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Book X

BOOK X

NOW the other princes of the Achaeans slept soundly the whole

night through, but Agamemnon son of Atreus was troubled, so that

he could get no rest. As when fair Juno's lord flashes his

lightning in token of great rain or hail or snow when the

snow-flakes whiten the ground, or again as a sign that he will

open the wide jaws of hungry war, even so did Agamemnon heave

many a heavy sigh, for his soul trembled within him. When he

looked upon the plain of Troy he marvelled at the many watchfires

burning in front of Ilius, and at the sound of pipes and flutes

and of the hum of men, but when presently he turned towards the

ships and hosts of the Achaeans, he tore his hair by handfuls

before Jove on high, and groaned aloud for the very disquietness

of his soul. In the end he deemed it best to go at once to Nestor

son of Neleus, and see if between them they could find any way of

the Achaeans from destruction. He therefore rose, put on his

shirt, bound his sandals about his comely feet, flung the skin of

a huge tawny lion over his shoulders--a skin that reached his

feet--and took his spear in his hand.

Neither could Menelaus sleep, for he, too, boded ill for the

Argives who for his sake had sailed from far over the seas to

fight the Trojans. He covered his broad back with the skin of a

spotted panther, put a casque of bronze upon his head, and took

his spear in his brawny hand. Then he went to rouse his brother,

who was by far the most powerful of the Achaeans, and was

honoured by the people as though he were a god. He found him by

the stern of his ship already putting his goodly array about his

shoulders, and right glad was he that his brother had come.

Menelaus spoke first. "Why," said he, "my dear brother, are you

thus arming? Are you going to send any of our comrades to exploit

the Trojans? I greatly fear that no one will do you this service,

and spy upon the enemy alone in the dead of night. It will be a

deed of great daring."

And King Agamemnon answered, "Menelaus, we both of us need shrewd

counsel to save the Argives and our ships, for Jove has changed

his mind, and inclines towards Hector's sacrifices rather than

ours. I never saw nor heard tell of any man as having wrought

such ruin in one day as Hector has now wrought against the sons

of the Achaeans--and that too of his own unaided self, for he is

son neither to god nor goddess. The Argives will rue it long and

deeply. Run, therefore, with all speed by the line of the ships,

and call Ajax and Idomeneus. Meanwhile I will go to Nestor, and

bid him rise and go about among the companies of our sentinels to

give them their instructions; they will listen to him sooner than

to any man, for his own son, and Meriones brother in arms to

Idomeneus, are captains over them. It was to them more

particularly that we gave this charge."

Menelaus replied, "How do I take your meaning? Am I to stay with

them and wait your coming, or shall I return here as soon as I

have given your orders?" "Wait," answered King Agamemnon, "for

there are so many paths about the camp that we might miss one

another. Call every man on your way, and bid him be stirring;

name him by his lineage and by his father's name, give each all

titular observance, and stand not too much upon your own dignity;

we must take our full share of toil, for at our birth Jove laid

this heavy burden upon us."

With these instructions he sent his brother on his way, and went

on to Nestor shepherd of his people. He found him sleeping in his

tent hard by his own ship; his goodly armour lay beside him--his

shield, his two spears and his helmet; beside him also lay the

gleaming girdle with which the old man girded himself when he

armed to lead his people into battle--for his age stayed him not.

He raised himself on his elbow and looked up at Agamemnon. "Who

is it," said he, "that goes thus about the host and the ships

alone and in the dead of night, when men are sleeping? Are you

looking for one of your mules or for some comrade? Do not stand

there and say nothing, but speak. What is your business?"

And Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, son of Neleus, honour to the

Achaean name, it is I, Agamemnon son of Atreus, on whom Jove has

laid labour and sorrow so long as there is breath in my body and

my limbs carry me. I am thus abroad because sleep sits not upon

my eyelids, but my heart is big with war and with the jeopardy of

the Achaeans. I am in great fear for the Danaans. I am at sea,

and without sure counsel; my heart beats as though it would leap

out of my body, and my limbs fail me. If then you can do

anything--for you too cannot sleep--let us go the round of the

watch, and see whether they are drowsy with toil and sleeping to

the neglect of their duty. The enemy is encamped hard and we know

not but he may attack us by night."

