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Book IV

Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden
floor while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink,
and as they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked
down upon the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease
Juno, talking at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he,
"has two good friends among the goddesses, Juno of Argos, and
Minerva of Alalcomene, but they only sit still and look on, while
Venus keeps ever by Alexandrus' side to defend him in any danger;
indeed she has just rescued him when he made sure that it was all
over with him—for the victory really did lie with Menelaus. We
must consider what we shall do about all this; shall we set them
fighting anew or make peace between them? If you will agree to
this last Menelaus can take back Helen and the city of Priam may
remain still inhabited."
Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by
side hatching mischief for the Trojans. Minerva scowled at her
father, for she was in a furious passion with him, and said
nothing, but Juno could not contain herself. "Dread son of
Saturn," said she, "what, pray, is the meaning of all this? Is my
trouble, then, to go for nothing, and the sweat that I have
sweated, to say nothing of my horses, while getting the people
together against Priam and his children? Do as you will, but we
other gods shall not all of us approve your counsel."
Jove was angry and answered, "My dear, what harm have Priam and
his sons done you that you are so hotly bent on sacking the city
of Ilius? Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls
and eat Priam raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to
boot? Have it your own way then; for I would not have this matter
become a bone of contention between us. I say further, and lay my
saying to your heart, if ever I want to sack a city belonging to
friends of yours, you must not try to stop me; you will have to
let me do it, for I am giving in to you sorely against my will.
Of all inhabited cities under the sun and stars of heaven, there
was none that I so much respected as Ilius with Priam and his
whole people. Equitable feasts were never wanting about my altar,
nor the savour of burning fat, which is honour due to ourselves."
"My own three favourite cities," answered Juno, "are Argos,
Sparta, and Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased
with them. I shall not defend them and I shall not care. Even if
I did, and tried to stay you, I should take nothing by it, for
you are much stronger than I am, but I will not have my own work
wasted. I too am a god and of the same race with yourself. I am
Saturn's eldest daughter, and am honourable not on this ground
only, but also because I am your wife, and you are king over the
gods. Let it be a case, then, of give-and-take between us, and
the rest of the gods will follow our lead. Tell Minerva to go and
take part in the fight at once, and let her contrive that the
Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the
Achaeans."
The sire of gods and men heeded her words, and said to Minerva,
"Go at once into the Trojan and Achaean hosts, and contrive that
the Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon
the Achaeans."
This was what Minerva was already eager to do, so down she darted
from the topmost summits of Olympus. She shot through the sky as
some brilliant meteor which the son of scheming Saturn has sent
as a sign to mariners or to some great army, and a fiery train of
light follows in its wake. The Trojans and Achaeans were struck
with awe as they beheld, and one would turn to his neighbour,
saying, "Either we shall again have war and din of combat, or
Jove the lord of battle will now make peace between us."
Thus did they converse. Then Minerva took the form of Laodocus,
son of Antenor, and went through the ranks of the Trojans to find
Pandarus, the redoubtable son of Lycaon. She found him standing
among the stalwart heroes who had followed him from the banks of
the Aesopus, so she went close up to him and said, "Brave son of
Lycaon, will you do as I tell you? If you dare send an arrow at
Menelaus you will win honour and thanks from all the Trojans, and
especially from prince Alexandrus—he would be the first to
requite you very handsomely if he could see Menelaus mount his
funeral pyre, slain by an arrow from your hand. Take your home
aim then, and pray to Lycian Apollo, the famous archer; vow that
when you get home to your strong city of Zelea you will offer a
hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour."
His fool's heart was persuaded, and he took his bow from its
case. This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he
had killed as it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and
it had fallen as the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were
sixteen palms long, and a worker in horn had made them into a
bow, smoothing them well down, and giving them tips of gold. When
Pandarus had strung his bow he laid it carefully on the ground,
and his brave followers held their shields before him lest the
Achaeans should set upon him before he had shot Menelaus. Then he
opened the lid of his quiver and took out a winged arrow that had
not yet been shot, fraught with the pangs of death. He laid the
arrow on the string and prayed to Lycian Apollo, the famous
archer, vowing that when he got home to his strong city of Zelea
he would offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour. He
laid the notch of the arrow on the oxhide bowstring, and drew
both notch and string to his breast till the arrow-head was near
the bow; then when the bow was arched into a half-circle he let
fly, and the bow twanged, and the string sang as the arrow flew
gladly on over the heads of the throng.
