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Book XXIII

THUS did they make their moan throughout the city, while the
Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to
his own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and
spoke to his brave comrades saying, "Myrmidons, famed horsemen
and my own trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but
with horse and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus,
in due honour to the dead. When we have had full comfort of
lamentation we will unyoke our horses and take supper all of us
here."
On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them
in their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all
sorrowing round the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still
deeper yearning. The sands of the seashore and the men's armour
were wet with their weeping, so great a minister of fear was he
whom they had lost. Chief in all their mourning was the son of
Peleus: he laid his bloodstained hand on the breast of his
friend. "Fare well," he cried, "Patroclus, even in the house of
Hades. I will now do all that I erewhile promised you; I will
drag Hector hither and let dogs devour him raw; twelve noble sons
of Trojans will I also slay before your pyre to avenge you."
As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,
laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of
Patroclus. The others then put off every man his armour, took the
horses from their chariots, and seated themselves in great
multitude by the ship of the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who
thereon feasted them with an abundant funeral banquet. Many a
goodly ox, with many a sheep and bleating goat did they butcher
and cut up; many a tusked boar moreover, fat and well-fed, did
they singe and set to roast in the flames of Vulcan; and rivulets
of blood flowed all round the place where the body was lying.
Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to
Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them,
so wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they
reached Agamemnon's tent they told the serving-men to set a large
tripod over the fire in case they might persuade the son of
Peleus to wash the clotted gore from this body, but he denied
them sternly, and swore it with a solemn oath, saying, "Nay, by
King Jove, first and mightiest of all gods, it is not meet that
water should touch my body, till I have laid Patroclus on the
flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved my head—for so long
as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw nigh me. Now,
therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands, but at
break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and
provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of
darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the
sooner, and the people shall turn again to their own labours."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made
haste to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full
share so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough
to eat and drink, the others went to their rest each in his own
tent, but the son of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by
the shore of the sounding sea, in an open place where the waves
came surging in one after another. Here a very deep slumber took
hold upon him and eased the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs
were weary with chasing Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the
sad spirit of Patroclus drew near him, like what he had been in
stature, voice, and the light of his beaming eyes, clad, too, as
he had been clad in life. The spirit hovered over his head and
said—
"You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,
but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with
all speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain
shadows of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them;
they will not yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the
river, and I wander all desolate by the wide gates of the house
of Hades. Give me now your hand I pray you, for when you have
once given me my dues of fire, never shall I again come forth out
of the house of Hades. Nevermore shall we sit apart and take
sweet counsel among the living; the cruel fate which was my
birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around me—nay, you too
Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the wall of the
noble Trojans.
"One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not
my bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even
as we were brought up together in your own home, what time
Menoetius brought me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a
sad spite I had killed the son of Amphidamas—not of set purpose,
but in childish quarrel over the dice. The knight Peleus took me
into his house, entreated me kindly, and named me to be your
squire; therefore let our bones lie in but a single urn, the
two-handled golden vase given to you by your mother."
And Achilles answered, "Why, true heart, are you come hither to
lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have
bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms
around one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our
sorrows."
He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped
him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a
vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to
his feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, "Of a
truth even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms
that have no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of
Patroclus has hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me
what I am to do for him, and looking wondrously like himself."
Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning
about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then
King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to
bring wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over
them. They went out with woodmen's axes and strong ropes in their
hands, and before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did
they go, by straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the
heights of many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots
of many a tall branching oak that came thundering down as they
felled it. They split the trees and bound them behind the mules,
which then wended their way as they best could through the thick
brushwood on to the plain. All who had been cutting wood bore
logs, for so Meriones squire to Idomeneus had bidden them, and
they threw them down in a line upon the seashore at the place
where Achilles would make a mighty monument for Patroclus and for
himself.
When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole
ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles
ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke
each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour
and mounted each his chariot—they and their charioteers with
them. The chariots went before, and they that were on foot
followed as a cloud in their tens of thousands after. In the
midst of them his comrades bore Patroclus and covered him with
the locks of their hair which they cut off and threw upon his
body. Last came Achilles with his head bowed for sorrow, so noble
a comrade was he taking to the house of Hades.
When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they
laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought
him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and
cut off the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river
Spercheius. He looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and
said, "Spercheius, in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that
when I returned home to my loved native land I should cut off
this lock and offer you a holy hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to
sacrifice to you there at your springs, where is your grove and
your altar fragrant with burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow,
but you have not fulfilled his prayer; now, therefore, that I
shall see my home no more, I give this lock as a keepsake to the
hero Patroclus."
