The Iliad

previous book Iliad home next book

Book II


Now the great array of gods and chariot-driving men
slept all night long, but the peaceful grip of sleep
could not hold Zeus, turning it over in his mind ...
how to exalt Achilles?-how to slaughter
hordes of Achaeans pinned against their ships?
As his spirit churned, at last one plan seemed best:
he would send a murderous dream to Agamemnon.
Calling out to the vision, Zeus winged it on:
"Go, murderous Dream, to the fast Achaean ships
and once you reach Agamemnon's shelter rouse him,
order him, word-for-word, exactly as I command.
Tell Atrides to arm his long-haired Achaeans,
to attack at once, full force-
now he can take the broad streets of Troy.
The immortal gods who hold Olympus clash no more,
Hera's appeals have brought them round and all agree:
griefs are about to crush the men of Troy."
                                                            At that command
the dream went winging off, and passing quickly
along the fast trim ships, made for the king
and found him soon, sound asleep in his tent
with refreshing godsent slumber drifted round him.
Hovering at his head the vision rose like Nestor,
Neleus' son, the chief Agamemnon honored most.
Inspired with Nestor's voice and sent by Zeus,
the dream cried out, "Still asleep, Agamemnon?
The son of Atreus, that skilled breaker of horses?
How can you sleep all night, a man weighed down with duties?
Your armies turning over their lives to your command-
responsibilities so heavy. Listen to me, quickly!
I bring you a message sent by Zeus, a world away
but he has you in his heart, he pities-you now ...
Zeus commands you to arm your long-haired Achaeans,
to attack at once, full force-
now you can take the broad streets of Troy!
The immortal gods who hold Olympus clash no more,
Hera's appeals have brought them round and all agree:
griefs from Zeus are about to crush the men of Troy!
But keepthis message firmly in your mind.
Remember-let no loss of memory overcome you
when the sweet grip of slumber sets you free."


      With that the dream departed, leaving him there,
his heart racing with hopes that would not come to pass.
He thought he would take the city of Priam then,
that very day, the fool. How could he know
what work the Father had in mind? The Father,
still bent on plaguing the Argives and Trojans both
with wounds and groans in the bloody press of battle.
But rousing himself from sleep, the divine voice
swirling round him, Atrides sat up, bolt awake,
pulled on- a soft tunic, linen never worn,
and over it threw his flaring battle-cape,
under his smooth feet he fastened supple sandals,
across his shoulder slung his silver-studded sword.
Then he seized the royal scepter of his fathers-
its power can never die-and grasping it tightly
off he strode to the ships of Argives armed in bronze.


      Now the goddess Dawn climbed up to Olympus heights,
declaring the light of day to Zeus and the deathless gods
as the king commanded heralds to cry out loud and clear
and muster the long-haired Achaeans to full assembly.
Their cries rang out. Battalions gathered quickly.


      But first he called his ranking chiefs to council
beside the ship of Nestor, the warlord born in Pylos.
Summoning them together there Atrides set forth
his cunning, foolproof plan: "Hear me, friends-
a dream sent by the gods has come to me in sleep.
Down through the bracing godsent night it came
like good Nestor in features, height and build,
the old king himself, and hovering at my head
the dream called me on: 'Still asleep, Agamemnon?
The son of Atreus, that skilled breaker of horses?
How can you sleep all night, a man weighed down with duties?
Your armies turning over their lives to your command-
responsibilities so heavy. Listen to me, quickly!
I bring you a message sent by Zeus, a world away
but he has you in his heart, he pities you now .. .
Zeus commands you to arm your long-haired Achaeans,
to attack at once, full force-
now you can take the broad streets of Troy!
The immortal gods who hold Olympus clash no more,
Hera's appeals have brought them round and all agree:
griefs from Zeus are about to crush the men of Troy!
But keep this message firmly in your mind.’
                                                            With that
the dream went winging off and soothing sleep released me.
Come-see if we can arm the Achaeans for assault.
But first, according to time-honored custom,
I will test the men with a challenge, tell them all
to crowd the oarlocks, cut and run in their ships.
But you take up your battle-stations at every point,
command them, hold them back."
So much for his plan.
Agamemnon took his seat and Nestor rose among them.
Noble Nestor the king of Pylos' sandy harbor
spoke and urged them on with all good will:
"Friends, lords of the Argives, 0 my captains!
If any other Achaean had told us of this dream
we'd call it false and turn our backs upon it.
But look, the man who saw it has every claim
to be the best, the bravest Achaean we can field.
Come-see if we can arm the Achaeans for assault."


