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The Iliad
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Book XXI

NOW when they came to the ford of the full-flowing river Xanthus,
begotten of immortal Jove, Achilles cut their forces in two: one
half he chased over the plain towards the city by the same way
that the Achaeans had taken when flying panic-stricken on the
preceding day with Hector in full triumph; this way did they fly
pell-mell, and Juno sent down a thick mist in front of them to
stay them. The other half were hemmed in by the deep
silver-eddying stream, and fell into it with a great uproar. The
waters resounded, and the banks rang again, as they swam hither
and thither with loud cries amid the whirling eddies. As locusts
flying to a river before the blast of a grass fire—the flame
comes on and on till at last it overtakes them and they huddle
into the water—even so was the eddying stream of Xanthus filled
with the uproar of men and horses, all struggling in confusion
before Achilles.
Forthwith the hero left his spear upon the bank, leaning it
against a tamarisk bush, and plunged into the river like a god,
armed with his sword only. Fell was his purpose as he hewed the
Trojans down on every side. Their dying groans rose hideous as
the sword smote them, and the river ran red with blood. As when
fish fly scared before a huge dolphin, and fill every nook and
corner of some fair haven—for he is sure to eat all he can
catch—even so did the Trojans cower under the banks of the
mighty river, and when Achilles' arms grew weary with killing
them, he drew twelve youths alive out of the water, to sacrifice
in revenge for Patroclus son of Menoetius. He drew them out like
dazed fawns, bound their hands behind them with the girdles of
their own shirts, and gave them over to his men to take back to
the ships. Then he sprang into the river, thirsting for still
further blood.
There he found Lycaon, son of Priam seed of Dardanus, as he was
escaping out of the water; he it was whom he had once taken
prisoner when he was in his father's vineyard, having set upon
him by night, as he was cutting young shoots from a wild fig-tree
to make the wicker sides of a chariot. Achilles then caught him
to his sorrow unawares, and sent him by sea to Lemnos, where the
son of Jason bought him. But a guest-friend, Eetion of Imbros,
freed him with a great sum, and sent him to Arisbe, whence he had
escaped and returned to his father's house. He had spent eleven
days happily with his friends after he had come from Lemnos, but
on the twelfth heaven again delivered him into the hands of
Achilles, who was to send him to the house of Hades sorely
against his will. He was unarmed when Achilles caught sight of
him, and had neither helmet nor shield; nor yet had he any spear,
for he had thrown all his armour from him on to the bank, and was
sweating with his struggles to get out of the river, so that his
strength was now failing him.
Then Achilles said to himself in his surprise, "What marvel do I
see here? If this man can come back alive after having been sold
over into Lemnos, I shall have the Trojans also whom I have slain
rising from the world below. Could not even the waters of the
grey sea imprison him, as they do many another whether he will or
no? This time let him taste my spear, that I may know for certain
whether mother earth who can keep even a strong man down, will be
able to hold him, or whether thence too he will return."
Thus did he pause and ponder. But Lycaon came up to him dazed and
trying hard to embrace his knees, for he would fain live, not
die. Achilles thrust at him with his spear, meaning to kill him,
but Lycaon ran crouching up to him and caught his knees, whereby
the spear passed over his back, and stuck in the ground,
hungering though it was for blood. With one hand he caught
Achilles' knees as he besought him, and with the other he
clutched the spear and would not let it go. Then he said,
"Achilles, have mercy upon me and spare me, for I am your
suppliant. It was in your tents that I first broke bread on the
day when you took me prisoner in the vineyard; after which you
sold me away to Lemnos far from my father and my friends, and I
brought you the price of a hundred oxen. I have paid three times
as much to gain my freedom; it is but twelve days that I have
come to Ilius after much suffering, and now cruel fate has again
thrown me into your hands. Surely father Jove must hate me, that
he has given me over to you a second time. Short of life indeed
did my mother Laothoe bear me, daughter of aged Altes—of Altes
who reigns over the warlike Lelegae and holds steep Pedasus on
the river Satnioeis. Priam married his daughter along with many
other women and two sons were born of her, both of whom you will
have slain. Your spear slew noble Polydorus as he was fighting in
the front ranks, and now evil will here befall me, for I fear
that I shall not escape you since heaven has delivered me over to
you. Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, spare
me, for I am not of the same womb as Hector who slew your brave
and noble comrade."