As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade,
and all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation.
The sun would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles
presently said to Agamemnon, "Son of Atreus, for it is to you
that the people will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a
time to cease from mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre
and set about getting their dinners: we, to whom the dead is
dearest, will see to what is wanted here, and let the other
princes also stay by me."
When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their
ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built
a pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead
all sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many
fat sheep and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from
all of them and wrapped the body therein from head to foot,
heaping the flayed carcases all round it. Against the bier he
leaned two-handled jars of honey and unguents; four proud horses
did he then cast upon the pyre, groaning the while he did so. The
dead hero had had house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and
threw upon the pyre; he also put twelve brave sons of noble
Trojans to the sword and laid them with the rest, for he was full
of bitterness and fury. Then he committed all to the resistless
and devouring might of the fire; he groaned aloud and called on
his dead comrade by name. "Fare well," he cried, "Patroclus, even
in the house of Hades; I am now doing all that I have promised
you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the flames consume
along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour the flesh
of Hector son of Priam."
Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of
Hector, for Jove's daughter Venus kept them off him night and
day, and anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh
might not be torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus
Apollo moreover sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which
gave shade to the whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of
the sun might not parch his body.
Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles
therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and
prayed to the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly
offerings. He made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup
and besought them to come and help him that the wood might make
haste to kindle and the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard
him praying and started off to fetch the winds. They were holding
high feast in the house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came
running up to the stone threshold of the house and stood there,
but as soon as they set eyes on her they all came towards her and
each of them called her to him, but Iris would not sit down. "I
cannot stay," she said, "I must go back to the streams of Oceanus
and the land of the Ethiopians who are offering hecatombs to the
immortals, and I would have my share; but Achilles prays that
Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him, and he vows them
goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the pyre of
Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting."
With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that
rent the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and
on until they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath
them, but when they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the
mighty flames roared under the blast that they blew. All night
long did they blow hard and beat upon the fire, and all night
long did Achilles grasp his double cup, drawing wine from a
mixing-bowl of gold, and calling upon the spirit of dead
Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground until the earth was
drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning the bones of his
bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of his parents,
even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of his comrade,
pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and lamentation.
At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light
which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the
flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home
beyond the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept
over it. The son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay
down, overcome with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber.
Presently they who were about the son of Atreus drew near in a
body, and roused him with the noise and tramp of their coming. He
sat upright and said, "Son of Atreus, and all other princes of
the Achaeans, first pour red wine everywhere upon the fire and
quench it; let us then gather the bones of Patroclus son of
Menoetius, singling them out with care; they are easily found,
for they lie in the middle of the pyre, while all else, both men
and horses, has been thrown in a heap and burned at the outer
edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in two layers of
fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into the house
of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one now,
but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may
be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and
high."
Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus.
First they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and
quenched the fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened
bones of their loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in
two layers of fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth
and took it inside the tent. They marked off the circle where the
barrow should be, made a foundation for it about the pyre, and
forthwith heaped up the earth. When they had thus raised a mound
they were going away, but Achilles stayed the people and made
them sit in assembly. He brought prizes from the
ships—cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble oxen, women
with fair girdles, and swart iron.
The first prize he offered was for the chariot races—a woman
skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had
ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was
for the man who came in first. For the second there was a
six-year old mare, unbroken, and in foal to a he-ass; the third
was to have a goodly cauldron that had never yet been on the
fire; it was still bright as when it left the maker, and would
hold four measures. The fourth prize was two talents of gold, and
the fifth a two-handled urn as yet unsoiled by smoke. Then he
stood up and spoke among the Argives saying—
"Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that
lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I
should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you
know how far my steeds excel all others—for they are immortal;
Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them
to myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost
their brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in
clear water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand
weeping here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the
extremity of their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in
order throughout the host, whosoever has confidence in his horses
and in the strength of his chariot."
Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots
bestirred themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king
of men, son of Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to
him rose mighty Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses
which he had taken from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the
fight. Next to him, yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and
yoked his fleet horses, Agamemnon's mare Aethe, and his own horse
Podargus. The mare had been given to Agamemnon by Echepolus son
of Anchises, that he might not have to follow him to Ilius, but
might stay at home and take his ease; for Jove had endowed him
with great wealth and he lived in spacious Sicyon. This mare, all
eager for the race, did Menelaus put under the yoke.
