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Book XXIII

BOOK XXIII

THUS did they make their moan throughout the city, while the

Achaeans when they reached the Hellespont went back every man to

his own ship. But Achilles would not let the Myrmidons go, and

spoke to his brave comrades saying, "Myrmidons, famed horsemen

and my own trusted friends, not yet, forsooth, let us unyoke, but

with horse and chariot draw near to the body and mourn Patroclus,

in due honour to the dead. When we have had full comfort of

lamentation we will unyoke our horses and take supper all of us

here."

On this they all joined in a cry of wailing and Achilles led them

in their lament. Thrice did they drive their chariots all

sorrowing round the body, and Thetis stirred within them a still

deeper yearning. The sands of the seashore and the men's armour

were wet with their weeping, so great a minister of fear was he

whom they had lost. Chief in all their mourning was the son of

Peleus: he laid his bloodstained hand on the breast of his

friend. "Fare well," he cried, "Patroclus, even in the house of

Hades. I will now do all that I erewhile promised you; I will

drag Hector hither and let dogs devour him raw; twelve noble sons

of Trojans will I also slay before your pyre to avenge you."

As he spoke he treated the body of noble Hector with contumely,

laying it at full length in the dust beside the bier of

Patroclus. The others then put off every man his armour, took the

horses from their chariots, and seated themselves in great

multitude by the ship of the fleet descendant of Aeacus, who

thereon feasted them with an abundant funeral banquet. Many a

goodly ox, with many a sheep and bleating goat did they butcher

and cut up; many a tusked boar moreover, fat and well-fed, did

they singe and set to roast in the flames of Vulcan; and rivulets

of blood flowed all round the place where the body was lying.

Then the princes of the Achaeans took the son of Peleus to

Agamemnon, but hardly could they persuade him to come with them,

so wroth was he for the death of his comrade. As soon as they

reached Agamemnon's tent they told the serving-men to set a large

tripod over the fire in case they might persuade the son of

Peleus to wash the clotted gore from this body, but he denied

them sternly, and swore it with a solemn oath, saying, "Nay, by

King Jove, first and mightiest of all gods, it is not meet that

water should touch my body, till I have laid Patroclus on the

flames, have built him a barrow, and shaved my head--for so long

as I live no such second sorrow shall ever draw nigh me. Now,

therefore, let us do all that this sad festival demands, but at

break of day, King Agamemnon, bid your men bring wood, and

provide all else that the dead may duly take into the realm of

darkness; the fire shall thus burn him out of our sight the

sooner, and the people shall turn again to their own labours."

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They made

haste to prepare the meal, they ate, and every man had his full

share so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough

to eat and drink, the others went to their rest each in his own

tent, but the son of Peleus lay grieving among his Myrmidons by

the shore of the sounding sea, in an open place where the waves

came surging in one after another. Here a very deep slumber took

hold upon him and eased the burden of his sorrows, for his limbs

were weary with chasing Hector round windy Ilius. Presently the

sad spirit of Patroclus drew near him, like what he had been in

stature, voice, and the light of his beaming eyes, clad, too, as

he had been clad in life. The spirit hovered over his head and

said--

"You sleep, Achilles, and have forgotten me; you loved me living,

but now that I am dead you think for me no further. Bury me with

all speed that I may pass the gates of Hades; the ghosts, vain

shadows of men that can labour no more, drive me away from them;

they will not yet suffer me to join those that are beyond the

river, and I wander all desolate by the wide gates of the house

of Hades. Give me now your hand I pray you, for when you have

once given me my dues of fire, never shall I again come forth out

of the house of Hades. Nevermore shall we sit apart and take

sweet counsel among the living; the cruel fate which was my

birth-right has yawned its wide jaws around me--nay, you too

Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the wall of the

noble Trojans.

"One prayer more will I make you, if you will grant it; let not

my bones be laid apart from yours, Achilles, but with them; even

as we were brought up together in your own home, what time

Menoetius brought me to you as a child from Opoeis because by a

sad spite I had killed the son of Amphidamas--not of set purpose,

but in childish quarrel over the dice. The knight Peleus took me

into his house, entreated me kindly, and named me to be your

squire; therefore let our bones lie in but a single urn, the

two-handled golden vase given to you by your mother."

And Achilles answered, "Why, true heart, are you come hither to

lay these charges upon me? will of my own self do all as you have

bidden me. Draw closer to me, let us once more throw our arms

around one another, and find sad comfort in the sharing of our

sorrows."

He opened his arms towards him as he spoke and would have clasped

him in them, but there was nothing, and the spirit vanished as a

vapour, gibbering and whining into the earth. Achilles sprang to

his feet, smote his two hands, and made lamentation saying, "Of a

truth even in the house of Hades there are ghosts and phantoms

that have no life in them; all night long the sad spirit of

Patroclus has hovered over head making piteous moan, telling me

what I am to do for him, and looking wondrously like himself."

