The Illiad: Funeral Games in Honour of Patroclus.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

Funeral Games in Honour of Patroclus.

Achilles and the Myrmidons do honour to the body of Patroclus. After the funeral feast he retires to the sea-shore, where, falling asleep, the ghost of his friend appears to him, and demands the rites of burial: the next morning the soldiers are sent with mules and waggons to fetch wood for the pyre. The funeral procession, and the offering their hair to the dead. Achilles sacrifices several animals, and lastly, twelve Trojan captives, at the pile; then sets fire to it. He pays libations to the winds, which (at the instance of Iris) rise, and raise the flame. When the pile has burned all night, they gather the bones, place them in an urn of gold, and raise the tomb. Achilles institutes the funeral games: the chariot-race, the fight of the caestus, the wrestling, the footrace, the single combat, the discus, the shooting with arrows, the darting the javelin: the various descriptions of which, and the various success of the several antagonists, make the greatest part of the book.

In this book ends the thirtieth day: the night following, the ghost of Patroclus appears to Achilles: the one-and-thirtieth day is employed in felling the timber for the pile; the two-and-thirtieth in burning it; and the three-and-thirtieth in the games. The scene is generally on the sea-shore.

Thus they throughout the city made their moan;
But when the Greeks had come where lay their ships
By the broad Hellespont, their sev'ral ways
They each pursu'd, dispersing; yet not so
Achilles let his Myrmidons disperse,
But thus his warlike comrades he address'd:
"My faithful comrades, valiant Myrmidons,
Loose we not yet our horses from the cars;
But for Patroclus mourn, approaching near,
With horse and car; such tribute claim the dead;
Then, free indulgence to our sorrows giv'n,
Loose we the steeds, and share the ev'ning meal."
He said; and they with mingled voices rais'd
The solemn dirge; Achilles led the strain;
Thrice round the dead they drove their sleek-skinn'd steeds,
Mourning, with hearts by Thetis grief-inspir'd;
With tears the sands, with tears the warriors' arms,
Were wet; so mighty was the chief they mourn'd.
Then on his comrade's breast Achilles laid
His blood-stain'd hands, and thus began the wail:
"All hail, Patroclus, though in Pluto's realm;
All that I promis'd, lo! I now perform;
That on the corpse of Hector, hither dragg'd,
Our dogs should feed; and that twelve noble youths,
The sons of Troy, before thy fun'ral pyre,
My hand, in vengeance for thy death, should slay."
He said, and foully Hector's corpse misus'd,
Flung prostrate in the dust, beside the couch
Where lay Menoetius' son. His comrades then
Their glitt'ring armour doff'd, of polish'd brass,
And loos'd their neighing steeds; then round the ship
Of Peleus' son in countless numbers sat,
While he th' abundant fun'ral feast dispens'd.
There many a steer lay stretch'd beneath the knife,
And many a sheep, and many a bleating goat,
And many a white-tusk'd porker, rich in fat,
There lay extended, singeing o'er the fire;
And blood, in torrents, flow'd around the corpse.
To Agamemnon then the Kings of Greece
The royal son of Peleus, swift of foot,
Conducted; yet with him they scarce prevail'd;
So fierce his anger for his comrade's death.
But when to Agamemnon's tent they came,
He to the clear-voic'd heralds gave command
An ample tripod on the fire to place;
If haply Peleus' son he might persuade
To wash away the bloody stains of war:
But sternly he, and with an oath refus'd.
"No, by great Jove I swear, of all the Gods
Highest and mightiest, water shall not touch
This head of mine, till on the fun'ral pyre
I see the body of Patroclus laid,
And build his tomb, and cut my votive hair;
For while I live and move 'mid mortal men,
No second grief like this can pierce my soul.
Observe we now the mournful fun'ral feast;
But thou, great Agamemnon, King of men,
Send forth at early dawn, and to the camp
Bring store of fuel, and all else prepare,
That with provision meet the dead may pass
Down to the realms of night; so shall the fire
From out our sight consume our mighty dead,
And to their wonted tasks the troops return."
He said; they listen'd, and his words obey'd;
Then busily the ev'ning meal prepar'd,
And shar'd the social feast; nor lack'd there aught.
The rage of thirst and hunger satisfied,
Each to their sev'ral tents the rest repair'd;
But on the many-dashing ocean's shore
Pelides lay, amid his Myrmidons,
With bitter groans; in a clear space he lay,
Where broke the waves, continuous, on the beach.
There, circumfus'd around him, gentle sleep,
Lulling the sorrows of his heart to rest,
O'ercame his senses; for the hot pursuit
Of Hector round the breezy heights of Troy
His active limbs had wearied: as he slept,
Sudden appear'd Patroclus' mournful shade,
His very self; his height, and beauteous eyes,
And voice; the very garb he wont to wear:
Above his head it stood, and thus it spoke:
"Sleep'st thou, Achilles, mindless of thy friend,
Neglecting, not the living, but the dead?
Hasten, my fun'ral rites, that I may pass
Through Hades' gloomy gates; ere those be done,
The spirits and spectres of departed men
Drive me far from them, nor allow to cross
Th' abhorred river; but forlorn and sad
I wander through the wide-spread realms of night.
And give me now thy hand, whereon to weep;
For never more, when laid upon the pyre,
Shall I return from Hades; never more,
Apart from all our comrades, shall we two,
As friends, sweet counsel take; for me, stern Death,
The common lot of man, has op'd his mouth;
Thou too, Achilles, rival of the Gods,
Art destin'd here beneath the walls of Troy
To meet thy doom; yet one thing must I add,
And make, if thou wilt grant it, one request.
Let not my bones be laid apart from thine,
Achilles, but together, as our youth
Was spent together in thy father's house,
Since first my sire Menoetius me a boy
From Opus brought, a luckless homicide,
Who of Amphidamas, by evil chance,
Had slain the son, disputing o'er the dice:
Me noble Peleus in his house receiv'd,
And kindly nurs'd, and thine attendant nam'd;
So in one urn be now our bones enclos'd,
The golden vase, thy Goddess-mother's gift."
