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The Iliad: Book 2 Analysis

Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 5

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  Now the other gods and the armed warriors on the plain slept

soundly, but Jove was wakeful, for he was thinking how to do honour to

Achilles, and destroyed much people at the ships of the Achaeans. In

the end he deemed it would be best to send a lying dream to King

Agamemnon; so he called one to him and said to it, "Lying Dream, go to

the ships of the Achaeans, into the tent of Agamemnon, and say to

him word to word as I now bid you. Tell him to get the Achaeans

instantly under arms, for he shall take Troy. There are no longer

divided counsels among the gods; Juno has brought them to her own

mind, and woe betides the Trojans."

  The dream went when it had heard its message, and soon reached the

ships of the Achaeans. It sought Agamemnon son of Atreus and found him

in his tent, wrapped in a profound slumber. It hovered over his head

in the likeness of Nestor, son of Neleus, whom Agamemnon honoured

above all his councillors, and said:-

  "You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one who has the welfare of his

host and so much other care upon his shoulders should dock his

sleep. Hear me at once, for I come as a messenger from Jove, who,

though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and pities you. He

bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you shall take

Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the gods; Juno has

brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides the Trojans at

the hands of Jove. Remember this, and when you wake see that it does

not escape you."

  The dream then left him, and he thought of things that were,

surely not to be accomplished. He thought that on that same day he was

to take the city of Priam, but he little knew what was in the mind

of Jove, who had many another hard-fought fight in store alike for

Danaans and Trojans. Then presently he woke, with the divine message

still ringing in his ears; so he sat upright, and put on his soft

shirt so fair and new, and over this his heavy cloak. He bound his

sandals on to his comely feet, and slung his silver-studded sword

about his shoulders; then he took the imperishable staff of his

father, and sallied forth to the ships of the Achaeans.

  The goddess Dawn now wended her way to vast Olympus that she might

herald day to Jove and to the other immortals, and Agamemnon sent

the criers round to call the people in assembly; so they called them

and the people gathered thereon. But first he summoned a meeting of

the elders at the ship of Nestor king of Pylos, and when they were

assembled he laid a cunning counsel before them.

  "My friends," said he, "I have had a dream from heaven in the dead

of night, and its face and figure resembled none but Nestor's. It

hovered over my head and said, 'You are sleeping, son of Atreus; one

who has the welfare of his host and so much other care upon his

shoulders should dock his sleep. Hear me at once, for I am a messenger

from Jove, who, though he be not near, yet takes thought for you and

pities you. He bids you get the Achaeans instantly under arms, for you

shall take Troy. There are no longer divided counsels among the

gods; Juno has brought them over to her own mind, and woe betides

the Trojans at the hands of Jove. Remember this.' The dream then

vanished and I awoke. Let us now, therefore, arm the sons of the

Achaeans. But it will be well that I should first sound them, and to

this end I will tell them to fly with their ships; but do you others

go about among the host and prevent their doing so."

  He then sat down, and Nestor the prince of Pylos with all

sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "My friends," said he,

"princes and councillors of the Argives, if any other man of the

Achaeans had told us of this dream we should have declared it false,

and would have had nothing to do with it. But he who has seen it is

the foremost man among us; we must therefore set about getting the

people under arms."

  With this he led the way from the assembly, and the other sceptred

kings rose with him in obedience to the word of Agamemnon; but the

people pressed forward to hear. They swarmed like bees that sally from

some hollow cave and flit in countless throng among the spring

flowers, bunched in knots and clusters; even so did the mighty

multitude pour from ships and tents to the assembly, and range

themselves upon the wide-watered shore, while among them ran

Wildfire Rumour, messenger of Jove, urging them ever to the fore. Thus

they gathered in a pell-mell of mad confusion, and the earth groaned

under the tramp of men as the people sought their places. Nine heralds

went crying about among them to stay their tumult and bid them

listen to the kings, till at last they were got into their several

places and ceased their clamour. Then King Agamemnon rose, holding his

sceptre. This was the work of Vulcan, who gave it to Jove the son of

Saturn. Jove gave it to Mercury, slayer of Argus, guide and

guardian. King Mercury gave it to Pelops, the mighty charioteer, and

Pelops to Atreus, shepherd of his people. Atreus, when he died, left

it to Thyestes, rich in flocks, and Thyestes in his turn left it to be

borne by Agamemnon, that he might be lord of all Argos and of the

isles. Leaning, then, on his sceptre, he addressed the Argives.

  "My friends," he said, "heroes, servants of Mars, the hand of heaven

has been laid heavily upon me. Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise

that I should sack the city of Priam before returning, but he has

played me false, and is now bidding me go ingloriously back to Argos

with the loss of much people. Such is the will of Jove, who has laid

many a proud city in the dust, as he will yet lay others, for his

power is above all. It will be a sorry tale hereafter that an

Achaean host, at once so great and valiant, battled in vain against

men fewer in number than themselves; but as yet the end is not in

sight. Think that the Achaeans and Trojans have sworn to a solemn

covenant, and that they have each been numbered- the Trojans by the

roll of their householders, and we by companies of ten; think

further that each of our companies desired to have a Trojan

householder to pour out their wine; we are so greatly more in number

that full many a company would have to go without its cup-bearer.

