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Olympians Titans Other Gods Myths Online Books

 The Iliad

By Homer

Translated by Samuel Butler


  Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor
while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as
they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon
the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease Juno,
talking at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he, "has two
good friends among the goddesses, Juno of Argos, and Minerva of
Alalcomene, but they only sit still and look on, while Venus keeps
ever by Alexandrus' side to defend him in any danger; indeed she has
just rescued him when he made sure that it was all over with him-
for the victory really did lie with Menelaus. We must consider what we
shall do about all this; shall we set them fighting anew or make peace
between them? If you will agree to this last Menelaus can take back
Helen and the city of Priam may remain still inhabited."
  Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by
side hatching mischief for the Trojans. Minerva scowled at her father,
for she was in a furious passion with him, and said nothing, but
Juno could not contain herself. "Dread son of Saturn," said she,
"what, pray, is the meaning of all this? Is my trouble, then, to go
for nothing, and the sweat that I have sweated, to say nothing of my
horses, while getting the people together against Priam and his
children? Do as you will, but we other gods shall not all of us
approve your counsel."
  Jove was angry and answered, "My dear, what harm have Priam and
his sons done you that you are so hotly bent on sacking the city of
Ilius? Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls and eat
Priam raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to boot? Have it
your own way then; for I would not have this matter become a bone of
contention between us. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart,
if ever I want to sack a city belonging to friends of yours, you
must not try to stop me; you will have to let me do it, for I am
giving in to you sorely against my will. Of all inhabited cities under
the sun and stars of heaven, there was none that I so much respected
as Ilius with Priam and his whole people. Equitable feasts were
never wanting about my altar, nor the savour of burning fat, which
is honour due to ourselves."
  "My own three favourite cities," answered Juno, "are Argos,
Sparta, and Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased with
them. I shall not defend them and I shall not care. Even if I did, and
tried to stay you, I should take nothing by it, for you are much
stronger than I am, but I will not have my own work wasted. I too am a
god and of the same race with yourself. I am Saturn's eldest daughter,
and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am
your wife, and you are king over the gods. Let it be a case, then,
of give-and-take between us, and the rest of the gods will follow
our lead. Tell Minerva to go and take part in the fight at once, and
let her contrive that the Trojans shall be the first to break their
oaths and set upon the Achaeans."
  The sire of gods and men heeded her words, and said to Minerva,
"Go at once into the Trojan and Achaean hosts, and contrive that the
Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the
  This was what Minerva was already eager to do, so down she darted
from the topmost summits of Olympus. She shot through the sky as
some brilliant meteor which the son of scheming Saturn has sent as a
sign to mariners or to some great army, and a fiery train of light
follows in its wake. The Trojans and Achaeans were struck with awe
as they beheld, and one would turn to his neighbour, saying, "Either
we shall again have war and din of combat, or Jove the lord of
battle will now make peace between us."
  Thus did they converse. Then Minerva took the form of Laodocus,
son of Antenor, and went through the ranks of the Trojans to find
Pandarus, the redoubtable son of Lycaon. She found him standing
among the stalwart heroes who had followed him from the banks of the
Aesopus, so she went close up to him and said, "Brave son of Lycaon,
will you do as I tell you? If you dare send an arrow at Menelaus you
will win honour and thanks from all the Trojans, and especially from
prince Alexandrus- he would be the first to requite you very
handsomely if he could see Menelaus mount his funeral pyre, slain by
an arrow from your hand. Take your home aim then, and pray to Lycian
Apollo, the famous archer; vow that when you get home to your strong
city of Zelea you will offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his
  His fool's heart was persuaded, and he took his bow from its case.
This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he had killed as
it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and it had fallen as
the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were sixteen palms long,
and a worker in horn had made them into a bow, smoothing them well
down, and giving them tips of gold. When Pandarus had strung his bow
he laid it carefully on the ground, and his brave followers held their
shields before him lest the Achaeans should set upon him before he had
shot Menelaus. Then he opened the lid of his quiver and took out a
winged arrow that had yet been shot, fraught with the pangs of
death. He laid the arrow on the string and prayed to Lycian Apollo,
the famous archer, vowing that when he got home to his strong city
of Zelea he would offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour.
He laid the notch of the arrow on the oxhide bowstring, and drew
both notch and string to his breast till the arrow-head was near the
bow; then when the bow was arched into a half-circle he let fly, and
the bow twanged, and the string sang as the arrow flew gladly on
over the heads of the throng.
