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Ancient Greece

Homer: Iliad: Book VII: Ajax Duels With Hector


The focus, and the main event, of this book is the tremendous one-to-one combat between the Trojan prince Hector and the the Greek hero Ajax, son of Telamon, or Ajax the Greater (see ll. 206-282). As in the case of the duel between Paris and Menelaus in Book III, the Greek had the better of the fighting, but neither warrior was significantly wounded. A significant theme of Book VII is the importance attached to the cremation of those killed in the fighting. In making his challenge to the Greeks, Hector emphasises the need for the victor in the duel to return the body of his opponent to enable proper funeral rites to be adopted (see ll. 77-91). After the battle between Hector and Ajax has ended, Nestor stresses the importance of preserving the ashes of the dead in urns, so that they can eventually be transported back to their homes and families in Greece (see ll. 333-335). This is a curious suggestion, not least because his next suggestion is that the Greeks should pile up a single funeral mound by the funeral pyre as a common grave for all (l. 336). Much of the final phases of the Book deal with the truce agreed between the two sides for the purpose of burying the dead, and the burial arrangements that followed (ll. 372-432), and the attention given to this reflects perhaps the importance of such arrangements to Homer’s contemporaries. In addition to his anomalous suggestion about placing ashes in individual urns, Nestor also goes on to suggest that the Greeks should build a defensive wall around their ships (l. 337), and then a ditch in front of the wall (l. 341). It is obviously surprising that such a wall should only be suggested in the tenth year of the War, and indeed there appears no particular reason for building it then, since, according to the text of Book VII, up to this point the Greeks have been relatively successful in the fighting that precedes Nestor’s suggestion. Still, some allowance for poetic licence must be given, and, as this wall is to play a significant part in Book XII, there is some sense in its appearance at an earlier part in the work. The final sections of the Book highlight the construction of the wall and its adjacent ditch by the Greeks (ll. 432-441), Poseidon’s anger that such work has not been accompanied by sacrificial honours to the gods (ll. 445-453), and Zeus’ somewhat petulant response to his brother’s anger (ll. 455-463).

The text for this translation is taken from “Homer: Iliad I-XII”, edited by M.M. Willcock, Bristol Classical Press (1978).

Ll. 1-53. Apollo and Athene debate the battle.

So saying, glorious Hector rushed out of the gates, and with him went his brother Alexander (i.e Paris); and in their hearts both (of them) were eager for war and battle. Like a god sends a fair wind to longing sailors, when they are weary from smiting the sea with their well-polished pine (oar-blades), and the limbs beneath (them) are weakened through exhaustion, so these two seemed to the longing Trojans.

Then, one of them slew the son of King Areïthous, Menesthius, who dwelt in Arne, (and) whom the club-bearer Areïthous and ox-eyed Philomedusa had brought to birth; and Hector struck Eïoneus on the neck with his sharp-pointed spear below his finely wrought bronze helmet, and loosened his limbs (i.e. he died). Then, Glaucus, son of Hippolochus, leader of the men of Lycia, struck Iphinous, the son of Dexius, in the shoulder with his spear during the mighty conflict, as he leapt into the chariot (behind) his swift (horses); and he toppled from his chariot on to the ground, and his limbs were loosened.

But then, when the bright-eyed goddess Athene became aware that they were slaying Argives in the fierce conflict, she went darting down from the peaks of Olympus to holy Ilium. Now, Apollo. looking down from Pergamum (i.e. the citadel of Troy), was keen to meet her, and he wanted victory for the Trojans; then, the two (of them) met each other by the oak-tree (i.e. the one beside the Scaean Gate). Lord Apollo, son of Zeus, addressed her first: “Why, pray, have you come again (so) eagerly from Olympus, daughter of mighty Zeus, and has your proud spirit sent you? I suppose it is so that you can grant a decisive victory in the battle to the Danaans, since you have no pity at all for the Trojan dead. But it would be better by far if you would pay some attention to me; now let us stop the war and the fighting today; thereafter they may fight again, until they achieve their goal of Ilium, since it seems so dear to the hearts of you immortal (goddesses) to destroy this city.

Then, the bright-eyed goddess Athene addressed him in reply: “So be (it), (you) who shoots from afar; for that is what I had in mind myself, (when) I came from Olympus into the midst of the Trojans and the Achaeans. But come (now), how do you intend to put a stop to this war between men?”