Fourth in order Antilochus, son to noble Nestor son of Neleus,
made ready his horses. These were bred in Pylos, and his father
came up to him to give him good advice of which, however, he
stood in but little need. "Antilochus," said Nestor, "you are
young, but Jove and Neptune have loved you well, and have made
you an excellent horseman. I need not therefore say much by way
of instruction. You are skilful at wheeling your horses round the
post, but the horses themselves are very slow, and it is this
that will, I fear, mar your chances. The other drivers know less
than you do, but their horses are fleeter; therefore, my dear
son, see if you cannot hit upon some artifice whereby you may
insure that the prize shall not slip through your fingers. The
woodman does more by skill than by brute force; by skill the
pilot guides his storm-tossed barque over the sea, and so by
skill one driver can beat another. If a man go wide in rounding
this way and that, whereas a man who knows what he is doing may
have worse horses, but he will keep them well in hand when he
sees the doubling-post; he knows the precise moment at which to
pull the rein, and keeps his eye well on the man in front of him.
I will give you this certain token which cannot escape your
notice. There is a stump of a dead tree—oak or pine as it may
be—some six feet above the ground, and not yet rotted away by
rain; it stands at the fork of the road; it has two white stones
set one on each side, and there is a clear course all round it.
It may have been a monument to some one long since dead, or it
may have been used as a doubling-post in days gone by; now,
however, it has been fixed on by Achilles as the mark round which
the chariots shall turn; hug it as close as you can, but as you
stand in your chariot lean over a little to the left; urge on
your right-hand horse with voice and lash, and give him a loose
rein, but let the left-hand horse keep so close in, that the nave
of your wheel shall almost graze the post; but mind the stone, or
you will wound your horses and break your chariot in pieces,
which would be sport for others but confusion for yourself.
Therefore, my dear son, mind well what you are about, for if you
can be first to round the post there is no chance of any one
giving you the go-by later, not even though you had Adrestus's
horse Arion behind you—a horse which is of divine race—or those
of Laomedon, which are the noblest in this country."
When Nestor had made an end of counselling his son he sat down in
his place, and fifth in order Meriones got ready his horses.
They then all mounted their chariots and cast lots. Achilles
shook the helmet, and the lot of Antilochus son of Nestor fell
out first; next came that of King Eumelus, and after his, those
of Menelaus son of Atreus and of Meriones. The last place fell to
the lot of Diomed son of Tydeus, who was the best man of them
all. They took their places in line; Achilles showed them the
doubling-post round which they were to turn, some way off upon
the plain; here he stationed his father's follower Phoenix as
umpire, to note the running, and report truly.
At the same instant they all of them lashed their horses, struck
them with the reins, and shouted at them with all their might.
They flew full speed over the plain away from the ships, the dust
rose from under them as it were a cloud or whirlwind, and their
manes were all flying in the wind. At one moment the chariots
seemed to touch the ground, and then again they bounded into the
air; the drivers stood erect, and their hearts beat fast and
furious in their lust of victory. Each kept calling on his
horses, and the horses scoured the plain amid the clouds of dust
that they raised.
It was when they were doing the last part of the course on their
way back towards the sea that their pace was strained to the
utmost and it was seen what each could do. The horses of the
descendant of Pheres now took the lead, and close behind them
came the Trojan stallions of Diomed. They seemed as if about to
mount Eumelus's chariot, and he could feel their warm breath on
his back and on his broad shoulders, for their heads were close
to him as they flew over the course. Diomed would have now passed
him, or there would have been a dead heat, but Phoebus Apollo to
spite him made him drop his whip. Tears of anger fell from his
eyes as he saw the mares going on faster than ever, while his own
horses lost ground through his having no whip. Minerva saw the
trick which Apollo had played the son of Tydeus, so she brought
him his whip and put spirit into his horses; moreover she went
after the son of Admetus in a rage and broke his yoke for him;
the mares went one to one side of the course, and the other to
the other, and the pole was broken against the ground. Eumelus
was thrown from his chariot close to the wheel; his elbows,
mouth, and nostrils were all torn, and his forehead was bruised
above his eyebrows; his eyes filled with tears and he could find
no utterance. But the son of Tydeus turned his horses aside and
shot far ahead, for Minerva put fresh strength into them and
covered Diomed himself with glory.