  But the blessed gods did not forget thee, O Menelaus, and Jove's
daughter, driver of the spoil, was the first to stand before thee
and ward off the piercing arrow. She turned it from his skin as a
mother whisks a fly from off her child when it is sleeping sweetly;
she guided it to the part where the golden buckles of the belt that
passed over his double cuirass were fastened, so the arrow struck
the belt that went tightly round him. It went right through this and
through the cuirass of cunning workmanship; it also pierced the belt
beneath it, which he wore next his skin to keep out darts or arrows;
it was this that served him in the best stead, nevertheless the
arrow went through it and grazed the top of the skin, so that blood
began flowing from the wound.
  As when some woman of Meonia or Caria strains purple dye on to a
piece of ivory that is to be the cheek-piece of a horse, and is to
be laid up in a treasure house- many a knight is fain to bear it,
but the king keeps it as an ornament of which both horse and driver
may be proud- even so, O Menelaus, were your shapely thighs and your
legs down to your fair ancles stained with blood.
  When King Agamemnon saw the blood flowing from the wound he was
afraid, and so was brave Menelaus himself till he saw that the barbs
of the arrow and the thread that bound the arrow-head to the shaft
were still outside the wound. Then he took heart, but Agamemnon heaved
a deep sigh as he held Menelaus's hand in his own, and his comrades
made moan in concert. "Dear brother, "he cried, "I have been the death
of you in pledging this covenant and letting you come forward as our
champion. The Trojans have trampled on their oaths and have wounded
you; nevertheless the oath, the blood of lambs, the drink-offerings
and the right hands of fellowship in which have put our trust shall
not be vain. If he that rules Olympus fulfil it not here and now,
he. will yet fulfil it hereafter, and they shall pay dearly with their
lives and with their wives and children. The day will surely come when
mighty Ilius shall be laid low, with Priam and Priam's people, when
the son of Saturn from his high throne shall overshadow them with
his awful aegis in punishment of their present treachery. This shall
surely be; but how, Menelaus, shall I mourn you, if it be your lot now
to die? I should return to Argos as a by-word, for the Achaeans will
at once go home. We shall leave Priam and the Trojans the glory of
still keeping Helen, and the earth will rot your bones as you lie here
at Troy with your purpose not fulfilled. Then shall some braggart
Trojan leap upon your tomb and say, 'Ever thus may Agamemnon wreak his
vengeance; he brought his army in vain; he is gone home to his own
land with empty ships, and has left Menelaus behind him.' Thus will
one of them say, and may the earth then swallow me."
  But Menelaus reassured him and said, "Take heart, and do not alarm
the people; the arrow has not struck me in a mortal part, for my outer
belt of burnished metal first stayed it, and under this my cuirass and
the belt of mail which the bronze-smiths made me."
  And Agamemnon answered, "I trust, dear Menelaus, that it may be even
so, but the surgeon shall examine your wound and lay herbs upon it
to relieve your pain."
  He then said to Talthybius, "Talthybius, tell Machaon, son to the
great physician, Aesculapius, to come and see Menelaus immediately.
Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him with an arrow to our
dismay, and to his own great glory."
  Talthybius did as he was told, and went about the host trying to
find Machaon. Presently he found standing amid the brave warriors
who had followed him from Tricca; thereon he went up to him and
said, "Son of Aesculapius, King Agamemnon says you are to come and see
Menelaus immediately. Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him
with an arrow to our dismay and to his own great glory."
  Thus did he speak, and Machaon was moved to go. They passed
through the spreading host of the Achaeans and went on till they
came to the place where Menelaus had been wounded and was lying with
the chieftains gathered in a circle round him. Machaon passed into the
middle of the ring and at once drew the arrow from the belt, bending
its barbs back through the force with which he pulled it out. He undid
the burnished belt, and beneath this the cuirass and the belt of
mail which the bronze-smiths had made; then, when he had seen the
wound, he wiped away the blood and applied some soothing drugs which
Chiron had given to Aesculapius out of the good will he bore him.
  While they were thus busy about Menelaus, the Trojans came forward
against them, for they had put on their armour, and now renewed the
  You would not have then found Agamemnon asleep nor cowardly and
unwilling to fight, but eager rather for the fray. He left his chariot
rich with bronze and his panting steeds in charge of Eurymedon, son of
Ptolemaeus the son of Peiraeus, and bade him hold them in readiness
against the time his limbs should weary of going about and giving
orders to so many, for he went among the ranks on foot. When he saw
men hasting to the front he stood by them and cheered them on.
