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Olympians Titans Other Gods Myths Online Books

  The Iliad

By Homer

Translated by Samuel Butler

BOOK XXII

  THUS the Trojans in the city, scared like fawns, wiped the sweat
from off them and drank to quench their thirst, leaning against the
goodly battlements, while the Achaeans with their shields laid upon
their shoulders drew close up to the walls. But stern fate bade Hector
stay where he was before Ilius and the Scaean gates. Then Phoebus
Apollo spoke to the son of Peleus saying, "Why, son of Peleus, do you,
who are but man, give chase to me who am immortal? Have you not yet
found out that it is a god whom you pursue so furiously? You did not
harass the Trojans whom you had routed, and now they are within
their walls, while you have been decoyed hither away from them. Me you
cannot kill, for death can take no hold upon me."
  Achilles was greatly angered and said, "You have baulked me,
Far-Darter, most malicious of all gods, and have drawn me away from
the wall, where many another man would have bitten the dust ere he got
within Ilius; you have robbed me of great glory and have saved the
Trojans at no risk to yourself, for you have nothing to fear, but I
would indeed have my revenge if it were in my power to do so."
  On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the
winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is
flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs of
Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as he
scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call Orion's
Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest more brilliantly
than those of any other that shines by night; brightest of them all
though he be, he yet bodes ill for mortals, for he brings fire and
fever in his train- even so did Achilles' armour gleam on his breast
as he sped onwards. Priam raised a cry and beat his head with his
hands as he lifted them up and shouted out to his dear son,
imploring him to return; but Hector still stayed before the gates, for
his heart was set upon doing battle with Achilles. The old man reached
out his arms towards him and bade him for pity's sake come within
the walls. "Hector," he cried, "my son, stay not to face this man
alone and unsupported, or you will meet death at the hands of the
son of Peleus, for he is mightier than you. Monster that he is;
would indeed that the gods loved him no better than I do, for so, dogs
and vultures would soon devour him as he lay stretched on earth, and a
load of grief would be lifted from my heart, for many a brave son
has he reft from me, either by killing them or selling them away in
the islands that are beyond the sea: even now I miss two sons from
among the Trojans who have thronged within the city, Lycaon and
Polydorus, whom Laothoe peeress among women bore me. Should they be
still alive and in the hands of the Achaeans, we will ransom them with
gold and bronze, of which we have store, for the old man Altes endowed
his daughter richly; but if they are already dead and in the house
of Hades, sorrow will it be to us two who were their parents; albeit
the grief of others will be more short-lived unless you too perish
at the hands of Achilles. Come, then, my son, within the city, to be
the guardian of Trojan men and Trojan women, or you will both lose
your own life and afford a mighty triumph to the son of Peleus. Have
pity also on your unhappy father while life yet remains to him- on me,
whom the son of Saturn will destroy by a terrible doom on the
threshold of old age, after I have seen my sons slain and my daughters
haled away as captives, my bridal chambers pillaged, little children
dashed to earth amid the rage of battle, and my sons' wives dragged
away by the cruel hands of the Achaeans; in the end fierce hounds will
tear me in pieces at my own gates after some one has beaten the life
out of my body with sword or spear-hounds that I myself reared and fed
at my own table to guard my gates, but who will yet lap my blood and
then lie all distraught at my doors. When a young man falls by the
sword in battle, he may lie where he is and there is nothing unseemly;
let what will be seen, all is honourable in death, but when an old man
is slain there is nothing in this world more pitiable than that dogs
should defile his grey hair and beard and all that men hide for
shame."
  The old man tore his grey hair as he spoke, but he moved not the
heart of Hector. His mother hard by wept and moaned aloud as she bared
her bosom and pointed to the breast which had suckled him. "Hector,"
she cried, weeping bitterly the while, "Hector, my son, spurn not this
breast, but have pity upon me too: if I have ever given you comfort
from my own bosom, think on it now, dear son, and come within the wall
to protect us from this man; stand not without to meet him. Should the
wretch kill you, neither I nor your richly dowered wife shall ever
weep, dear offshoot of myself, over the bed on which you lie, for dogs
will devour you at the ships of the Achaeans."
