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Olympians Titans Other Gods Myths Online Books

  The Iliad

By Homer

Translated by Samuel Butler

BOOK XXI

  NOW when they came to the ford of the full-flowing river Xanthus,
begotten of immortal Jove, Achilles cut their forces in two: one
half he chased over the plain towards the city by the same way that
the Achaeans had taken when flying panic-stricken on the preceding day
with Hector in full triumph; this way did they fly pell-mell, and Juno
sent down a thick mist in front of them to stay them. The other half
were hemmed in by the deep silver-eddying stream, and fell into it
with a great uproar. The waters resounded, and the banks rang again,
as they swam hither and thither with loud cries amid the whirling
eddies. As locusts flying to a river before the blast of a grass fire-
the flame comes on and on till at last it overtakes them and they
huddle into the water- even so was the eddying stream of Xanthus
filled with the uproar of men and horses, all struggling in
confusion before Achilles.
  Forthwith the hero left his spear upon the bank, leaning it
against a tamarisk bush, and plunged into the river like a god,
armed with his sword only. Fell was his purpose as he hewed the
Trojans down on every side. Their dying groans rose hideous as the
sword smote them, and the river ran red with blood. As when fish fly
scared before a huge dolphin, and fill every nook and corner of some
fair haven- for he is sure to eat all he can catch- even so did the
Trojans cower under the banks of the mighty river, and when
Achilles' arms grew weary with killing them, he drew twelve youths
alive out of the water, to sacrifice in revenge for Patroclus son of
Menoetius. He drew them out like dazed fawns, bound their hands behind
them with the girdles of their own shirts, and gave them over to his
men to take back to the ships. Then he sprang into the river,
thirsting for still further blood.
  There he found Lycaon, son of Priam seed of Dardanus, as he was
escaping out of the water; he it was whom he had once taken prisoner
when he was in his father's vineyard, having set upon him by night, as
he was cutting young shoots from a wild fig-tree to make the wicker
sides of a chariot. Achilles then caught him to his sorrow unawares,
and sent him by sea to Lemnos, where the son of Jason bought him.
But a guest-friend, Eetion of Imbros, freed him with a great sum,
and sent him to Arisbe, whence he had escaped and returned to his
father's house. He had spent eleven days happily with his friends
after he had come from Lemnos, but on the twelfth heaven again
delivered him into the hands of Achilles, who was to send him to the
house of Hades sorely against his will. He was unarmed when Achilles
caught sight of him, and had neither helmet nor shield; nor yet had he
any spear, for he had thrown all his armour from him on to the bank,
and was sweating with his struggles to get out of the river, so that
his strength was now failing him.
  Then Achilles said to himself in his surprise, "What marvel do I see
here? If this man can come back alive after having been sold over into
Lemnos, I shall have the Trojans also whom I have slain rising from
the world below. Could not even the waters of the grey sea imprison
him, as they do many another whether he will or no? This time let
him taste my spear, that I may know for certain whether mother earth
who can keep even a strong man down, will be able to hold him, or
whether thence too he will return."
  Thus did he pause and ponder. But Lycaon came up to him dazed and
trying hard to embrace his knees, for he would fain live, not die.
Achilles thrust at him with his spear, meaning to kill him, but Lycaon
ran crouching up to him and caught his knees, whereby the spear passed
over his back, and stuck in the ground, hungering though it was for
blood. With one hand he caught Achilles' knees as he besought him, and
with the other he clutched the spear and would not let it go. Then
he said, "Achilles, have mercy upon me and spare me, for I am your
suppliant. It was in your tents that I first broke bread on the day
when you took me prisoner in the vineyard; after which you sold away
to Lemnos far from my father and my friends, and I brought you the
price of a hundred oxen. I have paid three times as much to gain my
freedom; it is but twelve days that I have come to Ilius after much
suffering, and now cruel fate has again thrown me into your hands.
