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The Iliad: Book 15 Analysis

Author: poem of Homer Type: poem Views: 1

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  But when their flight had taken them past the trench and the set

stakes, and many had fallen by the hands of the Danaans, the Trojans

made a halt on reaching their chariots, routed and pale with fear.

Jove now woke on the crests of Ida, where he was lying with

golden-throned Juno by his side, and starting to his feet he saw the

Trojans and Achaeans, the one thrown into confusion, and the others

driving them pell-mell before them with King Neptune in their midst.

He saw Hector lying on the ground with his comrades gathered round

him, gasping for breath, wandering in mind and vomiting blood, for

it was not the feeblest of the Achaeans who struck him.

  The sire of gods and men had pity on him, and looked fiercely on

Juno. "I see, Juno," said he, "you mischief- making trickster, that

your cunning has stayed Hector from fighting and has caused the rout

of his host. I am in half a mind to thrash you, in which case you will

be the first to reap the fruits of your scurvy knavery. Do you not

remember how once upon a time I had you hanged? I fastened two

anvils on to your feet, and bound your hands in a chain of gold

which none might break, and you hung in mid-air among the clouds.

All the gods in Olympus were in a fury, but they could not reach you

to set you free; when I caught any one of them I gripped him and

hurled him from the heavenly threshold till he came fainting down to

earth; yet even this did not relieve my mind from the incessant

anxiety which I felt about noble Hercules whom you and Boreas had

spitefully conveyed beyond the seas to Cos, after suborning the

tempests; but I rescued him, and notwithstanding all his mighty

labours I brought him back again to Argos. I would remind you of

this that you may learn to leave off being so deceitful, and

discover how much you are likely to gain by the embraces out of

which you have come here to trick me."

  Juno trembled as he spoke, and said, "May heaven above and earth

below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx- and this

is the most solemn oath that a blessed god can take- nay, I swear also

by your own almighty head and by our bridal bed- things over which I

could never possibly perjure myself- that Neptune is not punishing

Hector and the Trojans and helping the Achaeans through any doing of

mine; it is all of his own mere motion because he was sorry to see the

Achaeans hard pressed at their ships: if I were advising him, I should

tell him to do as you bid him."

  The sire of gods and men smiled and answered, "If you, Juno, were

always to support me when we sit in council of the gods, Neptune, like

it or no, would soon come round to your and my way of thinking. If,

then, you are speaking the truth and mean what you say, go among the

rank and file of the gods, and tell Iris and Apollo lord of the bow,

that I want them- Iris, that she may go to the Achaean host and tell

Neptune to leave off fighting and go home, and Apollo, that he may

send Hector again into battle and give him fresh strength; he will

thus forget his present sufferings, and drive the Achaeans back in

confusion till they fall among the ships of Achilles son of Peleus.

Achilles will then send his comrade Patroclus into battle, and

Hector will kill him in front of Ilius after he has slain many

warriors, and among them my own noble son Sarpedon. Achilles will kill

Hector to avenge Patroclus, and from that time I will bring it about

that the Achaeans shall persistently drive the Trojans back till

they fulfil the counsels of Minerva and take Ilius. But I will not

stay my anger, nor permit any god to help the Danaans till I have

accomplished the desire of the son of Peleus, according to the promise

I made by bowing my head on the day when Thetis touched my knees and

besought me to give him honour."

  Juno heeded his words and went from the heights of Ida to great

Olympus. Swift as the thought of one whose fancy carries him over vast

continents, and he says to himself, "Now I will be here, or there,"

and he would have all manner of things- even so swiftly did Juno

wing her way till she came to high Olympus and went in among the

gods who were gathered in the house of Jove. When they saw her they

all of them came up to her, and held out their cups to her by way of

greeting. She let the others be, but took the cup offered her by

lovely Themis, who was first to come running up to her. "Juno," said

she, "why are you here? And you seem troubled- has your husband the

son of Saturn been frightening you?"

  And Juno answered, "Themis, do not ask me about it. You know what

a proud and cruel disposition my husband has. Lead the gods to

table, where you and all the immortals can hear the wicked designs

which he has avowed. Many a one, mortal and immortal, will be

angered by them, however peaceably he may be feasting now."

