Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 146

All the Greek chiefs, assembled in council, decided to send Achilles to Agamemnon to apprise him of their wish that he [319] should set Chryseis free,—a wish which he immediately consented to grant, if Briseis were given him in exchange.

The plague was raging throughout the camp; the cries of the sufferers rent the air; many had already succumbed to the scourge, and all were threatened with an inglorious death. Achilles, mindful of all this, and anxious to save his beloved companions, consented to comply with this unreasonable request; but at the same time he swore, that, if Agamemnon really took his captive away, he would not strike another blow.

Chryseis was immediately consigned to the care of a herald, who led her back to her aged father’s arms. Ready to forgive all, now that his child was restored to him, Chryses implored Apollo to stay his hand, and the plague instantly ceased.

As for Agamemnon, he sent his slaves to Achilles’ tent to lead away Briseis; and the hero, true to his promise, laid aside his armor, determined to fight no more.

“The great Achilles, swift of foot, remained
Within his ships, indignant for the sake
Of the fair-haired Briseis.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).
Achilles’ wrath.

Thetis, hearing of the wanton insult offered her son, left her coral caves, ascended to Olympus, cast herself at Jupiter’s feet, and with many tears tremulously prayed he would avenge Achilles and make the Greeks fail in all their attempts as long as her son’s wrath remained unappeased.

Jupiter, touched by her beauty and distress, frowned until the very firmament shook, and swore to make the Greeks rue the day they left their native shores,

“To give Achilles honor and to cause
Myriads of Greeks to perish by their fleet.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).
Agamemnon misled.

In consequence of a treacherous dream purposely sent by Jupiter to delude him, Agamemnon again assembled his troops, and proposed a new onslaught upon the Trojan forces. But [320] when the army was drawn up in battle array, Hector, the eldest son of Priam, and therefore leader of his army, stepping forward, proposed that the prolonged quarrel should be definitely settled by a single combat between Paris and Menelaus.

Hector then stood forth and said:—
‘Hearken, ye Trojans and ye nobly-armed
Achaians, to what Paris says by me.
He bids the Trojans and the Greeks lay down
Their shining arms upon the teeming earth,
And he and Menelaus, loved of Mars,
Will strive in single combat, on the ground
Between the hosts, for Helen and her wealth;
And he who shall o’ercome, and prove himself
The better warrior, to his home shall bear
The treasure and the woman, while the rest
Shall frame a solemn covenant of peace.’”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).
Menelaus and Paris fight.

This proposal having been received favorably, Menelaus and Paris soon engaged in a duel, which was witnessed by both armies, by Helen and Priam from the Trojan walls, and by the everlasting gods from the wooded heights of Mount Ida; but in the very midst of the fight, Venus, seeing her favorite about to succumb, suddenly snatched him away from the battlefield, and bore him unseen to his chamber, where he was joined by Helen, who bitterly reproached him for his cowardly flight.