      And out he marched, leading the way from council.
The rest sprang to their feet, the sceptered kings
obeyed the great field marshal. Rank and file
streamed behind and rushed like swarms of bees
pouring out of a rocky hollow, burst on endless burst,
bunched in clusters seething over the first spring blooms,
dark hordes swirling into the air, this way, that way-
so the many armed platoons from the ships and tents
came marching on, close-file, along the deep wide beach
to crowd the meeting grounds, and Rumor, Zeus's crier,
like wildfire blazing among them, whipped them on.
The troops assembled. The meeting grounds shook.
The earth groaned and rumbled under the huge weight
as soldiers took positions-the whole place in uproar.
Nine heralds shouted out, trying to keep some order,
"Quiet, battalions, -silence! Hear your royal kings!"
The men were forced to their seats, marshaled into ranks,
the shouting died away . . . silence.
                                                            King Agamemnon
rose to his feet, raising high in hand the scepter
Hephaestus made with all his strength and skill.
Hephaestus gave it to Cronus' son, Father Zeus,
and Zeus gave it to Hermes, the giant-killing Guide
and Hermes gave it to Pelops, that fine charioteer,
Pelops gave it to Atreus, marshal of fighting men,
who died and passed it on to Thyestes rich in flocks
and he in turn bestowed it on Agamemnon, to bear on high
as he ruled his many islands and lorded mainland Argos.
Now, leaning his weight upon that kingly scepter,
Atrides declared his will to all
Achaea's armies:
"Friends-fighting Danaans, aides-in-arms of Ares!
Cronus' son has trapped me in madness, blinding ruin-
Zeus is a harsh, cruel god. He vowed to me long ago,
he bowed his head that I should never embark for home
till I had brought the walls of
Ilium crashing down.
But now, I see, he only plotted brutal treachery:
now he commands me back to
Argos in disgrace,
whole regiments of my men destroyed in battle.
So it must please his overweening heart, who knows?
Father Zeus has lopped the crowns of a thousand cities,
true, and Zeus will lop still more-his power is too great.
What humiliation! Even for generations still to come,
to learn that Achaean armies so strong, so vast,
fought a futile war ... We are still fighting it,
no end in sight, and battling forces we outnumber-
by far. Say that Trojans and Argives both agreed
to swear a truce, to seal their oaths in blood,
and opposing sides were tallied out in full:
count one by one the Trojans who live in Troy
but count our Achaeans out by ten-man squads
and each squad pick a Trojan to pour its wine-
many Achaean tens would lack their steward then!
That's how far we outnumber them, I'd say-Achaeans
to Trojans-the men who hail from Troy at least.
But they have allies called from countless cities,
fighters brandishing spears who block my way,
who throw me far off course,
thwarting my will to plunder Ilium's rugged walls.
And now nine years of almighty Zeus have marched by,
our ship timbers rot and the cables snap and fray
and across the sea our wives and helpless children
wait in the halls, wait for our return ... And we?
Our work drags on, unfinished as always, hopeless-
the labor of war that brought us here to Troy.
So come, follow my orders. All obey me now.
Cut and run! Sail home to the fatherland we love!
We'll never take the broad streets of Troy."
Testing his men
but he only made the spirit race inside their chests,
all the rank and file who'd never heard his plan.
And the whole assembly surged like big waves at sea,
the Icarian Sea when East and South Winds drive it on,
blasting down in force from the clouds of Father Zeus,
or when the West Wind shakes the deep standing grain
with hurricane gusts that flatten down the stalks-
so the massed assembly of troops was shaken now.
They cried in alarm and charged toward the ships
and the dust went whirling up from under rushing feet
as the men jostled back and forth, shouting orders-
"Grapple the ships! Drag them down to the bright sea!
Clean out the launching-channels!" Shrill shouts
hitting the heavens, fighters racing for home,
knocking the blocks out underneath the hulls.


      And now they might have won their journey home,
the men of Argos fighting the will of fate, yes,
if Hera had not alerted Athena: "Inconceivable!
Child of Zeus whose battle-shield is thunder,
tireless one, Athena-what, is this the way?
All the Argives flying home to their fatherland,
sailing over the sea's broad back? Leaving Priam
and all the men of Troy a trophy to glory over,
Helen of Argos, Helen for whom so many Argives
lost their lives in Troy, far from native land.
Go, range the ranks of Achaeans armed in bronze.
With your winning words hold back each man you find-
don't let them haul their rolling ships to sea!"


      The bright-eyed goddess Pallas lost no time.
Down she flashed from the peaks of Mount
quickly reached the ships and found Odysseus first,
a mastermind like Zeus, still standing fast.
He had not laid a hand on his black benched hull,
such anguish racked his heart and fighting spirit.
Now close beside him the bright-eyed goddess stood
and urged him on: "Royal son of Laertes, Odysseus,
great tactician-what, is this the way?
All you Argives flying home to your fatherland,
tumbling into your oar-swept ships? Leaving Priam
and all the men of Troy a trophy to glory over,
Helen of Argos, Helen for whom so many Argives
lost their lives in Troy, far from native land!
No, don't give up now. Range the Achaean ranks,
with your winning words hold back each man you find-
don't let them haul their rolling ships to sea!"


      He knew the goddess' voice-he went on the run,
flinging off his cape as Eurybates picked it up,
the herald of Ithaca always at his side.
Coming face-to-face with Atrides Agamemnon,
he relieved him of his fathers' royal scepter-
its power can never die-and grasping it tightly
off he strode to the ships of Argives armed in bronze.


Whenever Odysseus met some man of rank, a king,
he'd halt and hold him back with winning words:
"My friend-it's wrong to threaten you like a coward,
but you stand fast, you keep your men in check!
It's too soon to see Agamemnon's purpose clearly.
Now he's only testing us, soon he'll bear down hard.
Didn't we all hear his plan in secret council?
God forbid his anger destroy the army he commands.
The rage of kings is strong, they're nursed by the gods,
their honor comes from Zeus-
they're dear to Zeus, the god who rules the world."


      When he caught some common soldier shouting out,
he'd beat him with the scepter, dress him down:
"You fool-sit still! Obey the commands of others,
your superiors-you, you deserter, rank coward,
you count for nothing, neither in war nor council.
How can all Achaeans be masters here in Troy?
Too many kings can ruin an army-mob rule!
Let there be one commander, one master only,
endowed by the son of crooked-minded Cronus
with kingly scepter and royal rights of custom:
whatever one man needs to lead his people well."


      So he ranged the ranks, commanding men to order-
and back again they surged from ships and shelters,
back to the meeting grounds with a deep pounding din,
thundering out as battle lines of breakers crash and drag
along some endless beach, and the rough sea roars.