  Thus did the two with many tears implore their son, but they moved
not the heart of Hector, and he stood his ground awaiting huge
Achilles as he drew nearer towards him. As serpent in its den upon the
mountains, full fed with deadly poisons, waits for the approach of
man- he is filled with fury and his eyes glare terribly as he goes
writhing round his den- even so Hector leaned his shield against a
tower that jutted out from the wall and stood where he was, undaunted.
  "Alas," said he to himself in the heaviness of his heart, "if I go
within the gates, Polydamas will be the first to heap reproach upon
me, for it was he that urged me to lead the Trojans back to the city
on that awful night when Achilles again came forth against us. I would
not listen, but it would have been indeed better if I had done so. Now
that my folly has destroyed the host, I dare not look Trojan men and
Trojan women in the face, lest a worse man should say, 'Hector has
ruined us by his self-confidence.' Surely it would be better for me to
return after having fought Achilles and slain him, or to die
gloriously here before the city. What, again, if were to lay down my
shield and helmet, lean my spear against the wall and go straight up
to noble Achilles? What if I were to promise to give up Helen, who was
the fountainhead of all this war, and all the treasure that Alexandrus
brought with him in his ships to Troy, aye, and to let the Achaeans
divide the half of everything that the city contains among themselves?
I might make the Trojans, by the mouths of their princes, take a
solemn oath that they would hide nothing, but would divide into two
shares all that is within the city- but why argue with myself in
this way? Were I to go up to him he would show me no kind of mercy; he
would kill me then and there as easily as though I were a woman,
when I had off my armour. There is no parleying with him from some
rock or oak tree as young men and maidens prattle with one another.
Better fight him at once, and learn to which of us Jove will vouchsafe
victory."
  Thus did he stand and ponder, but Achilles came up to him as it were
Mars himself, plumed lord of battle. From his right shoulder he
brandished his terrible spear of Pelian ash, and the bronze gleamed
around him like flashing fire or the rays of the rising sun. Fear fell
upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he
was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted
after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all
birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before
him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after,
resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector
with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as
his limbs could take him.
  On they flew along the waggon-road that ran hard by under the
wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild
fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river
Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it
as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as
cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here, hard by
the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone, where in the
time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the wives and fair
daughters of the Trojans used to wash their clothes. Past these did
they fly, the one in front and the other giving ha. behind him: good
was the man that fled, but better far was he that followed after,
and swiftly indeed did they run, for the prize was no mere beast for
sacrifice or bullock's hide, as it might be for a common foot-race,
but they ran for the life of Hector. As horses in a chariot race speed
round the turning-posts when they are running for some great prize-
a tripod or woman- at the games in honour of some dead hero, so did
these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam. All
the gods watched them, and the sire of gods and men was the first to
speak.
  "Alas," said he, "my eyes behold a man who is dear to me being
pursued round the walls of Troy; my heart is full of pity for
Hector, who has burned the thigh-bones of many a heifer in my
honour, at one while on the of many-valleyed Ida, and again on the
citadel of Troy; and now I see noble Achilles in full pursuit of him
round the city of Priam. What say you? Consider among yourselves and
decide whether we shall now save him or let him fall, valiant though
he be, before Achilles, son of Peleus."
  Then Minerva said, "Father, wielder of the lightning, lord of
cloud and storm, what mean you? Would you pluck this mortal whose doom
has long been decreed out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we
others shall not be of a mind with you."
  And Jove answered, "My child, Trito-born, take heart. I did not
speak in full earnest, and I will let you have your way. Do without
let or hindrance as you are minded."
  Thus did he urge Minerva who was already eager, and down she
darted from the topmost summits of Olympus.
  Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing a
fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and
hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by
crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and
follow her up until he gets her- even so there was no escape for
Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to get
near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people might
help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles would gain
on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping himself always
on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to lay hands upon
another whom he is pursuing- the one cannot escape nor the other
overtake- even so neither could Achilles come up with Hector, nor
Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he might even yet have
escaped death had not the time come when Apollo, who thus far had
sustained his strength and nerved his running, was now no longer to
stay by him. Achilles made signs to the Achaean host, and shook his
head to show that no man was to aim a dart at Hector, lest another
might win the glory of having hit him and he might himself come in
second. Then, at last, as they were nearing the fountains for the
fourth time, the father of all balanced his golden scales and placed a
doom in each of them, one for Achilles and the other for Hector. As he
held the scales by the middle, the doom of Hector fell down deep
into the house of Hades- and then Phoebus Apollo left him. Thereon
Minerva went close up to the son of Peleus and said, "Noble
Achilles, favoured of heaven, we two shall surely take back to the
ships a triumph for the Achaeans by slaying Hector, for all his lust
of battle. Do what Apollo may as he lies grovelling before his father,
aegis-bearing Jove, Hector cannot escape us longer. Stay here and take
breath, while I go up to him and persuade him to make a stand and
fight you."
