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Olympians Titans Other Gods Myths Online Books

 The Iliad

By Homer

Translated by Samuel Butler

BOOK VIII

   NOW when Morning, clad in her robe of saffron, had begun to suffuse
                            
light over the earth, Jove called the gods in council on the topmost
crest of serrated Olympus. Then he spoke and all the other gods gave
ear. "Hear me," said he, "gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as
I am minded. Let none of you neither goddess nor god try to cross
me, but obey me every one of you that I may bring this matter to an
end. If I see anyone acting apart and helping either Trojans or
Danaans, he shall be beaten inordinately ere he come back again to
Olympus; or I will hurl him down into dark Tartarus far into the
deepest pit under the earth, where the gates are iron and the floor
bronze, as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth, that
you may learn how much the mightiest I am among you. Try me and find
out for yourselves. Hangs me a golden chain from heaven, and lay
hold of it all of you, gods and goddesses together- tug as you will,
you will not drag Jove the supreme counsellor from heaven to earth;
but were I to pull at it myself I should draw you up with earth and
sea into the bargain, then would I bind the chain about some
pinnacle of Olympus and leave you all dangling in the mid firmament.
So far am I above all others either of gods or men."
  They were frightened and all of them of held their peace, for he had
spoken masterfully; but at last Minerva answered, "Father, son of
Saturn, king of kings, we all know that your might is not to be
gainsaid, but we are also sorry for the Danaan warriors, who are
perishing and coming to a bad end. We will, however, since you so
bid us, refrain from actual fighting, but we will make serviceable
suggestions to the Argives that they may not all of them perish in
your displeasure."
  Jove smiled at her and answered, "Take heart, my child,
Trito-born; I am not really in earnest, and I wish to be kind to you."
  With this he yoked his fleet horses, with hoofs of bronze and
manes of glittering gold. He girded himself also with gold about the
body, seized his gold whip and took his seat in his chariot. Thereon
he lashed his horses and they flew forward nothing loth midway twixt
earth and starry heaven. After a while he reached many-fountained Ida,
mother of wild beasts, and Gargarus, where are his grove and
fragrant altar. There the father of gods and men stayed his horses,
took them from the chariot, and hid them in a thick cloud; then he
took his seat all glorious upon the topmost crests, looking down
upon the city of Troy and the ships of the Achaeans.
  The Achaeans took their morning meal hastily at the ships, and
afterwards put on their armour. The Trojans on the other hand likewise
armed themselves throughout the city, fewer in numbers but
nevertheless eager perforce to do battle for their wives and children.
All the gates were flung wide open, and horse and foot sallied forth
with the tramp as of a great multitude.
  When they were got together in one place, shield clashed with
shield, and spear with spear, in the conflict of mail-clad men. Mighty
was the din as the bossed shields pressed hard on one another-
death- cry and shout of triumph of slain and slayers, and the earth
ran red with blood.
  Now so long as the day waxed and it was still morning their
weapons beat against one another, and the people fell, but when the
sun had reached mid-heaven, the sire of all balanced his golden
scales, and put two Fates of death within them, one for the Trojans
and the other for the Achaeans. He took the balance by the middle, and
when he lifted it up the day of the Achaeans sank; the death-fraught
scale of the Achaeans settled down upon the ground, while that of
the Trojans rose heavenwards. Then he thundered aloud from Ida, and
sent the glare of his lightning upon the Achaeans; when they saw this,
pale fear fell upon them and they were sore afraid.
  Idomeneus dared not stay nor yet Agamemnon, nor did the two
Ajaxes, servants of Mars, hold their ground. Nestor knight of Gerene
alone stood firm, bulwark of the Achaeans, not of his own will, but
one of his horses was disabled. Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen had
hit it with an arrow just on the top of its head where the mane begins
to grow away from the skull, a very deadly place. The horse bounded in
his anguish as the arrow pierced his brain, and his struggles threw
others into confusion. The old man instantly began cutting the
traces with his sword, but Hector's fleet horses bore down upon him
through the rout with their bold charioteer, even Hector himself,
and the old man would have perished there and then had not Diomed been
quick to mark, and with a loud cry called Ulysses to help him.