Nestor replied, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men,

Agamemnon, Jove will not do all for Hector that Hector thinks he

will; he will have troubles yet in plenty if Achilles will lay

aside his anger. I will go with you, and we will rouse others,

either the son of Tydeus, or Ulysses, or fleet Ajax and the

valiant son of Phyleus. Some one had also better go and call Ajax

and King Idomeneus, for their ships are not near at hand but the

farthest of all. I cannot however refrain from blaming Menelaus,

much as I love him and respect him--and I will say so plainly,

even at the risk of offending you--for sleeping and leaving all

this trouble to yourself. He ought to be going about imploring

aid from all the princes of the Achaeans, for we are in extreme

danger."

And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, you may sometimes blame him justly,

for he is often remiss and unwilling to exert himself--not

indeed from sloth, nor yet heedlessness, but because he looks to

me and expects me to take the lead. On this occasion, however, he

was awake before I was, and came to me of his own accord. I have

already sent him to call the very men whom you have named. And

now let us be going. We shall find them with the watch outside

the gates, for it was there I said that we would meet them."

"In that case," answered Nestor, "the Argives will not blame him

nor disobey his orders when he urges them to fight or gives them

instructions."

With this he put on his shirt, and bound his sandals about his

comely feet. He buckled on his purple coat, of two thicknesses,

large, and of a rough shaggy texture, grasped his redoubtable

bronze-shod spear, and wended his way along the line of the

Achaean ships. First he called loudly to Ulysses peer of gods in

counsel and woke him, for he was soon roused by the sound of the

battle-cry. He came outside his tent and said, "Why do you go

thus alone about the host, and along the line of the ships in the

stillness of the night? What is it that you find so urgent?" And

Nestor knight of Gerene answered, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes,

take it not amiss, for the Achaeans are in great straits. Come

with me and let us wake some other, who may advise well with us

whether we shall fight or fly."

On this Ulysses went at once into his tent, put his shield about

his shoulders and came out with them. First they went to Diomed

son of Tydeus, and found him outside his tent clad in his armour

with his comrades sleeping round him and using their shields as

pillows; as for their spears, they stood upright on the spikes of

their butts that were driven into the ground, and the burnished

bronze flashed afar like the lightning of father Jove. The hero

was sleeping upon the skin of an ox, with a piece of fine carpet

under his head; Nestor went up to him and stirred him with his

heel to rouse him, upbraiding him and urging him to bestir

himself. "Wake up," he exclaimed, "son of Tydeus. How can you

sleep on in this way? Can you not see that the Trojans are

encamped on the brow of the plain hard by our ships, with but a

little space between us and them?"

On these words Diomed leaped up instantly and said, "Old man,

your heart is of iron; you rest not one moment from your labours.

Are there no younger men among the Achaeans who could go about to

rouse the princes? There is no tiring you."

And Nestor knight of Gerene made answer, "My son, all that you

have said is true. I have good sons, and also much people who

might call the chieftains, but the Achaeans are in the gravest

danger; life and death are balanced as it were on the edge of a

razor. Go then, for you are younger than I, and of your courtesy

rouse Ajax and the fleet son of Phyleus."

Diomed threw the skin of a great tawny lion about his shoulders--

a skin that reached his feet--and grasped his spear. When he had

roused the heroes, he brought them back with him; they then went

the round of those who were on guard, and found the captains not

sleeping at their posts but wakeful and sitting with their arms

about them. As sheep dogs that watch their flocks when they are

yarded, and hear a wild beast coming through the mountain forest

towards them--forthwith there is a hue and cry of dogs and men,

and slumber is broken--even so was sleep chased from the eyes of

the Achaeans as they kept the watches of the wicked night, for

they turned constantly towards the plain whenever they heard any

stir among the Trojans. The old man was glad bade them be of good

cheer. "Watch on, my children," said he, "and let not sleep get

hold upon you, lest our enemies triumph over us."

