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The Iliad
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THUS the Trojans in the city, scared like fawns, wiped the sweat
from off them and drank to quench their thirst, leaning against
the goodly battlements, while the Achaeans with their shields
laid upon their shoulders drew close up to the walls. But stern
fate bade Hector stay where he was before Ilius and the Scaean
gates. Then Phoebus Apollo spoke to the son of Peleus saying,
"Why, son of Peleus, do you, who are but man, give chase to me
who am immortal? Have you not yet found out that it is a god whom
you pursue so furiously? You did not harass the Trojans whom you
had routed, and now they are within their walls, while you have
been decoyed hither away from them. Me you cannot kill, for death
can take no hold upon me."
Achilles was greatly angered and said, "You have baulked me,
Far-Darter, most malicious of all gods, and have drawn me away
from the wall, where many another man would have bitten the dust
ere he got within Ilius; you have robbed me of great glory and
have saved the Trojans at no risk to yourself, for you have
nothing to fear, but I would indeed have my revenge if it were in
my power to do so."
On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the
winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is
flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs
of Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as
he scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call
Orion's Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest
more brilliantly than those of any other that shines by night;
brightest of them all though he be, he yet bodes ill for mortals,
for he brings fire and fever in his train—even so did Achilles'
armour gleam on his breast as he sped onwards. Priam raised a cry
and beat his head with his hands as he lifted them up and shouted
out to his dear son, imploring him to return; but Hector still
stayed before the gates, for his heart was set upon doing battle
with Achilles. The old man reached out his arms towards him and
bade him for pity's sake come within the walls. "Hector," he
cried, "my son, stay not to face this man alone and unsupported,
or you will meet death at the hands of the son of Peleus, for he
is mightier than you. Monster that he is; would indeed that the
gods loved him no better than I do, for so, dogs and vultures
would soon devour him as he lay stretched on earth, and a load of
grief would be lifted from my heart, for many a brave son has he
reft from me, either by killing them or selling them away in the
islands that are beyond the sea: even now I miss two sons from
among the Trojans who have thronged within the city, Lycaon and
Polydorus, whom Laothoe peeress among women bore me. Should they
be still alive and in the hands of the Achaeans, we will ransom
them with gold and bronze, of which we have store, for the old
man Altes endowed his daughter richly; but if they are already
dead and in the house of Hades, sorrow will it be to us two who
were their parents; albeit the grief of others will be more
short-lived unless you too perish at the hands of Achilles. Come,
then, my son, within the city, to be the guardian of Trojan men
and Trojan women, or you will both lose your own life and afford
a mighty triumph to the son of Peleus. Have pity also on your
unhappy father while life yet remains to him—on me, whom the son
of Saturn will destroy by a terrible doom on the threshold of old
age, after I have seen my sons slain and my daughters haled away
as captives, my bridal chambers pillaged, little children dashed
to earth amid the rage of battle, and my sons' wives dragged away
by the cruel hands of the Achaeans; in the end fierce hounds will
tear me in pieces at my own gates after some one has beaten the
life out of my body with sword or spear-hounds that I myself
reared and fed at my own table to guard my gates, but who will
yet lap my blood and then lie all distraught at my doors. When a
young man falls by the sword in battle, he may lie where he is
and there is nothing unseemly; let what will be seen, all is
honourable in death, but when an old man is slain there is
nothing in this world more pitiable than that dogs should defile
his grey hair and beard and all that men hide for shame."
The old man tore his grey hair as he spoke, but he moved not the
heart of Hector. His mother hard by wept and moaned aloud as she
bared her bosom and pointed to the breast which had suckled him.
"Hector," she cried, weeping bitterly the while, "Hector, my son,
spurn not this breast, but have pity upon me too: if I have ever
given you comfort from my own bosom, think on it now, dear son,
and come within the wall to protect us from this man; stand not
without to meet him. Should the wretch kill you, neither I nor
your richly dowered wife shall ever weep, dear offshoot of
myself, over the bed on which you lie, for dogs will devour you
at the ships of the Achaeans."
Thus did the two with many tears implore their son, but they
moved not the heart of Hector, and he stood his ground awaiting
huge Achilles as he drew nearer towards him. As serpent in its
den upon the mountains, full fed with deadly poisons, waits for
the approach of man—he is filled with fury and his eyes glare
terribly as he goes writhing round his den—even so Hector leaned
his shield against a tower that jutted out from the wall and
stood where he was, undaunted.
