The Iliad Book IX

The Iliad
Book IX

Thus were the Trojans keeping watch.
But a preternatural panic—
handmaid of chilling terror—
gripped the Achaians;
and all the best were stricken with intolerable sorrow.
Just as when two winds—Boreas, the North Wind,
and Zephyros, the West, blown from Thrace
and coming on suddenly—
agitate the fish-laden ocean,
and a dark massive wave front
gathers in a crest
spewing a plethora of sea-weed over the water,
so the Achaian spirit
was rent in th’Achaian breast.  8
The son of Atreus, stricken to the quick with great pain,
wandered about, commanding the clear-voiced heralds
to summon each man by name to the place of assembly,
but to do it without shouting loudly;
and he himself worked in this manner
among the warriors of first rank.
Thus the Achaians came to sit in assembly terribly troubled.
Agamemnon stood up, pouring out tears,
like a spring of black water,
spilling over a rock,
so steep no goats climb up it.
Agamemnon let out a deep groan and spoke to the Argives: 16

“O friends: leaders and chiefs of the Argives—
great Zeus the Son of Kronos
has bound me with heavy folly, cruel deity,
who once promised me
and nodded his head thereunto,
that I’d sail away at last
once I had sacked well-fortified Ilion.
Now it seems he contrives a wicked deception
and commands that I arrive
ignominiously in Argos
having lost a multitude.
Somehow it seems that this must be dear to Zeus,
who cuts off the heads of many cities
and will cut off many yet
for his mightiness is maximal.
But come, as I shall say, let us all obey;
let us flee with our ships to our dear fatherland
for it is not forthcoming that we seize
Troy and its broad boulevards.” 28

So he spoke; and at his word
sorrowing for a long time in silence
sat the sons of the Achaians.
At last Diomêdês, excellent at the battle-cry
                                               spoke among them.

“Son of Atreus; I shall be the first to contend with you
in the failure of your intelligence,
and you will not be angry,
even in assembly,
and this is as it should be.
At first you abused my valor before the Danaans.
You said I was unwarlike and rather feeble.
All the Argives remember this, young and old.
The Son of Kronos, crooked in counsel,
bestowed upon you a double endowment.
With a scepter he gave you to be honored by everyone
but he did not give you valor.
It is the mightiness of this that is truly maximal. 39
My friend, do you really think the sons of the Achaians
are unwarlike and feeble
as you seem to be saying?
If your heart has grown eager to set sail,
                                                 well then sail on,
the way is before you; ships stand near the sea,
just those ships that followed you from Mykênê. 44
But other long-haired Achaians will stay back here
                                                             ‘till we sack Troy;
and if these too
flee with their ships
to the dear fatherland,
I and Sthenelos will fight on
until we take the prize of Ilion,
for we have come here
with the god.” 49

So he spoke,
and all the sons of the Argives shouted aloud,
amazed at the word of Diomêdês, tamer of horses.
Then Nestor, the Gerenian horseman, arose and spoke:

“Son of Tydeus, in battle
you are more powerful than anyone,
and in devising strategy
the best of men your own age. 54
No Achaian will deride what you say or contradict it.
Still, you do not exhaust
what is to be expounded. 57
You are young; you might be a child of mine,
                                               my most newly born;
yet  you utter what your good sense produces
                                                 to the Argive princes,
and what you say
fits what is.
But come, and I who swear
                   to be a bit older than you are
shall exclaim and put before us
                                      the whole of the matter
and no one will dishonor what I say,
not even Lord Agamemnon.
A clanless man without a hearth is he
who propagates dread strife among his own people;
but for now let us be persuaded by dark night
                                             and prepare our supper.
Let the sentinels arrange themselves
along the trench we’ve dug outside the battlements.
This is what I say to our young men. 68
Beyond this, son of Atreus,
you must take the initiative,
for you are the most princely among us.
Order a banquet for us elders.
It is fitting for you to do this
nor are you without the means:
your huts are full of wine
that the ships of the Achaians
transport daily from Thrace
over the wide sea. 72
It is thus for you to offer hospitality
since you are lord over many
and where the many are gathered,
you will be persuaded
by him who does devise the best plan;
for particular is the need of all Achaians
for counsel both excellent and keen
since hostile armies kindle their many watch fires
and who can take pleasure in that?
This night will either save or make an end of our armed camp.” 78

Thus he spoke. They heard and were persuaded.
Out rushed the guard in their battlegear
about their captains: about Nestor’s son, Thrasymêdes,
                                                     shepherd of the people,
about Askalaphos and Ialmenos, son of Arês,
about Mêrionês and Apharêos and Dêipyros,
and about the son of Kreion, divine Lykomêdês. 84
Seven were the captains of the sentinels;
A hundred youths stoods under each
holding long spears in their hands.
They took their seats between the trench and the wall.
Each set his fire
and each man took his supper. 88