With this he passed the trench, and with him the other chiefs of

the Achaeans who had been called to the council. Meriones and the

brave son of Nestor went also, for the princes bade them. When

they were beyond the trench that was dug round the wall they held

their meeting on the open ground where there was a space clear of

corpses, for it was here that when night fell Hector had turned

back from his onslaught on the Argives. They sat down, therefore,

and held debate with one another.

Nestor spoke first. "My friends," said he, "is there any man bold

enough to venture the Trojans, and cut off some straggler, or us

news of what the enemy mean to do whether they will stay here by

the ships away from the city, or whether, now that they have

worsted the Achaeans, they will retire within their walls. If he

could learn all this and come back safely here, his fame would be

high as heaven in the mouths of all men, and he would be rewarded

richly; for the chiefs from all our ships would each of them give

him a black ewe with her lamb--which is a present of surpassing

value--and he would be asked as a guest to all feasts and

clan-gatherings."

They all held their peace, but Diomed of the loud war-cry spoke

saying, "Nestor, gladly will I visit the host of the Trojans over

against us, but if another will go with me I shall do so in

greater confidence and comfort. When two men are together, one of

them may see some opportunity which the other has not caught

sight of; if a man is alone he is less full of resource, and his

wit is weaker."

On this several offered to go with Diomed. The two Ajaxes,

servants of Mars, Meriones, and the son of Nestor all wanted to

go, so did Menelaus son of Atreus; Ulysses also wished to go

among the host of the Trojans, for he was ever full of daring,

and thereon Agamemnon king of men spoke thus: "Diomed," said he,

"son of Tydeus, man after my own heart, choose your comrade for

yourself--take the best man of those that have offered, for many

would now go with you. Do not through delicacy reject the better

man, and take the worst out of respect for his lineage, because

he is of more royal blood."

He said this because he feared for Menelaus. Diomed answered, "If

you bid me take the man of my own choice, how in that case can I

fail to think of Ulysses, than whom there is no man more eager to

face all kinds of danger--and Pallas Minerva loves him well? If

he were to go with me we should pass safely through fire itself,

for he is quick to see and understand."

"Son of Tydeus," replied Ulysses, "say neither good nor ill about

me, for you are among Argives who know me well. Let us be going,

for the night wanes and dawn is at hand. The stars have gone

forward, two-thirds of the night are already spent, and the third

is alone left us."

They then put on their armour. Brave Thrasymedes provided the son

of Tydeus with a sword and a shield (for he had left his own at

his ship) and on his head he set a helmet of bull's hide without

either peak or crest; it is called a skull-cap and is a common

headgear. Meriones found a bow and quiver for Ulysses, and on his

head he set a leathern helmet that was lined with a strong

plaiting of leathern thongs, while on the outside it was thickly

studded with boar's teeth, well and skilfully set into it; next

the head there was an inner lining of felt. This helmet had been

stolen by Autolycus out of Eleon when he broke into the house of

Amyntor son of Ormenus. He gave it to Amphidamas of Cythera to

take to Scandea, and Amphidamas gave it as a guest-gift to Molus,

who gave it to his son Meriones; and now it was set upon the head

of Ulysses.

When the pair had armed, they set out, and left the other

chieftains behind them. Pallas Minerva sent them a heron by the

wayside upon their right hands; they could not see it for the

darkness, but they heard its cry. Ulysses was glad when he heard

it and prayed to Minerva: "Hear me," he cried, "daughter of

aegis-bearing Jove, you who spy out all my ways and who are with

me in all my hardships; befriend me in this mine hour, and grant

that we may return to the ships covered with glory after having

achieved some mighty exploit that shall bring sorrow to the

Trojans."

Then Diomed of the loud war-cry also prayed: "Hear me too," said

he, "daughter of Jove, unweariable; be with me even as you were

with my noble father Tydeus when he went to Thebes as envoy sent

by the Achaeans. He left the Achaeans by the banks of the river

Aesopus, and went to the city bearing a message of peace to the

Cadmeians; on his return thence, with your help, goddess, he did

great deeds of daring, for you were his ready helper. Even so

guide me and guard me now, and in return I will offer you in

sacrifice a broad-browed heifer of a year old, unbroken, and

never yet brought by man under the yoke. I will gild her horns

and will offer her up to you in sacrifice."