"Alas," said he to himself in the heaviness of his heart, "if I
go within the gates, Polydamas will be the first to heap reproach
upon me, for it was he that urged me to lead the Trojans back to
the city on that awful night when Achilles again came forth
against us. I would not listen, but it would have been indeed
better if I had done so. Now that my folly has destroyed the
host, I dare not look Trojan men and Trojan women in the face,
lest a worse man should say, 'Hector has ruined us by his
self-confidence.' Surely it would be better for me to return
after having fought Achilles and slain him, or to die gloriously
here before the city. What, again, if I were to lay down my
shield and helmet, lean my spear against the wall and go straight
up to noble Achilles? What if I were to promise to give up Helen,
who was the fountainhead of all this war, and all the treasure
that Alexandrus brought with him in his ships to Troy, aye, and
to let the Achaeans divide the half of everything that the city
contains among themselves? I might make the Trojans, by the
mouths of their princes, take a solemn oath that they would hide
nothing, but would divide into two shares all that is within the
city—but why argue with myself in this way? Were I to go up to
him he would show me no kind of mercy; he would kill me then and
there as easily as though I were a woman, when I had off my
armour. There is no parleying with him from some rock or oak
tree as young men and maidens prattle with one another. Better
fight him at once, and learn to which of us Jove will vouchsafe
Thus did he stand and ponder, but Achilles came up to him as it
were Mars himself, plumed lord of battle. From his right shoulder
he brandished his terrible spear of Pelian ash, and the bronze
gleamed around him like flashing fire or the rays of the rising
sun. Fear fell upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not
stay longer where he was but fled in dismay from before the
gates, while Achilles darted after him at his utmost speed. As a
mountain falcon, swiftest of all birds, swoops down upon some
cowering dove—the dove flies before him but the falcon with a
shrill scream follows close after, resolved to have her—even so
did Achilles make straight for Hector with all his might, while
Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as his limbs could take
On they flew along the waggon-road that ran hard by under the
wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild
fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river
Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from
it as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is
as cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here,
hard by the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone,
where in the time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the
wives and fair daughters of the Trojans used to wash their
clothes. Past these did they fly, the one in front and the other
giving chase behind him: good was the man that fled, but better
far was he that followed after, and swiftly indeed did they run,
for the prize was no mere beast for sacrifice or bullock's hide,
as it might be for a common foot-race, but they ran for the life
of Hector. As horses in a chariot race speed round the
turning-posts when they are running for some great prize—a
tripod or woman—at the games in honour of some dead hero, so did
these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam. All
the gods watched them, and the sire of gods and men was the first
to speak.
"Alas," said he, "my eyes behold a man who is dear to me being
pursued round the walls of Troy; my heart is full of pity for
Hector, who has burned the thigh-bones of many a heifer in my
honour, one while on the crests of many-valleyed Ida, and again
on the citadel of Troy; and now I see noble Achilles in full
pursuit of him round the city of Priam. What say you? Consider
among yourselves and decide whether we shall now save him or let
him fall, valiant though he be, before Achilles, son of Peleus."
Then Minerva said, "Father, wielder of the lightning, lord of
cloud and storm, what mean you? Would you pluck this mortal whose
doom has long been decreed out of the jaws of death? Do as you
will, but we others shall not be of a mind with you."
And Jove answered, "My child, Trito-born, take heart. I did not
speak in full earnest, and I will let you have your way. Do
without let or hindrance as you are minded."
Thus did he urge Minerva who was already eager, and down she
darted from the topmost summits of Olympus.
Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing
a fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and
hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by
crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and
follow her up until he gets her—even so there was no escape for
Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to
get near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people
might help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles
would gain on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping
himself always on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to
lay hands upon another whom he is pursuing—the one cannot escape
nor the other overtake—even so neither could Achilles come up
with Hector, nor Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he
might even yet have escaped death had not the time come when
Apollo, who thus far had sustained his strength and nerved his
running, was now no longer to stay by him. Achilles made signs to
the Achaean host, and shook his head to show that no man was to
aim a dart at Hector, lest another might win the glory of having
hit him and he might himself come in second. Then, at last, as
they were nearing the fountains for the fourth time, the father
of all balanced his golden scales and placed a doom in each of
them, one for Achilles and the other for Hector. As he held the
scales by the middle, the doom of Hector fell down deep into the
house of Hades—and then Phoebus Apollo left him. Thereon Minerva
went close up to the son of Peleus and said, "Noble Achilles,
favoured of heaven, we two shall surely take back to the ships a
triumph for the Achaeans by slaying Hector, for all his lust of
battle. Do what Apollo may as he lies grovelling before his
father, aegis-bearing Jove, Hector cannot escape us longer. Stay
here and take breath, while I go up to him and persuade him to
make a stand and fight you."
