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Book VII

WITH these words Hector passed through the gates, and his brother
Alexandrus with him, both eager for the fray. As when heaven
sends a breeze to sailors who have long looked for one in vain,
and have laboured at their oars till they are faint with toil,
even so welcome was the sight of these two heroes to the Trojans.
Thereon Alexandrus killed Menesthius the son of Areithous; he
lived in Arne, and was son of Areithous the Mace-man, and of
Phylomedusa. Hector threw a spear at Eioneus and struck him dead
with a wound in the neck under the bronze rim of his helmet.
Glaucus, moreover, son of Hippolochus, captain of the Lycians, in
hard hand-to-hand fight smote Iphinous son of Dexius on the
shoulder, as he was springing on to his chariot behind his fleet
mares; so he fell to earth from the car, and there was no life
left in him.
When, therefore, Minerva saw these men making havoc of the
Argives, she darted down to Ilius from the summits of Olympus,
and Apollo, who was looking on from Pergamus, went out to meet
her; for he wanted the Trojans to be victorious. The pair met by
the oak tree, and King Apollo son of Jove was first to speak.
"What would you have", said he, "daughter of great Jove, that
your proud spirit has sent you hither from Olympus? Have you no
pity upon the Trojans, and would you incline the scales of
victory in favour of the Danaans? Let me persuade you—for it
will be better thus—stay the combat for to-day, but let them
renew the fight hereafter till they compass the doom of Ilius,
since you goddesses have made up your minds to destroy the city."
And Minerva answered, "So be it, Far-Darter; it was in this mind
that I came down from Olympus to the Trojans and Achaeans. Tell
me, then, how do you propose to end this present fighting?"
Apollo, son of Jove, replied, "Let us incite great Hector to
challenge some one of the Danaans in single combat; on this the
Achaeans will be shamed into finding a man who will fight him."
Minerva assented, and Helenus son of Priam divined the counsel of
the gods; he therefore went up to Hector and said, "Hector son of
Priam, peer of gods in counsel, I am your brother, let me then
persuade you. Bid the other Trojans and Achaeans all of them take
their seats, and challenge the best man among the Achaeans to
meet you in single combat. I have heard the voice of the
ever-living gods, and the hour of your doom is not yet come."
Hector was glad when he heard this saying, and went in among the
Trojans, grasping his spear by the middle to hold them back, and
they all sat down. Agamemnon also bade the Achaeans be seated.
But Minerva and Apollo, in the likeness of vultures, perched on
father Jove's high oak tree, proud of their men; and the ranks
sat close ranged together, bristling with shield and helmet and
spear. As when the rising west wind furs the face of the sea and
the waters grow dark beneath it, so sat the companies of Trojans
and Achaeans upon the plain. And Hector spoke thus:—
"Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am
minded; Jove on his high throne has brought our oaths and
covenants to nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till
you either take the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished
at your ships. The princes of the Achaeans are here present in
the midst of you; let him, then, that will fight me stand forward
as your champion against Hector. Thus I say, and may Jove be
witness between us. If your champion slay me, let him strip me of
my armour and take it to your ships, but let him send my body
home that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire
when I am dead. In like manner, if Apollo vouchsafe me glory and
I slay your champion, I will strip him of his armour and take it
to the city of Ilius, where I will hang it in the temple of
Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the Achaeans may bury
him at their ships, and the build him a mound by the wide waters
of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails his
ship over the sea, 'This is the monument of one who died long
since a champion who was slain by mighty Hector.' Thus will one
say, and my fame shall not be lost."
Thus did he speak, but they all held their peace, ashamed to
decline the challenge, yet fearing to accept it, till at last
Menelaus rose and rebuked them, for he was angry. "Alas," he
cried, "vain braggarts, women forsooth not men, double-dyed
indeed will be the stain upon us if no man of the Danaans will
now face Hector. May you be turned every man of you into earth
and water as you sit spiritless and inglorious in your places. I
will myself go out against this man, but the upshot of the fight
will be from on high in the hands of the immortal gods."
With these words he put on his armour; and then, O Menelaus, your
life would have come to an end at the hands of hands of Hector,
for he was far better the man, had not the princes of the
Achaeans sprung upon you and checked you. King Agamemnon caught
him by the right hand and said, "Menelaus, you are mad; a truce
to this folly. Be patient in spite of passion, do not think of
fighting a man so much stronger than yourself as Hector son of
Priam, who is feared by many another as well as you. Even
Achilles, who is far more doughty than you are, shrank from
meeting him in battle. Sit down your own people, and the Achaeans
will send some other champion to fight Hector; fearless and fond
of battle though he be, I ween his knees will bend gladly under
him if he comes out alive from the hurly-burly of this fight."