  "Ulysses," he cried, "noble son of Laertes where are you flying
to, with your back turned like a coward? See that you are not struck
with a spear between the shoulders. Stay here and help me to defend
Nestor from this man's furious onset."
  Ulysses would not give ear, but sped onward to the ships of the
Achaeans, and the son of Tydeus flinging himself alone into the
thick of the fight took his stand before the horses of the son of
Neleus. "Sir," said he, "these young warriors are pressing you hard,
your force is spent, and age is heavy upon you, your squire is naught,
and your horses are slow to move. Mount my chariot and see what the
horses of Tros can do- how cleverly they can scud hither and thither
over the plain either in flight or in pursuit. I took them from the
hero Aeneas. Let our squires attend to your own steeds, but let us
drive mine straight at the Trojans, that Hector may learn how
furiously I too can wield my spear."
  Nestor knight of Gerene hearkened to his words. Thereon the
doughty squires, Sthenelus and kind-hearted Eurymedon, saw to Nestor's
horses, while the two both mounted Diomed's chariot. Nestor took the
reins in his hands and lashed the horses on; they were soon close up
with Hector, and the son of Tydeus aimed a spear at him as he was
charging full speed towards them. He missed him, but struck his
charioteer and squire Eniopeus son of noble Thebaeus in the breast
by the nipple while the reins were in his hands, so that he died there
and then, and the horses swerved as he fell headlong from the chariot.
Hector was greatly grieved at the loss of his charioteer, but let
him lie for all his sorrow, while he went in quest of another
driver; nor did his steeds have to go long without one, for he
presently found brave Archeptolemus the son of Iphitus, and made him
get up behind the horses, giving the reins into his hand.
  All had then been lost and no help for it, for they would have
been penned up in Ilius like sheep, had not the sire of gods and men
been quick to mark, and hurled a fiery flaming thunderbolt which
fell just in front of Diomed's horses with a flare of burning
brimstone. The horses were frightened and tried to back beneath the
car, while the reins dropped from Nestor's hands. Then he was afraid
and said to Diomed, "Son of Tydeus, turn your horses in flight; see
you not that the hand of Jove is against you? To-day he vouchsafes
victory to Hector; to-morrow, if it so please him, he will again grant
it to ourselves; no man, however brave, may thwart the purpose of
Jove, for he is far stronger than any."
  Diomed answered, "All that you have said is true; there is a grief
however which pierces me to the very heart, for Hector will talk among
the Trojans and say, 'The son of Tydeus fled before me to the
ships.' This is the vaunt he will make, and may earth then swallow
me."
  "Son of Tydeus," replied Nestor, "what mean you? Though Hector say
that you are a coward the Trojans and Dardanians will not believe him,
nor yet the wives of the mighty warriors whom you have laid low."
  So saying he turned the horses back through the thick of the battle,
and with a cry that rent the air the Trojans and Hector rained their
darts after them. Hector shouted to him and said, "Son of Tydeus,
the Danaans have done you honour hitherto as regards your place at
table, the meals they give you, and the filling of your cup with wine.
Henceforth they will despise you, for you are become no better than
a woman. Be off, girl and coward that you are, you shall not scale our
walls through any Hinching upon my part; neither shall you carry off
our wives in your ships, for I shall kill you with my own hand."
  The son of Tydeus was in two minds whether or no to turn his
horses round again and fight him. Thrice did he doubt, and thrice
did Jove thunder from the heights of. Ida in token to the Trojans that
he would turn the battle in their favour. Hector then shouted to
them and said, "Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanians, lovers of close
fighting, be men, my friends, and fight with might and with main; I
see that Jove is minded to vouchsafe victory and great glory to
myself, while he will deal destruction upon the Danaans. Fools, for
having thought of building this weak and worthless wall. It shall
not stay my fury; my horses will spring lightly over their trench, and
when I am BOOK at their ships forget not to bring me fire that I may
burn them, while I slaughter the Argives who will be all dazed and
bewildered by the smoke."
