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Book VII

BOOK VII

WITH these words Hector passed through the gates, and his brother

Alexandrus with him, both eager for the fray. As when heaven

sends a breeze to sailors who have long looked for one in vain,

and have laboured at their oars till they are faint with toil,

even so welcome was the sight of these two heroes to the Trojans.

Thereon Alexandrus killed Menesthius the son of Areithous; he

lived in Arne, and was son of Areithous the Mace-man, and of

Phylomedusa. Hector threw a spear at Eioneus and struck him dead

with a wound in the neck under the bronze rim of his helmet.

Glaucus, moreover, son of Hippolochus, captain of the Lycians, in

hard hand-to-hand fight smote Iphinous son of Dexius on the

shoulder, as he was springing on to his chariot behind his fleet

mares; so he fell to earth from the car, and there was no life

left in him.

When, therefore, Minerva saw these men making havoc of the

Argives, she darted down to Ilius from the summits of Olympus,

and Apollo, who was looking on from Pergamus, went out to meet

her; for he wanted the Trojans to be victorious. The pair met by

the oak tree, and King Apollo son of Jove was first to speak.

"What would you have", said he, "daughter of great Jove, that

your proud spirit has sent you hither from Olympus? Have you no

pity upon the Trojans, and would you incline the scales of

victory in favour of the Danaans? Let me persuade you--for it

will be better thus--stay the combat for to-day, but let them

renew the fight hereafter till they compass the doom of Ilius,

since you goddesses have made up your minds to destroy the city."

And Minerva answered, "So be it, Far-Darter; it was in this mind

that I came down from Olympus to the Trojans and Achaeans. Tell

me, then, how do you propose to end this present fighting?"

Apollo, son of Jove, replied, "Let us incite great Hector to

challenge some one of the Danaans in single combat; on this the

Achaeans will be shamed into finding a man who will fight him."

Minerva assented, and Helenus son of Priam divined the counsel of

the gods; he therefore went up to Hector and said, "Hector son of

Priam, peer of gods in counsel, I am your brother, let me then

persuade you. Bid the other Trojans and Achaeans all of them take

their seats, and challenge the best man among the Achaeans to

meet you in single combat. I have heard the voice of the

ever-living gods, and the hour of your doom is not yet come."

Hector was glad when he heard this saying, and went in among the

Trojans, grasping his spear by the middle to hold them back, and

they all sat down. Agamemnon also bade the Achaeans be seated.

But Minerva and Apollo, in the likeness of vultures, perched on

father Jove's high oak tree, proud of their men; and the ranks

sat close ranged together, bristling with shield and helmet and

spear. As when the rising west wind furs the face of the sea and

the waters grow dark beneath it, so sat the companies of Trojans

and Achaeans upon the plain. And Hector spoke thus:--

"Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am

minded; Jove on his high throne has brought our oaths and

covenants to nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till

you either take the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished

at your ships. The princes of the Achaeans are here present in

the midst of you; let him, then, that will fight me stand forward

as your champion against Hector. Thus I say, and may Jove be

witness between us. If your champion slay me, let him strip me of

my armour and take it to your ships, but let him send my body

home that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire

when I am dead. In like manner, if Apollo vouchsafe me glory and

I slay your champion, I will strip him of his armour and take it

to the city of Ilius, where I will hang it in the temple of

Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the Achaeans may bury

him at their ships, and the build him a mound by the wide waters

of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails his

ship over the sea, 'This is the monument of one who died long

since a champion who was slain by mighty Hector.' Thus will one

say, and my fame shall not be lost."

Thus did he speak, but they all held their peace, ashamed to

decline the challenge, yet fearing to accept it, till at last

Menelaus rose and rebuked them, for he was angry. "Alas," he

cried, "vain braggarts, women forsooth not men, double-dyed

indeed will be the stain upon us if no man of the Danaans will

now face Hector. May you be turned every man of you into earth

and water as you sit spiritless and inglorious in your places. I

will myself go out against this man, but the upshot of the fight

will be from on high in the hands of the immortal gods."

With these words he put on his armour; and then, O Menelaus, your

life would have come to an end at the hands of hands of Hector,

for he was far better the man, had not the princes of the

Achaeans sprung upon you and checked you. King Agamemnon caught

him by the right hand and said, "Menelaus, you are mad; a truce

to this folly. Be patient in spite of passion, do not think of

fighting a man so much stronger than yourself as Hector son of

Priam, who is feared by many another as well as you. Even

Achilles, who is far more doughty than you are, shrank from

meeting him in battle. Sit down your own people, and the Achaeans

will send some other champion to fight Hector; fearless and fond

of battle though he be, I ween his knees will bend gladly under

him if he comes out alive from the hurly-burly of this fight."