Whom answer'd thus Achilles, swift of foot:
"Why art thou here, lov'd being? why on me
These sev'ral charges lay? whate'er thou bidd'st
Will I perform, and all thy mind fulfil;
But draw thou near; and in one short embrace,
Let us, while yet we may, our grief indulge."
Thus as he spoke, he spread his longing arms,
But nought he clasp'd; and with a wailing cry,
Vanish'd, like smoke, the spirit beneath the earth.
Up sprang Achilles, all amaz'd, and smote
His hands together, and lamenting cried:
"O Heav'n, there are then, in the realms below,
Spirits and spectres, unsubstantial all;
For through the night Patroclus' shade hath stood,
Weeping and wailing, at my side, and told
His bidding; th' image of himself it seem'd."
He said; his words the gen'ral grief arous'd:
To them, as round the piteous dead they mourn'd,
Appear'd the rosy-finger'd morn; and straight,
From all the camp, by Agamemnon sent,
Went forth, in search of fuel, men and mules,
Led by a valiant chief, Meriones,
The follower of renown'd Idomeneus.
Their felling axes in their hands they bore,
And twisted ropes; their mules before them driv'n;
Now up, now down, now sideways, now aslope,
They journey'd on; but when they reach'd the foot
Of spring-abounding Ida, they began
With axes keen to hew the lofty oaks;
They, loudly crashing, fell: the wood they clove,
And bound it to the mules; these took their way
Through the thick brushwood, hurrying to the plain.
The axe-men too, so bade Meriones,
The follower of renown'd Idomeneus,
Were laden all with logs, which on the beach
They laid in order, where a lofty mound,
In mem'ry of Patroclus and himself,
Achilles had design'd. When all the store
Of wood was duly laid, the rest remain'd
In masses seated; but Achilles bade
The warlike Myrmidons their armour don,
And harness each his horses to his car;
They rose and donn'd their arms, and on the cars
Warriors and charioteers their places took.
First came the horse, and then a cloud of foot,
Unnumber'd; in the midst Patroclus came,
Borne by his comrades; all the corpse with hair
They cover'd o'er, which from their heads they shore.
Behind, Achilles held his head, and mourn'd
The noble friend whom to the tomb he bore.
Then on the spot by Peleus' son assign'd,
They laid him down, and pil'd the wood on high.
Then a fresh thought Achilles' mind conceiv'd:
Standing apart, the yellow locks he shore,
Which as an off'ring to Sperchius' stream,
He nurs'd in rich profusion; sorrowing then
Look'd o'er the dark-blue sea, as thus lie spoke:
"Sperchius, all in vain to thee his pray'r
My father Peleus made, and vow'd that I,
Return'd in safety to my native land,
To thee should dedicate my hair, and pay
A solemn hecatomb, with sacrifice
Of fifty rams, unblemish'd, to the springs
Where on thy consecrated soil is plac'd
Thine incense-honour'd altar; so he vow'd;
But thou the boon withhold'st; since I no more
My native land may see, the hair he vow'd,
To brave Patroclus thus I dedicate."
He said, and on his comrade's hand he laid
The locks; his act the gen'ral grief arous'd;
And now the setting sun had found them still
Indulging o'er the dead; but Peleus' son
Approaching, thus to Agamemnon spoke:
"Atrides, for to thee the people pay
Readiest obedience, mourning too prolong'd
May weary; thou then from the pyre the rest
Disperse, and bid prepare the morning meal;
Ours be the farther charge, to whom the dead
Was chiefly dear; yet let the chiefs remain."
The monarch Agamemnon heard, and straight
Dispers'd the crowd amid their sev'ral ships.
Th' appointed band remain'd, and pil'd the wood.
A hundred feet each way they built the pyre,
And on the summit, sorrowing, laid the dead.
Then many a sheep and many a slow-paced ox
They flay'd and dress'd around the fun'ral pyre;
Of all the beasts Achilles took the fat,
And cover'd o'er the corpse from head to foot,
And heap'd the slaughter'd carcases around;
Then jars of honey plac'd, and fragrant oils,
Resting upon the couch; next, groaning loud,
Four pow'rful horses on the pyre he threw;
Then, of nine dogs that at their master's board
Had fed, he slaughter'd two upon his pyre;
Last, with the sword, by evil counsel sway'd,
Twelve noble youths he slew, the sons of Troy.
The fire's devouring might he then applied,
And, groaning, on his lov'd companion call'd:
"All hail, Patroclus, though in Pluto's realm!
All that I promis'd, lo! I now perform:
On twelve brave sons of Trojan sires, with thee,
The flames shall feed; but Hector, Priam's son,
Not to the fire, but to the dogs I give."
Such was Achilles' threat, but him the dogs
Molested not; for Venus, night and day
Daughter of Jove, the rav'ning dogs restrain'd;
And all the corpse o'erlaid with roseate oil,
Ambrosial, that though dragg'd along the earth,
The noble dead might not receive a wound.
Apollo too a cloudy veil from Heav'n
Spread o'er the plain, and cover'd all the space
Where lay the dead, nor let the blazing sun
The flesh upon his limbs and muscles parch.
Yet burnt not up Patroclus' fun'ral pyre;
Then a fresh thought Achilles' mind conceiv'd:
Standing apart, on both the "Winds he call'd,
Boreas and Zephyrus, and added vows
Of costly sacrifice; and pouring forth
Libations from a golden goblet, pray'd
Their presence, that the wood might haste to burn,
And with the fire consume the dead; his pray'r
Swift Iris heard, and bore it to the Winds.
They in the hall of gusty Zephyrus
Were gather'd round the feast; in haste appearing,
Swift Iris on the stony threshold stood.
