Ancient History & Civilisation



In the tenth book of the Iliad, often referred to as the ‘Doloneia’ or ‘Lay of Dolon’, a night-time adventure is described. Deprived of Achilles’ aid on the battlefield, the Greeks are hard-pressed and despondent, while the Trojans are encamped on the plain and confident of success the next day. A council is held among the Greeks, and they agree to send out Odysseus and Diomedes as scouts to gather information and do what else they can to improve the situation. Meanwhile among the Trojans Hector also decides to send out a spy, by name Dolon (a name which suggests secrecy and guile, in Greek dolos). As reward for his efforts Dolon requests the gift of the magnificent horses of Achilles once the Trojans have won. In the area between the armies Dolon is intercepted by the two Greeks, who threaten him and demand information. Losing his nerve completely, Dolon pours out every detail, including news of the arrival of Rhesus, an ally of the Trojans. Diomedes kills Dolon, and the two friends proceed to enter the Trojan camp, kill Rhesus and some of his followers, then hurry back to their own side, taking with them Rhesus’ horses. The goddess Athena, who regularly befriends Odysseus and Diomedes, oversees the expedition and helps them at crucial moments, though without appearing to them directly.

It is a curious coincidence that the tenth book of the Iliad is widely regarded as a later addition to the poem, just as the Rhesus is thought by many to be a spurious work wrongly ascribed to Euripides. Some of the arguments for the latter view will be mentioned below: first we should consider the drama on its own terms.

It is obvious that the basic framework of the story is similar: Trojan successes, spies on both sides, the two Greek intruders, the killing of Rhesus, the abduction of his horses. Some of the changes that the dramatist makes are clearly the consequence of transferring the story to the stage: thus the murder of Rhesus must now be reported in a messenger speech, and the bad dream which Rhesus was having just before his death is transferred to his charioteer, because Rhesus will not live to narrate it. There are however a number of other significant differences.

First, the play is set exclusively in the Trojan camp, and seen almost entirely from the Trojan perspective. From the Greek side we see only Odysseus and Diomedes, and they appear only in two successive scenes.

Second, the connection we find in the Doloneia between Dolon’s story and that of Rhesus is severed. In the Iliad Dolon told the Greek intruders about Rhesus and where to find him; in the play, Dolon departs on his mission before Rhesus’ arrival, and the Greeks appear to be looking for Hector: it requires Athena’s intervention in person to send them in pursuit of the Thracian king.

Third, whereas the part of Dolon has been minimized, the role of Rhesus has been greatly expanded. In the Iliad he is introduced only to be killed: he speaks no lines and is disposed of without difficulty, and he has no special status to warrant extended mourning. In the play he is not just another ally but a warrior of outstanding stature, welcomed by the chorus as a saviour figure, compared and even identified with Zeus and Ares (355ff., 385ff.). Athena predicts ruinous bloodshed among the Greek ranks if he lives to fight them the next day. His parentage is altered: in the drama he is the son of the River Strymon and of one of the Muses, and his mother appears at the end to mourn him. She also declares that she will be responsible for his burial, and that he will become an oracular hero, human yet also divine, uttering prophecies as a spokesman for Dionysus – no ordinary end.

It is clear that the dramatist was not simply adapting a single episode in the Iliad. He visibly draws on other parts of the Homeric poems (the Muse, for instance, resembles Thetis, the mother of Achilles, who regularly bemoans the imminent death of her son); similarly he has also developed other motifs from the epic and lyric tradition. A lost poem of Pindar described how Rhesus came to Troy and in a single day wrought havoc, slaughtering many Greek soldiers. In that poem Hera and Athena inspired Odysseus and Diomedes to make their night raid specifically in order to dispose of this formidable threat to the Greek cause. This version also gave Rhesus the same parents he has in the play. The résumé of Pindar’s poem makes no mention of Dolon, who is indeed irrelevant to the story as told in this form. It seems clear that the author of the Rhesus has blended elements from the Doloneia and from the version invented or inherited by Pindar. It may be only the accident of survival that makes us regard the Doloneia as his chief source.

None of this is to deny that the poet of the Rhesus made his own contribution. The characterization is probably mostly his invention. It is notable that none of the characters cuts a very impressive figure. There is dissension and distrust on the Trojan side: Hector is hostile to Rhesus and criticizes him at length to his face; the Charioteer supposes that Rhesus died because of Trojan treachery. Hector, Dolon and Rhesus all display exaggerated over-confidence. Alexandros (Paris) appears on stage only to be deceived without difficulty by Athena; similarly the chorus are easily duped by Odysseus. Hector is shown in conflict with Aeneas, Rhesus and the charioteer in succession. He also upbraids the chorus (with some justice) for neglecting their guard duties, and they defend themselves with obvious falsehoods. We might suspect the poet of Greek chauvinism, were it not that the presentation of Odysseus and Diomedes is scarcely favourable. When they first appear on stage they are hesitant and ready to withdraw at the first obstacle, until Athena gives them instructions. They have already killed Dolon (a disturbing scene even in the epic); they now proceed to slaughter Rhesus and his comrades while they sleep. It may be excessive to call this an anti-heroic picture, but neither side seems to come out of the episode with much credit. The combination of self-important braggadocio, divinely authorized assassination, misunderstanding, recriminations and ineptitude produces a remarkably negative interpretation of an episode which in Homer was essentially an exciting narrative of a bold expedition by two of our favourite heroes. Perhaps the most moving part of the drama is the lament by the dead Rhesus’ mother, who sees clearly who was behind the events and voices her bitter hostility to Athena: the double use of opposed divinities in this play is reminiscent of the opposition of Aphrodite and Artemis in Hippolytus.

We can no longer avoid the question of the authorship of this curious drama. It seems more or less certain that Euripides did write a Rhesus, but the ancient commentators who composed the ‘summaries’ prefaced to the play were aware of doubts as to whether this play was actually his. There was also a mystery regarding its prologue. In our texts there is none; the play begins with the chorus hurrying in and surrounding Hector’s tent. Two openings were known, however, and both are quoted by the summary: of one we have only a line, but the other, of which we have an extract running to eleven lines, evidently included a dialogue between Hera and Athena debating how to help the Greek forces.* Whether either of these was the work of Euripides is hard to decide: what all this does suggest is that the play was of uncertain status. One theory is that the editors who collected Euripides’ work in Alexandria in the third century BC may have acquired some plays by other authors, misguidedly accepting them as Euripidean in their eagerness to amass as many authentic plays as possible.

This external evidence does not add up to much. More important is the internal evidence of vocabulary, style, metre and dramatic technique. These and similar questions have been investigated with great thoroughness in a monograph by W. Ritchie. He has systematically compared the Rhesuswith other tragedies, especially those of Euripides, and has reached the conclusion that there is very little which cannot be paralleled in the author’s certainly genuine works. In his view the Rhesus is probably an early work, perhaps the earliest play by Euripides that we have (earlier thanAlcestis of 438). Not all, however, have been convinced. Ritchie has undoubtedly shown that many of the criticisms lodged against the play are unjustified, and that the poet uses a style which is (most of the time) very like that of Euripides. But in his determination to find parallels he is sometimes guilty of exaggerating similarities and minimizing peculiarities.