With such words did the princely son of Priam beseech Achilles;
but Achilles answered him sternly. "Idiot," said he, "talk not to
me of ransom. Until Patroclus fell I preferred to give the
Trojans quarter, and sold beyond the sea many of those whom I had
taken alive; but now not a man shall live of those whom heaven
delivers into my hands before the city of Ilius—and of all
Trojans it shall fare hardest with the sons of Priam. Therefore,
my friend, you too shall die. Why should you whine in this way?
Patroclus fell, and he was a better man than you are. I too—see
you not how I am great and goodly? I am son to a noble father,
and have a goddess for my mother, but the hands of doom and death
overshadow me all as surely. The day will come, either at dawn or
dark, or at the noontide, when one shall take my life also in
battle, either with his spear, or with an arrow sped from his
Thus did he speak, and Lycaon's heart sank within him. He loosed
his hold of the spear, and held out both hands before him; but
Achilles drew his keen blade, and struck him by the collar-bone
on his neck; he plunged his two-edged sword into him to the very
hilt, whereon he lay at full length on the ground, with the dark
blood welling from him till the earth was soaked. Then Achilles
caught him by the foot and flung him into the river to go down
stream, vaunting over him the while, and saying, "Lie there among
the fishes, who will lick the blood from your wound and gloat
over it; your mother shall not lay you on any bier to mourn you,
but the eddies of Scamander shall bear you into the broad bosom
of the sea. There shall the fishes feed on the fat of Lycaon as
they dart under the dark ripple of the waters—so perish all of
you till we reach the citadel of strong Ilius—you in flight, and
I following after to destroy you. The river with its broad silver
stream shall serve you in no stead, for all the bulls you offered
him and all the horses that you flung living into his waters.
None the less miserably shall you perish till there is not a man
of you but has paid in full for the death of Patroclus and the
havoc you wrought among the Achaeans whom you have slain while I
held aloof from battle."
So spoke Achilles, but the river grew more and more angry, and
pondered within himself how he should stay the hand of Achilles
and save the Trojans from disaster. Meanwhile the son of Peleus,
spear in hand, sprang upon Asteropaeus son of Pelegon to kill
him. He was son to the broad river Axius and Periboea eldest
daughter of Acessamenus; for the river had lain with her.
Asteropaeus stood up out of the water to face him with a spear in
either hand, and Xanthus filled him with courage, being angry for
the death of the youths whom Achilles was slaying ruthlessly
within his waters. When they were close up with one another
Achilles was first to speak. "Who and whence are you," said he,
"who dare to face me? Woe to the parents whose son stands up
against me." And the son of Pelegon answered, "Great son of
Peleus, why should you ask my lineage. I am from the fertile land
of far Paeonia, captain of the Paeonians, and it is now eleven
days that I am at Ilius. I am of the blood of the river Axius—of
Axius that is the fairest of all rivers that run. He begot the
famed warrior Pelegon, whose son men call me. Let us now fight,
Thus did he defy him, and Achilles raised his spear of Pelian
ash. Asteropaeus failed with both his spears, for he could use
both hands alike; with the one spear he struck Achilles' shield,
but did not pierce it, for the layer of gold, gift of the god,
stayed the point; with the other spear he grazed the elbow of
Achilles' right arm drawing dark blood, but the spear itself went
by him and fixed itself in the ground, foiled of its bloody
banquet. Then Achilles, fain to kill him, hurled his spear at
Asteropaeus, but failed to hit him and struck the steep bank of
the river, driving the spear half its length into the earth. The
son of Peleus then drew his sword and sprang furiously upon him.