Surely father Jove must hate me, that he has given me over to you a
second time. Short of life indeed did my mother Laothoe bear me,
daughter of aged Altes- of Altes who reigns over the warlike Lelegae
and holds steep Pedasus on the river Satnioeis. Priam married his
daughter along with many other women and two sons were born of her,
both of whom you will have slain. Your spear slew noble Polydorus as
he was fighting in the front ranks, and now evil will here befall
me, for I fear that I shall not escape you since heaven has delivered
me over to you. Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart,
spare me, for I am not of the same womb as Hector who slew your
brave and noble comrade."
  With such words did the princely son of Priam beseech Achilles;
but Achilles answered him sternly. "Idiot," said he, "talk not to me
of ransom. Until Patroclus fell I preferred to give the Trojans
quarter, and sold beyond the sea many of those whom I had taken alive;
but now not a man shall live of those whom heaven delivers into my
hands before the city of Ilius- and of all Trojans it shall fare
hardest with the sons of Priam. Therefore, my friend, you too shall
die. Why should you whine in this way? Patroclus fell, and he was a
better man than you are. I too- see you not how I am great and goodly?
I am son to a noble father, and have a goddess for my mother, but
the hands of doom and death overshadow me all as surely. The day
will come, either at dawn or dark, or at the noontide, when one
shall take my life also in battle, either with his spear, or with an
arrow sped from his bow."
  Thus did he speak, and Lycaon's heart sank within him. He loosed his
hold of the spear, and held out both hands before him; but Achilles
drew his keen blade, and struck him by the collar-bone on his neck; he
plunged his two-edged sword into him to the very hilt, whereon he
lay at full length on the ground, with the dark blood welling from him
till the earth was soaked. Then Achilles caught him by the foot and
flung him into the river to go down stream, vaunting over him the
while, and saying, "Lie there among the fishes, who will lick the
blood from your wound and gloat over it; your mother shall not lay you
on any bier to mourn you, but the eddies of Scamander shall bear you
into the broad bosom of the sea. There shall the fishes feed on the
fat of Lycaon as they dart under the dark ripple of the waters- so
perish all of you till we reach the citadel of strong Ilius- you in
flight, and I following after to destroy you. The river with its broad
silver stream shall serve you in no stead, for all the bulls you
offered him and all the horses that you flung living into his
waters. None the less miserably shall you perish till there is not a
man of you but has paid in full for the death of Patroclus and the
havoc you wrought among the Achaeans whom you have slain while I
held aloof from battle."
  So spoke Achilles, but the river grew more and more angry, and
pondered within himself how he should stay the hand of Achilles and
save the Trojans from disaster. Meanwhile the son of Peleus, spear
in hand, sprang upon Asteropaeus son of Pelegon to kill him. He was
son to the broad river Axius and Periboea eldest daughter of
Acessamenus; for the river had lain with her. Asteropaeus stood up out
of the water to face him with a spear in either hand, and Xanthus
filled him with courage, being angry for the death of the youths
whom Achilles was slaying ruthlessly within his waters. When they were
close up with one another Achilles was first to speak. "Who and whence
are you," said he, "who dare to face me? Woe to the parents whose
son stands up against me." And the son of Pelegon answered, "Great son
of Peleus, why should you ask my lineage. I am from the fertile land
of far Paeonia, captain of the Paeonians, and it is now eleven days
that I am at Ilius. I am of the blood of the river Axius- of Axius
that is the fairest of all rivers that run. He begot the famed warrior
Pelegon, whose son men call me. Let us now fight, Achilles."
  Thus did he defy him, and Achilles raised his spear of Pelian ash.
Asteropaeus failed with both his spears, for he could use both hands
alike; with the one spear he struck Achilles' shield, but did not
pierce it, for the layer of gold, gift of the god, stayed the point;
with the other spear he grazed the elbow of Achilles! right arm
drawing dark blood, but the spear itself went by him and fixed
itself in the ground, foiled of its bloody banquet. Then Achilles,
fain to kill him, hurled his spear at Asteropaeus, but failed to hit
him and struck the steep bank of the river, driving the spear half its
length into the earth. The son of Peleus then drew his sword and
sprang furiously upon him. Asteropaeus vainly tried to draw
Achilles' spear out of the bank by main force; thrice did he tug at
it, trying with all his might to draw it out, and thrice he had to
leave off trying; the fourth time he tried to bend and break it, but
ere he could do so Achilles smote him with his sword and killed him.