They saw, and rising all, besought her each
To sit beside him; she with their requests
Refus'd compliance, and address'd them thus:
"No seat for me; for I o'er th' ocean stream
From hence am bound to AEthiopia's shore,
To share the sacred feast, and hecatombs,
Which there they offer to th' immortal Gods;
But, Boreas, thee, and loud-voic'd Zephyrus,
With vows of sacrifice, Achilles calls
To fan the fun'ral pyre, whereon is laid
Patroclus, mourn'd by all the host of Greece."
She said, and vanish'd; they, with rushing sound,
Rose, and before them drove the hurrying clouds:
Soon o'er the sea they swept; the stirring breeze
Ruffled the waves; the fertile shores of Troy
They reach'd, and falling on the fun'ral pyre,
Loud roar'd the crackling flames; they all night long
With current brisk together fann'd the fire.
All night Achilles from a golden bowl
Drew forth, and, in his hand a double cup,
The wine outpouring, moisten'd all the earth,
Still calling on his lost Patroclus' shade.
As mourns a father o'er a youthful son,
Whose early death hath wrung his parents' hearts;
So mourn'd Achilles o'er his friend's remains,
Prostrate beside the pyre, and groan'd aloud.
But when the star of Lucifer appear'd,
The harbinger of light, whom following close
Spreads o'er the sea the saffron-robed morn,
Then pal'd the smould'ring fire, and sank the flame;
And o'er the Thracian sea, that groan'd and heav'd
Beneath their passage, home the Winds return'd;
And weary, from the pyre a space withdrawn,
Achilles lay, o'ercome by gentle sleep.
Anon, awaken'd by the tramp and din
Of crowds that follow'd Atreus' royal son,
He sat upright, and thus address'd his speech:
"Thou son of Atreus, and ye chiefs of Greece,
Far as the flames extended, quench we first
With ruddy wine the embers of the pyre;
And of Menoetius' son, Patroclus, next
With care distinguishing, collect the bones;
Nor are they hard to know; for in the midst
He lay, while round the edges of the pyre,
Horses and men commix'd, the rest were burnt.
Let these, between a double layer of fat
Enclos'd, and in a golden urn remain,
Till I myself shall in the tomb be laid;
And o'er them build a mound, not over-large,
But of proportions meet; in days to come,
Ye Greeks, who after me shall here remain,
Complete the work, and build it broad and high."
Thus spoke Achilles; they his words obey'd:
Far as the flames had reach'd, and thickly strown
The embers lay, they quench'd with ruddy wine;
Then tearfully their gentle comrade's bones
Collected, and with double layers of fat
Enclos'd, and in a golden urn encas'd;
Then in the tent they laid them, overspread
With veil of linen fair; then meting out
Th' allotted space, the deep foundations laid
Around the pyre, and o'er them heap'd the earth.
Their task accomplished, all had now withdrawn;
But Peleus' son the vast assembly stay'd,
And bade them sit; then, prizes of the games,
Tripods and caldrons from the tents he brought,
And noble steeds, and mules, and sturdy steers,
And women fair of form, and iron hoar.
First, for the contest of the flying cars
The prizes he display'd: a woman fair,
Well skill'd in household cares; a tripod vast,
Two-handled, two and twenty measures round;
These both were for the victor: for the next,
A mare, unbroken, six years old, in foal
Of a mule colt; the third, a caldron bright,
Capacious of four measures, white and pure,
By fire as yet untarnish'd; for the fourth,
Of gold two talents; for the fifth, a vase
With double cup, untouch'd by fire, he gave.
Then, standing up, he thus address'd the Greeks:
"Thou son of Atreus, and ye well-greav'd Greeks,
Before ye are the prizes, which await
The contest of the cars; but if, ye Greeks,
For any other cause these games were held,
I to my tent should bear the foremost prize;
For well ye know how far my steeds excel,
Steeds of immortal race, which Neptune gave
To Peleus, he to me, his son, transferr'd.
But from the present strife we stand aloof,
My horses and myself; they now have lost
The daring courage and the gentle hand
Of him who drove them, and with water pure
Wash'd oft their manes, and bath'd with fragrant oil.
For him they stand and mourn, with drooping heads
Down to the ground, their hearts with sorrow fill'd;
But ye in order range yourselves, who boast
Your well-built chariots and your horses' speed."
He said: up sprang the eager charioteers;
The first of all, Eumelus, King of men,
Son of Admetus, matchless charioteer;
Next, Tydeus' son, the valiant Diomed,
With Trojan horses, from AEneas won,
When by Apollo's aid himself escap'd;
Then Heav'n-born Menelaus, Atreus' son,
Two flying coursers harness'd to his car;
His own, Podargus, had for yokefellow
AEthe, a mare by Agamemnon lent:
Her, Echepolus to Atrides gave,
Anchises' son, that to the wars of Troy
He might not be compell'd, but safe at home
Enjoy his ease; for Jove had bless'd his store
With ample wealth, in Sicyon's wide domain.
Her now he yok'd, impatient for the course.
The fourth, Antilochus, the gallant son
Of Nestor, son of Neleus, mighty chief,
Harness'd his sleek-skinn'd steeds; of Pylian race
Were they who bore his car; to him, his sire
Sage counsel pour'd in understanding ears:
"Antilochus, though young in years thou art,
Yet Jove and Neptune love thee, and have well
Instructed thee in horsemanship; of me
Thou need'st no counsel; skill'd around the goal
To whirl the chariot; but thou hast, of all,
The slowest horses: whence I augur ill.
But though their horses have the speed of thine,
In skill not one of them surpasses thee.
Then thou, dear boy, exert thine ev'ry art,
That so thou mayst not fail to gain a prize.
By skill, far more than strength, the woodman fells
The sturdy oak; by skill the steersman guides
His flying ship across the dark-blue sea,
Though shatter'd by the blast; 'twixt charioteer
And charioteer 'tis skill that draws the line.
One, vainly trusting to his coursers' speed,
Drives reckless here and there; o'er all the course,
His horses, unrestrain'd, at random run.