But the blessed gods did not forget thee, O Menelaus, and Jove's
daughter, driver of the spoil, was the first to stand before thee
and ward off the piercing arrow. She turned it from his skin as a
mother whisks a fly from off her child when it is sleeping
sweetly; she guided it to the part where the golden buckles of
the belt that passed over his double cuirass were fastened, so
the arrow struck the belt that went tightly round him. It went
right through this and through the cuirass of cunning
workmanship; it also pierced the belt beneath it, which he wore
next his skin to keep out darts or arrows; it was this that
served him in the best stead, nevertheless the arrow went through
it and grazed the top of the skin, so that blood began flowing
from the wound.
As when some woman of Meonia or Caria strains purple dye on to a
piece of ivory that is to be the cheek-piece of a horse, and is
to be laid up in a treasure house—many a knight is fain to bear
it, but the king keeps it as an ornament of which both horse and
driver may be proud—even so, O Menelaus, were your shapely
thighs and your legs down to your fair ancles stained with blood.
When King Agamemnon saw the blood flowing from the wound he was
afraid, and so was brave Menelaus himself till he saw that the
barbs of the arrow and the thread that bound the arrow-head to
the shaft were still outside the wound. Then he took heart, but
Agamemnon heaved a deep sigh as he held Menelaus's hand in his
own, and his comrades made moan in concert. "Dear brother," he
cried, "I have been the death of you in pledging this covenant
and letting you come forward as our champion. The Trojans have
trampled on their oaths and have wounded you; nevertheless the
oath, the blood of lambs, the drink-offerings and the right hands
of fellowship in which we have put our trust shall not be vain.
If he that rules Olympus fulfil it not here and now, he will yet
fulfil it hereafter, and they shall pay dearly with their lives
and with their wives and children. The day will surely come when
mighty Ilius shall be laid low, with Priam and Priam's people,
when the son of Saturn from his high throne shall overshadow them
with his awful aegis in punishment of their present treachery.
This shall surely be; but how, Menelaus, shall I mourn you, if it
be your lot now to die? I should return to Argos as a by-word,
for the Achaeans will at once go home. We shall leave Priam and
the Trojans the glory of still keeping Helen, and the earth will
rot your bones as you lie here at Troy with your purpose not
fulfilled. Then shall some braggart Trojan leap upon your tomb
and say, 'Ever thus may Agamemnon wreak his vengeance; he brought
his army in vain; he is gone home to his own land with empty
ships, and has left Menelaus behind him.' Thus will one of them
say, and may the earth then swallow me."
But Menelaus reassured him and said, "Take heart, and do not
alarm the people; the arrow has not struck me in a mortal part,
for my outer belt of burnished metal first stayed it, and under
this my cuirass and the belt of mail which the bronze-smiths made
me."
And Agamemnon answered, "I trust, dear Menelaus, that it may be
even so, but the surgeon shall examine your wound and lay herbs
upon it to relieve your pain."
He then said to Talthybius, "Talthybius, tell Machaon, son to the
great physician, Aesculapius, to come and see Menelaus
immediately. Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him with an
arrow to our dismay, and to his own great glory."
Talthybius did as he was told, and went about the host trying to
find Machaon. Presently he found standing amid the brave warriors
who had followed him from Tricca; thereon he went up to him and
said, "Son of Aesculapius, King Agamemnon says you are to come
and see Menelaus immediately. Some Trojan or Lycian archer has
wounded him with an arrow to our dismay and to his own great
glory."
Thus did he speak, and Machaon was moved to go. They passed
through the spreading host of the Achaeans and went on till they
came to the place where Menelaus had been wounded and was lying
with the chieftains gathered in a circle round him. Machaon
passed into the middle of the ring and at once drew the arrow
from the belt, bending its barbs back through the force with
which he pulled it out. He undid the burnished belt, and beneath
this the cuirass and the belt of mail which the bronze-smiths had
made; then, when he had seen the wound, he wiped away the blood
and applied some soothing drugs which Chiron had given to
Aesculapius out of the good will he bore him.
While they were thus busy about Menelaus, the Trojans came
forward against them, for they had put on their armour, and now
renewed the fight.
You would not have then found Agamemnon asleep nor cowardly and
unwilling to fight, but eager rather for the fray. He left his
chariot rich with bronze and his panting steeds in charge of
Eurymedon, son of Ptolemaeus the son of Peiraeus, and bade him
hold them in readiness against the time his limbs should weary of
going about and giving orders to so many, for he went among the
ranks on foot. When he saw men hasting to the front he stood by
them and cheered them on. "Argives," said he, "slacken not one
whit in your onset; father Jove will be no helper of liars; the
Trojans have been the first to break their oaths and to attack
us; therefore they shall be devoured of vultures; we shall take
their city and carry off their wives and children in our ships."