Thus did he speak and his words set them all weeping and mourning

about the poor dumb dead, till rosy-fingered morn appeared. Then

King Agamemnon sent men and mules from all parts of the camp, to

bring wood, and Meriones, squire to Idomeneus, was in charge over

them. They went out with woodmen's axes and strong ropes in their

hands, and before them went the mules. Up hill and down dale did

they go, by straight ways and crooked, and when they reached the

heights of many-fountained Ida, they laid their axes to the roots

of many a tall branching oak that came thundering down as they

felled it. They split the trees and bound them behind the mules,

which then wended their way as they best could through the thick

brushwood on to the plain. All who had been cutting wood bore

logs, for so Meriones squire to Idomeneus had bidden them, and

they threw them down in a line upon the seashore at the place

where Achilles would make a mighty monument for Patroclus and for

himself.

When they had thrown down their great logs of wood over the whole

ground, they stayed all of them where they were, but Achilles

ordered his brave Myrmidons to gird on their armour, and to yoke

each man his horses; they therefore rose, girded on their armour

and mounted each his chariot--they and their charioteers with

them. The chariots went before, and they that were on foot

followed as a cloud in their tens of thousands after. In the

midst of them his comrades bore Patroclus and covered him with

the locks of their hair which they cut off and threw upon his

body. Last came Achilles with his head bowed for sorrow, so noble

a comrade was he taking to the house of Hades.

When they came to the place of which Achilles had told them they

laid the body down and built up the wood. Achilles then bethought

him of another matter. He went a space away from the pyre, and

cut off the yellow lock which he had let grow for the river

Spercheius. He looked all sorrowfully out upon the dark sea, and

said, "Spercheius, in vain did my father Peleus vow to you that

when I returned home to my loved native land I should cut off

this lock and offer you a holy hecatomb; fifty she-goats was I to

sacrifice to you there at your springs, where is your grove and

your altar fragrant with burnt-offerings. Thus did my father vow,

but you have not fulfilled his prayer; now, therefore, that I

shall see my home no more, I give this lock as a keepsake to the

hero Patroclus."

As he spoke he placed the lock in the hands of his dear comrade,

and all who stood by were filled with yearning and lamentation.

The sun would have gone down upon their mourning had not Achilles

presently said to Agamemnon, "Son of Atreus, for it is to you

that the people will give ear, there is a time to mourn and a

time to cease from mourning; bid the people now leave the pyre

and set about getting their dinners: we, to whom the dead is

dearest, will see to what is wanted here, and let the other

princes also stay by me."

When King Agamemnon heard this he dismissed the people to their

ships, but those who were about the dead heaped up wood and built

a pyre a hundred feet this way and that; then they laid the dead

all sorrowfully upon the top of it. They flayed and dressed many

fat sheep and oxen before the pyre, and Achilles took fat from

all of them and wrapped the body therein from head to foot,

heaping the flayed carcases all round it. Against the bier he

leaned two-handled jars of honey and unguents; four proud horses

did he then cast upon the pyre, groaning the while he did so. The

dead hero had had house-dogs; two of them did Achilles slay and

threw upon the pyre; he also put twelve brave sons of noble

Trojans to the sword and laid them with the rest, for he was full

of bitterness and fury. Then he committed all to the resistless

and devouring might of the fire; he groaned aloud and called on

his dead comrade by name. "Fare well," he cried, "Patroclus, even

in the house of Hades; I am now doing all that I have promised

you. Twelve brave sons of noble Trojans shall the flames consume

along with yourself, but dogs, not fire, shall devour the flesh

of Hector son of Priam."

Thus did he vaunt, but the dogs came not about the body of

Hector, for Jove's daughter Venus kept them off him night and

day, and anointed him with ambrosial oil of roses that his flesh

might not be torn when Achilles was dragging him about. Phoebus

Apollo moreover sent a dark cloud from heaven to earth, which

gave shade to the whole place where Hector lay, that the heat of

the sun might not parch his body.

Now the pyre about dead Patroclus would not kindle. Achilles

therefore bethought him of another matter; he went apart and

prayed to the two winds Boreas and Zephyrus vowing them goodly

offerings. He made them many drink-offerings from the golden cup

and besought them to come and help him that the wood might make

haste to kindle and the dead bodies be consumed. Fleet Iris heard

him praying and started off to fetch the winds. They were holding

high feast in the house of boisterous Zephyrus when Iris came

running up to the stone threshold of the house and stood there,

but as soon as they set eyes on her they all came towards her and

each of them called her to him, but Iris would not sit down. "I

cannot stay," she said, "I must go back to the streams of Oceanus

and the land of the Ethiopians who are offering hecatombs to the

immortals, and I would have my share; but Achilles prays that

Boreas and shrill Zephyrus will come to him, and he vows them

goodly offerings; he would have you blow upon the pyre of

Patroclus for whom all the Achaeans are lamenting."

