LONG, long ago two brothers, Jasion and Dardanus, sons of Zeus and an ocean-nymph, ruled over Samothrace, an island in the Aegean Sea. Jasion, well aware that he was descended from immortals, ventured to raise his eyes to a daughter of Olympus. Overcome with impetuous passion he wooed the goddess Demeter, whereupon his father punished him for his boldness by striking him dead with a thunderbolt. Dardanus grieved so sorely for the death of his brother that he left his realm and his country and journeyed to the mainland of Asia, to the coast of Mysia, where the rivers Simois and Scamander meet before they flow into the sea, and the lofty mountain range of Ida tapers off toward the shore and merges with the plain.

The king of this region was Teucer, whose ancestors came from Crete, and the people of his country, a people of shepherds, were called Teucri after him. This king received Dardanus hospitably, gave him his daughter to wife, and a strip of land of his own. This he called Dardania, and the Teucri who settled there were called Dardanians. His son Erichthonius succeeded to the throne and begot Tros; after him the country was called the Troad and its capital Troy. Both Teucri and Dardanians were now known as Trojans. Ilos, the eldest son of King Tros, succeeded his father.

Once, when he was visiting the neighboring country of Phrygia, the king of that country asked him to take part in contests which had recently been initiated there. Ilos won in wrestling, and his prize consisted of fifty youths and fifty maidens as well as a brindled cow which the king gave him, repeating an ancient oracle to the effect that wherever the cow lay down, he was to build a citadel. Ilos followed the cow, and since she lay down near the site which had been the capital of the country ever since the days of his father Tros, and was called Troy, he set about building on this hill the solid citadel of Ilios, or Ilium, which also went by the name of Pergamum, and from this time on the entire region was called Troy, or Ilium, or Pergamum. But before beginning the work, he begged Zeus, his divine forbear, to give him a sign if the plan were pleasing to him. On the very next day he found an image of Pallas Athene, called Palladium, which had fallen from heaven and was lying in front of his house. It was three cubits in height. The feet were placed close together. In her right hand the goddess held a spear, in her left a distaff and a spindle. Now the story of this image was as follows.

Legend had it that from the day of her birth the goddess was brought up by Triton, a sea-god, who had a daughter Pallas, of the same age as Athene. The two girls were inseparable companions. Once they decided to vie with each other in play to see who was stronger. Pallas, the child of the sea-god, was just aiming her spear at her friend when Zeus, who feared for his daughter, held before her a shield covered with goatskin, the aegis. Pallas was startled by this unlooked-for sight. She looked up timidly, and at that moment Athene dealt her a fatal wound. The goddess mourned her death deeply. In memory of her beloved friend she had an image made of her, furnished it with a breastplate of the same goatskin as the shield, set the image before the statue of Zeus, and held it in high honor. And from this time on she called herself Pallas Athene. With his daughter’s consent, Zeus now cast this Palladium down from the sky into the region of Ilium, as a sign that both the stronghold and the city were to be under his and his daughter’s protection.

The son of King Ilos and Eurydice was Laomedon, a self-willed and violent man who deceived not only his fellow men but the gods as well. It was he who thought of insuring the safety of Troy, which was not fortified like the citadel, by surrounding it with a wall and thus making it a real city. At that time Apollo and Poseidon, who had rebelled against the father of gods and been thrust out of heaven, were homeless wanderers in the world below. It was the will of Zeus that they help King Laomedon build the walls of Troy, so that this city which he and his daughter Athene cherished might be safe against aggressors. Fate brought the errant gods to the environs of Troy just as the building of the walls was begun. They offered the king their assistance, asked a certain wage which he promised them, and began their period of servitude. Poseidon helped with the building itself. Under his direction the wall rose broad and beautiful, a solid defense for the city. Phoebus Apollo, in the meantime, pastured the king’s horned cattle in the winding valleys and ravines of the wooded mountains of Ida. The gods had pledged their service for the space of a year. When twelve months had passed and the wall stood complete in all its splendor, the treacherous king refused to pay them their due, and when they argued the matter and eloquent Apollo broke into bitter reproaches, he drove them off, threatening to bind the sun-god hand and foot and mutilate the ears of both. The gods left him in sullen anger and became implacably hostile to Laomedon and the entire Trojan people. Athene, too, withdrew her favor from the city which, up to this time, had been under her protection, so that, with the tacit consent of Zeus, Troy, which had just been safeguarded with a stately wall, Troy with her kings and her citizens, was abandoned to destruction by these immortals, who soon counted among their number Hera, who also turned against the city with burning hatred.


What happened to King Laomedon and his daughter Hesione has already been related elsewhere. Priam, his son, whose second wife was Hecabe or Hecuba, daughter of Dymas, king of Phrygia, succeeded to the throne. Hecuba had one son, Hector. When she was carrying her second child she had a dream which filled her with dread. She saw herself giving birth to a flaming torch which set afire the entire city of Troy and burned it to ash. In great trepidation she told this to her husband, and Priam immediately summoned Aesacus, a son of his first marriage, for he was a soothsayer whom Merops, his grandfather on his mother’s side, had taught the art of interpreting dreams. Aesacus declared that his stepmother Hecuba was about to give birth to a son who would cause disaster to his native city. He therefore counselled that the child be exposed upon birth. The queen bore a son, just as he had foretold, and regard for her country overcame her feeling of motherly love. She permitted Priam to put the newborn child into the hands of a slave, who was to take it up to Mount Ida and abandon it there. The name of the slave was Agelaus. He did as he was told, but a mother bear gave the child suck, and when, after five days, Agelaus returned to where he had left it, he found the baby lying in the moss sound and well-fed. He took him in his arms, reared him as his son on his own little strip of land, and gave the boy the name of Paris.

When, under the shepherd’s care, the king’s son had grown into a youth, he was noted both for the strength and the beauty of his body. He protected all the herdsmen of Mount Ida against the robbers roaming through those regions; for this they called him Alexander, the helper of men.

Now one day it came to pass that he found himself in a valley shaded by tall pines and broad oaks, far from his herd, which could not find the entrance to this green gorge among the mountains. As he was leaning against a tree with folded arms and gazing down at the palaces of Troy and the distant sea through a rift in the hills, he suddenly heard the footsteps of a god shaking the earth. Before he could collect himself he saw Hermes, the messenger of the gods, approaching on winged feet. In his hands he held the golden herald’s staff. Yet, marvellous as he was to behold, he was only the forerunner of a still fairer vision, for now three goddesses from Olympus touched their light feet to the grass that had never been sheared or grazed upon. The youth shuddered with awe and the hair rose on his head, but the winged messenger of the gods called to him: “Do not be afraid! The goddesses have come to you so that you may judge them. They have chosen you to decide which of them is fairest. Zeus bids you accept the office to which they have elected you. He will not deny you his aid and protection.”

So said Hermes and, rising on his wings, floated up from the narrow valley, and soon was lost from sight. But what Paris had heard gave him the courage to lift his shy gaze to the immortals who stood before him in divine majesty and loveliness, awaiting his decision. At first glance it seemed to him that each deserved to be called the most beautiful. But the longer he looked, the more he wavered, preferring now one and now the other. Gradually, however, the youngest, the most delicately fair, seemed to him more charming and desirable than the rest, and he felt as if her eyes caressed and caught him in a radiant snare.

And now the proudest of the three, she who was taller and statelier than the others, addressed the youth. “I am Hera, sister and wife of Zeus. If you accord me this golden apple which Eris, the goddess of discord, threw among the guests at the wedding feast of Peleus and Thetis, and on which are inscribed the words ‘To the Most Beautiful,’ you shall rule the richest realm on earth, even though once you were thrust from a palace and are now no more than a shepherd.”

“I am Pallas Athene, the goddess of wisdom,” said the second. Her forehead was broad and smooth, and the eyes in her grave and gracious face were of the deepest blue. “If you accord me the victory, you shall be famed as the wisest and most manly among men.”

And now the third, who up to now had spoken only with her eyes, looked at the shepherd still more earnestly and sweetly and said: “Paris, surely you will not allow yourself to be swayed by the promise of gifts which imply danger and are a most insecure pledge of success! I shall bestow on you something which cannot but bring you joy. What I shall give you, you need only love to become happy: I shall give you the most beautiful woman on earth to wife! I am Aphrodite, the goddess of love!”

When Aphrodite made this promise to Paris, the shepherd, she was wearing her girdle, which lent her irresistible loveliness. About her clung a shimmer of magic and hope before which the charms of the other goddesses paled. Dazzled by her radiance, Paris gave the goddess of love the golden apple he had received from Hera. Whereupon she and Athene angrily turned their backs and swore to revenge themselves for the wrong he had done them, upon Priam, his father, and upon Troy and all her people. From this moment on Hera, in particular, became the bitterest enemy of the Trojans. Aphrodite, however, solemnly repeated her promise and confirmed it with the oath of the gods. Then she took leave of the shepherd with a gesture both regal and tender and left him bewildered with happiness.

For some time after this, Paris continued to live on the slopes of Ida, an unknown herdsman, hoping for the fulfillment of Aphrodite’s beguiling words. But when the wishes she had roused within him were not satisfied, he married Oenone, a girl bred in that region, who—so rumor had it—was the daughter of a river-god and a nymph. In her company he spent many joyful days in the solitude of the mountain, tending his herds far from the haunts of men. At last, however, he was lured down to the city he had never entered. It was on the occasion of funeral games which King Priam arranged after the burial of one of his kinsmen. There were to be contests, and the prize was a bullock, which the king ordered fetched from his herds on Ida. Now it happened that this very bullock was one Paris had chosen for his favorite, and since he could not very well withhold it from his master, the king, he decided he would at least take part in the contests and try to win the animal back. And he did, indeed, gain the victory, even over his brothers, even over Hector, the bravest and strongest of them all. One of the sons of King Priam, Deiphobus, was so overwhelmed with rage and shame at his defeat that he rushed forward to strike down this shepherd boy. But Paris fled to the altar of Zeus, and Priam’s daughter Cassandra, on whom the gods had conferred the gift of prophecy, recognized him as her brother. In the joy of reunion his parents embraced him, forgot what the soothsayer had predicted at his birth, and accepted him as their son.

For the time being, Paris returned to his wife and his herds, but now he lived in a sumptuous house, as befitted his royal station. Soon, however, occasion arose to employ him on some of the king’s business, and without knowing it he journeyed to the prize Aphrodite had promised him.


We know that when King Priam was still a tender boy, his sister Hesione was carried off by Heracles, who had killed Laomedon, conquered Troy, and given her to his friend Telamon. Although Telamon had taken her for his lawful wife and made her queen over Salamis, neither Priam nor his house had ever become reconciled to this loss. Once, when the abduction of Hesione again came up in council, and Priam expressed deep longing for his distant sister, his son Paris rose and declared that were he but given a fleet and sent to Greece, he would, with the help of the gods, wrest his father’s sister from their enemies and return victorious, crowned with glory. He founded these high hopes on the favor of Aphrodite and told his father and his brothers what had happened while he was pasturing his cattle on the slopes of Ida.

Priam no longer doubted that Paris was under the special protection of the gods, and Deiphobus too seemed confident that if his brother appeared in battle-array, the Argives would have to return Hesione. Among Priam’s many sons was a soothsayer by the name of Helenus. He, of a sudden, broke into a flood of prophetic words, saying that if his brother Paris brought a woman home with him out of Greece, the Argives would come to Troy, raze the city to the ground, and slay the king and all his sons. This prediction caused a rift in the council. Troilus, Priam’s youngest son, who was full of vigor and the lust for action, was impatient of his brother’s forebodings, taunted him with a charge of cowardice, and exhorted the rest not to let his unfounded warnings keep them from battle. Some of the others, however, were doubtful. But Priam sided with Paris, for he was full of anxiety and longing for his sister.

The king called an assembly of the people and told them how in days gone by he had sent an embassy to Greece under the leadership of Antenor, to ask satisfaction for the rape of Hesione and bring her back to her kinsmen. Antenor’s demand had been refused scornfully, but now—so said Priam—if the people were willing, he would send his own son Paris, with a formidable host, to accomplish by force what courtesy had failed to achieve. Antenor supported this proposal by rising and giving a vivid account of the insolence he, a peaceful emissary, had suffered in Greece, and described the Argives as arrogant in peace and timid in battle. His words kindled the people to fury and with noisy acclaim they called for war. But Priam, who was a wise king, did not wish this matter lightly concluded and invited anyone who had doubts about this enterprise to rise and have his say. Thereupon Panthous, one of the elders of Troy, rose in the assembly and related what he in his youth had been told by his father Othrys, who, in turn, had learned it from an oracle. It was that if ever a prince of the line of Laomedon brought home a wife from Greece, the Trojans would be faced with utter destruction. “And so,” the elder concluded his speech, “let us not be tempted by the hope of martial glory, my friends. Let us live in peace and quiet rather than stake everything on the fortunes of war and perhaps lose everything, including our liberty.” But the people muttered discontentedly, and begged Priam not to listen to the timid words of an old man, but to do what his heart had already resolved.

Then Priam had ships built on Mount Ida, equipped them for the voyage, and sent his son Hector into Phrygia, and Paris and Deiphobus into the neighboring country of Paeonia, to enlist allied peoples for the cause of Troy. All Trojans able to bear arms prepared for war, so that soon a vast host was assembled. The king put Paris in command of it and as aids assigned to him his brother Deiphobus, Polydamas, son of Panthous, and Prince Aeneas. Then the great fleet put out to sea and steered for Cythera, the Greek island where they expected to make their first landing. On the way they met the ship of Menelaus, king of Sparta, who was bound for Pylos on a visit to wise Nestor. He was amazed at the long procession of stately ships, and the Trojans, on their part, marvelled at the beautiful vessel festively adorned, which apparently had aboard one of the foremost princes of Greece. Neither side knew the other, but each wondered where the other might be going, and thus the ships passed, skimming over the waves. The Trojan fleet landed safely on the island of Cythera. From there Paris was to go to Sparta and treat with Castor and Polydeuces, twin sons of Zeus, for the return of his father’s sister. In the event the Argive heroes refused to give up Hesione, he was to take the fleet to Salamis and carry off the princess by force.

Before embarking on this voyage to Sparta, Paris wished to make offering in a temple sacred both to Aphrodite and Artemis. In the meantime, the inhabitants of the island had reported the arrival of this magnificent fleet to Sparta, where, in the absence of Menelaus, her husband, Queen Helen was holding court alone. This daughter of Zeus and Leda, the sister of Castor and Polydeuces, was the most beautiful woman of her time. She had been abducted by Theseus when she was little more than a child, but her brothers had gone in quest of her and brought her home again. As she grew to maidenhood in the palace of her stepfather Tyndareus, king of Sparta, her beauty attracted hosts of suitors, but the king was afraid that if he chose any one of them for a son-in-law, he would make enemies of all the others. Then crafty Odysseus, king of Ithaca, gave him the wise counsel to demand from every suitor an oath that with his weapons he would defend the chosen bridegroom against anyone whose hostility the king might incur through his daughter’s marriage. Tyndareus followed this shrewd piece of advice, had all the suitors swear the oath, and then chose Menelaus, king of the Argives, son of Atreus and brother of Agamemnon, gave him his daughter to wife, and made him the ruler of his realm. Helen bore her husband a daughter, Hermione, who was a mere infant when Paris reached Greece.

When lovely Helen, whose days were dull and joyless in the absence of her husband, heard that a foreign prince in gorgeous array had arrived on the island of Cythera, she was pricked with womanly curiosity to see this stranger and his martial retinue. To satisfy this desire, she arranged a solemn offering in the temple of Artemis, on Cythera, and entered the sanctuary at the very moment Paris was completing the rites of his own sacrifice. When he saw the queen, the hands he had lifted in prayer sank to his sides, and his spirit filled with wonder, for it seemed to him that he again beheld Aphrodite, the goddess who had appeared to him when he was a shepherd on Mount Ida. Word of Helen’s beauty had come to him long ago and he had been eager to see her charms with his own eyes, but he had thought that the woman the goddess of love had promised him must be far fairer than the descriptions of Helen sounded to him. Besides, he had always had in mind a virgin, not the wife of another. But now that he beheld the queen of Sparta face to face and saw that her beauty rivalled that of Aphrodite, he suddenly knew with great clearness that this, and this only, could be the woman the goddess of love had promised him in reward for his judgment. The errand with which his father had entrusted him, the whole purpose of his journey, of his warlike array, vanished from his mind. He was convinced that he and those thousands of armed men had set out only to conquer Helen. While he stood silent, lost in the contemplation of her beauty, Helen too looked with undisguised pleasure at this handsome prince from Asia with his long curly locks and sumptuous robes of purple and gold. The image of her husband faded from her memory and in its place rose up the radiance and youth of this stranger.

But Helen tore herself away, returned to the palace in Sparta, tried to blot that fair image from her heart and rouse herself to long for Menelaus, who was still in Pylos. But soon Paris, with a select few in his train, appeared in the city of Sparta, and by stressing the importance of his mission gained entrance to the halls of the king, even though Menelaus himself was absent. The queen received him with the hospitality due to strangers and the distinction to which the sons of kings are entitled. And his skill on the lyre, the grace and sweetness of his words and his ardent love overwhelmed the unguarded heart of Helen. When Paris saw her falter in her faithfulness, he forgot the cause of his father, of his people, and, indeed, remembered nothing but Aphrodite’s beguiling promise. He assembled the armed followers who had come to Sparta with him, and tempting them with the prospect of rich plunder, won their consent to help him in the plan he had conceived. Then he stormed the palace, seized the treasures of Menelaus, and carried off beautiful Helen who, to be sure, resisted—yet followed him to his fleet not altogether against her will.

While he was crossing the Aegean, the wind died down and the hurrying ships were becalmed on a quiet sea. The waves parted at the prow of the ship which bore Paris and Helen, and age-old Nereus lifted his head wreathed in waterweeds out of the salt foam, and the drops oozed from his hair and his curling beard. The ship stood as if nailed to the surface of the sea, and the sea seemed like a wall of bronze built about the ribs of the vessel. Then Nereus called out to them in terrible prophecy: “Birds of ill omen fly before you, accursed robber! The Achaeans will come with their armies; they will snatch you from your sinful union and shatter the ancient kingdom of Priam. Alas, how many horses I behold! How many men! How many dead bodies the descendants of Dardanus will owe to you! Already Pallas is donning her helmet, her shield, and the weapons of her anger. Much blood will flow; the struggle will last for many years, and only the wrath of a hero will delay the destruction of your city. But when the appointed time is come, the firebrands of the Argives will devour the homes of Troy.”

So the old god foretold, then he sank back into the sea. Paris had listened in horror. But when a fair wind blew again and the white hand of Helen lay in his, he soon forgot the warning words he had heard. The fleet cast anchor in the harbor of the island of Cranae, and now Helen, faithless and light of heart, consented to be his. In the joy of being together, each forgot home and country. For a long time they lived royally on the treasure they had brought with them, and years passed before they set out on the voyage to Troy.


Paris, as an emissary to Sparta, had been guilty of a grave breach of the laws governing a guest and his host and the rights of peoples. His action bore instant fruit. A line of kings, powerful among the heroes of Greece, was roused to raging fury. Menelaus, king of Sparta, and his elder brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, were descended from Tantalus. They were grandsons of Pelops, sons of Atreus, men of a noble house, whose history was rich in conquest. Besides Argos and Sparta, most of the states of the Peloponnesus were subject to these two brothers, and the rulers of the rest of Greece were their allies. So when Menelaus heard the news of the rape of Helen, he left his old friend Nestor and hastened from Pylos to Mycenae, where his brother Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, Helen’s stepsister, were king and queen. Agamemnon shared his brother’s grief and anger, but spoke words of comfort to him and promised to remind Helen’s former suitors of their oath. Then the brothers travelled over all of Greece and asked its princes to join in the war against Troy. The first to accept was Tlepolemus, famed ruler of Rhodes, a son of Heracles, who offered to furnish ninety ships for an expedition against the treacherous city of Troy. Then came Diomedes, son of Tydeus, who promised eighty ships with a crew of the most valiant men in Greece. After these two princes had conferred with the Atridae in Sparta, the Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces, sons of Zeus and brothers of Helen, were also invited to join. But they had already gone, for at the very first report that their sister had been carried off, they had sailed in pursuit of the robber and got as far as the island of Lesbos, close to the coast of Troy. There a storm struck their ship and it sank into the sea. The Dioscuri themselves disappeared. Legend, however, had it that they did not perish in the waves, but that Zeus, their father, set them in the heavens as a glorious constellation. And there, through the ages, they perform their office as protectors of ships that sail the seas and as patron gods of those aboard them.

And now almost all of Greece had risen to the call of the Atridae. Only two princes hung back. One was crafty Odysseus of Ithaca, Penelope’s husband, who did not wish to leave his young wife and his infant son Telemachus for the sake of the faithless queen of Sparta. And so when Palamedes, son of Prince Nauplius of Euboea, the staunch friend of Menelaus, came to him with the king of Sparta, he pretended madness, yoked an ox and an ass to his harrow, ploughed his field with this ill-matched team, and scattered salt instead of seed in the furrows. He arranged for the two heroes to see him engaged in this strange occupation and hoped in this way to exclude himself from a campaign he did not favor. But wise Palamedes saw through the wiliest of all mortals. While Odysseus was guiding the harrow, he secretly went to the palace, took the child Telemachus from his cradle, and laid him in a part of the field where Odysseus was just about to turn up the earth. At that, the father carefully lifted the harrow across the boy, and the heroes shouted to him that he had proved he was quite sane. Now he could no longer refuse to take part in the expedition, and though in his heart he swore bitter enmity to Palamedes, he promised to put at the disposal of King Menelaus twelve ships from Ithaca and the neighboring islands, each with its crew complete.

The other prince who had not yet given his word to join and whose whereabouts were not even known, was Achilles, the young and splendid son of Peleus and Thetis, goddess of the sea. When he was newborn, his immortal mother wanted to make him immortal too. So when night came, unbeknown to Peleus, she laid the child in celestial fire, which was to purge him of whatever mortal parts he had inherited from his father. By day she healed his seared flesh with ambrosia. Night after night she did this, but once Peleus spied on her and cried aloud when he saw his son quiver in the flames. This hindered Thetis from perfecting her work. Sadly she abandoned her infant son, whom she had not succeeded in making wholly divine, nor did she return to the palace, but sped to the cool sea kingdom of the Nereids. Peleus, who thought that the boy bore dangerous wounds, lifted him up and carried him to Chiron, who was versed in the art of medicine. This wise centaur, the rearer of many heroes, took the boy tenderly and nourished him on the marrow of bears and the liver of lions and boars.

When Achilles was nine years old, Calchas, a Greek soothsayer, declared that Troy, the far-off city in Asia which was destined to destruction through the Argives, could not be conquered without the son of Peleus. Thetis, his mother, heard this prophecy in the depths of the sea, and because she knew that this campaign would bring death to her son, she rose through the waves, secretly entered her husband’s palace, dressed the boy in girl’s clothes, and in this disguise took him to King Lycomedes on the island of Scyros, who brought him up as a girl and had him perform the dainty tasks of a princess. But when the boy arrived at an age when the first down appeared on his lip, he discovered himself to Deidamia, the king’s lovely daughter. A tender love sprang up between these two, and while the people on the island took Achilles for a kinswoman of their king, he was really Deidamia’s husband.

Now that he was indispensable for the conquest of Troy, Calchas, the soothsayer, who knew his abode as well as what was destined for him, told the Atridae where he was to be found, and they at once dispatched Odysseus and Diomedes to enlist him in the war. When these heroes came to the island of Scyros, they were presented to the king, his daughter, her kinswoman, and handmaids. But the face of Achilles was still so delicately lovely that even though the two Achaean princes had watchful eyes, they could not detect him among the group of girls. Then Odysseus had recourse to ruse. He had a spear and shield carried into the room where the girls gathered, but so that it seemed by chance, and then bade one of his men sound the trumpet as if foes were approaching. At those martial notes every woman fled from the chamber, but Achilles remained and boldly seized the spear and the shield. When he realized that his disguise no longer availed him, he offered to join the army of the Achaeans with a fleet of fifty ships and promised that he himself would come at the head of his Myrmidons or Thessalians, accompanied by Phoenix, who had educated him, and Patroclus, his friend, who had been reared with him in the house of Peleus.

The leaders of the various peoples chose Agamemnon as their commander-in-chief, since he was the most active in furthering the enterprise, and he selected the port of Aulis in Boeotia, near the straits of Euboea, as the meeting place for all the Argive princes with their men and their ships. Besides those already mentioned there were many others. The noblest among these were mighty Ajax, son of Telamon of Salamis, and his half brother Teucer, the unerring archer; Ajax the Less from the land of Locris; Menestheus of Athens; Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares, and with them their people, the Minyans from Orchomenus; from Boeotia, Peneleus, Arcesilaus, Clonius, and Prothoenor; from Phocis, Schedius and Epistrophus; from Euboea, Elephenor with the Abantes; Diomedes, Sthenelus, son of Capaneus, and Euryalus, son of Mecisteus, with part of the Argives and other Peloponnesians; from Pylos, Nestor, the old man who had seen three generations grow up; from Arcadia, Agapenor, son of Ancaeus; from Elis and other cities, Amphimachus, Thalpius, Diores, and Polyxenus; from Dulichium and the Echinades, Meges, son of Phyleus; with the Aetolians came Thoas, son of Andraemon; from Crete, Idomeneus and Meriones; from Rhodes, Tlepolemus, a descendant of Heracles; from Syme, Nireus, who in beauty exceeded all men in the Argive hosts; from the Calydnae, the Heraclidae Phidippus and Antiphus; from Phylace, Podarces, son of Iphicles; from Pherae in Thessaly, Eumelus, the son of Admetus and devout Alcestis; Methone, Thaumacia, and Meliboea sent Philoctetes; from Tricca, Ithome, and Oechalia came Podalirius and Machaon, both versed in the art of healing; from Ormenium, Eurypylus, the son of Euaemon; from Argissa, Polypoetes, the son of Pirithous, friend of Theseus; Guneus represented Cyphos, and Prothous, Magnesia.

Besides the Atridae, Odysseus, and Achilles, these were the princes and commanders of the Greeks who gathered in Aulis—and each came with a great fleet! In those days the Greeks were sometimes called Danai, a word derived from Danaus, an early king of Egypt, who had settled in Argos on the Peloponnesus, and sometimes Argives, after the most important region in Greece; Argolis or the land of the Argives. They also went by the name of Achaeans, because in olden times Greece had been called Achaea. It was not until later that they were called Greeks from Graicus, son of Thessalus, and Hellenes after Hellen, son of Deucalion and Pyrrha.


While the Achaeans were thus preparing for war against Troy, Agamemnon in an assembly of trusted friends and leaders of the people resolved first to try peaceful means: to send ambassadors to King Priam to protest the breach of laws and the rape of an Argive queen and demand the return of Helen and the treasures of Menelaus. The council elected Palamedes, Odysseus, and Menelaus to go on this mission, and though in his heart Odysseus was bitterly hostile to Palamedes, still, for the sake of the common good, he agreed to defer to the wisdom of this prince, famed throughout the hosts of Greece for his insight and experience, and did not dispute his right to speak for them all at the court of Priam.

The Trojans and their king were dumbfounded at the arrival of such messengers aboard ships so large and splendid. They were utterly ignorant of the cause of their coming, since Paris was still on the island of Cranae and had not been heard from in Troy. Priam and his people could not but believe that the Trojan warriors who had set out to support Paris in his demand for Hesione must have met with powerful resistance, that they had been destroyed, and that now the Argives, grown arrogant, had crossed the sea to attack the Trojans in their own country. And so the news that envoys from Greece were approaching the city made everyone taut with suspense. The gates, however, were flung wide, and the three princes were at once conducted to the palace of Priam and led before the king, who had summoned his numerous sons and the heads of the city to the council hall. Palamedes began to speak and in the name of all of Greece complained bitterly of the shameful breach of hospitality which Paris had committed by carrying off Helen. Then he pictured the dangers of war which this disgraceful action might bring on Priam and his people, enumerated the great princes of Greece who would come to Troy with countless warriors on more than a thousand ships, and demanded the return of their captured queen. “You do not know, O king,” he concluded, “the kind of men your son has offended by what he has done. They are Danai who would die rather than suffer an insult on the part of a stranger to go unavenged. But in coming to avenge this wrong, they do not intend to die but to carry off the victory, for their number is as the sands of the sea; all have the courage of true heroes and burn to blot out the disgrace inflicted on their country by destroying the cause of it. That is why our commander-in-chief, Agamemnon, king of mighty Argos and foremost prince of all Greece, and with him all the other princes of the Danai, bids me say to you: ‘Return the queen you have stolen from us, or all of you shall perish.’ ”

These words of defiance angered the king’s sons and the elders of Troy. They drew their swords from the scabbard and struck blade against shield, full of the lust for battle. But King Priam ordered them to be quiet, rose from his seat, and said: “Strangers, you who have come in the name of your people and heaped such reproaches on me, first let me recover from my astonishment. For we know nothing of what you accuse us of; rather do we think that we are entitled to complain of just such an evil deed as you claim we have committed. It was your countryman Heracles who attacked us in the midst of peace. From our city he carried off Hesione, my innocent sister, and gave her as a slave to Telamon. And it is only due to the good will of that prince that he made her his lawful wife instead of keeping her as a servant or a concubine. But this is not enough to make up for dishonesty and rape. We have sent envoys to you before. Now my son Paris left for your country to demand the return of my sister, so that I might rejoice in her in my old age. How Paris has carried out my royal command, what he has done, and where he is—these things I do not know. But I am wholly certain that there is no Argive woman in my palace or in my city. And so, even if I wanted to, I could not give you the satisfaction you ask. Should my son Paris return to Troy safely, as his father ardently hopes, should he bring with him an Argive woman he has abducted, she shall be delivered up to you, unless she is a fugitive and, as such, implores our protection. But even then you shall have her only on one condition: that you bring back to me from Salamis my sister Hesione, so that I may clasp her in my arms.”

The council of Trojans applauded the words of their king, but Palamedes spoke again, and his words were both angry and arrogant. “The granting of our request, O king, can depend on no condition whatsoever. We believe your words which assure us that the wife of Menelaus has not yet arrived within these walls. But she will! Do not doubt it! It is, unfortunately, only too true that your unworthy son has carried her off. As for us—we are not responsible for what Heracles did in our fathers’ time. But we do demand satisfaction from you for a wrong perpetrated by one of your sons in our own day and age. Hesione went with Telamon of her own free will, and she herself is sending her son, Prince Ajax, to this war which is imminent unless you make amends. But Helen was carried off against her wish. Give thanks to the gods who have given you a respite through the tarrying abroad of that robber Paris, and come to a decision which will ward destruction from you and yours.”

Priam and the Trojans were vexed almost beyond endurance by this insolent speech of Palamedes, but they observed the courtesy due to envoys. The assembly adjourned, and one of the elders of Troy, wise Antenor, son of Aesyetes and Cleomestra, escorted the foreign princes to shield them from the insults of the crowd, conducted them to his house, and lodged them there with perfect hospitality until the following morning. Then he accompanied them to the shore, where they boarded the shining ships which had taken them to Troy.


While the fleet was assembling at Aulis, Prince Agamemnon whiled away the time with the chase. One day an exquisite hind, a creature sacred to Artemis, came within shooting distance. Overcome with eagerness, Agamemnon aimed at her and hit the mark, saying boastfully that Artemis herself could not have done better. Vexed by his impious act, the goddess stilled the wind and caused a deep calm to fall on the bay of Aulis, where the Argives had assembled with ships and horses and chariots. The fleet lay idly on the waters as the days crept by. In their trouble the Danai turned to Calchas, their seer, the son of Thestor, for he had already done good service to his people and had come to accompany them on their expedition as priest and prophet. “If Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief of the Argives,” so said Calchas, “sacrifices to Artemis Iphigenia, his cherished daughter, whom Clytaemnestra bore him, the goddess will be appeased. A fair wind will rise, and heaven will put no further obstacle in the way of the destruction of Troy.”

When Agamemnon heard this, his courage sank. He sent for Talthybius of Sparta, the herald of the assembled Danai, and had him proclaim to all the peoples of Greece that Agamemnon was resigning his command over the Argive host because he did not wish to burden his conscience with the murder of his child, But when his resolve was announced to the Achaeans, they threatened revolt. Then Menelaus sought out his brother in his house and pictured to him the consequences of this decision and the disgrace which would cling to him, Menelaus, if his wife remained in the hands of the enemy. He marshalled so many arguments and presented them with such eloquence that Agamemnon at last consented to the monstrous deed.

He sent a message to his wife Clytaemnestra, in Mycenae, asking her to send Iphigenia to the army in Aulis, and gave as his reason for this odd request the pretext that before the fleet sailed for the coast of Troy the girl was to be betrothed to Peleus’ young son Achilles, the glorious prince of Phthyotis, of whose secret marriage to Deidamia no one knew. Scarcely had the messenger been dispatched, however, before Agamemnon began to be tormented by qualms of conscience. In an agony of doubt and remorse at his ill-considered act, he called an old and trusted servant to him that very night and gave him a letter for Clytaemnestra. In it he had written that she should not send their daughter to Aulis, that he had changed his plan and wished to postpone the betrothal until the spring. The servant hurried off with the letter, but he never reached his destination, for before dawn, before he even rose from his bed, he was seized by Menelaus, who had observed his brother’s indecision and kept a watchful eye on all he did.

When he had read the letter, he again went to his brother, the tablet in his hand. “Nothing in the world,” he called out to him resentfully, “is worse than a wavering will! Nothing is more unjust and more untrue! Do you not recall, my brother, how eagerly you wanted the command, how you burned with ill-concealed desire to lead the army to Troy? You feigned the greatest humility toward all the Argive princes and graciously shook hands with each and every one. Your doors were never bolted. The very humblest among the people could enter, and all this show of friendliness was only for the purpose of obtaining an office you had set your heart on. But when you had it, things became quite different. Then you no longer were the friend of your old friends, as before. It was not easy to find you in your house, and you rarely showed yourself to the army. This was not the behavior of an honorable man, who should be most loyal to his friends at a time when they have the greatest need of him. But what did you do? When you had come to Aulis with the Greek host, when you waited in vain for a fair wind, when the gods turned from you, and our men began to grumble and finally cried aloud: ‘Let us sail and not wait forever in Aulis,’ how your glance roved about in dismay, how helpless you were! It was then that you turned to me to devise a way out, lest you lose that fine office you were so proud of. And when Calchas, the soothsayer, bade you offer up your daughter to Artemis, it needed small urging for you to agree. You sent a message to your wife Clytaemnestra, asking her to send Iphigenia—ostensibly that she might be betrothed to Achilles. And now you are again evading the issue. You sent another message, declaring that you cannot bear to be the murderer of your child. But why should I be astonished at such indecision! There have been thousands like you, eager to get the rudder into their hands, but slack when they discover that the privilege of guiding others entails personal sacrifice. But I say that no one is fit to lead armies or to administer a state who is not resourceful and wise and who cannot maintain these qualities in the face of all the toil and turmoil life brings with it.”

Censure such as this, and from the lips of a brother, was not calculated to calm Agamemnon’s troubled heart. “Why reproach me so violently?” he asked. “Your eyes are bloodshot with excitement. Who do you think is out to offend you? What are you so disturbed about? Your charming wife Helen? I cannot restore her to you. Why did you not guard what is yours with greater watchfulness? You seem to think it was foolish of me to try, in a saner moment, to correct a mistake made impetuously. But it seems to me that it is far greater folly to try to regain a faithless wife you are well rid of. No, I shall never commit a crime against my own flesh and blood! As for you—it were far better you meted out punishment to adulterous Helen!”

The brothers were still quarrelling when a messenger arrived to announce to King Agamemnon the coming of his daughter Iphigenia, of her mother, and his little son Orestes, who had left soon after her. Hardly had the messenger departed when Agamemnon gave himself up to such hopeless despair that Menelaus, who had been standing a little apart, approached his brother and reached for his hand. Agamemnon gave it to him while the hot tears gushed from his eyes. “There it is, brother,” he said mournfully. “The victory is yours! I am destroyed!”

But now Menelaus swore to desist from his earlier demand. He even pleaded with him not to kill his child and declared that by no means would he injure and lose a beloved brother for the mere sake of Helen. “Do not wet your face with tears!” he cried. “If—through the oracle of the gods—I have a share in your daughter, I herewith reject it and cede it to you. Do not be astonished that my impulsive spirit has shifted from fury to brotherly love. For should not a man follow his better judgment when the waves of anger have ebbed from his heart?”

Agamemnon embraced his brother, but the destiny of his daughter was still uppermost in his mind. “I thank you,” he said. “That your noble spirit would bring us together again was more than I could hope for. Nonetheless, my fate is sealed. Iphigenia must die. All of Greece demands it. Calchas and crafty Odysseus have come to an understanding with each other. They will have the people on their side, kill you and me, and then slaughter the girl. And believe me, even if we fled to Argos, they would come and drag us from within the walls and raze to the ground the old city of the Cyclopes. And so, dear brother, I beg you to do nothing except keep the truth from Clytaemnestra until our child has been offered up in obedience to the oracle.”

And now the women approached. The brothers broke off their talk and Menelaus went away, deep in sorrowful thought.

The greeting between husband and wife was brief and, on Agamemnon’s part, cold and constrained. But the young girl clasped her arms about her father and her voice was full of love and joy as she exclaimed: “O father, how I have missed you! How happy I am to see you again!” Looking at him more closely she continued: “But why are your eyes so somber and full of care? You were always so glad to see me!”

“Enough, child,” Agamemnon answered, and his heart was full to bursting. “A king has many burdens and much to vex him.”

“But now smooth those lines from your forehead and turn loving eyes upon your daughter!” said Iphigenia. “Oh, why are they wet with tears?”

“Because we must part for very long,” her father replied.

“How happy I should be if I could be your companion on this journey!” the girl said wistfully.

“You too will go on a journey,” Agamemnon said gravely. “But before that we must sacrifice—a sacrifice at which you shall be present, my daughter.” As he uttered these words, he was almost choked by tears. Then he sent the girl, who suspected no harm, to the house where her handmaids were lodged. When she had gone, Agamemnon forced himself to spin out a tale of lies to his inquisitive wife, who was overflowing with questions about the family and the wealth of the bridegroom he had selected for their daughter. As soon as he had escaped the flood of her queries, he sought out Calchas, the soothsayer, to confer with him on the details of this sacrifice, which now seemed inevitable.

In the meantime, evil chance brought Clytaemnestra face to face with Achilles, who was on his way to Agamemnon because his men, his Myrmidons, were openly rebelling at the long delay. Since she regarded him as her future son-in-law, she did not hesitate to greet him with cordial words and make mention of the coming ceremony. But Achilles drew back in amazement. “What is this wedding you speak of?” he asked. “I, for my part, have never wooed your daughter, and Agamemnon has certainly never encouraged me to do so.” At this Clytaemnestra realized that she had been deceived. She stood before Achilles doubtful and abashed. But he, with the ready warmth of youth, tried to comfort her in her dismay. “Do not be annoyed if some one has tried to play a trick on you,” he said. “Let it rest lightly on your spirit and forgive me if I hurt you with my frank words.” He was about to take leave of her reverently and go his way, when a servant, the trusted slave of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, the one Menelaus had waylaid with the letter, came toward the two from the house of the commander-in-chief.

“Listen!” he whispered breathlessly. “There is something you must know at once! Iphigenia’s father intends to kill her with his own hands!” And now the mother, shaken with terror and grief, learned from the lips of the slave the secret so carefully guarded from her. She threw herself at the feet of Peleus’ young son, clasped his knees like a suppliant, and moaned:

“It does not shame me to lie in the dust before you, I, a mortal, before you, the son of gods. A mother’s love makes short work of pride. O son of a goddess, save me and my child from despair! It is to you I brought her wreathed, thinking she was to become your wife. And even now, though I know it is not true, I still think of you as her bridegroom. By all you hold sacred, by your divine mother, I beseech you to help me rescue my child. There is no altar here at which I could take refuge! My only altar is your knees. You have heard the cruel deed Agamemnon is about to commit. You see that I am defenseless, a woman in the midst of a host of violent men. But if you aid us, all will yet be well!”

Achilles raised the queen with deep reverence and said: “Be of good courage, O Clytaemnestra. I was reared in the house of a man both devout and kind. At Chiron’s hearth I saw much simple goodness. I joyfully follow the sons of Atreus when they lead on to glory, but I obey no criminal commands! And so I shall protect you, as far as is within my power. Never shall your daughter, whose name has been coupled with mine, be given up to death. If she died as a result of the ruse which brought her here to a betrothal, I should hold myself guilty; I should consider myself a coward and the son of a rascal if I allowed my name to serve your husband as a pretext to murder his child.”

“Is this, indeed, what is in your heart?” cried Clytaemnestra, beside herself with happy relief. “Shall my daughter clasp your knees as well as I? It would not be maidenly, but if it pleases you, she will come to you chaste and proud as befits a freeborn princess.”

“No!” Achilles replied quickly. “Do not bring her to me, for that might give rise to rumors and evil gossip. A great army like this, with no cares and concerns of home to fill their minds, is fond of idle talk. Only have faith in me. I have never stooped to lies. May I myself perish if I do not save your child.” With this solemn assurance the son of Peleus left Clytaemnestra, who went straight to Agamemnon, her husband. She faced him with undisguised loathing.

He, not knowing that she had discovered his secret, greeted her with the ambiguous words: “Call your daughter from the house, for flour and water and the victim which is to fall by the sword before the wedding feast is begun—all these will soon be in readiness.”

“Indeed!” cried Clytaemnestra, and her eyes flashed ominously. “Come, Iphigenia, for you are well aware of your father’s design. And bring your little brother Orestes with you.” And when the girl came she continued: “See, Agamemnon, here she stands, obedient and at your mercy. But first let me ask you a question: tell me without evasion or lies whether you have plotted to kill your daughter and mine?”

For a long time the king stood silent. At last words broke from him: “O Fate, why have you revealed my secret?”

“Now hear me to the end,” said Clytaemnestra. “I shall pour out to you all that is rankling in my heart. Our marriage began with a crime. You carried me off by force, killed my first husband, took the child I was suckling and slew it. My brothers Castor and Polydeuces had already leaped on their horses and were pursuing you with a host of armed men. But my old father Tyndareus saved you when you implored his protection, and so you became my husband. You will have to grant me that I was always true to my marriage vows, a wife you could delight in at home and be proud of before strangers. Three daughters I bore you, and one son. And now you want to rob me of my eldest, and if you were asked why, you would have to reply: ‘So that Menelaus can recover that adultress of his.’ By all the gods, I implore you not to do this thing, lest I harden my heart against you. Do not harden yours against me! You want to sacrifice your daughter? What prayer will you utter as you slay her? What boon will you ask for yourself as she dies? A return as unlucky as the outset of your voyage? Or do you, perhaps, expect me to call blessings down upon you? I could not well invoke the gods in behalf of a murderer! Why must it be your own child that falls as a victim? Why do you not say to the Achaeans: ‘If you wish the fleet to go to Troy, cast lots to decide on whose daughter is to die.’ Why should I, your faithful wife, lose my child, while he in whose cause you are going to war, Menelaus, can freely rejoice in his daughter Hermione, while his faithless wife knows that her child is safe and well in Sparta? Tell me if I have said a single word that is untrue. But if you admit that I have spoken only what is true, then do not kill your daughter! Think! Listen to the counsel of your heart!”

And now Iphigenia knelt at her father’s feet, and her voice faltered as she spoke. “Had I the magic voice of Orpheus, which could move stones, my father, I should speak eloquent words to rouse your compassion. But alas! I have no arts; I can only weep and embrace your knees with my arms instead of the olive spray. Do not let me die so young! The light of earth is sweet. Do not compel me to see what is hidden in darkness. Try to remember how you caressed me when I was still a child. I can so well recall everything you said: that you hoped to marry me to a man of noble lineage, to see me flower into womanhood and greet you joyfully whenever you returned from your quests. Have you forgotten it all? By my mother who bore me in pain, and who now suffers far greater pain at the thought of losing me, I beg you to give up your awful purpose. What have Helen and Paris to do with me? Why must I die because he came to Greece? Oh, look at me! Kiss me, that dying I may have a sign of love from you, since my words cannot move you. Behold your son, my brother! He utters no word and only pleads in silence. He is still a little boy. But I am nearly grown. Soften your heart and have pity on me. For mortals there is nothing fairer than life! To live in misery is better than to die the most glorious death.”

But Agamemnon was firm in his resolve. Relentless as a rock he stood and said: “I feel compassion when it is lawful for me to do so. I love my children—only a madman would not! It is with a heavy heart that I carry out this sacrifice, but carry it out I must. You see the vast fleet under my command. You see the host of heroes who surround me. They will not find the way to Troy; they will not conquer the city unless I do what the oracle bids: unless I sacrifice my child. All those assembled here are determined to put an end to the rape of Argive women. They are firm in their resolve. If I refused to obey the order of the gods, they would kill me and then slay you as well. I have reached the bounds of my power. I am not yielding to Menelaus, my brother, but to all of Greece.”

The king did not wait to hear their further pleas, but left the women to themselves. Suddenly, through their weeping, they heard the clash of weapons. “That is Achilles!” Clytaemnestra exclaimed joyfully. But Iphigenia was ill at ease and vainly tried to hide from the youth her father had falsely proclaimed as her bridegroom. Accompanied by a number of armed followers, the son of Peleus strode into the hall.

“Unhappy daughter of Leda,” he called to the queen. “The camp is in open revolt. They ask the death of your child, and all but stoned me when I raised my voice in opposition to their insistent demands.”

“And your Myrmidons?” Clytaemnestra asked, and her breath almost failed her.

“They were the first to rebel,” Achilles replied. “And they called me a lovesick fool too ready with words. I come with these faithful few to protect you against Odysseus, who is on his way here. Let the daughter cling to her mother. I shall shield you with my body, and we shall see whether they dare attack the son of the goddess, the man on whose life the fate of Troy depends.” These last words, quickened by a glimmer of hope, restored at least a degree of composure to Clytaemnestra.

But Iphigenia extricated herself from her mother’s embrace, lifted her head and confronted the queen and the son of Peleus with courage and decision. “Listen to what I have to say,” she said in a clear, unfaltering voice. “You are angry with my father, dear mother, but it is useless, for he cannot change what is appointed to be. The zeal of this stranger deserves all our gratitude and admiration, but he will live to repent it, and you will be slandered by evil tongues. I have thought this over and I am prepared to die. I shall banish all baser stirrings from my spirit. Every eye in the beautiful land of Greece looks to me. It is I who am responsible for the sailing of the fleet, for the fall of Troy, for the honor of Argive women. My name will be covered with glory, for they will call me the liberator of my country. Shall I, a mortal, oppose Artemis, the goddess, if it pleases her to ask my life for my fatherland? No. I shall give it up of my own free will. Sacrifice me, destroy Troy—this will be the monument in my memory, this will be my wedding feast.”

As these proud, ecstatic words broke from Iphigenia’s lips, she faced her mother and the son of Peleus, radiant as a goddess. And Achilles, the beautiful and the brave, dropped to his knee before her and cried: “Daughter of Agamemnon! The gods would, indeed, brim my cup of happiness, if they gave you to me as my bride. I envy Greece, to which you belong, and I envy you Greece, to which you are betrothed. Now that I have seen your loveliness and fearless spirit, I love you, I desire you. Think well! Death is a dreary thing. It is to life and to joy that I want to lead you.”

Iphigenia answered him with a smile. “Through Helen, a woman’s beauty has caused enough war and murder. You shall not die for me, nor kill for my sake. Let me come to the rescue of Greece if I can.”

“Noble heart!” said the son of Peleus. “Do as you will, but I, with these weapons of mine, shall hasten to the altar to prevent your death. You shall not perish for your selflessness. Perhaps you will agree when the cold blade touches your throat.” And he went in the van of the women. But Iphigenia told her mother to stop crying, took the hand of her little brother Orestes in hers, and went to her death in the exultant certainty of saving her country. Clytaemnestra threw herself on the ground and could not bring herself to follow her daughter.

In the meantime, the host of the Achaeans gathered outside the city of Aulis in a fragrant grove consecrated to Artemis. The altar was ready and beside it stood Calchas, priest and soothsayer. A cry of wonder and compassion surged through the ranks when the warriors saw Iphigenia and her faithful handmaids enter the grove and walk toward Agamemnon. He sighed deeply, turned away, and hid his tears in his robe. The girl came up to him and said: “Here I am, dear father. Before the altar of the goddess I do the bidding of the oracle and give my life for the Argive army and for the welfare of my country. I shall rejoice in your happiness, in your victory, and in your safe return. Let no one hold me. I will be quiet and brave and bare my throat to the blade.”

A murmur of astonishment went through the throngs as they saw her matchless courage. And now the herald Talthybius, standing in the center of the circle, called for silence and prayer. Calchas, the seer, drew forth a sharp and shining blade and laid it down before the altar in a basket wrought of gold. In the midst of this solemn hush came Achilles, fully armed, and brandishing his sword. But when he saw the girl, his resolve was shaken. He cast his sword on the ground, sprinkled the altar with holy water, took in his hand the basket and paced around the altar like a priest, saying: “O Artemis, great goddess, accept this sacred voluntary offering, accept the pure blood of a virgin, which Agamemnon and all of Greece consecrates to you. Give our ships a fair voyage, and let our spears bring destruction to Troy.” The Atridae and the entire host listened in silence and bowed their heads. Calchas gripped the blade, uttered a prayer, and fixed his eyes on the girl’s throat. Distinctly all heard the sound of his blow. But a miracle came to pass, for at that very instant the human victim vanished before the eyes of the host, and in her place was a splendid hind, writhing before the altar and drenching it with blood. Artemis had taken pity on Iphigenia.

“Leaders of the united Argive host!” cried Calchas when he found his voice after his first gasp of amazement. “Here you behold the victim the goddess sent us, one more pleasing to her than the maiden whose noble blood she wished to spare. Artemis has restored us to her favor. She will give us a safe voyage and help us conquer Troy. Be of good courage, for on this very day you shall sail out of the bay of Aulis.” So he spoke and watched the sacrificial hind burn in the flames. When the last spark had died, the still air was filled with a rushing sound. All eyes turned toward the harbor, and there they saw the ships rocking on the sea and the waters astir with wind. Shouting with joy the warriors left the sacred grove and made for the camp.

When Agamemnon entered his house, Clytaemnestra was no longer there. His trusted servant had preceded him and roused the fainting queen with the news of Iphigenia’s rescue. A wave of thankfulness swept over her. She lifted her hands to heaven, but instead of speaking words of gratitude she cried aloud in bitter grief: “I am robbed of my child all the same! My husband has killed my happiness. Let us hasten, for I do not wish to see the slayer!” The servant quickly made ready the chariot and called her tirewomen to her. When Agamemnon returned from the sacrificial feast, his wife was far on her way to Mycenae.


On that very day the Argive fleet set sail and a fair wind launched them swiftly on the high seas. After a brief journey they landed on the small island of Chryse to replenish their water supply. Here the son of Poeas, Philoctetes, Heracles’ friend and comrade-in-arms and heir to his unerring arrows, discovered a crumbling altar which Jason, on his voyage with the Argonauts, had once dedicated to Pallas Athene, the goddess of that island. The hero rejoiced in his find and was about to make offering to the protectress of the Achaeans, when a poisonous adder, such as often guard the sanctuaries of gods, darted toward him and bit him in the foot. He was carried into the ship and the fleet sailed on. But the wound swelled and grew more and more painful. The son of Poeas was in torment, and his comrades could not endure the stench of his rotting flesh and of the poisonous discharge oozing from his foot. His screams of anguish and fear disturbed them in everything they undertook, even in the offerings made to the gods. Finally the sons of Atreus took counsel with crafty Odysseus, for the annoyance of those around the sick hero began to spread through the host. They feared that wounded Philoctetes would bring a plague upon them when they camped at Troy and embitter their days with his endless lamentations. And so these leaders of their people cruelly decided to abandon the brave hero on the barren and uninhabited coast of the island of Lemnos, which they were just passing. But they failed to consider that in losing the man they were also depriving themselves of his unconquerable arrows. Crafty Odysseus was chosen to execute the plan. He took the sleeping hero on his back, rowed him ashore in a small boat, and there laid him down in a cave, leaving with him enough food and clothing to enable him to live for a time. The ship had stopped near the island only long enough for the son of Poeas to be taken ashore. As soon as Odysseus returned, it continued on its course and quickly joined the rest of the fleet.


Safely the Argive fleet reached the coast of Asia Minor. But since the heroes were not familiar with this region, they let the fair wind drive them away from Troy, to Mysia, and there cast anchor. All along the shore they encountered armed guards, who in the name of their ruler forbade them to enter these domains before the king had been informed of their coming and told who they were. Now the king of Mysia was himself an Argive. It was Telephus, son of Heracles and Auge, who after curious adventures was reunited with his mother at the court of King Teuthras of Mysia. Later he married Argiope, daughter of Teuthras, and succeeded to the throne after her father’s death.

Without asking who ruled the country they had come to, and without deigning to reply, the Achaeans took up their weapons and fell upon the coast guards. Only a few escaped, and these told King Telephus that unknown enemies had arrived by the thousands, that they had invaded his country, slaughtered the guards, and occupied the shore. The king hurriedly assembled what forces he could and led them against the strangers. He himself was strong and glorious, a son well worthy of his illustrious father, and he had trained his warriors in the manner of the Argives. The Danai, therefore, found themselves faced with resistance they had not looked for, and were soon involved in a long and bloody conflict, in which hero strove with hero. One of the bravest among the Argives was Thersander, grandson of King Oedipus, son of Polynices and comrade-in-arms of Prince Diomedes. Thersander raged through the host of Telephus and finally slew the king’s most cherished friend, who was fighting at his side. This roused Telephus to blind fury, and he began to fight the grandson of Oedipus in single combat. The son of Heracles carried off the victory; pierced by his lance Thersander sank down in the dust. When his friend Diomedes saw this from afar, he groaned with grief, and before Telephus could throw himself on the dead body of his foe to strip him of his armor, Diomedes ran to the spot, slung the corpse over his shoulder, and carried it away, walking with a long, powerful stride. When he passed Ajax and Achilles with this burden on his back, they also were shaken with sorrow and anger. They rallied their men, divided them into two groups, and by a clever ruse turned the tide of the battle, so that the Argives were again at an advantage. Teuthrantius, the half brother of Telephus, fell, struck by a missile Ajax had launched. Telephus, who was just pursuing Odysseus, wanted to come to his aid, but stumbled over a vine, for the shrewd Achaeans had gradually lured the enemy into a vineyard where the terrain was more favorable to the Danai. Achilles seized the moment when Telephus was rising from his fall to pierce his left thigh with his spear. Nevertheless, Telephus rose, drew out the weapon, and, screened by some of his men, escaped death. The struggle, with its ups and downs for both sides, would have gone on indefinitely, had not night fallen and both armies retired from the field in sore need of rest. The Mysians returned to their city, the Argives to the shore where the ships were anchored. Brave men had died on both sides, and many were wounded.

On the following day, the Mysians and the Argives sent envoys to arrange for a truce, to give them time to find and bury the bodies of their dead. Only now did the Achaeans learn, to their utmost surprise, that the king who had defended his lands with such signal bravery was a man of their own people, a son of Heracles, their greatest demigod. And Telephus, in turn, realized that he had stained his hands with the blood of his countrymen. Now there were three princes in the Argive army, Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, and Phidippus and Antiphus, sons of King Thessalus and grandsons of Heracles; this made them kinsmen of Telephus. These three offered to accompany the envoys of Mysia to their brother and cousin and explain to him who the men that had landed on the coast of his country were and why they had come to Asia. King Telephus received his kinsmen with warm cordiality and could not hear enough of their story. He learned that Paris had offended the whole of Greece with his crime, and that Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon had set out with all their allies. “And so, dear brother,” said Tlepolemus, who, being half brother to the king, spoke for the rest, “you who belong to our country, do not withdraw from your people, for whom our father Heracles always fought, even at the ends of the world, so that all of Greece is full of monuments testifying to his love for his country. Heal the wounds which you, an Argive, have dealt Argives, by joining your army to ours and going against the false Trojans as our ally.”

Slowly and painfully Telephus half rose from his couch, for he was suffering from the wound inflicted on him by Achilles, and replied in a friendly manner: “My countrymen, your reproaches are unjust! It is your own fault that you are my enemies instead of friends and kinsmen in whose veins flows the same blood as mine. In asking you who you were and where you came from, the coast guards only did as I had ordered. They did not approach you like savage barbarians, but according to the laws governing Argive peoples. But you, thinking that anything at all was permissible in dealing with barbarians, leaped ashore without giving them the information they courteously asked, and killed my subjects without even listening to their words. And I too”—here he pointed to his thigh—“have received a memento which, I fear, will remind me of yesterday’s encounter as long as I live. But I bear you no grudge for this and think no price too dear for the pleasure of entertaining kinsmen and fellow Argives in my country. As to your request that I join you in your campaign—do not expect me to fight against Priam! Astyoche, my second wife, is his daughter. Aside from this, he is a noble old man, and the rest of his sons are honest and steadfast and have no share in the escapades of frivolous Paris. See, this is my son Eurypylus! How could I grieve by giving aid to destroy his grandfather’s realm? But though I do not wish to hurt Priam, neither do I want to harm my kinsmen. So accept from me the gifts of a host and take all the provisions you require. Then go and fight out your feud, which the gods must decide, for I cannot take the part of one or the other.”

The three princes reported this kindly answer in the camp of the Argives and with great satisfaction told Agamemnon and the other leaders of the host that they had established bonds of friendship with Telephus. The war council immediately decided to send Ajax and Achilles to the king to confirm this cordial relationship and express sympathy for the pain he bore from the wound he had received. They found Telephus in great anguish, and Achilles wept and threw himself across his couch, lamenting that he had unwittingly struck the brave son of Heracles. But the king forgot the smart of his wound in joy at their coming, and only grieved that he had not known of their arrival in time to prepare a royal welcome for his noble guests. Then he solemnly invited the Atridae into the palace, served a lavish feast, and showered them with magnificent gifts. At the request of Achilles, Menelaus and Agamemnon had brought with them Podalirius and Machaon, physicians famed through all the world, to examine and heal the wound of Telephus. This, however, they could not do, for the spear of the son of Thetis was endowed with peculiar powers, and the wounds he struck defied cure. But they could at least alleviate the worst pain with soothing poultices, and the king, eased for the moment, gave the Achaeans much valuable counsel, furnished them with provisions for the entire fleet, and did not permit them to leave until the stormiest part of the winter, which had just begun when they landed, was over. He described to them the exact site of Troy, gave them directions how to go there, and told them that the only good landing place was in the mouth of the river Scamander.


Although the Trojans did not know that a great fleet had already reached their shores, the city had been in a turmoil ever since the Argive envoys had departed, for everyone feared war. Paris, the while, had returned with his beautiful prize and the ships with which he had set out. King Priam was ill pleased with this unwelcome daughter-in-law and at once summoned his numerous sons to a council of princes. But they were quickly beguiled by the gleam of the treasures their brother was so ready to share with them, and by the loveliness of the maidens Helen had brought in her train. These Paris was very willing to give in marriage to those who were still unwed. Besides, most of the brothers were young and all of them eager to fight, so the upshot of the discussion was that the stranger was to be taken into the palace and not handed over to the Achaeans. Matters were quite different among the common people! Fearing a siege of their city, they had not hailed the arrival of the prince and the fair woman he had carried off. Many a curse had speeded him on his way, and here and there even a stone was cast as he conducted his stolen bride to his father. But reverence for the old king and reluctance to cross his will restrained the Trojans from opposing this new resident of the palace more resolutely.

Now that the council called by Priam had decided not to drive Helen from the land, the king sent Hecuba to her to the women’s chamber, in order to convince himself that the wife of Menelaus had really come to Troy of her own free will. Helen declared that her ancestry made her just as much kin to the Trojans as to the Danai, for Danaus and Agenor were her own forbears as well as those of the Trojan royal line; that she had, indeed, been carried off against her will, but that, having belonged to Paris for so long a time, she now loved this new husband of hers and wished to remain with him. Furthermore—so she said—she could hardly expect either her first husband or her people to pardon her, so that nothing but disgrace and death were in store for her should they yield her up to the Argives.

As she spoke her face was bathed in tears, and she threw herself at Hecuba’s feet. The queen raised her tenderly and told her that the king and his sons had resolved to protect her from any attack that might threaten.


