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Book XX


THUS, then, did the Achaeans arm by their ships round you, O son

of Peleus, who were hungering for battle; while the Trojans over

against them armed upon the rise of the plain.

Meanwhile Jove from the top of many-delled Olympus, bade Themis

gather the gods in council, whereon she went about and called

them to the house of Jove. There was not a river absent except

Oceanus, nor a single one of the nymphs that haunt fair groves,

or springs of rivers and meadows of green grass. When they

reached the house of cloud-compelling Jove, they took their seats

in the arcades of polished marble which Vulcan with his

consummate skill had made for father Jove.

In such wise, therefore, did they gather in the house of Jove.

Neptune also, lord of the earthquake, obeyed the call of the

goddess, and came up out of the sea to join them. There, sitting

in the midst of them, he asked what Jove's purpose might be.

"Why," said he, "wielder of the lightning, have you called the

gods in council? Are you considering some matter that concerns

the Trojans and Achaeans--for the blaze of battle is on the point

of being kindled between them?"

And Jove answered, "You know my purpose, shaker of earth, and

wherefore I have called you hither. I take thought for them even

in their destruction. For my own part I shall stay here seated on

Mt. Olympus and look on in peace, but do you others go about

among Trojans and Achaeans, and help either side as you may be

severally disposed. If Achilles fights the Trojans without

hindrance they will make no stand against him; they have ever

trembled at the sight of him, and now that he is roused to such

fury about his comrade, he will override fate itself and storm

their city."

Thus spoke Jove and gave the word for war, whereon the gods took

their several sides and went into battle. Juno, Pallas Minerva,

earth-encircling Neptune, Mercury bringer of good luck and

excellent in all cunning--all these joined the host that came

from the ships; with them also came Vulcan in all his glory,

limping, but yet with his thin legs plying lustily under him.

Mars of gleaming helmet joined the Trojans, and with him Apollo

of locks unshorn, and the archer goddess Diana, Leto, Xanthus,

and laughter-loving Venus.

So long as the gods held themselves aloof from mortal warriors

the Achaeans were triumphant, for Achilles who had long refused

to fight was now with them. There was not a Trojan but his limbs

failed him for fear as he beheld the fleet son of Peleus all

glorious in his armour, and looking like Mars himself. When,

however, the Olympians came to take their part among men,

forthwith uprose strong Strife, rouser of hosts, and Minerva

raised her loud voice, now standing by the deep trench that ran

outside the wall, and now shouting with all her might upon the

shore of the sounding sea. Mars also bellowed out upon the other

side, dark as some black thunder-cloud, and called on the Trojans

at the top of his voice, now from the acropolis, and now speeding

up the side of the river Simois till he came to the hill


Thus did the gods spur on both hosts to fight, and rouse fierce

contention also among themselves. The sire of gods and men

thundered from heaven above, while from beneath Neptune shook the

vast earth, and bade the high hills tremble. The spurs and crests

of many-fountained Ida quaked, as also the city of the Trojans

and the ships of the Achaeans. Hades, king of the realms below,

was struck with fear; he sprang panic-stricken from his throne

and cried aloud in terror lest Neptune, lord of the earthquake,

should crack the ground over his head, and lay bare his mouldy

mansions to the sight of mortals and immortals--mansions so

ghastly grim that even the gods shudder to think of them. Such

was the uproar as the gods came together in battle. Apollo with

his arrows took his stand to face King Neptune, while Minerva

took hers against the god of war; the archer-goddess Diana with

her golden arrows, sister of far-darting Apollo, stood to face

Juno; Mercury the lusty bringer of good luck faced Leto, while

the mighty eddying river whom men can Scamander, but gods

Xanthus, matched himself against Vulcan.

The gods, then, were thus ranged against one another. But the

heart of Achilles was set on meeting Hector son of Priam, for it

was with his blood that he longed above all things else to glut

the stubborn lord of battle. Meanwhile Apollo set Aeneas on to

attack the son of Peleus, and put courage into his heart,

speaking with the voice of Lycaon son of Priam. In his likeness

therefore, he said to Aeneas, "Aeneas, counsellor of the Trojans,

where are now the brave words with which you vaunted over your

wine before the Trojan princes, saying that you would fight

Achilles son of Peleus in single combat?"