With these words of reasonable counsel he persuaded his brother,
whereon his squires gladly stripped the armour from off his
shoulders. Then Nestor rose and spoke, "Of a truth," said he,
"the Achaean land is fallen upon evil times. The old knight
Peleus, counsellor and orator among the Myrmidons, loved when I
was in his house to question me concerning the race and lineage
of all the Argives. How would it not grieve him could he hear of
them as now quailing before Hector? Many a time would he lift his
hands in prayer that his soul might leave his body and go down
within the house of Hades. Would, by father Jove, Minerva, and
Apollo, that I were still young and strong as when the Pylians
and Arcadians were gathered in fight by the rapid river Celadon
under the walls of Pheia, and round about the waters of the river
Iardanus. The godlike hero Ereuthalion stood forward as their
champion, with the armour of King Areithous upon his shoulders—
Areithous whom men and women had surnamed 'the Mace-man,' because
he fought neither with bow nor spear, but broke the battalions of
the foe with his iron mace. Lycurgus killed him, not in fair
fight, but by entrapping him in a narrow way where his mace
served him in no stead; for Lycurgus was too quick for him and
speared him through the middle, so he fell to earth on his back.
Lycurgus then spoiled him of the armour which Mars had given him,
and bore it in battle thenceforward; but when he grew old and
stayed at home, he gave it to his faithful squire Ereuthalion,
who in this same armour challenged the foremost men among us. The
others quaked and quailed, but my high spirit bade me fight him
though none other would venture; I was the youngest man of them
all; but when I fought him Minerva vouchsafed me victory. He was
the biggest and strongest man that ever I killed, and covered
much ground as he lay sprawling upon the earth. Would that I were
still young and strong as I then was, for the son of Priam would
then soon find one who would face him. But you, foremost among
the whole host though you be, have none of you any stomach for
fighting Hector."
Thus did the old man rebuke them, and forthwith nine men started
to their feet. Foremost of all uprose King Agamemnon, and after
him brave Diomed the son of Tydeus. Next were the two Ajaxes, men
clothed in valour as with a garment, and then Idomeneus, and
Meriones his brother in arms. After these Eurypylus son of
Euaemon, Thoas the son of Andraemon, and Ulysses also rose. Then
Nestor knight of Gerene again spoke, saying: "Cast lots among you
to see who shall be chosen. If he come alive out of this fight he
will have done good service alike to his own soul and to the
Achaeans."
Thus he spoke, and when each of them had marked his lot, and had
thrown it into the helmet of Agamemnon son of Atreus, the people
lifted their hands in prayer, and thus would one of them say as
he looked into the vault of heaven, "Father Jove, grant that the
lot fall on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of
rich Mycene himself."
As they were speaking, Nestor knight of Gerene shook the helmet,
and from it there fell the very lot which they wanted—the lot of
Ajax. The herald bore it about and showed it to all the
chieftains of the Achaeans, going from left to right; but they
none of them owned it. When, however, in due course he reached
the man who had written upon it and had put it into the helmet,
brave Ajax held out his hand, and the herald gave him the lot.
When Ajax saw his mark he knew it and was glad; he threw it to
the ground and said, "My friends, the lot is mine, and I rejoice,
for I shall vanquish Hector. I will put on my armour; meanwhile,
pray to King Jove in silence among yourselves that the Trojans
may not hear you—or aloud if you will, for we fear no man. None
shall overcome me, neither by force nor cunning, for I was born
and bred in Salamis, and can hold my own in all things."
With this they fell praying to King Jove the son of Saturn, and
thus would one of them say as he looked into the vault of heaven,
"Father Jove that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power,
vouchsafe victory to Ajax, and let him win great glory: but if
you wish well to Hector also and would protect him, grant to each
of them equal fame and prowess."
Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming
bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous
Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting with
one another—even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans,
spring forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his
long spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they
beheld him, but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart
even of Hector beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and
withdraw into the ranks behind him, for he had been the
challenger. Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like
a wall—a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide—the work
of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in
leather. He had made it with the hides of seven full-fed bulls,
and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this
shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to Hector,
and menaced him saying, "Hector, you shall now learn, man to man,
what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides
lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. He now abides
at the ships in anger with Agamemnon shepherd of his people, but
there are many of us who are well able to face you; therefore
begin the fight."