For a while Helen lived at her ease at the court of the king of Troy and then moved with Paris to a palace of her own. The people grew to admire her loveliness and beauty, and when the alien fleet actually was sighted off the coast of Troy, the citizens were less intimidated than when they had feared some vague peril to come.

The leaders took stock of the inhabitants and of the allies who had promised to come to their aid and found that in numbers and equipment they equalled the Argives. And so, with the help of the immortals—for besides Aphrodite, several other gods, among them Ares, the war-god, Apollo, and even Zeus, the father of the gods, were on their side—they hoped to withstand the siege of their city and force the enemy to retreat after not too long a time.

King Priam himself was too old to fight, but he had fifty splendid sons of all ages, of whom Hecuba had borne him nineteen: some in the flower of youth, some at the peak of their strength—before all Hector, then Deiphobus, and the most distinguished after these, Helenus, the soothsayer, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, and handsome Troilus. Four lovely daughters gathered round his throne: Creusa, Laodice, Cassandra, and Polyxena, who even in early childhood had been surpassingly beautiful. Chief of the host now preparing for battle was Hector, tall in his crested helmet. Next in power was Aeneas, King Priam’s son-in-law, Creusa’s husband, a son of Aphrodite and Anchises, the aged hero who was still the pride of the Trojans. Another battalion was led by Pandarus, son of Lycaon, whose bow had been given him by Apollo himself. Other battalions, some of which were made up of the allies of Troy, were headed by Adrastus, Amphius, Asius, Hippothous, Pylaeus, Acamas, Euphemus, Pyraechmes, Pylaemenes, Hodius, and Epistrophus. Chromius and Ennomus were the leaders of auxiliaries from Mysia; Phorcys and Ascanius of similar forces from Phrygia; Mesthles and Antiphus of Maeonians; Nastes and Amphimachus of Carians; and Sarpedon and Glaucus of a Lycian army.

In the meantime, the Argives had landed and settled along the shore between the two promontories of Sigeum and Rhoeteum. Their camp was so vast that it looked not unlike an entire city. They had beached their ships and placed them in rows, one behind the other, and, since the ground sloped up from the coast, the vessels stood in tiers. The sections of the fleet belonging to the various peoples who had joined in the expedition were ranged in the order in which they had landed. Each vessel was set on a base of stones, lest the keel rot from the moisture of the ground; in this way the air could pass around and beneath them. In the first row, seen from the land, were the ships of Ajax and Achilles. Both had built their huts facing toward Troy. That of Achilles was more like a comfortable house. Attached to it were barns and stables for supplies, chariot-horses, and cattle. And beside his ship there was room for races, burial rites and games, and other festivities. Next to the ship of Ajax came that of Protesilaus, then those of other Thessalians, then of the Cretans, Athenians, Phocians, Boeotians, and the last in the first row were those of Achilles and his Myrmidons. In the second row were the Locrians among others, the Dulichians, and the Epeans; in the third were the ships of less well-known peoples, but also those of Nestor with the Pylians, Eurypylus with the Ormenians, and finally Menelaus. In the fourth and last row along the coast and nearest to the sea were Diomedes, Odysseus, and Agamemnon: Odysseus in the middle, Agamemnon to the right, and Diomedes to the left.

Before the house of Odysseus was the agora, the open place where assemblies and councils were to be held and where altars had been reared to the gods. This open place ran through the third row also and divided it, so that Nestor was to the right and Eurypylus to the left. Toward the sea there was less space to begin with, and the agora took up so much room that the third and fourth rows numbered the least ships. The camp with its ships and huts was like a city cut by many streets and alleys, but the main thoroughfares ran lengthwise through all four rows. From the land to the sea were cross streets which separated the ships of the various nations. The ships, in turn, were divided off from the huts of their crews by narrower spaces, and every nation was subdivided into several parts, according to cities or leaders. The huts were made of wood and earth and covered with reeds. Every leader had his quarters in the foremost row of his men, and every one of these lodgings was more or less elaborate according to the rank of its owner. The ships served to protect the camp as a whole. But in front of this bulwark of the fleet the Argives had heaped earth, which made way for a true wall with towers only during the last period of the siege. In front of this barricade of earth was a trench, and within it, a close-set palisade.

The king and the council of Troy had taken so long to confer on the best means of defense that the Argives had had ample opportunity to set up their camp in so careful a fashion and to complete all their arrangements. Each of the warriors had also to tend the ships. Bread was apportioned to everyone at public stations. For all other matters necessary for life, each was responsible for himself. The common soldiers had light weapons and fought on foot. Those of higher rank fought from chariots, and every one of these fighters had his own charioteer. The use of cavalry in wars was unknown to the peoples of that time. The chariots of the greatest among the heroes were intended for the front row, and always had to be the vanguard.

In the region between the Argive fleet and the city of Troy, the rivers Scamander and Simois, which joined near the camp of the Danai, enclosed the flowering meadows of the Scamander and the plains of Troy. This space was so large that it took four hours to cross it on foot. It was admirably suited for a battlefield. Behind it rose the stately city of Troy with high walls and ramparts and towers built by the hands of gods. It was situated on a height and could be seen from far off. Within, the city was hilly and cut by many thoroughfares. It was accessible—and even then only half accessible—from two sides only. On one of these stood the Scaean Gates, on the other the Dardanian Gates, both with towers. The other sides were on such uneven ground, and the undergrowth was so thick and tangled, that to enter through their gates and smaller entrances could not even be considered. In the upper city or acropolis were the palaces of Priam and Paris, the temples of Hecate, Athene, and Apollo, and on the loftiest point the temple of Zeus. In front of the city, near the river Simois and to the left of the Argives, was the hill Callicolone; to the right, the road ran by the springs of the Scamander and then past the hill called Batieia, which lay outside the town and could be circumvented. Behind Troy was the Field of Ilium, which sloped gently upward and formed the lowest level of the wooded range of Ida, whose highest peak was Gargaron, and whose two topmost ridges to the right and left of the Argives constituted the promontories of Sigeum and Rhoeteum.

Before the battle between Danai and Trojans began, the Danai were privileged to receive an honored guest. King Telephus of Mysia, who had given them such generous aid, had been suffering from the wound dealt by Achilles’ spear and the poultices prescribed by Podalirius and Machaon had long since ceased to be effective. In the throes of unbearable pain, he had consulted an oracle of Phoebus Apollo which was in his country and received the answer that only the spear which had given the wound could heal it. Though he was unable to fathom the meaning of these strange words, he had himself carried on a ship and followed the Argive fleet. When he reached the mouth of the Scamander, he ordered his men to take him to the house of Achilles. The moment the young hero saw the king in his suffering, his own pain at what he had done woke afresh. Sadly he took up his spear and laid it at the foot of the king’s bed, for he did not know in what way it could serve to heal the festering wound. A number of heroes surrounded the king and all were helpless in this matter, until Odysseus thought of again consulting the two famed physicians who traveled with the host. Podalirius and Machaon obeyed the summons, and the instant they heard the oracle of Apollo, these wise and experienced sons of Asclepius understood what was meant. They filed a little of the rust from the spear of Achilles and spread it over the wound. And then all saw a miracle: as soon as the filings touched the swollen and infected wound, it began to close before the very eyes of the heroes; in a few hours, noble King Telephus was healed with the help of the spear which had pierced him, just as the oracle had predicted. Sound and joyful he boarded his ship and left his hosts as they had but recently left him: with gratitude and blessings. But he hastened back to his own country, since he did not wish to witness the forthcoming struggle between the guests he had cherished and the Trojan kinsmen he loved.


While the Argives were taking King Telephus and his retinue to his ship, the gates of Troy suddenly flew open and the Trojan army in full battle array poured across the plain of the Scamander. Under the leadership of Hector, they moved toward the fleet of the unsuspecting Danai without meeting resistance. Those of the Argives who were camped farthest from the shore seized their weapons and advanced in scattered groups, but they were quickly dispatched by the foe who far outnumbered them. But even this brief struggle detained the Trojans long enough for the other Argives to assemble and advance on the enemy in ordered battle formation. Now the fighting began, but the fortunes of war were very uneven; for wherever Hector appeared the Trojans gained the upper hand, but those Dardanian warriors who fought far from him were beaten and scattered by the Argives. Among the Achaean heroes slain by the sword of Aeneas was Protesilaus, son of Iphicles. He had left for Troy as a youth, as the betrothed of the fair daughter of Acastus, the Argonaut, and he had been first to leap ashore at the landing. Now he was first to die, and never would Laodamia hail the return of the bridegroom to whom she had bidden such a sorrowful farewell.

Achilles was still far from the battlefield. He had accompanied Telephus, the king of Mysia, first wounded and then healed by his spear, down to the sea, and with thoughtful eyes watched the ship as it sailed on and faded into the distance. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder, and Patroclus, his friend and comrade-in-arms, cried: “Where have you been? The Argives need you! The fighting has begun! Hector, King Priam’s eldest son, rages at the head of his troops like a lion whose den is surrounded by hunters. Aeneas, the king’s son-in-law, has slain noble Protesilaus, your equal in youth and courage though not in strength. If you do not come, more of our heroes will be killed!”

Achilles started from his dream. He turned and saw his friend, and at the same moment he heard the distant clash of battle. Without answering he raced through the streets of the camp, making straight for his house. Once there, he found his tongue, called his Myrmidons to arms in ringing tones, and surged forward with them like stormwind and thunder. Even Hector could not withstand the force of his attack. The son of Peleus slew two sons of Priam, and from the walls the king mourned his children who had died at the hand of the Argive. Ajax fought close to Achilles. His tall form loomed above all the other Achaeans. From the strokes of these two heroes the Trojans fled like a herd of deer before a pack of hounds. They retreated to their city, and the gates of Troy closed behind them. But the Danai calmly returned to their ships and continued building their camp. Agamemnon appointed Achilles and Ajax to guard the ships, and they in turn had other heroes watch the various parts of the fleet.

Then they set about the burial of Protesilaus. They laid his body on a pyre, high-heaped and adorned, and under tall elms with far flung branches they buried his bones on the shore, where the land jutted out into the sea. Hardly had they finished performing the burial rites when a second attack surprised them in the midst of the funeral games.

Colonae, near Troy, was ruled by Cycnus. This king was a son of Poseidon, borne to the sea-god by a nymph, and reared by a swan on the island of Tenedos. For this reason he had been given the name of Cycnus, which means swan. He was an ally of Troy, and when he saw alien warriors landing, he considered himself duty-bound to come to the help of his old friend, even though King Priam had not summoned him. And so he assembled a sizable army, laid an ambush near the Argive camp, and had just settled in this hiding-place when the Danai returned as victors from their first encounter with the Trojans and began to pay the last honors to their dead. As they stood around the pyre, far from fully armed and intent only on the solemn rites they were performing, they found themselves suddenly surrounded by war chariots and warriors, and before they had time to wonder whether earth had spewed forth these fighters or where else they had come from, King Cycnus and his men had begun their ruthless slaughter.

But only a part of the Argives had attended the burial of Protesilaus. The others, who were near the ships or in their huts, had their weapons close to hand and, headed by Achilles, swiftly came to the aid of their fellows in full-armed serried ranks. Their leader, the son of Peleus, stood in his chariot, striking terror into all who beheld him, and with his death-bringing lance pierced now one, now another of the Colonians until, penetrating the enemy host, he discerned their commander-in-chief by the mighty thrusts he dealt right and left, standing erect in his battle chariot. Toward him Achilles drove his snow-white horses, and face to face with Cycnus he swung his lance with sinewy arm, calling out: “Whoever you may be, let this comfort you in death: that it is Achilles, son of Thetis, who has struck you down!” His lance followed close on his words, but though he had aimed straight and sure the point only grazed the breast of Poseidon’s son with a faint thud. Achilles measured his opponent with wondering eyes, for he seemed invulnerable.

“Do not be so amazed,” Cycnus said to him smilingly. “It is not my helmet, which you are regarding with such astonishment, and not the hollow shield in my left hand which ward the strokes from my body. I wear these merely for adornment, as Ares, the god of war, sometimes dons weapons in jest, for he does not need them to protect his immortal body. Even if I take off all my armor, your spear will not so much as scratch my skin. For from head to foot I am hard as iron. After all, you must realize that it means something to be, not the son of a mere sea-nymph, but the cherished son of him who rules over Nereus and all his daughters and all the seas. You are face to face with the son of Poseidon himself!”

With these words he cast his spear at Achilles. The point pierced his shield and passed through the bronze and nine layers of oxhide, but in the tenth it stuck. Achilles shook his shield until the lance fell out and in return hurled his at Cycnus. But still he was not harmed by it, and even the third lance Achilles flung at him left him whole and sound. And now the son of Peleus grew furious as a bull who runs at a red cloth held up to tantalize him and thrusts his horns into empty air. Once more he aimed his lance, carved of ash, at his opponent, smote his left shoulder, and shouted with joy to see blood on it. But he did not exult for long, for the blood was not that of Poseidon’s son. It came from a wound Menoetes, fighting beside Cycnus, had received from another hand. Gnashing his teeth with rage, Achilles leaped from his chariot, made for his enemy, and lunged out at him with his sword. But even this powerful weapon rebounded from that iron flesh. Then in despair Achilles raised his shield with its ten layers of hide and brought the buckle down on the temple of his invulnerable foe, three, four times. And now Cycnus faltered. His vision blurred. He retreated a few steps and stumbled over a stone. Achilles gripped him by the nape of the neck and threw him flat on the ground. Then, keeping his foe prostrate by pressing his shield and his knees against his breast, he strangled him with the strap of his own helmet.

When they saw their leader fall, the Colonians lost courage and sped from the battlefield in frantic flight. All that was left was a welter of bodies—Argives and barbarians—scattered about the half-finished burial mound of Protesilaus. And now the Argives mourned their dead and set about digging their graves.

The aftermath of this encounter was that the Danai invaded the realm of King Cycnus and from its capital, the city of Mentora, carried off his children as spoils. Then they attacked the neighboring city of Cilia, conquered it also, though it was well fortified, and returned to their carefully guarded camp, laden with vast stores of priceless booty.


Palamedes was the wisest man in the Argive army. All knew him to be tireless, just, steadfast, and thoughtful. He was of delicate build and versed in the art of singing and playing the lyre. It was his eloquence that had swayed the greater part of the princes of Greece in favor of the campaign against Troy, and his shrewdness that had discovered the ruse of the wily son of Laertes. But this had gained him an implacable foe, one who pondered revenge day and night and who brooded the more sullenly the more wise Palamedes was honored by the other princes. Now an oracle of Apollo informed the Argives that in the place where his statue and his temple stood they were to sacrifice a hecatomb to Apollo Smintheus—the name he was known by in Troy—and that Palamedes had been chosen to take the victims to their destination. Chryses, the priest of Apollo, was to receive the stately animals and make the offering. The worship of the sun-god in this region was of curious origin. In earlier times, when King Teucer and his men had come from Crete and landed on this part of the coast of Asia Minor, an oracle commanded them to remain where their enemies would crawl out of the ground. Now when they arrived in Hamaxitus, a city in that region, mice, slipping out of holes in the earth, came at night and gnawed at their shields. This they regarded as the fulfillment of the oracle and therefore they settled in that vicinity and erected a statue to Apollo with a mouse at his feet. In the dialect of Aeolia sminthos is the word for mouse.

So it was to Apollo Smintheus whose temple stood on a height not far from Chryse that Chryses, the priest, offered the hundred sacred sheep orought there by Palamedes. The fact that Apollo himself had chosen Palamedes for this and thus accorded him special honor only hastened his destruction. For now Odysseus began to boil with envy and thought up a despicable plan to put an end to his rival. With his own hands he concealed a sum of money in the hut of the man he hated, going there in secrecy. Then, in the name of Priam, he wrote a letter to Palamedes, in which the king of Troy expressed thanks for his having betrayed the secrets of the Argive host. This letter was allowed to fall into the hands of a captive from Phrygia, in whose possession Odysseus discovered it, apparently by chance. Immediately he ordered the innocent bearer killed. Then the son of Laertes showed the letter in an assembly of Argive princes. The indignant leaders summoned Palamedes to a council to which Agamemnon had appointed the foremost among the Achaeans and over which Odysseus had arranged to preside. At his suggestion, men were sent to dig in the accused man’s hut, and, of course, they found the gold Odysseus himself had buried under Palamedes’ couch. The judges, knowing nothing of the true state of affairs, unanimously condemned him to death. Palamedes did not deign to defend himself. He saw through the plot but had no hope of proving either his own innocence or the guilt of his enemy. When he heard that he was to die by stoning, he only cried out: “O Argives, you are about to kill a nightingale, most innocent, most wise, and rich in moving song.” But the dull princes only laughed at this singular form of defense and led Palamedes, the noblest among them, away to an unmerciful death, which he suffered with gentleness and courage. After the first stones had struck him down, he called: “Rejoice, O Truth, for you have died before me!” When he said these words, a stone thrown by vengeful Odysseus struck his temple, his head drooped and he died. But Nemesis, the patroness of justice, gazed down from the ramparts of heaven and resolved to punish the Achaeans and Odysseus, who had tricked them into this crime, at the very goal of their desires.


Legend has little to tell of the next few years of the war against Troy. The Argives were not idle, but since the Trojans husbanded their strength and seldom attacked, they turned their attention to the region surrounding Troy. In the course of time Achilles destroyed and looted twelve towns with his ships and conquered eleven on land. In a marauding expedition to Mysia he carried off Chryseis, the lovely daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo. When he invaded Lyrnessus he took the palace of Briseus, the king and priest of the city, who hanged himself with a rope. Briseis, his beautiful daughter, who was also called Hippodamia, fell into the hands of Achilles and he took her with him as his favorite among the captives. The island of Lesbos and Thebe in Cilicia, a city founded at the foot of Mount Placus, were also forced to yield to him.

The king of this city was Eetion, a son-in-law of Priam, since his daughter Andromache had wedded Hector, the greatest among the heroes of Troy. Seven sons, in the flower of youth, were still in their father’s palace. But Achilles stormed the high gates and slew the king with all seven of them. When Eetion’s body lay upon its bier in forbidding majesty, young Achilles Was shaken with dread and dared not strip the dead king of his arms and vaunt them as his spoils. He had the corpse burned, clad in the full glory of armor artfully wrought of shining metals, and heaped for Eetion a mighty burial mound which for many years adorned the region. It loomed high under the shadow of stately elms. But he carried off Eetion’s wife as a slave. Later he released her for a large ransom. She returned home, where an arrow launched by Artemis killed her as she sat weaving at the loom. Out of the king’s stables Achilles took Pedasus, his slender-ankled horse, which, though born and bred on earth, equalled his own immortal steeds in strength and speed and vied with them in running at the chariot. And from the armory of King Eetion he carried off splendid spoils, among them an iron discus so huge that it would have yielded enough metal to make all the field implements a peasant needed for five years.

After Achilles, the tallest and bravest of the heroes was Ajax, son of Telamon. He too did not waste his time in idle waiting but took his ships toward the Thracian Chersonesus, where Polymnestor had his palace. To this king, Priam of Troy had sent his youngest son Polydorus, whom Laothoe, a concubine, had borne him, for he wanted him reared in Thrace, safe from war. He had given gold and treasure to Polymnestor to pay for the care and upbringing of the child. But when Ajax invaded his country and besieged his citadel, the faithless barbarian used both the funds and the boy entrusted to him to buy peace from the Argives. He betrayed King Priam, heaped him with imprecations, and divided the money and grain he had received for the nurture of Polydorus among the Achaean fighters. To Ajax himself he gave the gold and treasure of his ally and finally the boy as well.

Ajax did not immediately return to the Argive fleet with his spoils but made for the coast of Phrygia. There he attacked the realm of Teuthras, slew the king, who met him at the head of his warriors, and took captive his daughter, queenly Tecmessa. Her great beauty and noble spirit commanded his esteem and won his love. He honored her as his wife and would have married her, had Argive custom permitted him to wed a barbarian.

Returning from their successful marauding expeditions, the son of Peleus and the son of Telamon arrived at the camp before Troy at the same time, their ships laden with spoils. The Danai went to the shore to meet them and broke into loud cheers. Heroes thronged around Ajax and Achilles who stood in the midst of the gathering and received the prize of victory: the olive wreath, set on their heads with joyful acclaim. After this ceremony a council was held for the distribution of the spoils which were considered common property among the Achaeans. And now the captive women were shown and all marvelled at their beauty. Achilles was given the daughter of Briseus and Ajax was confirmed in the possession of queenly Tecmessa. The son of Peleus was, moreover, permitted to keep Diomedea, the playmate of his beloved, who had refused to be parted from the friend she had grown up with in the house of Briseus. When she was brought before the heroes, she threw herself at the feet of Achilles, imploring him with tears not to part her from her young mistress. Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, the priest, was given to Agamemnon, the leader of the entire host, as a mark of honor to his kingship, and Achilles granted her willingly. The other spoils of war—captives and provisions—were divided equally among the warriors. At the request of Odysseus and Diomedes, Ajax had the treasure of King Polymnestor unloaded from his ships. Of this also Agamemnon was awarded an ample share of silver and gold.


And now the heroes took counsel about the most precious part of their spoils, the boy Polydorus, son of the king of Troy. After a brief discussion, they decided that Odysseus and Diomedes should be sent to Priam to offer him his young son in exchange for Helen. Menelaus, Helen’s husband, was appointed a third envoy, and the three set out with young Polydorus. The Trojans admitted them to their city without demurring, for envoys were held sacred according to the laws which governed the intercourse between nations.

Priam and his sons, remote from the city in their palace on the acropolis, had not even heard what was happening below, when the envoys arrived in the market place of Troy. Surrounded by throngs of Trojans, Menelaus addressed his audience, complaining bitterly of the grave breach of hospitality Paris had committed by carrying off his most prized possession—Helen, his wife. He spoke so eloquently and with such ardor that the crowd, among them the elders and leaders of Troy, were moved by his words. They wept tears of pity for his plight and agreed that his claims were just. When Odysseus observed which way the wind was blowing, he too began to speak. “Elders and citizens of Troy,” he said, “I think you should know that the Argives are not a people to embark lightly on any enterprise, and that it has always been their custom to look for glory in all they undertake. Even after the outrage we suffered when Paris, the son of your king, carried off Helen, an Argive princess, we sent peaceful envoys to you to settle this matter in friendly fashion before we prepared to take to arms. It was only when our embassy failed that war began, and it began with an attack of your men against ours! Even now that you have felt our strength, now that cities allied or subject to you lie in ruins and you yourselves have suffered the hardship long siege brings with it, a happy issue from our quarrel is still within your power. Give up to us what was taken from us, and we shall instantly break camp, board our ships, weigh anchor, and forever leave your coast with the fleet that has already done you so much harm. Nor do we make this offer empty-handed. We are bringing your king a treasure which should be far dearer to him than the stranger your city has been forced to shelter to his disadvantage and yours. We bring Polydorus, his youngest son, whom Ajax took from King Polymnestor, and who now stands bound before you, waiting your decision and that of the king. This very day give us Helen, and we shall loose the bonds of the boy and return him to his father’s house. If you refuse, your city will be destroyed, and before that your king will have to look on what he would give his life not to see.”

When Odysseus had ended, deep silence prevailed among the Trojans. At last Antenor, aged and wise, answered: “You Argives, who were once my dear guests! All that you say we know ourselves and in our hearts we agree with you. But though we have the will to mend this matter, we lack the power. We live in a state in which the king is all-powerful. The laws of our realm, the faith we have inherited from our fathers, and the conscience of our people deter us from revolt against his commands. Only if the king summons us to council are we permitted to speak on public affairs, and when we have spoken, he is still free to do as he wishes. But that you may know what the best among our people think concerning your claim, our elders will assemble and speak their mind in your presence. This is all we can do, and even the king cannot deny us this right.”

And so it was done. Antenor called a council of the elders and the envoys attended it with him. One by one he asked the foremost among his people what they thought of high-handed Paris, and one by one they declared his action insolent and lawless. Only Antimachus, a man full of malice and eager for battle, defended the rape of the Argive princess. Paris had bribed him with many gifts so that he might take his part whenever occasion demanded and speak against the return of Helen to her people. Now too he worked toward this end and behind the backs of the elders he counselled the Trojans to kill the three brave and wise heroes whom the Achaeans had sent as envoys. When they refused he advised them to hold prisoner Odysseus, Diomedes, and Menelaus, at least until they had yielded up their captive, Polydorus, without ransom or any talk of exchange. This counsel was also rejected, and since Antimachus would not stop mocking at the Argive heroes, even in public assembly, his fellow citizens drove him from their midst with sharp words, to show the envoys that they disapproved of his advice and his unprincipled behavior.

Angrily Antimachus hastened to the acropolis and told the king what had taken place. And now Priam and his sons held council, and noble Panthous, his trusted friend, was with them. For a long time they argued the matter, some saying one thing, some another. At last Panthous turned to Hector, the bravest and the most just and virtuous of Priam’s sons, and begged him to yield to the counsel of the best among the Trojans and surrender the cause of this war—Helen, who had brought nothing but disaster to her hosts. “Paris,” he said, “has now had many years in which to enjoy the possession he acquired so unfairly, and also to suffer for his delight. The cities which were our allies are destroyed, and their fall forewarns us of our own fate. Add to this that the Argives have your little brother in their power and that we do not know what will become of him if we refuse to give them Helen!”

Hector reddened with shame and tears welled up in his eyes when he thought of the infamous act of Paris. Nevertheless he did not speak in favor of delivering up the stolen princess. “She is one who sought protection in our house,” he answered Panthous. “We must not forget that. As such we received her. Had we thought otherwise, we should not have permitted her to cross the threshold of the palace. Not only did we let her enter, we even built her and Paris a palace of their own where they have lived in luxury and pleasure for many years, and none of you opened his mouth against it, though you knew that war was inevitable. Why should we drive her from us now?”

“I did speak out,” Panthous replied. “My conscience is clear. I told you of my father’s prophecy. I warned you. And I warn you again! Come what will, I shall faithfully help you defend the king and the city, even if you do not do as I say.” And with these words he left the council of the princes.

At Hector’s suggestion they at last came to the decision that they would not give up Helen, but would replace with gifts of equal value everything which had been carried off along with her. In her stead they would offer Menelaus one of the daughters of King Priam in wedlock—wise Cassandra or flower-like Polyxena, and with her a royal dowry. When the Argive envoys were brought before the king and faced with this proposal Menelaus grew very angry. “Things have, indeed, come to a pretty pass,” he said, “if after years of doing without the woman of my choice I must let my enemies select a wife for me! Keep your barbarian daughters and return to me her whom I wedded when I was young.”

Then up rose Aeneas, husband of Creusa and son-in-law of Priam, and harshly cried out to Prince Menelaus who had spoken with a scornful smile: “If it depended on me and on the word of all those who love Paris and hold high the honor of this ancient house of kings, you should have neither the one nor the other. The kingdom of Priam still has men who will protect it. And if the boy Polydorus, the son of his concubine, be lost to him, Priam has many other sons. Shall we encourage the Argives to carry off more women? But enough of talk! If you do not instantly leave with that fleet of yours, you shall feel the strength of the Trojans. We have countless young warriors thirsting to fight, and every day more and more great and powerful allies are joining us, even if those nearby weakened and were conquered.”

These words of Aeneas were greeted with tumultuous applause on the part of the Trojan princes, and had it not been for Hector, the envoys would have suffered rough treatment at their hands. These, ill suppressing their rage, left with Polydorus, whom King Priam had seen only from afar, and returned to their ships. When the news spread of the reception they had met with in Troy, news of the malice of Antimachus and the arrogance of Aeneas and all the sons of Priam except Hector, the Argives gathered in a riotous mob and angrily called for revenge. Without even consulting the princes, a disorderly and confused assembly resolved to visit the wrongs of Priam and his sons on luckless Polydorus, and they at once set about carrying out their verdict. The boy was taken within range of the walls of Troy and the moment King Priam and his sons appeared on the walls, called out by the great throngs and the loud clamor, the first moan of pain broke from the child’s lips. With their own eyes the Trojans were forced to witness the execution of the threat Odysseus had uttered. From all sides stones flew at the boy’s bare head and unprotected body, until, struck down by countless missiles, he died a cruel and miserable death. The Argive princes gave permission for the shattered corpse to be returned to Priam for honorable burial; soon the king’s servants, accompanied by Idaeus, a hero of Troy, came and with many tears laid the boy’s body in the wagon which was to take him to his unhappy father.


It was early in the tenth year of the war. Ajax had returned from various expeditions along the coast, laden with spoils. The killing of Polydorus had fanned the hatred between the two nations to greater fury, and now the gods openly took part in the conflict. Hera, Athene, Hermes, Poseidon, and Hephaestus sided with the Argives, while Ares and Aphrodite helped the Trojans, so that of this tenth and last year of the siege of Troy ten times more has been told and sung than of the nine years which went before. For it is at this point that Homer, the prince of poets, begins his tale of the wrath of Achilles and the many misfortunes which the anger of this greatest among their heroes brought upon the Argives.

The cause of Achilles’ anger was this. When their envoys returned from Troy, the Argives, mindful of the threats of the Trojans, set about preparing for decisive battle. While they were so engaged, Chryses, Apollo’s priest, whose daughter Achilles had carried off and given to Agamemnon, came into the camp holding the golden staff of peace twined with the laurel sacred to his god, and offered rich ransom for the return of his child. He made this request to the Atridae and the entire host, saying: “Sons of Atreus, heroes and men of Greece, may the gods on Olympus grant you victory over Troy and a safe homeward journey, if you give honor to Apollo the Far-Darter, whose priest I am, by returning my beloved daughter to me for the ransom I bring you.”

The host applauded his words and recommended that reverence be shown the priest and that the treasure he offered be accepted. But Agamemnon, unwilling to lose his fair prize, objected, saying: “Do not let me find you near the ships again, old man, either now or in the days to come. Your daughter is my servant and shall remain so. She will sit at the loom in my palace in Argos as long as she lives. Beware of provoking my wrath, and go while you can!”

Chryses was filled with fear and obeyed. Silently he hastened to the shore, but there he lifted his hands to the god he served and prayed to him: “Hear me, Apollo Smintheus, you who reign over Chryse, Cilia, and Tenedos! If ever I have adorned your altar to your liking and brought you offerings carefully chosen, avenge me on the Achaeans and loose your darts upon them!”

So he pleaded aloud, and Apollo heard his prayer. He slung across his shoulder his bow and quiver filled with clanging arrows and left Olympus. Sullen and threatening as night he sped toward the Argive ships and when he was near them, dart after dart whirred from his silver bow and the taut string twanged with an ominous sound. Whoever was struck by the invisible arrow died of the plague—a swift and sudden death. At first he shot only at the mules and dogs in the camp, but soon he aimed at the men as well, until one after another sank to the ground and the flames of many funeral pyres flared day and night unceasingly.

For nine days the plague raged among the Argive host. On the tenth, Achilles, whom Hera, the patron goddess of the Achaeans, had so counselled, called an assembly and advised the people to ask a priest, a soothsayer, or one who unravels the meaning of dreams, what sacrifice would avert the wrath of Phoebus Apollo and turn disaster from the camp.

Then the wisest seer in the host arose, Calchas, who prophesied from the flight of birds and declared that he was ready to expound the reasons for the anger of the immortal archer, provided Achilles would protect him. The son of Peleus bade him be of good courage and Calchas spoke: “The god is not offended because of a broken vow or neglect of sacrifice. He is angry because of Agamemnon’s lack of respect for his priest, nor will he stay his hand from dealing us evil until the girl is returned to her father without ransom and sent back to Chryse with hundredfold offerings of atonement. This is the only way in which we can win back the favor of the god.”

At these words Agamemnon’s blood beat hotly in his veins. His eyes blazed and he addressed the seer with beetling brows: “You prophet of ill omen, you who have never yet said anything that prospered me, now you arouse the people against me by claiming the Archer has sent us the plague because I refused ransom for the daughter of Chryses! It is true: I should like to keep her in my house, for she is dearer to me than Clytaemnestra, the wife of my youth, and her equal in beauty of body and loveliness of face, in wisdom and skill. But rather than see Argive warriors perish I shall send her back. If I do this, however, I demand a gift in return!”

When the king had ended, Achilles replied: “Great son of Atreus,” he said, “I do not know what gift, in your greed, you demand of the Argives. We have no longer any great stores of treasure in common. The spoils we took from the cities we conquered were distributed among us long ago, and surely we cannot take from a man what has already been given him! Therefore, release the daughter of Chryses! If Zeus, in the days to come, accords us the conquest of Troy, we shall make up your loss to you three, no, four times over!”

“Son of Peleus,” the king called to him, “do not think you can cheat me! Do you fancy I shall do as you say and give up my prize of war while you keep yours? No! If the Argives deny me recompense, I shall fetch myself what I want from one or another of you, a gift belonging to Ajax, or Odysseus, or perhaps to you, Achilles! It does not matter to me how angry you may be! But of that we shall speak another time. Now make ready a ship and a hecatomb. Put the fair-skinned daughter of Chryses aboard and let one of the princes, the son of Peleus for all I care, command the ship.”

The eyes of Achilles grew dark with anger as he answered: “O shameless prince, you who think only of your own ease, how can the Danai obey one such as you? I, to whom the Trojans did no wrong, followed you to help you avenge Menelaus, your brother. But you forget this and try to take from me the prize I won by my own effort, the prize the Achaeans allotted to me. City after city I conquered and yet I never received a share like yours. I always bore the brunt of the struggle, but when it came to dividing the spoils, you carried off the best part while I returned to the ships weary of battle and content with the little I had. But now I am going home to Phthia. No more shall I increase the toppling stores of your treasure.”

“Very well, flee if you must,” Agamemnon replied. “I have brave men enough without you, and besides you are one who is always ready to quarrel. But first I want you to know that I am, indeed, returning the daughter of Chryses to her father, but instead I shall take from your house lovely Briseis, to teach you that I am greater than you and to warn others not to defy me as you have done.”

Achilles’ heart swelled with fury and he hesitated whether to bare his sword on the instant and slay the son of Atreus, or to bridle his rage. But suddenly, invisible to all the rest, Athene stood behind him and revealed herself to him by catching at a lock of his brown hair. “Curb your anger,” she whispered. “Do not draw your sword. But you may fume with words to your heart’s content. If you obey me, I pledge you a threefold gift.”

When Achilles heard her warning, he thrust the silver hilt of his sword back into the scabbard. But to his words he gave free rein. “Unworthy son of Atreus,” he said, “never did your own heart teach you to lay an ambush with the noblest among the Argives or to fight in the foremost ranks in pitched battle! It is, of course, much easier to steal a prize from one who has dared to oppose you. But I swear to you by this staff that just as surely as it will not put forth green shoots as it did when it branched on a tree, so from this time on you shall not see the son of Peleus in battle. In vain will you look for aid when Hector, the killer of men, mows down the Argives row on row. In vain will bitterness gnaw at your soul for having denied due honors to the noblest among the Achaeans.” So said Achilles, and he threw his staff on the ground and sat down. Aged Nestor tried to reconcile the opponents with calm and gentle words, but to no avail.

Finally Achilles rose from his seat in the assembly and called to the king: “Do what you will, only do not imagine that I shall obey you! Never shall I lift my arm against you or another for the sake of this girl. You gave her to me and you may take her her from me. But do not attempt to touch the very least of the other possessions in my house or my ships, for if you do, my lance will drip with your blood.”

The assembly dispersed. Agamemnon had the daughter of Chryses and the hecatomb put aboard ship and bade Odysseus take it to its destination. Then the son of Atreus summoned Talthybius and Eurybates, the heralds, and commanded them to fetch him Briseis from the house of Achilles. Unwillingly they went, and only for fear of their king. When they reached the camp they found the son of Peleus sitting in front of his house, and he was not happy to see them. Reverence and timidity sealed their lips so that they did not tell him why they had come, but he had already guessed their purpose. “Do not be distressed,” he said to them. “Approach, O heralds of Zeus and of mortals. The fault is not yours but Agamemnon’s. Come, Patroclus, bring the girl and give her over to them. But they shall bear witness to me before gods and men that if, in the days to come, anyone requires my help and it is not given, not I shall have the blame but the son of Atreus!”

Patroclus, Achilles’ friend, led out Briseis who followed the heralds reluctantly, for she had learned to love her gentle lord. As he sat weeping on the shore, he gazed down into the dark sea and begged Thetis, his mother, to help him. And from the depths of the waters he heard her voice. “Woe to me, my child, that ever I bore you. So brief is your life to be, and yet you must suffer such insult and sorrow! But I myself shall go to the Thunderer and implore him to give you aid. It cannot be at once, for only yesterday he departed for Oceanus to a feast of the devout Ethiopians, and he will not return for twelve days. But on that twelfth day I shall hasten to him and clasp my hands about his knees. Until then, stay near your ships.” When Achilles had received this answer from his mother, he left the shore and seated himself in his house in sullen silence.

In the meantime, Odysseus had reached Chryses and given his daughter back to him. Filled with joyful surprise the priest raised his hands to heaven in thanksgiving and begged Phoebus Apollo to avert the plague he had sent upon the Argives. Instantly the plague began to abate, and when Odysseus returned to camp he found that it had ended.

And now the twelfth day dawned since Achilles had withdrawn to his house, and Thetis did not forget her promise. Through the mist of early morning she rose from the sea and went up to Olympus. Here, on the loftiest peak of the jagged mountain, aloof from the other gods, she found imperious Zeus. Clasping his knees with her left hand and touching his chin with her right in the manner of suppliants, she said to him: “Father, if ever I have served you well with words or with deeds, grant me my prayer. Honor my son, whom Fate has doomed to die so soon. Agamemnon has offended him and taken away the prize he himself won as the spoils of war. And so I beg of you, father of all gods, let the Trojans keep winning until the Argives pay my son the honor that is his due.” For a long time Zeus was silent and made not the slightest motion. But Thetis clung closer to his knees and whispered: “Now grant my request or refuse it flatly, to show me that among all the gods you favor me least.”

So with her wiles and coaxing ways she beset Zeus until he answered, but his voice betrayed displeasure. “It is not well that you beseech me to act counter to the wishes of Hera who is always against me as it is. Leave quickly before she observes your presence and let my nod pledge you that I shall do as you have asked.” Even as he spoke Zeus gave a faint token of assent with his eyebrows only, yet the great mountain of Olympus shook at the sign. Thetis, well pleased, hastened back into the deep waters of the sea. But Hera, who had seen them talking together, went to Zeus and vexed him with reproaches. He, however, replied calmly: “Do not think that you can fathom my decisions. Be still and obey my commands.” And Hera trembled at the words of her husband, the father of gods and men, and did not venture to gainsay him or further object to the resolve he had taken.


Zeus remembered the nod he had given Thetis, goddess of the sea. He sent the god of dreams to the Argive camp and bade him enter the tent of sleeping Agamemnon. And the dream god, assuming the form of Nestor, whom of all the elders Agamemnon honored most, stood at the head of the king’s couch and spoke to him. “Are you still asleep, son of Atreus?” he asked. “The man who decides the actions of a whole people should not sleep so long. Hear what I have to say, for I have come to you as a messenger from Zeus. He commands you to muster the Argive hosts, for the hour to conquer Troy has come. The gods have made their decision and destruction hovers over the city.”

Agamemnon awoke and swiftly rose from his couch. He bound his sandals to his feet, donned his tunic, slung his sword over his shoulder, seized his scepter, and strode toward the ships through the early morning mists. At his command the heralds went from hut to hut to call the men, but the princes of the host were summoned to council on Nestor’s ship. Agamemnon was first to speak. “Friends,” he said, “a heaven-sent dream, visiting me in the form of Nestor, revealed to me that Zeus is set on ruining Troy. Let us see whether we can rouse our men who have grown slack and discontented because of the wrath of Achilles. First I shall tempt them with words, counselling them to board the ships and leave the Trojan coast. Then it will be your turn. Disperse through the camp, some here, some there, and urge them to stay.”

When Agamemnon had ended, Nestor rose and addressed the princes. “Had another told us of such a dream,” he said, “we should brand him a liar and turn from him full of contempt. But since he who has spoken is the foremost prince among the Danai, we cannot but believe him. So let us follow his plan.”

Nestor left the council and all the princes followed him to the market place where the men had gathered like a swarm of bees. Nine heralds marshalled them into groups and seated them in a great circle; gradually their talk died down to whispers until at last there was silence. Then Agamemnon, standing in the midst of the gathering, raised his scepter and began: “Brave warriors of the Argive people who have come together here, Zeus has deceived me with blindness of soul, for though he once so graciously promised that I should return to my home as the destroyer of Troy, now he, who has shattered so many cities and in his great might will shatter still more, is pleased to command me to go back to Argos ingloriously, so that all those who have fallen will have died in vain. It would, indeed, be a disgrace if future generations learned that the great people of the Danai continued losing battles against enemies who are so much weaker. For if we were at peace and could measure the number of the Trojans against our own, if we assigned one Trojan as cup-bearer to every table of ten Achaeans—then many tables, I believe, would have to do without the cup. To be sure, they have powerful allies from many cities who hinder me from burning Troy to the ground, as I should like to do. Be that as it may—nine years have passed. The timbers of our ships are cracking, the ropes rot; our women and children wait at home, full of yearning for us. And so it is, perhaps, best to submit to the bidding of Zeus, go to our ships, and return to the dear land of our fathers.”

Agamemnon’s words stirred the throng to motion as a wind swells and churns the waves of the sea. In a moment the entire host was afoot in wild confusion. They rushed to the shore so swiftly that the dust whirled up in clouds. Each spurred on the other to drag the ships into the water. Here they pulled the prop from under a keel, there they cleared the channels connecting the camp with the sea.

Even up on Olympus those who supported the Argives were alarmed to see how earnestly they were taking Agamemnon at his word, and Hera urged Athene to hasten down to earth and with sweet persuasive words halt the flight of the Danai. Pallas Athene consented, and down from the craggy heights of Olympus she flew to the Argive camp. Here she found Odysseus standing before his ship. He did not move or venture to lay his hand upon it, and grief ate at his heart. The goddess approached him, revealed herself, and said in a gentle voice: “And so you really want to flee? Will you let Priam triumph? You are willing to leave the Trojans Helen, because of whom so many Argives have given their lives far from their native land? Surely you will not allow this! Go quickly in and out among the host! Do not hold back now! Use all your shrewdness and eloquence! Reason with them, stop them!”

At Athene’s words Odysseus threw off his mantle and hastened toward the people. Whenever he met a prince or a noble, he stopped him and spoke with kindness and insistence. “Is it right, my good and brave friend,” he asked, “to give up the game like a coward? If you remained calm, you would calm the rest also. Remember that you do not know what the son of Atreus really thinks. Perhaps he was only trying the Argives!” But if he came upon a common man who was making a great noise and shouting, he struck him with his staff and threatened him in a loud voice: “Wretch! Stay where you are! Listen to what others say, you on whom no one can count either in battle or in the assembly! We Argives cannot all be kings. When many rule, no one prospers. To one alone Zeus gave the scepter, and him the rest shall obey.”

In this way Odysseus sent his imperious voice ringing through the camp and at last induced the people to leave the ships and return to the place of assembly. Slowly they quieted down and waited for what was to come. Only one man could be heard in that hush. It was Thersites, who, as usual, was making shrill complaints against the princes and leaders of the people. He was the ugliest man who had come from Greece to Troy: cross-eyed, lame in one foot, hunchbacked, narrow in the chest, his head long and pointed, and sparsely covered with woolly hair.

This troublemaker was hateful to Odysseus and the son of Peleus even more than to the rest because he was constantly maligning them. But this time Thersites derided Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief. “What have you to complain of, son of Atreus?” he shrieked. “What is it that you need? Is not your house full of precious metals and lovely women? You are living in comfort and taking your ease! Why should we allow you to lead us into misery? We should do better to sail home in our ships, leave you alone before Troy, and let you gorge yourself with gifts.” Then Thersites turned to his comrades. “He has done dishonor to mighty Achilles!” he shouted. “He has deprived him of his rightful prize of war. But the listless son of Peleus has no gall in his liver, or this tyrant would have done wrong for the last time!”

While Thersites was speaking, Odysseus had gone up to him. He measured him with a baleful look, then lifted his staff and gave him a great thump over the back with it, crying: “If ever again I find you shouting like a madman, then let my head not stand on my shoulders, nor may I be called the father of Telemachus if I do not tear the clothes off you, scourge you, and send you wailing back to the ships!” Thersites writhed under the blow, and a bloody weal rose up on his back. He cowered down and began to snivel, and a big tear rolled down his nose. But among the Achaeans, one man nudged the next, laughing merrily, and all were pleased that this noisy fellow had been given the punishment he so richly deserved.

And now Odysseus faced the people and beside him was Pallas Athene who had assumed the shape of a herald and bade the gathering be silent. He himself raised his staff to gain the attention of those about him, and said: “Son of Atreus! Truly, things have come to a sorry pass when the Argives are ready to disgrace you and break their promise not to leave until Troy is conquered. They wail for home like women and children and complain to one another of the hardships they must endure. But think how shameful it would be for us to go home empty-handed after waiting here for so long a time! O my friends, have patience a little longer! Remember the sign that was given us before our departure from Aulis, when standing around the spring gushing from the earth we offered hecatombs on sacred altars under a spreading maple. To me it seems only yesterday! A serpent with dark scaly body slipped from under the altar and wound its way up the maple. Swinging on one of the branches was a sparrow’s nest, and in it were fledglings, eight of them huddled among the leaves, and the ninth bird was the brooding mother. With frightened twitters she hovered over her young until the serpent turned its head toward her and caught her by the wing. When it had devoured the mother and her little ones, Zeus, who had sent it, wrought a miracle and turned it to stone. And you Argives stood by and quaked with wonder. But Calchas, the seer, cried: ‘Do you not see what Zeus is foretelling by way of this miracle? The nine sparrows are the nine years in which you will battle for Troy. In the tenth you shall conquer that glorious city.’ So Calchas predicted, and now his words are about to be fulfilled. The nine years of fighting are at an end. The tenth has come and shall bring us victory. So let us wait together a little longer, O Danai! Stay until we destroy the citadel of King Priam!”

The Argives applauded the words of Odysseus, and wise Nestor made the most of the shift in the mood of the mob and counselled Agamemnon to let anyone who could not quell his longing go to his ship and set sail for home. But he advised that after this he should range his men according to family line and rank and let them fight. In this way, said Nestor, he would soon learn which of the warriors or leaders was brave and which was timid, and whether the will of the gods, or fear, or lack of skill in the trade of war was delaying the conquest of Troy.

Agamemnon rejoiced at this sage advice and answered: “Nestor, you, who are old, surpass all others in wisdom! If only I had ten more like you in the council of the Argives, Troy’s lofty citadel would soon lie in the dust. As for me, I must admit that I acted foolishly when I quarrelled with Achilles for the sake of a girl. Zeus must have struck me with blindness of heart. But if we two become reconciled, the fall of Troy cannot be long in coming. And now let us prepare for the attack. Each man shall eat, make ready his shield and lance, give food and drink to his horses, examine the chariots, and think only of battle. But he who fears and remains with the ships—his body shall be the prey of dogs and vultures.”

When Agamemnon had ended, so mighty a roar burst from the throats of the Argives that it sounded like the tide of the sea when the south wind lashes it shoreward and it breaks against towering cliffs. The men leaped up from their places. Each hurried to his ship, and soon the smoke rose from among the huts where the meal was being prepared. Agamemnon sacrificed a bullock to Zeus and called the noblest among the Achaeans to him. When all had eaten, he bade the heralds summon the Argives to battle, and they stormed to the meadow of the Scamander like flocks of cranes or swans which fly along a river. The leaders, foremost among them the son of Atreus, ordered the battalions, and splendid to behold was Agamemnon, the king of kings: his eyes and his brow were like those of the father of gods, his broad breast like that of Poseidon, and his cuirass and lance and shield like those of Ares himself.


The host which at Nestor’s advice had been ordered according to family line stood ready for battle when at last they saw the dust whirled up by the Trojans advancing from behind their walls. The Argives too began to move forward. When the two armies were close enough for the fight to begin, out from the ranks of the Trojans came Paris, girt with the spotted panther’s skin, his bow over his shoulder, his sword at his side. Brandishing two bronze-tipped lances, he challenged the bravest among the Danai to single combat. When Menelaus saw him spring forward from the mass of soldiers, he exulted as a hungry lion who sees a buck or a stag crossing his path. Fully armed he leaped down from his chariot, eager to punish the thief who had robbed his house. But Paris shuddered at the sight of such an opponent. As if he had seen an adder, he paled and drew back, mingling with the throng. When Hector saw him recoil he called to him angrily: “Brother, you are a hero only in stature. At heart you are timid as a girl and nothing but a clever seducer. I wish you had died before wooing Helen! Do you not see that the Argives are laughing at you because you are not man enough to stand up against him whose wife you carried off? You deserve to discover what sort of man you have offended, and I, for my part, should have no pity on you if you lay on the earth, covered with wounds, and soiling your fair locks in the dust.”

Paris replied: “Hector, you are hard of heart, and your courage is firm as the brazen axe with which the shipbuilder cuts his timber, but you reproach me unjustly. Do not mock my beauty, for beauty too is a gift of the immortals. If you desire to see me fight, bid the Trojans and Danai rest their arms. Then for Helen and all her treasure I will venture single combat with Menelaus, the hero, in the sight of all the people. The victor shall carry her home with him. This shall be sealed by a treaty, and soon you shall plough the earth of Troy in peace, and those others will sail for Argos.”

At his brother’s words, Hector was filled with glad surprise. He advanced from the ranks and, holding up his spear, stemmed the onrush of the Trojan troops. When the Argives saw him, they vied in aiming at him with darts and arrows and stones. But Agamemnon called to them: “Stop! Do not cast your weapons at him! Hector of the crested helmet desires to speak.” At that the Argives paused and waited. Then Hector, in ringing tones, proclaimed to both hosts the resolve of his brother Paris. His words were followed by a long silence. At last Menelaus spoke.

“Hear me!” he cried. “Hear me, on whose spirit the burden we bear in common weighs most heavily! At last I dare to hope that you, Trojans and Argives alike, who have suffered so greatly in the war kindled by Paris, will part from one another reconciled. One of us two, whichever Fate chooses, will die. But the rest of you shall go in peace. Let us make offerings and take the oath, and then the combat shall begin.”

All rejoiced at these words, for they yearned for the end of this war. On both sides the charioteers reined in their horses, the heroes dismounted from the chariots, took off their armor, and laid it on the ground. In great haste Hector sent two heralds to Troy to bring lambs for the offering and to summon King Priam to the battlefield. King Agamemnon also sent a herald, Talthybius, to the fleet to fetch the victims. And Iris, the messenger of the gods, hastened to Troy in the form of Laodice, Priam’s daughter, to tell Helen what had happened. She found her seated at the loom, working a sumptuous robe with scenes of the battle, her eyes lowered and fixed on her weaving. “Come, dear and lovely one!” Iris called to her. “You shall see a curious thing. The Trojans and Argives who only a short time ago confronted one another with rage in their hearts are now silent and calm. Their spears are thrust into the ground, and they are leaning on their shields. War has ended. Only Paris and Menelaus are to fight, and the winner will carry you off as his wife.”

So spoke the goddess, and Helen’s heart was filled with longing for the husband of her youth, for her home and her friends. Quickly she covered herself with a silver-white veil with which she hid the tears shining on her lashes, and hastened toward the Scaean Gates followed by two of her handmaids, Aethra and Clymene. There, on the rampart, was King Priam with the oldest and wisest among the Trojans: Panthous, Thymoetes, Lam pus, Clytius, Hicetaon, Antenor, and Ucalegon. The two last were the sagest citizens of Troy. Their great age kept them from going to war, but in the council their words were the shrewdest. When from their high outlook they saw Helen coming, they marvelled at her grace, and one whispered softly to the other: “No one, indeed, should blame the Trojans and Argives for their willingness to suffer years of misery for such a woman! Is she not as fair and radiant as an immortal goddess? Still, with all that loveliness of hers, let her return to her home with the Argive fleet so that we and our sons may have no further harm from her.”

But Priam called Helen fondly to him. “Come, sweet daughter,” he said. “Come, sit here beside me and I will show you your first husband, your friends, and your kinsmen. I do not hold you responsible for this wretched war. The gods have sent it on us. And now tell me, who is that man who shines out among the Danai in stature and majesty? Here and there among the ranks of his army are men taller than he, but not one is like him in kingliness and splendor.”

Helen answered the king, and her voice was reverent. “My honored father-in-law, when I approach you I am timid and shy. Par better I had died a most bitter death than left my home, my daughter and my friends, and followed your son here. I could weep rivers of tears that I did this! But you asked me a question. Well then: he whose name you wish to know is Agamemnon, the best of kings and a valiant warrior. And he, alas! was once my brother-in-law.”

“O happy son of Atreus!” exclaimed Priam, gazing at the hero. “O favorite of Fortune, to whose scepter countless Argives bow! I too once headed a great host. Then I was young. It was the time we were fending off hordes of Amazons from Phrygia. But my army did not equal yours in numbers.” Then he turned to Helen again. “And now, sweet daughter,” he asked, “tell me the name of that one over there. He is not as tall as the son of Atreus, but his breast is broader, his shoulders more massive. His arms are lying on the ground. He prowls down the rows of men like a ram around sheep.”

“That is the son of Laertes,” Helen replied. “It is crafty Odysseus. The rocky island of Ithaca is his home.”

Here old Antenor joined in their conversation. “You are right, princess,” he said. “I know him well, him and Menelaus, for once they came to my house as envoys. When they stood up, Menelaus was taller than Odysseus, but when they were seated, Odysseus seemed the more majestic. Menelaus spoke little, but every word, though uttered ever so casually, was full of meaning. When Odysseus was about to speak, he fixed his eyes on the ground and held his staff motionless in his hand, so that he looked like one ill at ease, and it was difficult to guess whether he was malicious or stupid. But when once he began, when his mighty voice rang out, his words crowded one another like snowflakes in winter, and no mortal could compare with him in eloquence.”

In the meantime, Priam had been looking farther afield. “Who is that giant over there?” he cried. “That tall and powerful man who stands out among the rest?”

“That is Ajax,” Helen answered. “He is a pillar of strength to the Argives. And nearby, standing among his Cretans like a god, is Idomeneus. I know him well. Menelaus often was host to him in our palace. And now I recognize one after the other the lusty warriors of my country. Had we the time, I could tell you all their names. The only ones I miss are Castor and Polydeuces, my own brothers, my own flesh and blood. Have they not come, or are they reluctant to appear in battle because they are ashamed of their sister?” And as she thought about this, Helen fell silent. She did not know that her brothers had died long ago.

While they were talking, the heralds carried through the city offerings of two lambs and, for the libation, a goatskin full of wine grown in that country. Idaeus, a third herald, followed with a gleaming bowl and a golden cup. When they passed through the Scaean Gates, Idaeus approached King Priam and said to him: “Rise, O king! Both the Trojan and Argive princes summon you to the battlefield to take an oath on a solemn agreement. Paris, your son, and Menelaus are resolved to fight for Helen in single combat. He who wins is to carry her off with all her treasure. And after that the Achaeans will return to their country.”

The king was amazed but commanded that his horses be harnessed. Then he mounted the chariot and Antenor with him. Priam seized the reins, and the horses flew through the gates and out to the field. When the king had reached the two armies, he and his companion dismounted and stood between them. Agamemnon and Odysseus hurried toward him. The heralds led the victims to these four, mixed the wine in the bowl, and sprinkled the two kings with sacred water. The son of Atreus drew the sacrificial knife he always had with him, hanging beside the great scabbard of his sword, cut the hair from the foreheads of the lambs as the rite of sacrifice demanded, and called upon Zeus to witness the covenant. Then he slit the throats of the animals and laid them in the dust. The heralds prayed and poured the wine out of the golden cup, and all the people of Troy and of Greece made loud supplication: “O Zeus and all the deathless gods! Let the brains of the first to break this solemn oath be poured over the earth like this wine, theirs and those of their children!”

And now Priam said: “I shall return to my citadel in Ilium, for I cannot bear to see my son fight with King Menelaus in mortal combat, of which Zeus alone knows the outcome.” So the old man mounted the chariot with his companion and guided the horses back to Troy.

Hector and Odysseus now measured the space for the combat and in a brazen helmet shuffled two lots to decide who was to be first to cast the lance at his opponent. Hector shook the helmet, and out fell the lot of Paris. Then both heroes girt on their armor and strode out between the Argive and Trojan hosts, wearing breastplate and helmet, tall lance in hand. Their eyes were bright with angry challenge, and both peoples marvelled at them as they passed. When they confronted each other in the space which had been measured, they raised their spears defiantly. Since it had been so decided by lot, Paris hurled his first. It hit the shield of Menelaus, but the point of the lance bent as it struck the bronze.

Then Menelaus lifted high his spear and prayed aloud: “Zeus, let me punish him who offended me first, so that on through the generations our descendants shall fear to wrong their hosts.” With this he flung his weapon. It pierced the shield of Paris, penetrated his breastplate, and cut his tunic at the thigh. And now the son of Atreus snatched his sword from the scabbard and aimed it at the helmet of his opponent. But the blade splintered with a shrill sound. “Cruel Zeus, why do you grudge me victory?” cried Menelaus, and he rushed at his foe, took him by the helmet, and, turning, drew him toward the Argive host. He would have dragged Paris along the ground and strangled him in his chin strap, had not Aphrodite seen his agony and broken the strap, so that Menelaus was left holding the empty helmet. This he hurled toward the Argives and prepared to rush at his enemy afresh.

But Aphrodite had veiled Paris in sheltering mist and taken him back to Troy. Here she set him down in a fragrant chamber, and then, in the guise of an old Spartan woman, she went to Helen who was sitting up in a tower, among other Trojan women. The goddess caught at her robe and said: “Come, Paris is asking for you. He waits in the chamber robed as for a feast. To look at him you would think he were ready for the dance rather than having just come from single combat.”

When Helen looked up, she saw the goddess vanish in all her divine loveliness. Unnoticed by the other women, she stole from the room and hastened to her palace. There she found her husband, adorned by Aphrodite. He was flung on a couch at his ease. She seated herself opposite him, turned her eyes from his carefree comfort, and upbraided him: “Back from the battle? Rather would I see you dead by the hand of that mighty hero, my first husband! Only a short while ago you boasted that you could subdue him with your arm and spear. Go then, and challenge him once more! No, wait—stay here! It might go worse with you a second time!”

“Do not vex me with mocking words,” Paris replied. “If Menelaus vanquished me it was with Athene’s help. Another time I shall vanquish him, for the gods have never yet forsaken me.” Then Aphrodite moved the heart of Helen. She looked at her husband with tenderness and held up her lips for his kiss.

On the battlefield Menelaus was still storming through the host in search of Paris. But neither Trojan nor Argive could show him where he was, and surely they would not have concealed him, for they hated him more than death. At last Agamemnon raised his voice and said: “Listen to my words, Dardanians and Danai! It is clear that Menelaus is the victor. So give us Helen and her treasure and pay us tribute for all time to come.” The Argives greeted this proposal with shouts of approval. The Trojans were silent.


The gods had gathered in a great assembly on Olympus. Hebe went in and out among the tables, pouring nectar, and the immortals drank to one another from golden cups and looked down on Troy. It was then that Zeus and Hera resolved to destroy the city. The father of all gods turned to his daughter Athene and told her to hasten to the battlefield and incite the Trojans to break the treaty they had agreed to, by insulting the Argives who were celebrating their victory.

So Pallas Athene assumed the form of Laodocus, son of Antenor, and mingled with the Trojans. She sought out the son of Lycaon, haughty Pandarus, whom she regarded as well suited to perform what her father had ordered. Pandarus was an ally of Troy and had come from Lycia, bringing with him many warriors.

The goddess soon found him standing among his men, and she touched him lightly on the shoulder and said: “Listen to me, wise Pandarus! Now is the time to do a deed which will win you the gratitude and praise of all the Trojans, above all of Paris, who will doubtlessly reward you with priceless gifts. Do you see Menelaus over there, so arrogant, so proud of his victory? Why not launch an arrow at him—if you dare!” So said the goddess in her disguise, and the foolish heart of Pandarus was stirred by her words. Swiftly he took his bow, lifted the lid of his quiver, selected a feathered shaft and fitted it to the string which twanged as the arrow was released. But Athene guided it to Menelaus’ belt, so that, though it pierced the leather and the armor, it only scratched the skin. Even so, blood oozed from the wound, and a shudder shook Menelaus.