The Son of Atreus led
the elders of the Achaians
all together to his hut
and set a banquet
to feast the spirit
and they extended their hands
to the good things spread out before them;
and when they’d had their fill of food and drink,
the old man Nestor was the first
to weave sage counsel among them,
for before that time his strategies had seemed best.
With benevolent intent
                  he spoke addressing them. 95

“Most illustrious Son of Atreus, Agamemnon, lord of men,
in you will I terminate and with you shall I begin,
because you are lord over a multitude
and Zeus has committed to you
                              scepter and sovereignty,
that you might take counsel with yourself on our behalf.
Therefore it behooves you
to speak and also to listen
and fulfill, even for another,
whatever his spirit bids him to say for the common good
since whatever he initiates
will be attributed to you. 102
So I shall say what seems best to me.
For no one else will devise
                  a better thought than that
                         which I have thought before and still think now
from that time when, O Zeus-born one,
you took the girl Briseis
from the hut of angry Achilles and went your way,
in no way in accord with our view;
for particularly hard did I argue against it,
but you gave in to your own great heart
and dishonored a man whom even the immortals honor,
for you took away his trophy and still keep her. 110
So even now let us consider
how we might mollify and persuade him
with affecting gifts and soothing words.” 113

The lord of men Agamemnon
                             said to him in turn:

“Old man, by no means do you
recount my folly falsely.
I was struck blind.
I myself do not deny it.
Better than  a multitude is the man Zeus loves in his heart
as he now honors Achilles
and vanquishes the multitude of Achaians.
But because I was struck blind
and put faith in my contemptible passion,
I wish at once to offer compensation
and pay incomparable acquittal. 120
Before you all I name the resplendent offering:
Seven tripods—no fire has touché them.
Ten talents of gold.
Twenty shining pots for boiling water.
Twelve stout, victorious horses
each of whom’s won prizes for his speed, 124
and he to whom such prizes have accrued
will never be thought to be  a booty-less person;
nor would he lack possession of precious gold
who had such wealth as these steeds
                                              have won for me.
I’ll give him seven women
                         skilled in excellent handiwork
from Lesbos, whom,
when he took well-built Lesbos,
I took from the spoils,
and they exceed in beauty
the tribe of all other women.
I’ll give him these.
And among them will be the one I took away—
the girl, Briseis. And I take a great oath
that I never entered her bed or ever made love to her
as is the custom of human kind
                                        twixt men and women.
All this will be given to him immediately,
and if hereafter the gods
grant that we lay waste the great  city of Priam, 136
let him go in and heap up his ship
with an abundance of gold and bronze
when the Achaians split up the booty. 140
Let he himself take twenty Trojan women—
the most beautiful after Argive Helen—
whose sod is as rich as the udder of a beast,
he will become my son-in-law.
I’ll honor him equal to Orestes,
             reared in great abundance, my favored son.
I have three daughters in the well-built halls:
Chrysothumis, Ladodikê, and Iphianassa. 145
Of these, let him lead which one he will,
without the customary gift for wooing,
to the palas of Pêlêos;
and I’ll supplement all  this with a generous dowry,
such as no man ever
                   provided with his daughter.
Seven well-peopled city shall I give him:
Kardamylê, Enopê, and grassy Hirê;
and holy Pherai and Antheia with its deep meadows;
and lovely Aipeira and Pêdasos, covered with vineyards—152
all of them near to the sea
and bordering sandy Pylos.
The men that live there
have sheep and cows in abundance
and will pay him honor with tribute
as if he were a god
and under his scepter observe
the gentle customs he establishes. 156
These things I shall perform for him
if he but desist from his wrath.
Let him be placated.
It is Hades who is implacable
                               and not to be overcome.
Therefore of all the gods
he is the most hated by mortals. 159
Let him submit to me,
              because I am more princely
and declare myself to be
                       older than he is.”

The Gerenian horseman, Nestor, answered him. 161

“Illustrious Son of Atreus, Lord of Men Agamemnon;
the gifts you would give Lord Achilles
are in no way to be made light of.
But come; let us dispatch
                               distinguished persons
quickly to the hut of Pêlêos’ son, Achilles. 167
Ah—rather—we’ll send whom I select
upon deliberation—and let them obey.
First, let Phoinix, dear to Zeus, lead the delegation;
Then mighty Aias and divine Odysseus.
Of the heralds, let Odios and Eurybatês
                                                  follow with them.
Now bring water for our hands
                              and let us keep silence
so we might pray to Zeus, the son of Kronos,
to have compassion on us.” 172

