translated by Samuel Butler
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
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
"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
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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