He struck him in the belly near the navel, so that all his bowels came
gushing out on to the ground, and the darkness of death came over
him as he lay gasping. Then Achilles set his foot on his chest and
spoiled him of his armour, vaunting over him and saying, "Lie there-
begotten of a river though you be, it is hard for you to strive with
the offspring of Saturn's son. You declare yourself sprung from the
blood of a broad river, but I am of the seed of mighty Jove. My father
is Peleus, son of Aeacus ruler over the many Myrmidons, and Aeacus was
the son of Jove. Therefore as Jove is mightier than any river that
flows into the sea, so are his children stronger than those of any
river whatsoever. Moreover you have a great river hard by if he can be
of any use to you, but there is no fighting against Jove the son of
Saturn, with whom not even King Achelous can compare, nor the mighty
stream of deep-flowing Oceanus, from whom all rivers and seas with all
springs and deep wells proceed; even Oceanus fears the lightnings of
great Jove, and his thunder that comes crashing out of heaven."
  With this he drew his bronze spear out of the bank, and now that
he had killed Asteropaeus, he let him lie where he was on the sand,
with the dark water flowing over him and the eels and fishes busy
nibbling and gnawing the fat that was about his kidneys. Then he
went in chase of the Paeonians, who were flying along the bank of
the river in panic when they saw their leader slain by the hands of
the son of Peleus. Therein he slew Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus,
Mnesus, Thrasius, Oeneus, and Ophelestes, and he would have slain
yet others, had not the river in anger taken human form, and spoken to
him from out the deep waters saying, "Achilles, if you excel all in
strength, so do you also in wickedness, for the gods are ever with you
to protect you: if, then, the son of Saturn has vouchsafed it to you
to destroy all the Trojans, at any rate drive them out of my stream,
and do your grim work on land. My fair waters are now filled with
corpses, nor can I find any channel by which I may pour myself into
the sea for I am choked with dead, and yet you go on mercilessly
slaying. I am in despair, therefore, O captain of your host, trouble
me no further."
  Achilles answered, "So be it, Scamander, Jove-descended; but I
will never cease dealing out death among the Trojans, till I have pent
them up in their city, and made trial of Hector face to face, that I
may learn whether he is to vanquish me, or I him."
  As he spoke he set upon the Trojans with a fury like that of the
gods. But the river said to Apollo, "Surely, son of Jove, lord of
the silver bow, you are not obeying the commands of Jove who charged
you straitly that you should stand by the Trojans and defend them,
till twilight fades, and darkness is over an the earth."
  Meanwhile Achilles sprang from the bank into mid-stream, whereon the
river raised a high wave and attacked him. He swelled his stream
into a torrent, and swept away the many dead whom Achilles had slain
and left within his waters. These he cast out on to the land,
bellowing like a bull the while, but the living he saved alive, hiding
them in his mighty eddies. The great and terrible wave gathered
about Achilles, falling upon him and beating on his shield, so that he
could not keep his feet; he caught hold of a great elm-tree, but it
came up by the roots, and tore away the bank, damming the stream
with its thick branches and bridging it all across; whereby Achilles
struggled out of the stream, and fled full speed over the plain, for
he was afraid.
  But the mighty god ceased not in his pursuit, and sprang upon him
with a dark-crested wave, to stay his hands and save the Trojans
from destruction. The son of Peleus darted away a spear's throw from
him; swift as the swoop of a black hunter-eagle which is the strongest
and fleetest of all birds, even so did he spring forward, and the
armour rang loudly about his breast. He fled on in front, but the
river with a loud roar came tearing after. As one who would water
his garden leads a stream from some fountain over his plants, and
all his ground-spade in hand he clears away the dams to free the
channels, and the little stones run rolling round and round with the
water as it goes merrily down the bank faster than the man can follow-
even so did the river keep catching up with Achilles albeit he was a
fleet runner, for the gods are stronger than men. As often as he would
strive to stand his ground, and see whether or no all the gods in
heaven were in league against him, so often would the mighty wave come
beating down upon his shoulders, and be would have to keep flying on
and on in great dismay; for the angry flood was tiring him out as it
flowed past him and ate the ground from under his feet.
