When Hector passed through the gates into the city, hundreds of Trojan women crowded round him, asking what had happened to their sons or husbands. But he said nothing to them, except to bid them to pray that the gods would protect those whom they loved. When he came to the palace there met him his mother, Queen Hecuba. She caught him by the hand, and said: "O Hector, why have you come from battle? Have the Greeks been pressing you hard? or have you come, maybe, to pray for help from Father Zeus? Let me bring a cup of wine, that you may pour out an offering to the god, aye, and that you may drink yourself and cheer your heart."

But Hector said: "Mother, give me no wine, lest it should make my knees weak, and take the courage out of my heart. Nor must I make an offering to the gods with my hands unwashed. What I would have you do is this—gather the mothers of Troy together, and take the most beautiful and precious robe that you have, and go with them and lay it upon the knees of Athené, and pray to her to keep this terrible Diomed from the walls of Troy. And do not forget to promise a sacrifice of twelve heifers. And I will go and call Paris, and bid him come with me to the battle. Of a truth I could wish that the earth would open her mouth and swallow him up, for he is a curse to his father and to you his mother, and to the whole city of Troy."

Then Queen Hecuba went into her palace, and opened the store where she kept her treasures, and took out of it the finest robe that she had. And she and the noblest ladies that were in Troy carried it to the temple of Athené. Then the priestess, who was the wife of Antenor, received it from her hands, and laid it upon the knees of the goddess, making this prayer: "O Lady Athené, keeper of this city, break, we beseech thee, the spear of Diomed, and make him fall dead before the gates of Troy. If thou wilt have pity on the wives and children of the men of Troy, then we will offer to thee twelve heifers that have never been made to draw the plough."

So the priestess prayed; but Athené would not hear. And indeed, it was she who stirred up Diomed to fight so fiercely against Troy and had given him fresh strength and courage.

Meanwhile Hector went to the house of Paris. It stood on the citadel, close to his own house and to the palace of King Priam. He found him cleaning his arms and armour, and the fair Helen sat near him, with her maids, busy with needlework.

Then Hector thought to himself, "If I tell him that he went away from the battle because he was afraid, then I shall offend him and do no good: I will try another way." So he said: "O Paris, is it right that you should stand aside and not fight in the battle because you are angry with your countrymen? The people perish, and the fight grows hotter and hotter every minute about the city. Rouse yourself and come forth before Troy is burnt up. For, remember, it is you that are the cause of all these troubles."

Then Paris answered: "O my brother, you have spoken well. But it was not because I was angry that I came away from the battle; it was because I was so much ashamed of being beaten. But now I will come back, for this is what my wife would have me to do; maybe I shall do better another time, for the gods give victory now to one man and now to another."

Then the Fair Helen said to Hector: "Sit down now and rest a little, for you must be very tired with all that you have done."

But Hector answered: "You must not ask me to rest; I must make haste to help my countrymen, for indeed they are in sore need of help. But do you see that your husband overtakes me before I go out of the city gate. Now I am going to my house to see my wife and my little boy, for I do not know whether I shall ever see them again."

When he said this, Hector went to his house to see his wife Andromaché, for that was her name. But he did not find her at home, for she had gone to the wall, being very much afraid for her husband.

Hector asked the maids: "Where is the Lady Andromaché? Has she gone to see one of her sisters-in-law, or, maybe, with the other mothers of Troy, to the temple of Athené?"

Then an old woman who was the housekeeper said: "Nay; she went to one of the towers of the wall that she might see the battle, for she had heard that the Greeks were pressing our people very much. She seemed like a madwoman, so much haste she did make, and the nurse went with her carrying the child."

Then Hector ran towards the gate, and Andromaché saw him from where she stood on the wall, and made haste to meet him. And the nurse came with her, carrying the child, Hector's only son, a beautiful boy, with a head like a star, so bright was his golden hair. His father called him Scamandrius, after the river which runs across the plains of Troy; but the people called him Astyănax, which means the "City King," because it was his father who saved the city. And Hector smiled when he saw the child. But Andromaché did not smile, for she caught her husband by the hand, and wept, saying, "O Hector, your courage will be your death. You have no pity on your wife and child, and you do not spare yourself. Some day all the Greeks will join together and rush on you and kill you"—for she did not believe that any one of them could conquer him. "But if I lose you, then it would be better for me to die than to live. I have no comfort but you. My father is dead; for the great Achilles killed him when he took our city. He killed him, but he did him great honour, for he would not take his arms for a spoil, but burnt them with him; yes, and the nymphs of the mountains planted poplars by his grave. I had seven brothers, and they also are dead, for the great Achilles killed them in one day. And my mother also is dead, for when my father had redeemed her with a great sum of money, Artĕmis slew her with one of her deadly arrows. But you are father to me and mother, and brother, and husband also. Have pity on me, and stay here upon the wall, lest you leave me a widow and your child an orphan. And set your people in order of battle by this fig-tree, for here the wall is easier to attack. Here too, I see the bravest chiefs of the Greeks."

Hector answered her: "Dear wife, leave these things to me; I will look after them. One thing I cannot bear, that any son or daughter of Troy should see me skulking from battle. I hate the very thought of it; I must always be in front. Alas! I know that Priam and the people of Priam and this holy city of Troy will perish. But it is not for Troy, or for the people of Troy, nor even for my father and my mother, that I care so much; it is for you, when I think how some Greek will carry you away captive, and you be set to spin or to carry water from the spring in a distant land. And some one will say: 'See that slave woman there! She was the wife of Hector, who was the bravest of the Trojans.' "

Then Hector stretched out his arms to take the child. But the child drew back into the bosom of his nurse, making a great cry, for he was frightened by the helmet which shone so brightly, and by the horsehair plume which nodded so awfully. And both his father and mother laughed to hear him. Then Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it on the ground, and caught the boy in his hands, and kissed him and dandled him. And he prayed aloud to Father Zeus and to the other gods, saying:

"Grant, Father Zeus, and other gods who are in heaven, that this child may be as I am, a great man in Troy. And may the people say some day when they see him carrying home the bloody spoils of some enemy whom he has killed in battle: 'A better man than his father, this!' And his mother will be glad to hear it."

Then he gave the boy to his mother, and she clasped him to her breast and smiled, but there were tears in her eyes when she smiled. And Hector's heart was moved when he saw the tears; and he stroked her with his hand and said:

"Do not let these things trouble you. No man will be able to kill me, unless it be my fate to die. But fate no one may escape, whether he be a brave man or a coward. But go, dear wife, to your spinning again, and give your maids their tasks, and let the men see to the battle."

Then he took up the helmet from the ground, and put it on his head, and Andromaché went to her home, but often, as she went, she turned her eyes to look at her husband. And when she came to her home she called all the maids together, and they wept and wailed for Hector as though he were already dead. And, indeed, she thought in her heart that she should never again see him coming home safe from the battle.

Hector went on his way to the gate, and as he went Paris came running after him. His arms shone brightly in the sun, and he himself went proudly along like a horse that is fresh from his stable, and prances over the grass and tosses his mane. And he said to Hector: "I am afraid that I have kept you when you were in a hurry to get back to your comrades."

Hector answered: "No man doubts that you are brave. But you are wilful, and hold back from the battle when you should be foremost. So it is that the people say shameful things about you. But now let us make haste to the battle."

So they went out by the gate, and fell upon the Greeks and killed many of them, and Glaucus the Lycian went with them.


Athene was very sorry to see how her dear Greeks were being killed by Hector and his companions. So she flew down from the heights of Olympus to see whether she could help them. When she had come to the plains of Troy she met Apollo. Now Apollo loved the Trojans, and said to her: "Are you come, Athené, to help the Greeks whom you love? Now I, as you know, love the Trojans. Let us therefore join together and stop them from fighting for to-day. Hereafter they shall fight till that which the Fates have settled for Troy shall come to pass."

Athené answered: "How shall we stop them from fighting?" Apollo said: "We will set on Hector to challenge the bravest of the Greeks to fight with him, man to man."

So these two put the thought into the mind of the prophet Helĕnus. So Helĕnus went up to Hector and said: "Hector, listen to me; I am your brother, and also the gods have made me a prophet, so that you should take heed to the things which I say. Now my advice is this: cause the men of Troy and the Greeks to sit down in peace, and do you challenge the bravest of the enemy to fight with you, man to man. And be sure that in this fight you will not be killed, for so much the gods have told me; but whether you will kill the other, that I do not know, for the gods have not told me."

