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

Book VI

BOOK VI

THE fight between Trojans and Achaeans was now left to rage as it

would, and the tide of war surged hither and thither over the

plain as they aimed their bronze-shod spears at one another

between the streams of Simois and Xanthus.

First, Ajax son of Telamon, tower of strength to the Achaeans,

broke a phalanx of the Trojans, and came to the assistance of his

comrades by killing Acamas son of Eussorus, the best man among

the Thracians, being both brave and of great stature. The spear

struck the projecting peak of his helmet: its bronze point then

went through his forehead into the brain, and darkness veiled his

eyes.

Then Diomed killed Axylus son of Teuthranus, a rich man who lived

in the strong city of Arisbe, and was beloved by all men; for he

had a house by the roadside, and entertained every one who

passed; howbeit not one of his guests stood before him to save

his life, and Diomed killed both him and his squire Calesius, who

was then his charioteer--so the pair passed beneath the earth.

Euryalus killed Dresus and Opheltius, and then went in pursuit of

Aesepus and Pedasus, whom the naiad nymph Abarbarea had borne to

noble Bucolion. Bucolion was eldest son to Laomedon, but he was a

bastard. While tending his sheep he had converse with the nymph,

and she conceived twin sons; these the son of Mecisteus now slew,

and he stripped the armour from their shoulders. Polypoetes then

killed Astyalus, Ulysses Pidytes of Percote, and Teucer Aretaon.

Ablerus fell by the spear of Nestor's son Antilochus, and

Agamemnon, king of men, killed Elatus who dwelt in Pedasus by the

banks of the river Satnioeis. Leitus killed Phylacus as he was

flying, and Eurypylus slew Melanthus.

Then Menelaus of the loud war-cry took Adrestus alive, for his

horses ran into a tamarisk bush, as they were flying wildly over

the plain, and broke the pole from the car; they went on towards

the city along with the others in full flight, but Adrestus

rolled out, and fell in the dust flat on his face by the wheel of

his chariot; Menelaus came up to him spear in hand, but Adrestus

caught him by the knees begging for his life. "Take me alive," he

cried, "son of Atreus, and you shall have a full ransom for me:

my father is rich and has much treasure of gold, bronze, and

wrought iron laid by in his house. From this store he will give

you a large ransom should he hear of my being alive and at the

ships of the Achaeans."

Thus did he plead, and Menelaus was for yielding and giving him

to a squire to take to the ships of the Achaeans, but Agamemnon

came running up to him and rebuked him. "My good Menelaus," said

he, "this is no time for giving quarter. Has, then, your house

fared so well at the hands of the Trojans? Let us not spare a

single one of them--not even the child unborn and in its mother's

womb; let not a man of them be left alive, but let all in Ilius

perish, unheeded and forgotten."

Thus did he speak, and his brother was persuaded by him, for his

words were just. Menelaus, therefore, thrust Adrestus from him,

whereon King Agamemnon struck him in the flank, and he fell: then

the son of Atreus planted his foot upon his breast to draw his

spear from the body.

Meanwhile Nestor shouted to the Argives, saying, "My friends,

Danaan warriors, servants of Mars, let no man lag that he may

spoil the dead, and bring back much booty to the ships. Let us

kill as many as we can; the bodies will lie upon the plain, and

you can despoil them later at your leisure."

With these words he put heart and soul into them all. And now the

Trojans would have been routed and driven back into Ilius, had

not Priam's son Helenus, wisest of augurs, said to Hector and

Aeneas, "Hector and Aeneas, you two are the mainstays of the

Trojans and Lycians, for you are foremost at all times, alike in

fight and counsel; hold your ground here, and go about among the

host to rally them in front of the gates, or they will fling

themselves into the arms of their wives, to the great joy of our

foes. Then, when you have put heart into all our companies, we

will stand firm here and fight the Danaans however hard they

press us, for there is nothing else to be done. Meanwhile do you,

Hector, go to the city and tell our mother what is happening.

Tell her to bid the matrons gather at the temple of Minerva in

the acropolis; let her then take her key and open the doors of

the sacred building; there, upon the knees of Minerva, let her

lay the largest, fairest robe she has in her house--the one she

sets most store by; let her, moreover, promise to sacrifice

twelve yearling heifers that have never yet felt the goad, in the

temple of the goddess, if she will take pity on the town, with

the wives and little ones of the Trojans, and keep the son of

Tydeus from falling on the goodly city of Ilius; for he fights

with fury and fills men's souls with panic. I hold him mightiest

of them all; we did not fear even their great champion Achilles,

son of a goddess though he be, as we do this man: his rage is

beyond all bounds, and there is none can vie with him in prowess"

Hector did as his brother bade him. He sprang from his chariot,

and went about everywhere among the host, brandishing his spears,

urging the men on to fight, and raising the dread cry of battle.