But they have in the town allies from other places, and it is these

that hinder me from being able to sack the rich city of Ilius. Nine of

Jove years are gone; the timbers of our ships have rotted; their

tackling is sound no longer. Our wives and little ones at home look

anxiously for our coming, but the work that we came hither to do has

not been done. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say: let us sail

back to our own land, for we shall not take Troy."

  With these words he moved the hearts of the multitude, so many of

them as knew not the cunning counsel of Agamemnon. They surged to

and fro like the waves of the Icarian Sea, when the east and south

winds break from heaven's clouds to lash them; or as when the west

wind sweeps over a field of corn and the ears bow beneath the blast,

even so were they swayed as they flew with loud cries towards the

ships, and the dust from under their feet rose heavenward. They

cheered each other on to draw the ships into the sea; they cleared the

channels in front of them; they began taking away the stays from

underneath them, and the welkin rang with their glad cries, so eager

were they to return.

  Then surely the Argives would have returned after a fashion that was

not fated. But Juno said to Minerva, "Alas, daughter of

aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, shall the Argives fly home to their

own land over the broad sea, and leave Priam and the Trojans the glory

of still keeping Helen, for whose sake so many of the Achaeans have

died at Troy, far from their homes? Go about at once among the host,

and speak fairly to them, man by man, that they draw not their ships

into the sea."

  Minerva was not slack to do her bidding. Down she darted from the

topmost summits of Olympus, and in a moment she was at the ships of

the Achaeans. There she found Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel,

standing alone. He had not as yet laid a hand upon his ship, for he

was grieved and sorry; so she went close up to him and said, "Ulysses,

noble son of Laertes, are you going to fling yourselves into your

ships and be off home to your own land in this way? Will you leave

Priam and the Trojans the glory of still keeping Helen, for whose sake

so many of the Achaeans have died at Troy, far from their homes? Go

about at once among the host, and speak fairly to them, man by man,

that they draw not their ships into the sea."

  Ulysses knew the voice as that of the goddess: he flung his cloak

from him and set off to run. His servant Eurybates, a man of Ithaca,

who waited on him, took charge of the cloak, whereon Ulysses went

straight up to Agamemnon and received from him his ancestral,

imperishable staff. With this he went about among the ships of the


  Whenever he met a king or chieftain, he stood by him and spoke him

fairly. "Sir," said he, "this flight is cowardly and unworthy. Stand

to your post, and bid your people also keep their places. You do not

yet know the full mind of Agamemnon; he was sounding us, and ere

long will visit the Achaeans with his displeasure. We were not all

of us at the council to hear what he then said; see to it lest he be

angry and do us a mischief; for the pride of kings is great, and the

hand of Jove is with them."

  But when he came across any common man who was making a noise, he

struck him with his staff and rebuked him, saying, "Sirrah, hold

your peace, and listen to better men than yourself. You are a coward

and no soldier; you are nobody either in fight or council; we cannot

all be kings; it is not well that there should be many masters; one

man must be supreme- one king to whom the son of scheming Saturn has

given the sceptre of sovereignty over you all."

  Thus masterfully did he go about among the host, and the people

hurried back to the council from their tents and ships with a sound as

the thunder of surf when it comes crashing down upon the shore, and

all the sea is in an uproar.

  The rest now took their seats and kept to their own several

places, but Thersites still went on wagging his unbridled tongue- a

man of many words, and those unseemly; a monger of sedition, a

railer against all who were in authority, who cared not what he

said, so that he might set the Achaeans in a laugh. He was the ugliest

man of all those that came before Troy- bandy-legged, lame of one

foot, with his two shoulders rounded and hunched over his chest. His

head ran up to a point, but there was little hair on the top of it.

Achilles and Ulysses hated him worst of all, for it was with them that

he was most wont to wrangle; now, however, with a shrill squeaky voice

he began heaping his abuse on Agamemnon. The Achaeans were angry and

disgusted, yet none the less he kept on brawling and bawling at the

son of Atreus.

  "Agamemnon," he cried, "what ails you now, and what more do you

want? Your tents are filled with bronze and with fair women, for

whenever we take a town we give you the pick of them. Would you have

yet more gold, which some Trojan is to give you as a ransom for his

son, when I or another Achaean has taken him prisoner? or is it some

young girl to hide and lie with? It is not well that you, the ruler of

the Achaeans, should bring them into such misery. Weakling cowards,

women rather than men, let us sail home, and leave this fellow here at

Troy to stew in his own meeds of honour, and discover whether we

were of any service to him or no. Achilles is a much better man than

he is, and see how he has treated him- robbing him of his prize and

keeping it himself. Achilles takes it meekly and shows no fight; if he

did, son of Atreus, you would never again insult him."

  Thus railed Thersites, but Ulysses at once went up to him and

rebuked him sternly. "Check your glib tongue, Thersites," said be,

"and babble not a word further. Chide not with princes when you have

none to back you. There is no viler creature come before Troy with the

sons of Atreus. Drop this chatter about kings, and neither revile them

nor keep harping about going home. We do not yet know how things are

going to be, nor whether the Achaeans are to return with good

success or evil. How dare you gibe at Agamemnon because the Danaans

have awarded him so many prizes? I tell you, therefore- and it shall

surely be- that if I again catch you talking such nonsense, I will

either forfeit my own head and be no more called father of Telemachus,

or I will take you, strip you stark naked, and whip you out of the

assembly till you go blubbering back to the ships."

