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Translation by Ian Johnston

Book Seventeen
The Fight Over Patroclus

[The fight over the body of Patroclus continues; the exploits of Menelaus in that fight; Apollo rouses Hector to attack, Menelaus retreats; Ajax and Menelaus then move up over the body; Glaucus upbraids Hector; Hector attacks again, with Zeus' support; the battle goes back and forth over the body; Zeus spreads fog over the battle field; Apollo rouses Aeneas to fight; the horses of Achilles mourn Patroclus, refusing to move; Automedon takes them into battle with Zeus' help; Hector and Aeneas go after Achilles' horses, but are pushed back; Athena rouses Menelaus to fight on; Apollo does the same for Hector; Achaeans are driven back; Zeus lifts the fog from the battle; Menelaus goes to Antilochus, tells him to give Achilles the news of Patroclus' death; the Achaeans move off with the body of Patroclus, back towards the ships]


In that battle, warlike Menelaus, son of Atreus, 
noticed that the Trojans had just killed Patroclus.
Dressed in gleaming armour, he strode through the ranks
of those fighting in the front, then made a stand
over the corpse, like a mother beside her calf,
lowing over her first born, with no experience
of giving birth till then.  In just that way,
fair-haired Menelaus stood above Patroclus.
In front of him he held his spear and a round shield,     
eager to kill anyone who might come at him.                                          10 
But Euphorbus, son of Panthous, with his ash spear,
also knew that brave Patroclus had been killed.                                               [10]
Moving up close to the dead body, he spoke out,
addressing warlike Menelaus:

"Divinely raised Menelaus, son of Atreus,
leader of mengo back.  Leave this corpse.
Abandon these battle trophies.  No Trojan
and no famous ally hit Patroclus
before I struck him with my spear                    
in that murderous fight.  So let the Trojans                                   20
give me the honour and the fame. If not,
I'll steal your sweet life with one spear throw."

With a great scowl, fair-haired Menelaus then replied:

"By Father Zeus, such arrogant boasting
has no great merit.  The spirit in a leopard,                                             [20]
lion, or ferocious boar, whose chest
contains the fiercest and the strongest fury
none of these, it seems, can match the arrogance
in sons of Panthous with their long ash spears. 
But not even horse-taming Hyperenor,                                          30
strong as he was, got much enjoyment
from his youthful vigour, once he'd mocked me,
as he waited when I came against him,
calling me the most unworthy warrior
among Danaans.  I don't think he went home
to cheer up his dear wife and worthy parents
on his own two feet.  So if you stand here
against me, I'll drain your strength as well,
just as I did his.  In fact, I'd advise you                                                   [30]
to retreat, get back to your companions.                                        40
Don't oppose me, in case you run into
something unwelcome. From experience
there are lessons even fools can learn."

                                                              Menelaus spoke,
but he failed to sway Euphorbus, who replied:

"Now, indeed, divinely raised Menelaus,
you'll surely make up for my brother's death,
Hyperenor, whom you killed.  You speak
in triumph about widowing his wife
in her new bridal home, bringing sorrow,         
grief beyond enduring, to his parents.                                             50
I may provide them with a way of easing
their sad misery, if I bring home your head
and armour and toss them in the hands
of Panthous and queen Phrontis.  In any case,                                         [40]
we won't delay our struggle long.  Let's start
fight on, whether for victory or flight."

Saying this, Euphorbus struck Menelaus' round shield.
But the bronze did not break through.  The powerful shield
bent back the point.  Then Menelaus, Atreus' son,    
praying to Father Zeus, charged in clutching his spear,                           60
as Euphorbus was moving back.  He struck him
at the bottom of his throat, putting his full weight
behind the blow, with confidence in his strong fists.
The spear point drove straight through Euphorbus' soft neck.
He fell with a thud, his armour clanging round him.                                          [50]
His hair, as lovely as the fine curls on the Graces, 
with braids in gold and silver clips, were soaked in blood.
Just as a man tends a flourishing olive shoot,
in some lonely place with a rich source of water,   
a lovely vigorous sapling stirred with the motion                                     70
of every breeze, so it bursts out in white blossoms
but then a sudden stormy wind arising rips it
from its trench and lays it out prone on the earth
that's how Menelaus, son of Atreus, then cut down
Panthous' son, Euphorbus of the fine ash spear.
He then began to strip the armour off.                                                               [60]

