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Book XXIV

BOOK XXIV

THE assembly now broke up and the people went their ways each to

his own ship. There they made ready their supper, and then

bethought them of the blessed boon of sleep; but Achilles still

wept for thinking of his dear comrade, and sleep, before whom all

things bow, could take no hold upon him. This way and that did he

turn as he yearned after the might and manfulness of Patroclus;

he thought of all they had done together, and all they had gone

through both on the field of battle and on the waves of the weary

sea. As he dwelt on these things he wept bitterly and lay now on

his side, now on his back, and now face downwards, till at last

he rose and went out as one distraught to wander upon the

seashore. Then, when he saw dawn breaking over beach and sea, he

yoked his horses to his chariot, and bound the body of Hector

behind it that he might drag it about. Thrice did he drag it

round the tomb of the son of Menoetius, and then went back into

his tent, leaving the body on the ground full length and with its

face downwards. But Apollo would not suffer it to be disfigured,

for he pitied the man, dead though he now was; therefore he

shielded him with his golden aegis continually, that he might

take no hurt while Achilles was dragging him.

Thus shamefully did Achilles in his fury dishonour Hector; but

the blessed gods looked down in pity from heaven, and urged

Mercury, slayer of Argus, to steal the body. All were of this

mind save only Juno, Neptune, and Jove's grey-eyed daughter, who

persisted in the hate which they had ever borne towards Ilius

with Priam and his people; for they forgave not the wrong done

them by Alexandrus in disdaining the goddesses who came to him

when he was in his sheepyards, and preferring her who had offered

him a wanton to his ruin.

When, therefore, the morning of the twelfth day had now come,

Phoebus Apollo spoke among the immortals saying, "You gods ought

to be ashamed of yourselves; you are cruel and hard-hearted. Did

not Hector burn you thigh-bones of heifers and of unblemished

goats? And now dare you not rescue even his dead body, for his

wife to look upon, with his mother and child, his father Priam,

and his people, who would forthwith commit him to the flames, and

give him his due funeral rites? So, then, you would all be on the

side of mad Achilles, who knows neither right nor ruth? He is

like some savage lion that in the pride of his great strength and

daring springs upon men's flocks and gorges on them. Even so has

Achilles flung aside all pity, and all that conscience which at

once so greatly banes yet greatly boons him that will heed it.

man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost--a son, it may

be, or a brother born from his own mother's womb; yet when he has

mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it takes

much sorrow to kill a man; whereas Achilles, now that he has

slain noble Hector, drags him behind his chariot round the tomb

of his comrade. It were better of him, and for him, that he

should not do so, for brave though he be we gods may take it ill

that he should vent his fury upon dead clay."

Juno spoke up in a rage. "This were well," she cried, "O lord of

the silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to

Achilles; but Hector was mortal and suckled at a woman's breast,

whereas Achilles is the offspring of a goddess whom I myself

reared and brought up. I married her to Peleus, who is above

measure dear to the immortals; you gods came all of you to her

wedding; you feasted along with them yourself and brought your

lyre--false, and fond of low company, that you have ever been."

Then said Jove, "Juno, be not so bitter. Their honour shall not

be equal, but of all that dwell in Ilius, Hector was dearest to

the gods, as also to myself, for his offerings never failed me.

Never was my altar stinted of its dues, nor of the

drink-offerings and savour of sacrifice which we claim of right.

I shall therefore permit the body of mighty Hector to be stolen;

and yet this may hardly be without Achilles coming to know it,

for his mother keeps night and day beside him. Let some one of

you, therefore, send Thetis to me, and I will impart my counsel

to her, namely that Achilles is to accept a ransom from Priam,

and give up the body."

On this Iris fleet as the wind went forth to carry his message.

Down she plunged into the dark sea midway between Samos and rocky

Imbrus; the waters hissed as they closed over her, and she sank

into the bottom as the lead at the end of an ox-horn, that is

sped to carry death to fishes. She found Thetis sitting in a

great cave with the other sea-goddesses gathered round her; there

she sat in the midst of them weeping for her noble son who was to

fall far from his own land, on the rich plains of Troy. Iris went

up to her and said, "Rise Thetis; Jove, whose counsels fail not,

bids you come to him." And Thetis answered, "Why does the mighty

god so bid me? I am in great grief, and shrink from going in and

out among the immortals. Still, I will go, and the word that he

may speak shall not be spoken in vain."

