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the Argives ill."

So Hector made harangue, and the Trojans clamoured applause. And they
loosed their sweating steeds from the yoke, and tethered them with
thongs, each man beside his chariot; and from the city they brought kine
and goodly sheep with speed, and provided them with honey-hearted wine
and corn from their houses, and gathered much wood withal. And from the
plain the winds bare into heaven the sweet savour. But these with high
hopes sate them all night along the highways of the battle, and their
watchfires burned in multitude. Even as when in heaven the stars about
the bright moon shine clear to see, when the air is windless, and all
the peaks appear and the tall headlands and glades, and from heaven
breaketh open the infinite air, and all stars are seen, and the
shepherd's heart is glad; even in like multitude between the ships and
the streams of Xanthos appeared the watchfires that the Trojans kindled
in front of Ilios. A thousand fires burned in the plain and by the side
of each sate fifty in the gleam of blazing fire. And the horses champed
white barley and spelt, and standing by their chariots waited for the
throned Dawn.


How Agamemnon sent an embassage to Achilles, beseeching him
to be appeased; and how Achilles denied him.

Thus kept the Trojans watch; but the Achaians were holden of heaven-sent
panic, handmaid of palsying fear, and all their best were stricken to
the heart with grief intolerable. Like as two winds stir up the main,
the home of fishes, even the north wind and the west wind that blow from
Thrace, coming suddenly; and the dark billow straightway lifteth up its
crest and casteth much tangle out along the sea; even so was the
Achaians' spirit troubled in their breast.

But Atreides was stricken to the heart with sore grief, and went about
bidding the clear-voiced heralds summon every man by name to the
assembly, but not to shout aloud; and himself he toiled amid the
foremost. So they sat sorrowful in assembly, and Agamemnon stood up
weeping like unto a fountain of dark water that from a beetling cliff
poureth down its black stream; even so with deep groaning he spake amid
the Argives and said: "My friends, leaders and captains of the Argives,
Zeus son of Kronos hath bound me with might in grievous blindness of
soul; hard of heart is he, for that erewhile he promised and gave his
pledge that not till I had laid waste well-walled Ilios should I depart,
but now hath planned a cruel wile, and biddeth me return in dishonour to
Argos with the loss of many of my folk. Such meseemeth is the good
pleasure of most mighty Zeus, that hath laid low the heads of many
cities, yea and shall lay low; for his is highest power. So come, even
as I shall bid let us all obey; let us flee with our ships to our dear
native land, for now shall we never take wide-wayed Troy."

So said he, and they all held their peace and kept silence. Long time
were the sons of the Achaians voiceless for grief, but at the last
Diomedes of the loud war-cry spake amid them and said: "Atreides: with
thee first in thy folly will I contend, where it is just, O king, even
in the assembly; be not thou wroth therefor. My valour didst thou blame
in chief amid the Danaans, and saidst that I was no man of war but a
coward; and all this know the Argives both young and old. But the son of
crooked-counselling Kronos hath endowed thee but by halves; he granted
thee to have the honour of the sceptre above all men, but valour he gave
thee not, wherein is highest power. Sir, deemest thou that the sons of
the Achaians are thus indeed cowards and weaklings as thou sayest? If
thine own heart be set on departing, go thy way; the way is before thee,
and thy ships stand beside the sea, even the great multitude that
followed thee from Mykene. But all the other flowing-haired Achaians
will tarry here until we lay waste Troy. Nay, let them too flee on their
ships to their dear native land; yet will we twain, even I and
Sthenelos, fight till we attain the goal of Ilios; for in God's name are
we come."

So said he, and all the sons of the Achaians shouted aloud, applauding
the saying of horse-taming Diomedes. Then knightly Nestor arose and said
amid them: "Tydeides, in battle art thou passing mighty, and in council
art thou best among thine equals in years; none of all the Achaians will
make light of thy word nor gainsay it. Now let us yield to black night
and make ready our meal; and let the sentinels bestow them severally
along the deep-delved foss without the wall. This charge give I to the
young men; and thou, Atreides, lead then the way, for thou art the most
royal. Spread thou a feast for the councillors; that is thy place and
seemly for thee. Thy huts are full of wine that the ships of the
Achaians bring thee by day from Thrace across the wide sea; all
entertainment is for thee, being king over many. In the gathering of
many shalt thou listen to him that deviseth the most excellent counsel;
sore need have all the Achaians of such as is good and prudent, because
hard by the ships our foemen are burning their watch-fires in multitude;
what man can rejoice thereat? This night shall either destroy or save
the host."