This pleased Hector greatly, and he went to the front of the army, holding his spear by the middle, and keeping the Trojans back. And King Agamemnon did the same with his own people. Then Hector said:

"Hear me, sons of Troy, and ye men of Greece. The covenant which we made together was broken. Truly this was not my doing; the gods would have it so, for it is their will that we should fight together, till either you take our city or we drive you back to your ships, and compel you to go back to your own land. And yet listen to what I shall now say, for it may be that the gods will repent and suffer peace to be made between us. Do you Greeks choose out from those who are strongest and bravest among you some one to fight with me, man to man. And let this be agreed between us: if this man shall conquer me, then he shall take my arms for himself, but he shall give back my body to my people that they may burn it with fire. And in like manner, if I shall conquer him, then I will take his arms for myself, but I will give his body to his people that they may bury it and raise a great mound over it. And so in days to come men who shall see it, as they sail by, will say: 'This is the tomb of the bravest of the Greeks, whom Hector of Troy killed in battle, fighting him man to man.' So my name will be remembered for ever."

When the Greeks heard these words, they all stood still, saying nothing. They feared to meet the great Hector in battle, for he seemed to be stronger than he had ever been before, but they were ashamed to hold back. Then Menelaüs jumped up in his place and cried: "Surely now ye are women and not men. What a shame it is to Greece that no one can be found to fight with this Hector! I will fight with him my own self, for the gods give the victory to one man or to another as they will."

So spoke Menelaüs, for he was very angry, and did not care whether he lived or died. And, indeed, it would have been his death to fight with Hector, who was by much the stronger of the two. But King Agamemnon would not suffer him to be so rash. "Nay, my brother," he said, "this is but folly. Seek not to fight with one who is much stronger than you. Even Achilles was not willing to meet him. Sit still, therefore, for the Greeks will find some champion to meet him."

And Menelaüs hearkened to his brother's words and sat down. But when no one stood up to offer himself to fight with Hector, old Nestor rose in his place and said: "Now this is a sad day for Greece! How sorry old Peleus would be to hear of this thing. I remember how glad he was when I told him about the chiefs who were going to fight against Troy, who they were and whence they came. And now he would hear that they are all afraid when Hector challenges them to fight with him man to man. He would pray that he might die. Oh, that I were such as I was in the old days, when the men of Pylos fought with the men of Arcadia. The men of Arcadia had a great champion, who was the strongest and biggest of all the men of that day, and carried the most famous arms in Greece, and a club of iron such as no one else could wield. And when this man challenged the men of Pylos to fight with him, the others, indeed, were afraid, for the man was like a giant; but I stood up, though I was the youngest of them all, and Athené stood by me and gave me great glory, for I slew him, and took from him his arms and his great iron club. Oh! that I were now such as I was that day! Hector would soon find some one to fight with him."

When old Nestor sat down, nine chiefs stood up. First among them was King Agamemnon, and after him Diomed and Ajax the Greater and Ajax the Less and Ulysses, and four others. Then said Nestor: "Let us cast lots to see who of these nine shall fight with Hector."

So the nine chiefs threw their lots, each man a lot, into the helmet of King Agamemnon. And the people standing round prayed silently to the gods: "Grant that the lot of Ajax the Greater may leap first out of the helmet, or the lot of Diomed, or the lot of King Agamemnon." Then Nestor shook the helmet, and it came to pass that the lot which first leapt forth was that very one which they most desired. For when the herald carried it round to the chiefs no one took it for his own, till the man came to Ajax the Greater. But Ajax had marked it with his own mark; he put out his hand, therefore and claimed it. He was very glad in his heart, and he threw down the lot at his feet and cried: "The lot is mine, my friends, and I am glad above measure, for I think that I shall conquer this mighty Hector. And now I will put on my arms. And do you pray Father Zeus, silently, if you will, that the Trojans may not hear; or if you had rather pray aloud, then do so, for I fear no man. None shall conquer me either by force or by craft, for the men of Salamis"—it was from the island of Salamis he came—"are not to be conquered."

So Ajax put on his armour. And when he finished, he went forward, as dreadful to look at as the god of war himself, and there was a smile on his face, but it was not the smile that other men like to see. Taking great strides he went, and he shook his great spear. And when the Trojans saw him their knees trembled beneath them, and even the great Hector felt his heart beat more quickly than before. But he showed no fear, and stood firmly in his place, for he himself challenged his adversary.

So Ajax came near, holding his great shield before him, as it might be a wall. There was no such shield in all the army of the Greeks. It had seven folds of bull's-hide, and one fold, the eighth, of bronze. Then Ajax spoke in a loud voice: "Come near, Hector, that you may see what men we have among us, we Greeks, though the great Achilles is not here, but sits idle in his tent."

Hector answered: "Do not speak to me, Ajax, as though I were a woman or a child, and knew nothing of war. I know all the arts of battle, to turn my shield this way and that to meet the spear of the enemy, and to drive my chariot through the crowds of men and horses, and to fight hand to hand. But come, let us fight openly, face to face, as honest men should do."

And as he spoke he threw his great spear at Ajax. Through six folds of bull's-hide it passed, but the seventh stopped it, for all that it was so strongly thrown. It was no easy thing to pierce the great shield with its seven folds. But when Ajax, in his turn, threw his spear at Hector, it passed through his shield, and through the armour that covered his body, and through the garment that was under the armour. It went near to killing him, but Hector bent his body away, and so saved himself. Then each took a fresh spear, and ran together as fiercely as lions or wild boars. Again did Hector drive his spear against the great shield, and again did he drive it in vain, for the spear point was bent back. But Ajax, making a great leap from the ground, pierced Hector's shield with his spear, and pushed him back from the place where he stood, and the spear point grazed his neck, so that the blood spirted out. Then Hector caught up a great stone that lay upon the ground and threw it. And yet once more the great shield stayed him, nor could he break it through, and the stone which Ajax threw was heavier by far, and it broke Hector's shield and bore him to the ground, so that he lay on his back upon the ground, with the broken shield over him. Truly it had fared ill with him but that Apollo raised him up and set him on his feet. Then the two warriors drew their swords, but before they could get close together, the two heralds came up and thrust their staves between them. And the Trojan herald said: "It is enough, my sons; fight no more; you are great warriors both of you, and Zeus loves you both. But now the night is at hand, and bids you cease, and you will do well to obey."

Then said Ajax: "Yes, herald; but it is for Hector to speak, for he began this matter, challenging the bravest of the Greeks to fight with him. And what he wills, that I will also."

Hector said: "The herald speaks well. Verily the gods have given you, O Ajax, stature and strength and skill. There is no better warrior among the Greeks. Let us cease then from fighting; haply we may meet again another day, and the gods may give victory to you or to me. But now let us give gifts to each other, so that the Trojans and Greeks may say, 'Hector and Ajax met in battle, but parted in friendship.' "

So Hector gave to Ajax a silver-studded sword, with a scabbard and a belt, and Ajax gave to Hector a buckler splendid with purple. So they parted. And the Trojans were right glad to see Hector coming back safe from the battle; on the other hand, the Greeks rejoiced yet more, for indeed their champion had prevailed. And King Agamemnon called all the chiefs to a feast, and to Ajax he gave the chine. The Trojans also feasted in their city. But Zeus sent thunder all that night to be a sign of trouble to come.


When it was morning Zeus called all the gods and goddesses to an assembly on the top of Mount Olympus, and said to them: "Now listen to me, and obey. No one of you shall help either the Greeks or the Trojans; and mark this: if any god or goddess dares to do so I will throw him down from here into the outer darkness, and there he shall learn that I am lord in heaven. Does any one of you think that I am not stronger than you, yes than all of you put together? Well, let it be put to the trial. Let down a golden chain from heaven to earth, and take hold of it all of you, and see whether you can drag me from the throne. You cannot do it, not though you pull with all your might. But if I should choose to put out all my strength, I could lift you up, and the earth and the sea with you, and fasten the chain round one of the peaks of this mountain Olympus here, and leave you hanging in the air."

So did Zeus speak, and all the gods sat saying nothing, for they were terribly afraid. But at last Athené said: "Father, we know right well that none of us can stand up against you. And yet we cannot help pitying the Greeks, for we fear that they will be altogether destroyed. We will not help them, for this you forbid. But, if you will permit, we will give them advice."

And Zeus smiled, for Athené was his daughter, and he loved her better than any other among the gods and goddesses, and he gave his consent. Then he had his horses yoked to his chariot and touched them with his whip, and they flew midway between heaven and earth till they came to a certain mountain which was called Ida, and was near to Troy. There he sat down and watched the battle, for the time was come when he would keep the promise which he had made to Thetis.