Thus they prayed, and Pallas Minerva heard their prayer. When

they had done praying to the daughter of great Jove, they went

their way like two lions prowling by night amid the armour and

blood-stained bodies of them that had fallen.

Neither again did Hector let the Trojans sleep; for he too called

the princes and councillors of the Trojans that he might set his

counsel before them. "Is there one," said he, "who for a great

reward will do me the service of which I will tell you? He shall

be well paid if he will. I will give him a chariot and a couple

of horses, the fleetest that can be found at the ships of the

Achaeans, if he will dare this thing; and he will win infinite

honour to boot; he must go to the ships and find out whether they

are still guarded as heretofore, or whether now that we have

beaten them the Achaeans design to fly, and through sheer

exhaustion are neglecting to keep their watches."

They all held their peace; but there was among the Trojans a

certain man named Dolon, son of Eumedes, the famous herald--a man

rich in gold and bronze. He was ill-favoured, but a good runner,

and was an only son among five sisters. He it was that now

addressed the Trojans. "I, Hector," said he, "Will to the ships

and will exploit them. But first hold up your sceptre and swear

that you will give me the chariot, bedight with bronze, and the

horses that now carry the noble son of Peleus. I will make you a

good scout, and will not fail you. I will go through the host

from one end to the other till I come to the ship of Agamemnon,

where I take it the princes of the Achaeans are now consulting

whether they shall fight or fly."

When he had done speaking Hector held up his sceptre, and swore

him his oath saying, "May Jove the thundering husband of Juno

bear witness that no other Trojan but yourself shall mount those

steeds, and that you shall have your will with them for ever."

The oath he swore was bootless, but it made Dolon more keen on

going. He hung his bow over his shoulder, and as an overall he

wore the skin of a grey wolf, while on his head he set a cap of

ferret skin. Then he took a pointed javelin, and left the camp

for the ships, but he was not to return with any news for Hector.

When he had left the horses and the troops behind him, he made

all speed on his way, but Ulysses perceived his coming and said

to Diomed, "Diomed, here is some one from the camp; I am not sure

whether he is a spy, or whether it is some thief who would

plunder the bodies of the dead; let him get a little past us, we

can then spring upon him and take him. If, however, he is too

quick for us, go after him with your spear and hem him in towards

the ships away from the Trojan camp, to prevent his getting back

to the town."

With this they turned out of their way and lay down among the

corpses. Dolon suspected nothing and soon passed them, but when

he had got about as far as the distance by which a mule-plowed

furrow exceeds one that has been ploughed by oxen (for mules can

plow fallow land quicker than oxen) they ran after him, and when

he heard their footsteps he stood still, for he made sure they

were friends from the Trojan camp come by Hector's orders to bid

him return; when, however, they were only a spear's cast, or less

away form him, he saw that they were enemies as fast as his legs

could take him. The others gave chase at once, and as a couple of

well-trained hounds press forward after a doe or hare that runs

screaming in front of them, even so did the son of Tydeus and

Ulysses pursue Dolon and cut him off from his own people. But

when he had fled so far towards the ships that he would soon have

fallen in with the outposts, Minerva infused fresh strength into

the son of Tydeus for fear some other of the Achaeans might have

the glory of being first to hit him, and he might himself be only

second; he therefore sprang forward with his spear and said,

"Stand, or I shall throw my spear, and in that case I shall soon

make an end of you."

He threw as he spoke, but missed his aim on purpose. The dart

flew over the man's right shoulder, and then stuck in the ground.

He stood stock still, trembling and in great fear; his teeth

chattered, and he turned pale with fear. The two came breathless

up to him and seized his hands, whereon he began to weep and

said, "Take me alive; I will ransom myself; we have great store

of gold, bronze, and wrought iron, and from this my father will

satisfy you with a very large ransom, should he hear of my being

alive at the ships of the Achaeans."

"Fear not," replied Ulysses, "let no thought of death be in your

mind; but tell me, and tell me true, why are you thus going about

alone in the dead of night away from your camp and towards the

ships, while other men are sleeping? Is it to plunder the bodies

of the slain, or did Hector send you to spy out what was going on

at the ships? Or did you come here of your own mere notion?"