With these words of reasonable counsel he persuaded his brother,

whereon his squires gladly stripped the armour from off his

shoulders. Then Nestor rose and spoke, "Of a truth," said he,

"the Achaean land is fallen upon evil times. The old knight

Peleus, counsellor and orator among the Myrmidons, loved when I

was in his house to question me concerning the race and lineage

of all the Argives. How would it not grieve him could he hear of

them as now quailing before Hector? Many a time would he lift his

hands in prayer that his soul might leave his body and go down

within the house of Hades. Would, by father Jove, Minerva, and

Apollo, that I were still young and strong as when the Pylians

and Arcadians were gathered in fight by the rapid river Celadon

under the walls of Pheia, and round about the waters of the river

Iardanus. The godlike hero Ereuthalion stood forward as their

champion, with the armour of King Areithous upon his shoulders--

Areithous whom men and women had surnamed 'the Mace-man,' because

he fought neither with bow nor spear, but broke the battalions of

the foe with his iron mace. Lycurgus killed him, not in fair

fight, but by entrapping him in a narrow way where his mace

served him in no stead; for Lycurgus was too quick for him and

speared him through the middle, so he fell to earth on his back.

Lycurgus then spoiled him of the armour which Mars had given him,

and bore it in battle thenceforward; but when he grew old and

stayed at home, he gave it to his faithful squire Ereuthalion,

who in this same armour challenged the foremost men among us. The

others quaked and quailed, but my high spirit bade me fight him

though none other would venture; I was the youngest man of them

all; but when I fought him Minerva vouchsafed me victory. He was

the biggest and strongest man that ever I killed, and covered

much ground as he lay sprawling upon the earth. Would that I were

still young and strong as I then was, for the son of Priam would

then soon find one who would face him. But you, foremost among

the whole host though you be, have none of you any stomach for

fighting Hector."

Thus did the old man rebuke them, and forthwith nine men started

to their feet. Foremost of all uprose King Agamemnon, and after

him brave Diomed the son of Tydeus. Next were the two Ajaxes, men

clothed in valour as with a garment, and then Idomeneus, and

Meriones his brother in arms. After these Eurypylus son of

Euaemon, Thoas the son of Andraemon, and Ulysses also rose. Then

Nestor knight of Gerene again spoke, saying: "Cast lots among you

to see who shall be chosen. If he come alive out of this fight he

will have done good service alike to his own soul and to the

Achaeans."

Thus he spoke, and when each of them had marked his lot, and had

thrown it into the helmet of Agamemnon son of Atreus, the people

lifted their hands in prayer, and thus would one of them say as

he looked into the vault of heaven, "Father Jove, grant that the

lot fall on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of

rich Mycene himself."

As they were speaking, Nestor knight of Gerene shook the helmet,

and from it there fell the very lot which they wanted--the lot of

Ajax. The herald bore it about and showed it to all the

chieftains of the Achaeans, going from left to right; but they

none of them owned it. When, however, in due course he reached

the man who had written upon it and had put it into the helmet,

brave Ajax held out his hand, and the herald gave him the lot.

When Ajax saw his mark he knew it and was glad; he threw it to

the ground and said, "My friends, the lot is mine, and I rejoice,

for I shall vanquish Hector. I will put on my armour; meanwhile,

pray to King Jove in silence among yourselves that the Trojans

may not hear you--or aloud if you will, for we fear no man. None

shall overcome me, neither by force nor cunning, for I was born

and bred in Salamis, and can hold my own in all things."

With this they fell praying to King Jove the son of Saturn, and

thus would one of them say as he looked into the vault of heaven,

"Father Jove that rulest from Ida, most glorious in power,

vouchsafe victory to Ajax, and let him win great glory: but if

you wish well to Hector also and would protect him, grant to each

of them equal fame and prowess."

Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming

bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous

Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting with

one another--even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans,

spring forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his

long spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they

beheld him, but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart

even of Hector beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and

withdraw into the ranks behind him, for he had been the

challenger. Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like

a wall--a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide--the work

of Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in

leather. He had made it with the hides of seven full-fed bulls,

and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this

shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to Hector,

and menaced him saying, "Hector, you shall now learn, man to man,

what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides

lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. He now abides

at the ships in anger with Agamemnon shepherd of his people, but

there are many of us who are well able to face you; therefore

begin the fight."

And Hector answered, "Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, captain of the

host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that

cannot fight. I have been long used to the blood and butcheries

of battle. I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right

or left, for this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge

among the chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can

delight the heart of Mars; howbeit I would not take such a man as

you are off his guard--but I will smite you openly if I can."