  On this he beat him with his staff about the back and shoulders till

he dropped and fell a-weeping. The golden sceptre raised a bloody weal

on his back, so he sat down frightened and in pain, looking foolish as

he wiped the tears from his eyes. The people were sorry for him, yet

they laughed heartily, and one would turn to his neighbour saying,

"Ulysses has done many a good thing ere now in fight and council,

but he never did the Argives a better turn than when he stopped this

fellow's mouth from prating further. He will give the kings no more of

his insolence."

  Thus said the people. Then Ulysses rose, sceptre in hand, and

Minerva in the likeness of a herald bade the people be still, that

those who were far off might hear him and consider his council. He

therefore with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus:-

  "King Agamemnon, the Achaeans are for making you a by-word among all

mankind. They forget the promise they made you when they set out

from Argos, that you should not return till you had sacked the town of

Troy, and, like children or widowed women, they murmur and would set

off homeward. True it is that they have had toil enough to be

disheartened. A man chafes at having to stay away from his wife even

for a single month, when he is on shipboard, at the mercy of wind

and sea, but it is now nine long years that we have been kept here;

I cannot, therefore, blame the Achaeans if they turn restive; still we

shall be shamed if we go home empty after so long a stay- therefore,

my friends, be patient yet a little longer that we may learn whether

the prophesyings of Calchas were false or true.

  "All who have not since perished must remember as though it were

yesterday or the day before, how the ships of the Achaeans were

detained in Aulis when we were on our way hither to make war on

Priam and the Trojans. We were ranged round about a fountain

offering hecatombs to the gods upon their holy altars, and there was a

fine plane-tree from beneath which there welled a stream of pure

water. Then we saw a prodigy; for Jove sent a fearful serpent out of

the ground, with blood-red stains upon its back, and it darted from

under the altar on to the plane-tree. Now there was a brood of young

sparrows, quite small, upon the topmost bough, peeping out from

under the leaves, eight in all, and their mother that hatched them

made nine. The serpent ate the poor cheeping things, while the old

bird flew about lamenting her little ones; but the serpent threw his

coils about her and caught her by the wing as she was screaming. Then,

when he had eaten both the sparrow and her young, the god who had sent

him made him become a sign; for the son of scheming Saturn turned

him into stone, and we stood there wondering at that which had come to

pass. Seeing, then, that such a fearful portent had broken in upon our

hecatombs, Calchas forthwith declared to us the oracles of heaven.

'Why, Achaeans,' said he, 'are you thus speechless? Jove has sent us

this sign, long in coming, and long ere it be fulfilled, though its

fame shall last for ever. As the serpent ate the eight fledglings

and the sparrow that hatched them, which makes nine, so shall we fight

nine years at Troy, but in the tenth shall take the town.' This was

what he said, and now it is all coming true. Stay here, therefore, all

of you, till we take the city of Priam."

  On this the Argives raised a shout, till the ships rang again with

the uproar. Nestor, knight of Gerene, then addressed them. "Shame on

you," he cried, "to stay talking here like children, when you should

fight like men. Where are our covenants now, and where the oaths

that we have taken? Shall our counsels be flung into the fire, with

our drink-offerings and the right hands of fellowship wherein we

have put our trust? We waste our time in words, and for all our

talking here shall be no further forward. Stand, therefore, son of

Atreus, by your own steadfast purpose; lead the Argives on to

battle, and leave this handful of men to rot, who scheme, and scheme

in vain, to get back to Argos ere they have learned whether Jove be

true or a liar. For the mighty son of Saturn surely promised that we

should succeed, when we Argives set sail to bring death and

destruction upon the Trojans. He showed us favourable signs by

flashing his lightning on our right hands; therefore let none make

haste to go till he has first lain with the wife of some Trojan, and

avenged the toil and sorrow that he has suffered for the sake of

Helen. Nevertheless, if any man is in such haste to be at home

again, let him lay his hand to his ship that he may meet his doom in

the sight of all. But, O king, consider and give ear to my counsel,

for the word that I say may not be neglected lightly. Divide your men,

Agamemnon, into their several tribes and clans, that clans and

tribes may stand by and help one another. If you do this, and if the

Achaeans obey you, you will find out who, both chiefs and peoples, are

brave, and who are cowards; for they will vie against the other.

Thus you shall also learn whether it is through the counsel of

heaven or the cowardice of man that you shall fail to take the town."

  And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, you have again outdone the sons

of the Achaeans in counsel. Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and

Apollo, that I had among them ten more such councillors, for the

city of King Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we

should sack it. But the son of Saturn afflicts me with bootless

wranglings and strife. Achilles and I are quarrelling about this girl,

in which matter I was the first to offend; if we can be of one mind

again, the Trojans will not stave off destruction for a day. Now,

therefore, get your morning meal, that our hosts join in fight. Whet

well your spears; see well to the ordering of your shields; give

good feeds to your horses, and look your chariots carefully over, that

we may do battle the livelong day; for we shall have no rest, not

for a moment, till night falls to part us. The bands that bear your

shields shall be wet with the sweat upon your shoulders, your hands

shall weary upon your spears, your horses shall steam in front of your

chariots, and if I see any man shirking the fight, or trying to keep

out of it at the ships, there shall be no help for him, but he shall

be a prey to dogs and vultures."

  Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans roared applause. As when the waves

run high before the blast of the south wind and break on some lofty

headland, dashing against it and buffeting it without ceasing, as

the storms from every quarter drive them, even so did the Achaeans

rise and hurry in all directions to their ships. There they lighted

their fires at their tents and got dinner, offering sacrifice every

man to one or other of the gods, and praying each one of them that

he might live to come out of the fight. Agamemnon, king of men,

sacrificed a fat five-year-old bull to the mighty son of Saturn, and

invited the princes and elders of his host. First he asked Nestor

and King Idomeneus, then the two Ajaxes and the son of Tydeus, and

sixthly Ulysses, peer of gods in counsel; but Menelaus came of his own

accord, for he knew how busy his brother then was. They stood round

the bull with the barley-meal in their hands, and Agamemnon prayed,

saying, "Jove, most glorious, supreme, that dwellest in heaven, and

ridest upon the storm-cloud, grant that the sun may not go down, nor

the night fall, till the palace of Priam is laid low, and its gates

are consumed with fire. Grant that my sword may pierce the shirt of

Hector about his heart, and that full many of his comrades may bite

the dust as they fall dying round him."

  Thus he prayed, but the son of Saturn would not fulfil his prayer.

He accepted the sacrifice, yet none the less increased their toil

continually. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal

upon the victim, they drew back its head, killed it, and then flayed

it. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers

of fat, and set pieces of raw meat on the top of them. These they

burned upon the split logs of firewood, but they spitted the inward

meats, and held them in the flames to cook. When the thigh-bones

were burned, and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest

up small, put the pieces upon spits, roasted them till they were done,

and drew them off; then, when they had finished their work and the

feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so

that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and

drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak. "King Agamemnon,"

said he, "let us not stay talking here, nor be slack in the work

that heaven has put into our hands. Let the heralds summon the

people to gather at their several ships; we will then go about among

the host, that we may begin fighting at once."

  Thus did he speak, and Agamemnon heeded his words. He at once sent

the criers round to call the people in assembly. So they called

them, and the people gathered thereon. The chiefs about the son of

Atreus chose their men and marshalled them, while Minerva went among

them holding her priceless aegis that knows neither age nor death.

From it there waved a hundred tassels of pure gold, all deftly

woven, and each one of them worth a hundred oxen. With this she darted

furiously everywhere among the hosts of the Achaeans, urging them

forward, and putting courage into the heart of each, so that he

might fight and do battle without ceasing. Thus war became sweeter

in their eyes even than returning home in their ships. As when some

great forest fire is raging upon a mountain top and its light is

seen afar, even so as they marched the gleam of their armour flashed

up into the firmament of heaven.

  They were like great flocks of geese, or cranes, or swans on the

plain about the waters of Cayster, that wing their way hither and

thither, glorying in the pride of flight, and crying as they settle

till the fen is alive with their screaming. Even thus did their tribes

pour from ships and tents on to the plain of the Scamander, and the

ground rang as brass under the feet of men and horses. They stood as

thick upon the flower-bespangled field as leaves that bloom in summer.

  As countless swarms of flies buzz around a herdsman's homestead in

the time of spring when the pails are drenched with milk, even so

did the Achaeans swarm on to the plain to charge the Trojans and

destroy them.

  The chiefs disposed their men this way and that before the fight

began, drafting them out as easily as goatherds draft their flocks

when they have got mixed while feeding; and among them went King

Agamemnon, with a head and face like Jove the lord of thunder, a waist

like Mars, and a chest like that of Neptune. As some great bull that

lords it over the herds upon the plain, even so did Jove make the

son of Atreus stand peerless among the multitude of heroes.

  And now, O Muses, dwellers in the mansions of Olympus, tell me-

for you are goddesses and are in all places so that you see all

things, while we know nothing but by report- who were the chiefs and

princes of the Danaans? As for the common soldiers, they were so

that I could not name every single one of them though I had ten

tongues, and though my voice failed not and my heart were of bronze

within me, unless you, O Olympian Muses, daughters of aegis-bearing

Jove, were to recount them to me. Nevertheless, I will tell the

captains of the ships and all the fleet together.

  Peneleos, Leitus, Arcesilaus, Prothoenor, and Clonius were

captains of the Boeotians. These were they that dwelt in Hyria and

rocky Aulis, and who held Schoenus, Scolus, and the highlands of

Eteonus, with Thespeia, Graia, and the fair city of Mycalessus. They

also held Harma, Eilesium, and Erythrae; and they had Eleon, Hyle, and

Peteon; Ocalea and the strong fortress of Medeon; Copae, Eutresis, and

Thisbe the haunt of doves; Coronea, and the pastures of Haliartus;

Plataea and Glisas; the fortress of Thebes the less; holy Onchestus

with its famous grove of Neptune; Arne rich in vineyards; Midea,

sacred Nisa, and Anthedon upon the sea. From these there came fifty

ships, and in each there were a hundred and twenty young men of the


  Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Mars, led the people that dwelt

in Aspledon and Orchomenus the realm of Minyas. Astyoche a noble

maiden bore them in the house of Actor son of Azeus; for she had

gone with Mars secretly into an upper chamber, and he had lain with

her. With these there came thirty ships.

