inasmuch
as there was no one to marshal them; for Achilles stayed by his ships,
furious about the loss of the girl Briseis, whom he had taken from
Lyrnessus at his own great peril, when he had sacked Lyrnessus and
Thebe, and had overthrown Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of king Evenor,
son of Selepus. For her sake Achilles was still grieving, but ere
long he was again to join them.
And those that held Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus, sanctuary
of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea, and Pteleum
that lies upon the grass lands. Of these brave Protesilaus had been
captain while he was yet alive, but he was now lying under the earth.
He had left a wife behind him in Phylace to tear her cheeks in sorrow,
and his house was only half finished, for he was slain by a Dardanian
warrior while leaping foremost of the Achaeans upon the soil of Troy.
Still, though his people mourned their chieftain, they were not without
a leader, for Podarces, of the race of Mars, marshalled them; he was
son of Iphiclus, rich in sheep, who was the son of Phylacus, and he
was own brother to Protesilaus, only younger, Protesilaus being at
once the elder and the more valiant. So the people were not without
a leader, though they mourned him whom they had lost. With him there
came forty ships.
And those that held Pherae by the Boebean lake, with Boebe, Glaphyrae,
and the populous city of Iolcus, these with their eleven ships were
led by Eumelus, son of Admetus, whom Alcestis bore to him, loveliest
of the daughters of Pelias.
And those that held Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and rugged
Olizon, these were led by the skilful archer Philoctetes, and they
had seven ships, each with fifty oarsmen all of them good archers;
but Philoctetes was lying in great pain in the Island of Lemnos, where
the sons of the Achaeans left him, for he had been bitten by a poisonous
water snake. There he lay sick and sorry, and full soon did the Argives
come to miss him. But his people, though they felt his loss were not
leaderless, for Medon, the bastard son of Oileus by Rhene, set them
Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they that
held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were commanded
by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of healing, Podalirius
and Machaon. And with them there came thirty ships.
The men, moreover, of Ormenius, and by the fountain of Hypereia, with
those that held Asterius, and the white crests of Titanus, these were
led by Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon, and with them there came forty
Those that held Argissa and Gyrtone, Orthe, Elone, and the white city
of Oloosson, of these brave Polypoetes was leader. He was son of Pirithous,
who was son of Jove himself, for Hippodameia bore him to Pirithous
on the day when he took his revenge on the shaggy mountain savages
and drove them from Mt. Pelion to the Aithices. But Polypoetes was
not sole in command, for with him was Leonteus, of the race of Mars,
who was son of Coronus, the son of Caeneus. And with these there came
Guneus brought two and twenty ships from Cyphus, and he was followed
by the Enienes and the valiant Peraebi, who dwelt about wintry Dodona,
and held the lands round the lovely river Titaresius, which sends
its waters into the Peneus. They do not mingle with the silver eddies
of the Peneus, but flow on the top of them like oil; for the Titaresius
is a branch of dread Orcus and of the river Styx.
Of the Magnetes, Prothous son of Tenthredon was commander. They were
they that dwelt about the river Peneus and Mt. Pelion. Prothous, fleet
of foot, was their leader, and with him there came forty ships.
Such were the chiefs and princes of the Danaans. Who, then, O Muse,
was the foremost, whether man or horse, among those that followed
after the sons of Atreus?
Of the horses, those of the son of Pheres were by far the finest.
They were driven by Eumelus, and were as fleet as birds. They were
of the same age and colour, and perfectly matched in height. Apollo,
of the silver bow, had bred them in Perea- both of them mares, and
terrible as Mars in battle. Of the men, Ajax, son of Telamon, was
much the foremost so long as Achilles' anger lasted, for Achilles
excelled him greatly and he had also better horses; but Achilles was
now holding aloof at his ships by reason of his quarrel with Agamemnon,
and his people passed their time upon the sea shore, throwing discs
or aiming with spears at a mark, and in archery. Their horses stood
each by his own chariot, champing lotus and wild celery. The chariots
were housed under cover, but their owners, for lack of leadership,
wandered hither and thither about the host and went not forth to fight.
