Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 136

  "Yet bitter, ofttimes bitter was the pang
  When of thy loss I thought, beloved wife!
  On thee too fondly did my memory hang,
  And on the joys we shared in mortal life,
  The paths which we had trod, these fountains, flowers;
  My new planned cities and unfinished towers.

  "But should suspense permit the foe to cry,
  'Behold they tremble! Haughty their array,
  Yet of their number no one dares to die!'"
  In soul I swept the indignity away;
  Old frailties then recurred; but lofty thought
  In act embodied my deliverance wrought.
  . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .
  Upon the side
  Of Hellespont (such faith was entertained)
  A knot of spiry trees for ages grew
  From out the tomb of him for whom she died;
  And ever when such stature they had gained
  That Ilium's walls were subject to their view,
  The trees' tall summits withered at the sight,
  A constant interchange of growth and blight!"


The war continued without decisive results for nine years. Then an event occurred which seemed likely to be fatal to the cause of the Greeks, and that was a quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. It is at this point that the great poem of Homer, the Iliad, begins. The Greeks, though unsuccessful against Troy, had taken the neighboring and allied cities, and in the division of the spoil a female captive, by name Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo, had fallen to the share of Agamemnon. Chryses came bearing the sacred emblems of his office, and begged the release of his daughter. Agamemnon refused. Thereupon Chryses implored Apollo to afflict the Greeks till they should be forced to yield their prey. Apollo granted the prayer of his priest, and sent pestilence into the Grecian camp. Then a council was called to deliberate how to allay the wrath of the gods and avert the plague. Achilles boldly charged their misfortunes upon Agamemnon as caused by his withholding Chryseis. Agamemnon enraged, consented to relinquish his captive, but demanded that Achilles should yield to him in her stead Briseis, a maiden who had fallen to Achilles' share in the division of the spoil. Achilles submitted, but forthwith declared that he would take no further part in the war. He withdrew his forces from the general camp and openly avowed his intention of returning home to Greece.

The gods and goddesses interested themselves as much in this famous war as the parties themselves. It was well known to them that fate had decreed that Troy should fall, at last, if her enemies should persevere and not voluntarily abandon the enterprise. Yet there was room enough left for chance to excite by turns the hopes and fears of the powers above who took part with either side. Juno and Minerva, in consequence of the slight put upon their charms by Paris, were hostile to the Trojans; Venus for the opposite cause favored them. Venus enlisted her admirer Mars on the same side, but Neptune favored the Greeks. Apollo was neutral, sometimes taking one side, sometimes the other, and Jove himself, though he loved the good King Priam, yet exercised a degree of impartiality; not however without exceptions.