Then, lord Apollo, son of Zeus, spoke to her again: “Let us rouse the mighty spirit of horse-taming Hector, (to see) if perhaps he will challenge one of the Danaans to fight against (him) in dread combat one to one, and, (if) the bronze-greaved Achaeans, having been provoked, will send (someone) out to fight alone against godlike Hector.”

So he spoke, and the bright-eyed goddess Athene did not disobey (him). And Priam’s dear son Helenus had worked out in his mind the plan of theirs, which was pleasing to the gods, as they deliberated. And he came and stood beside Hector, and said these words to him: “Hector, son of Priam, peer of Zeus in counsel, will you now take some advice from me? For I am your brother. Tell the other Trojans and all the Achaeans to be seated, and (then,) whoever (is) the best of the Achaeans, you, yourself, should challenge (him) to fight with you face to face in dread combat.

Ll. 54-119. Hector issues a challenge.

So he spoke, and then Hector, hearing these words, rejoiced greatly, and he went into their midst, and, taking hold of the middle of his spear, he kept back the battalions of the Trojans; and they were all made to sit down. Then, Agamemnon made the bronze-greaved Achaeans sit down (as well); and Athene and Apollo of the silver-bow sat down in the likeness of vultures upon the lofty oak-tree of father Zeus who bears the aegis, rejoicing at (the sight of) the warriors; and they sat (there) packed close in their ranks, bristling with shields, and helmets, and spears. Like the ripple spreads over (the surface of) the deep, just as the West Wind arises, and the deep grows black beneath it, so sat the ranks of the Achaeans and the Trojans on the plain. Then, Hector spoke between the two (hosts): “Hear me, (you) Trojans and (you) well-greaved Achaeans, that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. The son of Cronos (i.e. Zeus) has not brought our oaths (i.e. the oaths sworn to settle the conflict by Paris and Menelaus fighting one another in single combat) to fulfilment, but, with (ill) intent, he plans misery for both our (peoples), until either you take strong-walled Troy, or you, yourselves, are overpowered beside your seafaring ships. For the finest (men) of all the Achaeans are among you; of these, let one (man), whom his heart urges to fight with me, come out here now from among (you) all to be your champion against the goodly Hector. And I say as follows, and let Zeus be our witness (to it): if that (man) should slay me with his long-pointed bronze (weapon), let him strip off my armour and take (it) to the hollow ships, but let him give my body back to my home, so that the Trojans and the wives of the Trojans can grant me in death the right of (funeral) fire (i.e. burn my body). But, if I should slay him, I shall strip off his armour and carry (it back) to sacred Ilium, and hang (it) at the temple of Apollo the far-shooter, but his corpse I shall return to the well-benched ships, so that the long-haired Achaeans can bury him, and heap up a mound for him by the wide Hellespont. And one day someone will say, even from (generations of) men yet to be born, as they sail by over the sparkling ocean in their many-benched ship: ‘This (is) the mound of a warrior who died long ago, and whom glorious Hector once slew, even though he was a very great (man).’ So shall some (man) sometime say; and my glory shall never die.”

So he spoke, and they all became hushed in silence: they were ashamed to refuse (him), but were afraid to accept (his challenge); but, finally, Menelaus got up and addressed (them), reproaching (them) with (words of) abuse, and deeply did he groan in his heart: “Ah me, (you) braggarts, (you) women of Achaea, Achaean (men) no longer: surely this will be a most dreadful disgrace, if no (man) among the Danaans will now go to meet Hector. But may you all turn into water and earth, if you sit there, each (one of you) without courage and utterly inglorious; I shall arm myself against this (man); but the threads of victory are held up above in (the hands of) the immortal gods.”

So he spoke, and donned his fine armour. (And) then, Menelaus, the end of your life would have occurred at the hands of Hector, since he was by far the stronger, if the kings of the Achaeans had not sprung up and caught hold (of you), and Agamemnon, himself, the wide-ruling son of Atreus seized your right-hand, and said these words to you, and called (you) by name: “You are being foolish, Menelaus, cherished by Zeus, (for) you have no need of such madness: but restrain yourself, however distressed (you are), and, in your zeal, do not try to fight with Hector, son of Priam, (who is) a better man than you, and others too have reason to hate him. And even Achilles shudders to meet this (man) in the (sort of) fighting where men win glory, and he (is) a very much better (man) than you. But you go now and sit with your band of companions, and the Achaeans will raise up another champion (to fight) against this (man). Even if he is without fear and he is insatiate with the din of battle, I think he will gladly bend his knee in rest, if he should escape from the fury of war and the dread conflict.”