Thus marched the host like a consuming fire, and the earth groaned
beneath them when the lord of thunder is angry and lashes the land
about Typhoeus among the Arimi, where they say Typhoeus lies. Even
so did the earth groan beneath them as they sped over the plain.
And now Iris, fleet as the wind, was sent by Jove to tell the bad
news among the Trojans. They were gathered in assembly, old and young,
at Priam's gates, and Iris came close up to Priam, speaking with the
voice of Priam's son Polites, who, being fleet of foot, was stationed
as watchman for the Trojans on the tomb of old Aesyetes, to look out
for any sally of the Achaeans. In his likeness Iris spoke, saying,
"Old man, you talk idly, as in time of peace, while war is at hand.
I have been in many a battle, but never yet saw such a host as is
now advancing. They are crossing the plain to attack the city as thick
as leaves or as the sands of the sea. Hector, I charge you above all
others, do as I say. There are many allies dispersed about the city
of Priam from distant places and speaking divers tongues. Therefore,
let each chief give orders to his own people, setting them severally
in array and leading them forth to battle."
Thus she spoke, but Hector knew that it was the goddess, and at once
broke up the assembly. The men flew to arms; all the gates were opened,
and the people thronged through them, horse and foot, with the tramp
as of a great multitude.
Now there is a high mound before the city, rising by itself upon the
plain. Men call it Batieia, but the gods know that it is the tomb
of lithe Myrine. Here the Trojans and their allies divided their forces.
Priam's son, great Hector of the gleaming helmet, commanded the Trojans,
and with him were arrayed by far the greater number and most valiant
of those who were longing for the fray.
The Dardanians were led by brave Aeneas, whom Venus bore to Anchises,
when she, goddess though she was, had lain with him upon the mountain
slopes of Ida. He was not alone, for with him were the two sons of
Antenor, Archilochus and Acamas, both skilled in all the arts of war.
They that dwelt in Telea under the lowest spurs of Mt. Ida, men of
substance, who drink the limpid waters of the Aesepus, and are of
Trojan blood- these were led by Pandarus son of Lycaon, whom Apollo
had taught to use the bow.
They that held Adresteia and the land of Apaesus, with Pityeia, and
the high mountain of Tereia- these were led by Adrestus and Amphius,
whose breastplate was of linen. These were the sons of Merops of Percote,
who excelled in all kinds of divination. He told them not to take
part in the war, but they gave him no heed, for fate lured them to
They that dwelt about Percote and Practius, with Sestos, Abydos, and
Arisbe- these were led by Asius, son of Hyrtacus, a brave commander-
Asius, the son of Hyrtacus, whom his powerful dark bay steeds, of
the breed that comes from the river Selleis, had brought from Arisbe.
Hippothous led the tribes of Pelasgian spearsmen, who dwelt in fertile
Larissa- Hippothous, and Pylaeus of the race of Mars, two sons of
the Pelasgian Lethus, son of Teutamus.
Acamas and the warrior Peirous commanded the Thracians and those that
came from beyond the mighty stream of the Hellespont.
Euphemus, son of Troezenus, the son of Ceos, was captain of the Ciconian
Pyraechmes led the Paeonian archers from distant Amydon, by the broad
waters of the river Axius, the fairest that flow upon the earth.
The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from
Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held
Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river
Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini.
Odius and Epistrophus were captains over the Halizoni from distant
Alybe, where there are mines of silver.
Chromis, and Ennomus the augur, led the Mysians, but his skill in
augury availed not to save him from destruction, for he fell by the
hand of the fleet descendant of Aeacus in the river, where he slew
others also of the Trojans.
Phorcys, again, and noble Ascanius led the Phrygians from the far
country of Ascania, and both were eager for the fray.
Mesthles and Antiphus commanded the Meonians, sons of Talaemenes,
born to him of the Gygaean lake. These led the Meonians, who dwelt
under Mt. Tmolus.