  On this Juno sat down, and the gods were troubled throughout the

house of Jove. Laughter sat on her lips but her brow was furrowed with

care, and she spoke up in a rage. "Fools that we are," she cried,

"to be thus madly angry with Jove; we keep on wanting to go up to

him and stay him by force or by persuasion, but he sits aloof and

cares for nobody, for he knows that he is much stronger than any other

of the immortals. Make the best, therefore, of whatever ills he may

choose to send each one of you; Mars, I take it, has had a taste of

them already, for his son Ascalaphus has fallen in battle- the man

whom of all others he loved most dearly and whose father he owns

himself to be."

  When he heard this Mars smote his two sturdy thighs with the flat of

his hands, and said in anger, "Do not blame me, you gods that dwell in

heaven, if I go to the ships of the Achaeans and avenge the death of

my son, even though it end in my being struck by Jove's lightning

and lying in blood and dust among the corpses."

  As he spoke he gave orders to yoke his horses Panic and Rout,

while he put on his armour. On this, Jove would have been roused to

still more fierce and implacable enmity against the other immortals,

had not Minerva, ararmed for the safety of the gods, sprung from her

seat and hurried outside. She tore the helmet from his head and the

shield from his shoulders, and she took the bronze spear from his

strong hand and set it on one side; then she said to Mars, "Madman,

you are undone; you have ears that hear not, or you have lost all

judgement and understanding; have you not heard what Juno has said

on coming straight from the presence of Olympian Jove? Do you wish

to go through all kinds of suffering before you are brought back

sick and sorry to Olympus, after having caused infinite mischief to

all us others? Jove would instantly leave the Trojans and Achaeans

to themselves; he would come to Olympus to punish us, and would grip

us up one after another, guilty or not guilty. Therefore lay aside

your anger for the death of your son; better men than he have either

been killed already or will fall hereafter, and one cannot protect

every one's whole family."

  With these words she took Mars back to his seat. Meanwhile Juno

called Apollo outside, with Iris the messenger of the gods. "Jove,"

she said to them, "desires you to go to him at once on Mt. Ida; when

you have seen him you are to do as he may then bid you."

  Thereon Juno left them and resumed her seat inside, while Iris and

Apollo made all haste on their way. When they reached

many-fountained Ida, mother of wild beasts, they found Jove seated

on topmost Gargarus with a fragrant cloud encircling his head as

with a diadem. They stood before his presence, and he was pleased with

them for having been so quick in obeying the orders his wife had given


  He spoke to Iris first. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, tell King

Neptune what I now bid you- and tell him true. Bid him leave off

fighting, and either join the company of the gods, or go down into the

sea. If he takes no heed and disobeys me, let him consider well

whether he is strong enough to hold his own against me if I attack

him. I am older and much stronger than he is; yet he is not afraid

to set himself up as on a level with myself, of whom all the other

gods stand in awe."

  Iris, fleet as the wind, obeyed him, and as the cold hail or

snowflakes that fly from out the clouds before the blast of Boreas,

even so did she wing her way till she came close up to the great

shaker of the earth. Then she said, "I have come, O dark-haired king

that holds the world in his embrace, to bring you a message from Jove.

He bids you leave off fighting, and either join the company of the

gods or go down into the sea; if, however, you take no heed and

disobey him, he says he will come down here and fight you. He would

have you keep out of his reach, for he is older and much stronger than

you are, and yet you are not afraid to set yourself up as on a level

with himself, of whom all the other gods stand in awe."

  Neptune was very angry and said, "Great heavens! strong as Jove

may be, he has said more than he can do if he has threatened

violence against me, who am of like honour with himself. We were three

brothers whom Rhea bore to Saturn- Jove, myself, and Hades who rules

the world below. Heaven and earth were divided into three parts, and

each of us was to have an equal share. When we cast lots, it fell to

me to have my dwelling in the sea for evermore; Hades took the

darkness of the realms under the earth, while air and sky and clouds

were the portion that fell to Jove; but earth and great Olympus are

the common property of all. Therefore I will not walk as Jove would

have me. For all his strength, let him keep to his own third share and

be contented without threatening to lay hands upon me as though I were

nobody. Let him keep his bragging talk for his own sons and daughters,

who must perforce obey him.