  Then the son of Peleus lifted up his voice to heaven saying, "Father
Jove, is there none of the gods who will take pity upon me, and save
me from the river? I do not care what may happen to me afterwards. I
blame none of the other dwellers on Olympus so severely as I do my
dear mother, who has beguiled and tricked me. She told me I was to
fall under the walls of Troy by the flying arrows of Apollo; would
that Hector, the best man among the Trojans, might there slay me; then
should I fall a hero by the hand of a hero; whereas now it seems
that I shall come to a most pitiable end, trapped in this river as
though I were some swineherd's boy, who gets carried down a torrent
while trying to cross it during a storm."
  As soon as he had spoken thus, Neptune and Minerva came up to him in
the likeness of two men, and took him by the hand to reassure him.
Neptune spoke first. "Son of Peleus," said he, "be not so exceeding
fearful; we are two gods, come with Jove's sanction to assist you,
I, and Pallas Minerva. It is not your fate to perish in this river; he
will abate presently as you will see; moreover we strongly advise you,
if you will be guided by us, not to stay your hand from fighting
till you have pent the Trojan host within the famed walls of Ilius- as
many of them as may escape. Then kill Hector and go back to the ships,
for we will vouchsafe you a triumph over him."
  When they had so said they went back to the other immortals, but
Achilles strove onward over the plain, encouraged by the charge the
gods had laid upon him. All was now covered with the flood of
waters, and much goodly armour of the youths that had been slain was
rifting about, as also many corpses, but he forced his way against the
stream, speeding right onwards, nor could the broad waters stay him,
for Minerva had endowed him with great strength. Nevertheless
Scamander did not slacken in his pursuit, but was still more furious
with the son of Peleus. He lifted his waters into a high crest and
cried aloud to Simois saying, "Dear brother, let the two of us unite
to save this man, or he will sack the mighty city of King Priam, and
the Trojans will not hold out against him. Help me at once; fill
your streams with water from their sources, rouse all your torrents to
a fury; raise your wave on high, and let snags and stones come
thundering down you that we may make an end of this savage creature
who is now lording it as though he were a god. Nothing shall serve him
longer, not strength nor comeliness, nor his fine armour, which
forsooth shall soon be lying low in the deep waters covered over
with mud. I will wrap him in sand, and pour tons of shingle round him,
so that the Achaeans shall not know how to gather his bones for the
silt in which I shall have hidden him, and when they celebrate his
funeral they need build no barrow."
  On this he upraised his tumultuous flood high against Achilles,
seething as it was with foam and blood and the bo&ies of the dead. The
dark waters of the river stood upright and would have overwhelmed
the son of Peleus, but Juno, trembling lest Achilles should be swept
away in the mighty torrent, lifted her voice on high and called out to
Vulcan her son. "Crook-foot," she cried, "my child, be up and doing,
for I deem it is with you that Xanthus is fain to fight; help us at
once, kindle a fierce fire; I will then bring up the west and the
white south wind in a mighty hurricane from the sea, that shall bear
the flames against the heads and armour of the Trojans and consume
them, while you go along the banks of Xanthus burning his trees and
wrapping him round with fire. Let him not turn you back neither by
fair words nor foul, and slacken not till I shout and tell you. Then
you may stay your flames."