Menelaus son of Atreus came next behind him, but Antilochus
called to his father's horses. "On with you both," he cried, "and
do your very utmost. I do not bid you try to beat the steeds of
the son of Tydeus, for Minerva has put running into them, and has
covered Diomed with glory; but you must overtake the horses of
the son of Atreus and not be left behind, or Aethe who is so
fleet will taunt you. Why, my good fellows, are you lagging? I
tell you, and it shall surely be—Nestor will keep neither of
you, but will put both of you to the sword, if we win any the
worse a prize through your carelessness. Fly after them at your
utmost speed; I will hit on a plan for passing them in a narrow
part of the way, and it shall not fail me."
They feared the rebuke of their master, and for a short space
went quicker. Presently Antilochus saw a narrow place where the
road had sunk. The ground was broken, for the winter's rain had
gathered and had worn the road so that the whole place was
deepened. Menelaus was making towards it so as to get there
first, for fear of a foul, but Antilochus turned his horses out
of the way, and followed him a little on one side. The son of
Atreus was afraid and shouted out, "Antilochus, you are driving
recklessly; rein in your horses; the road is too narrow here, it
will be wider soon, and you can pass me then; if you foul my
chariot you may bring both of us to a mischief."
But Antilochus plied his whip, and drove faster, as though he had
not heard him. They went side by side for about as far as a young
man can hurl a disc from his shoulder when he is trying his
strength, and then Menelaus's mares drew behind, for he left off
driving for fear the horses should foul one another and upset the
chariots; thus, while pressing on in quest of victory, they might
both come headlong to the ground. Menelaus then upbraided
Antilochus and said, "There is no greater trickster living than
you are; go, and bad luck go with you; the Achaeans say not well
that you have understanding, and come what may you shall not bear
away the prize without sworn protest on my part."
Then he called on his horses and said to them, "Keep your pace,
and slacken not; the limbs of the other horses will weary sooner
than yours, for they are neither of them young."
The horses feared the rebuke of their master, and went faster, so
that they were soon nearly up with the others.
Meanwhile the Achaeans from their seats were watching how the
horses went, as they scoured the plain amid clouds of their own
dust. Idomeneus captain of the Cretans was first to make out the
running, for he was not in the thick of the crowd, but stood on
the most commanding part of the ground. The driver was a long way
off, but Idomeneus could hear him shouting, and could see the
foremost horse quite plainly—a chestnut with a round white star,
like the moon, on its forehead. He stood up and said among the
Argives, "My friends, princes and counsellors of the Argives, can
you see the running as well as I can? There seems to be another
pair in front now, and another driver; those that led off at the
start must have been disabled out on the plain. I saw them at
first making their way round the doubling-post, but now, though I
search the plain of Troy, I cannot find them. Perhaps the reins
fell from the driver's hand so that he lost command of his horses
at the doubling-post, and could not turn it. I suppose he must
have been thrown out there, and broken his chariot, while his
mares have left the course and gone off wildly in a panic. Come
up and see for yourselves, I cannot make out for certain, but the
driver seems an Aetolian by descent, ruler over the Argives,
brave Diomed the son of Tydeus."
Ajax the son of Oileus took him up rudely and said, "Idomeneus,
why should you be in such a hurry to tell us all about it, when
the mares are still so far out upon the plain? You are none of
the youngest, nor your eyes none of the sharpest, but you are
always laying down the law. You have no right to do so, for there
are better men here than you are. Eumelus's horses are in front
now, as they always have been, and he is on the chariot holding
the reins."
The captain of the Cretans was angry, and answered, "Ajax you are
an excellent railer, but you have no judgement, and are wanting
in much else as well, for you have a vile temper. I will wager
you a tripod or cauldron, and Agamemnon son of Atreus shall
decide whose horses are first. You will then know to your cost."
Ajax son of Oileus was for making him an angry answer, and there
would have been yet further brawling between them, had not
Achilles risen in his place and said, "Cease your railing, Ajax
and Idomeneus; is it not you would be scandalised if you saw any
one else do the like: sit down and keep your eyes on the horses;
they are speeding towards the winning-post and will be bere
directly. You will then both of you know whose horses are first,
and whose come after."
As he was speaking, the son of Tydeus came driving in, plying his
whip lustily from his shoulder, and his horses stepping high as
they flew over the course. The sand and grit rained thick on the
driver, and the chariot inlaid with gold and tin ran close behind
his fleet horses. There was little trace of wheel-marks in the
fine dust, and the horses came flying in at their utmost speed.