So said he, and they gladly hearkened to him and obeyed. Forth sallied
the sentinels in their harness. Seven were the captains of the
sentinels, and with each went fivescore young men bearing their long
spears in their hands; and they took post midway betwixt foss and wall,
and kindled a fire and made ready each man his meal.

Then Atreides gathered the councillors of the Achaians, and led them to
his hut, and spread before them an abundant feast. So they put forth
their hands to the good cheer that lay before them. And when they had
put away from them the desire of meat and drink, then the old man first
began to weave his counsel, even Nestor, whose rede of old time was
approved the best. He spake to them and said: "Most noble son of Atreus,
Agamemnon king of men, in thy name will I end and with thy name begin,
because thou art king over many hosts, and to thy hand Zeus hath
entrusted sceptre and law, that thou mayest take counsel for thy folk.
Thee therefore more than any it behoveth both to speak and hearken, and
to accomplish what another than thou may say. No other man shall have a
more excellent thought than this that I bear in mind from old time even
until now, since the day when thou, O heaven-sprung king, didst go and
take the damsel Briseis from angry Achilles' hut by no consent of ours.
Nay, I right heartily dissuaded thee; but thou yieldedst to thy proud
spirit, and dishonouredst a man of valour whom even the immortals
honoured; for thou didst take and keepest from him his meed of valour.
Still let us even now take thought how we may appease him and persuade
him with gifts of friendship and kindly words."

And Agamemnon king of men answered and said to him: "Old sir, in no
false wise hast thou accused my folly. Fool was I, I myself deny it not.
Worth many hosts is he whom Zeus loveth in his heart, even as now he
honoureth this man and destroyeth the host of the Achaians. But seeing I
was a fool in that I yielded to my sorry passion, I will make amends and
give a recompense beyond telling. In the midst of you all I will name
the excellent gifts; seven tripods untouched of fire, and ten talents of
gold and twenty gleaming caldrons, and twelve stalwart horses, winners
in the race, that have taken prizes by their speed. No lackwealth were
that man whose substance were as great as the prizes my whole-hooved
steeds have borne me off. And seven women will I give, skilled in
excellent handiwork, Lesbians whom I chose me from the spoils the day
that he himself took stablished Lesbos, surpassing womankind in beauty.
These will I give him, and with them shall be she whom erst I took from
him, even the daughter of Briseus. All these things shall be set
straightway before him; and if hereafter the gods grant us to lay waste
the great city of Priam, then let him enter in when we Achaians be
dividing the spoil, and lade his ship full of gold and bronze, and
himself choose twenty Trojan women, the fairest that there be after
Helen of Argos. And if we win to the richest of lands, even Achaian
Argos, he shall be my son and I will hold him in like honour with
Orestes, my stripling boy that is nurtured in all abundance. Three
daughters are mine in my well-builded hall, Chrysothemis and Laodike and
Iphianassa; let him take of them which he will, without gifts of wooing,
to Peleus' house; and I will add a great dower such as no man ever yet
gave with his daughter. And seven well-peopled cities will I give him,
Kardamyle and Enope and grassy Hire and holy Pherai and Antheia deep in
meads, and fair Aipeia and Pedasos land of vines. And all are nigh to
the salt sea, on the uttermost border of sandy Pylos; therein dwell men
abounding in flocks and kine, men that shall worship him like a god with
gifts, and beneath his sway fulfil his prosperous ordinances. All this
will I accomplish so he but cease from wrath. Let him yield; Hades I
ween is not to be softened neither overcome, and therefore is he
hatefullest of all gods to mortals. Yea, let him be ruled by me,
inasmuch as I am more royal and avow me to be the elder in years."

Then knightly Nestor of Gerenia answered and said: "Most noble son of
Atreus, Agamemnon king of men, now are these gifts not lightly to be
esteemed that thou offerest king Achilles. Come therefore, let us speed
forth picked men to go with all haste to the hut of Peleus' son
Achilles. Lo now, whomsoever I appoint let them consent. First let
Phoinix dear to Zeus lead the way, and after him great Aias and noble
Odysseus; and for heralds let Odios and Eurybates be their companions.
And now bring water for our hands, and bid keep holy silence, that we
may pray unto Zeus the son of Kronos, if perchance he will have mercy
upon us."

