Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Book XIV

BOOK XIV

NESTOR was sitting over his wine, but the cry of battle did not

escape him, and he said to the son of Aesculapius, "What, noble

Machaon, is the meaning of all this? The shouts of men fighting

by our ships grow stronger and stronger; stay here, therefore,

and sit over your wine, while fair Hecamede heats you a bath and

washes the clotted blood from off you. I will go at once to the

look-out station and see what it is all about."

As he spoke he took up the shield of his son Thrasymedes that was

lying in his tent, all gleaming with bronze, for Thrasymedes had

taken his father's shield; he grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod

spear, and as soon as he was outside saw the disastrous rout of

the Achaeans who, now that their wall was overthrown, were flying

pell-mell before the Trojans. As when there is a heavy swell upon

the sea, but the waves are dumb--they keep their eyes on the

watch for the quarter whence the fierce winds may spring upon

them, but they stay where they are and set neither this way nor

that, till some particular wind sweeps down from heaven to

determine them--even so did the old man ponder whether to make

for the crowd of Danaans, or go in search of Agamemnon. In the

end he deemed it best to go to the son of Atreus; but meanwhile

the hosts were fighting and killing one another, and the hard

bronze rattled on their bodies, as they thrust at one another

with their swords and spears.

The wounded kings, the son of Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon son

of Atreus, fell in Nestor as they were coming up from their

ships--for theirs were drawn up some way from where the fighting

was going on, being on the shore itself inasmuch as they had been

beached first, while the wall had been built behind the

hindermost. The stretch of the shore, wide though it was, did not

afford room for all the ships, and the host was cramped for

space, therefore they had placed the ships in rows one behind the

other, and had filled the whole opening of the bay between the

two points that formed it. The kings, leaning on their spears,

were coming out to survey the fight, being in great anxiety, and

when old Nestor met them they were filled with dismay. Then King

Agamemnon said to him, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour to the

Achaean name, why have you left the battle to come hither? I fear

that what dread Hector said will come true, when he vaunted among

the Trojans saying that he would not return to Ilius till he had

fired our ships and killed us; this is what he said, and now it

is all coming true. Alas! others of the Achaeans, like Achilles,

are in anger with me that they refuse to fight by the sterns of

our ships."

Then Nestor knight of Gerene, answered, "It is indeed as you say;

it is all coming true at this moment, and even Jove who thunders

from on high cannot prevent it. Fallen is the wall on which we

relied as an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet. The

Trojans are fighting stubbornly and without ceasing at the ships;

look where you may you cannot see from what quarter the rout of

the Achaeans is coming; they are being killed in a confused mass

and the battle-cry ascends to heaven; let us think, if counsel

can be of any use, what we had better do; but I do not advise our

going into battle ourselves, for a man cannot fight when he is

wounded."

And King Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, if the Trojans are indeed

fighting at the rear of our ships, and neither the wall nor the

trench has served us--over which the Danaans toiled so hard, and

which they deemed would be an impregnable bulwark both for us and

our fleet--I see it must be the will of Jove that the Achaeans

should perish ingloriously here, far from Argos. I knew when Jove

was willing to defend us, and I know now that he is raising the

Trojans to like honour with the gods, while us, on the other

hand, he bas bound hand and foot. Now, therefore, let us all do

as I say; let us bring down the ships that are on the beach and

draw them into the water; let us make them fast to their

mooring-stones a little way out, against the fall of night--if

even by night the Trojans will desist from fighting; we may then

draw down the rest of the fleet. There is nothing wrong in flying

ruin even by night. It is better for a man that he should fly and

be saved than be caught and killed."