Just as a mountain lion, trusting its own strength,
snatches the finest heifer from a grazing herd,
seizing her first by the neck in its powerful jaws,       
then breaks the neck and savagely rips that cow apart,                           80
gorging itself on blood and all the entrails,
while around it dogs and herdsmen cry out in distress,
again and again, but at a distance, unwilling
to confront the beast, pale in the grip of fear
in just that way, no Trojan's heart was brave enough
to move up and fight against splendid Menelaus.
Then Atreus' son would have easily carried off                                                 [70]
the celebrated armour of the son of Panthous,
if Phoebus Apollo had not been offended.     
He urged Hector, swift Ares' equal, to challenge                                     90
Menelaus.  Taking on the likeness of a man,
Mentes, leader of the Cicones, Apollo
addressed Hector with these winged words:

                                                                   "Hector,
now you're going after something you'll not catch,
chasing the horses of warrior Achilles,
descendant of Aeacus.  No mortal man,
except Achilles, can control or drive them,
for an immortal mother gave him birth.
Meanwhile, warrior Menelaus, Atreus' son,
standing by Patroclus, has just killed                                           100
the best man of the Trojans, Euphorbus,                                                [80]
son of Panthous, ending his brave fight."

With these words, Apollo withdrew again, a god
among the toiling men.  A bitter cloud of sorrow
darkened Hector's heart.  Looking through the ranks of men,
he quickly noticed Menelaus stripping off
the famous armour, with Euphorbus on the ground,
lying there, blood flowing from his open wound.
Armed in his gleaming bronze, Hector marched ahead
through those fighting in the front, with a piercing shout,                      110 
like the inextinguishable fires of Hephaestus.
Hearing that penetrating yell, Atreus' son
grew worried.  He spoke to his courageous heart:                                             [90]

"Here's trouble.  If I leave this fine armour
and Patroclus, who lies here because he tried
to avenge my honour, some Danaan,
seeing this, will call me a disgrace.
But if I fight Hector and his Trojans
all by myself out of a sense of shame,
then they'll surround memany warriors                                     120
against one man.  Hector's gleaming helmet
is bringing all the Trojans straight at me.
But why's my fond heart debating about this?
When a man wants to cross what gods have willed,
fighting a man the gods are honouring,
then some disaster soon rolls over him.
So none of the Danaans seeing me here                                                  [100]
moving back from Hector will find that shameful, 
seeing that Hector fights with gods' assistance.  
But if I could find Ajax, skilled in war shouts,                              130
the two of us, drawing on our fighting strength,
might come back, even against god's will, 
so we could find a way to save this corpse,
for Achilles' sake, the son of Peleus.  
In this bad situation, that's what's best."

As Menelaus thought these matters over
in his mind and heart, the Trojan ranks moved forward,
with Hector in the lead.  Menelaus then backed off,
leaving the corpse behind. He kept looking round,
like a bearded lion which dogs and men chase off                              140         [110]
with spears and shouts they drive it from the farm.  The beast's heart,
though brave, grows cold, moving from that farmyard
against its willthat's how fair-haired Menelaus
backed off from Patroclus.  He turned round, standing firm,
once he'd reached the company of his companions.
He looked for mighty Ajax, son of Telamon,
and soon observed him on the left flank of the army,
rallying his companions, urging them to fight.
For Phoebus Apollo had made them all fall back
in an amazing panic.  Going off on the run,                                               150
Menelaus came up to Ajax, then spoke out:

"Ajax, my friend, come here.  Let's hurry over                                        [120]
to defend the dead Patroclus.  Let's see whether,
for Achilles' sake, we can at least retrieve 
the naked corpse.  Hector with his bright helmet
already has the armour."

                                                               Menelaus spoke,
rousing the heart in warlike Ajax, who moved up
among those fighting in the front.  With him went
fair-haired Menelaus.  Once Hector had stripped off
the famous armour from Patroclus, he then tried                                   160
to drag away the body, so with his sharp bronze
he could hack Patroclus' head from off its shoulders,
then pull back the corpse to give to Trojan dogs.
But Ajax moved in close with his shield up, like a wall.
So Hector gave ground, withdrawing to the company
of his companions, then jumped into his chariot.                                               [130]
He gave the splendid armour to some Trojans
to carry to the city, something that would bring him
special glory.  Ajax then covered Menoetius' son
with his broad shield and made his stand there, like a lion                     170  
over its cubs, a beast which hunters run across
in the forest as it leads its young along.
The lion shows off its power and contracts its brows
into fine slits which conceal its eyesthat's how Ajax
defended warrior Patroclus.  With him there,
on the other side, stood war-loving Menelaus,
son of Atreus, his heart filled with utmost sorrow.