Ll. 120-160. Nestor speaks.

Thus speaking, the hero (i.e. Agamemnon) prevailed upon his brother’s (i.e. Menelaus’) mind, and showed (him) what was right, and he was persuaded; then, his companions gladly took the armour from his shoulders; and Nestor arose and addressed the Argives: “Fie upon you! For sure, great grief is come upon the land of Achaea. That old horseman Peleus (king of Thessalian Phthia, and father of Achilles) would certainly groan aloud, that goodly counsellor and orator of the Myrmidons, (he) who once questioned me in my own house and rejoiced, as he asked about the lineage and parentage of every Argive. If he could hear now that all those (men) were shrinking in fear before Hector, he would lift up his hands to the immortal gods (in) constant (prayer) that his spirit might (leave) his body and sink down into the house of Hades.

“For, father Zeus, and Athene, and Apollo, if (only) I were (as) young as (I was), when the Pylians and the Arcadian spearmen had assembled by the swift-flowing Celadon (i.e. a tributary of the River Alpheus) and were fighting beside the walls of Pheia (i.e. a city in Elis in the west of the Peloponnese) beside the stream of the Jardanus. Then, Ereuthalion stood forth (as) their champion, a godlike man, bearing on his shoulders the armour of king Areïthous (i.e. the king of Arne in Boeotia), the noble Areïthous, whom men and well-girdled women used to call by the name of the ‘Club-bearer’, because he was accustomed to fight, not with a bow or with a long spear, but he shattered the (enemy) ranks with his club made of iron. Lycurgus (i.e. king in Arcadia) slew him by cunning, not in any way by strength, in a narrow defile, where his iron mace could not save him from destruction; for before he could wield (it), Lycurgus pierced (him) in the midriff, and he fell backwards on to the ground; then he (i.e. Lycurgus) stripped (him) (i.e. Areïthous) of the armour which brazen Ares had given him. And, thereafter, he wore it constantly himself amid the turmoil of battle. But, when Lycurgus grew old within his halls, then he gave (it) to his dear companion Ereuthalion to wear; so, wearing this armour, he challenged all our best (men). But they began to tremble and were sore afraid, and no one accepted (his challenge). But my hardy spirit, in (all) its boldness, urged me to do battle (with him); yet I was the youngest of all (of them); and I did fight with him, and Athene granted (the object of) my prayer. (He was) the tallest and the strongest man I (ever) slew; for this huge man lay (there) sprawling all over the place. Would that I were as young (as that now), and that my strength was still there; then Hector of the shining helmet would swiftly meet (his match) in battle. But (those) among you who are the leading (men) of all the Achaeans, not even they are heartily striving to go against Hector.

Ll. 161-232. Ajax the Greater is chosen by lot to fight Hector.

So the old man berated (them), and nine men in all leapt up. Agamemnon, the king of men, was by far the first to rise, and after him rose mighty Diomedes, Tydeus’ son, and after them the (two) Aiantes, clad in their impetuous spirits, and after them Idomeneus and Idomeneus’ comrade Meriones, the peer of man-slaying Enyalius (i.e. Ares), and after them Eurypylus, the glorious son of Euaemon, and up sprang Thoas, son of Andraemon, and the godlike Odysseus. All these (men) were willing to do battle with godlike Hector. Then the Gerenian horseman Nestor addressed them once more: “Now you must cast lots thoroughly (to see) who is chosen; for he will surely bring benefit to the well-greaved Achaeans, and gladness to his own heart, if he should escape from the fury of war and from this dread combat.”

So he spoke, and each of them marked his lot and cast (it) into the helmet of Agamemnon, son of Atreus. And the host offered up prayer and raised their hands to the gods; and so one (man) would say, as he looked up to the broad heavens: “Father Zeus, let the lot fall on Ajax, or on Tydeus’s son (i.e. Diomedes), or on the king of gold-rich Mycenae, himself (i.e. Agamemnon).”