And Hector answered, "Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, captain of the
host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that
cannot fight. I have been long used to the blood and butcheries
of battle. I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right
or left, for this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge
among the chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can
delight the heart of Mars; howbeit I would not take such a man as
you are off his guard—but I will smite you openly if I can."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it from him. It
struck the sevenfold shield in its outermost layer—the eighth,
which was of bronze—and went through six of the layers but in
the seventh hide it stayed. Then Ajax threw in his turn, and
struck the round shield of the son of Priam. The terrible spear
went through his gleaming shield, and pressed onward through his
cuirass of cunning workmanship; it pierced the shirt against his
side, but he swerved and thus saved his life. They then each of
them drew out the spear from his shield, and fell on one another
like savage lions or wild boars of great strength and endurance:
the son of Priam struck the middle of Ajax's shield, but the
bronze did not break, and the point of his dart was turned. Ajax
then sprang forward and pierced the shield of Hector; the spear
went through it and staggered him as he was springing forward to
attack; it gashed his neck and the blood came pouring from the
wound, but even so Hector did not cease fighting; he gave ground,
and with his brawny hand seized a stone, rugged and huge, that
was lying upon the plain; with this he struck the shield of Ajax
on the boss that was in its middle, so that the bronze rang
again. But Ajax in turn caught up a far larger stone, swung it
aloft, and hurled it with prodigious force. This millstone of a
rock broke Hector's shield inwards and threw him down on his back
with the shield crushing him under it, but Apollo raised him at
once. Thereon they would have hacked at one another in close
combat with their swords, had not heralds, messengers of gods and
men, come forward, one from the Trojans and the other from the
Achaeans—Talthybius and Idaeus both of them honourable men;
these parted them with their staves, and the good herald Idaeus
said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are both of you valiant, and
both are dear to Jove; we know this; but night is now falling,
and the behests of night may not be well gainsaid."
Ajax son of Telamon answered, "Idaeus, bid Hector say so, for it
was he that challenged our princes. Let him speak first and I
will accept his saying."
Then Hector said, "Ajax, heaven has vouchsafed you stature and
strength, and judgement; and in wielding the spear you excel all
others of the Achaeans. Let us for this day cease fighting;
hereafter we will fight anew till heaven decide between us, and
give victory to one or to the other; night is now falling, and
the behests of night may not be well gainsaid. Gladden, then, the
hearts of the Achaeans at your ships, and more especially those
of your own followers and clansmen, while I, in the great city of
King Priam, bring comfort to the Trojans and their women, who vie
with one another in their prayers on my behalf. Let us, moreover,
exchange presents that it may be said among the Achaeans and
Trojans, 'They fought with might and main, but were reconciled
and parted in friendship.'"
On this he gave Ajax a silver-studded sword with its sheath and
leathern baldric, and in return Ajax gave him a girdle dyed with
purple. Thus they parted, the one going to the host of the
Achaeans, and the other to that of the Trojans, who rejoiced when
they saw their hero come to them safe and unharmed from the
strong hands of mighty Ajax. They led him, therefore, to the city
as one that had been saved beyond their hopes. On the other side
the Achaeans brought Ajax elated with victory to Agamemnon.
When they reached the quarters of the son of Atreus, Agamemnon
sacrificed for them a five-year-old bull in honour of Jove the
son of Saturn. They flayed the carcass, made it ready, and
divided it into joints; these they cut carefully up into smaller
pieces, putting them on the spits, roasting them sufficiently,
and then drawing them off. When they had done all this and had
prepared the feast, they ate it, and every man had his full and
equal share, so that all were satisfied, and King Agamemnon gave
Ajax some slices cut lengthways down the loin, as a mark of
special honour. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,
old Nestor whose counsel was ever truest began to speak; with all
sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:—
"Son of Atreus, and other chieftains, inasmuch as many of the
Achaeans are now dead, whose blood Mars has shed by the banks of
the Scamander, and their souls have gone down to the house of
Hades, it will be well when morning comes that we should cease
fighting; we will then wheel our dead together with oxen and
mules and burn them not far from the ships, that when we sail
hence we may take the bones of our comrades home to their
children. Hard by the funeral pyre we will build a barrow that
shall be raised from the plain for all in common; near this let
us set about building a high wall, to shelter ourselves and our
ships, and let it have well-made gates that there may be a way
through them for our chariots. Close outside we will dig a deep
trench all round it to keep off both horse and foot, that the
Trojan chieftains may not bear hard upon us."
Thus he spoke, and the princess shouted in applause. Meanwhile
the Trojans held a council, angry and full of discord, on the
acropolis by the gates of King Priam's palace; and wise Antenor
spoke. "Hear me," he said, "Trojans, Dardanians, and allies, that
I may speak even as I am minded. Let us give up Argive Helen and
her wealth to the sons of Atreus, for we are now fighting in
violation of our solemn covenants, and shall not prosper till we
have done as I say."
He then sat down and Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen rose to
speak. "Antenor," said he, "your words are not to my liking; you
can find a better saying than this if you will; if, however, you
have spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven robbed you of
your reason. I will speak plainly, and hereby notify to the
Trojans that I will not give up the woman; but the wealth that I
brought home with her from Argos I will restore, and will add yet
further of my own."
