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Book XX

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