So they said, and the Gerenian horseman Nestor shook his helmet, and out of (it) sprung a lot, (the one) which they (all) desired, (that) of Ajax; then a herald carries (it) through the throng in all directions, (and moving) from left to right, he showed (it) to all the leading (men) of the Achaeans; but they did not recognise (it) and denied (it was theirs), everyone (of them). But, when as he carried it in all directions through the throng, he reached that (man), who had marked it and cast (it) into the helmet, (namely) glorious Ajax, then, in truth, he (i.e. Ajax) put out his hand, and the (herald) stood beside (him) and placed (the lot) in (it), and he saw the mark on the lot and recognised (it), and was glad at heart. Then, he threw the (lot) on the ground beside his foot, and shouted out: “O my friends, the lot (is) truly mine, and I, myself, am overjoyed, since I think I shall vanquish godlike Hector. But come (now), while I am donning my battle gear, do you make prayer to king Zeus, the son of Cronos, (but) in silence to yourselves, so the Trojans cannot hear, or do so publicly, since, in any case, there is no one that we fear. For no man shall drive me back purposefully against my will by force, nor by any skill (of his), since, as I was was born and raised in Salamis, I trust that I am not so unskilled (as that).”

So he spoke, and they prayed to king Zeus, the son of Cronos; and a man would look up to the broad heavens and say these (words) repeatedly: “Zeus, our most glorious and mighty father, who rules from Ida (i.e. a mountain just to the south of Troy), grant Ajax victory, and that he may win the splendid (object of) his prayer. But, if you really love Hector too and care for him, (then) grant equal strength and glory to both (of them).”

So they spoke, and Ajax arrayed himself in gleaming bronze. But, when he had clothed his body in all its armour, then he sets out (for battle) like the huge Ares goes (to war), and he enters the fray amid warriors whom the son of Cronos brings together to contend in the fury of heart-eating strife. Thus did Ajax, the enormous bulwark of the Achaeans, rise (to battle) with a smile on his bristling face; he went his way with long strides of his feet beneath (him), brandishing his spear that cast a long shadow. Then, as they looked upon him, the Argives were glad, but a dreadful trembling came over the limbs of each of the Trojans, and Hector’s heart beat (fast) within his breast; but yet he could not possibly shrink away or retreat back into the mass of the host, since, in his eagerness to fight, (it was) he (who) had issued the challenge. Now, Ajax drew near, bearing his tower-like shield made of bronze and and seven bulls’-hides, which Tychius had wrought for him, (he who was) by far the best of those working in leather, and who dwelt in his house in Hyle (i.e. a Boeotian city on the shores of Lake Cephisis); (he it was) who had made him a glinting shield, with seven layers of hide from well-fed bulls, and over (these) he had beaten an eighth (layer) of bronze. Carrying (his shield) in front of his chest, Telamonian Ajax stood very close to Hector, and accosted him with these threatening (words): “Hector, now you are surely going to find out, face to face, what kind of chieftains there are among the Danaans, even after the lion-hearted Achilles, that breaker of the ranks of men. But he is lying idly by his beaked sea-going ships, having been angered by Agamemnon, shepherd of the host; yet we are the sort (of men) who are prepared to face you, and (there are) many (of us); but may you begin the fighting and the combat!”

Ll. 233-312. Ajax and Hector fight.

Then, mighty Hector of the shining helmet said to him: “Zeus-born Ajax, son of Telamon, commander of the host, do not try to test me in battle like some feeble child or a woman who knows nothing of the deeds of war. But I know well about fighting and the slaughter of men; I know (how) to direct the tanned ox-hide (of my shield) to the right, and to the left, (and) that (is what) true fighting means to me; and I know (how) to charge into the battle-fury of swift chariots; and I know (how) to dance to the measure of deadly Ares. But, (be on your guard), for I do not wish to hit you, great (man) that you are, by stealth as I look around (at you), but openly, if (only) I can strike you.”