With this she left them, and the two winds rose with a cry that

rent the air and swept the clouds before them. They blew on and

on until they came to the sea, and the waves rose high beneath

them, but when they reached Troy they fell upon the pyre till the

mighty flames roared under the blast that they blew. All night

long did they blow hard and beat upon the fire, and all night

long did Achilles grasp his double cup, drawing wine from a

mixing-bowl of gold, and calling upon the spirit of dead

Patroclus as he poured it upon the ground until the earth was

drenched. As a father mourns when he is burning the bones of his

bridegroom son whose death has wrung the hearts of his parents,

even so did Achilles mourn while burning the body of his comrade,

pacing round the bier with piteous groaning and lamentation.

At length as the Morning Star was beginning to herald the light

which saffron-mantled Dawn was soon to suffuse over the sea, the

flames fell and the fire began to die. The winds then went home

beyond the Thracian sea, which roared and boiled as they swept

over it. The son of Peleus now turned away from the pyre and lay

down, overcome with toil, till he fell into a sweet slumber.

Presently they who were about the son of Atreus drew near in a

body, and roused him with the noise and tramp of their coming. He

sat upright and said, "Son of Atreus, and all other princes of

the Achaeans, first pour red wine everywhere upon the fire and

quench it; let us then gather the bones of Patroclus son of

Menoetius, singling them out with care; they are easily found,

for they lie in the middle of the pyre, while all else, both men

and horses, has been thrown in a heap and burned at the outer

edge. We will lay the bones in a golden urn, in two layers of

fat, against the time when I shall myself go down into the house

of Hades. As for the barrow, labour not to raise a great one now,

but such as is reasonable. Afterwards, let those Achaeans who may

be left at the ships when I am gone, build it both broad and

high."

Thus he spoke and they obeyed the word of the son of Peleus.

First they poured red wine upon the thick layer of ashes and

quenched the fire. With many tears they singled out the whitened

bones of their loved comrade and laid them within a golden urn in

two layers of fat: they then covered the urn with a linen cloth

and took it inside the tent. They marked off the circle where the

barrow should be, made a foundation for it about the pyre, and

forthwith heaped up the earth. When they had thus raised a mound

they were going away, but Achilles stayed the people and made

them sit in assembly. He brought prizes from the

ships--cauldrons, tripods, horses and mules, noble oxen, women

with fair girdles, and swart iron.

The first prize he offered was for the chariot races--a woman

skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron that had

ears for handles, and would hold twenty-two measures. This was

for the man who came in first. For the second there was a

six-year old mare, unbroken, and in foal to a he-ass; the third

was to have a goodly cauldron that had never yet been on the

fire; it was still bright as when it left the maker, and would

hold four measures. The fourth prize was two talents of gold, and

the fifth a two-handled urn as yet unsoiled by smoke. Then he

stood up and spoke among the Argives saying--

"Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, these are the prizes that

lie waiting the winners of the chariot races. At any other time I

should carry off the first prize and take it to my own tent; you

know how far my steeds excel all others--for they are immortal;

Neptune gave them to my father Peleus, who in his turn gave them

to myself; but I shall hold aloof, I and my steeds that have lost

their brave and kind driver, who many a time has washed them in

clear water and anointed their manes with oil. See how they stand

weeping here, with their manes trailing on the ground in the

extremity of their sorrow. But do you others set yourselves in

order throughout the host, whosoever has confidence in his horses

and in the strength of his chariot."

Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots

bestirred themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelus, king

of men, son of Admetus, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to

him rose mighty Diomed son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses

which he had taken from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the

fight. Next to him, yellow-haired Menelaus son of Atreus rose and

yoked his fleet horses, Agamemnon's mare Aethe, and his own horse

Podargus. The mare had been given to Agamemnon by Echepolus son

of Anchises, that he might not have to follow him to Ilius, but

might stay at home and take his ease; for Jove had endowed him

with great wealth and he lived in spacious Sicyon. This mare, all

eager for the race, did Menelaus put under the yoke.

Fourth in order Antilochus, son to noble Nestor son of Neleus,

made ready his horses. These were bred in Pylos, and his father

came up to him to give him good advice of which, however, he

stood in but little need. "Antilochus," said Nestor, "you are

young, but Jove and Neptune have loved you well, and have made

you an excellent horseman. I need not therefore say much by way

of instruction. You are skilful at wheeling your horses round the

post, but the horses themselves are very slow, and it is this

that will, I fear, mar your chances. The other drivers know less

than you do, but their horses are fleeter; therefore, my dear

son, see if you cannot hit upon some artifice whereby you may

insure that the prize shall not slip through your fingers. The

woodman does more by skill than by brute force; by skill the

pilot guides his storm-tossed barque over the sea, and so by

skill one driver can beat another. If a man go wide in rounding

this way and that, whereas a man who knows what he is doing may

have worse horses, but he will keep them well in hand when he

sees the doubling-post; he knows the precise moment at which to

pull the rein, and keeps his eye well on the man in front of him.

I will give you this certain token which cannot escape your

notice. There is a stump of a dead tree--oak or pine as it may

be--some six feet above the ground, and not yet rotted away by

rain; it stands at the fork of the road; it has two white stones

set one on each side, and there is a clear course all round it.