Ulysses looked fiercely at him and said, "Son of Atreus, what are

you talking about? Wretch, you should have commanded some other

and baser army, and not been ruler over us to whom Jove has

allotted a life of hard fighting from youth to old age, till we

every one of us perish. Is it thus that you would quit the city

of Troy, to win which we have suffered so much hardship? Hold

your peace, lest some other of the Achaeans hear you say what no

man who knows how to give good counsel, no king over so great a

host as that of the Argives should ever have let fall from his

lips. I despise your judgement utterly for what you have been

saying. Would you, then, have us draw down our ships into the

water while the battle is raging, and thus play further into the

hands of the conquering Trojans? It would be ruin; the Achaeans

will not go on fighting when they see the ships being drawn into

the water, but will cease attacking and keep turning their eyes

towards them; your counsel, therefore, sir captain, would be our

destruction."

Agamemnon answered, "Ulysses, your rebuke has stung me to the

heart. I am not, however, ordering the Achaeans to draw their

ships into the sea whether they will or no. Someone, it may be,

old or young, can offer us better counsel which I shall rejoice

to hear."

Then said Diomed, "Such an one is at hand; he is not far to seek,

if you will listen to me and not resent my speaking though I am

younger than any of you. I am by lineage son to a noble sire,

Tydeus, who lies buried at Thebes. For Portheus had three noble

sons, two of whom, Agrius and Melas, abode in Pleuron and rocky

Calydon. The third was the knight Oeneus, my father's father, and

he was the most valiant of them all. Oeneus remained in his own

country, but my father (as Jove and the other gods ordained it)

migrated to Argos. He married into the family of Adrastus, and

his house was one of great abundance, for he had large estates of

rich corn-growing land, with much orchard ground as well, and he

had many sheep; moreover he excelled all the Argives in the use

of the spear. You must yourselves have heard whether these things

are true or no; therefore when I say well despise not my words as

though I were a coward or of ignoble birth. I say, then, let us

go to the fight as we needs must, wounded though we be. When

there, we may keep out of the battle and beyond the range of the

spears lest we get fresh wounds in addition to what we have

already, but we can spur on others, who have been indulging their

spleen and holding aloof from battle hitherto."

Thus did he speak; whereon they did even as he had said and set

out, King Agamemnon leading the way.

Meanwhile Neptune had kept no blind look-out, and came up to them

in the semblance of an old man. He took Agamemnon's right hand in

his own and said, "Son of Atreus, I take it Achilles is glad now

that he sees the Achaeans routed and slain, for he is utterly

without remorse--may he come to a bad end and heaven confound

him. As for yourself, the blessed gods are not yet so bitterly

angry with you but that the princes and counsellors of the

Trojans shall again raise the dust upon the plain, and you shall

see them flying from the ships and tents towards their city."

With this he raised a mighty cry of battle, and sped forward to

the plain. The voice that came from his deep chest was as that of

nine or ten thousand men when they are shouting in the thick of a

fight, and it put fresh courage into the hearts of the Achaeans

to wage war and do battle without ceasing.

Juno of the golden throne looked down as she stood upon a peak of

Olympus and her heart was gladdened at the sight of him who was

at once her brother and her brother-in-law, hurrying hither and

thither amid the fighting. Then she turned her eyes to Jove as he

sat on the topmost crests of many-fountained Ida, and loathed

him. She set herself to think how she might hoodwink him, and in

the end she deemed that it would be best for her to go to Ida and

array herself in rich attire, in the hope that Jove might become

enamoured of her, and wish to embrace her. While he was thus

engaged a sweet and careless sleep might be made to steal over

his eyes and senses.

She went, therefore, to the room which her son Vulcan had made

her, and the doors of which he had cunningly fastened by means of

a secret key so that no other god could open them. Here she

entered and closed the doors behind her. She cleansed all the

dirt from her fair body with ambrosia, then she anointed herself

with olive oil, ambrosial, very soft, and scented specially for

herself--if it were so much as shaken in the bronze-floored house

of Jove, the scent pervaded the universe of heaven and earth.