So he spoke, and (then) he poised his spear that cast a long shadow and hurled (it), and he struck Ajax’s fearsome shield with its seven layers of ox-hide on the very edge of the bronze that was on it (as) an eighth layer. The stubborn bronze(-head) went cleaving (its way) through six layers, but it was checked by the seventh ox-hide. Then, in turn, Zeus-born Ajax hurled his spear that cast a long shadow, and it landed on the son of Priam’s completely round shield. The mighty spear went through the bright shield, and forced its way through the richly ornamented corselet; and the spear cut straight through his tunic beside his flank; but he swerved aside and avoided back death. Then, the two of them pulled out the long spears with both hands, and fell on one another like carnivorous lions, or wild boars, whose strength is not easily exhausted. Then the son of Priam thrust his spear into the middle of the shield, but its bronze(-head) did not break through, and its point was turned. Then, Ajax leapt upon (him) and stabbed at his shield; and the spear went right through, and pushed (him) back as he pressed forward, and reached his neck as it cut, and the dark blood gushed forth. Yet even so, Hector of the shining helmet would not stop fighting, but, as he gave ground, he seized in his stout hand a stone that was lying on the plain, black, and jagged, and huge; with this, he struck Ajax’s fearsome shield of seven ox-hides on the boss in its centre, and its bronze (sound) rang out all around. Then, in turn, Ajax took up a much bigger stone, (and) swung (it) around and hurled (it), and, (in doing so,) he brought his immense strength to bear. And, striking (him) with a rock like a mill-stone, he smashed his shield in (on him), and brought him to his knees; he was stretched out on his back with his shield rammed down on to (him); but Apollo swiftly raised him up. And now they would have fought hand to hand with swords, if heralds, the messengers of both Zeus and of men, had not come, one from the Trojans, and one from the bronze-clad Achaeans, Idaeus (i.e. the herald of Priam) and Talthybius (i.e. the herald of Agamemnon), wise (men) both. They held their staves between the two of them, and the herald Idaeus, skilled in wise counsel, spoke these words (to them): “Wage war no longer, dear children, and do not fight any more; for cloud-gathering Zeus loves both of you, and (you are) both brave (warriors): this we all know. Night is coming on already; and (it is) good to give way to night.”

Then, Telamonian Ajax addressed him in reply: “Idaeus, you must tell Hector to say these (words); for (it was) he (who,) in his eagerness (for battle), challenged all our leading (men). Let him (speak) first; should he speak out, I shall readily comply.”

Then, mighty Hector of the shining helmet said to him: “Ajax, since a god granted you great size and strength, and wisdom (too), and you are the most powerful of the Achaeans with regard to spears, now let us cease our fighting and our combat for today; but afterwards we shall fight on, until a god shall judge between us, and grant victory to one or the other of us. But night is already coming on; and it is good to give way to night, as you can bring gladness to all the Achaeans beside their ships, and especially your clansmen and the companions that you have. And I shall bring gladness throughout the great city of King Priam to the (men) of Troy and the long-robed Trojan (women), who will gather in sacred procession to offer prayers on my behalf. But come, let us give each other glorious gifts, so that people, both Achaeans and Trojans, will say this: ‘These two fought in heart-eating strife, and then they separated and were joined in friendship’.”

So saying, he fetched and gave (him) his silver-studded sword, together with its scabbard and well-cut baldric; and Ajax gave (him) his radiant purple belt. Then, they parted: one went back among the host of the Achaeans; the other went (back) to the Trojan throng; and they were overjoyed when they saw (him) coming towards (them) alive and unharmed, having escaped from the strength of Ajax and his invincible hands; and they escorted (him) to the city, scarcely believing he was safe. On the other side, the well-greaved Achaeans escorted Ajax to godlike Agamemnon, rejoicing in his victory.

Ll. 313-378. Both sides take counsel.