  Thus spoke Minerva. Achilles obeyed her gladly, and stood still,
leaning on his bronze-pointed ashen spear, while Minerva left him
and went after Hector in the form and with the voice of Deiphobus. She
came close up to him and said, "Dear brother, I see you are hard
pressed by Achilles who is chasing you at full speed round the city of
Priam, let us await his onset and stand on our defence."
  And Hector answered, "Deiphobus, you have always been dearest to
me of all my brothers, children of Hecuba and Priam, but henceforth
I shall rate you yet more highly, inasmuch as you have ventured
outside the wall for my sake when all the others remain inside."
  Then Minerva said, "Dear brother, my father and mother went down
on their knees and implored me, as did all my comrades, to remain
inside, so great a fear has fallen upon them all; but I was in an
agony of grief when I beheld you; now, therefore, let us two make a
stand and fight, and let there be no keeping our spears in reserve,
that we may learn whether Achilles shall kill us and bear off our
spoils to the ships, or whether he shall fall before you."
  Thus did Minerva inveigle him by her cunning, and when the two
were now close to one another great Hector was first to speak. "I
will-no longer fly you, son of Peleus," said he, "as I have been doing
hitherto. Three times have I fled round the mighty city of Priam,
without daring to withstand you, but now, let me either slay or be
slain, for I am in the mind to face you. Let us, then, give pledges to
one another by our gods, who are the fittest witnesses and guardians
of all covenants; let it be agreed between us that if Jove
vouchsafes me the longer stay and I take your life, I am not to
treat your dead body in any unseemly fashion, but when I have stripped
you of your armour, I am to give up your body to the Achaeans. And
do you likewise."
  Achilles glared at him and answered, "Fool, prate not to me about
covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and
lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an
through. Therefore there can be no understanding between you and me,
nor may there be any covenants between us, till one or other shall
fall and glut grim Mars with his life's blood. Put forth all your
strength; you have need now to prove yourself indeed a bold soldier
and man of war. You have no more chance, and Pallas Minerva will
forthwith vanquish you by my spear: you shall now pay me in full for
the grief you have caused me on account of my comrades whom you have
killed in battle."
  He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. Hector saw it
coming and avoided it; he watched it and crouched down so that it flew
over his head and stuck in the ground beyond; Minerva then snatched it
up and gave it back to Achilles without Hector's seeing her; Hector
thereon said to the son of Peleus, "You have missed your aim,
Achilles, peer of the gods, and Jove has not yet revealed to you the
hour of my doom, though you made sure that he had done so. You were
a false-tongued liar when you deemed that I should forget my valour
and quail before you. You shall not drive spear into the back of a
runaway- drive it, should heaven so grant you power, drive it into
me as I make straight towards you; and now for your own part avoid
my spear if you can- would that you might receive the whole of it into
your body; if you were once dead the Trojans would find the war an
easier matter, for it is you who have harmed them most."
  He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. His aim was true
for he hit the middle of Achilles' shield, but the spear rebounded
from it, and did not pierce it. Hector was angry when he saw that
the weapon had sped from his hand in vain, and stood there in dismay
for he had no second spear. With a loud cry he called Diphobus and
asked him for one, but there was no man; then he saw the truth and
said to himself, "Alas! the gods have lured me on to my destruction. I
deemed that the hero Deiphobus was by my side, but he is within the
wall, and Minerva has inveigled me; death is now indeed exceedingly
near at hand and there is no way out of it- for so Jove and his son
Apollo the far-darter have willed it, though heretofore they have been
ever ready to protect me. My doom has come upon me; let me not then
die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some
great thing that shall be told among men hereafter."