Different critics will of course find different points particularly convincing on one side or the other. If I were asked to say what features of the Rhesus seem to me to make Euripidean authorship unlikely, I would mention the following. The plot falls into two unequal parts: the Dolon-plot is dropped, almost forgotten, when the Rhesus-plot takes over. A more skilful dramatist might surely have done more to integrate the two. On the level of characterization, those of whom we see most are too similar and too monolithic. There is a marked absence of the rhetorical and philosophic generalizations that we associate with Euripides (especially in the confrontation between Hector and Rhesus, which is very unlike the typical Euripidean agon-scene). There are dramaturgical oddities: the handling of Athena’s epiphany is unique, and the messenger speech, delivered only to the chorus in the absence of Hector, is at least unconventional. There are also anomalous features at the end of the play (nowhere else in tragedy does a deus ex machina sing as well as speak). The structuring of the choral interventions is abnormal in several respects. Some of these phenomena can be at least partly paralleled elsewhere, others may be defended as bold innovations (after all, what is Euripides if not unconventional?). But the overall effect of the play feels, to my mind, very unlike the rest of the poet’s œuvre. Nevertheless, we must remember how much we have lost and bear in mind the versatility of these poets. I am content to echo the judicious words of Euripides’ best modern editor, James Diggle: ‘I have little confidence that Euripides did write the Rhesus; I would not dare say that he could not have done so.’

In any case, preoccupation with the question of authenticity risks neglecting the particular interest of the drama. If it is by another hand, and possibly from the fourth century BC, that significantly increases our knowledge of the genre – we have the work of four poets, not just three (or indeed five, assuming that the Prometheus Bound is not by Aeschylus). Whether the Rhesus is Euripidean or not, it gives us a rare opportunity to see a tragedian reshaping a particular Homeric episode, enhancing the elements of ironic deception and pathos; no less than the Orestes and Iphigenia at Aulis, it enables us to see how heroic values and traditional mythical characters were put under scrutiny in the developed tragic genre; and it sheds further light on the Greeks’ perception of war and the foreign antagonist. The great sequence of dramas that begins for us with Aeschylus’ Persiansreaches a fitting conclusion with the Rhesus.


CHORUS of Trojan sentries

HECTOR, commander of the Trojans

AENEAS, a Trojan captain

DOLON, a Trojan

MESSENGER, a herdsman

RHESUS, king of Thrace, son of Strymon, the river-god, and a Muse

ODYSSEUS, a Greek captain

DIOMEDES, a Greek captain

ATHENA, a goddess

ALEXANDROS, a Trojan prince, also known as Paris, brother of Hector


MUSE, mother of Rhesus

[The scene is the Trojan camp close to the Greek ships, where the victorious Trojans have pitched their tents for the night, hoping to drive the enemy into the sea the next morning.]

CHORUS:1 On to the tent of Hector! Which shield-bearer or armour-bearer of the king is awake? He must hear the report from the young men who for the fourth watch have been set to guard the whole army! Raise your head, Hector, lean on your elbow, shake the sleep from those eyes of yours that strike terror, and leave your bed strewn with [10] leaves! It’s time to listen!

HECTOR [emerging from his tent]: Who’s there? Is that a friend’s cry? What man is it? What is the watchword? Speak! What men approach my bed in the watches of the night? You must speak!

CHORUS: Men who guard the army.

HECTOR: Why such haste and disorder? Perhaps you have some news of the night? Do you not know we are next to the spears of the [20] Greeks and keep our night’s sleep in full armour?

CHORUS [Strophe]: Arm your hand; go to the tents of your allies, Hector, urge them to lift their spears, rouse them from sleep! Send friends to go to your own company, fit bridles on your horses!

Who will go to the son of Panthous or of Europa, leader of Lycia’s men?

Where are the overseers of sacrifice, where the kings of the light-armed [30] fighters and the Phrygian archers? Fit the arrows bound with horn to your bowstrings!

HECTOR: You bring news terrible to hear and yet you tell us to have confidence; this lacks all clarity. Can it be the fearful whip of Pan,2 grandson of Cronus, that makes you afraid, prompting you to leave your watch and start this commotion in the army? What are you saying? What news should I say you bring? You have said much but shown nothing plainly. [40]

CHORUS [Antistrophe]: The Greek army has been kindling watchfires3 all through the night, Hector, and their ships’ mooring stations are bright with beacons. This night their entire host has approached Agamemnon’s tent with clamorous desire to hear some fresh report. Never yet has such fear filled their seafaring ranks. I have come to bring you this message, with doubt in my heart about the [50] future, so that never may you have words of reproach for me.

HECTOR: You have come at the right time, though your message is one of fear; the enemy plan to row away by night from our land and make their escape, without my knowledge. This night watch gives me encouragement.

O Fortune, I am like the lion whose hunting you have blessed only to be turned away from my prey before destroying the whole Greek army with this spear at one swoop! If only the sun’s gleaming torches had not frustrated me, I should not [60] have checked my prospering spear before firing their ships and sweeping through their tents, killing Greeks with this murderous hand!

Indeed I was eager to hurl my spear and to ride the swell of fortune’s favour in the night. But the wise prophets, who know heaven’s will, persuaded me to wait for the light of day and then to leave not one Greek on dry land.

But the enemy are not waiting for the counsels of my priests to take effect; darkness is a powerful friend to runaways.

No, I must lose no time in passing the instruction on to the army: they are to shake off sleep and have their weapons [70] ready, so that one of them, even as he leaps on to a ship, may spatter the gangway with blood from his scarred back, while the enemy, bound and made captive, may learn to plough the soil of Phrygia’s fields.

CHORUS-LEADER: Hector, you make haste before knowing what is happening; we do not know for sure if the enemy are in flight.

HECTOR: What reason is there, then, for the Greek army to be lighting fires?

CHORUS-LEADER: I do not know; but apprehension fills my heart.

[80] HECTOR: Be assured, if you fear this, you would fear anything.

CHORUS-LEADER: Never until now have the enemy kindled so great a blaze.

HECTOR: Never before have they fallen so shamefully in the rout of battle!

CHORUS-LEADER: This was your doing; now you must consider the future.

HECTOR: In the face of the enemy the watchword is simple: ‘to arms!’

CHORUS-LEADER: Here comes Aeneas in great haste, with some new matter to tell his comrades.

[AENEAS enters with followers, including DOLON.4]

AENEAS:5 Hector, why is it that night sentries throughout the army have come to your tents to confer in fear? Why are the troops stirring?

[90] HECTOR: Aeneas, arm yourself from head to foot!

AENEAS: What is it? Surely not a report that the enemy have laid some secret ambush in the darkness?

HECTOR: They are in flight and taking to their ships.

AENEAS: What sure proof of this can you give?

HECTOR: All night they have been kindling beacons of fire. I think they will not wait until tomorrow but after lighting torches on their sturdy ships will weigh anchor and sail in flight from this land for home.