Nastes led the Carians, men of a strange speech. These held Miletus
and the wooded mountain of Phthires, with the water of the river Maeander
and the lofty crests of Mt. Mycale. These were commanded by Nastes
and Amphimachus, the brave sons of Nomion. He came into the fight
with gold about him, like a girl; fool that he was, his gold was of
no avail to save him, for he fell in the river by the hand of the
fleet descendant of Aeacus, and Achilles bore away his gold.
Sarpedon and Glaucus led the Lycians from their distant land, by the
eddying waters of the Xanthus.
When the companies were thus arrayed, each under its own captain,
the Trojans advanced as a flight of wild fowl or cranes that scream
overhead when rain and winter drive them over the flowing waters of
Oceanus to bring death and destruction on the Pygmies, and they wrangle
in the air as they fly; but the Achaeans marched silently, in high
heart, and minded to stand by one another.
As when the south wind spreads a curtain of mist upon the mountain
tops, bad for shepherds but better than night for thieves, and a man
can see no further than he can throw a stone, even so rose the dust
from under their feet as they made all speed over the plain.
When they were close up with one another, Alexandrus came forward
as champion on the Trojan side. On his shoulders he bore the skin
of a panther, his bow, and his sword, and he brandished two spears
shod with bronze as a challenge to the bravest of the Achaeans to
meet him in single fight. Menelaus saw him thus stride out before
the ranks, and was glad as a hungry lion that lights on the carcase
of some goat or horned stag, and devours it there and then, though
dogs and youths set upon him. Even thus was Menelaus glad when his
eyes caught sight of Alexandrus, for he deemed that now he should
be revenged. He sprang, therefore, from his chariot, clad in his suit
Alexandrus quailed as he saw Menelaus come forward, and shrank in
fear of his life under cover of his men. As one who starts back affrighted,
trembling and pale, when he comes suddenly upon a serpent in some
mountain glade, even so did Alexandrus plunge into the throng of Trojan
warriors, terror-stricken at the sight of the son Atreus.
Then Hector upbraided him. "Paris," said he, "evil-hearted Paris,
fair to see, but woman-mad, and false of tongue, would that you had
never been born, or that you had died unwed. Better so, than live
to be disgraced and looked askance at. Will not the Achaeans mock
at us and say that we have sent one to champion us who is fair to
see but who has neither wit nor courage? Did you not, such as you
are, get your following together and sail beyond the seas? Did you
not from your a far country carry off a lovely woman wedded among
a people of warriors- to bring sorrow upon your father, your city,
and your whole country, but joy to your enemies, and hang-dog shamefacedness
to yourself? And now can you not dare face Menelaus and learn what
manner of man he is whose wife you have stolen? Where indeed would
be your lyre and your love-tricks, your comely locks and your fair
favour, when you were lying in the dust before him? The Trojans are
a weak-kneed people, or ere this you would have had a shirt of stones
for the wrongs you have done them."
And Alexandrus answered, "Hector, your rebuke is just. You are hard
as the axe which a shipwright wields at his work, and cleaves the
timber to his liking. As the axe in his hand, so keen is the edge
of your scorn. Still, taunt me not with the gifts that golden Venus
has given me; they are precious; let not a man disdain them, for the
gods give them where they are minded, and none can have them for the
asking. If you would have me do battle with Menelaus, bid the Trojans
and Achaeans take their seats, while he and I fight in their midst
for Helen and all her wealth. Let him who shall be victorious and
prove to be the better man take the woman and all she has, to bear
them to his home, but let the rest swear to a solemn covenant of peace
whereby you Trojans shall stay here in Troy, while the others go home
to Argos and the land of the Achaeans."
When Hector heard this he was glad, and went about among the Trojan
ranks holding his spear by the middle to keep them back, and they
all sat down at his bidding: but the Achaeans still aimed at him with
stones and arrows, till Agamemnon shouted to them saying, "Hold, Argives,
shoot not, sons of the Achaeans; Hector desires to speak."