      The armies took their seats, marshaled into ranks.
But one man, Thersites, still railed on, nonstop.
His head was full of obscenities, teeming with rant,
all for no good reason, insubordinate, baiting the kings-
anything to provoke some laughter from the troops.
Here was the ugliest man who ever came to Troy.
Bandy-legged he was, with one foot clubbed,
both shoulders humped together, curving over
his caved-in chest, and bobbing above them
his skull warped to a point,
sprouting clumps of scraggly, woolly hair.
Achilles despised him most, Odysseus too-
he was always abusing both chiefs, but now
he went for majestic Agamemnon, hollering out,
taunting the king with strings of cutting insults.
The Achaeans were furious with him, deeply offended.
But he kept shouting at Agamemnon, spewing his abuse:
"Still moaning and groaning, mighty Atrides-why now?
What are you panting after now? Your shelters packed
with the lion's share of bronze, plenty of women too,
crowding your lodges. Best of the lot, the beauties
we hand you first, whenever we take some stronghold.
Or still more gold you're wanting? More ransom a son
of the stallion-breaking Trojans might just fetch from Troy?-
though I or another hero drags him back in chains ...
Or a young woman, is it?-to spread and couple,
to bed down for yourself apart from all the troops?
How shameful for you, the high and mighty commander,
to lead the sons of Achaea into bloody slaughter!
Sons? No, my soft friends, wretched excuses-
women, not men of Achaea! Home we go in our ships!
Abandon him here in Troy to wallow in all his prizes-
he'll see if the likes of us have propped him up or not.
Look-now it's Achilles, a greater man he disgraces,
seizes and keeps his prize, tears her away himself.
But no gall in Achilles. Achilles lets it go.
If not, Atrides, that outrage would have been your last!"


      So Thersites taunted the famous field marshal.
But Odysseus stepped in quickly, faced him down
with a dark glance and threats to break his nerve:
"What a flood of abuse, Thersites! Even for you,
fluent and flowing as you are. Keep quiet.
Who are you to wrangle with kings, you alone?
No one, I say-no one alive less soldierly than you,
none in the ranks that came to Troy with Agamemnon.
So stop your babbling, mouthing the names of kings,
flinging indecencies in their teeth, your eyes
peeled for a chance to cut and run for home.
We can have no idea, no clear idea at all
how the long campaign will end ...
whether Achaea's sons will make it home unharmed
or slink back in disgrace.
                                                            But there you sit,
hurling abuse at the son of Atreus, Agamemnon,
marshal of armies, simply because our fighters
give Atrides the lion's share of all our plunder.
You and your ranting slander you're the outrage.

I tell you this, so help me it's the truth:
if I catch you again, blithering on this way,
let Odysseus' head be wrenched off his shoulders,
never again call me the father of Telemachus
if I don't grab you, strip the clothing off you,
cloak, tunic and rags that wrap your private parts,
and whip you howling naked back to the fast ships,
out of the armies' muster-whip you like a cur!"


      And he cracked the scepter across his back and shoulders.
The rascal doubled over, tears streaking his face
and a bloody welt bulged up between his blades,
under the stroke of the golden scepter's studs.
He squatted low, cringing, stunned with pain,
blinking like some idiot ...
rubbing his tears off dumbly with a fist.
Their morale was low but the men laughed now,
good hearty laughter breaking over Thersites' head-
glancing at neighbors they would shout, "A terrific stroke!
A thousand terrific strokes he's carried off Odysseus,
taking the lead in tactics, mapping battle-plans.
But here's the best thing yet he's done for the men-
he's put a stop to this babbling, foulmouthed fool!
Never again, I'd say, will our gallant comrade
risk his skin to attack the kings with insults."


      So the soldiers bantered but not Odysseus.
The raider of cities stood there, scepter in hand,
and close beside him the great gray-eyed Athena
rose like a herald, ordering men to silence. All,
from the first to lowest ranks of Achaea's troops,
should hear his words and mark his counsel well.
For the good of all he urged them: "Agamemnon!
Now, my king, the Achaeans are bent on making you
a disgrace in the eyes of every man alive. Yes,
they fail to fulfill their promise sworn that day
they sailed here from the stallion-land of Argos:
that not until you had razed the rugged walls of Troy
would they sail home again. But look at them now,
like green, defenseless boys or widowed women
whimpering to each other, wailing to journey back.
True, they've labored long-they're desperate for home.
Any fighter, cut off from his wife for one month,
would chafe at the benches, moaning in his ship,
pinned down by gales and heavy, raging seas.
A month-but look at us.
This is the ninth year come round, the ninth
we've hung on here. Who could blame the Achaeans
for chafing, bridling beside the beaked ships?
Ah but still-what a humiliation it would be
to hold out so long, then sail home empty-handed.
Courage, my friends, hold out a little longer.
Till we see if Caichas divined the truth or not.
We all recall that moment-who could forget it?
We were all witnesses then. All, at least,
the deadly spirits have not dragged away ...