Thereon they rallied and again faced the Achaeans, who gave

ground and ceased their murderous onset, for they deemed that

some one of the immortals had come down from starry heaven to

help the Trojans, so strangely had they rallied. And Hector

shouted to the Trojans, "Trojans and allies, be men, my friends,

and fight with might and main, while I go to Ilius and tell the

old men of our council and our wives to pray to the gods and vow

hecatombs in their honour."

With this he went his way, and the black rim of hide that went

round his shield beat against his neck and his ancles.

Then Glaucus son of Hippolochus, and the son of Tydeus went into

the open space between the hosts to fight in single combat. When

they were close up to one another Diomed of the loud war-cry was

the first to speak. "Who, my good sir," said he, "who are you

among men? I have never seen you in battle until now, but you are

daring beyond all others if you abide my onset. Woe to those

fathers whose sons face my might. If, however, you are one of the

immortals and have come down from heaven, I will not fight you;

for even valiant Lycurgus, son of Dryas, did not live long when

he took to fighting with the gods. He it was that drove the

nursing women who were in charge of frenzied Bacchus through the

land of Nysa, and they flung their thyrsi on the ground as

murderous Lycurgus beat them with his oxgoad. Bacchus himself

plunged terror-stricken into the sea, and Thetis took him to her

bosom to comfort him, for he was scared by the fury with which

the man reviled him. Thereon the gods who live at ease were angry

with Lycurgus and the son of Saturn struck him blind, nor did he

live much longer after he had become hateful to the immortals.

Therefore I will not fight with the blessed gods; but if you are

of them that eat the fruit of the ground, draw near and meet your

doom."

And the son of Hippolochus answered, son of Tydeus, why ask me of

my lineage? Men come and go as leaves year by year upon the

trees. Those of autumn the wind sheds upon the ground, but when

spring returns the forest buds forth with fresh vines. Even so is

it with the generations of mankind, the new spring up as the old

are passing away. If, then, you would learn my descent, it is one

that is well known to many. There is a city in the heart of

Argos, pasture land of horses, called Ephyra, where Sisyphus

lived, who was the craftiest of all mankind. He was the son of

Aeolus, and had a son named Glaucus, who was father to

Bellerophon, whom heaven endowed with the most surpassing

comeliness and beauty. But Proetus devised his ruin, and being

stronger than he, drove him from the land of the Argives, over

which Jove had made him ruler. For Antea, wife of Proetus, lusted

after him, and would have had him lie with her in secret; but

Bellerophon was an honourable man and would not, so she told lies

about him to Proteus. 'Proetus,' said she, 'kill Bellerophon or

die, for he would have had converse with me against my will.' The

king was angered, but shrank from killing Bellerophon, so he sent

him to Lycia with lying letters of introduction, written on a

folded tablet, and containing much ill against the bearer. He

bade Bellerophon show these letters to his father-in-law, to the

end that he might thus perish; Bellerophon therefore went to

Lycia, and the gods convoyed him safely.

"When he reached the river Xanthus, which is in Lycia, the king

received him with all goodwill, feasted him nine days, and killed

nine heifers in his honour, but when rosy-fingered morning

appeared upon the tenth day, he questioned him and desired to see

the letter from his son-in-law Proetus. When he had received the

wicked letter he first commanded Bellerophon to kill that savage

monster, the Chimaera, who was not a human being, but a goddess,

for she had the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent, while

her body was that of a goat, and she breathed forth flames of

fire; but Bellerophon slew her, for he was guided by signs from

heaven. He next fought the far-famed Solymi, and this, he said,

was the hardest of all his battles. Thirdly, he killed the

Amazons, women who were the peers of men, and as he was returning

thence the king devised yet another plan for his destruction; he

picked the bravest warriors in all Lycia, and placed them in

ambuscade, but not a man ever came back, for Bellerophon killed

every one of them. Then the king knew that he must be the valiant

offspring of a god, so he kept him in Lycia, gave him his

daughter in marriage, and made him of equal honour in the kingdom

with himself; and the Lycians gave him a piece of land, the best

in all the country, fair with vineyards and tilled fields, to

have and to hold.