It may have been a monument to some one long since dead, or it

may have been used as a doubling-post in days gone by; now,

however, it has been fixed on by Achilles as the mark round which

the chariots shall turn; hug it as close as you can, but as you

stand in your chariot lean over a little to the left; urge on

your right-hand horse with voice and lash, and give him a loose

rein, but let the left-hand horse keep so close in, that the nave

of your wheel shall almost graze the post; but mind the stone, or

you will wound your horses and break your chariot in pieces,

which would be sport for others but confusion for yourself.

Therefore, my dear son, mind well what you are about, for if you

can be first to round the post there is no chance of any one

giving you the go-by later, not even though you had Adrestus's

horse Arion behind you--a horse which is of divine race--or those

of Laomedon, which are the noblest in this country."

When Nestor had made an end of counselling his son he sat down in

his place, and fifth in order Meriones got ready his horses.

They then all mounted their chariots and cast lots. Achilles

shook the helmet, and the lot of Antilochus son of Nestor fell

out first; next came that of King Eumelus, and after his, those

of Menelaus son of Atreus and of Meriones. The last place fell to

the lot of Diomed son of Tydeus, who was the best man of them

all. They took their places in line; Achilles showed them the

doubling-post round which they were to turn, some way off upon

the plain; here he stationed his father's follower Phoenix as

umpire, to note the running, and report truly.

At the same instant they all of them lashed their horses, struck

them with the reins, and shouted at them with all their might.

They flew full speed over the plain away from the ships, the dust

rose from under them as it were a cloud or whirlwind, and their

manes were all flying in the wind. At one moment the chariots

seemed to touch the ground, and then again they bounded into the

air; the drivers stood erect, and their hearts beat fast and

furious in their lust of victory. Each kept calling on his

horses, and the horses scoured the plain amid the clouds of dust

that they raised.

It was when they were doing the last part of the course on their

way back towards the sea that their pace was strained to the

utmost and it was seen what each could do. The horses of the

descendant of Pheres now took the lead, and close behind them

came the Trojan stallions of Diomed. They seemed as if about to

mount Eumelus's chariot, and he could feel their warm breath on

his back and on his broad shoulders, for their heads were close

to him as they flew over the course. Diomed would have now passed

him, or there would have been a dead heat, but Phoebus Apollo to

spite him made him drop his whip. Tears of anger fell from his

eyes as he saw the mares going on faster than ever, while his own

horses lost ground through his having no whip. Minerva saw the

trick which Apollo had played the son of Tydeus, so she brought

him his whip and put spirit into his horses; moreover she went

after the son of Admetus in a rage and broke his yoke for him;

the mares went one to one side of the course, and the other to

the other, and the pole was broken against the ground. Eumelus

was thrown from his chariot close to the wheel; his elbows,

mouth, and nostrils were all torn, and his forehead was bruised

above his eyebrows; his eyes filled with tears and he could find

no utterance. But the son of Tydeus turned his horses aside and

shot far ahead, for Minerva put fresh strength into them and

covered Diomed himself with glory.

Menelaus son of Atreus came next behind him, but Antilochus

called to his father's horses. "On with you both," he cried, "and

do your very utmost. I do not bid you try to beat the steeds of

the son of Tydeus, for Minerva has put running into them, and has

covered Diomed with glory; but you must overtake the horses of

the son of Atreus and not be left behind, or Aethe who is so

fleet will taunt you. Why, my good fellows, are you lagging? I

tell you, and it shall surely be--Nestor will keep neither of

you, but will put both of you to the sword, if we win any the

worse a prize through your carelessness. Fly after them at your

utmost speed; I will hit on a plan for passing them in a narrow

part of the way, and it shall not fail me."

They feared the rebuke of their master, and for a short space

went quicker. Presently Antilochus saw a narrow place where the

road had sunk. The ground was broken, for the winter's rain had

gathered and had worn the road so that the whole place was

deepened. Menelaus was making towards it so as to get there

first, for fear of a foul, but Antilochus turned his horses out

of the way, and followed him a little on one side. The son of

Atreus was afraid and shouted out, "Antilochus, you are driving

recklessly; rein in your horses; the road is too narrow here, it

will be wider soon, and you can pass me then; if you foul my

chariot you may bring both of us to a mischief."

But Antilochus plied his whip, and drove faster, as though he had

not heard him. They went side by side for about as far as a young

man can hurl a disc from his shoulder when he is trying his

strength, and then Menelaus's mares drew behind, for he left off

driving for fear the horses should foul one another and upset the

chariots; thus, while pressing on in quest of victory, they might

both come headlong to the ground. Menelaus then upbraided

Antilochus and said, "There is no greater trickster living than

you are; go, and bad luck go with you; the Achaeans say not well

that you have understanding, and come what may you shall not bear

away the prize without sworn protest on my part."

Then he called on his horses and said to them, "Keep your pace,

and slacken not; the limbs of the other horses will weary sooner

than yours, for they are neither of them young."

The horses feared the rebuke of their master, and went faster, so

that they were soon nearly up with the others.