And Aeneas answered, "Why do you thus bid me fight the proud son

of Peleus, when I am in no mind to do so? Were I to face him now,

it would not be for the first time. His spear has already put me

to Right from Ida, when he attacked our cattle and sacked

Lyrnessus and Pedasus; Jove indeed saved me in that he vouchsafed

me strength to fly, else had the fallen by the hands of Achilles

and Minerva, who went before him to protect him and urged him to

fall upon the Lelegae and Trojans. No man may fight Achilles, for

one of the gods is always with him as his guardian angel, and

even were it not so, his weapon flies ever straight, and fails

not to pierce the flesh of him who is against him; if heaven

would let me fight him on even terms he should not soon overcome

me, though he boasts that he is made of bronze."

Then said King Apollo, son to Jove, "Nay, hero, pray to the

ever-living gods, for men say that you were born of Jove's

daughter Venus, whereas Achilles is son to a goddess of inferior

rank. Venus is child to Jove, while Thetis is but daughter to the

old man of the sea. Bring, therefore, your spear to bear upon

him, and let him not scare you with his taunts and menaces."

As he spoke he put courage into the heart of the shepherd of his

people, and he strode in full armour among the ranks of the

foremost fighters. Nor did the son of Anchises escape the notice

of white-armed Juno, as he went forth into the throng to meet

Achilles. She called the gods about her, and said, "Look to it,

you two, Neptune and Minerva, and consider how this shall be;

Phoebus Apollo has been sending Aeneas clad in full armour to

fight Achilles. Shall we turn him back at once, or shall one of

us stand by Achilles and endow him with strength so that his

heart fail not, and he may learn that the chiefs of the immortals

are on his side, while the others who have all along been

defending the Trojans are but vain helpers? Let us all come down

from Olympus and join in the fight, that this day he may take no

hurt at the hands of the Trojans. Hereafter let him suffer

whatever fate may have spun out for him when he was begotten and

his mother bore him. If Achilles be not thus assured by the voice

of a god, he may come to fear presently when one of us meets him

in battle, for the gods are terrible if they are seen face to


Neptune lord of the earthquake answered her saying, "Juno,

restrain your fury; it is not well; I am not in favour of forcing

the other gods to fight us, for the advantage is too greatly on

our own side; let us take our places on some hill out of the

beaten track, and let mortals fight it out among themselves. If

Mars or Phoebus Apollo begin fighting, or keep Achilles in check

so that he cannot fight, we too, will at once raise the cry of

battle, and in that case they will soon leave the field and go

back vanquished to Olympus among the other gods."

With these words the dark-haired god led the way to the high

earth-barrow of Hercules, built round solid masonry, and made by

the Trojans and Pallas Minerva for him fly to when the

sea-monster was chasing him from the shore on to the plain. Here

Neptune and those that were with him took their seats, wrapped in

a thick cloud of darkness; but the other gods seated themselves

on the brow of Callicolone round you, O Phoebus, and Mars the

waster of cities.

Thus did the gods sit apart and form their plans, but neither

side was willing to begin battle with the other, and Jove from

his seat on high was in command over them all. Meanwhile the

whole plain was alive with men and horses, and blazing with the

gleam of armour. The earth rang again under the tramp of their

feet as they rushed towards each other, and two champions, by far

the foremost of them all, met between the hosts to fight--to wit,

Aeneas son of Anchises, and noble Achilles.

Aeneas was first to stride forward in attack, his doughty helmet

tossing defiance as he came on. He held his strong shield before

his breast, and brandished his bronze spear. The son of Peleus

from the other side sprang forth to meet him, like some fierce

lion that the whole country-side has met to hunt and kill--at

first he bodes no ill, but when some daring youth has struck him

with a spear, he crouches openmouthed, his jaws foam, he roars

with fury, he lashes his tail from side to side about his ribs

and loins, and glares as he springs straight before him, to find

out whether he is to slay, or be slain among the foremost of his

foes--even with such fury did Achilles burn to spring upon


When they were now close up with one another Achilles was first

to speak. "Aeneas," said he, "why do you stand thus out before

the host to fight me? Is it that you hope to reign over the

Trojans in the seat of Priam? Nay, though you kill me Priam will

not hand his kingdom over to you. He is a man of sound judgement,

and he has sons of his own. Or have the Trojans been allotting

you a demesne of passing richness, fair with orchard lawns and

corn lands, if you should slay me? This you shall hardly do. I

have discomfited you once already. Have you forgotten how when

you were alone I chased you from your herds helter-skelter down

the slopes of Ida? You did not turn round to look behind you; you

took refuge in Lyrnessus, but I attacked the city, and with the

help of Minerva and father Jove I sacked it and carried its women

into captivity, though Jove and the other gods rescued you. You

think they will protect you now, but they will not do so;

therefore I say go back into the host, and do not face me, or you

will rue it. Even a fool may be wise after the event."