They ceased taking aim and were still, whereon Hector spoke. "Hear
from my mouth," said he, "Trojans and Achaeans, the saying of Alexandrus,
through whom this quarrel has come about. He bids the Trojans and
Achaeans lay their armour upon the ground, while he and Menelaus fight
in the midst of you for Helen and all her wealth. Let him who shall
be victorious and prove to be the better man take the woman and all
she has, to bear them to his own home, but let the rest swear to a
solemn covenant of peace."
Thus he spoke, and they all held their peace, till Menelaus of the
loud battle-cry addressed them. "And now," he said, "hear me too,
for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I deem that the parting of
Achaeans and Trojans is at hand, as well it may be, seeing how much
have suffered for my quarrel with Alexandrus and the wrong he did
me. Let him who shall die, die, and let the others fight no more.
Bring, then, two lambs, a white ram and a black ewe, for Earth and
Sun, and we will bring a third for Jove. Moreover, you shall bid Priam
come, that he may swear to the covenant himself; for his sons are
high-handed and ill to trust, and the oaths of Jove must not be transgressed
or taken in vain. Young men's minds are light as air, but when an
old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which shall
be fairest upon both sides."
The Trojans and Achaeans were glad when they heard this, for they
thought that they should now have rest. They backed their chariots
toward the ranks, got out of them, and put off their armour, laying
it down upon the ground; and the hosts were near to one another with
a little space between them. Hector sent two messengers to the city
to bring the lambs and to bid Priam come, while Agamemnon told Talthybius
to fetch the other lamb from the ships, and he did as Agamemnon had
Meanwhile Iris went to Helen in the form of her sister-in-law, wife
of the son of Antenor, for Helicaon, son of Antenor, had married Laodice,
the fairest of Priam's daughters. She found her in her own room, working
at a great web of purple linen, on which she was embroidering the
battles between Trojans and Achaeans, that Mars had made them fight
for her sake. Iris then came close up to her and said, "Come hither,
child, and see the strange doings of the Trojans and Achaeans till
now they have been warring upon the plain, mad with lust of battle,
but now they have left off fighting, and are leaning upon their shields,
sitting still with their spears planted beside them. Alexandrus and
Menelaus are going to fight about yourself, and you are to the the
wife of him who is the victor."
Thus spoke the goddess, and Helen's heart yearned after her former
husband, her city, and her parents. She threw a white mantle over
her head, and hurried from her room, weeping as she went, not alone,
but attended by two of her handmaids, Aethrae, daughter of Pittheus,
and Clymene. And straightway they were at the Scaean gates.
The two sages, Ucalegon and Antenor, elders of the people, were seated
by the Scaean gates, with Priam, Panthous, Thymoetes, Lampus, Clytius,
and Hiketaon of the race of Mars. These were too old to fight, but
they were fluent orators, and sat on the tower like cicales that chirrup
delicately from the boughs of some high tree in a wood. When they
saw Helen coming towards the tower, they said softly to one another,
"Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and
so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely.
Still, fair though she be, let them take her and go, or she will breed
sorrow for us and for our children after us."
But Priam bade her draw nigh. "My child," said he, "take your seat
in front of me that you may see your former husband, your kinsmen
and your friends. I lay no blame upon you, it is the gods, not you
who are to blame. It is they that have brought about this terrible
war with the Achaeans. Tell me, then, who is yonder huge hero so great
and goodly? I have seen men taller by a head, but none so comely and
so royal. Surely he must be a king."
"Sir," answered Helen, "father of my husband, dear and reverend in
my eyes, would that I had chosen death rather than to have come here
with your son, far from my bridal chamber, my friends, my darling
daughter, and all the companions of my girlhood. But it was not to
be, and my lot is one of tears and sorrow. As for your question, the
hero of whom you ask is Agamemnon, son of Atreus, a good king and
a brave soldier, brother-in-law as surely as that he lives, to my
abhorred and miserable self."