So he spoke, and what he said was
                                    acceptable to all of them.
Without delay, the heralds poured water on their hands,
and youths filled the kraters with beverage to the brim
and made the rounds
pouring a few drops for libation into each cup. 176
and when they had made their libations
and drunk as much as their hearts desired,
they left the hut of Agamemnon, son of Atreus.
And the Gerenian horseman, Nestor
directed meaningful glances to them all
but particularly to Odysseus,
to the effect that they must endeavor to persuade
the blameless son of Pêlêos. 181
They made their way along
                   the strand of the low-roaring sea
with many prayers to the god who holds the earth
                                                        and makes it tremble,
to the effect that they might easily persuade
the mighty spirit of the descendent of Aiakos.
They came to the huts and ships of the Myrmidons
and found him entertaining himself
                               with his clear-toned lyre, 186
a beautifully ornamented instrument
                                   with a cross-bar of silver.
He’d picked it from the booty
             when he plundered the city of Eëtion.
Delighting his spirit with it,
he sang of the illustrious performances of warriors.
Opposite him, alone, sat Patroklos in silence
waiting for the grandson of Aiakos
                                  to cease from singing. 191
The two hearlds approached him.
Divine Odysseus led them.
They stood before him.
Achilles leaped up stupefied
with his lyre still in his hand
leaving the seat he was sitting in.
Similarly Patroklos, when he saw the men, stood up.
Swift-footed Achilles received them and said:

“Greetings, my friends.
It is good friends that have come.
There must be some particular need.
In spite of my abiding rage,
these men are most dear to me among th’Achaians. 198”

So saying, Achilles led them in
and sat them down on couches and purple carpets.
At once he said to Patroklos standing near:

“Set up the bigger krater, O Son of Menoitios.
Mix in the unmixed batch; prepare a cup for each,
for these men beneath my roof are very dear to me.”

So he spoke,
and Patroklos obeyed his dear companion
and set down a great chopping block
                            in the blazing firelight
and on it a fat goat and a sheep’s back  207
and on it also the meat
              from along a full-grown hog’s spine
                                                           rich in lard. 208
Autômedon steadied it
while divine Achilles carved.
And he cut the meat delicately
                               and put it on skewers
and the Son of Menoitios, a man like the gods,
made the fire flare up;
but when the fire’d burned down a bit
and the flame was somewhat quenched,
he spread out the embers
and placed the skewers upon them
and sprinkled sacred salt on the meat
and put it on platters,
Patroklos took bread and served it
in handsome baskets for the table,
but Achilles served the meat.
He took a seat opposite divine Odysseus
against the opposite wall
and ordered Patroklos, his companion,
to sacrifice to the gods;
and into the fire he threw the fire-offering 220
and they extended their hands
to the good fare proffered before them.
And when they;dhd their fill of food nd drink,
Aias nodded to Phoinix,
and divine Odysseus was aware of it,
and filling a cup with wine,
he toasted Achilles:

“To you, Achilles, of equitable banquets,
                                                 we lack nothing—
neither in the hut of Agamemnon, Son of Atreus,
nor here now—abundance upon which to feast
                                                      to the heart’s desire.
The business of feasting is not our present concern
but our complete and utter ruin, O god-fostered one—
we perceive it and re afraid.
It is in doubt
    whether we can save the well-benched ships
or whether they’ll be destroyed
unless you yourself put on your righteousness. 231
For the Trojans with spirits ignited and their famous allies
have established their bivouac
close to the ships and the wall
and have kindled many watch fires through the camp,
and they say that they are not to be inhibited
and are about to fall on our black ships.  235
Zeus, Son of Kronos, flashes lightning
And shows signs on the right side.
Hektor in his great spirit rages crazily.
He trusts in Zeus.
Neither god nor man can stop him,
for mad battle-lust has entered into him.
He prays that sacred Dawn will soon appear, 240
for he boasts that he’ll lop off the mast heads,
burn the ships themselves with consuming fire,
and wreak havoc upon the Achaians
driven wild and desperate with the smoke.
I have a terrible fear of these things in my heart
that the gods will accomplish his boast for him
that our fate will be to perish here in Troy
far from horse-pasturing Argos. 246
So rouse yourelf, O Achilles,
If you are eager, if only belatedly,
to save the sons of th’Achaians in their distress
from the battle tumult of the Trojans. 248
Sorrow will come to you hereafter,
nor is there a tactic to reverse
deleterious actions once performed—
but before that eventuality consider
how you might evert the evil day
                                          from the Danaans.
O my friend,
surely your father intended this imprecation just for you
on that day when he sent you to Agamemnon out of Phthiê:

“‘My child, Athena and Hera will give you strength,
if only you restrain
the great-hearted spirit in your breast.
Concern for other men
is the more soldierly quality.
Put an end to evil-devising feuding.
And the Argives young and old will pay you honor.’ 258