AENEAS: How do you intend to combat this, now that you are fully armed?

HECTOR: As they flee and jump on to their ships I will check them with my spear and press them hard. It will bring shame [100] on us, and, besides shame, harm, if, when a god puts the enemy at our mercy, we allow them to flee without a fight after all the suffering they have caused.

AENEAS: If only you were a man whose judgement matched his deeds in battle! But it is not human nature that the same man should know everything. Different men have different gifts: you are a fighter, others give shrewd counsel. Hearing that the Greeks were lighting fire-beacons, you became [110] excited and now intend to cross their trenches at the head of our troops in the dead of night. And yet if you cross those deep and hollow ditches and find the enemy not in flight from Troyland but facing your spear, there will be no coming back for you in defeat. For how will our men, running for their lives, get over the palisades? How, too, will our charioteers cross the causeways without smashing the hubs of their wheels?

If the attack succeeds, the next opponent you must face is the son of Peleus,6 who will not let you fling brands on the [120] ships or make havoc among the Greeks as you think you can. He is a man of fiery temper, whose fearless nature makes him a tower of strength.

No, let us allow the troops to sleep soundly with shields beside them after the toil of murderous war. I propose that we send a man, whoever volunteers, to spy on the enemy. If they are taking flight, let us go forward and attack the Greek army. But if some trickery lies beneath this beacon-lighting, we will learn the enemy’s stratagem from the spy and take counsel. This is my advice, my royal lord. [130]

CHORUS [Strophe]: I approve this plan, change your thoughts and accept these words of his. A commander’s power should not be exercised perilously. There is no better course than this: a spy quick on his feet should approach the ships and learn why the enemy have fires burning in front of their anchored fleet.

HECTOR: I yield to your words, as this is the view of all. Go and calm our allies; perhaps the men may be disturbed at [140] hearing of a call to assemble by night. I shall send a man to spy on the enemy. If we discover that they are planning something, you will be present to hear and share all our counsels. And if they weigh anchor, starting to flee, expect the trumpet’s voice, wait for it with open ear, for I will not wait; I’ll penetrate to where their ships are moored and attack the Greek army there.

AENEAS: Send him without delay; now your thinking is sound. You will see me at your side unfaltering whenever the need arises.

[Exit AENEAS with a few followers: a larger group of Trojan soldiers remains.]

HECTOR: Which, then, of you Trojans who have heard my [150] words is willing to go as a spy on the ships of the Greeks? Who will do his country this service? [No one speaks.] Who says ‘I will’? [Further silence.] I alone cannot bear all the responsibilities to our home city and our allies.

DOLON: I am willing to run this risk for my country and go to spy on the Greek fleet. Once I have learned all the Greeks’ plans, I shall return. On these conditions I undertake this task.

HECTOR: You are well named, Dolon, and a true patriot. Your father’s house was glorious before this day but now you have [160] brought it glory twice as great.

DOLON: As I must sweat to achieve this, is it not right that my sweat should earn a fee? A reward set for any work returns the favour rendered.

HECTOR: Yes, I see the justice in this and do not disagree. Name your reward, but let it not be my princely power!

DOLON: It is not your power as prince of Troy I desire.

HECTOR: Well then, take to wife a daughter of the royal house and become my kinsman in marriage!

DOLON: I have no wish to marry beyond my status.

HECTOR: There is gold to hand, if this is the prize you seek.

DOLON: Gold I have at home; my wealth is sufficient. [170]

HECTOR: Then what do you desire among the treasures of Troy?

DOLON: When we have conquered the Greeks, grant me gifts.

HECTOR: So I shall; ask for anything but the commanders of the ships.

DOLON: Kill them, I do not ask you to spare Menelaus.

HECTOR: Surely you do not ask me to be given the son of Oileus?7

DOLON: Well-bred hands do not take well to the plough.

HECTOR: Then which of the Greeks do you want to hold alive to ransom?

DOLON: I said it before: I have gold at home.

HECTOR: Well then, you shall be there to have your choice in person from the spoils.

DOLON: Nail them to temple walls in honour of the gods! [180]

HECTOR: Then what greater prize than these will you ask of me?

DOLON: The horses of Achilles; a man must labour for a fitting reward, if he is to risk his life in Fortune’s game of dice.

HECTOR: Why, your desire for these horses matches my own;8 they bear the furious son of Peleus as the immortal offspring of immortal sires. The Lord Poseidon, ocean’s king, tamed them with his own hands, men say, before giving them to Peleus. But I will not prove false after honouring you with my praise; I will give you as the fairest of possessions in your home the steeds of Achilles. [190]

DOLON: I thank you; I say that, if I won them, I would receive the noblest gift the Trojans could bestow on my courage. But you must not grudge me; there are a host of other prizes to gladden your heart when you become master of this land.

CHORUS [Antistrophe]: Great is the contest, great the honours you intend to win; and blessed will you be, once they are attained. This is a task that brings glory; it is a great thing to become a king’s kinsman in marriage.

As to what depends on the gods, let Justice see to that, but men, [200] I think, have striven to make your happiness complete.

DOLON: I should be on my way; I will go to my tent and at my own hearthside clothe myself in dress to suit my ends, then from there set out for the ships of the Greeks.

CHORUS-LEADER: Why, what form of dress will you have other than this?9

DOLON: One that suits the deed and a stealthy way of walking.

CHORUS-LEADER: From a clever man one should learn some piece of cleverness; tell me, what dress shall cover this body of yours?

DOLON: On my back I’ll fix the pelt of a wolf and round my face the beast’s gaping jaws; I’ll fasten its forepaws to my hands [210] and hind-legs to my legs, then mimic a wolf’s gait with four feet, hard for the enemy to trace, as I draw near to the trenches and ships’ defences. When I reach a quiet spot, I’ll walk on two feet; that’s the scope of my crafty scheme.

CHORUS-LEADER: Well, may Hermes, the master of cheats,10 Maia’s son, guide you safely there and back! The task lies before you; all you need is a happy result.

DOLON: I shall get back safely, depend upon it; I’ll kill Odysseus and bring you back his head – clear proof for you to say that [220] Dolon went to the ships of the Greeks – or the son of Tydeus. There shall be blood on my hand when I return to my tent before light visits the earth!

[Exit DOLON; HECTOR remains on stage.]

CHORUS [Strophe]: Lord of Thymbra and of Delos, Apollo, who dwell in your Lycian temple, fairest son of Zeus, come with arrows and bow, come to us this night, be saviour and guide to this man on [230] his mission and lend your aid to Dardanus’ people, o all-powerful one, who built the ancient walls of Troy!11

[Antistrophe:] May he reach the place where the ships are moored and come to spy on the army of Greece, and then may he return to the Trojan hearth of his father’s home! And some day, when his master has routed the warriors of Greece, may he mount the chariot behind the horses of Phthia, the creatures given to Peleus, son of [240] Aeacus, by the ocean’s lord!