Diomed stayed them in the middle of the crowd, and the sweat from
their manes and chests fell in streams on to the ground.
Forthwith he sprang from his goodly chariot, and leaned his whip
against his horses' yoke; brave Sthenelus now lost no time, but
at once brought on the prize, and gave the woman and the
ear-handled cauldron to his comrades to take away. Then he
unyoked the horses.
Next after him came in Antilochus of the race of Neleus, who had
passed Menelaus by a trick and not by the fleetness of his
horses; but even so Menelaus came in as close behind him as the
wheel is to the horse that draws both the chariot and its master.
The end hairs of a horse's tail touch the tyre of the wheel, and
there is never much space between wheel and horse when the
chariot is going; Menelaus was no further than this behind
Antilochus, though at first he had been a full disc's throw
behind him. He had soon caught him up again, for Agamemnon's mare
Aethe kept pulling stronger and stronger, so that if the course
had been longer he would have passed him, and there would not
even have been a dead heat. Idomeneus's brave squire Meriones was
about a spear's cast behind Menelaus. His horses were slowest of
all, and he was the worst driver. Last of them all came the son
of Admetus, dragging his chariot and driving his horses on in
front. When Achilles saw him he was sorry, and stood up among the
Argives saying, "The best man is coming in last. Let us give him
a prize for it is reasonable. He shall have the second, but the
first must go to the son of Tydeus."
Thus did he speak and the others all of them applauded his
saying, and were for doing as he had said, but Nestor's son
Antilochus stood up and claimed his rights from the son of
Peleus. "Achilles," said he, "I shall take it much amiss if you
do this thing; you would rob me of my prize, because you think
Eumelus's chariot and horses were thrown out, and himself too,
good man that he is. He should have prayed duly to the immortals;
he would not have come in last if he had done so. If you are
sorry for him and so choose, you have much gold in your tents,
with bronze, sheep, cattle and horses. Take something from this
store if you would have the Achaeans speak well of you, and give
him a better prize even than that which you have now offered; but
I will not give up the mare, and he that will fight me for her,
let him come on."
Achilles smiled as he heard this, and was pleased with
Antilochus, who was one of his dearest comrades. So he said—
"Antilochus, if you would have me find Eumelus another prize, I
will give him the bronze breastplate with a rim of tin running
all round it which I took from Asteropaeus. It will be worth much
money to him."
He bade his comrade Automedon bring the breastplate from his
tent, and he did so. Achilles then gave it over to Eumelus, who
received it gladly.
But Menelaus got up in a rage, furiously angry with Antilochus.
An attendant placed his staff in his hands and bade the Argives
keep silence: the hero then addressed them. "Antilochus," said
he, "what is this from you who have been so far blameless? You
have made me cut a poor figure and baulked my horses by flinging
your own in front of them, though yours are much worse than mine
are; therefore, O princes and counsellors of the Argives, judge
between us and show no favour, lest one of the Achaeans say,
'Menelaus has got the mare through lying and corruption; his
horses were far inferior to Antilochus's, but he has greater
weight and influence.' Nay, I will determine the matter myself,
and no man will blame me, for I shall do what is just. Come here,
Antilochus, and stand, as our custom is, whip in hand before your
chariot and horses; lay your hand on your steeds, and swear by
earth-encircling Neptune that you did not purposely and
guilefully get in the way of my horses."
And Antilochus answered, "Forgive me; I am much younger, King
Menelaus, than you are; you stand higher than I do and are the
better man of the two; you know how easily young men are betrayed
into indiscretion; their tempers are more hasty and they have
less judgement; make due allowances therefore, and bear with me;
I will of my own accord give up the mare that I have won, and if
you claim any further chattel from my own possessions, I would
rather yield it to you, at once, than fall from your good graces
henceforth, and do wrong in the sight of heaven."
The son of Nestor then took the mare and gave her over to
Menelaus, whose anger was thus appeased; as when dew falls upon a
field of ripening corn, and the lands are bristling with the
harvest—even so, O Menelaus, was your heart made glad within
you. He turned to Antilochus and said, "Now, Antilochus, angry
though I have been, I can give way to you of my own free will;
you have never been headstrong nor ill-disposed hitherto, but
this time your youth has got the better of your judgement; be
careful how you outwit your betters in future; no one else could
have brought me round so easily, but your good father, your
brother, and yourself have all of you had infinite trouble on my
behalf; I therefore yield to your entreaty, and will give up the
mare to you, mine though it indeed be; the people will thus see
that I am neither harsh nor vindictive."