“So the old man preached but his preaching escapes you.
Yet even now, desist:
release your bitter choler.
Agamemnon will give you excellent compensation
if you abandon your wrath.
If you will hear me,
I’ll catalogue the articles Agamemnon
promised just now for you in compensation
back in the huts: 263
Seven tripods—no fire has touched them.
Ten talents of gold.
Twenty shining pots for boiling water.
Twelve stout, victorious horses
each of whom’s won prizes for his speed,
and he to whom such prizes have accrued
will never be thought to be  a booty-less person;
nor would he lack possession of precious gold
who had such wealth as these steeds
                                              have won for Agamemnon.
He’ll give you seven women
                         skilled in excellent handiwork
from Lesbos, whom,
when you yourself took well-built Lesbos,
he took from the spoils,
and they exceed in beauty
the tribe of all other women.
He’ll give you these.
And among them will be the one he took away—
the girl, Briseis. And he takes a great oath
that he never entered her bed or ever made love to her
as is the custom of human kind
                                        twixt men and women.  276
All this will be yours immediately,
and if hereafter the gods
grant that we lay waste the great  city of Priam,
you will go in and heap up your ship
with an abundance of gold and bronze;
and when the Achaians split up the booty,
you will take twenty Trojan women—
the most beautiful after Argive Helen—
and if we return to Achaian Argos
whose sod is as rich as the udder of a beast,
you will become nis son-in-law.
He’ll honor you the same as Orestes,
             reared in great abundance, his favored son.
He has three daughters in the well-built halls:
Chrysothumis, Ladodikê, and Iphianassa.
Of these, lead which one you will,
without the customary gifts for wooing,
to the palace of Pêlêos;
and he’ll supplement all  this with a generous dowry,
such as no man ever
                   provided with his daughter.
Seven well-peopled city will he give you:
Kardamylê, Enopê, and grassy Hirê;
and holy Pherai and Antheia with its deep meadows;
and lovely Aipeira and Pêdasos, covered with vineyards—
all of them near to the sea
and bordering sandy Pylos.
The men that live there
have sheep and cows in abundance
and will pay you honor with tribute
as if you were a god
and under your scepter observe
the gentle customs you establish there.
These things he shall perform for you
if you but desist from his wrath. 299
And if the Son of Atreus
has become too hateful to you in your heart,
both he himself and his gifts,
have pity on the other Achaians
who are sorely  pressed in the camp
who shall honor you as a god,
for you will win great praise in their eyes.
And now you might slay Hektor,
since he will come particularly close to you
possessed of vicious battle-lust as he is.
He thinks no man that the ships brought hither
                 is his match among the Danaans.” 306

Swift-footed Achilles responded to him and said:

