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Book XI

AND now as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus, harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals, Jove sent fierce Discord
with the ensign of war in her hands to the ships of the Achaeans.
She took her stand by the huge black hull of Ulysses' ship which
was middlemost of all, so that her voice might carry farthest on
either side, on the one hand towards the tents of Ajax son of
Telamon, and on the other towards those of Achilles—for these
two heroes, well-assured of their own strength, had valorously
drawn up their ships at the two ends of the line. There she took
her stand, and raised a cry both loud and shrill that filled the
Achaeans with courage, giving them heart to fight resolutely and
with all their might, so that they had rather stay there and do
battle than go home in their ships.
The son of Atreus shouted aloud and bade the Argives gird
themselves for battle while he put on his armour. First he girded
his goodly greaves about his legs, making them fast with ankle-
clasps of silver; and about his chest he set the breastplate
which Cinyras had once given him as a guest-gift. It had been
noised abroad as far as Cyprus that the Achaeans were about to
sail for Troy, and therefore he gave it to the king. It had ten
courses of dark cyanus, twelve of gold, and ten of tin. There
were serpents of cyanus that reared themselves up towards the
neck, three upon either side, like the rainbows which the son of
Saturn has set in heaven as a sign to mortal men. About his
shoulders he threw his sword, studded with bosses of gold; and
the scabbard was of silver with a chain of gold wherewith to hang
it. He took moreover the richly-dight shield that covered his
body when he was in battle—fair to see, with ten circles of
bronze running all round it. On the body of the shield there were
twenty bosses of white tin, with another of dark cyanus in the
middle: this last was made to show a Gorgon's head, fierce and
grim, with Rout and Panic on either side. The band for the arm to
go through was of silver, on which there was a writhing snake of
cyanus with three heads that sprang from a single neck, and went
in and out among one another. On his head Agamemnon set a helmet,
with a peak before and behind, and four plumes of horse-hair that
nodded menacingly above it; then he grasped two redoubtable
bronze-shod spears, and the gleam of his armour shot from him as
a flame into the firmament, while Juno and Minerva thundered in
honour of the king of rich Mycene.
Every man now left his horses in charge of his charioteer to hold
them in readiness by the trench, while he went into battle on
foot clad in full armour, and a mighty uproar rose on high into
the dawning. The chiefs were armed and at the trench before the
horses got there, but these came up presently. The son of Saturn
sent a portent of evil sound about their host, and the dew fell
red with blood, for he was about to send many a brave man
hurrying down to Hades.
The Trojans, on the other side upon the rising slope of the
plain, were gathered round great Hector, noble Polydamas, Aeneas
who was honoured by the Trojans like an immortal, and the three
sons of Antenor, Polybus, Agenor, and young Acamas beauteous as a
god. Hector's round shield showed in the front rank, and as some
baneful star that shines for a moment through a rent in the
clouds and is again hidden beneath them; even so was Hector now
seen in the front ranks and now again in the hindermost, and his
bronze armour gleamed like the lightning of aegis-bearing Jove.
And now as a band of reapers mow swathes of wheat or barley upon
a rich man's land, and the sheaves fall thick before them, even
so did the Trojans and Achaeans fall upon one another; they were
in no mood for yielding but fought like wolves, and neither side
got the better of the other. Discord was glad as she beheld them,
for she was the only god that went among them; the others were
not there, but stayed quietly each in his own home among the
dells and valleys of Olympus. All of them blamed the son of
Saturn for wanting to give victory to the Trojans, but father
Jove heeded them not: he held aloof from all, and sat apart in
his all-glorious majesty, looking down upon the city of the
Trojans, the ships of the Achaeans, the gleam of bronze, and
alike upon the slayers and on the slain.
Now so long as the day waxed and it was still morning, their
darts rained thick on one another and the people perished, but as
the hour drew nigh when a woodman working in some mountain forest
will get his midday meal—for he has felled till his hands are
weary; he is tired out, and must now have food—then the Danaans
with a cry that rang through all their ranks, broke the
battalions of the enemy. Agamemnon led them on, and slew first
Bienor, a leader of his people, and afterwards his comrade and
charioteer Oileus, who sprang from his chariot and was coming
full towards him; but Agamemnon struck him on the forehead with
his spear; his bronze visor was of no avail against the weapon,
which pierced both bronze and bone, so that his brains were
battered in and he was killed in full fight.