So said he, and spake words that were well-pleasing unto all. Forthwith
the heralds poured water on their hands, and the young men crowned the
bowls with drink and gave each man his portion after they had poured the
libation in the cups. And when they had made libation and drunk as their
heart desired, they issued forth from the hut of Agamemnon son of
Atreus. And knightly Nestor of Gerenia gave them full charge, with many
a glance to each, and chiefest to Odysseus, how they should essay to
prevail on Peleus' noble son.

So the twain went along the shore of the loud-sounding sea, making
instant prayer to the earth-embracer, the Shaker of the Earth, that they
might with ease prevail on Aiakides' great heart. So they came to the
huts and ships of the Myrmidons, and found their king taking his
pleasure of a loud lyre, fair, of curious work, with a silver cross-bar
upon it. Therein he was delighting his soul, and singing the glories of
heroes. And over against him sate Patroklos alone in silence, watching
till Aiakides should cease from singing. So the twain came forward, and
noble Odysseus led the way, and they stood before his face; and Achilles
sprang up amazed with the lyre in his hand, and left the seat where he
was sitting, and in like manner Patroklos when he beheld the men arose.
Then Achilles fleet of foot greeted them and said: "Welcome; verily ye
are friends that are come - sore indeed is the need - even ye that are
dearest of the Achaians to me even in my wrath."

So spake noble Achilles and led them forward, and made them sit on
settles and carpets of purple; and anon he spake to Patroklos being
near: "Bring forth a greater bowl, thou son of Menoitios; mingle
stronger drink, and prepare each man a cup, for dearest of men are these
that are under my roof."

Then put they forth their hands to the good cheer lying before them. And
when they had put from them the desire of meat and drink, Aias nodded to
Phoinix. But noble Odysseus marked it, and filled a cup with wine and
pledged Achilles: "Hail, O Achilles! The fair feast lack we not either
in the hut of Agamemnon son of Atreus neither now in thine; for feasting
is there abundance to our heart's desire, but our thought is not for
matters of the delicious feast; nay, we behold very sore destruction,
thou fosterling of Zeus, and are afraid. Now is it in doubt whether we
save the benched ships or behold them perish, if thou put not on thy
might. Nigh unto ships and wall have the high-hearted Trojans and famed
allies pitched their camp, and kindled many fires throughout their host,
and ween that they shall no more be withheld but will fall on our black
ships. And Zeus son of Kronos sheweth them signs upon the right by
lightning, and Hector greatly exulteth in his might and rageth
furiously, trusting in Zeus, and recketh not of god nor man, for mighty
madness hath possessed him. He prayeth bright Dawn to shine forth with
all speed, for he bath passed his word to smite off from the ships the
ensigns' tops, and to fire the hulls with devouring flame, and hard
thereby to make havoc of the Achaians confounded by the smoke. Therefore
am I sore afraid in my heart lest the gods fulfil his boastings, and it
be fated for us to perish here in Troy-land, far from Argos pasture-land
of horses. Up then! if thou art minded even at the last to save the
failing sons of the Achaians from the war-din of the Trojans. Eschew thy
grievous wrath; Agamemnon offereth thee worthy gifts, so thou wilt cease
from anger. Lo now, hearken thou to me, and I will tell thee all the
gifts that in his hut Agamemnon promised thee. But if Agamemnon be too
hateful to thy heart, both he and his gifts, yet have thou pity on all
the Achaians that faint throughout the host; these shall honour thee as
a god, for verily thou wilt earn exceeding great glory at their hands.
Yea now mightest thou slay Hector, for he would come very near thee in
his deadly madness, because he deemeth that there is no man like unto
him among the Danaans that the ships brought hither."