[Strophe:] For he alone has dared for home and country’s sake to go and spy on the mooring-place of the ships; I wonder at his courage; there is ever a lack of brave men, whenever it is sunless on the sea and the ship of state12 is tossed by waves. Phrygia has yet a man of valour to call her own; there is a heart that will not flinch in [250] battle; where is he now, the man of Mysia13 who scorns me as his comrade-in-arms?

[Antistrophe:] Which soldier of Greece will the earth-treading assassin strike down among the tents, as he imitates a wild beast, covering the ground on all fours? May he bring down Menelaus, may he kill Agamemnon and bring his head for Helen to hold, making her weep tears of grief for her wicked brother-in-law, the man who came to the land of Troy with a host of a thousand ships! [260]

[A man runs in from the fields.]

MESSENGER: My lord, may any messages I bring my masters in days to come be like the one I carry now for your ears! [270]

HECTOR: How dull-witted these country fellows are! Look at you – your master still wears his armour and here you are, it seems, to bring him news of his herds, at a place most unsuitable! Do you not know of my palace, of my father’s throne, where you should deliver news that the cattle are prospering?

MESSENGER: I am a foolish herdsman; I don’t deny it. But just the same I bring you good news!

HECTOR: Enough of your words about the fortunes of my cattle-stalls; the burden we bear with us is one of battles and spears.

MESSENGER: This is the business I, too, have come to announce! A man who commands a mighty force is coming as a staunch ally to you and this land!

HECTOR: What is his native country that he has left so desolate?

MESSENGER: Thrace; he boasts Strymon as his father.

HECTOR: You mean that Rhesus is setting foot in the Troad? [280]

MESSENGER: You have my message and have relieved me of tidings twice as great.

HECTOR: How is it he makes his march to Ida’s glens, straying from the open plain with its broad pathways for wagons?

MESSENGER: I can’t say for sure; but I can guess. By night it’s no easy task for an army to invade, when they know that the plains are full of enemy troops. He gave us countryfolk a fright, living as we do on Ida’s rocky uplands, where our earliest ancestors dwelt, marching into our woodlands by night, home to wild beasts! For they made a mighty noise, those warriors of Thrace, as they streamed onward. In some dismay we started driving our herds to the heights of the mountain, fearing that some Greek was coming to drive off the cattle and make havoc of your pens.

But then our ears took in the sound of speech that was not Greek14 and we stopped being afraid. I went up to the scouts sent ahead by their master to explore the route and questioned them in the Thracian tongue: ‘Who is your commander and whose son is he, advancing on the city as an ally to Priam’s sons?’

After hearing their replies I remained where I stood; I saw [300] Rhesus standing like a god among the horses and chariots of Thrace. A yoke of gold confined the hardy necks of his horses, whose coats shone brighter than snow. A shield decorated with figures of beaten gold was gleaming on his shoulders. A Gorgon, as on the aegis of the goddess, hung in bronze from the horses’ brows and with its many bells sent out a ring of terror.

The full number of the army you could not set down, even using a counting-board, so vast it was to the eye, a host of [310] horsemen, a host of slingers in their ranks, a host of archers with their quivers, a mighty host of light-armed infantry all together, wearing Thracian dress.

Such is the man who has come to stand as Troy’s comrade-in-arms, one whom Peleus’ son will not be able to escape, whether he takes to flight or stands his ground with the spear.

CHORUS-LEADER: Whenever the gods hold firm in defence of a city, its fortunes rise in the scale from bad to good.

HECTOR: No lack of friends shall I find, when my spear prospers and Zeus is with us. But I have no need of those who long since have refused to share our toil,15 when war’s fury with [320] violent blast was ripping apart the sails of our ship of state. Rhesus showed what kind of friend he was to Troy; now he arrives for the feast, though he did not help the hunters as they strove to catch their prey or lend the labour of his spear.

CHORUS-LEADER: You are right to deny your friends honour and to take them to task; but do not turn away those who would help your city.

HECTOR: We who have saved Ilium all these years are sufficient to the task!

CHORUS-LEADER: You are confident that the enemy is already defeated? [330]

HECTOR: I am; tomorrow god’s sun will reveal this.

CHORUS-LEADER: Look to the future; often heaven brings change of fortune.

HECTOR: I hate the man who comes too late to help a friend in trouble. Ah well, since he did come, though not to share our fighting but our board, let him sit as a guest at our table; he has forfeited the thanks of Priam’s people.

CHORUS-LEADER: My lord, it is invidious to reject an ally.

MESSENGER: If they but saw him, the enemy would know fear.

HECTOR [to the CHORUS-LEADER]: Your advice is sound. [To the MESSENGER] And you have used your eyes to good effect. Let Rhesus the lord of the golden armour, as my [340] messenger has it, present himself as this land’s ally!


CHORUS [Strophe]: May Adrasteia,16 daughter of Zeus, protect my words from thoughts of ill! For I shall say all that my soul longs to tell. You have come, son of the river, you have come, most welcome you have approached the halls of Zeus the Hospitable, since at last your Pierian mother has brought you, and the fair-bridged river [350]

[Antistrophe]: Strymon, who once, whirling in watery form17 through the virgin lap of the songstress Muse, fathered your manly form. You have come to me as Zeus the Bringer of Light,18 riding behind your dappled steeds! Now, my homeland, my Phrygia, now with the god’s help can you name Zeus the Deliverer!

[Strophe] : Shall it ever come again, the time when ancient Troy [360] shall fill the live-long day with revelling bands of drinkers, as melodies of love resound and men compete from left to right with cups that send the wine flying, when over the sea to Sparta the sons of Atreus have left Ilium’s shore? O my friend, may you enter my home having accomplished this task with the might of your spear!

[Antistrophe:] Come, appear, hold up your shield of gold before [370] the face of Peleus’ son, raising it aslant along the branching chariot-rail, rousing your steeds and brandishing a two-pronged spear. For no man shall ever tread the dance in Argive Hera’s temple after facing you in battle; he will be slain by a doom from Thrace and this land will bear his weight, a burden most welcome.19

[RHESUS enters.]

All hail, mighty king! A fine lion-cub you have reared, o Thrace; [380] his looks proclaim him royal! See his sturdy frame that gold adorns, hear, too, ringing out from the shield-straps, the bells that sound their proud challenge! As a god, a god, o Troy, as Ares himself is he here to inspire you, the lusty son of Strymon and the minstrel Muse!

RHESUS: Greetings, Hector, worthy son of a worthy father, ruler of this land! After many a day I address you. I am pleased [390] that fortune favours you and you are encamped at the enemy’s defences. Here I am to help you undermine their walls and fire their ships.

HECTOR: Son of the songstress mother,20 one of the Muses, and of Strymon, river of Thrace, my way is to speak the truth always; I am not a man who hides his heart.

Long, long ago you should have come and shared this land’s labours, and not, for your part, let Troy fall to enemy spears, levelled by the Greeks. You surely cannot say that you did not come, that you denied us your help and attention, because your friends sent no summons. What herald or embassy of [400] Phrygian elders did not visit you with the charge to come to Troy’s defence? What kind of splendid gifts did we not send? You are not of Greek stock, and neither are we: yet despite our kinship, you betrayed us, as far as in you lay, to Greeks.