Agamemnon stripped their shirts from off them and left them with
their breasts all bare to lie where they had fallen. He then went
on to kill Isus and Antiphus two sons of Priam, the one a
bastard, the other born in wedlock; they were in the same
chariot—the bastard driving, while noble Antiphus fought beside
him. Achilles had once taken both of them prisoners in the glades
of Ida, and had bound them with fresh withes as they were
shepherding, but he had taken a ransom for them; now, however,
Agamemnon son of Atreus smote Isus in the chest above the nipple
with his spear, while he struck Antiphus hard by the ear and
threw him from his chariot. Forthwith he stripped their goodly
armour from off them and recognized them, for he had already seen
them at ships when Achilles brought them in from Ida. As a lion
fastens on the fawns of a hind and crushes them in his great
jaws, robbing them of their tender life while he on his way back
to his lair—the hind can do nothing for them even though she be
close by, for she is in an agony of fear, and flies through the
thick forest, sweating, and at her utmost speed before the mighty
monster—so, no man of the Trojans could help Isus and Antiphus,
for they were themselves flying panic before the Argives.
Then King Agamemnon took the two sons of Antimachus, Pisander and
brave Hippolochus. It was Antimachus who had been foremost in
preventing Helen's being restored to Menelaus, for he was largely
bribed by Alexandrus; and now Agamemnon took his two sons, both
in the same chariot, trying to bring their horses to a stand—for
they had lost hold of the reins and the horses were mad with
fear. The son of Atreus sprang upon them like a lion, and the
pair besought him from their chariot. "Take us alive," they
cried, "son of Atreus, and you shall receive a great ransom for
us. Our father Antimachus has great store of gold, bronze, and
wrought iron, and from this he will satisfy you with a very large
ransom should he hear of our being alive at the ships of the
Achaeans."
With such piteous words and tears did they beseech the king, but
they heard no pitiful answer in return. "If," said Agamemnon,
"you are sons of Antimachus, who once at a council of Trojans
proposed that Menelaus and Ulysses, who had come to you as
envoys, should be killed and not suffered to return, you shall
now pay for the foul iniquity of your father."
As he spoke he felled Pisander from his chariot to the earth,
smiting him on the chest with his spear, so that he lay face
uppermost upon the ground. Hippolochus fled, but him too did
Agamemnon smite; he cut off his hands and his head—which he sent
rolling in among the crowd as though it were a ball. There he let
them both lie, and wherever the ranks were thickest thither he
flew, while the other Achaeans followed. Foot soldiers drove the
foot soldiers of the foe in rout before them, and slew them;
horsemen did the like by horsemen, and the thundering tramp of
the horses raised a cloud of dust from off the plain. King
Agamemnon followed after, ever slaying them and cheering on the
Achaeans. As when some mighty forest is all ablaze—the eddying
gusts whirl fire in all directions till the thickets shrivel and
are consumed before the blast of the flame—even so fell the
heads of the flying Trojans before Agamemnon son of Atreus, and
many a noble pair of steeds drew an empty chariot along the
highways of war, for lack of drivers who were lying on the plain,
more useful now to vultures than to their wives.
Jove drew Hector away from the darts and dust, with the carnage
and din of battle; but the son of Atreus sped onwards, calling
out lustily to the Danaans. They flew on by the tomb of old Ilus,
son of Dardanus, in the middle of the plain, and past the place
of the wild fig-tree making always for the city—the son of
Atreus still shouting, and with hands all bedrabbled in gore; but
when they had reached the Scaean gates and the oak tree, there
they halted and waited for the others to come up. Meanwhile the
Trojans kept on flying over the middle of the plain like a herd
of cows maddened with fright when a lion has attacked them in the
dead of night—he springs on one of them, seizes her neck in the
grip of his strong teeth and then laps up her blood and gorges
himself upon her entrails—even so did King Agamemnon son of
Atreus pursue the foe, ever slaughtering the hindmost as they
fled pell-mell before him. Many a man was flung headlong from his
chariot by the hand of the son of Atreus, for he wielded his
spear with fury.
But when he was just about to reach the high wall and the city,
the father of gods and men came down from heaven and took his
seat, thunderbolt in hand, upon the crest of many-fountained Ida.
He then told Iris of the golden wings to carry a message for him.
"Go," said he, "fleet Iris, and speak thus to Hector—say that so
long as he sees Agamemnon heading his men and making havoc of the
Trojan ranks, he is to keep aloof and bid the others bear the
brunt of the battle, but when Agamemnon is wounded either by
spear or arrow, and takes to his chariot, then will I vouchsafe
him strength to slay till he reach the ships and night falls at
the going down of the sun."
Iris hearkened and obeyed. Down she went to strong Ilius from the
crests of Ida, and found Hector son of Priam standing by his
chariot and horses. Then she said, "Hector son of Priam, peer of
gods in counsel, father Jove has sent me to bear you this
message—so long as you see Agamemnon heading his men and making
havoc of the Trojan ranks, you are to keep aloof and bid the
others bear the brunt of the battle, but when Agamemnon is
wounded either by spear or arrow, and takes to his chariot, then
will Jove vouchsafe you strength to slay till you reach the
ships, and till night falls at the going down of the sun."