Asteropaeus vainly tried to draw Achilles' spear out of the bank
by main force; thrice did he tug at it, trying with all his might
to draw it out, and thrice he had to leave off trying; the fourth
time he tried to bend and break it, but ere he could do so
Achilles smote him with his sword and killed him. He struck him
in the belly near the navel, so that all his bowels came gushing
out on to the ground, and the darkness of death came over him as
he lay gasping. Then Achilles set his foot on his chest and
spoiled him of his armour, vaunting over him and saying, "Lie
there—begotten of a river though you be, it is hard for you to
strive with the offspring of Saturn's son. You declare yourself
sprung from the blood of a broad river, but I am of the seed of
mighty Jove. My father is Peleus, son of Aeacus ruler over the
many Myrmidons, and Aeacus was the son of Jove. Therefore as Jove
is mightier than any river that flows into the sea, so are his
children stronger than those of any river whatsoever. Moreover
you have a great river hard by if he can be of any use to you,
but there is no fighting against Jove the son of Saturn, with
whom not even King Achelous can compare, nor the mighty stream of
deep-flowing Oceanus, from whom all rivers and seas with all
springs and deep wells proceed; even Oceanus fears the lightnings
of great Jove, and his thunder that comes crashing out of
With this he drew his bronze spear out of the bank, and now that
he had killed Asteropaeus, he let him lie where he was on the
sand, with the dark water flowing over him and the eels and
fishes busy nibbling and gnawing the fat that was about his
kidneys. Then he went in chase of the Paeonians, who were flying
along the bank of the river in panic when they saw their leader
slain by the hands of the son of Peleus. Therein he slew
Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus, Mnesus, Thrasius, Oeneus, and
Ophelestes, and he would have slain yet others, had not the river
in anger taken human form, and spoken to him from out the deep
waters saying, "Achilles, if you excel all in strength, so do you
also in wickedness, for the gods are ever with you to protect
you: if, then, the son of Saturn has vouchsafed it to you to
destroy all the Trojans, at any rate drive them out of my stream,
and do your grim work on land. My fair waters are now filled with
corpses, nor can I find any channel by which I may pour myself
into the sea for I am choked with dead, and yet you go on
mercilessly slaying. I am in despair, therefore, O captain of
your host, trouble me no further."
Achilles answered, "So be it, Scamander, Jove-descended; but I
will never cease dealing out death among the Trojans, till I have
pent them up in their city, and made trial of Hector face to
face, that I may learn whether he is to vanquish me, or I him."
As he spoke he set upon the Trojans with a fury like that of the
gods. But the river said to Apollo, "Surely, son of Jove, lord of
the silver bow, you are not obeying the commands of Jove who
charged you straitly that you should stand by the Trojans and
defend them, till twilight fades, and darkness is over an the
Meanwhile Achilles sprang from the bank into mid-stream, whereon
the river raised a high wave and attacked him. He swelled his
stream into a torrent, and swept away the many dead whom Achilles
had slain and left within his waters. These he cast out on to the
land, bellowing like a bull the while, but the living he saved
alive, hiding them in his mighty eddies. The great and terrible
wave gathered about Achilles, falling upon him and beating on his
shield, so that he could not keep his feet; he caught hold of a
great elm-tree, but it came up by the roots, and tore away the
bank, damming the stream with its thick branches and bridging it
all across; whereby Achilles struggled out of the stream, and
fled full speed over the plain, for he was afraid.
But the mighty god ceased not in his pursuit, and sprang upon him
with a dark-crested wave, to stay his hands and save the Trojans
from destruction. The son of Peleus darted away a spear's throw
from him; swift as the swoop of a black hunter-eagle which is the
strongest and fleetest of all birds, even so did he spring
forward, and the armour rang loudly about his breast. He fled on
in front, but the river with a loud roar came tearing after. As
one who would water his garden leads a stream from some fountain
over his plants, and all his ground-spade in hand he clears away
the dams to free the channels, and the little stones run rolling
round and round with the water as it goes merrily down the bank
faster than the man can follow—even so did the river keep
catching up with Achilles albeit he was a fleet runner, for the
gods are stronger than men. As often as he would strive to stand
his ground, and see whether or no all the gods in heaven were in
league against him, so often would the mighty wave come beating
down upon his shoulders, and be would have to keep flying on and
on in great dismay; for the angry flood was tiring him out as it
flowed past him and ate the ground from under his feet.