it seems like only yesterday or the day before
when our vast armada gathered, moored at Aulis,
freighted with slaughter bound for Priam's Troy.
We were all busy then, milling round a spring
and offering victims up on the holy altars,
full sacrifice to the gods to guarantee success,
under a spreading plane tree where the water splashed,
glittering in the sun-when a great omen appeared.
A snake, and his back streaked red with blood,
a thing of terror! Olympian Zeus himself
had launched him into the clean light of day ...
He slid from under the altar, glided up the tree
and there the brood of a sparrow, helpless young ones,
teetered high on the topmost branch-tips, cowering
under the leaves there, eight they were all told
and the mother made the ninth, she'd borne them all-
chirping to break the heart but the snake gulped them down
and the mother cried out for her babies, fluttering over him ...
he coiled, struck, fanging her wing-a high thin shriek!
But once he'd swallowed down the sparrow with her brood,
the son of crooked Cronus who sent the serpent forth
turned him into a sign, a monument clear to see-
Zeus struck him to stone! And we stood by,'
amazed that such a marvel came to light.
                                                            So then,
when those terrible, monstrous omens burst in
on the victims we were offering to the gods,
Calchas swiftly revealed the will of Zeus:
'Why struck dumb now, my long-haired Achaeans?
Zeus who rules the world has shown us an awesome sign,
an event long in the future, late to come to birth
but the fame of that great work will never die.
As the snake devoured the sparrow with her brood,
eight and the mother made the ninth, she'd borne them all,
so we will fight in Troy that many years and then,
then in the tenth we'll take her broad streets.'
So that day the prophet revealed the future-
and now, look, by god, it all comes to passl
Up with you, all you Argives geared for combat,
stand your ground, right here,
until we take the mighty walls of Priam!"
                                                            He fired them so
the armies roared and the ships resounded round them,
shattering echoes ringing from their shouts
as Argives cried assent to King Odysseus' words.
And Nestor the noble horseman spurred them more:
"What disgrace! Look at you, carrying on
in the armies' muster just like boys-fools!
Not a thought in your heads for works of battle.
What becomes of them now, the pacts and oaths we swore?
Into the flames with councils, all the plans of men,
the vows sealed with the strong, unmixed wine,
the firm clasp of the right hand we trusted!
We battle on in words, as always, mere words,
and what's the cure? We cannot find a thing.
No matter how many years we wrangle here.
never swerve, hold to your first plan of action,
lead your armies headlong into war!
The rest of them? Let them rot, the one or two
who hatch their plans apart from all the troops-
what good can they win from that? Nothing at all.
Why, they'd scuttle home before they can even learn_
if the vows of Zeus with his dark cloudy shield
are false or not. Zeus the son of almighty Cronus,
I remind you, bowed his head that day we boarded ship,
all the Argives laden with blood and death for Troy-
his lightning bolts on the right, good omens blazing forth.
So now let no man hurry to sail for home, not yet ...
not till he beds down with a faithful Trojan wife,
payment in full for the groans and shocks of war
we have all borne for Helen.
                                                            But any soldier
wild with desire to reach his home at once-
just let him lay a hand on his black benched ship
and right in front of the rest he'll reach his death!
But you, my King, be on your guard yourself. Come,
listen well to another man. Here's some advice,
not to be tossed aside, and I will tell it clearly.
Range your men by tribes, even by clans, Agamemnon,
so clan fights by the side of clan, tribe by tribe.
Fight this way, if the Argives still obey you,
then you can see which captain is a coward,
which contingent too, and which is loyal, brave,
since they will fight in separate formations of their own.
Then, what's more, if you fail to sack the city,
you will know if the will of god's to blame
or the cowardice of your men :inept in battle."


      And King Agamemnon took his lead, saluting:
"Again, old man, you outfight the Argives in debate!
Father Zeus, Athena, Apollo, if only I had ten men
like Nestor to plan with me among Achaea's armies-
then we could topple Priam's citadel in a day,
throttle it in our hands and gut Troy to nothing.
But Cronus' son, Zeus with his shield of storm
insists on embroiling me in painful struggles,
futile wars of words ...
Imagine-I and Achilles, wrangling over a girl,
battling man-to-man. And I, I was the first
to let my anger flare. Ah if the two of us
could ever think as one, Troy could delay
her day of death no longer, not one moment.
Go now, take your meal-the sooner to bring on war.
Quickly-let each fighter sharpen his spear well,
balance his shield well, feed his horses well
with plenty of grain to build their racing speed-
each man look well to his chariot's running order,
nerve himself for combat now, so all day long
we can last out the grueling duels of Ares!
No breathing space, no letup, not a moment, not
till the night comes on to part the fighters' fury!
Now sweat will soak the shield-strap round your chest,
your fist gripping the spear will ache with tensing,
now the lather will drench your war-team's flanks,
hauling your sturdy chariot.
                                                            But any man I catch,
trying to skulk behind his long beaked ships,
hanging back from battle-he is finished.
No way for him to escape the dogs and birds!"
                                                            So he commanded
and the armies gave a deep resounding roar like waves
crashing against a cliff when the South Wind whips it,
bearing down, some craggy headland jutting out to sea-
the waves will never leave it in peace, thrashed by gales
that hit from every quarter, breakers left and right.
The troops sprang up, scattered back to the ships,
lit fires beside their tents and took their meal.
Each sacrificed to one or another deathless god,
each man praying to flee death and the grind of war.
But the lord of men Agamemnon sacrificed a fat rich ox,
five years old, to the son of mighty Cronus, Zeus,
and called the chiefs of all the Argive forces:
Nestor first and foremost, then King Idomeneus,
the Great and Little Ajax, Tydeus' son Diomedes
and Odysseus sixth, a mastermind like Zeus.
The lord of the war cry Menelaus came uncalled,
he knew at heart what weighed his brother down.
They stood in a ring around the ox, took up barley
and then, rising among them, King Agamemnon
raised his voice in prayer: "Zeus, Zeus,
god of greatness, god of glory, lord god
of the dark clouds who lives in the bright sky,
don't let the sun go down or the night descend on us!
Not till I hurl the smoke-black halls of Priam headlong-
torch his gates to blazing rubble-rip the tunic of Hector
and slash his heroic chest to ribbons with my bronze-
and a ruck of comrades round him, groveling facedown,
gnaw their own earth!"
                                                            And so Agamemnon prayed
but the son of Cronus would not bring his prayer to pass,
not yet ... the Father accepted the sacrifices, true,
but doubled the weight of thankless, ruthless war.
Once the men had prayed and flung the barley,
first they lifted back the heads of the victims,
slit their throats, skinned them and carved away
the meat from the thighbones and wrapped them in fat,
a double fold sliced clean and topped with strips of flesh.
And they burned these on a cleft stick, peeled and dry,
spitted the vitals, held them over Hephaestus' flames
and once they'd charred the thighs and tasted the organs
they cut the rest into pieces, pierced them with spits,
roasted them to a turn and pulled them off the fire.
The work done, the feast laid out, they ate well
and no man's hunger lacked a share of the banquet.
When they had put aside desire for food and drink,
Nestor the noble old horseman spoke out first:
"Marshal Atrides, lord of men Agamemnon,
no more trading speeches now. No more delay,
putting off the work the god puts in our hands.
Come, let the heralds cry out to all contingents,
full battle-armor, muster the men along the ships.
Now down we go, united-review them as we pass.
Down through the vast encampment of Achaea,
the faster to rouse the slashing god of war!"