  The Phoceans were led by Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of mighty

Iphitus the son of Naubolus. These were they that held Cyparissus,

rocky Pytho, holy Crisa, Daulis, and Panopeus; they also that dwelt in

Anemorea and Hyampolis, and about the waters of the river Cephissus,

and Lilaea by the springs of the Cephissus; with their chieftains came

forty ships, and they marshalled the forces of the Phoceans, which

were stationed next to the Boeotians, on their left.

  Ajax, the fleet son of Oileus, commanded the Locrians. He was not so

great, nor nearly so great, as Ajax the son of Telamon. He was a

little man, and his breastplate was made of linen, but in use of the

spear he excelled all the Hellenes and the Achaeans. These dwelt in

Cynus, Opous, Calliarus, Bessa, Scarphe, fair Augeae, Tarphe, and

Thronium about the river Boagrius. With him there came forty ships

of the Locrians who dwell beyond Euboea.

  The fierce Abantes held Euboea with its cities, Chalcis, Eretria,

Histiaea rich in vines, Cerinthus upon the sea, and the rock-perched

town of Dium; with them were also the men of Carystus and Styra;

Elephenor of the race of Mars was in command of these; he was son of

Chalcodon, and chief over all the Abantes. With him they came, fleet

of foot and wearing their hair long behind, brave warriors, who

would ever strive to tear open the corslets of their foes with their

long ashen spears. Of these there came fifty ships.

  And they that held the strong city of Athens, the people of great

Erechtheus, who was born of the soil itself, but Jove's daughter,

Minerva, fostered him, and established him at Athens in her own rich

sanctuary. There, year by year, the Athenian youths worship him with

sacrifices of bulls and rams. These were commanded by Menestheus,

son of Peteos. No man living could equal him in the marshalling of

chariots and foot soldiers. Nestor could alone rival him, for he was

older. With him there came fifty ships.

  Ajax brought twelve ships from Salamis, and stationed them alongside

those of the Athenians.

  The men of Argos, again, and those who held the walls of Tiryns,

with Hermione, and Asine upon the gulf; Troezene, Eionae, and the

vineyard lands of Epidaurus; the Achaean youths, moreover, who came

from Aegina and Mases; these were led by Diomed of the loud

battle-cry, and Sthenelus son of famed Capaneus. With them in

command was Euryalus, son of king Mecisteus, son of Talaus; but Diomed

was chief over them all. With these there came eighty ships.

  Those who held the strong city of Mycenae, rich Corinth and Cleonae;

Orneae, Araethyrea, and Licyon, where Adrastus reigned of old;

Hyperesia, high Gonoessa, and Pellene; Aegium and all the coast-land

round about Helice; these sent a hundred ships under the command of

King Agamemnon, son of Atreus. His force was far both finest and

most numerous, and in their midst was the king himself, all glorious

in his armour of gleaming bronze- foremost among the heroes, for he

was the greatest king, and had most men under him.

  And those that dwelt in Lacedaemon, lying low among the hills,

Pharis, Sparta, with Messe the haunt of doves; Bryseae, Augeae,

Amyclae, and Helos upon the sea; Laas, moreover, and Oetylus; these

were led by Menelaus of the loud battle-cry, brother to Agamemnon, and

of them there were sixty ships, drawn up apart from the others.

Among them went Menelaus himself, strong in zeal, urging his men to

fight; for he longed to avenge the toil and sorrow that he had

suffered for the sake of Helen.

  The men of Pylos and Arene, and Thryum where is the ford of the

river Alpheus; strong Aipy, Cyparisseis, and Amphigenea; Pteleum,

Helos, and Dorium, where the Muses met Thamyris, and stilled his

minstrelsy for ever. He was returning from Oechalia, where Eurytus

lived and reigned, and boasted that he would surpass even the Muses,

daughters of aegis-bearing Jove, if they should sing against him;

whereon they were angry, and maimed him. They robbed him of his divine

power of song, and thenceforth he could strike the lyre no more. These

were commanded by Nestor, knight of Gerene, and with him there came

ninety ships.

  And those that held Arcadia, under the high mountain of Cyllene,

near the tomb of Aepytus, where the people fight hand to hand; the men

of Pheneus also, and Orchomenus rich in flocks; of Rhipae, Stratie,

and bleak Enispe; of Tegea and fair Mantinea; of Stymphelus and

Parrhasia; of these King Agapenor son of Ancaeus was commander, and

they had sixty ships. Many Arcadians, good soldiers, came in each

one of them, but Agamemnon found them the ships in which to cross

the sea, for they were not a people that occupied their business

upon the waters.