Then Glaucus, son of Hippolochus, commander                                               [140]
of the Lycians, looking at Hector with a frown,
criticized him harshly:

                                    "Hector, to look at you,                           180
you're the finest man we've got, but in battle
you're sadly lacking.  That fame you've got
as a courageous warrior is misplaced.
You're a man who runs away.  Consider now,
how are you going to save your city,
only with those soldiers born in Ilion?
For no Lycian will set out to fight
against Danaans for your city's sake,
since there's apparently no gratitude
for taking on our enemies without a rest.                                     190
How can you rescue a lesser warrior
from the thick of battle, ungrateful man,                                                [150]
when Sarpedon, once your companion,
your guest, you abandon to the Argives,
to become their battle spoils, their trophy.
He often served you wellboth your city
and you personally, while he was alive.
But now you lack the courage to protect him
from the dogs.  So now, if any Lycian man
will listen to me, we'll go home, and Troy                                    200
will witness its utter devastation.
If Trojans now could fill themselves with courage
a resolute and dauntless spirit, the sort
men have when they defend their native land,
struggling hard against a hostile army,
then we'd haul Patroclus back to Ilion
at once.  If we pulled him from the battle                                               [160]
and brought the corpse to Priam's mighty city,
Argives would quickly trade the lovely armour
belonging to Sarpedon, and we could then                                   210
take his body back to Troy.  Their dead man
attended on the greatest of the Argives,
who leads the best spear fighters by their ships.
But you don't dare stand up to Ajax
in the thick of battle, look that brave warrior 
in the eye, or confront him one on one, 
since he's a better man than you."

Hector of the gleaming helmet, looking angry, then replied:

"Glaucus, why would a man like you speak out                                      [170]
so arrogantly?  My friend, I thought you had                                220   
a better mind than any other man
living in fertile Lycia.  But now,
on the basis of what you've said just now,
I find your thinking questionable.
You say I didn't stand to fight great Ajax.
I'm not afraid of war, the din of chariots,
but there's always something more powerful, 
the mind of Zeus, who bears the aegis.
Zeus makes even brave men run away,
stealing their victory with ease, or in person                                230
rouses men to fight.  But come, my friend,
stand here beside me.  Look at what I do,
whether I'm a coward all day long,                                                          [180]
as you allege, or whether I'll prevent
Danaans, for all their fighting frenzy,
from defending dead Patroclus."

                                                                   Hector spoke.
Then, with a great shout, he called out to his Trojans:

"Trojans, Lycians, Dardan spearmen,
be men, my friends.  Recall your battle fury,
until I can put on the lovely armour                                             240
of great Achilles, which I stripped off
the great Patroclus, once I'd killed him."

With these words, Hector of the shining helmet
left that furious conflict and strode quickly off
with rapid strides, following his companions,                                                    [190]
the men taking the famous armour of Achilles
towards the city.  He caught them a short distance off.
Then, standing apart from that dreadful fight,
he changed his armour.  He gave his own equipment
to war-loving Trojans to carry to the city,                                               250    
sacred Ilion, then put on the immortal armour
of Achilles, son of Peleus, which heavenly gods
had given to Achilles'  well-loved father.
Once he'd grown old, Peleus gave it to his son,
who, for all his father's armour, did not reach old age.

From far away, cloud-gatherer Zeus gazed down on Hector,
as he dressed himself in the battle armour
of Peleus' godlike son.  Shaking his head, Zeus                                                 [200]
then spoke to his own heart:

                                                "You poor wretch,
you're not considering your own death at all                            260  
it's getting closer.  So you're putting on
the immortal armour of the finest man,
who makes other men afraid.  You've just killed
his comrade, a kind, courageous man,
and then wrongly stripped the armour off
his head and shoulders.  But for the moment,
I'll give you great power, to compensate you,
since you'll not be coming back from battle,
or handing over to Andromache 
the glorious armour of the son of Peleus."                                   270

The son of Cronos spoke, then nodded his dark brow.
He changed the armour so it suited Hector's body.                                           [210]
Then the fearful war god Ares entered Hector,
filling his limbs with strength and courage.  He set off,
to the tremendous shouts of all his famous allies,
as he paraded there in front of them, dazzling them all
with the armour of the great-hearted son of Peleus.
Hector moved around with words of encouragement
to everyoneMesthles, Glaucus, Medon,
Thersilochus, Asteropaeus, Deisenor,                                                    280
Hippothous, Phorcys, Chroraius, and Ennomus,  
who read omens found in birds.  Hector urged them on
his words had wings:

