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The Iliad: Book 22 Analysis

Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 6

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  Thus the Trojans in the city, scared like fawns, wiped the sweat

from off them and drank to quench their thirst, leaning against the

goodly battlements, while the Achaeans with their shields laid upon

their shoulders drew close up to the walls. But stern fate bade Hector

stay where he was before Ilius and the Scaean gates. Then Phoebus

Apollo spoke to the son of Peleus saying, "Why, son of Peleus, do you,

who are but man, give chase to me who am immortal? Have you not yet

found out that it is a god whom you pursue so furiously? You did not

harass the Trojans whom you had routed, and now they are within

their walls, while you have been decoyed hither away from them. Me you

cannot kill, for death can take no hold upon me."

  Achilles was greatly angered and said, "You have baulked me,

Far-Darter, most malicious of all gods, and have drawn me away from

the wall, where many another man would have bitten the dust ere he got

within Ilius; you have robbed me of great glory and have saved the

Trojans at no risk to yourself, for you have nothing to fear, but I

would indeed have my revenge if it were in my power to do so."

  On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the

winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is

flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs of

Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as he

scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call Orion's

Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest more brilliantly

than those of any other that shines by night; brightest of them all

though he be, he yet bodes ill for mortals, for he brings fire and

fever in his train- even so did Achilles' armour gleam on his breast

as he sped onwards. Priam raised a cry and beat his head with his

hands as he lifted them up and shouted out to his dear son,

imploring him to return; but Hector still stayed before the gates, for

his heart was set upon doing battle with Achilles. The old man reached

out his arms towards him and bade him for pity's sake come within

the walls. "Hector," he cried, "my son, stay not to face this man

alone and unsupported, or you will meet death at the hands of the

son of Peleus, for he is mightier than you. Monster that he is;

would indeed that the gods loved him no better than I do, for so, dogs

and vultures would soon devour him as he lay stretched on earth, and a

load of grief would be lifted from my heart, for many a brave son

has he reft from me, either by killing them or selling them away in

the islands that are beyond the sea: even now I miss two sons from

among the Trojans who have thronged within the city, Lycaon and

Polydorus, whom Laothoe peeress among women bore me. Should they be

still alive and in the hands of the Achaeans, we will ransom them with

gold and bronze, of which we have store, for the old man Altes endowed

his daughter richly; but if they are already dead and in the house

of Hades, sorrow will it be to us two who were their parents; albeit

the grief of others will be more short-lived unless you too perish

at the hands of Achilles. Come, then, my son, within the city, to be

the guardian of Trojan men and Trojan women, or you will both lose

your own life and afford a mighty triumph to the son of Peleus. Have

pity also on your unhappy father while life yet remains to him- on me,

whom the son of Saturn will destroy by a terrible doom on the

threshold of old age, after I have seen my sons slain and my daughters

haled away as captives, my bridal chambers pillaged, little children

dashed to earth amid the rage of battle, and my sons' wives dragged

away by the cruel hands of the Achaeans; in the end fierce hounds will

tear me in pieces at my own gates after some one has beaten the life

out of my body with sword or spear-hounds that I myself reared and fed

at my own table to guard my gates, but who will yet lap my blood and

then lie all distraught at my doors. When a young man falls by the

sword in battle, he may lie where he is and there is nothing unseemly;

let what will be seen, all is honourable in death, but when an old man

is slain there is nothing in this world more pitiable than that dogs

should defile his grey hair and beard and all that men hide for


  The old man tore his grey hair as he spoke, but he moved not the

heart of Hector. His mother hard by wept and moaned aloud as she bared

her bosom and pointed to the breast which had suckled him. "Hector,"

she cried, weeping bitterly the while, "Hector, my son, spurn not this

breast, but have pity upon me too: if I have ever given you comfort

from my own bosom, think on it now, dear son, and come within the wall

to protect us from this man; stand not without to meet him. Should the

wretch kill you, neither I nor your richly dowered wife shall ever

weep, dear offshoot of myself, over the bed on which you lie, for dogs

will devour you at the ships of the Achaeans."

  Thus did the two with many tears implore their son, but they moved

not the heart of Hector, and he stood his ground awaiting huge

Achilles as he drew nearer towards him. As serpent in its den upon the

mountains, full fed with deadly poisons, waits for the approach of

man- he is filled with fury and his eyes glare terribly as he goes

writhing round his den- even so Hector leaned his shield against a

tower that jutted out from the wall and stood where he was, undaunted.