  The men, moreover, of Buprasium and of Elis, so much of it as is

enclosed between Hyrmine, Myrsinus upon the sea-shore, the rock

Olene and Alesium. These had four leaders, and each of them had ten

ships, with many Epeans on board. Their captains were Amphimachus

and Thalpius- the one, son of Cteatus, and the other, of Eurytus- both

of the race of Actor. The two others were Diores, son of Amarynces,

and Polyxenus, son of King Agasthenes, son of Augeas.

  And those of Dulichium with the sacred Echinean islands, who dwelt

beyond the sea off Elis; these were led by Meges, peer of Mars, and

the son of valiant Phyleus, dear to Jove, who quarrelled with his

father, and went to settle in Dulichium. With him there came forty


  Ulysses led the brave Cephallenians, who held Ithaca, Neritum with

its forests, Crocylea, rugged Aegilips, Samos and Zacynthus, with

the mainland also that was over against the islands. These were led by

Ulysses, peer of Jove in counsel, and with him there came twelve


  Thoas, son of Andraemon, commanded the Aetolians, who dwelt in

Pleuron, Olenus, Pylene, Chalcis by the sea, and rocky Calydon, for

the great king Oeneus had now no sons living, and was himself dead, as

was also golden-haired Meleager, who had been set over the Aetolians

to be their king. And with Thoas there came forty ships.

  The famous spearsman Idomeneus led the Cretans, who held Cnossus,

and the well-walled city of Gortys; Lyctus also, Miletus and

Lycastus that lies upon the chalk; the populous towns of Phaestus

and Rhytium, with the other peoples that dwelt in the hundred cities

of Crete. All these were led by Idomeneus, and by Meriones, peer of

murderous Mars. And with these there came eighty ships.

  Tlepolemus, son of Hercules, a man both brave and large of

stature, brought nine ships of lordly warriors from Rhodes. These

dwelt in Rhodes which is divided among the three cities of Lindus,

Ielysus, and Cameirus, that lies upon the chalk. These were

commanded by Tlepolemus, son of Hercules by Astyochea, whom he had

carried off from Ephyra, on the river Selleis, after sacking many

cities of valiant warriors. When Tlepolemus grew up, he killed his

father's uncle Licymnius, who had been a famous warrior in his time,

but was then grown old. On this he built himself a fleet, gathered a

great following, and fled beyond the sea, for he was menaced by the

other sons and grandsons of Hercules. After a voyage. during which

he suffered great hardship, he came to Rhodes, where the people

divided into three communities, according to their tribes, and were

dearly loved by Jove, the lord, of gods and men; wherefore the son

of Saturn showered down great riches upon them.

  And Nireus brought three ships from Syme- Nireus, who was the

handsomest man that came up under Ilius of all the Danaans after the

son of Peleus- but he was a man of no substance, and had but a small


  And those that held Nisyrus, Crapathus, and Casus, with Cos, the

city of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian islands, these were commanded

by Pheidippus and Antiphus, two sons of King Thessalus the son of

Hercules. And with them there came thirty ships.

  Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, and Trachis; and

those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who were called

Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over which

Achilles was in command. But they now took no part in the war,

inasmuch as there was no one to marshal them; for Achilles stayed by

his ships, furious about the loss of the girl Briseis, whom he had

taken from Lyrnessus at his own great peril, when he had sacked

Lyrnessus and Thebe, and had overthrown Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of

king Evenor, son of Selepus. For her sake Achilles was still grieving,

but ere long he was again to join them.

  And those that held Phylace and the flowery meadows of Pyrasus,

sanctuary of Ceres; Iton, the mother of sheep; Antrum upon the sea,

and Pteleum that lies upon the grass lands. Of these brave Protesilaus

had been captain while he was yet alive, but he was now lying under

the earth. He had left a wife behind him in Phylace to tear her cheeks

in sorrow, and his house was only half finished, for he was slain by a

Dardanian warrior while leaping foremost of the Achaeans upon the soil

of Troy. Still, though his people mourned their chieftain, they were

not without a leader, for Podarces, of the race of Mars, marshalled

them; he was son of Iphiclus, rich in sheep, who was the son of

Phylacus, and he was own brother to Protesilaus, only younger,

Protesilaus being at once the elder and the more valiant. So the

people were not without a leader, though they mourned him whom they

had lost. With him there came forty ships.

  And those that held Pherae by the Boebean lake, with Boebe,

Glaphyrae, and the populous city of Iolcus, these with their eleven

ships were led by Eumelus, son of Admetus, whom Alcestis bore to

him, loveliest of the daughters of Pelias.

  And those that held Methone and Thaumacia, with Meliboea and

rugged Olizon, these were led by the skilful archer Philoctetes, and

they had seven ships, each with fifty oarsmen all of them good

archers; but Philoctetes was lying in great pain in the Island of

Lemnos, where the sons of the Achaeans left him, for he had been

bitten by a poisonous water snake. There he lay sick and sorry, and

full soon did the Argives come to miss him. But his people, though

they felt his loss were not leaderless, for Medon, the bastard son

of Oileus by Rhene, set them in array.

  Those, again, of Tricca and the stony region of Ithome, and they

that held Oechalia, the city of Oechalian Eurytus, these were

commanded by the two sons of Aesculapius, skilled in the art of

healing, Podalirius and Machaon. And with them there came thirty


  The men, moreover, of Ormenius, and by the fountain of Hypereia,

with those that held Asterius, and the white crests of Titanus,

these were led by Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon, and with them there

came forty ships.