With this she anointed her delicate skin, and then she plaited

the fair ambrosial locks that flowed in a stream of golden

tresses from her immortal head. She put on the wondrous robe

which Minerva had worked for her with consummate art, and had

embroidered with manifold devices; she fastened it about her

bosom with golden clasps, and she girded herself with a girdle

that had a hundred tassels: then she fastened her earrings, three

brilliant pendants that glistened most beautifully, through the

pierced lobes of her ears, and threw a lovely new veil over her

head. She bound her sandals on to her feet, and when she had

arrayed herself perfectly to her satisfaction, she left her room

and called Venus to come aside and speak to her. "My dear child,"

said she, "will you do what I am going to ask of you, or will

refuse me because you are angry at my being on the Danaan side,

while you are on the Trojan?"

Jove's daughter Venus answered, "Juno, august queen of goddesses,

daughter of mighty Saturn, say what you want, and I will do it

for you at once, if I can, and if it can be done at all."

Then Juno told her a lying tale and said, "I want you to endow me

with some of those fascinating charms, the spells of which bring

all things mortal and immortal to your feet. I am going to the

world's end to visit Oceanus (from whom all we gods proceed) and

mother Tethys: they received me in their house, took care of me,

and brought me up, having taken me over from Rhaea when Jove

imprisoned great Saturn in the depths that are under earth and

sea. I must go and see them that I may make peace between them;

they have been quarrelling, and are so angry that they have not

slept with one another this long while; if I can bring them round

and restore them to one another's embraces, they will be grateful

to me and love me for ever afterwards."

Thereon laughter-loving Venus said, "I cannot and must not refuse

you, for you sleep in the arms of Jove who is our king."

As she spoke she loosed from her bosom the curiously embroidered

girdle into which all her charms had been wrought--love, desire,

and that sweet flattery which steals the judgement even of the

most prudent. She gave the girdle to Juno and said, "Take this

girdle wherein all my charms reside and lay it in your bosom. If

you will wear it I promise you that your errand, be it what it

may, will not be bootless."

When she heard this Juno smiled, and still smiling she laid the

girdle in her bosom.

Venus now went back into the house of Jove, while Juno darted

down from the summits of Olympus. She passed over Pieria and fair

Emathia, and went on and on till she came to the snowy ranges of

the Thracian horsemen, over whose topmost crests she sped without

ever setting foot to ground. When she came to Athos she went on

over the, waves of the sea till she reached Lemnos, the city of

noble Thoas. There she met Sleep, own brother to Death, and

caught him by the hand, saying, "Sleep, you who lord it alike

over mortals and immortals, if you ever did me a service in times

past, do one for me now, and I shall be grateful to you ever

after. Close Jove's keen eyes for me in slumber while I hold him

clasped in my embrace, and I will give you a beautiful golden

seat, that can never fall to pieces; my clubfooted son Vulcan

shall make it for you, and he shall give it a footstool for you

to rest your fair feet upon when you are at table."

Then Sleep answered, "Juno, great queen of goddesses, daughter of

mighty Saturn, I would lull any other of the gods to sleep

without compunction, not even excepting the waters of Oceanus

from whom all of them proceed, but I dare not go near Jove, nor

send him to sleep unless he bids me. I have had one lesson

already through doing what you asked me, on the day when Jove's

mighty son Hercules set sail from Ilius after having sacked the

city of the Trojans. At your bidding I suffused my sweet self

over the mind of aegis-bearing Jove, and laid him to rest;

meanwhile you hatched a plot against Hercules, and set the blasts

of the angry winds beating upon the sea, till you took him to the

goodly city of Cos, away from all his friends. Jove was furious

when he awoke, and began hurling the gods about all over the

house; he was looking more particularly for myself, and would

have flung me down through space into the sea where I should

never have been heard of any more, had not Night who cows both

men and gods protected me. I fled to her and Jove left off

looking for me in spite of his being so angry, for he did not

dare do anything to displease Night. And now you are again asking

me to do something on which I cannot venture."

And Juno said, "Sleep, why do you take such notions as those into

your head? Do you think Jove will be as anxious to help the

Trojans, as he was about his own son? Come, I will marry you to

one of the youngest of the Graces, and she shall be your own--

Pasithea, whom you have always wanted to marry."