  "Alas," said he to himself in the heaviness of his heart, "if I go

within the gates, Polydamas will be the first to heap reproach upon

me, for it was he that urged me to lead the Trojans back to the city

on that awful night when Achilles again came forth against us. I would

not listen, but it would have been indeed better if I had done so. Now

that my folly has destroyed the host, I dare not look Trojan men and

Trojan women in the face, lest a worse man should say, 'Hector has

ruined us by his self-confidence.' Surely it would be better for me to

return after having fought Achilles and slain him, or to die

gloriously here before the city. What, again, if were to lay down my

shield and helmet, lean my spear against the wall and go straight up

to noble Achilles? What if I were to promise to give up Helen, who was

the fountainhead of all this war, and all the treasure that Alexandrus

brought with him in his ships to Troy, aye, and to let the Achaeans

divide the half of everything that the city contains among themselves?

I might make the Trojans, by the mouths of their princes, take a

solemn oath that they would hide nothing, but would divide into two

shares all that is within the city- but why argue with myself in

this way? Were I to go up to him he would show me no kind of mercy; he

would kill me then and there as easily as though I were a woman,

when I had off my armour. There is no parleying with him from some

rock or oak tree as young men and maidens prattle with one another.

Better fight him at once, and learn to which of us Jove will vouchsafe


  Thus did he stand and ponder, but Achilles came up to him as it were

Mars himself, plumed lord of battle. From his right shoulder he

brandished his terrible spear of Pelian ash, and the bronze gleamed

around him like flashing fire or the rays of the rising sun. Fear fell

upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he

was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted

after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all

birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before

him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after,

resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector

with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as

his limbs could take him.

  On they flew along the waggon-road that ran hard by under the

wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild

fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river

Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it

as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as

cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here, hard by

the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone, where in the

time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the wives and fair

daughters of the Trojans used to wash their clothes. Past these did

they fly, the one in front and the other giving ha. behind him: good

was the man that fled, but better far was he that followed after,

and swiftly indeed did they run, for the prize was no mere beast for

sacrifice or bullock's hide, as it might be for a common foot-race,

but they ran for the life of Hector. As horses in a chariot race speed

round the turning-posts when they are running for some great prize-

a tripod or woman- at the games in honour of some dead hero, so did

these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam. All

the gods watched them, and the sire of gods and men was the first to


  "Alas," said he, "my eyes behold a man who is dear to me being

pursued round the walls of Troy; my heart is full of pity for

Hector, who has burned the thigh-bones of many a heifer in my

honour, at one while on the of many-valleyed Ida, and again on the

citadel of Troy; and now I see noble Achilles in full pursuit of him

round the city of Priam. What say you? Consider among yourselves and

decide whether we shall now save him or let him fall, valiant though

he be, before Achilles, son of Peleus."

  Then Minerva said, "Father, wielder of the lightning, lord of

cloud and storm, what mean you? Would you pluck this mortal whose doom

has long been decreed out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we

others shall not be of a mind with you."

  And Jove answered, "My child, Trito-born, take heart. I did not

speak in full earnest, and I will let you have your way. Do without

let or hindrance as you are minded."

  Thus did he urge Minerva who was already eager, and down she

darted from the topmost summits of Olympus.

  Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing a

fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and

hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by

crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and

follow her up until he gets her- even so there was no escape for

Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to get

near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people might

help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles would gain

on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping himself always

on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to lay hands upon

another whom he is pursuing- the one cannot escape nor the other

overtake- even so neither could Achilles come up with Hector, nor

Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he might even yet have

escaped death had not the time come when Apollo, who thus far had

sustained his strength and nerved his running, was now no longer to

stay by him. Achilles made signs to the Achaean host, and shook his

head to show that no man was to aim a dart at Hector, lest another

might win the glory of having hit him and he might himself come in

second. Then, at last, as they were nearing the fountains for the

fourth time, the father of all balanced his golden scales and placed a

doom in each of them, one for Achilles and the other for Hector. As he

held the scales by the middle, the doom of Hector fell down deep

into the house of Hades- and then Phoebus Apollo left him. Thereon

Minerva went close up to the son of Peleus and said, "Noble

Achilles, favoured of heaven, we two shall surely take back to the

ships a triumph for the Achaeans by slaying Hector, for all his lust

of battle. Do what Apollo may as he lies grovelling before his father,

aegis-bearing Jove, Hector cannot escape us longer. Stay here and take

breath, while I go up to him and persuade him to make a stand and

fight you."