Agamemnon and his friends surrounded him in consternation. “Dear brother,” cried the king, “we have made a treaty that brings death to you, for our tricky foes have disregarded it! They shall atone for this, and I know the day will come when Troy and Priam with all his people will fall. But your wound fills me with bitter grief. If I return without you, if your bones moulder in Trojan earth and the work we set out to do is not accomplished, what disgrace awaits me in my native land! For without you I am not destined to vanquish Troy and carry off Helen. And the Trojans will trample on your grave and speak of you and me with contempt. If only the earth would open to devour me!”

But Menelaus comforted his brother. “Calm yourself,” he said. “My wound is not fatal. My belt has protected me.”

“If only it be so!” sighed Agamemnon and quickly dispatched a herald to summon Machaon, versed in the art of healing. He came, drew out the arrow, unclasped the belt, opened the armor, and examined the wound. Then he sucked the blood welling from it with his own lips and applied a soothing salve.

While the physician and the heroes busied themselves about Menelaus, the Trojan troops were already advancing. The Argives too girt on their armor again, and Agamemnon entrusted his horses and chariot to Eurymedon with orders to bring them to him should he see him grow weary from striding through the ranks on foot. Then he went among the rows of his warriors and spurred them to battle, praising the bold and admonishing those who hung back. In this way he came to the Cretans, grouped around their leader Idomeneus who stood among them, raging to fight like an angry boar. When Agamemnon saw this brave array, his heart grew light. “You are one of the very best, Idomeneus,” he called to him. “You excel in everything, in war and at the banquet, when the sparkling wine is blended in great pitchers. While the rest drink their modest measure, your cup is always as full as mine. But now you shall go with me to the fight, as you so often swore you would.”

“I shall, indeed, be a faithful comrade-in-arms to you!” answered Idomeneus. “Go, and drive others on! I have no need of that. May death and destruction overtake those breakers of treaties, the Trojans!”

And now Agamemnon had come up with the two Ajaces, in whose wake seethed a tide of foot soldiers. The king called to them as he hurried by: “If only courage such as yours quickened the spirits of all the Argives, Priam’s fortress would soon fall!” Going on farther he saw Nestor engaged in drawing up his men. In the van he placed the warriors with horses and chariots, in the rear many and brave men on foot, and wedged between these two bulwarks, the cowards. And while he was drawing them up in this way, he exhorted them with wise words: “Let no one venture forward too far with his chariot, and let no one retreat. If chariot strikes on chariot, hold out the lance.”

When Agamemnon heard him counselling his men thus, he cried: “Old man, may your knees obey you, and may the vigor of your body match the courage which still beats in your breast! If only another could take from you the burden of age, if only you were young again!”

“How I should like to be as I once was!” Nestor replied. “But the gods do not give a man all things at all times. So now the young shall hurl the spear, while I do my part with the words of wise counsel age can give.”

Agamemnon went on and found Menestheus, son of Peteus. Around him the Athenians clustered, and beside him were the Cephalonians under the command of Odysseus. Both battalions were waiting to let others storm on before. This vexed the king and he said to them gruffly: “Why do you huddle together, waiting for others to bear the brunt of danger? When we dine on roast meat and drink wine, you are always first, but now it would not displease you to see ten other Argive troops precede you into battle!”

Odysseus scowled at him and said: “What is this you say, son of Atreus? You call us loiterers? Just wait until we break forth and you will see with what a vengeance we press the fury of the fight against the Trojans, and how I shall go ahead of all. So do not be so quick with ill-considered words!”

When Agamemnon saw the hero roused against him, he answered smilingly: “Well I know, noble son of Laertes, that you need neither reproof nor counsel. And at heart you are as gentle as I, so let us not speak harsh words to one another.” And he left him and hastened on.

Next he encountered the son of Tydeus, proud Diomedes, standing in his magnificent chariot next to Sthenelus, son of Capaneus, his friend and charioteer. To him too he expressed displeasure in order to test him. “It seems,” he said, “that the son of Tydeus is looking about in dismay. How different your father was when he fought against Thebes! He was always in the thick of battle!”

Diomedes heard the reproof of his king in silence; his friend Sthenelus answered for him. “You know better, son of Atreus,” he said. “We can boast of greater prowess than our fathers, for we conquered that very Thebes before which they failed.” But Diomedes interrupted his friend and said sternly: “Say no more. I do not blame the king for urging the Danai on to battle. It is he who has the glory if we win; it is he who bears loss and grief if we fail. So let us keep off defeat!” With that Diomedes leaped down from the chariot, and his bronze breastplate rang.

Troop after troop, like waves rushing in upon the shore, the Argives fared forth to battle. The leaders shouted commands; the men marched in silence. The Trojans, on the other hand, were as noisy as a flock of bleating sheep, and the tongues of many different peoples could be heard from their ranks. And through all that clamor rang the battle cry of the gods. Ares, the war-god, rallied the courage of the Trojans, and Pallas Athene fired the hearts of the Argives.


Soon the hosts, surging foward, met face to face. Shield clashed on shield; spear crossed spear, and everywhere was the clamor of voices: here lament and there jubilation. As in late spring two swollen streams fuse and plunge down the mountain side, so the shouts of the armies merged to a single roar. The first hero to fall was Echepolus of Troy, who ventured out too far, so that Nestor’s son Antilochus pierced his forehead, and he toppled over like a tower. Swiftly Elephenor, one of the princes of Greece, caught hold of the foot of the fallen warrior to pull him away from his comrades and strip him of his armor. But as he bent down to drag him over, his shield shifted a little, and Agenor, the Trojan, seeing his advantage, brandished his spear and pierced his side, so that the Argive sank dead in the dust. Over him raged the battle, and the warriors fell on one another fiercely as wolves.

Simoisius, in the flower of youth, darted forward and was struck above his right breast by Ajax the Great. The spear came out through his shoulder, and he sprawled on the ground. Instantly Ajax threw himself upon him and took his breastplate. Straightway Antiphus of Troy threw his lance, but it missed Ajax and hit Leucus, the friend of Odysseus, just as he was dragging off the youthful dead. This filled Odysseus with fury and grief; looking about him cautiously, he hurled his javelin, but the Trojan recoiled from it. He struck Democoon, a bastard son of Priam; the pointed spear passed through each temple. He fell with a great thud, and the first row of Trojan fighters, Hector among them, retreated. At that the Danai shouted with joy, shoved aside the dead bodies, and penetrated farther into the ranks of the Dardanians.

This angered Apollo, and he urged the Trojans on. “Do not give up the battlefield to the Argives,” he cried, and his voice rang out above the tumult. “They are not made of stone or iron, and Achilles, the best of them, is not even fighting! He remained behind near the fleet, where he is nursing his grudge.” On the other side, Athene was spurring the Danai to battle, and many heroes fell in both armies.

Then Pallas gave Diomedes, son of Tydeus, such valor and strength that he stood out among the Achaeans and won undying glory. She made brighter his shield and helmet, so that they glittered like stars on an autumn night, and drove him into the thick of the foe. Now among the Trojans was Dares, a priest of Hephaestus, a rich and powerful man who had sent two sons, Phegeus and Idaeus, both dauntless warriors, into this war. These guided their chariot out from the ranks of their men and straight toward Diomedes, who fought on foot. First Phegeus cast his lance; it grazed the shoulder of the son of Tydeus but did not wound him. But Diomedes’ spear pierced the breast of Phegeus who fell from his chariot. When his brother Idaeus saw this, he did not dare stop to screen his brother’s body but leaped from his chariot and fled, while Hephaestus, his father’s protector, spread darkness about him, for he did not want his priest to lose both sons.

And now Athene took her brother Ares, the war-god, by the hand, saying to him: “Brother, shall we not leave the Trojans and Argives to their own devices for a time, and see to whom our father will grant the victory?” So Ares let his sister take him from the battlefield, and the mortals were left to themselves. But Athene knew that Diomedes, her favorite, was fighting with the strength she had conferred upon him.

Now the Achaeans pressed hard upon the foe, and a Trojan fell before the onslaught of every Argive commander. Agamemnon thrust his spear into the shoulder blade of Hodius; Idomeneus pierced Phaestus and plunged him headlong from his chariot; Scamandrius, the skillful hunter, was struck down by the sharp lance of Menelaus; Meriones slew Phereclus, who had built Paris the ships for his marauding expedition; and many other Trojans fell at the hands of the Danai.

The son of Tydeus raged through the army of the foe like a mountain stream swollen with rains, and it was difficult to guess whether he belonged to the Argives or the Trojans, for he was now here and now there. While he was darting back and forth with the tide of battle, Pandarus, son of Lycaon, fixed him carefully with his eye, aimed his bow at him, and shot him in the shoulder, so that blood flowed over his armor. Pandarus, seeing this, exulted and called back to his comrades: “Come, Trojans, goad on your horses! I have hit the bravest among the Argives! Soon he will have raged his last and he in the dust, for Apollo himself called me from Lycia to do battle with this man!”

But Diomedes was not fatally wounded. He rose, stood in front of his chariot, and called to Sthenelus, his friend and charioteer: “Come down from the chariot, dear comrade, and draw the arrow out of my shoulder.” Sthenelus hurried to do as he asked, and the clear red blood spurted from between the links of the armor. Then Diomedes prayed to Athene: “Blue-eyed daughter of Zeus! You were ever wont to protect my father; now be gracious to me as well! Guide my spear to that man over there who has wounded me and who would rejoice in my death. Let him not see the light of the sun for long!” And Athene heard his prayer and quickened his limbs. His body grew light as that of a bird, his wound no longer throbbed, and he raced back into battle.

“Go!” she said to him. “I have healed you and taken the human darkness from your eyes, so that now you can see who on the field is mortal and who is immortal. Do not lift your hand against a god should you see one coming toward you. But should Aphrodite approach—you may wound her with your spear.”

Diomedes, hearing this, rushed to the forefront, fierce as a mountain lion, for his courage and strength were trebled. He felled Astynous by a thrust at the shoulderjoint; he pierced Hypiron with his lance and slew the two sons of Eurydamas and the two late-born sons of Phaenops, who now had nothing left in all the world but his grief. Then he hurled from their chariot Chromius and Echemmon, sons of Priam, and stripped them of their armor while his men seized the chariot and took it to the camp.

Aeneas, King Priam’s bold son-in-law, saw the ranks of the Trojans thinning under the strokes and thrusts of the son of Tydeus. He hurried through the storm of missiles until he reached Pandarus. “Son of Lycaon,” he said to him, “where is your bow? Where are your arrows and that glory which, up to now, no one from Lycia and no one from Troy has equalled? Aim a shaft at that man who is making such havoc among the Trojans!—unless, of course, he is a deathless god in the guise of a mortal!”

Pandarus replied: “If it is not a god, then it must be Diomedes, son of Tydeus, whom I thought I slew. But if it is Diomedes, then a god must have shielded him and is still giving him protection and aid. Alas for my ill luck in this war! I have shot at two Argive princes, wounded both without killing them, and only fanned their anger. It was in an evil hour that I took my quiver and bow and strode through the gates of Troy. If ever I return home, then let any stranger strike off my head, if I do not break my useless bow and arrows with these hands and toss them into the fire!”

Aeneas tried to console him. “It were better for you to mount my chariot,” he said, “and learn how agile Trojan horses are in flight and pursuit. If Zeus is bent on honoring Diomedes by granting him the victory, they will carry us safely back to Troy. But I shall dismount and fight on foot.” Pandarus, however, begged him to drive the horses himself, since he was not practiced in this art. So he mounted the chariot, and the nimble horses bore them toward the son of Tydeus.

Sthenelus saw them coming. “Look!” he called to his friend. “Two fearless men are making straight for you, Pandarus, and Aeneas, the demigod, son of Aphrodite! Against these all your rage and power will be of small avail. This time let us flee in the chariot!”

But Diomedes frowned and said: “Talk not to me of fear! To shrink from battle—to yield—is not my way! My strength is still unbroken. To stand inactive in the chariot would only vex me. No, just as you see me here, on foot—that is how I shall go to meet them. If I succeed in slaying both, then stop our horses, tether the reins to the edge of the car, and take the steeds of Aeneas to our ships as our rightful booty.” While he was still speaking, the lance of Pandarus flew toward the son of Tydeus, pierced his shield, and rebounded from his breastplate.

“Missed!” shouted Diomedes at the Trojan, exulting, and cast his spear. It sped through the air and straight into the face of his foe, under the eye, cutting through teeth and tongue; the point came out below the chin. Pandarus fell from his chariot with a clash of arms, doubled up on the ground in all his glittering array, and quivered in the throes of death. His horses shied, breaking away. But Aeneas leaped down from the chariot and paced around the dead body like an angry lion, holding out his shield and spear, ready to slay anyone who dared to touch his friend. Now Diomedes grasped a stone lying in the field, a stone so large that two ordinary men could not have lifted it. With this he struck the son of Anchises on the hip-joint, crushing it and tearing the sinews, so that the hero sank to the earth and lost consciousness. He would have died, had not Aphrodite wound her white arms around her cherished son, covered him with the silvery folds of her robe, and carried him from the field.

In the meantime, Sthenelus, obedient to his friend’s command, had taken the horses and chariot of Aeneas to the ships, and now returned to Diomedes in his own chariot. With the clear vision Athene had given him, the son of Tydeus had recognized Aphrodite. He followed her through the din of battle and soon caught up with her as she bore away her son. The hero thrust at her with his lance, and the point pierced the skin of her soft hand, so that it began to bleed. The wounded goddess screamed and let Aeneas fall to the ground. Then she hurried to Ares, her brother, whom she found seated on the left of the battle, his chariot and horses hidden in cloud. “O brother!” she pleaded. “Take me away! Give me your horses, that I may quickly flee to Olympus. My hand hurts! Diomedes, a mortal, has wounded me. I believe he would fight against our father Zeus himself!”

Ares let her have his chariot, and when Aphrodite reached Olympus, she threw herself weeping into the arms of Dione, her mother, who caressed and comforted her and guided her to the father of the gods. He received her with a smile. “Now you see, sweet daughter,” he said, “why the business of war was not entrusted to you. Let your work be to arrange weddings, and leave battles to Ares.” But her sister Pallas and Hera looked at her askance and taunted her. “What is it all about?” they asked maliciously. “That beautiful and false woman from Greece most probably lured our sister to Troy. There she must have passed her hand over Helen’s gown and scratched herself on a clasp.”

Down on the battlefield, meanwhile, Diomedes had thrown himself upon Aeneas. Three times he lunged forward to deal him the deathblow, and three times wrathful Apollo, who had hurried to the spot after Aphrodite’s departure, held his shield over the wounded man. When Diomedes lifted his sword a fourth time, the god threatened him in a terrible voice: “Mortal, do not venture to vie with gods!” Abashed, Diomedes faltered and drew back.

Apollo bore Aeneas out of the battle and carried him to his temple in Troy, where Leto, his mother, and Artemis, his sister, took him into their care. On the ground where the hero had lain the god shaped a phantom in his image, and Achaeans and Trojans alike began to fight for it with savage blows and thrusts. Then Apollo bade Ares try to remove from battle the insolent son of Tydeus who fought against the immortals themselves, and the war-god, in the shape of Thracian Acamas, mingled with the crowd of warriors and approached the sons of Priam to reprove them: “How much longer, O princes, will you permit that Argive to commit his murders? Will you wait until the fighting reaches the very gates of your city? Do you not know that Aeneas has fallen? Come! Let us save our comrade from the hands of our foe!”

In this way Ares moved the hearts of the Trojans. And Sarpedon, king of the Lycians, went up to Hector. “What has become of that famous courage of yours?” he asked. “Only a little while ago you boasted that without allies, yes, even without an army, you with your brothers and brothers-in-law would be enough to defend Troy. Yet now I do not see a single one of them in the battle. They are all crouched like dogs before a lion, and we allies are forced to keep up the fight alone.” In his heart Hector felt that he deserved reproof. He sprang down from his chariot, brandished his lance, strode through the ranks, inciting all who crossed his path, and set the conflict blazing afresh. His brothers and the other Trojans again turned their faces toward the foe. And Apollo healed Aeneas, filled him with new strength, and sent him back to the field where he appeared among his men quite suddenly and wholly sound. They all rejoiced; no one took the time to ask questions but all rushed forward to battle.

The Argives with Diomedes, the two Ajaces, and Odysseus in their van awaited the impact, calm and motionless as a bank of clouds, and Agamemnon hurried through the ranks calling: “Now, my friends, be men, and have faith in your own powers. When a people has faith in itself, more men stand than fall, but for him who flees there is neither help nor glory.” So he spoke and was the first to fling his spear at the Trojans. It struck the friend of Aeneas, Deicoon, who always fought in the forefront. But the mighty hand of Aeneas slew two of the bravest Achaeans: Crethon and Orsilochus, sons of Diocles, who in Pherae, in the Peloponnesus, had grown up together, sturdy as mountain lions. And Menelaus grieved for them as he raised his spear and flung himself into the fight. Ares spurred him onward, for he hoped Aeneas would fell him to the ground, but Antilochus, son of Nestor, fearing for the life of the king, sprang to his side at the very moment the two were preparing to rush at each other with their lances. When Aeneas saw two heroes confronting him, he drew back. Menelaus and Antilochus saved the two bodies from the hands of their foes and put them in the care of friends. Then they returned to the onslaught. Menelaus stabbed Pylaemenes and Antilochus drove his sword into the temple of Mydon, his charioteer, so that he fell from the chariot and stood head first in the deep dust until his own horses, which Antilochus was driving toward the Argives, knocked him over and trampled him underfoot.

Hector stormed forward with the bravest of the Trojan warriors, and the war-god accompanied him, going now before and now behind him. When Diomedes saw Ares coming he paused in wonder, as a traveller stops to marvel at a thundering waterfall, and called to the people: “Do not be amazed at Hector’s fearlessness, my friends. For a god is at his side, shielding him from harm. And so, if we are forced to retreat, we shall be retreating from the gods!” While he was speaking, the Trojans came nearer and nearer, and Hector slew two bold Achaeans, Anchialus and Menesthes, both in one chariot. Ajax, son of Telamon, wanted to avenge them. With his lance he struck Amphius, an ally of the Trojans, under the belt, and he crashed to the ground. Then he pressed his foot against the body and drew out his lance, but a hail of spears prevented him from stripping his victim of his armor.

In another part of the field, evil chance drove Tlepolemus, a descendant of Heracles, toward Sarpedon, to whom he called from afar: “Why are you still here, shaking with terror, you weakling from Asia, who lyingly boast that you are a son of Zeus, like Heracles, my father? You are a coward, but even if you had courage, you should not escape Hades!”

“Had I won no glory before this,” Sarpedon replied, “I should now gain it by your death.” As the last word left his lips, the two heroes raised their lances, and Sarpedon pierced his overbearing foe right through the throat. The weapon’s point came out at the nape of his neck, and he sank dead upon the earth. But the spear of Tlepolemus pierced Sarpedon’s left thigh to the bone; he would have died had it not been for Zeus, his father, who wanted his son to live. His friends led him from the battlefield. He was trembling with pain, but they went so swiftly that no one noticed he was still dragging with him the lance stuck in his leg. The Argives, in the meantime, carried off the body of Tlepolemus.

While Odysseus raged through the leaderless troops of the Lycians and came close to Sarpedon as he withdrew from the fight, the son of Zeus caught sight of Hector and called to him in a weak voice: “Son of Priam! Do not leave me here as the prey of the Argives! Defend me, so that if I cannot return to the land of my fathers, to my wife and my little son, I may at least breathe my last undisturbed in your city.” Hector did not take time to answer. He drove back the Argives around Sarpedon with such vigor that even Odysseus did not venture to advance. The Trojan warriors laid Sarpedon down near the Scaean Gates, under a tall beech tree sacred to Zeus, and Pelagon, the friend of his youth, drew the spear from his thigh. For a moment the wounded man lost consciousness, but soon he revived, and a cool wind blowing from the north freshened his languid spirit.

And now Ares and Hector pressed upon the Argives until they were forced to retreat to their ships. Hector unaided slew six splendid heroes. Stricken with horror, Hera gazed down from Olympus and saw the slaughter the Trojans were accomplishing with the help of Ares. Then the mother of all the gods ordered her chariot made ready, the chariot with its bronze wheels rimmed with gold, the silver shaft, and the golden yoke to which Hera harnessed her fleet-footed horses. Athene meanwhile girt on her father’s armor, set the gold helmet on her head, took the shield blazoned with the Gorgon’s head, grasped the spear, and mounted the silver car bound to the axle with chains of gold. Hera stood beside her and used her goad, so that the horses moved with even greater speed. The gates of heaven, guarded by the Hours, opened of themselves, and the great goddesses passed the jagged slopes of Olympus. On the highest peak sat Zeus. Reigning in her team for an instant, Hera, his wife, called to him: “Are you not angry that Ares, your son, is harassing the Achaeans contrary to the will of Fate? Aphrodite and Apollo exult because they have succeeded in rousing the war-god to do as they wish. Now surely you will permit me to strike that impudent wretch a blow that will send him flying from the field!”

“You may try,” Zeus answered her from his peak. “Send my daughter Athene against him, for she is vehement and strong and knows how to fight.” And now the chariot sped on between starry heaven and earth, until it descended where the Simois and the Scamander join their waters; there the horses touched ground.

The goddesses at once hastened into the midst of battle where warriors bold as lions and boars were fighting around the son of Tydeus. Hera, in the shape of Stentor, mingled with them and called aloud in the tone of the hero whose form she had assumed, and her voice rang like bronze: “Shame on you, Argives! Are you a terror to your foes only when Achilles fights at your side? Now that he stays with the ships, you cannot succeed!” Her taunts rallied the courage of the Argives. And Athene fought her way to Diomedes himself. She found him standing beside his chariot, trying to bind up the wound he had received from the shaft of Pandarus. His broad shield weighed on him, the sweat streamed from his body, and his hands were powerless. It was an effort for him even to loosen the strap and wipe away the blood.

Athene leaned on the horses’ yoke and said to him: “The son of Tydeus is most unlike his father! He was small of stature and yet the bravest of fighters. Before the walls of Thebes he fought against my will, but such was his pluck and daring that I could not deny him my aid. You too could claim my protection and help, were it not for—but I cannot say just what is the matter with you! Are you stiff with striking blows, or has fear clouded your mind and numbed your limbs? Whatever the cause may be, to me you do not seem the son of fiery Tydeus.”

At her words Diomedes raised his eyes to her face and looked at it wonderingly as he said: “I recognize you, daughter of Zeus, and I shall tell you the plain truth. Neither fear nor slackness hold me back, but one of the mightiest among the gods. You yourself opened my eyes that I might know him. It is Ares, the god of war, whom I have seen directing the attack of the Trojans. That is why I fell back and commanded the other Achaeans to gather here about me.”

Then Athene replied: “Diomedes! My chosen friend! From now on you shall fear neither Ares nor any other immortal, for I shall be at your side. Guide your horses straight toward the raging god himself.” Thus she spoke and lightly touched Sthenelus, his charioteer, who willingly dismounted so that she herself could ride beside Diomedes. The axle groaned under the weight of the goddess and the boldest among the Argive heroes.

She at once took reins and goad and drove the horses at Ares. He was just stripping off the armor of Periphas, the hardiest of the Aetolians. When he saw Diomedes coming toward him in his chariot—the goddess had veiled herself in impenetrable mists—he let Periphas lie and hastened toward the son of Tydeus, leaning forward over the yoke and the reins of his horses and aiming his lance. But Athene, unseen by anyone, laid her hand on it and gave it a different course, so that it slanted off into the empty air. And now Diomedes aimed, and Athene herself directed his spear so that it pierced Ares in the groin. The god of war roared as loudly as ten thousand mortals put together, and Trojans and Argives alike trembled, for they thought that though the sky was blue and serene they were hearing the thunder of Zeus. Only Diomedes saw Ares sheathed in cloud and riding up to heaven as if carried on a great gust of wind. There the war-god seated himself beside Zeus, his father, and showed him the blood running from his wound. But the Thunderer looked at him sternly and said:

“My son, do not whine complaints to me. Of all the Olympians you displease me most. You have always been fond of fighting and quarrels, and more than any other you resemble your mother in your stubborn, rebellious ways. It must be she who is responsible for this trouble of yours. All the same, I cannot bear to see you suffer. The healer among the gods shall tend you.” And he called Paeëon, who examined the wound and treated it so that it closed, and soon he was whole and well again.

In the meantime, the other gods had also returned to Olympus and left the Trojans and Danai to themselves. First Ajax, son of Telamon, broke the ranks of the Trojans and cleared a way for his men by piercing between the eyes Acamas, greatest among the Thracians. Then Diomedes slew Axylus and his charioteer. Three other Trojans fell by the hand of Euryalus, Pidytes by that of Odysseus. Teucer slew Aretaon, Antilochus killed Ablerus, and Agamemnon Elatus. Menelaus caught hold of Adrastus just as his horses stumbled and threw him to the ground, running off toward the city with other leaderless horses and dragging the chariot with them. The foe, lying in the dust, clasped the king’s knees and implored him: “Take me prisoner, son of Atreus! You shall have a ransom of bronze and gold from the stores of my father who will gladly give it to you if only he can clasp me alive in his arms again.”

The heart of Menelaus was moved, but just then Agamemnon came toward him and said reproachfully: “Have you pity on your foes, Menelaus? Not one shall escape our revenge, not even the child at the mother’s breast. All whom Troy has reared must die without mercy.” When Menelaus heard these words he thrust pleading Adrestus from him, and Agamemnon pierced his body with his lance.

Incessantly Nestor’s call rang out among the Argives: “Friends, do not stay behind to strip or loot! Now all that counts is to kill. Later on we can take the weapons of the dead at our leisure!”

The Trojans would have been vanquished and forced to flee back to their city, had not Helenus, Priam’s son, who could predict the future from the flight of birds, turned to Hector and Aeneas and said to them: “All now depends on you. If you can stop the men before they enter the gates, we shall still be able to resume the battle with the Argives. Aeneas, the gods have chosen you for this task. And you, Hector, shall go to Troy and give a message to our mother. Tell her to assemble the noblest women on the acropolis, in the temple of Athene, to place her most precious robe on the knees of the goddess, and vow to sacrifice to her twelve unblemished heifers if only she will take pity on the Trojan women, their children, and their city, and ward off the terrible son of Tydeus.” Willingly Hector sprang from his chariot, strode through his battalions, spurring their courage, and then hastened toward the city.


On the battlefield, Glaucus of Lycia, a grandson of Bellerophon, and Diomedes, son of Tydeus, had stormed forward from the ranks and were facing each other, eager for the struggle. When Diomedes saw his opponent at close quarters, he measured him with his eyes and said: “Who are you? I have not encountered you before, yet now I see you standing out from the rest. I must warn you that those who cross my path in war are destined to disaster. But should you be a god who has taken mortal shape, I renounce combat, for I do not wish to raise my hand against an immortal. If you are mortal, come! You shall not escape death!”

The son of Hippolochus replied: “Diomedes, why ask my lineage? We men are like leaves in the forest which fall and are scattered in the wind, and in the spring the branches bud afresh. But if you wish to know, then hear. My forbear was Aeolus, son of Hellen, and he begot crafty Sisyphus. Sisyphus begot Glaucus, Glaucus Bellerophon, Bellerophon Hippolochus, and I am his son. It is he who sent me against Troy that I might excel in battle and not disgrace my ancestors.”

When his opponent had ended, Diomedes thrust the shaft of his lance into the ground and spoke in a friendly voice. “Noble prince,” he said, “we are bound by ties of hospitality from the days of our fathers! For twenty days Oeneus, my grandfather, had your grandfather Bellerophon as a guest under his roof, and they honored each other with splendid gifts. My grandfather gave yours a crimson belt, and yours gave mine a golden cup with handles which I still have in my house. And so I must be your host in Argos and you mine in Lycia, should I ever journey there. Let us avoid each other in the turmoil of battle. There are enough Trojans left for me to kill, and Argives enough for you to slay. Let us exchange weapons so that the others may see we are proud to be bound by these ties of old.” And lightly they dropped from their chariots, took each other by the hand, and vowed friendship. But Zeus who turned all that chanced in favor of the Achaeans, blinded the spirit of Glaucus, so that he exchanged his golden armor for the brazen cuirass of Diomedes. It was as if a man had given a hundred bullocks for only nine.


Hector, meanwhile, had reached the beech tree of Zeus and the Scaean Gates. Here the wives and daughters of the Trojans crowded around him and anxiously asked about their husbands, their sons, brothers, and kinsmen. He could not tell everyone what she wished to know, but counselled all to pray to the gods. Even so, what he had said filled many with gloom and anguish. And now he had come to his father’s palace. It was a beautiful structure flanked by spacious colonnades. Within were fifty chambers with walls of polished marble, one built close to the next. Here lived the sons of the king with their wives. On the other side of the inner court were twelve adjoining marble halls which housed the king’s daughters and their husbands. The whole was circled by a high rampart and was in itself a stately citadel. Here Hector met Hecuba, his mother, who was on her way to Laodice, the fairest of her daughters and the one she loved most dearly.

The aged queen hastened toward Hector, took him by the hand, and said, full of love and concern: “Son, how is it that you come to us in the midst of battle? It must be that the Argives are besetting us sorely and that you have come to raise your hands to Zeus in supplication. Wait until I bring you wine, fragrant and rich, that you may pour a libation and then refresh your own spirit with a sparkling draught. For nothing revives a weary fighter like wine.”

But Hector answered her: “Have no wine brought, dear mother, lest my mind blur and my limbs grow unsteady. Nor would I bring Zeus a libation with unclean hands. But you and the noblest women in Troy shall go to the temple of Athene, bearing incense, lay on the knees of the goddess your most beautiful robe, and vow to sacrifice to her twelve heifers without blemish, if she will take pity on us. I, meanwhile, will go to summon my brother Paris to battle. I wish the earth would swallow him where he stands, for he was born to our destruction!”

The mother did as her son had asked. She entered the perfumed chamber where she kept the fair silken robes Paris himself had brought her from Sidon when he was journeying home with Helen by slow and devious ways. One of these, the most beautiful, worked in an intricate pattern, she took from the very bottom of the chest and went to the acropolis, to the temple of Athene, accompanied by the noblest of the Trojan women. Theano, wife of An tenor, the Trojan priestess of Pallas, opened the house of the goddess. The women encircled the statue of Athene, lifted their hands to her, and made lament. Then Theano took the robe from the queen’s hand’s, laid it on the knees of the image, and implored the daughter of Zeus: “Pallas Athene! Protectress of cities, great and powerful goddess, shatter the spear of Diomedes! Let him fall headlong and writhe on his face in the dust before the gates of Troy. Have pity on this city, on the women and young children. In the hope that you will do all this, we dedicate to you twelve unblemished heifers.”

But in her heart Pallas Athene refused their request. By this time Hector had arrived in the palace of Paris which stood high on the acropolis, near the king’s palace and Hector’s own. For both princes had their houses separate from that of Priam. In his hand Hector carried his spear. It was eleven cubits long and the shaft, where it joined the brazen point, was bound with a ring of gold.

He found his brother examining weapons and smoothing the curve of a bow. Helen sat among her women directing them, and all were busily occupied with their day’s work. When Hector saw his brother he reproved him, saying: “It is wrong for you to loiter here at your ease. It is because of you that men are fighting before our walls. You yourself would blame anyone you saw idle at a moment such as this. Come and help us defend our city before it bursts into flame from the firebrands of the foe.”

Paris replied: “You are wrong to chide me, brother. I am sitting here idly because I am grieved. But now that Helen has warmly urged me to return to battle, I shall go. Wait until I gird on my armor. Or if you want to go, I shall soon follow you.”

Hector answered nothing to this, but Helen said to him humbly: “O brother-in-law! I am, indeed, a woman who brings calamity in her wake. I wish the sea had closed over me before ever I set foot on this coast with Paris! But now that things are as they are, would I were the wife of a better man, of one who felt the disgrace and the contempt he has brought upon himself. He has no heart, and the fruit of his cowardice will not be long in coming. But enter, Hector. Come in and rest from those labors which, because of me and that idle husband of mine, now weigh heavily on your shoulders.”

“No, Helen,” said Hector. “Do not bid me be seated, for indeed I must not. My heart yearns to help the men of Troy. Your task shall be to fire Paris to action. Let him hasten, so that he may join me before I am beyond the city walls. But first I must go to my own house to see my wife, my little son, and my servants.” So said Hector and hurried away. But he did not find his wife at home. “When she heard that the Trojans were hard pressed and the Argives were winning,” the woman who watched the doors told him, “she left the palace beside herself with anxiety, to climb one of the towers, and the nurse had to carry the child after her.”

Quickly Hector turned and again traversed the streets of Troy. When he reached the Scaean Gates, Andromache, his wife, the lovely daughter of Eetion, king of Thebe in Cilicia, came swiftly toward him. A serving-woman followed her, clasping to her breast the boy Astyanax, radiant as a star. The father looked at his son with a quiet smile, but Andromache went up to him with tears in her eyes, took his hand tenderly, and said: “Surely your courage will be the death of you! Have you no pity on your child or on your unhappy wife whom you will soon leave widowed? If I am deprived of you, it were best I sank into the earth. Achilles slew my father, my mother fell by the arrow of Artemis, and my seven brothers were also done to death by the son of Peleus. You are all I have, Hector. You are father, mother, and brothers to me. And so, take pity on me and stay here in the tower. Do not make an orphan of your child! Place your battalions over there, on that hill overgrown with fig trees. For there the wall is open to attack and easiest to scale. Three times already the bravest of the Argives—the two Ajaces, Idomeneus, the sons of Atreus, and Diomedes—have turned their steps in that direction, guided perhaps by the words of a soothsayer or by their own intuition.”

Tenderly Hector replied: “All this weighs heavily on me too, beloved. But I should disgrace myself before the men and women of Troy if I stayed here, like a coward, and watched the battle from afar. Nor does my own courage permit me such a course; it has always driven me on to the front. My heart tells me the day will come when sacred Troy shall lie in ruins and Priam and all his people be destroyed. But neither the sufferings of the Trojans nor those of my own parents and brothers, falling under the sword strokes of the Argives, will give me the pain I shall feel for you. An Achaean will carry you off into captivity. You will weep and lament. In Argos you will sit at the loom or fetch water, and someone seeing your tears may say: ‘That was Hector’s wife!’ Let the burial mound cover me rather than that I should hear your moans when they take you away.”

So he spoke and held out his arms to the child. But the child screamed and hid his head in his nurse’s breast, for he was frightened by his father’s warlike appearance and by his brazen helmet with its terrifying crest of fluttering horsehair. Hector smiled at the child, took off the gleaming helmet, laid it on the ground, and kissed his little son and rocked him in his arms. Then he prayed to heaven: “Zeus, and all the gods! Let this boy become like his father, a leader of the people. Let him grow mighty and govern the city, and when he returns from battle laden with spoils, let them say: ‘He is even braver than his father was.’ ” With these words he laid his son in his wife’s arms, and she pressed him to her, smiling through her tears.

Hector sorrowfully stroked her hand and said: “Do not be sad! No one will kill me if it is not my fate to die. But no mortal can escape his destiny. Go to your distaff and loom and see to your women. The men of Troy must bear the brunt of this war—and most of all myself.” And Hector set his helmet on his head and left her.

Andromache went toward her palace, looking back many times, and weeping tears of sorrow. When her women saw her, they too were overcome with sadness, and in his own palace Hector was mourned as though he were already dead.

Paris did not delay. Armed with shining weapons of bronze he strode through the city like a stately stallion which breaks loose from the halter when it has eaten its fill and races toward the river. He reached his brother just as he turned from Andromache. “I have kept you waiting, haven’t I?” he called to Hector from afar. “I have made my elder brother wait because I did not come promptly enough.”

But Hector answered him kindly: “My good brother, in fairness I must say that you are a brave fighter, only that you often hang back and idle away the hours. And then it cuts me to the heart when I must listen while the Trojans, who have suffered so much for you, speak of you with derision. But we shall talk of all this another time, when we have chased the Achaeans from our coast, sit at ease in the palace, and drain the cup of freedom.”


When Athene, looking down from Olympus, saw the two brothers striding to battle, she herself impetuously hastened to the city of Troy. Under the beech tree of Zeus she met Apollo who had left the ramparts of the citadel and was directing the fighting of the Trojans. “What fiery zeal has driven you here from Olympus?” he asked his sister. “Are you still ruthlessly bent on the fall of Troy? If only you would listen to me and allow this day to pass without decisive warfare! Let them fight another time, for I know that Hera and you will not rest until lofty Troy lies in ruins.”

Athene replied: “Far-Darter, let it be as you say. It was with this very thought in mind that I came down from Olympus. But tell me how you expect to stop all these men from fighting?”

“What we must do,” said Apollo, “is to swell the courage of mighty Hector until he challenges one of the Danai to single combat. Then let us watch and see how they acquit themselves.” Pallas Athene agreed.

The spirit of Helenus, the soothsayer, had heard this conversation of the immortals. Swiftly he went to Hector and said: “Wise son of Priam, obey my counsel this once, for I am your brother who loves you! Bid all the others, Trojans and Ar gives alike, call a truce. But you yourself shall challenge the bravest among the Argives to single combat which will decide the war. You may do this without danger. Believe me, for I am a seer and know that your time to die is not yet come.”

Hector rejoiced at these words. He halted the Trojan army and, holding his spear in the middle, stepped forth between the two hosts. They marked this sign, and now the fighting stopped on both sides, for Agamemnon too ordered his men to refrain. Athene and Apollo meanwhile perched in the beech tree of Zeus in the shape of two vultures and delighted in the turmoil. At last all were seated with shields, helmets, and lances bristling about them, moving no more than the sea when the least breath of the west wind just ruffles its waters. And now Hector, standing in the center, began to speak.

“Trojans and Danai, hear what my heart bids me undertake. Zeus has not approved the treaty we recently made. Rather has he incited both your men and mine not to rest until either Troy is vanquished or you are driven back to your ships. The bravest heroes of all Greece have come with your host. Whichever of these dares to fight me in single combat, let him now come forward. This is what I propose, and may Zeus be my witness: if my opponent slays me with his spear, he shall have my armor and carry it to his ship as the spoils of war, but let him send my body to Troy, so that it may be honored in death and may burn on a pyre heaped on native soil. But should Apollo grant me the victory, should I slay my opponent, I shall hang his armor up in the temple of Phoebus in Troy, and you may bury your dead with all splendor and pile his burial mound at the Hellespont, pile it so high that in times to come sailors will say: ‘See! Here is the burial mound of a man who died long since, one who was killed in combat with glorious Hector.’ ”

So he spoke, but the Argives were silent, for it was shameful to refuse this challenge and dangerous to accept it. Finally Menelaus rose and chided his people. “Alas!” he said. “What cowards you are! Women rather than men! It would be a disgrace we could never live down if no Argive dared confront Hector. You who sit there with cringing hearts that do not thirst for glory, I wish you were all turned back to water and mud! I myself shall prepare for combat and commend the outcome to the gods.” With this he girt on his armor, and his death would have been sealed, had not the Argive princes started up and held him back.

Agamemnon seized his right hand and said: “Brother, wait! What are you thinking of? You are mad to fight one stronger than yourself, one of whom those mightier than you are afraid, for even Achilles hesitated to measure his strength against Hector’s. We all beg you to think better of it!”

In this way Agamemnon persuaded Menelaus to alter his resolve. And now Nestor addressed the people and told them the tale of a combat he had fought with Ereuthalion of Arcadia. “If I were young,” he said in conclusion, “if my strength were still as unbroken as in those days, Hector would not have long to wait for an opponent.” After these words, intended as censure, nine princes arose and offered to do single combat with Hector. First among these was Agamemnon, then came Diomedes, and after him the two Ajaces; then Idomeneus, Meriones, his friend, Eurypylus, Thoas, and Odysseus. “The lot shall decide,” said Nestor. “And no matter on which of you it falls, the Argives will rejoice and so will he himself when he issues victorious from this conflict.”

Each marked his own lot, and they were tossed into Agamemnon’s helmet. Nestor shook it, and out leaped the lot of Ajax, son of Telamon. A herald took it in his hand and passed it to each of the eight heroes before Ajax, but no one recognized it until it reached him who had marked it himself. Joyfully Ajax threw down the lot and cried: “It is mine! And I am glad, for I hope to vanquish Hector. Do you all pray silently or aloud while I make myself ready!”

The people obeyed. Ajax girded on his shining armor and stormed into battle like the war-god himself. A smile lit his grave face as he strode forward, brandishing his heavy lance. All the Argives rejoiced at sight of him, and a shudder of fear rippled through the Trojan battalions. Even the heart of great Hector hammered against his ribs, but now he could not draw back, for he himself had given the challenge to combat.

Ajax approached him, covering his body with the shield of bronze and seven oxhides, which Tychius, a peerless craftsman, had once made for him. When he was quite close to Hector, he said threateningly:

“Hector, now you can well see that the Danai have other heroes besides the lion-hearted son of Peleus, other and many! So let us begin!”

And Hector answered: “Godlike son of Telamon, do not try to frighten me as though I were a weak child or a woman faint of spirit. For I am experienced in fighting with men. I know how to shift the shield left and right, I know how to foot the dance of the terrible war-god and guide the horses through the tumult. Come then! Not with hidden ruse but openly will I launch my spear at you.”

With these words he cast his lance, and it flew in a bold curve straight into the shield of Ajax through six layers of hide and stopped only at the seventh. Now the son of Telamon flung his lance, and it shattered Hector’s shield, cut his cuirass, and would have entered his groin had not Hector swerved to one side. Both drew their spears and ran at each other again and again like tireless boars. Hector aimed at the middle of Ajax’s shield, but the point of his lance bent and did not penetrate the bronze. Ajax pierced his opponent’s shield and grazed his neck, so that the dark blood spurted out. Now Hector drew back a few steps; his sinewy right hand gripped a stone lying in the field and with it he hit the buckle of his enemy’s shield so that the bronze rang. Then Ajax picked up a bigger stone and hurled it at Hector with such force that the shield caved in and Hector was wounded in the knee and fell on his back. But he did not let go his shield; Apollo, who stood beside him invisible to all, quickly raised him from the earth. And now these two would have rushed at each other with their swords to decide the combat once and for all, had not the heralds of both peoples—Idaeus for the Trojans and Talthybius for the Argives—run forward and held their staves between the combatants. “Do not fight any more,” called Idaeus. “You are both courageous and both favored by Zeus. All of us have seen this. But night is coming! Obey the bidding of night!”

“Speak to him who belongs to your own people,” Ajax answered the herald. “It is he who challenged the bravest among the Argives to single combat. Let him stop if he wants to!”

And now Hector addressed his opponent: “Ajax, a god gave you your strong limbs, your power, and your skill in casting the spear. Today let us rest from the combat. We will renew it another time and fight until Zeus confers victory and fame on one or the other of our two peoples. But now let us honor each other with gifts, so that the Trojans and the Argives one day may say: ‘They fought with each other as foes but they parted as friends.’ ”

So said Hector and gave his opponent his sword with the silver hilt, together with the scabbard and the sword strap. And Ajax undid his crimson belt and offered it to Hector. Then they parted. Ajax returned to the Argive battalions, and Hector went back to the Trojans who were happy to see their hero emerge alive from the hands of terrible Ajax.


The Argive princes assembled in the house of Agamemnon, their commander-in-chief, and to them came Ajax, exulting at his prowess and heralded by loud acclaim. A fat bull five years old was sacrificed to Zeus, and the victor was given the best pieces, cut from the back. When they had eaten and drunk their fill, Nestor opened the assembly of princes with the proposal not to fight on the following day but call a truce, fetch the bodies of fallen Argive heroes with wagons drawn by oxen and mules, and burn them near the ships, so that when they returned to their own country each could bring the children of his kinsmen the bones of those who had belonged to them. His words were greeted with a burst of applause.

The Trojans, on their part, assembled in front of the king’s palace on the acropolis. They were bewildered and dismayed at the outcome of the combat. Wise Antenor was the first to speak. “Mark my words, Trojans and allies!” he said. “We have broken faith! As long as we persist in fighting contrary to our solemn oath, the oath which Pandarus violated, no good can come to our people. I, for one, shall not hide what I think, and herewith counsel you to hand over to the Argives Helen with all her treasure.”

When he had spoken, Paris rose and replied: “If you have proposed this in all seriousness, Antenor, then the gods must, indeed, have robbed you of your senses. As for me, I shall say straight out that I do not intend ever to give up Helen. Let them have the treasure we took from Argos, for all I care. And I shall gladly add to it from my own stores as much as they demand in recompense.”

After his son, Priam, the aged king, spoke in calm tones: “Do not let us undertake anything further this day, my friends. Distribute their evening fare to the men, place your guards, and give yourselves up to sleep. Tomorrow Idaeus, our herald, shall go to the Argive fleet, convey the peaceable words of my son Paris, and at the same time discover whether they are willing to call a truce until we have burned our dead. If we cannot come to an agreement, let war be resumed when the burial mounds are heaped.”

And so it was done. The next morning Idaeus, the herald, appeared before the Achaeans and reported the offer of Paris and the king’s proposal. The Argive heroes listened to what he had to say and remained silent for a long time. At last Diomedes spoke. “Fellow Argives,” he said, “do not so much as dream of taking the treasure; not even if they give you Helen along with it. The most credulous among you can easily see from this proposal that the Trojans know they are doomed.”

All the princes shouted approval, and now Agamemnon turned to the herald. “You have heard what the Danai have resolved in regard to your offer. But we shall not deny you the burning of your dead. The Thunderer himself shall bear witness to our consent.” And saying this, he raised his scepter toward heaven.

Idaeus returned to Troy and found the Trojans gathered in assembly. When he had reported the reply, the city was quickly astir. Some fetched the bodies of the dead, others felled trees on the mountain slopes. And the same was happening in the Argive camp. Peacefully foe met foe in the beams of the morning sun, each looked for his dead on the other’s side of the field. As for the fallen warriors, lying on the ground stripped of their armor and covered with blood, it was difficult to distinguish friend from enemy. Their lids red with tears, the Trojans washed the blood from the limbs of the corpses—and there were more slain Trojans than Argives. But Priam had forbidden loud lament, so they lifted them silently into the wagons, heaped the pyres, and locked their sorrow in their hearts. The Achaeans did the same. They too were sad, and when the blaze had died down they returned to their ships. The work had taken up the whole day; it was time for the evening meal. From Lemnos, Euneus, son of Jason and Hypsipyle, had sent cargo ships laden with fragrant wines, many thousand jars, for the Argives to whom he was bound by ties of hospitality. These arrived at a very opportune moment. A great banquet was spread, and when the Argives had seen to their dead they sat down at the festal board.

The Trojans too wanted to refresh themselves from the toils of battle, but Zeus left them no peace. All through the night he startled them with crashes of thunder, repeated at intervals, and each seemed to forebode new disaster. Terror gripped their hearts, and they did not dare touch their lips to the cup without first pouring a libation to the angry father of gods.


But for the moment Zeus withheld decision. “Mark my words well!” he said to the assembled gods and goddesses on the following morning. “If, on this day, one of you dares to help either the Danai or the Trojans, I shall seize the rebel and hurl him into the chasm of Tartarus, as far below earth as earth lies beneath heaven. Then I shall bolt the iron gate which guards the brazen threshold of the underworld, and never again shall the evildoer see the light of Olympus. If you doubt my power to carry out this threat, fasten a golden chain to heaven, hold fast to it, every one of you, and see if you can pull me down to earth! But more likely I shall draw you upward, and the land and sea with you, and knot the chain to the peak of Olympus, so that the whole earth will float in air.”

The gods grew humble at these imperious words. But Zeus himself mounted his thunder chariot and drove to Mount Ida, where a grove and an altar were sacred to him. There he seated himself on the summit and surveyed the city of Troy and the Achaean camp with exultant pride. Everywhere men were girding on their armor. The Trojans were fewer in number, but they too were impatient for battle, for they were fighting in defense of their women and children. Presently their gates flew open, and the host thronged out swiftly in chariots and on foot, with clatter and cries. That morning both sides shared the fortunes of war equally, and both Argive and Trojan blood dyed the earth. But when the sun was steep in the sky at noon, Zeus placed two lots of death in his golden scales, held them in the middle, and weighed them in air. And the part which held doom for the Argives dropped earthward, while the part holding the Trojan lot rose to heaven.

With thunder and lightning he warned the Danai of the change in their fate. When they saw this they shook with foreboding, and even the strongest quailed. Idomeneus, Agamemnon, and the two Ajaces faltered where they stood. Aged Nestor alone still fought in the van, but only because he could not retreat; for Paris had hit one of his horses between the forelocks, and the animal reared high in terror and then writhed on the ground with the pain of the wound. While Nestor attempted to cut loose the reins of the second horse with his sword, Hector, who was pursuing the Greeks, rode up to him in his chariot.

And now the life of noble Nestor would have been forfeit, had not Diomedes hastened to his aid. The son of Tydeus shouted reproach to Odysseus who had turned his back on the foe and was fleeing to the ships, and tried in vain to urge him back. Then he placed himself in front of Nestor’s horses, entrusted them to Sthenelus and Eurymedon, and took the old man in his own chariot which he drove straight at Hector. He cast his spear and, though he missed Hector himself, shot his charioteer Eniopeus through the breast, so that he fell to the ground. Deeply as Hector mourned the death of his friend, he let him lie and called another to drive the horses. Then he rushed at Diomedes. Now had Hector measured swords with the son of Tydeus he would have been doomed, and the father of gods knew very well that with his fall the tide of battle was bound to turn and that the Argives would take Troy that very day. Zeus did not wish this to happen, so he tossed a bolt of lightning to earth, close to the chariot of Diomedes. In terror Nestor dropped the reins and cried: “Flee, Diomedes! Did you not see that Zeus does not want you to conquer today?”

“You are right,” answered the son of Tydeus. “But my heart would burst if, in time to come, Hector could say in an assembly of Trojans: ‘The son of Tydeus was afraid and retreated to the ships!’ ”

But Nestor said: “And do you think that the Trojan men and women whose friends and husbands you killed will believe Hector when he calls you a coward?” With these words he guided the horses away from the battlefield, and Hector, racing after them with his Trojans, cried: “Son of Tydeus, up to now the Argives have honored you at their banquets and in assembly. From this moment on they will scorn you. It is not you who will vanquish Troy and take our women away on your ships!” Diomedes wavered. Three times he turned over in his mind whether or not he should head for the field again and drive straight at derisive Hector. But three times Zeus thundered up on Ida with an echoing crash, and so Diomedes continued to flee and Hector to pursue.

Hera watched and was dismayed. In vain she tried to move Poseidon, the special patron of the Danai, to help his people, but he did not venture to act contrary to the command of his powerful brother. By this time the fugitives had reached the trench and wall in front of the fleet, and Hector would surely have invaded their camp and tossed a firebrand on the ships, had not Agamemnon, heartened by Hera, gathered the frightened Danai about him. He boarded the great ship of Odysseus which towered far above the rest. Here he stood erect on the deck, flung his mantle of shimmering crimson across his shoulder, and called down to the one side where the house of Ajax, the son of Telemon, stood, and to the other where the son of Peleus was encamped. “Shame on you! Where is that great courage you vaunted when you emptied your cups? We have yielded to a single man, to Hector alone! Soon he will set our ships afire. O Zeus, what curse have you laid upon me! If ever I have honored you with prayers and offerings, do not let the Trojans vanquish me here by our own ships.” So he spoke with tears, and the father of gods had compassion on him and sent the Argives a happy omen: an eagle which gripped in its claws a fawn and dropped it before the altar the Achaeans had reared to Zeus.

The hearts of the Argives beat high at this sign, and again they bounded forward to confront the invading foe. Ahead of all the rest was Diomedes who leapt the trench with his horses and drove his spear into the back of Agelaus of Troy who had wheeled his chariot about for flight. After him came Agamemnon and Menelaus, and then the two Ajaces; after them Idomeneus and Meriones; then Eurypylus. Teucer was the ninth. Protected by the shield of Ajax, his half brother, he shot one Trojan after another into the dust. He had just mowed down the eighth when Agamemnon looked at him with flashing eyes and exclaimed: “That is the way, my friend! Go on like this and be a beacon among the Argives. If Zeus and Athene grant us the conquest of Troy, you shall be the first to receive a gift of honor from me.”

“I need no promises, my king,” Teucer replied. “I shall not spare myself. I am putting forth all my strength, but as yet I have not succeeded in shooting down that mad dog.” And he launched his arrow at Hector. It missed and struck a bastard son of King Priam, Gorgythion, whose head, weighed by the helmet, sank to one side, just as the poppy bends under a spring shower. Teucer sent a second arrow after the first. But Apollo diverted it from its mark, and it pierced the breast of Archeptolemus who was driving Hector’s horses. This friend too Hector let he, though he was filled with bitter sorrow for him, and called a third to his chariot. Then with burning zest he dashed forward, and just as Teucer was again bending his bow, Hector hit his collarbone with a long jagged stone; the bowstring snapped, his wrist grew numb, and he sank to his knees. But Ajax took care of his brother. He circled him, keeping him covered with his shield until two friends lifted him from the ground and carried him moaning to the ships.

And now Zeus again kindled the courage of the Trojans. Eyes glowing with rage, Hector stormed after the Argives as a hound pursues a boar over the wooded hills and slew everyone who came within hurling distance. Again the Argives were crowded back to their ships and prayed to their gods in anguish of soul. Hera heard them and was moved to pity. She turned to Athene. “The Danai are dying,” she said. “Has not the time come for us to save them? See how Hector is harassing them—what carnage he has wrought!”

“Yes, my father is cruel,” Athene replied. “He has forgotten how faithfully I helped his son Heracles in all his quests. Now Thetis has bribed him with her flattery and her caresses, and I am hateful in his eyes. Yet I think the time will soon come when he shall again call me his dear blue-eyed daughter. Help me harness the horses, Hera. I myself will go to Mount Ida to speak to my father.”

When Zeus became aware of her intentions, he scowled and bade his messenger Iris, fleet as the wind, halt the chariot with the two goddesses as it was passing through the foremost gate of Olympus. When they heard his command they turned back; soon after, Zeus himself appeared in his thunder chariot, and the mountain of the gods quaked at his coming. He did not relent to his wife and his daughter though both pleaded with him. “The Trojans shall win a far greater victory tomorrow,” he said to Hera. “Great Hector shall not rest from battle until the Argives fight at the very rudders of their ships and Achilles rises in his house at their clamor. This is the will of Fate.” Hera fell silent and her face was sad.

It was dusk and the fight around the ships died down. Hector summoned his warriors to one side of the battlefield; they sat in council near the waters of the Scamander. “Had night not come,” he said, “the enemy would be destroyed by now. But even though darkness has overtaken us, let us not return to the city. Some shall go and bring from it horned cattle and sheep, wine and bread. Watchfires will protect us from sudden attack while we eat or tend our wounds. And at break of day we will renew the onslaught against the ships. Then we shall see whether Diomedes thrusts me from the wall or whether I strip his dead body of its armor!” A wave of applause ran through the ranks of the Trojans. They did as he had counselled. All night they rested, and many fires were lit. Fifty at a time they regaled themselves with food and wine. Their horses stood near the harness and fed on spelt and barley.


The terror and confusion of flight had not yet subsided in the Argive camp when Agamemnon had the princes summoned to a council, each one by name, but without noisy ado. Weighed with care and grief they came together, and the son of Atreus addressed them, sighing between his words. “Friends and guardians of our people, Zeus has been harsh with me. He who gave me so gracious an omen that I should conquer Troy and return home a victor has deceived me and now bids me return to Argos inglorious and leave behind on the field of battle many brave warriors. It is useless for us to resist the will of him who has shattered so many cities and will shatter many more. We are not destined to conquer Troy. So let us board our swift ships and sail to the land of our fathers.”

Long after they had heard these mournful words, the heroes of Greece sat in silence. Then Diomedes spoke. “Only a short while ago,” he said, “you mocked me before the Achaeans. You jeered at my lack of courage, O king. Yet now it seems to me that when Zeus conferred the scepter on you, he did not give you the valor that should go with it. Do you believe in all seriousness that the men of Greece are as unwarlike as would appear from your words? If your heart yearns for home, go! The way lies open, your ship is ready. But the rest of us, we other Argives, will remain until the palace of Priam lies in ruins. And even if everyone chose to leave, I and my friend Sthenelus would stay, in the faith that a god has guided us here!”

When he had ended, the heroes shouted acclaim, and Nestor said: “You are as young as my youngest son, yet every word you spoke was right and weighty. Come, Agamemnon, give a feast for these leaders of men. There is wine enough in your house. Those who keep the watch shall have their fare by the wall which skirts the trench, but we shall pass the cup here and listen to the counsel of the wisest among us.”

And so it was done. The princes feasted with Agamemnon and were comforted, and after the banquet Nestor again rose and addressed the gathering. “Agamemnon, you know all that has happened since the day when against our judgment you carried the lovely daughter of Briseus from the house of Achilles. I, for one, warned you against this with great earnestness. Now we must think how we may persuade the offended son of Peleus to give up his grudge and anger.”

“You are right,” Agamemnon replied. “I am at fault, and I do not deny it. But I am willing to make good my mistake and offer ample recompense as well: ten talents of gold, seven tripods, twenty cauldrons, twelve horses, seven fair women from Lesbos whom I myself carried from their homes as spoils, and lovely Briseis herself. Though I took her from Achilles, I have not touched her, and I will swear to this with a solemn oath. When Troy is vanquished and the time to divide the spoils of victory is come, I myself will fill his ship with gold and bronze, and he may choose for himself those twenty women of Troy who, after Helen, are fairest. When we return to Argos, he shall take one of my daughters to wife. I will cherish him as my son-in-law, and Orestes, my only son, shall not be honored more or held more dear. Seven cities will I give him as dower with the bride. All this I promise to do as soon as he gives up his grudge.”

“Truly,” said Nestor, “these are no mean gifts you are willing to offer Achilles. Let us at once send chosen men to the house of the hero: Phoenix in the lead, then Ajax the Great, Odysseus, and with them the heralds Hodius and Eurybates.”

After making solemn libation, the princes Nestor had named left the gathering and set out for the ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles plucking the strings of a lyre delicately curved and fitted with a silver crossbar. He had taken it as spoils from Eetion’s city and was easing his heart by singing of the glorious exploits of heroes. His friend Patroclus sat opposite, silently waiting until he had ended his song. When the son of Peleus saw the men coming with Odysseus in the lead, he rose in surprise, keeping his lyre in hand. Patroclus too got up. Both went forward to meet the emissaries, and Achilles took Phoenix and Odysseus by the hands, saying: “Greetings, my friends! I suppose you have come because you are in need of something or other, but so great is my love for you, so much greater than for any among the Argives, that you are welcome to me even when I am in an angry mood.”

Swiftly Patroclus fetched out a bowl of wine. Achilles himself fastened on a spit the back of a goat and a sheep and the shoulder of a fatted pig, and roasted these with the help of Automedon. Grouped about the board they ate their meal. When they had refreshed themselves with meat and wine, Ajax signed to Phoenix, but Odysseus anticipated him. He filled his cup and drank to Achilles, then clasped his hand and said: “Hail to you, son of Peleus! This feast was, indeed, abundant. But it is not your rich fare we have come for; overwhelming misfortune has driven us to you! For now it is a question of our rescue or our fall, according to whether you do or do not support us. The Trojans are threatening the wall and the ships. Hector’s eyes flash with the lust to murder, and he rages at will, putting his trust in Zeus. Rescue the Argives at this late hour when their fortunes are at an ebb! Curb your pride! Believe me that a friendly spirit avails more than destructive feud. Your own father Peleus gave you such counsel when you set out against Troy.” And then Odysseus counted up all the magnificent gifts Agamemnon offered to placate him.

But Achilles replied: “Noble son of Laertes, to your fair words I must answer ‘no,’ without an instant’s hesitation. Agamemnon is as hateful to me as the gates of Hades, and neither he nor the Danai will ever induce me to fight in their ranks again. For have I had thanks for my labors and toils? Like a mother bird who brings her fledgling the morsels she finds, even if she herself goes hungry, I spent many troubled nights and days when the blood ran in rivers to conquer a woman for that ungrateful prince, and whatever I gained I brought the son of Atreus. He took everything and kept most of it for himself. Only a small part of his treasure did he distribute among the rest of us! And my own spoils, my beautiful prize, he tore from me. That is why tomorrow at dawn, after I have made sacrifice to Zeus and the other gods, my ships will be moving along the waters of the Hellespont. In three days I hope to be home in Phthia. Agamemnon has cheated me once. He shall not trick me again! Let him be satisfied with what he has. Go and give him my message, but if Phoenix likes he may stay and sail home with me to the land of our fathers.”