When she had thus spoken Iris left him, and Hector sprang full
armed from his chariot to the ground, brandishing his spear as he
went about everywhere among the host, cheering his men on to
fight, and stirring the dread strife of battle. The Trojans then
wheeled round, and again met the Achaeans, while the Argives on
their part strengthened their battalions. The battle was now in
array and they stood face to face with one another, Agamemnon
ever pressing forward in his eagerness to be ahead of all others.
Tell me now ye Muses that dwell in the mansions of Olympus, who,
whether of the Trojans or of their allies, was first to face
Agamemnon? It was Iphidamas son of Antenor, a man both brave and
of great stature, who was brought up in fertile Thrace, the
mother of sheep. Cisses, his mother's father, brought him up in
his own house when he was a child—Cisses, father to fair Theano.
When he reached manhood, Cisses would have kept him there, and
was for giving him his daughter in marriage, but as soon as he
had married he set out to fight the Achaeans with twelve ships
that followed him: these he had left at Percote and had come on
by land to Ilius. He it was that now met Agamemnon son of Atreus.
When they were close up with one another, the son of Atreus
missed his aim, and Iphidamas hit him on the girdle below the
cuirass and then flung himself upon him, trusting to his strength
of arm; the girdle, however, was not pierced, nor nearly so, for
the point of the spear struck against the silver and was turned
aside as though it had been lead: King Agamemnon caught it from
his hand, and drew it towards him with the fury of a lion; he
then drew his sword, and killed Iphidamas by striking him on the
neck. So there the poor fellow lay, sleeping a sleep as it were
of bronze, killed in the defence of his fellow-citizens, far from
his wedded wife, of whom he had had no joy though he had given
much for her: he had given a hundred-head of cattle down, and had
promised later on to give a thousand sheep and goats mixed, from
the countless flocks of which he was possessed. Agamemnon son of
Atreus then despoiled him, and carried off his armour into the
host of the Achaeans.
When noble Coon, Antenor's eldest son, saw this, sore indeed were
his eyes at the sight of his fallen brother. Unseen by Agamemnon
he got beside him, spear in hand, and wounded him in the middle
of his arm below the elbow, the point of the spear going right
through the arm. Agamemnon was convulsed with pain, but still not
even for this did he leave off struggling and fighting, but
grasped his spear that flew as fleet as the wind, and sprang upon
Coon who was trying to drag off the body of his brother—his
father's son—by the foot, and was crying for help to all the
bravest of his comrades; but Agamemnon struck him with a
bronze-shod spear and killed him as he was dragging the dead body
through the press of men under cover of his shield: he then cut
off his head, standing over the body of Iphidamas. Thus did the
sons of Antenor meet their fate at the hands of the son of
Atreus, and go down into the house of Hades.
As long as the blood still welled warm from his wound Agamemnon
went about attacking the ranks of the enemy with spear and sword
and with great handfuls of stone, but when the blood had ceased
to flow and the wound grew dry, the pain became great. As the
sharp pangs which the Eilithuiae, goddesses of childbirth,
daughters of Juno and dispensers of cruel pain, send upon a woman
when she is in labour—even so sharp were the pangs of the son of
Atreus. He sprang on to his chariot, and bade his charioteer
drive to the ships, for he was in great agony. With a loud clear
voice he shouted to the Danaans, "My friends, princes and
counsellors of the Argives, defend the ships yourselves, for Jove
has not suffered me to fight the whole day through against the
Trojans."
With this the charioteer turned his horses towards the ships, and
they flew forward nothing loth. Their chests were white with foam
and their bellies with dust, as they drew the wounded king out of
the battle.
When Hector saw Agamemnon quit the field, he shouted to the
Trojans and Lycians saying, "Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanian
warriors, be men, my friends, and acquit yourselves in battle
bravely; their best man has left them, and Jove has vouchsafed me
a great triumph; charge the foe with your chariots that you may
win still greater glory."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and as a
huntsman hounds his dogs on against a lion or wild boar, even so
did Hector, peer of Mars, hound the proud Trojans on against the
Achaeans. Full of hope he plunged in among the foremost, and fell
on the fight like some fierce tempest that swoops down upon the
sea, and lashes its deep blue waters into fury.
What, then is the full tale of those whom Hector son of Priam
killed in the hour of triumph which Jove then vouchsafed him?
First Asaeus, Autonous, and Opites; Dolops son of Clytius,
Opheltius and Agelaus; Aesymnus, Orus and Hipponous steadfast in
battle; these chieftains of the Achaeans did Hector slay, and
then he fell upon the rank and file. As when the west wind
hustles the clouds of the white south and beats them down with
the fierceness of its fury—the waves of the sea roll high, and
the spray is flung aloft in the rage of the wandering wind—even
so thick were the heads of them that fell by the hand of Hector.
All had then been lost and no help for it, and the Achaeans would
have fled pell-mell to their ships, had not Ulysses cried out to
Diomed, "Son of Tydeus, what has happened to us that we thus
forget our prowess? Come, my good fellow, stand by my side and
help me, we shall be shamed for ever if Hector takes the ships."