The goddess took her dark veil, than which there can be no robe

more sombre, and went forth with fleet Iris leading the way

before her. The waves of the sea opened them a path, and when

they reached the shore they flew up into the heavens, where they

found the all-seeing son of Saturn with the blessed gods that

live for ever assembled near him. Minerva gave up her seat to

her, and she sat down by the side of father Jove. Juno then

placed a fair golden cup in her hand, and spoke to her in words

of comfort, whereon Thetis drank and gave her back the cup; and

the sire of gods and men was the first to speak.

"So, goddess," said he, "for all your sorrow, and the grief that

I well know reigns ever in your heart, you have come hither to

Olympus, and I will tell you why I have sent for you. This nine

days past the immortals have been quarrelling about Achilles

waster of cities and the body of Hector. The gods would have

Mercury slayer of Argus steal the body, but in furtherance of our

peace and amity henceforward, I will concede such honour to your

son as I will now tell you. Go, then, to the host and lay these

commands upon him; say that the gods are angry with him, and that

I am myself more angry than them all, in that he keeps Hector at

the ships and will not give him up. He may thus fear me and let

the body go. At the same time I will send Iris to great Priam to

bid him go to the ships of the Achaeans, and ransom his son,

taking with him such gifts for Achilles as may give him

satisfaction."

Silver-footed Thetis did as the god had told her, and forthwith

down she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus. She went to

her son's tents where she found him grieving bitterly, while his

trusty comrades round him were busy preparing their morning meal,

for which they had killed a great woolly sheep. His mother sat

down beside him and caressed him with her hand saying, "My son,

how long will you keep on thus grieving and making moan? You are

gnawing at your own heart, and think neither of food nor of

woman's embraces; and yet these too were well, for you have no

long time to live, and death with the strong hand of fate are

already close beside you. Now, therefore, heed what I say, for I

come as a messenger from Jove; he says that the gods are angry

with you, and himself more angry than them all, in that you keep

Hector at the ships and will not give him up. Therefore let him

go, and accept a ransom for his body."

And Achilles answered, "So be it. If Olympian Jove of his own

motion thus commands me, let him that brings the ransom bear the

body away."

Thus did mother and son talk together at the ships in long

discourse with one another. Meanwhile the son of Saturn sent Iris

to the strong city of Ilius. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, from the

mansions of Olympus, and tell King Priam in Ilius, that he is to

go to the ships of the Achaeans and free the body of his dear

son. He is to take such gifts with him as shall give satisfaction

to Achilles, and he is to go alone, with no other Trojan, save

only some honoured servant who may drive his mules and waggon,

and bring back the body of him whom noble Achilles has slain. Let

him have no thought nor fear of death in his heart, for we will

send the slayer of Argus to escort him, and bring him within the

tent of Achilles. Achilles will not kill him nor let another do

so, for he will take heed to his ways and sin not, and he will

entreat a suppliant with all honourable courtesy."

On this Iris, fleet as the wind, sped forth to deliver her

message. She went to Priam's house, and found weeping and

lamentation therein. His sons were seated round their father in

the outer courtyard, and their raiment was wet with tears: the

old man sat in the midst of them with his mantle wrapped close

about his body, and his head and neck all covered with the filth

which he had clutched as he lay grovelling in the mire. His

daughters and his sons' wives went wailing about the house, as

they thought of the many and brave men who lay dead, slain by the

Argives. The messenger of Jove stood by Priam and spoke softly to

him, but fear fell upon him as she did so. "Take heart," she

said, "Priam offspring of Dardanus, take heart and fear not. I

bring no evil tidings, but am minded well towards you. I come as

a messenger from Jove, who though he be not near, takes thought

for you and pities you. The lord of Olympus bids you go and

ransom noble Hector, and take with you such gifts as shall give

satisfaction to Achilles. You are to go alone, with no Trojan,

save only some honoured servant who may drive your mules and

waggon, and bring back to the city the body of him whom noble

Achilles has slain. You are to have no thought, nor fear of

death, for Jove will send the slayer of Argus to escort you. When

he has brought you within Achilles' tent, Achilles will not kill

you nor let another do so, for he will take heed to his ways and

sin not, and he will entreat a suppliant with all honourable

courtesy."

Iris went her way when she had thus spoken, and Priam told his

sons to get a mule-waggon ready, and to make the body of the

waggon fast upon the top of its bed. Then he went down into his

fragrant store-room, high-vaulted, and made of cedar-wood, where

his many treasures were kept, and he called Hecuba his wife.