Another, with inferior horses far,
But better skill'd, still fixing on the goal
His eye, turns closely round, nor overlooks
The moment when to draw the rein; but holds
His steady course, and on the leader waits.
A mark I give thee now, thou canst not miss:
There stands a wither'd trunk, some six feet high,
Of oak, or pine, unrotted by the rain;
On either side have two white stones been plac'd,
Where meet two roads; and all around there lies
A smooth and level course; here stood perchance
The tomb of one who died long years ago;
Or former generations here have plac'd,
As now Achilles hath decreed, a goal.
There drive, as only not to graze the post;
And leaning o'er the wicker body, leave
Close on the left the stones; thine offside horse
Then urge with voice and whip, and slack his rein,
And let the nearside horse so closely graze,
As that thy nave may seem to touch, the goal:
But yet beware, lest, striking on the stone,
Thy steeds thou injure, and thy chariot break,
A source of triumph to thy rivals all,
Of shame to thee; but thou sage caution use;
For, following, if thou make the turn the first,
Not one of all shall pass thee, or o'ertake;
Not though Arion's self were in the car,
Adrastus' flying steed, of heav'nly race,
Nor those which here Laomedon possess'd."
This said, and to his son his counsels giv'n,
The aged Nestor to his seat withdrew.
Fifth in the lists Meriones appear'd.
They mounted on their cars, and cast their lots:
Achilles shook the helmet; first leaped forth
The lot of Nestor's son, Antilochus;
Next came the King Eumelus; after whom
The valiant Menelaus, Atreus' son;
The fourth, Meriones; and last of all,
But ablest far, Tydides drew his place.
They stood in line; Achilles pointed out,
Ear on the level plain, the distant goal;
And there in charge the godlike Phoenix plac'd,
His father's ancient follower, to observe
The course assign'd, and true report to make.
Then all at once their whips they rais'd, and urg'd
By rein, and hand, and voice, their eager steeds.
They from the ships pursued their rapid course
Athwart the distant plain; beneath their chests
Rose like a cloud, or hurricane, the dust;
Loose floated on the breeze their ample manes;
The cars now skimm'd along the fertile ground,
Now bounded high in air; the charioteers
Stood up aloft, and ev'ry bosom beat
With hope of vict'ry; each with eager shout
Cheering his steeds, that scour'd the dusty plain.
But when, the farthest limits of the course
Attain'd, they turn'd beside the hoary sea,
Strain'd to their utmost speed, were plainly seen
The qualities of each; then in the front
Appear'd Eumelus' flying mares, and next
The Trojan horses of Tydides came:
Nor these were far behind, but following close
They seem'd in act to leap upon the car.
Eumelus, on his neck and shoulders broad,
Felt their warm breath; for o'er him, as they flew,
Their heads were downward bent; and now, perchance,
Had he or pass'd, or made an even race,
But that, incens'd with valiant Diomed,
Apollo wrested from his hands the whip.
Then tears of anger from his eyelids fell,
As gaining more and more the mares he saw,
While, urg'd no more, his horses slack'd their speed.
But Pallas mark'd Apollo's treach'rous wile;
And hasting to the chief, restor'd his whip,
And to his horses strength and courage gave.
The Goddess then Admetus' son pursued,
And snapp'd his chariot yoke; the mares, releas'd,
Swerv'd from the track; the pole upon the ground
Lay loosen'd from the car; and he himself
Beside the wheel was from the chariot hurl'd.
From elbows, mouth, and nose, the skin was torn;
His forehead crush'd and batter'd in; his eyes
Were fill'd with tears, and mute his cheerful voice.
Tydides turn'd aside, and far ahead
Of all the rest, pass'd on; for Pallas gave
His horses courage, and his triumph will'd.
Next him, the fair-hair'd Menelaus came,
The son of Atreus; but Antilochus
Thus to his father's horses call'd aloud:
"Forward, and stretch ye to your utmost speed;
I ask you not with those of Diomed
In vain to strive, whom Pallas hath endued
With added swiftness, and his triumph will'd;
But haste ye, and o'ertake Atrides' car,
Nor be by AEthe, by a mare, disgrac'd.
Why, my brave horses, why be left behind?
This too I warn ye, and will make it good:
No more at Nestor's hand shall ye receive
Your provender, but with the sword be slain,
If by your faults a lower prize be ours;
Then rouse ye now, and put forth all your speed,
And I will so contrive, as not to fail
Of slipping past them in the narrow way."
He said; the horses, of his voice in awe,
Put forth their pow'rs awhile; before them soon
Antilochus the narrow pass espied.
It was a gully, where the winter's rain
Had lain collected, and had broken through
A length of road, and hollow'd out the ground:
There Menelaus held his cautious course.
Fearing collision; but Antilochus,
Drawing his steeds a little from the track,
Bore down upon him sideways: then in fear,
The son of Atreus to Antilochus
Shouted aloud, "Antilochus, thou driv'st
Like one insane; hold in awhile thy steeds;
Here is no space; where wider grows the road,
There thou mayst pass; but here, thou wilt but cause
Our cars to clash, and bring us both to harm."
He said; but madlier drove Antilochus,
Plying the goad, as though he heard him not.
Far as a discus' flight, by some stout youth,
That tests his vigour, from the shoulder hurl'd,
So far they ran together, side by side:
Then dropp'd Atrides' horses to the rear,
For he himself forbore to urge their speed,
Lest, meeting in the narrow pass, the cars
Should be o'erthrown, and they themselves, in haste
To gain the vict'ry, in the dust be roll'd.
Then thus, reproachful, to Antilochus:
"Antilochus, thou most perverse of men!
Beshrew thy heart! we Greeks are much deceiv'd
Who give thee fame for wisdom! yet e'en now
Thou shalt not gain, but on thine oath, the prize."
He said, and to his horses call'd aloud:
"Slack not your speed, nor, as defeated, mourn;
Their legs and feet will sooner tire than yours,
For both are past the vigour of their youth."