“I must refuse this proposition outright
                               without regard to consequence
and speak my mind and spell out how it will be
so that you don’t stay perched here cooing idly
                                            on this side and on that. 311
That man is as hateful to me as the gates of Hades
who holds one thing
                      hidden in his breast
                                     and speaks another.
Rather will I utter
                        what seems best to me. 314
I do not think that Atreus’ son, Agamemnon
                                                     will persuade me,
nor will the other Achaians,
since there is no thanks forthcoming
for ever-relentlessly fighting with hostile men.
An equal portion is dealt
                   to him who stays at home
and to him who goes to war—
equal honor is paid to the brave and the craven. 319
An idle man dies; likewise a man of many labors.
It profits me nothing that I suffer grief in my spirit,
hazarding my life-soul in combat again and again.
As a bird brings her chewings, whatever she finds
                                               for her unfledged nestlings
but things fair ill for herself,
so was I accustomed to keep night watch
through many nights without slumber,
while I passed the daylight hours making waa.
I fought with warriors to seize their women;
I ruined with my ships twelve cities of men,
and I say, on land, eleven, across the fertile Troad.
From all these I seized much excellent treasure,
and all of it I’d bring back and present to Agamemnon,
and he, hanging back by the swift ships would receive it
and dole out some small portion of it
                                             but keep much. 333
Some of these women he distributed as guerdon
                                               to chieftans and princes.
All of them remained with their receivers;
but from me alone of the Achaians
he seized and keeps the wife of my heart.
Well, let him lie by her and take his pleasure.
And exactly why must the Argives
                                 make war against the Trojans?
Why has he gathered this army and left us here,
                                                    this Son of Atreus?
Was it not on account of Helen with the beautiful hair?
Is it only the sons of Atreus that love their wives? 340
As every man of sound mind
loves his own woman and cares for her,
so I loved mine with all my heart,
albeit I won her with my javelin. 343
And now that he’s deceived me
and seized my prize right out of my arms,
let him not test me.
He’ll not persuade me. 345
But Odysseus, let Agamemnon consider
with you and the other princes
how to evert conflagration from the ships.
He has indeed achieved much without me.
He built a wall and dug a trench beneath it,
                                                   broad and mighty
and pounded stakes in the ground. 350
But he cannot counter the force of man-slaying Hektor.
As long as I fought together with the Achaians,
Hektor never wished to instigate combat
                                              far from his own walls
but sallied forth
                 only as far
                       as the Skaian Gates and the oak tree.
Once he waited for me at that place
                               to fight me in single combat—
just barely did he escape my fierce assault. 355
But since I do not wish to battle Hektor,
I’ll peform a sacrifice tomorrow
to Zeus and all the gods
and draw my vessels down to the sea
and pack them well
and you will observe if you want to,
if these matters do concern you,
my ships at dawn
sailing the fish-laden Hellespont 360
manned by fellows
                    eager to ply the oar and row away.
And if the illustrious Earth-shaker grants fair sailing,
on the third day out I’ll arrive at fertile Phthiê.
I have much property there
that I left on my wanderings hither.
Other possessions I’ll take away from here:
gold and bronze and gray iron
and handsomely girdled women
such as accrued to me by lot—
but as for my prize
that the one who awarded her to me took back again—
Lord Agamemnon, Atreus’son,
committing that outrage against me—
make a public declaration to him
of all that I bid you—
do it openly
so that the other Achaians will take offense,  370
if perhaps he hopes to deceive some other Danaan,
since he is forever garmened in shamelessness.
But he would not be so bold
as to look me in the face, dog that he is.
And I will not deliberate strategies with him
                                              or perform any action,
for he has deceived me and wronged me,
and he’ll not cheat me with words another time.
What he has done is enough.
Let him proceed untroubled to his own demise.
For Zeus, the sagacious one,
has seized his intelligence.
His bribes are despicable to me, worthless detritus. 378
Not if he proffered ten times or twenty times
all that he now possesses
together with what other goods
              he managed to acquire from wherever,
not all the wealth that comes to Orchomenos
                                                     or Thebes in Egypt
in whose palaces the greatest treasure lies
and which city has a hundred gates
and through each one two-hundred warriors
sally forth with their horses and their cars;
not if he offered me gifts
to the number of sand grains and dust mites
would Agamemnon ever persuade my heart—
not until he’s compensated me
to the full measure
                        of the pain that galls me.
And I would not wed a daughter of Agamemnon,
                                                                Son of Atreus—
not if her beauty vied
                  with golden Aphrodite
or the skill of her hand were the match
                                for gray-green-eyed Athena’s. 390
Even were it so, I would not wed her.
Let him choose another of the Achaians,
someone who suits him, more princely than I;
for if the gods preserve me
and I reach my home,
Pêlêos himself
        will marry [bethroth] me to a woman upon my return.
There are many Achaian maidens in Hellas and Phthiê,
daughters of the gentry that rule their cities. 402
Of these I’ll make the one I like my bride.
Often at Phthiê
my randy spirit
was eager to woo a women for a wife
to be a fitting spouse, 399
to enjoy the possessions old man Pêlêos
                                            [had come to possess],
for nothing to me is of equal value to life—
not all the wealth they say lies stored [that has been] in Ilion,
                                                   well-peopled citadel,
formerly in peace-time
or since the sons of the Achaians came there—403
nor all that the marble porches of the archer, Phoibos Apollo
holds within them
at rocky Pytho— 405
for cattle and plump sheep
              can always be got by thievery,
and tripods and blond-maned steeds
                                         acquired by victory,
but that the life-soul of a man should come again
once it has passed beyond the fence of his teeth,
neither triumph nor theft can achieve. 409
My mother, with the silver feet, the goddess Thetis, 

once informed me,
that alternative fatalities bear me to my end:
if I stay at Troy and make war
                                  about the city of the Trojans,
my return will be taken from me
but imperishable renown will surely accrue to me.
And if I go back home to my dear fatherland,
my noble renown will be reft from me
but my life be long,
nor will and end of death come soon upon me. 416
And I would advise you all to sail away homeward,
for you can no longer take steep Ilion .
Wide-watching Zeus
extends his hands
particularly over the Trojans
and their army grows courageous. 420
But when you leave my hut,
bring a message to th’Achaian chieftans,
to receive which is the prerogative of old men,
so that they might devise
                   another and better stratagem in their minds,
which might save the Achaian army
                                       beside the hollow ships
since this current thing they’re contemplating
won’t succeed
on account of my deadly choler. 426
Let Phoinix stay with us and sleep here
so that tomorrow he might follow me in the ships
to our dear fatherland,
that is if he wishes it—
I shall not force him to do it.” 429

So he spoke, and they all grew hushed in silence,
for with great force had he refused them.
At last the old horseman, Phoinix
spoke as he broke into tears,
for he was very afraid for the ships of th’Achaians: 433