In vain Phoenix, his old teacher, tried to shake the resolve of the young hero. Achilles only signed to Patroclus to prepare a bed for his friend. Then Ajax rose and said: “Odysseus, let us go. The cold heart of this man knows no kindness. Friendship does not move him. He is harsh and implacable.” Odysseus too rose from the board, and after pouring a libation to the gods, they left the house of Achilles together with the heralds. Only Phoenix remained behind.


When Odysseus returned with Achilles’ reply, Agamemnon and the princes fell silent. All night long sleep did not touch the lids of the sons of Atreus. Long before daybreak they rose with troubled heart and divided the work between them. Menelaus strode from hut to hut to wake the men and strengthen their courage. But Agamemnon went to the house of Nestor. He found the old man resting on his couch, his armor, shield, helmet, belt, and two lances at his side. He started from sleep, supported his head on his elbow, and called to the son of Atreus: “Who are you, walking alone through the ships at dead of night when others sleep, as though you were looking for a friend, or a mule gone astray? Speak, silent one! What is it you want?”

“Don’t you know me, Nestor?” the son of Atreus said softly. “I am Agamemnon, whom Zeus has plunged into unfathomable grief. I cannot sleep. My heart throbs, and my limbs tremble with fear for the Achaeans. Let us go down to the guards to see if they are awake. For no one can tell if our enemies will not attack this very night.”

Nestor quickly put on his woolen tunic, cast his crimson mantle about him, and accompanied the king on his way through the ships. First they wakened Odysseus who instantly slung his shield over his shoulder and followed them. Then Nestor approached the house of the son of Tydeus, touched his foot with his heel, and woke him with harsh words. “Tireless old man,” the hero answered, still half asleep, “can you never rest? Are there not enough younger men to go through the camp by night and rouse the host? But you are never content to let be.”

“What you say is true and right,” answered Nestor. “I have enough people of my own, not to speak of my sons, who could perform this work for me. But the plight of the Argives is so grave that I myself must do as my heart bids me. Now death and life are balanced on the point of the sword. So rise, and help us waken Ajax and Meges, son of Phyleus.” Instantly Diomedes rose, cast his lion’s skin about his shoulders, and called the heroes Nestor had named. Together they went to look after the guards, but not one was asleep; all were wide-awake, armed, and ready.

Little by little all the princes gathered, and soon the council met. Nestor was first to speak. “How would it be,” he said, “if someone ventured to go to the Trojans and should try to capture one of their men lying asleep at the very edge of the camp, or to eavesdrop at their council to find out whether they intend to remain on the battlefield or return to their city as victors? The man who proves hardy enough to do this should be rewarded with precious gifts.”

When Nestor had ended Diomedes rose and offered to undertake this daring enterprise, provided someone accompanied him. And many were willing: both Ajaces, Meriones, Antilochus, Menelaus, and Odysseus. Then Diomedes said: “If you leave the choice of my companion to me, how can I fail to choose Odysseus, whose heart is steadfast in danger and who is beloved by Pallas Athene? If he goes with me, I think we could escape from fire or flood, for he always finds a way out sooner and better than anyone else.”

“Do not blame or praise me too much,” said Odysseus. “Remember that you are speaking before experienced men. But let us go. The stars have travelled far, and only a third of the night is left.”

Then both girt on their strong armor and disguised themselves. Diomedes left his own sword and shield on the ship and borrowed the two-edged sword of Thrasymedes, his oxhide shield, and his helmet which had neither a crest of feathers nor plumes of horsehair. And Meriones gave Odysseus his bow, his quiver, a sword, and a helmet of leather topped with the tusks of a boar. Thus equipped, they left the Argive camp and went out into the night. From the right, they heard a heron cry as it flew past, and they rejoiced in the happy omen Pallas Athene had sent them and implored her to favor their undertaking. On they strode through the darkness, over weapons and corpses, through pools of blood, and their courage was like that of two lions.

While the Achaeans were planning to spy on the Trojans, Hector had made the very same proposal in the Trojan council and promised a chariot and two of the best horses from his share of prospective Argive spoils to the man who would undertake to report conditions in the enemy camp. Now among the Trojans was a man named Dolon, son of the herald Eumedes, who was well-known and respected. Dolon had stores of gold and bronze. He was ungainly and slight of build, but a swift runner. His heart leaped at Hector’s words, and at the promise of the finest Argive chariot and horses—those of Achilles—he offered to enter the enemy camp and go to Agamemnon’s ship, there to spy on the council of the Achaeans. Quickly he slung his bow over his shoulder, set on his head his helmet of otterhide, gripped his lance, and jauntily set out on his way. But the path he had chosen took him close to the two Argive heroes who were bound on a similar expedition.

Odysseus heard steps approaching and whispered to his companion: “Diomedes, someone is coming from the Trojan camp! Either he is a spy or he is out to strip the corpses of their armor. Wait until he passes, and then let us pursue and capture him or chase him toward our ships.”

Both cowered down among the dead on one side of the path, and Dolon sped by unsuspectingly. When he was a bowshot past them, he heard the sound of their pursuit and stopped, for he thought that Hector was perhaps recalling him through a friendly messenger. But when the heroes were within a spear’s throw of him, he saw that they were foes. Then he bent his supple knees and ran like a hare before the hound. “Stand, or I cast my lance at you!” Diomedes thundered and hurled his spear. But he missed the target on purpose, and the brazen point flew over the runner’s shoulder and buried itself in the ground. Dolon halted, pale with terror. His chin shook and his teeth chattered.

“Take me alive,” he pleaded tearfully as the heroes panted up to him and seized him. “I am rich and will ransom myself with as much bronze and gold as you may want!”

“Be of good courage,” Odysseus said to him. “Do not think of death. But tell us truthfully what was taking you this way.” And when Dolon had confessed all with fear and trembling, Odysseus said smilingly: “If your soul yearns for the horses of the son of Peleus, you have, indeed, good taste! But now tell me without delay: Where did you leave Hector? Where are his horses? His armor? And the rest of the Trojans and their allies?”

Dolon replied: “Hector and the princes sit in council near the gravemound of Ilus; the warriors are sleeping around fires and have no more guards than usual; and the allies from far away, who have no wives and children to care for, sleep apart from the rest of the host without any guards. When you enter the Trojan camp, the first people you will find are the Thracians, but lately arrived. They are grouped around Rhesus, their king, the son of Eioneus. His horses are dazzling white, the largest and swiftest I have ever seen. His chariot is decorated with silver and gold, and he himself wears armor of glittering gold, armor like that of an immortal rather than of a mere man. Now that you know all there is to know, either take me to your ships, or leave me here bound and prove to yourselves that I have spoken the truth.”

But Diomedes scowled at his captive and said: “Liar, I know you are planning to flee, but I shall see to it that you will never again be a menace to the Argives!” Tremblingly Dolon started to raise his right hand to touch Diomedes’ chin in supplication, but the sword of the son of Tydeus cut his throat, and his head rolled in the dust. Then the heroes took his helmet of otterhide, drew the wolf’s skin from his body, loosed the bow, took the spear from his dead hands, and laid the armor on a tamarisk bush as a sign to show them the way home. After that they went forward until they came upon the Thracians, sleeping peacefully. Beside each stood his team of restless-hooved horses. Their weapons lay on the ground well-ordered, in three gleaming rows. In the center slept Rhesus, and his horses stood behind his chariot, tied to it with the reins.

“These are the men we are looking for,” Odysseus whispered to Diomedes. “Now let us be swift to act. You untie the horses—or rather, you kill the men and leave the horses to me.”

Diomedes did not stop to reply. As a lion rages among goats and sheep so he lunged wildly about him, and wherever his sword flashed, a death rattle sounded and the earth grew red with blood. Soon he had slain twelve Thracians. But wise Odysseus took each body by the foot and dragged it to one side to make way for the horses. And now Diomedes slew the thirteenth, King Rhesus, who was just moaning in the midst of a bad dream the gods had sent him. In the meantime, Odysseus had loosed the horses from the chariot; holding them by the reins and using his bow for a goad, he drove them out of the camp. Then he whistled softly as a sign to his companion. Diomedes was hesitating whether to draw the beautiful chariot away by the pole or carry it on his shoulders, when Pallas Athene approached him warningly and bade him hasten. Quickly Diomedes mounted the one horse. Odysseus, running beside, urged both horses on with his bow, and thus they sped back to the ships.

Apollo, the patron god of the Trojans, had seen Athene join Diomedes. This vexed Phoebus. He descended into the very midst of the Trojan host and wakened Hippocoon, the friend of Rhesus. When he noticed that the place where the king’s horses had been standing was empty and that men were writhing on the earth in the throes of death, he called loudly on his friend in a griefstricken voice. The Trojans stormed to the aid of their allies and halted, numbed with fear, before the dreadful sight.

In the meantime, the two Greek heroes had reached the place where they had killed Dolon. Diomedes jumped down from his horse, but mounted again as soon as he had put the armor in the hands of his friend. Odysseus leaped on the other horse, and they flew over the ground toward the ships. Nestor was the first to catch the sound of fleet hooves and to tell the princes, but before they could stop to listen the heroes arrived, dismounted, clasped the hands of their friends, and related their adventures, a tale which the warriors heard with shouts of joy. Odysseus drove the horses through the trench, and the other Argives followed him to the house of the son of Tydeus. There they tied up the team by a manger filled with grain. The bloodstained armor, however, Odysseus laid down behind his ship until such a time as he could bring it, clean and bright, as a thank offering to Athene. And now the two heroes washed the sweat and blood from their limbs in the sea, sat in tubs filled with warm water, rubbed their bodies with oil, and enjoyed the morning meal, at which full cups abounded; and they did not forget to pour a libation to Pallas Athene.


Day had dawned. Agamemnon bade his men don their armor, and he himself girt on his splendid cuirass, on which ten rows of bluish metal alternated with twelve of shining gold and twenty of white tin. The part shielding the neck was worked in the shape of serpents gleaming like rainbows. It was a gift from Cinyras, king of Cyprus. Then he fastened his sword to his shoulder by a strap buckled with gold. The scabbard was of silver and the hilt adorned with golden studs. He took his curved shield round which ran ten circles of bronze, and on it sparkled twenty bosses of white tin. In the center, blazoned on the dark azure field, was the head of the terrible Medusa, and the strap was in the shape of a purple dragon with three heads interlaced. On his head he set a helmet with four horns. Plumes of horsehair fluttered about it, and the crest nodded menacingly. Last he gripped two great lances with points of luminous bronze, and thus he strode into battle. From heaven Hera and Athene greeted the king with joyful thunder. And now the host sped forward. First the foot soldiers crossed the trench. After them came the chariots, and all moved forward with deafening clamor.

On the other side of the battlefield the Trojans had occupied a hillock. Their leaders were Hector, Polydamas, and Aeneas. Next in importance were Polybus, Agenor, and Acamas, the three sons of Antenor. Like a star shining out between the clouds on a dark night, Hector appeared now in the van, now in the rear of the host and ordered the battalions. His brazen armor shone like a flash of lightning flung by Zeus. As reapers cut swathes in a field upright with grain, so Trojans and Achaeans, storming against one another, hewed their way through the mass of warriors. The Achaeans were first to break through the ranks of the foe, and Agamemnon, plunging forward, struck down Prince Bienor and his charioteer. Then he threw himself on the two sons of King Priam, Antiphus and his charioteer Isus. Antiphus he pierced with his sword, Isus he pushed from the chariot with his lance. Quickly he stripped them of their armor. And now he encountered the two sons of Antimachus, the Trojan prince who, beguiled by Paris’ gold, had dissuaded the others from surrendering Helen.

The youths let the reins slip from their hands, crouched in the depths of the chariot, and pleaded for mercy. But Agamemnon, thinking of their father, slew one with his spear and cut off the hands and head of the other. And the Argives, on foot and in chariots, penetrated deeper and deeper into the ranks of the enemy, even as a fire lashed by the wind spreads through the dense forest.

Out of the turmoil and rivers of blood Zeus himself guided Hector, shielding him from missiles, and the prince fled past the slope covered with fig trees to the grave of old King Ilus and on toward the city. But Agamemnon, his hands spattered with Trojan blood, pursued him with loud shouts. Near the beech tree of Zeus, not far from the Scaean Gates, Hector and all those fleeing with him finally came to a stand. And Zeus sent Iris to command him to keep back as long as Agamemnon raged in the van and to leave the fighting to others until the son of Atreus was wounded. Then the father of all gods would lead him to victory. Hector obeyed. He spurred his warriors forward to fresh onslaught, and the battle opened anew.

Agamemnon rushed forward and again entered the lines of the Trojans and their allies. The first he came upon was Iphidamas, son of Antenor, a great and valiant hero who had grown up in Thrace, reared by his grandfather, and had just wed when he left to battle in the land of his birth. Agamemnon’s lance missed him, and the spear of Iphidamas bent against the silver belt of his assailant. Swiftly Agamemnon gripped the shaft, wrenched it from his opponent’s hand, and cut his throat with his sword. Thus Iphidamas died fighting for his people, far from his young wife, and there was no one to look with pity on his body, stark in the sleep of death. Agamemnon took his armor and flourished his splendid spoils as he strode through the rows of Argives. When Antenor’s elder son Coon, one of the best of the Trojan warriors, saw him, he was filled with intolerable grief for his slain brother. But his sorrow did not lessen his caution. Coming from the side, unobserved by the son of Atreus, he suddenly thrust his spear deep into his arm, close to the elbow. Agamemnon felt a shudder course through him but would not stop fighting. As Coon tried to drag his brother from the field by the foot, Agamemnon’s lance struck him under the shield, and he sank dead over the corpse.

Although the warm blood was still flowing from his open wound, Agamemnon went on making havoc among the Trojans with lance, sword, and stones. But when the blood began to clot, a sharp pain warned him to leave the field. Quickly he mounted his chariot and bade the charioteer take him back to the ships. Soon the chariot, in a swirl of dust, was speeding toward the Argive camp.

When Hector saw the son of Atreus leave, he remembered the message of Zeus and hurried to the front ranks of Trojans and Lycians, where he cried aloud: “Now take heart, my friends, and hold the Argives at bay. The bravest of the Danai has left the battlefield, and Zeus will give us victory. Forward! Bush among the Argives with your horses, that our glory may be the greater.” So cried Hector, and he was the first to sweep on like a tempest. Not long after, nine Achaean princes and many of the common soldiers had fallen beneath his strokes. He had almost succeeded in driving the enemy back to their ships when Odysseus roused the son of Tydeus.

“Is it possible,” he cried, “that we have forgotten how to fend off the foe? Come closer, friend, and stand beside me. Let us not live through the disgrace of seeing Hector capture our camp!” Diomedes nodded and hurled his dart at Thymbraeus of Troy; it shattered his left breast, and he rolled from his chariot and lay in the dust, while Odysseus slew Molion, his charioteer. On they dashed against the Trojans, and the other Achaeans began to breathe more freely. Zeus, who was still watching from the peak of Ida, held the fortunes of Argives and Dardanians in balance. But now Hector had recognized the two heroes and stormed straight at them with his battalion. Diomedes only just saved himself and cast his lance at the crest of Hector’s helmet. It did, indeed, glance off, but Hector recoiled and fell on one knee. He broke his fall with his right hand, but the world went black before his eyes. By the time the son of Tydeus had run after his spear, the Trojan had swung himself back on his chariot and escaped death in the throng of his warriors.

Sulkily Diomedes turned to another of the Trojans, felled him to earth, and prepared to strip him of his armor. Paris took advantage of this opportunity. He hid behind the mound of Ilus and, pressed close to the stone, shot the kneeling hero in the right heel; the arrow went through the sole and stuck fast. Then with a laugh he leaped from ambush and scoffed at his victim. Diomedes looked around, and when he saw who the archer was he called to him: “So it is you, the favorite of women! Out in the open you could not prevail against me, and now you boast because you have scratched my foot from behind! But it irks me as little as if a girl or a mere boy had struck me.” Odysseus, meanwhile, had hastened to the spot and shielded his wounded friend with his body, so that Diomedes could draw the arrow from his sole. It was painful, but his fingers were deft and sure. Then he mounted the chariot beside his friend Sthenelus and allowed him to take him back to the ships.

Now Odysseus was alone in the midst of his foes, and no Argive ventured to come to his aid. The hero considered whether to flee or remain steadfast where he was, but it quickly became clear to him that he who would win fame in battle must stay to slay or be slain. While he was pondering this, the Trojans surrounded him, even as hunters and their hounds circle the boar as he rages and whets his tusks. But Odysseus stood firm, and before long five Trojans measured their length in the dust. Then came a sixth, Socus, whose brother had just been slain, and cried: “Odysseus, today you will either go from here with the glory of having killed both the sons of Hippasus and taken their arms as spoils, or die from the thrust of my lance!” And with that he shattered the shield of the son of Laertes with his spear and flayed the skin from his ribs. But Athene did not let the point go deeper. Odysseus, who knew very well that the thrust had not been fatal, drew back a few steps and then lunged at his adversary who turned to flee; he pierced him in the back between the shoulders, so that the spear came out through his breast and he crashed to the ground. Not until then did Odysseus draw the lance out of his own wound. When the Trojans saw his blood spurt forth they thronged closer, and he retreated and called for help three times.

Menelaus was the first to hear and said to Ajax beside him: “Let us force our way through the thick of the battle. I heard the cry of Odysseus.” Soon the two reached the unflinching fighter just as he was brandishing his lance against countless foes. But when Ajax held his shield like a towering wall in front of the hero the Trojans trembled with fear. Menelaus seized this moment to take the son of Laertes by the hand and help him mount his own chariot. Ajax, meanwhile, sprang into the very midst of the Trojans and swept corpses before him, just as a mountain stream swollen in winter uproots the dry oaks and pines. Hector did not see him. He was fighting on the left side of the field, on the shore of the Scamander, and sowing destruction among the youths who pressed about Idomeneus. The warriors would not have yielded to him, had not a three-barbed arrow launched by Paris wounded the right shoulder of Machaon, the great physician of the Argive host. At that Idomeneus called out in alarm: “Nestor! Come and help our friend into your chariot. A man who can cut out arrows and apply soothing salves is worth a hundred others!” Swiftly Nestor leaped to his chariot, lifted wounded Machaon beside him, and hurried toward the ships.

Hector’s charioteer now drew his attention to the confusion in that wing of the Trojan army where Ajax was forcing his way through the foe. In an instant they were there with the chariot, and Hector began to attack the Argives; but he avoided Ajax, for Zeus had warned him not to measure his strength against a man of even greater daring than his own. Zeus also put terror into the soul of Ajax, so that when he saw Hector, he slung his shield over his shoulder and, fearing for the ships, left the Trojan battalions. Seeing him run, his enemies hurled their lances at the shield hanging down over his back. But whenever Ajax turned his face toward them, they shrank back. When he came to the path that led to the ships, he stopped and fended off his attackers. Their spears either clung in his shield covered with seven oxhides, or buried themselves in the earth without touching his body. When brave Eurypylus saw him so hard pressed, he hastened to his aid and pierced the breast of Trojan Apisaon. While Eurypylus was taking the armor from his dead foe, Paris shot him in the right thigh, and he retreated to his friends who protected him with raised lances and shields.

In the meantime, Nestor’s mares bore him and wounded Machaon out of battle and past glowering Achilles who sat in the stern of his ship and calmly watched the Trojans pursue his countrymen. Not dreaming that his words would bode ill to his friend, he called to Patroclus: “Go and ask Nestor whom he is bringing in from the field, for suddenly—I do not know why—my spirit is moved with pity for the Argives.”

Patroclus did as he was bidden and ran to the ships. He reached Nestor just as he had dismounted from the chariot and was handing the horses over to Eurymedon, his servant, and entering his house to refresh himself and Machaon with food which Hecamede served them. When the old man saw Patroclus standing in the door, he rose from his chair, took him by the hand, and urged him to sit with him. But Patroclus refused. “There is no time,” he said. “Achilles sent me to see who it is you brought back from the field with you. Now that I myself have recognized Machaon, versed in the skill of healing, I must hurry back to tell him. You know my friend and how impetuously he is apt to accuse even those who are guiltless.”

Nestor replied, and his tone betrayed a shaken spirit. “Why is the heart of Achilles now troubled in behalf of the Argives who are wounded and almost dead? All the bravest men lie hurt on the ships: Diomedes struck by an arrow, Odysseus and Agamemnon by spears, and this man I have just brought here, matchless Machaon, by a dart from the bowstring. But Achilles is merciless. Is he going to wait until our ships go up in flame and we bleed to death, one after another? Oh, that I had the strength of my youth or my prime, when I came to the house of Peleus as a victor! That was the time I saw your father Menoetius and you and the child Achilles. His father, a hero turned gray, urged him always to be first and foremost, to strive ahead of all the rest, while yours told you to be friend and guide to the son of Peleus, because, though he was the stronger, you were the older. Tell this to Achilles. Perhaps now he will listen to your words.” So said the old man, calling up fair memories from the time of his own brave youth, until the heart of Patroclus beat fast in his breast.

When, on his way back, he passed the ships of Odysseus, he met Eurypylus, wounded in the thigh by an arrow and painfully limping home from battle. He called on the son of Menoetius to soothe his pangs with the arts of Chiron, the centaur, which Achilles had taught him. Patroclus took pity on him and led him into the house, supporting him under the arm. There he laid him down on an oxhide and with a sharp knife cut the arrowhead from his thigh. Then he washed the dark blood away with warm water, ground a bitter herb between his palms, and held it to the wound until the blood began to clot. Thus he tended the wounded hero.


The Argives had erected the trench and the wall around their ships without making offerings to the gods, and so it was that these fortifications were not destined to protect them. Now, in the tenth year of the siege, Poseidon and Apollo finally resolved to destroy the whole structure by loosing the mountain streams on it and by churning up the sea. They decided to do this immediately after the fall of Troy.

The din of battle swelled around the camp, and the Argives, dreading Hector’s fury, crowded against their ships. Hector raged among his men like a lion, bidding them cross the trench. But the horses were afraid. When they reached the edge they reared and snorted, for it was too wide to leap, too steeply sloped to cross, and set with pointed stakes besides. Only foot soldiers could venture the crossing. When Polydamas saw this he took counsel with Hector, saying: “If we forced our horses, we should all be lost and perish ingloriously at the bottom of the trench. So let the charioteers halt at the brink, but we ourselves with our brazen armor will cross on foot under your leadership and break through the wall.”

Hector approved this plan. At his command all the heroes except the charioteers alighted from the chariots and ranged themselves in five groups: the first under Hector and Polydamas; the second under Paris; Helenus and Deiphobus led the third; Aeneas was in charge of the fourth; Sarpedon and Glaucus headed the fifth, the group of the allies. Of all the warriors only one, Asius, refused to leave his chariot. He turned it to the left where the Argives had reserved a passageway for their own horses and chariots. Here he found the gate wide open, for the Danai were waiting to see if perhaps one of their number would come belatedly to seek refuge in the camp. Asius drove straight for this passage, and other Trojans followed him on foot. But in the entrance were two formidable guards: Polypoetes, son of Pirithous, and Leonteus. They stood at the gate like tall mountain oaks which grip the earth so firmly with roots long and broad that neither winds nor scourging rains can shake them from their place. And suddenly these two hurled themselves at the advancing Trojans, while at the same time a shower of stones rattled from the squat towers of the wall.

While Asius and his comrades were engaged in this unexpected combat and lost many men, others pressed through the trench on foot and battled for other gates of the camp. Now the Achaeans were concentrating all their strength on defending their ships, and those of the gods who favored them gazed sadly down from Olympus. Only one of the Trojan battalions, that most numerous and with the bravest men, led by Hector and Polydamas, delayed undecided in front of the trench, for they had seen an evil omen: an eagle flying on the left above their host. In his talons he clutched a red snake which squirmed and, curving backward, bit the bird in the neck. Stung with pain, he dropped it and flew away, and the snake fell in the very midst of the Trojans. With horror they watched it writhing in the dust, and they accepted the whole occurrence as a sign from Zeus.

“Let us stop!” Polydamas, son of Panthous, called to his friend Hector in alarm. “The fate of the eagle who did not succeed in carrying home his prey may be in store for us, too.”

But Hector said scornfully: “How do birds concern me? Let them fly right or left! I rely on the pledge of Zeus. For me, all that counts is to rescue our country. Why shudder at the thought of the fight? Even if all of us lose our lives at the ships, you still need have no fear of death, for you have not the courage to face the foe. But let me tell you that should you really flee, my own lance will slay you.” So said Hector and strode forward, and all the rest followed him and shouted the savage war cry. Down from the mountains of Ida Zeus sent a great wind that whipped up the dust and swept it on the ships, so that the confidence of the Argives ebbed, while the Trojans, trusting the sign of the Thunderer and their own strength, prepared to destroy the wall of the Danai by tearing down the battlements and digging up the stakes of the palisade.

But the Argives never faltered. Firm on the ramparts they stood with their shields and greeted the attackers with stones and missiles. The two Ajaces made the rounds on the wall. They spoke to the fighters in the towers, kindly to the brave and menacingly to the slackers. And all the while the stones flew here and there as thick as snowflakes. But Hector could not have broken the massive bolts of the gate had not Zeus incited his son Sarpedon, the Lycian with his gold-rimmed shield, to spring on his enemies like a hungry mountain lion and swiftly say to Glaucus, his friend: “Why should we Lycians have seats of honor at the banquet or why should the brimming cups be offered first to us, as if we were gods, if we do not distinguish ourselves when the fight goes hardest? Come, let us heighten our own glory, or by our death, the glory of others!”

Glaucus heard and kindled at his comrade’s words, and both stormed straight ahead with their Lycian warriors. Menestheus, looking down from his tower, started when he saw them rage forward, a terror to his countrymen. Timidly he looked about for support. In the distance he could see the two Ajaces, and close at hand Teucer returning from the huts. But his call for help could not reach him. It was thrown back by the clash of helmets and shields and drowned in the roar of battle. So he sent Thootes, the herald, to the two Ajaces with a message for the son of Telamon and his brother Teucer to come to his aid. Ajax the Great did not delay an instant. With Teucer and Pandion who carried his bow he hastened toward the tower along the inside of the wall. They reached Menestheus just as the Lycians were beginning to scale the ramparts. Ajax at once pried loose a jagged piece of rock and with it crushed the helmet and head of Epicles, a friend of Sarpedon’s, so that he plunged from the wall like a diver. And Teucer wounded the bare arm of Glaucus while he was climbing the wall. At that Glaucus secretly left, lest the Achaeans see him and jeer at his wound.

Stricken with grief, Sarpedon saw his friend steal out of battle, but he himself climbed the wall, pierced Alcmaon, son of Thestor, with his lance, and then shook the rampart so mightily that it gave way, and a path lay open to the Trojans. Ajax and Teucer met the onslaught. Teucer shot an arrow into Sarpedon’s shield strap, while Ajax pierced the shield itself, and the thrust of his lance was so forceful that for a moment the Lycian recoiled. But he regained his position almost at once and turning to his men, cried aloud: “Have you forgotten to join in the attack? I cannot break through alone, not if I were the bravest man in the world. Only by keeping together can we open a path to the ships.” And the Lycians rallied around their king and came up faster. From within, the Argives doubled their resistance, and so the foes stood, separated by nothing but the rampart, lunging savagely at one another, like farmers who, at the border of their fields, fight over their boundaries. Right and left, from towers and ramparts, blood flowed in rivers.

For a long time the battle was undecided, but at last Zeus gave Hector the upper hand. He reached the gate in the wall, and his men followed him or climbed past on either side. At the gate whose portals were locked by two bolts that met on the inside was a thick stone, pointed at the top. This Hector wrenched from the earth with superhuman strength and beat it against the hinges and planks until the bolts gave way. The gate crashed open, and the heavy stone fell inside. Terrible to behold in the glitter of his brazen armor, like a night of thunder and lightning, Hector leaped through the gate with flashing eyes, brandishing two shining lances. His warriors swarmed after him. Others had scaled the wall by the hundreds. The entrance to the camp was in an uproar, and the Danai fled to their ships.


When Zeus had furthered the fortunes of the Trojans to this point, he left the Achaeans to their misery and, seated on Mount Ida, turned his eyes from the ships and allowed his gaze to rove over the land of Thrace. Poseidon, meanwhile, was far from idle. He sat on one of the highest peaks of wooded Samothrace. Below him lay the summits of Ida, Troy, and the ships of the Danai. Sorrowfully he watched the Argives yield to the Trojans. He left the jagged cliffs, and with four steps—a god’s steps that made the hills and forests quake—he was down on the shore of the sea, near Aegae, where, under the restless waters, stood his palace of gold, bright and imperishable. Here he girt on his golden armor, harnessed his light-maned horses, grasped his glittering goad, swung himself into his chariot, and drove through the tide. The sea monsters recognized their king and, slipping from rifts in the rock, glided about him. Willingly the waves parted to let him pass, and not a drop touched the brazen axle. Quickly he reached the Argive ships. He arrived in a grotto between Tenedos and Imbros. There he unyoked his horses, hobbled them with golden thongs, and fed them on ambrosia. Then he sped into the fury of the fight, where the Trojans were clustered around Hector like storm-clouds and preparing to master the ships.

Poseidon mingled with the Argives in the shape of Calchas, the soothsayer. First he called to the two Ajaces who needed no urging, for the joy of battle burned fiercely within them. “You two,” he said, “could save your people if only you took stock of your strength. Though the Trojans are crossing the walls in other places too, I have no misgivings, for there our combined forces will be able to fend them off. I fear for us only here, where Hector is raging like a firebrand. O that a god would put into your heads the thought of centering your resistance in this place and inciting others to do likewise!” With these words the Earth-Shaker struck them lightly with his staff. Their courage rose and their limbs grew light, while the god went from them swift as a hawk.

Ajax, son of Oileus, was the first to know who he was. “Ajax,” he cried to his namesake, “that was not Calchas! It was Poseidon! I know him by his stature and his gait, for the gods are easy to discern. Now my heart longs for the fight that will decide the issue. My feet and hands are tingling.”

And the son of Telamon replied: “My hands too grasp the spear now firmer. My spirit soars and my feet yearn to fly. I am wild with desire to do single combat with Hector!”

While they were talking, Poseidon went among the heroes who stood listless and weary by the ships. He stirred their courage until they roused themselves, joined the two Ajaces, and awaited Hector and his Trojans, composed and steadfast. So close they stood that lance crowded on lance, shield on shield, and helmet brushed helmet. The fluttering plumes touched, and the spears quivered in their hands. But the Trojans too were coming in full force, Hector in the van, rushing headlong like a rock pried loose from the peak of a mountain and tearing up trees as it crashes down with unrestrained force.

“Hold firm, Trojans and Lycians!” he called back over his shoulder. “That well-ordered army over there will scatter before my spear, as surely as the Thunderer is my aid!” So he cried out, spurring the courage of his men. Among them was Deiphobus, Priam’s valiant son, covering himself with his shield and striding defiantly forward, though with muffled tread. Meriones chose him as a target for his lance, but Deiphobus held his great shield well away from his body, and the point broke against it. Vexed at his failure, Meriones turned toward the ships to fetch a sturdier spear from his hut.

Meanwhile the fight went on and battle cries rose from many throats. Teucer smote Imbrius, son of Mentor, under the ear, and he fell like a towering ash on a mountain top, struck by the axe of a woodsman. Hector strove with Teucer for the body, but instead of him he felled Amphimachus, and as he bent to strip off his helmet the lance of Ajax the Great struck the boss of his shield so that he recoiled; Menestheus and Stichius together bore the body of Amphimachus from the field, while the Ajaces, like two lions snatching a goat from the hounds, carried that of Imbrius back to the Argive ranks.

Amphimachus was a grandson of Poseidon, and the sea-god was angered by his death. Hastily he went to the huts to fan the flame of Achaean valor. There he found Idomeneus who had taken a wounded friend to the physicians and was just fetching another spear from his house. In the shape of Thoas, son of Andraemon, the god approached him and spoke in ringing tones. “King of the Cretans,” he said, “what of all your threats? Let no one who of his own free will withdraws from battle on this day ever return home from Troy! Sooner shall dogs rend his flesh.”

“So let it be, Thoas!” Idomeneus called after the vanishing god, and he armed himself with stronger weapons and dashed out of his hut, magnificent as the lightning which Zeus flashes through the sky. At that moment he met Meriones whose spear had broken against the shield of Deiphobus and who was about to get himself a fresh lance. “Valiant hero, I know what you need,” Idomeneus said to him. “You will find at least twenty spears I have won in battle leaning against the wall of my house. Take the best for yourself.” And when Meriones had selected a tall lance, the two returned to battle together and joined those of their friends who were fending off Hector’s onslaught.

Although Idomeneus was turning gray, he rallied the Argives with youthful fire. The first foe his spear wounded under the belt was Othryoneus, who fought on the side of the Trojans because he was courting Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam. While he was dragging his victim off by the foot, Idomeneus shouted jubilantly: “Now go and wed the daughter of Priam, happy bridegroom! Had you been our ally we would have given you the fairest daughter of the son of Atreus. Come with me to the ships. There we can discuss the marriage; you shall have a fine dowry!” While he was taunting him thus, Asius flew toward him in his chariot to avenge the dead man. Already his arm was raised to smite, when the spear of Idomeneus pierced his throat just under the chin; the point came out through the nape of his neck, and he fell from his chariot and measured his length on the ground. When his charioteer saw this, he was numbed with fear. His hands refused to drive the horses away from the scene, and the lance of Antilochus, son of Nestor, tumbled him from the chariot as well.

Now Deiphobus advanced toward Idomeneus, determined to avenge the death of Asius, his friend. He cast his spear at the Cretan, but he shifted his shield so deftly that the weapon flew over, grazing the rim with a metallic clang, and on into the liver of Prince Hypsenor, who fell to his knees. “Asius, you are avenged!” sang out the Trojan. “For I have sent you an escort on your way!” Hypsenor, groaning aloud, was carried from the field by two of his companions.

And still Idomeneus did not lose courage! He slew Alcathous, the son-in-law of Anchises, shouting: “Have we evened our accounts, Deiphobus? I give you three for one! Come and see for yourself whether or not I am sprung from the line of Zeus!” Idomeneus said this because he was the grandson of King Minos and thus the great-grandson of Zeus. For an instant Deiphobus turned over in his mind whether to dare single combat or to call some other brave Trojan to help him. This latter course seemed best, and soon he and Aeneas, his sister’s husband, rushed at Idomeneus. Seeing those warriors coming against him, he did not falter with fear, but awaited them as a boar awaits the hounds. But he too called to friends fighting nearby. “Come and help me who stand alone!” he cried. “For I dread Aeneas, who is great in battle and in the heyday of youth besides.” At his call came Aphareus, Ascalaphus, and Deipyrus, supporting their shields on their shoulders.

Meanwhile Aeneas too called to his friends Paris and Agenor, and the Trojans followed him as sheep follow the bellwether. Bronze clashed on bronze, and instead of single combat a fight of many men ensued. Aeneas cast his spear at Idomeneus, but it missed and went into the ground. Idomeneus smote Oenomaus in the belly, so that he toppled and, dying, clawed the earth with his hand. The victor only just had time to draw out his spear, for missiles came so hard and fast that he was forced to retreat. But his old feet moved slowly, and Deiphobus, glowering with rage, hurled a lance after him which, missing its mark, felled Ascalaphus, son of Ares. The war-god, who by decree of Zeus was held captive in the golden clouds of Olympus along with the other immortals, did not know that a son of his had fallen. As Deiphobus reached for the gleaming helmet of Ascalaphus, Meriones wounded him in the arm, and the helmet rolled to the ground. Meriones sprang forward, snatched his spear from the arm of the wounded man, and darted back into the throng of his comrades. Polites put his arm about the waist of his brother Deiphobus and carried him out of battle, through the trench, and to the waiting chariot which took him, bleeding and weak with pain, to the city.

The others fought on and on. Aeneas smote Aphareus, and Antilochus, Thoon. Adamas, the Trojan, rushed at Antilochus, but bled to death from the spear thrust of Meriones. Of the Argives, Deipyrus was struck in the temple by the sword of Helenus and rolled along the ranks of the Danai. Full of grief, Menelaus brandished his spear at Helenus who at this moment launched an arrow at the son of Atreus. Menelaus smote the son of Priam, but the spear rebounded from his cuirass. The arrow of Helenus also went astray, and now Menelaus buried his lance in the hand which still held the bow, and Helenus, fleeing toward his friends, dragged the weapon with him. Agenor, his comrade-in-arms, drew the point from his palm and took the woolen sling of one of his companions to bind up the seer’s wound.

Now evil chance guided Pisander, the Trojan, toward dauntless Menelaus. The son of Atreus missed with his lance; his adversary aimed his spear at Menelaus’ shield, but the shaft broke near the point. Then Menelaus lunged forward with his sword. Pisander drew his long battle-axe from under his shield, and they ran at each other. But the Trojan only grazed the crest of his assailant’s helmet, while the other split his forehead above the nose. His eyes dropped out of their bleeding sockets, and he died racked with anguish. Menelaus set his heel on his breast and said with bitterness and rejoicing: “Dogs! You carried off my young wife with all her treasure, after she had received you with due hospitality. And now you want to throw firebrands among our ships and murder the Argive host! Will you never leave off, insatiable fighters that you are?” Thus he spoke, and he stripped the bloodstained armor from the corpse and gave it to his friends for safekeeping. Then he forged to the front again and with his shield caught the lance which Harpalion hurled at him. Meriones smote him who had cast it in the thigh, and the dying Harpalion was lifted into the chariot by his father Pylaemenes. This roused Paris, and furiously he shot at Euchenor of Corinth, who happened to cross his path, and the arrow pierced his ear and cheek.

So they fought, but Hector was unaware that on the left of the ships the Danai were close to victory. At the very place where he had first leaped through the gate, where the wall was lowest, he penetrated farther and farther into the ranks of the Achaeans. In vain they tried to check him. Boeotians, Thessalians, Locrians, Athenians—none could force him back. Like oxen teamed at the plough, the two Ajaces strode breast to breast, and the warriors of the son of Telamon were steadfast and stayed close. But the Locrians who could not endure this form of fighting did not follow on the heels of Ajax, son of Oileus. For they had gone against Troy full of confidence, without helmets or shields or lances, armed only with bows and woolen slings. Earlier in the war they had scattered many a Trojan battalion with their missiles. Now too they harried the Trojans, standing in ambush and shooting from a distance, and in this way they threw confusion among them.

The Trojans would surely have been driven from the huts and ships and ingloriously forced back to their city, had not Polydamas addressed stubborn Hector. “Do you spurn counsel, friend, just because you are boldest in battle? Do you not see that the flames of war are closing over your head, that the Trojans are either retreating with the spoils they have won, or fighting in isolated groups near the ships? Go from here and summon the noblest of your people to an assembly to decide whether we should rush into the labyrinth of the ships or retreat unharmed. I myself fear the Argives will pay back their yesterday’s debt, while their most indomitable warrior still waits on his ship.”

Hector agreed and asked his friend to call an assembly. He himself hastened back into battle, and wherever he met a commander, he bade him go to Polydamas. He looked for his brothers Deiphobus and Helenus, Asius, son of Hyrtacus, and Adamas in the foremost ranks and found the first two wounded, the others dead. When his eyes fell on Paris, he shouted at him angrily: “Where are our heroes, you seducer of women? Soon it will be all up with our city, and then you yourself will not escape awful Fate. But now come and fight while the others are gathering for the council.”

“I will follow you with a glad heart,” said Paris soothingly. “You shall not complain of lack of courage on my part.” Together they stormed into the heart of the fight, where the bravest of the Trojans were surging ahead like gusts of wind in sullen weather. Soon Hector was in the van. But the Argives did not recoil from him in terror as before, and mighty Ajax challenged him to combat. The Trojan, however, ignored his taunts and rushed toward the ships.


While arms were clashing outside, old Nestor sat quietly in his hut, sipping his wine and playing the host to wounded Machaon, the physician. But when the battle cry drew close and sounded louder and louder in their ears, he gave the care of his guest over to Hecamede and bade her prepare a warm bath for him. Then he took shield and lance and left the hut. He saw the ominous turn the encounter had taken, and while he was still hesitating whether to fight or seek out Agamemnon and confer with him, the king himself with Odysseus and Diomedes came toward him from the ships. All three were wounded and leaned on their lances. They had only come to watch the further course of the battle without hope of sharing in it themselves. With deep concern they discussed the fate of their army with Nestor.

“We have nothing more to hope for,” said Agamemnon. “Since the trench we dug with such labor and the wall we thought could resist any attack have not served to protect the ships, since our enemies are in our very midst, I must believe that unless we Argives leave of our own accord, Zeus will let us perish here, far from Argos, and that we shall die an inglorious death. So let us drag down the ships which are nearest the shore, launch them, and wait for night. Then, if the people of Troy turn back to their city, we can return and push the rest of the ships down to the water and escape all danger when protecting darkness falls.”

Odysseus listened to this proposal with a scowl. “Son of Atreus,” he answered, “you should be at the head of warriors less valiant than ours! At the peak of battle you bid us launch the ships? The poor Danai would be stricken with dismay, the lust for fight would ebb from their hearts, and they would withdraw themselves from battle!”

“Far be it from me,” said Agamemnon, “to do this against the will of the Argives and without hearing what they have to say. And I shall gladly withdraw my proposal if anyone knows a better way out.”

“The best way of all,” cried the son of Tydeus, “is to return to battle at once and—though we are wounded and cannot fight ourselves—stir the hearts of those who can, as true leaders should!”

Poseidon, protector of the Argives, who had been listening to the heroes, heard these words with approval. In the shape of an old warrior he came up to them, clasped Agamemnon’s right hand, and said: “Shame to Achilles who is rejoicing in the flight of the Argives! But take courage! The gods do not hate you, and soon you will see the dust swirl under the heels of fleeing Trojans.” So said the god and stormed from them straight for the field. As he ran he shouted his battle cry to the Argive host so loudly that it sounded like the voices of ten thousand mortals, and the heart of every hero grew staunch and daring.

When Hera, surveying the struggle from the heights of Olympus, saw Poseidon, her brother, take a hand in the fight in favor of her friends, she too could no longer bear to watch inactively. In the depths of her soul she burned with resentment for Zeus, sitting hostile on the peak of Ida, and pondered how she might trick him and divert his thoughts from the battle. At last she devised a scheme. She hastened to a hidden chamber which her son Hephaestus had built for her in the palace of the immortals. He had fitted the doors with bolts no other god could open. Hera entered this chamber and locked herself in. Then she bathed and anointed her lovely body with perfumed oils, smoothed her shining locks, put on a rich and delicate robe which Athene had made for her, and fastened it over her breast with a brooch of gold. About it she wound her shimmering girdle, clasped in her ears a pair of precious earrings set with jewels, cast a soft, sheer veil about her, and bound slender sandals to her shining feet. Radiantly beautiful she left her chamber and visited Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

“Do not bear me a grudge, my sweet,” she said caressingly, “just because I am helping the Argives and you the Trojans. And do not deny me what I beg of you with all my heart. Lend me your magic girdle of love which beguiles both men and gods. For I am bound for the utmost ends of the earth to see my foster parents, Oceanus and Tethys. They live in constant feud with each other. I want to see whether I cannot reconcile them with gentle words, and for this I shall need your girdle.”

Aphrodite, who did not see through Hera’s ruse, readily complied. “Very well,” she said. “You are the wife of the king of gods. It would not be fitting to refuse your request.” And with that she loosed her embroidered girdle wherein were seduction and enchantments. “Hide it in your bosom,” she counselled, “and you will not return without having accomplished what you desire.”

And now the queen of gods went to far-off Thrace and from there to Lemnos, the dwelling of Sleep, brother of Death, and implored him to lull to sleep the bright eyes of Zeus. But Sleep was afraid. Once before, at Hera’s command, he had numbed the thought of the Thunderer. It was when Heracles was on his way home from ravaged Troy, and Hera, his enemy, wanted to drive him from his course and to the island of Cos. When Zeus awoke and saw that he had been tricked, he hurled the gods about in his palace and would have destroyed Sleep, had he not fled into the arms of Night, who restrains both men and immortals. The god of sleep reminded Hera of this, but she calmed him. “What are you thinking of!” she exclaimed. “You cannot really believe that Zeus’ zeal in behalf of the Trojans is as great as his love for Heracles, his son! Be wise and obey my wish. If you do as I say, the youngest and loveliest of the Graces shall be your wife.” The god of sleep had her seal this promise with an oath on the Styx and then gave her his word to do as she asked.

Hera left him and soared to Mount Ida in all her shimmering beauty. When Zeus beheld her, his heart was overcome with fervent love, and he instantly forgot the Trojan War. “How did you come here from Olympus?” he asked her. “Where are your horses and chariot, my love?”

Craftily Hera replied: “I am going to the ends of the earth to reconcile Oceanus and Tethys, my foster parents.”

“Must you always differ with me?” exclaimed Zeus. “You can take this journey another time. Stay with me, and let us delight in each other while we watch this battle of two great peoples.”

When Hera heard this she was dismayed, for she saw that even her beauty and the magic girdle of Aphrodite could not make her husband forget the struggle on the plain below and his resentment for the Achaeans. But she concealed her alarm and twined her white arms around him. “I shall do as you say,” she said docilely, but secretly she beckoned Sleep who had followed her, invisible to all, and was standing behind the king of gods, awaiting her command. And Sleep silently weighed the lids of Zeus. The king of gods did not even answer, but laid his drowsy head in Hera’s lap and was soon slumbering deeply. Now Hera quickly dispatched Sleep as her messenger to Poseidon and had him tell her brother: “This is the time to carry out your purpose and give glory to the Argives, for thanks to my ruse Zeus lies asleep on the summit of Ida.”

Swiftly Poseidon stormed to the front and assuming the shape of an Argive hero called aloud: “Shall we give Hector such easy victory? Shall we let him conquer our ships and win undying fame? I know he is relying on the anger of Achilles, but what a disgrace if we were vanquished just because the son of Peleus is not with us! Take your tallest shields, set on your heads your most flashing helmets, brandish your mightiest lances! Let us go, I myself in the lead! We shall see if Hector can stand against us!” Obedient to the ringing, rousing voice, the warriors rallied. The wounded princes ordered the battalions and distributed the weapons, the best to the strong, the less good to the weaker. Then all pressed forward. First went the Earth-Shaker, and in his right hand was a terrible sword that flashed like lightning. He cleared the way, for all dispersed before him, since no one dared face him in fight. And as he advanced the sea rose and the waves towered behind the ships of the Argives.

But Hector did not allow this to intimidate him. As a forest fire roars through a valley winding between mountains, he tore ahead, and the two hosts clashed in new encounter. First Hector aimed at Ajax the Great, and his lance sped to its mark. But the shield and the sword straps which crossed over the breast protected the son of Telamon, and Hector, vexed by the loss of his weapon, drew back into the ranks of the Trojans. Ajax hurled an enormous stone after him, and he fell in the dust; lance, shield, and helmet flew in all directions, and his bronze armor clanged. The Danai shouted with joy, loosed a hail of spears, and hoped to drag Hector away. But the foremost heroes among the Trojans came to his aid: Aeneas, Polydamas, noble Agenor, Sarpedon of Lycia, and Glaucus, his comrade-in-arms. They held up their shields to fend the missiles from him and lifted him and placed him in a chariot which took him safely back to the city.

When the Achaeans saw Hector fleeing, they drove against the foe with increased force. Ajax was the center of great tumult, for his spear and his lance struck and smote on all sides. Even so Argive heroes fell, and in their fall saddened their friends. Ajax avenged the death of Prothoenor, whom Polydamas had slain, by killing Archelochus, son of Antenor. Promachus of Boeotia, felled by Acamas, the brother of Archelochus, was avenged by Peneleus, who slew Ilioneus. Ajax pierced Hyrtius, Antilochus took the weapons of Mermerus and Phalces, and Meriones did to death Hippotion and Morys. Teucer’s arrow pierced Prothoon and Periphetes. Agamemnon wounded Hyperenor in the groin. But Ajax the Less, the agile fighter from Locris whose great moment had come, made the most havoc among the Trojans who had already retreated from the walls and were beginning to flee through the pointed palisade of the trench.


The Trojans did not stop until they had reached their chariots. They were bewildered and pale with fear. And now Zeus awoke on the peak of Ida and lifted his head from Hera’s lap. Abruptly he sprang up and at a glance took in the scene below: Trojans fleeing, Argives in hot pursuit. In their ranks he saw his brother Poseidon. He saw Hector on his way to the city, and now the chariot halted; he was taken from it and laid on the ground, and his friends surrounded him. The wounded son of Priam was unconscious. His breath came in gasps and he spat blood, for it was no mean hero who had struck him!

Full of pity the eyes of the father of gods and men rested upon him. Then he turned to Hera, and his face darkened. “Deceiver!” he said to her threateningly. “What have you done? Are you not afraid that you will be the first to suffer for your crime? Have you forgotten how you once hung in mid-air, your feet bound to two anvils, your hands tied with a golden chain, and no dweller on Olympus could draw near to you without being hurled down to earth by me? That was your punishment for inciting the god of the north wind against my son Heracles. Are you so anxious to endure such a penalty a second time?”

For a time Hera said nothing. Then she spoke. “Heaven and earth and the waters of the Styx be my witnesses,” she said, “that it was not I who roused the Earth-Shaker against the Trojans. It must have been his own heart that prodded him to this. As for me, I should rather try to induce him to obey the command of Zeus who rules all heaven.”

The face of Zeus cleared, for Aphrodite’s girdle which Hera had with her was still doing its work. After a pause he spoke, and his voice was gentler. “If you were in agreement with me in the council of immortals,” he said, “Poseidon would be compelled to alter his plans in accordance with our wishes. But now, if you are, indeed, serious in trying to please me, call Iris who shall summon my brother home from battle, and Apollo who shall heal Hector and breathe fresh courage into his soul.”

Hera obeyed. She sped to the halls of Olympus where the immortals were gathered about the board. When she entered, they rose up from their places, and each offered her his cup. She took that of Themis, sipped of the nectar, and told them the bidding of Zeus. Fleet as the wind Iris floated down to the field of battle. Hearing his brother’s command from her lips, Poseidon was ill pleased. “Those are not brotherly words,” he said sulkily. “Nor should he try to break my will, for I am as good as he. It is true that when we cast lots for sovereignty, I was apportioned only the gray sea, Pluto the underworld, and Zeus heaven. But earth and Olympus are common to us all.”

“Shall I repeat your defiant words to the father of gods, just as you have said them?” Iris asked hesitantly.

But the god thought better of it, and leaving the ranks of the Danai, he grumbled: “Very well, then. I shall come with you. But one thing is certain, and Zeus shall hear of it: if he opposes me and the other gods who favor the Argives and refuses to decree the fall of Troy, implacable enmity will flare up between us.” So he said and dipped down into the sea, and immediately the Achaeans missed his presence among them.

To Hector Zeus dispatched Phoebus Apollo. The sun-god found the son of Priam no longer lying on the ground but sitting up, for Zeus had revived him. The sweat of anguish had ceased; his breath came more easily; life had returned to his limbs. When Apollo approached him full of pity, he looked up mournfully and said: “Who are you, best of the immortals, who are come to inquire after me? Have you not heard that Ajax the Great cast a stone at me near the ships and struck me in the breast and stopped me just as I was about to conquer? I thought that this very day I should have to behold black Hades.”

“Be of good courage,” Apollo replied. “Zeus has sent me, his own son Phoebus, to you. I shall shield you at his command, as I did before of my own accord, and brandish in your behalf the golden sword you see in my hands. Mount your chariot again. I myself will go on ahead, clear the way for your horses, and help you put the Argives to flight.”

Scarcely had Hector heard the voice of the god when he leaped up like a horse who has eaten his fill at the manger and breaks his tether impetuously. He swung himself on his chariot, and when the Achaeans saw him flying toward them, they stood still and ceased pursuing, like hunters and dogs who have followed a stag into the thick of the forest and suddenly halt at the sight of a shaggy lion which crosses their path. The first to see Hector was Thoas of Aetolia, a man of ready words, who at once told the Argive princes among whom he was fighting what he had beheld. “Woe is me!” he cried out. “What miracle is this! Hector, whom all of us saw struck down by the stone of the son of Telamon, is there, upright in his chariot, hastening into battle joyful and eager. Zeus, the Thunderer, must be giving him aid! If you take my advice, you will order the bulk of our warriors to retreat to the ships, while we, the bravest, fend him off. For though he is raging forward with the lust to kill, he will hesitate to break through our ranks.”

The heroes obeyed his wise counsel. They called on the noblest of their number, and these swiftly gathered about the two Ajaces, Idomeneus, Meriones, and Teucer, but all those behind them withdrew to the ships. The Trojans, meanwhile, advanced in serried ranks. Hector, high in his chariot, was leading them, and he himself, in turn, was led by Apollo sheathed in cloud, holding in his hand the aegis. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the Argives awaited the enemy, and loud shouts sounded from both hosts. And now arrows whirred from the string and spears cut the air. But it was the Trojans who always hit the mark. Their missiles quivered in the flesh of their foes because Phoebus Apollo was with them, and every time he shook his aegis in the faces of the Danai and sent forth a terrible shout from his dark cloud, the hearts of the Argives quaked, and they forgot to defend themselves.

First Hector slew Stichius, the leader of the Boeotians, then Arcesilaus, friend of Menestheus. Aeneas killed and stripped of their armor Iasus of Athens and Medon, half brother of Ajax of Locris. Mecisteus fell by the hand of Polydamas. Polites slew Echius and Agenor Clonius. Paris shot Deiochus through the back as he was fleeing from the field, and the point of the lance came through his breast.

While the Trojans were seizing the weapons of their victims, the Argives fled in utter confusion, dashing toward the trench and the palisade, swerving hither and thither. Some, goaded by terror, were already crossing the wall. Then Hector called to his men, and his voice rang across the field: “Let the bodies lie in their bloodstained armor and make straight for the ships. If I come on anyone bound elsewhere, I shall do him to death!” Thus he cried out, lashing on his horses, and drove toward the trench, while all the heroes of Troy followed him in their chariots. With his feet full of godly strength, Apollo stamped down the steep banks of the trench and made a bridge for them as long as a spearcast. On this path the god himself crossed first, and with one thrust of his aegis he demolished the wall of the Argives, just as a child playing on the shore of the sea scatters the forts of sand he has only just built. The Achaeans were again crowded into the passageways between their ships and lifted their hands to the gods in supplication. And when Nestor made his prayer, Zeus answered with thunder that boded mercy.

The Trojans interpreted the sign from heaven to their own advantage. They raged across the wall with horses, chariots and men, and fought from the chariots, but the Danai fled to the ships and defended themselves from the decks.

While Argives and Trojans were still fighting for the wall, Patroclus sat in the splendid house of Eurypylus, whose wound he was tending, anointing it with the balm of soothing herbs. But when he heard the Trojans crashing the wall and the Achaeans fleeing with loud cries of distress, he struck his thigh with the flat of his hand, and his voice was troubled. “Eurypylus,” he said, “much as I want to help you back to health, I cannot stay here any longer, for the din outside is coming too close. Your comrade-in-arms will have to help you now. I myself will go to the son of Peleus and with the aid of the gods try to induce him to take part in battle again at long last.” Hardly had he ended before his swift feet bore him away.

All the while the struggle for the ships went on, and the fortunes of war were equally divided. Hector and Ajax were fighting for one of the ships, and the son of Priam could not force him from his stronghold nor throw a firebrand into the vessel. And the son of Telamon could not drive Hector back. Ajax’s spear felled Caletor, a kinsman of Hector who had been fighting at his side, and Hector slew Lycophron, comrade of Ajax, with his lance. As he fell, Teucer sprang to his brother’s aid and sped a shaft into the neck of Clitus, charioteer of Polydamas. Polydamas, fighting on foot, caught at the reins of the horses as they plunged away. A second arrow of Teucer’s flew toward Hector, but Zeus broke the bowstring, and the missile swerved to one side. Sorrowfully the archer recognized the interference of a hostile god. Ajax counselled his brother to lay aside his bow and arrows and fight with shield and spear. This he did and set on his head a stately helmet. Hector, on the other hand, called to his men: “Take courage! I just saw the Thunderer break the shaft of the bravest of the Argives. So on to the ships, for the gods are with us!”

On the other side Ajax exhorted his warriors. “Shame on you, Achaeans!” he cried. “We must save the ships or die! There is no other course. If mighty Hector burns them to their keels, do you intend to walk home across the ocean? Or perhaps you think Hector is bidding you to a dance rather than to battle? Better to hasten the choice between life and death than loiter in shameful uncertainty, downed by men less worthy than ourselves, men who fight shielded by gods!” So spoke Ajax and felled a Trojan hero, but for every man he laid low Hector slew one of his own comrades. After a little, the struggle centered about the body and armor of Dolops whom Menelaus had killed. Hector called on all his brothers and kinsmen, but Ajax and his friends guarded the ships with a veritable wall of shields and lances.

Then Menelaus urged forward Antilochus, Nestor’s son, saying: “There is no one younger and swifter than you in the entire host, and no one braver! It would be a praiseworthy deed if you leaped from the ranks and slew one of the Trojans!” Thus he incited Antilochus, and the youth instantly sprang forward from the throng, looked threateningly about him, and hurled his gleaming spear. As he aimed, the Trojans flew apart, but he struck Melanippus, son of Hicetaon, under the nipple. He fell, and his weapons clattered around him. Antilochus raced to him like a hound to the fawn the hunter has shot from ambush, but when Hector advanced on him, he fled like a beast of prey which has mangled the herdsman or the dog and, well aware of what he has done, runs away when he sees men coming toward him. Trojan missiles sped in his wake, and Antilochus did not turn until he was safely on his own side again.

And now the Trojans rushed on the ships like bloodthirsty lions. Zeus seemed resolved to grant the merciless wish of Thetis, whose anger was long and unrelenting like that of her son Achilles. Nevertheless, as soon as the first ship burst into flame, he visited flight and pursuit on the Trojans and again rewarded the Argives with triumph and glory. Hector fought with bitter rage. He foamed at the mouth, his eyes glittered under his beetling brows, and the fierce crest of his helmet streamed in the air. Because he was destined to live only a few more days, Zeus gave him strength and splendor beyond all other men for one last time. Already Pallas Athene was preparing grim death for him. But now he tried to break through the ranks of his foes wherever he saw the densest throngs and the finest armor. For a long time he fought without success. The Danai stood man beside man in a solid mass, like a cliff in the sea against which the tide pounds in vain, while the spray of the surf spatters its sides. But he threw himself on the warriors as, in a storm, a wave rushes on a ship, and the Argives were stricken with terror and fled. One—it was Periphetes of Mycenae, son of Copreus, and a better man than his ugly father—stumbled against the lower rim of his shield and fell backwards, and Hector’s lance stabbed him in the breast.

The Achaeans were retreating from the foremost ships, but they did not scatter through the streets of the camp. Shame and dread kept them together. They crowded around the huts and exhorted one another, above all old Nestor who quickened their hearts with his battle cry. Ajax, son of Telamon, strode over the ships, and in his right hand he wielded a pole twenty-two cubits long and bound with iron rings. As an agile rider leaps from horse to horse while the spectators stare in amazement, so he sprang from ship to ship and called down to the Argives in a terrible voice. But Hector too was not content to rest in the safe haven of the ranks. As an eagle flashes through the sky and swoops on flocks of cranes or swans resting on the margin of a stream, he rushed on one of the ships, and Zeus himself pushed him on from behind so that he flew forward and all his men after him.

Then the battle for the ships broke out afresh. The Argives were ready to die rather than flee, and there was not a Trojan who was not in high hopes of being the first to fling a firebrand into the ships. And now Hector laid hold of the stern of the fair ship which had brought Protesilaus to Troy but was not destined to take him back, since he had fallen in the battle which took place shortly after the landing. The struggle focused around this ship. It was not a matter of shooting the bow or casting the spear. Fighting at close quarters, the men used sharp hatchets, battle-axes and swords against one another, and thrust with their lances, keeping them in their hands. Many a good sword slipped from lifeless fingers or fell from the shoulder of a fighter, and the earth ran with blood. But Hector, once having seized the stern, held fast to it and cried: “Now bring the brands and raise the battle cry! For Zeus has given us a day which shall make return to us for all that has gone before. On, and take the ships which have caused us so much suffering! Not one of our elders would restrain us from using this moment to the full. Zeus himself bids us go!”

