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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 154

Patroclus having mounted the war-chariot of the hero, Achilles lifted on high a golden goblet and poured out a libation of wine to the gods, accompanied by an earnest petition for victory, and the safe return of his beloved comrade. As a parting injunction he warned Patroclus against advancing too far into the territory of the enemy, and entreated him to be content with rescuing the galleys.

At the head of the Myrmidons Patroclus now made a desperate attack upon the enemy, who, thinking that the invincible Achilles was himself in command of his battalions, became disheartened, and were put to flight. Patroclus followed up his victory and pursued the Trojans as far as the walls of their city, altogether forgetting in the excitement of battle the injunction of his friend Achilles. But his temerity cost the young hero his life, for he now encountered the mighty Hector himself, and fell by his hands. Hector stripped the armour from his dead foe, and would have dragged the body into the city had not Menelaus and Ajax the Greater rushed forward, and after a long and fierce struggle succeeded in rescuing it from desecration.

Death of Hector.—And now came the mournful task of informing Achilles of the fate of his friend. He wept bitterly over the dead body of his comrade, and solemnly vowed that the funereal rites should not be solemnized in his honour until he had slain Hector with his own hands, and captured twelve Trojans to be immolated on his funeral pyre. All other considerations vanished before the burning desire to avenge the death of his friend; and Achilles, now thoroughly aroused from his apathy, became reconciled to Agamemnon, and rejoined the Greek army. At the request of the goddess Thetis, Hephæstus forged for him a new suit of armour, which far surpassed in magnificence that of all the other heroes.

Thus gloriously arrayed he was soon seen striding [295]along, calling the Greeks to arms. He now led the troops against the enemy, who were defeated and put to flight until, near the gates of the city, Achilles and Hector encountered each other. But here, for the first time throughout his whole career, the courage of the Trojan hero deserted him. At the near approach of his redoubtable antagonist he turned and fled for his life. Achilles pursued him; and thrice round the walls of the city was the terrible race run, in sight of the old king and queen, who had mounted the walls to watch the battle. Hector endeavoured, during each course, to reach the city gates, so that his comrades might open them to admit him or cover him with their missiles; but his adversary, seeing his design, forced him into the open plain, at the same time calling to his friends to hurl no spear upon his foe, but to leave to him the vengeance he had so long panted for. At length, wearied with the hot pursuit, Hector made a stand and challenged his foe to single combat. A desperate encounter took place, in which Hector succumbed to his powerful adversary at the Scæan gate; and with his last dying breath the Trojan hero foretold to his conqueror that he himself would soon perish on the same spot.

The infuriated victor bound the lifeless corse of his fallen foe to his chariot, and dragged it three times round the city walls and thence to the Greek camp. Overwhelmed with horror at this terrible scene the aged parents of Hector uttered such heart-rending cries of anguish that they reached the ears of Andromache, his faithful wife, who, rushing to the walls, beheld the dead body of her husband, bound to the conqueror's car.


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