  Then he cried to his horses, "Xanthus and Podargus, and you Aethon
and goodly Lampus, pay me for your keep now and for all the
honey-sweet corn with which Andromache daughter of great Eetion has
fed you, and for she has mixed wine and water for you to drink
whenever you would, before doing so even for me who am her own
husband. Haste in pursuit, that we may take the shield of Nestor,
the fame of which ascends to heaven, for it is of solid gold, arm-rods
and all, and that we may strip from the shoulders of Diomed. the
cuirass which Vulcan made him. Could we take these two things, the
Achaeans would set sail in their ships this self-same night."
  Thus did he vaunt, but Queen Juno made high Olympus quake as she
shook with rage upon her throne. Then said she to the mighty god of
Neptune, "What now, wide ruling lord of the earthquake? Can you find
no compassion in your heart for the dying Danaans, who bring you
many a welcome offering to Helice and to Aegae? Wish them well then.
If all of us who are with the Danaans were to drive the Trojans back
and keep Jove from helping them, he would have to sit there sulking
alone on Ida."
  King Neptune was greatly troubled and answered, "Juno, rash of
tongue, what are you talking about? We other gods must not set
ourselves against Jove, for he is far stronger than we are."
  Thus did they converse; but the whole space enclosed by the ditch,
from the ships even to the wall, was filled with horses and
warriors, who were pent up there by Hector son of Priam, now that
the hand of Jove was with him. He would even have set fire to the
ships and burned them, had not Queen Juno put it into the mind of
Agamemnon, to bestir himself and to encourage the Achaeans. To this
end he went round the ships and tents carrying a great purple cloak,
and took his stand by the huge black hull of Ulysses' ship, which
was middlemost of all; it was from this place that his voice would
carry farthest, on the one hand towards the tents of Ajax son of
Telamon, and on the other towards those of Achilles- for these two
heroes, well assured of their own strength, had valorously drawn up
their ships at the two ends of the line. From this spot then, with a
voice that could be heard afar, he shouted to the Danaans, saying,
"Argives, shame on you cowardly creatures, brave in semblance only;
where are now our vaunts that we should prove victorious- the vaunts
we made so vaingloriously in Lemnos, when we ate the flesh of horned
cattle and filled our mixing-bowls to the brim? You vowed that you
would each of you stand against a hundred or two hundred men, and
now you prove no match even for one- for Hector, who will be ere
long setting our ships in a blaze. Father Jove, did you ever so ruin a
great king and rob him so utterly of his greatness? yet, when to my
sorrow I was coming hither, I never let my ship pass your altars
without offering the fat and thigh-bones of heifers upon every one
of them, so eager was I to sack the city of Troy. Vouchsafe me then
this prayer- suffer us to escape at any rate with our lives, and let
not the Achaeans be so utterly vanquished by the Trojans."
  Thus did he pray, and father Jove pitying his tears vouchsafed him
that his people should live, not die; forthwith he sent them an eagle,
most unfailingly portentous of all birds, with a young fawn in its
talons; the eagle dropped the fawn by the altar on which the
Achaeans sacrificed to Jove the lord of omens; When, therefore, the
people saw that the bird had come from Jove, they sprang more fiercely
upon the Trojans and fought more boldly.
  There was no man of all the many Danaans who could then boast that
he had driven his horses over the trench and gone forth to fight
sooner than the son of Tydeus; long before any one else could do so he
slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Agelaus the son of Phradmon.
He had turned his horses in flight, but the spear struck him in the
back midway between his shoulders and went right through his chest,
and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell forward from his
chariot.
  After him came Agamemnon and Menelaus, sons of Atreus, the two
Ajaxes clothed in valour as with a garment, Idomeneus and his
companion in arms Meriones, peer of murderous Mars, and Eurypylus
the brave son of Euaemon. Ninth came Teucer with his bow, and took his
place under cover of the shield of Ajax son of Telamon. When Ajax
lifted his shield Teucer would peer round, and when he had hit any one
in the throng, the man would fall dead; then Teucer would hie back
to Ajax as a child to its mother, and again duck down under his
shield.