The Greeks ate their food in haste and freshened themselves for battle; and the Trojans also armed themselves inside the city, and when they were ready the gates were opened and they went out. So the two armies came together, and shield was dashed against shield, and spear against spear, and there was a great clash of arms and shouting of men. So long as the sun was rising higher in the sky, neither of the two prevailed over the other; but at noon Zeus held out in the sky his golden scales, and in one scale he laid a weight for the Trojans and in the other a weight for the Greeks. Now the weights were weights of death, and the army whose weight was the heavier would suffer most. And lo! the scale of the Greeks sank lower. Then Zeus sent a thunderbolt from the top of Mount Ida into the army of the Greeks, and there was great fear among both men and horses.

After this no man could hold his ground. Only old Nestor remained where he was, and he remained against his will, for Paris had killed one of his horses with an arrow, and the chariot could not be moved. So the old man began to cut the traces, that he might free the horse that was yet alive from the horse that was dead. While he was doing this Hector came through the crowd of fighting men. Then had the old man perished, but Diomed saw it and went to help him. But first he called to Ulysses, whom he saw close by, running towards the ships. "Ulysses," he cried, as loudly as he could, "where are you going? Are you not ashamed to turn your back in this way like a coward? Take care that no man thrust you in the back with a spear and disgrace you for ever. Stop now, and help me to save old Nestor from this fierce Hector."

So he spoke, but Ulysses gave no heed to his words, but still fled to the ships, for he was really afraid. When Diomed saw this he made haste, though he was alone, to go to the help of Nestor. When he got to the place where the old man was, he stopped his chariot and said: "Old friend, the young warriors are too much for you. Leave your own chariot for others to look after and climb into mine, and see what these horses of King Tros can do, for these are they which I took away from Ænēas. There are none faster, or better, or easier to turn this way or that. Take these reins in your hand, and I will go against this Hector, and see whether the spear of Diomed is as strong as it was of old."

So old Nestor climbed up into his chariot, and took the reins in his hand and touched the horses with the whip, driving straight at Hector. And when they were near him, Diomed threw his spear at him. Him he missed, but he struck down his charioteer, and the man fell dead to the ground. Hector was greatly grieved, but he let him lie where he fell, for he must needs find another man to drive the horses. And when he went back from the front to look for the man, then the Trojans went back also, for it was Hector to whom they looked and whom they followed. But when Diomed would have pursued them, Zeus threw another thunderbolt from Ida. It fell right in front of the chariot, and the horses crouched on the ground for fear, and Nestor let the reins drop from his hand, for he was greatly afraid, and cried: "O Diomed, let us fly; see you not that Zeus is against us? He gives glory to Hector to-day; to-morrow, maybe, he will give it to you. But what he wills that will he do, and no man may hinder him."

Diomed answered: "Old sir, you speak wisely. Yet it goes to my heart to turn back. For Hector will say, 'Diomed fled before me, seeking to hide himself in the ships.' I had sooner that the earth should open her mouth and swallow me up, than that I should hear such things."

But Nestor answered: "O Diomed, be content: though Hector may call you coward, the sons of Troy will not believe him, no, nor the daughters of Troy, whose brothers and husbands you have tumbled in the dust."

So then he turned the horses to fly. And Hector cried when he saw the great Diomed fly before him: "Are you the man to whom the Greeks give the chief place in their feasts and great cups of wine? They will not so honour you after to-day. Run, girl! run, coward! Are you the man that was to climb our walls and carry away our people captive?"

Diomed was very angry to hear these words, and doubted whether he should flee or turn again to the battle. But as he doubted, Zeus made a great thundering in the sky, and he was afraid. Then Hector called to his horses; by their names he called them, saying, "Come, Whitefoot and Bayard and Brilliant and Flame of Fire; remember how the fair Andromaché has cared for you, putting you even before me, who am her husband. Carry me now as fast as you can, that I may take from old Nestor his shield, which men say is made all of gold, and from Diomed his breastplate, which was wrought for him in the forge of heaven."

So the Greeks fled as fast as they could within the wall which they had built for a defence for their ships, for Hector drove them before him, nor was there one who dared to stand up against him. And the space between the wall and the ships was crowded with chariots, and no spirit was left in any man. Then Hera put into the heart of King Agamemnon that he should encourage his people to turn again to battle. So the King stood by the ship of Ulysses, which was in the middle of the ships, for they were drawn up in a long line upon the shore, and cried aloud: "Shame on you, Greeks! Where are your boats which you boasted before you came to this land, how that one of you would be more than a match for a hundred, yea, for two hundred Trojans? It was easy to say such words when you ate the flesh of bullocks and drank full cups of wine. But now, when you are put to the trial, a single Trojan is worth more than you all. Was there ever a king who had such cowards for his people?"

Then the Greeks took courage and turned again, and set upon the Trojans. And the first of all to turn and slay a Trojan was Diomed. He drove his spear through the man's back, for now the Trojans were flying in their turn, and tumbled him from his chariot. And after Diomed came King Agamemnon, and Ajax and other chiefs. Among them was Teucer, the brother of Ajax, a skilful archer. He stood under the shield of his brother, and Ajax would lift the shield a little, and then Teucer would peer out and take aim and send an arrow at some Trojan, and kill him or wound him. Then he would go back, as a child runs to his mother, and Ajax covered him with his shield. Eight warriors did he hit in this way. And when King Agamemnon saw him, he said: "Shoot on, Teucer, and be a joy to your people and to your father. Surely when we have taken the city of Troy, and shall divide the spoil you shall have the best gift of all after mine."

And Teucer said: "I need no gifts, O King, to make me eager. I have not ceased to shoot my arrows at these Trojans; eight arrows have I shot, and every one has found its way through some warrior's armour into his flesh. But this Hector I cannot hit."

And as he spoke he let fly another arrow at Hector from the sling. Him he did not touch, but slew a son of Priam. And then he shot yet a tenth, and this time he laid low the charioteer who stood by Hector's side. Then Hector's heart was filled with rage and grief. He leant down from his chariot, and caught up a great stone in his hand, and ran at Teucer, that he might crush him to the earth. And Teucer, when he saw him coming, made haste, and took an arrow from his quiver and fitted it to the sling. But even as he drew back the string to his shoulder, the great stone struck him where the collar-bone stands out against the neck and the arm. It broke the bow-string, and made his arm and wrist all weak and numb, so that he could not hold the bow. And he fell upon his knees, dropping the bow upon the ground. But Ajax stood over him, and covered him with his shield, and two of his comrades took him up in their arms and carried him, groaning deeply, to the ships.

When the Trojans saw the great archer carried away from the battle, they took fresh courage, and drove back the Greeks to the ditch, for there was a ditch in front of the wall. And Hector was always in the very front. As a dog follows a wild beast and catches him by the hip or the thigh as he flies, so did Hector follow the Greeks and slay the hindmost of them.

Then Hera, as she sat on the top of Olympus, said to Athené: "Shall we not have pity on the Greeks and help them? Let us do it this once if we never do it again. I fear much that they will perish altogether by the hand of Hector. See what harm he has done to them already."

Athené answered: "This is also my Father's doing. He listened to Thetis when she asked him to do honour to her son Achilles. But, perhaps, he may now listen to me, and will let me help the Greeks. Make your chariot ready, therefore, and I will put on my armour. So we will go together to the battle; maybe that Hector will not be glad when he sees us coming against him."

So Hera made her chariot ready, and Athené put on her armour, and took her great spear, and prepared as for battle. Then the two mounted the chariot, and the Hours opened the gates of heaven for them, and they went towards Troy.

But Zeus saw them from where he sat on the top of Mount Ida. And he called to Iris, who is the messenger of the gods, and said to her: "Go now, Iris, and tell these two that they had better not set themselves against me. If they do, then I will lame their horses, and throw them down from their chariot, and break the chariot in pieces. If I do but strike them with my thunderbolt, they will not recover from their hurts for ten years and more."

So Iris made all the haste she could, and met the two goddesses on their way, and gave them the message of Zeus. When Hera heard it, she said to Athené: "It is not wise for us two to fight with Zeus for the sake of men. Let them live or die, as he may think best, but we will not set ourselves against him."

So Hera turned the chariot, and they went back to Olympus, and sat down in their chairs of gold among the other gods. Very sad and angry were they.