And Achilles fleet of foot answered and said unto him: "Heaven-sprung
son of Laertes, Odysseus of many wiles, in openness must I now declare
unto you my saying, even as I am minded and as the fulfilment thereof
shall be, that ye may not sit before me and coax this way and that. For
hateful to me even as the gates of hell is he that hideth one thing in
his heart and uttereth another: but I will speak what meseemeth best.
Not me, I ween, shall Agamemnon son of Atreus persuade, nor the other
Danaans, seeing we were to have no thank for battling with the foemen
ever without respite. He that abideth at home hath equal share with him
that fighteth his best, and in like honour are held both the coward and
the brave; death cometh alike to the untoiling and to him that hath
toiled long. Neither have I any profit for that I endured tribulation of
soul, ever staking my life in fight. Even as a hen bringeth her
unfledged chickens each morsel as she winneth it, and with herself it
goeth hard, even so I was wont to watch out many a sleepless night and
pass through many bloody days of battle, warring with folk for their
women's sake. Twelve cities of men have I laid waste from ship-board,
and from land eleven, throughout deep-soiled Troy-land; out of all these
took I many goodly treasures and would bring and give them all to
Agamemnon son of Atreus, and he staying behind amid the fleet ships
would take them and portion out some few but keep the most. Now some he
gave to be meeds of honour to the princes and the kings, and theirs are
left untouched; only from me of all the Achaians took he my darling lady
and keepeth her. But why must the Argives make war on the Trojans? why
hath Atreides gathered his host and led them hither? is it not for
lovely-haired Helen's sake? Do then the sons of Atreus alone of mortal
men love their wives? surely whatsoever man is good and sound of mind
loveth his own and cherisheth her, even as I too loved mine with all my
heart, though but the captive of my spear. But now that he hath taken my
meed of honour from mine arms and hath deceived me, let him not tempt me
that know him full well; he shall not prevail. Nay, Odysseus, let him
take counsel with thee and all the princes to ward from the ships the
consuming fire. Verily without mine aid he hath wrought many things, and
built a wall and dug a foss about it wide and deep, and set a palisade
therein; yet even so can he not stay murderous Hector's might. But so
long as I was fighting amid the Achaians, Hector had no mind to array
his battle far from the wall, but scarce came unto the Skaian gates and
to the oak-tree; there once he awaited me alone and scarce escaped my
onset. But now, seeing I have no mind to fight with noble Hector, I will
to-morrow do sacrifice to Zeus and all the gods, and store well my ships
when I have launched them on the salt sea - then shalt thou see, if thou
wilt and hast any care therefor, my ships sailing at break of day over
Hellespont, the fishes' home, and my men right eager at the oar; and if
the great Shaker of the Earth grant me good journey, on the third day
should I reach deep-soiled Phthia. There are my great possessions that I
left when I came hither to my hurt; and yet more gold and ruddy bronze
shall I bring from hence, and fair-girdled women and grey iron, all at
least that were mine by lot; only my meed of honour hath he that gave it
me taken back in his despitefulness, even lord Agamemnon son of Atreus.
To him declare ye everything even as I charge you, openly, that all the
Achaians likewise may have indignation, if haply he hopeth to beguile
yet some other Danaan, for that he is ever clothed in shamelessness.
Verily not in my face would he dare to look, though he have the front of
a dog. Neither will I devise counsel with him nor any enterprise, for
utterly he hath deceived me and done wickedly; but never again shall he
beguile me with fair speech - let this suffice him. Let him begone in
peace; Zeus the lord of counsel hath taken away his wits. Hateful to me
are his gifts, and I hold him at a straw's worth. Not even if he gave me
ten times, yea twenty, all that now is his, and all that may come to him
otherwhence, even all the revenue of Orchomenos or Egyptian Thebes where
the treasure-houses are stored fullest - Thebes of the hundred gates,
whence sally forth two hundred warriors through each with horses and
chariots - nay, nor gifts in number as sand or dust; not even so shall
Agamemnon persuade my soul till he have paid me back all the bitter
despite. And the daughter of Agamemnon son of Atreus will I not wed, not
were she rival of golden Aphrodite for fairness and for handiwork
matched bright-eyed Athene - not even then will I wed her; let him choose
him of the Achaians another that is his peer and is more royal than I.
For if the gods indeed preserve me and I come unto my home, then will
Peleus himself seek me a wife. Many Achaian maidens are there throughout
Hellas and Phthia, daughters of princes that ward their cities;
whomsoever of these I wish will I make my dear lady. Very often was my
high soul moved to take me there a wedded wife, a help meet for me, and
have joy of the possessions that the old man Peleus possesseth. For not
of like worth with life hold I even all the wealth that men say was
possessed of the well-peopled city of Ilios in days of peace gone by,
before the sons of the Achaians came; neither all the treasure that the
stone threshold of the archer Phoebus Apollo encompasseth in rocky
Pytho. For kine and goodly flocks are to be had for the harrying, and
tripods and chestnut horses for the purchasing; but to bring back man's
life neither harrying nor earning availeth when once it hath passed the
barrier of his lips. For thus my goddess mother telleth me, Thetis the
silver-footed, that twain fates are bearing me to the issue of death. If
I abide here and besiege the Trojans' city, then my returning home is
taken from me, but my fame shall be imperishable; but if I go home to my
dear native land, my high fame is taken from me, but my life shall
endure long while, neither shall the issue of death soon reach me.
Moreover I would counsel you all to set sail homeward, seeing ye shall
never reach your goal of steep Ilios; of a surety far-seeing Zeus
holdeth his hand over her and her folk are of good courage. So go your
way and tell my answer to the princes of the Achaians, even as is the
office of elders, that they may devise in their hearts some other better
counsel, such as shall save them their ships and the host of the
Achaians amid the hollow ships: since this counsel availeth them naught
that they have now devised, by reason of my fierce wrath. But let
Phoinix now abide with us and lay him to rest, that he may follow with
me on my ships to our dear native land to-morrow, if he will; for I will
not take him perforce."