  Which of the Trojans did brave Teucer first kill? Orsilochus, and
then Ormenus and Ophelestes, Daetor, Chromius, and godlike
Lycophontes, Amopaon son of Polyaemon, and Melanippus. these in turn
did he lay low upon the earth, and King Agamemnon was glad when he saw
him making havoc of the Trojans with his mighty bow. He went up to him
and said, "Teucer, man after my own heart, son of Telamon, captain
among the host, shoot on, and be at once the saving of the Danaans and
the glory of your father Telamon, who brought you up and took care
of you in his own house when you were a child, bastard though you
were. Cover him with glory though he is far off; I will promise and
I will assuredly perform; if aegis-bearing Jove and Minerva grant me
to sack the city of Ilius, you shall have the next best meed of honour
after my own- a tripod, or two horses with their chariot, or a woman
who shall go up into your bed."
  And Teucer answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, you need not urge
me; from the moment we began to drive them back to Ilius, I have never
ceased so far as in me lies to look out for men whom I can shoot and
kill; I have shot eight barbed shafts, and all of them have been
buried in the flesh of warlike youths, but this mad dog I cannot hit."
  As he spoke he aimed another arrow straight at Hector, for he was
bent on hitting him; nevertheless he missed him, and the arrow hit
Priam's brave son Gorgythion in the breast. His mother, fair
Castianeira, lovely as a goddess, had been married from Aesyme, and
now he bowed his head as a garden poppy in full bloom when it is
weighed down by showers in spring- even thus heavy bowed his head
beneath the weight of his helmet.
  Again he aimed at Hector, for he was longing to hit him, and again
his arrow missed, for Apollo turned it aside; but he hit Hector's
brave charioteer Archeptolemus in the breast, by the nipple, as he was
driving furiously into the fight. The horses swerved aside as he
fell headlong from the chariot, and there was no life left in him.
Hector was greatly grieved at the loss of his charioteer, but for
all his sorrow he let him lie where he fell, and bade his brother
Cebriones, who was hard by, take the reins. Cebriones did as he had
said. Hector thereon with a loud cry sprang from his chariot to the
ground, and seizing a great stone made straight for Teucer with intent
kill him. Teucer had just taken an arrow from his quiver and had
laid it upon the bow-string, but Hector struck him with the jagged
stone as he was taking aim and drawing the string to his shoulder;
he hit him just where the collar-bone divides the neck from the chest,
a very deadly place, and broke the sinew of his arm so that his
wrist was less, and the bow dropped from his hand as he fell forward
on his knees. Ajax saw that his brother had fallen, and running
towards him bestrode him and sheltered him with his shield.
Meanwhile his two trusty squires, Mecisteus son of Echius, and
Alastor, came up and bore him to the ships groaning in his great pain.
glad when he saw
  Jove now again put heart into the Trojans, and they drove the
Achaeans to their deep trench with Hector in all his glory at their
head. As a hound grips a wild boar or lion in flank or buttock when he
gives him chase, and watches warily for his wheeling, even so did
Hector follow close upon the Achaeans, ever killing the hindmost as
they rushed panic-stricken onwards. When they had fled through the set
stakes and trench and many Achaeans had been laid low at the hands
of the Trojans, they halted at their ships, calling upon one another
and praying every man instantly as they lifted up their hands to the
gods; but Hector wheeled his horses this way and that, his eyes
glaring like those of Gorgo or murderous Mars.
  Juno when she saw them had pity upon them, and at once said to
Minerva, "Alas, child of aegis-bearing Jove, shall you and I take no
more thought for the dying Danaans, though it be the last time we ever
do so? See how they perish and come to a bad end before the onset of
but a single man. Hector the son of Priam rages with intolerable fury,
and has already done great mischief."
  Minerva answered, "Would, indeed, this fellow might die in his own
land, and fall by the hands of the Achaeans; but my father Jove is mad
with spleen, ever foiling me, ever headstrong and unjust. He forgets
how often I saved his son when he was worn out by the labours
Eurystheus had laid on him. He would weep till his cry came up to
heaven, and then Jove would send me down to help him; if I had had the
sense to foresee all this, when Eurystheus sent him to the house of
Hades, to fetch the hell-hound from Erebus, he would never have come
back alive out of the deep waters of the river Styx. And now Jove
hates me, while he lets Thetis have her way because she kissed his
knees and took hold of his beard, when she was begging him to do
honour to Achilles. I shall know what to do next time he begins
calling me his grey-eyed darling. Get our horses ready, while I go
within the house of aegis-bearing Jove and put on my armour; we
shall then find out whether Priam's son Hector will be glad to meet us
in the highways of battle, or whether the Trojans will glut hounds and
vultures with the fat of their flesh as they he dead by the ships of
the Achaeans."