With this he gave the mare over to Antilochus's comrade Noemon,
and then took the cauldron. Meriones, who had come in fourth,
carried off the two talents of gold, and the fifth prize, the
two-handled urn, being unawarded, Achilles gave it to Nestor,
going up to him among the assembled Argives and saying, "Take
this, my good old friend, as an heirloom and memorial of the
funeral of Patroclus—for you shall see him no more among the
Argives. I give you this prize though you cannot win one; you can
now neither wrestle nor fight, and cannot enter for the
javelin-match nor foot-races, for the hand of age has been laid
heavily upon you."
So saying he gave the urn over to Nestor, who received it gladly
and answered, "My son, all that you have said is true; there is
no strength now in my legs and feet, nor can I hit out with my
hands from either shoulder. Would that I were still young and
strong as when the Epeans were burying King Amarynceus in
Buprasium, and his sons offered prizes in his honour. There was
then none that could vie with me neither of the Epeans nor the
Pylians themselves nor the Aetolians. In boxing I overcame
Clytomedes son of Enops, and in wrestling, Ancaeus of Pleuron who
had come forward against me. Iphiclus was a good runner, but I
beat him, and threw farther with my spear than either Phyleus or
Polydorus. In chariot-racing alone did the two sons of Actor
surpass me by crowding their horses in front of me, for they were
angry at the way victory had gone, and at the greater part of the
prizes remaining in the place in which they had been offered.
They were twins, and the one kept on holding the reins, and
holding the reins, while the other plied the whip. Such was I
then, but now I must leave these matters to younger men; I must
bow before the weight of years, but in those days I was eminent
among heroes. And now, sir, go on with the funeral contests in
honour of your comrade: gladly do I accept this urn, and my heart
rejoices that you do not forget me but are ever mindful of my
goodwill towards you, and of the respect due to me from the
Achaeans. For all which may the grace of heaven be vouchsafed you
in great abundance."
Thereon the son of Peleus, when he had listened to all the thanks
of Nestor, went about among the concourse of the Achaeans, and
presently offered prizes for skill in the painful art of boxing.
He brought out a strong mule, and made it fast in the middle of
the crowd—a she-mule never yet broken, but six years old—when
it is hardest of all to break them: this was for the victor, and
for the vanquished he offered a double cup. Then he stood up and
said among the Argives, "Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, I
invite our two champion boxers to lay about them lustily and
compete for these prizes. He to whom Apollo vouchsafes the
greater endurance, and whom the Achaeans acknowledge as victor,
shall take the mule back with him to his own tent, while he that
is vanquished shall have the double cup."
As he spoke there stood up a champion both brave and great
stature, a skilful boxer, Epeus, son of Panopeus. He laid his
hand on the mule and said, "Let the man who is to have the cup
come hither, for none but myself will take the mule. I am the
best boxer of all here present, and none can beat me. Is it not
enough that I should fall short of you in actual fighting? Still,
no man can be good at everything. I tell you plainly, and it
shall come true; if any man will box with me I will bruise his
body and break his bones; therefore let his friends stay here in
a body and be at hand to take him away when I have done with
him."
They all held their peace, and no man rose save Euryalus son of
Mecisteus, who was son of Talaus. Mecisteus went once to Thebes
after the fall of Oedipus, to attend his funeral, and he beat all
the people of Cadmus. The son of Tydeus was Euryalus's second,
cheering him on and hoping heartily that he would win. First he
put a waistband round him and then he gave him some well-cut
thongs of ox-hide; the two men being now girt went into the
middle of the ring, and immediately fell to; heavily indeed did
they punish one another and lay about them with their brawny
fists. One could hear the horrid crashing of their jaws, and they
sweated from every pore of their skin. Presently Epeus came on
and gave Euryalus a blow on the jaw as he was looking round;
Euryalus could not keep his legs; they gave way under him in a
moment and he sprang up with a bound, as a fish leaps into the
air near some shore that is all bestrewn with sea-wrack, when
Boreas furs the top of the waves, and then falls back into deep
water. But noble Epeus caught hold of him and raised him up; his
comrades also came round him and led him from the ring, unsteady
in his gait, his head hanging on one side, and spitting great
clots of gore. They set him down in a swoon and then went to
fetch the double cup.