"Argives," said he, "slacken not one whit in your onset; father Jove
will be no helper of liars; the Trojans have been the first to break
their oaths and to attack us; therefore they shall be devoured of
vultures; we shall take their city and carry off their wives and
children in our ships."
  But he angrily rebuked those whom he saw shirking and disinclined to
fight. "Argives," he cried, "cowardly miserable creatures, have you no
shame to stand here like frightened fawns who, when they can no longer
scud over the plain, huddle together, but show no fight? You are as
dazed and spiritless as deer. Would you wait till the Trojans reach
the sterns of our ships as they lie on the shore, to see, whether
the son of Saturn will hold his hand over you to protect you?"
  Thus did he go about giving his orders among the ranks. Passing
through the crowd, he came presently on the Cretans, arming round
Idomeneus, who was at their head, fierce as a wild boar, while
Meriones was bringing up the battalions that were in the rear.
Agamemnon was glad when he saw him, and spoke him fairly. "Idomeneus,"
said he, "I treat you with greater distinction than I do any others of
the Achaeans, whether in war or in other things, or at table. When the
princes are mixing my choicest wines in the mixing-bowls, they have
each of them a fixed allowance, but your cup is kept always full
like my own, that you may drink whenever you are minded. Go,
therefore, into battle, and show yourself the man you have been always
proud to be."
  Idomeneus answered, "I will be a trusty comrade, as I promised you
from the first I would be. Urge on the other Achaeans, that we may
join battle at once, for the Trojans have trampled upon their
covenants. Death and destruction shall be theirs, seeing they have
been the first to break their oaths and to attack us."
  The son of Atreus went on, glad at heart, till he came upon the
two Ajaxes arming themselves amid a host of foot-soldiers. As when a
goat-herd from some high post watches a storm drive over the deep
before the west wind- black as pitch is the offing and a mighty
whirlwind draws towards him, so that he is afraid and drives his flock
into a cave- even thus did the ranks of stalwart youths move in a dark
mass to battle under the Ajaxes, horrid with shield and spear. Glad
was King Agamemnon when he saw them. "No need," he cried, "to give
orders to such leaders of the Argives as you are, for of your own
selves you spur your men on to fight with might and main. Would, by
father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo that all were so minded as you are,
for the city of Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we
should sack it."
  With this he left them and went onward to Nestor, the facile speaker
of the Pylians, who was marshalling his men and urging them on, in
company with Pelagon, Alastor, Chromius, Haemon, and Bias shepherd
of his people. He placed his knights with their chariots and horses in
the front rank, while the foot-soldiers, brave men and many, whom he
could trust, were in the rear. The cowards he drove into the middle,
that they might fight whether they would or no. He gave his orders
to the knights first, bidding them hold their horses well in hand,
so as to avoid confusion. "Let no man," he said, "relying on his
strength or horsemanship, get before the others and engage singly with
the Trojans, nor yet let him lag behind or you will weaken your
attack; but let each when he meets an enemy's chariot throw his
spear from his own; this be much the best; this is how the men of
old took towns and strongholds; in this wise were they minded."
  Thus did the old man charge them, for he had been in many a fight,
and King Agamemnon was glad. "I wish," he said to him, that your limbs
were as supple and your strength as sure as your judgment is; but age,
the common enemy of mankind, has laid his hand upon you; would that it
had fallen upon some other, and that you were still young."
  And Nestor, knight of Gerene, answered, "Son of Atreus, I too
would gladly be the man I was when I slew mighty Ereuthalion; but
the gods will not give us everything at one and the same time. I was
then young, and now I am old; still I can go with my knights and
give them that counsel which old men have a right to give. The
wielding of the spear I leave to those who are younger and stronger
than myself."
  Agamemnon went his way rejoicing, and presently found Menestheus,
son of Peteos, tarrying in his place, and with him were the
Athenians loud of tongue in battle. Near him also tarried cunning
Ulysses, with his sturdy Cephallenians round him; they had not yet
heard the battle-cry, for the ranks of Trojans and Achaeans had only
just begun to move, so they were standing still, waiting for some
other columns of the Achaeans to attack the Trojans and begin the
fighting. When he saw this Agamemnon rebuked them and said, "Son of
Peteos, and you other, steeped in cunning, heart of guile, why stand
you here cowering and waiting on others? You two should be of all
men foremost when there is hard fighting to be done, for you are
ever foremost to accept my invitation when we councillors of the
Achaeans are holding feast. You are glad enough then to take your fill
of roast meats and to drink wine as long as you please, whereas now
you would not care though you saw ten columns of Achaeans engage the
enemy in front of you."