Dolon answered, his limbs trembling beneath him: "Hector, with

his vain flattering promises, lured me from my better judgement.

He said he would give me the horses of the noble son of Peleus

and his bronze-bedizened chariot; he bade me go through the

darkness of the flying night, get close to the enemy, and find

out whether the ships are still guarded as heretofore, or

whether, now that we have beaten them, the Achaeans design to

fly, and through sheer exhaustion are neglecting to keep their

watches."

Ulysses smiled at him and answered, "You had indeed set your

heart upon a great reward, but the horses of the descendant of

Aeacus are hardly to be kept in hand or driven by any other

mortal man than Achilles himself, whose mother was an immortal.

But tell me, and tell me true, where did you leave Hector when

you started? Where lies his armour and his horses? How, too, are

the watches and sleeping-ground of the Trojans ordered? What are

their plans? Will they stay here by the ships and away from the

city, or now that they have worsted the Achaeans, will they

retire within their walls?"

And Dolon answered, "I will tell you truly all. Hector and the

other councillors are now holding conference by the monument of

great Ilus, away from the general tumult; as for the guards about

which you ask me, there is no chosen watch to keep guard over the

host. The Trojans have their watchfires, for they are bound to

have them; they, therefore, are awake and keep each other to

their duty as sentinels; but the allies who have come from other

places are asleep and leave it to the Trojans to keep guard, for

their wives and children are not here."

Ulysses then said, "Now tell me; are they sleeping among the

Trojan troops, or do they lie apart? Explain this that I may

understand it."

"I will tell you truly all," replied Dolon. "To the seaward lie

the Carians, the Paeonian bowmen, the Leleges, the Cauconians,

and the noble Pelasgi. The Lysians and proud Mysians, with the

Phrygians and Meonians, have their place on the side towards

Thymbra; but why ask about an this? If you want to find your way

into the host of the Trojans, there are the Thracians, who have

lately come here and lie apart from the others at the far end of

the camp; and they have Rhesus son of Eioneus for their king. His

horses are the finest and strongest that I have ever seen, they

are whiter than snow and fleeter than any wind that blows. His

chariot is bedight with silver and gold, and he has brought his

marvellous golden armour, of the rarest workmanship--too splendid

for any mortal man to carry, and meet only for the gods. Now,

therefore, take me to the ships or bind me securely here, until

you come back and have proved my words whether they be false or

true."

Diomed looked sternly at him and answered, "Think not, Dolon, for

all the good information you have given us, that you shall escape

now you are in our hands, for if we ransom you or let you go, you

will come some second time to the ships of the Achaeans either as

a spy or as an open enemy, but if I kill you and an end of you,

you will give no more trouble."

On this Dolon would have caught him by the beard to beseech him

further, but Diomed struck him in the middle of his neck with his

sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling

in the dust while he was yet speaking. They took the ferret-skin

cap from his head, and also the wolf-skin, the bow, and his long

spear. Ulysses hung them up aloft in honour of Minerva the

goddess of plunder, and prayed saying, "Accept these, goddess,

for we give them to you in preference to all the gods in Olympus:

therefore speed us still further towards the horses and

sleeping-ground of the Thracians."

With these words he took the spoils and set them upon a tamarisk

tree, and they marked the place by pulling up reeds and gathering

boughs of tamarisk that they might not miss it as they came back

through the' flying hours of darkness. The two then went onwards

amid the fallen armour and the blood, and came presently to the

company of Thracian soldiers, who were sleeping, tired out with

their day's toil; their goodly armour was lying on the ground

beside them all orderly in three rows, and each man had his yoke

of horses beside him. Rhesus was sleeping in the middle, and hard

by him his horses were made fast to the topmost rim of his

chariot. Ulysses from some way off saw him and said, "This,

Diomed, is the man, and these are the horses about which Dolon

whom we killed told us. Do your very utmost; dally not about your

armour, but loose the horses at once--or else kill the men

yourself, while I see to the horses."

Thereon Minerva put courage into the heart of Diomed, and he

smote them right and left. They made a hideous groaning as they

were being hacked about, and the earth was red with their blood.