Sleep was pleased when he heard this, and answered, "Then swear

it to me by the dread waters of the river Styx; lay one hand on

the bounteous earth, and the other on the sheen of the sea, so

that all the gods who dwell down below with Saturn may be our

witnesses, and see that you really do give me one of the youngest

of the Graces--Pasithea, whom I have always wanted to marry."

Juno did as he had said. She swore, and invoked all the gods of

the nether world, who are called Titans, to witness. When she had

completed her oath, the two enshrouded themselves in a thick mist

and sped lightly forward, leaving Lemnos and Imbrus behind them.

Presently they reached many-fountained Ida, mother of wild

beasts, and Lectum where they left the sea to go on by land, and

the tops of the trees of the forest soughed under the going of

their feet. Here Sleep halted, and ere Jove caught sight of him

he climbed a lofty pine-tree--the tallest that reared its head

towards heaven on all Ida. He hid himself behind the branches and

sat there in the semblance of the sweet-singing bird that haunts

the mountains and is called Chalcis by the gods, but men call it

Cymindis. Juno then went to Gargarus, the topmost peak of Ida,

and Jove, driver of the clouds, set eyes upon her. As soon as he

did so he became inflamed with the same passionate desire for her

that he had felt when they had first enjoyed each other's

embraces, and slept with one another without their dear parents

knowing anything about it. He went up to her and said, "What do

you want that you have come hither from Olympus--and that too

with neither chariot nor horses to convey you?"

Then Juno told him a lying tale and said, "I am going to the

world's end, to visit Oceanus, from whom all we gods proceed, and

mother Tethys; they received me into their house, took care of

me, and brought me up. I must go and see them that I may make

peace between them: they have been quarrelling, and are so angry

that they have not slept with one another this long time. The

horses that will take me over land and sea are stationed on the

lowermost spurs of many-fountained Ida, and I have come here from

Olympus on purpose to consult you. I was afraid you might be

angry with me later on, if I went to the house of Oceanus without

letting you know."

And Jove said, "Juno, you can choose some other time for paying

your visit to Oceanus--for the present let us devote ourselves to

love and to the enjoyment of one another. Never yet have I been

so overpowered by passion neither for goddess nor mortal woman as

I am at this moment for yourself--not even when I was in love

with the wife of Ixion who bore me Pirithous, peer of gods in

counsel, nor yet with Danae the daintily-ancled daughter of

Acrisius, who bore me the famed hero Perseus. Then there was the

daughter of Phoenix, who bore me Minos and Rhadamanthus: there

was Semele, and Alcmena in Thebes by whom I begot my lion-hearted

son Hercules, while Semele became mother to Bacchus the comforter

of mankind. There was queen Ceres again, and lovely Leto, and

yourself--but with none of these was I ever so much enamoured as

I now am with you."

Juno again answered him with a lying tale. "Most dread son of

Saturn," she exclaimed, "what are you talking about? Would you

have us enjoy one another here on the top of Mount Ida, where

everything can be seen? What if one of the ever-living gods

should see us sleeping together, and tell the others? It would be

such a scandal that when I had risen from your embraces I could

never show myself inside your house again; but if you are so

minded, there is a room which your son Vulcan has made me, and he

has given it good strong doors; if you would so have it, let us

go thither and lie down."

And Jove answered, "Juno, you need not be afraid that either god

or man will see you, for I will enshroud both of us in such a

dense golden cloud, that the very sun for all his bright piercing

beams shall not see through it."

With this the son of Saturn caught his wife in his embrace;

whereon the earth sprouted them a cushion of young grass, with

dew-bespangled lotus, crocus, and hyacinth, so soft and thick

that it raised them well above the ground. Here they laid

themselves down and overhead they were covered by a fair cloud of

gold, from which there fell glittering dew-drops.