The son of Peleus now brought out the prizes for the third
contest and showed them to the Argives. These were for the
painful art of wrestling. For the winner there was a great tripod
ready for setting upon the fire, and the Achaeans valued it among
themselves at twelve oxen. For the loser he brought out a woman
skilled in all manner of arts, and they valued her at four oxen.
He rose and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who will
essay this contest."
Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, and crafty
Ulysses, full of wiles, rose also. The two girded themselves and
went into the middle of the ring. They gripped each other in
their strong hands like the rafters which some master-builder
frames for the roof of a high house to keep the wind out. Their
backbones cracked as they tugged at one another with their mighty
arms—and sweat rained from them in torrents. Many a bloody weal
sprang up on their sides and shoulders, but they kept on striving
with might and main for victory and to win the tripod. Ulysses
could not throw Ajax, nor Ajax him; Ulysses was too strong for
him; but when the Achaeans began to tire of watching them, Ajax
said to Ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall either
lift me, or I you, and let Jove settle it between us."
He lifted him from the ground as he spoke, but Ulysses did not
forget his cunning. He hit Ajax in the hollow at back of his
knee, so that he could not keep his feet, but fell on his back
with Ulysses lying upon his chest, and all who saw it marvelled.
Then Ulysses in turn lifted Ajax and stirred him a little from
the ground but could not lift him right off it, his knee sank
under him, and the two fell side by side on the ground and were
all begrimed with dust. They now sprang towards one another and
were for wrestling yet a third time, but Achilles rose and stayed
them. "Put not each other further," said he, "to such cruel
suffering; the victory is with both alike, take each of you an
equal prize, and let the other Achaeans now compete."
Thus did he speak and they did even as he had said, and put on
their shirts again after wiping the dust from off their bodies.
The son of Peleus then offered prizes for speed in running—a
mixing-bowl beautifully wrought, of pure silver. It would hold
six measures, and far exceeded all others in the whole world for
beauty; it was the work of cunning artificers in Sidon, and had
been brought into port by Phoenicians from beyond the sea, who
had made a present of it to Thoas. Eueneus son of Jason had given
it to Patroclus in ransom of Priam's son Lycaon, and Achilles now
offered it as a prize in honour of his comrade to him who should
be the swiftest runner. For the second prize he offered a large
ox, well fattened, while for the last there was to be half a
talent of gold. He then rose and said among the Argives, "Stand
forward, you who will essay this contest."
Forthwith uprose fleet Ajax son of Oileus, with cunning Ulysses,
and Nestor's son Antilochus, the fastest runner among all the
youth of his time. They stood side by side and Achilles showed
them the goal. The course was set out for them from the
starting-post, and the son of Oileus took the lead at once, with
Ulysses as close behind him as the shuttle is to a woman's bosom
when she throws the woof across the warp and holds it close up to
her; even so close behind him was Ulysses—treading in his
footprints before the dust could settle there, and Ajax could
feel his breath on the back of his head as he ran swiftly on. The
Achaeans all shouted applause as they saw him straining his
utmost, and cheered him as he shot past them; but when they were
now nearing the end of the course Ulysses prayed inwardly to
Minerva. "Hear me," he cried, "and help my feet, O goddess." Thus
did he pray, and Pallas Minerva heard his prayer; she made his
hands and his feet feel light, and when the runners were at the
point of pouncing upon the prize, Ajax, through Minerva's spite
slipped upon some offal that was lying there from the cattle
which Achilles had slaughtered in honour of Patroclus, and his
mouth and nostrils were all filled with cow dung. Ulysses
therefore carried off the mixing-bowl, for he got before Ajax and
came in first. But Ajax took the ox and stood with his hand on
one of its horns, spitting the dung out of his mouth. Then he
said to the Argives, "Alas, the goddess has spoiled my running;
she watches over Ulysses and stands by him as though she were his
own mother." Thus did he speak and they all of them laughed
heartily.
Antilochus carried off the last prize and smiled as he said to
the bystanders, "You all see, my friends, that now too the gods
have shown their respect for seniority. Ajax is somewhat older
than I am, and as for Ulysses, he belongs to an earlier
generation, but he is hale in spite of his years, and no man of
the Achaeans can run against him save only Achilles."
He said this to pay a compliment to the son of Peleus, and
Achilles answered, "Antilochus, you shall not have praised me to
no purpose; I shall give you an additional half talent of gold."