Even Ajax could no longer withstand Hector’s attack. The missiles came too hard and fast. He drew back a little and swung himself to the bench at the rudder. But never did he cease watching where he might fend off the foe, and he brandished his lance against the Trojans drawing closer with the brands. At the same time he spoke to his friends in a thundering voice. “Be men!” he called to them. “Or do you think there are others beyond the ships, others who will help you, or a stronger wall to shelter you? You have no city to flee to like the Trojans. We are on enemy soil, crowded to the edge of the sea, far from the land of our fathers. Our safety depends on the strength of our arms.” Thus he spoke and thrust with his lance at every Trojan advancing with a brand, so that soon twelve bodies lay on the ground before him.


While the ship on which Ajax stood had become the center of a struggle to the death, Patroclus, leaving wounded Eurypylus, had hastened to Achilles. When he entered his house the tears gushed from his eyes like a torrent which pours its dark waters over a steep cliff. Compassionately the son of Peleus gazed at him and said: “You are crying like a child, Patroclus, a girl child who runs after her mother and screams ‘take me, take me!’ and clings to her gown until the mother lifts her into her arms. Have you bad news from Phthia? And do they concern my Myrmidons, or me, or yourself? I know that your father Menoetius and my father Peleus are alive. Or is your sorrow for the people of Argos, who are perishing miserably as a result of their own presumptuousness? Tell me what is in your heart and let me know all.”

First Patroclus only sighed, but then he spoke: “Do not be angered with me, noblest of heroes. It is true that the fate of the Argives weighs heavily on my soul. All the bravest lie among the ships, laid low by missiles launched or thrust. Diomedes is wounded; Odysseus and Agamemnon gashed with lances; Eurypylus struck in the thigh by an arrow! None of these fight in our ranks now; they have been given over to the physicians. But you are implacable! Your parents are not Peleus and Thetis, the mortal and the goddess! The dark sea or the stony mountain must have borne you, for your heart is relentless. Well then, if you are held back by your mother’s words or by some message from the gods, let me at least go with your warriors and bring comfort to the Achaeans. Let me gird on your own armor. Perhaps the Trojans, seeing me and thinking it is you, will stop fighting and give us time to rally our strength.”

But Achilles scowled and said sulkily: “It is not my mother nor the voice of gods that keeps me here. It is the bitter pain gnawing at my soul, pain that an Argive has dared to rob me, his peer, of what was mine by right. But I never intended to cherish my grudge forever, and from the outset resolved to give it up when the battle came close to my ships. Now, while I cannot make up my mind to take part in the fight myself, you may take my armor and lead our fighters. Rush on the Trojans with all your might and drive them from the ships. There is only one you shall not attack, and that is Hector. And be careful not to fall into the hands of a god, for Apollo loves our foes. As soon as you have saved the ships, turn back. Let the rest slaughter one another in the open field. For I should be willing to let all the Argives perish, so that we two might be the only ones left to tear down the walls of Troy.”

While they were talking, Ajax was more and more sorely pressed near the ships, and his breath grew labored. Spears and arrows rattled against his helmet. His shoulder, burdened by his shield, began to stiffen. The sweat of anguish poured from his limbs, but he could not rest. When Hector’s sword struck off the top of his lance so that only the broken shaft was left in his hand and the brazen point clattered to the ground, Ajax knew that the Argives were confronted with the powers of a god, and he drew back in dismay. Then Hector and his men tossed a huge brand into the ship, and the flames leaped up and closed over the stern.

When Achilles saw the flare of fire, his stubborn heart winced with pain. “O Patroclus!” he cried. “Keep them from taking the ships and barring our men from escape. I myself shall go to assemble my warriors.” Patroclus rejoiced and swiftly girt on the greaves of Achilles. About his breast he bound his spangled cuirass, slung his sword over his shoulder, set on his head the helmet with its streaming horsehair crest, seized the shield with his left hand and with his right two mighty lances. He would have liked to take the enormous spear of his friend Achilles. Chiron, the Centaur, had once given it to Peleus. It was carved from an ash of Mount Pelion in Thessaly, and it was so large and so heavy that no one except the son of Peleus could handle it. And now Patroclus bade Automedon, his friend and charioteer, harness the horses Xanthus and Balius, the immortal offspring the harpy Podarge had borne the god of the west wind, and besides these the horse Pedasus, which the son of Peleus had once taken as spoils from Thebe in Cilicia. Achilles, meanwhile, called together his Myrmidons, and they came like hungry wolves, fifty men from each of the fifty ships. And their five leaders were Menesthius, son of the river-god Spercheus and Polydora, the fair daughter of Peleus; Eudoras, son of Hermes and Polymele; Pisander, son of Maemalus and, after Patroclus, the best fighter of them all; and last Phoenix, gray about the temples, and Alcimedon, son of Laerces.

As they were leaving, the son of Peleus called to them: “Let my Myrmidons not forget how often they threatened the Trojans and reproached me for my wrath which compelled them to refrain from battle. The hour you have yearned for has come. Now fight to your hearts’ content!” When he had spoken, he withdrew to his house and from a chest filled with tunics, mantles, coverlets, and other precious possessions his mother Thetis had given him to take on the journey, he fetched a cup, artfully wrought, from which no one but himself had ever drunk the sparkling wine and from which no god but the Thunderer had received libation. Now he stepped outside, poured a libation to Zeus, and prayed that the Argives might win and Patroclus, his comrade-in-arms, return to the ships in safety. The first request Zeus heard with a nod; at the second he shook his head, but all this was unseen by Achilles. He returned to his house to put away the cup. Then he went out to watch the battle between Achaeans and Trojans.

Like a swarm of wasps the Myrmidons sped in the wake of Patroclus, their leader. When the Trojans saw him coming, their hearts hammered with terror and their companies faltered in confusion, for they thought it was Achilles. They looked desperately about for a way to escape destruction. Patroclus took advantage of their fear and cast his shining lance into their midst where the press was thickest about the ship of Protesilaus. It struck Pyraechmes of Paeonia and pierced his right shoulder. Moaning he tumbled on his back, and the Paeonians around him were bewildered with dread and fled before Patroclus. He quenched the fire, and the ship was only half-burned. Now all the Trojans took to flight, and the Danai pursued them through the passageways between the ships. But soon the Dardanians rallied, and the Argives were forced to fight on foot, man for man. Patroclus shot Areilycus in the thigh; Menelaus thrust his lance into the breast of Thoas; Meges, son of Phyleus, stabbed Amphiclus in the calf; Antilochus, son of Nestor, pierced the groin of Atymnius. Then Maris, enraged by the fall of his brother, rushed at Antilochus, placed himself in front of slain Atymnius, and brandished his lance. But Thrasymedes, Nestor’s other son, gored his shoulder and upper arm with his spear, so that he sank dying to the ground. When brothers had thus killed brothers, Ajax the Less leaped nimbly forward and smote Cleobulus in the neck with his sword. Peneleus and Lycon ran at each other with their lances but lunged past, each missing his mark; when they took to their swords, however, the Achaean triumphed. Meriones hit Acamas as he was mounting his chariot and pierced his right shoulder. Down from the chariot he toppled, and darkness veiled his eyes.

Ajax the Great was intent on one thing alone: to strike Hector with his spear. But the son of Priam was a skillful and experienced warrior and covered himself so deftly and well with his shield that arrows and lances bounded off the oxhide. He was, of course, aware that victory was turning from him and his men, but he remained steadfast, thinking at least to protect and save his dear companions. Not until the onslaught swelled to resistless fury did he turn his chariot and goad his splendid steeds back across the trench. The other Trojans were not so fortunate. Many of the horses broke the poles and left the chariots shattered between the stakes of the palisade. But whoever cleared the trench sped toward the city, swirling up the dust, and Patroclus, sounding the battle cry, pursued them. Many plunged headlong, falling under the wheels, and the chariots overturned. At last the immortal horses of the son of Peleus leaped the trench, and Patroclus lashed them on, for he wanted to overtake Hector’s speeding chariot. On the way he killed whomever he found in the field between the wall and the river. As he stormed ahead, Pronous, Thestor, Eryalus and nine other Trojans fell by his spear, the thrust of his lance, or the stones he hurled. Sarpedon of Lycia saw this with grief and bitterness, reproved and incited his men, and sprang from his chariot in full armor. Patroclus did the same, and now they rushed at each other with loud cries like eagles with sharp talons and curved beaks.

Seated on Olympus, Zeus looked pityingly on Sarpedon, his son. But Hera reproached him. “What are you thinking of?” she said. “Would you spare a mortal who is long since forfeit to death? If all the gods removed their sons from battle, what would become of the destinies you yourself are resolved to fulfill? Believe me, it is better to let him perish in the field, to give him over to Sleep and Death, and let his people bear him away, bury him, and heap him a mound.” Zeus let the importunate goddess have her way, but from his heavenly eyes there dropped a tear for his son.

The two heroes were now within casting distance. But first Patroclus struck at Thrasydemus, Sarpedon’s brave comrade-in-arms. Sarpedon’s spear missed Patroclus but went into the right flank of Pedasus, the mortal horse, who, as he fell, the breath rattling in his throat, startled the two deathless horses. The harness creaked, the reins tangled and would have torn, had not Automedon, the charioteer, quickly drawn his sword from his hip and cut the thong of the dead horse.

Sarpedon cast a second time and again missed his adversary. But this time Patroclus’ spear struck the Lycian in the belly, and he fell like a mountain pine under the axe, ground his teeth, and clawed at the bloodstained dust with his hand. With the last remnant of his strength he called to Glaucus, his friend, telling him to protect his body with his Lycians. Then he died. Glaucus begged Phoebus Apollo to heal his arm which Teucer had wounded with an arrow at the storming of the walls and which still hurt and disabled him. And the god took pity on him and instantly eased his pain. He strode through the ranks of the Trojans and called on Polydamas, Agenor, and Aeneas to guard the body of Sarpedon. The princes mourned when they learned of his death, for though he was of an alien line, he had been a pillar of strength to their city. But their sorrow did not make them idle. Savagely they stormed against the Danai, Hector in the lead.

Patroclus, meanwhile, roused the courage of the Argives, and they ran at the Trojans, uttering battle cries and fighting for the body of Sarpedon. Then Hector hurled a stone which struck Epeigeus, son of Agacles, and for the first time the Myrmidons recoiled. But Patroclus, grieving bitterly at the death of his friend, dashed to the van, broke the back of Sthenelaus of Troy, and drove the Trojans to retreat. Glaucus was first among them to forge ahead again, and he pierced the breast of Bathycles, the Myrmidon, with his lance. Meriones then struck Laogonus, whose father Onetor was a priest of Idaean Zeus. But when Aeneas cast his spear at Meriones, he missed. While these two were scoffing at each other, Patroclus called to them: “Why waste time with words! War is decided by arms!” And with that he led his men toward the corpse of Sarpedon, but the Trojans fended them off fiercely, so that the body was covered with blood and dust from the head to the soles of the feet.

Zeus, who had been watching the conflict attentively, pondered a little on whether or not Patroclus should die, but for the time being he thought it better to grant him victory. And so the friend of the son of Peleus succeeded in driving Trojans and Lycians alike back toward the city. The Danai stripped Sarpedon of his armor, and Patroclus was just about to hand it over to the Myrmidons when, at the bidding of Zeus, Apollo descended from the mountains, took the body on his shoulders, and bore it away to the shores of the Scamander. Here he washed it in the clear water, anointed it with ambrosia, and gave it to Sleep and Death, the twin brothers. High they rose on their wings and carried it to his native land of Lycia.

But Patroclus, driven by Fate, exhorted his charioteer to greater speed and raced after the Trojans and Lycians, straight to his own destruction. Nine Trojans he slew and stripped of their armor, and he plied his lance with a hand so savage and sure that he would have conquered Troy with all her towers, had not Apollo stood on the highest rampart, intent on saving the Trojans and destroying the hero. Three times the son of Menoetius scaled the wall, and three times Apollo held out toward him the shield in his immortal hand and cried: “Go back!” And knowing this for the command of a god, Patroclus withdrew in haste.

At the Scaean Gates, fleeing Hector stopped his horses and hesitated whether to urge them back into the tumult of battle or bid his people lock the gates and retreat behind the safe walls of their city. While he was still wavering, his fingers slack on the reins, Phoebus in the semblance of Asius, brother of Hecuba, approached him and said: “Hector, why do you shun encounter? If I were as much stronger as I am weaker than you, I should send you to the underworld for your hesitation. But come! If you do not like to hear such words, swing your chariot around and spur the horses toward Patroclus. Who knows but Apollo may send you victory?” So the god, in the form of Asius, whispered in his ear and vanished. Then Hector spoke words of courage to Cebriones, his charioteer, and he headed for the field. Apollo, running on before, wrought confusion in the ranks of the Achaeans. But Hector did not stop to slay a single Argive. He made straight for Patroclus.

When the friend of Achilles saw him coming, he leaped down from his chariot. In his left hand he brandished his spear and with his right he picked up from the ground a jagged stone and threw it at Cebriones. It struck him in the middle of the forehead, and he fell to earth, Patroclus calling after him jeeringly: “By the gods, a nimble man! How easily he plunges into the dust! Perhaps he was versed in the art of diving and was a trader in oysters!” Like a lion he sprang toward the body he was deriding, but Hector fended him off from his half brother. He gripped the head of the slain, while Patroclus clutched the foot. And from both sides Trojans and Danai raged at one another as when the east wind clashes with his brother from the south.

Toward evening the Argives gained the advantage. They took possession of the corpse of Cebriones and stripped it of its armor. And now Patroclus fell on the Trojans with redoubled fury and slew three times nine of them. But at his fourth onslaught, Death lay in ambush, for Phoebus Apollo himself fought in this encounter. Patroclus did not observe him, because he was wrapped in a heavy mist. But Apollo came up from behind and struck his back with the flat of his hand, so that everything blurred before his eyes. Then the god knocked the helmet from his head, and it clattered to the ground and rolled under the hooves of the horses, so that the crest was soiled and draggled with dust and blood. And now he broke the lance in his hand, loosed the shield-strap from his shoulder and the cuirass from his breast, and numbed his heart, so that he stood motionless and staring. Then Euphorbus, son of Panthous, a brave warrior who that day had felled twenty Argives, pierced his back with a lance and returned to the ranks. But Hector running forward thrust his spear into the groin of the wounded hero, and the brazen point went clear through his body. Hector vanquished him as a lion downs the boar at the mountain spring to which both have come to quench their thirst. He seized the lance to wrench it from the flesh of Patroclus and cried jubilantly: “Patroclus! You were going to turn our city to a heap of ruins and carry our wives away on your ships to be slaves in your country! Now I have at least put off the evil day of servitude; as for you—the vultures will feast on your flesh. What does your friend Achilles avail you now?”

Dying Patroclus answered him, but his voice was faint. “Rejoice as much as you wish, Hector,” he said. “Zeus and Apollo have granted you effortless triumph, for it was they who deprived me of my weapons. Had it not been for the gods, my lance would have tamed you and twenty more like you. In the face of the gods, it was Phoebus who struck me down, in the face of men, Euphorbus. You may strip me of my armor. But one thing I predict: not for long will you go proudly on your way, for disaster lurks at your side, and I know by whose hand you will fall.” When he had gasped out these words, the soul left his body and flew to the underworld. But Hector called after him: “Why predict my coming fate, Patroclus? Who knows but that Achilles himself may first be slain by my spear!” And with these words he dug his heel into the earth, pulled the brazen spear from the wound, and cast the dead man back on the ground. Then he turned his lance, dripping with Patroclus’ blood, against Automedon, his charioteer. But the immortal horses bore him out of danger.

Next Euphorbus of Troy and Menelaus, son of Atreus, fought for the body of Patroclus. “You shall atone!” shouted the Trojan. “Atone for having slain Hyperenor, my brother, and widowed his wife!” And he drove his lance at the shield of the son of Atreus. But the iron point bent double. Then Menelaus lifted his lance and thrust it deep into his enemy’s throat, so that the point came out at the nape of his neck and his black locks, adorned with gold and silver, streamed with blood. Down he sank, and his weapons clattered as he fell. Instantly Menelaus stripped him of his armor and would have borne it away, had not Apollo envied him his spoils. Assuming the shape of Mentes, king of the Cicones, he came to Hector and persuaded him to leave off pursuing the immortal horses of Achilles which Automedon was driving off, as spoils too difficult to attain, and go back to the body of Euphorbus. Hector turned and suddenly saw Menelaus bending over the bleeding corpse and taking the splendid armor. The son of Atreus heard the ringing cry of the Trojan hero and had to admit to himself that he could not withstand Hector dashing toward him with his battalions. Reluctantly he retreated, leaving the body and armor behind, but as he fled he glanced back from time to time, or paused to look for Ajax the Great. He finally found him to the left, where the tumult was thickest, and hurried toward him to ask his help m the struggle for the body of Patroclus. When the two drew near the place where the son of Menoetius had fallen, they saw that Hector had already taken the armor and was drawing the body toward him to hew the head from the shoulders and drag the trunk away as a feast for the dogs. But when he saw Ajax coming under cover of his shield of seven oxhides, he gave up his prey and quickly fled to the ranks of his comrades. There he sprang into his chariot and handed the armor of Patroclus to friends who were to take it to Troy for him, to be preserved as a token of his glory. Meantime Ajax stood guard over the body like a lion over its young, and by his side Menelaus kept watch.

Glaucus of Lycia meanwhile glowered at Hector and reproached him. “What avails your fame,” he said, “if you falter and flee from a hero. Think now how to defend your city single-handed. No Lycian, at all events, will fight beside you from now on. For how can we expect you to aid a lesser man, now that you have let Prince Sarpedon, your comrade-in-arms, to whom you were bound by ties of hospitality, lie unprotected, the prey of the Danai and the dogs! If the Trojans had our courage, we should soon have the body of Patroclus inside the walls of Troy. When the Argives would be ready enough to give us the corpse of Sarpedon, if only to get back the splendid armor.” Glaucus said this not knowing that Apollo had removed the body of Sarpedon from the hands of the Argives.

“You are foolish, Glaucus,” said Hector, “if you think I am afraid of powerful Ajax. Never yet have I shrunk from the fight. But the will of Zeus is mightier than all our power. Watch me now, though, and judge whether I am as timid as you have just said.” With these words he raced after his friends who were carrying toward the city the armor of Achilles which Patroclus had worn. When he reached them, he exchanged his own cuirass for that of Achilles and girt on the immortal armor the gods themselves had given Peleus at his wedding with Thetis, goddess of the sea. When Peleus felt himself growing old, he had given it to his son, but he, alas! was not destined to grow old in it.

The king of men and immortals looked down from the heights and saw Hector girding on the arms of godlike Achilles. Gravely he shook his head and spoke in his heart’s depth: “Unhappy Hector, you do not even dream that Death already stalks at your side. You have slain the cherished friend of the hero before whom all others tremble; you have stripped his body, snatched the helmet from his head, and now you walk adorned with the immortal armor of the son of a goddess. But because you will never return from this encounter, because Andromache, your wife, will never greet you again, nor undo these splendid arms, I shall give you one last and glorious victory.” When Zeus had ended, the cuirass clung closer about Hector, the spirit of Ares flamed within him, and his limbs swelled with strength and power. With a shout he rejoined his allies and led them against the foe.

The struggle for the body of Patroclus broke out afresh. So furiously did Hector rage that Ajax said to Menelaus: “I am now less concerned for dead Patroclus who will be food for the birds and dogs of Troy, than for our own heads. For Hector and his men surge about us like a cloud. Lift your voice and see if the heroes among the Danai will hear your cry.” Menelaus called as loudly as he could, and the first to hear was Ajax of Locris, the swift son of Oileus. He ran to the spot, and after him came Idomeneus with Meriones, his comrade-in-arms, and countless others, so that the corpse was again fenced about with shields of bronze. The Trojans pressed them so hard that the body was almost dragged from their midst. But at last Ajax the Great came to the rescue. As Hippothous, the Pelasgian, an ally of the Trojans, was tying the ankles of the body with a thong to pull it by, the son of Telamon hurled his spear through the round top of his helmet. It cracked, and brains and blood from the wound spattered the point. Hector aimed at Ajax but hit Schedius, the Phocian. Ajax countered and pierced the cuirass of Phorcys, son of Phaenops, who was fighting for the body of Hippothous, and the lance dug into his entrails.

Now the Trojans, and even Hector himself, recoiled, and the Argives would have conquered against the decision of Zeus, had not Apollo, in the guise of Periphas, the aged herald, goaded mighty Aeneas on to battle. Aeneas knew him for a god. He fired his men with ringing shouts and himself sprang forward in the lead. At that the Trojans once more turned their faces to the foe. Aeneas slew Leocritus, friend of Lycomedes. He, in turn, avenged the death of his comrade by killing Apisaon of Paeonia. And now the Argives again held out their lances to ward their adversaries from the body of Patroclus.

In other parts of the field too the fighting went on ever more furiously, until the sweat poured from the struggling warriors. “Rather shall the earth swallow us,” cried the Danai, “than that we leave this body to the Trojans and return to our ships without having won glory!”

“Even if we die to the last man,” the Trojans roared on their side, “let no one hang back!”

While they were fighting, the immortal horses of Achilles stood apart. When they heard that Patroclus, their charioteer, had died at Hector’s hand, they began to weep as men do. In vain did Automedon try to urge them on, now with the goad, now with caressing words, and now with threats. They refused to stir either toward the ships or to the battling Argives. Motionless as a monument on the mound of the dead they stood before the chariot and hung their heads to the ground. Soiled with dust, their manes streamed thick and curling beneath the ring in the yoke, and hot tears dropped from their eyes. Even Zeus, gazing down from above, could not but feel pity for them. “Poor creatures!” he said to himself. “Why did we give you, eternally young and immortal, to mortal Peleus? That you too might suffer sorrow like luckless men? For of all that breathes and moves on earth, there is nothing more wretched than man! And as for Hector, vain is his hope of taming you and yoking you to his chariot. I shall never permit it. Is it not enough that he vaunts his ownership of the armor of Achilles?” And Zeus filled the horses with courage and strength.

At once they shook the dust from their manes and quickly drew the chariot into the throng of Trojans and Achaeans. But Automedon, alone in the chariot, could not guide the horses and hurl his lance at the foe as well. While he was still in this predicament his friend Alcimedon, son of Laerces, caught sight of him and was astonished that he should expose himself in this way without a charioteer. “Who except Patroclus was ever your equal in bridling horses?” Automedon called to him. “If you will take the reins and the goad, I can leave the horses to you and use my strength for fighting.”

When Automedon gave his place to another, Hector observed it and said to Aeneas beside him: “Look over there! The horses of Achilles are rushing into battle with an inexperienced charioteer. Are you willing to tackle those two with me? The spoils are well worth the trouble!” Aeneas nodded assent, and both stormed forward under their shields, with Chromius and Aretus following them.

But Automedon prayed to Zeus, and the Cloud-Gatherer filled his heart with unwonted strength. “Drive close behind me, Alcimedon!” he cried, and then: “Here Ajax! Here Menelaus! Leave the dead to other defenders and keep us, the living, from destruction. Hector is bearing down on us, Hector and Aeneas, the two bravest heroes of Troy!” With this he swung his lance at Aretus, and it pierced his entrails. Caught in full advance, the hero fell backward in the dust. Then Hector hurled his spear at Automedon, but it flew over his head, and stood with quivering shaft fixed in the ground. And now they would have used their swords against each other, had not the two Ajaces come between them and turned the Trojans back to the body of Patroclus.

There the battle raged most hotly. Zeus was now of another mind. Hid in a dark cloud, he sent Athene as his messenger down to earth, where she appeared in the semblance of aged Phoenix and went up to Menelaus. Seeing the old man, he said: “O Phoenix! If only Athene would give me strength today, so that I might avenge my slain friend! For I understand the reproach in your eyes.” The goddess rejoiced that, unknowing, he had sought her aid, poured strength into his shoulders and knees, and in his heart she put defiance and steadfastness. Brandishing his lance he ran to the body, and as Hector’s friend Podes, son of Eetion, turned to flee from him, the spear of Atreus’ son struck him under the belt so that he crashed to earth.

Now Apollo, in the shape of Phaenops, approached Hector and taunted him. “Who among the Danai will fear you, if Menelaus can frighten you away? He slew your most cherished friend, and now he, the least manly of the Argives, will deprive you of the body of Patroclus as well!” These words bowed Hector’s heart with dark grief, and he dashed forward again, shining in his brazen armor. Then Zeus shook his aegis, veiled Mount Ida in cloud, and with lightning and thunder crowned the Trojan’s victory.

Peneleus of Boeotia, whose shoulder Polydamas had grazed with his spear, was the first to turn and flee. Leitus was rendered unfit for the fight by Hector, who pierced his hand at the knuckles. Idomeneus, who had just come from the ships on foot, missed Hector when he hurled his spear, and Hector missed him with his counter cast but shattered the ear and cheek of Coeranus who, fortunately for Idomeneus, had preceded him with Meriones in his chariot. The spear knocked out his teeth and cut his tongue, and the hero fell. Meriones gathered the reins up from the dust and gave them to Idomeneus who quickly swung himself into the chariot and drove the horses back to the ships. When Ajax saw this, he lamented so loudly to Menelaus who fought beside him that Zeus had pity on him, scattered the clouds, and shed full sunlight over the battlefield. “Menelaus,” said Ajax, “try to find Antilochus, son of Nestor. See if he is still alive. He would be a fitting messenger to tell Achilles that Patroclus, his dearest friend, is dead.” With watchful eyes, like an eagle who peers for the hare flat against the earth among bushes, Menelaus went about and soon saw Nestor’s son to the left of the field.

“Have you not heard, Antilochus,” he called to him, “that a god has given victory to the Trojans and disaster to the Danai? Patroclus has fallen, and all the Argives feel the loss of that dauntless hero. Only one lives who is braver: Achilles. Go quickly to his house, bring him the sorrowful news, and summon him to rescue the corpse which Hector has stripped of its armor.”

A shudder ran through the youth. His eyes filled with tears when he heard these words. For a long time he was speechless. Then he gave his armor to Laodocus, his charioteer, and ran toward the ships on flying feet. When Menelaus had again reached the body, he and Ajax took counsel how they could bear away their slain friend, for they did not expect too much of Achilles, even if he could be prevailed on to come, since he no longer had the armor of the immortals. With a mighty straining of muscles they lifted the body from the earth, and though the Trojans burst into shouts of rage and followed with brandished swords and spears, Ajax had only to turn and they paled and dared not contest his burden. Thus they bore the body from the field and toward the ships, and with them the rest of the Argives fled from battle. Hector and Aeneas were close on their heels, and here and there one of the fleeing dropped a shield or a lance as he retreated across the trench in frantic haste and confusion.


Antilochus found the son of Peleus in front of the ships, brooding on a fate which was already fulfilled, though he did not know it. When he saw the Argives approaching the ships, he was troubled and said to himself: “Why are the Achaeans running from the field as if routed and flocking toward the camp? I hope the gods have not accomplished what my mother once predicted: that while I was still alive the bravest of the Myrmidons would die at the hands of the Trojans!”

While he was still in thought, Antilochus came toward him, weeping because of the terrible message he had to bear, and called to him from afar: “Alas, son of Peleus! Oh, that what I am forced to tell you had never happened! Patroclus has fallen! And now they are fighting for his naked body, for Hector stripped him of his armor.” When Achilles heard this, the world turned dark before his eyes. With both hands he took up the brown dust and scattered it over his head, his face, and his tunic. Then he threw himself on the ground, measuring his great length, and tore his hair. Seeing their lord and master stretched on the earth, the handmaids whom Achilles and Patroclus had borne away as spoils rushed out of the house trembling. When they learned what had happened, they beat their breasts with loud lament. Antilochus too shed bitter tears and gripped the hands of Achilles, holding them fast, for he feared he would cut his throat with his sword.

Achilles himself moaned so greatly with grief that his mother heard his voice in the depths of the sea, where she sat beside her gray-haired father, and she too began to weep. At the sound of her sobs, the Nereids glided into her silvery grotto and beat their soft breasts and joined in the wails of their sister. “How unhappy I am,” she said to them, “that ever I bore so brave and splendid a son! He grew up like a sturdy young fruit tree, tended and cherished by the hand of the gardener. Then I sent him against Troy. But never again will he return to the palace of Peleus! While he still lives in the light of the sun he must suffer great grief, and I cannot help him! But I will go to my beloved child and hear what sorrow has overtaken him.” So said the goddess, and with her sisters she rose through the waves which parted at her coming and went ashore where her son sat groaning in front of the ships.

“Why do you weep, my child?” she asked him, clasping his head. “Who has stricken your heart with sorrow? Tell me and hide nothing! Has not everything come about as you wished? Are not the Argives thronged in the camp and begging your help?”

With a heavy sigh Achilles answered: “Mother, what is all this to me, now that Patroclus, who was dearer to me than my eyes, is slain and lies in the dust? My own finely wrought armor, the gift which the gods gave Peleus at his wedding with you, Hector has taken from his body. Oh, if only you had stayed forever in the depths of the sea! For had Peleus wedded a mortal wife, you would not have to bear immortal grief for your son who is doomed to die. I shall never return to my native land, for my heart forbids me to breathe and live on among men unless Hector falls by my lance and suffers for robbing me of Patroclus.”

Thetis replied in a voice choked with tears. “My son,” she said, “then you too will be cut off in the flower of your life, for it is decreed that soon after Hector dies your own end is near.”

At that Achilles cried in anger: “Would I could die this very instant, since Fate did not allow me to shield my murdered friend! He died far from his home, and I did not come to his aid. How can my brief life avail the Argives now? I have brought misfortune to Patroclus, misfortune to countless slain friends. Here I sit by the ships, a worthless burden on earth, I who am supposed to be the best fighter among the Achaeans, though in council others surpass me. Cursed be anger, whether it spring in gods or men, for first it is sweet as honey to the heart, but then it grows acrid as smoke.” Suddenly he curbed his grief and roused himself and said: “What is past, is past! I go to strike down the man who slew the friend I cherished above all. I go to kill Hector. Let my fate overtake me when Zeus and the gods decree. Because of me, many a Trojan woman will put both her hands to her soft face to dry bitter tears of mourning, and her breast will heave with sighs. The Trojans will find that I have rested long enough. Do not hold me back, dear mother!”

“You are right, my child,” answered Thetis. “Your shimmering armor is in Trojan hands. Hector himself wears it boastfully. But he shall not vaunt his pleasure in it for long! Tomorrow, as soon as the sun comes up, I shall bring you new arms, made by Hephaestus himself. Do not go to battle until I return.” Thus spoke the goddess and bade her sisters dive back into the depths of the sea. But she herself hastened up to Olympus to find Hephaestus, the smith among the immortals.

Meantime the Trojans once more attacked the body of Patroclus which his friends were bearing away, and Hector, sweeping forward like fire, came so close that three times he seized the corpse by the foot to drag it off, but three time the two Ajaces thrust him away from the dead. He withdrew to one side and then halted again and cried aloud that he would never retreat. Then the two Argive heroes who bore the same name tried to frighten him off from the corpse like herdsmen who try to drive a hungry mountain lion from the flesh of a mangled bullock. But Hector would have carried off the body, had not Iris, at Hera’s command, flown to the son of Peleus and bidden him arm secretly, unseen by Zeus and the other gods. “How can I go into battle?” Achilles asked the messenger of the gods. “My enemies have my weapons. And my mother forbade me go before she herself brought me new armor, made by Hephaestus. There are no arms which would suit me, unless perhaps the great shield of Ajax, and he needs that himself.”

“We know very well that you have been deprived of your glorious weapons,” Iris answered him. “But meanwhile approach the trench just as you are, so that the Trojans may see you. Perhaps they will pause when they catch sight of you. The Achaeans, weary as they are, need a breathing space.”

When Iris had sped away, godlike Achilles rose. Athene herself slung her shield across his shoulder and shed radiance on his features. Swiftly he strode, crossed the wall, and stood by the trench. But mindful of his mother’s warning he did not mingle in battle. He only watched from afar and shouted, and Athene joined her cry to his, so that in the ears of the Trojans it sounded like the blare of a war trumpet. When they heard that voice like ringing bronze, their hearts filled with fear, and they turned back their horses and chariots. And the charioteers shuddered to see the head of the son of Peleus circled with flame. Three times he shouted, and three times Trojans scattered. Twelve of their bravest men fell in the confusion and were killed by the chariot wheels and the lances of their own companions. And now the corpse of Patroclus was out of reach of the missiles. The heroes laid him on a bier, and his friends stood around it lamenting. When Achilles saw his beloved comrade-in-arms, he went among the Argives again for the first time and threw himself over the body with many tears. And on these two, the living and the dead, the setting sun shed its last glow.


Both armies rested from the stubborn battle. The Trojans loosed their horses from the chariots, but before they even thought of eating, they assembled in council. Upright they stood in a circle, and no one dared sit, for they were still trembling with terror at Achilles and feared he might reappear. At last wise Polydamas, son of Panthous, who could see both the future and the past, advised them not to wait for the dawn but to return to the city with all possible speed. “When Achilles is full-armed and finds us here in the morning,” he said, “those who escape and reach Troy will be favored by Fortune, but many will be food for dogs and vultures. May Heaven avert such fate! Therefore I counsel you and all your warriors to spend the night in the market place of Troy, where high walls and solid gates will guard us on all sides. When dawn comes let us man the ramparts, and woe to him when he rushes from the ships to attack us.”

Now Hector spoke, and his eyes were stern. “Your words, Polydamas, strike harshly on my ears. What—now that Zeus has granted me victory, now that I have pressed the Argives back to the sea, your timid counsel must seem folly to the people, and not a single Trojan will heed you. I, for my part, bid everyone eat and keep watch. If there is any who fears for his stores and his wealth, let him spend all for a feast to be held in common. Better our men take pleasure in it than the Achaeans! When the day dawns we shall resume our attack on the ships. If Achilles has really returned to the field, he has chosen an unenviable lot, for I shall not stop fighting until he or I bear off the crown of victory.” These ill-advised words of Hector weighed heavier with the Trojans than the sound counsel of Polydamas. They burst into joyful acclaim and hungrily fell on their food.

The whole night long the Argives mourned Patroclus, and Achilles, more than all, made lament. Laying his hands, which had slain so many foes, on the breast of his friend, he said: “What idle words I spoke that time when I tried to comfort old Menoetius by promising him to bring his son back to Opoeis, rich in spoils and glory, after the fall of Troy! Now Fate wills that both he and I pour out our blood on alien soil, for I too shall never return to the palace of my father, gray-haired Peleus, and of Thetis, my mother; the earth of Troy will cover me. But since it is appointed that I die after you, Patroclus, I shall not hold your funeral until I have brought you the armor and the head of Hector, your slayer. And twelve of the noblest sons of Troy I shall offer up at your pyre as well. Until this has been done, rest here by the ships, beloved friend.” When he had spoken, Achilles bade his companions set a great cauldron filled with water on the fire, and wash and anoint the body of the fallen hero. Then they laid him on a bier and spread fine linen over him from head to foot, and over this a white robe.

Thetis, meanwhile, had arrived at the bronze palace which lame Hephaestus had built for himself. It shone like stars, beautiful and everlasting. She found the god sweating at the bellows. He had forged twenty tripods, and at the base of each he had fastened golden wheels which, without the touch of a hand, rolled into the halls of Olympus to the feet of the immortals and returned to his workshop again. They were wonderful to see, complete save for the handles, and these he was just making ready, wielding his hammer to rivet them in their proper place. And while he worked, Charis, his wife, one of the Graces, took Thetis by the hand, led her to a silver chair, set a foot-stool beneath her feet, and fetched her husband Hephaestus. When he saw the goddess of the sea he called out joyfully: “How happy I am that the noblest among the immortals has come to my house, she who saved me from destruction when I was just born! For because I was lame, my mother cast me out, and I should have perished miserably, had not Eurynome and Thetis taken me and reared me in a cave in the sea until I was nine years old. There, in a vaulted grotto, I fashioned works, curious and cunning, clasps and rings, brooches and necklaces, and about me foamed the surging stream of the ocean. And now she who rescued me is visiting me in my own house! See to her entertainment, sweet Charis, while I clear away this welter of work and tools.”

Thus spoke the sooty god, and he rose limping from beside the anvil, took the bellows from the fire, locked his delicate implements in a silver chest, and with a sponge wiped his hands and face, his neck and shaggy chest. Then he put on his tunic and, helped by his handmaids, limped back into the room. These maids, however, were not living creatures born of women, but only the image of such. They were fashioned of gold and furnished with the charms of youth, with strength and skill, with reason and voice. Moving on swift feet they hastened from their master, who seated himself beside Thetis, clasped her hand, and said: “Dear and honored goddess, why have you come to my house today, you who visit me so rarely? Tell me what you desire, and whatever I am able to do, I shall surely do for you.”

Then Thetis told him all her sorrow and, clasping his knees, begged him to fashion for her son Achilles, destined to die so soon, a helmet and shield, a cuirass and greaves fitted with ankle pieces, since the armor which the immortals had given Peleus had been lost when Patroclus fell before Troy. “Be of good courage, and do not let this upset you, dear goddess,” said Hephaestus. “If only I could save your son from the power of Death as surely as I shall now make him armor so strong and so splendid that he will rejoice, and every mortal who looks at it will be filled with wonder!”

So saying he left Thetis and turned his bellows toward the fire. Twenty of these of their own accord blew upon the melting-vats, in which he placed bronze and tin, silver and gold. Next he set his anvil on the anvil block. With his right hand he seized his mighty hammer, and with his left gripped the tongs. First he made a shield, great and strong, in five layers, adorned with a triple gleaming rim and a shield strap of silver. On the shield he wrought the earth, the tiding sea, and heaven with the sun, the moon, and all the constellations; and further two fair cities, the one gay with bridal rites and torch-lit feasts, with an assembly of the people, citizens arguing about the blood price of a slain man, heralds and elders. The other city was besieged by two armies. Within the walls were women, young children, and old men with faltering feet. Outside were warriors lying in ambush where the herdsmen watered their cattle. On another side was the tumult of battle, with wounded men and the fight for bodies and armor. He also wrought a field with loosened clods and ploughers and oxen; waving barley and reapers cutting swathes with their sickles; and further a vineyard, the dark-golden clusters of swelling grapes hanging from stakes of silver, and round about a trench of bluish metal and a fence of tin. A path led to the vines, and the time of vintage had come: youths, sturdy and gay, and lovely maids bore the fruit away in fair baskets. Among them went a boy with a lyre, and some danced to his music. Furthermore he wrought cattle of gold and tin, pastured beside a flowing river by four gold shepherds and nine dogs. Two lions had fallen on the foremost in the herd and seized a bullock, and the herdsmen set on them their dogs who stood baying within springing distance of the beasts of prey. And further he devised a gentle valley with silver sheep scattered over the slopes, with folds and houses and the huts of the shepherds; and a dance of youths and maidens in shining array; the girl dancers wore wreaths and the boy dancers daggers of gold suspended from silver straps. Two tumblers whirled about to the sound of a harp, and many had come to watch the dance and the merriment. And around the uttermost rim of the shield, the river Oceanus twined like a glittering serpent.

When he had finished the shield, he forged a breastplate brighter than blazing fire; then the massive helmet, fitted well to the temples and topped with a crest of gold; then greaves of pliant tin. When all was complete, he laid it before the mother of Achilles. She seized the armor as a falcon its prey, thanked the smith, and in her slender hands bore away the shimmering pieces.

With the first glimmer of dawn she was back with her son who was still weeping over the body of Patroclus. She laid the arms down before him, and they rang aloud in their splendor. The Myrmidons trembled at the sight, and no one dared look the goddess straight in the face. But under their wet lashes, Achilles’ eyes flashed with fierce joy. One after another he lifted the glittering gifts of Hephaestus and feasted his heart on them. Then he girt on his armor. “Look to it,” he told his friends in parting “that flies do not settle in the wounds of my fallen comrade-in arms and defile his beautiful body!”

“Let that be my care,” said Thetis, and through the half-open lips of Patroclus she poured ambrosia and nectar. The balm of the gods suffused his flesh, and he looked like one who was alive.

Achilles strode down to the seashore and with thunderous voice called to the Achaeans. Whoever could stand on his feet ran to his call, even the helmsmen who had never yet left their ships. And though they were wounded, Diomedes and Odysseus limped up to him, leaning on their lances, and after them came all the heroes, last of all Agamemnon, still faint from the wound he had suffered at the spear of Coon, son of Antenor.


When all the Argives were assembled, Achilles rose and said: “Son of Atreus, I wish Artemis had killed the daughter of Briseus by the ships that day I took her as my share of the spoils of Lyrnessos, rather than that so many Achaeans should have died while I was cherishing my anger. Let the past be forgotten, even if our souls still smart with it. I, at least, have given up my grudge. And now, to battle! We shall see if the Trojans still crave our ships!”

At his words the air rang with the applauding shouts of the Achaeans. Then Agamemnon rose, but he did not come into the middle of the circle like other speakers. “Cease your tumult!” he said. “Who can talk or hear in such an uproar? I shall explain my action to the son of Peleus, and you others listen well and mark my words. The sons of Hellas have often upbraided me for what I did on that day which set such disaster afoot. But the fault was not mine. It was Zeus and the Furies who blinded my reason in that fateful assembly of our people. That I erred was their doing! But all the time Hector was killing hosts of Argives by the ships I was reminded of my fault and grew aware that Zeus had darkened my spirit. Now I am most willing to make amends and offer you, Achilles, whatever you desire. Only fight with us again, and I shall give you all those gifts Odysseus, who came to you as my messenger a short time past, promised in my name. Or, if you prefer, remain here until my slaves have brought them from the ships, so that with your own eyes you may see how I fulfill my pledge.”

“Great Agamemnon,” the hero replied, “whether you give me those gifts or withhold them rests with you. Let us not waste time but think of battle, for much is still undone, and I yearn to be in the forefront of the fight again!”

But wise Odysseus intervened, saying: “Godlike son of Peleus, do not goad the Achaeans toward Troy unfed! Let them refresh themselves with meat and wine, for only this lends strength and force. Agamemnon, meanwhile, may bring his gifts into this circle, so that all the Danai may delight in them. And after that he shall be your host and serve you with sumptuous fare.”

“Joyfully have I heard your words,” answered the son of Atreus. “And you, Achilles, shall choose the noblest youths in our host to bear the gifts from my ship; and Talthybius, the herald, shall fetch forth a boar to sacrifice to Zeus and the sun-god, and seal the bond of friendship between us.”

“Do as you like,” said Achilles. “As for me, neither food nor drink shall touch my lips while my friend lies slaughtered in my house. All that I crave is carnage, blood, and groans of dying men.”

But Odysseus tried to calm him, saying: “Noblest of all Argive heroes! You are far stronger than I, and braver in fighting with the spear. But in counsel I am, perhaps, your better, for I have lived longer and had more experience. So bend your stubborn spirit and heed my words. The Danai need not mourn their dead with the belly! When a man dies, we bury him, and bewail him for one day. But those who have escaped death must sustain their strength with food and drink, to fight more fiercely.”

Thus he spoke and went to Agamemnon’s quarters, taking the sons of Nestor with him, and also Meges, Meriones, Thoas, Melanippus, and Lycomedes. There they collected the promised gifts: seven tripods, twelve horses, twenty cauldrons, seven women of flawless beauty; fair Briseis was the eighth. Odysseus weighed out ten talents of gold and walked on ahead of the youths who followed with the other gifts. When they had entered the circle of the assembly Agamemnon rose in his seat, and Thalthybius, the herald, seized the boar, prepared it for sacrifice, prayed, and cut its throat. He took the slain animal and cast it into the sea as food for the fish, and the waters swirled about it. Then Achilles cried out before all the Achaeans: “Father Zeus, how great is the blindness you often visit on us mortals! Never would the son of Atreus have roused my heart to wild anger, or been so ruthlessly determined to carry off spoils which were mine, had you not willed the death of many Argives. But now let us eat and then prepare for the fight.”

When the hero had spoken, the assembly dispersed. The daughter of Briseus, lovely as Aphrodite, entered the house of her former lord and saw Patroclus with his deep spear-wounds, stretched on a bier. She beat her breast, tore her cheeks, and threw herself weeping over the body. “O Patroclus,” she cried, “you were a tender friend to me in my exile. When I left you here, you were radiant with life, but now that I return, I find you dead! For me, disaster always follows disaster! Before my very eyes my bridegroom was killed with a spear; three brothers of my own blood, brothers dearly cherished, were snatched from my side on the same day. But after Achilles had slain my promised husband and ravaged my city, you were sorry to see me weep. You gave your word that you would urge the son of Peleus to marry me as soon as he had brought me to Phthia, and that we should have our wedding feast among the Myrmidons. Never shall I cease to grieve for you, you of the tender heart.” Thus she spoke, weeping, and the captive women around her sighed with her; but while they sighed for Patroclus, each, in the secret of her heart, wept her own misery.

In the meantime, the princes of the Danai surrounded the son of Peleus, begging him to take food and drink. But he refused them: “If you love me, my friends, do not ask me to eat and drink, for my sad heart will not suffer it. Let me be as I am until the sun sinks into the sea.” With these words he dismissed them, and only the two sons of Atreus, Odysseus, Nestor, Idomeneus, and Phoenix stayed behind. Vainly they tried to cheer the soul of the mourner. He remained silent and aloof, and whenever he spoke at all, it was with a sigh, and the words were for the friend who was dead. “In days gone by,” he said, “ah, how often and with what eager haste you brought the morning meal to my house when the Argive host made ready to go to battle! And now you lie slain before me, and no rich store of food can refresh me. No bitterer thing could have happened, not even the death of my father Peleus or my dear son, Neoptolemus, who—if he still lives—is being reared for me in Scyros. I was glad in the thought that I alone should die here, and that you would return to Phthia, fetch my son home from Scyros, and show him all that was mine. My father Peleus, I think, must have died long ago. If he still lives, he must be bowed by age and grief, for he lives in fear of the messenger who will tell him that I am dead.” This he said with tears, and the princes around him sighed too, for each thought of the loved ones he had left behind.

Full of compassion Zeus gazed down on the mournful men below, and turning to Pallas Athene, said: “My daughter, are you no longer concerned for the noble hero who, while the others have gone to eat the morning meal, remains sunk in his grief and touches neither food nor drink? Go at once and bathe his breast with nectar and ambrosia, lest hunger overtake him in the midst of battle.”

Like a broad-winged falcon the goddess, who long had yearned to help her friend, sped through the air, and while the warriors prepared for the struggle, softly and secretly she anointed the breast of Achilles with ambrosia and nectar. Then she returned to the palace of her all-powerful father.

And now the Achaeans poured out of their ships, helmet close to helmet, cuirass to cuirass, shield to shield and lance to lance. The earth shone with bronze and rang under their tread. While they hastened on, Achilles girt on his armor, and as he did so he gnashed his teeth, and his eyes blazed. First he fitted to his legs the greaves with the ankle pieces; then he covered his breast with the cuirass, slung over his shoulder the sword, and gripped the shield which sent forth a gleam like that of the moon. Next he set on his head the heavy helmet with the tall crest and golden plumes; it glittered like a star. Then he tested his armor to see whether it fitted freely to his limbs. And it seemed like wings impatient to lift him up from earth. From its stand he drew the lance of his father Peleus, the great spear which no other Argive could wield. Automedon and Alcimus yoked his horses, put the bits in their jaws, and stretched the reins to the chariot. Into it sprang Automedon and grasped the polished goad. Gleaming in his armor, Achilles mounted beside him.

“Immortal horses!” he called to the steeds of his father. “When we are sated with battle, bring us home. Do not treat us like Patroclus, whom you left dead in the field!” And as he spoke the gods sent him a terrible omen, for Xanthus, the horse, bowed its head, till his mane, streaming from under the yoke pad, touched the earth. And gifted with speech by Hera, it answered him sadly: “O mighty Achilles! This time we shall bring you back alive and sound, but the day of disaster is near. It was not because we were careless or slow that Patroclus died and Hector won; it was the will of the gods. We can vie with Zephyr, the swiftest of the winds, and never tire. But Fate has appointed that you shall fall by the hand of a god.” Thus spoke the horse and wanted to say still more, but the Furies stifled the voice in its throat.

Achilles was troubled and answered: “Xanthus, why speak to me of death? I do not need your prophecies, for I already know that my fate will overtake me here, far from my father and mother. But even so, I shall not rest until I have slain innumerable Trojans!” And with a shout he drove forward his prancing horses.


On Olympus Zeus had called an assembly of the immortals in which he gave them permission to help both the Trojans and the Argives, as their hearts prompted them. For if Achilles fought the Trojans without the gods taking a part in the battle, he would surely conquer the city of Troy against Fate herself. As soon as the immortals knew that they might do as they wished, they ranged themselves into groups which went opposite ways: Hera, the mother of gods, Pallas Athene, Poseidon, Hermes, and Hephaestus hastened to the Argive ships; Ares set out for the Trojans, and with him were Phoebus and Artemis, Leto, their mother, Aphrodite, and Scamander, the river-god, whom the gods called Xanthus.

As long as the gods had not yet joined the advancing hosts, the Achaeans held high their heads because dread Achilles was again in their midst. And the limbs of the Trojans shook with fear when from afar they saw the son of Peleus who, in his glittering array, resembled the war-god himself. But now the gods had mingled with both armies, and again the outcome was uncertain. Athene was now here, now there, outside the wall at the trench, or by the shore of the sea, and wherever she appeared she sounded her battle cry. On the other side Ares roared encouragement to the Trojans, now from the highest point in their city, now flying through their ranks at the river Simois. Through both hosts alike stormed Eris, the goddess of discord. Zeus, the ruler of battles, thundered terribly down from Olympus, and Poseidon shook the earth from beneath until the peaks of all mountains and the very roots of Ida quaked, and even Pluto, the lord of shades, was startled and leaped from his throne, for he feared that a rift in the earth might discover to men and gods his secret kingdom below. And now the gods confronted one another in actual encounter: Phoebus Apollo launched his arrows against Poseidon; Pallas Athene fought the god of war; Artemis used her bow against Hera; Hermes opposed Leto, and Scamander Hephaestus.

While gods thus advanced against gods, Achilles was intent on one thing alone: on finding Hector in the throng. But Apollo, in the semblance of Lycaon, son of Priam, urged toward him Aeneas, whom he had fired with such courage that he went swiftly forward in his armor of shimmering bronze. Through all that tumult Hera saw him. Quickly she summoned those gods who were her allies, and said: “Poseidon and Athene, I beg you to consider what is to come of this! There is Aeneas, whom Phoebus has roused, storming against the son of Peleus. Either we must thrust him back or one of us must increase the strength of Achilles until he feels that the mightiest of the gods are supporting him. Today he shall be safe from the Trojans. Only for this have we all descended from Olympus! Later he must suffer the Pate decreed at his birth.”

“Think of the outcome, Hera,” Poseidon replied. “I do not think that we should attack the other gods with combined strength. That would be unfair, since we are by far the most powerful. Rather let us sit apart in some high place and watch the struggle. But if Apollo or Ares begin to fight, if they hinder Achilles and keep him from moving freely, then we shall have the right to take part in the conflict, and surely our adversaries will quickly yield to our strength and return to Olympus.” The sea-god did not wait for an answer but shook his locks and led the way to the wall of Heracles which Pallas and the Trojans had built long ago. To that place Poseidon hastened, and the other gods followed him; there they sat, their forms shrouded in impenetrable mist. Opposite them, on the hill called Callicolone, were Ares and Apollo. And so the immortals camped not far from one another, separate, but ready to fight, only pausing a little to reflect.

Meantime the field was filling with warriors and glistened with the bronze of their armor and chariots, and the earth echoed beneath their feet. It was not long, however, before two sprang forward from among the rest: Aeneas, son of Anchises, and Achilles, son of Peleus. Aeneas came first. The plumes swayed from his massive helmet. With his great shield of oxhide he covered his breast, and threateningly he brandished his spear. When the son of Peleus saw him, he too forged ahead impetuously, like an angry lion. The moment they were within hailing distance, he shouted: “How dare you come so far in advance of your men, Aeneas? Do you cherish the hope that after slaying me you will rule Troy? What folly, for never will Priam accord you this honor! Has he not sons enough of his own? And besides, he himself, old as he is, does not dream of giving up the throne. Or perhaps the Trojans have promised you a fine country estate in reward for killing me? If I remember rightly I pursued you once before! Do you recall how, when you were alone with the herds, I chased you down the steep slopes of Ida? You did not even take time to look back over your shoulder as you fled, and never stopped until you reached the city of Lyrnessos. But I, with the aid of Pallas and Zeus, laid it in ruins, and only the mercy of my immortal allies saved you, while I bore off plenty of spoils and captives. But the gods will not rescue you a second time. So I counsel you to draw back and mingle with your men. Have a care! Do not advance against me—not unless you want to be hurt.”

And Aeneas retorted: “Do not think you can frighten me with mere talk, as though I were a child. I too could give you words that cut to the heart. Each of us is acquainted with the glory and lineage of the other: I know that Thetis, goddess of the sea, bore you, but I can boast of being the son of Aphrodite and the grandson of Zeus. Besides, we will surely not part with childish threats. So let us not stand on the battlefield chattering like silly boys. Let us rather try each other with our brazen lances.” So he said and hurled his spear. It struck the strong shield of Achilles, and the air rang with the sound. But it pierced only the first two layers of bronze. The next layer was of gold, and it stopped the lance before it reached the last two layers which were of tin. And now the son of Peleus cast his spear, and it struck the shield of Aeneas at the outermost rim where the bronze and oxhide were thinnest. Aeneas crouched down and held up his shield in terror as the lance sped through the shield and struck behind him in the ground; the son of Aphrodite trembled at the great danger he had escaped. Already Achilles was running at him with the sword, uttering a fierce shout. Aeneas picked up a stone lying in the field, a stone so large that two ordinary men could not have lifted it, but he swung it easily in his hand. Then he would have struck Achilles on the helmet or the shield, and the son of Peleus would have slain Aeneas with the sword in close combat, had not Poseidon been quick to see what was happening. For though the gods who sat on the wall of Heracles were hostile to the Trojans, they were sorry for Aeneas. “It would be a pity,” said Poseidon, “if the son of Anchises descended to Hades, because he relied on Apollo’s words. Besides, I fear Zeus’ wrath, for while it is true that he hates the line of Priam, he does not wish to let it perish completely, and it is through Aeneas that this race of kings shall endure, through his sons and his sons’ sons.”

“Do as you like,” replied Hera. “As for Pallas and myself, we have sworn a solemn oath not to avert misfortune from the Trojans, come what may.”

And now Poseidon flew into battle. Invisible to mortals, he drew the spear from the shield of Aeneas, laid it at the feet of Achilles, and shed a fog before the hero’s eyes. Then the sea-god lifted the Trojan from the earth and, holding him high, hurled him over chariots and warriors to the edge of the field where the Caucones, allies of Troy, were arraying themselves for the fight. Here Poseidon upbraided the hero he had rescued. “What immortal blinded you, Aeneas,” he said, “that you ventured to strive against the darling of the gods, against the son of Peleus who is so much stronger than you? From now on, withdraw whenever you catch sight of him. Once Fate has overtaken him, you may fight in the foremost ranks.”

Then the god left him and dissolved the mist from before the eyes of Achilles. In great astonishment the son of Peleus saw his lance lying on the ground, and his enemy gone. “Let him escape—with the help of a god,” he said to himself sulkily. “I am used to having him flee from me.” Then he sprang back into the ranks of his men and urged them on. On the other side, Hector was stirring up his warriors, and a fierce encounter followed. When Phoebus Apollo saw Hector making so eagerly for the son of Peleus, he whispered a word of warning in his ear, and Hector heard and drew back into the throng. But Achilles stormed at his enemies, and at the first cast of his spear split the skull of brave Iphition, so that he fell and was mangled by the chariot wheels of the Achaeans. Then he thrust his spear into the temple of Demoleon, son of Antenor. Hippodamas he bored in the back with his lance, just as he was dismounting from his chariot, and one of the sons of Priam he caught in the spine beneath the belt clasp, just as the youth passed him; he screamed with pain and sank to his knees.

When Hector saw his young brother writhing on the ground, his eyes darkened with rage. He could no longer bear to keep aloof from battle and, despite the warning of the god, made straight for Achilles, brandishing his spear like a flash of lightning. Achilles saw him and rejoiced. “This is the man,” he said, “who has grieved me to the core of my heart. Do not let us avoid each other, Hector. Come close, that you may die the sooner.”

“I know how brave you are,” Hector replied unafraid, “and that I am less mighty than you. Still the gods may favor my spear! It may slay you, even though it is launched by a weaker man.” So saying, he cast his spear. But Athene stood behind the son of Peleus and breathed against the weapon; it swerved back to Hector and fell powerless at his feet. And now Achilles stormed to the spot to pierce his opponent with a thrust of his spear. But Apollo shed a thick mist about Hector, and three times the son of Peleus lunged into empty air. When he dashed forward in vain a fourth time, he cried in threatening tones: “Dog, again you have cheated death—surely because you have prayed to your guardian Apollo. But if I too have an ally among the immortals, we shall meet again and you shall not escape death at my hands! Now I shall seek more Trojans and kill all of them.” So he spoke, and his lance hit the neck of Dryops, who tumbled at his feet. Next he wounded Demuchus in the knee and threw down from the chariot Laogonus and Dardanus, sons of Bias, one with the lance, the other with the sword. Although young Tros, son of Alastor, clasped his knees in supplication, asking him to spare his youth, he pierced him through the liver. Then he thrust his lance into one ear of Mulius; the brazen point came out at the other. Echeclus, son of Agenor, he struck in the skull with his sword. Deucalion he gashed in the elbow with the point of his lance and then struck off his head; it rolled into the dust together with the helmet. Rhigmus, the Thracian, his flying lance pierced in the belly, and Areithous his spear threw from the chariot. Thus godlike Achilles raged like a forest-fire whipped on by swift winds. His horses pranced over shields and bodies; the axle dripped with blood, and the drops spattered onto the wheels and the chariot itself.


When the fleeing Trojans reached the waters of the swift-flowing Scamander, they separated. One part poured toward the city, to the field where, the day before, Hector had won his victory over the Argives. Over them Hera spread a thick drift of cloud to hinder them from fleeing farther. But the others, crowded close to the margin of the river, threw themselves into the swirling current; the shores roundabout echoed with the sound. There they floundered like locusts which fire has driven into the water, so that the whole river filled with a tangle of horses and men. At that the son of Peleus leaned his lance against a tamarisk on the bank and only with his sword in his hand rushed after them like a god. Soon the water grew red with blood, and under his thrusts groans and gasps rose up from the waves. He raged like an enormous dolphin that hurtles through a bay devouring what fish he can. And even when his hands were numb with killing, he seized twelve youths still alive in the waters, dragged them to shore, almost out of their minds with panic, and handed them over to his warriors. These were to fall in atonement for the death of Patroclus, his friend.

When the hero again rushed to the river, greedy for new kill, Lycaon, son of Priam, struggled up through the water, and Achilles paused at sight of him. Once, in an assault by night, the son of Peleus had surprised him in his father’s orchard as he was carving a rim for his chariot from the shoots of the wild fig. On that occasion Achilles had taken him by force and sent him to the island of Lemnos, where Euneus, son of Jason, bought him as a slave. And when Eetion, Prince of Imbros, another son of Jason’s, visited his half brother in Lemnos, he ransomed the youth, so delicately fair, for a high price and had him brought to Arisbe, his city. For a time Lycaon lived there, but then he ran secretly away and managed to reach Troy. This was the twelfth day since he had returned from captivity, and now he fell into the hands of Achilles for the second time! When the son of Peleus saw that his knees failed him, that he was floating weakly with the current, he said to himself in amazement: “What miracle is this? Now that this boy I sold as a slave has reappeared, I suppose all the Trojans I slew will crawl forth out of the night of death again. Well then, let him taste the point of this lance, and we shall see whether he can come up even from under the earth!” But before Achilles had time to aim, Lycaon swung himself ashore, clasped his knees with one hand, and touched his spear with the other.

“Have pity on me, Achilles!” he cried. “For once I was put in your care. At that time I got you one hundred bullocks. Now the ransom will be three times that number. Only for twelve days have I been free from the pain of long captivity, but Zeus must hate me, for he has again delivered me into your hands. Do not kill me! I am the child of Laothoe and not of Hecuba, the mother of Hector, who slew your friend.”

But Achilles frowned, and his voice was relentless. “Do not speak of ransom, you fool. Before Patroclus died, my heart was ready to spare, but now all shall die, you too! Do not look at me so pitifully. Did not Patroclus die who was infinitely more glorious than you? And I myself—see how tall I am and how strong, and yet I know I shall soon meet my fate at the hands of my foes, one dawn or dusk.” When Lycaon heard him in this way, he let go the spear, spread wide his hands, and received the sword thrust in his neck. Achilles took the body by the foot, tossed it into the water, and cried mockingly: “Now let us see if the river, to which you have made so many vain offerings, will save you.”