But he angrily rebuked those whom he saw shirking and disinclined
to fight. "Argives," he cried, "cowardly miserable creatures,
have you no shame to stand here like frightened fawns who, when
they can no longer scud over the plain, huddle together, but show
no fight? You are as dazed and spiritless as deer. Would you wait
till the Trojans reach the sterns of our ships as they lie on the
shore, to see whether the son of Saturn will hold his hand over
you to protect you?"
Thus did he go about giving his orders among the ranks. Passing
through the crowd, he came presently on the Cretans, arming round
Idomeneus, who was at their head, fierce as a wild boar, while
Meriones was bringing up the battalions that were in the rear.
Agamemnon was glad when he saw him, and spoke him fairly.
"Idomeneus," said he, "I treat you with greater distinction than
I do any others of the Achaeans, whether in war or in other
things, or at table. When the princes are mixing my choicest
wines in the mixing-bowls, they have each of them a fixed
allowance, but your cup is kept always full like my own, that you
may drink whenever you are minded. Go, therefore, into battle,
and show yourself the man you have been always proud to be."
Idomeneus answered, "I will be a trusty comrade, as I promised
you from the first I would be. Urge on the other Achaeans, that
we may join battle at once, for the Trojans have trampled upon
their covenants. Death and destruction shall be theirs, seeing
they have been the first to break their oaths and to attack us."
The son of Atreus went on, glad at heart, till he came upon the
two Ajaxes arming themselves amid a host of foot-soldiers. As
when a goat-herd from some high post watches a storm drive over
the deep before the west wind—black as pitch is the offing and a
mighty whirlwind draws towards him, so that he is afraid and
drives his flock into a cave—even thus did the ranks of stalwart
youths move in a dark mass to battle under the Ajaxes, horrid
with shield and spear. Glad was King Agamemnon when he saw them.
"No need," he cried, "to give orders to such leaders of the
Argives as you are, for of your own selves you spur your men on
to fight with might and main. Would, by father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo that all were so minded as you are, for the city of Priam
would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we should sack it."
With this he left them and went onward to Nestor, the facile
speaker of the Pylians, who was marshalling his men and urging
them on, in company with Pelagon, Alastor, Chromius, Haemon, and
Bias shepherd of his people. He placed his knights with their
chariots and horses in the front rank, while the foot-soldiers,
brave men and many, whom he could trust, were in the rear. The
cowards he drove into the middle, that they might fight whether
they would or no. He gave his orders to the knights first,
bidding them hold their horses well in hand, so as to avoid
confusion. "Let no man," he said, "relying on his strength or
horsemanship, get before the others and engage singly with the
Trojans, nor yet let him lag behind or you will weaken your
attack; but let each when he meets an enemy's chariot throw his
spear from his own; this be much the best; this is how the men of
old took towns and strongholds; in this wise were they minded."
Thus did the old man charge them, for he had been in many a
fight, and King Agamemnon was glad. "I wish," he said to him,
"that your limbs were as supple and your strength as sure as your
judgment is; but age, the common enemy of mankind, has laid his
hand upon you; would that it had fallen upon some other, and that
you were still young."
And Nestor, knight of Gerene, answered, "Son of Atreus, I too
would gladly be the man I was when I slew mighty Ereuthalion; but
the gods will not give us everything at one and the same time. I
was then young, and now I am old; still I can go with my knights
and give them that counsel which old men have a right to give.
The wielding of the spear I leave to those who are younger and
stronger than myself."
Agamemnon went his way rejoicing, and presently found Menestheus,
son of Peteos, tarrying in his place, and with him were the
Athenians loud of tongue in battle. Near him also tarried cunning
Ulysses, with his sturdy Cephallenians round him; they had not
yet heard the battle-cry, for the ranks of Trojans and Achaeans
had only just begun to move, so they were standing still, waiting
for some other columns of the Achaeans to attack the Trojans and
begin the fighting. When he saw this Agamemnon rebuked them and
said, "Son of Peteos, and you other, steeped in cunning, heart of
guile, why stand you here cowering and waiting on others? You two
should be of all men foremost when there is hard fighting to be
done, for you are ever foremost to accept my invitation when we
councillors of the Achaeans are holding feast. You are glad
enough then to take your fill of roast meats and to drink wine as
long as you please, whereas now you would not care though you saw
ten columns of Achaeans engage the enemy in front of you."