Thus he; the horses, of his voice in awe,
Put forth their pow'rs, and soon the leaders near'd.
Meanwhile the chieftains, seated in the ring,
Look'd for the cars, that scour'd the dusty plain.
The first to see them was Idomeneus,
The Cretan King; for he, without the ring,
Was posted high aloft; and from afar
He heard and knew the foremost horseman's voice;
Well too he knew the gallant horse that led,
All bay the rest, but on his front alone
A star of white, full-orbed as the moon:
Then up he rose, and thus the Greeks address'd:
"O friends, the chiefs and councillors of Greece,
Can ye too see, or I alone, the cars?
A diff'rent chariot seems to me in front,
A diff'rent charioteer; and they who first
Were leading, must have met with some mischance.
I saw them late, ere round the goal they turn'd,
But see them now no more; though all around
My eyes explore the wide-spread plain of Troy.
Perchance the charioteer has dropp'd the reins,
Or round the goal he could not hold the mares;
Perchance has miss'd the turn, and on the plain
Is lying now beside his broken car,
While from the course his mettled steeds have flown.
Stand up, and look yourselves; I cannot well
Distinguish; but to me it seems a chief,
Who reigns o'er Greeks, though of AEtolian race,
The son of Tydeus, valiant Diomed."
Sharply Oileus' active son replied:
"Idomeneus, why thus, before the time,
So rashly speak? while the high-stepping steeds
Are speeding yet across the distant plain.
Thine eyes are not the youngest in the camp,
Nor look they out the sharpest from thy head;
But thou art ever hasty in thy speech,
And ill becomes thee this precipitance.
Since others are there here, thy betters far.
The same are leading now, that led at first,
Eumelus' mares; 'tis he that holds the reins."
To whom in anger thus the Cretan chief:
"Ajax, at wrangling good, in judgment naught,
And for aught else, among the chiefs of Greece
Of small account?so stubborn is thy soul;
Wilt thou a tripod or a caldron stake,
And Agamemnon, Atreus' son, appoint
The umpire to decide whose steeds are first?
So shalt thou gain thy knowledge at thy cost."
He said; up sprang Oileus' active son,
In anger to reply; and farther yet
Had gone the quarrel, but Achilles' self
Stood up, and thus the rival chiefs address'd:
"Forbear, both Ajax and Idomeneus,
This bitter interchange of wordy war;
It is not seemly; and yourselves, I know,
Another would condemn, who so should speak.
But stay ye here, and seated in the ring,
Their coming wait; they, hurrying to the goal,
Will soon be here; and then shall each man know
Whose horses are the second, whose the first."
Thus he; but Tydeus' son drew near, his lash
Still laid upon his horses' shoulder-points;
As lightly they, high-stepping, scour'd the plain.
Still on the charioteer the dust was flung;
As close upon the flying-footed steeds
Follow'd the car with gold and tin inlaid;
And lightly, as they flew along, were left
Impress'd the wheel-tracks on the sandy plain.
There in the midst he stood, the sweat profuse
Down-pouring from his horses' heads and chests;
Down from the glitt'ring car he leap'd to earth,
And lean'd his whip against the chariot yoke;
Nor long delay'd the valiant Sthenelus,
But eagerly sprang forth to claim the prize;
Then to his brave companions gave in charge
To lead away the woman, and to bear
The tripod, while himself unyok'd the steeds.
Nest came the horses of Antilochus,
Who had by stratagem, and not by speed,
O'er Menelaus triumph'd; yet e'en so
Atrides' flying coursers press'd him hard;
For but so far as from the chariot-wheel
A horse, when harness'd to a royal car;
Whose tail, back-streaming, with the utmost hairs
Brushes the felloes; close before the wheel,
Small space between, he scours the wide-spread plain:
So far was Menelaus in the rear
Of Nestor's son; at first, a discus' cast
Between them lay; but rapidly his ground
He gain'd?so well the speed and courage serv'd
Of AEthe, Agamemnon's beauteous mare;
And, but a little farther were the course,
Had pass'd him by, nor left the race in doubt.
Behind the noble son of Atreus came,
A jav'lin's flight apart, Meriones,
The faithful follower of Idomeneus:
His were the slowest horses, and himself
The least experienc'd in the rapid race.
Dragging his broken car, came last of all,
His horses driv'n in front, Admetus' son;
Achilles swift of foot with pity saw,
And to the Greeks his winged words address'd:
"See where the best of all the last appears;
But let him take, as meet, the second prize;
The first belongs of right to Tydeus' son."
Thus he; they all assented to his words;
And, by the gen'ral voice of Greece, the mare
Had now been his; but noble Nestor's son,
Antilochus, stood up, his right to claim,
And to Achilles, Peleus' son, replied:
"Achilles, thou wilt do me grievous wrong,
If thou thy words accomplish; for my prize
Thou tak'st away, because mishap befell
His car and horses, by no fault of his;
Yet had he to th' Immortals made his pray'r,
He surely had not thus been last of all.
But, pitying him, if so thy mind incline,
Thy tents contain good store of gold, and brass,
And sheep, and female slaves, and noble steeds;
For him, of these, hereafter mayst thou take
A prize of higher value; or e'en now,
And with th' applause of all; but for the mare,
I will not give her up; and let who will
Stand forth, my own right hand shall guard my prize."
He said; and smil'd Achilles swift of foot,
Delighted; for he lov'd the noble youth,
To whom his winged words he thus address'd:
"Antilochus, if such be thy request,
That for Eumelus I should add a prize,
This too I grant thee; and to him I give
My breastplate, from Asteropaeus won,
Of brass, around whose edge is roll'd a stream
Of shining tin; a gift of goodly price."
He said, and bade Automedon, his friend
And comrade, bring the breastplate from his tent;
He went, and brought it; in Eumelus' hand
He plac'd it; he with joy the gift receiv'd.