Then Aeneas answered, "Son of Peleus, think not that your words

can scare me as though I were a child. I too, if I will, can brag

and talk unseemly. We know one another's race and parentage as

matters of common fame, though neither have you ever seen my

parents nor I yours. Men say that you are son to noble Peleus,

and that your mother is Thetis, fair-haired daughter of the sea.

I have noble Anchises for my father, and Venus for my mother; the

parents of one or other of us shall this day mourn a son, for it

will be more than silly talk that shall part us when the fight is

over. Learn, then, my lineage if you will--and it is known to


"In the beginning Dardanus was the son of Jove, and founded

Dardania, for Ilius was not yet stablished on the plain for men

to dwell in, and her people still abode on the spurs of

many-fountained Ida. Dardanus had a son, king Erichthonius, who

was wealthiest of all men living; he had three thousand mares

that fed by the water-meadows, they and their foals with them.

Boreas was enamoured of them as they were feeding, and covered

them in the semblance of a dark-maned stallion. Twelve filly

foals did they conceive and bear him, and these, as they sped

over the rich plain, would go bounding on over the ripe ears of

corn and not break them; or again when they would disport

themselves on the broad back of Ocean they could gallop on the

crest of a breaker. Erichthonius begat Tros, king of the Trojans,

and Tros had three noble sons, Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede who

was comeliest of mortal men; wherefore the gods carried him off

to be Jove's cupbearer, for his beauty's sake, that he might

dwell among the immortals. Ilus begat Laomedon, and Laomedon

begat Tithonus, Priam, Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon of the stock

of Mars. But Assaracus was father to Capys, and Capys to

Anchises, who was my father, while Hector is son to Priam.

"Such do I declare my blood and lineage, but as for valour, Jove

gives it or takes it as he will, for he is lord of all. And now

let there be no more of this prating in mid-battle as though we

were children. We could fling taunts without end at one another;

a hundred-oared galley would not hold them. The tongue can run

all whithers and talk all wise; it can go here and there, and as

a man says, so shall he be gainsaid. What is the use of our

bandying hard like women who when they fall foul of one another

go out and wrangle in the streets, one half true and the other

lies, as rage inspires them? No words of yours shall turn me now

that I am fain to fight--therefore let us make trial of one

another with our spears."

As he spoke he drove his spear at the great and terrible shield

of Achilles, which rang out as the point struck it. The son of

Peleus held the shield before him with his strong hand, and he

was afraid, for he deemed that Aeneas's spear would go through it

quite easily, not reflecting that the god's glorious gifts were

little likely to yield before the blows of mortal men; and indeed

Aeneas's spear did not pierce the shield, for the layer of gold,

gift of the god, stayed the point. It went through two layers,

but the god had made the shield in five, two of bronze, the two

innermost ones of tin, and one of gold; it was in this that the

spear was stayed.

Achilles in his turn threw, and struck the round shield of Aeneas

at the very edge, where the bronze was thinnest; the spear of

Pelian ash went clean through, and the shield rang under the

blow; Aeneas was afraid, and crouched backwards, holding the

shield away from him; the spear, however, flew over his back, and

stuck quivering in the ground, after having gone through both

circles of the sheltering shield. Aeneas though he had avoided

the spear, stood still, blinded with fear and grief because the

weapon had gone so near him; then Achilles sprang furiously upon

him, with a cry as of death and with his keen blade drawn, and

Aeneas seized a great stone, so huge that two men, as men now

are, would be unable to lift it, but Aeneas wielded it quite


Aeneas would then have struck Achilles as he was springing

towards him, either on the helmet, or on the shield that covered

him, and Achilles would have closed with him and despatched him

with his sword, had not Neptune lord of the earthquake been quick

to mark, and said forthwith to the immortals, "Alas, I am sorry

for great Aeneas, who will now go down to the house of Hades,

vanquished by the son of Peleus. Fool that he was to give ear to

the counsel of Apollo. Apollo will never save him from

destruction. Why should this man suffer when he is guiltless, to

no purpose, and in another's quarrel? Has he not at all times

offered acceptable sacrifice to the gods that dwell in heaven?

Let us then snatch him from death's jaws, lest the son of Saturn

be angry should Achilles slay him. It is fated, moreover, that he

should escape, and that the race of Dardanus, whom Jove loved

above all the sons born to him of mortal women, shall not perish

utterly without seed or sign. For now indeed has Jove hated the

blood of Priam, while Aeneas shall reign over the Trojans, he and

his children's children that shall be born hereafter."