The old man marvelled at him and said, "Happy son of Atreus, child
of good fortune. I see that the Achaeans are subject to you in great
multitudes. When I was in Phrygia I saw much horsemen, the people
of Otreus and of Mygdon, who were camping upon the banks of the river
Sangarius; I was their ally, and with them when the Amazons, peers
of men, came up against them, but even they were not so many as the
The old man next looked upon Ulysses; "Tell me," he said, "who is
that other, shorter by a head than Agamemnon, but broader across the
chest and shoulders? His armour is laid upon the ground, and he stalks
in front of the ranks as it were some great woolly ram ordering his
And Helen answered, "He is Ulysses, a man of great craft, son of Laertes.
He was born in rugged Ithaca, and excels in all manner of stratagems
and subtle cunning."
On this Antenor said, "Madam, you have spoken truly. Ulysses once
came here as envoy about yourself, and Menelaus with him. I received
them in my own house, and therefore know both of them by sight and
conversation. When they stood up in presence of the assembled Trojans,
Menelaus was the broader shouldered, but when both were seated Ulysses
had the more royal presence. After a time they delivered their message,
and the speech of Menelaus ran trippingly on the tongue; he did not
say much, for he was a man of few words, but he spoke very clearly
and to the point, though he was the younger man of the two; Ulysses,
on the other hand, when he rose to speak, was at first silent and
kept his eyes fixed upon the ground. There was no play nor graceful
movement of his sceptre; he kept it straight and stiff like a man
unpractised in oratory- one might have taken him for a mere churl
or simpleton; but when he raised his voice, and the words came driving
from his deep chest like winter snow before the wind, then there was
none to touch him, and no man thought further of what he looked like."
Priam then caught sight of Ajax and asked, "Who is that great and
goodly warrior whose head and broad shoulders tower above the rest
of the Argives?"
"That," answered Helen, "is huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans, and
on the other side of him, among the Cretans, stands Idomeneus looking
like a god, and with the captains of the Cretans round him. Often
did Menelaus receive him as a guest in our house when he came visiting
us from Crete. I see, moreover, many other Achaeans whose names I
could tell you, but there are two whom I can nowhere find, Castor,
breaker of horses, and Pollux the mighty boxer; they are children
of my mother, and own brothers to myself. Either they have not left
Lacedaemon, or else, though they have brought their ships, they will
not show themselves in battle for the shame and disgrace that I have
brought upon them."
She knew not that both these heroes were already lying under the earth
in their own land of Lacedaemon.
Meanwhile the heralds were bringing the holy oath-offerings through
the city- two lambs and a goatskin of wine, the gift of earth; and
Idaeus brought the mixing bowl and the cups of gold. He went up to
Priam and said, "Son of Laomedon, the princes of the Trojans and Achaeans
bid you come down on to the plain and swear to a solemn covenant.
Alexandrus and Menelaus are to fight for Helen in single combat, that
she and all her wealth may go with him who is the victor. We are to
swear to a solemn covenant of peace whereby we others shall dwell
here in Troy, while the Achaeans return to Argos and the land of the
The old man trembled as he heard, but bade his followers yoke the
horses, and they made all haste to do so. He mounted the chariot,
gathered the reins in his hand, and Antenor took his seat beside him;
they then drove through the Scaean gates on to the plain. When they
reached the ranks of the Trojans and Achaeans they left the chariot,
and with measured pace advanced into the space between the hosts.
Agamemnon and Ulysses both rose to meet them. The attendants brought
on the oath-offerings and mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls; they
poured water over the hands of the chieftains, and the son of Atreus
drew the dagger that hung by his sword, and cut wool from the lambs'
heads; this the men-servants gave about among the Trojan and Achaean
princes, and the son of Atreus lifted up his hands in prayer. "Father
Jove," he cried, "that rulest in Ida, most glorious in power, and
thou oh Sun, that seest and givest ear to all things, Earth and Rivers,
and ye who in the realms below chastise the soul of him that has broken
his oath, witness these rites and guard them, that they be not vain.
If Alexandrus kills Menelaus, let him keep Helen and all her wealth,
while we sail home with our ships; but if Menelaus kills Alexandrus,
let the Trojans give back Helen and all that she has; let them moreover
pay such fine to the Achaeans as shall be agreed upon, in testimony
among those that shall be born hereafter. Aid if Priam and his sons
refuse such fine when Alexandrus has fallen, then will I stay here
and fight on till I have got satisfaction."
