Home > English > Literature Classic Books > The Iliad > Book XVII
The Iliad
Classic Book   




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