Indeed you were a minor princeling21 before this hand of mine made you the mighty ruler of Thrace, that day when at Pangaeum’s base in the land of the Paeonians I fell upon the noblest men of Thrace. Face to face I smashed their ranks of shield-bearers, reduced their infantry to slavery and handed them over to you. And now, spurning the debt you owe for [410] this great service, you come running too late with help when your friends are in distress.

As to those men who share no bond of common blood with us and yet have long shared our fortune, some have died and lie in tombs of heaped earth, no mean proof of loyalty to Troy; others, standing in armour or mounted on chariots, stoutly endure the chilly blast and parching fire of the sun-god, not lying on couches, like you, pledging each other’s health in bottomless cups.22 I make these accusations before you and voice them to your face, so that you may know that Hector always speaks his heart. [420]

RHESUS: Such a man am I also in nature, cutting a direct path of speech and laying bare my inmost thoughts. My absence from this land vexed me; it weighed heavy on my heart and taxed me more with grief than you. But Scythia’s folk, whose land borders on mine, made war upon me as I was about to cross over on my journey to Ilium. I had reached the shores of the Inhospitable Sea and was on the point of ferrying my Thracian army across. But here my spear had to shed a pool of Scythian blood on the earth and, mingled with it, Thracian [430] blood as well. Such was the misfortune that prevented me from coming to the land of Troy and taking my stand in battle at your side.

When I had defeated them and taken their children as hostages, ordering them to bring a yearly tax in payment to my palace, I sailed over the gulf of the Sea and now am here, crossing the remaining borders of land on foot – not, as you foolishly insist, downing brimming cups of wine, or taking my ease in a golden palace; no, I know what icy blasts I [440] suffered on sleepless nights, I and this cloak of mine, the kind that vex the Thracian Sea and Paeonia’s folk.

I came late, I grant you, but not too late; this is now the tenth year of your fighting without success, and day after day you risk the war against the Greeks on a gambler’s throw. But a single dawning of the sun23 will suffice for me to sack these towers, fall upon their ships at anchor and kill the Greeks. On the day following I will leave Troy for home, having cut short [450] your labours. Let none of you raise his shield on his arm; with my spear I’ll curb these Greeks who boast so loudly and bring them low, for all my late arrival.

CHORUS [Strophe]: Oh, oh, welcome are your words, welcome your coming from Zeus! I only pray that sovereign Zeus is willing to keep irresistible envy from your words. No man in earlier days or now have [460] Greek ships brought here to match your worth. How, I ask, could Achilles withstand your spear, how Ajax? If only I might see the day, my lord, when with spear you claim the reward of your murderous hands!

RHESUS: Such deeds I will undertake to perform for you in return for my long absence; I call to witness Adrasteia. When we have freed this city from its enemies and you have marked [470] out for the gods the first fruits of victory, I wish to march at your side against the land of the Greeks and to lay waste all of Greece with my spear, so they in turn may learn the cost of war.

HECTOR: Were I to gain release from these our present troubles and to dwell in Troy as once we did, free from harm, then I would feel no small gratitude to the gods. But the region around Argos and the land of Greece are not as easily sacked by the spear as you claim.

RHESUS: Do they not say that these men who have come are the champions of Greece?

HECTOR: Yes, and we respect them, but it is wearisome keeping them at bay. [480]

RHESUS: Then in killing them have we not achieved everything?

HECTOR: In looking to wider aims you must not ignore what is pressing now.

RHESUS: You are content, it seems, to suffer and not to act!

HECTOR: Yes, for the kingdom I rule is broad, though I remain here. You may set your light-armed troops and station your infantry on the left wing or the right, or in the centre of the allies.

RHESUS: I wish to fight the enemy unsupported, Hector. If you think it shameful not to assist in firing the ships’ sterns, as one who bore the brunt of battle for many a long day before now, [490] put me where I can face Achilles and his troops.

HECTOR: You cannot point your furious spear against that man.

RHESUS: But surely the story was that he had sailed to Troy.

HECTOR: He sailed and he is here; but anger against the commanders keeps him from raising his spear.

RHESUS: What other man in the army after him enjoys renown?

HECTOR: Ajax I consider not at all inferior, and the son of Tydeus. Then there is Odysseus, a cunning piece of craftsmanship,24 who is bold enough in spirit and has done more damage to this land than any other man; he entered Athena’s temple [500] by night, stole her statue and carried it back to the Greek ships. He had already come inside the walls as a peddler wearing beggar’s rags, and uttered many dire curses against the Greeks, though sent to spy on Ilium. He killed the guards and watchmen on the gates before making his escape. He is always to be found sitting in ambush at the altar of Thymbrian Apollo hard by the town. We have a deadly plague to wrestle in him.

RHESUS: No man of courage thinks it right to kill his enemy by stealth, but only in face-to-face confrontation. I’ll catch [510] him alive, this fellow you describe, who skulks like a robber in his hideout hatching schemes, and then impale him on the city gates as a feast for swooping vultures. As a brigand and robber of the gods’ shrines he ought to die a death like this.

HECTOR: For the present make camp; for it is night. I will show you the place where your army must pass the night, apart [520] from my troops. Our watchword is ‘Phoebus’, if any need arises. Remember what you have heard and give this message to your men from Thrace. [To the men of theCHORUS:] You must go and keep sharp watch in front of the ranks and welcome Dolon, who has gone to spy on the ships. For, if he is unharmed, by now he will be approaching the Trojan camp.

[HECTOR and RHESUS leave the stage. In the following lyrics the CHORUS’s song gives way twice to contributions from individual members.]

CHORUS [Strophe]: Whose is the watch? Who takes my watch over? The first stars are setting and the seven journeying Pleiads are in the [530] sky; the eagle is hovering midway in the heavens. Rouse yourselves! No delaying! Leave your sleeping quarters and return to your post! Do you not see the moon’s gleam? Dawn, yes, dawn is soon to break and there’s one of her stars sent ahead to reconnoitre!

Whom did the herald name as taking the first watch?

Mygdon’s son, they say, Coroebus.

Who came after him?

[540] The Paeonian troops roused the Cilicians, and the Mysians us.

Then is it not time for us to go and rouse the Lycians for the fifth watch, as the lot’s division instructs?

[Antistrophe:] Aye, and now I hear it: sitting on her bloody nest by Simois, the nightingale with voice of many tones sings her doleful [550] song for her slaughtered brood.25 Already the flocks are at their pasture on Ida; I hear the voice of the shepherd’s pipe that peals through the night. Sleep casts his spell over my eyes; most welcome is his coming to men’s eyes as dawn draws near.

Why is he not back with us, the scout whom Hector urged to spy on the ships?

I am afraid; he has been gone a long time.

Can it be he has blundered into a secret ambush and met his end? It may be so; I fear it. [560]

I say we must go and rouse the Lycians for the fifth watch as the lot’s division instructs.