When Zeus saw that they had gone back, he left Mount Ida and went to Olympus, and came into the hall where the gods were assembled. When he saw Hera and Athené sitting by themselves with gloomy faces, he mocked them, saying: "Why do you look so sad? Surely it cannot be that you have tired yourselves by joining in the battle, and slaying these Trojans whom you hate so much? But if it is because the thing that I will does not please you, then know that what I choose to happen, that shall happen. Yes; if all the other gods should join together against me, still I shall prevail over them."

And when Zeus had so spoken, then Athené, for all that her heart was bursting with anger, said nothing: but Hera would not keep silence. "Well do we know, O Zeus, that you are stronger than all the gods. Nevertheless we cannot but pity the Greeks when we see them perishing in this way."

Zeus spake again: "Is it so? Do you pity the Greeks for what they have suffered to-day? To-morrow you shall see worse things than these, O Queen. For Hector will not cease driving the Greeks before him and slaying them till the great Achilles himself shall be moved, and shall rise from his place where he sits by his ships."

And now the sun sank into the sea, and the night fell. The Trojans were angry that the darkness had come and that they could not see any longer; but the Greeks were glad of the night, for it was as a shelter to them, and gave them time to breathe.

Then Hector called the Trojans to an assembly at a place that was near the river, where the ground was clear of dead bodies. He stood in the middle of the people, holding in his hand a spear, sixteen feet or more in length, with a shining head of bronze, and a band of gold by which the head was fastened to the shaft. What he said to the people was this: "Hearken, men of Troy, and ye, our allies who have come to help us. I thought that to-day we should destroy the army of the Greeks and burn their ships, and so go back to Troy and live in peace. But night has come, and hindered us from finishing our work. Let us sit down, therefore, and rest, and take a meal. Loose your horses from your chariots and give them their food. Go, some of you, to the city, and fetch thence cattle, and sheep, and wine, and bread that we may have plenty to eat and drink: also fetch fuel, that we may burn fires all the night, that we may sit by them, and also that we see whether the Greeks will try to escape in the night. Truly they shall not go in peace. Many will we kill, and the rest shall, at the least, carry away with him a wound for him to heal at home, that so no man may come again and trouble this city of Troy. The heralds also shall go to the city and make a proclamation that the old men and boys shall guard the wall, and that every woman shall light a hearth fire, and that all shall keep watch, lest the enemy should enter the city, while the people are fighting at the ships. And now I will say no more; but to-morrow I shall have other words to speak to you. But know this, that to-morrow we will arm ourselves, and drive these Greeks to their ships; and, if it may be, burn these ships with fire. Then shall we know whether the bold Diomed shall drive me back from the wall or whether he shall be himself slain with the spear. To-morrow shall surely bring ruin on the Greeks. I would that I were as sure of living for ever and ever, and of being honoured as the gods are honoured."

So Hector spoke, and all the Trojans shouted with joy to hear such words. Then they unharnessed the horses, and fetched provender for them from the city, and also gathered a great store of fuel. They sat all night in hope of what the next day would bring. As on a calm night the stars shine bright, so shone the watch-fires of the Trojans. A thousand fires were burning, and by each fire sat fifty men. And the horses stood by the chariots champing oats and barley. So they all waited for the morning.


While the Trojans made merry, being full of hope that they would soon be rid of their enemies, the Greeks, on the other hand, were full of trouble and fear. And not one of them was more sad at heart than King Agamemnon. After a while he called the heralds and told them to go round to the chiefs and bid them come to a council. "Bid them one by one," he said, "and do not proclaim the thing publicly, for I would not have the people know of it." So the chiefs came, and sat down each man in his seat. Not a word did they say, but looked sadly on the ground. At last King Agamemnon stood up and spoke: "O my friends, lords and rulers of the Greeks, truly Zeus seems to hate me. Once he promised me that I should take this city of Troy and return home in safety, but this promise he has not kept. I must go back to the place from which I came without honour, having lost many of those who came with me. But now, before we all perish, let us flee in our ships to our own land, for Troy we may not take."

And when the King had finished his speech the chiefs still sat saying not a word, for they were out of heart. But after a while, seeing that no one else would speak, brave Diomed stood up in his place and said: "O King, do not be angry, if I say that this talk of yours about fleeing in our ships to our own land is nothing but madness. It was but two days since that you called me a coward; whether this be true the Greeks, both young and old, know well. I will not say 'yes' or 'no.' But this I tell you. Zeus has given you to be first among the Greeks, and to be a king among kings. But courage he has not given you, and courage is the best gift of all, and without it all others are of no account. Now, if you are bent on going back, go; your ships are ready to be launched, and the way is short; but all the other Greeks will stay till they have taken the city of Troy. Aye, and if they also choose to go with you, still I will stay, I and Sthenĕlus here, my friend: yes; we two will stay, and we will fight till we make an end of the city, for the gods sent us hither, and we will not go back till we have done the thing for which we came."

Then old Nestor stood up in his place and said: "You are a brave man Diomed, and you speak words of wisdom. There is not a man here but knows that you have spoken the truth. And now, O King Agamemnon, do you seek counsel from the chiefs, and when they have spoken, follow that counsel which shall seem to you wisest and best. But first let them sit down to eat and to drink. Also set sentinels to keep watch along the trench lest our enemies should fall upon us unawares, for they have many watch-fires and a mighty host. Verily this night will either save us or make an end of us altogether."

So the King bade his men prepare a feast, and the chiefs sat down to eat and drink; and when they had had enough, Nestor rose up in his place and spoke: "O King, Zeus has made you lord over many nations, and put many things into your hand. Therefore you have the greater need of good counsel, and are the more bound to listen to wise words, even though they may not please you. It was an evil day, O King, when you sent the heralds to take away the damsel Briseïs from Achilles. The other chiefs did not consent to your deed. Yes, and I myself advised you not to do this thing; but you would not hear. Rather you followed your own pride and pleasure, and shamed the bravest of your followers, taking away from him the prize which he had won with his own hands. Do you, therefore, undo this evil deed, and make peace with this man whom you have wronged, speaking to him pleasant words and giving him noble gifts."

King Agamemnon stood up and said: "You have spoken true words, old sir. Truly I acted as a fool that day; I do not deny it. For not only is this Achilles a great warrior but he is dear to Zeus, and he that is dear to Zeus is worth more than whole armies of other men. See now how we are put to flight when he stands aside from the battle! This surely is the doing of Zeus. And now, as I did him wrong, so I will make him amends, giving him many times more than that which I took from him. Hear now the gifts which I will give him: seven kettles, standing on three feet, new, which the fire has never touched, ten talents of gold, and twenty bright caldrons, and twelve strong horses which have won many prizes for me by their swiftness. The man who had as much gold of his own as these twelve horses have won for me would not be a beggar. Also I will give him some women-slaves, skilled with their needle and in other work of the hands, who were my portion of the spoil, when we took the island of Lesbos. Yes, and I will send back to him the maiden Briseïs, whom I took from him. And when, by favour of the gods, we shall have taken the city of Troy, and shall divide the spoil, then let him come and choose for himself twenty women the most beautiful that there are in the city, after the Fair Helen, for none can be so beautiful as she. And I will give him yet more than this. When we get back to the land of Greece, then he shall be as a son to me, and I will honour him even as I honour my own son Orestes. Three daughters have I in my palace at home. Of these he shall have the one whom he shall choose for his wife, and shall take her to the house of his father Peleus. Nor shall he give any gifts, as a man is used to give when he seeks a maiden for his wife. He shall have my daughter without a price. And more than this, I will give her a great dowry, such as a king has never given before to his daughter. Seven fair cities will I give him, and with each city fields in which many herds of oxen and flocks of sheep are grazing, and vineyards out of which much wine is made. And the people of these cities shall honour him as their lord and master. All these things will I give him, only he will cease from his anger. Let him listen to our prayers, for of all things that are in the world there is but one that does not listen to prayers, and this one thing is Death. And this, verily is the cause why Death is hated of all men. Let him not therefore be as Death."

When Agamemnon had made an end of speaking, Nestor said to him: "The gifts which you are ready to give to the great Achilles are such as no man can find fault with. Let us, therefore, without delay, choose men who may go to his tent and offer them to him. Let Phœnix go first, for he is dear to the gods, and Achilles also honours him, for, indeed, Phœnix had the care of him when he was a child. And with him Ajax the Greater should go, and Ulysses also, and let two heralds go with them. And now let the heralds bring water and pour upon our hands, and let each keep silence, while we pray to Zeus that he may have mercy on us, and incline the heart of this man to listen to our entreaties."