Then Menelaus, sad at heart, arose,
Burning with wrath against Antilochus;
And while the herald in the monarch's hand
His royal sceptre plac'd, and bade the Greeks
Keep silence, thus the godlike hero spoke:
"Antilochus, till now reputed wise,
What hast thou done? thou hast impugn'd my skill,
And sham'd my horses, who hast brought thine own,
Inferior far, before them to the goal.
But come, ye chiefs and councillors of Greece,
Judge ye between us, fav'ring neither side:
That none of all the brass-clad Greeks may say
That Menelaus hath by false reports
O'erborne Antilochus, and holds his prize:
His horses fairly worsted, and himself
Triumphant only by superior pow'r.
Or come now, I myself will judgment give;
Nor deem I any Greek will find to blame
In my decision, for 'tis fair and just.
Antilochus, come forward, noble chief;
And standing, as 'tis meet, before the car
And horses, in thy hand the slender whip
Wherewith thou drov'st, upon the horses lay
Thy hand, and by Earth-shaking Neptune swear
That not of malice, and by set design,
Thou didst by fraud impede my chariot's course."
To whom Antilochus with prudent speech:
"Have patience with me yet; for I, O King,
O Menelaus, am thy junior far;
My elder and superior thee I own.
Thou know'st th' o'er-eager vehemence of youth,
How quick in temper, and in judgment weak.
Set then thy heart at ease; the mare I won
I freely give; and if aught else of mine
Thou shouldst desire, would sooner give it all,
Than all my life be low'r'd, illustrious King,
In thine esteem, and sin against the Gods."
Thus saying, noble Nestor's son led forth,
And plac'd in Menelaus' hands the mare:
The monarch's soul was melted, like the dew
Which glitters on the ears of growing corn,
That bristle o'er the plain; e'en so thy soul,
O Menelaus, melted at his speech;
To whom were thus address'd thy winged words:
"Antilochus, at once I lay aside
My anger; thou art prudent, and not apt
To be thus led astray; but now thy youth
Thy judgment hath o'erpow'r'd; seek not henceforth
By trick'ry o'er thine elders to prevail.
To any other man of all the Greeks
I scarce so much had yielded; but for that
Thyself hast labour'd much, and much endur'd,
Thou, thy good sire, and brother, in my cause:
I yield me to thy pray'rs; and give, to boot,
The mare, though mine of right; that these may know
I am not of a harsh, unyielding mood."
He said, and to Noemon gave in charge,
The faithful comrade of Antilochus,
The mare; himself the glitt'ring caldron took.
Of gold two talents, to the fourth assign'd,
Fourth in the race, Meriones receiv'd;
Still the fifth prize, a vase with double cup,
Remain'd; Achilles this to Nestor gave,
Before th' assembled Greeks, as thus he spoke:
"Take this, old man, and for an heirloom keep,
In mem'ry of Patroclus' fun'ral games,
Whom thou no more amid the Greeks shalt see.
Freely I give it thee; for thou no more
Canst box, or wrestle, or in sportive strife
The jav'lin throw, or race with flying feet;
For age with heavy hand hath bow'd thee down."
He said, and plac'd it in his hand; th' old man
Beceiv'd with joy the gift, and thus replied:
"All thou hast said, my son, is simple truth:
No firmness now my limbs and feet retain,
Nor can my arms with freedom, as of old,
Straight from the shoulder, right and left, strike out.
Oh that such youth and vigour yet were mine,
As when th' Epeians in Buprasium held
The royal Amarynceus' fun'ral games,
And when the monarch's sons his prizes gave!
Then could not one of all th' Epeian race,
Or Pylians, or AEtolians, vie with me.
In boxing, Clytomedes, OEnops' son,
I vanquished; then Anchaeus, who stood up
To wrestle with me, I with ease o'erthrew;
Iphiclus I outran, though fleet of foot;
In hurling with the spear, with Phyleus strove,
And Polydorus, and surpass'd them both.
The sons of Actor in the chariot-race
Alone o'ercame me; as in number more, [1]
And grudging more my triumph, since remain'd,
This contest to reward, the richest prize.
They were twin brothers; one who held the reins,
Still drove, and drove; the other plied the whip.
Such was I once; but now must younger men
Engage in deeds like these; and I, the chief
Of heroes once, must bow to weary age.
But honour thou with fitting fun'ral games
Thy comrade: I accept, well-pleas'd, thy gift,
My heart rejoicing that thou still retain'st
Of me a kindly mem'ry, nor o'erlook'st
The place of honour, which among the Greeks
Belongs to me of right; for this, the Gods
Reward thee with a worthy recompense!"
He said; Achilles listen'd to the praise
Of Neleus' son; then join'd the gen'ral throng.
Next, he set forth the prizes, to reward
The labours of the sturdy pugilists;
A hardy mule he tether'd in the ring,
Unbroken, six years old, most hard to tame;
And for the vanquished man, a double cup;
Then rose, and to the Greeks proclaim'd aloud:
"Thou son of Atreus, and ye well-greav'd Greeks,
For these we bid two champions brave stand forth.
And in the boxer's manly toil contend;
And he, whose stern endurance Phoebus crowns
With vict'ry, recogniz'd by all the Greeks,
He to his tent shall lead the hardy mule;
The loser shall the double cup receive."
He said; up sprang Epeius, tall and stout,
A boxer skill'd, the son of Panopeus,
Who laid his hand upon the mule, and said:
"Stand forth, if any care the cup to win;
The mule, methinks, no Greek can bear away
From me, who glory in the champion's name.
Is't not enough, that in the battle-field
I claim no special praise? 'tis not for man
In all things to excel; but this I say,
And will make good my words, who meets me here,
I mean to pound his flesh, and smash his bones.
See that his seconds be at hand, and prompt
To bear him from the ring, by me subdued."