And Diomed answered, "Come what may, I will stand firm; but we
shall have scant joy of it, for Jove is minded to give victory to
the Trojans rather than to us."
With these words he struck Thymbraeus from his chariot to the
ground, smiting him in the left breast with his spear, while
Ulysses killed Molion who was his squire. These they let lie, now
that they had stopped their fighting; the two heroes then went on
playing havoc with the foe, like two wild boars that turn in fury
and rend the hounds that hunt them. Thus did they turn upon the
Trojans and slay them, and the Achaeans were thankful to have
breathing time in their flight from Hector.
They then took two princes with their chariot, the two sons of
Merops of Percote, who excelled all others in the arts of
divination. He had forbidden his sons to go to the war, but they
would not obey him, for fate lured them to their fall. Diomed son
of Tydeus slew them both and stripped them of their armour, while
Ulysses killed Hippodamus and Hypeirochus.
And now the son of Saturn as he looked down from Ida ordained
that neither side should have the advantage, and they kept on
killing one another. The son of Tydeus speared Agastrophus son of
Paeon in the hip-joint with his spear. His chariot was not at
hand for him to fly with, so blindly confident had he been. His
squire was in charge of it at some distance and he was fighting
on foot among the foremost until he lost his life. Hector soon
marked the havoc Diomed and Ulysses were making, and bore down
upon them with a loud cry, followed by the Trojan ranks; brave
Diomed was dismayed when he saw them, and said to Ulysses who was
beside him, "Great Hector is bearing down upon us and we shall be
undone; let us stand firm and wait his onset."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it, nor did he miss
his mark. He had aimed at Hector's head near the top of his
helmet, but bronze was turned by bronze, and Hector was
untouched, for the spear was stayed by the visored helm made with
three plates of metal, which Phoebus Apollo had given him. Hector
sprang back with a great bound under cover of the ranks; he fell
on his knees and propped himself with his brawny hand leaning on
the ground, for darkness had fallen on his eyes. The son of
Tydeus having thrown his spear dashed in among the foremost
fighters, to the place where he had seen it strike the ground;
meanwhile Hector recovered himself and springing back into his
chariot mingled with the crowd, by which means he saved his life.
But Diomed made at him with his spear and said, "Dog, you have
again got away though death was close on your heels. Phoebus
Apollo, to whom I ween you pray ere you go into battle, has again
saved you, nevertheless I will meet you and make an end of you
hereafter, if there is any god who will stand by me too and be my
helper. For the present I must pursue those I can lay hands on."
As he spoke he began stripping the spoils from the son of Paeon,
but Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen aimed an arrow at him,
leaning against a pillar of the monument which men had raised to
Ilus son of Dardanus, a ruler in days of old. Diomed had taken
the cuirass from off the breast of Agastrophus, his heavy helmet
also, and the shield from off his shoulders, when Paris drew his
bow and let fly an arrow that sped not from his hand in vain, but
pierced the flat of Diomed's right foot, going right through it
and fixing itself in the ground. Thereon Paris with a hearty
laugh sprang forward from his hiding-place, and taunted him
saying, "You are wounded—my arrow has not been shot in vain;
would that it had hit you in the belly and killed you, for thus
the Trojans, who fear you as goats fear a lion, would have had a
truce from evil."
Diomed all undaunted answered, "Archer, you who without your bow
are nothing, slanderer and seducer, if you were to be tried in
single combat fighting in full armour, your bow and your arrows
would serve you in little stead. Vain is your boast in that you
have scratched the sole of my foot. I care no more than if a girl
or some silly boy had hit me. A worthless coward can inflict but
a light wound; when I wound a man though I but graze his skin it
is another matter, for my weapon will lay him low. His wife will
tear her cheeks for grief and his children will be fatherless:
there will he rot, reddening the earth with his blood, and
vultures, not women, will gather round him."
Thus he spoke, but Ulysses came up and stood over him. Under this
cover he sat down to draw the arrow from his foot, and sharp was
the pain he suffered as he did so. Then he sprang on to his
chariot and bade the charioteer drive him to the ships, for he
was sick at heart.
Ulysses was now alone; not one of the Argives stood by him, for
they were all panic-stricken. "Alas," said he to himself in his
dismay, "what will become of me? It is ill if I turn and fly
before these odds, but it will be worse if I am left alone and
taken prisoner, for the son of Saturn has struck the rest of the
Danaans with panic. But why talk to myself in this way? Well do I
know that though cowards quit the field, a hero, whether he wound
or be wounded, must stand firm and hold his own."