Thus spoke Minerva. Achilles obeyed her gladly, and stood still,
leaning on his bronze-pointed ashen spear, while Minerva left him
and went after Hector in the form and with the voice of
Deiphobus. She came close up to him and said, "Dear brother, I
see you are hard pressed by Achilles who is chasing you at full
speed round the city of Priam, let us await his onset and stand
on our defence."
And Hector answered, "Deiphobus, you have always been dearest to
me of all my brothers, children of Hecuba and Priam, but
henceforth I shall rate you yet more highly, inasmuch as you have
ventured outside the wall for my sake when all the others remain
Then Minerva said, "Dear brother, my father and mother went down
on their knees and implored me, as did all my comrades, to remain
inside, so great a fear has fallen upon them all; but I was in an
agony of grief when I beheld you; now, therefore, let us two make
a stand and fight, and let there be no keeping our spears in
reserve, that we may learn whether Achilles shall kill us and
bear off our spoils to the ships, or whether he shall fall before
Thus did Minerva inveigle him by her cunning, and when the two
were now close to one another great Hector was first to speak. "I
will-no longer fly you, son of Peleus," said he, "as I have been
doing hitherto. Three times have I fled round the mighty city of
Priam, without daring to withstand you, but now, let me either
slay or be slain, for I am in the mind to face you. Let us, then,
give pledges to one another by our gods, who are the fittest
witnesses and guardians of all covenants; let it be agreed
between us that if Jove vouchsafes me the longer stay and I take
your life, I am not to treat your dead body in any unseemly
fashion, but when I have stripped you of your armour, I am to
give up your body to the Achaeans. And do you likewise."
Achilles glared at him and answered, "Fool, prate not to me about
covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions,
wolves and lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other
out and out an through. Therefore there can be no understanding
between you and me, nor may there be any covenants between us,
till one or other shall fall and glut grim Mars with his life's
blood. Put forth all your strength; you have need now to prove
yourself indeed a bold soldier and man of war. You have no more
chance, and Pallas Minerva will forthwith vanquish you by my
spear: you shall now pay me in full for the grief you have caused
me on account of my comrades whom you have killed in battle."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. Hector saw it
coming and avoided it; he watched it and crouched down so that it
flew over his head and stuck in the ground beyond; Minerva then
snatched it up and gave it back to Achilles without Hector's
seeing her; Hector thereon said to the son of Peleus, "You have
missed your aim, Achilles, peer of the gods, and Jove has not yet
revealed to you the hour of my doom, though you made sure that he
had done so. You were a false-tongued liar when you deemed that I
should forget my valour and quail before you. You shall not drive
spear into the back of a runaway—drive it, should heaven so
grant you power, drive it into me as I make straight towards you;
and now for your own part avoid my spear if you can—would that
you might receive the whole of it into your body; if you were
once dead the Trojans would find the war an easier matter, for it
is you who have harmed them most."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. His aim was true
for he hit the middle of Achilles' shield, but the spear
rebounded from it, and did not pierce it. Hector was angry when
he saw that the weapon had sped from his hand in vain, and stood
there in dismay for he had no second spear. With a loud cry he
called Deiphobus and asked him for one, but there was no man;
then he saw the truth and said to himself, "Alas! the gods have
lured me on to my destruction. I deemed that the hero Deiphobus
was by my side, but he is within the wall, and Minerva has
inveigled me; death is now indeed exceedingly near at hand and
there is no way out of it—for so Jove and his son Apollo the
far-darter have willed it, though heretofore they have been ever
ready to protect me. My doom has come upon me; let me not then
die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some
great thing that shall be told among men hereafter."
As he spoke he drew the keen blade that hung so great and strong
by his side, and gathering himself together be sprang on Achilles
like a soaring eagle which swoops down from the clouds on to some
lamb or timid hare—even so did Hector brandish his sword and
spring upon Achilles. Achilles mad with rage darted towards him,
with his wondrous shield before his breast, and his gleaming
helmet, made with four layers of metal, nodding fiercely forward.