On this, when Paris had spoken and taken his seat, Priam of the
race of Dardanus, peer of gods in council, rose and with all
sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "Hear me, Trojans,
Dardanians, and allies, that I may speak even as I am minded. Get
your suppers now as hitherto throughout the city, but keep your
watches and be wakeful. At daybreak let Idaeus go to the ships,
and tell Agamemnon and Menelaus sons of Atreus the saying of
Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about; and let him
also be instant with them that they now cease fighting till we
burn our dead; hereafter we will fight anew, till heaven decide
between us and give victory to one or to the other."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They took
supper in their companies and at daybreak Idaeus went his way to
the ships. He found the Danaans, servants of Mars, in council at
the stern of Agamemnon's ship, and took his place in the midst of
them. "Son of Atreus," he said, "and princes of the Achaean host,
Priam and the other noble Trojans have sent me to tell you the
saying of Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about, if
so be that you may find it acceptable. All the treasure he took
with him in his ships to Troy—would that he had sooner
perished—he will restore, and will add yet further of his own,
but he will not give up the wedded wife of Menelaus, though the
Trojans would have him do so. Priam bade me inquire further if
you will cease fighting till we burn our dead; hereafter we will
fight anew, till heaven decide between us and give victory to one
or to the other."
They all held their peace, but presently Diomed of the loud
war-cry spoke, saying, "Let there be no taking, neither treasure,
nor yet Helen, for even a child may see that the doom of the
Trojans is at hand."
The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words that
Diomed had spoken, and thereon King Agamemnon said to Idaeus,
"Idaeus, you have heard the answer the Achaeans make you-and I
with them. But as concerning the dead, I give you leave to burn
them, for when men are once dead there should be no grudging them
the rites of fire. Let Jove the mighty husband of Juno be witness
to this covenant."
As he spoke he upheld his sceptre in the sight of all the gods,
and Idaeus went back to the strong city of Ilius. The Trojans and
Dardanians were gathered in council waiting his return; when he
came, he stood in their midst and delivered his message. As soon
as they heard it they set about their twofold labour, some to
gather the corpses, and others to bring in wood. The Argives on
their part also hastened from their ships, some to gather the
corpses, and others to bring in wood.
The sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh risen into
the vault of heaven from the slow still currents of deep Oceanus,
when the two armies met. They could hardly recognise their dead,
but they washed the clotted gore from off them, shed tears over
them, and lifted them upon their waggons. Priam had forbidden the
Trojans to wail aloud, so they heaped their dead sadly and
silently upon the pyre, and having burned them went back to the
city of Ilius. The Achaeans in like manner heaped their dead
sadly and silently on the pyre, and having burned them went back
to their ships.
Now in the twilight when it was not yet dawn, chosen bands of the
Achaeans were gathered round the pyre and built one barrow that
was raised in common for all, and hard by this they built a high
wall to shelter themselves and their ships; they gave it strong
gates that there might be a way through them for their chariots,
and close outside it they dug a trench deep and wide, and they
planted it within with stakes.
Thus did the Achaeans toil, and the gods, seated by the side of
Jove the lord of lightning, marvelled at their great work; but
Neptune, lord of the earthquake, spoke, saying, "Father Jove,
what mortal in the whole world will again take the gods into his
counsel? See you not how the Achaeans have built a wall about
their ships and driven a trench all round it, without offering
hecatombs to the gods? The fame of this wall will reach as far as
dawn itself, and men will no longer think anything of the one
which Phoebus Apollo and myself built with so much labour for
Laomedon."
Jove was displeased and answered, "What, O shaker of the earth,
are you talking about? A god less powerful than yourself might be
alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame reaches as far as
dawn itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their
ships, you can shatter their wall and fling it into the sea; you
can cover the beach with sand again, and the great wall of the
Achaeans will then be utterly effaced."
Thus did they converse, and by sunset the work of the Achaeans
was completed; they then slaughtered oxen at their tents and got
their supper. Many ships had come with wine from Lemnos, sent by
Euneus the son of Jason, born to him by Hypsipyle. The son of
Jason freighted them with ten thousand measures of wine, which he
sent specially to the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus.
From this supply the Achaeans bought their wine, some with
bronze, some with iron, some with hides, some with whole heifers,
and some again with captives. They spread a goodly banquet and
feasted the whole night through, as also did the Trojans and
their allies in the city. But all the time Jove boded them ill
and roared with his portentous thunder. Pale fear got hold upon
them, and they spilled the wine from their cups on to the ground,
nor did any dare drink till he had made offerings to the most
mighty son of Saturn. Then they laid themselves down to rest and
enjoyed the boon of sleep.
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