While he was thus in two minds, the ranks of the Trojans advanced
and hemmed him in, and bitterly did they come to rue it. As
hounds and lusty youths set upon a wild boar that sallies from
his lair whetting his white tusks—they attack him from every
side and can hear the gnashing of his jaws, but for all his
fierceness they still hold their ground—even so furiously did
the Trojans attack Ulysses. First he sprang spear in hand upon
Deiopites and wounded him on the shoulder with a downward blow;
then he killed Thoon and Ennomus. After these he struck
Chersidamas in the loins under his shield as he had just sprung
down from his chariot; so he fell in the dust and clutched the
earth in the hollow of his hand. These he let lie, and went on to
wound Charops son of Hippasus own brother to noble Socus. Socus,
hero that he was, made all speed to help him, and when he was
close to Ulysses he said, "Far-famed Ulysses, insatiable of craft
and toil, this day you shall either boast of having killed both
the sons of Hippasus and stripped them of their armour, or you
shall fall before my spear."
With these words he struck the shield of Ulysses. The spear went
through the shield and passed on through his richly wrought
cuirass, tearing the flesh from his side, but Pallas Minerva did
not suffer it to pierce the entrails of the hero. Ulysses knew
that his hour was not yet come, but he gave ground and said to
Socus, "Wretch, you shall now surely die. You have stayed me from
fighting further with the Trojans, but you shall now fall by my
spear, yielding glory to myself, and your soul to Hades of the
noble steeds."
Socus had turned in flight, but as he did so, the spear struck
him in the back midway between the shoulders, and went right
through his chest. He fell heavily to the ground and Ulysses
vaunted over him saying, "O Socus, son of Hippasus tamer of
horses, death has been too quick for you and you have not escaped
him: poor wretch, not even in death shall your father and mother
close your eyes, but the ravening vultures shall enshroud you
with the flapping of their dark wings and devour you. Whereas
even though I fall the Achaeans will give me my due rites of
burial."
So saying he drew Socus's heavy spear out of his flesh and from
his shield, and the blood welled forth when the spear was
withdrawn so that he was much dismayed. When the Trojans saw that
Ulysses was bleeding they raised a great shout and came on in a
body towards him; he therefore gave ground, and called his
comrades to come and help him. Thrice did he cry as loudly as man
can cry, and thrice did brave Menelaus hear him; he turned,
therefore, to Ajax who was close beside him and said, "Ajax,
noble son of Telamon, captain of your people, the cry of Ulysses
rings in my ears, as though the Trojans had cut him off and were
worsting him while he is single-handed. Let us make our way
through the throng; it will be well that we defend him; I fear he
may come to harm for all his valour if he be left without
support, and the Danaans would miss him sorely."
He led the way and mighty Ajax went with him. The Trojans had
gathered round Ulysses like ravenous mountain jackals round the
carcase of some horned stag that has been hit with an arrow—the
stag has fled at full speed so long as his blood was warm and his
strength has lasted, but when the arrow has overcome him, the
savage jackals devour him in the shady glades of the forest. Then
heaven sends a fierce lion thither, whereon the jackals fly in
terror and the lion robs them of their prey—even so did Trojans
many and brave gather round crafty Ulysses, but the hero stood at
bay and kept them off with his spear. Ajax then came up with his
shield before him like a wall, and stood hard by, whereon the
Trojans fled in all directions. Menelaus took Ulysses by the
hand, and led him out of the press while his squire brought up
his chariot, but Ajax rushed furiously on the Trojans and killed
Doryclus, a bastard son of Priam; then he wounded Pandocus,
Lysandrus, Pyrasus, and Pylartes; as some swollen torrent comes
rushing in full flood from the mountains on to the plain, big
with the rain of heaven—many a dry oak and many a pine does it
engulf, and much mud does it bring down and cast into the sea—
even so did brave Ajax chase the foe furiously over the plain,
slaying both men and horses.
Hector did not yet know what Ajax was doing, for he was fighting
on the extreme left of the battle by the banks of the river
Scamander, where the carnage was thickest and the war-cry loudest
round Nestor and brave Idomeneus. Among these Hector was making
great slaughter with his spear and furious driving, and was
destroying the ranks that were opposed to him; still the Achaeans
would have given no ground, had not Alexandrus husband of lovely
Helen stayed the prowess of Machaon, shepherd of his people, by
wounding him in the right shoulder with a triple-barbed arrow.
The Achaeans were in great fear that as the fight had turned
against them the Trojans might take him prisoner, and Idomeneus
said to Nestor, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean
name, mount your chariot at once; take Machaon with you and drive
your horses to the ships as fast as you can. A physician is worth
more than several other men put together, for he can cut out
arrows and spread healing herbs."
Nestor knight of Gerene did as Idomeneus had counselled; he at
once mounted his chariot, and Machaon son of the famed physician
Aesculapius, went with him. He lashed his horses and they flew
onward nothing loth towards the ships, as though of their own
free will.