Then answered Juno, "Earth-shaker, look to this matter yourself,

and consider concerning Aeneas, whether you will save him, or

suffer him, brave though he be, to fall by the hand of Achilles

son of Peleus. For of a truth we two, I and Pallas Minerva, have

sworn full many a time before all the immortals, that never would

we shield Trojans from destruction, not even when all Troy is

burning in the flames that the Achaeans shall kindle."

When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went into the battle

amid the clash of spears, and came to the place where Achilles

and Aeneas were. Forthwith he shed a darkness before the eyes of

the son of Peleus, drew the bronze-headed ashen spear from the

shield of Aeneas, and laid it at the feet of Achilles. Then he

lifted Aeneas on high from off the earth and hurried him away.

Over the heads of many a band of warriors both horse and foot did

he soar as the god's hand sped him, till he came to the very

fringe of the battle where the Cauconians were arming themselves

for fight. Neptune, shaker of the earth, then came near to him

and said, "Aeneas, what god has egged you on to this folly in

fighting the son of Peleus, who is both a mightier man of valour

and more beloved of heaven than you are? Give way before him

whensoever you meet him, lest you go down to the house of Hades

even though fate would have it otherwise. When Achilles is dead

you may then fight among the foremost undaunted, for none other

of the Achaeans shall slay you."

The god left him when he had given him these instructions, and at

once removed the darkness from before the eyes of Achilles, who

opened them wide indeed and said in great anger, "Alas! what

marvel am I now beholding? Here is my spear upon the ground, but

I see not him whom I meant to kill when I hurled it. Of a truth

Aeneas also must be under heaven's protection, although I had

thought his boasting was idle. Let him go hang; he will be in no

mood to fight me further, seeing how narrowly he has missed being

killed. I will now give my orders to the Danaans and attack some

other of the Trojans."

He sprang forward along the line and cheered his men on as he did

so. "Let not the Trojans," he cried, "keep you at arm's length,

Achaeans, but go for them and fight them man for man. However

valiant I may be, I cannot give chase to so many and fight all of

them. Even Mars, who is an immortal, or Minerva, would shrink

from flinging himself into the jaws of such a fight and laying

about him; nevertheless, so far as in me lies I will show no

slackness of hand or foot nor want of endurance, not even for a

moment; I will utterly break their ranks, and woe to the Trojan

who shall venture within reach of my spear."

Thus did he exhort them. Meanwhile Hector called upon the Trojans

and declared that he would fight Achilles. "Be not afraid, proud

Trojans," said he, "to face the son of Peleus; I could fight gods

myself if the battle were one of words only, but they would be

more than a match for me, if we had to use our spears. Even so

the deed of Achilles will fall somewhat short of his word; he

will do in part, and the other part he will clip short. I will go

up against him though his hands be as fire--though his hands be

fire and his strength iron."

Thus urged the Trojans lifted up their spears against the

Achaeans, and raised the cry of battle as they flung themselves

into the midst of their ranks. But Phoebus Apollo came up to

Hector and said, "Hector, on no account must you challenge

Achilles to single combat; keep a lookout for him while you are

under cover of the others and away from the thick of the fight,

otherwise he will either hit you with a spear or cut you down at

close quarters."

Thus he spoke, and Hector drew back within the crowd, for he was

afraid when he heard what the god had said to him. Achilles then

sprang upon the Trojans with a terrible cry, clothed in valour as

with a garment. First he killed Iphition son of Otrynteus, a

leader of much people whom a naiad nymph had borne to Otrynteus

waster of cities, in the land of Hyde under the snowy heights of

Mt. Tmolus. Achilles struck him full on the head as he was coming

on towards him, and split it clean in two; whereon he fell

heavily to the ground and Achilles vaunted over him saying, "You

be low, son of Otrynteus, mighty hero; your death is here, but

your lineage is on the Gygaean lake where your father's estate

lies, by Hyllus, rich in fish, and the eddying waters of Hermus."

Thus did he vaunt, but darkness closed the eyes of the other.

The chariots of the Achaeans cut him up as their wheels passed

over him in the front of the battle, and after him Achilles

killed Demoleon, a valiant man of war and son to Antenor. He

struck him on the temple through his bronze-cheeked helmet. The

helmet did not stay the spear, but it went right on, crushing the

bone so that the brain inside was shed in all directions, and his

lust of fighting was ended. Then he struck Hippodamas in the

midriff as he was springing down from his chariot in front of

him, and trying to escape. He breathed his last, bellowing like a

bull bellows when young men are dragging him to offer him in

sacrifice to the King of Helice, and the heart of the

earth-shaker is glad; even so did he bellow as he lay dying.