When they came to the hut of the son of Atreus, Agamemnon, king of men, sacrificed among them a male ox, five years old, to the almighty son of Cronos. They flayed and dressed (it), and cut the whole (carcass) into joints, and they skilfully chopped (these) and threaded (them) on spits, and roasted (them) carefully, and (then) drew off all (the meat). When they had finished their work and prepared the meal, they sit down to eat, nor did any (man’s) desire lack an equal share of the feast; and the heroic son of Atreus, wide-ruling Agamemnon honoured Ajax with the continuous (piece of the) chine (i.e. the backbone). But, when they had satisfied their desire for food and drink, the old (man) Nestor first began to weave (the web of) his thoughts around them; then he addressed them with good intent, and said (the following words): “Son of Atreus, and all (you) other leading (men) of the Achaeans, many long-haired Achaeans have died, and fierce Ares has now dispersed their dark blood along (the banks of) the smoothly-flowing Scamander, and their souls have gone down to Hades; therefore, at dawn you should put a stop to the Achaeans’ fighting, and we, ourselves, should gather together and wheel the bodies back here with oxen and mules; but let us cremate (them) a little (way) off from the ships, so that each (one of us) can take (a man’s) bones home to his children, when we return again to our native land. Let us pile up a single funeral mound around the pyre, extending (it) in an unbroken line from the plain; and from it let us swiftly build a lofty wall (as) a defence for our ships and ourselves. And in them let us construct some well-fitting gates, so that there may be a way for chariots (to go) through them; and just outside (it), let us dig a deep ditch, which, being all around (us), should keep back chariots and foot-soldiers, should the attacks of the haughty Trojans ever press heavily upon (us).”

So he spoke, and all the kings applauded (his proposal). A gathering of the Trojans, full of fear and tumult, also occurred within the citadel of Ilium, by the doors of Priam’s (palace). And, among them, wise Antenor was the first to speak: “Listen to me, (you) Trojans and Dardanians and allies, so that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. Come now, let us give Argive Helen, and her possessions with her, to the sons of Atreus (for them) to take away; now we are fighting, having broken our sworn oaths; therefore, I have no hope that anything profitable will be accomplished by us, unless we act thus.”

So, having spoken, he sat down; then, in their midst, up stood godlike Alexander (i.e. Paris), the husband of the lovely-haired Helen, and he spoke these winged words to him in reply: “Antenor, those (things) you are saying are not pleasing to me at all; and you know (how) to devise other words that are better than these. But, if you are really saying this in earnest, then, indeed, the gods themselves have destroyed your wits. But I shall speak out among the horse-taming (men) of Troy. I declare (this) absolutely: I shall not give up my wife; but I am willing to give back all of the many possessions which I brought from Argos to our house, and to add others of my own.”

So, having spoken thus, he sat down; then, in their midst arose Priam, descendant of Dardanus, peer of the gods (as) a counseller, and he addressed them with good intent, and said (the following words): “Listen to me, (you) Trojans and Dardanians and allies, so that I may say what the heart in my breast bids me. Now, take your supper in the city, as you did before, and remember to keep watch, and every one of you must stay awake; then, at dawn let Idaeus go to the hollow ships to tell the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus, about the offer of Alexander, because of whom our quarrel has arisen. He should also speak some words of good sense, (and ask) if they would be prepared to cease our dolorous fighting until we have burned our dead; then, afterwards, we shall fight on, until some god shall judge between us, and award victory to one side or the other.”

Ll. 379-432. The Trojan offer is rejected: the funeral pyres.

So he spoke, and they heard him well and were persuaded; then they took their supper in their companies throughout the army. And, at dawn, Idaeus went to the hollow ships. And he found the Danaans, the attendants of Ares, in assembly by the stern of Agamemnon’s ship. Then, the loud-voiced herald took his stand in their midst and spoke to (them thus): “Son of Atreus, and all (you) other leading (men) of the Achaeans, Priam and the other lordly Trojans have bid (me) tell (you), if it should be to your liking and pleasure, the offer (made) by Alexander, because of whom our quarrel has arisen: the possessions that Alexander brought to Troy in his hollow ships – oh, he ought to have died first! – he is prepared to give (them) all (back) and to add others of his own; but (as for) the wedded wife of glorious Menelaus, he says he will not give (her back), though, in very truth, the Trojans urge (him to do so). Moreover, they have bidden (me) declare unto you these words also, (and ask) if you would be prepared to cease our dolorous fighting until we have burned our dead; then, afterwards, we shall fight on, until some god shall judge between us, and award victory to one side or the other.”

So he spoke and all of them became hushed in silence; but, finally, Diomedes, good at the war-cry, spoke out: “Let no one now accept (any of) Alexander’s possessions, nor Helen either; for it is obvious, even (to one) who is quite senseless, that the cords of destruction are already fastened around the Trojans.”