Then Cebriones seeing the Trojans in confusion said to Hector
from his place beside him, "Hector, here are we two fighting on
the extreme wing of the battle, while the other Trojans are in
pell-mell rout, they and their horses. Ajax son of Telamon is
driving them before him; I know him by the breadth of his shield:
let us turn our chariot and horses thither, where horse and foot
are fighting most desperately, and where the cry of battle is
loudest."
With this he lashed his goodly steeds, and when they felt the
whip they drew the chariot full speed among the Achaeans and
Trojans, over the bodies and shields of those that had fallen:
the axle was bespattered with blood, and the rail round the car
was covered with splashes both from the horses' hoofs and from
the tyres of the wheels. Hector tore his way through and flung
himself into the thick of the fight, and his presence threw the
Danaans into confusion, for his spear was not long idle;
nevertheless though he went among the ranks with sword and spear,
and throwing great stones, he avoided Ajax son of Telamon, for
Jove would have been angry with him if he had fought a better man
than himself.
Then father Jove from his high throne struck fear into the heart
of Ajax, so that he stood there dazed and threw his shield behind
him—looking fearfully at the throng of his foes as though he
were some wild beast, and turning hither and thither but
crouching slowly backwards. As peasants with their hounds chase a
lion from their stockyard, and watch by night to prevent his
carrying off the pick of their herd—he makes his greedy spring,
but in vain, for the darts from many a strong hand fall thick
around him, with burning brands that scare him for all his fury,
and when morning comes he slinks foiled and angry away—even so
did Ajax, sorely against his will, retreat angrily before the
Trojans, fearing for the ships of the Achaeans. Or as some lazy
ass that has had many a cudgel broken about his back, when he
into a field begins eating the corn—boys beat him but he is too
many for them, and though they lay about with their sticks they
cannot hurt him; still when he has had his fill they at last
drive him from the field—even so did the Trojans and their
allies pursue great Ajax, ever smiting the middle of his shield
with their darts. Now and again he would turn and show fight,
keeping back the battalions of the Trojans, and then he would
again retreat; but he prevented any of them from making his way
to the ships. Single-handed he stood midway between the Trojans
and Achaeans: the spears that sped from their hands stuck some of
them in his mighty shield, while many, though thirsting for his
blood, fell to the ground ere they could reach him to the
wounding of his fair flesh.
Now when Eurypylus the brave son of Euaemon saw that Ajax was
being overpowered by the rain of arrows, he went up to him and
hurled his spear. He struck Apisaon son of Phausius in the liver
below the midriff, and laid him low. Eurypylus sprang upon him,
and stripped the armour from his shoulders; but when Alexandrus
saw him, he aimed an arrow at him which struck him in the right
thigh; the arrow broke, but the point that was left in the wound
dragged on the thigh; he drew back, therefore, under cover of his
comrades to save his life, shouting as he did so to the Danaans,
"My friends, princes and counsellors of the Argives, rally to the
defence of Ajax who is being overpowered, and I doubt whether he
will come out of the fight alive. Hither, then, to the rescue of
great Ajax son of Telamon."
Even so did he cry when he was wounded; thereon the others came
near, and gathered round him, holding their shields upwards from
their shoulders so as to give him cover. Ajax then made towards
them, and turned round to stand at bay as soon as he had reached
his men.
Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
mares of Neleus, all in a lather with sweat, were bearing Nestor
out of the fight, and with him Machaon shepherd of his people.
Achilles saw and took note, for he was standing on the stern of
his ship watching the hard stress and struggle of the fight. He
called from the ship to his comrade Patroclus, who heard him in
the tent and came out looking like Mars himself—here indeed was
the beginning of the ill that presently befell him. "Why," said
he, "Achilles, do you call me? What do you want with me?" And
Achilles answered, "Noble son of Menoetius, man after my own
heart, I take it that I shall now have the Achaeans praying at my
knees, for they are in great straits; go, Patroclus, and ask
Nestor who it is that he is bearing away wounded from the field;
from his back I should say it was Machaon son of Aesculapius, but
I could not see his face for the horses went by me at full
speed."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him, and set off
running by the ships and tents of the Achaeans.
When Nestor and Machaon had reached the tents of the son of
Neleus, they dismounted, and an esquire, Eurymedon, took the
horses from the chariot. The pair then stood in the breeze by the
seaside to dry the sweat from their shirts, and when they had so
done they came inside and took their seats. Fair Hecamede, whom
Nestor had had awarded to him from Tenedos when Achilles took it,
mixed them a mess; she was daughter of wise Arsinous, and the
Achaeans had given her to Nestor because he excelled all of them
in counsel. First she set for them a fair and well-made table
that had feet of cyanus; on it there was a vessel of bronze and
an onion to give relish to the drink, with honey and cakes of
barley-meal. There was also a cup of rare workmanship which the
old man had brought with him from home, studded with bosses of
gold; it had four handles, on each of which there were two golden
doves feeding, and it had two feet to stand on. Any one else
would hardly have been able to lift it from the table when it was
full, but Nestor could do so quite easily. In this the woman, as
fair as a goddess, mixed them a mess with Pramnian wine; she
grated goat's milk cheese into it with a bronze grater, threw in
a handful of white barley-meal, and having thus prepared the mess
she bade them drink it. When they had done so and had thus
quenched their thirst, they fell talking with one another, and at
this moment Patroclus appeared at the door.