      Agamemnon the lord of men did not resist.
He commanded heralds to cry out loud and clear
and summon the long-haired Achaean troops to battle.
Their cries rang out. The battalions gathered quickly.
The warlords dear to the gods and flanking Agamemnon
strode on ahead, marshaling men-at-arms in files,
and down their ranks the fiery-eyed Athena bore
her awesome shield of storm, ageless, deathless--
a hundred golden tassels, all of them braided tight
and each worth a hundred oxen, float along the front.
Her shield of lightning dazzling, swirling around her,
headlong on Athena swept through the Argive armies,
driving soldiers harder, lashing the fighting-fury
in each Achaean's heart-no stopping them now,
mad for war and struggle. Now, suddenly,
battle thrilled them more than the journey home,
than sailing hollow ships to their dear native land.


      As ravening fire rips through big stands of timber
high on a mountain ridge and the blaze flares miles away,
so from the marching troops the blaze of bronze armor,
splendid and superhuman, flared across the earth,
flashing into the air to hit the skies.
                                                            Armies gathering now
as the huge flocks on flocks of winging birds, geese or cranes
or swans with their long lancing necks-circling Asian marshes
round the Cayster outflow, wheeling in all directions,
glorying in their wings-keep on landing, advancing,
wave on shrieking wave and the tidal flats resound.
So tribe on tribe, pouring out of the ships and shelters,
marched across the Scamander plain and the earth shook,
tremendous thunder from under trampling men and horses
drawing into position down the Scamander meadow flats
breaking into flower-men by the thousands, numberless
as the leaves and spears that flower forth in spring.


      The armies massing . . . crowding thick-and-fast
as the swarms of flies seething over the shepherds' stalls
in the first spring days when the buckets flood with milk
so many long-haired Achaeans swarmed across the plain
to confront the Trojans, fired to smash their lines.


      The armies grouping now—as seasoned goatherds
split their wide-ranging flocks into packs with ease
when herds have mixed together down the pasture:
so the captains formed their tight platoons,
detaching right and left, moving up for action-
and there in the midst strode powerful Agamemnon,
eyes and head like Zeus who loves the lightning,
great in the girth like Ares, god of battles,
broad through the chest like sea lord Poseidon.
Like a bull rising head and shoulders over the herds,
a rbyal bull rearing over his flocks of driven cattle-
so imposing was Atreus' son, so Zeus made him that day,
towering over fighters, looming over armies.


      Sing to me now, you Muses who hold the halls of Olympus!
You are goddesses, you are everywhere, you know all things-
all we hear is the distant ring of glory, we know nothing-
who were the captains of Achaea? Who were the kings?
The mass of troops I could never tally, never name,
not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
a tireless voice and the heart inside me bronze,
never unless you Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus
whose shield is rolling thunder, sing, sing in memory
all who gathered under Troy. Now I can only tell
the lords of the ships, the ships in all their numbers!


      First came the Boeotian units led by Leitus and Peneleos:
Arcesilaus and Prothoenor and Clonius shared command
of the armed men who lived in Hyria, rocky Aulis,
Schoenus, Scolus and Eteonus spurred with hills,
Thespia and Graea, the dancing rings of Mycalessus,
men who lived round Harma, Ilesion and Erythrae
and those who settled Eleon, Hyle and Peteon,
Ocalea, Medeon's fortress walled and strong,
Copae, Eutresis and Thisbe thronged with doves,
fighters from Coronea, Haliartus deep in meadows,
and the men who held Plataea and lived in Glisas,
men who held the rough-hewn gates of Lower Thebes,
Onchestus the holy, Poseidon's sun-filled grove,
men from the town of Ame green with vineyards,
Midea and sacred Nisa, Anthedon-on-the-marches.
Fifty ships came freighted with these contingents,
one hundred and twenty young Boeotians manning each.


      Then men who lived in Aspledon, Orchomenos of the Minyans,
fighters led by Ascalaphus and lalmenus, sons of Ares
whom Astyoche bore in Actor son of Azeus' halls
when the shy young girl, climbing into the upper rooms,
made love with the god of war in secret, shared his strength.
In her two sons' command sailed thirty long curved ships.


      Then Schedius and Epistrophus led the men of Phocis-
two sons of Iphitus, that great heart, Naubolus' son-
the men who held Cyparissus and Pytho's high crags,
the hallowed earth of Crisa, Daulis and Panopeus,
men who dwelled round Anemoria, round Hyampolis,
men who lived along the Cephisus' glinting waters,
men who held Lilaea close to the river's wellsprings.
Laden with all their ranks came forty long black ships
and Phocian captains ranged them column by column,
manning stations along the Boeotians' left flank.


      Next the Locrians led by racing Ajax, son of Oileus,
Little Ajax-a far cry from the size of Telamonian Ajax-
a smaller man but trim in his skintight linen corslet,
he outthrew all Hellenes, all Achaeans with his spear.
He led the men who lived in Opois, Cynus, Calliarus,
Bessa and Scarphe, the delightful town of Augeae,
Tarphe, and Thronion down the Boagrius River.
In Oilean Ajax' charge came forty long black ships,
Locrians living across the straits from sacrosanct Euboea.


      And the men who held Euboea, Abantes breathing fury,
Chalcis and Eretria, Histiaea covered with vineyards,
Cerinthus along the shore and Dion's hilltop streets,
the men who held Carystus and men who settled Styra.
Elephenor, comrade of Ares, led the whole contingent,
Chalcodon's son, a lord of the fierce Abantes.
The sprinting Abantes followed hard at his heels,
their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the back,
troops nerved to lunge with their tough ashen spears
and slash the enemies' breastplates round their chests.
In Elephenor's command sailed forty long black ships.