Ulysses glared at him and answered, "Son of Atreus, what are you
talking about? How can you say that we are slack? When the
Achaeans are in full fight with the Trojans, you shall see, if
you care to do so, that the father of Telemachus will join battle
with the foremost of them. You are talking idly."
When Agamemnon saw that Ulysses was angry, he smiled pleasantly
at him and withdrew his words. "Ulysses," said he, "noble son of
Laertes, excellent in all good counsel, I have neither fault to
find nor orders to give you, for I know your heart is right, and
that you and I are of a mind. Enough; I will make you amends for
what I have said, and if any ill has now been spoken may the gods
bring it to nothing."
He then left them and went on to others. Presently he saw the son
of Tydeus, noble Diomed, standing by his chariot and horses, with
Sthenelus the son of Capaneus beside him; whereon he began to
upbraid him. "Son of Tydeus," he said, "why stand you cowering
here upon the brink of battle? Tydeus did not shrink thus, but
was ever ahead of his men when leading them on against the foe—
so, at least, say they that saw him in battle, for I never set
eyes upon him myself. They say that there was no man like him. He
came once to Mycenae, not as an enemy but as a guest, in company
with Polynices to recruit his forces, for they were levying war
against the strong city of Thebes, and prayed our people for a
body of picked men to help them. The men of Mycenae were willing
to let them have one, but Jove dissuaded them by showing them
unfavourable omens. Tydeus, therefore, and Polynices went their
way. When they had got as far the deep-meadowed and rush-grown
banks of the Aesopus, the Achaeans sent Tydeus as their envoy,
and he found the Cadmeans gathered in great numbers to a banquet
in the house of Eteocles. Stranger though he was, he knew no fear
on finding himself single-handed among so many, but challenged
them to contests of all kinds, and in each one of them was at
once victorious, so mightily did Minerva help him. The Cadmeans
were incensed at his success, and set a force of fifty youths
with two captains—the godlike hero Maeon, son of Haemon, and
Polyphontes, son of Autophonus—at their head, to lie in wait for
him on his return journey; but Tydeus slew every man of them,
save only Maeon, whom he let go in obedience to heaven's omens.
Such was Tydeus of Aetolia. His son can talk more glibly, but he
cannot fight as his father did."
Diomed made no answer, for he was shamed by the rebuke of
Agamemnon; but the son of Capaneus took up his words and said,
"Son of Atreus, tell no lies, for you can speak truth if you
will. We boast ourselves as even better men than our fathers; we
took seven-gated Thebes, though the wall was stronger and our men
were fewer in number, for we trusted in the omens of the gods and
in the help of Jove, whereas they perished through their own
sheer folly; hold not, then, our fathers in like honour with us."
Diomed looked sternly at him and said, "Hold your peace, my
friend, as I bid you. It is not amiss that Agamemnon should urge
the Achaeans forward, for the glory will be his if we take the
city, and his the shame if we are vanquished. Therefore let us
acquit ourselves with valour."
As he spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so
fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have
been scared to hear it.
As when some mighty wave that thunders on the beach when the west
wind has lashed it into fury—it has reared its head afar and now
comes crashing down on the shore; it bows its arching crest high
over the jagged rocks and spews its salt foam in all
directions—even so did the serried phalanxes of the Danaans
march steadfastly to battle. The chiefs gave orders each to his
own people, but the men said never a word; no man would think it,
for huge as the host was, it seemed as though there was not a
tongue among them, so silent were they in their obedience; and as
they marched the armour about their bodies glistened in the sun.
But the clamour of the Trojan ranks was as that of many thousand
ewes that stand waiting to be milked in the yards of some rich
flockmaster, and bleat incessantly in answer to the bleating of
their lambs; for they had not one speech nor language, but their
tongues were diverse, and they came from many different places.
These were inspired of Mars, but the others by Minerva—and with
them came Panic, Rout, and Strife whose fury never tires, sister
and friend of murderous Mars, who, from being at first but low in
stature, grows till she uprears her head to heaven, though her
feet are still on earth. She it was that went about among them
and flung down discord to the waxing of sorrow with even hand
between them.
When they were got together in one place shield clashed with
shield and spear with spear in the rage of battle. The bossed
shields beat one upon another, and there was a tramp as of a
great multitude—death-cry and shout of triumph of slain and
slayers, and the earth ran red with blood. As torrents swollen
with rain course madly down their deep channels till the angry
floods meet in some gorge, and the shepherd on the hillside hears
their roaring from afar—even such was the toil and uproar of the
hosts as they joined in battle.