These words roused Scamander, the river-god, who sided with the Trojans, and he pondered on how he could trouble this dread hero and save his charges from those implacable hands. Achilles, meanwhile, leaped at Asteropaeus of Paeonia, son of Pelegon, who was just coming out of the river holding high two spears. And the river-god suffused him with pride and courage. Angrily he surveyed the merciless doing of the son of Peleus and ran to him boldly. “Who are you who dares oppose me?” asked Achilles. “Only the sons of unhappy parents measure their strength against mine!”

Asteropaeus replied: “Why do you ask my lineage? I am the grandson of the river-god Axius. Pelegon begot me. Eleven days ago I came here with my Paeonians, to aid the Trojans as their ally. Now fight with me, great son of Peleus!”

Achilles brandished his lance, but the Paeonian cast both spears at once, one with each hand, for he could use his left as deftly as his right. One cracked three metal layers of his adversary’s shield, the other grazed his right arm at the elbow, and the blood spurted from it. And now Achilles hurled his lance, but it missed his opponent and drove into the earth to half its length. Three times Asteropaeus pulled at it with his sinewy hand, but he could not wrench it out of the ground. When he tried a fourth time, Achilles fell on him with his sword and plunged it into his body until the bowels gushed out, and he sank in the throes of death. With jubilant shouts the son of Peleus stripped him of his armor and let the body lie as food for the eels which swarmed near the shore. Then he rushed on the Paeonians who were straying fearfully along the bank. Seven he slew with his sword, and he had not nearly sated his lust to kill when suddenly Scamander, the angry lord of the river, rose up through a swirl of waves in the guise of a hero, and called: “Son of Peleus, you are working evil beyond the measure of man. My waters are clogged with the bodies of the dead and can hardly find a way to the sea. Leave off!”

“I obey you, because you are a god,” said Achilles. “But my arm shall not cease from slaying Trojans until I have chased them back into their city and tested my strength against Hector’s.” So saying he rushed in pursuit of the Trojans and drove them toward the river. But when they tried to save themselves by leaping into the water, he forgot the river-god’s command and sprang in behind them. Then the river grew swollen with wrath, churned its turbid waters, and flung the dead on the shore with bellow and crash. The torrent clashed against the shield of Achilles. He tottered and grasped an elm-tree, but it fell uprooted and tore away the bank. And now he raced over the field, but the river-god surged after him with wild waves and caught up with him, even though he was so fleet of foot. Whenever he tried to resist, the waves washed over his shoulders and swept the ground from under his feet. Then the hero complained to heaven. “Father Zeus,” he lamented, “will not one of the immortals have pity on me and rescue me from this angry river? My mother deluded me when she said that I should die by the shaft of Apollo. Had Hector only slain me, had the strong but killed the strong! Now it seems I am to die ingloriously, like a boy herding swine who wades through a mountain stream in winter and is swept away by the turbulent waters.”

As he moaned and wailed, Poseidon and Athene in the semblance of mortals came to him, took him by the hand, and comforted him, saying that it was not his fate to drown in the river. And before the gods left him, Athene filled him with such strength that he bent his knees and bounded out of the water until he again stood on dry land. But Scamander still cherished his anger and reared to taller and taller crests, calling aloud to Simois, his brother. “Come, brother! Let both of us together tame the power of this man, or he will raze Priam’s citadel to the ground this very day! Call the springs from the mountains; urge on the torrents; lift high your waters and sweep great blocks of stone in your tide. Neither his strength nor his armor shall avail him. Deep under the flood let him lie, with mud and slime for his burial mound. I myself shall heap over him shells and pebbles and sand, so that the Argives will not even find his bones.” When he had spoken, Scamander made for Achilles, churning with foam and blood and corpses, and the waves soon towered over the hero’s head, for Simois had joined his waters with those of his brother.

When Hera saw this, she screamed aloud in fear for her favorite and then called to Hephaestus: “My son, dear lame son! Nothing but your fires can cope with the strength of the river. Rush to the aid of the son of Peleus! I myself will rouse the west and the south winds from the sea and raise up a blast that will fan your flames and utterly consume the Trojans. You, meanwhile, shall set afire the trees on the bank of the river and flame through Scamander himself. Let neither flattery nor threats hold you back, for only fire can halt this destruction.” Obedient to her words Hephaestus, turned to flame, winged his way over the field. First he burned the bodies of the Trojans Achilles had slain. Then the field grew dry, and the waters were stopped. On the banks the elms, the willows, the tamarisks, and the grass began to burn. The eels and other fish grew weak in that fiery breath and gasped for fresh water. Finally the river itself was a river of flame, and out of the depths Scamander, the god, cried humbly: “Blazing god, I do not wish to fight you! For how am I, after all, concerned with the quarrel of the Trojans and Achilles?” So he pleaded, while his waters hissed like fat in a cauldron over the fire. And he turned to the mother of gods and implored her: “Hera, why does your son Hephaestus torment me? Am I more at fault than the other gods who come to the aid of the Trojans? But I shall be still, if you wish it so, only let him too leave me in peace.”

Then Hera said to her son: “Hold, Hephaestus! No longer shall you beset an immortal god for love of a mortal.” And the god of fire quenched his flame. Scamander returned to his bed, and far away Simois calmed his riotous waters.


The other gods were bitterly at odds. Their hearts beat high with hatred, and they had at one another until the whole earth clanged and the air rang as if with the blare of trumpets. Zeus heard on the peak of Olympus, and his heart leaped with delight when he saw the immortals rushing at one another in battle. The first to advance was Ares, the god of war, who made for Athene with his brazen spear, taunting her as he came. “Why, O gadfly,” he called to her, “do you incite gods against gods with stormy insolence? Do you remember how you spurred on the son of Tydeus to pierce me with his lance, how you yourself dealt my immortal body a wound with your shining spear? But now, I think, we shall settle our accounts!” So he said, and struck her awful aegis with his spear. Evading his thrust, she reached for a huge rough stone which lay in the field and hurled it at Ares’ neck. He sank to the ground with a great clashing of armor, covering seven rods in his fall, and his immortal locks were soiled with dust.

Then Athene laughed and said triumphantly: “O foolish one, when you dared to measure your strength against mine, you did not stop to think that I am the stronger! Now feel the full force of Hera’s curse, for she is angry that you have withdrawn your favor from the Argives and are protecting the haughty Trojans.” Thus she spoke and turned from him her radiant eyes. He was still gasping. His breath slowly returned, and Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, led him out of battle.

When Hera saw them approaching she turned to Athene. “Alas, Pallas!” she said. “Do you see how boldly that softhearted goddess of love is leading the ruthless killer out of the turmoil of the battle? Go—pursue them swiftly!” Pallas Athene stormed forward and struck delicate Aphrodite a blow in the breast, so that she fell and dragged wounded Ares down with her.

“Let all who dare help the Trojans fall like these!” exclaimed Athene. “If all who fight on my side had acted as I have, we should have had peace long ago, and Troy would be nothing but a heap of ruins.” When Hera saw and heard this, a smile touched her lips.

Then Poseidon, the Earth-Shaker, spoke to Apollo: “Phoebus, why do we hold aloof, now that others have begun to fight? How disgraceful it would be if we two returned to Olympus without having measured our strength! You shall be first to strike, for you are the younger. Why do you hesitate? Have you forgotten how much we two, above all other gods, have already endured for the sake of Troy? How we served proud Laomedon by building the wall, and how he refused to give us our promised reward? Surely this must have slipped your memory, otherwise you would try to destroy the Trojans as I do and not give aid to the people of that crafty king!”

“Ruler of the sea,” answered Phoebus, “I should be taking leave of my senses if, for the sake of mortals who perish lightly as the leaves of forest trees, I fought you, a god who commands reverence.” So said Apollo and turned away, reluctant to raise his hand against his father’s brother.

Then Artemis, his sister, mocked him, saying contemptuously: “Are you fleeing battle at the very outset, Far-Darter, and giving easy victory to boastful Poseidon? Then what is the use of the bow you carry over your shoulder? Is it only a child’s toy?”

But Hera was displeased by her jeers. “Because you carry a quiver full of arrows on your back, do you venture to try your strength against me, shameless one?” she asked. “Better you went to the forest to shoot a boar or a stag, then insolently oppose the high gods. But since you are so defiant, you shall feel my hand.” Thus reproving her, with her left hand she took Artemis by the wrists and with her right snatched her quiver from her shoulder and beat her about the ears with it while she turned this way and that, until the arrows dropped out. Like a timid dove pursued by a falcon, Artemis let lie her shafts and fled weeping. Leto, her mother, would have come to her aid, had not Hermes lurked close by. But when he saw her he withdrew, saying: “Far be it from me to pick a quarrel with you, Leto. For it is dangerous to quarrel with a woman whom the Thunderer has given his love. And so in the circle of immortals you may brag of having defeated me.” Thus he spoke, and instantly Leto gathered up the bow and the arrows where they lay scattered in the dust and hastened after her daughter to Olympus. There Artemis, still in tears, seated herself on her father’s knee, her dainty robe, fragrant with ambrosia, still trembling with the shaking of her limbs. Zeus took her tenderly in his arms and asked: “Who of the gods has dared abuse you, sweet child?”

“Father,” she replied, “it is your wife who has done this to me, angry Hera, who incites all the gods to battle.” At that Zeus only laughed and patted her cheek.

But down below, Phoebus Apollo had entered the city of Troy, for he feared that the Danai, defying Fate, would tear down the wall of the city that very day. The other gods hastened back to Olympus, some exulting, others filled with wrath and grief, and seated themselves in a circle around the Thunderer, the father of them all.


On a high tower of his city stood old King Priam and looked down on the mighty son of Peleus driving the fleeing Trojans before him, with neither god nor mortal to halt his progress. Lamenting, the king came down from the tower and exhorted the guards at the wall: “Open the gates and hold them so until all the fugitives have entered the city, for Achilles is pursuing them. As soon as our people are inside, lock the double doors, or the fierce son of Peleus will invade Troy.” And the guards drew back the bolts, the gates flew apart, and a way to safety lay open.

As the Trojans, covered with dust and parched with thirst, fled from the battlefield and Achilles pursued them with his lance like a madman, Apollo left the open gates of Troy to come to the aid of his wards. He roused the courage of Agenor, brave son of Antenor, and enfolded in cloud, stood at his side at the foot of the beech tree of Zeus. Thus it came about that Agenor was the first of the Trojans to halt, collect his wits, and say to himself, full of shame at his flight: “Who is it that is following you? Cannot his flesh be wounded with a point of iron? Is he not mortal like other men?” He regained his composure, awaited Achilles, held out his shield, and cried to him, brandishing his lance: “Do not think you can raze the city of Troy so quickly! There are still those among us who will fight to defend the citadel for their parents, wives, and children.” With this he cast his spear, and it struck the greaves of the hero at the knee, but rebounded without harming him. And now Achilles threw himself on his assailant, but Apollo carried Agenor off in a veil of mist and, by a ruse, kept Achilles from pursuing him. For the god assumed the shape of Agenor and ran through a field of barley toward the river Scamander. Achilles flew after him, hoping at every step to overtake him. Meantime the Trojans hurried through the open gates and poured into the city which soon filled to overflowing. No one waited for the other; no one turned to see who was saved or who had fallen; each rejoiced in his own rescue, in his safety behind the firmly built walls. They cooled their sweating limbs, quenched their thirst, and rested on the battlements.

But the Achaeans shouldered their shields and thronged toward the wall. Of all the Trojans, only Hector had remained outside the Scaean Gates, for this was appointed by Fate. Achilles was still pursuing Apollo whom he took for Agenor, until suddenly the god halted, turned, and said in his divine voice: “Why do you dog me so stubbornly, son of Peleus, and allow me to make you forget to go after the Trojans? You thought you were chasing a mortal, but you are running after a god whom you can never slay.”

At that the scales fell from the eyes of Achilles; he was vexed and cried: “Cruel and tricking god! So you have lured me away from the wall! Had it not been for you, many a man would have bitten the dust before the Trojans entered Ilium. But you stole conquest from me and saved them without any danger to their ranks, for you are immortal and need have no fear of vengeance, much as I should like to avenge myself for what you have done tome!”

And Achilles faced about and flew toward the city like an impetuous chariot horse accustomed to victory. The first to see him was aged Priam who had again ascended his lookout in the tower, and he saw him blaze forth just as the Dog Star, bringing draught, glitters in the night sky, foretelling a poor harvest to the farmer. The old man beat his breast with his hands and called sorrowfully down to his son who was standing outside the Scaean Gates, waiting for the son of Peleus: “Hector, will you recklessly deliver yourself into the very hands of this murderer who has already robbed me of so many of my children? Come into the city and defend the men and women of Troy! Do not increase the glory of Achilles by letting him add your death to the tale of his numberless victims. Have pity on me, your old father, while I still breathe, for Zeus has condemned me to loiter long on the uttermost rim of old age and to suffer intolerable grief. Must I see my sons slain, my daughters torn from me and made captive, the halls of my palace plundered, young children hurled to the ground, the wives of my sons carried off? In the end I too will be laid low by a spear or a lance, laid low at the very door of my palace, and the very dogs I have reared will mangle my flesh and lap my blood.”

So the old man called from the tower and tore his white hair. Hecuba appeared at his side, and she too wept and cried: “Hector, remember that I fed you at my breast. Have pity on me! Drive off that dread hero from behind the wall, but do not meet him in front of the gates, for that would be madness!”

But neither the tears nor the entreaties of his parents could turn Hector from his purpose. Motionlessly he waited for Achilles and said to himself: “There was a time when I ought to have retreated. That was when my friend Polydamas advised me to take the Trojan army back into Ilium. Now that so many are slain because of my rashness, I fear the men and the women of Troy will some day say of me: ‘Hector trusted his strength and in so doing delivered up his people!’ Better that I win or die in fighting terrible Achilles. Or should I put my shield and helmet down on the ground, lean my spear against the wall, meet him unarmed, and offer to him Helen, all the treasure Paris took with her, and rich stores of gifts besides? What if I made the princes of Troy swear to keep nothing back, to divide our treasures and other possessions into two equal parts? But what thoughts are these! I, supplicate him? He would strike me down mercilessly! And how would it look if I went up to him and spoke sweet words, like a youth to a maiden? Better rush toward each other in battle, for soon we shall see to which of us two the Olympians will grant the victory.” Such were the thoughts which passed through Hector’s mind.


Nearer and nearer came Achilles, awful and splendid as Ares himself. On his right shoulder quivered his lance with the shaft of ash, and his brazen weapons blazed about him like the rising sun. When Hector saw him, he trembled against his will and turned toward the gate. But after him flew the son of Peleus, even as the hawk swoops on the dove which tries to slip to this side and that, but the bird of prey darts straight in ruthless pursuit. So Hector ran along the walls of Troy, along the wagon track and past the two bubbling springs of the Scamander, the warm and the cold, and on and on. A strong man fled, but a stronger followed. In this way they circled the city of Priam three times, and from Olympus the gods watched the spectacle with anxious hearts. “Weigh this well, O gods!” said Zeus. “The hour of decision has come. Shall Hector, who brought us so many sacrifices, escape death once more, or fall, brave though he be?”

And Pallas Athene answered: “Father, what are you saying? Would you redeem from death a mortal whom Fate has doomed long since? Do as you think best, but you must not expect the gods to approve.”

Zeus nodded to his daughter in token of his willingness to let her follow her own counsel, and like a bird she flew down to the battlefield from the rocky heights of Olympus.

There Hector was still fleeing from his pursuer who gained on him like a hound on the deer he has startled from its hiding place and which he allows neither rest nor escape. And as he ran so fleetly, Achilles signed to his men that no one was to aim a missile at Hector, for he wanted the glory of being the first and the only one to slay the most dreaded enemy of the Argives.

When for the fourth time they had circled the walls and reached the springs of the Scamander, Zeus rose on Olympus, held out his golden scales, and placed in them two death lots, one for the son of Peleus and one for Hector. Then he held the scales in the middle and weighed. Hector’s lot sank low toward Hades, and instantly Phoebus Apollo left him. But to Achilles came Pallas Athene and whispered: “Stand and compose yourself while I go to persuade your enemy to take courage and face you in fight.” Obedient to the goddess, Achilles halted and leaned on his ashen spear, while she, assuming the shape of Deiphobus, approached Hector and said: “Ah! elder brother of mine, how relentlessly the son of Peleus besets you! Come, let us make a stand and beat him off.”

Hector rejoiced at sight of his brother and answered: “I always loved you better than my other brothers, Deiphobus. But now that you have ventured out of the city to goad me on while the rest sit behind the walls, I honor and cherish you still more.” And Deiphobus, who was Athene, led Hector on to where Achilles was resting, and she went before, raising her lance.

Hector was the first to speak. “I shall not flee from you any longer, son of Peleus,” he said. “My heart urges me to confront you and fight until I slay you or am slain myself. But let us swear an oath before the gods: if Zeus grants me the victory, I shall not abuse you after death, but after I have stripped you of your armor I shall give your body back to your people. And you shall do likewise.”

“I make no covenants!” Achilles replied sullenly. “As little as lions can make friends of men, as little as lambs and wolves can live peaceably together, just as little can there be friendship between us two. One of us shall sink bleeding to the ground. Muster what skill you have. You may cast the spear and fence with the sword. But you shall not escape me. For now you shall atone for all the grief you have brought my warriors with your weapons.” So saying, Achilles hurled his lance. But Hector bent his knees, and the missile flew over him and into the earth. Athene took hold of it, drew it out, and returned it to Achilles, unseen by Hector. And now Hector poised his lance and cast angrily. It struck the shield of Achilles but rebounded from the bronze. Then Hector, in despair, looked back for his brother Deiphobus, for he had no other lance, but Deiphobus was gone. And suddenly Hector knew that Athene had tricked him and that his last hour had come. Unwilling to sink into the dust ingloriously, he drew his mighty sword from the sheath at his hip and, swinging it in his right hand, rushed forward as an eagle swoops on a lamb or a hare flattened against the earth. The son of Peleus did not wait for the thrust. He too swung forward, covering himself with his shield. The plumes on his helmet fluttered, and the spear he brandished in his right hand was bright as a star. Carefully he studied Hector to find a place where he could deal him a wound. From head to foot he was protected with the shining armor he had taken from Patroclus. There was only one small opening where shoulder and neck join at the collarbone. Achilles aimed carefully at this vulnerable part of his throat and pierced it with such violence that the point came out at the back of his neck. But the spear had not cut the windpipe, so that Hector could still speak, even though he had fallen, while Achilles jubilantly proclaimed that he would leave his body for dogs and birds to devour. At that Hector pleaded with him, though his breath grew fainter and fainter: “By your life, Achilles, I implore you! By your knees, by your parents—do not let the dogs mangle my flesh by the ships of the Argives! Take bronze and gold, as much as you want, but send my body to Troy, that the men and women of Priam’s city may heap a pyre for me with due rites!”

But Achilles scowled, shook his head, and replied: “Do not entreat me by my knees and my parents, you who have murdered my friend! No one shall drive the dogs from your flesh, not if your countrymen pledged me twentyfold ransom, not if Priam gave me your own weight in gold.”

“I know you,” Hector moaned, dying. “I knew that you would be implacable. Your heart is of iron. But you will remember my words when the gods avenge me, when at the high Scaean Gates you fall from the deadly shaft directed by Phoebus Apollo, when you sink into the dust, even as I.” As the last prophetic word left his lips, the soul of Hector departed from his body and winged its way down to Hades.

But Achilles shouted after it: “Die! My fate shall befall me when Zeus and the other gods decree!” So saying, he drew the spear from the body, laid it aside, and stripped slain Hector of his bloodstained armor.

And now from the Argive host many warriors came out and admired the stature and face of Hector and how goodly were his limbs, and many a one touched him and said: “Strange, how much gentler he is now than when he hurled the firebrand into our ships!”

Then Achilles stood up among the Achaeans and said: “Friends and heroes! Now that the gods have permitted me to vanquish this man who did us more harm than all the others put together, let us approach the city and try to discover whether they will surrender the citadel, or dare to offer resistance even without Hector. But why do I waste time in talking? Does not my friend Patroclus still lie unburied by the ships? Let us sing the song of victory and bring my friend the victim I have slain to avenge his death.”

With these words, Achilles again bent down to Hector’s body, pierced the tendons of both feet between ankle and heel, threaded thongs of oxhide through the opening, and made them fast to his chariot. Then he leaped in and goaded his horses toward the ships, letting the corpse trail on the ground. Clouds of dust rose about the dragged body, and the head, which only a little before had been so fair, drew a furrow through the sand, and the hair was matted and soiled. Looking down from the wall, Hecuba beheld her son and ore off her shining veil. King Priam too wept and made lament, and the city resounded with the cries and moans of the Trojans and their allies. In his anger and grief the old king could scarcely be restrained from rushing out of the Scaean Gates in pursuit of the slayer of his son. He threw himself on the ground and cried: “Hector, Hector! I forget all my other sons whom the enemy has killed in my sorrow for you. Oh, had you but died in my arms!”

Andromache, Hector’s wife, knew nothing of all this, for no messenger had come to her, and she thought her husband was still within the walls of Troy. Serenely she sat in her chamber and embroidered stuff of Tyrian purple in bright colors. She had just bidden one of her handmaids set a great tripod on the fire to prepare a warm bath for Hector’s return, when she heard moans and wails from the tower. Her heart full of dark forebodings, she cried: “Alas! I fear that Achilles has cut my husband off from his men, for Hector is so brave that he always rushes ahead of all the rest.” Her heart beating painfully, she ran through the palace, climbed to the tower, and, looking down over the wall, saw the horses of the son of Peleus dragging her husband’s body, bound to the victor’s chariot, over the plain. Andromache fainted, and her kinswomen caught her in their arms. From her head fell her precious array, the frontlet and band and the veil Aphrodite had given her on her wedding day. When she regained consciousness, she sobbed and cried in broken tones: “Hector! Hector! You, ill-fated as I, both of us born to sorrow! Lonely and sad shall I sit in my house, a widow with a little son who has no father, who grows up with lowered eyes, his lashes wet with tears. He will have to beg among his father’s friends and pull this one and that one by the cloak, that he may give him food and drink. And sometimes a child whose parents are both living will thrust him from the board, saying: ‘Go away! Your father is not at the feast!’ And then he will weep and seek refuge with his mother who has no husband. For the dogs will devour Hector and the worms take what is left. Of what use now are the fine and splendid tunics stored in my chests? I shall burn them, for never again will they adorn my husband.” So she said weeping, and her women joined in her lament.


As soon as Achilles reached the ships with the corpse of his foe, he laid the body, face downward, in the dust beside the bier of Patroclus. The Danai, meanwhile, put off their armor and, by the thousands, sat down to the funeral feast. Oxen were slaughtered, and sheep, and boars, and the son of Peleus had rich and ample fare prepared for the warriors. Only reluctantly did he allow his friends to take him from the bier of his friend and lead him to the house of Agamemnon. Here a great cauldron of water was set over the fire, and they tried to persuade Achilles to wash the blood and sweat of battle from his limbs. But he stubbornly refused and swore a mighty oath: “No, by Zeus on Olympus! Water shall not touch me before I have laid Patroclus on the pyre, shaved my head, and heaped him a monument. Now the funeral feast shall be held. But tomorrow, Prince Agamemnon, let trees be cut in the forest and everything brought which is needed, that the fire may swiftly take from us the mournful sight of my friend. After that, the men may again turn to war.” The princes let him do as he wished and sat down to the meal. Then each went to his own house. But the son of Peleus, surrounded by his Myrmidons, lay down on the shore of the sea, where the waves had washed it clean.

Long on the stony strand he sighed for his friend who was slain. When at last he fell asleep, the soul of Patroclus came to him in a dream. It resembled Patroclus in stature and voice and eyes, and the tunic it wore was like his. The form leaned over him and said, “Are you asleep? Have you already forgotten me, Achilles? You always loved the living, but you are unmindful of the dead! Give me a grave, for I yearn to pass through the gates of Hades. Until now I have only wandered near them, for phantoms sit there as guards and drive me away. I cannot find rest until my body is burned on the pyre. And, my friend, you must know that Fate has decreed that you too shall fall near the walls of Troy. Therefore let the grave be so that we, who grew up together in your father’s house, may have our bones buried side by side in death.”

“I shall do all you say,” said Achilles and stretched out his arms to that shadowy form, but it vanished into earth like mist. Achilles leaped up amazed, struck together his hands, and said mournfully to his companions: “So it is true that souls live on in Hades, for this night I saw before me the soul of Patroclus, sad and making lament, but like him in all things!” And his words again wakened the yearning of the heroes for him who was no more.

When dawn reddened the sky, Agamemnon bade men and mules go forth, Meriones in the lead. The beasts came first, and after them men with axes and ropes. Then on the wooded slopes of Ida the tallest trees were felled and the wood split and loaded on the mules which dragged the trunks down to the ships. And the men too carried logs on their shoulders, and on the shore all was laid in rows. Now Achilles bade his Myrmidons gird on their armor of bronze and yoke the horses to the chariots. Then the funeral procession began to move. First in the chariots came the princes and warriors with their charioteers, and after them followed a vast throng of men on foot. In the midst, his friends and comrades bore Patroclus. His body was covered with locks they had cut from their heads. Following it came Achilles, bowing his head in his hands, and he was sunk in sorrow.

When they came to the place Achilles had chosen they set down the bier, and a whole forest of trees was heaped for the pyre. The son of Peleus stood apart, cut off one of his golden locks, gazed into the dark tide of the sea, and said: “O Spercheus, river of Thessaly, my country, in vain did my father Peleus vow that if I returned I should shear my hair for you and offer fifty rams at your springs, where your grove stands and your altar. You were deaf to his pleading, O river-god! You will not let me return. And so do not be angry with me if I give this lock to Patroclus, to carry down with him to Hades.” With these words he put the lock in the hands of his friend and said to Agamemnon: “Tell the people to disperse and eat their meal, O prince. After that they shall mourn and bury my friend.”

At Agamemnon’s command the warriors went their ways among the ships, and only the princes remained. From the trunks of the trees which had been felled they built a great pyre, a hundred feet square, and with heavy hearts laid the body on it. Numberless sheep and horned cattle they flayed beside the pyre, heaped the bodies around, and covered the corpse with the fat. Against the bier they leaned jars of honey and oil and led four living horses to the pyre. They also slaughtered two of the nine dogs of Patroclus and then slew with the sword twelve noble Trojan youths chosen from among the captives. Thus Achilles took terrible vengeance for the death of his friend.

Then he bade them kindle the pyre, and as they obeyed he called to the dead: “May happiness attend you even in Hades, Patroclus! What I pledged you I have fulfilled! Twelve victims have been slain and shall burn on your pyre. Hector alone shall not be consumed in the flames. His flesh shall be food for the dogs!” He spoke threateningly, but the gods willed otherwise. Day and night Aphrodite kept the ravening dogs from the body of Hector and anointed it with ambrosia, fragrant as roses, until all trace of the dragging had vanished. And Apollo poised a dark cloud over the place where he lay, so that the sun might not shrivel his flesh.

And now, though the wood was lit, it would not burn. Then Achilles again turned from the pyre and vowed offerings to the winds, to Zephyr and Boreas, poured wine for them from a cup of gold, and begged them to quicken the sparks to a blaze. Iris brought his message to the winds, and with awful clamor they stormed across the sea and flung themselves on the pyre. All night they roared through the wood and lashed the flame, while Achilles never ceased pouring libations for the soul of his dead friend. When the sky grew saffron with dawn the winds rested, the fire died down, and the embers crumbled to ash. In the midst of charred wood and cinders lay the bones of Patroclus, and at the uttermost edge the bones of animals and men intermingled. At the command of the son of Peleus, the heroes quenched the heat of the ashes with red wine. With many tears they gathered up the white bones of their comrade, covered them with a two-fold layer of fat, and placed them in a golden urn which they carried to the house of Achilles. Then they measured the place, set a foundation of stones where the pyre had been, and heaped earth for the burial mound.

When all was done, the funeral games began. Achilles had the Argives assemble and sit in a wide circle. Then he brought as prizes tripods, cauldrons, mules, strong oxen, and, arrayed in costly robes, women who were trained in crafts, and precious gray iron. First came the chariot races. In these he himself did not take part, for he had lost his beloved charioteer. But up rose Eumelus, son of Admetus, a hero most skilled in the art of driving. Then came Diomedes, who yoked the splendid horses he had taken from Aeneas. Third was Menelaus with his horse Podargus and Agamemnon’s mare Aethe. The fourth to enter the race was Antilochus, Nestor’s young son, to whom his father gave advice concerning the race. Fifth, Meriones yoked his glossy-flanked steeds. Then the five heroes mounted their chariots, and Achilles shook the lots to decide in what order they were to stand. First the lot of Antilochus leaped from the helmet, then that of Eumelus, Menelaus, Meriones, and last that of the son of Tydeus. As umpire Achilles chose gray-haired Phoenix, his father’s comrade-in-arms.

All five together raised their goads, called to their horses, struck their backs with the reins, and stormed across the plain. The dust whirled high under the horses’ hooves, their manes fluttered, and the chariots now rolled on the ground, now leaped through the air. Taut and upright stood the drivers, and their hearts beat high with longing for victory. As the horses approached the end of the course which was near the sea, each seemed fleetness itself as it strained toward the goal. The mares of Eumelus flew in the van; but hot on their flanks blew the breath of Diomedes’ steeds, when suddenly Apollo snatched the goad from the hands of the son of Tydeus, and the speed of his creatures lessened. Athene observed the trick, returned the goad to the hero, and broke the yoke of Eumelus, so that the mares sprang apart and the driver plunged headlong from the chariot and doubled up in pain beside the wheel. Past him sped the son of Tydeus; after him Menelaus; next came Antilochus, urging on his horses with panting cries. And then, where the rains had washed away the soil, Menelaus stopped his horses, but Antilochus boldly drove past him. As the Argives watched, trying to distinguish the horses and cars through moving clouds of dust, Diomedes left the others behind. His chariot, overlaid with shining tin and gold, had arrived at the goal. From the necks and breasts of his horses sweat poured in streams. And the son of Tydeus sprang to the ground and leaned his goad against the yoke. His friend Sthenelus took the prizes—a fair woman and a tripod—and gave them to his comrades to carry away. Then he loosed the horses from the yoke.

After him came Antilochus, and almost at the same moment, Menelaus. Somewhat slower, a spear’s throw behind, Meriones reached the goal, and last of all injured Eumelus with his damaged chariot. But though he came last, Achilles wished to give him the second prize, because he was the most skilled in driving and his misfortune was due to no fault of his own. But Antilochus disputed this heatedly. “The second prize is mine,” he said. “That beautiful mare is my prize! If you are sorry for Eumelus, surely you have enough gold and bronze, horses and women in your house to give him something.” Achilles smiled, awarded the mare to his younger friend, and gave Eumelus the magnificent breastplate he had seized from Asteropaeus. But now Menelaus accused Antilochus of having got in the way of his horses, and he bade him swear by Poseidon if this was untrue. Antilochus did not dare swear a false oath. He admitted his ruse and led the mare he had won over to the son of Atreus. But Menelaus was satisfied to let the youth have his mare and accepted the third prize, a cauldron. The fourth prize, two talents of gold, fell to the share of Meriones, and the fifth, a two-handled bowl, though it was unclaimed, Achilles gave to Nestor as a memorial of the funeral of Patroclus.

Next came the boxing match. The prize for the victor was a mule, that for the vanquished, a two-handled cup. When this was proclaimed, a tall and mighty man arose, Epeius, son of Panopeus. He put his hand on the mule and cried: “This is mine! Let him who will, have the cup! But I give him fair warning: my fist will shatter his body, and his bones will be crushed!” Silence met this grim announcement, but then Euryalus, son of Mecisteus, girded himself and faced his opponent ready for the fight. Then they raised their arms, fists landed on jaws, and sweat flowed from straining limbs. Finally Epeius struck his adversary on the cheek, and he fell to the ground like a fish which a wave has flung on the sandy shore. Epeius helped him up by the hands, and as his friends led him away he spat blood, and his head drooped.

Next Achilles announced the prizes for the wrestling match: for the victor, a great tripod, equal in worth to twelve oxen; for the vanquished, a woman lovely to look at and skilled in handiwork. Then Odysseus and Ajax the Great clasped each other with supple arms, and they were as closely interlocked as timbers joined by a builder. The sweat poured from them, their bones creaked, and their sides and shoulders were marked with bloody weals. The Argives were beginning to mutter with impatience when Ajax lifted Odysseus from the ground, but he crooked his knee and thrust at his opponent, threw him on his back, and fell on his chest. But he could move him only very little, and the two rolled in the dust. “You have both won!” cried Achilles. “I shall give you prizes of equal value.”

For the foot race to follow, a mixing bowl of silver, delicately wrought and so large that it held six measures, was destined for the victor. The second to reach the goal was to have an ox, the third, half a talent of gold. Ajax, the swift Locrian, Odysseus, and Antilochus offered to run. Achilles gave the sign, and Ajax stormed ahead. But close to him as the weaving rod to the breast of a woman came Odysseus. Ajax felt his breath fanning his neck, and all the Danai called encouragement to the fleet runner. When they were almost at the goal, Odysseus prayed to Athene with all the fervor of his heart. And she made his limbs light and let Ajax stumble over the filth left over from the sheep and cattle which had been slaughtered for Patroclus, and he fell and soiled his face.

The Argives roared with laughter when, a moment later, Odysseus seized the mixing bowl and Ajax, gagging and spitting, laid his hand on the ox. Smilingly Antilochus took the third prize and said: “The gods give honor to older men. Ajax is, indeed, only slightly older than I in years, but he is of an older line.”

“It is to your profit that you have spoken words so free from envy,” said Achilles, and added half a talent of gold to the prize of the handsome youth.

And now the son of Peleus brought into the circle the beautiful lance of Sarpedon, which Patroclus had carried off as spoils, and laid it down together with the shield and the helmet. For these, two of the bravest heroes were to fight fully armed and receive the prize jointly. Achilles was to feast both in his house, and the victor was to have a sword, studded with silver, the Thracian sword of Asteropaeus. Three times with flashing eyes Ajax, son of Telamon, and Diomedes ran at each other with their arms. Ajax pierced the shield of the son of Tydeus, but Diomedes aimed at his throat. In grave concern for Ajax, the Argives separated the two, but it was the son of Tydeus who received the sword.

Next came the contest with the iron discus which Eetion, king of Thebes, whom Achilles slew, had often thrown. Epeius swung it and threw, but with so little skill that the Danai burst out laughing. Then Leonteus threw, and next mighty Ajax, and it flew beyond the mark. But Polypoetes hurled it farther than all others, as a herdsman flings his crook over his grazing kine, and he bore off the prize.

Ten double axes and ten hatchets of bluish iron Achilles set as prizes for the archers. A pigeon was bound to the mast of a ship with a thin cord. Whoever hit the bird was to have the double axes. And whoever missed the bird but hit the cord was to have the smaller hatchets. Teucer and Meriones cast lots for the first shot. Teucer’s lot leaped from the helmet, but because Apollo did not favor him, he missed the bird and cut the cord with his shaft, so that the pigeon soared into the air. As Teucer watched it, vexed and disappointed, Meriones snatched the bow from his hands, fitted his arrow to the string, and shot the pigeon through the wing, in flight, and this he achieved because he had quickly vowed a hecatomb as thank offering to Phoebus. The wounded dove perched on the mast; its neck and wings drooped, and a moment later it fell down dead. The Achaeans shouted with joy and amazement. Meriones took the axes, and Teucer carried off the hatchets.

Lastly a spear and a cauldron carved with tendrils and flowers were brought into the ring as prizes for casting the javelin. First Agamemnon, ruler of many peoples, arose, and after him Meriones. But Achilles said: “Son of Atreus, from watching you in battle, we all know how far you excel all others in casting the lance, so leave the spear to Meriones and take the cauldron without competing for it.” Agamemnon consented. He handed the lance to the Cretan and took the cauldron. This was the end of the games.


When the participants separated, each man ate and slept. Only Achilles did not sleep, for he spent the night thinking of the friend he had buried. First he lay on his side, then on his back, then on his face. Finally he got up and roamed along the shore. In the early morning he harnessed his horses, bound Hector’s body to his chariot, and dragged him three times around the burial mound of Patroclus. But Apollo held his golden aegis over the corpse and saved it from being disfigured. Achilles left it sprawled on its face in the dust. All the gods on Olympus, except Hera, grieved at the sight, and Zeus sent for Thetis, the mother of Achilles. He ordered her to go to the Argive camp with all possible speed and tell her son that all the gods, even Zeus himself, were consumed with anger because he was holding Hector’s body without ransom.

Thetis obeyed. She entered the house of her son, came close to him, gently caressed his hair, and said: “How long are you going to eat out your heart with sorrow and forget food and sleep? It would be better if you turned to the pleasures of living again, for you will not be on earth for long. Dark Fate already lurks at your side. Listen to what Zeus bade me tell you. He and all the gods are indignant that you have maltreated Hector’s body and are keeping it by the ships. Let it go, my son, let it go for a rich ransom.”

Achilles looked up, fixed his eyes on his mother’s face, and answered: “So be it. What Zeus and the council of the immortals have resolved must be done. Whoever brings me the ransom shall carry away the corpse.”

While Thetis was with her son, Zeus sent fleet-footed Iris, the messenger of the gods, to the city of Priam to announce his decision. When Iris reached Troy, she found nothing but wailing and weeping. In the court of the palace was Priam in the circle of his sons, and their robes were wet with tears. The old man sat stiff and still, wrapped in his mantle; his head and shoulders were strewn with dust. In their chambers his daughters and the wives of his sons loudly lamented the heroes who had been slain. Suddenly and softly the messenger of Zeus came up to the king and spoke to him in a low voice. A shudder ran through his limbs. “Contain yourself, son of Dardanus,” she said. “Do not despair. I bring you good news. Zeus has mercy upon you. He bids you go to Achilles, bearing rich gifts, with which to ransom the corpse of your son. You shall go alone, accompanied by no one except one of the older heralds to guide the wagon with the mules and bring the body back to the city. You need not fear death or dangers of any kind, for Zeus is giving you an escort. Hermes will take you to the son of Peleus and protect you while you are with him. Besides, Achilles is not so blind as to disobey the gods. He will spare the suppliant of his own accord and keep all harm from you.”

Priam had faith in the words of the goddess. He told his sons to yoke the mules to the wagon, while he went to the chamber panelled with fragrant cedar-wood, where he kept his treasures. He summoned Hecuba there and said to her: “Zeus sent me a message. I am to go to Achilles, to his house near the ships, propitiate him with gifts, and so ransom the body of Hector, our beloved son. What do you think of this? I myself am most eager to go to the ships.” So said the old man, but his wife sobbed and replied: “Alas! Priam, where is your good sense, for which you have been famed? You, an old man, go alone to the Argive ships and meet the foe who has killed so many of your brave sons! Do you think that false, bloodthirsty wretch will feel pity at your sight? Rather let us mourn from afar for our son who, from the hour of his birth, was destined to be killed and devoured by dogs.”

“Do not try to hinder me,” Priam said resolutely. “Do not be a bird of ill omen in my house. Though death may await me at the ships, let that madman kill me if only I can hold the body of Hector in my arms and ease my heart with tears.” Then he raised the lids of the chests and selected twelve sumptuous festal robes and a like number of tunics and costly mantles. After this he weighed out ten talents of gold and took four gleaming cauldrons and two tripods. And he added a priceless cup the Thracians had given him when he came to them an an envoy. Nothing was too much to ransom his cherished son! He drove away the Trojans who wanted to hold him back, and said threateningly: “You good-for-nothings! Have you no griefs at home that you come here to add to my sorrow? Is it not enough that Zeus has taken my son from me? You will soon find out what it means! Rather would I go to Hades than see the heap of ruins and ashes your city will become.” And he drove them out of the hall with his scepter.

Then he turned to his sons. “Cowards!” he cried. “Idlers! If only you lay by the ships in Hector’s stead! All the best and bravest are dead. What is left is the scum—the liars, the cheats, the dancers, who wallow in the fat of the land. Now, this very instant, you shall make ready a wagon and lay all these things in baskets, so that I can start on my way.” The sons were taken aback and afraid of their father’s anger. They yoked the mules to the wagon and loaded it with the ransom. Then they harnessed the well-groomed, glossy horses to Priam’s chariot and called the herald who was to go with him. With heavy heart Hecuba handed the king the golden cup for the libation. A slave approached with a basin and pitcher, and when Priam had bathed his hands in clean water, he took the cup, stood in the center of the court, poured the wine, and raised his voice in prayer to Zeus.

“Father Zeus,” he implored, “ruler of Ida, let the son of Peleus show mercy and grace to me. Give me a token, let a bird fly on my right, so that I may go to the Argive ships without fear.” He had barely finished speaking when an eagle with black wings spread wide soared over the city, flying from the right. The Trojans hailed the sign joyfully, and full of confidence the old man mounted the chariot. In front of him went the four-wheeled wagon, heavily loaded, drawn by mules which Idaeus, the herald, drove. As Priam touched his horses with the goad and they began to move, his people followed him with troubled eyes and wailed as though he were going to his death.

When Priam and his herald were outside the city and passing the monument of old King Ilus, they stopped to let the horses and mules drink at the river. It was evening, and twilight hung over the plain. Then Idaeus saw a man standing close by and warned Priam. “Look, master,” he said. “We must be cautious. See the man over there. I fear he is waiting to kill us. We have no arms, and both of us are old. Let us either turn and flee back into the city or clasp his knees and beg him to spare us.” The king shook with terror, and his hair stood up on his head. And now the man approached; it was not a foe, but Hermes, the messenger of Zeus, the bringer of help to men, whom the father of the gods sends to accompany chosen mortals on their ways. Priam did not recognize him, but the god took the old man’s hand and said:

“Where are you driving your horses and mules at dead of night when other mortals sleep? Are you not afraid of the angry Argives? If one of them saw you taking so many precious wares through the darkness, would it not be dangerous for you? Do not think for an instant, though, that I shall harm you! Quite on the contrary—I shall protect you from others! All the more because you are so very like my own dear father. But tell me, are you fleeing and taking all these choice things to an alien land? Perhaps you are leaving Troy, now that the city has lost the bravest of its defenders, Hector, whom no Argive surpassed in courage?”

Priam breathed more freely and answered: “Now I see that I must be under the protection of a god, for he has sent me a wise and gentle companion who speaks tenderly of the death of my son. Tell me who you are and the name of your parents.”

“Polyctor is my father,” Hermes replied. “I am the youngest of seven sons, a Myrmidon, a comrade of Achilles. That is how I happened to see your son driving the Argives back to their ships while we stood by our angry king and admired Hector from afar.”

“If you are a comrade of dread Achilles,” said Priam, full of anxiety, “then tell me if my son still lies by the ships, or whether the son of Peleus has already hacked him to pieces and thrown him to the dogs.”

“He has not,” said Hermes. “Hector still lies in the house of Achilles, and no decay has touched his flesh, though this is the twelfth morning and though the son of Peleus drags him around the grave of his friend at every dawn. You would be amazed if you saw him, for his body looks as fresh as if he were alive. All his wounds are closed and there is not a bloodstain on him! Even in his death, the gods cherish and tend him.”

Joyfully Priam reached for the priceless cup which he had in the chariot. “Take it,” he said. “In return, give me your protection and take me to your master’s house.” Hermes refused the cup, as though he hesitated to accept gifts without the knowledge of Achilles. But he mounted the chariot beside Priam, took reins and goad, and soon they reached the trench and the wall. The guards were just having their evening meal, but the god lifted his hand, and they sank into deep sleep. A mere touch of his fingers and the bolts opened. In this way Priam came safely and quickly to the house of Achilles.

It loomed high, built of timbers and roofed over with reeds. A spacious court was all around it, and this in turn was protected by a close-set palisade. A single bolt of pine wood closed the door, but it was so heavy that only three strong men could push it back or forward. No one but Achilles could handle it alone. But Hermes opened the door effortlessly, dismounted, and revealed himself as a god after he had advised the old man to clasp the hero’s knees and beseech him by his father and mother. Now Priam too dismounted and left the horses and mules in the care of Idaeus. He himself went straight into the house and found Achilles sitting apart from his comrades. He was resting after the meal. The board still stood before him, and only Automedon and Alcimus were close by.

No one noticed the entrance of Priam. He hastened to Achilles, clasped his knees, kissed his hands, those terrible hands which had slain so many of his sons, and gazed into his face. The son of Peleus and his friends regarded him with amazement. And then the old man began to plead. “Godlike Achilles,” he said, “think of your father, who is as old as I. Perhaps hostile neighbors are threatening him and he is as frightened and helpless as I myself. Still, day after day, he lives in the hope of seeing his dear son once more. But I, who had fifty sons when the Argives came to this coast, nineteen of them from one and the same wife, have lost most of them in this war, and now you have killed the only one who could have saved our city and all our people. That is why I have travelled to the ships. I have come to buy the body of Hector from you, and I bring immeasurable ransom. Fear the gods, son of Peleus, have pity on me, and remember your own father! I am worthier of compassion than he, for I have suffered what no mortal has suffered, and I press to my lips the hand which has slain my children.” So he spoke and aroused in the hero longing and sorrow for his father. He gently loosened the old man’s clasp; then Priam, prostrate at Achilles’ feet, shed bitter tears for Hector, and Achilles also wept for his father and for his friend. The house resounded with lament.

At last the son of Peleus rose from his seat and raised the old man, filled with pity for his gray hair and beard, and said: “How much you have suffered, and now, what courage to come alone to the Argive ships and into the presence of the man who has killed so many of your sons! You must have an iron heart! But come, sit down, and let us quiet our grief, though it gnaws at the soul. This is the fate decreed by the gods for mortal men, while they themselves are free from care. At the door of Zeus stand two great urns. One is filled with disaster, the other with good fortune. He to whom the god gives a little of both alternates between unhappiness and joy. But he to whom Zeus deals nothing but anguish is pursued over all the earth by grief that eats at his heart. To Peleus the gods did, indeed, give marvellous gifts, power and possessions, and even an immortal to wife. But he was also allotted a share of distress, for he has an only son who is destined to die young, so that he will not be able to tend his father in his old age. And here I am, far from home, fighting before the gates of Troy and grieving you and yours, old man. You too were famed through the world for the fortune attending your house, you and your many sons, but now the Olympians have sent war and death to your city. Endure your lot and do not mourn incessantly, for even years of lament will not give you back your glorious son.”

Priam replied: “Favorite of Zeus, do not bid me be seated while Hector lies in your house unburied. Let me have him quickly, for I long to see him. Accept the rich ransom I have brought you, spare me, and return to your native land.”

Achilles frowned at his words and said: “Do not press me, old man. I myself wish to give Hector to you, for my mother brought me the message of Zeus. Besides, I know quite well that a god must have led you to our ships. For how could a mortal, were he ever so young and brave, get by the guards or draw back the bolt from the gate? But do not trouble my sad heart still more, or I might forget the command of Zeus and fail to spare you, no matter how humbly you plead.”

Priam trembled and was silent. But Achilles leaped from the house like a lion, and after him his comrades. They unyoked the mules and admitted the herald. Then they took the ransom from the wagon, but they left in it two mantles and a tunic, so that the body of Hector might be fittingly covered. After this Achilles had the corpse washed, anointed, clothed, and laid on a bier. As his companions lifted it on the wagon, he called the name of his friend and said: “If, in the night of the underworld, you should hear that I gave Hector’s body to his father, do not be angry with me, Patroclus. He brought no mean ransom, and you shall have your share of it.”

He re-entered the house, seated himself opposite Priam, and said: “Your son has been ransomed, as you desired. He lies properly clad, and as soon as the sky reddens with dawn, you may see him and take him away with you. But now let us eat the evening meal. You will have time enough to lament your son when you return to Troy, and he well deserves all the tears you will shed for him.” So saying, the hero rose from his seat, hastened out, and slaughtered a sheep. His friends flayed it, cut the meat into pieces, and roasted them on a spit. Then they sat down at the board. Automedon passed each his share of bread in a basket skillfully plaited; Achilles dispensed the meat, and all satisfied their hunger and thirst. Priam watched his host wonderingly, for in beauty and strength he was like the immortals. But Achilles too marvelled whenever he looked at Priam’s face, full of majesty and command, or heard the wise words he uttered. When the meal was over, Priam said: “Now assign me a couch, noble Achilles, that I may refresh myself with sleep, for since my son died, my lids have not closed, and this is the first time I have tasted meat and wine.”

Instantly Achilles bade his handmaids prepare a couch with crimson mats and spread it with soft coverlets. The herald had a couch of his own. Then Achilles said: “And now lie down and sleep, old man. For if you went to your couch later in the evening, one of the Argive princes who have the custom of assembling in my house might see you prowling through the dark and report it to Agamemnon. And he might question my right to dispose of Hector’s body as I wish. But tell me one thing more: how many days will you spend on the burial of your son? I ask because during all that time I shall keep my people from attacking your city.”

“If you permit me to bury my son with all honors,” Priam replied, “then allow me eleven days. You know that we live in a city and must fetch wood for his pyre from the mountains, and that is a long way. We shall need nine days for our preparations. On the tenth we shall bury him and hold the funeral feast and on the eleventh heap the burial mound. On the twelfth—if it must be so—we shall be ready to fight again.”

“It shall be as you say,” answered Achilles. “I shall restrain my warriors for the number of days you ask.” As he spoke he clasped his hand around the old man’s right wrist, in order to take from him all fear. Then Priam went to his couch, and Achilles lay down in the innermost room of his house.

All were asleep except Hermes, and he pondered in his mind how he could lead the king of Troy back from the ships unseen. At last he went to Priam where he lay asleep, stood at the head of his couch, and said: “Old man, is not your sleep among hostile men a little too untroubled? They have spared you, it is true. They took your rich ransom and consented to give you the body of your son. But if Agamemnon and the other Argives knew of it, your sons at home would have to ransom you, the living, with three times as much.” The old man sat up in alarm and woke the herald. Hermes himself yoked the horses and mules and mounted the chariot with the king. Idaeus drove the wagon on which the body lay. Unnoticed they rode through their enemies, and soon the camp of the Achaeans lay behind them.


Hermes accompanied the king as far as the ford of the Scamander. There he left the chariot and soared to the peak of Olympus. Priam and the herald went on alone, sighing and groaning with grief. It was early morning when they reached the city. All were asleep, and no one saw them coming except Cassandra. She had climbed to the ramparts of the palace and, from afar, saw her father standing in the chariot, saw the herald with the wagon drawn by mules, and on it the body of Hector. At the sight which met her eyes she began to weep and cried so loudly that the silent city rang with her lament: “Come, you Trojan men and women! Here is Hector—alas! only the body of Hector! If ever you rejoiced in him while he was alive and returned victorious from the battlefield, then greet him now too, now that he is dead!”

At her call, every man and woman in the city came from his house, and the hearts of all were bursting with grief. At the gates the people of Troy, Hector’s mother and wife in their van, met the herald. Hecuba and Andromache tore their hair and rushed toward the wagon to clasp Hector’s head. Weeping throngs surrounded them, and they would have held the wagon there until evening, had not Priam spoken to them from his chariot. “Make way and let the mules pass. When the body lies in my palace, you may weep your fill.” The people reverently fell to the right and left and let the wagon proceed.

When it reached the palace of Priam, the body was laid on a couch, richly adorned. Singers were called to chant dirges, and the women wailed in chorus. Andromache uttered the bitterest lament. In the flower of life she stood before the corpse and touched his head with her hands. “My husband,” she mourned, “you have lost your life and left me behind, a widow with a little son, who, I fear, will never grow into a youth. For now that you, the defender of our city, the protector of women and children, are gone, Troy will be destroyed! All will be taken captive and led to the ships, and I among them. And you, my darling Astyanax, will share the disgrace of your mother. Both of us will have to work under a harsh lord. Or perhaps an Argive will take you by the arm and hurl you from the tower, because your father slew his father or brother or son. For Hector did not spare his foes in battle! You have caused your parents bitter grief, and bitterest of all to me. I could not hold your hand as you lay dying. You did not give me a single word of farewell, a word of wisdom which night and day I might have treasured in my heart with fond memories and tears.”

After Andromache, Hecuba spoke. “Hector,” she lamented, “my cherished son! The gods too loved you, for they did not forget you in the cruel death you suffered. You were slain with the sword and dragged over the ground, and yet you look unharmed, as if an arrow from Apollo’s silver bow had struck you, swiftly and mercifully.” So she spoke, comforting herself and shedding many tears.

Then Helen spoke. “Hector,” she cried, “you were dearest to me of all my husband’s brothers. Twenty years have passed since Paris took me from my native land, and in all that time I never heard a harsh word from your lips. It is true that King Priam was also gentle with me, but when anyone else in the house, a brother or sister of my husband, his mother or the wife of one of his brothers reproached me, it was you who calmed their anger, you who always smoothed my way. In you I have lost a helper and a friend. Now everyone will turn from me in disgust.”

So she spoke weeping, and all the countless people about her sighed. But now Priam raised his voice above the throng of mourners. “Fetch wood for the pyre, Trojans,” he ordered. “And be careful not to fall into an ambush, for Achaeans may be lurking in wait for you, even though the son of Peleus promised me that no harm would come to us for eleven days.”

The people quickly obeyed. They harnessed oxen and mules to their wagons, and all assembled before the city. For nine days they fetched wood from the forested mountain slopes. On the tenth morning Hector’s body was carried out with loud lament. They laid it on the pyre and set it aflame. And all the people stood about and watched it burn to the ground. Then they quenched the glowing ashes with wine, and the brothers and comrades-in-arms of the dead gathered his white bones from among the ashes, wrapped them in cloths of soft crimson stuff, put them in a golden chest, and lowered this into a grave. Blocks of stone were laid on it, and a burial mound heaped over these. All the while men kept watch, for fear the Argives might suddenly attack and disturb the rites. When the earth was piled high over the grave, the people returned to the city, and a solemn feast for the dead was held in Priam’s palace.


When Hector’s burial was over, the Trojans again stayed behind their walls, for they feared the impetuous strength of the son of Peleus and shrank from going anywhere near him, like oxen that balk and shy away from the den of a mountain lion. The city still resounded with lament for the hero who was dead, and the anguish of the people was as great as though Troy itself were already burning with the firebrands of the conqueror.

In the midst of all this grief and terror, help came to the besieged from an unexpected quarter. From the region around the river Thermodon in Pontus, Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, arrived with a small group of her warrior women to aid the Trojans in their war. She had embarked on this enterprise partly because she had that love of danger and battles peculiar to the Amazons, and partly because she was guilty of a crime she had committed unknowingly, and which had lessened the esteem she commanded among her people. For once, on a hunt, when she had aimed her spear at a stag, she had killed her own beloved sister Hippolyte. And now the Furies pursued her wherever she went, and no offering she had made so far had appeased them. She hoped that an expedition pleasing to the gods would end her disgrace, and so she had left for Troy with twelve chosen companions, all of whom shared her thirst for strife and danger. But compared with Penthesilea these companions of hers, lovely though they were, seemed like slaves. As the radiance of the moon dims the light of the stars, so greatly did she outshine her maidens in beauty and splendor. She was glorious as the goddess of dawn when, with the Hours about her, she leaves the heights of Olympus and floats to the rim of the earth.

When the Trojans looked down from their walls and saw Penthesilea, strong and yet delicately made, clad in brazen armor and gleaming greaves, approaching at the head of her women, they streamed together from all sides. And when the little train drew nearer, they marvelled at the beauty of the queen, for in her face majesty and charm were curiously blended. Her lips smiled, and under her long lashes her eyes were shining and young. Her rosy cheeks looked girlish, but her features were more spirited than a girl’s, lively and afire for action. At sight of her, the Trojans forgot their despair and shouted with delight. Even Priam’s heart was gladdened when he saw Penthesilea, and he felt like one who has been in darkness for a long time and now sees the longed-for light. But his joy was dulled by the memory of the many sons he had lost. He conducted the queen to his palace, honored her as though she were his own daughter, and received her as a cherished guest. At his command priceless gifts were spread out before her, and he promised her even more, should she succeed in saving Troy.

Then the Amazon queen rose from the seat of honor to which the king had bidden her and dared swear an oath which no other mortal would have dreamed of taking. She pledged the king the death of godlike Achilles. She and her women, she said, would destroy the Argives; their firebrands would eat their way through all the enemy ships. In ignorance and folly Penthesilea swore this oath, for she did not yet know the terrible arm of peerless Achilles. When Andromache, Hector’s widow, heard her words, she thought to herself: “Poor creature! You do not know what you have said, or what, in your pride, you are venturing upon. How could you have the strength to overcome that hero? You are out of your mind! You do not even see Death who already confronts you. Hector, my husband, was honored by his people as though he were a god, and yet the son of Peleus pierced his neck with the spear. Oh, that earth would open to devour me!”

These things Andromache said to herself. Meantime the day was drawing to a close. Penthesilea and her retinue were served with food and drink and shown to the couches prepared for them. The Amazon queen soon fell fast asleep. And then, at Athene’s command, she had a dream sent to hasten her destruction. Ares, her father, appeared to her and urged her to battle with Achilles as soon as possible. At his words her heart leaped in her breast, and she thought that on that very day she would accomplish what she had sworn to Priam. She woke, sprang from her couch, and girt on the shining armor Ares himself had given her. She fastened the golden greaves to her legs and donned the glittering cuirass. Across her shoulder she slung her sword in its scabbard of silver and ivory. Then she took her shield, bright as the moon when it rises from the mirror of the sea, and set on her head her helmet with its crest of yellow gold. In her left hand she held two spears and in her right a double axe which she had received from the goddess of discord. When she stormed out of the palace, slender and dazzling in all her array, she looked like a flash of lightning flung to earth from Olympus.

Jubilant and eager she ran to the wall and urged the Trojans to fight and win glory for themselves and their city. At her call, men who had not dared face dread Achilles quickened with new courage and prepared for battle. But Penthesilea herself, impatient for the onslaught, leaped on her beautiful horse, fleet as the harpies. The wife of Boreas, king of Thrace, had made her a gift of it. Her women also mounted their horses and followed her to the field. Many battalions of Trojan warriors accompanied them. King Priam, who had remained behind in the palace, raised his hands to heaven and prayed to Zeus: “Today, O father Zeus, let the Achaeans roll in the dust before the daughter of Ares, but guide Penthesilea herself safely back to my city. Do this in honor of Ares, your mighty son! Do it for love of her who sprang from a god and is herself so like an immortal. And do it for my sake too, for I have suffered much and lost so many of my sons to the Argives. Do it while some are left of the noble line of Dardanus, while the ancient city of Troy still stands!” But hardly had he finished when an eagle screamed at his left. With powerful strokes of his mighty pinions he cut the air, holding in his talons a mangled dove. At this evil omen the old man shuddered and gave himself up to despair.

In the meantime, the Argives, to their great surprise, saw the Trojans whom they had come to regard as cowards rush forward like beasts of prey who run from the mountains to throw themselves on the herds grazing in the valley. Full of astonishment one said to the other: “Who can have rallied the Trojans? Since Hector’s death they seemed to have lost all heart to fight us. It must be a god who had pity on them! But we too have gods on our side; we have kept the enemy at bay up to now, and we shall fend them off today as well.” With this they seized their arms and swept from the ships to the battlefield. And now with clang and clatter of shields and spears the fight began, and soon there was blood underfoot. Penthesilea and her women raged among the Argive warriors. She herself slew Molion and seven others. But when the Amazon Clonia felled Menippus, the friend of mighty Podarces, he became infuriated and pierced her hip with his lance. Penthesilea slashed at his hand with her sword, but she was too late to save her friend. And now Fortune favored the Argives. Idomeneus dealt a death blow to Bremusa, Meriones slew Euandra and Thermodoa. Derione died from a wound inflicted by Ajax, son of Oileus. The son of Tydeus killed Alcibia and Derimachia at the same instant, for his sweeping swordstroke cut both their heads from their shoulders. When they had done with the women, they turned to the Trojans. Sthenelus slew Cabirus of Sestos, but himself escaped death, for the arrow Paris aimed at him missed. The ruthless Fates guided its flight to a fellow Argive, to Euenor of Dulichium. His death roused Meges, the leader of the Dulichians, son of King Phyleus, to grief and fury. Like a lion he sprang at the Trojans and slew two of their bravest allies, Itymoneus and Agelaus of Miletus, and as many others as his spear could reach.