  Thus did she speak and white-armed Juno, daughter of great Saturn,
obeyed her words; she set about harnessing her gold-bedizened
steeds, while Minerva daughter of aegis-bearing Jove flung her
richly vesture, made with her own hands, on to the threshold of her
father, and donned the shirt of Jove, arming herself for battle.
Then she stepped into her flaming chariot, and grasped the spear so
stout and sturdy and strong with which she quells the ranks of
heroes who have displeased her. Juno lashed her horses, and the
gates of heaven bellowed as they flew open of their own accord-
gates over which the Hours preside, in whose hands are heaven and
Olympus, either to open the dense cloud that hides them or to close
it. Through these the goddesses drove their obedient steeds.
  But father Jove when he saw them from Ida was very angry, and sent
winged Iris with a message to them. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, turn
them back, and see that they do not come near me, for if we come to
fighting there will be mischief. This is what I say, and this is
what I mean to do. I will lame their horses for them; I will hurl them
from their chariot, and will break it in pieces. It will take them all
ten years to heal the wounds my lightning shall inflict upon them;
my grey-eyed daughter will then learn what quarrelling with her father
means. I am less surprised and angry with Juno, for whatever I say she
always contradicts me."
  With this Iris went her way, fleet as the wind, from the heights
of Ida to the lofty summits of Olympus. She met the goddesses at the
outer gates of its many valleys and gave them her message. "What,"
said she, "are you about? Are you mad? The son of Saturn forbids
going. This is what he says, and this is he means to do, he will
lame your horses for you, he will hurl you from your chariot, and will
break it in pieces. It will take you all ten years to heal the
wounds his lightning will inflict upon you, that you may learn,
grey-eyed goddess, what quarrelling with your father means. He is less
hurt and angry with Juno, for whatever he says she always
contradicts him but you, bold bold hussy, will you really dare to
raise your huge spear in defiance of Jove?"
  With this she left them, and Juno said to Minerva, "Of a truth,
child of aegis-bearing Jove, I am not for fighting men's battles
further in defiance of Jove. Let them live or die as luck will have
it, and let Jove mete out his judgements upon the Trojans and
Danaans according to his own pleasure."
  She turned her steeds; the Hours presently unyoked them, made them
fast to their ambrosial mangers, and leaned the chariot against the
end wall of the courtyard. The two goddesses then sat down upon
their golden thrones, amid the company of the other gods; but they
were very angry.
  Presently father Jove drove his chariot to Olympus, and entered
the assembly of gods. The mighty lord of the earthquake unyoked his
horses for him, set the car upon its stand, and threw a cloth over it.
Jove then sat down upon his golden throne and Olympus reeled beneath
him. Minerva and Juno sat alone, apart from Jove, and neither spoke
nor asked him questions, but Jove knew what they meant, and said,
"Minerva and Juno, why are you so angry? Are you fatigued with killing
so many of your dear friends the Trojans? Be this as it may, such is
the might of my hands that all the gods in Olympus cannot turn me; you
were both of you trembling all over ere ever you saw the fight and its
terrible doings. I tell you therefore-and it would have surely been- I
should have struck you with lighting, and your chariots would never
have brought you back again to Olympus."
  Minerva and Juno groaned in spirit as they sat side by side and
brooded mischief for the Trojans. Minerva sat silent without a word,
for she was in a furious passion and bitterly incensed against her
father; but Juno could not contain herself and said, "What, dread
son of Saturn, are you talking about? We know how great your power is,
nevertheless we have compassion upon the Danaan warriors who are
perishing and coming to a bad end. We will, however, since you so
bid us, refrain from actual fighting, but we will make serviceable
suggestions to the Argives, that they may not all of them perish in
your displeasure."