"Wife," said he, "a messenger has come to me from Olympus, and

has told me to go to the ships of the Achaeans to ransom my dear

son, taking with me such gifts as shall give satisfaction to

Achilles. What think you of this matter? for my own part I am

greatly moved to pass through the camps of the Achaeans and go to

their ships."

His wife cried aloud as she heard him, and said, "Alas, what has

become of that judgement for which you have been ever famous both

among strangers and your own people? How can you venture alone to

the ships of the Achaeans, and look into the face of him who has

slain so many of your brave sons? You must have iron courage, for

if the cruel savage sees you and lays hold on you, he will know

neither respect nor pity. Let us then weep Hector from afar here

in our own house, for when I gave him birth the threads of

overruling fate were spun for him that dogs should eat his flesh

far from his parents, in the house of that terrible man on whose

liver I would fain fasten and devour it. Thus would I avenge my

son, who showed no cowardice when Achilles slew him, and thought

neither of flight nor of avoiding battle as he stood in defence

of Trojan men and Trojan women."

Then Priam said, "I would go, do not therefore stay me nor be as

a bird of ill omen in my house, for you will not move me. Had it

been some mortal man who had sent me some prophet or priest who

divines from sacrifice--I should have deemed him false and have

given him no heed; but now I have heard the goddess and seen her

face to face, therefore I will go and her saying shall not be in

vain. If it be my fate to die at the ships of the Achaeans even

so would I have it; let Achilles slay me, if I may but first have

taken my son in my arms and mourned him to my heart's

comforting."

So saying he lifted the lids of his chests, and took out twelve

goodly vestments. He took also twelve cloaks of single fold,

twelve rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts.

He weighed out ten talents of gold, and brought moreover two

burnished tripods, four cauldrons, and a very beautiful cup which

the Thracians had given him when he had gone to them on an

embassy; it was very precious, but he grudged not even this, so

eager was he to ransom the body of his son. Then he chased all

the Trojans from the court and rebuked them with words of anger.

"Out," he cried, "shame and disgrace to me that you are. Have you

no grief in your own homes that you are come to plague me here?

Is it a small thing, think you, that the son of Saturn has sent

this sorrow upon me, to lose the bravest of my sons? Nay, you

shall prove it in person, for now he is gone the Achaeans will

have easier work in killing you. As for me, let me go down within

the house of Hades, ere mine eyes behold the sacking and wasting

of the city."

He drove the men away with his staff, and they went forth as the

old man sped them. Then he called to his sons, upbraiding

Helenus, Paris, noble Agathon, Pammon, Antiphonus, Polites of the

loud battle-cry, Deiphobus, Hippothous, and Dius. These nine did

the old man call near him. "Come to me at once," he cried,

"worthless sons who do me shame; would that you had all been

killed at the ships rather than Hector. Miserable man that I am,

I have had the bravest sons in all Troy--noble Nestor, Troilus

the dauntless charioteer, and Hector who was a god among men, so

that one would have thought he was son to an immortal--yet there

is not one of them left. Mars has slain them and those of whom I

am ashamed are alone left me. Liars, and light of foot, heroes of

the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your own people, why do

you not get a waggon ready for me at once, and put all these

things upon it that I may set out on my way?"

Thus did he speak, and they feared the rebuke of their father.

They brought out a strong mule-waggon, newly made, and set the

body of the waggon fast on its bed. They took the mule-yoke from

the peg on which it hung, a yoke of boxwood with a knob on the

top of it and rings for the reins to go through. Then they

brought a yoke-band eleven cubits long, to bind the yoke to the

pole; they bound it on at the far end of the pole, and put the

ring over the upright pin making it fast with three turns of the

band on either side the knob, and bending the thong of the yoke

beneath it. This done, they brought from the store-chamber the

rich ransom that was to purchase the body of Hector, and they set

it all orderly on the waggon; then they yoked the strong

harness-mules which the Mysians had on a time given as a goodly

present to Priam; but for Priam himself they yoked horses which

the old king had bred, and kept for own use.

Thus heedfully did Priam and his servant see to the yolking of

their cars at the palace. Then Hecuba came to them all sorrowful,

with a golden goblet of wine in her right hand, that they might

make a drink-offering before they set out. She stood in front of

the horses and said, "Take this, make a drink-offering to father

Jove, and since you are minded to go to the ships in spite of me,

pray that you may come safely back from the hands of your

enemies. Pray to the son of Saturn lord of the whirlwind, who

sits on Ida and looks down over all Troy, pray him to send his

swift messenger on your right hand, the bird of omen which is

strongest and most dear to him of all birds, that you may see it

with your own eyes and trust it as you go forth to the ships of

the Danaans. If all-seeing Jove will not send you this messenger,

however set upon it you may be, I would not have you go to the

ships of the Argives."