Then the son of Peleus lifted up his voice to heaven saying,
"Father Jove, is there none of the gods who will take pity upon
me, and save me from the river? I do not care what may happen to
me afterwards. I blame none of the other dwellers on Olympus so
severely as I do my dear mother, who has beguiled and tricked me.
She told me I was to fall under the walls of Troy by the flying
arrows of Apollo; would that Hector, the best man among the
Trojans, might there slay me; then should I fall a hero by the
hand of a hero; whereas now it seems that I shall come to a most
pitiable end, trapped in this river as though I were some
swineherd's boy, who gets carried down a torrent while trying to
cross it during a storm."
As soon as he had spoken thus, Neptune and Minerva came up to him
in the likeness of two men, and took him by the hand to reassure
him. Neptune spoke first. "Son of Peleus," said he, "be not so
exceeding fearful; we are two gods, come with Jove's sanction to
assist you, I, and Pallas Minerva. It is not your fate to perish
in this river; he will abate presently as you will see; moreover
we strongly advise you, if you will be guided by us, not to stay
your hand from fighting till you have pent the Trojan host within
the famed walls of Ilius—as many of them as may escape. Then
kill Hector and go back to the ships, for we will vouchsafe you a
triumph over him."
When they had so said they went back to the other immortals, but
Achilles strove onward over the plain, encouraged by the charge
the gods had laid upon him. All was now covered with the flood of
waters, and much goodly armour of the youths that had been slain
was rifting about, as also many corpses, but he forced his way
against the stream, speeding right onwards, nor could the broad
waters stay him, for Minerva had endowed him with great strength.
Nevertheless Scamander did not slacken in his pursuit, but was
still more furious with the son of Peleus. He lifted his waters
into a high crest and cried aloud to Simois saying, "Dear
brother, let the two of us unite to save this man, or he will
sack the mighty city of King Priam, and the Trojans will not hold
out against him. Help me at once; fill your streams with water
from their sources, rouse all your torrents to a fury; raise your
wave on high, and let snags and stones come thundering down you
that we may make an end of this savage creature who is now
lording it as though he were a god. Nothing shall serve him
longer, not strength nor comeliness, nor his fine armour, which
forsooth shall soon be lying low in the deep waters covered over
with mud. I will wrap him in sand, and pour tons of shingle round
him, so that the Achaeans shall not know how to gather his bones
for the silt in which I shall have hidden him, and when they
celebrate his funeral they need build no barrow."
On this he upraised his tumultuous flood high against Achilles,
seething as it was with foam and blood and the bodies of the
dead. The dark waters of the river stood upright and would have
overwhelmed the son of Peleus, but Juno, trembling lest Achilles
should be swept away in the mighty torrent, lifted her voice on
high and called out to Vulcan her son. "Crook-foot," she cried,
"my child, be up and doing, for I deem it is with you that
Xanthus is fain to fight; help us at once, kindle a fierce fire;
I will then bring up the west and the white south wind in a
mighty hurricane from the sea, that shall bear the flames against
the heads and armour of the Trojans and consume them, while you
go along the banks of Xanthus burning his trees and wrapping him
round with fire. Let him not turn you back neither by fair words
nor foul, and slacken not till I shout and tell you. Then you may
stay your flames."