  Iris fleet as the wind then answered, "Am I really, Neptune, to take

this daring and unyielding message to Jove, or will you reconsider

your answer? Sensible people are open to argument, and you know that

the Erinyes always range themselves on the side of the older person."

  Neptune answered, "Goddess Iris, your words have been spoken in

season. It is well when a messenger shows so much discretion.

Nevertheless it cuts me to the very heart that any one should rebuke

so angrily another who is his own peer, and of like empire with

himself. Now, however, I will give way in spite of my displeasure;

furthermore let me tell you, and I mean what I say- if contrary to the

desire of myself, Minerva driver of the spoil, Juno, Mercury, and King

Vulcan, Jove spares steep Ilius, and will not let the Achaeans have

the great triumph of sacking it, let him understand that he will incur

our implacable resentment."

  Neptune now left the field to go down under the sea, and sorely

did the Achaeans miss him. Then Jove said to Apollo, "Go, dear

Phoebus, to Hector, for Neptune who holds the earth in his embrace has

now gone down under the sea to avoid the severity of my displeasure.

Had he not done so those gods who are below with Saturn would have

come to hear of the fight between us. It is better for both of us that

he should have curbed his anger and kept out of my reach, for I should

have had much trouble with him. Take, then, your tasselled aegis,

and shake it furiously, so as to set the Achaean heroes in a panic;

take, moreover, brave Hector, O Far-Darter, into your own care, and

rouse him to deeds of daring, till the Achaeans are sent flying back

to their ships and to the Hellespont. From that point I will think

it well over, how the Achaeans may have a respite from their


  Apollo obeyed his father's saying, and left the crests of Ida,

flying like a falcon, bane of doves and swiftest of all birds. He

found Hector no longer lying upon the ground, but sitting up, for he

had just come to himself again. He knew those who were about him,

and the sweat and hard breathing had left him from the moment when the

will of aegis-bearing Jove had revived him. Apollo stood beside him

and said, "Hector, son of Priam, why are you so faint, and why are you

here away from the others? Has any mishap befallen you?"

  Hector in a weak voice answered, "And which, kind sir, of the gods

are you, who now ask me thus? Do you not know that Ajax struck me on

the chest with a stone as I was killing his comrades at the ships of

the Achaeans, and compelled me to leave off fighting? I made sure that

this very day I should breathe my last and go down into the house of


  Then King Apollo said to him, "Take heart; the son of Saturn has

sent you a mighty helper from Ida to stand by you and defend you, even

me, Phoebus Apollo of the golden sword, who have been guardian

hitherto not only of yourself but of your city. Now, therefore,

order your horsemen to drive their chariots to the ships in great

multitudes. I will go before your horses to smooth the way for them,

and will turn the Achaeans in flight."

  As he spoke he infused great strength into the shepherd of his

people. And as a horse, stabled and full-fed, breaks loose and gallops

gloriously over the plain to the place where he is wont to take his

bath in the river- he tosses his head, and his mane streams over his

shoulders as in all the pride of his strength he flies full speed to

the pastures where the mares are feeding- even so Hector, when he

heard what the god said, urged his horsemen on, and sped forward as

fast as his limbs could take him. As country peasants set their hounds

on to a homed stag or wild goat- he has taken shelter under rock or

thicket, and they cannot find him, but, lo, a bearded lion whom

their shouts have roused stands in their path, and they are in no

further humour for the chase- even so the Achaeans were still charging

on in a body, using their swords and spears pointed at both ends,

but when they saw Hector going about among his men they were afraid,

and their hearts fell down into their feet.

  Then spoke Thoas son of Andraemon, leader of the Aetolians, a man

who could throw a good throw, and who was staunch also in close fight,

while few could surpass him in debate when opinions were divided. He

then with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "What, in

heaven's name, do I now see? Is it not Hector come to life again?

Every one made sure he had been killed by Ajax son of Telamon, but

it seems that one of the gods has again rescued him. He has killed

many of us Danaans already, and I take it will yet do so, for the hand

of Jove must be with him or he would never dare show himself so

masterful in the forefront of the battle. Now, therefore, let us all

do as I say; let us order the main body of our forces to fall back

upon the ships, but let those of us who profess to be the flower of

the army stand firm, and see whether we cannot hold Hector back at the

point of our spears as soon as he comes near us; I conceive that he

will then think better of it before he tries to charge into the

press of the Danaans."

  Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. Those who

were about Ajax and King Idomeneus, the followers moreover of

Teucer, Meriones, and Meges peer of Mars called all their best men

about them and sustained the fight against Hector and the Trojans, but

the main body fell back upon the ships of the Achaeans.

  The Trojans pressed forward in a dense body, with Hector striding on

at their head. Before him went Phoebus Apollo shrouded in cloud

about his shoulders. He bore aloft the terrible aegis with its

shaggy fringe, which Vulcan the smith had given Jove to strike

terror into the hearts of men. With this in his hand he led on the


  The Argives held together and stood their ground. The cry of

battle rose high from either side, and the arrows flew from the

bowstrings. Many a spear sped from strong hands and fastened in the

bodies of many a valiant warrior, while others fell to earth midway,

before they could taste of man's fair flesh and glut themselves with

blood. So long as Phoebus Apollo held his aegis quietly and without

shaking it, the weapons on either side took effect and the people

fell, but when he shook it straight in the face of the Danaans and

raised his mighty battle-cry their hearts fainted within them and they

forgot their former prowess. As when two wild beasts spring in the

dead of night on a herd of cattle or a large flock of sheep when the

herdsman is not there- even so were the Danaans struck helpless, for

Apollo filled them with panic and gave victory to Hector and the


  The fight then became more scattered and they killed one another

where they best could. Hector killed Stichius and Arcesilaus, the one,

leader of the Boeotians, and the other, friend and comrade of

Menestheus. Aeneas killed Medon and Iasus. The first was bastard son

to Oileus, and brother to Ajax, but he lived in Phylace away from

his own country, for he had killed a man, a kinsman of his

stepmother Eriopis whom Oileus had married. Iasus had become a

leader of the Athenians, and was son of Sphelus the son of Boucolos.

Polydamas killed Mecisteus, and Polites Echius, in the front of the

battle, while Agenor slew Clonius. Paris struck Deiochus from behind

in the lower part of the shoulder, as he was flying among the

foremost, and the point of the spear went clean through him.

  While they were spoiling these heroes of their armour, the

Achaeans were flying pellmell to the trench and the set stakes, and

were forced back within their wall. Hector then cried out to the

Trojans, "Forward to the ships, and let the spoils be. If I see any

man keeping back on the other side the wall away from the ships I will

have him killed: his kinsmen and kinswomen shall not give him his dues

of fire, but dogs shall tear him in pieces in front of our city."

  As he spoke he laid his whip about his horses' shoulders and

called to the Trojans throughout their ranks; the Trojans shouted with

a cry that rent the air, and kept their horses neck and neck with

his own. Phoebus Apollo went before, and kicked down the banks of

the deep trench into its middle so as to make a great broad bridge, as

broad as the throw of a spear when a man is trying his strength. The

Trojan battalions poured over the bridge, and Apollo with his

redoubtable aegis led the way. He kicked down the wall of the Achaeans

as easily as a child who playing on the sea-shore has built a house of

sand and then kicks it down again and destroys it- even so did you,

O Apollo, shed toil and trouble upon the Argives, filling them with

panic and confusion.

  Thus then were the Achaeans hemmed in at their ships, calling out to

one another and raising their hands with loud cries every man to

heaven. Nestor of Gerene, tower of strength to the Achaeans, lifted up

his hands to the starry firmament of heaven, and prayed more fervently

than any of them. "Father Jove," said he, "if ever any one in

wheat-growing Argos burned you fat thigh-bones of sheep or heifer

and prayed that he might return safely home, whereon you bowed your

head to him in assent, bear it in mind now, and suffer not the Trojans

to triumph thus over the Achaeans."