And Priam answered, "Wife, I will do as you desire me; it is well

to lift hands in prayer to Jove, if so be he may have mercy upon

me."

With this the old man bade the serving-woman pour pure water over

his hands, and the woman came, bearing the water in a bowl. He

washed his hands and took the cup from his wife; then he made the

drink-offering and prayed, standing in the middle of the

courtyard and turning his eyes to heaven. "Father Jove," he said,

"that rulest from Ida, most glorious and most great, grant that I

may be received kindly and compassionately in the tents of

Achilles; and send your swift messenger upon my right hand, the

bird of omen which is strongest and most dear to you of all

birds, that I may see it with my own eyes and trust it as I go

forth to the ships of the Danaans."

So did he pray, and Jove the lord of counsel heard his prayer.

Forthwith he sent an eagle, the most unerring portent of all

birds that fly, the dusky hunter that men also call the Black

Eagle. His wings were spread abroad on either side as wide as the

well-made and well-bolted door of a rich man's chamber. He came

to them flying over the city upon their right hands, and when

they saw him they were glad and their hearts took comfort within

them. The old man made haste to mount his chariot, and drove out

through the inner gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the

outer court. Before him went the mules drawing the four-wheeled

waggon, and driven by wise Idaeus; behind these were the horses,

which the old man lashed with his whip and drove swiftly through

the city, while his friends followed after, wailing and lamenting

for him as though he were on his road to death. As soon as they

had come down from the city and had reached the plain, his sons

and sons-in-law who had followed him went back to Ilius.

But Priam and Idaeus as they showed out upon the plain did not

escape the ken of all-seeing Jove, who looked down upon the old

man and pitied him; then he spoke to his son Mercury and said,

"Mercury, for it is you who are the most disposed to escort men

on their way, and to hear those whom you will hear, go, and so

conduct Priam to the ships of the Achaeans that no other of the

Danaans shall see him nor take note of him until he reach the son

of Peleus."

Thus he spoke and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus,

did as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden

sandals with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea;

he took the wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep, or

wakes them just as he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand

till he came to Troy and to the Hellespont. To look at, he was

like a young man of noble birth in the hey-day of his youth and

beauty with the down just coming upon his face.

Now when Priam and Idaeus had driven past the great tomb of

Ilius, they stayed their mules and horses that they might drink

in the river, for the shades of night were falling, when,

therefore, Idaeus saw Mercury standing near them he said to

Priam, "Take heed, descendant of Dardanus; here is matter which

demands consideration. I see a man who I think will presently

fall upon us; let us fly with our horses, or at least embrace his

knees and implore him to take compassion upon us?"

When he heard this the old man's heart failed him, and he was in

great fear; he stayed where he was as one dazed, and the hair

stood on end over his whole body; but the bringer of good luck

came up to him and took him by the hand, saying, "Whither,

father, are you thus driving your mules and horses in the dead of

night when other men are asleep? Are you not afraid of the fierce

Achaeans who are hard by you, so cruel and relentless? Should

some one of them see you bearing so much treasure through the

darkness of the flying night, what would not your state then be?

You are no longer young, and he who is with you is too old to

protect you from those who would attack you. For myself, I will

do you no harm, and I will defend you from any one else, for you

remind me of my own father."

And Priam answered, "It is indeed as you say, my dear son;

nevertheless some god has held his hand over me, in that he has

sent such a wayfarer as yourself to meet me so opportunely; you

are so comely in mien and figure, and your judgement is so

excellent that you must come of blessed parents."

Then said the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, all that

you have said is right; but tell me and tell me true, are you

taking this rich treasure to send it to a foreign people where it

may be safe, or are you all leaving strong Ilius in dismay now

that your son has fallen who was the bravest man among you and

was never lacking in battle with the Achaeans?"

And Priam said, "Who are you, my friend, and who are your

parents, that you speak so truly about the fate of my unhappy

son?"

The slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, answered him, "Sir, you

would prove me, that you question me about noble Hector. Many a

time have I set eyes upon him in battle when he was driving the

Argives to their ships and putting them to the sword. We stood

still and marvelled, for Achilles in his anger with the son of

Atreus suffered us not to fight. I am his squire, and came with

him in the same ship. I am a Myrmidon, and my father's name is

Polyctor: he is a rich man and about as old as you are; he has

six sons besides myself, and I am the seventh. We cast lots, and

it fell upon me to sail hither with Achilles. I am now come from

the ships on to the plain, for with daybreak the Achaeans will

set battle in array about the city. They chafe at doing nothing,

and are so eager that their princes cannot hold them back."