He then gave the half talent to Antilochus, who received it
gladly.
Then the son of Peleus brought out the spear, helmet and shield
that had been borne by Sarpedon, and were taken from him by
Patroclus. He stood up and said among the Argives, "We bid two
champions put on their armour, take their keen blades, and make
trial of one another in the presence of the multitude; whichever
of them can first wound the flesh of the other, cut through his
armour, and draw blood, to him will I give this goodly Thracian
sword inlaid with silver, which I took from Asteropaeus, but the
armour let both hold in partnership, and I will give each of them
a hearty meal in my own tent."
Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, as also mighty
Diomed son of Tydeus. When they had put on their armour each on
his own side of the ring, they both went into the middle eager to
engage, and with fire flashing from their eyes. The Achaeans
marvelled as they beheld them, and when the two were now close up
with one another, thrice did they spring forward and thrice try
to strike each other in close combat. Ajax pierced Diomed's round
shield, but did not draw blood, for the cuirass beneath the
shield protected him; thereon the son of Tydeus from over his
huge shield kept aiming continually at Ajax's neck with the point
of his spear, and the Achaeans alarmed for his safety bade them
leave off fighting and divide the prize between them. Achilles
then gave the great sword to the son of Tydeus, with its
scabbard, and the leathern belt with which to hang it.
Achilles next offered the massive iron quoit which mighty Eetion
had erewhile been used to hurl, until Achilles had slain him and
carried it off in his ships along with other spoils. He stood up
and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who would essay
this contest. He who wins it will have a store of iron that will
last him five years as they go rolling round, and if his fair
fields lie far from a town his shepherd or ploughman will not
have to make a journey to buy iron, for he will have a stock of
it on his own premises."
Then uprose the two mighty men Polypoetes and Leonteus, with Ajax
son of Telamon and noble Epeus. They stood up one after the other
and Epeus took the quoit, whirled it, and flung it from him,
which set all the Achaeans laughing. After him threw Leonteus of
the race of Mars. Ajax son of Telamon threw third, and sent the
quoit beyond any mark that had been made yet, but when mighty
Polypoetes took the quoit he hurled it as though it had been a
stockman's stick which he sends flying about among his cattle
when he is driving them, so far did his throw out-distance those
of the others. All who saw it roared applause, and his comrades
carried the prize for him and set it on board his ship.
Achilles next offered a prize of iron for archery—ten
double-edged axes and ten with single edges: he set up a ship's
mast, some way off upon the sands, and with a fine string tied a
pigeon to it by the foot; this was what they were to aim at.
"Whoever," he said, "can hit the pigeon shall have all the axes
and take them away with him; he who hits the string without
hitting the bird will have taken a worse aim and shall have the
single-edged axes."
Then uprose King Teucer, and Meriones the stalwart squire of
Idomeneus rose also, They cast lots in a bronze helmet and the
lot of Teucer fell first. He let fly with his arrow forthwith,
but he did not promise hecatombs of firstling lambs to King
Apollo, and missed his bird, for Apollo foiled his aim; but he
hit the string with which the bird was tied, near its foot; the
arrow cut the string clean through so that it hung down towards
the ground, while the bird flew up into the sky, and the Achaeans
shouted applause. Meriones, who had his arrow ready while Teucer
was aiming, snatched the bow out of his hand, and at once
promised that he would sacrifice a hecatomb of firstling lambs to
Apollo lord of the bow; then espying the pigeon high up under the
clouds, he hit her in the middle of the wing as she was circling
upwards; the arrow went clean through the wing and fixed itself
in the ground at Meriones' feet, but the bird perched on the
ship's mast hanging her head and with all her feathers drooping;
the life went out of her, and she fell heavily from the mast.
Meriones, therefore, took all ten double-edged axes, while Teucer
bore off the single-edged ones to his ships.
Then the son of Peleus brought in a spear and a cauldron that had
never been on the fire; it was worth an ox, and was chased with a
pattern of flowers; and those that throw the javelin stood up—to
wit the son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, and Meriones,
stalwart squire of Idomeneus. But Achilles spoke saying, "Son of
Atreus, we know how far you excel all others both in power and in
throwing the javelin; take the cauldron back with you to your
ships, but if it so please you, let us give the spear to
Meriones; this at least is what I should myself wish."
King Agamemnon assented. So he gave the bronze spear to Meriones,
and handed the goodly cauldron to Talthybius his esquire.
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