He said; they all in silence heard his speech:
Only Euryalus, a godlike chief,
Son of Mecistheus, Talaion's son,
Stood forth opposing; he had once in Thebes
Join'd in the fun'ral games of OEdipus,
And there had vanquish'd all of Cadmian race.
On him attended valiant Diomed,
With cheering words, and wishes of success.
Around his waist he fasten'd first the belt,
Then gave the well-cut gauntlets for his hands.
Of wild bull's hide. When both were thus equipp'd,
Into the centre of the ring they stepp'd:
There, face to face, with sinewy arms uprais'd,
They stood awhile, then clos'd; strong hand with hand
Mingling, in rapid interchange of blows.
Dire was the clatter of their jaws; the sweat
Pour'd forth, profuse, from ev'ry limb; then rush'd
Epeius on, and full upon the cheek,
Half turn'd aside, let fall a stagg'ring blow;
Nor stood Euryalus; but, legs and feet
Knock'd from beneath him, prone to earth he fell;
And as a fish, that flounders on the sand,
Thrown by rude Boreas on the weedy beach,
Till cover'd o'er by the returning wave;
So flounder'd he beneath that stunning blow.
But brave Epeius took him by the hand,
And rais'd him up; his comrades crowded round
And bore him from the field, with dragging steps,
Spitting forth clotted gore, his heavy head
Rolling from side to side; within his tent
They laid him down, unconscious; to the ring
Then back returning, bore away the cup.
Achilles next before the Greeks display'd
The prizes of the hardy wrestlers' skill:
The victor's prize, a tripod vast, fire-proof,
And at twelve oxen by the Greeks apprais'd;
And for the vanquish'd man, a female slave
Pric'd at four oxen, skill'd in household work.
Then rose, and loudly to the Greeks proclaim'd,
"Stand forth, whoe'er this contest will essay."
He said; and straight uprose the giant form
Of Ajax Telamon; with him uprose
Ulysses, skill'd in ev'ry crafty wile.
Girt with the belt, within the ring they stood,
And each, with stalwart grasp, laid hold on each;
As stand two rafters of a lofty house,
Each propping each, by skilful architect
Design'd the tempest's fury to withstand.
Creak'd their backbones beneath the tug and strain
Of those strong arms; their sweat pour'd down like rain;
And bloody weals of livid purple hue
Their sides and shoulders streak'd, as sternly they
For vict'ry and the well-wrought tripod strove.
Nor could Ulysses Ajax overthrow,
Nor Ajax bring Ulysses to the ground,
So stubbornly he stood; but when the Greeks
Were weary of the long-protracted strife,
Thus to Ulysses mighty Ajax spoke:
"Ulysses sage, Laertes' godlike son,
Or lift thou me, or I will thee uplift:
The issue of our struggle rests with Jove."
He said, and rais'd Ulysses from the ground;
Nor he his ancient craft remember'd not,
But lock'd his leg around, and striking sharp
Upon the hollow of the knee, the joint
Gave way; the giant Ajax backwards fell,
Ulysses on his breast; the people saw,
And marvell'd. Then in turn Ulysses strove
Ajax to lift; a little way he mov'd,
But fail'd to lift him fairly from, the ground;
Yet crook'd his knee, that both together fell,
And side by side, defil'd with dust, they lay.
And now a third encounter had they tried
But rose Achilles, and the combat stay'd:
"Forbear, nor waste your strength, in farther strife;
Ye both are victors; both then bear away
An equal meed of honour; and withdraw,
That other Greeks may other contests wage."
Thus spoke Achilles: they his words obey'd,
And brushing off the dust, their garments donn'd.
The prizes of the runners, swift of foot,
Achilles next set forth; a silver bowl,
Six measures its content, for workmanship
Unmatch'd on earth, of Sidon's costliest art
The product rare; thence o'er the misty sea
Brought by Phoenicians, who, in port arriv'd,
Gave it to Thoas; by Euneus last,
The son of Jason, to Patroclus paid,
In ransom of Lycaon, Priam's son;
Which now Achilles, on his friend's behalf,
Assign'd as his reward, whoe'er should prove
The lightest foot, and speediest in the race.
A steer, well fatten'd, was the second prize,
And half a talent, for the third, of gold.
He rose, and to the Greeks proclaim'd aloud,
"Stand forth, whoe'er this contest will essay."
He said: uprose Oileus' active son;
Uprose Ulysses, skill'd in ev'ry wile,
And noble Nestor's son, Antilochus,
Who all the youth in speed of foot surpass'd.
They stood in line: Achilles pointed out
The limits of the course; as from the goal
They stretch'd them to the race, Oileus' son
First shot ahead; Ulysses following close;
Nor farther than the shuttle from the breast
Of some fair woman, when her outstretch'd arm
Has thrown the woof athwart the warp, and back
Withdraws it tow'rd her breast; so close behind
Ulysses press'd on Ajax, and his feet
Trod in his steps, ere settled yet the dust.
His breath was on his shoulders, as the plain
He lightly skimm'd; the Greeks with eager shouts
Still cheering, as he strain'd to win the prize.
But as they near'd the goal, Ulysses thus
To blue-ey'd Pallas made his mental pray'r:
"Now hear me, Goddess, and my feet befriend."
Thus as he pray'd, his pray'r the Goddess heard,
And all his limbs with active vigour fill'd;
And, as they stretch'd their hands to seize the prize,
Tripp'd up by Pallas, Ajax slipp'd and fell,
Amid the offal of the lowing kine
Which o'er Patroclus Peleus' son had slain.
His mouth and nostrils were with offal fill'd.
First in the race, Ulysses bore away
The silver bowl; the steer to Ajax fell;
And as upon the horn he laid his hand,
Sputt'ring the offal out, he call'd aloud:
"Lo, how the Goddess has my steps bewray'd,
Who guards Ulysses with a mother's care."
Thus as he spoke, loud laugh'd the merry Greeks.