Then the heralds brought water, and poured it upon the hands of the chiefs, and they filled the bowls with wine. And each man took his bowl and poured out a little on the ground, praying meanwhile to the gods. And when they had done this, they drank, and came out from the King's tent. And, before they went to their errand, old Nestor charged them what they should say. All of them he charged, but Ulysses most of all, because he was the best speaker of them all.


So they went along the shore of the sea, and as they went they prayed to the god who shakes the earth, that is to say, the god of the sea, that he would shake the heart of Achilles. And when they came to the camp of the Myrmidons, for these were the people of Achilles, they saw the King with a harp in his hand, the harp he had taken from the city of Thebé (which was also the city of Andromaché). He was playing on the harp, and as he played he sang a song about the valiant deeds which the heroes of old time had wrought. And Patroclus sat over against him in silence, waiting till he should have ended his singing. So the three chiefs came forward, Ulysses leading the way, and stood before Achilles. And he, when he saw them, jumped up from his seat, not a little astonished, holding his harp in his hand. And Patroclus also rose up from his seat, to do them honour. And Achilles said: "You are welcome, my friends: though I am angry with the King, you are not the less my friends."

And when he had said this he bade them sit down upon chairs that were there, covered with coverlets of purple. And to Patroclus he said: "Bring out the biggest bowl, and mix the wine and make it as strong and sweet as you can; and give each of these my friends a cup that they may drink, for there are none whom I love more in the whole army of the Greeks."

And this Patroclus did. And when he had mixed the wine, strong and sweet, and had given each man his cup, then he made ready a feast. Nor were they unwilling, though they had but just feasted in the tent of King Agamemnon, for the men of those days were as mighty in eating and drinking as in fighting. And the way that he made ready the feast was this. First he put a great block of wood as close as might be to the fire. And on this he put the back, that is to say the saddle of a sheep, and the same portion of a fatted goat, and also the same of a well-fed pig. The charioteer of Achilles held the flesh in its place with a spit, and Achilles carved it. And when he had carved the portions, he put each on a skewer. Then Patroclus made the fire burn high, and when the flames had died down, then he smoothed the red-hot embers, and put racks upon the top of them, again, the spits with the flesh. But first he sprinkled them with salt. And when the flesh was cooked, he took it from the skewers, and put portions of it on the platters. Also he took bread and put it in baskets, to each man a basket. Then they all took their places for the meal, and Achilles gave the place of honour to Ulysses. But before they began, he signed to Patroclus that he should sacrifice to the gods, and this he did by casting into the fire something of the flesh and of the bread. After this they put forth their hands, and took the food that was ready for them. When they had had enough, Ajax nodded to Phœnix, meaning that he should speak and tell Achilles why they had come. But Ulysses perceived it, and began to speak, before ever Phœnix was ready to begin. First he filled a cup and drank to the health of Achilles, and then he said: "Hail, Achilles! Truly we have had no lack of feasting, first in the tent of King Agamemnon, and now in yours. But this is not a day to think of feasting, for destruction is close at hand, and we are greatly afraid. This very day the Trojans and their allies came very near to burning our ships; and we are greatly in doubt whether we shall save them, for it is plainly to be seen that Zeus is on their side. What, therefore, we are come to ask of you is that you will not stand aside any longer from the battle, but will come and help us as of old. And truly our need is great. For this Hector rages furiously, saying that Zeus is with him, and not caring for god or man. And even now he is praying that morning may appear, for he vows that he will burn the ships with fire and destroy us all while we are choked with the smoke of the burning. And I am greatly afraid that the gods will give him strength to make good his threats and to kill us all here, far from the land in which we were born. Now, therefore, stir yourself if now, before it is too late, you have a mind to save the Greeks. Make no delay, lest it be too late, and you repent only when that which is done shall be past all recalling. Did not the old man Peleus, your father, on the day when he sent you from Phthia, your country, to follow King Agamemnon, lay this charge upon you, saying: 'My son, the gods will give you strength and will make you mighty in battle, if it be their will; but there is something which you must do yourself: keep down the pride of your heart, for gentleness is better than pride; also keep from strife, so shall the Greeks, both young and old, love you and honour you'? This charge your father laid upon you, but you have not kept it. Nevertheless there is yet a place of repentance for you. For the King has sent us to offer you gifts great and many to make up for the wrong he did to you. So great and so many are they that no one can say that these are not worthy." And then Ulysses set forth in order all the things which Agamemnon had promised to give, kettles and caldrons and gold, and women slaves, and his daughter in marriage, and seven cities to be her dowry. And when he had finished the list of these things he said: "Be content: take these gifts, which, indeed, no man can say are not sufficient. And if you have no thought for Agamemnon, yet you should have thought for the people who perish because you stand aside from the battle. Take the gifts, therefore, for by so doing you will have wealth and love and honour from the Greeks, and great glory also, for you will slay Hector, who is now ready to meet you in battle, so proud is he, thinking that there is not a man of all the Greeks who can stand against him."

Achilles answered: "I will speak plainly, O Ulysses, and will set out clearly what I think is in my heart, and what I intend to do. It does not please me that you should sit there and coax me, one man saying one thing and another man saying another. Yes, I will speak both plainly and truly, for, as for the man who thinks one thing in his heart and says another with his tongue, he is hateful to me as death itself. Tell me now, what does it profit a man to be always fighting day after day? It is but thankless work, for the man that stays home has an equal share with the man who never leaves the battle, and men honour the coward even as they honour the brave, and death comes alike to the man that works and to the man who sits idle at home. Look now at me! What profit have I had of all that I have endured, putting my life in peril day after day? Even as a bird carries food to its nestlings till they are fledged, and never ceases to work for them, and herself is but ill fed, so it has been with me. Many nights have I been without sleep, and I have laboured many days. I took twelve cities to which I travelled in ships, and eleven to which I went by land, and from all I carried away much spoil. All this spoil I brought to King Agamemnon, and he, who all the time stayed safe in his tent, gave a few things to me and to others, but kept the greater part for himself. And then what did he do? He left to the other chiefs that which he had given to them, but what he had given to me that he took from me. Yes; he took Briseïs. Let him keep her, if he will. But let him not ask me any more to fight against the Trojans. There are other chiefs whom he has not wronged and shamed in this way; let him go to them and take counsel with them, how he may keep away the devouring fire from the ships. Many things he has done already; he has built a wall, and dug a ditch about it; can he not keep Hector from the ships with them? And yet in time past when I used to fight, this Hector dared not set his army in array far from the walls of Troy; nay, he scarce ventured to come outside the gates. Once indeed did he gather his courage together and stand up against me, to fight man with man, and then he barely escaped from my spear. But neither with him nor with any other of the sons of Troy will I fight again. To-morrow I will do sacrifice to Zeus and to the other gods, and I will store my ships with food and water, and launch them on the sea. Yes, early in the morning to-morrow, if you care to look, you will see my ships upon the sea, and my men rowing with all their might. And, if the god of the sea gives me good passage, on the third day I shall come to my own dear country, even to Phthia. There are the riches which I left behind me when I came to this land of Troy, and thither shall I carry such things, gold and silver and slaves, as King Agamemnon has not taken from me. But with him I will never take counsel again, nor will I stand by his side in battle. As for his gifts, I scorn them; aye, and were they twenty times as great, I would scorn them still. Not with all the wealth of Thebes which is in the land of Egypt would he persuade me, and than Thebes there is no wealthier city in all the world. A hundred gates it has, and through each gate two hundred warriors ride forth to battle with chariots and horses. And as for his daughter whom he would give me to be my wife, I would not marry her, no, not though she were as beautiful as Aphrodité herself, and as skilled in all the works of the needle as Athené. Let him choose for his son-in-law some chief of the Greeks who is better than I am. As for me, if the gods suffer me to reach my home, my father Peleus shall choose me a wife. Many maidens, daughters of kings, are there in Phthia and in Hellas, and not one among them who would scorn me if I came a-wooing. Often in time past I have thought to do this thing, to marry a wife, and to settle down in peace, and to enjoy the riches of the old man my father, and such things as I have gathered for myself. For long since my mother, Thetis of the sea, said to me, 'My son, there are two lots of life before you, and you may choose which you will. If you stay in this land and fight against Troy, then you must never go back to your own land, but will die in your youth. Only your name will live for ever; but if you will leave this land and go back to your home, then shall you live long, even to old age, but your name will be forgotten.' Once I thought fame was a better thing than life; but now my mind is changed, for indeed my fame is taken from me, seeing that King Agamemnon puts me to shame before all the people. And now I go away to my own land, and I counsel you to go also, for Troy you will never take. The city is dear to Zeus, and he puts courage into the hearts of the people. And take this answer back to the man who sent you: 'Find some other way of keeping Hector and the Trojans from the ships, for my help he shall not have.' But let Phœnix stay with me this night that he may go with me in my ship when I depart to-morrow. Nevertheless if he choose rather to stay, let him stay, for I would not take him by force."