  As he spoke he drew the keen blade that hung so great and strong
by his side, and gathering himself together be sprang on Achilles like
a soaring eagle which swoops down from the clouds on to some lamb or
timid hare- even so did Hector brandish his sword and spring upon
Achilles. Achilles mad with rage darted towards him, with his wondrous
shield before his breast, and his gleaming helmet, made with four
layers of metal, nodding fiercely forward. The thick tresses of gold
wi which Vulcan had crested the helmet floated round it, and as the
evening star that shines brighter than all others through the
stillness of night, even such was the gleam of the spear which
Achilles poised in his right hand, fraught with the death of noble
Hector. He eyed his fair flesh over and over to see where he could
best wound it, but all was protected by the goodly armour of which
Hector had spoiled Patroclus after he had slain him, save only the
throat where the collar-bones divide the neck from the shoulders,
and this is a most deadly place: here then did Achilles strike him
as he was coming on towards him, and the point of his spear went right
through the fleshy part of the neck, but it did not sever his windpipe
so that he could still speak. Hector fell headlong, and Achilles
vaunted over him saying, "Hector, you deemed that you should come
off scatheless when you were spoiling Patroclus, and recked not of
myself who was not with him. Fool that you were: for I, his comrade,
mightier far than he, was still left behind him at the ships, and
now I have laid you low. The Achaeans shall give him all due funeral
rites, while dogs and vultures shall work their will upon yourself."
  Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, "I pray you by
your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at
the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and
bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body
home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire
when I am dead."
  Achilles glared at him and answered, "Dog, talk not to me neither of
knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to
cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me,
as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be,
though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on
the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of
Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your
mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she
bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up."
  Hector with his dying breath then said, "I know you what you are,
and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as
iron; look to it that I bring not heaven's anger upon you on the day
when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you
at the Scaean gates."
  When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his
soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades, lamenting
its sad fate that it should en' youth and strength no longer. But
Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, "Die; for my part I will
accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods see fit to send it."
  As he spoke he drew his spear from the body and set it on one
side; then he stripped the blood-stained armour from Hector's
shoulders while the other Achaeans came running up to view his
wondrous strength and beauty; and no one came near him without
giving him a fresh wound. Then would one turn to his neighbour and
say, "It is easier to handle Hector now than when he was flinging fire
on to our ships" and as he spoke he would thrust his spear into him
anew.
  When Achilles had done spoiling Hector of his armour, he stood among
the Argives and said, "My friends, princes and counsellors of the
Argives, now that heaven has vouchsafed us to overcome this man, who
has done us more hurt than all the others together, consider whether
we should not attack the city in force, and discover in what mind
the Trojans may be. We should thus learn whether they will desert
their city now that Hector has fallen, or will still hold out even
though he is no longer living. But why argue with myself in this
way, while Patroclus is still lying at the ships unburied, and
unmourned- he Whom I can never forget so long as I am alive and my
strength fails not? Though men forget their dead when once they are
within the house of Hades, yet not even there will I forget the
comrade whom I have lost. Now, therefore, Achaean youths, let us raise
the song of victory and go back to the ships taking this man along
with us; for we have achieved a mighty triumph and have slain noble
Hector to whom the Trojans prayed throughout their city as though he
were a god."
  On this he treated the body of Hector with contumely: he pierced the
sinews at the back of both his feet from heel to ancle and passed
thongs of ox-hide through the slits he had made: thus he made the body
fast to his chariot, letting the head trail upon the ground. Then when
he had put the goodly armour on the chariot and had himself mounted,
he lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing loth. The dust
rose from Hector as he was being dragged along, his dark hair flew all
abroad, and his head once so comely was laid low on earth, for Jove
had now delivered him into the hands of his foes to do him outrage
in his own land.
  Thus was the head of Hector being dishonoured in the dust. His
mother tore her hair, and flung her veil from her with a loud cry as
she looked upon her son. His father made piteous moan, and
throughout the city the people fell to weeping and wailing. It was
as though the whole of frowning Ilius was being smirched with fire.
Hardly could the people hold Priam back in his hot haste to rush
without the gates of the city. He grovelled in the mire and besought
them, calling each one of them by his name. "Let be, my friends," he
cried, "and for all your sorrow, suffer me to go single-handed to
the ships of the Achaeans. Let me beseech this cruel and terrible man,
if maybe he will respect the feeling of his fellow-men, and have
compassion on my old age. His own father is even such another as
myself- Peleus, who bred him and reared him to- be the bane of us
Trojans, and of myself more than of all others. Many a son of mine has
he slain in the flower of his youth, and yet, grieve for these as I
may, I do so for one- Hector- more than for them all, and the
bitterness of my sorrow will bring me down to the house of Hades.