Thus he spoke, and all the sons of the Achaeans shouted aloud, applauding the words of horse-taming Diomedes; and then lord Agamemnon addressed Idaeus: “Verily, Idaeus, you, yourself, can hear the views of the Achaeans and how they answer you; and it is welcome to me also, but, as for the burning of the dead, I do not have any objection (to that); for there should be no grudging dead bodies the speedy consolation of fire, once they have died. Let Zeus, the loud-thundering husband of Hera, be witness to our oaths.”

Having spoken thus, he held up his sceptre for all the gods (to see), and Idaeus made his way back to sacred Ilium. The Trojans and the Dardanians were in their (place of) assembly, all gathered together, waiting for when Idaeus returned; then he came, and, standing in their midst, he delivered his message; and they made ready with all speed for two (tasks), (for some) to collect the corpses, and (for) others to gather wood. And, on the other side, the Argives hastened from their well-benched ships, some to collect corpses, and others to gather wood.

Then, the sun, (rising) from the gentle deep-flowing Ocean, struck the fields anew, and went up into the sky; and the (two sides) met one another. There it was difficult to identify each man; but they washed away the bloody gore (from their wounds) with water, and, with hot tears pouring down (their cheeks), they lifted (them) up on to wagons. But great Priam would not allow (them) to cry aloud; so, in silence, they kept heaping bodies on to the pyre in anguish of heart, and, when they had burned (them) in the fire, they went (back) to sacred Ilium. And so in the same way on the other side, the well-greaved Achaeans kept heaping bodies on the pyre in anguish of heart, and, when they had burned (them) in the fire, they went their way to the hollow ships.

Ll. 433-482. Zeus orders the Greek defences to be destroyed.

When (it was) not yet dawn, but (there was) still the darkness of twilight, then a chosen company of Achaeans arose (and gathered) around the pyre, and beside it they made a single mound (of earth), extending (it) in an unbroken line from the plain, and from it they built a wall with lofty towers (as) a defence for their ships and themselves. And in them they inserted some well-fitting gates, so that there might be a way for chariots (to go) through them; and outside close by it they dug a deep ditch, broad and large, and on (it) they planted stakes.

So, the long-haired Achaeans toiled; and the gods, seated by Zeus the lightener, beheld the great work of the bronze-clad Achaeans. And among them Poseidon the earth-shaker was the first to speak: “Father Zeus, is there any mortal on the boundless earth, who will still communicate his thoughts and intentions to (us) immortals? Do you not see that once again the long-haired Achaeans have built a wall to protect their ships, and that they have drawn a ditch around (it), but they have not offered any splendid hecatombs (i.e. ritual sacrifices of a hundred oxen) to the gods? For sure, its fame will reach as far as the dawn may spread (her light); and (men) will forget that (wall) (i.e. the original great wall of Troy) that I and Phoebus Apollo built for the hero Laomedon (i.e. Priam’s father).”

Then, Zeus the cloud-gatherer answered him in great vexation: “Shame on you, mighty Earth-shaker, what are you saying! Some other god, who (is) much weaker than you in strength of hand, might fear this design; but for sure your fame will reach as far as the dawn may spread (her light). Come now, when the long-haired Achaeans have gone back again in their ships to their native land, you can break down this wall and sweep it all into the sea, and bury the (whole) wide shore in sand once more, so the Achaeans’ great wall shall be destroyed by you.”

So they spoke, one to the other, and the sun set and the Achaeans’ work was accomplished, and they slaughtered oxen in the huts and took their supper. And many ships had come from Lemnos (i.e. an island in the north of the Aegean), bringing wine, and Jason’s son, Euneus, had sent them, (he) whom Hypsipyle had borne to Jason, shepherd of the host. And the son of Jason had allocated a thousand measures of wine to go separately to the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus. From these (ships) the long-haired Achaeans bought their wine, some (paid) in bronze, some in gleaming iron, some in ox-hides, some in live oxen, and others in slaves; and they made a plentiful feast. Then the long-haired Achaeans feasted all night long, as did the Trojans and their allies throughout the city. And all night long Zeus the counsellor, thundering fearfully, planned dire (things) for them (i.e. the Greeks); and pale fear took hold of them; and their wine flowed from their cups to the ground, and no one dared to drink until he had poured (a libation) to the almighty son of Cronos. Then they went to bed and took the gift of sleep.

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