"The king's daughter bore Bellerophon three children, Isander,

Hippolochus, and Laodameia. Jove, the lord of counsel, lay with

Laodameia, and she bore him noble Sarpedon; but when Bellerophon

came to be hated by all the gods, he wandered all desolate and

dismayed upon the Alean plain, gnawing at his own heart, and

shunning the path of man. Mars, insatiate of battle, killed his

son Isander while he was fighting the Solymi; his daughter was

killed by Diana of the golden reins, for she was angered with

her; but Hippolochus was father to myself, and when he sent me to

Troy he urged me again and again to fight ever among the foremost

and outvie my peers, so as not to shame the blood of my fathers

who were the noblest in Ephyra and in all Lycia. This, then, is

the descent I claim."

Thus did he speak, and the heart of Diomed was glad. He planted

his spear in the ground, and spoke to him with friendly words.

"Then," he said, "you are an old friend of my father's house.

Great Oeneus once entertained Bellerophon for twenty days, and

the two exchanged presents. Oeneus gave a belt rich with purple,

and Bellerophon a double cup, which I left at home when I set out

for Troy. I do not remember Tydeus, for he was taken from us

while I was yet a child, when the army of the Achaeans was cut to

pieces before Thebes. Henceforth, however, I must be your host in

middle Argos, and you mine in Lycia, if I should ever go there;

let us avoid one another's spears even during a general

engagement; there are many noble Trojans and allies whom I can

kill, if I overtake them and heaven delivers them into my hand;

so again with yourself, there are many Achaeans whose lives you

may take if you can; we two, then, will exchange armour, that all

present may know of the old ties that subsist between us."

With these words they sprang from their chariots, grasped one

another's hands, and plighted friendship. But the son of Saturn

made Glaucus take leave of his wits, for he exchanged golden

armour for bronze, the worth of a hundred head of cattle for the

worth of nine.

Now when Hector reached the Scaean gates and the oak tree, the

wives and daughters of the Trojans came running towards him to

ask after their sons, brothers, kinsmen, and husbands: he told

them to set about praying to the gods, and many were made

sorrowful as they heard him.

Presently he reached the splendid palace of King Priam, adorned

with colonnades of hewn stone. In it there were fifty

bedchambers--all of hewn stone--built near one another, where the

sons of Priam slept, each with his wedded wife. Opposite these,

on the other side the courtyard, there were twelve upper rooms

also of hewn stone for Priam's daughters, built near one another,

where his sons-in-law slept with their wives. When Hector got

there, his fond mother came up to him with Laodice the fairest of

her daughters. She took his hand within her own and said, "My

son, why have you left the battle to come hither? Are the

Achaeans, woe betide them, pressing you hard about the city that

you have thought fit to come and uplift your hands to Jove from

the citadel? Wait till I can bring you wine that you may make

offering to Jove and to the other immortals, and may then drink

and be refreshed. Wine gives a man fresh strength when he is

wearied, as you now are with fighting on behalf of your kinsmen."

And Hector answered, "Honoured mother, bring no wine, lest you

unman me and I forget my strength. I dare not make a

drink-offering to Jove with unwashed hands; one who is

bespattered with blood and filth may not pray to the son of

Saturn. Get the matrons together, and go with offerings to the

temple of Minerva driver of the spoil; there, upon the knees of

Minerva, lay the largest and fairest robe you have in your

house--the one you set most store by; promise, moreover, to

sacrifice twelve yearling heifers that have never yet felt the

goad, in the temple of the goddess if she will take pity on the

town, with the wives and little ones of the Trojans, and keep the

son of Tydeus from off the goodly city of Ilius, for he fights

with fury, and fills men's souls with panic. Go, then, to the

temple of Minerva, while I seek Paris and exhort him, if he will

hear my words. Would that the earth might open her jaws and

swallow him, for Jove bred him to be the bane of the Trojans, and

of Priam and Priam's sons. Could I but see him go down into the

house of Hades, my heart would forget its heaviness."

His mother went into the house and called her waiting-women who

gathered the matrons throughout the city. She then went down into

her fragrant store-room, where her embroidered robes were kept,

the work of Sidonian women, whom Alexandrus had brought over from

Sidon when he sailed the seas upon that voyage during which he

carried off Helen. Hecuba took out the largest robe, and the one

that was most beautifully enriched with embroidery, as an

offering to Minerva: it glittered like a star, and lay at the

very bottom of the chest. With this she went on her way and many

matrons with her.