Would that he had died in my arms, for so both his ill-starred
mother who bore him, and myself, should have had the comfort of
weeping and mourning over him."
  Thus did he speak with many tears, and all the people of the city
joined in his lament. Hecuba then raised the cry of wailing among
the Trojans. "Alas, my son," she cried, "what have I left to live
for now that you are no more? Night and day did I glory in. you
throughout the city, for you were a tower of strength to all in
Troy, and both men and women alike hailed you as a god. So long as you
lived you were their pride, but now death and destruction have
fallen upon you."
  Hector's wife had as yet heard nothing, for no one had come to
tell her that her husband had remained without the gates. She was at
her loom in an inner part of the house, weaving a double purple web,
and embroidering it with many flowers. She told her maids to set a
large tripod on the fire, so as to have a warm bath ready for Hector
when he came out of battle; poor woman, she knew not that he was now
beyond the reach of baths, and that Minerva had laid him low by the
hands of Achilles. She heard the cry coming as from the wall, and
trembled in every limb; the shuttle fell from her hands, and again she
spoke to her waiting-women. "Two of you," she said, "come with me that
I may learn what it is that has befallen; I heard the voice of my
husband's honoured mother; my own heart beats as though it would
come into my mouth and my limbs refuse to carry me; some great
misfortune for Priam's children must be at hand. May I never live to
hear it, but I greatly fear that Achilles has cut off the retreat of
brave Hector and has chased him on to the plain where he was
singlehanded; I fear he may have put an end to the reckless daring
which possessed my husband, who would never remain with the body of
his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in
valour."
  Her heart beat fast, and as she spoke she flew from the house like a
maniac, with her waiting-women following after. When she reached the
battlements and the crowd of people, she stood looking out upon the
wall, and saw Hector being borne away in front of the city- the horses
dragging him without heed or care over the ground towards the ships of
the Achaeans. Her eyes were then shrouded as with the darkness of
night and she fell fainting backwards. She tore the tiring from her
head and flung it from her, the frontlet and net with its plaited
band, and the veil which golden Venus had given her on the day when
Hector took her with him from the house of Eetion, after having
given countless gifts of wooing for her sake. Her husband's sisters
and the wives of his brothers crowded round her and supported her, for
she was fain to die in her distraction; when she again presently
breathed and came to herself, she sobbed and made lament among the
Trojans saying, 'Woe is me, O Hector; woe, indeed, that to share a
common lot we were born, you at Troy in the house of Priam, and I at
Thebes under the wooded mountain of Placus in the house of Eetion
who brought me up when I was a child- ill-starred sire of an
ill-starred daughter- would that he had never begotten me. You are now
going into the house of Hades under the secret places of the earth,
and you leave me a sorrowing widow in your house. The child, of whom
you and I are the unhappy parents, is as yet a mere infant. Now that
you are gone, O Hector, you can do nothing for him nor he for you.
Even though he escape the horrors of this woful war with the Achaeans,
yet shall his life henceforth be one of labour and sorrow, for
others will seize his lands. The day that robs a child of his
parents severs him from his own kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks
are wet with tears, and he will go about destitute among the friends
of his father, plucking one by the cloak and another by the shirt.
Some one or other of these may so far pity him as to hold the cup
for a moment towards him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not
drink enough to wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents
are alive will drive him from the table with blows and angry words.
'Out with you,' he will say, 'you have no father here,' and the
child will go crying back to his widowed mother- he, Astyanax, who
erewhile would sit upon his father's knees, and have none but the
daintiest and choicest morsels set before him. When he had played till
he was tired and went to sleep, he would lie in a bed, in the arms
of his nurse, on a soft couch, knowing neither want nor care,
whereas now that he has lost his father his lot will be full of
hardship- he, whom the Trojans name Astyanax, because you, O Hector,
were the only defence of their gates and battlements. The wriggling
writhing worms will now eat you at the ships, far from your parents,
when the dogs have glutted themselves upon you. You will lie naked,
although in your house you have fine and goodly raiment made by
hands of women. This will I now burn; it is of no use to you, for
you can never again wear it, and thus you will have respect shown
you by the Trojans both men and women."
  In such wise did she cry aloud amid her tears, and the women
joined in her lament.
 

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