[The CHORUS leave the orchestra.26 In the darkness ODYSSEUS and DIOMEDES enter.27]

ODYSSEUS: Diomedes, was that a meaningless noise I heard, or did you just hear weapons rattling?

DIOMEDES: No, a clang of iron came from harness hung from chariot-rails. I, too, was afraid, until I recognized the sound of horses’ tackle.

ODYSSEUS: Take care you don’t meet any guards in the darkness. [570]

DIOMEDES: I’ll watch out, even when I’m stepping in shadow.

ODYSSEUS: Good; but if you rouse them, do you know the password of their army?

DIOMEDES: ‘Phoebus’ – I know it, having heard the word from Dolon.

ODYSSEUS: Look! I see these beds deserted by the enemy!

DIOMEDES: Yet Dolon said that this was where Hector takes his rest, for whom this sword has been unsheathed.

ODYSSEUS: What reason can there be? Surely a troop has not gone off somewhere?

DIOMEDES: Perhaps they mean to set some trap for us.

ODYSSEUS: Yes, for Hector is bold now, since he has the upper hand, bold indeed.

DIOMEDES: Well, Odysseus, what should we do? We haven’t found our man in his bed and our hopes are dashed. [580]

ODYSSEUS: Let’s go as fast as we can to where our ships are anchored. The god who gives a man success also keeps him safe. We must not try to force fortune’s hand.

DIOMEDES: Then aren’t we to go to Aeneas or the Phrygian we hate the most, Paris, and cut off their heads with the sword?

ODYSSEUS: How, then, in the darkness will you be able to search up and down the enemy ranks and kill them without risk to yourself?

DIOMEDES: Well, it will bring us no honour to return to the [590] ships of the Greeks without doing some harm to the enemy.

ODYSSEUS: But you have done something! Have we not killed Dolon who came to spy on our ships at anchor? Don’t we still have with us the spoils we took from him? Or do you think you will sack the whole camp?

DIOMEDES: Well said! Let’s go back; may fortune be generous to us!

[The goddess ATHENA suddenly speaks, appearing above the stage-building.28]

ATHENA: And where are you going, leaving the Trojan lines, heartbroken with grief that a god does not allow the pair of you to kill Hector or Paris? Have you not learned that a man, Rhesus, has come to Troy in grand style to share her battles? If he lives through this night to see tomorrow,29not Achilles, [600] not Ajax with his spear, would prevent him from destroying all the ships of the Greeks where they lie at anchor, once he has levelled the fortifications and is dealing havoc far and wide inside the gates with his spear. Kill this man and everything is yours; think no more of Hector’s sleeping quarters or spilling blood by cutting off men’s heads. That man’s death will come from another hand.

ODYSSEUS: Lady Athena, I recognized the familiar sound of your voice, for in my struggles you are always there to give [610] protection. Tell us where the man lies sleeping. In what part of the enemy host does he keep guard?

ATHENA: He is to be found near by, not quartered with the army. Hector has given him a place to sleep outside the Trojan lines, until night gives way to day. Hard by, his white horses, shining out in the night, are tethered to their Thracian chariots. They gleam like the feathers of a river swan. Kill their master and carry them off, a prize that will bring great [620] renown to your houses; no place on earth conceals a team of horses to match these.

ODYSSEUS: Diomedes, either kill the Thracian men yourself, or leave the task to me, and you must make the horses your business.

DIOMEDES: I will do the killing, and you the horse-breaking. You are experienced in subtleties and have a quick mind. A man should be posted where he can be of greatest benefit.

[ODYSSEUS leaves the stage.]

ATHENA: Look, here I see Alexandros30 coming towards us, after learning from some guard hazy reports of enemies approaching.

DIOMEDES: Does he come with others or alone? [630]

ATHENA: Alone; he is coming to Hector’s sleeping quarters, it seems, to tell him that men have come to spy on the army.

DIOMEDES: Should he not be the first to die?

ATHENA: You should not go beyond what fate has prescribed; it is not ordained that this man should die at your hands.31 But hurry to the man you are after, bringing with you deadly slaughter. I shall answer this man I hate with words of deception, pretending to be his ally, the Cyprian, and to stand at his side, a helper in his troubles. I have spoken these words, yet the doomed man does not know, and did not hear my [640] words, though he is near.

[DIOMEDES leaves to kill RHESUS; from the other side of the stage, enter ALEXANDROS.]

ALEXANDROS: Hector, brother and commander, it’s you I’m calling! Are you asleep? Should you not have stirred? Some of the enemy are approaching our camp, thieves, it may be, or spies!

ATHENA: Have no fear; I, the Cyprian, who wish you well, keep watch over you. I am mindful of this war of yours, and have not forgotten the honour you paid me, but am grateful for your kindness that day. And now, to crown the good fortune of the Trojan army, I come bringing a man who is a powerful friend to you, the Thracian son of the melodious [650] goddess.

ALEXANDROS: Always you have proved a true friend to my city and to me. By judging in your favour, I say that I have given this city the greatest treasure I ever bestowed on her. I am here since I have heard, not plainly – a rumour reached the watchmen – that spies have come from the Greeks. And one man talks of them, without having seen them, while another, who did see them coming, can give no account of [660] it. This is why I have come to Hector’s tent.

ATHENA: No need for alarm; nothing has happened in the camp. Hector has gone to arrange sleeping quarters for the Thracian troops.

ALEXANDROS: You convince me; I will trust your words and go to guard my post, free from fear.

[ALEXANDROS leaves.]

ATHENA: Do so; my wish is to take thought for all your concerns, so that I may see my comrades-in arms prospering. You will discover for yourself how much love I bear you.

[ODYSSEUS hurries on stage, closely followed by the CHORUS.]

You two, whose eagerness has gone too far,32 hear me! Son of Laertes, sheathe your whetted sword! The Thracian [670] commander lies dead before us and his horses are ours, but the enemy have realized this and are advancing on you. You must lose no time but flee to the ships at anchor. Why do you hesitate to save your lives when the enemy thunderbolt is rushing down?

[Exit ATHENA.]

CHORUS: Aha! Pelt him, pelt him, pelt him! Strike, strike, strike!

What man?

Look! It’s him I mean!

This way, this way, everyone! [They surround the Greek [680] warriors.]

I have them, I’ve caught these thieves who were slipping through our camp in the dark!

– [to ODYSSEUS:] What’s your company? Where have you come from? What country?

ODYSSEUS: It’s not for you to know.

CHORUS: You’ll die this day for your foul deeds! Tell us the password, before this spear goes through your chest!

ODYSSEUS: It will not cause me fear.

CHORUS: Every man, come near and strike! Were you the one who killed Rhesus?

ODYSSEUS: No, I killed the man who would have killed you. Hold back, all of you!

CHORUS: We will not!

ODYSSEUS: No! Do not kill a man who is your friend!

CHORUS: Then what is the password?

ODYSSEUS: Phoebus.

CHORUS: He is right; lower your spears, everyone! Do you know where the men have gone?