When the old man saw him he sprang from his seat, seized his
hand, led him into the tent, and bade him take his place among
them; but Patroclus stood where he was and said, "Noble sir, I
may not stay, you cannot persuade me to come in; he that sent me
is not one to be trifled with, and he bade me ask who the wounded
man was whom you were bearing away from the field. I can now see
for myself that he is Machaon, shepherd of his people. I must go
back and tell Achilles. You, sir, know what a terrible man he is,
and how ready to blame even where no blame should lie."
And Nestor answered, "Why should Achilles care to know how many
of the Achaeans may be wounded? He recks not of the dismay that
reigns in our host; our most valiant chieftains lie disabled,
brave Diomed, son of Tydeus, is wounded; so are Ulysses and
Agamemnon; Eurypylus has been hit with an arrow in the thigh, and
I have just been bringing this man from the field—he too wounded
with an arrow. Nevertheless, Achilles, so valiant though he be,
cares not and knows no ruth. Will he wait till the ships, do what
we may, are in a blaze, and we perish one upon the other? As for
me, I have no strength nor stay in me any longer; would that I
were still young and strong as in the days when there was a fight
between us and the men of Elis about some cattle-raiding. I then
killed Itymoneus, the valiant son of Hypeirochus, a dweller in
Elis, as I was driving in the spoil; he was hit by a dart thrown
by my hand while fighting in the front rank in defence of his
cows, so he fell and the country people around him were in great
fear. We drove off a vast quantity of booty from the plain, fifty
herds of cattle and as many flocks of sheep; fifty droves also of
pigs, and as many wide-spreading flocks of goats. Of horses,
moreover, we seized a hundred and fifty, all of them mares, and
many had foals running with them. All these did we drive by night
to Pylus, the city of Neleus, taking them within the city; and
the heart of Neleus was glad in that I had taken so much, though
it was the first time I had ever been in the field. At daybreak
the heralds went round crying that all in Elis to whom there was
a debt owing should come; and the leading Pylians assembled to
divide the spoils. There were many to whom the Epeans owed
chattels, for we men of Pylus were few and had been oppressed
with wrong; in former years Hercules had come, and had laid his
hand heavy upon us, so that all our best men had perished. Neleus
had had twelve sons, but I alone was left; the others had all
been killed. The Epeans presuming upon all this had looked down
upon us and had done us much evil. My father chose a herd of
cattle and a great flock of sheep—three hundred in all—and he
took their shepherds with him, for there was a great debt due to
him in Elis, to wit four horses, winners of prizes. They and
their chariots with them had gone to the games and were to run
for a tripod, but King Augeas took them, and sent back their
driver grieving for the loss of his horses. Neleus was angered by
what he had both said and done, and took great value in return,
but he divided the rest, that no man might have less than his
full share.
"Thus did we order all things, and offer sacrifices to the gods
throughout the city; but three days afterwards the Epeans came in
a body, many in number, they and their chariots, in full array,
and with them the two Moliones in their armour, though they were
still lads and unused to fighting. Now there is a certain town,
Thryoessa, perched upon a rock on the river Alpheus, the border
city Pylus. This they would destroy, and pitched their camp about
it, but when they had crossed their whole plain, Minerva darted
down by night from Olympus and bade us set ourselves in array;
and she found willing soldiers in Pylos, for the men meant
fighting. Neleus would not let me arm, and hid my horses, for he
said that as yet I could know nothing about war; nevertheless
Minerva so ordered the fight that, all on foot as I was, I fought
among our mounted forces and vied with the foremost of them.
There is a river Minyeius that falls into the sea near Arene, and
there they that were mounted (and I with them) waited till
morning, when the companies of foot soldiers came up with us in
force. Thence in full panoply and equipment we came towards noon
to the sacred waters of the Alpheus, and there we offered victims
to almighty Jove, with a bull to Alpheus, another to Neptune, and
a herd-heifer to Minerva. After this we took supper in our
companies, and laid us down to rest each in his armour by the
river.
"The Epeans were beleaguering the city and were determined to
take it, but ere this might be there was a desperate fight in
store for them. When the sun's rays began to fall upon the earth
we joined battle, praying to Jove and to Minerva, and when the
fight had begun, I was the first to kill my man and take his
horses—to wit the warrior Mulius. He was son-in-law to Augeas,
having married his eldest daughter, golden-haired Agamede, who
knew the virtues of every herb which grows upon the face of the
earth. I speared him as he was coming towards me, and when he
fell headlong in the dust, I sprang upon his chariot and took my
place in the front ranks. The Epeans fled in all directions when
they saw the captain of their horsemen (the best man they had)
laid low, and I swept down on them like a whirlwind, taking fifty
chariots—and in each of them two men bit the dust, slain by my
spear. I should have even killed the two Moliones, sons of Actor,
unless their real father, Neptune lord of the earthquake, had
hidden them in a thick mist and borne them out of the fight.