When they reached the temple of Minerva, lovely Theano, daughter

of Cisseus and wife of Antenor, opened the doors, for the Trojans

had made her priestess of Minerva. The women lifted up their

hands to the goddess with a loud cry, and Theano took the robe to

lay it upon the knees of Minerva, praying the while to the

daughter of great Jove. "Holy Minerva," she cried, "protectress

of our city, mighty goddess, break the spear of Diomed and lay

him low before the Scaean gates. Do this, and we will sacrifice

twelve heifers that have never yet known the goad, in your

temple, if you will have pity upon the town, with the wives and

little ones of the Trojans." Thus she prayed, but Pallas Minerva

granted not her prayer.

While they were thus praying to the daughter of great Jove,

Hector went to the fair house of Alexandrus, which he had built

for him by the foremost builders in the land. They had built him

his house, storehouse, and courtyard near those of Priam and

Hector on the acropolis. Here Hector entered, with a spear eleven

cubits long in his hand; the bronze point gleamed in front of

him, and was fastened to the shaft of the spear by a ring of

gold. He found Alexandrus within the house, busied about his

armour, his shield and cuirass, and handling his curved bow;

there, too, sat Argive Helen with her women, setting them their

several tasks; and as Hector saw him he rebuked him with words of

scorn. "Sir," said he, "you do ill to nurse this rancour; the

people perish fighting round this our town; you would yourself

chide one whom you saw shirking his part in the combat. Up then,

or ere long the city will be in a blaze."

And Alexandrus answered, "Hector, your rebuke is just; listen

therefore, and believe me when I tell you that I am not here so

much through rancour or ill-will towards the Trojans, as from a

desire to indulge my grief. My wife was even now gently urging me

to battle, and I hold it better that I should go, for victory is

ever fickle. Wait, then, while I put on my armour, or go first

and I will follow. I shall be sure to overtake you."

Hector made no answer, but Helen tried to soothe him. "Brother,"

said she, "to my abhorred and sinful self, would that a whirlwind

had caught me up on the day my mother brought me forth, and had

borne me to some mountain or to the waves of the roaring sea that

should have swept me away ere this mischief had come about. But,

since the gods have devised these evils, would, at any rate, that

I had been wife to a better man--to one who could smart under

dishonour and men's evil speeches. This fellow was never yet to

be depended upon, nor never will be, and he will surely reap what

he has sown. Still, brother, come in and rest upon this seat, for

it is you who bear the brunt of that toil that has been caused by

my hateful self and by the sin of Alexandrus--both of whom Jove

has doomed to be a theme of song among those that shall be born

hereafter."

And Hector answered, "Bid me not be seated, Helen, for all the

goodwill you bear me. I cannot stay. I am in haste to help the

Trojans, who miss me greatly when I am not among them; but urge

your husband, and of his own self also let him make haste to

overtake me before I am out of the city. I must go home to see my

household, my wife and my little son, for I know not whether I

shall ever again return to them, or whether the gods will cause

me to fill by the hands of the Achaeans."

Then Hector left her, and forthwith was at his own house. He did

not find Andromache, for she was on the wall with her child and

one of her maids, weeping bitterly. Seeing, then, that she was

not within, he stood on the threshold of the women's rooms and

said, "Women, tell me, and tell me true, where did Andromache go

when she left the house? Was it to my sisters, or to my brothers'

wives? or is she at the temple of Minerva where the other women

are propitiating the awful goddess?"

His good housekeeper answered, "Hector, since you bid me tell you

truly, she did not go to your sisters nor to your brothers'

wives, nor yet to the temple of Minerva, where the other women

are propitiating the awful goddess, but she is on the high wall

of Ilius, for she had heard the Trojans were being hard pressed,

and that the Achaeans were in great force: she went to the wall

in frenzied haste, and the nurse went with her carrying the

child."

Hector hurried from the house when she had done speaking, and

went down the streets by the same way that he had come. When he

had gone through the city and had reached the Scaean gates

through which he would go out on to the plain, his wife came

running towards him, Andromache, daughter of great Eetion who

ruled in Thebe under the wooded slopes of Mt. Placus, and was

king of the Cilicians. His daughter had married Hector, and now

came to meet him with a nurse who carried his little child in her

bosom--a mere babe. Hector's darling son, and lovely as a star.

Hector had named him Scamandrius, but the people called him

Astyanax, for his father stood alone as chief guardian of Ilius.