And when Achilles had ended his speech all the chiefs sat silent, so vehement was he.


After a while old Phœnix stood up and spoke, and as he spoke he shed many tears, for he was much afraid lest the ships of the Greeks should be burnt. "O Achilles," he said, "if you are indeed determined to go away, how can I stay here without you? Did not the old man Peleus, your father, make me your teacher, that I might show you both what you should say and what you should do, when he sent you from the land of Phthia to be with King Agamemnon? In those days, for all that you are now so strong and skilful in war, you were but a lad, knowing nothing of how warriors fight in battle, or of how they take counsel together. No: I cannot stay here without you; I would not leave you, no, not if the gods would make me young again as when I came to the land of Phthia, to be with Peleus your father. For at the first I lived in Hellas, and left it because the old man, my father, was angry with me. So angry was he that he cursed me, and prayed to Zeus and the other gods that no child of mine should ever sit upon his knees. And I, too, was very angry when I heard him say these words. Truly the thought came into my heart that I would fall upon him and slay him with the sword. But the gods were merciful to me and helped me to put away this wicked thought out of my heart. So I gave up my anger, for I could not bear that men should say of me: 'See, there is the man who killed his own father!' But I was determined to go away from my father's house and from the land of Hellas altogether. Then came my friends and my kinsmen, and made many prayers to me, beseeching me that I would not depart. But I would not listen to them. Then they would have kept me by force. Nine days and nine nights they watched my father's house, eating the flesh of sheep and oxen and swine, and drinking wine without stint from my father's stores. They took turns to watch, and they kept up two fires without ceasing, one in the cloister that was round the house, and one before the great door. But on the tenth night, when the watchmen were overcome with sleep and the fires were low, then I broke open the door of my chamber, for all that they had shut it fast with a knot that was hard to untie, and I leapt over the fence in the courtyard, and neither man nor maid saw me. So I escaped, and fled from Hellas, and came to Phthia to the old man Peleus your father. And your father was very kind to me, and was as a father to me. He gave me riches, and he gave me a kingdom which I might rule under him, and also he trusted you to me, O Achilles, when you were but a little child, that I might teach you and rear you. And this I did. And, indeed, you loved me much. With no one but me would you go into the hall or sit at the feast. I would hold you on my knees and carve the choicest bits for you from the dish, and put the wine-cup to your lips. Many a time have you spoilt my clothes sputtering out the wine from your lips, when I had put the cup to your lips. Yes, I suffered much, and toiled much for you, and you were as a child to me, for child of my own I never had. And now, I pray you, listen to me. Put away the anger in your heart even as I put the anger out of mine. It is not fit that a man should harden his heart in this way. Even the gods are turned from their purpose, and surely the gods are more honourable and more powerful than you. Yet men turn them by offering of incense and by drink-offerings and by burnt-offerings and by prayers. And if a man sins against them yet can he turn them from their anger. For, indeed, Prayers are the daughters of Zeus. They are weak and slow of foot, whereas Sin is swift and strong, and goes before, running over all the earth, and doing harm to men. But nevertheless they come after and heal the harm that Sin has done. If, therefore, a man will reverence these daughters of Zeus, and will do honour to them when they come near to him, and will listen to their voice, they will bless him and do good to him. But if a man hardens his heart against them and will not listen to their voice, then they curse him and bring him to ruin. Take heed, therefore, O Achilles, that thou do such honour to these daughters of Zeus as becomes a righteous man, for it will be well for you to do so. If, indeed, King Agamemnon had stood apart and given you no gifts, nor restored to you that which he took from you, then I would not have bidden you to cease from your anger, no, not to save the Greeks from their great trouble. But now he gives you many gifts, and promises you yet more, and has sent an embassy to you, the wisest and noblest that there are in the whole army, and also dear friends of yours. Refuse not, therefore, to listen to their words. Listen now to this tale that I will tell you, that you may see how foolish a thing it is for a man, however great he may be, to shut his ears when prayers are made to him.

"Once upon a time there was a great strife between the Ætolians and the men who dwelt near to Mount Curium. And the cause of the strife was this. There was a great wild boar which laid waste all the land of Calydon where the Ætolians dwelt. And Meleager, who was the King of the land, sent for hunters from all Greece, and they came from far and wide, bringing their dogs with them, for the beast was so great and fierce that it was not an easy thing to kill it, but there was need of many hunters. Now, among those that came was Atalanta, the fair maid of Arcadia. And when the beast was killed, then there was a great quarrel as to who should have the spoils, that is to say the head and the hide. For Meleager gave them to the fair Alalanta, and when the brethren of his mother took them from her, then he slew them. But when his mother, Althea by name, heard that her brethren were dead, then she cursed him, yea, even her own son. So it came to pass that there was war between the Ætolians and the men of Mount Curium, for Althea and her brethren were of that land. And also the curse began to work so that the quarrel became more fierce. Now, when in time past Meleager had fought among the Ætolians there was none that could stand up against him, so great a warrior was he. But now, being very angry with his mother, he stood aside from the war, and would not help, sitting in his chamber apart. The men of Mount Curium, therefore, prevailed in the battle, and the Ætolians were driven into the city of Calydon, and there was a din of war about the gates of the city, and great fear lest the enemy should break them down. Then first the elders of the city sent an embassy to him, priests of the gods, the holiest that there were in the land, to pray that he would come forth from his chamber and defend them. Also they promised him a noble gift, a great estate in the plain of Ætolia, half ploughland and half vineyard, such as he might choose for himself. So the priests came, beseeching him, and offering him the gift, but he would not listen to them. After them came his mother and sisters, and made their prayers to him, but them he refused even more fiercely. And the old man Œneus, his father, besought him, standing on the threshold of his chamber, and shaking the door; but he would not listen. Nor would he hear the voices of his friends and comrades, although they were very dear to him. But at the last, when the enemy had now begun to climb upon the towers, and to burn the fair city of Calydon with fire, aye and to batter on the doors of his palace, then his wife, the fair Cleopatra, arose and besought him with many prayers and tears. 'Think now,' she said, 'what woes will come upon your people if the enemy prevail against them, for the city will be burnt with fire, and the men will be slain, and the women will be carried into captivity.' Then at last his spirit was stirred within him, and he arose, and put on his arms, and went down into the street and drove the men of Mount Curium before him. So did he save the Ætolians, but the gifts which they promised, these he never had. This, O Achilles, is the story of Meleager. Let not your thoughts be like to his. It would be a foolish thing to put off saving of the ships till they are already on fire. Come, therefore, take the gifts which King Agamemnon gives you; so shall all the Greeks honour you even as they honour a god. But if you delay, then may you lose both honour and gifts, even though you save us from the Trojans."

Achilles answered: "Phœnix, my father, I have no need of this honour and these gifts. Riches I have as much as I need, and Zeus gives me honour. And listen to this: trouble me no more with prayers and tears, while you seek to help King Agamemnon. Take not his side, lest I, who love you now, come to hate you. It were better for you to vex him who has vexed me. Return now with me to the land of Phthia, and I will give you the half of my kingdom. And stay this night in my tent; to-morrow we will consult together whether we will depart or no."

Then Achilles nodded to Patroclus, and made signs that he should make a bed ready for the old man, so that the other two, seeing this, should depart without delay.

So Patroclus made the bed ready. And when Ajax saw this he said to Ulysses: "Let us go, Ulysses. We shall do nothing to-day. Let us depart at once, and carry back this message to them who sent us. As for Achilles, he cherishes his anger, and cares nought for his comrades or his people. What he desires, I know not. One man will take the price of blood from another, even though he has slain a brother or a son. He takes gold, and puts away his anger, and the shedder of blood dwells in peace in his own land. But this man keeps his anger, and all for the sake of a girl. And lo! the King offers him seven girls, yea seven for one, and he will not take them. Surely he seems to lack reason."

Achilles answered: "You speak well, great Ajax. Nevertheless the anger is yet hot in my heart, because Agamemnon put me to shame before all people, as if I were but a common man. But go, and take my message. I will not arise to do battle with the Trojans till Hector shall come to these tents and shall seek to set fire to my ships. But when he shall do this, then I will arise, and verily I will stop him, however eager he may be for the battle."