ODYSSEUS [pointing]: That’s where they were heading.

CHORUS: Every man follow their tracks! Should we raise a cry?

No, it would be unnerving to plague our allies with fear in [690] the night.

[ODYSSEUS slips away as the CHORUS circle in agitation around the stage.]

CHORUS [Strophe]: Which man was it who got away? What spirit so greatly daring shall boast he has escaped my hands? Where shall I go to find him? To whom shall I liken him, the one who with fearless tread came under night’s cover through soldiers and sentinels at their posts? Is he a man of Thessaly or one who inhabits the city of the [700] Locrians by the sea? Or is he a lonely island-dweller? Who was he? Where did he come from? What sort of land does he come from? What god supreme does he name in prayer? .

Is this the deed of Odysseus? Or whose is it? If we are to judge by earlier actions, then certainly it is.

Do you think so?


Well, he is brave enough towards us.

What man are you praising for his courage in war?


Do not praise the treacherous spear of a thief!

[Antistrophe:] Once before he came to our city,33 with furtive eye [710] and clad in ragged clothes, armed with a sword concealed in his cloak. Begging for his livelihood, he made his way along, like some impoverished servant, his head all rough and filthy.

And showing his hatred of the commanders, he spoke many insults, indeed, against the royal house of Atreus’ sons. Oh, ruin take him, [720] ruin, as he deserves, before he ever sets foot in the land of the Phrygians!

Whether it is Odysseus who is the cause or not, I am afraid! For Hector shall blame us guards.

What shall he say to us? – He will be vexed

– That we did what? Why are you afraid?

– That they passed through us … – What men?

– The ones who came into the Phrygian camp this night.

[The CHARIOTEER of Rhesus enters, wounded.34]

CHARIOTEER: Oh, oh! A cruel stroke from heaven! What sorrow!

CHORUS: Look out! Crouch down, every man, and not a sound! [730] Someone may be entering the net!

CHARIOTEER: Oh, oh! What a catastrophe for the Thracians!

CHORUS: It is one of our allies who makes this lament.

CHARIOTEER: Oh, oh! How wretched am I, and you, king of the Thracians! O how hateful has the sight of Troy proved to you, what an end to life has overtaken you!

CHORUS: Which of our allies are you? The night has dimmed my eyes and I do not recognize you plainly.

CHARIOTEER: Where am I to find one of the Trojan princes? Where does Hector sleep with shield for pillow? What captain of the army [740] should I tell of what has befallen us, what someone has done to us, wreaking his harm unseen and making his escape, but devising for the men of Thrace a sorrow all too plain to view!

CHORUS-LEADER: Some disaster, it seems, has afflicted the Thracian host, to gather from this man’s words.

CHARIOTEER: The army is no more, our king has fallen to treacherous blows! Ah, what pain! The agony of my bloody wound tears at my [750] insides! Oh, give me death! Was it right that Rhesus and I should die without glory when we had reached Troy with our ships to bring her aid?

CHORUS-LEADER: These woes he speaks of are not in doubt; he says clearly that our allies have perished.

CHARIOTEER: Calamity has overtaken us, and to calamity is added deepest shame. And such calamity is twofold indeed. For a glorious death, if death must come, is painful to the one who suffers it – this we must not doubt – but to the living it brings pride and fair fame for the house. But we have perished foolishly and without glory. [760]

When Hector’s hand had secured our rest, and he had given us the password, we slept, overcome by the fatigue of our march. Our camp was not guarded by night sentries, our weapons were not lying ready in the lines and the goads were not fixed to the horses’ yokes, as our king had learned that you Trojans had the upper hand and were keeping a watchful eye on their ships at anchor. We slept without concern where we had fallen.

But I had awoken with anxious heart, and was doling out fodder for my horses with generous hand, expecting to yoke [770] them for battle at dawn. I saw two men making their way through the troops in the thick darkness. When I stirred, they crouched and began to move away. I shouted to them not to come near the camp, thinking they were some of our allies, bent on stealing.

They made no reply, and I certainly had no more to say to them. Returning to my bed once more, I fell asleep. And in my sleep a vision appeared at my side: I saw wolves sitting on [780] the backs of the mares I reared and drove, standing at the side of Rhesus, for this is what I seemed to see in my dream. They were lashing the hairy flanks of the mares with their tails as they drove them on, and they were snorting from their windpipes, breathing fury, and tossing their manes in terror. I woke up as I was trying to keep the beasts away from the horses; for the nightmare roused me.35

When I raised my head, I heard the moans of dying men, and from my slaughtered master, as he died in agony, a warm [790] jet of newly shed blood struck me. I leaped to my feet with no spear in my hand; and now, as I was seeing clearly and hunting for my sword, a strong fellow stood beside me and buried his sword in the lower part of my side. I felt the blow of a sword and knew I had received the wound’s deep furrow. Down I fell headlong, and they, seizing the chariot-team, whipped the horses off at a gallop.

Ah, ah! The pain tears at me! Oh, misery, I can’t keep my [800] feet! I know I have witnessed a disaster but, as to how the slain met their end, or at whose hand, I cannot tell. But I can guess that we have been foully treated by those we trusted.

CHORUS-LEADER: Charioteer of the ill-fated Thracian, spare yourself further distress; an enemy has done these deeds. Look, Hector himself is coming, having learned of the disaster; he shares your grief, it seems, at your sufferings.

[HECTOR enters.]

HECTOR: O you architects of greatest sorrows, you enemy spies, how could those enemy spies come here, how could the army be slaughtered, all shamefully unobserved by you? [810] How could you fail to drive them away, either as they entered or as they left the camp? [He turns from theCHORUS to their leader:] Who will answer for this if not you? You, I say, were the guardian of the camp! They have gone without a single wound, laughing long at Trojan cowardice and at me, your commander!

Now know this well – I swear it by Father Zeus – either death by scourging or the axe awaits you for such conduct, or else you may think Hector a nonentity, a man of straw.

CHORUS [Antistrophe]: O sovereign protector of the city, mighty, [820] mighty in my eyes, surely it was then they came,36 the time when I had gone to bring you news that flames were burning round the ships! I did not let my sleepless eyes close in the night or give way to slumber, no, by the streams of Simois! Do not be angry with me, my lord! I am not to blame for any of these woes. If in time you learn of deed or word of mine not in due season, send me alive to the world below! [830] No plea shall I make.

CHARIOTEER: Why do you threaten these men, and, no subtle Greek yourself, undermine my unsubtle words with your clever arguments? It is you who have done this; we would accept no other culprit, we killed or wounded. Long and shrewd is the argument you need to persuade me that you did not kill your friends through your desire for the horses which led you to shed your allies’ blood, while repeatedly urging them to come. They did come and they are dead. Paris showed more propriety in defiling the rites of hospitality than you, [840] guilty of murdering comrades-in-arms!

Spare me any plea that some Greek came and destroyed us. Who could have come against us, evading ambush by the Trojans, and remain unnoticed as well? You were encamped in front of us, you and the Phrygian army.