So spake he, and they all held their peace and were still, and marvelled
at his saying; for he denied them very vehemently. But at the last spake
to them the old knight Phoinix, bursting into tears, because he was sore
afraid for the ships of the Achaians: "If indeed thou ponderest
departure in thy heart, glorious Achilles, and hast no mind at all to
save the fleet ships from consuming fire, because that wrath bath
entered into thy heart; how can I be left of thee, dear son, alone
thereafter? To thee did the old knight Peleus send me the day he sent
thee to Agamemnon forth from Phthia, a stripling yet unskilled in equal
war and in debate wherein men wax pre-eminent. Therefore sent he me to
teach thee all these things, to be both a speaker of words and a doer of
deeds. Yea, I reared thee to this greatness, thou godlike Achilles, with
my heart's love; for with none other wouldest thou go unto the feast,
neither take meat in the hall, till that I had set thee upon my knees
and stayed thee with the savoury morsel cut first for thee, and put the
wine-cup to thy lips. Oft hast thou stained the doublet on my breast
with sputtering of wine in thy sorry helplessness. Thus I suffered much
with thee, and much I toiled, being mindful that the gods in nowise
created any issue of my body; but I made thee my son, thou godlike
Achilles, that thou mayest yet save me from grievous destruction.
Therefore, Achilles, rule thy high spirit; neither beseemeth it thee to
have a ruthless heart. Nay, even the very gods can bend, and theirs
withal is loftier majesty and honour and might. Nay, come for the gifts;
the Achaians shall honour thee even as a god. But if without gifts thou
enter into battle the bane of men, thou wilt not be held in like honour,
even though thou avert the fray."

And Achilles fleet of foot made answer and said to him: "Phoinix my
father, thou old man fosterling of Zeus, such honour need I in no wise;
for I deem that I have been honoured by the judgment of Zeus, which
shall abide upon me amid my beaked ships as long as breath tarrieth in
my body and my limbs are strong. Moreover I will say this thing to thee
and lay thou it to thine heart; trouble not my soul by weeping and
lamentation, to do the pleasure of warrior Atreides; neither beseemeth
it thee to cherish him, lest thou be hated of me that cherish thee. It
were good that thou with me shouldest vex him that vexeth me. Be thou
king even as I, and share my sway by halves, but these shall bear my
message. So tarry thou here and lay thee to rest in a soft bed, and with
break of day will we consider whether to depart unto our own, or to

He spake, and nodded his brow in silence unto Patroklos to spread for
Phoinix a thick couch, that the others might bethink them to depart from
the hut with speed. Then spake to them Aias, Telamon's godlike son, and
said: "Heaven-sprung son of Laertes, Odysseus of many wiles, let us go
hence; for methinks the purpose of our charge will not by this journey
be accomplished; and we must tell the news, though it be no wise good,
with all speed unto the Danaans, that now sit awaiting. But Achilles
hath wrought his proud soul to fury within him - stubborn man, that
recketh naught of his comrades' love, wherein we worshipped him beyond
all men amid the ships - unmerciful! Yet doth a man accept recompense of
his brother's murderer or for his dead son; and so the man-slayer for a
great price abideth in his own land, and the kinsman's heart is
appeased, and his proud soul, when he hath taken the recompense. But for
thee, the gods have put within thy breast a spirit implacable and evil,
by reason of one single damsel. And now we offer thee seven damsels, far
best of all, and many other gifts besides; entertain thou then a kindly
spirit, and have respect unto thine home; because we are guests of thy

Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad → online text (page 11 of 31)