  Those that held Argissa and Gyrtone, Orthe, Elone, and the white

city of Oloosson, of these brave Polypoetes was leader. He was son

of Pirithous, who was son of Jove himself, for Hippodameia bore him to

Pirithous on the day when he took his revenge on the shaggy mountain

savages and drove them from Mt. Pelion to the Aithices. But Polypoetes

was not sole in command, for with him was Leonteus, of the race of

Mars, who was son of Coronus, the son of Caeneus. And with these there

came forty ships.

  Guneus brought two and twenty ships from Cyphus, and he was followed

by the Enienes and the valiant Peraebi, who dwelt about wintry Dodona,

and held the lands round the lovely river Titaresius, which sends

its waters into the Peneus. They do not mingle with the silver

eddies of the Peneus, but flow on the top of them like oil; for the

Titaresius is a branch of dread Orcus and of the river Styx.

  Of the Magnetes, Prothous son of Tenthredon was commander. They were

they that dwelt about the river Peneus and Mt. Pelion. Prothous, fleet

of foot, was their leader, and with him there came forty ships.

  Such were the chiefs and princes of the Danaans. Who, then, O

Muse, was the foremost, whether man or horse, among those that

followed after the sons of Atreus?

  Of the horses, those of the son of Pheres were by far the finest.

They were driven by Eumelus, and were as fleet as birds. They were

of the same age and colour, and perfectly matched in height. Apollo,

of the silver bow, had bred them in Perea- both of them mares, and

terrible as Mars in battle. Of the men, Ajax, son of Telamon, was much

the foremost so long as Achilles' anger lasted, for Achilles

excelled him greatly and he had also better horses; but Achilles was

now holding aloof at his ships by reason of his quarrel with

Agamemnon, and his people passed their time upon the sea shore,

throwing discs or aiming with spears at a mark, and in archery.

Their horses stood each by his own chariot, champing lotus and wild

celery. The chariots were housed under cover, but their owners, for

lack of leadership, wandered hither and thither about the host and

went not forth to fight.

  Thus marched the host like a consuming fire, and the earth groaned

beneath them when the lord of thunder is angry and lashes the land

about Typhoeus among the Arimi, where they say Typhoeus lies. Even

so did the earth groan beneath them as they sped over the plain.

  And now Iris, fleet as the wind, was sent by Jove to tell the bad

news among the Trojans. They were gathered in assembly, old and young,

at Priam's gates, and Iris came close up to Priam, speaking with the

voice of Priam's son Polites, who, being fleet of foot, was

stationed as watchman for the Trojans on the tomb of old Aesyetes,

to look out for any sally of the Achaeans. In his likeness Iris spoke,

saying, "Old man, you talk idly, as in time of peace, while war is

at hand. I have been in many a battle, but never yet saw such a host

as is now advancing. They are crossing the plain to attack the city as

thick as leaves or as the sands of the sea. Hector, I charge you above

all others, do as I say. There are many allies dispersed about the

city of Priam from distant places and speaking divers tongues.

Therefore, let each chief give orders to his own people, setting

them severally in array and leading them forth to battle."

  Thus she spoke, but Hector knew that it was the goddess, and at once

broke up the assembly. The men flew to arms; all the gates were

opened, and the people thronged through them, horse and foot, with the

tramp as of a great multitude.

  Now there is a high mound before the city, rising by itself upon the

plain. Men call it Batieia, but the gods know that it is the tomb of

lithe Myrine. Here the Trojans and their allies divided their forces.

  Priam's son, great Hector of the gleaming helmet, commanded the

Trojans, and with him were arrayed by far the greater number and

most valiant of those who were longing for the fray.

  The Dardanians were led by brave Aeneas, whom Venus bore to

Anchises, when she, goddess though she was, had lain with him upon the

mountain slopes of Ida. He was not alone, for with him were the two

sons of Antenor, Archilochus and Acamas, both skilled in all the

arts of war.

  They that dwelt in Telea under the lowest spurs of Mt. Ida, men of

substance, who drink the limpid waters of the Aesepus, and are of

Trojan blood- these were led by Pandarus son of Lycaon, whom Apollo

had taught to use the bow.

  They that held Adresteia and the land of Apaesus, with Pityeia,

and the high mountain of Tereia- these were led by Adrestus and

Amphius, whose breastplate was of linen. These were the sons of Merops

of Percote, who excelled in all kinds of divination. He told them

not to take part in the war, but they gave him no heed, for fate lured

them to destruction.

  They that dwelt about Percote and Practius, with Sestos, Abydos, and

Arisbe- these were led by Asius, son of Hyrtacus, a brave commander-

Asius, the son of Hyrtacus, whom his powerful dark bay steeds, of

the breed that comes from the river Selleis, had brought from Arisbe.

  Hippothous led the tribes of Pelasgian spearsmen, who dwelt in

fertile Larissa- Hippothous, and Pylaeus of the race of Mars, two sons

of the Pelasgian Lethus, son of Teutamus.

  Acamas and the warrior Peirous commanded the Thracians and those

that came from beyond the mighty stream of the Hellespont.