  On this Vulcan kindled a fierce fire, which broke out first upon the
plain and burned the many dead whom Achilles had killed and whose
bodies were lying about in great numbers; by this means the plain
was dried and the flood stayed. As the north wind, blowing on an
orchard that has been sodden with autumn rain, soon dries it, and
the heart of the owner is glad- even so the whole plan was dried and
the dead bodies were consumed. Then he turned tongues of fire on to
the river. He burned the elms the willows and the tamarisks, the lotus
also, with the rushes and marshy herbage that grew abundantly by the
banks of the river. The eels and fishes that go darting about
everywhere in the water, these, too, were sorely harassed by the
flames that cunning Vulcan had kindled, and the river himself was
scalded, so that he spoke saying, "Vulcan, there is no god can hold
his own against you. I cannot fight you when you flare out your flames
in this way; strive with me no longer. Let Achilles drive the
Trojans out of city immediately. What have I to do with quarrelling
and helping people?"
  He was boiling as he spoke, and all his waters were seething. As a
cauldron upon 'a large fire boils when it is melting the lard of
some fatted hog, and the lard keeps bubbling up all over when the
dry faggots blaze under it- even so were the goodly waters of
Xanthus heated with the fire till they were boiling. He could flow
no longer but stayed his stream, so afflicted was he by the blasts
of fire which cunning Vulcan had raised. Then he prayed to Juno and
besought her saying, "Juno, why should your son vex my stream with
such especial fury? I am not so much to blame as all the others are
who have been helping the Trojans. I will leave off, since you so
desire it, and let son leave off also. Furthermore I swear never again
will I do anything to save the Trojans from destruction, not even when
all Troy is burning in the flames which the Achaeans will kindle."
  As soon as Juno heard this she said to her son Vulcan, "Son
Vulcan, hold now your flames; we ought not to use such violence
against a god for the sake of mortals."
  When she had thus spoken Vulcan quenched his flames, and the river
went back once more into his own fair bed.
  Xanthus was now beaten, so these two left off fighting, for Juno
stayed them though she was still angry; but a furious quarrel broke
out among the other gods, for they were of divided counsels. They fell
on one another with a mighty uproar- earth groaned, and the spacious
firmament rang out as with a blare of trumpets. Jove heard as he was
sitting on Olympus, and laughed for joy when he saw the gods coming to
blows among themselves. They were not long about beginning, and Mars
piercer of shields opened the battle. Sword in hand he sprang at
once upon Minerva and reviled her. "Why, vixen," said he, "have you
again set the gods by the ears in the pride and haughtiness of your
heart? Have you forgotten how you set Diomed son of Tydeus on to wound
me, and yourself took visible spear and drove it into me to the hurt
of my fair body? You shall now suffer for what you then did to me."
  As he spoke he struck her on the terrible tasselled aegis- so
terrible that not even can Jove's lightning pierce it. Here did
murderous Mars strike her with his great spear. She drew back and with
her strong hand seized a stone that was lying on the plain- great
and rugged and black- which men of old had set for the boundary of a
field. With this she struck Mars on the neck, and brought him down.
Nine roods did he cover in his fall, and his hair was all soiled in
the dust, while his armour rang rattling round him. But Minerva
laughed and vaunted over him saying, "Idiot, have you not learned
how far stronger I am than you, but you must still match yourself
against me? Thus do your mother's curses now roost upon you, for she
is angry and would do you mischief because you have deserted the
Achaeans and are helping the Trojans."
  She then turned her two piercing eyes elsewhere, whereon Jove's
daughter Venus took Mars by the hand and led him away groaning all the
time, for it was only with great difficulty that he had come to
himself again. When Queen Juno saw her, she said to Minerva, "Look,
daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, unweariable, that vixen Venus is again
taking Mars through the crowd out of the battle; go after her at
once."
  Thus she spoke. Minerva sped after Venus with a will, and made at
her, striking her on the bosom with her strong hand so that she fell
fainting to the ground, and there they both lay stretched at full
length. Then Minerva vaunted over her saying, "May all who help the
Trojans against the Argives prove just as redoubtable and stalwart
as Venus did when she came across me while she was helping Mars. Had
this been so, we should long since have ended the war by sacking the
strong city of Ilius."