Meanwhile the Achaeans from their seats were watching how the

horses went, as they scoured the plain amid clouds of their own

dust. Idomeneus captain of the Cretans was first to make out the

running, for he was not in the thick of the crowd, but stood on

the most commanding part of the ground. The driver was a long way

off, but Idomeneus could hear him shouting, and could see the

foremost horse quite plainly--a chestnut with a round white star,

like the moon, on its forehead. He stood up and said among the

Argives, "My friends, princes and counsellors of the Argives, can

you see the running as well as I can? There seems to be another

pair in front now, and another driver; those that led off at the

start must have been disabled out on the plain. I saw them at

first making their way round the doubling-post, but now, though I

search the plain of Troy, I cannot find them. Perhaps the reins

fell from the driver's hand so that he lost command of his horses

at the doubling-post, and could not turn it. I suppose he must

have been thrown out there, and broken his chariot, while his

mares have left the course and gone off wildly in a panic. Come

up and see for yourselves, I cannot make out for certain, but the

driver seems an Aetolian by descent, ruler over the Argives,

brave Diomed the son of Tydeus."

Ajax the son of Oileus took him up rudely and said, "Idomeneus,

why should you be in such a hurry to tell us all about it, when

the mares are still so far out upon the plain? You are none of

the youngest, nor your eyes none of the sharpest, but you are

always laying down the law. You have no right to do so, for there

are better men here than you are. Eumelus's horses are in front

now, as they always have been, and he is on the chariot holding

the reins."

The captain of the Cretans was angry, and answered, "Ajax you are

an excellent railer, but you have no judgement, and are wanting

in much else as well, for you have a vile temper. I will wager

you a tripod or cauldron, and Agamemnon son of Atreus shall

decide whose horses are first. You will then know to your cost."

Ajax son of Oileus was for making him an angry answer, and there

would have been yet further brawling between them, had not

Achilles risen in his place and said, "Cease your railing, Ajax

and Idomeneus; is it not you would be scandalised if you saw any

one else do the like: sit down and keep your eyes on the horses;

they are speeding towards the winning-post and will be bere

directly. You will then both of you know whose horses are first,

and whose come after."

As he was speaking, the son of Tydeus came driving in, plying his

whip lustily from his shoulder, and his horses stepping high as

they flew over the course. The sand and grit rained thick on the

driver, and the chariot inlaid with gold and tin ran close behind

his fleet horses. There was little trace of wheel-marks in the

fine dust, and the horses came flying in at their utmost speed.

Diomed stayed them in the middle of the crowd, and the sweat from

their manes and chests fell in streams on to the ground.

Forthwith he sprang from his goodly chariot, and leaned his whip

against his horses' yoke; brave Sthenelus now lost no time, but

at once brought on the prize, and gave the woman and the

ear-handled cauldron to his comrades to take away. Then he

unyoked the horses.

Next after him came in Antilochus of the race of Neleus, who had

passed Menelaus by a trick and not by the fleetness of his

horses; but even so Menelaus came in as close behind him as the

wheel is to the horse that draws both the chariot and its master.

The end hairs of a horse's tail touch the tyre of the wheel, and

there is never much space between wheel and horse when the

chariot is going; Menelaus was no further than this behind

Antilochus, though at first he had been a full disc's throw

behind him. He had soon caught him up again, for Agamemnon's mare

Aethe kept pulling stronger and stronger, so that if the course

had been longer he would have passed him, and there would not

even have been a dead heat. Idomeneus's brave squire Meriones was

about a spear's cast behind Menelaus. His horses were slowest of

all, and he was the worst driver. Last of them all came the son

of Admetus, dragging his chariot and driving his horses on in

front. When Achilles saw him he was sorry, and stood up among the

Argives saying, "The best man is coming in last. Let us give him

a prize for it is reasonable. He shall have the second, but the

first must go to the son of Tydeus."

Thus did he speak and the others all of them applauded his

saying, and were for doing as he had said, but Nestor's son

Antilochus stood up and claimed his rights from the son of

Peleus. "Achilles," said he, "I shall take it much amiss if you

do this thing; you would rob me of my prize, because you think

Eumelus's chariot and horses were thrown out, and himself too,

good man that he is. He should have prayed duly to the immortals;

he would not have come in last if he had done so. If you are

sorry for him and so choose, you have much gold in your tents,

with bronze, sheep, cattle and horses. Take something from this

store if you would have the Achaeans speak well of you, and give

him a better prize even than that which you have now offered; but

I will not give up the mare, and he that will fight me for her,

let him come on."

Achilles smiled as he heard this, and was pleased with

Antilochus, who was one of his dearest comrades. So he said--

"Antilochus, if you would have me find Eumelus another prize, I

will give him the bronze breastplate with a rim of tin running

all round it which I took from Asteropaeus. It will be worth much

money to him."

He bade his comrade Automedon bring the breastplate from his

tent, and he did so. Achilles then gave it over to Eumelus, who

received it gladly.

But Menelaus got up in a rage, furiously angry with Antilochus.