Then answered Priam, "If you are indeed the squire of Achilles

son of Peleus, tell me now the whole truth. Is my son still at

the ships, or has Achilles hewn him limb from limb, and given him

to his hounds?"

"Sir," replied the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "neither

hounds nor vultures have yet devoured him; he is still just lying

at the tents by the ship of Achilles, and though it is now twelve

days that he has lain there, his flesh is not wasted nor have the

worms eaten him although they feed on warriors. At daybreak

Achilles drags him cruelly round the sepulchre of his dear

comrade, but it does him no hurt. You should come yourself and

see how he lies fresh as dew, with the blood all washed away, and

his wounds every one of them closed though many pierced him with

their spears. Such care have the blessed gods taken of your brave

son, for he was dear to them beyond all measure."

The old man was comforted as he heard him and said, "My son, see

what a good thing it is to have made due offerings to the

immortals; for as sure as that he was born my son never forgot

the gods that hold Olympus, and now they requite it to him even

in death. Accept therefore at my hands this goodly chalice; guard

me and with heaven's help guide me till I come to the tent of the

son of Peleus."

Then answered the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, you

are tempting me and playing upon my youth, but you shall not move

me, for you are offering me presents without the knowledge of

Achilles whom I fear and hold it great guilt to defraud, lest

some evil presently befall me; but as your guide I would go with

you even to Argos itself, and would guard you so carefully

whether by sea or land, that no one should attack you through

making light of him who was with you."

The bringer of good luck then sprang on to the chariot, and

seizing the whip and reins he breathed fresh spirit into the

mules and horses. When they reached the trench and the wall that

was before the ships, those who were on guard had just been

getting their suppers, and the slayer of Argus threw them all

into a deep sleep. Then he drew back the bolts to open the gates,

and took Priam inside with the treasure he had upon his waggon.

Ere long they came to the lofty dwelling of the son of Peleus for

which the Myrmidons had cut pine and which they had built for

their king; when they had built it they thatched it with coarse

tussock-grass which they had mown out on the plain, and all round

it they made a large courtyard, which was fenced with stakes set

close together. The gate was barred with a single bolt of pine

which it took three men to force into its place, and three to

draw back so as to open the gate, but Achilles could draw it by

himself. Mercury opened the gate for the old man, and brought in

the treasure that he was taking with him for the son of Peleus.

Then he sprang from the chariot on to the ground and said, "Sir,

it is I, immortal Mercury, that am come with you, for my father

sent me to escort you. I will now leave you, and will not enter

into the presence of Achilles, for it might anger him that a god

should befriend mortal men thus openly. Go you within, and

embrace the knees of the son of Peleus: beseech him by his

father, his lovely mother, and his son; thus you may move him."

With these words Mercury went back to high Olympus. Priam sprang

from his chariot to the ground, leaving Idaeus where he was, in

charge of the mules and horses. The old man went straight into

the house where Achilles, loved of the gods, was sitting. There

he found him with his men seated at a distance from him: only

two, the hero Automedon, and Alcimus of the race of Mars, were

busy in attendance about his person, for he had but just done

eating and drinking, and the table was still there. King Priam

entered without their seeing him, and going right up to Achilles

he clasped his knees and kissed the dread murderous hands that

had slain so many of his sons.

As when some cruel spite has befallen a man that he should have

killed some one in his own country, and must fly to a great man's

protection in a land of strangers, and all marvel who see him,

even so did Achilles marvel as he beheld Priam. The others looked

one to another and marvelled also, but Priam besought Achilles

saying, "Think of your father, O Achilles like unto the gods, who

is such even as I am, on the sad threshold of old age. It may be

that those who dwell near him harass him, and there is none to

keep war and ruin from him. Yet when he hears of you being still

alive, he is glad, and his days are full of hope that he shall

see his dear son come home to him from Troy; but I, wretched man

that I am, had the bravest in all Troy for my sons, and there is

not one of them left. I had fifty sons when the Achaeans came

here; nineteen of them were from a single womb, and the others

were borne to me by the women of my household. The greater part

of them has fierce Mars laid low, and Hector, him who was alone

left, him who was the guardian of the city and ourselves, him

have you lately slain; therefore I am now come to the ships of

the Achaeans to ransom his body from you with a great ransom.