  Thus spoke Minerva. Achilles obeyed her gladly, and stood still,

leaning on his bronze-pointed ashen spear, while Minerva left him

and went after Hector in the form and with the voice of Deiphobus. She

came close up to him and said, "Dear brother, I see you are hard

pressed by Achilles who is chasing you at full speed round the city of

Priam, let us await his onset and stand on our defence."

  And Hector answered, "Deiphobus, you have always been dearest to

me of all my brothers, children of Hecuba and Priam, but henceforth

I shall rate you yet more highly, inasmuch as you have ventured

outside the wall for my sake when all the others remain inside."

  Then Minerva said, "Dear brother, my father and mother went down

on their knees and implored me, as did all my comrades, to remain

inside, so great a fear has fallen upon them all; but I was in an

agony of grief when I beheld you; now, therefore, let us two make a

stand and fight, and let there be no keeping our spears in reserve,

that we may learn whether Achilles shall kill us and bear off our

spoils to the ships, or whether he shall fall before you."

  Thus did Minerva inveigle him by her cunning, and when the two

were now close to one another great Hector was first to speak. "I

will-no longer fly you, son of Peleus," said he, "as I have been doing

hitherto. Three times have I fled round the mighty city of Priam,

without daring to withstand you, but now, let me either slay or be

slain, for I am in the mind to face you. Let us, then, give pledges to

one another by our gods, who are the fittest witnesses and guardians

of all covenants; let it be agreed between us that if Jove

vouchsafes me the longer stay and I take your life, I am not to

treat your dead body in any unseemly fashion, but when I have stripped

you of your armour, I am to give up your body to the Achaeans. And

do you likewise."

  Achilles glared at him and answered, "Fool, prate not to me about

covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and

lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an

through. Therefore there can be no understanding between you and me,

nor may there be any covenants between us, till one or other shall

fall and glut grim Mars with his life's blood. Put forth all your

strength; you have need now to prove yourself indeed a bold soldier

and man of war. You have no more chance, and Pallas Minerva will

forthwith vanquish you by my spear: you shall now pay me in full for

the grief you have caused me on account of my comrades whom you have

killed in battle."

  He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. Hector saw it

coming and avoided it; he watched it and crouched down so that it flew

over his head and stuck in the ground beyond; Minerva then snatched it

up and gave it back to Achilles without Hector's seeing her; Hector

thereon said to the son of Peleus, "You have missed your aim,

Achilles, peer of the gods, and Jove has not yet revealed to you the

hour of my doom, though you made sure that he had done so. You were

a false-tongued liar when you deemed that I should forget my valour

and quail before you. You shall not drive spear into the back of a

runaway- drive it, should heaven so grant you power, drive it into

me as I make straight towards you; and now for your own part avoid

my spear if you can- would that you might receive the whole of it into

your body; if you were once dead the Trojans would find the war an

easier matter, for it is you who have harmed them most."

  He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. His aim was true

for he hit the middle of Achilles' shield, but the spear rebounded

from it, and did not pierce it. Hector was angry when he saw that

the weapon had sped from his hand in vain, and stood there in dismay

for he had no second spear. With a loud cry he called Diphobus and

asked him for one, but there was no man; then he saw the truth and

said to himself, "Alas! the gods have lured me on to my destruction. I

deemed that the hero Deiphobus was by my side, but he is within the

wall, and Minerva has inveigled me; death is now indeed exceedingly

near at hand and there is no way out of it- for so Jove and his son

Apollo the far-darter have willed it, though heretofore they have been

ever ready to protect me. My doom has come upon me; let me not then

die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some

great thing that shall be told among men hereafter."