Thereon Jove vouchsafed the Pylians a great victory, for we
chased them far over the plain, killing the men and bringing in
their armour, till we had brought our horses to Buprasium, rich
in wheat, and to the Olenian rock, with the hill that is called
Alision, at which point Minerva turned the people back. There I
slew the last man and left him; then the Achaeans drove their
horses back from Buprasium to Pylos and gave thanks to Jove among
the gods, and among mortal men to Nestor.
"Such was I among my peers, as surely as ever was, but Achilles
is for keeping all his valour for himself; bitterly will he rue
it hereafter when the host is being cut to pieces. My good
friend, did not Menoetius charge you thus, on the day when he
sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon? Ulysses and I were in the
house, inside, and heard all that he said to you; for we came to
the fair house of Peleus while beating up recruits throughout all
Achaea, and when we got there we found Menoetius and yourself,
and Achilles with you. The old knight Peleus was in the outer
court, roasting the fat thigh-bones of a heifer to Jove the lord
of thunder; and he held a gold chalice in his hand from which he
poured drink-offerings of wine over the burning sacrifice. You
two were busy cutting up the heifer, and at that moment we stood
at the gates, whereon Achilles sprang to his feet, led us by the
hand into the house, placed us at table, and set before us such
hospitable entertainment as guests expect. When we had satisfied
ourselves with meat and drink, I said my say and urged both of
you to join us. You were ready enough to do so, and the two old
men charged you much and straitly. Old Peleus bade his son
Achilles fight ever among the foremost and outvie his peers,
while Menoetius the son of Actor spoke thus to you: 'My son,'
said he, 'Achilles is of nobler birth than you are, but you are
older than he, though he is far the better man of the two.
Counsel him wisely, guide him in the right way, and he will
follow you to his own profit.' Thus did your father charge you,
but you have forgotten; nevertheless, even now, say all this to
Achilles if he will listen to you. Who knows but with heaven's
help you may talk him over, for it is good to take a friend's
advice. If, however, he is fearful about some oracle, or if his
mother has told him something from Jove, then let him send you,
and let the rest of the Myrmidons follow with you, if perchance
you may bring light and saving to the Danaans. And let him send
you into battle clad in his own armour, that the Trojans may
mistake you for him and leave off fighting; the sons of the
Achaeans may thus have time to get their breath, for they are
hard pressed and there is little breathing time in battle. You,
who are fresh, might easily drive a tired enemy back to his walls
and away from the tents and ships."
With these words he moved the heart of Patroclus, who set off
running by the line of the ships to Achilles, descendant of
Aeacus. When he had got as far as the ships of Ulysses, where was
their place of assembly and court of justice, with their altars
dedicated to the gods, Eurypylus son of Euaemon, met him, wounded
in the thigh with an arrow, and limping out of the fight. Sweat
rained from his head and shoulders, and black blood welled from
his cruel wound, but his mind did not wander. The son of
Menoetius when he saw him had compassion upon him and spoke
piteously saying, "O unhappy princes and counsellors of the
Danaans, are you then doomed to feed the hounds of Troy with your
fat, far from your friends and your native land? Say, noble
Eurypylus, will the Achaeans be able to hold great Hector in
check, or will they fall now before his spear?"
Wounded Eurypylus made answer, "Noble Patroclus, there is no hope
left for the Achaeans but they will perish at their ships. All
they that were princes among us are lying struck down and wounded
at the hands of the Trojans, who are waxing stronger and
stronger. But save me and take me to your ship; cut out the arrow
from my thigh; wash the black blood from off it with warm water,
and lay upon it those gracious herbs which, so they say, have
been shown you by Achilles, who was himself shown them by Chiron,
most righteous of all the centaurs. For of the physicians
Podalirius and Machaon, I hear that the one is lying wounded in
his tent and is himself in need of healing, while the other is
fighting the Trojans upon the plain."
"Hero Eurypylus," replied the brave son of Menoetius, "how may
these things be? What can I do? I am on my way to bear a message
to noble Achilles from Nestor of Gerene, bulwark of the Achaeans,
but even so I will not be unmindful of your distress."
With this he clasped him round the middle and led him into the
tent, and a servant, when he saw him, spread bullock-skins on the
ground for him to lie on. He laid him at full length and cut out
the sharp arrow from his thigh; he washed the black blood from
the wound with warm water; he then crushed a bitter herb, rubbing
it between his hands, and spread it upon the wound; this was a
virtuous herb which killed all pain; so the wound presently dried
and the blood left off flowing.
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