Hector smiled as he looked upon the boy, but he did not speak,

and Andromache stood by him weeping and taking his hand in her

own. "Dear husband," said she, "your valour will bring you to

destruction; think on your infant son, and on my hapless self who

ere long shall be your widow--for the Achaeans will set upon you

in a body and kill you. It would be better for me, should I lose

you, to lie dead and buried, for I shall have nothing left to

comfort me when you are gone, save only sorrow. I have neither

father nor mother now. Achilles slew my father when he sacked

Thebe the goodly city of the Cilicians. He slew him, but did not

for very shame despoil him; when he had burned him in his

wondrous armour, he raised a barrow over his ashes and the

mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing Jove, planted a grove

of elms about his tomb. I had seven brothers in my father's

house, but on the same day they all went within the house of

Hades. Achilles killed them as they were with their sheep and

cattle. My mother--her who had been queen of all the land under

Mt. Placus--he brought hither with the spoil, and freed her for a

great sum, but the archer-queen Diana took her in the house of

your father. Nay--Hector--you who to me are father, mother,

brother, and dear husband--have mercy upon me; stay here upon

this wall; make not your child fatherless, and your wife a widow;

as for the host, place them near the fig-tree, where the city can

be best scaled, and the wall is weakest. Thrice have the bravest

of them come thither and assailed it, under the two Ajaxes,

Idomeneus, the sons of Atreus, and the brave son of Tydeus,

either of their own bidding, or because some soothsayer had told

them."

And Hector answered, "Wife, I too have thought upon all this, but

with what face should I look upon the Trojans, men or women, if I

shirked battle like a coward? I cannot do so: I know nothing save

to fight bravely in the forefront of the Trojan host and win

renown alike for my father and myself. Well do I know that the

day will surely come when mighty Ilius shall be destroyed with

Priam and Priam's people, but I grieve for none of these--not

even for Hecuba, nor King Priam, nor for my brothers many and

brave who may fall in the dust before their foes--for none of

these do I grieve as for yourself when the day shall come on

which some one of the Achaeans shall rob you for ever of your

freedom, and bear you weeping away. It may be that you will have

to ply the loom in Argos at the bidding of a mistress, or to

fetch water from the springs Messeis or Hypereia, treated

brutally by some cruel task-master; then will one say who sees

you weeping, 'She was wife to Hector, the bravest warrior among

the Trojans during the war before Ilius.' On this your tears will

break forth anew for him who would have put away the day of

captivity from you. May I lie dead under the barrow that is

heaped over my body ere I hear your cry as they carry you into

bondage."

He stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and

nestled in his nurse's bosom, scared at the sight of his father's

armour, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his

helmet. His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hector took

the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the

ground. Then he took his darling child, kissed him, and dandled

him in his arms, praying over him the while to Jove and to all

the gods. "Jove," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even

as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent

in strength, and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one

say of him as he comes from battle, 'The son is far better than

the father.' May he bring back the blood-stained spoils of him

whom he has laid low, and let his mother's heart be glad.'"

With this he laid the child again in the arms of his wife, who

took him to her own soft bosom, smiling through her tears. As her

husband watched her his heart yearned towards her and he caressed

her fondly, saying, "My own wife, do not take these things too

bitterly to heart. No one can hurry me down to Hades before my

time, but if a man's hour is come, be he brave or be he coward,

there is no escape for him when he has once been born. Go, then,

within the house, and busy yourself with your daily duties, your

loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants; for war is

man's matter, and mine above all others of them that have been

born in Ilius."

He took his plumed helmet from the ground, and his wife went back

again to her house, weeping bitterly and often looking back

towards him. When she reached her home she found her maidens

within, and bade them all join in her lament; so they mourned

Hector in his own house though he was yet alive, for they deemed

that they should never see him return safe from battle, and from

the furious hands of the Achaeans.

Paris did not remain long in his house. He donned his goodly

armour overlaid with bronze, and hasted through the city as fast

as his feet could take him. As a horse, stabled and fed, breaks

loose and gallops gloriously over the plain to the place where he

is wont to bathe in the fair-flowing river--he holds his head

high, and his mane streams upon his shoulders as he exults in his

strength and flies like the wind to the haunts and feeding ground

of the mares--even so went forth Paris from high Pergamus,

gleaming like sunlight in his armour, and he laughed aloud as he

sped swiftly on his way. Forthwith he came upon his brother

Hector, who was then turning away from the place where he had

held converse with his wife, and he was himself the first to

speak. "Sir," said he, "I fear that I have kept you waiting when

you are in haste, and have not come as quickly as you bade me."

"My good brother," answered Hector, "you fight bravely, and no

man with any justice can make light of your doings in battle. But

you are careless and wilfully remiss. It grieves me to the heart

to hear the ill that the Trojans speak about you, for they have

suffered much on your account. Let us be going, and we will make

things right hereafter, should Jove vouchsafe us to set the cup

of our deliverance before ever-living gods of heaven in our own

homes, when we have chased the Achaeans from Troy."


 Homer

Sorry, no summary available yet.