So Ajax and Ulysses departed, and gave the message of Achilles to King Agamemnon.


While the other chiefs of the Greeks were sleeping that night, King Agamemnon was awake, for he had great trouble in his heart and many fears. When he looked towards Troy he saw the fires burning, and heard the sound of flutes and pipes, and the murmurs of many men, and he was astonished, for it seemed to him that the army of the Trojans was greater and stronger than it had ever been in times past. And when he looked towards the ships, he groaned and tore his hair, thinking what evils might come to his people. Then he thought to himself: "I will go and look for old Nestor; maybe he and I will think of something which may help us." So he rose from his bed, and put the sandals on his feet, and wrapped his coat about him, and put the skin of a lion round his shoulders, and a spear in his hand.

Now it so happened that Menelaüs could not sleep that same night, for he knew that it was on his account that the Greeks had come to Troy. So he arose from his bed, and wrapped the skin of a leopard about his shoulders and took a spear in his hand, and went to look for his brother. And when he found him, for, as has been said, he also had armed himself, he said: "What seek you? See you the Trojans there? Let us send a spy to find what they are doing, and how many there are of them, for I do not doubt that they are planning something against us. But is there any one who will dare to do such a thing, for, indeed, it is a great danger."

Agamemnon answered: "It is true, my brother, that we are in great trouble, and need good advice if we are to save the people. Surely Zeus has greatly changed his mind concerning us. There was a time when he favoured us, but now it is of his doing that Hector drives us before him in this fashion. Never did I see a man so manifestly strengthened by Zeus, and yet he is but a man, having neither a god for his father, nor goddess for his mother. But go now call the chiefs to counsel, and I will go to Nestor."

So the chiefs were called, and Nestor said: "First let us see whether the watch are sleeping or waking." So they went the round of the wall, and found the watchmen not sleeping but waking. As a dog that hears the sound of a wild beast in the wood, so they looked towards the plain, thinking to hear the feet of the Trojans. Old Nestor was glad to see them and said: "You do well, my children, lest we become a prey to our enemies."

After this they passed over the trench and sat down in an open place that was clear of dead bodies, for here it was that Hector had turned back from slaying the Greeks when darkness came over the earth. And Nestor rose up and said: "Is there now a man who will go among the Trojans and spy out what it is in their mind to do? Such a one will win great honour to himself, and the King will give him many gifts."

Diomed stood up in his place and said: "I will go, but it is well that I should have some one with me. For to have a companion gives a man courage and comfort; also two wits are better than one."

Many were willing to go with Diomed. And Agamemnon, fearing for his brother Menelaüs, for he offered himself among others, said: "Choose, O Diomed, the man whom you would most desire to have with you; think not of any man's birth or rank; choose only him whom you would best like for a companion."

Then Diomed said: "If I may have my choice, Ulysses shall go with me. He is brave, and he is prudent, and Athené loves him."

Ulysses answered: "Do not praise me too much, nor blame me too much. But let us go, for the night is far spent."

So the two armed themselves. Diomed took a two-edged sword and a shield, and a helmet without a crest, for such is not easy to be seen. Ulysses took a bow with a quiver full of arrows and a sword, and for a helmet a cap of hide, with the white teeth of a wild boar round it. Then they both prayed to Athené that she would help them. That being done, they set out and went through the night, like to two lions, and they trod on dead bodies and arms and blood.

Meanwhile Hector was thinking about the same thing, how that it would be well to find out what the Greeks were doing, and what they were planning for the next day. So he called the chiefs of the Trojans and the allies to a council and said: "Who now will go and spy among the Greeks, and see whether they are keeping a good watch, and find out, if he can overhear them talking together, what they mean to do to-morrow. Such a man shall have a great reward, a chariot, that is to say, with two horses, the best that there is in the whole camp of the Greeks."

Then there stood up a certain Dolon. He was the son of a herald, the only son of his father, but he had five sisters. He was an ill-favoured man, but a swift runner. Dolon said: "I will go, O Hector, but I want a great reward, even the horses of Achilles, for these are the best in the whole camp of the Greeks. Do you lift up your sceptre and swear that you will give me these, and none other."

It was a foolish thing, for who was Dolon that he should have the chariot and horses of the great Achilles? And Hector knew this in his heart; nevertheless he lifted up his sceptre, and swore that he would give to Dolon these horses and none others. Then Dolon armed himself. He took his bow, and a cap of wolf's skin for a helmet, and a sharp spear, and went his way, nor did he try to go quickly, for he did not think that any one from the camp of the Greeks would be abroad. So Ulysses heard his steps and said to Diomed: "Here comes a man; maybe he is a spy, maybe he is come to spoil the dead bodies. Let him pass by, that we may take him, for we must not suffer him to go back to the city."

So the two lay down among the dead bodies on the plain, and Dolon passed by them, not knowing that they were there. And after he had gone fifty yards or so, then they rose up and ran after him. He heard the noise of running and stood still, thinking to himself: "Hector has sent men after me; perhaps he wishes me to go back." And this, indeed, he would gladly have done, for he was beginning to be afraid. But when they were but a spear's throw from him, he saw that they were Greeks, and fled. And the two ran after him, as two dogs follow a fawn or a hare; and though he was swift of foot he could not outrun them, nor could they come up to him, but they kept him from turning back to the city. But when they were near the trench, then Diomed called out to the man: "Stop, or I will slay you with my spear." And he threw his spear, not meaning to kill the man, but to frighten him, making it pass over his shoulder, so that it stood in the ground before him. When Dolon saw the spear he stood still, and his teeth chattered with fear. And the two came up to him, breathing hard, for they had been running fast. Then said Dolon, weeping as he spoke: "Do not kill me; my father will pay a great ransom for me, if he hears that you are keeping me at your ships; much gold and bronze and iron will he pay for my life."

Ulysses answered: "Be of good cheer. Tell us truly why you were coming through the darkness. Was it to spoil the dead, or did Hector send you to spy out what was going on at the ships, or was it on some private business of your own?"

Dolon answered: "Hector persuaded me to go, promising that he would give me the chariot and horses of Achilles. And I was to spy out what you had in your minds to do on the morrow and whether you were keeping watch."

Ulysses laughed when the man spoke of the chariot and horses of Achilles. "Truly," he said, "it was a grand reward that you deserved. The horses of Achilles are hard to manage except a man be the son of a god or a goddess. But tell me, where is Hector? and what watch does the Trojan keep?"

Dolon answered: "When I came away from the camp of the Trojans, Hector was holding council with the chiefs close to the tomb of Ilus. As for the watches, there are none set, except in that part of the camp where the Trojans are. As for the allies, they sleep without caring for watches, thinking that the Trojans will do this for them."

Then Ulysses asked again: "Do the allies then sleep among the Trojans or apart?"

Then Dolon told him about the camp, who were in this place and who were in that. "But," he went on, "if you would know where you may best make your way into the camp and not be seen, go to the furthest part upon the left. There are newcomers, men from Thrace, with Rhesus their king. Never have I seen horses so big and so fine as his. And they are whiter than snow, and swifter than the wind. But now send me to the ships, or, if you cannot do that, having no one to take me, bind me and leave me."

But Diomed said: "Think not, Dolon, that we will suffer you to live, though, indeed, you have told us that which we desired to know. For then you would come again to spy out our camp, or, maybe, would fight with us in battle. But if we kill you, then you will trouble us no more."

So they killed him, and stripped him of his arms. These they hung on a tamarisk tree that there was in the place, makig a mark with reeds and branches that they might know the place when they came back. Then they went on to the camp of the Trojans, and found the place of which Dolon had told them. There the men of Thrace lay asleep, each man with his arms at his side. And in the midst of the company lay King Rhesus, with his chariot at his side, and the horses tethered to the rail of the chariot. Then Diomed began to slay the men as they slept. He was like a lion in the middle of a fold full of sheep, so fierce and strong was he, and they so helpless. Twelve men he slew, and as he slew them, Ulysses dragged thir bodies out of the way, that there might be a clear road for the horses, for horses are wont to start aside when they see a dead body lying in the way. And "these maybe," so he thought to himself, "are not used to war." Twelve men did Diomed slay, and King Rhesus the thirteenth, as he lay and panted in his sleep, for he had a bad dream at the very time Diomed slew him. Meanwhile Ulysses had unbound the horses from the chariot and driven them out of the camp. With his bow he struck them, for he had not thought to take the whip from the chariot. And when he had got the horses clear, then he whistled, for a sign to Diomed that he should come without more delay, for well he knew that Diomed would not easily be satisfied with slaying. And truly, the man was lingering, doubting whether he might not kill yet more. But Athené whispered in his ear: "Think of your return; maybe some god will rouse the Trojans against you."