  All counselling Jove thundered loudly in answer to die prayer of the

aged son of Neleus. When the heard Jove thunder they flung

themselves yet more fiercely on the Achaeans. As a wave breaking

over the bulwarks of a ship when the sea runs high before a gale-

for it is the force of the wind that makes the waves so great- even so

did the Trojans spring over the wall with a shout, and drive their

chariots onwards. The two sides fought with their double-pointed

spears in hand-to-hand encounter-the Trojans from their chariots,

and the Achaeans climbing up into their ships and wielding the long

pikes that were lying on the decks ready for use in a sea-fight,

jointed and shod with bronze.

  Now Patroclus, so long as the Achaeans and Trojans were fighting

about the wall, but were not yet within it and at the ships,

remained sitting in the tent of good Eurypylus, entertaining him

with his conversation and spreading herbs over his wound to ease his

pain. When, however, he saw the Trojans swarming through the breach in

the wall, while the Achaeans were clamouring and struck with panic, he

cried aloud, and smote his two thighs with the flat of his hands.

"Eurypylus," said he in his dismay, "I know you want me badly, but I

cannot stay with you any longer, for there is hard fighting going

on; a servant shall take care of you now, for I must make all speed to

Achilles, and induce him to fight if I can; who knows but with

heaven's help I may persuade him. A man does well to listen to the

advice of a friend."

  When he had thus spoken he went his way. The Achaeans stood firm and

resisted the attack of the Trojans, yet though these were fewer in

number, they could not drive them back from the ships, neither could

the Trojans break the Achaean ranks and make their way in among the

tents and ships. As a carpenter's line gives a true edge to a piece of

ship's timber, in the hand of some skilled workman whom Minerva has

instructed in all kinds of useful arts- even so level was the issue of

the fight between the two sides, as they fought some round one and

some round another.

  Hector made straight for Ajax, and the two fought fiercely about the

same ship. Hector could not force Ajax back and fire the ship, nor yet

could Ajax drive Hector from the spot to which heaven had brought him.

  Then Ajax struck Caletor son of Clytius in the chest with a spear as

he was bringing fire towards the ship. He fell heavily to the ground

and the torch dropped from his hand. When Hector saw his cousin fallen

in front of the ship he shouted to the Trojans and Lycians saying,

"Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanians good in close fight, bate not a jot,

but rescue the son of Clytius lest the Achaeans strip him of his

armour now that he has fallen."

  He then aimed a spear at Ajax, and missed him, but he hit

Lycophron a follower of Ajax, who came from Cythera, but was living

with Ajax inasmuch as he had killed a man among the Cythereans.

Hector's spear struck him on the head below the ear, and he fell

headlong from the ship's prow on to the ground with no life left in

him. Ajax shook with rage and said to his brother, "Teucer, my good

fellow, our trusty comrade the son of Mastor has fallen, he came to

live with us from Cythera and whom we honoured as much as our own

parents. Hector has just killed him; fetch your deadly arrows at

once and the bow which Phoebus Apollo gave you."

  Teucer heard him and hastened towards him with his bow and quiver in

his hands. Forthwith he showered his arrows on the Trojans, and hit

Cleitus the son of Pisenor, comrade of Polydamas the noble son of

Panthous, with the reins in his hands as he was attending to his

horses; he was in the middle of the very thickest part of the fight,

doing good service to Hector and the Trojans, but evil had now come

upon him, and not one of those who were fain to do so could avert

it, for the arrow struck him on the back of the neck. He fell from his

chariot and his horses shook the empty car as they swerved aside. King

Polydamas saw what had happened, and was the first to come up to the

horses; he gave them in charge to Astynous son of Protiaon, and

ordered him to look on, and to keep the horses near at hand. He then

went back and took his place in the front ranks.

  Teucer then aimed another arrow at Hector, and there would have been

no more fighting at the ships if he had hit him and killed him then

and there: Jove, however, who kept watch over Hector, had his eyes

on Teucer, and deprived him of his triumph, by breaking his

bowstring for him just as he was drawing it and about to take his aim;

on this the arrow went astray and the bow fell from his hands.

Teucer shook with anger and said to his brother, "Alas, see how heaven

thwarts us in all we do; it has broken my bowstring and snatched the

bow from my hand, though I strung it this selfsame morning that it

might serve me for many an arrow."

  Ajax son of Telamon answered, "My good fellow, let your bow and your

arrows be, for Jove has made them useless in order to spite the

Danaans. Take your spear, lay your shield upon your shoulder, and both

fight the Trojans yourself and urge others to do so. They may be

successful for the moment but if we fight as we ought they will find

it a hard matter to take the ships."