      Next the men who held the strong-built city of Athens,
realm of high-hearted Erechtheus. Zeus's daughter Athena
tended him once the grain-giving fields had borne him,
long ago, and then she settled the king in Athens,
in her own rich shrine, where sons of Athens worship him
with bulls and goats as the years wheel round in season.
Athenians all, and Peteos' son Menestheus led them on,
and no one born on the earth could match that man
in arraying teams of horse and shielded fighters-
Nestor his only rival, thanks to Nestor's age.
And in his command sailed fifty long black ships.


      Out of Salamis Great Telamonian Ajax led twelve ships
drawn up where Athenian forces formed their line of battle.


      Then men of Argos and Tiryns with her tremendous walls
and Hermione and Asine commanding the deep wide gulf,
Troezen, Eionae and Epidaurus green with vines
and Achaea's warrior sons who held Aegina and Mases-
Diomedes lord of the war cry led their crack contingents
flanked by Sthenelus, far-famed Capaneus' favorite son.
Third in the vanguard marched Euryalus strong as a god,
son of King Mecisteus son of Talaus, but over them all,
with cries to marshal men Diomedes led the whole force
and his Argives sailed in eighty long black ships.


      Next the men who held Mycenae's huge walled citadel,
Corinth in all her wealth and sturdy, strong Cleonae,
men of Orniae, lovely Araethyrea and Sicyon,
Adrastus' domain before he ruled Mycenae,
men of Hyperesia, Gonoessa perched on hills,
men who held Pellene and those who circled Aegion,
men of the coastal strip and Helice's broad headland.
They came in a hundred ships and Agamemnon led them on,
Atreus' royal son, and marching in his companies
came the most and bravest fighting men by far.
And there ii the midst, armed in gleaming bronze,
in all his glory, he towered high over all his fighters-
he was the greatest warlord, he led by far the largest army.


      Next those who held Lacedaemon's hollows deep with gorges,
Pharis, Sparta and Messe, crowded haunt of the wild doves,
men who lived in Brysiae and Augeae's gracious country,
men who held Amyclae, Helos the seaboard fortress,
men who settled Laas and lived near Oetylus:
Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus lord of the war cry
led their sixty ships, armed them apart, downshore,
and amidst their ranks he marched, ablaze with valor,
priming men for attack. And his own heart blazed the most
to avenge the groans and shocks of war they'd borne for Helen.


      Next the men who lived in Pylos and handsome Arene,
Thryon, the Alpheus ford and finely-masoned Aepy,
men who lived in Cyparisseis and Amphigenia,
Pteleos, Helos and Dorion where the Muses met
the Thracian Thamyris, stopped the minstrel's song.
From Oechalia he came, from Oechalia's King Eurytus,
boasting to high heaven that he could outsing the very Muses,
the daughters of Zeus whose shield resounds with thunder.
They were enraged, they maimed him, they ripped away
his voice, the rousing immortal wonder of his song
and wiped all arts of harping from his mind.
Nestor the noble old horseman led those troops
in ninety sweeping ships lined up along the shore.


      And those who held Arcadia under Cyllene's peak,
near Aepytus' ancient tomb where men fight hand-to-hand,
men who lived in Pheneos and Orchomenos rife with sheep,
Stratia, Rhipe and Enispe whipped by the sudden winds,,
men who settled Tegea, Mantinea's inviting country,
men who held Stymphalus, men who ruled Parrhasia-
the son of Ancaeus led them, powerful Agapenor
with sixty ships in all, and aboard each vessel
crowded full Arcadian companies skilled in war.
Agamemnon himself, the lord of men had given them
those well-benched ships to plow the wine-dark sea,
since works of the sea meant nothing to those landsmen.


      Then the men who lived in Buprasion, brilliant Elis,
all the realm as far as Hyrmine and Myrsinus, frontier towns
and Olenian Rock and Alesion bound within their borders.
Four warlords led their ranks, ten-ship flotillas each,
and filling the decks came bands of Epean fighters,
two companies under Thalpius and Amphimachus, sons
of the line of Actor, one of Eurytus, one of Cteatus.
Strong Diores the son of Amarynceus led the third
and the princely Polyxinus led the fourth,
the son of King Agasthenes, Augeas' noble stock.


      Then ocean men from Dulichion and the Holy Islands,
the Echinades rising over the sea across from Elis-
Meges a match for Ares led their troops to war,
a son of the rider Phyleus dear to Zeus who once,
enraged at his father, fled and settled Dulichion.
In his son's command sailed forty long black ships.


      Next Odysseus led his Cephallenian companies,
gallant-hearted fighters, the island men of Ithaca,
of Mount Neriton's leafy ridges shimmering in the wind,
and men who lived in Crocylia and rugged Aegilips,
men who held Zacynthus and men who dwelled near Samos
and mainland men who grazed their flocks across the channel.
That mastermind like Zeus, Odysseus led those fighters on.
In his command sailed twelve ships, prows flashing crimson.


      And Thoas son of Andraemon led Aetolia's units,
soldiers who lived in Pleuron, Pylene and Olenus,
Chalcis along the shore and Calydon's rocky heights
where the sons of wellbom Oeneus were no more
and the king himself was dead
and Meleager with his golden hair was gone.
So the rule of all Aetolian men had passed to Thoas.
In Thoas' command sailed forty long black ships.


      And the great spearman Idomeneus led his Cretans,
the men who held Cnossos and Gortyn ringed in walls,
Lyctos, Miletus, Lycastus' bright chalk bluffs,
Phaestos and Rhytion, cities a joy to live in-
the men who peopled Crete, a hundred cities strong.
The renowned spearman Idomeneus led them all in force
with Meriones who butchered men like the god of war himself.
And in their command sailed eighty long black ships.