  Juno smiled as she listened. Meanwhile King Neptune turned to Apollo
saying, "Phoebus, why should we keep each other at arm's length? it is
not well, now that the others have begun fighting; it will be
disgraceful to us if we return to Jove's bronze-floored mansion on
Olympus without having fought each other; therefore come on, you are
the younger of the two, and I ought not to attack you, for I am
older and have had more experience. Idiot, you have no sense, and
forget how we two alone of all the gods fared hardly round about Ilius
when we came from Jove's house and worked for Laomedon a whole year at
a stated wage and he gave us his orders. I built the Trojans the
wall about their city, so wide and fair that it might be
impregnable, while you, Phoebus, herded cattle for him in the dales of
many valleyed Ida. When, however, the glad hours brought round the
time of payment, mighty Laomedon robbed us of all our hire and sent us
off with nothing but abuse. He threatened to bind us hand and foot and
sell us over into some distant island. He tried, moreover, to cut
off the ears of both of us, so we went away in a rage, furious about
the payment he had promised us, and yet withheld; in spite of all
this, you are now showing favour to his people, and will not join us
in compassing the utter ruin of the proud Trojans with their wives and
children."
  And King Apollo answered, "Lord of the earthquake, you would have no
respect for me if I were to fight you about a pack of miserable
mortals, who come out like leaves in summer and eat the fruit of the
field, and presently fall lifeless to the ground. Let us stay this
fighting at once and let them settle it among themselves."
  He turned away as he spoke, for he would lay no hand on the
brother of his own father. But his sister the huntress Diana,
patroness of wild beasts, was very angry with him and said, "So you
would fly, Far-Darter, and hand victory over to Neptune with a cheap
vaunt to boot. Baby, why keep your bow thus idle? Never let me again
hear you bragging in my father's house, as you have often done in
the presence of the immortals, that you would stand up and fight
with Neptune."
  Apollo made her no answer, but Jove's august queen was angry and
upbraided her bitterly. "Bold vixen," she cried, "how dare you cross
me thus? For all your bow you will find it hard to hold your own
against me. Jove made you as a lion among women, and lets you kill
them whenever you choose. You will And it better to chase wild
beasts and deer upon the mountains than to fight those who are
stronger than you are. If you would try war, do so, and find out by
pitting yourself against me, how far stronger I am than you are."
  She caught both Diana's wrists with her left hand as she spoke,
and with her right she took the bow from her shoulders, and laughed as
she beat her with it about the ears while Diana wriggled and writhed
under her blows. Her swift arrows were shed upon the ground, and she
fled weeping from under Juno's hand as a dove that flies before a
falcon to the cleft of some hollow rock, when it is her good fortune
to escape. Even so did she fly weeping away, leaving her bow and
arrows behind her.
  Then the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, said to Leto, "Leto, I
shall not fight you; it is ill to come to blows with any of Jove's
wives. Therefore boast as you will among the immortals that you
worsted me in fair fight."
  Leto then gathered up Diana's bow and arrows that had fallen about
amid the whirling dust, and when she had got them she made all haste
after her daughter. Diana had now reached Jove's bronze-floored
mansion on Olympus, and sat herself down with many tears on the
knees of her father, while her ambrosial raiment was quivering all
about her. The son of Saturn drew her towards him, and laughing
pleasantly the while began to question her saying, "Which of the
heavenly beings, my dear child, has been treating you in this cruel
manner, as though you had been misconducting yourself in the face of
everybody?" and the fair-crowned goddess of the chase answered, "It
was your wife Juno, father, who has been beating me; it is always
her doing when there is any quarrelling among the immortals."
  Thus did they converse, and meanwhile Phoebus Apollo entered the
strong city of Ilius, for he was uneasy lest the wall should not
hold out and the Danaans should take the city then and there, before
its hour had come; but the rest of the ever-living gods went back,
some angry and some triumphant to Olympus, where they took their seats
beside Jove lord of the storm cloud, while Achilles still kept on
dealing out death alike on the Trojans and on their As when the
smoke from some burning city ascends to heaven when the anger of the
gods has kindled it- there is then toil for all, and sorrow for not
a few- even so did Achilles bring toil and sorrow on the Trojans.