First Antilochus slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Echepolus,
son of Thalysius, fighting in the foremost ranks. He struck at
the projecting part of his helmet and drove the spear into his
brow; the point of bronze pierced the bone, and darkness veiled
his eyes; headlong as a tower he fell amid the press of the
fight, and as he dropped King Elephenor, son of Chalcodon and
captain of the proud Abantes began dragging him out of reach of
the darts that were falling around him, in haste to strip him of
his armour. But his purpose was not for long; Agenor saw him
haling the body away, and smote him in the side with his
bronze-shod spear—for as he stooped his side was left
unprotected by his shield—and thus he perished. Then the fight
between Trojans and Achaeans grew furious over his body, and they
flew upon each other like wolves, man and man crushing one upon
the other.
Forthwith Ajax, son of Telamon, slew the fair youth Simoeisius,
son of Anthemion, whom his mother bore by the banks of the
Simois, as she was coming down from Mt. Ida, where she had been
with her parents to see their flocks. Therefore he was named
Simoeisius, but he did not live to pay his parents for his
rearing, for he was cut off untimely by the spear of mighty Ajax,
who struck him in the breast by the right nipple as he was coming
on among the foremost fighters; the spear went right through his
shoulder, and he fell as a poplar that has grown straight and
tall in a meadow by some mere, and its top is thick with
branches. Then the wheelwright lays his axe to its roots that he
may fashion a felloe for the wheel of some goodly chariot, and it
lies seasoning by the waterside. In such wise did Ajax fell to
earth Simoeisius, son of Anthemion. Thereon Antiphus of the
gleaming corslet, son of Priam, hurled a spear at Ajax from amid
the crowd and missed him, but he hit Leucus, the brave comrade of
Ulysses, in the groin, as he was dragging the body of Simoeisius
over to the other side; so he fell upon the body and loosed his
hold upon it. Ulysses was furious when he saw Leucus slain, and
strode in full armour through the front ranks till he was quite
close; then he glared round about him and took aim, and the
Trojans fell back as he did so. His dart was not sped in vain,
for it struck Democoon, the bastard son of Priam, who had come to
him from Abydos, where he had charge of his father's mares.
Ulysses, infuriated by the death of his comrade, hit him with his
spear on one temple, and the bronze point came through on the
other side of his forehead. Thereon darkness veiled his eyes, and
his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to the
ground. Hector, and they that were in front, then gave round
while the Argives raised a shout and drew off the dead, pressing
further forward as they did so. But Apollo looked down from
Pergamus and called aloud to the Trojans, for he was displeased.
"Trojans," he cried, "rush on the foe, and do not let yourselves
be thus beaten by the Argives. Their skins are not stone nor iron
that when hit them you do them no harm. Moreover, Achilles, the
son of lovely Thetis, is not fighting, but is nursing his anger
at the ships."
Thus spoke the mighty god, crying to them from the city, while
Jove's redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, went about among the
host of the Achaeans, and urged them forward whenever she beheld
them slackening.
Then fate fell upon Diores, son of Amarynceus, for he was struck
by a jagged stone near the ancle of his right leg. He that hurled
it was Peirous, son of Imbrasus, captain of the Thracians, who
had come from Aenus; the bones and both the tendons were crushed
by the pitiless stone. He fell to the ground on his back, and in
his death throes stretched out his hands towards his comrades.
But Peirous, who had wounded him, sprang on him and thrust a
spear into his belly, so that his bowels came gushing out upon
the ground, and darkness veiled his eyes. As he was leaving the
body, Thoas of Aetolia struck him in the chest near the nipple,
and the point fixed itself in his lungs. Thoas came close up to
him, pulled the spear out of his chest, and then drawing his
sword, smote him in the middle of the belly so that he died; but
he did not strip him of his armour, for his Thracian comrades,
men who wear their hair in a tuft at the top of their heads,
stood round the body and kept him off with their long spears for
all his great stature and valour; so he was driven back. Thus the
two corpses lay stretched on earth near to one another, the one
captain of the Thracians and the other of the Epeans; and many
another fell round them.
And now no man would have made light of the fighting if he could
have gone about among it scatheless and unwounded, with Minerva
leading him by the hand, and protecting him from the storm of
spears and arrows. For many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay
stretched side by side face downwards upon the earth.
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