      And Heracles' son Tlepolemus tall and staunch
led nine ships of the proud Rhodians out of Rhodes,
the men who lived on Rhodes in three island divisions,
Lindos and Ialysus and Camirus' white escarpment,
armies led by the famous spearman Tlepolemus
whom Astyochea bore to Heracles filled with power.
He swept her up from Ephyra, from the Selleis River
after he'd ravaged many towns of brave young warlords
bred by the gods. But soon as his son Tlepolemus
came of age in Heracles' well-built palace walls
the youngster abruptly killed his father's uncle-
the good soldier Licymnius, already up in years-
and quickly fitting ships, gathering partisans,
he fled across the sea with threats of the sons
and the sons' sons of Heracles breaking at his back.
But he reached Rhodes at last, a wanderer rocked by storms,
and there they settled in three divisions, all by tribes,
loved by Zeus himself the king of gods and mortals
showering wondrous gold on all their heads.


      Nireus led his three trim ships from Syme,
Nireus the son of Aglaea and King Charopus,
Nireus the handsomest man who ever came to Troy,
of all the Achaeans after Peleus' fearless son.
But he was a lightweight, trailed by a tiny band.


      And men who held Nisyrus, Casus and Crapathus,
Cos, Eurypylus' town, and the islands called Calydnae—
combat troops, and Antiphus and Phidippus led them on,
the two sons of the warlord Thessalus, Heracles' son.
In their command sailed thirty long curved ships.
                                                            And now, Muse,
sing all those fighting men who lived in Pelasgian Argos,
the big contingents out of Alus and Alope and Trachis,
men of Phthia and Hellas where the women are a wonder,
all the fighters called Achaeans, Hellenes and Myrmidons
ranked in fifty ships, and Achilles was their leader.
But they had no lust for the grind of battle now—
where was the man who marched their lines to war?
The brilliant runner Achilles lay among his ships,
raging over Briseis, the girl with lustrous hair,
the prize he seized from Lymessus—
after he had fought to exhaustion at Lymessus,
storming the heights, and breached the walls of Thebes
and toppled the vaunting spearmen Epistrophus and Mynes,
sons of King Euenus, Selepius' son. All for Briseis
his heart was breaking now . . . Achilles lay there now
but he would soon rise up in all his power.


      Then men of Phylace, Pyrasu's banked in flowers,
Demeter's closed and holy grove and Iton mother of flocks,
Antron along the shore and Pteleos deep in meadows.
The veteran Protesilaus had led those troops
while he still lived, but now for many years
the arms of the black earth had held him fast
and his wife was left behind, alone in Phylace,
both cheeks torn in grief, their house half-built.
Just as he vaulted off his ship a Dardan killed him,
first by far of the Argives slaughtered on the beaches.
But not even then were his men without a captain,
yearn as they did for their lost leader. No,
Podarces a fresh campaigner ranged their units-
a son of Iphiclus son of Phylacus rich in flocks-
Podarces, gallant Protesilaus' blood brother,
younger-born, but the older man proved braver too,
an iron man of war. Yet not for a moment did his army
lack a leader, yearn as they did for the braver dead.
Under Podarces sailed their forty long black ships.


And the men who lived in Pherae fronting Lake Boebeis,
in Boebe and Glaphyrae and lolcos' sturdy ramparts:
their eleven ships were led by Admetus' favored son,
Eumelus, born to Admetus by Alcestis, queen of women,
the most radiant daughter Pelias ever fathered.


      Then men who lived in Methone and Thaumacia,
men who held Meliboea and rugged ridged Olizon:
Philoctetes the master archer had led them on
in seven ships with fifty oarsmen aboard each,
superbly skilled with the bow in lethal combat.
But their captain lay on an island, racked with pain,
on Lemnos' holy shores where the armies had marooned him,
agonized by his wound, the bite of a deadly water-viper.
There he writhed in pain but soon, encamped by the ships,
the Argives would recall Philoctetes, their great king.
But not even then were his men without a captain,
yearn as they did for their lost leader. No,
Medon formed them up, Oileus' bastard son
whom Rhene bore to Oileus, grim raider of cities.


      And men who settled Tricca, rocky Ithome terraced high
and men who held Oechalia, Oechalian Eurytus' city:
the two sons of Asclepius led their units now,
both skilled healers, Podalirius and Machaon.
In their command sailed forty curved black ships.


      And men who held Ormenion and the Hyperian Spring,
men who held Asterion, Titanos' chalk-white cliffs:
Eurypylus marched them on, Euaemon's shining son.
In his command sailed forty long black ships.


      And the men who settled Argissa and Gyrtone,
Orthe, Elone, the gleaming citadel Oloosson:
Polypoetes braced for battle led them on,
the son of Pirithous, son of deathless Zeus.
Famous Hippodamia bore the warrior to Pirithous
that day he wreaked revenge on the shaggy Centaurs,
routed them out of Pelion, drove them to the Aethices.
Polypoetes was not alone, Leonteus shared the helm,
companion of Ares, Caeneus' grandson, proud Coronus' son.
And in his command sailed forty long black ships.


      And Guneus out of Cyphus led on two and twenty ships
and in his platoons came Enienes and battle-tried Peraebians
who pitched homes in the teeth of Dodona's bitter winters,
who held the tilled acres along the lovely Titaressus
that runs her pure crystal currents into Peneus-
never mixed with Peneus' eddies glistening silt
but gliding over the surface smooth as olive oil,
branching, breaking away from the river Styx,
the dark and terrible oath-stream of the gods.


      And Prothous son of Tenthredon led the Magnesians,
men who lived around the Peneus, up along Mount Pelion
sloped in wind-whipped leaves. Racing Prothous led them on
and in his command sailed forty long black ships.


      These, these were the captains of Achaea and the kings.
Now tell me, Muse, who were the bravest of them all,
of the men and chariot-teams that came with Atreus' sons?