Fear, O Achilles, the wrath of heaven; think on your own father

and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable, for I have

steeled myself as no man yet has ever steeled himself before me,

and have raised to my lips the hand of him who slew my son."

Thus spoke Priam, and the heart of Achilles yearned as he

bethought him of his father. He took the old man's hand and moved

him gently away. The two wept bitterly--Priam, as he lay at

Achilles' feet, weeping for Hector, and Achilles now for his

father and now for Patroclous, till the house was filled with

their lamentation. But when Achilles was now sated with grief and

had unburthened the bitterness of his sorrow, he left his seat

and raised the old man by the hand, in pity for his white hair

and beard; then he said, "Unhappy man, you have indeed been

greatly daring; how could you venture to come alone to the ships

of the Achaeans, and enter the presence of him who has slain so

many of your brave sons? You must have iron courage: sit now upon

this seat, and for all our grief we will hide our sorrows in our

hearts, for weeping will not avail us. The immortals know no

care, yet the lot they spin for man is full of sorrow; on the

floor of Jove's palace there stand two urns, the one filled with

evil gifts, and the other with good ones. He for whom Jove the

lord of thunder mixes the gifts he sends, will meet now with good

and now with evil fortune; but he to whom Jove sends none but

evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger of scorn, the hand of

famine will pursue him to the ends of the world, and he will go

up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by gods nor

men. Even so did it befall Peleus; the gods endowed him with all

good things from his birth upwards, for he reigned over the

Myrmidons excelling all men in prosperity and wealth, and mortal

though he was they gave him a goddess for his bride. But even on

him too did heaven send misfortune, for there is no race of royal

children born to him in his house, save one son who is doomed to

die all untimely; nor may I take care of him now that he is

growing old, for I must stay here at Troy to be the bane of you

and your children. And you too, O Priam, I have heard that you

were aforetime happy. They say that in wealth and plenitude of

offspring you surpassed all that is in Lesbos, the realm of Makar

to the northward, Phrygia that is more inland, and those that

dwell upon the great Hellespont; but from the day when the

dwellers in heaven sent this evil upon you, war and slaughter

have been about your city continually. Bear up against it, and

let there be some intervals in your sorrow. Mourn as you may for

your brave son, you will take nothing by it. You cannot raise him

from the dead, ere you do so yet another sorrow shall befall

you."

And Priam answered, "O king, bid me not be seated, while Hector

is still lying uncared for in your tents, but accept the great

ransom which I have brought you, and give him to me at once that

I may look upon him. May you prosper with the ransom and reach

your own land in safety, seeing that you have suffered me to live

and to look upon the light of the sun."

Achilles looked at him sternly and said, "Vex me, sir, no longer;

I am of myself minded to give up the body of Hector. My mother,

daughter of the old man of the sea, came to me from Jove to bid

me deliver it to you. Moreover I know well, O Priam, and you

cannot hide it, that some god has brought you to the ships of the

Achaeans, for else, no man however strong and in his prime would

dare to come to our host; he could neither pass our guard unseen,

nor draw the bolt of my gates thus easily; therefore, provoke me

no further, lest I sin against the word of Jove, and suffer you

not, suppliant though you are, within my tents."

The old man feared him and obeyed. Then the son of Peleus sprang

like a lion through the door of his house, not alone, but with

him went his two squires Automedon and Alcimus who were closer to

him than any others of his comrades now that Patroclus was no

more. These unyoked the horses and mules, and bade Priam's herald

and attendant be seated within the house. They lifted the ransom

for Hector's body from the waggon. but they left two mantles and

a goodly shirt, that Achilles might wrap the body in them when he

gave it to be taken home. Then he called to his servants and

ordered them to wash the body and anoint it, but he first took it

to a place where Priam should not see it, lest if he did so, he

should break out in the bitterness of his grief, and enrage

Achilles, who might then kill him and sin against the word of

Jove. When the servants had washed the body and anointed it, and

had wrapped it in a fair shirt and mantle, Achilles himself

lifted it on to a bier, and he and his men then laid it on the

waggon. He cried aloud as he did so and called on the name of his

dear comrade, "Be not angry with me, Patroclus," he said, "if you

hear even in the house of Hades that I have given Hector to his

father for a ransom. It has been no unworthy one, and I will

share it equitably with you."

Achilles then went back into the tent and took his place on the

richly inlaid seat from which he had risen, by the wall that was

at right angles to the one against which Priam was sitting.