Thus, then, did the sire of all things repose peacefully on the

crest of Ida, overcome at once by sleep and love, and he held his

spouse in his arms. Meanwhile Sleep made off to the ships of the

Achaeans, to tell earth-encircling Neptune, lord of the

earthquake. When he had found him he said, "Now, Neptune, you can

help the Danaans with a will, and give them victory though it be

only for a short time while Jove is still sleeping. I have sent

him into a sweet slumber, and Juno has beguiled him into going to

bed with her."

Sleep now departed and went his ways to and fro among mankind,

leaving Neptune more eager than ever to help the Danaans. He

darted forward among the first ranks and shouted saying,

"Argives, shall we let Hector son of Priam have the triumph of

taking our ships and covering himself with glory? This is what he

says that he shall now do, seeing that Achilles is still in

dudgeon at his ship; we shall get on very well without him if we

keep each other in heart and stand by one another. Now,

therefore, let us all do as I say. Let us each take the best and

largest shield we can lay hold of, put on our helmets, and sally

forth with our longest spears in our hands; I will lead you on,

and Hector son of Priam, rage as he may, will not dare to hold

out against us. If any good staunch soldier has only a small

shield, let him hand it over to a worse man, and take a larger

one for himself."

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. The son of

Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon, wounded though they were, set the

others in array, and went about everywhere effecting the

exchanges of armour; the most valiant took the best armour, and

gave the worse to the worse man. When they had donned their

bronze armour they marched on with Neptune at their head. In his

strong hand he grasped his terrible sword, keen of edge and

flashing like lightning; woe to him who comes across it in the

day of battle; all men quake for fear and keep away from it.

Hector on the other side set the Trojans in array. Thereon

Neptune and Hector waged fierce war on one another--Hector on the

Trojan and Neptune on the Argive side. Mighty was the uproar as

the two forces met; the sea came rolling in towards the ships and

tents of the Achaeans, but waves do not thunder on the shore more

loudly when driven before the blast of Boreas, nor do the flames

of a forest fire roar more fiercely when it is well alight upon

the mountains, nor does the wind bellow with ruder music as it

tears on through the tops of when it is blowing its hardest, than

the terrible shout which the Trojans and Achaeans raised as they

sprang upon one another.

Hector first aimed his spear at Ajax, who was turned full towards

him, nor did he miss his aim. The spear struck him where two

bands passed over his chest--the band of his shield and that of

his silver-studded sword--and these protected his body. Hector

was angry that his spear should have been hurled in vain, and

withdrew under cover of his men. As he was thus retreating, Ajax

son of Telamon, struck him with a stone, of which there were many

lying about under the men's feet as they fought--brought there to

give support to the ships' sides as they lay on the shore. Ajax

caught up one of them and struck Hector above the rim of his

shield close to his neck; the blow made him spin round like a top

and reel in all directions. As an oak falls headlong when

uprooted by the lightning flash of father Jove, and there is a

terrible smell of brimstone--no man can help being dismayed if he

is standing near it, for a thunderbolt is a very awful thing--

even so did Hector fall to earth and bite the dust. His spear

fell from his hand, but his shield and helmet were made fast

about his body, and his bronze armour rang about him.

The sons of the Achaeans came running with a loud cry towards

him, hoping to drag him away, and they showered their darts on

the Trojans, but none of them could wound him before he was

surrounded and covered by the princes Polydamas, Aeneas, Agenor,

Sarpedon captain of the Lycians, and noble Glaucus. Of the

others, too, there was not one who was unmindful of him, and they

held their round shields over him to cover him. His comrades then

lifted him off the ground and bore him away from the battle to

the place where his horses stood waiting for him at the rear of

the fight with their driver and the chariot; these then took him

towards the city groaning and in great pain. When they reached

the ford of the fair stream of Xanthus, begotten of Immortal

Jove, they took him from off his chariot and laid him down on the

ground; they poured water over him, and as they did so he

breathed again and opened his eyes. Then kneeling on his knees he

vomited blood, but soon fell back on to the ground, and his eyes

were again closed in darkness for he was still stunned by the

blow.