The thick tresses of gold with which Vulcan had crested the
helmet floated round it, and as the evening star that shines
brighter than all others through the stillness of night, even
such was the gleam of the spear which Achilles poised in his
right hand, fraught with the death of noble Hector. He eyed his
fair flesh over and over to see where he could best wound it, but
all was protected by the goodly armour of which Hector had
spoiled Patroclus after he had slain him, save only the throat
where the collar-bones divide the neck from the shoulders, and
this is a most deadly place: here then did Achilles strike him as
he was coming on towards him, and the point of his spear went
right through the fleshy part of the neck, but it did not sever
his windpipe so that he could still speak. Hector fell headlong,
and Achilles vaunted over him saying, "Hector, you deemed that
you should come off scatheless when you were spoiling Patroclus,
and recked not of myself who was not with him. Fool that you
were: for I, his comrade, mightier far than he, was still left
behind him at the ships, and now I have laid you low. The
Achaeans shall give him all due funeral rites, while dogs and
vultures shall work their will upon yourself."
Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, "I pray you by
your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me
at the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of
gold and bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and
send my body home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me
my dues of fire when I am dead."
Achilles glared at him and answered, "Dog, talk not to me neither
of knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able
to cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill you
have done me, as I am that nothing shall save you from the
dogs—it shall not be, though they bring ten or twenty-fold
ransom and weigh it out for me on the spot, with promise of yet
more hereafter. Though Priam son of Dardanus should bid them
offer me your weight in gold, even so your mother shall never lay
you out and make lament over the son she bore, but dogs and
vultures shall eat you utterly up."
Hector with his dying breath then said, "I know you what you are,
and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard
as iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on
the day when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be,
shall slay you at the Scaean gates."
When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon
his soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades,
lamenting its sad fate that it should enjoy youth and strength no
longer. But Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, "Die; for
my part I will accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods
see fit to send it."
As he spoke he drew his spear from the body and set it on one
side; then he stripped the blood-stained armour from Hector's
shoulders while the other Achaeans came running up to view his
wondrous strength and beauty; and no one came near him without
giving him a fresh wound. Then would one turn to his neighbour
and say, "It is easier to handle Hector now than when he was
flinging fire on to our ships" and as he spoke he would thrust
his spear into him anew.
When Achilles had done spoiling Hector of his armour, he stood
among the Argives and said, "My friends, princes and counsellors
of the Argives, now that heaven has vouchsafed us to overcome
this man, who has done us more hurt than all the others together,
consider whether we should not attack the city in force, and
discover in what mind the Trojans may be. We should thus learn
whether they will desert their city now that Hector has fallen,
or will still hold out even though he is no longer living. But
why argue with myself in this way, while Patroclus is still lying
at the ships unburied, and unmourned—he whom I can never forget
so long as I am alive and my strength fails not? Though men
forget their dead when once they are within the house of Hades,
yet not even there will I forget the comrade whom I have lost.
Now, therefore, Achaean youths, let us raise the song of victory
and go back to the ships taking this man along with us; for we
have achieved a mighty triumph and have slain noble Hector to
whom the Trojans prayed throughout their city as though he were a
On this he treated the body of Hector with contumely: he pierced
the sinews at the back of both his feet from heel to ancle and
passed thongs of ox-hide through the slits he had made: thus he
made the body fast to his chariot, letting the head trail upon
the ground. Then when he had put the goodly armour on the chariot
and had himself mounted, he lashed his horses on and they flew
forward nothing loth. The dust rose from Hector as he was being
dragged along, his dark hair flew all abroad, and his head once
so comely was laid low on earth, for Jove had now delivered him
into the hands of his foes to do him outrage in his own land.
Thus was the head of Hector being dishonoured in the dust. His
mother tore her hair, and flung her veil from her with a loud cry
as she looked upon her son. His father made piteous moan, and
throughout the city the people fell to weeping and wailing. It
was as though the whole of frowning Ilius was being smirched with
fire. Hardly could the people hold Priam back in his hot haste to
rush without the gates of the city. He grovelled in the mire and
besought them, calling each one of them by his name. "Let be, my
friends," he cried, "and for all your sorrow, suffer me to go
single-handed to the ships of the Achaeans. Let me beseech this
cruel and terrible man, if maybe he will respect the feeling of
his fellow-men, and have compassion on my old age. His own father
is even such another as myself—Peleus, who bred him and reared
him to be the bane of us Trojans, and of myself more than of all
others. Many a son of mine has he slain in the flower of his
youth, and yet, grieve for these as I may, I do so for one—
Hector—more than for them all, and the bitterness of my sorrow
will bring me down to the house of Hades. Would that he had died
in my arms, for so both his ill-starred mother who bore him, and
myself, should have had the comfort of weeping and mourning over
Thus did he speak with many tears, and all the people of the city
joined in his lament. Hecuba then raised the cry of wailing among
the Trojans. "Alas, my son," she cried, "what have I left to live
for now that you are no more? Night and day did I glory in you
throughout the city, for you were a tower of strength to all in
Troy, and both men and women alike hailed you as a god. So long
as you lived you were their pride, but now death and destruction
have fallen upon you."