“If you are pondering return, O illustrious Achilles,
and do not wish at all
to turn back from the ships
blazing conflagration,
then how, my dear child, can I
remain here all alone away from you?
It was for you that Pêlêos, the old horseman, sent me
when he sent you forth from Phthiê to Agamemnon,
                                                                a mere innocent
knowing nothing of war with well-matched combatants
and nothing of war-counsels
where men achieve eminence,
so he sent me to instruct you in all such matters
to be the speaker of words, the committer of actions;
therefore I would not wish, dear child,
to be left apart from you,
if a god himself should promise
                 to scrape off old age from me
and make me young anew 446
as I was when I first left Hellas,
                            the place of beautiful women.
I fled from a conflict with my father,
Amyntor, son of Ormenos,
who was most angry with me
because of a fair-haired courtesan whom he loved
dishonoring thereby my mother, his wife.
My mother begged at my knees continuously
to make love to that courtesan before he did
so that she would come to find the old man despicable. 453
I was persuaded and did it.
My father knew it at once
and called a potent curse down upon me
calling on the hateful Erinys
that never should there sit upon my knees
a dear son begotten by me.
The gods fulfilled the imprecation—
Chthonion Zeus and dread Persephoneia— 457
so I plotted to kill him with the sharp bronze,
but some immortal stayed my wrath.
He made me mindful of the voice of the people,
the great opprobrium among men
                                        sure to accrue to me
were I to be known as a patricide by th’Achaians. 461
Still, the heart in my breast
was altogether unwilling to be constrained
to linger about in the halls of that angry father.
To be sure, my kinsfolk, close and more distant,
who dwelled in the vicinity,
beseeched me to remain there in the halls.
To that purpose they cut the throats
                                      of many plump sheep
and oxen with helical horns
and many fat hogs
were stretched to be singed
by the flame of Hephaistos
and much honey-sweet wine was imbibed
from the storage vessels
of that old man.  469
For nine nights they spent the night surrounding me—
they kept watch in turn.
No fire was quenched,
neither the one that burned beneath the portico
of the well-fenced court,
nor the other on the porch
in front of the door of my chamber. 473
But when the tenth dark night had come upon me,
I broke through the doors of my chamber,
albeit they were cunningly fitted,
and deftly leapt
                  over the fence of the court
evading the watchmen and the female slaves,
and I fled far away
                 through the wide-open spaces of Hellas
and came to Phthiê, mother of flocks,
                                         whose sod is deep.
I presented myself to Lord Pêlêos.
He received me gladly
and cherished me as a father
                        cherishes his only child
making me heir to his bounteous holdings
and making me wealthy.
He supplied me with a great host of people
and I lived at the furthermost
                                            region of Phthiê
as lord of the Dolopians. 484
And I made you to become
                                 such as you are, O Achilles,
caring for you from my heart.
With no other would you go to the feast
                                                 or take food in the halls
till I set you on my knees
and sated your appetite
cutting the first piece of cooked meat for you
putting wine to your lips. 489
Often you wet the tunic on my breast
spitting up wine
in innocent troublesomeness.
Indeed I suffered much because of you
                                            and endured much labor
understanding that the gods would never
allow me to engender my own offspring,
but I sought to make you my son, O godlike Achilles,
that you might thereafter avert from me shameful ruin.
But Achilles—master your own mighty spirit.
It is not seemly for you
                  to exhibit a pitiless heart.
Even the gods themselves
                        on occasion prove to be flexible,
albeit they are superior
in character, in honor, in vitality. 498
By burning incense and making holy vows,
by libations and the savor of sacrifice
do humans divert the anger of the gods
                                               with supplications,
when one of them has overstepped what is seemly
                                                       or missed the mark. 501
For the Litai—requests for forgiveness—
                                   are daughters of great Zeus.
They are crippled, their faces
in a wrinkled grimace
with eyes that look askance;
ever solicitous to follow Atê—
                                 the madness of mortals.
But Atê is strong and fast
and outruns them all
and causes humans to stumble
                                       all over the earth.
The Litai follow after
seeking to heal them. 507
On whomever honors these daughters of Zeus
                                               when they draw near him,
the Litai confer great benefit and hear their prayers.
And as for whoever spurns them
and sternly refuse to forgive,
they proceed to make their prayers
to Kronos’ son,
that Atê pursue such a person,
and that by his own missteps
he might make restitution. 510
But O, Achilles,
                see that honor attends the daughters of Zeus—
such honor as bends the intent of other good persons.
Were the Son of Atreus not proffering gifts
and promising more hereafter
but ever burning with outrage,   516
far be it from me to bid you cast off your wrath
and come to the aid of the Argives
                                  in their dire need.
But now he gives so much without delay
and promises more hereafter
and sends the best warriors to beseech you