Achilles then went in pursuit of Polydorus son of Priam, whom his

father had always forbidden to fight because he was the youngest

of his sons, the one he loved best, and the fastest runner. He,

in his folly and showing off the fleetness of his feet, was

rushing about among front ranks until he lost his life, for

Achilles struck him in the middle of the back as he was darting

past him: he struck him just at the golden fastenings of his belt

and where the two pieces of the double breastplate overlapped.

The point of the spear pierced him through and came out by the

navel, whereon he fell groaning on to his knees and a cloud of

darkness overshadowed him as he sank holding his entrails in his


When Hector saw his brother Polydorus with his entrails in his

hands and sinking down upon the ground, a mist came over his

eyes, and he could not bear to keep longer at a distance; he

therefore poised his spear and darted towards Achilles like a

flame of fire. When Achilles saw him he bounded forward and

vaunted saying, "This is he that has wounded my heart most deeply

and has slain my beloved comrade. Not for long shall we two quail

before one another on the highways of war."

He looked fiercely on Hector and said, "Draw near, that you may

meet your doom the sooner." Hector feared him not and answered,

"Son of Peleus, think not that your words can scare me as though

I were a child; I too if I will can brag and talk unseemly; I

know that you are a mighty warrior, mightier by far than I,

nevertheless the issue lies in the lap of heaven whether I, worse

man though I be, may not slay you with my spear, for this too has

been found keen ere now."

He hurled his spear as he spoke, but Minerva breathed upon it,

and though she breathed but very lightly she turned it back from

going towards Achilles, so that it returned to Hector and lay at

his feet in front of him. Achilles then sprang furiously on him

with a loud cry, bent on killing him, but Apollo caught him up

easily as a god can, and hid him in a thick darkness. Thrice did

Achilles spring towards him spear in hand, and thrice did he

waste his blow upon the air. When he rushed forward for the

fourth time as though he were a god, he shouted aloud saying,

"Hound, this time too you have escaped death--but of a truth it

came exceedingly near you. Phoebus Apollo, to whom it seems you

pray before you go into battle, has again saved you; but if I too

have any friend among the gods I will surely make an end of you

when I come across you at some other time. Now, however, I will

pursue and overtake other Trojans."

On this he struck Dryops with his spear, about the middle of his

neck, and he fell headlong at his feet. There he let him lie and

stayed Demouchus son of Philetor, a man both brave and of great

stature, by hitting him on the knee with a spear; then he smote

him with his sword and killed him. After this he sprang on

Laogonus and Dardanus, sons of Bias, and threw them from their

chariot, the one with a blow from a thrown spear, while the other

he cut down in hand-to-hand fight. There was also Tros the son of

Alastor--he came up to Achilles and clasped his knees in the hope

that he would spare him and not kill him but let him go, because

they were both of the same age. Fool, he might have known that he

should not prevail with him, for the man was in no mood for pity

or forbearance but was in grim earnest. Therefore when Tros laid

hold of his knees and sought a hearing for his prayers, Achilles

drove his sword into his liver, and the liver came rolling out,

while his bosom was all covered with the black blood that welled

from the wound. Thus did death close his eyes as he lay lifeless.

Achilles then went up to Mulius and struck him on the ear with a

spear, and the bronze spear-head came right out at the other ear.

He also struck Echeclus son of Agenor on the head with his sword,

which became warm with the blood, while death and stern fate

closed the eyes of Echeclus. Next in order the bronze point of

his spear wounded Deucalion in the fore-arm where the sinews of

the elbow are united, whereon he waited Achilles' onset with his

arm hanging down and death staring him in the face. Achilles cut

his head off with a blow from his sword and flung it helmet and

all away from him, and the marrow came oozing out of his backbone

as he lay. He then went in pursuit of Rhigmus, noble son of

Peires, who had come from fertile Thrace, and struck him through

the middle with a spear which fixed itself in his belly, so that

he fell headlong from his chariot. He also speared Areithous

squire to Rhigmus in the back as he was turning his horses in

flight, and thrust him from his chariot, while the horses were

struck with panic.

As a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought--and

the dense forest is in a blaze, while the wind carries great

tongues of fire in every direction--even so furiously did

Achilles rage, wielding his spear as though he were a god, and

giving chase to those whom he would slay, till the dark earth ran

with blood. Or as one who yokes broad-browed oxen that they may

tread barley in a threshing-floor--and it is soon bruised small

under the feet of the lowing cattle--even so did the horses of

Achilles trample on the shields and bodies of the slain. The axle

underneath and the railing that ran round the car were

bespattered with clots of blood thrown up by the horses' hoofs,

and from the tyres of the wheels; but the son of Peleus pressed

on to win still further glory, and his hands were bedrabbled with



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