But Penthesilea was still unhurt and fought so fiercely that the Argives retreated before her thrusts. Drunk with success she called to them: “Today, you dogs, you shall atone for the suffering you have inflicted on Priam! Beasts and birds shall feed on your rotting flesh. Not one of you shall ever see his wife and child again, and no burial mound will be heaped above your bones. Where is Diomedes? Where is Ajax, son of Telamon? And where is the son of Peleus, where is Achilles? The best in your host do not dare measure their strength against mine! And why? Because they know that I should make corpses of them!” When she had spoken these arrogant words, she went on fighting, full of contempt for her foes. Now she wielded the axe, now the lance, or she reached for her quiver full of arrows, which her swift horse carried for her. In her wake came the sons of Priam and the best among the Trojans. At first the Danai could not stand against this massed attack. They fell like leaves in the wind or drops of rain; the field was covered with their bodies, and the horses of the Trojan war chariots trod them underfoot as if they were threshing grain. The Trojans felt as though an immortal had come from heaven to help them curb their foes, and they gave themselves up to foolish joy, to the belief that they had already vanquished the Argives.

But the clash and cry of battle had not yet reached mighty Ajax or Achilles, the son of a goddess. Both were far away, at the grave of Patroclus, and were letting their thoughts dwell on their slain friend. For such was the will of Fate who had appointed a few hours of brilliant victory for the Amazon queen, so that she might die wreathed in glory. The women of Troy stood on the walls of their city and acclaimed the deeds of Penthesilea. One of them, Hippodamia, the wife of Tisiphonus, was suddenly infected with the desire to fight. “My sisters,” she cried to those about her, “why do we not fight like our men? Why do we not defend our city and our children? We are not so much weaker than the youths of Troy. Our eyes are just as keen, our knees as supple as theirs. Light and air and food we share with them. Why should we not share their battles as well? Look at that woman in the field! She looms above all the men. And she does not even belong to our line, but is fighting for a king not her own, for a city which is not her home. Yet see how savagely she mows down her opponents! Now, if we fought, it would be for our own welfare and to avenge the wrong done to our own people. Is there a single one of us who has not lost a father, a husband, a child, a brother, or a near kinsman? And if our men are defeated, what awaits us but serfdom? So let us not loiter here a moment longer. Rather die than be carried off as spoils with our little children, when our husbands are killed and the city has gone up in flames!”

Thus spoke Hippodamia, and at her words all the women burned with the zeal to fight. They tossed aside their wools and their weaving, scattered like a swarm of bees, and girded themselves with whatever weapons they found in their houses. And all would have died, victims of ill-considered enthusiasm, had not Hecuba’s sister, Theano, the wife of Antenor, she who was wiser than the rest, opposed their headstrong ardor. She tried to reason with them: “What folly!” she cried as they prepared to stream through the gates. “You think you can fight the Achaeans, fight men practiced in the use of weapons, in the art of war? How can you even dream of competing with them! You have not been trained to fight like the Amazons! You have not learned to handle horses and to excel in the other occupations of men. And besides, Penthesilea is the daughter of the war-god, and you the children of ordinary mortals. That is why you must keep to the life of woman, shun the battlefield, stay in your houses, and ply the spindle. Leave war to our men. They are still unconquered! They are still defending Troy. Things have not come to such a pass that they need help from their womenfolk.”

With her wise words, aged Theano gradually succeeded in calming the excited women. Reluctantly they returned to their lookout on the wall and contented themselves with watching the battle from afar. Penthesilea fought untiringly, and the Argives fled from her and scattered here and there, some fully armed, while others had thrown their weapons to the ground. Horses and chariots, deprived of their charioteers, blundered in all directions. The groans of the wounded and the screams of the dying resounded over the field, for the spear of the Amazon queen dealt death wherever she appeared.

Nearer and nearer the Trojans came to the Argive camp. They had reached the ships and were about to burn them when Ajax, son of Telamon, at last heard the roar of battle. He raised his head from the burial mound of Patroclus and said to Achilles: “I hear the clash of arms and a confused din as if a battle were being waged nearby. Let us go to fend off the Trojans, for we want to keep them from our camp and from burning the ships!” Achilles roused himself at his words and listened, and now he too heard the clatter and the cries. Quickly the two girt on their shining armor and hurried toward the sounds.

A tremor of hope quickened the broken ranks of the Argives when they saw the bravest of their heroes running toward them. Ajax and Achilles threw themselves wholeheartedly into the battle. They divided the work between them: Ajax slew the Trojan leaders, while Achilles set upon the Amazons. Four of these quickly fell before his onslaught. Then both stormed against the bulk of the enemy army with united strength; soon the ranks of the foe showed great gaps, and those who remained were thrown into confusion.

When Penthesilea saw this, she ran to meet Ajax and Achilles as furiously as a panther rushes at the hunters. But they only stretched until their brazen armor creaked, and brandished their lances. The Amazon chose Achilles as her first target and hurled her spear at him, but it rebounded from his shield and splintered. And now she aimed her second lance at Ajax and called to both: “Even though I missed at the first throw, my second shall drain strength and life from the two of you who boast of being the strongest in the Argive host. Soon you will discover that a woman can do more than both of you put together!” Her words did little more than amuse the heroes, but her lance grazed the silver greaves of Ajax. Much as she would have liked to revel in his blood, she had not even scratched the skin, for the metal repelled her weapon, and it glanced off. Ajax did not deign to notice the Amazon, but rushed at the Trojans, leaving Penthesilea to Achilles, for he never doubted that his friend could slay her unaided, as easily as a hawk kills a dove.

When Penthesilea saw that her second throw had also failed, she heaved a great sigh, but Achilles measured her with his glance and called to her: “Tell me, woman, how did you summon courage to confront us, the most powerful heroes on earth, sprung from the blood of the Thunderer himself, us, before whom Hector trembled and fell? You must be mad to threaten us with death, for your own last hour is come.” With these words he cast the lance which Chiron, his teacher, had made for Peleus, the lance which never missed its mark. It struck the Amazon above the right breast; the dark blood gushed from the wound, and her strength failed her. The axe fell from her hand, and her eyes dimmed. But with a great effort she retained consciousness and looked straight at her enemy, running toward her to drag her from her horse. For a moment she hesitated whether to draw her sword and defend herself, or dismount and buy her life from the victor with gold and bronze. But Achilles left her no time to decide one way or the other. In his blind rage at her pride, he pierced horse and rider with one mighty thrust. And she slipped down in the dust, impaled on the spear, quivering and leaning back against her horse which also lay dying. She was like a slender pine which the north wind has broken.

When the Trojans saw that she had fallen, they retreated to their city, lamenting her death as if she had been one of their own kinswomen. But the son of Peleus cried exultantly: “Lie there, poor creature, where dogs and birds can feed on your flesh! Who set you on to fight with me? Priam probably promised you priceless gifts as a reward for slaying Argives. But your reward was quite different from what you expected!” So he said and drew the spear from her body and the horse’s, and one last shudder ran through both. Then he took off her helmet and looked at the face of the foe he had slain. Although it was stained with dust and blood, her features were noble and lovely even in death, and the Achaeans who stood around the body marvelled at her great beauty; she looked like Artemis, sleeping after the heat of the chase over the wooded mountain slopes. Achilles could not take his eyes from her lips and brow. He grew more and more sorrowful, for he was struck by the thought that, instead of slaying, he should have taken her to wife and brought her back with him to Phthia.

But Ares, Penthesilea’s father, was more than all others saddened by her death. Swift as lightning and with the roar of thunder he descended from Olympus fully armed and strode across the peaks and chasms of Mount Ida. The heights and valleys shook beneath his tread. And he would have brought sure destruction to the Argives had not Zeus warned him off by unleashing a tempest over his head. Through the howl of the gale and the booming in the clouds, Ares recognized the voice of the father of gods, the friend of the Danai, and stopped halfway to the battlefield. He stood here irresolute, not knowing whether to return to Olympus, or, in defiance of Zeus, to stain his hands with the blood of Achilles. But he remembered how many of his sons Zeus had killed for rebelling against his command, and how even he, the war-god, had not been able to save them from death. So he thought better of it, for he had no wish to be silenced forever by lightning and hurled down to the underworld to bear the Titans company.

In the meantime, many Achaeans had crowded around the body of Penthesilea and began to strip her of her arms. But Achilles stood by silently, he who had been willing to leave her exposed to dogs and birds only a short time ago. With aching grief he looked down at her, and the anguish in his heart was as bitter as his mourning for Patroclus, his friend.

Among the Argives who had thronged to the spot was ugly Thersites who now began to taunt the son of Peleus. “What a fool you are,” he exclaimed. “A fool to regret the death of this woman who pursued us and brought misfortune with her. You are a weakling, a lover of women, to stand there filled with regret and longing for her beauty. It should have been her lance that slew you in battle, you who never have enough, who think that all women must fall to your share!” When Achilles heard such words from the lips of so wretched a man, he was filled with uncontrollable fury. With his bare fist he struck Thersites on the cheek so hard that his teeth flew out of his mouth, a stream of blood gushed from his throat, and he doubled up on the ground and breathed his last. Not one of all those who watched was sorry for him, for his only business had been to make mock of others, though both in the field and in council he had proved himself a coward and a fool, over and again. Achilles voiced the feeling of all when he said: “Here you shall lie, here in the dust, and forget your folly. For it is folly for a base man to place himself on a level with his betters. Just as you sneered at me now, you sneered at Odysseus before me, only that he was too generous to punish you. But now you have learned that the son of Peleus cannot be taunted with impunity. Go now, and mock the shadows in Hades.”

In the entire Argive army there was only one who was galled at the death of Thersites: Diomedes, son of Tydeus, and he was angry because the dead man was of his own blood, for his grandfather Oeneus and the father of Thersites had been brothers. This was why Diomedes blazed with wrath at the son of Peleus. He would have raised his sword against him, had not some of the noblest among the Achaeans intervened.

Out of pity and admiration for the slain Amazon queen, the sons of Atreus granted Priam’s request to surrender her body to him, so that he might bury her bones with all honors in the tomb of King Laomedon. Before the city the king of Troy had a great pyre heaped for her and laid the corpse on it, and many splendid gifts besides. Then he lit the pile of wood, and the flames darted up. When the body was consumed, the Trojans quenched the fire with fragrant wine. Then they collected her bones, put them in a precious chest, and in solemn procession bore this to the tomb of King Laomedon which was situated near one of the towers of the city. With her they buried her twelve women who had fallen in battle.

The Argives also buried their dead and mourned them, above all Podarces who had now followed his brother Protesilaus whom Hector had slain. His burial mound was heaped apart from the rest; it loomed so high that it was a landmark visible far and wide. Last of all they buried Thersites and then returned to their ships, full of gratitude to mighty Achilles who again had proved himself the rescuer of his people. When night came the noblest of the heroes banqueted in the house of the sons of Atreus, and the other Argives too feasted in the camp and then slept until dawn reddened the sky.


When the sun rose over Troy it shone on a troubled city. On the ramparts were the Trojans, keeping anxious watch, for they feared that at any moment the victor might come, set ladders against the walls, and burn up the town. Then an old man by the name of Thymoetes rose in the council and said: “Friends! In vain have I tried to think of some way to ward off destruction. Now that Hector has died at the hands of indomitable Achilles, I believe that even if a god fought on our side he would fall in the fight. Did not the son of Peleus kill the Amazon, before whom the other Argives trembled? And this in spite of the fact that she was so strong and gallant that all of us took her for a goddess and rejoiced at the mere sight of her! And so we must consider whether it might not be best for us to leave this unfortunate city, which is doomed to destruction, and settle elsewhere, in some safe place which the vengeful Danai could not reach.”

So said Thymoetes. Then Priam rose in the assembly and answered him. “You, my friend,” he said, “and all you Trojans and allies: let us not give up our beloved city and face even greater dangers than here by trying to fight our way through the foes who surround us on all sides. At least let us wait until Memnon comes, Memnon the Ethiopian, from the land of black men. He is already on his way to bring us help with a countless host. Much time has passed since I dispatched a messenger to him. Wait just a little longer. For even if we all should die in the battle for our city that would be better than leading a poor and inglorious life among strangers.”

And now Polydamas intervened between these two who held such opposing views. He was both shrewd and deliberate and expressed his opinion in well-chosen words. “I shall be glad to see Memnon. But I fear that he and all the men he brings with him will fall in our behalf and only plunge us into still greater distress. All the same, I do not believe we should leave the land of our fathers. My suggestion is that even at this late day we surrender the cause of the whole war—Helen and everything she brought with her from Sparta! Let us give her back to the Argives before they divide all our possessions between them and set fire to our city.”

In their hearts the Trojans agreed with these words and applauded them, but they did not dare contradict their king openly. Paris however, Helen’s husband, accused Polydamas, the well-wisher of the Argives as he called him, of rank cowardice. “The man who gives such counsel,” he said, “would be the first to flee in battle. Think well, Trojans, if it is really wise to follow the counsel of such as he.”

Polydamas knew very well that Paris would not relinquish Helen and would rather rouse the army to revolt, rather die than renounce her. So he said nothing in reply, and all the assembly sat in silence. While they were still sunk in thought, news came that Memnon was approaching. The Trojans felt like sailors when, after a storm which promised sure death, they see the stars shining in the sky once more. But King Priam was gladdest of all, for he did not doubt that with the aid of the Ethiopians, the Trojans would succeed in burning the Argive fleet.

So when Memnon, the son of Eos, arrived, the king honored him and his men with precious gifts and festive banquets. And the hearts of the Trojans grew lighter as they talked of the deeds of their fallen heroes. Memnon, on his part, told them about his immortal parents, Tithonus and Eos, about the boundless sea and the ends of the earth, the rising of the sun and the long, long way he had journeyed from the shores of the ocean to the peaks of Ida and the city of King Priam, and all the adventures of travel which he had met boldly and well. It cheered Priam to listen to him. Full of friendly warmth he seized his hand and said: “Memnon, how I thank the gods for having let me, an old man, live to see you and your army, and to entertain you in my palace! You, more than any other mortal, are like the gods, and that is why I am confident that you will slaughter our foes.” And the king lifted his golden cup and drank to his new ally.

Memnon marvelled at the beautiful cup, the work of Hephaestus, an heirloom passed from one Trojan king to his son. Then he replied: “It would not be proper for me to boast at the feast and to make too-confident promises. So I shall not give you my answer now but enjoy this banquet in peace and think over the preparations which are necessary for our enterprise. It is in battle that a man must show his valor. Let us retire early and sleep, for too much wine and a giddy night would be an ill beginning for the fight which awaits us.” With this he rose from the board, and Priam was careful not to urge him to stay. The other guests followed Memnon’s example.

Now, while mortal men were asleep, the gods were still feasting in the palace of Zeus and discussing the war of Troy. Zeus, son of Cronus, who saw the future as clearly as the present, was the last to speak. “It is useless to concern yourselves, some for the Argives, others for the Trojans! For you will see countless men and horses fall on both sides. And though one or the other of you may have the welfare of this or that hero at heart, do not dream of coming to me and pleading for a son or a friend, for the goddesses of fate are just as implacable toward me as toward you!”

Not one of the immortals dared contradict the father of gods. Silently they left the feast. Each went to his own house and threw himself sadly on his couch until at last Sleep had pity on the gods as well as on men.

The next morning Eos rose in the sky reluctantly, for she too had heard the words of Zeus and divined the fate in store for her son. Memnon had wakened early. The stars were just paling when he shook sleep—his last on earth—from his lashes and leaped from his couch impatient to fight the Argives. Trojans and Ethiopians girt on their armor, and like a train of dark clouds driven by the wind the battalions streamed out of the gates and into the field. The whole road was jammed with a moving throng, and their feet stirred up the dust.

The Achaeans saw them coming and were amazed. In great haste they too seized their weapons and came forward from the ships, Achilles, in whom they placed their trust, in the center. Erect and proud he stood in his chariot, like the thunderbolt in the hand of Zeus. But in the middle of the Trojan army, no less proud and menacing than Achilles, came Memnon, and he resembled Ares himself. Round about him were his many men, all of them obedient to his word and eager to begin the fight. The hosts were like two seas which rolled toward each other and clashed wave on wave. Swords hissed through the air, spears whirred, and battle cries mingled with the moans of the dying. Trojan after Trojan fell from the thrusts of Achilles who raged like a tempest which tears up trees by the roots and topples houses and walls. But Memnon also sowed destruction among the Achaeans. He slew two comrades-in-arms of Nestor, and now he was close to the old man from Pylos himself and would have slain him, for one of his horses had been wounded by an arrow from the bow of Paris; this slowed the chariot just as Memnon came running with lifted lance. In alarm Nestor called to his son Antilochus, and his cry was heard. Quickly Antilochus came, placed himself in front of his father, and cast his spear at the Ethiopian. He sprang to one side, and the missile hit Ethops, his friend, the son of Pyrrhasus. At that, Memnon rushed at Antilochus like a lion at a boar. The youth hurled a stone at his assailant, but it bounded back from his helmet. And now Memnon’s lance pierced him to the heart, and Antilochus bought his father’s rescue at the cost of his own life.

When the Achaeans saw him fall, they were deeply distressed, but his father grieved most bitterly because it was for his sake that his son had been killed before his very eyes. But he had enough presence of mind to call Thrasymedes, one of his other sons, to drive the murderer away from his brother’s body. Above the din of battle he heard the call, and Phereus went with him. Memnon was so sure of himself that he let them come quite close. All the spears they hurled at him flew past his armor, on which his mother Eos had laid a spell. They did, indeed, reach a target, but never that at which they were aimed. While they were striking down other enemy warriors, Memnon began to strip Antilochus of his armor, and the Argives circled their slain companion, just as howling jackals prowl about the stag which the lion is tearing. When Nestor saw that their efforts were in vain, he groaned aloud, called to other friends, and even dismounted from his chariot in a desperate attempt to save the body of his son. But when Memnon saw him, he met him reverently, as though he were his own father. “Old man,” he said, “for me to fight you would not be fitting. From a distance I took you for a young warrior, and that is why I aimed my lance at you. Now I see that you are far older than I thought. Leave the battlefield, for my heart rebels against striking you down into the dust beside your son. As for you, men would call you a fool for daring so unequal a combat.”

But Nestor replied: “What you have just said, Memnon, is untrue. No one in the world would say ‘fool!’ to the man who fights for the body of his son, who tries to drive the cruel slayer from it. Oh, had you only known me when I was young! Now, to be sure, I am like an old lion which every dog can keep from the herd. But you will see that I can still hold my own with many a man, that my old age forces me to yield only to the hardiest.” Thus said Nestor and retreated, leaving his son on the ground. Thrasymedes and Phereus went with him, and now Memnon and his Ethiopians forged ahead unhindered, and the Argives fled before their thrusts.

Nestor turned to Achilles. “Protector of the Argives!” he addressed him. “See, there lies my son—dead. Memnon has taken his weapons. Soon the dogs will tear his flesh. Come and help! For the only true friend is he who defends the body of his slain comrade.” Achilles listened intently, and profound sadness weighed his spirit when he saw the Ethiopians felling the Danai in droves. Up to this moment the son of Peleus had been fighting the Trojans, many of whom he had slain. Now he abandoned them and turned his attention to Memnon alone. When the son of Eos saw him coming, he grasped a huge stone and flung it at the shield of his foe, but the stone rebounded and Achilles, who had left his chariot behind the lines, had at Memnon on foot and wounded his right shoulder with his spear. The Ethiopian ignored the thrust and ran forward and lunged at Achilles with his mighty lance. It struck the hero’s arm, and the blood flowed from the wound. At that Memnon exulted and cried: “You wretch! You slew the Trojans without mercy, but now you are face to face with the son of a goddess, with a foe you are not equal to, for Eos, my mother, who dwells on Olympus, is more powerful than Thetis, your mother, who lives in the sea with fish and monsters.”

But Achilles only smiled and said: “The outcome will show which of us is descended from better parents. For now I shall avenge the death of young Antilochus as once I took vengeance on Hector for the death of Patroclus, my friend.”

With that he gripped his long spear in both hands, and Memnon did the same with his. They rushed at each other, and Zeus made them taller and stronger and more tireless than ordinary mortals, so that neither could down the other. They came so close that the crests of their helmets touched. In vain they tried to wound each other above the greaves or below the cuirass. Their armor clanged. Ethiopians, Trojans, and Argives sounded their battle cries to heaven. The dust danced under their feet, and while their leaders fought, the men too flung about in fierce battle. The Olympians watched from their lofty lookout and took pleasure in the undecided struggle. Some rejoiced in the strength of the son of Peleus, others in Memnon’s steadfast resistance, according to whether they were friends or kinsmen of one or the other of the two heroes. And a quarrel would have broken out among the gods, had not Zeus summoned two of the Fates and ordered the dark goddess to go to Memnon, the shining one to Achilles. At this command loud cries rang out on Olympus, cries of delight and of despair.

But the two fought on unaware of the presence of the goddesses of Fate. They used swords, lances, and stones. Neither yielded. Both stood solid as rock. And the combat of their men was just as stubborn. Blood and sweat streamed from their bodies, and the earth was littered with the slain. But in the end the Fates swayed the issue. Achilles thrust his lance into Memnon’s breast, thrust so deeply that the point came out at his back and he crashed to the ground in a pool of blood.

And now the Trojans fled, and Achilles pursued them like a tempest while his friends stripped his fallen foe of his arms. Up in heaven Eos uttered a mournful sigh. She veiled herself in heavy cloud, and the earth was covered with darkness. At her command her children, the winds, flew down to the field, seized the body of her son from under the hands of his enemies, and bore it away through the air. All that was left of him on earth were the drops of blood which fell from him as he was carried through space. These merged to a crimson river which every year, on the day of Memnon’s death, lapped the base of Mount Ida and flowed through the plain with a stench of decay. The winds carried their burden low over the earth, and the Ethiopians, who could not bear to part from their dead king, followed along the ground groaning with sorrow, until the corpse vanished from the sight of both Trojans and Argives. The winds set it down on the bank of the Aesepus, and the lovely daughters of the river-god prepared a burial place in a quiet grove. Then Eos descended from heaven, and she and the nymphs buried Memnon and heaped the mound, weeping and sighing. The Trojans, who had returned to their city, also mourned the Ethiopian king with true sorrow. Even the Argives could not take unalloyed pleasure in their victory. They praised Achilles for his prowess and called him the pride of their host, but they wept with Nestor for his dear son Antilochus. And so that night the battlefield resounded with cries of triumph and grief.


In the morning the Pylians carried the body of Antilochus, the son of their king, to the ships and buried him on the shore of the Hellespont. Old Nestor curbed his anguish, and his spirit remained steadfast and calm. But Achilles found no peace. At crack of dawn his fury over the death of his friend drove him toward the Trojans who had already left the shelter of their walls. They too were eager for the fight, even though they trembled at the thought of godlike Achilles. And again the two hosts joined in battle. The son of Peleus slew countless foes and pursued the Trojans to their very gates. There, conscious that his powers were more than human, he prepared to Uft the gates from their hinges, break the bolts, and lay the city of Priam open to the Argives.

But Phoebus Apollo, looking down on the plain strewn with corpses, felt anger rise within him. Like a beast of prey intent on its quarry he descended from Olympus and slung over his shoulder was his quiver jangling with deadly arrows. Thus he faced the son of Peleus. His eyes darted flame, and the earth quaked under his tread. And now he raised his voice and thundered at Achilles: “Let the Trojans be, son of Peleus! Make an end of this slaughter! Beware, lest one of the immortals destroy you!”

Achilles recognized the voice of the god perfectly, but he did not recoil in fear. Ignoring the warning he replied: “Why do you spur me on to fight with gods, by always favoring the Trojans? Once before you roused me to fury by snatching Hector out of my hands. Now I advise you to go back to the other gods, for if you do not, my spear will surely strike you, even though you are immortal!”

With these words he turned from Apollo and back to the Trojans. But Phoebus, in grim resentment, shrouded himself in cloud, fitted an arrow to his string, and through the impenetrable mist shot the son of Peleus in his vulnerable heel. A stinging pain darted from his foot to the heart of Achilles, and he toppled like a tower from under which men have dug the foundation. Lying on the ground he glared angrily in all directions and shouted: “Who was it shot that arrow at me from far away? Oh, if only he faced me in open combat, I should drag out his entrails and spill his cursed blood until his spirit fled to the underworld! But cowards always kill the brave from ambush! Let him hear that—even if he be a god! For alas! I fear it was Apollo. Thetis, my mother, once told me that I should die from the shaft of Phoebus, and I fear that now her words have come true.”

Thus moaning, Achilles drew the arrow from the wound which could not be healed. When he saw the black blood spurt from it, he flung the dart furiously from him. Apollo picked it up and took it back to Olympus, and a cloud hung about him as he went. When he reached the heights of heaven, he shed his garment of mist and mingled with the other gods. Hera, the friend of the Argives, noticed his presence and began to upbraid him for what he had done. “That was an evil deed,” she said. “Did you not feast at the wedding of Peleus like the rest of the gods? Did you not sing and raise your cup and drink to the children he would have? But in spite of it all you have just killed his only son. And you slew him because you envied him! Foolish Apollo! How, after this, can you face the daughter of Nereus?”

Apollo was silent. He seated himself a little apart from the other gods and bowed his head. Some of the Olympians were indignant at what he had done, others thanked him in their heart of hearts. But down on earth the dark blood of Achilles still seethed in his mighty limbs. He burned with the lust to fight, and not a Trojan dared approach him, even though he was wounded. Once more he leaped from the ground, brandished his spear, and rushed at his foes. He struck Orythaon, the friend of his old enemy Hector. The point pierced the left temple and went through to the brain. Then he thrust his spear into the eye of Hipponous, gored the cheek of Alcathous, and slew many more besides. Suddenly he felt a coldness creeping through his limbs. He stood still and leaned on his lance. But the Trojans kept on fleeing before him, for his voice pursued them even after his feet could not. “Run for all you are worth!” he roared. “It won’t help you any. My weapons will reach you just the same, for when I am dead the gods of vengeance will punish you!” And they trembled as they ran, for they thought he was still whole and sound. But now his limbs stiffened. He fell among the other dead. The earth shook, and his armor clanged upon him.

The first to see him down was Paris, his deadly enemy. With a shout of joy he told the Trojans, and instantly many who had only just been trying to avoid his lance and sword gathered about him to take his armor. But Ajax circled the body and with spear raised high drove off all who approached; anyone who defied him he dealt the deathblow. Soon Ajax was no longer content with merely fending off the Trojans. He plunged into offensive action. Glaucus, the Lycian, fell at his hands, and Aeneas was wounded. Side by side with Ajax Odysseus fought and other Achaeans. But the Trojans staunchly resisted, and Paris even dared aim his spear at Ajax himself. He, however, always on the watch, saw the attack coming, took a stone, and hurled it with such force that it smashed the helmet of Paris and threw him to earth; the arrows dropped out of his quiver and scattered over the ground. He was still breathing, though very faintly. His friends barely had time to lift him into the chariot drawn by Hector’s horses and take him back to Troy. Now when Ajax had driven all the Trojans back to their city, he strode to the ships, and his feet trod over corpses and weapons. From the walls of Troy to the shore of the Hellespont the field was littered with bodies.

Meantime the kings had carried slain Achilles to the ships, and his people surrounded his bier, pouring out grief too great to bear. Ajax joined them, and his plaint was loudest as he mourned the fallen hero, the son of his uncle. Old Phoenix too broke into wails of sorrow and clasped the strong body of Achilles in his arms. He thought of the day when Peleus had put the child into his hands and entrusted him with his rearing and teaching. He also recalled the hour he and his pupil had set out for Troy. And now both father and teacher were destined to survive the child!

At last Nestor, mindful of his own son, put an end to their lamentations. He reminded them to wash the corpse and give it the honors due to the dead. This was done. The body of the son of Peleus was washed with warm water and attired in the rich robes his mother Thetis had given him for this expedition. And when he lay in the house ready for the pyre, Athene looked down at him from Olympus, and her heart filled with pity for her favorite. Quickly she sprinkled on his head a few drops of ambrosia, the balm of the gods which is said to guard the dead from disfigurement and decay. Hardly had they touched him when he looked like one alive. The anguish and rage which had distorted his features ever since Patroclus, his friend, had been slain were smoothed away. All the Argives who came to look at him were amazed when they saw him lying on the bier in all his lordly length, his face beautiful and serene as though he were sleeping and would soon waken.

The loud lament the Argives had raised at the death of the greatest among them was carried to the depths of the sea, where Thetis, his mother, lived with the other daughters of Nereus. Sorrow swelled their hearts to bursting, and they moaned so despairingly that the Hellespont echoed with their cries. By night they set out in a great company. The tide parted before them, and they went ashore where the Argive fleet was beached. In their wake the sea monsters groaned and sighed in sympathy with their sorrow. They approached the corpse, and Thetis put her arms around her child, kissed him, and wept until the ground was wet with her tears. Reverently the Danai withdrew at the coming of the goddesses who had risen from the sea, and they did not return to the body until, at the first pale light of dawn, Thetis and her sisters vanished in the waves.

Then down from the slopes of Ida they dragged great logs and stacked them into a pyre. They laid on it the arms of all the slain, many slaughtered victims, gold, and precious metals. The Argive heroes cut strands of hair from their heads, and Briseis, Achilles’ favorite, sheared off one of her lovely locks as a last gift to her lord. Over the wood they poured many flasks of oil, and among the logs they placed bowls of honey, of wine fragrant as nectar, and of sweet-smelling spices. On the top they placed the corpse. Then, fully armed, on foot and on horseback, they circled around the pyre. Finally it was lit, and the flames crackled and licked through the pile. At the command of Zeus, Aeolus sent his swiftest winds. They blew through the stacked wood and lashed the fire so that in a very few hours the wood and the body were wholly consumed and turned to ashes. The Danai quenched the last flickering flames with wine. And there, easily recognizable from everything that had been burned with him, lay the bones of great Achilles. Sighing, his friends collected them, laid them in a coffer of hammered gold and polished silver, and lowered it next to the remains of his friend Patroclus, on the highest point of the shore. Then they heaped the burial mound.

The immortal horses of the son of Peleus sensed that he was dead. They tore the thongs which tethered them, unwilling to share the toils and cares of men now that their master was gone. It was difficult to catch them and to calm their restlessness and alarm.


In Troy too they were doing honor to a slain hero. Glaucus, the Lycian, the loyal ally of the Trojans, had fallen in the last struggle with the Argives, and his body which his friends had snatched from the hands of his foes was burned and buried.

The following day Diomedes, son of Tydeus, rose in the Argive assembly and proposed that at once, at this very moment when their enemies were rallying their courage because Achilles was dead, they must attack the city with chariots and foot-soldiers and storm the walls. But Ajax, son of Telamon, opposed him. “It would not be right,” he said, “to offend the goddess of the sea who is mourning her son. Should we not, before all things, have splendid funeral games for glorious Achilles? Yesterday, when Thetis sank back into the waves, she begged me not to leave her son unhonored and declared that she herself would appear at the celebrations. As for the Trojans, even though the son of Peleus has fallen, it is unlikely that they will marshal sufficient courage to resume the fight as long as you, Diomedes, and I, and Agamemnon, son of Atreus, are among the living.”

“I shall agree with you, provided Thetis really comes today,” Diomedes replied. “Her wish must take precedence over the demands of war.”

As the last word left his lips, the waves parted, and the wife of Peleus, frail as the breath of dawn, rose from the sea and advanced toward the Argives. With her came the nymphs, her handmaids, and from the veils which floated about them they drew magnificent prizes and spread them out before the eyes of the Achaeans. Thetis herself bade the heroes begin the games. Then Nestor, son of Neleus, rose, not to fight, for old age had left his limbs stiff and feeble, but to honor the lovely daughter of Nereus with fitting words. He told of her wedding with Peleus: how the gods themselves had attended as guests; how the Hours had come with dainty and rich foods in golden baskets and served them with hands scented with ambrosia. The nymphs had blended the wine in golden bowls while the Graces danced and the Pierides sang. Air and Earth, mortals and immortals, all had shared in bliss and delight.

This was what Nestor related. And then he went on to tell of the great deeds of the son of Peleus who had sprung from this union. His words were balm to sorrowful Thetis; and though the Argives were restive and eager to resume the conflict, still they listened intently and joined in the praise of the hero. Thetis gave Nestor two of her son’s horses. Then she selected as a prize for the foot race twelve stately cows, each with a suckling calf. Her son had captured them while he was fighting on the slopes of Ida and brought them back to the camp as spoils.

And now Teucer, son of Telamon, and Ajax of Locris, the fleet-footed son of Oileus, stripped to the belt. Agamemnon set up the goal, and they darted forward like two hawks. To the right and left of them stood the Argives, watching and shouting applause. Both were close to the goal when a tamarisk shrub blocked the path of Teucer; he stumbled and fell. The Danai shrieked with excitement as Ajax of Locris outstripped him, touched the goal post, and triumphantly led off the cows to his ships. Teucer’s friends took him to his house limping. Physicians washed the blood from his foot and carefully bound it up.

Two other heroes volunteered for the wrestling match, Diomedes and Ajax the Great, son of Telamon. Both wrestled with equal strength, but in the end Ajax locked the son of Tydeus in his sinewy arms and almost throttled him. But Diomedes who was deft as well as muscular slipped slantwise out of that terrible grip, straightened his shoulders, lifted his mighty opponent straight into the air, so that he was forced to relinquish his hold, and with a thrust of his left foot threw him to the ground. The spectators shouted their applause, but Ajax pulled himself together and the struggle began afresh. They raged like two bulls who fight in the mountains and butt each other with heads as hard as iron. This time Ajax took Diomedes by the shoulders and tossed him to earth as if he were a rock, and he rolled a little way. Again acclaim rang through the circle. But Diomedes too picked himself up and prepared for a third bout. Then Nestor stepped between them and said: “Stop wrestling, my children. For there is not one among us who does not know that, since the death of Achilles, you are the bravest of the Argives.” A cry of approval came from the spectators. The wrestlers wiped the sweat from their foreheads, embraced, and kissed each other. Thetis gave them four lovely women whom Achilles had captured in Lesbos, each distinguished for her goodness and skill. The first was versed in the arts of cookery, the second tasted the wine at the board, the third poured water at the close of the meal, and the fourth carried the platters from the table. Only Briseis surpassed them in beauty. Each wrestler chose those he wanted and sent them to his ships.

Then came the boxing match, for which Idomeneus, the hero most skilled in all the intricacies of this form of fighting, volunteered. Because of this, and also because he was one of the older men, no one offered to compete with him, and so Thetis gave him the chariot of Patroclus as a gift, while Phoenix and Nestor tried to persuade some of the younger men to volunteer for this contest. Epeius, son of Panopeus, and Acamas, son of Theseus, were willing to make the attempt. They bound the boxing thongs to their hands and examined them to see if they were flexible. Then they raised their hands, circled each other on their toes, step by step, until suddenly they rushed together like wind-driven clouds, full of thunder and lightning. Through the air rang the smack of the thongs on their cheeks, and blood flowed under the sweat. The son of Theseus fended off his assailant by craftily dodging his blows, and then, when he was least expecting it, struck him over the eyes with his fist, down to the bone, and blood spurted forth. And now Epeius hit him in the temple so that he slumped to the ground. But he rose to his feet again, and the match went on until friends interposed and made it clear to these two grim opponents that this was not a matter of Argive fighting Trojan to the very death. Thetis gave them two beautiful silver mixing bowls which her son had received in Lemnos. And the two young heroes reached for them eagerly, not waiting to stanch their wounds.

Now Ajax of Locris and Teucer, who had already measured their strength in the foot race, also competed for the prize of shooting with the bow. As a target, Agamemnon set up a helmet with a fluttering mane. He whose arrow cut the horsehair was to be the victor. Ajax was first. He launched his arrow from the string and hit the helmet so that the metal rang. Then Teucer let fly his arrow, and the point cut the crest. All acclaimed him loudly, for though his foot was still lame from his earlier bout, he had aimed surely and well. Thetis rewarded him with the armor of Troilus, the princely youth of Troy, whom Achilles had slain in one of the first years of the war.

The shooting match was followed by throwing the discus. Many of the heroes tried their strength, but no one could throw the heavy disk as far as Ajax, son of Telamon. He tossed it as lightly as though it were a dry branch. Thetis gave him Memnon’s armor, and he girt it on at once. The Danai were astonished to see that piece for piece it fitted him as though it had been made to measure.

In the jump, Agapenor, brandisher of lances, was victorious, and he received the weapons of Cycnus whom Achilles had defeated. Euryalus won in casting the hunting spear, and his prize was the silver bowl Achilles had carried off from Lyrnessos.

Next came the chariot races. Five heroes harnessed their horses: Menelaus, son of Atreus, Euryalus, Polypoetes, Thoas, and Eumelus. Then each drove his chariot to the starting post. At a given sign they swung their goads, and all five at once sped across the plain; the air grew thick with dust and sand. Soon the horses of Eumelus outstripped all the rest. After him came Thoas, and then Menelaus. The other two had fallen far behind. But the horses of Thoas soon tired; those of Eumelus stumbled in their swift course, and when their driver wanted to drag them to their feet by force, they reared, threw over the chariot, and he tumbled into the sand. The spectators shouted and screamed, and now the horses of the son of Atreus were far in the lead and halted at the goal. Menelaus exulted in his victory, but he was not arrogant in his joy, and Thetis gave him the golden cup her son had once taken from the palace of Eetion.


So ended the funeral games in honor of godlike Achilles. Odysseus was the only one of all the princes in the Argive host who had not taken part in them, for as he was fending off the Trojans from the body of Achilles, Alcon had dealt him a painful wound from which he had not yet recovered.

And now Thetis offered as a prize the armor and weapons of her son: his glittering shield, on which Hephaestus had worked graceful pictures, and the heavy helmet carved with the image of Zeus standing on the vault of heaven battling with the Titans; also the curved cuirass which had clasped the breast of the son of Peleus, dark and impenetrable; and the massive greaves which he had worn as though they were light as feathers. Close by lay his indomitable sword in its silver scabbard, with a golden knob and handle of ivory. Beside it was the weighty spear, as long as a felled pine, and still red with Hector’s blood.

Behind the weapons stood Thetis, her head covered with a dark veil. Sadly she said to the Danai: “All the prizes offered at the funeral games in honor of my son have been won. Now let the best among the Argives, he who saved the corpse, come forward, for to him I shall give the splendid weapons of Achilles. All of them were gifts from the gods, and the immortals themselves delighted in them.”

It was then that two heroes at once laid claim to the arms, Odysseus, son of Laertes, and Ajax the Great, son of Telamon. Radiant as the evening star Ajax drew the weapons to him and called on Idomeneus, Nestor, and Agamemnon to testify to his valiant defense. But Odysseus called on the very same three, for they were the most wise and just in the entire host. Nestor took the other two aside and said in a troubled voice: “It is most unfortunate for us that the two best warriors we have are vying for the weapons of slain Achilles. Whichever of them is denied will be offended and withdraw from the fight, and all of us will suffer the consequences of his anger. So do as I say, for I am old and experienced. We have here in our camp a number of Trojans who were captured only recently. Let them decide the quarrel between Ajax and Odysseus, for they have no preference and are not biased in favor of either of the heroes.” The others agreed and set up as judges the noblest of the Trojans, even though they were prisoners of war.

Ajax was the first to appear before them. “What demon has blinded you, Odysseus,” he cried, “that you dare to contend with me? You are as much inferior to me as the dog to the lion. Have you forgotten how reluctant you were to leave your home in Ithaca? And you were the one who persuaded us to leave behind in Lemnos Philoctetes, son of Poeas, in his sickness and misery. It is you who are guilty of the death of Palamedes who was stronger and wiser than you! And now you are willing to forget all the services I performed for the Argives, to forget that I saved your life when all the rest had abandoned you, and you were alone in the field and looked about you in vain for an opportunity to flee! When the fight for Achilles’ body started, was I not the one who carried off the corpse together with the armor? You would never have had the strength to carry the weapons, let alone the hero himself! That is why you should yield to me. In any case, I am stronger than you, of a nobler family, and related to the hero for whose arms we are competing.”

So spoke Ajax, and his excitement grew as he talked. But Odysseus replied with a mocking smile: “Why waste so many words, Ajax? You call me weak and cowardly and forget that only wisdom is true strength. It is wisdom that teaches the sailor to ride through a stormy sea, that tames wild beasts, panthers and lions, and compels oxen to serve man. And that is why both in times of need and in the council a man of sense is worth more than a foolish giant who has nothing but bodily strength. That was why Diomedes chose me when he wanted a companion for his expedition to the camp of Rhesus. He did it because I am more crafty and resourceful than anyone else. It was due to my wisdom that the son of Peleus was won for the fight against the Trojans. And if ever the Danai require a new hero for their host, believe me, Ajax, that neither your clumsy size nor the wit of another will secure him; he will come because of my smooth, persuasive words! But in addition to my wisdom the gods also lent me sturdy limbs, and it is not true that I was fleeing when you saved me from the enemy. I was facing them boldly and killing those who attacked, while you stood apart, intent on your own safety.”

In this way they quarrelled for a long time. But finally the Trojans, who had been set up as judges, were impressed with the reasoning of Odysseus and unanimously awarded him the magnificent arms of the son of Peleus.

When Ajax heard the verdict, the blood boiled in his veins. His brain throbbed with anger, and he trembled in every fiber. For a long time he stood motionless and fixed his eyes on the ground. At last his friends succeeded in taking him back to the ships. He walked slowly, and every step expressed stubborn reluctance.

In the meantime dark night rose out of the sea. Ajax sat in his house. He would not touch food. He would not sleep. Finally he girt on his armor and gripped his double-edged sword, considering whether to cut Odysseus to pieces, burn the ships, or rage among all the Argives together. And he surely would have done one of these three things, had not Athene who was concerned for Odysseus, her friend, and hostile to mighty Ajax, sent madness on him as he brooded on the harm he would do. Anguish pricked his heart, and he rushed from his house and among the flocks of sheep which, because he was blinded by the goddess, he took for Argive battalions. The shepherds saw him coming and hid in the bushes on the shores of Xanthus. And he slaughtered the sheep right and left. With his spear he killed two great rams, one after another, and taunted them: “Writhe in the dust, you dogs! Lie as the prey of birds! Never again will you two sons of Atreus confirm an unjust decision. And you,” he continued, “you, who are lurking there in the corner and hiding your head because you have a bad conscience, now the arms of Achilles which you stole from me and which you vaunt will avail you nothing, for what good is the armor of a hero when a coward wears it?” With that he seized another huge wether, dragged him away to his house, bound him to a door-post, and took a goad and began to beat the creature with all his might.

At this moment Athene approached him from behind, touched his head, and bade the madness leave him. Unhappy Ajax found himself goad in hand, staring at the wether, its back torn to shreds. The goad fell from his fingers, his strength left him, and he sank to the ground, divining that he was the victim of a god’s anger. Boundless sorrow filled his spirit. When he rose from the dust he was overcome with such hopeless despair that he could move his feet neither forward nor backward but stood motionless as a tower on the peak of a mountain. Finally he heaved a deep sigh and said: “Alas! Why do the immortals hate me? Why have they humiliated me for love of crafty Odysseus? Here I stand, a man who has never returned from a fight dishonored; here I stand soiled with the blood of guiltless sheep, an object of ridicule, a target for the taunts of my foes!”

While he was lamenting his disgrace, Tecmessa, the daughter of the king of Phrygia, whom Ajax had taken from her country as spoils of war, and whom he honored and loved as if she were his wife, had been looking for him all over the camp and by the ships. Her little son Eurysaces clung in her arms. She had seen that her master was brooding and sad, but she did not know the reason, for he refused to answer when she questioned him. Soon after he left she was troubled with dark forebodings, and she followed him and saw the sheep scattered dead over the field. She hurried back to the house and there found Ajax ashamed and desperate, calling now for Teucer, his half brother, now for his child Eurysaces, and praying for a death befitting a noble hero. Tecmessa approached him in tears, clasped his knees, and implored him not to leave her alone, a captive among enemies. She reminded him of his old father and mother in Salamis, and held out the child to him, picturing his lot if he were forced to grow up without his father, governed by harsh taskmasters.

Impulsively Ajax stretched out his arms to his son, took him and caressed him, saying: “Child, surpass your father in happiness, but resemble him in all else; then everything will be well with you. My half brother Teucer will rear you and cherish you. But now my shield-bearers shall take you to my parents, Telamon and Eriboea, in Salamis, so that you may delight the last years of their life, until they too descend to Hades.” With that he handed the boy over to his servants and commended Tecmessa too to his half brother. Then he tore himself from her embrace, drew the sword which Hector, his foe, had once given him, and fixed it firmly in the ground. Finally he raised his hands to heaven and prayed: “It is a little thing I ask of you, Father Zeus: when I am dead, send my brother Teucer quickly. Do not let my foes reach me before him and throw my body to the dogs and birds of prey. And I call on you, Furies: as you see me here, the slayer of myself, so let those others fall, done to death by their own, by their dearest kin. Come! Show no mercy! Satisfy your hunger! But you, O sun-god, shining through the heights of the sky, when your chariot circles over Salamis, my native land, slow your journey and bring my old father and my poor mother news of my bitter fate. Farewell, sweet light! Farewell Salamis! Farewell Athens, the home of my ancestors, with your rivers and springs! And farewell, region of Troy, where I have lived so many years. And now, come Death, and may your eyes hold pity for me!” With these words he ran on his sword and fell as if struck by lightning.

When the Danai heard of his death they came in throngs, threw themselves on the ground, lamented, and strewed dust over their heads. Teucer, whom Telamon had forbidden to return from Troy without Ajax, wanted to kill himself and would have done so had not his friends taken his sword from him. So he only threw himself over the corpse and wept with more abandon than a fatherless child on the day which has taken his mother from him. But with a great effort he composed his soul and turned to Tecmessa who sat beside Ajax in numb despair, holding to her breast the child the servant had put back in her arms. He promised to protect her and care for the boy like a father, even though he could not accompany them to Salamis for fear of Telamon’s anger.

Then he prepared to bury the body of his beloved half brother. But Menelaus, son of Atreus, interfered. “Do not dare bury this man,” he said, “who has proved worse than our enemies, the Trojans. By his wicked plan to do murder he has forfeited honorable burial.” Agamemnon, who had just joined them, sided with his brother and in the course of their heated discussion called Teucer the son of a slave. It was in vain that Teucer reminded them of all the benefits the Argives owed to Ajax, of how he had saved the host when the firebrand flung by the Trojans was setting the ships aflame and Hector leaped to the decks. “And why do you call me a slave?” he cried. “My father Telamon is one of the most glorious heroes of Greece, and my mother’s father was King Laomedon! I am descended from the noblest parents and have nothing to be ashamed of! If you dishonor this fallen hero, you will also disgrace his wife, his son, and his brother. Would such a deed win you fame among men and blessing from the gods?”

In the midst of this quarrel came crafty Odysseus, turned to Agamemnon, and asked: “May a loyal friend tell you the truth without bringing ill will on himself?”

“Say what you wish,” Agamemnon replied, looking at him in surprise. “I do, indeed, regard you as my best friend in all the Argive host.”

“Then listen,” said Odysseus. “By all the gods I beg you not to leave this man unburied. Do not let your power blind you so that you hate unjustly. If you dishonor a hero such as this, you will not degrade him, but make mock of the law and will of the gods.”

The sons of Atreus listened, and for a long time they were speechless. At last Agamemnon cried: “Are you, Odysseus, willing to quarrel with me for the sake of Ajax? Have you forgotten that he was your deadly enemy too?”

“He was my enemy,” Odysseus replied. “I hated him while he was alive. Now that he is dead, I can no longer cherish bitterness against him. We must mourn the loss of so noble a man. I myself am ready to help his brother fulfill the sacred duty of burying him.”

When Teucer, who had turned away at the coming of Odysseus, heard these words, he went up to him and held out his hand. “You, his grimmest enemy,” he exclaimed, “are the only defender of the dead! And still I do not dare let you handle the corpse, for the spirit of Ajax, which left his body while you and he were unreconciled, might resent your touch. But in all other things you shall be my helper, for there is enough to be done!” And he pointed to Tecmessa who was still mute with grief. Odysseus spoke to her kindly. “You shall not be the slave of another,” he said. “As long as Teucer and I live, you and your child shall be safe and cared for, as though Ajax himself were at your side.”

The sons of Atreus did not venture to object to the fair decision of Odysseus. It took the combined strength of many warriors to lift the great body of Ajax. They carried him to the ships, cleansed him of blood and dust, and burned him on a pyre as stately as that of Achilles, who by his death had caused the loss of a second Argive hero whom no one could replace.


The next day the Danai thronged to a council called by Menelaus. When all were assembled, he rose. “Princes of the people,” he said, “my heart bleeds when I see our men falling in droves. They embarked on this war because of me, and now it looks as if no one will be alive to return to his home and greet his kin. It shall not come to this! Let us leave these shores. Let those who have survived sail to their own country. Now that Achilles and Ajax are dead, our undertaking is hopeless. I, for my part, am less troubled about Helen, my wife, who has proved herself unworthy of me, than about you. Let her remain with Paris, for all I care.”

This was what Menelaus said, but he was only trying the Argives, for in his heart of hearts he still longed to destroy the Trojans. But Diomedes, son of Tydeus, who did not perceive his ruse, started up impatiently and said: “I do not understand you! What shameful fears have taken hold of you that you propose so cowardly a course? But I am not at all disturbed! Never will the brave sons of Greece follow you before they have razed Troy to the ground. And should there be one who did, this sword of mine would sever his head from his trunk!”

Hardly had Diomedes seated himself again when Calchas, the soothsayer, rose and gave wise counsel to calm the apparent difference between the two. “Do you remember,” he asked, “that many years ago, when we first sailed to these shores to lay siege to this cursed city, we abandoned Philoctetes, the friend of Heracles, on the waste island of Lemnos? We did so because we could not endure his constant cries of pain and the stench from his poisoned wound. Nevertheless, it was unjust and pitiless on our part to leave him there helpless. Now one of our captives, a seer, has told me that Troy cannot be vanquished without Philoctetes and the aid of the unerring arrows he got from Heracles, nor without Pyrrhus, the young son of Achilles. Perhaps the Trojan only said this because he was sure the conditions could not be fulfilled. For he must consider it out of the question for Philoctetes, who probably loathes us for deserting him, to join us and use his unfailing arrows against the Trojans. Now my advice is to send Diomedes, the strongest of our heroes, and Odysseus, the most eloquent, to Scyros without a moment’s delay to fetch the son of Achilles who is being reared there by his grand-father. With his help we shall then persuade Philoctetes to come to us and bring with him the weapons of Heracles by which Troy shall fall.”

The Argives shouted their approval, and the two heroes at once left in their ships. Meantime the army again prepared for battle. Eurypylus of Mysia, son of Telephus, had come to the aid of the Trojans, bringing many warriors with him, and the Dardanians quickened with fresh courage. The Argives, on the other hand, had been deprived of two of their mightiest heroes. And so it was inevitable that they suffered grave losses in the fight. Nireus, the most beautiful of the Danai, fell beneath the thrust of Eurypylus and lay in the dust like a young olive tree which a river has torn up by the roots and washed ashore, and there it lies covered with buds. But Eurypylus only mocked him and bent down to strip off his shining cuirass. Then Machaon, brother of Podalirius, who had seen Nireus die, fended off the robber. Into his massive shoulder he plunged his spear, and the blood gushed out in a stream. Like a wounded boar Eurypylus ran at Machaon. He tried to keep him at a distance by hurling a stone, but it rebounded from his brazen helmet. Then the son of Telephus stabbed the Argive through the breast with his spear. The bloodstained point came out at the spine, and Machaon doubled up on the ground. Eurypylus drew his lance from the body and looked about for another victim.

Teucer, who had seen the two Argive heroes fall, called for aid to protect their bodies. But in the end the Trojans captured them. After Aeneas wounded Ajax of Locris with a pointed stone, his friends carried him off, gasping for breath, and the other Achaeans flew toward the ships hotly pursued by the Trojans. They would have set the fleet afire, had not night fallen. As it was, the victor from Mysia withdrew to the mouth of the Simois where he pitched camp in the gathering darkness. But the Danai lay on the sandy shore close to their ships and moaned with the pain of their wounds and sorrow for the countless companions they had lost in the fight.

Scarcely had dawn shed a glow over the heavens when they started up, burning with eagerness to take revenge on Eurypylus. But first they buried beautiful Nireus and Machaon, the wise physician and great warrior. While the din of battle sounded in the distance, Podalirius, the brother of Machaon and like him a skilled physician, had thrown himself in the dust beside his grave and would taste neither food nor drink. Now he laid his hand on his sword, now he reached for a strong poison he always had with him, for he wanted to kill himself. His friends took hold of his hands and spoke words of comfort, but he would have carried out his resolve, had not old Nestor approached. He saw Podalirius strew dust over his head, beat his breast, and cry aloud the name of his cherished brother, while his companions and servants stood by in helpless distress. Then Nestor spoke to him lovingly: “Put an end to this bitter grief! A man should not weep for the dead unrestrainedly, like a woman. Your moans will not bring him to life again. His flesh has been consumed by flame, and his bones rest in the earth. He went as he came. But you must bear your great sorrow as I bore mine when the son of Eos killed my son, killed the dearest of my children, who loved his father more than all the others. Nevertheless, when he died, I ate and drank just as before. I endured the light of day, for I remembered that all of us must travel the same way to Hades.”

Podalirius listened to the old man, and the tears ran down his cheeks. “Father,” he said, “I cannot help grieving for my brother. For when our father Aesculapius died and was welcomed on Olympus, Machaon took care of me, though I was the older. We shared everything, our food, our couch, our possessions, and he instructed me in his wonderful art, the art of healing. Now that he is dead I do not wish to see the lovely light of earth any longer.”

But the old man insisted. “Remember,” he continued earnestly, “that our lot, whether good or bad, comes from the gods. Dark Destiny governs all and deals out her judgment blindly. That is why great misfortune often descends on good and forthright men, and no one at all is secure. Life changes incessantly. At times it is somber, and then again it is radiant. People say that the souls of the brave rise to heaven while those of men who could not cope with life descend to darkness. Your brother was dear to mortals and immortals alike. He was, moreover, the son of a god. And so I believe he has joined the gods.” With such words Nestor raised Podalirius from the dust and led him away from the burial mound. But as he went, he looked back at it over his shoulder many times.

In the meantime Eurypylus of Mysia raged on the battlefield. The Danai fled to their camp and fought back from behind the shelter of the wall.


While this was taking place in Troy, Odysseus and Diomedes, the envoys for the Argives, arrived safely on the island of Scyros. Here, in front of his grandfather’s house, they met Pyrrhus, the young son of Achilles, whom the Argives later called Neoptolemus, which means “the young warrior.” He was practicing shooting with the bow, casting the spear, and riding the chariot with its swift horses. They watched him a while and noticed signs of grief in his face, for he had already been told of his father’s death. As they came closer they were amazed to see how greatly the youth resembled Achilles in stature and face. Pyrrhus hailed them first. “Welcome, strangers,” he said. “Who are you and where have you come from? What is it you want of me?”

Odysseus replied: “We are friends of Achilles, your father, and have no doubt that we are speaking to his son. You are so like him! I am Odysseus of Ithaca, the son of Laertes, and this is Diomedes, son of immortal Tydeus. We have come because Calchas, the soothsayer, told us that the war of Troy would end in our favor, provided we brought you to the battlefield. The Achaeans will give you splendid gifts, and I myself the weapons which Hephaestus made for your father and which were awarded to me.”

Joyfully Pyrrhus answered: “If the Achaeans have called me because a god commanded them to do so, then let us put to sea tomorrow morning! But now come with me and refresh yourselves at my grandfather’s board.” When they reached the palace, they found Deidamia, the widow of Achilles, brooding in sorrow with tearful eyes. Her son went up to her, but though he told her who the strangers were, he concealed the reason for their coming, for he did not want to add to her grief. The heroes satisfied their hunger and thirst and then lay down to sleep. But Deidamia did not close her eyes. She could not forget that the very men she was forced to lodge as guests under her roof were those who had persuaded Achilles to go to war, and that it was because of them she was now widowed and lonely. She divined that her son would be taken from her too, and that they had come to fetch him. At break of day she rose, went to him, pressed her head against his breast, and broke into lament. “O my child,” she cried, “I know without your telling me! You want to accompany these strangers to Troy, where so many heroes have fallen, where your father met his death. But you are so young and inexperienced in warfare! Listen to your mother! Stay at home with me, for otherwise I shall surely hear one day that my son has fallen in battle, just like his father.”

But Pyrrhus replied: “Mother, do not bewail what has not yet happened. And besides, no man falls in battle against the will of Fate. If death is allotted to me, what better thing could I do than to die a death worthy of my ancestors, to die for the people of Greece?”

Then Lycomedes, his grandfather, rising from his couch, confronted his grandson and said: “I know that you are just as gallant as your father was. But even should you survive the battle of Troy, who knows what dangers may lurk on your homeward journey, for the sea is never safe!” Then he kissed the boy, but he did not try to dissuade him from his purpose. And Pyrrhus smiled, a young and happy smile. He gently disengaged himself from his mother’s embrace and left the palace behind him. Striding ahead on his strong slender legs, he looked as radiant as a star. After him came Odysseus and Diomedes and twenty of Deidamia’s trusted servants. When they reached the shore they at once boarded the ships.

Poseidon granted them a good voyage, and soon, in the first faint light of dawn, they saw the peaks of Ida, then the city of Chrysa, the promontory of Sigeum, and the grave of Achilles. But Odysseus did not tell the boy whose burial mound they were passing. Silently they sailed by the island of Tenedos and on toward Troy. They neared the coast just as the fight for the wall which protected the ships was fiercest, and Eurypylus would have torn it down, had not Diomedes leaped ashore and called to the others to follow him.

They hurried to the nearest house, that of Odysseus, and armed themselves with his own weapons and with the arms he had captured. Neoptolemus girt on the armor of Achilles, his father, which was too large for the other Achaeans. But the cuirass and the helmet fitted him as though they had been made for his body and head. He handled the heavy spear, the sword and the shield with the utmost ease and stormed to the field, the rest in his wake. And now the Trojans were forced to retreat from the wall. Like children who have been frightened by thunder and flee to their father, they crowded around the son of Telephus. But every missile Neoptolemus hurled brought death to a Trojan, and in their despair they though they saw Achilles risen from the grave. And surely his father’s spirit was with Neoptolemus, and Athene, who had always helped Achilles, now protected his son as well. As snowflakes sift around a cliff, so the enemy missiles rained about him without so much as scratching his skin. One victim after another he slew to avenge his father. The two sons of rich Meges, twin brothers, born in the same hour, now died within the same hour, for Neoptolemus thrust his spear into the heart of one of them and threw a stone at the other with such force that his heavy helmet was crushed and the brains spurted through his shattered skull. He slew so many Trojans that Eurypylus finally ordered the retreat, and toward evening the son of Achilles put his foes utterly to rout.

While Neoptolemus was resting from the furious fight, old Phoenix, the friend of his grandfather Peleus and his father’s teacher, visited the young hero, and he too was astonished at the likeness between him and Achilles. He was torn between sadness and joy, for his delight in this strong young man was clouded by the memory of his father’s death. With tears in his eyes he threw his arms around Neoptolemus and kissed his forehead and breast. “O son!” he exclaimed. “I feel as if your father were again among us, alive and well. But do not let me dampen your high spirits with sad thoughts of him who is gone. I want your heart to overflow with anger. You must help the Argives and kill the son of Telephus who has done us such immeasurable harm. For you are as much his better in strength as your father surpassed his father!” Modestly the youth replied: “The fight will decide who is bravest!” With these words he turned back to the ships, for night had fallen, and the warriors went to their huts to rest for the coming battle.

At daybreak the fight began anew. Spear touched spear, sword clashed on sword. For a long time the battle was undecided. Eurypylus saw one of his friends fall, and his fury doubled. He felled the Achaeans as a man hews trees on a densely wooded slope, hews so many that the trunks fill a whole gully. Last of all he came on Neoptolemus, and the two brandished their lances at each other. “Who are you?” Eurypylus asked. “Where have you come from to fight with me? Fate has driven you here to sure destruction, for I kill every Achaean who ventures to resist me!”