Hector's wife had as yet heard nothing, for no one had come to
tell her that her husband had remained without the gates. She was
at her loom in an inner part of the house, weaving a double
purple web, and embroidering it with many flowers. She told her
maids to set a large tripod on the fire, so as to have a warm
bath ready for Hector when he came out of battle; poor woman, she
knew not that he was now beyond the reach of baths, and that
Minerva had laid him low by the hands of Achilles. She heard the
cry coming as from the wall, and trembled in every limb; the
shuttle fell from her hands, and again she spoke to her
waiting-women. "Two of you," she said, "come with me that I may
learn what it is that has befallen; I heard the voice of my
husband's honoured mother; my own heart beats as though it would
come into my mouth and my limbs refuse to carry me; some great
misfortune for Priam's children must be at hand. May I never live
to hear it, but I greatly fear that Achilles has cut off the
retreat of brave Hector and has chased him on to the plain where
he was singlehanded; I fear he may have put an end to the
reckless daring which possessed my husband, who would never
remain with the body of his men, but would dash on far in front,
foremost of them all in valour."
Her heart beat fast, and as she spoke she flew from the house
like a maniac, with her waiting-women following after. When she
reached the battlements and the crowd of people, she stood
looking out upon the wall, and saw Hector being borne away in
front of the city—the horses dragging him without heed or care
over the ground towards the ships of the Achaeans. Her eyes were
then shrouded as with the darkness of night and she fell fainting
backwards. She tore the attiring from her head and flung it from
her, the frontlet and net with its plaited band, and the veil
which golden Venus had given her on the day when Hector took her
with him from the house of Eetion, after having given countless
gifts of wooing for her sake. Her husband's sisters and the wives
of his brothers crowded round her and supported her, for she was
fain to die in her distraction; when she again presently breathed
and came to herself, she sobbed and made lament among the Trojans
saying, "Woe is me, O Hector; woe, indeed, that to share a common
lot we were born, you at Troy in the house of Priam, and I at
Thebes under the wooded mountain of Placus in the house of Eetion
who brought me up when I was a child—ill-starred sire of an
ill-starred daughter—would that he had never begotten me. You
are now going into the house of Hades under the secret places of
the earth, and you leave me a sorrowing widow in your house. The
child, of whom you and I are the unhappy parents, is as yet a
mere infant. Now that you are gone, O Hector, you can do nothing
for him nor he for you. Even though he escape the horrors of this
woeful war with the Achaeans, yet shall his life henceforth be
one of labour and sorrow, for others will seize his lands. The
day that robs a child of his parents severs him from his own
kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks are wet with tears, and he
will go about destitute among the friends of his father, plucking
one by the cloak and another by the shirt. Some one or other of
these may so far pity him as to hold the cup for a moment towards
him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not drink enough to
wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents are alive will
drive him from the table with blows and angry words. 'Out with
you,' he will say, 'you have no father here,' and the child will
go crying back to his widowed mother—he, Astyanax, who erewhile
would sit upon his father's knees, and have none but the
daintiest and choicest morsels set before him. When he had played
till he was tired and went to sleep, he would lie in a bed, in
the arms of his nurse, on a soft couch, knowing neither want nor
care, whereas now that he has lost his father his lot will be
full of hardship—he, whom the Trojans name Astyanax, because
you, O Hector, were the only defence of their gates and
battlements. The wriggling writhing worms will now eat you at the
ships, far from your parents, when the dogs have glutted
themselves upon you. You will lie naked, although in your house
you have fine and goodly raiment made by hands of women. This
will I now burn; it is of no use to you, for you can never again
wear it, and thus you will have respect shown you by the Trojans
both men and women."
In such wise did she cry aloud amid her tears, and the women
joined in her lament.
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