  Ulysses glared at him and answered, "Son of Atreus, what are you
talking about? How can you say that we are slack? When the Achaeans
are in full fight with the Trojans, you shall see, if you care to do
so, that the father of Telemachus will join battle with the foremost
of them. You are talking idly."
  When Agamemnon saw that Ulysses was angry, he smiled pleasantly at
him and withdrew his words. "Ulysses," said he, "noble son of Laertes,
excellent in all good counsel, I have neither fault to find nor orders
to give you, for I know your heart is right, and that you and I are of
a mind. Enough; I will make you amends for what I have said, and if
any ill has now been spoken may the gods bring it to nothing."
  He then left them and went on to others. Presently he saw the son of
Tydeus, noble Diomed, standing by his chariot and horses, with
Sthenelus the son of Capaneus beside him; whereon he began to
upbraid him. "Son of Tydeus," he said, "why stand you cowering here
upon the brink of battle? Tydeus did not shrink thus, but was ever
ahead of his men when leading them on against the foe- so, at least,
say they that saw him in battle, for I never set eyes upon him myself.
They say that there was no man like him. He came once to Mycenae,
not as an enemy but as a guest, in company with Polynices to recruit
his forces, for they were levying war against the strong city of
Thebes, and prayed our people for a body of picked men to help them.
The men of Mycenae were willing to let them have one, but Jove
dissuaded them by showing them unfavourable omens. Tydeus,
therefore, and Polynices went their way. When they had got as far
the deep-meadowed and rush-grown banks of the Aesopus, the Achaeans
sent Tydeus as their envoy, and he found the Cadmeans gathered in
great numbers to a banquet in the house of Eteocles. Stranger though
he was, he knew no fear on finding himself single-handed among so
many, but challenged them to contests of all kinds, and in each one of
them was at once victorious, so mightily did Minerva help him. The
Cadmeans were incensed at his success, and set a force of fifty youths
with two captains- the godlike hero Maeon, son of Haemon, and
Polyphontes, son of Autophonus- at their head, to lie in wait for
him on his return journey; but Tydeus slew every man of them, save
only Maeon, whom he let go in obedience to heaven's omens. Such was
Tydeus of Aetolia. His son can talk more glibly, but he cannot fight
as his father did."
  Diomed made no answer, for he was shamed by the rebuke of Agamemnon;
but the son of Capaneus took up his words and said, "Son of Atreus,
tell no lies, for you can speak truth if you will. We boast
ourselves as even better men than our fathers; we took seven-gated
Thebes, though the wall was stronger and our men were fewer in number,
for we trusted in the omens of the gods and in the help of Jove,
whereas they perished through their own sheer folly; hold not, then,
our fathers in like honour with us."
  Diomed looked sternly at him and said, "Hold your peace, my
friend, as I bid you. It is not amiss that Agamemnon should urge the
Achaeans forward, for the glory will be his if we take the city, and
his the shame if we are vanquished. Therefore let us acquit
ourselves with valour."
  As he spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so
fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have been
scared to hear it.
  As when some mighty wave that thunders on the beach when the west
wind has lashed it into fury- it has reared its head afar and now
comes crashing down on the shore; it bows its arching crest high
over the jagged rocks and spews its salt foam in all directions-
even so did the serried phalanxes of the Danaans march steadfastly
to battle. The chiefs gave orders each to his own people, but the
men said never a word; no man would think it, for huge as the host
was, it seemed as though there was not a tongue among them, so
silent were they in their obedience; and as they marched the armour
about their bodies glistened in the sun. But the clamour of the Trojan
ranks was as that of many thousand ewes that stand waiting to be
milked in the yards of some rich flockmaster, and bleat incessantly in
answer to the bleating of their lambs; for they had not one speech nor
language, but their tongues were diverse, and they came from many
different places. These were inspired of Mars, but the others by
Minerva- and with them came Panic, Rout, and Strife whose fury never
tires, sister and friend of murderous Mars, who, from being at first
but low in stature, grows till she uprears her head to heaven,
though her feet are still on earth. She it was that went about among
them and flung down discord to the waxing of sorrow with even hand
between them.