choosing from the host of th’Achaians,
those of the Argives most dear to you.
Do not judge ill
of what they say
or of their coming hither,
though until their arrival
no man might have blamed you for your choler. 523
Of this we may learn from the fame of ancient warriors
when furious wrath possessed them.
They were amenable to appeasement
                     by gifts and pleading speeches.
I am mindful of this in particular
                          from time long gone by,
                                    not merely recently,
                                               how it was.
I will rehearse it here among all my friends.
The Kourêtes were at war with th’Aitôlians,
                                                      ardent fighters,
about the city of Kalydôn
and they were busy slaying one another,
th’Aitôlians defending fair Kalydôn,
the Kourêtes eager to lay it waste in war.
For golden thronèd Artemis
had caused a menace to appear
among the Kalydônians,
outraged that Oineus had failed to make
                                              an offering of first fruits
from his ample orchards and vineyards.
The other gods were feasting on hecatombs.
Only to the daughter of great Zeus
did he fail to offer sacrifice, 536
whether he deemed it unnecessary
                          or simply forgot her.
Either way he was stricken severely with folly in his heart.
The child of Zeus, grew wrathful.
She sent a wild bore against him,
ferocious and white of tusk,
to menace the orchards and vineyards of Oineus. 540
He threw to the ground
many flourishing apple trees, root and blossom. 542
In the end, Meleagros, Oineus’ son, killed the bore,
gathering many men and many dogs from many cities,
for the bore was not to be subdued by a few mortals only,
                                                                      so huge he was,
and many-a-man did he set on the grievous pyre.
But Artemis caused a great hubbub
                                              to arise around the animal,
the Kourêtes and the great-souled Aitôlians,
shouting and squabbling about
                                            his head and shaggy hide.
Now, as long as Meleagros, belovèd of Arês,
                                                       was in the battle,
things went badly for the Kourêtes;
nor was it possible
                   for them to sustain
their position outside of the walls,
although their army was numerous, 551
but an abiding wrath ate into Meleagros—
a wrath so strong it induced
                               wrath in the minds of others
in spite of their sagacity.
His spirit raged at Athaia, his own mother,
so he just lay there, idle, beside his wedded wife,
the beautiful Kleopatra;
she, the daughter of fair-ankled Marpessa;
Marpessa, the daughter of the river Euêninê and Idas;
Idas, born the mightiest of men
                                 living on earth at that time. 558
Idas plied his bow
against Lord Phoibos Apollo
for the sake of the fair-ankled girl.
Her father and queenly mother
named Alkyonê her in the halls,
because the mother herself had suffered a fate
like the mournful Alkyon bird.
She wept that Phoibos Apollo
                           who shoots from afar
had snatched her daughter away,
so Meleagros just lay by Alkyonê,
                         his bitter anger ripening
because of his mother’s curses.
Much he prayed to the gods
agonized by her brother’s slaughter;
much she beat the bounteous earth with her hands,
calling on Hades and dread Persephoneia,
dropping full to the ground,
wetting her breasts with her tears, 570
that they should deal death to her son.
The Erinys that walk in mistiness
heard her from Erebos
because of her implacable heart.
Now there arose the din of the throng at the gates
and the sound of the walls being battered.
The Aitôlian elders beseeched him,
sending the highest priests of the gods,
that he should come out and save them
promising great compensation. 576
They bade him select a tract of fifty acres
                                                           cut from the plain—
field land of most fertile Kalydon,
half of it vineland, half of it stripped bare
                                                and ready for the plough.
The aged horseman Oineus
at the knees of his son
on the threshold of his high-roofed chamber,
shaking its tight-worked door-boards
beseeched him exceedingly 583
and his sisters and queenly mother
beseeched him,
but he denied them all the more;
so too the most devoted and most dear
                                             of his companions
beseeched him,
but not even they could sway the heart in his breast,
until, his chamber door thoroughly battered,
the Kourêtes were mounting the wall
and had set the great city on fire.
Then his fair-girdled wife
prayed to Meleagros wailing,
and rehearsed for him all the cares
that befall a people whose city is taken—
they slay the men, set fire to the town,
and strangers lead away
children and deep-girdled women. 594
His spirit at last was aroused
to hear-tell of such calamities
and proceeded to put on
                   the shining battle-gear.
Thus he warded off from the Aitôlians
                                              the evil day,
                                                 heeding his own heart,
though they neer fulfilled their part of the arrangement,
failing to give him the gifts, many and gracious,
but he warded off the menace all the same. 599
But, O friend, let me not see you so minded—
let no daimon put you on such a path.
It will be more irksome
                 to save the ships once they’re burning.
So come, while gifts are still possible.
The Achaians will pay you honor as if to a god.
But if without gifts
         you go down into war, destroyer of men,
you’ll not stand in such honor
even if you do forfend
the dire results of the battle.” 605