As he spoke he drew his knife across the throats of the victims, and
laid them down gasping and dying upon the ground, for the knife had
reft them of their strength. Then they poured wine from the mixing-bowl
into the cups, and prayed to the everlasting gods, saying, Trojans
and Achaeans among one another, "Jove, most great and glorious, and
ye other everlasting gods, grant that the brains of them who shall
first sin against their oaths- of them and their children- may be
shed upon the ground even as this wine, and let their wives become
the slaves of strangers."
Thus they prayed, but not as yet would Jove grant them their prayer.
Then Priam, descendant of Dardanus, spoke, saying, "Hear me, Trojans
and Achaeans, I will now go back to the wind-beaten city of Ilius:
I dare not with my own eyes witness this fight between my son and
Menelaus, for Jove and the other immortals alone know which shall
On this he laid the two lambs on his chariot and took his seat. He
gathered the reins in his hand, and Antenor sat beside him; the two
then went back to Ilius. Hector and Ulysses measured the ground, and
cast lots from a helmet of bronze to see which should take aim first.
Meanwhile the two hosts lifted up their hands and prayed saying, "Father
Jove, that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power, grant that he
who first brought about this war between us may die, and enter the
house of Hades, while we others remain at peace and abide by our oaths."
Great Hector now turned his head aside while he shook the helmet,
and the lot of Paris flew out first. The others took their several
stations, each by his horses and the place where his arms were lying,
while Alexandrus, husband of lovely Helen, put on his goodly armour.
First he greaved his legs with greaves of good make and fitted with
ancle-clasps of silver; after this he donned the cuirass of his brother
Lycaon, and fitted it to his own body; he hung his silver-studded
sword of bronze about his shoulders, and then his mighty shield. On
his comely head he set his helmet, well-wrought, with a crest of horse-hair
that nodded menacingly above it, and he grasped a redoubtable spear
that suited his hands. In like fashion Menelaus also put on his armour.
When they had thus armed, each amid his own people, they strode fierce
of aspect into the open space, and both Trojans and Achaeans were
struck with awe as they beheld them. They stood near one another on
the measured ground, brandishing their spears, and each furious against
the other. Alexandrus aimed first, and struck the round shield of
the son of Atreus, but the spear did not pierce it, for the shield
turned its point. Menelaus next took aim, praying to Father Jove as
he did so. "King Jove," he said, "grant me revenge on Alexandrus who
has wronged me; subdue him under my hand that in ages yet to come
a man may shrink from doing ill deeds in the house of his host."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it at the shield of Alexandrus.
Through shield and cuirass it went, and tore the shirt by his flank,
but Alexandrus swerved aside, and thus saved his life. Then the son
of Atreus drew his sword, and drove at the projecting part of his
helmet, but the sword fell shivered in three or four pieces from his
hand, and he cried, looking towards Heaven, "Father Jove, of all gods
thou art the most despiteful; I made sure of my revenge, but the sword
has broken in my hand, my spear has been hurled in vain, and I have
not killed him."
With this he flew at Alexandrus, caught him by the horsehair plume
of his helmet, and began dragging him towards the Achaeans. The strap
of the helmet that went under his chin was choking him, and Menelaus
would have dragged him off to his own great glory had not Jove's daughter
Venus been quick to mark and to break the strap of oxhide, so that
the empty helmet came away in his hand. This he flung to his comrades
among the Achaeans, and was again springing upon Alexandrus to run
him through with a spear, but Venus snatched him up in a moment (as
a god can do), hid him under a cloud of darkness, and conveyed him
to his own bedchamber.