He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it from him. It

struck the sevenfold shield in its outermost layer--the eighth,

which was of bronze--and went through six of the layers but in

the seventh hide it stayed. Then Ajax threw in his turn, and

struck the round shield of the son of Priam. The terrible spear

went through his gleaming shield, and pressed onward through his

cuirass of cunning workmanship; it pierced the shirt against his

side, but he swerved and thus saved his life. They then each of

them drew out the spear from his shield, and fell on one another

like savage lions or wild boars of great strength and endurance:

the son of Priam struck the middle of Ajax's shield, but the

bronze did not break, and the point of his dart was turned. Ajax

then sprang forward and pierced the shield of Hector; the spear

went through it and staggered him as he was springing forward to

attack; it gashed his neck and the blood came pouring from the

wound, but even so Hector did not cease fighting; he gave ground,

and with his brawny hand seized a stone, rugged and huge, that

was lying upon the plain; with this he struck the shield of Ajax

on the boss that was in its middle, so that the bronze rang

again. But Ajax in turn caught up a far larger stone, swung it

aloft, and hurled it with prodigious force. This millstone of a

rock broke Hector's shield inwards and threw him down on his back

with the shield crushing him under it, but Apollo raised him at

once. Thereon they would have hacked at one another in close

combat with their swords, had not heralds, messengers of gods and

men, come forward, one from the Trojans and the other from the

Achaeans--Talthybius and Idaeus both of them honourable men;

these parted them with their staves, and the good herald Idaeus

said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are both of you valiant, and

both are dear to Jove; we know this; but night is now falling,

and the behests of night may not be well gainsaid."

Ajax son of Telamon answered, "Idaeus, bid Hector say so, for it

was he that challenged our princes. Let him speak first and I

will accept his saying."

Then Hector said, "Ajax, heaven has vouchsafed you stature and

strength, and judgement; and in wielding the spear you excel all

others of the Achaeans. Let us for this day cease fighting;

hereafter we will fight anew till heaven decide between us, and

give victory to one or to the other; night is now falling, and

the behests of night may not be well gainsaid. Gladden, then, the

hearts of the Achaeans at your ships, and more especially those

of your own followers and clansmen, while I, in the great city of

King Priam, bring comfort to the Trojans and their women, who vie

with one another in their prayers on my behalf. Let us, moreover,

exchange presents that it may be said among the Achaeans and

Trojans, 'They fought with might and main, but were reconciled

and parted in friendship.'"

On this he gave Ajax a silver-studded sword with its sheath and

leathern baldric, and in return Ajax gave him a girdle dyed with

purple. Thus they parted, the one going to the host of the

Achaeans, and the other to that of the Trojans, who rejoiced when

they saw their hero come to them safe and unharmed from the

strong hands of mighty Ajax. They led him, therefore, to the city

as one that had been saved beyond their hopes. On the other side

the Achaeans brought Ajax elated with victory to Agamemnon.

When they reached the quarters of the son of Atreus, Agamemnon

sacrificed for them a five-year-old bull in honour of Jove the

son of Saturn. They flayed the carcass, made it ready, and

divided it into joints; these they cut carefully up into smaller

pieces, putting them on the spits, roasting them sufficiently,

and then drawing them off. When they had done all this and had

prepared the feast, they ate it, and every man had his full and

equal share, so that all were satisfied, and King Agamemnon gave

Ajax some slices cut lengthways down the loin, as a mark of

special honour. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,

old Nestor whose counsel was ever truest began to speak; with all

sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:--

"Son of Atreus, and other chieftains, inasmuch as many of the

Achaeans are now dead, whose blood Mars has shed by the banks of

the Scamander, and their souls have gone down to the house of

Hades, it will be well when morning comes that we should cease

fighting; we will then wheel our dead together with oxen and

mules and burn them not far from the ships, that when we sail

hence we may take the bones of our comrades home to their

children. Hard by the funeral pyre we will build a barrow that

shall be raised from the plain for all in common; near this let

us set about building a high wall, to shelter ourselves and our

ships, and let it have well-made gates that there may be a way

through them for our chariots. Close outside we will dig a deep

trench all round it to keep off both horse and foot, that the

Trojan chieftains may not bear hard upon us."

Thus he spoke, and the princess shouted in applause. Meanwhile

the Trojans held a council, angry and full of discord, on the

acropolis by the gates of King Priam's palace; and wise Antenor

spoke. "Hear me," he said, "Trojans, Dardanians, and allies, that

I may speak even as I am minded. Let us give up Argive Helen and

her wealth to the sons of Atreus, for we are now fighting in

violation of our solemn covenants, and shall not prosper till we

have done as I say."

He then sat down and Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen rose to

speak. "Antenor," said he, "your words are not to my liking; you

can find a better saying than this if you will; if, however, you

have spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven robbed you of

your reason. I will speak plainly, and hereby notify to the

Trojans that I will not give up the woman; but the wealth that I

brought home with her from Argos I will restore, and will add yet

further of my own."