  As he spoke he drew the keen blade that hung so great and strong

by his side, and gathering himself together be sprang on Achilles like

a soaring eagle which swoops down from the clouds on to some lamb or

timid hare- even so did Hector brandish his sword and spring upon

Achilles. Achilles mad with rage darted towards him, with his wondrous

shield before his breast, and his gleaming helmet, made with four

layers of metal, nodding fiercely forward. The thick tresses of gold

wi which Vulcan had crested the helmet floated round it, and as the

evening star that shines brighter than all others through the

stillness of night, even such was the gleam of the spear which

Achilles poised in his right hand, fraught with the death of noble

Hector. He eyed his fair flesh over and over to see where he could

best wound it, but all was protected by the goodly armour of which

Hector had spoiled Patroclus after he had slain him, save only the

throat where the collar-bones divide the neck from the shoulders,

and this is a most deadly place: here then did Achilles strike him

as he was coming on towards him, and the point of his spear went right

through the fleshy part of the neck, but it did not sever his windpipe

so that he could still speak. Hector fell headlong, and Achilles

vaunted over him saying, "Hector, you deemed that you should come

off scatheless when you were spoiling Patroclus, and recked not of

myself who was not with him. Fool that you were: for I, his comrade,

mightier far than he, was still left behind him at the ships, and

now I have laid you low. The Achaeans shall give him all due funeral

rites, while dogs and vultures shall work their will upon yourself."

  Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, "I pray you by

your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at

the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and

bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body

home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire

when I am dead."

  Achilles glared at him and answered, "Dog, talk not to me neither of

knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to

cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me,

as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be,

though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on

the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of

Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your

mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she

bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up."

  Hector with his dying breath then said, "I know you what you are,

and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as

iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on the day

when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you

at the Scaean gates."

  When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his

soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades, lamenting

its sad fate that it should en' youth and strength no longer. But

Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, "Die; for my part I will

accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods see fit to send it."

  As he spoke he drew his spear from the body and set it on one

side; then he stripped the blood-stained armour from Hector's

shoulders while the other Achaeans came running up to view his

wondrous strength and beauty; and no one came near him without

giving him a fresh wound. Then would one turn to his neighbour and

say, "It is easier to handle Hector now than when he was flinging fire

on to our ships" and as he spoke he would thrust his spear into him


  When Achilles had done spoiling Hector of his armour, he stood among

the Argives and said, "My friends, princes and counsellors of the

Argives, now that heaven has vouchsafed us to overcome this man, who

has done us more hurt than all the others together, consider whether

we should not attack the city in force, and discover in what mind

the Trojans may be. We should thus learn whether they will desert

their city now that Hector has fallen, or will still hold out even

though he is no longer living. But why argue with myself in this

way, while Patroclus is still lying at the ships unburied, and

unmourned- he Whom I can never forget so long as I am alive and my

strength fails not? Though men forget their dead when once they are

within the house of Hades, yet not even there will I forget the

comrade whom I have lost. Now, therefore, Achaean youths, let us raise

the song of victory and go back to the ships taking this man along

with us; for we have achieved a mighty triumph and have slain noble

Hector to whom the Trojans prayed throughout their city as though he

were a god."

  On this he treated the body of Hector with contumely: he pierced the

sinews at the back of both his feet from heel to ancle and passed

thongs of ox-hide through the slits he had made: thus he made the body

fast to his chariot, letting the head trail upon the ground. Then when

he had put the goodly armour on the chariot and had himself mounted,

he lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing loth. The dust

rose from Hector as he was being dragged along, his dark hair flew all

abroad, and his head once so comely was laid low on earth, for Jove

had now delivered him into the hands of his foes to do him outrage

in his own land.

  Thus was the head of Hector being dishonoured in the dust. His

mother tore her hair, and flung her veil from her with a loud cry as

she looked upon her son. His father made piteous moan, and

throughout the city the people fell to weeping and wailing. It was

as though the whole of frowning Ilius was being smirched with fire.

Hardly could the people hold Priam back in his hot haste to rush

without the gates of the city. He grovelled in the mire and besought

them, calling each one of them by his name. "Let be, my friends," he

cried, "and for all your sorrow, suffer me to go single-handed to

the ships of the Achaeans. Let me beseech this cruel and terrible man,

if maybe he will respect the feeling of his fellow-men, and have

compassion on my old age. His own father is even such another as

myself- Peleus, who bred him and reared him to- be the bane of us

Trojans, and of myself more than of all others. Many a son of mine has

he slain in the flower of his youth, and yet, grieve for these as I

may, I do so for one- Hector- more than for them all, and the

bitterness of my sorrow will bring me down to the house of Hades.

Would that he had died in my arms, for so both his ill-starred

mother who bore him, and myself, should have had the comfort of

weeping and mourning over him."