  Teucer then took his bow and put it by in his tent. He hung a shield

four hides thick about his shoulders, and on his comely head he set

his helmet well wrought with a crest of horse-hair that nodded

menacingly above it; he grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod spear, and

forthwith he was by the side of Ajax.

  When Hector saw that Teucer's bow was of no more use to him, he

shouted out to the Trojans and Lycians, "Trojans, Lycians, and

Dardanians good in close fight, be men, my friends, and show your

mettle here at the ships, for I see the weapon of one of their

chieftains made useless by the hand of Jove. It is easy to see when

Jove is helping people and means to help them still further, or

again when he is bringing them down and will do nothing for them; he

is now on our side, and is going against the Argives. Therefore

swarm round the ships and fight. If any of you is struck by spear or

sword and loses his life, let him die; he dies with honour who dies

fighting for his country; and he will leave his wife and children safe

behind him, with his house and allotment unplundered if only the

Achaeans can be driven back to their own land, they and their ships."

  With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Ajax on the

other side exhorted his comrades saying, "Shame on you Argives, we are

now utterly undone, unless we can save ourselves by driving the

enemy from our ships. Do you think, if Hector takes them, that you

will be able to get home by land? Can you not hear him cheering on his

whole host to fire our fleet, and bidding them remember that they

are not at a dance but in battle? Our only course is to fight them

with might and main; we had better chance it, life or death, once

for all, than fight long and without issue hemmed in at our ships by

worse men than ourselves."

  With these words he put life and soul into them all. Hector then

killed Schedius son of Perimedes, leader of the Phoceans, and Ajax

killed Laodamas captain of foot soldiers and son to Antenor. Polydamas

killed Otus of Cyllene a comrade of the son of Phyleus and chief of

the proud Epeans. When Meges saw this he sprang upon him, but

Polydamas crouched down, and he missed him, for Apollo would not

suffer the son of Panthous to fall in battle; but the spear hit

Croesmus in the middle of his chest, whereon he fell heavily to the

ground, and Meges stripped him of his armour. At that moment the

valiant soldier Dolops son of Lampus sprang upon Lampus was son of

Laomedon and for his valour, while his son Dolops was versed in all

the ways of war. He then struck the middle of the son of Phyleus'

shield with his spear, setting on him at close quarters, but his

good corslet made with plates of metal saved him; Phyleus had

brought it from Ephyra and the river Selleis, where his host, King

Euphetes, had given it him to wear in battle and protect him. It now

served to save the life of his son. Then Meges struck the topmost

crest of Dolops's bronze helmet with his spear and tore away its plume

of horse-hair, so that all newly dyed with scarlet as it was it

tumbled down into the dust. While he was still fighting and

confident of victory, Menelaus came up to help Meges, and got by the

side of Dolops unperceived; he then speared him in the shoulder,

from behind, and the point, driven so furiously, went through into his

chest, whereon he fell headlong. The two then made towards him to

strip him of his armour, but Hector called on all his brothers for

help, and he especially upbraided brave Melanippus son of Hiketaon,

who erewhile used to pasture his herds of cattle in Percote before the

war broke out; but when the ships of the Danaans came, he went back to

Ilius, where he was eminent among the Trojans, and lived near Priam

who treated him as one of his own sons. Hector now rebuked him and

said, "Why, Melanippus, are we thus remiss? do you take no note of the

death of your kinsman, and do you not see how they are trying to

take Dolops's armour? Follow me; there must be no fighting the Argives

from a distance now, but we must do so in close combat till either

we kill them or they take the high wall of Ilius and slay her people."

  He led on as he spoke, and the hero Melanippus followed after.

Meanwhile Ajax son of Telamon was cheering on the Argives. "My

friends," he cried, "be men, and fear dishonour; quit yourselves in

battle so as to win respect from one another. Men who respect each

other's good opinion are less likely to be killed than those who do

not, but in flight there is neither gain nor glory."