Swift-footed Achilles, answered him saying:

“Phoinix, my agèd father, nurtured by Zeus,
I have no need of this ‘honor.’
I think I have been ‘honored’ well enough
by the portion I have from Zeus.
This will be mine by the beaked ships
as long as there’s wind in my breast
and my knees are able to rouse me. 610
And I’ll tell you another thing,
and do lay it up in your heart.
Trouble not my spirit with weeping and grieving,
doing the work of the warrior son of Atreus;
nor is it necessary for you to cherish him.
You risk incurring my wrath though I cherish you.
It would be well for you to harry him
                                              by whom I’m harried.
Be a king, equal to me; have half-part of my honor.
These persons will carry my message
                                       while you remain here.
Lie down
   on a soft couch,
and when dawn appears
together we’ll consider
whether to sail away to our own place
                                   or whether to stay here.” 619

Thus Achilles.
And he nodded a sign in silence with his brows
                                                              to Patroklos
that he should spread a thick couch for Phoinix
and that the others should take the hint
to depart from the hut,
Then godlike Telamonian Aias said among them: 623

“Zeus-born son of Laertes, Odysseus of many devices,
                                                                              let us go,
for it seems to me our mission
               will not be accomplished on this journey.
We must take the message swiftly to the Danaans,
albeit that it is not a good one,
for they no doubt are waiting to receive it.
Achilles sets to fury
      the high-hearted spirit in his breast, cruel person,
nor does he care about the love of his companions
with which we honored him by the ships
                                                 above all others,
                                                           pitiless person.
For one would accept blood money
                             from the killer of one’s brother
               or for the death of one’s own child,
and the killer’d be permitted to remain in his own country
by his paying a great sum,
and the proud heart and spirit of one’s kinsmen’d be appeased
by taking the blood money.
But the gods have put in your breast
a heart that is obdurate and wicked
because of one girl only. 638
But now we promise you seven
                                  of the finest there are
and many other things in payment besides—639
be gracious in your spirit,
honor your own domicile—
for we’ve come under roof
out of the multitude of Danaans
and claim to be most intimate with you and dear
                                                         beyond all others
however many Achaians there may be.” 642

Swift-footed Achilles replied to him and said:

“God-born Telamônian Aias, leader of the people,
all that you say is in accord with my own spirit;
but my heart swells with rage
                                      when I bring to mind
how the Son of Atreus heaped indignity upon me
                                                       among the Argives
as if I were
                   some dishonored outcast.
But you—go back and deliver my message,
for I will not put my mind to blood-drenched war
till brilliant Hektor, Priam’s bright-minded son
has come to the ships and huts of the Myrmidons
                                                as he slaughters Argives
and with fire consumes them.
I think that Hektor will be stopped
when he gets to my hut and black ship
                            though he be eager for battle.” 655

So he spoke, and each took up a two-handled goblet,
and when they had poured libations
they went away
along the ships.
Odysseus led them.
Patroklos commanded the companions and domestics
to spread a thick couch for Phoinix without delay.
Obeying, they spread the couch as he commanded—
fleeces and rugs of light linen.
The old man lay down then
and awaited bright dawn.
And Achilles slept in the recesses
                                       of the well-built hut,
and a woman bedded down beside him
whom he’d led back from Lesbos—
pretty-cheeked Diomêdê, Phorbes’ daughter,
and Patroklos lay on the other side,
fair-girdled Îphis with him.
She was a gift from brilliant Achilles
when he took steep Skyron, the citadel of Enyês. 668

Now, when the others had got back to the huts of the Son of Atreus,
the sons of the Achaians stood about
                                       on this side and that
and toasted them with gold cups and questioned them,
and the first to put a question
was Lord of Men, Agamemnon:

“Tell me now, Odysseus, deserving of praise,
                                         great glory of the Achaians—
whether he is willing to ward off
                                         the fire from the ships
or whether he denied us,
wrath still gripping his high-hearted spirit.” 675

“Most illustrious Son of Atreus, Lord of Men, Agamemnon—
that man does not wish
                     to extinguish his choler,
rather is he filled with rage even more.
He spurns both you and your gifts, 679
and he bids you yourself to consider among the Argives
how to secure safety for the ships
and for the host of Achaians;
and he himself threatens to set upon the sea
his ships, well-benched, curved when dawn appears
and says he’d advise the others to sail home
since there’s no longer hope of taking steep Ilion,
for wide-watching Zeus
extends his hands
particularly over her,
and the people are fired with courage. 687
So he spoke.
And the others who followed with me
will corroborate this—
Aias and the two heralds, wise men both.
The old man Phoinix
                          lay himself down there,
Achilles bade him do it,
so that tomorrow
              he might follow him in the ships
                                        to their dear fatherland—
that is, if he wish it—
he would not force him to do it.”

Sro he spoke.
They all grew hushed in silence,
                                          amazed at his speaking,
for he spoke with particular force. 694
The sons of the Achaians, for a long time,
                                             were silent in sorrow.
Diomêdês, excellent at the battle cry, eventually said:

“Noble Son of Atreus, Lord of Men, Agamemnon,
you never ought to’ve gone beseeching
the blameless Son of Peleos,
giving a myriad of gifts.
He is already haughty quite on his own,
and you have set him further into his haughtiness.
Well, let this person be: he may depart,
                                               he may remain.
He will fight again
when the spirit in his breast leads him to it
and when a god sets him on. 703
But come, let us all be persuaded by what I say.
Go to your rest.
Sate your hearts with wine and bread,
for this is the stuff of strength and also courage.
But when fair dawn with rose-colored fingers appears,
swiftly set your contingents
              with their horse-chariots
                     arrayed before the ships
and spur them on.
And you yourselves go to battle at the front of all.” 709

So he spoke
and all the princes nodded their assent,
marveling at the speech
of horse-taming Diomêdês.
And they made their libations
and each went to his hut
and laid him down to rest
and took the gift of sleep. 713

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