  Euphemus, son of Troezenus, the son of Ceos, was captain of the

Ciconian spearsmen.

  Pyraechmes led the Paeonian archers from distant Amydon, by the

broad waters of the river Axius, the fairest that flow upon the earth.

  The Paphlagonians were commanded by stout-hearted Pylaemanes from

Enetae, where the mules run wild in herds. These were they that held

Cytorus and the country round Sesamus, with the cities by the river

Parthenius, Cromna, Aegialus, and lofty Erithini.

  Odius and Epistrophus were captains over the Halizoni from distant

Alybe, where there are mines of silver.

  Chromis, and Ennomus the augur, led the Mysians, but his skill in

augury availed not to save him from destruction, for he fell by the

hand of the fleet descendant of Aeacus in the river, where he slew

others also of the Trojans.

  Phorcys, again, and noble Ascanius led the Phrygians from the far

country of Ascania, and both were eager for the fray.

  Mesthles and Antiphus commanded the Meonians, sons of Talaemenes,

born to him of the Gygaean lake. These led the Meonians, who dwelt

under Mt. Tmolus.

  Nastes led the Carians, men of a strange speech. These held

Miletus and the wooded mountain of Phthires, with the water of the

river Maeander and the lofty crests of Mt. Mycale. These were

commanded by Nastes and Amphimachus, the brave sons of Nomion. He came

into the fight with gold about him, like a girl; fool that he was, his

gold was of no avail to save him, for he fell in the river by the hand

of the fleet descendant of Aeacus, and Achilles bore away his gold.

  Sarpedon and Glaucus led the Lycians from their distant land, by the

eddying waters of the Xanthus.

Translated by Samuel Butler


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

I aalwys say the same thing you do about the Iliad, as well as with Ulysess. I aalwys recommend it to readers in general, simply because it is a "cornerstore of literature." Not necessarily because it was awesome or anything. I actually thought they were too boring for my liking, but one can't help but appreciate a book that has managed to last through time. x x

| Posted on 2013-11-18 | by a guest

.: :.

I second the rtdmomencaeion of The Lost Books of the Odyssey! It's wonderful! It's rife with subtext!I do prefer the Odyssey to the Iliad, in a way, but I think a lot of that is because I'm #teamtrojans, and I am sad to read the Iliad where they get so tragically defeated. The Aeneid is very wonderful to me too, even though it's unfinished, because it's #teamtrojans too. Woooo!

| Posted on 2013-11-15 | by a guest

.: :.

+JMJ+ Thanks, BookQuoter and Melissa! =) After all this time, I still can't get over how effective the Iliad was in mkinag me feel that way, without my even knowing what was happening. Remember that I wasn't even thinking, "This is the greatest book in the world!" or anything remotely like it. I knew the book was important and I respected it . . . but I was reading it because I had to and knew from experience that "required reading" rarely yields spectacular results. So I'm really still amazed. And full disclosure: I ultimately didn't weed out any books from my library . . . but I think I am much more fastidious about my reading these days. I mean, new books need to be worthy to share a bookcase with the Iliad and all! ;-) x x

| Posted on 2013-11-14 | by a guest

.: :.

+JMJ+ The last time I read the Iliad from cover to cover (E.V. Rieu's translation) was about four years ago, and there's one bit of the raenidg experience I will always remember. I was in the middle of one of the big battle scenes when I decided to put the book down for a bit. The writing hadn't engrossed me, but neither had it left me bored. I remember being worried about my students having to slog through it, but I felt all right. And then, for no reason at all, I picked up another book--some modern novel I can't even remember--and found myself repelled by what seemed to be its shallowness. That had never happened to me before. The modern novel wasn't even a "bad" book or anything. And then I looked over my personal library and was saddened to see much of that shallowness reflected in the titles. =( The effect was as if I had spent a week eating hearty, healthy, but simple meals prepared from the freshest ingredients, and then suddenly had to eat some greasy fast food. It wouldn't matter that I'd had fast food before and liked it. The contrast was intense. I had to come down from a high; the Iliad is that sublime.

| Posted on 2013-11-12 | by a guest

.: :.

The Iliad is arguably one of my most favirote books (poems) of all time. I'm a bit of a collector too. I have copies of just about all of the major translations of The Iliad, with the Fagles translation probably being my favirote currently--although the renowned poet, Stephen Mitchell, has a new translation being released in mid-October that I am eagerly waiting for.I view The Iliad as one of the great anti-war statements/testaments of all time too. It really is an incredibly powerful indictment of Greek hegemony, and a beautiful elegy for Ilium (Troy) and its peoples. I also like to remember that The Iliad is really of the bardic, or oral, tradition, and was not actually transcribed until much, much later. So, in other words, for many, many generations there were itinerant poets/bards who wandered around the Mediterranean region telling portions of this great tale around village bonfires at night. Kind of like how we sit around and watch dramas on the television these days. Very cool stuff.I loved your review, Melissa, and urge you to pick up and revisit periodically. I would also highly recommend some of the great ancient Greek dramas and tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These stories are timeless, and drip with pathos, power, and emotion. Happy reading! Cheers! Chris

| Posted on 2013-11-12 | by a guest

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