Which of your own allies, then, has been wounded or killed as a result of the enemy incursion you speak of?

We have suffered wounds indeed, while those who met a worse fate do not see the light of the sun. To put it plainly, we hold no Greek to blame. What enemy making his entrance [850] would have found the bed of Rhesus in the night, unless some god had kept telling the killers?37 They did not even know that Rhesus had arrived at all; this is a plot of your making.

HECTOR: I have dealt with allies for as long as the Greek army has been in this land, and I know that I have not heard a harsh word from them. I should begin with you. I pray that I may never become so enamoured of horses as to kill friends! This [860] too is the work of Odysseus; what other man of Greece would ever have done or devised this? I fear him; he stirs an anxious thought in my heart that he may have met Dolon as well and killed him. For he has been absent a long time and is not to be seen.

CHARIOTEER: I do not know of these Odysseuses of yours in your account; our wounds have not been inflicted by any of the enemy.

HECTOR: Well, think that, as you are determined to.

CHARIOTEER: O land of my fathers, how I wish to die in you!

[870] HECTOR: Do not die; the mass of dead is enough.

CHARIOTEER: Where am I to turn now that I have lost my master?

HECTOR: My own house shall shelter you and heal your wound.

CHARIOTEER: How will I receive care from the hands of murderers?

HECTOR: Will this fellow not cease from saying the same speech?

CHARIOTEER: May he perish, the man who did the deed! This is no mere tongue directed at you, as you vainly say. [He draws his sword and rushes at HECTOR.] Justice knows it. [He collapses from his wound.]

HECTOR [to some of the Trojan watch who had attempted to defend him]: Put up your arms! Take him to my house and give him such care that he shall not continue in his slanders. [To the rest of the watch:] You must go to those on the battlements, to Priam and the elders, to get their authority for burying the [880] dead at the resting-places off the public way.

CHORUS: Why does a hostile god remove Troy from her great prosperity and restore her to her sorrows once more? What seed is he planting?

[THE MUSE appears above the stage, holding the body of her son, RHESUS.]38

Ah! What god appears above your head, my king, embracing the newly dead body on a bier? I shudder as I look at this woeful sight.

THE MUSE: Be not afraid to look, you men of Troy! I who am [890] honoured among poets am here, one of the sisterhood of Muses,39 seeing my beloved son here piteously slain by enemies. His murderer, the crafty Odysseus, shall at some time to come pay the penalty he deserves.

[She sings a lament. Strophe] : With spontaneous dirge do I weep for you, my child – o grief to your mother – what a voyage did you make to Troy! How ill fated, how wretched it was, when you left behind a mother’s pleas, a father’s passionate entreaties! Oh, how I [900] weep for you, my dear, dear babe, my child, how I weep!

CHORUS-LEADER: So far as I may, as one not privy to your family’s sorrow, I pity your son.

THE MUSE [continuing her sung lament. Antistrophe]: I curse the grandson of Oeneus, I curse the son of Laertes, who robbed me of a child, the finest son a mother ever bore;40 her, too, I curse, who left her home in Greece and sailed here,41 taking a Phrygian for her lover, [910] where she brought destruction on you for Troy’s sake, my dearest child, and made cities past number bereft of their bravest sons.

[She reverts to spoken verse.]

Son of Philammon,42 much did I think of you when you lived, and much once you had passed to the world below. For the arrogance that was your downfall and your quarrel with the Muses made me bear this child to wretchedness. For, as I passed over his flowing river, I entered Strymon’s potent embrace, when we Muses came to Pangaeum’s uplands fertile [920] in gold. We were bearing our instruments for the mighty contest in song with the famous poet of Thrace, and we blinded Thamyris, the gross reviler of our art.

And when I gave you birth, out of respect for my sisters and their virginity I sent you to your father’s lovely whirling waters, and Strymon gave you to be reared, not into mortal hands, but to the nymphs of the springs. There were you raised most nobly by these maids, and became foremost of men, my child, ruling over Thrace. I had no fears that you [930] would die in your native land, marshalling bloodthirsty battles. But I told you never to voyage to the city of Troy, since I knew your fate.43 Yet Hector’s endless councils of elders prevailed with their embassies and you went to bring succour to your allies.

And for this, for all this death, Athena, you are responsible – it was not the doing of Odysseus, no, or of Tydeus’ son – do not imagine your action has gone unnoticed! And yet we sister Muses pay the greatest honours to your city and treat [940] your land with the utmost kindness;44 the torch-processions of the secret mysteries were revealed by Orpheus, who was full cousin to this dead man whom you killed; and Musaeus, your august citizen whose achievements surpassed all men’s, received instruction from Phoebus and my sisters. And as my reward for this I hold my son in my arms and sing his death-song; I shall call on no other poet to assist me.

CHORUS-LEADER: Misplaced, then, Hector, were the Thracian [950] charioteer’s accusations that we had plotted this man’s death.

HECTOR: This I knew; there was no need of prophets to tell us that he died through Odysseus’ stratagems. But seeing the Greek army camped on our land, surely it was not to be imagined that I would fail to send heralds to our friends, asking them to come and help our country? I did send; and he did come, as his duty prescribed, to share our toil.

Yet it gives me no joy, believe me, that he has died; indeed, now I am ready to build a tomb for him and to burn for him [960] besides countless splendid robes; for he came in friendship and departs in sorrow.

THE MUSE: He shall not go into the dark earth; this much shall I ask of the maid who dwells below,45 daughter of Demeter, the goddess who gives fruit, that she release his soul; she owes it to me to show that she honours the family of Orpheus.46 To me henceforth he shall be as one dead who sees the light no more; for never more shall he meet me, nor look on his [970] mother’s face. Yet, hidden in a cavern of the silver-veined earth shall he lie,47 alive, both man and god, the prophet of Bacchus who made his dwelling in Pangaeum’s rock, a god revered by those who have knowledge. I shall bear a lighter grief than the sea-goddess; for her son is also fated to be killed. First in our dirge shall we sister Muses sing of you, and then, in Thetis’ time of grief, shall we sing of Achilles. Pallas who brought death to you shall not keep it from him; such is the arrow that Loxias’ quiver keeps for him.

O what sorrows accompany child-bearing!48 How they [980] torment the hearts of mortals! For whoever considers them rightly will pass his days without offspring and not produce children only to bury them!

[THE MUSE withdraws, still carrying the body of RHESUS.]

CHORUS-LEADER: This man’s burial rites are now his mother’s concern. But if you mean to take any further measures in the task ahead of us, Hector, now is the time; yonder rises this day’s sun.

HECTOR [to the men of the watch]: On your way! Bid our allies quickly arm themselves and harness their horses’ necks! You must wait for the voice of the Tuscan trumpet, torches in hand; for I have confidence that, forcing my way through the trench and defences of the Greeks, I will fire their ships,49 and that the sun’s rising beams are bringing the day of freedom for [990] the Trojans.

CHORUS: The king must be obeyed. Let us don our armour and go to bear these tidings to the allies. Perhaps the god who favours us may grant victory!50

[Exeunt all.]

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