On this Vulcan kindled a fierce fire, which broke out first upon
the plain and burned the many dead whom Achilles had killed and
whose bodies were lying about in great numbers; by this means the
plain was dried and the flood stayed. As the north wind, blowing
on an orchard that has been sodden with autumn rain, soon dries
it, and the heart of the owner is glad—even so the whole plain
was dried and the dead bodies were consumed. Then he turned
tongues of fire on to the river. He burned the elms the willows
and the tamarisks, the lotus also, with the rushes and marshy
herbage that grew abundantly by the banks of the river. The eels
and fishes that go darting about everywhere in the water, these,
too, were sorely harassed by the flames that cunning Vulcan had
kindled, and the river himself was scalded, so that he spoke
saying, "Vulcan, there is no god can hold his own against you. I
cannot fight you when you flare out your flames in this way;
strive with me no longer. Let Achilles drive the Trojans out of
city immediately. What have I to do with quarrelling and helping
He was boiling as he spoke, and all his waters were seething. As
a cauldron upon a large fire boils when it is melting the lard of
some fatted hog, and the lard keeps bubbling up all over when the
dry faggots blaze under it—even so were the goodly waters of
Xanthus heated with the fire till they were boiling. He could
flow no longer but stayed his stream, so afflicted was he by the
blasts of fire which cunning Vulcan had raised. Then he prayed to
Juno and besought her saying, "Juno, why should your son vex my
stream with such especial fury? I am not so much to blame as all
the others are who have been helping the Trojans. I will leave
off, since you so desire it, and let son leave off also.
Furthermore I swear never again will I do anything to save the
Trojans from destruction, not even when all Troy is burning in
the flames which the Achaeans will kindle."
As soon as Juno heard this she said to her son Vulcan, "Son
Vulcan, hold now your flames; we ought not to use such violence
against a god for the sake of mortals."
When she had thus spoken Vulcan quenched his flames, and the
river went back once more into his own fair bed.
Xanthus was now beaten, so these two left off fighting, for Juno
stayed them though she was still angry; but a furious quarrel
broke out among the other gods, for they were of divided
counsels. They fell on one another with a mighty uproar—earth
groaned, and the spacious firmament rang out as with a blare of
trumpets. Jove heard as he was sitting on Olympus, and laughed
for joy when he saw the gods coming to blows among themselves.
They were not long about beginning, and Mars piercer of shields
opened the battle. Sword in hand he sprang at once upon Minerva
and reviled her. "Why, vixen," said he, "have you again set the
gods by the ears in the pride and haughtiness of your heart? Have
you forgotten how you set Diomed son of Tydeus on to wound me,
and yourself took visible spear and drove it into me to the hurt
of my fair body? You shall now suffer for what you then did to
As he spoke he struck her on the terrible tasselled aegis—so
terrible that not even can Jove's lightning pierce it. Here did
murderous Mars strike her with his great spear. She drew back and
with her strong hand seized a stone that was lying on the plain—
great and rugged and black—which men of old had set for the
boundary of a field. With this she struck Mars on the neck, and
brought him down. Nine roods did he cover in his fall, and his
hair was all soiled in the dust, while his armour rang rattling
round him. But Minerva laughed and vaunted over him saying,
"Idiot, have you not learned how far stronger I am than you, but
you must still match yourself against me? Thus do your mother's
curses now roost upon you, for she is angry and would do you
mischief because you have deserted the Achaeans and are helping
the Trojans."
She then turned her two piercing eyes elsewhere, whereon Jove's
daughter Venus took Mars by the hand and led him away groaning
all the time, for it was only with great difficulty that he had
come to himself again. When Queen Juno saw her, she said to
Minerva, "Look, daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, that
vixen Venus is again taking Mars through the crowd out of the
battle; go after her at once."
Thus she spoke. Minerva sped after Venus with a will, and made at
her, striking her on the bosom with her strong hand so that she
fell fainting to the ground, and there they both lay stretched at
full length. Then Minerva vaunted over her saying, "May all who
help the Trojans against the Argives prove just as redoubtable
and stalwart as Venus did when she came across me while she was
helping Mars. Had this been so, we should long since have ended
the war by sacking the strong city of Ilius."