  And Jove answered, "To-morrow morning, Juno, if you choose to do so,
you will see the son of Saturn destroying large numbers of the
Argives, for fierce Hector shall not cease fighting till he has roused
the son of Peleus when they are fighting in dire straits at their
ships' sterns about the body of Patroclus. Like it or no, this is
how it is decreed; for aught I care, you may go to the lowest depths
beneath earth and sea, where Iapetus and Saturn dwell in lone Tartarus
with neither ray of light nor breath of wind to cheer them. You may go
on and on till you get there, and I shall not care one whit for your
displeasure; you are the greatest vixen living."
  Juno made him no answer. The sun's glorious orb now sank into
Oceanus and drew down night over the land. Sorry indeed were the
Trojans when light failed them, but welcome and thrice prayed for
did darkness fall upon the Achaeans.
  Then Hector led the Trojans back from the ships, and held a
council on the open space near the river, where there was a spot ear
corpses. They left their chariots and sat down on the ground to hear
the speech he made them. He grasped a spear eleven cubits long, the
bronze point of which gleamed in front of it, while the ring round the
spear-head was of gold Spear in hand he spoke. "Hear me," said he,
"Trojans, Dardanians, and allies. I deemed but now that I should
destroy the ships and all the Achaeans with them ere I went back to
Ilius, but darkness came on too soon. It was this alone that saved
them and their ships upon the seashore. Now, therefore, let us obey
the behests of night, and prepare our suppers. Take your horses out of
their chariots and give them their feeds of corn; then make speed to
bring sheep and cattle from the city; bring wine also and corn for
your horses and gather much wood, that from dark till dawn we may burn
watchfires whose flare may reach to heaven. For the Achaeans may try
to fly beyond the sea by night, and they must not embark scatheless
and unmolested; many a man among them must take a dart with him to
nurse at home, hit with spear or arrow as he is leaping on board his
ship, that others may fear to bring war and weeping upon the
Trojans. Moreover let the Heralds tell it about the city that the
growing youths and grey-bearded men are to camp upon its
heaven-built walls. Let the women each of them light a great fire in
her house, and let watch be safely kept lest the town be entered by
surprise while the host is outside. See to it, brave Trojans, as I
have said, and let this suffice for the moment; at daybreak I will
instruct you further. I pray in hope to Jove and to the gods that we
may then drive those fate-sped hounds from our land, for 'tis the
fates that have borne them and their ships hither. This night,
therefore, let us keep watch, but with early morning let us put on our
armour and rouse fierce war at the ships of the Achaeans; I shall then
know whether brave Diomed the son of Tydeus will drive me back from
the ships to the wall, or whether I shall myself slay him and carry
off his bloodstained spoils. To-morrow let him show his mettle,
abide my spear if he dare. I ween that at break of day, he shall be
among the first to fall and many another of his comrades round him.
Would that I were as sure of being immortal and never growing old, and
of being worshipped like Minerva and Apollo, as I am that this day
will bring evil to the Argives."
  Thus spoke Hector and the Trojans shouted applause. They took
their sweating steeds from under the yoke, and made them fast each
by his own chariot. They made haste to bring sheep and cattle from the
city, they brought wine also and corn from their houses and gathered
much wood. They then offered unblemished hecatombs to the immortals,
and the wind carried the sweet savour of sacrifice to heaven- but
the blessed gods partook not thereof, for they bitterly hated Ilius
with Priam and Priam's people. Thus high in hope they sat through
the livelong night by the highways of war, and many a watchfire did
they kindle. As when the stars shine clear, and the moon is bright-
there is not a breath of air, not a peak nor glade nor jutting
headland but it stands out in the ineffable radiance that breaks
from the serene of heaven; the stars can all of them be told and the
heart of the shepherd is glad- even thus shone the watchfires of the
Trojans before Ilius midway between the ships and the river Xanthus. A
thousand camp-fires gleamed upon the plain, and in the glow of each
there sat fifty men, while the horses, champing oats and corn beside
their chariots, waited till dawn should come.
 

The Iliad Table of Contents

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