Neoptolemus replied: “Why do you, my enemy, wish to know who I am? But I shall tell you: I am the son of Achilles, who wounded your father in times gone by. The horses which draw my chariot are the swift children of Zephyrus and a harpy, and they can race even across the foaming sea. My lance comes from the peak of Pelion; it is my father’s lance, and now you shall feel its force!” So spoke the hero, and he leaped from his chariot with lifted spear. Eurypylus hurled a huge stone at his golden shield, but it did not so much as dent the metal. Like two beasts of prey the two ran at each other, and to the right and left of them the battle raged through the long rows. Eurypylus and Neoptolemus fought on and on, striking each other now on the greaves, now on the helmet, and their strength grew as they strove with each other, for both were descended from immortals. In the end Neoptolemus pierced the throat of his assailant, the crimson blood gushed from the fatal wound, and Eurypylus fell.

And now the Trojans would have fled from Neoptolemus like calves from a lion, had not Ares, the terrible god of war, lent them his aid. Unobserved by the other gods, he had left Olympus and driven his chariot with its fire-breathing steeds down to the battlefield. Here he swung aloft his tremendous lance and called to the Trojans to down their foes. They were startled to hear his thundering voice, for he himself was invisible, veiled in mist. Helenus, the soothsayer, son of Priam, was the first to recognize the voice of a god. “Do not be afraid!” he cried to his people. “A friend is among us, the great war-god himself! Do you not hear the call of Ares?”

This stiffened the backs of the Trojans, and the fight on both sides gained in momentum. Ares stirred his favorites to such feats of strength that the Argive ranks wavered. Neoptolemus was the only one who stood firm and undauntedly thrust right and left. The god fumed at his boldness and was about to emerge from his veil of mist and face the young hero in single combat when Athene, the patron of the Argives, descended from Olympus. The earth and the waves of the Xanthus trembled at her coming. Her weapons sparkled, and the snakes on her Gorgon shield flashed dazzling flames. Though the feet of the goddess stood solidly on earth, her helmet touched the sky; but no mortal could see her. And now the immortals would have lifted their hands against each other, had not Zeus warned them off with a clap of thunder. They understood their father’s wish. Ares withdrew to Thrace, while Athene turned to Athens. The Argives and Trojans were left to themselves once more, but now the great strength Ares had lent the Dardanians ebbed from them again. They retreated to their city, and the Achaeans pursued them to the very gates. And they would have broken them down, had Zeus not hidden Ilium in veils of cloud. At that, wise Nestor advised the Argives to return to the ships and bury their dead.

The next morning the Danai were astonished to see the acropolis of Troy clearly limned against deep-blue sky. Then they knew that the heavy mists of the evening before had been a miracle wrought by the father of gods. This was a day of truce which the Trojans used to bury Eurypylus of Mysia. Neoptolemus, however, visited the burial mound of his father, kissed the tall pillar upon it, and said with sighs and tears of sorrow: “I shall never forget you, father! If only you had been alive when I joined the Argives! But you never saw your child, and I have never seen my father, though in my heart I longed for him. Still, you live within me, and you live on in your spear. For both I and your spear spread terror among the enemy, and the people of Greece look at me with joyful eyes and say that I resemble you in appearance and in deeds.”

So saying, he returned to the ships of Achilles. The whole next day they fought for the walls of Troy, but the Argives did not succeed in invading the city, and on the shores of the Scamander, where Neoptolemus did not fight, they fell in droves. For there Deiphobus, Priam’s brave son, was harassing his foes. When Neoptolemus heard of this, he bade Automedon, his charioteer, guide his immortal horses to that place. The Trojan prince saw him coming and was uncertain whether to flee or face this terrible opponent. But Neoptolemus called to him from far off: “Son of Priam! What havoc you have made among the trembling Danai! No wonder you regard yourself the bravest hero on earth. Well, then, try your luck with me too!” As he spoke he rushed at him and would have slain him and his charioteer, had not Apollo hastened from Olympus in a drift of cloud and carried Deiphobus back to the city. The rest of the Trojans fled after him. When Neoptolemus felt his spear stabbing the empty air, he called out angrily: “Dog, you have escaped me! But it was not through your own power. A god stole you from me.” Then he threw himself into the fight again. But Apollo remained within the walls of Troy and protected the city. And Calchas, the soothsayer, guessed this and counselled the Danai to return to their ships and rest. There he addressed them: “It is useless for us to batter against the walls of Troy until the second part of the prophecy I told you of has been fulfilled. We must fetch Philoctetes and his unconquerable arrows from Lemnos.”

After taking brief counsel with one another, the Argives decided to send wise Odysseus and fearless Neoptolemus to Lemnos, and they instantly boarded the ship which was to take them there.


They landed on the uninhabited coast of the island of Lemnos. It was here that nine years ago, not long after the Argives had departed for Troy, Odysseus had abandoned Philoctetes, son of Poeas, who was suffering from an incurable wound. He had left him in a cave with two entrances. One part of it was warm in winter, the other afforded coolness from the hot summer sun. Close by was a spring of fresh water. The two heroes quickly located the place, and Odysseus found everything just as it had been. But the cave was deserted. A bed of leaves, pressed flat, as if someone had risen from it only a short time ago, a cup crudely carved of wood, and some tinder indicated that it was inhabited. And left to dry in the sun were rags bearing the stains of a wound, so that there was no doubt Philoctetes still lived there.

Odysseus sent a servant out to watch for him, for he did not want to be surprised by a man who was bound to be his enemy. “Let us make the most of his absence,” he said to Achilles’ young son, “to think up some sort of plan, for we shall not be able to win him over to our cause unless we invent a good reason. I must not be here when you first meet him, for he hates me, and he is right! When he asks you who you are and where you come from, tell him the truth. But add what is not true: that you have turned from the Argives in anger and are bound for home. Complain to him that we fetched you from Scyros to help us win the war, and then refused you your father’s weapons. Say that they were given to me, to Odysseus. Malign me as much as you please—the more the better. It will not hurt me, and unless we do something of the sort, we shall not be able to win over this man and obtain his much-needed weapons. You must get hold of those arrows, in any case!”

Neoptolemus interrupted him. “Son of Laertes,” he said, “the mere thought of doing this fills me with loathing. I could not possibly steal his arrows. Neither my father nor I were born to be crafty. I am willing to take Philoctetes captive by force, but do not try to persuade me to do it by guile. Besides, how could one man alone, and one who has only one sound foot, get the better of us?”

“With those arrows of his!” Odysseus answered calmly. “I know very well that you were not born with the gift of trickery. I myself had an honest father, and in my youth I was slow and awkward in speech and swift and sure with my arm. But experience has taught me that words often succeed more readily than deeds. If you stop to think that only the bow and the shafts of Heracles can vanquish Troy, and that you will gain the reputation of wisdom in addition to that of courage by obtaining them, you will surely not refuse to use a little shrewdness.”

Neoptolemus gave in to his older friend, and Odysseus left. Not long after, loud groans announced the coming of Philoctetes. From far off he had seen the ships riding at anchor near the coast which had no real harbor; he hurried toward Neoptolemus and those with him. “Who are you?” he cried. “Who are you who have come ashore on this barren island? I recognize the dress of fellow Argives, but I long to hear you speak. Do not recoil from me because I look wild and unkempt. I am an unhappy man, deserted by my friends and tormented with pain. If you have not come here with hostile intent, speak!”

Neoptolemus answered as Odysseus had prompted, and Philoctetes broke into cries of delight. “O beloved sound of the native tongue I have not heard for so long! O son of noble Achilles! O Lycomedes and fair Scyros! And you, his foster child, what was it you said? Evidently the Danai have treated you no better than me! I am Philoctetes, son of Poeas, whom Odysseus and the sons of Atreus abandoned when I was racked with pain. They landed me here while I slept and left me with a few beggar’s rags and a little food. Imagine my awakening! My fright when I found myself alone, the ships gone, no physician at hand, no help, nothing but solitude and pain! Days and years have passed since then, and I have had to see to my own needs. My bow here kept me fed. But though the arrows unerringly hit the quarry, I had to drag myself to the place where it fell. I had to fetch water from the spring, wood from the forest. And for a long time I had no fire. At last I found the right kind of stone—flint which gives out a spark when you strike it against iron. Once I had fire, I had all I needed for bare living, all except health! As for this island, it is the poorest bit of earth in the world. No seafarer comes here of his own free will. There are no good landing places. There are no men here with whom a merchant could barter his wares. Whoever lands here does so because he must. And there were a few such men. They pitied me and gave me food or clothing, but not one of them would consent to take me home. Ten years I have been leading this wretched lonely life, and this is the fault of Odysseus and the sons of Atreus. May the gods requite their evil deed with evil!”

Neoptolemus was moved to great pity as he listened to the story of Philoctetes, but mindful of his friend’s warning he suppressed his emotion. Instead, he told Philoctetes of the death of Achilles and whatever else he wanted to hear about his countrymen. In the course of his tale, he wove in all the lies Odysseus had suggested. Philoctetes listened with rapt attention and now and then interrupted the story with expressions of sympathy. Then he took Neoptolemus by the hand, wept, and said: “I implore you by your father and mother! Do not leave me behind. I know that I am unwelcome cargo, but please take me just the same. You can stow me away wherever you wish, near the rudder, in the bow of the ship, or down in the hold where I should cause the least possible disturbance to your crew. Only take me out of this dreadful loneliness! Take me to your home. From there it is not far to Mount Oeta and the land where my father lives. I have sent messages to him through those who landed here, but have never had one in return. Perhaps he is dead. Well, I shall be content if I may see his grave and rest there.”

With a heavy heart, Neoptolemus gave the man pleading at his feet a promise he did not mean to carry out. “We shall go to the ships whenever you like,” he said. “May a god permit us to leave this island quickly and reach our appointed destination.” Philoctetes jumped up as well as he could with his wounded foot. He clasped the young man’s hand in deep gratitude. At this moment the servant they had sent out appeared, disguised as an Argive sailor. With him was another sailor who belonged to their crew. Turning to Neoptolemus, the servant brought the fictitious news that Diomedes and Odysseus were on the way to take captive a man called Philoctetes, for Calchas, the soothsayer, had said that his presence was necessary if Troy was to fall. At these words Philoctetes put himself entirely at the mercy of Neoptolemus. Hastily he gathered up his immortal arrows, gave them to the youth for safekeeping, and went with him through the mouth of the cave. And then Neoptolemus could no longer restrain himself. Before they reached the shore he told Philoctetes the truth. “I cannot bear to conceal it from you,” he said. “You must come to Troy with me, to the sons of Atreus, to the Argives.” Philoctetes stopped. He trembled, he cursed, he prayed. But before Neoptolemus had time to yield, Odysseus left the cover of bushes where he had been hiding and ordered his servants to take the unhappy old hero prisoner. Philoctetes had recognized him at the first word he spoke. “Alas!” he exclaimed. “I am betrayed! This is the man who abandoned me nine years ago, and now his wiles have deprived me of my arrows!” Then he turned to Neoptolemus. “Son,” he said, “return them to me. Give me back the bow and the arrows which belong to me!”

But Odysseus did not allow him to continue. “Never!” he shouted. “Not even if the boy wanted to! You must come with us, for there is much at stake—the welfare of the Argives, the fall of Troy!” With that Odysseus drew Neoptolemus away with him and left the old man in the hands of his servants. He stood outside his cave and bewailed the trick which had been played on him. He was just about to call on the gods to avenge him when he saw Odysseus and Neoptolemus coming back. They were quarrelling. He heard the younger cry out: “No, it was wrong! I got the better of him through shameful deceit. You shall not take this man to Troy against his will, not unless you kill me first!” They drew their swords. But Philoctetes intervened. He threw himself at the feet of the son of Achilles. “Promise to save me,” he cried, “and I, in turn, give my word that the arrows of my friend Heracles shall ward all attacks from your country.”

“Follow me,” said Neoptolemus, raising the old man from the ground. “This very day we leave for Phthia, my native land.”

Suddenly the blue air over their heads grew dark. They looked up, and Philoctetes was first to recognize his friend, immortal Heracles, floating above them in a heavy cloud. “You shall not go!” he called down from heaven in a voice that echoed across the earth. “My lips, friend Philoctetes, shall tell you the wish of Zeus, and you must obey. You know the labors I had to perform before I could attain to immortality. Fate has decreed that you too must suffer before you attain to glory. If you go to Troy with this youth, your sickness will leave you. Then, when you are whole and sound again, the gods will choose you to destroy Paris, the cause of this war. After that you will raze Troy to the ground. It is you who will have the most precious spoils. Laden with treasure you will return to Poeas, your father, who is still alive. And should you have something left over from your spoils, bring it as an offering to my burial mound. Farewell!” Philoctetes stretched out his arms to his friend as he disappeared in heights too great for human eyes to follow. “Very well, then,” he cried. “Let us board the ships. Give me your hand, noble son of Achilles. And you, Odysseus, walk beside me without misgivings, for what you wanted was, after all, the will of the gods.”


When the Argives saw the eagerly awaited ship, which carried the heroes and Philoctetes, running into port in the Hellespont, they thronged to the coast with loud rejoicing. Philoctetes held out his thin arms, and his two companions lifted him ashore. Painfully he limped toward the Danai waiting to welcome him. They were full of pity when they saw him ill and suffering. But one of them sprang forward, gave a quick sharp glance at the wound, and promised that with the help of the gods he would heal Philoctetes. It was Podalirius, the physician, an old friend of Poeas. The immortals blessed the undertaking, the wound closed, and the old man’s limbs grew sound and strong. He revived like a field of barley which the rains have beaten down but which gentle summer winds raise once more. The sons of Atreus were amazed to see what seemed like a rebirth. When Philoctetes had refreshed his body with food and drink, Agamemnon went up to him, took him by the hand, and said: “My friend, it is true that we were blinded in spirit when we left you in Lemnos, but it was also the will of the gods. Do not bear us a grudge any longer. We have been pnnished enough for what we did. For the time being, accept these gifts we have set aside for you—seven Trojan girls, twenty horses, and twelve tripods. Feast your eyes on these and live in my own house with me. At the board, and in every other way as well, you shall have the honors due to a king.”

“My friends,” Philoctetes replied kindly, “I cherish no grudge, neither against you, Agamemnon, nor against any other Argive who has wronged me. For I know that the spirit of a noble man must be flexible, gentle as well as stern. But now let us sleep. For those who love the fight do better to sleep by night than feast.” So he said and went to his couch to rest until morning.

The next day the Trojans were still burying their dead outside the walls when they saw the Argives coming toward them in full battle array. Polydamas, the wise friend of slain Hector, advised them to retreat into their city and fend off the foe from behind the walls. “Troy,” he said, “is the work of gods, and what they have made is not easy to destroy. We have enough food and drink, and King Priam, in the vast halls of his palace, has stores enough to feed three times as many people as live in our city for years to come.” But the Trojans rejected his counsel and acclaimed that of Aeneas who urged them to conquer or die on the battlefield.

Soon the fight was raging with full fury. With his father’s spear Neoptolemus slew twelve Trojans, one after another. But Eurymenes, the comrade-in-arms of bold Aeneas, and Aeneas himself made great gaps in the Argive host, and Paris killed the friend of Menelaus, Demoleon of Sparta. Philoctetes raged among the Trojans like Ares himself or like a beating rain which floods the fields and pastures. If an enemy so much as saw him from afar he was already lost. The very armor he wore, the armor of Heracles, seemed to terrify the Trojans as if they saw a Gorgon’s head on his cuirass. Finally Paris dared approach him with lifted bow. Quickly he launched an arrow, but it whirred past Philoctetes and wounded Cleodorus, who stood beside him, in the shoulder. Cleodorus retreated, defending himself with his lance, but a second arrow shot by Paris killed him. And now Philoctetes took his bow in hand and cried in a voice like thunder: “You Trojan thief! You are the cause of all our woe. You shall mourn your insolent wish to measure your strength against mine. And once you are dead, destruction will come on swift feet, and your line and your city will fall.” So speaking, he drew the twisted string of his bow close to his breast and fitted the arrow so that the point projected only a little beyond the curved bow. The arrow hissed through the air and did not miss its mark. But it only scratched the tender skin of beautiful Paris at the wrist, and he aimed again. A second arrow from the bow of Philoctetes hit him in the groin; trembling from head to foot, he fled like the dog from the lion.

The struggle continued while physicians tended the painful wound of Paris. At nightfall the Trojans went into their city, and the Danai returned to their ships. Paris moaned through the darkness. He could not sleep. The shaft had pierced to the marrow, and the poison which tipped the arrows of Heracles had blackened the wound with decay. The physicians could not help him, though they tried every known means to lessen his pain. Then, in his great anguish, Paris recalled an oracle which had said that in his utmost need only Oenone, the wife he had put aside, could enable him to escape death. He had spent serene and happy days with her when he was still a shepherd, pasturing his flock on the slopes of Ida. When he left for Greece, she herself had told him of the oracle. And so now he had himself carried up Mount Ida where Oenone still lived, but he was reluctant and full of qualms. Birds of ill omen croaked from the trees as his servants climbed toward the peak with him. Their voices filled him with horror, but his will to live was so strong that he tried to ignore them. When they reached Oenone’s house, he fell at the feet of the wife he had deserted. “Do not hate me now, in my agony,” he cried. “I left you only because it was the will of the Fates that I go to Helen. I wish I had died before bringing her to my father’s palace! But now I implore you by the gods, by the love we bore each other, pity me and put balm on my wound, for you yourself once predicted that you alone would be able to save my life.”

But his words did not soften Oenone. “How dare you come to me, whom you abandoned and left to loneliness and sorrow, while you took pleasure in Helen’s eternal youth!” she said angrily. “Why don’t you go and fall at her feet and ask her to help you? For you certainly will not move my spirit with your weeping and lamenting.” And she let him go from her house, not dreaming that her own fate was bound to his. He leaned heavily on his servants and dragged himself painfully away. They carried him down the wooded slopes of Ida, and Hera on Olympus revelled in his despair. Before he reached the foot of the mountain, he died of his poisoned wound, and Helen never saw him again.

A shepherd brought his mother Hecuba word of his death. Her knees shook at this message, and, losing consciousness, she fell to the ground. But Priam heard nothing of this fresh misfortune. He sat at the grave of Hector, lost in grief, and did not know what went on in the world. Helen, on the other hand, burst into tears, but her sadness was less for her husband than for herself, and she was confused by a feeling of guilt she had long suppressed.

Oenone, alone in her house, far from the city of Troy, was seized with deep remorse. Now she permitted herself to remember Paris in the freshness of youth, and the delights of their young love. As the ice in the woods and the sunless gorges thaws at the soft breath of the west wind and flows in swift streams, so her harshness melted in sorrow, and tears poured from her eyes. She sprang from her couch, tore open the door, and rushed out like a tempest. From cliff to cliff she hurried through the night, over jagged rocks and mountain streams. Pityingly Selene looked down at her from the dark blue sky and shed light on her path. At last she reached that part of the woods where the body of her husband lay on a pyre. The logs burst into flame, and the shepherds of that region stood around, paying honor to their friend and prince. When Oenone saw Paris dead, she was speechless with grief, and veiling her lovely face in her gown, she cast herself on the pyre. Before anyone could move to help her, her hair had caught fire, and with her husband she was consumed in the flames.


While this was taking place on the slopes of Ida, the two armies had resumed the fight. Apollo breathed courage into Aeneas, son of Anchises, and Eurymachus, son of Antenor, and they drove the Achaeans back. They suffered great losses, and Neoptolemus rallied his men with almost superhuman effort. But he could not stop the Trojans until Pallas Athene herself came to his help. Now Aphrodite also took part in the battle, for she feared for the life of Aeneas, her son. Finally she hid him in dense mist and bore him away from the battlefield.

Only a few Trojans escaped death, and these retreated to their city, wounded and exhausted. Weeping women and children took their bloodstained weapons from them and loosened their heavy cuirasses, and physicians hastened to their aid. The Danai too were tired and weakened, for they had defeated their enemies only after a long and desperate struggle. But the next morning they woke refreshed. Leaving a guard with their wounded, they marched courageously toward the walls of Troy. They distributed their forces, so that one battalion was stationed at each gate. But the Trojans resisted from every part of the wall and from every tower. The Scaean Gates bore the brunt of the attack. Sthenelus, son of Capaneus, and Diomedes were the first to rush against it. But tireless Deiphobus and strong Polites, with many others, fended their foes off with arrows and stones, and their shields and helmets rang with the striking missiles. Neoptolemus fought at the Idaean Gates. His Myrmidons were experienced in all the methods of storming a wall. On this part of the ramparts Helenus and Agenor kindled the hearts of the Trojans and fought for their city. Those gates which led to the plain and the Argive camp had been assigned to Eurypylus and Odysseus. They attacked again and again, but Aeneas kept them at a distance by incessantly hurling great stones at them. Teucer, meanwhile, fought on the banks of the Simois. So the fighting went on everywhere, and there was no decisive action. Finally Odysseus had a happy thought. He had his warriors lift up their shields so that they formed a compact and vaulted roof under which the men went forward, keeping close to each other. And now the stones and arrows and javelins launched from the walls rained on the shields without wounding a single man. In this way, like a solid mass of threatening cloud, they approached the walls. The earth groaned beneath their steps, the dust whirled about their heads, and under the roof of shields their talk sounded like the buzzing of bees in a hive. The hearts of the sons of Atreus brimmed with joy when they saw this unshakable procession. They urged their men forward toward all the gates and prepared to lift them from their hinges or batter them in with two-edged axes. The new invention of Odysseus seemed to assure victory.

But the gods who sided with the Trojans put new and greater strength into the arms of Aeneas. With both hands he grasped an enormous stone and hurled it down on the roof of shields with desperate fury. This stone caused disaster to the besiegers, and they fell like mountain goats mowed down by a tumbling rock. But Aeneas stood on the wall, his limbs swelling with strength, and his armor flashed like lightning. Beside him was Ares, hidden in cloud, and every time Aeneas cast a missile the war-god guided it, spreading terror and death among the Achaeans. Through it all Aeneas kept sounding his battle cry, firing his men to action, while down below Neoptolemus shouted to his Myrmidons to stand fast. And so they fought all day without respite.

The Argives were luckier at another part of the wall, where Ajax of Locris swept the defenders down with his arrows and spears. He actually cleared a space, so that Alcimedon, his comrade-in-arms, set up a ladder and began to climb it, trusting to his youth and courage. He held his shield over his head. But Aeneas had been watching him from far off, and just as he mounted the topmost rung, just as his first and last glance fell on the city of Troy, he was hit in the forehead by a stone flung by the powerful hand of the son of Anchises. The ladder broke under the impact of the falling hero. He whirled through space like an arrow shot from the bow and died before he struck the ground. The men of Locris cried out when they saw him lying there crushed and mangled.

Now Philoctetes fixed his eyes on the son of Anchises, who was raging along the wall like a wild beast. He aimed one of his inescapable arrows at him, but only scratched the leather of his shield and instead felled Medon, who dropped from the rampart like quarry shot down by the huntsman. In return, Aeneas cast a stone at Toxaechmes, the bold friend of Philoctetes, and cracked his skull. Furiously Philoctetes looked up at his foe and exclaimed: “Aeneas! You think yourself brave when you throw down stones from your post on the tower. But any weak woman could do as well. If you are a man, come out of the gate in full armor and measure your strength and skill in the use of bow and lance with me, the son of Poeas!” The Trojan did not stop to reply, for he was summoned to another part of the wall which was endangered at that moment, and Philoctetes too was drawn back into the battle.


For a long time the Argives fought for the gates and walls of Troy, but they were repulsed on all sides. Then Calchas summoned the heroes to an assembly, and this is what he told them: “The hardships you are going through are utterly in vain. You will never take Troy by force. It would be far better to devise some ruse to accomplish your purpose. Yesterday I saw a sign—a falcon chasing a dove which deftly slipped into a cleft in a rock. For a long time her pursuer waited in front of the crack, but she did not come out. Then he hid in a bush nearby, and the foolish little dove fluttered out unsuspectingly. Thereupon the falcon swooped down on her and clutched her in his talons. Let us follow the bird’s example. Let us stop fighting for Troy and see what can be achieved by craft.”

When Calchas had finished, the heroes tried to think of some scheme or other to end this grim war, but they racked their brains to no purpose. Finally Odysseus had a clever idea. “Let us build an enormous wooden horse and hide in its belly as many of the bravest Argives as it will hold. The rest shall take the ships to the island of Tenedos. Before sailing, they must burn everything in the camp, so that the Trojans see the fire and smoke from their towers, forget caution, and scatter over the field. But one of us—and it must be one whom the Trojans do not know by sight—shall go to Troy pretending he is a fugitive, and tell them that he has escaped the Achaeans who were going to slaughter him as a victim to insure their safe return home. He shall say that he hid under the wooden horse which the Argives had dedicated to Pallas Athene, the enemy of the Trojans, and crawled out only after the ships had left. The man who undertakes this must be able to repeat this story in answer to all questions the Trojans will put to him, and speak with such a semblance of truth that they forget their suspicions. They will then pity the poor stranger and take him into their city. There he shall see to it that the Trojans drag the wooden horse inside the gates. When our enemies are asleep, he shall give us a sign we have agreed on. We will rush out of the horse, signal to our friends in Tenedos with a burning torch, and destroy the city with fire and sword.”

When Odysseus had finished unfolding his plan, all praised his inventiveness. Calchas was loudest in expressing his approval, for shrewd Odysseus had hit on a scheme exactly in keeping with the soothsayer’s wish. He drew the attention of the assembly to favorable omens read from the flight of birds, and to the sound of thunder in heaven which signified the consent of Zeus. The Argives were just going to begin building the horse when the son of Achilles rose and said: “Calchas! Brave men face their enemies in open warfare! Let the Trojans be cowards and fight down from their towers and walls. But we surely must not take to hidden ruse or to any method but pitched battle. That is the only way to prove that we are better men.”

His voice rang with courage and fearlessness, and even Odysseus was forced to admire his unbroken strength and pride. But he retorted: “You are the noble son of a noble father, and you have spoken like a hero. But remember that even your father, who matched the gods in power and daring, was unable to shatter these massive fortifications. Not all things can be achieved by courage alone. And so I beg you and all you other heroes to accept the counsel of Calchas and get to work at once to carry out my project.”

Everyone except Philoctetes applauded the son of Laertes. The son of Poeas, however, sided with Neoptolemus, for he craved battle, and his heart was far from sated. In the end these two almost persuaded the rest of the Danai. But Zeus showed his disapproval and anger. Lightning flashed, and thunder shook the earth at the very feet of the Argives, so that they could not but understand that Zeus favored the plan of Calchas and the wily son of Laertes. And so Neoptolemus and Philoctetes yielded, though with inner reluctance.

They all returned to the ships, but before beginning the work they gave themselves up to deep refreshing sleep. And at midnight Athene sent a dream to Epeius, an Argive hero. She ordered him, who was skilled and deft with his hands, to build the great horse, promising her help, so that it might quickly be completed. The hero recognized the goddess. Joyfully he sprang up from his couch. He thought of only one thing—building the horse—and he pondered how to accomplish the task which had been set him.

At break of day, he told the Argives of the dream he had had. Instantly the sons of Atreus sent men to the slopes of Ida and had them cut the tallest trees. These were quickly dragged to the Hellespont, and there many young men offered to help Epeius. Some of them chopped the branches from the trunks. Others sawed the timbers. Epeius himself shaped the horse. First he carved the feet, then the belly. Over this he arched the back. Then he formed the flanks, and the neck with a mane, so delicately fashioned that it seemed to flutter in the wind. The ears were pointed, and the eyes sparkled with life. The whole horse seemed to breathe and move. With Athene’s help, all this was finished in only three days, and the entire host marvelled at the great work of art made by Epeius. They expected to hear it neigh at any moment. But the artist lifted his hands to heaven and prayed before the army: “Hear me, Pallas Athene, great goddess! Save your horse and save me!” And all the Achaeans joined in his prayer.

The Trojans remained quietly behind their walls, weary and frightened by what they had suffered at the hands of the Argives. But up on Olympus there was great tumult. For now that Troy’s doom was sealed the gods divided into two factions, the one favorable, the other hostile to the Argives. They descended to earth and stood in battle array on the shores of the Xanthus. But no mortal could see them. Even the deities of the sea joined the ranks of the immortals. The Nereids who were kin to Achilles sided with the Argives. Other gods of the ocean took the part of Troy, and they lashed the waves to angry crests and drove them toward the ships and the horse. Had Fate permitted, they would have destroyed both. In the meantime the fight on the plain had begun. Ares rushed at Athene. This was a sign for the rest, and soon all the gods were joined in conflict. Their golden armor rang at every move, and the sea surged and pounded on the sand. Under the feet of the immortals the whole earth quaked, and their battle cry was so piercing that it reached the underworld, and the very Titans trembled in Tartarus.

Now the gods had chosen the moment for battle at a time when Zeus was away on a journey. He had gone to the cave of Tethys and the waters of Oceanus at the utmost edge of the earth. But even at so great a distance his keen spirit knew everything that was happening before Troy. Hardly had he grown aware of the battle of the gods before he returned to Olympus, borne by the four winds. Iris was his charioteer, and his steeds reached the goal in an instant. With swift, strong hands he flashed lightning upon the gods below, and they dropped their arms and stood motionless. Themis, the goddess of justice, the only one of the immortals who had not taken part in the fight, went down to them and proclaimed that Zeus was resolved to destroy them unless they obeyed his will and gave up their struggle with one another. And now, fearing for their immortality, they subdued the enmity in their hearts and returned to their homes, some to heaven, others into the depths of the sea.

While this was going on, the wooden horse had been completed, and Odysseus rose in the assembly. “The time has come,” he said gravely. “Now, O leaders of the Danai, we shall see who is really strong and fearless. For now we must enter the belly of this horse and go toward the unknown. Believe me, it takes more courage to crawl into this hiding place than to face the foe in open battle. So let only the very bravest come. The rest can sail to Tenedos. Only one unafraid man must remain near the horse and do as I have counselled. Who will volunteer for this?”

No one came forward. The heroes hesitated. Then Sinon went up to Odysseus and said: “I am ready to do what must be done! Let the Trojans maltreat me! Let them throw me into fire alive! My decision is made!” His words were greeted with jubilant shouts, and many an old hero said to himself: “Who is this young man? We have never even heard his name! He has no particular deed to his credit. He must be possessed of a demon who wants to destroy either us or the Trojans.”

But Nestor rose and encouraged the Danai. “Let us marshal all our strength,” he cried. “For the gods have placed in our hands the means of putting an end to ten years of hardship. Quickly now! Into the horse! My old limbs feel as strong as when I wanted to board Jason’s Argo, and I would have done so, had not King Pelias held me back.”

So speaking, the old man attempted to precede all the rest through the wooden door let into the horse’s belly, but Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, implored him to leave this honor to him who was young, and content himself with guiding the others to Tenedos. It was difficult to persuade Nestor, but at last he gave in, and Neoptolemus, in full armor, was first to enter the hollow horse. After him came Menelaus, Diomedes, Sthenelus, and Odysseus. Then Philoctetes, Ajax, Idomeneus, Meriones, Podalirius, Eurymachus, Antimachus, Agapenor, and as many others as the wooden belly would hold. Last to enter was Epeius, the maker of the horse. When he too was inside, he pulled the ladders up after him, drew them into the opening, shut the door, and bolted it from within. In utter darkness and deep silence the heroes huddled in the horse, not knowing what awaited them, whether victory or death.

The rest of the Argives set afire their huts and whatever utensils they did not take with them. Then they boarded their ships, which were under the command of Agamemmon and Nestor, and sailed for Tenedos. This was done according to the decision of the assembly which did not wish these two to enter the horse, the one because of his great majesty, the other because of his old age. At Tenedos they weighed anchor, went ashore, and longingly waited for the fire signal which had been agreed on.

It did not take the Trojans long to notice that the air was heavy with smoke, and when they peered down from their towers, they saw that the Argive ships were gone. Joyfully they thronged to the shore, but stopped to gird on their armor, for they had not given up all their fears. When, in place of the hostile camp, they found the gigantic wooden horse, they surrounded it in wide-eyed wonder. First they admired this amazing work of art to their heart’s content, and then began to argue what to do with it. Some were in favor of dragging it into the city and setting it up on the acropolis as a monument of victory. Others mistrusted this strange gift the Argives had left behind and advised throwing it into the sea or burning it. All the while the heroes, hidden in that great belly, suffered pangs of anguish at each new proposal. And now Laocoon, the Trojan priest of Apollo, made his way through the crowds. But even before he had reached the horse, he cried: “What folly, what madness is this! Do you think the Danai have really sailed? How can you believe that any gift of theirs is without trickery? You know Odysseus! Either some danger lurks in that horse, or it is a war machine which our enemies, hidden somewhere nearby, will direct against our city. In any case, do not trust the horse!” With these words he grasped the heavy lance of the warrior standing nearest him and thrust it into the horse’s belly. The spear quivered in the wood, and the sound which issued from the belly was like an echo from a hollow cave, but the spirit of the Trojans was blind, and their ears did not hear.

While this was going on, some curious shepherds, who had come close to the horse, detected Sinon who had hidden under it; they dragged him out and took him to King Priam. And now all those who had surrounded the horse went to see this new spectacle. Sinon stood there, unarmed and apparently numb with fright, and played the part Odysseus had invented for him. He lifted pleading hands, now to heaven, now to the spectators, and sobbed: “Alas! What land shall I turn to, what sea? For the Argives have banished me, and the Trojans will surely kill me!” The very herdsmen who had seized him were moved by these words, and a number of warriors went up to him, asked him who he was and where he came from, and told him that if he were really guiltless he should be of good courage.

Finally Sinon gave up his show of fear and said: “I am an Argive. I do not deny it. Misery shall not succeed in making a liar of me. Perhaps you have heard of Palamedes, prince of Euboea? At Odysseus’ instigation he was stoned to death, simply because he had counselled his countrymen against waging war on Troy. I am a poor kinsman of his, and ever since his death I have had no one to turn to. You see, I dared threaten vengeance for the murder of my kinsman, and the son of Laertes began to hate me and has persecuted me all the years of this war. He did not rest until together with false Calchas he had plotted my death too. For when the Argives at last decided to flee—a plan they had weighed so often—and this wooden horse was already made, they sent Eurypylus to the oracle of Apollo, because they had seen ominous signs in the sky. And this was Apollo’s answer: ‘When you left for this war, you propitiated the angry winds with the blood of a virgin. Now you must buy your safe return with blood. You must sacrifice one of your own people.’ The Argives shuddered at these words. But Odysseus summoned Calchas, the soothsayer, to the assembly, and begged him to reveal the will of the gods. For five days Calchas, hypocritical Calchas, refused to designate any particular warrior for the offering. Finally, pretending that Odysseus was forcing his hand, he called my name. And everyone agreed readily, for each was glad to escape death himself. The terrible day dawned. They wreathed me as a victim and bound the sacred fillet about my head. The altar, the wine, the flour—everything was prepared. But I broke the thongs that bound me, fled, and hid in the reeds of a swamp until they had sailed away. Then I crept out and took shelter under the belly of the sacred horse. I cannot return to my country or to my people. I am in your hands. You must decide if you wish to be generous and let me live, or kill me as my fellow Argives threatened to do.”

The Trojans were moved by these lies. Priam spoke kindly to Sinon. He told him to forget his cruel comrades and promised him refuge in his city. All he asked in return was information about the wooden horse which the prisoner had just called “sacred.”

Sinon’s hands were freed of their bonds. He lifted them to heaven and prayed with false fervor: “You gods, to whom I was consecrated! O altar, and sword which menaced me, be my witnesses that the ties which bound me to my countrymen are severed, that I am not doing wrong in revealing their secrets!” Then he began his tale. “During the whole course of this war the Achaeans had staked their hopes on the help of Pallas Athene. But ever since her image, the Palladium, was stolen from the temple you reared for her in Troy, all has gone wrong. You Trojans probably do not know that it was taken by some of our men! The goddess was angry and withdrew her favor from the Argives. Then Calchas, the soothsayer, declared that we must launch our ships immediately and return to our own country to find out what the gods wished us to do. He said it was useless to expect victory until the Palladium was restored to its proper place. This was why the Danai at last resolved to sail home. But at Calchas’ advice they first built this great wooden horse as a gift for the goddess. He claimed it would calm her anger. They made it tall and wide so that you Trojans could not wedge it through the gates and take it into your city, because if you did, Athene’s favor and protection would go to you instead of to the Achaeans. If, on the other hand, you injured the sacred horse in any way—and the Danai hoped you would!—Athene would surely destroy your city. They intend to return as soon as they have learned the will of the gods in Argos, and expect to give the Palladium back to a city which has already been condemned by its own impious deeds.”

This web of lies was so cleverly devised that Priam and his warriors believed it and trusted Sinon. And Athene watched over the fate of her friends who sat within the horse shaken with anxiety, for ever since Laocoon had voiced his warning, they had been consumed with the fear of death. But an almost matchless miracle freed the heroes at least from this one danger. After the death of Poseidon’s priest, Laocoon, who was the priest of Apollo, had been chosen by lot to fill the vacant post, so that he was now priest of Poseidon as well. Just as he was about to sacrifice a splendid bull to the sea-god, two enormous snakes, coming from the direction of Tenedos, swam through the glassy water toward the shore. Their heads topped with scarlet crests loomed high above the surface of the sea. The rest of their bodies writhed through the water which moved and splashed with their passage. And now they crawled ashore, darted out their tongues, hissed, and looked about with eyes like flame. The Trojans, who were still thronged around the horse, grew pale as death and took to their heels. But the serpents made straight for the altar where Laocoon and his two young sons were busy with the sacrifice. First they wound themselves around the two boys and sank poisonous fangs into their tender flesh. When the children screamed and their father came running with drawn sword, they looped their heavy coils twice about him and reared their crests above his head. The fillet of the priest dripped with venom. In vain he tried to loosen the noose of their bodies with his hands. In the meantime the bull, which Laocoon had already struck with the axe when he heard his sons cry for help, shook the blade from his neck and fled bellowing from the altar. Laocoon and his children died from the bite of the snakes, and the creatures slithered along the ground until they reached the temple of Athene. There they hid at her feet, under the shield of the goddess.

The Trojans interpreted this awful event as punishment inflicted on the priest for the doubt he had expressed. Some hurried to the city and made a breach in the wall, large enough to admit the wooden horse. Others fastened wheels to its feet and twisted strong ropes to throw over its lofty neck. Then they pulled it to Troy in triumph. Girls and boys followed in solemn procession and chanted hymns. Four times the horse caught on the raised threshold of the gates before it finally rolled over, and four times the belly resounded as though bronze had struck on bronze. But still the Trojans did not hear, and they conducted the wooden image to the acropolis amid waves of thundering acclaim. In all this ecstasy of joy, only Cassandra, King Priam’s daughter, whom the gods had lent the power of foretelling the future, remained aloof. With unclouded vision she saw what was to be. Never had she spoken a word which had not come true, but she had the misfortune always to be doubted. Now too she recognized danger and ran from the palace, driven by the spirit of prophecy. Her hair fluttered wildly, her eyes were glazed, and her slender neck swayed like a twig in the wind. She cried aloud through the streets: “People of Troy, do you not realize that we are travelling the road to destruction? That we stand at the verge of death? I see the city filled with fire and blood. I see death breaking out of the belly of that horse you have brought here so exultantly. But why do I speak? If I used thousands of words you still would not believe me. You have fallen prey to the Furies who will take vengeance on you for Helen’s marriage.”

But the Trojans only laughed at the girl or mocked her. At best one would stop and say: “Have you grown so shameless, Cassandra, that you, a girl, run around in the streets alone? Don’t you see that everyone is ridiculing your foolish talk? Better go home before anything happens to you.”


Late into that night the Trojans gave themselves up to feasting and celebrating. Flute boys moved among the revellers. Again and again the cups were filled with wine, seized in both hands, and drained to the last drop. At midnight, when tongues and lids grew heavy and all were dulled with sleep, Sinon, who had feasted with the rest, pretended to grow drowsy. He rose from his couch, walked softly out of the gates, lit a torch, and waved it so that it could be seen on the shores of Tenedos. Then he extinguished it, crept up to the horse, and knocked gently on the belly, as Odysseus had told him to do. The heroes heard the sound. But they only turned in silence to receive the command of the son of Laertes. He bade them go out as quietly as possible, and warned those who were most impatient. Noiselessly he slid back the bolts, put out his head, and looked around to make sure no one was awake. Then, as a ravening wolf prowls softly to the sheeppen, between watchful shepherds and dogs, he climbed down the rungs of the ladder which Epeius had made along with the horse. One hero after another followed him, his heart thudding against his ribs. When the wooden belly had disgorged all its inmates, they brandished their lances, drew their swords, and scattered through the city. And now dreadful slaughter overtook the Trojans, dazed with sleep and wine. Firebrands were tossed into their homes, and soon the roofs began to burn over their heads. At the same time, a favorable wind carried the fleet from Tenedos into the harbor on the Hellespont, and soon after the entire Argive host rushed into the city through the broad breach the Trojans themselves had cut for the horse. The already vanquished city was filled with screams of agony. The maimed and wounded crawled among corpses, and anyone who still ran unharmed was hit in the back with a lance. Dogs yelped and howled above the moans of the dying, and the clamor was swelled by the wails of women and children.

But the Argives too had heavy losses, for although the greater part of their enemies were unarmed, they fought as well as they could. Some hurled their cups at the foe. Others snatched burning brands from the hearth, or hacked about with spits, hatchets, axes, or whatever they could lay hands on. So the Danai had to be on their guard. Stones were thrown at them from the roof tops, and some were crushed by burning walls which collapsed as they passed. When they had fought their way to the acropolis, many Trojans issued fully armed from the palace of Priam, so that the Argives had to fight for their very lives.

In the course of the battle the city grew lighter and lighter, though it was still night, for the many torches carried by the Achaeans and the brilliance of the spreading conflagration made Troy as bright as day. And now that the Argives no longer feared to mistake friend for foe in the dark, they became bolder and went purposefully for the noblest among the Trojan heroes. Diomedes killed Coroebus, son of great Mygdon, by driving his lance through his stomach. Then he slew brave Eurydamas, the son-in-law of aged Antenor. Soon after he met Ilioneus, one of the oldest among the Trojans, who fell on his knees and, catching at the victor’s sword, cried in a trembling voice: “Whoever you may be, give up your anger! For only victory over the young and strong brings glory. Spare an old man, for you too will some day be old and look for mercy.” For an instant Diomedes stayed his sword and hesitated. But then he pierced his enemy’s throat, saying: “I do, indeed, hope to grow to honored old age, but first I must use my young strength to send all my foes to Hades!” And he rushed on and killed many other Trojans.

Ajax of Locris and Idomeneus were also pursuing the Trojans relentlessly. But Neoptolemus picked out the sons of Priam as his victims and slew three of them, and after that Agenor, who had dared fight with Achilles, his father. Finally he came on Priam himself. The old man was praying at an altar of Zeus built out in the open. Eagerly Neoptolemus lifted his sword. Priam looked him fearlessly in the eye. “Slay me, O son of brave Achilles,” he said. “I have suffered much; many of my children have died before my eyes. Why should I still see the light of the sun? I wish I had died long before this. I wish your father had killed me. Since he did not, satisfy your own fierce heart and release me from my griefs.”

“Old man,” Neoptolemus answered, “you urge me to do what my own soul bids,” and he cut off the old king’s head lightly and swiftly as the reaper in the heat of summer mows the grain in the sun-baked field. The head rolled along the ground, and the body lay among the corpses of other Trojans.

The common warriors in the Argive host were far more cruel. In the king’s palace they had found Astyanax, Hector’s little son. They snatched him from his mother’s arms, and, full of hatred against Hector and his line, hurled him down from the ramparts. When they wrested him from his mother, she cried: “Throw me from the wall too! Or cast me into the flames! Since Achilles killed my husband, I have been living only for my child. Take from me the agony of a life without him!” But the men did not even listen to her and stormed away.

So Death prowled about, entering now this house, now that. He spared only one, the home of old Antenor who had been so generous and kindly a host to Odysseus and Menelaus and saved their lives long ago when they came to Troy as envoys. For this the Danai now spared him and left him all his possessions.

As long as Troy was under siege, Aeneas had fought from the walls with unbroken strength. But when he saw the city burning in all quarters, when he realized that further resistance was useless, he acted like a brave sailor in a storm who defends his ship against the raging sea as long as possible, but when he knows that sinking is inevitable, abandons it to the waves and tries to save himself in a boat. So now Aeneas took his father Anchises on his broad shoulders, his son Ascanius by the hand, and hastened away. The boy pressed close to his father, and his feet hardly touched the earth as Aeneas leaped across the countless bodies which littered the streets. And Aphrodite never left her son’s side, for wherever he went the flames receded, the clouds of smoke parted, and the arrows and spears the Danai hurled at him fell harmlessly to the ground.

In all other places, murder was abroad. Just outside the chamber of faithless Helen, Menelaus, her first husband, found Deiphobus, son of Priam. Since Hector’s death he had been the pillar of his house and his people; after Paris was slain, Helen had fallen to his share. He was still drowsy and numb with the evening’s carousal as he staggered to his feet and fled through the corridors of the palace. But Menelaus overtook him and killed him with his sword. “Die here, at my wife’s doors!” he cried in a voice like thunder. “If only I could have killed Paris in this place! But just as he had to die, so you too shall not take delight in Helen and go unpunished! You shall learn that no one who does wrong can escape the hands of Themis, goddess of justice.” And Menelaus rolled the corpse to one side with his foot and started on a search through the palace, for his heart, torn with emotions, yearned for Helen. Fearing her husband’s anger, she had hidden herself in the farthest corner of the house, and it took him a long time to find her. When he first caught sight of her, jealousy prompted him to slay her, but Aphrodite, who had made her even fairer than before, struck the sword from his hand, dispelled his rage, and woke the old love sleeping in his heart. He was bewitched by Helen’s beauty, and again and again his hand refused to raise the sword. Suddenly he forgot all the wrong she had done him. But when he heard the battle cry of the Argives, he felt ashamed to think that he was standing in front of false Helen, not as an avenger, but as her slave. Against his will he picked up the sword which had fallen to the ground, curbed his passion, and aimed a blow at his wife. But in his heart he hated to harm her, and so he was relieved when Agamemnon came up to him, laid his hand on his shoulder, and said: “Wait, Menelaus! It is not proper for you to slay your lawful wife, for whose sake we have endured so much suffering. She is far less at fault than Paris who broke the laws of hospitality. But he and all his line and all his people have now been punished. They have paid with their lives.” So spoke Agamemnon, and Menelaus obeyed him with seeming reluctance but inner joy.

While this was happening on earth, the immortals veiled themselves in cloud and mourned the fall of Troy. The only ones to rejoice so greatly that they shouted with satisfaction were Hera, the deadly enemy of the Trojans, and Thetis, the mother of Achilles who had died in the flower of manhood. Pallas Athene could not restrain her tears, even though she had constantly worked for the fall of Troy, for she saw Ajax, the wild son of Oileus, enter her temple. There he seized Cassandra, her priestess, who had sought refuge in the sanctuary and was clasping her image, and dragged her away by the hair. The goddess did nothing to help the daughter of her foes, but her cheeks burned with anger, and her image gave forth a sound that shook the floor of the temple. Turning her eyes from this scene of crime, she swore to avenge the wrong done to Cassandra.

The conflagration and slaughter went on for a long time. Like a pillar the flames soared to heaven and announced the fall of the city to all those who lived on islands nearby, and to the ships which plied back and forth on the sea.


By morning, most of the inhabitants of the city were either dead or captured. The Danai could roam through Troy at will and take what they wanted of the boundless treasure stored in it. They carried their spoils to the ships: gold, silver, precious stones, many costly utensils, and captive women, girls, and children. In the midst of the throng was Menelaus, leading Helen out of the confusion. He was still a little ashamed and yet very happy to have her back. Beside him walked Agamemnon with Cassandra whom he had rescued from the rough grasp of Ajax. Neoptolemus guided Hector’s wife, Andromache, from the burning city. Queen Hecuba, who walked with difficulty and tore at her grey hair which she had strewn with ashes, was the prisoner of Odysseus. Countless other Trojan women followed, young and old, and behind them girls and children. Handmaids mingled with the daughters of kings, and all alike sobbed and wailed with anguish. Only Helen was silent. She kept her eyes on the ground, and a blush of shame flooded her face. Then she thought of the fate which awaited her on the ships, and she shivered and paled. Swiftly she drew her veil over her head and walked tremblingly at her husband’s side.

But when she reached the ships, the Achaeans were so dazzled by the flawless beauty of her face and the grace and loveliness of her body that they told themselves it had been well worth while to follow Menelaus to Troy for such a prize, and to endure dangers and hardships for ten long years. No one at all thought of hurting Helen in any way. They left her to Menelaus who, moved by Aphrodite, had forgiven her long ago.

And now the feasting began. All the heroes lay couched around the board, and in the middle was a bard who struck chords on his lyre and sang the deeds of Achilles, the greatest of all the Argives. Until nightfall they made merry.

Now when Helen was alone with Menelaus, she threw herself at his feet, clasped his knees, and said: “I know that you have the right to punish me, your faithless wife, with death. But remember that I did not leave the palace in Sparta of my own free will. Paris, that trickster, took me by force at the very time you were absent from home, and I had no husband to protect me. And when I wanted to kill myself, when I lifted the sword or laid the noose around my neck, my tirewomen held me back and begged me to think of you and of our little daughter. Do as you like with me. I lie at your feet as a penitent, as a suppliant.”

Menelaus raised her tenderly and answered: “Forget the past, Helen, and lay aside your fears. What was done is over. I shall never cherish a grudge against you for any fault you may have had.” With that he took her in his arms, and tears of sad and sweet emotion glistened in her eyes.

Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, was fast asleep. In his dream he saw his father, looking just as he had in life, the terror of the Trojans and the delight of the Danai. He kissed his son on the throat and eyes, and said: “Do not grieve that I am dead, dear son, for now I am in the company of the gods. Do not give yourself up to mourning! Do as I did while I lived. Always be first in battle, but in council do not hesitate to yield to the wisdom of men older than yourself. Strive for glory, enjoy the light of earth, and do not let misfortune rest too heavily on your spirit. My early death has taught you how near to the doors of Hades is every mortal. For men are like the flowers in spring: they bloom and they fade. And now, tell Agamemnon to sacrifice the most precious and noblest of all the spoils, that my heart may rejoice in the fall of Troy, and nothing be lacking to my content on the heights of Olympus.”

When he had given his son this command, Achilles vanished from Neoptolemus, lightly and fleetly as wind. He woke and felt as happy as if his father were still alive and had talked to him.

In the morning the Danai rose from their couches full of impatience to be off on their journey, for their longing for home had grown overgreat after the sack of Troy. They would have dragged their ships into the sea at once, had not the grandson of Peleus gone among them and detained them with his words. “Argives!” he called in his strong young voice. “Last night my immortal father came to me in a dream and bade me tell you to make him an offering of the best you carried off as spoils from Troy, so that he too might have his share of the prizes of war and sate his heart with joy at the fall of the hated city. You shall not leave these shores until you have fulfilled your duty toward dead Achilles, to whom you really owe your conquest. For had he not defeated Hector, we should never have reached our goal.”

Reverently the Argives resolved to obey their slain hero. Out of love for Achilles, Poseidon quickened the sea to a tempest, and the breakers rose so high that even had the Danai wished to leave, they would not have been able to. And when they saw the towering waters and heard the howl of the wind, they whispered to one another: “Yes, Achilles is indeed descended from Zeus himself. See how the elements are supporting his commands!” And they were all the more willing to do as he had bidden and thronged to his burial mound, looming high above the shores of the sea.

But now came the question, what to sacrifice? What was best and noblest among all the spoils taken from Troy? Of his own accord, every Argive brought his treasures and captives. When everything had been examined, gold and silver and precious stones, the glory of these as well as of all other possessions paled before the beauty of Polyxena, Priam’s daughter, and a cry rose up from the throng that it was she who was best and noblest of the spoils. The girl did not blanch when she saw all eyes fixed on herself. She remained steadfast even when Hecuba, her mother, pressed forward from the crowd of captives and wailed aloud. For Polyxena was willing to die for the sake of Achilles. She had seen him from the walls, and although he was the enemy of Troy, his beauty and strength had stirred her inmost being. There was even a rumor that once, when the battle had been carried to the very gates of the city, Achilles had seen Polyxena on the ramparts. His heart had quickened with love, and he had called to her: “Daughter of Priam, if you fell to my share, who knows if I should not try to make peace between your father and the Argives!” It seems that the hero regretted his words the moment they were spoken, for he remembered what he owed to Greece. But Polyxena—so they say—was deeply touched by them and from that day on had burned with secret love for the foe of her people.

Be that as it may, the girl did not falter when all eyes fastened on her and all lips proclaimed her the only offering fit for the greatest of heroes. An altar had been reared at the burial mound of Achilles, and the utensils for the sacrifice lay in readiness. And then, before anyone knew what was happening, the princess sprang forward from among the other captive women, seized a dagger, and, clinging to the altar like a victim, drove it into her heart. She fell to the ground without a word or a sigh.

A wave of lament ran through the Argive host. Old Queen Hecuba threw herself over her daughter’s body with many tears, and her women wailed with pity and sorrow.

The moment Polyxena sank to the earth and the crimson blood spurted from her breast, the sea grew as calm and smooth as a mirror. Overcome with compassion, Neoptolemus hurried to the altar, helped them carry Polyxena away, and saw to it that she was buried with the honors due a princess. But Nestor rose in the council of the Argives and said: “At last the hour for our journey home has come. The lord of the sea has bridled the breakers. As far as the eye can reach not a crest of foam is to be seen, not even a ripple. Achilles is content. He has accepted the sacrifice of Polyxena. Let us launch our ships and sail!”


At Nestor’s advice all this was done, and the men shouted lustily as they loaded the ships with stores and the many spoils of war. First the captives were put aboard, sobbing and wailing. Then the Argives themselves entered the ships. Calchas, the soothsayer, was the only one to remain ashore. His prophetic spirit had divined a terrible disaster lurking in wait for the Achaeans near the Capharean Rocks of the promontory of Euboea, which the Argive fleet had to pass on the journey home. He warned them not to sail, but no one paid any attention to his words because all hearts were overcome with longing for home. Only Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus, the famed seer whom the earth of Thebes had swallowed, drew back the foot with which he was about to board his ship. For something of his father’s gift of prophecy stirred within him, and suddenly he had the same premonition as Calchas and decided to stay behind with him. Fate had decreed that neither Calchas nor Amphilochus were to return to Greece. They settled in the cities of Cilicia and Pamphylia, in Asia Minor.

But the other Achaeans loosed the ropes which bound the ships to the shore and weighed anchor. The wind bellied out the sails, and the open sea lapped the keels. The bows of the ships were laden with the weapons of slain foes. Countless trophies of victory hung from the masts. The ships were wreathed with flowers, and the victors had garlanded their shields, their helmets and lances. Joyful and triumphant, they poured libations of wine into the shining sea and begged the gods for a safe return. But their prayers never reached Olympus; the winds swept them from the decks and scattered them among the drifting clouds.

While the heroes were looking ahead full of hope and longing, the captive Trojan women and girls gazed back at Troy, where the smoke was still curling from the ruins. They tried to hide their sorrow by stifling the sobs which rose in their throats, and they eased their grief with silent tears. Some of the girls had clasped their hands around their knees, others covered their faces with their palms. The young women held children in their arms, but these thought of nothing but their mother’s breast and did not know the unhappiness in store for them. Cassandra stood among them, taller than the rest. Her eyes were tearless, and she was too proud to give way to sighs. What had happened was only what she had foretold long ago, and her fellow citizens had jeered at her for it. Now she spoke contemptuous words to her countrywomen, but though her lips mocked them, her heart bled for her city which had been sacked and burned.

The only people left in the ruins of Troy were the old and the wounded. Antenor urged them on to the mournful task of burying their dead. It was slow work, for there were so many corpses and so few living men. These built one gigantic pyre, laid the bodies on it side by side, and lit the wood with weeping and lament.

The Argives, in the meantime, had already left behind them the coast of Troy and the grave of Achilles. But their joy was tempered with grief at the thought of how many of their comrades had fallen, how many friends they were leaving in alien earth. Coast after coast, island after island slipped past: Tenedos, Chrysa, the temple of Apollo Smintheus, sacred Cilia, Lesbos, and the promontory of Lecton, where Mount Ida juts out into the sea. The wind filled the sails, and the surging sea was dark except for the trail of white foam in the wake of the ships.

The victors would have reached the coast of Hellas safely, had not Pallas Athene been angry with them because of what Ajax of Locris had done. So when they approached the stormy shores of Euboea, the goddess prepared a sad and cruel death for the son of Oileus. She had complained to Zeus that her priestess Cassandra had been dragged from the sanctuary of her temple, and she demanded the right to take vengeance on the perpetrator of the crime. And the father of gods not only gave her the permission she asked but lent his daughter thunderbolts which the Cyclopes had just forged, and let her stir up a deadly tempest for the Argive fleet. Then Athene girt on her armor. In the middle of her shimmering aegis was the Gorgon’s head in a tangle of serpents. She grasped one of her father’s thunderbolts, which no other god except Zeus could lift, filled Olympus with the crash of thunder, poured clouds about the mountains, and wrapped the sea and the land in darkness. Then she sent Iris, her messenger, to Aeolus, god of the winds. He kept them imprisoned in a cave in a rift of earth, next to his palace.

Iris found the lord of storms at home with his wife and his twelve sons. He at once set about obeying Athene’s command. With powerful hands he thrust his huge trident into the hill which covered the cave of the winds and tore it open. And out darted the winds like hounds eager for the hunt. He bade them unite to a single black tempest and fly to the surf which pounds the Capharean Rocks on the coast of Euboea. The words had scarcely left his lips before they were on their way. The sea groaned under their impact. The waves swelled to mountains, and the courage of the Argives sank when they saw towering walls of water rolling toward them. They could no longer ply their oars. The storm had torn their sails to tatters. At last even the helmsmen gave up. Night fell, the darkest night they had ever experienced, and with it the last shred of hope vanished.

Poseidon helped Pallas, his brother’s daughter, and unceasingly she tossed fresh lightning and thunder down from Olympus. Screams and groans sounded through the ships. The wood cracked with the force of the gale. The timbers were wrenched apart, and those who tried to escape the impact of the wrecks driving through the waters were sucked beneath the waves. Finally Athene hurled her mightiest thunderbolt into the ship of Ajax of Locris, and the next instant it was nothing but a mass of splinters. Earth and air rang with the tremendous crash, and the waves licked at the wreckage. The crew struggled and drowned, but Ajax himself was still alive. Now he clutched a timber, now he parted the tide with the strong strokes of an expert swimmer. Now he rode the crest of a wave, now he was dashed into the trough. All the while lightning blazed about him, but Athene did not want him to die just yet. Such a death would have been too merciful. Nor was his courage broken by all these terrors. He gripped an edge of rock protruding from the sea, clung to it stubbornly, and boasted he would save himself even if all the gods combined to destroy him.

Poseidon, the Earth-Shaker, who was close to Ajax, heard his vaunts with anger. Furiously he shook earth and sea at the same time. The crags of Caphareus trembled, and the shores quaked under the trident of the sea-god. And then the rock which Ajax was clutching with both bleeding hands was uprooted from the bottom of the sea, and he was thrust helpless into the swirling waters. His head and beard were white with foam. As he sank, Poseidon flung at him a cliff he had pried loose from the promontory, and it covered the king of Locris as Aetna had once covered Enceladus. And so Ajax perished, shattered both by the earth and the sea.

The ships of the other Danai tossed about on the waves. Some were in pieces, many had sunk. The storm raged on, and the rain poured in such torrents that it resembled the flood in the days of Pyrrha and Deucalion. And now the Argives had also to suffer vengeance for the stoning of Palamedes. For King Nauplius, the father of this hero, was still in Euboea. When he saw the Argive fleet battling with the tempest near the coast of his country, he thought of the malicious murder of his son whom he had been mourning so many years. The lust for revenge had never weakened within him, and here was a chance to satisfy it. He hurried to the shore and had his servants set up burning torches all along the promontory of Caphareus, opposite the most dangerous cliffs in the sea. The Achaeans, thinking that the torches were beacons of safety put up by the compassionate inhabitants of the island, made for those very cliffs with haste and hope. And here many more of their ships were wrecked.

While this was happening to the Danai on their homeward journey, Poseidon commanded the sea to tear down the walls and towers they had put up around their camp near Troy. And so of all that great undertaking, nothing was left but the ashes of Troy and a small number of ships with returning heroes and captive Trojan women. The tempest had scattered them. It was only after terrible toil and many hardships that they reached the coast of Greece, and even there only a very few found the unalloyed happiness which all had yearned for during the long years of warfare.

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