  Thus did he speak with many tears, and all the people of the city

joined in his lament. Hecuba then raised the cry of wailing among

the Trojans. "Alas, my son," she cried, "what have I left to live

for now that you are no more? Night and day did I glory in. you

throughout the city, for you were a tower of strength to all in

Troy, and both men and women alike hailed you as a god. So long as you

lived you were their pride, but now death and destruction have

fallen upon you."

  Hector's wife had as yet heard nothing, for no one had come to

tell her that her husband had remained without the gates. She was at

her loom in an inner part of the house, weaving a double purple web,

and embroidering it with many flowers. She told her maids to set a

large tripod on the fire, so as to have a warm bath ready for Hector

when he came out of battle; poor woman, she knew not that he was now

beyond the reach of baths, and that Minerva had laid him low by the

hands of Achilles. She heard the cry coming as from the wall, and

trembled in every limb; the shuttle fell from her hands, and again she

spoke to her waiting-women. "Two of you," she said, "come with me that

I may learn what it is that has befallen; I heard the voice of my

husband's honoured mother; my own heart beats as though it would

come into my mouth and my limbs refuse to carry me; some great

misfortune for Priam's children must be at hand. May I never live to

hear it, but I greatly fear that Achilles has cut off the retreat of

brave Hector and has chased him on to the plain where he was

singlehanded; I fear he may have put an end to the reckless daring

which possessed my husband, who would never remain with the body of

his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in


  Her heart beat fast, and as she spoke she flew from the house like a

maniac, with her waiting-women following after. When she reached the

battlements and the crowd of people, she stood looking out upon the

wall, and saw Hector being borne away in front of the city- the horses

dragging him without heed or care over the ground towards the ships of

the Achaeans. Her eyes were then shrouded as with the darkness of

night and she fell fainting backwards. She tore the tiring from her

head and flung it from her, the frontlet and net with its plaited

band, and the veil which golden Venus had given her on the day when

Hector took her with him from the house of Eetion, after having

given countless gifts of wooing for her sake. Her husband's sisters

and the wives of his brothers crowded round her and supported her, for

she was fain to die in her distraction; when she again presently

breathed and came to herself, she sobbed and made lament among the

Trojans saying, 'Woe is me, O Hector; woe, indeed, that to share a

common lot we were born, you at Troy in the house of Priam, and I at

Thebes under the wooded mountain of Placus in the house of Eetion

who brought me up when I was a child- ill-starred sire of an

ill-starred daughter- would that he had never begotten me. You are now

going into the house of Hades under the secret places of the earth,

and you leave me a sorrowing widow in your house. The child, of whom

you and I are the unhappy parents, is as yet a mere infant. Now that

you are gone, O Hector, you can do nothing for him nor he for you.

Even though he escape the horrors of this woful war with the Achaeans,

yet shall his life henceforth be one of labour and sorrow, for

others will seize his lands. The day that robs a child of his

parents severs him from his own kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks

are wet with tears, and he will go about destitute among the friends

of his father, plucking one by the cloak and another by the shirt.

Some one or other of these may so far pity him as to hold the cup

for a moment towards him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not

drink enough to wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents

are alive will drive him from the table with blows and angry words.

'Out with you,' he will say, 'you have no father here,' and the

child will go crying back to his widowed mother- he, Astyanax, who

erewhile would sit upon his father's knees, and have none but the

daintiest and choicest morsels set before him. When he had played till

he was tired and went to sleep, he would lie in a bed, in the arms

of his nurse, on a soft couch, knowing neither want nor care,

whereas now that he has lost his father his lot will be full of

hardship- he, whom the Trojans name Astyanax, because you, O Hector,

were the only defence of their gates and battlements. The wriggling

writhing worms will now eat you at the ships, far from your parents,

when the dogs have glutted themselves upon you. You will lie naked,

although in your house you have fine and goodly raiment made by

hands of women. This will I now burn; it is of no use to you, for

you can never again wear it, and thus you will have respect shown

you by the Trojans both men and women."

  In such wise did she cry aloud amid her tears, and the women

joined in her lament.

Translated by Samuel Butler


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Poetry 102
Poetry 217
Poetry 145
Poetry 162
Poetry 44
Poetry 127
Poetry 208
Poetry 167
Poetry 157
Poetry 25
Poetry 11
Poetry 184
Poetry 215
Poetry 42
Poetry 156
Poetry 68
Poetry 100