Antilochus the sole remaining prize
Receiv'd, and, laughing, thus the Greeks address'd:
"I tell you, friends, but what yourselves do know,
How of the elder men th' immortal Gods
Take special care; for Ajax' years not much
Exceed mine own; but here we see a man,
One of a former age, and race of men;
A hale old man we call him; but for speed
Not one can match him, save Achilles' self."
Thus he, with praise implied of Peleus' son;
To whom in answer thus Achilles spoke:
"Antilochus, not unobserv'd of me
Nor unrewarded shall thy praise remain:
To thy half talent add this second half."
Thus saying, in his hand he plac'd the gold;
Antilochus with joy the gift receiv'd.
Next, in the ring the son of Peleus laid
A pond'rous spear, a helmet, and a shield,
The spoil Patroclus from Sarpedon won;
Then rose, and loudly to the Greeks proclaim'd:
"For these we call upon two champions brave
To don their arms, their sharp-edg'd weapons grasp,
And public trial of their prowess make;
And he who first his rival's flesh shall reach,
And, through his armour piercing, first draw blood,
He shall this silver-studded sword receive,
My trophy from Asteropaeus won,
Well-wrought, of Thracian metal; but the arms
In common property they both shall hold,
And in my tent a noble banquet share."
He said; uprose great Ajax Telamon,
And Tydeus' son, the valiant Diomed.
First, from the crowd apart, they donn'd their arms;
Then, eager for the fight, with haughty stare
Stood in the midst; the Greeks admiring gaz'd.
When, each approaching other, near they came,
Thrice rush'd they on, and thrice in combat clos'd.
Then through the buckler round of Diomed
Great Ajax drove his spear; nor reach'd the point
Tydides' body, by the breastplate stay'd:
While, aim'd above the mighty shield's defence,
His glitt'ring weapon flash'd at Ajax' throat.
For Ajax fearing, shouted then the Greeks
To cease the fight, and share alike the prize;
But from Achilles' hand the mighty sword,
With belt and scabbard, Diomed receiv'd.
Next in the ring the son of Peleus plac'd
A pond'rous mass of iron, as a quoit
Once wielded by Eetion's giant strength,
But to the ships with other trophies borne,
When by Achilles' hand Eetion fell.
Then rose, and loudly to the Greeks proclaim'd:
"Stand forth, whoe'er this contest will essay.
This prize who wins, though widely may extend
His fertile fields, for five revolving years
It will his wants supply; nor to the town
For lack of iron, with this mass in store,
Need he his shepherd or his ploughman send."
He said; and valiant Polypoetes rose,
Epeius, and Leonteus' godlike strength,
And mighty Ajax, son of Telamon.
In turns they took their stand; Epeius first
Uprais'd the pond'rous mass, and through the air
Hurl'd it, amid the laughter of the Greeks.
Next came Leonteus, scion true of Mars;
The third was Ajax; from whose stalwart hand
Beyond the farthest mark the missile flew.
But when the valiant Polypoetes took
The quoit in hand, far as a herdsman throws
His staff, that, whirling, flies among the herd;
So far beyond the ring's extremest bound
He threw the pond'rous mass; loud were the shouts;
And noble Polypoetes' comrades rose,
And to the ships the monarch's gift convey'd.
The archers' prizes next, of iron hoar,
Ten sturdy axes, double-edg'd, he plac'd,
And single hatchets ten; then far away
Rear'd on the sand a dark-prow'd vessel's mast,
On which, with slender string, a tim'rous dove
Was fasten'd by the foot, the archers' mark;
That who should strike the dove should to his tent
The axes bear away; but who the string
Should sever, but should fail to strike the bird,
As less in skill, the hatchets should receive.
Thus spoke Achilles; straight uprose the might
Of royal Teucer, and Meriones,
The faithful follower of Idomeneus.
They in a brass-bound helmet shook the lots.
The first was Teucer's; with impetuous force
He shot; but vow'd not to the Archer-King
Of firstling lambs a solemn hecatomb.
The dove he struck not, for the Archer-God
Withheld his aid; but close beside her foot
The arrow sever'd the retaining string.
The bird releas'd, soar'd heav'nward; while the string
Dropp'd, from the mast suspended, tow'rds the earth,
And loudly shouted their applause the Greeks.
Then snatch'd Meriones in haste the bow
From Teucer's hand; his own already held
His arrow, pointed straight; he drew the string,
And to the far-destroying King he vow'd
Of firstling lambs a solemn hecatomb.
Aloft amid the clouds he mark'd the dove,
And struck her, as she soar'd, beneath the wing;
Right through the arrow pass'd; and to the earth
Returning, fell beside Meriones.
The bird upon the dark-prow'd vessel's mast
Lighted awhile; anon, with drooping head,
And pinions flutt'ring vain, afar she fell,
Lifeless; th' admiring crowd with wonder gaz'd.
Meriones the axes bore away,
While Teucer to the ships the hatchets bore.
Last, in the ring the son of Peleus laid
A pond'rous spear, and caldron, burnish'd bright,
Pric'd at an ox's worth, untouch'd by fire,
For those who with the jav'lin would contend.
Uprose then Agamemnon, King of men,
The son of Atreus, and Meriones,
The faithful follower of Idomeneus:
But Peleus' godlike son address'd them thus:
"How far, Atrides, thou excell'st us all,
And with the jav'lin what thy pow'r and skill
Pre-eminent, we know; take thou this prize,
And bear it to thy ships; and let us give
To brave Meriones the brazen spear;
If so it please thee, such were my advice."
He said; and Agamemnon, King of men,
Assenting, gave to brave Meriones
The brazen spear; while in Talthybius' care,
His herald, plac'd the King his noble prize.

Line 737.-They being two, while I was only one. Such I believe to be the true interpretation of this passage, which, however, is one of admitted difficulty. According to our modern notions, it is not very evident what advantage two men in a car would have over one in another; nor what would be gained by the division of labour which assigned the reins to one and the whip to the other; but such, from line 740-741, appears to have been the view taken by Homer.

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