  When they were got together in one place shield clashed with
shield and spear with spear in the rage of battle. The bossed
shields beat one upon another, and there was a tramp as of a great
multitude- death-cry and shout of triumph of slain and slayers, and
the earth ran red with blood. As torrents swollen with rain course
madly down their deep channels till the angry floods meet in some
gorge, and the shepherd the hillside hears their roaring from afar-
even such was the toil and uproar of the hosts as they joined in
  First Antilochus slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Echepolus,
son of Thalysius, fighting in the foremost ranks. He struck at the
projecting part of his helmet and drove the spear into his brow; the
point of bronze pierced the bone, and darkness veiled his eyes;
headlong as a tower he fell amid the press of the fight, and as he
dropped King Elephenor, son of Chalcodon and captain of the proud
Abantes began dragging him out of reach of the darts that were falling
around him, in haste to strip him of his armour. But his purpose was
not for long; Agenor saw him haling the body away, and smote him in
the side with his bronze-shod spear- for as he stooped his side was
left unprotected by his shield- and thus he perished. Then the fight
between Trojans and Achaeans grew furious over his body, and they flew
upon each other like wolves, man and man crushing one upon the other.
  Forthwith Ajax, son of Telamon, slew the fair youth Simoeisius,
son of Anthemion, whom his mother bore by the banks of the Simois,
as she was coming down from Mt. Ida, where she had been with her
parents to see their flocks. Therefore he was named Simoeisius, but he
did not live to pay his parents for his rearing, for he was cut off
untimely by the spear of mighty Ajax, who struck him in the breast
by the right nipple as he was coming on among the foremost fighters;
the spear went right through his shoulder, and he fell as a poplar
that has grown straight and tall in a meadow by some mere, and its top
is thick with branches. Then the wheelwright lays his axe to its roots
that he may fashion a felloe for the wheel of some goodly chariot, and
it lies seasoning by the waterside. In such wise did Ajax fell to
earth Simoeisius, son of Anthemion. Thereon Antiphus of the gleaming
corslet, son of Priam, hurled a spear at Ajax from amid the crowd
and missed him, but he hit Leucus, the brave comrade of Ulysses, in
the groin, as he was dragging the body of Simoeisius over to the other
side; so he fell upon the body and loosed his hold upon it. Ulysses
was furious when he saw Leucus slain, and strode in full armour
through the front ranks till he was quite close; then he glared
round about him and took aim, and the Trojans fell back as he did
so. His dart was not sped in vain, for it struck Democoon, the bastard
son of Priam, who had come to him from Abydos, where he had charge
of his father's mares. Ulysses, infuriated by the death of his
comrade, hit him with his spear on one temple, and the bronze point
came through on the other side of his forehead. Thereon darkness
veiled his eyes, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell
heavily to the ground. Hector, and they that were in front, then
gave round while the Argives raised a shout and drew off the dead,
pressing further forward as they did so. But Apollo looked down from
Pergamus and called aloud to the Trojans, for he was displeased.
"Trojans," he cried, "rush on the foe, and do not let yourselves be
thus beaten by the Argives. Their skins are not stone nor iron that
when hit them you do them no harm. Moreover, Achilles, the son of
lovely Thetis, is not fighting, but is nursing his anger at the
  Thus spoke the mighty god, crying to them from the city, while
Jove's redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, went about among the host
of the Achaeans, and urged them forward whenever she beheld them
  Then fate fell upon Diores, son of Amarynceus, for he was struck
by a jagged stone near the ancle of his right leg. He that hurled it
was Peirous, son of Imbrasus, captain of the Thracians, who had come
from Aenus; the bones and both the tendons were crushed by the
pitiless stone. He fell to the ground on his back, and in his death
throes stretched out his hands towards his comrades. But Peirous,
who had wounded him, sprang on him and thrust a spear into his
belly, so that his bowels came gushing out upon the ground, and
darkness veiled his eyes. As he was leaving the body, Thoas of Aetolia
struck him in the chest near the nipple, and the point fixed itself in
his lungs. Thoas came close up to him, pulled the spear out of his
chest, and then drawing his sword, smote him in the middle of the
belly so that he died; but he did not strip him of his armour, for his
Thracian comrades, men who wear their hair in a tuft at the top of
their heads, stood round the body and kept him off with their long
spears for all his great stature and valour; so he was driven back.
Thus the two corpses lay stretched on earth near to one another, the
one captain of the Thracians and the other of the Epeans; and many
another fell round them.
  And now no man would have made light of the fighting if he could
have gone about among it scatheless and unwounded, with Minerva
leading him by the hand, and protecting him from the storm of spears
and arrows. For many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay stretched
side by side face downwards upon the earth.

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