An attendant placed his staff in his hands and bade the Argives

keep silence: the hero then addressed them. "Antilochus," said

he, "what is this from you who have been so far blameless? You

have made me cut a poor figure and baulked my horses by flinging

your own in front of them, though yours are much worse than mine

are; therefore, O princes and counsellors of the Argives, judge

between us and show no favour, lest one of the Achaeans say,

'Menelaus has got the mare through lying and corruption; his

horses were far inferior to Antilochus's, but he has greater

weight and influence.' Nay, I will determine the matter myself,

and no man will blame me, for I shall do what is just. Come here,

Antilochus, and stand, as our custom is, whip in hand before your

chariot and horses; lay your hand on your steeds, and swear by

earth-encircling Neptune that you did not purposely and

guilefully get in the way of my horses."

And Antilochus answered, "Forgive me; I am much younger, King

Menelaus, than you are; you stand higher than I do and are the

better man of the two; you know how easily young men are betrayed

into indiscretion; their tempers are more hasty and they have

less judgement; make due allowances therefore, and bear with me;

I will of my own accord give up the mare that I have won, and if

you claim any further chattel from my own possessions, I would

rather yield it to you, at once, than fall from your good graces

henceforth, and do wrong in the sight of heaven."

The son of Nestor then took the mare and gave her over to

Menelaus, whose anger was thus appeased; as when dew falls upon a

field of ripening corn, and the lands are bristling with the

harvest--even so, O Menelaus, was your heart made glad within

you. He turned to Antilochus and said, "Now, Antilochus, angry

though I have been, I can give way to you of my own free will;

you have never been headstrong nor ill-disposed hitherto, but

this time your youth has got the better of your judgement; be

careful how you outwit your betters in future; no one else could

have brought me round so easily, but your good father, your

brother, and yourself have all of you had infinite trouble on my

behalf; I therefore yield to your entreaty, and will give up the

mare to you, mine though it indeed be; the people will thus see

that I am neither harsh nor vindictive."

With this he gave the mare over to Antilochus's comrade Noemon,

and then took the cauldron. Meriones, who had come in fourth,

carried off the two talents of gold, and the fifth prize, the

two-handled urn, being unawarded, Achilles gave it to Nestor,

going up to him among the assembled Argives and saying, "Take

this, my good old friend, as an heirloom and memorial of the

funeral of Patroclus--for you shall see him no more among the

Argives. I give you this prize though you cannot win one; you can

now neither wrestle nor fight, and cannot enter for the

javelin-match nor foot-races, for the hand of age has been laid

heavily upon you."

So saying he gave the urn over to Nestor, who received it gladly

and answered, "My son, all that you have said is true; there is

no strength now in my legs and feet, nor can I hit out with my

hands from either shoulder. Would that I were still young and

strong as when the Epeans were burying King Amarynceus in

Buprasium, and his sons offered prizes in his honour. There was

then none that could vie with me neither of the Epeans nor the

Pylians themselves nor the Aetolians. In boxing I overcame

Clytomedes son of Enops, and in wrestling, Ancaeus of Pleuron who

had come forward against me. Iphiclus was a good runner, but I

beat him, and threw farther with my spear than either Phyleus or

Polydorus. In chariot-racing alone did the two sons of Actor

surpass me by crowding their horses in front of me, for they were

angry at the way victory had gone, and at the greater part of the

prizes remaining in the place in which they had been offered.

They were twins, and the one kept on holding the reins, and

holding the reins, while the other plied the whip. Such was I

then, but now I must leave these matters to younger men; I must

bow before the weight of years, but in those days I was eminent

among heroes. And now, sir, go on with the funeral contests in

honour of your comrade: gladly do I accept this urn, and my heart

rejoices that you do not forget me but are ever mindful of my

goodwill towards you, and of the respect due to me from the

Achaeans. For all which may the grace of heaven be vouchsafed you

in great abundance."

Thereon the son of Peleus, when he had listened to all the thanks

of Nestor, went about among the concourse of the Achaeans, and

presently offered prizes for skill in the painful art of boxing.

He brought out a strong mule, and made it fast in the middle of

the crowd--a she-mule never yet broken, but six years old--when

it is hardest of all to break them: this was for the victor, and

for the vanquished he offered a double cup. Then he stood up and

said among the Argives, "Son of Atreus, and all other Achaeans, I

invite our two champion boxers to lay about them lustily and

compete for these prizes. He to whom Apollo vouchsafes the

greater endurance, and whom the Achaeans acknowledge as victor,

shall take the mule back with him to his own tent, while he that

is vanquished shall have the double cup."

As he spoke there stood up a champion both brave and great

stature, a skilful boxer, Epeus, son of Panopeus. He laid his

hand on the mule and said, "Let the man who is to have the cup

come hither, for none but myself will take the mule. I am the

best boxer of all here present, and none can beat me. Is it not

enough that I should fall short of you in actual fighting? Still,

no man can be good at everything. I tell you plainly, and it

shall come true; if any man will box with me I will bruise his

body and break his bones; therefore let his friends stay here in

a body and be at hand to take him away when I have done with

him."