  Thus did he exhort men who were already bent upon driving back the

Trojans. They laid his words to heart and hedged the ships as with a

wall of bronze, while Jove urged on the Trojans. Menelaus of the

loud battle-cry urged Antilochus on. "Antilochus," said he, "you are

young and there is none of the Achaeans more fleet of foot or more

valiant than you are. See if you cannot spring upon some Trojan and

kill him."

  He hurried away when he had thus spurred Antilochus, who at once

darted out from the front ranks and aimed a spear, after looking

carefully round him. The Trojans fell back as he threw, and the dart

did not speed from his hand without effect, for it struck Melanippus

the proud son of Hiketaon in the breast by the nipple as he was coming

forward, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily

to the ground. Antilochus sprang upon him as a dog springs on a fawn

which a hunter has hit as it was breaking away from its covert, and

killed it. Even so, O Melanippus, did stalwart Antilochus spring

upon you to strip you of your armour; but noble Hector marked him, and

came running up to him through the thick of the battle. Antilochus,

brave soldier though he was, would not stay to face him, but fled like

some savage creature which knows it has done wrong, and flies, when it

has killed a dog or a man who is herding his cattle, before a body

of men can be gathered to attack it. Even so did the son of Nestor

fly, and the Trojans and Hector with a cry that rent the air

showered their weapons after him; nor did he turn round and stay his

flight till he had reached his comrades.

  The Trojans, fierce as lions, were still rushing on towards the

ships in fulfilment of the behests of Jove who kept spurring them on

to new deeds of daring, while he deadened the courage of the Argives

and defeated them by encouraging the Trojans. For he meant giving

glory to Hector son of Priam, and letting him throw fire upon the

ships, till he had fulfilled the unrighteous prayer that Thetis had

made him; Jove, therefore, bided his time till he should see the glare

of a blazing ship. From that hour he was about so to order that the

Trojans should be driven back from the ships and to vouchsafe glory to

the Achaeans. With this purpose he inspired Hector son of Priam, who

was cager enough already, to assail the ships. His fury was as that of

Mars, or as when a fire is raging in the glades of some dense forest

upon the mountains; he foamed at the mouth, his eyes glared under

his terrible eye-brows, and his helmet quivered on his temples by

reason of the fury with which he fought. Jove from heaven was with

him, and though he was but one against many, vouchsafed him victory

and glory; for he was doomed to an early death, and already Pallas

Minerva was hurrying on the hour of his destruction at the hands of

the son of Peleus. Now, however, he kept trying to break the ranks

of the enemy wherever he could see them thickest, and in the goodliest

armour; but do what he might he could not break through them, for they

stood as a tower foursquare, or as some high cliff rising from the

grey sea that braves the anger of the gale, and of the waves that

thunder up against it. He fell upon them like flames of fire from

every quarter. As when a wave, raised mountain high by wind and storm,

breaks over a ship and covers it deep in foam, the fierce winds roar

against the mast, the hearts of the sailors fail them for fear, and

they are saved but by a very little from destruction- even so were the

hearts of the Achaeans fainting within them. Or as a savage lion

attacking a herd of cows while they are feeding by thousands in the

low-lying meadows by some wide-watered shore- the herdsman is at his

wit's end how to protect his herd and keeps going about now in the van

and now in the rear of his cattle, while the lion springs into the

thick of them and fastens on a cow so that they all tremble for

fear- even so were the Achaeans utterly panic-stricken by Hector and

father Jove. Nevertheless Hector only killed Periphetes of Mycenae; he

was son of Copreus who was wont to take the orders of King

Eurystheus to mighty Hercules, but the son was a far better man than

the father in every way; he was fleet of foot, a valiant warrior,

and in understanding ranked among the foremost men of Mycenae. He it

was who then afforded Hector a triumph, for as he was turning back

he stumbled against the rim of his shield which reached his feet,

and served to keep the javelins off him. He tripped against this and

fell face upward, his helmet ringing loudly about his head as he did

so. Hector saw him fall and ran up to him; he then thrust a spear into

his chest, and killed him close to his own comrades. These, for all

their sorrow, could not help him for they were themselves terribly

afraid of Hector.