Juno smiled as she listened. Meanwhile King Neptune turned to
Apollo saying, "Phoebus, why should we keep each other at arm's
length? it is not well, now that the others have begun fighting;
it will be disgraceful to us if we return to Jove's
bronze-floored mansion on Olympus without having fought each
other; therefore come on, you are the younger of the two, and I
ought not to attack you, for I am older and have had more
experience. Idiot, you have no sense, and forget how we two alone
of all the gods fared hardly round about Ilius when we came from
Jove's house and worked for Laomedon a whole year at a stated
wage and he gave us his orders. I built the Trojans the wall
about their city, so wide and fair that it might be impregnable,
while you, Phoebus, herded cattle for him in the dales of many
valleyed Ida. When, however, the glad hours brought round the
time of payment, mighty Laomedon robbed us of all our hire and
sent us off with nothing but abuse. He threatened to bind us hand
and foot and sell us over into some distant island. He tried,
moreover, to cut off the ears of both of us, so we went away in a
rage, furious about the payment he had promised us, and yet
withheld; in spite of all this, you are now showing favour to his
people, and will not join us in compassing the utter ruin of the
proud Trojans with their wives and children."
And King Apollo answered, "Lord of the earthquake, you would have
no respect for me if I were to fight you about a pack of
miserable mortals, who come out like leaves in summer and eat the
fruit of the field, and presently fall lifeless to the ground.
Let us stay this fighting at once and let them settle it among
He turned away as he spoke, for he would lay no hand on the
brother of his own father. But his sister the huntress Diana,
patroness of wild beasts, was very angry with him and said, "So
you would fly, Far-Darter, and hand victory over to Neptune with
a cheap vaunt to boot. Baby, why keep your bow thus idle? Never
let me again hear you bragging in my father's house, as you have
often done in the presence of the immortals, that you would stand
up and fight with Neptune."
Apollo made her no answer, but Jove's august queen was angry and
upbraided her bitterly. "Bold vixen," she cried, "how dare you
cross me thus? For all your bow you will find it hard to hold
your own against me. Jove made you as a lion among women, and
lets you kill them whenever you choose. You will find it better
to chase wild beasts and deer upon the mountains than to fight
those who are stronger than you are. If you would try war, do so,
and find out by pitting yourself against me, how far stronger I
am than you are."
She caught both Diana's wrists with her left hand as she spoke,
and with her right she took the bow from her shoulders, and
laughed as she beat her with it about the ears while Diana
wriggled and writhed under her blows. Her swift arrows were shed
upon the ground, and she fled weeping from under Juno's hand as a
dove that flies before a falcon to the cleft of some hollow rock,
when it is her good fortune to escape. Even so did she fly
weeping away, leaving her bow and arrows behind her.
Then the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, said to Leto,
"Leto, I shall not fight you; it is ill to come to blows with any
of Jove's wives. Therefore boast as you will among the immortals
that you worsted me in fair fight."
Leto then gathered up Diana's bow and arrows that had fallen
about amid the whirling dust, and when she had got them she made
all haste after her daughter. Diana had now reached Jove's
bronze-floored mansion on Olympus, and sat herself down with many
tears on the knees of her father, while her ambrosial raiment was
quivering all about her. The son of Saturn drew her towards him,
and laughing pleasantly the while began to question her saying,
"Which of the heavenly beings, my dear child, has been treating
you in this cruel manner, as though you had been misconducting
yourself in the face of everybody?" and the fair-crowned goddess
of the chase answered, "It was your wife Juno, father, who has
been beating me; it is always her doing when there is any
quarrelling among the immortals."
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile Phoebus Apollo entered the
strong city of Ilius, for he was uneasy lest the wall should not
hold out and the Danaans should take the city then and there,
before its hour had come; but the rest of the ever-living gods
went back, some angry and some triumphant to Olympus, where they
took their seats beside Jove lord of the storm cloud, while
Achilles still kept on dealing out death alike on the Trojans and
on their horses. As when the smoke from some burning city ascends
to heaven when the anger of the gods has kindled it—there is
then toil for all, and sorrow for not a few—even so did Achilles
bring toil and sorrow on the Trojans.