They all held their peace, and no man rose save Euryalus son of

Mecisteus, who was son of Talaus. Mecisteus went once to Thebes

after the fall of Oedipus, to attend his funeral, and he beat all

the people of Cadmus. The son of Tydeus was Euryalus's second,

cheering him on and hoping heartily that he would win. First he

put a waistband round him and then he gave him some well-cut

thongs of ox-hide; the two men being now girt went into the

middle of the ring, and immediately fell to; heavily indeed did

they punish one another and lay about them with their brawny

fists. One could hear the horrid crashing of their jaws, and they

sweated from every pore of their skin. Presently Epeus came on

and gave Euryalus a blow on the jaw as he was looking round;

Euryalus could not keep his legs; they gave way under him in a

moment and he sprang up with a bound, as a fish leaps into the

air near some shore that is all bestrewn with sea-wrack, when

Boreas furs the top of the waves, and then falls back into deep

water. But noble Epeus caught hold of him and raised him up; his

comrades also came round him and led him from the ring, unsteady

in his gait, his head hanging on one side, and spitting great

clots of gore. They set him down in a swoon and then went to

fetch the double cup.

The son of Peleus now brought out the prizes for the third

contest and showed them to the Argives. These were for the

painful art of wrestling. For the winner there was a great tripod

ready for setting upon the fire, and the Achaeans valued it among

themselves at twelve oxen. For the loser he brought out a woman

skilled in all manner of arts, and they valued her at four oxen.

He rose and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who will

essay this contest."

Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, and crafty

Ulysses, full of wiles, rose also. The two girded themselves and

went into the middle of the ring. They gripped each other in

their strong hands like the rafters which some master-builder

frames for the roof of a high house to keep the wind out. Their

backbones cracked as they tugged at one another with their mighty

arms--and sweat rained from them in torrents. Many a bloody weal

sprang up on their sides and shoulders, but they kept on striving

with might and main for victory and to win the tripod. Ulysses

could not throw Ajax, nor Ajax him; Ulysses was too strong for

him; but when the Achaeans began to tire of watching them, Ajax

said to Ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall either

lift me, or I you, and let Jove settle it between us."

He lifted him from the ground as he spoke, but Ulysses did not

forget his cunning. He hit Ajax in the hollow at back of his

knee, so that he could not keep his feet, but fell on his back

with Ulysses lying upon his chest, and all who saw it marvelled.

Then Ulysses in turn lifted Ajax and stirred him a little from

the ground but could not lift him right off it, his knee sank

under him, and the two fell side by side on the ground and were

all begrimed with dust. They now sprang towards one another and

were for wrestling yet a third time, but Achilles rose and stayed

them. "Put not each other further," said he, "to such cruel

suffering; the victory is with both alike, take each of you an

equal prize, and let the other Achaeans now compete."

Thus did he speak and they did even as he had said, and put on

their shirts again after wiping the dust from off their bodies.

The son of Peleus then offered prizes for speed in running--a

mixing-bowl beautifully wrought, of pure silver. It would hold

six measures, and far exceeded all others in the whole world for

beauty; it was the work of cunning artificers in Sidon, and had

been brought into port by Phoenicians from beyond the sea, who

had made a present of it to Thoas. Eueneus son of Jason had given

it to Patroclus in ransom of Priam's son Lycaon, and Achilles now

offered it as a prize in honour of his comrade to him who should

be the swiftest runner. For the second prize he offered a large

ox, well fattened, while for the last there was to be half a

talent of gold. He then rose and said among the Argives, "Stand

forward, you who will essay this contest."

Forthwith uprose fleet Ajax son of Oileus, with cunning Ulysses,

and Nestor's son Antilochus, the fastest runner among all the

youth of his time. They stood side by side and Achilles showed

them the goal. The course was set out for them from the

starting-post, and the son of Oileus took the lead at once, with

Ulysses as close behind him as the shuttle is to a woman's bosom

when she throws the woof across the warp and holds it close up to

her; even so close behind him was Ulysses--treading in his

footprints before the dust could settle there, and Ajax could

feel his breath on the back of his head as he ran swiftly on. The

Achaeans all shouted applause as they saw him straining his

utmost, and cheered him as he shot past them; but when they were

now nearing the end of the course Ulysses prayed inwardly to

Minerva. "Hear me," he cried, "and help my feet, O goddess." Thus

did he pray, and Pallas Minerva heard his prayer; she made his

hands and his feet feel light, and when the runners were at the

point of pouncing upon the prize, Ajax, through Minerva's spite

slipped upon some offal that was lying there from the cattle

which Achilles had slaughtered in honour of Patroclus, and his

mouth and nostrils were all filled with cow dung. Ulysses

therefore carried off the mixing-bowl, for he got before Ajax and

came in first. But Ajax took the ox and stood with his hand on

one of its horns, spitting the dung out of his mouth. Then he

said to the Argives, "Alas, the goddess has spoiled my running;

she watches over Ulysses and stands by him as though she were his

own mother." Thus did he speak and they all of them laughed

heartily.