As a lion springs furiously upon a flock of sheep or goats when

he finds without their shepherd, so did the son of Tydeus set

upon the Thracian soldiers till he had killed twelve. As he

killed them Ulysses came and drew them aside by their feet one by

one, that the horses might go forward freely without being

frightened as they passed over the dead bodies, for they were not

yet used to them. When the son of Tydeus came to the king, he

killed him too (which made thirteen), as he was breathing hard,

for by the counsel of Minerva an evil dream, the seed of Oeneus,

hovered that night over his head. Meanwhile Ulysses untied the

horses, made them fast one to another and drove them off,

striking them with his bow, for he had forgotten to take the whip

from the chariot. Then he whistled as a sign to Diomed.

But Diomed stayed where he was, thinking what other daring deed

he might accomplish. He was doubting whether to take the chariot

in which the king's armour was lying, and draw it out by the

pole, or to lift the armour out and carry it off; or whether

again, he should not kill some more Thracians. While he was thus

hesitating Minerva came up to him and said, "Get back, Diomed, to

the ships or you may be driven thither, should some other god

rouse the Trojans."

Diomed knew that it was the goddess, and at once sprang upon the

horses. Ulysses beat them with his bow and they flew onward to

the ships of the Achaeans.

But Apollo kept no blind look-out when he saw Minerva with the

son of Tydeus. He was angry with her, and coming to the host of

the Trojans he roused Hippocoon, a counsellor of the Thracians

and a noble kinsman of Rhesus. He started up out of his sleep and

saw that the horses were no longer in their place, and that the

men were gasping in their death-agony; on this he groaned aloud,

and called upon his friend by name. Then the whole Trojan camp

was in an uproar as the people kept hurrying together, and they

marvelled at the deeds of the heroes who had now got away towards

the ships.

When they reached the place where they had killed Hector's scout,

Ulysses stayed his horses, and the son of Tydeus, leaping to the

ground, placed the blood-stained spoils in the hands of Ulysses

and remounted: then he lashed the horses onwards, and they flew

forward nothing loth towards the ships as though of their own

free will. Nestor was first to hear the tramp of their feet. "My

friends," said he, "princes and counsellors of the Argives, shall

I guess right or wrong?--but I must say what I think: there is a

sound in my ears as of the tramp of horses. I hope it may Diomed

and Ulysses driving in horses from the Trojans, but I much fear

that the bravest of the Argives may have come to some harm at

their hands."

He had hardly done speaking when the two men came in and

dismounted, whereon the others shook hands right gladly with them

and congratulated them. Nestor knight of Gerene was first to

question them. "Tell me," said he, "renowned Ulysses, how did you

two come by these horses? Did you steal in among the Trojan

forces, or did some god meet you and give them to you? They are

like sunbeams. I am well conversant with the Trojans, for old

warrior though I am I never hold back by the ships, but I never

yet saw or heard of such horses as these are. Surely some god

must have met you and given them to you, for you are both of you

dear to Jove, and to Jove's daughter Minerva."

And Ulysses answered, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour to the

Achaean name, heaven, if it so will, can give us even better

horses than these, for the gods are far mightier than we are.

These horses, however, about which you ask me, are freshly come

from Thrace. Diomed killed their king with the twelve bravest of

his companions. Hard by the ships we took a thirteenth man--a

scout whom Hector and the other Trojans had sent as a spy upon

our ships."

He laughed as he spoke and drove the horses over the ditch, while

the other Achaeans followed him gladly. When they reached the

strongly built quarters of the son of Tydeus, they tied the

horses with thongs of leather to the manger, where the steeds of

Diomed stood eating their sweet corn, but Ulysses hung the

blood-stained spoils of Dolon at the stern of his ship, that they

might prepare a sacred offering to Minerva. As for themselves,

they went into the sea and washed the sweat from their bodies,

and from their necks and thighs. When the sea-water had taken all

the sweat from off them, and had refreshed them, they went into

the baths and washed themselves. After they had so done and had

anointed themselves with oil, they sat down to table, and drawing

from a full mixing-bowl, made a drink-offering of wine to

Minerva.

 Homer

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