Old King Priam stood on a high tower of the wall looking down on
huge Achilles as the Trojans fled panic-stricken before him, and
there was none to help them. Presently he came down from off the
tower and with many a groan went along the wall to give orders to
the brave warders of the gate. "Keep the gates," said he, "wide
open till the people come flying into the city, for Achilles is
hard by and is driving them in rout before him. I see we are in
great peril. As soon as our people are inside and in safety,
close the strong gates for I fear lest that terrible man should
come bounding inside along with the others."
As he spoke they drew back the bolts and opened the gates, and
when these were opened there was a haven of refuge for the
Trojans. Apollo then came full speed out of the city to meet them
and protect them. Right for the city and the high wall, parched
with thirst and grimy with dust, still they fied on, with
Achilles wielding his spear furiously behind them. For he was as
one possessed, and was thirsting after glory.
Then had the sons of the Achaeans taken the lofty gates of Troy
if Apollo had not spurred on Agenor, valiant and noble son to
Antenor. He put courage into his heart, and stood by his side to
guard him, leaning against a beech tree and shrouded in thick
darkness. When Agenor saw Achilles he stood still and his heart
was clouded with care. "Alas," said he to himself in his dismay,
"if I fly before mighty Achilles, and go where all the others are
being driven in rout, he will none the less catch me and kill me
for a coward. How would it be were I to let Achilles drive the
others before him, and then fly from the wall to the plain that
is behind Ilius till I reach the spurs of Ida and can hide in the
underwood that is thereon? I could then wash the sweat from off
me in the river and in the evening return to Ilius. But why
commune with myself in this way? Like enough he would see me as I
am hurrying from the city over the plain, and would speed after
me till he had caught me—I should stand no chance against him,
for he is mightiest of all mankind. What, then, if I go out and
meet him in front of the city? His flesh too, I take it, can be
pierced by pointed bronze. Life is the same in one and all, and
men say that he is but mortal despite the triumph that Jove son
of Saturn vouchsafes him."
So saying he stood on his guard and awaited Achilles, for he was
now fain to fight him. As a leopardess that bounds from out a
thick covert to attack a hunter—she knows no fear and is not
dismayed by the baying of the hounds; even though the man be too
quick for her and wound her either with thrust or spear, still,
though the spear has pierced her she will not give in till she
has either caught him in her grip or been killed outright—even
so did noble Agenor son of Antenor refuse to fly till he had made
trial of Achilles, and took aim at him with his spear, holding
his round shield before him and crying with a loud voice. "Of a
truth," said he, "noble Achilles, you deem that you shall this
day sack the city of the proud Trojans. Fool, there will be
trouble enough yet before it, for there is many a brave man of us
still inside who will stand in front of our dear parents with our
wives and children, to defend Ilius. Here therefore, huge and
mighty warrior though you be, here shall you die."
As he spoke his strong hand hurled his javelin from him, and the
spear struck Achilles on the leg beneath the knee; the greave of
newly wrought tin rang loudly, but the spear recoiled from the
body of him whom it had struck, and did not pierce it, for the
gods gift stayed it. Achilles in his turn attacked noble Agenor,
but Apollo would not vouchsafe him glory, for he snatched Agenor
away and hid him in a thick mist, sending him out of the battle
unmolested Then he craftily drew the son of Peleus away from
going after the host, for he put on the semblance of Agenor and
stood in front of Achilles, who ran towards him to give him chase
and pursued him over the corn lands of the plain, turning him
towards the deep waters of the river Scamander. Apollo ran but a
little way before him and beguiled Achilles by making him think
all the time that he was on the point of overtaking him.
Meanwhile the rabble of routed Trojans was thankful to crowd
within the city till their numbers thronged it; no longer did
they dare wait for one another outside the city walls, to learn
who had escaped and who were fallen in fight, but all whose feet
and knees could still carry them poured pell-mell into the town.
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