Then she went to call Helen, and found her on a high tower with the
Trojan women crowding round her. She took the form of an old woman
who used to dress wool for her when she was still in Lacedaemon, and
of whom she was very fond. Thus disguised she plucked her by perfumed
robe and said, "Come hither; Alexandrus says you are to go to the
house; he is on his bed in his own room, radiant with beauty and dressed
in gorgeous apparel. No one would think he had just come from fighting,
but rather that he was going to a dance, or had done dancing and was
With these words she moved the heart of Helen to anger. When she marked
the beautiful neck of the goddess, her lovely bosom, and sparkling
eyes, she marvelled at her and said, "Goddess, why do you thus beguile
me? Are you going to send me afield still further to some man whom
you have taken up in Phrygia or fair Meonia? Menelaus has just vanquished
Alexandrus, and is to take my hateful self back with him. You are
come here to betray me. Go sit with Alexandrus yourself; henceforth
be goddess no longer; never let your feet carry you back to Olympus;
worry about him and look after him till he make you his wife, or,
for the matter of that, his slave- but me? I shall not go; I can garnish
his bed no longer; I should be a by-word among all the women of Troy.
Besides, I have trouble on my mind."
Venus was very angry, and said, "Bold hussy, do not provoke me; if
you do, I shall leave you to your fate and hate you as much as I have
loved you. I will stir up fierce hatred between Trojans and Achaeans,
and you shall come to a bad end."
At this Helen was frightened. She wrapped her mantle about her and
went in silence, following the goddess and unnoticed by the Trojan
When they came to the house of Alexandrus the maid-servants set about
their work, but Helen went into her own room, and the laughter-loving
goddess took a seat and set it for her facing Alexandrus. On this
Helen, daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, sat down, and with eyes askance
began to upbraid her husband.
"So you are come from the fight," said she; "would that you had fallen
rather by the hand of that brave man who was my husband. You used
to brag that you were a better man with hands and spear than Menelaus.
go, but I then, an challenge him again- but I should advise you not
to do so, for if you are foolish enough to meet him in single combat,
you will soon all by his spear."
And Paris answered, "Wife, do not vex me with your reproaches. This
time, with the help of Minerva, Menelaus has vanquished me; another
time I may myself be victor, for I too have gods that will stand by
me. Come, let us lie down together and make friends. Never yet was
I so passionately enamoured of you as at this moment- not even when
I first carried you off from Lacedaemon and sailed away with you-
not even when I had converse with you upon the couch of love in the
island of Cranae was I so enthralled by desire of you as now." On
this he led her towards the bed, and his wife went with him.
Thus they laid themselves on the bed together; but the son of Atreus
strode among the throng, looking everywhere for Alexandrus, and no
man, neither of the Trojans nor of the allies, could find him. If
they had seen him they were in no mind to hide him, for they all of
them hated him as they did death itself. Then Agamemnon, king of men,
spoke, saying, "Hear me, Trojans, Dardanians, and allies. The victory
has been with Menelaus; therefore give back Helen with all her wealth,
and pay such fine as shall be agreed upon, in testimony among them
that shall be born hereafter."
Thus spoke the son of Atreus, and the Achaeans shouted in applause.
Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor
while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as
they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon
the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease Juno, talking
at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he, "has two good friends
among the goddesses, Juno of Argos, and Minerva of Alalcomene, but
they only sit still and look on, while Venus keeps ever by Alexandrus'
side to defend him in any danger; indeed she has just rescued him
when he made sure that it was all over with him- for the victory really
did lie with Menelaus. We must consider what we shall do about all
this; shall we set them fighting anew or make peace between them?
If you will agree to this last Menelaus can take back Helen and the
city of Priam may remain still inhabited."
Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by side
hatching mischief for the Trojans. Minerva scowled at her father,
for she was in a furious passion with him, and said nothing, but Juno
could not contain herself. "Dread son of Saturn," said she, "what,
pray, is the meaning of all this? Is my trouble, then, to go for nothing,
and the sweat that I have sweated, to say nothing of my horses, while
getting the people together against Priam and his children? Do as
you will, but we other gods shall not all of us approve your counsel."
Jove was angry and answered, "My dear, what harm have Priam and his
sons done you that you are so hotly bent on sacking the city of Ilius?
Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls and eat Priam
raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to boot? Have it your
own way then; for I would not have this matter become a bone of contention
between us. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart, if ever
I want to sack a city belonging to friends of yours, you must not
try to stop me; you will have to let me do it, for I am giving in
to you sorely against my will. Of all inhabited cities under the sun
and stars of heaven, there was none that I so much respected as Ilius
with Priam and his whole people. Equitable feasts were never wanting
about my altar, nor the savour of burning fat, which is honour due
"My own three favourite cities," answered Juno, "are Argos, Sparta,
and Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased with them. I
shall not defend them and I shall not care. Even if I did, and tried
to stay you, I should take nothing by it, for you are much stronger
than I am, but I will not have my own work wasted. I too am a god
and of the same race with yourself. I am Saturn's eldest daughter,
and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am your
wife, and you are king over the gods. Let it be a case, then, of give-and-take
between us, and the rest of the gods will follow our lead. Tell Minerva
to go and take part in the fight at once, and let her contrive that
the Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the
The sire of gods and men heeded her words, and said to Minerva, "Go
at once into the Trojan and Achaean hosts, and contrive that the Trojans
shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the Achaeans."
This was what Minerva was already eager to do, so down she darted
from the topmost summits of Olympus. She shot through the sky as some
brilliant meteor which the son of scheming Saturn has sent as a sign
to mariners or to some great army, and a fiery train of light follows
in its wake. The Trojans and Achaeans were struck with awe as they
beheld, and one would turn to his neighbour, saying, "Either we shall
again have war and din of combat, or Jove the lord of battle will
now make peace between us."
Thus did they converse. Then Minerva took the form of Laodocus, son
of Antenor, and went through the ranks of the Trojans to find Pandarus,
the redoubtable son of Lycaon. She found him standing among the stalwart
heroes who had followed him from the banks of the Aesopus, so she
went close up to him and said, "Brave son of Lycaon, will you do as
I tell you? If you dare send an arrow at Menelaus you will win honour
and thanks from all the Trojans, and especially from prince Alexandrus-
he would be the first to requite you very handsomely if he could see
Menelaus mount his funeral pyre, slain by an arrow from your hand.
Take your home aim then, and pray to Lycian Apollo, the famous archer;
vow that when you get home to your strong city of Zelea you will offer
a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour."
His fool's heart was persuaded, and he took his bow from its case.
This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he had killed
as it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and it had fallen
as the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were sixteen palms
long, and a worker in horn had made them into a bow, smoothing them
well down, and giving them tips of gold. When Pandarus had strung
his bow he laid it carefully on the ground, and his brave followers
held their shields before him lest the Achaeans should set upon him
before he had shot Menelaus. Then he opened the lid of his quiver
and took out a winged arrow that had yet been shot, fraught with the
pangs of death. He laid the arrow on the string and prayed to Lycian
Apollo, the famous archer, vowing that when he got home to his strong
city of Zelea he would offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his
honour. He laid the notch of the arrow on the oxhide bowstring, and
drew both notch and string to his breast till the arrow-head was near
the bow; then when the bow was arched into a half-circle he let fly,
and the bow twanged, and the string sang as the arrow flew gladly
on over the heads of the throng.
But the blessed gods did not forget thee, O Menelaus, and Jove's daughter,
driver of the spoil, was the first to stand before thee and ward off
the piercing arrow. She turned it from his skin as a mother whisks
a fly from off her child when it is sleeping sweetly; she guided it
to the part where the golden buckles of the belt that passed over
his double cuirass were fastened, so the arrow struck the belt that
went tightly round him. It went right through this and through the
cuirass of cunning workmanship; it also pierced the belt beneath it,
which he wore next his skin to keep out darts or arrows; it was this
that served him in the best stead, nevertheless the arrow went through
it and grazed the top of the skin, so that blood began flowing from
As when some woman of Meonia or Caria strains purple dye on to a piece
of ivory that is to be the cheek-piece of a horse, and is to be laid
up in a treasure house- many a knight is fain to bear it, but the