"Sir," he said, "your son is now laid upon his bier and is

ransomed according to desire; you shall look upon him when you

him away at daybreak; for the present let us prepare our supper.

Even lovely Niobe had to think about eating, though her twelve

children--six daughters and six lusty sons--had been all slain in

her house. Apollo killed the sons with arrows from his silver

bow, to punish Niobe, and Diana slew the daughters, because Niobe

had vaunted herself against Leto; she said Leto had borne two

children only, whereas she had herself borne many--whereon the

two killed the many. Nine days did they lie weltering, and there

was none to bury them, for the son of Saturn turned the people

into stone; but on the tenth day the gods in heaven themselves

buried them, and Niobe then took food, being worn out with

weeping. They say that somewhere among the rocks on the mountain

pastures of Sipylus, where the nymphs live that haunt the river

Achelous, there, they say, she lives in stone and still nurses

the sorrows sent upon her by the hand of heaven. Therefore, noble

sir, let us two now take food; you can weep for your dear son

hereafter as you are bearing him back to Ilius--and many a tear

will he cost you."

With this Achilles sprang from his seat and killed a sheep of

silvery whiteness, which his followers skinned and made ready all

in due order. They cut the meat carefully up into smaller pieces,

spitted them, and drew them off again when they were well

roasted. Automedon brought bread in fair baskets and served it

round the table, while Achilles dealt out the meat, and they laid

their hands on the good things that were before them. As soon as

they had had enough to eat and drink, Priam, descendant of

Dardanus, marvelled at the strength and beauty of Achilles for he

was as a god to see, and Achilles marvelled at Priam as he

listened to him and looked upon his noble presence. When they had

gazed their fill Priam spoke first. "And now, O king," he said,

"take me to my couch that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed

boon of sleep. Never once have my eyes been closed from the day

your hands took the life of my son; I have grovelled without

ceasing in the mire of my stable-yard, making moan and brooding

over my countless sorrows. Now, moreover, I have eaten bread and

drunk wine; hitherto I have tasted nothing."

As he spoke Achilles told his men and the women-servants to set

beds in the room that was in the gatehouse, and make them with

good red rugs, and spread coverlets on the top of them with

woollen cloaks for Priam and Idaeus to wear. So the maids went

out carrying a torch and got the two beds ready in all haste.

Then Achilles said laughingly to Priam, "Dear sir, you shall lie

outside, lest some counsellor of those who in due course keep

coming to advise with me should see you here in the darkness of

the flying night, and tell it to Agamemnon. This might cause

delay in the delivery of the body. And now tell me and tell me

true, for how many days would you celebrate the funeral rites of

noble Hector? Tell me, that I may hold aloof from war and

restrain the host."

And Priam answered, "Since, then, you suffer me to bury my noble

son with all due rites, do thus, Achilles, and I shall be

grateful. You know how we are pent up within our city; it is far

for us to fetch wood from the mountain, and the people live in

fear. Nine days, therefore, will we mourn Hector in my house; on

the tenth day we will bury him and there shall be a public feast

in his honour; on the eleventh we will build a mound over his

ashes, and on the twelfth, if there be need, we will fight."

And Achilles answered, "All, King Priam, shall be as you have

said. I will stay our fighting for as long a time as you have

named."

As he spoke he laid his hand on the old man's right wrist, in

token that he should have no fear; thus then did Priam and his

attendant sleep there in the forecourt, full of thought, while

Achilles lay in an inner room of the house, with fair Briseis by

his side.

And now both gods and mortals were fast asleep through the

livelong night, but upon Mercury alone, the bringer of good luck,

sleep could take no hold for he was thinking all the time how to

get King Priam away from the ships without his being seen by the

strong force of sentinels. He hovered therefore over Priam's head

and said, "Sir, now that Achilles has spared your life, you seem

to have no fear about sleeping in the thick of your foes. You

have paid a great ransom, and have received the body of your son;

were you still alive and a prisoner the sons whom you have left

at home would have to give three times as much to free you; and

so it would be if Agamemnon and the other Achaeans were to know

of your being here."

When he heard this the old man was afraid and roused his servant.

Mercury then yoked their horses and mules, and drove them quickly

through the host so that no man perceived them. When they came to

the ford of eddying Xanthus, begotten of immortal Jove, Mercury

went back to high Olympus, and dawn in robe of saffron began to

break over all the land. Priam and Idaeus then drove on toward

the city lamenting and making moan, and the mules drew the body

of Hector. No one neither man nor woman saw them, till Cassandra,

fair as golden Venus standing on Pergamus, caught sight of her

dear father in his chariot, and his servant that was the city's

herald with him. Then she saw him that was lying upon the bier,

drawn by the mules, and with a loud cry she went about the city

saying, "Come hither Trojans, men and women, and look on Hector;

if ever you rejoiced to see him coming from battle when he was

alive, look now on him that was the glory of our city and all our

people."