And indeed, Apollo was rousing them. The cousin of King Rhesus awoke and seeing the place of the horses empty, cried out, calling the King. So all the camp was roused. But Diomed and Ulysses mounted the horses and rode to the camp of the Greeks. Right glad were their comrades to see them and to hear the tale of what they had done.


As soon as it was light Agamemnon called the Greeks, and Hector called the Trojans to battle, nor were either unwilling to obey. For a time the fighting was equal, but at noon, at the time when a man who is cutting down trees upon the hills grows weary of his work and longs for food, then the Greeks began to prevail. And the first man to break through the line of the Trojans was King Agamemnon. Never before had the King done such mighty deeds, for he drove the Trojans back to the very walls of the city. Hector himself did not dare to stand up before him, for Iris brought this message to him from Zeus: "So long as Agamemnon fights in the front, do you hold back, for this is the day on which it is his lot to win great honour for himself; but when he shall be wounded, then do you go forward, and you shall have strength to drive the Greeks before you till they come to the ships, and the sun shall set." So Hector held back, and after a while the King was wounded. There were two sons of Antenor in one chariot, and they came against him. First the King threw his spear at the younger of the two, but missed his aim. Then the Trojan thrust at Agamemnon with his spear, driving it against his breastplate. With all his strength he drove it, but the silver which was in the breastplate turned the spear, so that it bent as if it had been of lead. Then the King caught the spear in his hand, and drove it through the neck of his adversary, so that he fell dead from the chariot. But when the elder brother saw this he also thrust at the King with his spear, nor did he thrust in vain, but he pierced his arm beneath the elbow. But him also did the King slay, wounding him first with his spear and afterwards cutting off his head with his sword. For a time, while the wound was warm, the King still fought, but when it grew cold and stiff, then the pain was greater than he could bear, and he said to his charioteer, "Now carry me back to the ships, for I cannot fight any more."

The next of the chiefs that was wounded was Diomed. Him Paris wounded with an arrow as he was stripping the arms from a Trojan which he had slain. For Paris hid himself behind the pillar which stood on the tomb of Ilu, and shot his arrows from thence. On the ankle of the right foot did Paris hit him, and when he saw that he had not shot the arrow in vain, he cried out aloud: "I wish that I had wounded you in the loin, bold Diomed, then you would have troubled the men of Troy no more!"

But Diomed answered: "If I could but meet you face to face, you coward, your bow and your arrows would not help you. As for this graze on my foot, I care no more for it than if a woman or a child had struck me. Come near, and I will show you what are the wounds which I make with my spear."

Then he beckoned to Ulysses that he should stand before him while he drew the arrow from his foot. And Ulysses did so. But when he had drawn out the arrow, the pain was so great that he could not stand up, for all the brave words that he had spoken. And he bade his charioteer drive him back to the ships.

So Ulysses was left alone. Not one of the chiefs stood by him, for now that King Agamemnon and Diomed had departed, there was great fear upon all the Greeks. And Ulysses said to himself: "Now what shall I do? It would be a shameful thing to fly from these Trojans, though there are many of them, and I am alone; but it would be still worse, if I were to be taken here and slain. Surely it is the doing of Zeus, that this trouble is come upon the Greeks, and who am I that I should fight against Zeus? Yet why do I talk in this way? It is only the coward who draws back; a brave man stands in his place, whether he lives or dies." But while he was thinking these things many Trojans came about him, as dogs come about a wild boar in a wood, and the boar stands at bay, and gnashes his big white teeth. So Ulysses stood thrusting here and there with his long spear. Five chiefs he slew; but one of the five, before he was slain, wounded him in the side, scraping the flesh from the ribs. Then Ulysses cried out for help; three times he cried, and the third time Menelaüs heard him, and called to Ajax.

"O Ajax, I hear the voice of Ulysses, and it sounds like the voice of one who is in great trouble. Maybe the Trojans have surrounded him. Come, let us help him for it would be a great loss to the Greeks if he were to come to harm."

Then he led the way to the place from which the voice seemed to come, and Ajax followed him. And when they came to Ulysses, they found it was as Menelaüs had said; for the Trojans had beset Ulysses, as the jackals beset a deer with long horns among the hills. The beast cannot fly because the hunter has wounded it with an arrow from his bow, and the wound has become stiff, and he stands at bay. Then a lion comes, and the jackals are scattered in a moment. So the Trojans were scattered when Ajax came. Then Menelaüs took Ulysses by the hand, and led him out of the throng, while Ajax drove the Trojans before him.

And now yet another chief was wounded, for Paris from his hiding-place behind the pillar on the tomb of Ilus shot an arrow at Machāon, and wounded him on the right shoulder. And one of the chiefs cried to old Nestor, who was fighting close by: "Quick, Nestor, take Machāon in your chariot, and drive him to the ships, for the life of a physician is worth the lives of many men."

So Nestor took Machāon in his chariot, and touched his horses with the whip, and they galloped to the ships.

Now Hector was fighting on the other side of the plain, and his charioteer said to him: "See how Ajax is driving our people before him. Let us go and stop him." So they went, lashing the horses that they might go the faster, and the chariot rolled over many bodies of men, and the axle and the sides of it were red with blood. Then Zeus put fear into the heart of the great Ajax himself. He would not fly, but he turned round, throwing his great shield over his shoulder, and moved towards the ships slowly, step by step. It was as when an ass breaks into a field and eats the standing corn, and the children of the village beat him with sticks. Their arms are weak, and the sticks are broken on the beast's back, for he is slow in going, nor do they drive him out till he has eaten his fill. So the Trojans thrust at Ajax their lances. And now he would turn and face them, and now he would take a step backwards towards the ships.

Now Achilles was standing on the stern of his ship, looking at the battle, and Patroclus stood by him. And when old Nestor passed by taking Machāon to the ships, Achilles said to his friend: "Soon, I think, will the Greeks come and pray me to help them, for they are in great trouble. But go now and see who was this whom Nestor is taking to the ships. His shoulders, I thought were the shoulders of Machāon, but his face I could not see, for the horses went by very fast."

Then Patroclus ran to do his errand. Meanwhile Nestor took Machāon to his tent. And there the girl that waited on the old man mixed for them a bowl of drink. First she set a table, and laid on it a bronze charger, and on it she put a flask of wine, and a leek, with which to flavour it, and yellow honey, and barley meal. And she fetched from another part of the tent a great bowl with four handles. On each side of the bowl there was a pair of handles, and on each handle there was a dove, wrought in bronze, and the doves seemed to be pecking at each other. A very big bowl it was, and, when it was full, so heavy that a man could scarcely lift it from the table; but Nestor, though he was old, could lift it easily. Then the girl poured the wine from the flask into the bowl, and put honey into it, and shredded cheese made from goat's milk, and the leek to flavour it. And when the mess was ready, she bade them drink. So they drank, and talked together.

But while they talked, Patroclus stood in the door of the tent. And Nestor went to him, and took him by the hand, and said: "Come now and sit down with us, and drink from the bowl." But Patroclus would not. "Stay me not," he said; "I came to see who it was whom you have brought wounded out of the battle. And now I see that it is Machāon. Therefore I will go back without delay, for you know what kind of man is Achilles, how he quickly grows angry and is ready to blame."

Then said Nestor: "What does Achilles care about the Greeks? Why does he ask who are wounded? O Patroclus, do you remember the day when Ulysses and I came to the house of Peleus? Your father was there, and we feasted in the hall; and when the feast was finished, then we told Peleus why we had come, how we were gathering the chiefs of Greece to go and fight against Troy. And you and Achilles were eager to go. And old men gave you much advice. Old Peleus said to Achilles: 'You must always be the very first in battle.' But to you your father said: 'Achilles is of nobler birth than you, and he is stronger by far. But you are older, and years give wisdom. Therefore it will be your part to give him good counsel when there is need.' Why then do you not advise him to help us? And if he is still resolved not to go forth to the battle, then let him send you forth, and let him lend you his armour to wear. Then the Trojans will think that Achilles himself has come back to the battle, and they will be afraid, and we shall have a breathing space."

Then Patroclus turned and ran back to the tent of Achilles.

Return to: Nike