  They had now reached the ships and the prows of those that had

been drawn up first were on every side of them, but the Trojans came

pouring after them. The Argives were driven back from the first row of

ships, but they made a stand by their tents without being broken up

and scattered; shame and fear restrained them. They kept shouting

incessantly to one another, and Nestor of Gerene, tower of strength to

the Achaeans, was loudest in imploring every man by his parents, and

beseeching him to stand firm.

  "Be men, my friends," he cried, "and respect one another's good

opinion. Think, all of you, on your children, your wives, your

property, and your parents whether these be alive or dead. On their

behalf though they are not here, I implore you to stand firm, and

not to turn in flight."

  With these words he put heart and soul into them all. Minerva lifted

the thick veil of darkness from their eyes, and much light fell upon

them, alike on the side of the ships and on that where the fight was

raging. They could see Hector and all his men, both those in the

rear who were taking no part in the battle, and those who were

fighting by the ships.

  Ajax could not bring himself to retreat along with the rest, but

strode from deck to deck with a great sea-pike in his hands twelve

cubits long and jointed with rings. As a man skilled in feats of

horsemanship couples four horses together and comes tearing full speed

along the public way from the country into some large town- many

both men and women marvel as they see him for he keeps all the time

changing his horse, springing from one to another without ever missing

his feet while the horses are at a gallop- even so did Ajax go

striding from one ship's deck to another, and his voice went up into

the heavens. He kept on shouting his orders to the Danaans and

exhorting them to defend their ships and tents; neither did Hector

remain within the main body of the Trojan warriors, but as a dun eagle

swoops down upon a flock of wild-fowl feeding near a river-geese, it

may be, or cranes, or long-necked swans- even so did Hector make

straight for a dark-prowed ship, rushing right towards it; for Jove

with his mighty hand impelled him forward, and roused his people to

follow him.

  And now the battle again raged furiously at the ships. You would

have thought the men were coming on fresh and unwearied, so fiercely

did they fight; and this was the mind in which they were- the Achaeans

did not believe they should escape destruction but thought

themselves doomed, while there was not a Trojan but his heart beat

high with the hope of firing the ships and putting the Achaean

heroes to the sword.

  Thus were the two sides minded. Then Hector seized the stern of

the good ship that had brought Protesilaus to Troy, but never bore him

back to his native land. Round this ship there raged a close

hand-to-hand fight between Danaans and Trojans. They did not fight

at a distance with bows and javelins, but with one mind hacked at

one another in close combat with their mighty swords and spears

pointed at both ends; they fought moreover with keen battle-axes and

with hatchets. Many a good stout blade hilted and scabbarded with

iron, fell from hand or shoulder as they fought, and the earth ran red

with blood. Hector, when he had seized the ship, would not loose his

hold but held on to its curved stern and shouted to the Trojans,

"Bring fire, and raise the battle-cry all of you with a single

voice. Now has Jove vouchsafed us a day that will pay us for all the

rest; this day we shall take the ships which came hither against

heaven's will, and which have caused us such infinite suffering

through the cowardice of our councillors, who when I would have done

battle at the ships held me back and forbade the host to follow me; if

Jove did then indeed warp our judgements, himself now commands me

and cheers me on."

  As he spoke thus the Trojans sprang yet more fiercely on the

Achaeans, and Ajax no longer held his ground, for he was overcome by

the darts that were flung at him, and made sure that he was doomed.

Therefore he left the raised deck at the stern, and stepped back on to

the seven-foot bench of the oarsmen. Here he stood on the look-out,

and with his spear held back Trojan whom he saw bringing fire to the

ships. All the time he kept on shouting at the top of his voice and

exhorting the Danaans. "My friends," he cried, "Danaan heroes,

servants of Mars, be men my friends, and fight with might and with

main. Can we hope to find helpers hereafter, or a wall to shield us

more surely than the one we have? There is no strong city within

reach, whence we may draw fresh forces to turn the scales in our

favour. We are on the plain of the armed Trojans with the sea behind

us, and far from our own country. Our salvation, therefore, is in

the might of our hands and in hard fighting."

  As he spoke he wielded his spear with still greater fury, and when

any Trojan made towards the ships with fire at Hector's bidding, he

would be on the look-out for him, and drive at him with his long

spear. Twelve men did he thus kill in hand-to-hand fight before the


Translated by Samuel Butler


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