At this there was not man nor woman left in the city, so great a

sorrow had possessed them. Hard by the gates they met Priam as he

was bringing in the body. Hector's wife and his mother were the

first to mourn him: they flew towards the waggon and laid their

hands upon his head, while the crowd stood weeping round them.

They would have stayed before the gates, weeping and lamenting

the livelong day to the going down of the sun, had not Priam

spoken to them from the chariot and said, "Make way for the mules

to pass you. Afterwards when I have taken the body home you shall

have your fill of weeping."

On this the people stood asunder, and made a way for the waggon.

When they had borne the body within the house they laid it upon a

bed and seated minstrels round it to lead the dirge, whereon the

women joined in the sad music of their lament. Foremost among

them all Andromache led their wailing as she clasped the head of

mighty Hector in her embrace. "Husband," she cried, "you have

died young, and leave me in your house a widow; he of whom we are

the ill-starred parents is still a mere child, and I fear he may

not reach manhood. Ere he can do so our city will be razed and

overthrown, for you who watched over it are no more--you who were

its saviour, the guardian of our wives and children. Our women

will be carried away captives to the ships, and I among them;

while you, my child, who will be with me will be put to some

unseemly tasks, working for a cruel master. Or, may be, some

Achaean will hurl you (O miserable death) from our walls, to

avenge some brother, son, or father whom Hector slew; many of

them have indeed bitten the dust at his hands, for your father's

hand in battle was no light one. Therefore do the people mourn

him. You have left, O Hector, sorrow unutterable to your parents,

and my own grief is greatest of all, for you did not stretch

forth your arms and embrace me as you lay dying, nor say to me

any words that might have lived with me in my tears night and day

for evermore."

Bitterly did she weep the while, and the women joined in her

lament. Hecuba in her turn took up the strains of woe. "Hector,"

she cried, "dearest to me of all my children. So long as you were

alive the gods loved you well, and even in death they have not

been utterly unmindful of you; for when Achilles took any other

of my sons, he would sell him beyond the seas, to Samos Imbrus or

rugged Lemnos; and when he had slain you too with his sword, many

a time did he drag you round the sepulchre of his comrade--though

this could not give him life--yet here you lie all fresh as dew,

and comely as one whom Apollo has slain with his painless

shafts."

Thus did she too speak through her tears with bitter moan, and

then Helen for a third time took up the strain of lamentation.

"Hector," said she, "dearest of all my brothers-in-law--for I am

wife to Alexandrus who brought me hither to Troy--would that I

had died ere he did so--twenty years are come and gone since I

left my home and came from over the sea, but I have never heard

one word of insult or unkindness from you. When another would

chide with me, as it might be one of your brothers or sisters or

of your brothers' wives, or my mother-in-law--for Priam was as

kind to me as though he were my own father--you would rebuke and

check them with words of gentleness and goodwill. Therefore my

tears flow both for you and for my unhappy self, for there is no

one else in Troy who is kind to me, but all shrink and shudder as

they go by me."

She wept as she spoke and the vast crowd that was gathered round

her joined in her lament. Then King Priam spoke to them saying,

"Bring wood, O Trojans, to the city, and fear no cunning ambush

of the Argives, for Achilles when he dismissed me from the ships

gave me his word that they should not attack us until the morning

of the twelfth day."

Forthwith they yoked their oxen and mules and gathered together

before the city. Nine days long did they bring in great heaps of

wood, and on the morning of the tenth day with many tears they

took brave Hector forth, laid his dead body upon the summit of

the pile, and set the fire thereto. Then when the child of

morning, rosy-fingered dawn, appeared on the eleventh day, the

people again assembled, round the pyre of mighty Hector. When

they were got together, they first quenched the fire with wine

wherever it was burning, and then his brothers and comrades with

many a bitter tear gathered his white bones, wrapped them in soft

robes of purple, and laid them in a golden urn, which they placed

in a grave and covered over with large stones set close together.

Then they built a barrow hurriedly over it keeping guard on every

side lest the Achaeans should attack them before they had

finished. When they had heaped up the barrow they went back again

into the city, and being well assembled they held high feast in

the house of Priam their king.

Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hector tamer of

horses.

 Homer

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