On this, when Paris had spoken and taken his seat, Priam of the

race of Dardanus, peer of gods in council, rose and with all

sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus: "Hear me, Trojans,

Dardanians, and allies, that I may speak even as I am minded. Get

your suppers now as hitherto throughout the city, but keep your

watches and be wakeful. At daybreak let Idaeus go to the ships,

and tell Agamemnon and Menelaus sons of Atreus the saying of

Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about; and let him

also be instant with them that they now cease fighting till we

burn our dead; hereafter we will fight anew, till heaven decide

between us and give victory to one or to the other."

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

supper in their companies and at daybreak Idaeus went his way to

the ships. He found the Danaans, servants of Mars, in council at

the stern of Agamemnon's ship, and took his place in the midst of

them. "Son of Atreus," he said, "and princes of the Achaean host,

Priam and the other noble Trojans have sent me to tell you the

saying of Alexandrus through whom this quarrel has come about, if

so be that you may find it acceptable. All the treasure he took

with him in his ships to Troy--would that he had sooner

perished--he will restore, and will add yet further of his own,

but he will not give up the wedded wife of Menelaus, though the

Trojans would have him do so. Priam bade me inquire further if

you will cease fighting till we burn our dead; hereafter we will

fight anew, till heaven decide between us and give victory to one

or to the other."

They all held their peace, but presently Diomed of the loud

war-cry spoke, saying, "Let there be no taking, neither treasure,

nor yet Helen, for even a child may see that the doom of the

Trojans is at hand."

The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words that

Diomed had spoken, and thereon King Agamemnon said to Idaeus,

"Idaeus, you have heard the answer the Achaeans make you-and I

with them. But as concerning the dead, I give you leave to burn

them, for when men are once dead there should be no grudging them

the rites of fire. Let Jove the mighty husband of Juno be witness

to this covenant."

As he spoke he upheld his sceptre in the sight of all the gods,

and Idaeus went back to the strong city of Ilius. The Trojans and

Dardanians were gathered in council waiting his return; when he

came, he stood in their midst and delivered his message. As soon

as they heard it they set about their twofold labour, some to

gather the corpses, and others to bring in wood. The Argives on

their part also hastened from their ships, some to gather the

corpses, and others to bring in wood.

The sun was beginning to beat upon the fields, fresh risen into

the vault of heaven from the slow still currents of deep Oceanus,

when the two armies met. They could hardly recognise their dead,

but they washed the clotted gore from off them, shed tears over

them, and lifted them upon their waggons. Priam had forbidden the

Trojans to wail aloud, so they heaped their dead sadly and

silently upon the pyre, and having burned them went back to the

city of Ilius. The Achaeans in like manner heaped their dead

sadly and silently on the pyre, and having burned them went back

to their ships.

Now in the twilight when it was not yet dawn, chosen bands of the

Achaeans were gathered round the pyre and built one barrow that

was raised in common for all, and hard by this they built a high

wall to shelter themselves and their ships; they gave it strong

gates that there might be a way through them for their chariots,

and close outside it they dug a trench deep and wide, and they

planted it within with stakes.

Thus did the Achaeans toil, and the gods, seated by the side of

Jove the lord of lightning, marvelled at their great work; but

Neptune, lord of the earthquake, spoke, saying, "Father Jove,

what mortal in the whole world will again take the gods into his

counsel? See you not how the Achaeans have built a wall about

their ships and driven a trench all round it, without offering

hecatombs to the gods? The fame of this wall will reach as far as

dawn itself, and men will no longer think anything of the one

which Phoebus Apollo and myself built with so much labour for

Laomedon."

Jove was displeased and answered, "What, O shaker of the earth,

are you talking about? A god less powerful than yourself might be

alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame reaches as far as

dawn itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their

ships, you can shatter their wall and fling it into the sea; you

can cover the beach with sand again, and the great wall of the

Achaeans will then be utterly effaced."

Thus did they converse, and by sunset the work of the Achaeans

was completed; they then slaughtered oxen at their tents and got

their supper. Many ships had come with wine from Lemnos, sent by

Euneus the son of Jason, born to him by Hypsipyle. The son of

Jason freighted them with ten thousand measures of wine, which he

sent specially to the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus.

From this supply the Achaeans bought their wine, some with

bronze, some with iron, some with hides, some with whole heifers,

and some again with captives. They spread a goodly banquet and

feasted the whole night through, as also did the Trojans and

their allies in the city. But all the time Jove boded them ill

and roared with his portentous thunder. Pale fear got hold upon

them, and they spilled the wine from their cups on to the ground,

nor did any dare drink till he had made offerings to the most

mighty son of Saturn. Then they laid themselves down to rest and

enjoyed the boon of sleep.

 Homer

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