  Old King Priam stood on a high tower of the wall looking down on
huge Achilles as the Trojans fled panic-stricken before him, and there
was none to help them. Presently he came down from off the tower and
with many a groan went along the wall to give orders to the brave
warders of the gate. "Keep the gates," said he, "wide open till the
people come flying into the city, for Achilles is hard by and is
driving them in rout before him. I see we are in great peril. As
soon as our people are inside and in safety, close the strong gates
for I fear lest that terrible man should come bounding inside along
with the others."
  As he spoke they drew back the bolts and opened the gates, and
when these were opened there was a haven of refuge for the Trojans.
Apollo then came full speed out of the city to meet them and protect
them. Right for the city and the high wall, parched with thirst and
grimy with dust, still they fied on, with Achilles wielding his
spear furiously behind them. For he was as one possessed, and was
thirsting after glory.
  Then had the sons of the Achaeans taken the lofty gates of Troy if
Apollo had not spurred on Agenor, valiant and noble son to Antenor. He
put courage into his heart, and stood by his side to guard him,
leaning against a beech tree and shrouded in thick darkness. When
Agenor saw Achilles he stood still and his heart was clouded with
care. "Alas," said he to himself in his dismay, "if I fly before
mighty Achilles, and go where all the others are being driven in rout,
he will none the less catch me and kill me for a coward. How would
it be were I to let Achilles drive the others before him, and then fly
from the wall to the plain that is behind Ilius till I reach the spurs
of Ida and can hide in the underwood that is thereon? I could then
wash the sweat from off me in the river and in the evening return to
Ilius. But why commune with myself in this way? Like enough he would
see me as I am hurrying from the city over the plain, and would
speed after me till he had caught me- I should stand no chance against
him, for he is mightiest of all mankind. What, then, if I go out and
meet him in front of the city? His flesh too, I take it, can be
pierced by pointed bronze. Life is the same in one and all, and men
say that he is but mortal despite the triumph that Jove son of
Saturn vouchsafes him."
  So saying he stood on his guard and awaited Achilles, for he was now
fain to fight him. As a leopardess that bounds from out a thick covert
to attack a hunter- she knows no fear and is not dismayed by the
baying of the hounds; even though the man be too quick for her and
wound her either with thrust or spear, still, though the spear has
pierced her she will not give in till she has either caught him in her
grip or been killed outright- even so did noble Agenor son of
Antenor refuse to fly till he had made trial of Achilles, and took aim
at him with his spear, holding his round shield before him and
crying with a loud voice. "Of a truth," said he, "noble Achilles,
you deem that you shall this day sack the city of the proud Trojans.
Fool, there will be trouble enough yet before it, for there is many
a brave man of us still inside who will stand in front of our dear
parents with our wives and children, to defend Ilius. Here
therefore, huge and mighty warrior though you be, here shall you cue.
  As he spoke his strong hand hurled his javelin from him, and the
spear struck Achilles on the leg beneath the knee; the greave of newly
wrought tin rang loudly, but the spear recoiled from the body of him
whom it had struck, and did not pierce it, for the gods gift stayed
it. Achilles in his turn attacked noble Agenor, but Apollo would not
vouchsafe him glory, for he snatched Agenor away and hid him in a
thick mist, sending him out of the battle unmolested Then he
craftily drew the son of Peleus away from going after the host, for he
put on the semblance of Agenor and stood in front of Achilles, who ran
towards him to give him chase and pursued him over the corn lands of
the plain, turning him towards the deep waters of the river Scamander.
Apollo ran but a little way before him and beguiled Achilles by making
him think all the time that he was on the point of overtaking him.
Meanwhile the rabble of routed Trojans was thankful to crowd within
the city till their numbers thronged it; no longer did they dare
wait for one another outside the city walls, to learn who had
escaped and who were fallen in fight, but all whose feet and knees
could still carry them poured pell-mell into the town.
 

The Iliad Table of Contents

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