When the Argives saw Hector leaving the field, they took heart

and set upon the Trojans yet more furiously. Ajax fleet son of

Oileus began by springing on Satnius son of Enops, and wounding

him with his spear: a fair naiad nymph had borne him to Enops as

he was herding cattle by the banks of the river Satnioeis. The

son of Oileus came up to him and struck him in the flank so that

he fell, and a fierce fight between Trojans and Danaans raged

round his body. Polydamas son of Panthous drew near to avenge

him, and wounded Prothoenor son of Areilycus on the right

shoulder; the terrible spear went right through his shoulder, and

he clutched the earth as he fell in the dust. Polydamas vaunted

loudly over him saying, "Again I take it that the spear has not

sped in vain from the strong hand of the son of Panthous; an

Argive has caught it in his body, and it will serve him for a

staff as he goes down into the house of Hades."

The Argives were maddened by this boasting. Ajax son of Telamon

was more angry than any, for the man had fallen close beside him;

so he aimed at Polydamas as he was retreating, but Polydamas

saved himself by swerving aside and the spear struck Archelochus

son of Antenor, for heaven counselled his destruction; it struck

him where the head springs from the neck at the top joint of the

spine, and severed both the tendons at the back of the head. His

head, mouth, and nostrils reached the ground long before his legs

and knees could do so, and Ajax shouted to Polydamas saying,

"Think, Polydamas, and tell me truly whether this man is not as

well worth killing as Prothoenor was: he seems rich, and of rich

family, a brother, it may be, or son of the knight Antenor, for

he is very like him."

But he knew well who it was, and the Trojans were greatly

angered. Acamas then bestrode his brother's body and wounded

Promachus the Boeotian with his spear, for he was trying to drag

his brother's body away. Acamas vaunted loudly over him saying,

"Argive archers, braggarts that you are, toil and suffering shall

not be for us only, but some of you too shall fall here as well

as ourselves. See how Promachus now sleeps, vanquished by my

spear; payment for my brother's blood has not been long delayed;

a man, therefore, may well be thankful if he leaves a kinsman in

his house behind him to avenge his fall."

His taunts infuriated the Argives, and Peneleos was more enraged

than any of them. He sprang towards Acamas, but Acamas did not

stand his ground, and he killed Ilioneus son of the rich

flock-master Phorbas, whom Mercury had favoured and endowed with

greater wealth than any other of the Trojans. Ilioneus was his

only son, and Peneleos now wounded him in the eye under his

eyebrows, tearing the eye-ball from its socket: the spear went

right through the eye into the nape of the neck, and he fell,

stretching out both hands before him. Peneleos then drew his

sword and smote him on the neck, so that both head and helmet

came tumbling down to the ground with the spear still sticking in

the eye; he then held up the head, as though it had been a

poppy-head, and showed it to the Trojans, vaunting over them as

he did so. "Trojans," he cried, "bid the father and mother of

noble Ilioneus make moan for him in their house, for the wife

also of Promachus son of Alegenor will never be gladdened by the

coming of her dear husband--when we Argives return with our ships

from Troy."

As he spoke fear fell upon them, and every man looked round about

to see whither he might fly for safety.

Tell me now, O Muses that dwell on Olympus, who was the first of

the Argives to bear away blood-stained spoils after Neptune lord

of the earthquake had turned the fortune of war. Ajax son of

Telamon was first to wound Hyrtius son of Gyrtius, captain of the

staunch Mysians. Antilochus killed Phalces and Mermerus, while

Meriones slew Morys and Hippotion, Teucer also killed Prothoon

and Periphetes. The son of Atreus then wounded Hyperenor shepherd

of his people, in the flank, and the bronze point made his

entrails gush out as it tore in among them; on this his life came

hurrying out of him at the place where he had been wounded, and

his eyes were closed in darkness. Ajax son of Oileus killed more

than any other, for there was no man so fleet as he to pursue

flying foes when Jove had spread panic among them.

 Homer

Sorry, no summary available yet.