Antilochus carried off the last prize and smiled as he said to

the bystanders, "You all see, my friends, that now too the gods

have shown their respect for seniority. Ajax is somewhat older

than I am, and as for Ulysses, he belongs to an earlier

generation, but he is hale in spite of his years, and no man of

the Achaeans can run against him save only Achilles."

He said this to pay a compliment to the son of Peleus, and

Achilles answered, "Antilochus, you shall not have praised me to

no purpose; I shall give you an additional half talent of gold."

He then gave the half talent to Antilochus, who received it

gladly.

Then the son of Peleus brought out the spear, helmet and shield

that had been borne by Sarpedon, and were taken from him by

Patroclus. He stood up and said among the Argives, "We bid two

champions put on their armour, take their keen blades, and make

trial of one another in the presence of the multitude; whichever

of them can first wound the flesh of the other, cut through his

armour, and draw blood, to him will I give this goodly Thracian

sword inlaid with silver, which I took from Asteropaeus, but the

armour let both hold in partnership, and I will give each of them

a hearty meal in my own tent."

Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, as also mighty

Diomed son of Tydeus. When they had put on their armour each on

his own side of the ring, they both went into the middle eager to

engage, and with fire flashing from their eyes. The Achaeans

marvelled as they beheld them, and when the two were now close up

with one another, thrice did they spring forward and thrice try

to strike each other in close combat. Ajax pierced Diomed's round

shield, but did not draw blood, for the cuirass beneath the

shield protected him; thereon the son of Tydeus from over his

huge shield kept aiming continually at Ajax's neck with the point

of his spear, and the Achaeans alarmed for his safety bade them

leave off fighting and divide the prize between them. Achilles

then gave the great sword to the son of Tydeus, with its

scabbard, and the leathern belt with which to hang it.

Achilles next offered the massive iron quoit which mighty Eetion

had erewhile been used to hurl, until Achilles had slain him and

carried it off in his ships along with other spoils. He stood up

and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who would essay

this contest. He who wins it will have a store of iron that will

last him five years as they go rolling round, and if his fair

fields lie far from a town his shepherd or ploughman will not

have to make a journey to buy iron, for he will have a stock of

it on his own premises."

Then uprose the two mighty men Polypoetes and Leonteus, with Ajax

son of Telamon and noble Epeus. They stood up one after the other

and Epeus took the quoit, whirled it, and flung it from him,

which set all the Achaeans laughing. After him threw Leonteus of

the race of Mars. Ajax son of Telamon threw third, and sent the

quoit beyond any mark that had been made yet, but when mighty

Polypoetes took the quoit he hurled it as though it had been a

stockman's stick which he sends flying about among his cattle

when he is driving them, so far did his throw out-distance those

of the others. All who saw it roared applause, and his comrades

carried the prize for him and set it on board his ship.

Achilles next offered a prize of iron for archery--ten

double-edged axes and ten with single edges: he set up a ship's

mast, some way off upon the sands, and with a fine string tied a

pigeon to it by the foot; this was what they were to aim at.

"Whoever," he said, "can hit the pigeon shall have all the axes

and take them away with him; he who hits the string without

hitting the bird will have taken a worse aim and shall have the

single-edged axes."

Then uprose King Teucer, and Meriones the stalwart squire of

Idomeneus rose also, They cast lots in a bronze helmet and the

lot of Teucer fell first. He let fly with his arrow forthwith,

but he did not promise hecatombs of firstling lambs to King

Apollo, and missed his bird, for Apollo foiled his aim; but he

hit the string with which the bird was tied, near its foot; the

arrow cut the string clean through so that it hung down towards

the ground, while the bird flew up into the sky, and the Achaeans

shouted applause. Meriones, who had his arrow ready while Teucer

was aiming, snatched the bow out of his hand, and at once

promised that he would sacrifice a hecatomb of firstling lambs to

Apollo lord of the bow; then espying the pigeon high up under the

clouds, he hit her in the middle of the wing as she was circling

upwards; the arrow went clean through the wing and fixed itself

in the ground at Meriones' feet, but the bird perched on the

ship's mast hanging her head and with all her feathers drooping;

the life went out of her, and she fell heavily from the mast.

Meriones, therefore, took all ten double-edged axes, while Teucer

bore off the single-edged ones to his ships.

Then the son of Peleus brought in a spear and a cauldron that had

never been on the fire; it was worth an ox, and was chased with a

pattern of flowers; and those that throw the javelin stood up--to

wit the son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, and Meriones,

stalwart squire of Idomeneus. But Achilles spoke saying, "Son of

Atreus, we know how far you excel all others both in power and in

throwing the javelin; take the cauldron back with you to your

ships, but if it so please you, let us give the spear to

Meriones; this at least is what I should myself wish."

King Agamemnon assented. So he gave the bronze spear to Meriones,

and handed the goodly cauldron to Talthybius his esquire.

 Homer

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