      The best by far of the teams were Eumelus' mares
and Pheres' grandson drove them—swift as birds,
matched in age and their glossy coats and matched
to a builder's level flat across their backs.
Phoebus Apollo lord of the silver bow
had bred them both in Perea, a brace of mares
that raced the War-god's panic through the lines.
But best by far of the men was Telamonian Ajax


while Achilles raged apart. The famed Achilles
towered over them all, he and the battle-team
that bore the peerless son of Peleus into war.
But off in his beaked seagoing ships he lay,
raging away at Atrides Agamemnon, king of armies,
while his men sported along the surf, marking time,
hurling the discus, throwing spears and testing bows.
And the horses, each beside its chariot, champing clover
and parsley from the marshes, waited, pawing idly.
Their masters' chariots stood under blankets now,
stored away in the tents while the rank and file,
yearning for their leader, the great man of war,
drifting here and there throughout the encampment,
hung back from the fighting.
                                                            But on the armies came
as if the whole earth were devoured by wildfire, yes,
and the ground thundered under them, deep as it does
for Zeus who loves the lightning, Zeus in all his rage
when he lashes the ground around Typhoeus in Arima,
there where they say the monster makes his bed of pain-
so the earth thundered under their feet, armies trampling,
sweeping through the plain at blazing speed.
                                                            Now the Trojans.
Iris the wind-quick messenger hurried down to Ilium,
bearing her painful message, sent by storming Zeus.
The Trojans assembled hard by Priam's gates,
gathered together there, young men and old,
and rushing closer, racing Iris addressed them,
keying her voice to that of Priam's son Polites.
He had kept a watch for the Trojans, posted atop
old Aesyetes' tomb and poised to sprint for home
at the first sign of Argives charging from the ships.
Like him to the life, the racing Iris urged, "Old Priam,
words, endless words-that is your passion, always,
as once in the days of peace. But ceaseless war's upon us!
Time and again I've gone to battle, fought with men
but I've never seen an army great as this. Too much-
like piling leaves or sand, and on and on they come,
advancing across the plain to fight before our gates.
Hector, I urge you first of all-do as I tell you.
Armies of allies crowd the mighty city of Priam,
true, but they speak a thousand different tongues,
fighters gathered here from all ends of the realm.
Let each chief give commands to the tribe he leads,
move them out, marshal his own contingents—now!"


      Hector missed nothing-that was a goddess' call.
He broke up the assembly at once. They rushed to arms
and all the gates flung wide and the Trojan mass surged out,
horses, chariots, men on foot-a tremendous roar went up.


      Now a sharp ridge rises out in front of Troy,
all on its own and far across the plain
with running-room around it, all sides clear.
Men call it Thicket Ridge, the immortals call it
the leaping Amazon Myrine's mounded tomb, and there
the Trojans and allies ranged their troops for battle.


      First, tall Hector with helmet flashing led the Trojans-
Priam's son and in his command by far the greatest, bravest army,
divisions harnessed in armor, veterans bristling spears.


      And the noble son of Anchises led the Dardanians-
Aeneas whom the radiant Aphrodite bore Anchises
down the folds of Ida, a goddess bedded with a man.
Not Aeneas alone but flanked by Antenor's two sons,
Acamas and Archelochus, trained for every foray.


      And men who lived in Zelea under the foot of Ida,
a wealthy clan that drank the Aesepus' dark waters—
Trojans all, and the shining son of Lycaon led them on,
Pandarus, with the bow that came from Apollo's own hands.


      And the men who held the land of Apaesus and Adrestia,
men who held Pityea, Terea's steep peaks—the units led
by Adrestus joined by Amphius trim in linen corslet,
the two good sons of Merops out of Percote harbor,
Merops adept beyond all men in the mantic arts.
He refused to let his two boys march to war,
this man-killing war, but the young ones fought him
all the way-the forces of black death drove them on.


      And the men who lived around Percote and Practios,
men who settled Sestos, Abydos and gleaming Arisbe:
Asius son of Hyrtacus led them on, captain of armies,
Hyrtacus' offspring Asius-hulking, fiery stallions
bore him in from Arisbe, from the Selleis River.


      Hippothous led the Pelasgian tribes of spearmen,
fighters who worked Larissa's dark rich plowland.
Hippothous and Pylaeus, tested soldier, led them on,
both sons of Pelasgian Lethus, Teutamus' scion.


      Acamas and the old hero Pirous led the Thracians,
all the Hellespont bounds within her riptide straits.


      Euphemus led the Cicones, fighters armed with spears,
son of Troezenus, Ceas' son, a warlord bred by the gods.


      Pyraechmes led the Paeonians, reflex bows in hand,  960
hailing from Amydon far west and the broad river Axius,
Axius, clearest stream that flows across the earth.


      That burly heart Pylaemenes led his Paphlagonians
out of Enetian country, land where the wild mules breed:
the men who held Cytorus and lived in range of Sesamus,
building their storied halls along the Parthenius River,
at Cromna, Aegialus and the highland fortress Erythini.


      Odius and Epistrophus led the Halizonians out of Alybe
miles east where the mother lode of silver came to birth.


      Chromis led the Mysian men with Ennomus seer of birds-
but none of his winged signs could beat off black death.
Down he went, crushed by racing Achilles' hands, destroyed
in the river where he slaughtered other Trojans too.


      Ascanius strong as a god and Phorcys led the Phrygians
in from Ascania due east, primed for the clash of combat.


      Mesthles and Antiphus led Maeonia's proud contingent,
Talaemenes' two sons sprung from the nymph of Gyge Lake
led on Maeonian units born and bred under Mount Tmolus.


      Nastes led the Carians wild with barbarous tongues,
men who held Miletus, Phthires' ridges thick with timber,
Maeander's currents and Mount Mycale's craggy peaks.
Amphimachus and Nastes led their formations on,
Nastes and Amphimachus, Nomion's flamboyant sons.
Nastes strolled to battle decked in gold like a girl,
the fool! None of his trappings kept off grisly death-
down he went, crushed by racing Achilles' hands, destroyed
at the ford where battle-hard Achilles stripped his gold away.


      And last, Sarpedon and valiant Glaucus marched the Lycians on
from Lycia far south, from the Xanthus' swirling rapids.


02 03 04 05 06
07 08 09 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24