                                                        "Listen to me,
you countless tribes of allies, you neighbours.                                         [220]
I called you here, each from your own city,
not because I wished a large display
or needed it, but so you might help me
rescue Trojan wives and little children
from warrior Achaeans.  With this in mind,
I squander the resources of my people,                                        290
with food supplies and presents, to strengthen
hearts in each of you.  So now let everyone
turn round and face the enemy directly,
whether to survive or die.  For in that choice
we find the joy which we derive from war.
Patroclus is dead, but whoever pulls him
to horse-taming Trojans here and makes Ajax                                         [230]
move awayI'll give him half the spoils,
keeping the other half myself, and he'll get
a share of glory equal to my own."                                               300

Hector finished.  Trojans then threw their full weight
straight at Danaans, holding spears up high,
their hearts hoping they would drag that body
away from Ajax, son of Telamon.  What fools!
By that corpse Ajax took many of their lives.

Then Ajax said to Menelaus, skilled at war shouts:

"Divinely reared Menelaus, my friend,
I don't expect we two will be returning
from this battle.  I'm not concerned so much
about Patroclus' corpse, which soon enough                                  310          [240]
will be food for Trojan dogs and birds,
but I fear for my own head, and yours, as well,
which may be in danger.  Hector's become
a war cloud which envelops everything.
And our complete destruction's plain to see.
So come, call out to Achaea's finest men.
One of them may hear."

                                                                 Ajax finished.
Menelaus, skilled at war shouts, followed his advice.
He shouted to Danaans with a piercing yell:

"Friends, rulers and leaders of Achaeans,                                    320
all you who drink your wine at public cost
with Agamemnon and Menelaus,                                                            [250]
sons of Atreus, all you who rule your people,
to whom Zeus has given honour and glory,
it's difficult for me to see precisely
what each of you is doingthis conflict
rages on so fiercely.  But each of you 
must come here, even if not called by name,
for you'll feel shame and anger in your hearts,
if Patroclus should become a toy                                                  330
for Trojan dogs to play with."

                                                          Menelaus stopped.
Swift Ajax, son of Oïleus, heard him clearly.
He was the first to come running through the battle
to meet Menelaus.  After him came others
Idomeneus and his companion Meriones,
the man-killing war god's equal, and others, too.  
But what man has a mind which could name all those                                      [260]
who came up behind these warriors in that conflict 
to reinforce Achaeans?

                                          Trojans then drove forward
in a single group with Hector leading them.                                           340
Just as a huge wave roars into a flowing stream
at the mouth of a river fed from heaven,
with headlands on both sides of the shoreline
echoing the boom of salt water surf beyond
that's how Trojans roared as they came on in attack.
Achaeans held firm around Menoetius' son,
united by a common spirit, behind a fence
of their bronze shields.  The son of Cronos
cast a thick mist down on their glittering helmets,
for Zeus had not felt hostile to Patroclus                                               350          [270]
in earlier days, when he was alive and comrade
to Achilles.  So Zeus did not want Patroclus
to become merely a plaything for the dogs
of his Trojan enemies.  Thus, he encouraged
Patroclus' companions to defend him there.
At first the Trojans drove bright-eyed Achaeans back,
so they retreated from the body, leaving it behind.
But the Trojans, though confident with their long spears, 
did not kill anyone, for all their eagerness.  
But they did begin to drag away the body.                                              360
But the Achaean pull back was only temporary, 
for Ajax quickly rallied them.  Of all Danaans
he was the finest in his looks and actions                                                          [280]
after the son of Peleus.  Ajax strode around,
through those fighting in the front, like a mountain boar,
who scatters dogs and strong young men with ease,
as it wheels through forest clearingsthat's how Ajax,
noble Telamon's splendid son, easily pushed back
the Trojan ranks, as he moved among them.  They stood there,
over Patroclus, wanting desperately to haul him off,                              370
back to their city, and win glory for themselves.

Then Hippothous, noble son of Pelasgian Lethous,
began to drag the body by the feet back through the crowd.
He'd tied his shield strap round both ankle tendons,                                         [290]
eager to please Hector and the Trojans.  But right away
he faced a danger which no one could avert,
no matter how much he might want to.  For Ajax,
moving quickly through the throng, struck him at close range
on the bronze cheek piece of his helmet. The spear point
smashed through the helmet with its horsehair crest, driven on             380
by the force of Ajax's strong fists in that huge spear.
Blood and brains gushed from the wound and oozed together 
along the socket of the spear.  The strength drained out of him
where he was standing.  Hippothous let go the feet
of brave Patroclus, allowing them to fall and lie there.  
Then he collapsed, falling face down on the body,                                           [300]
far away from rich Larissa.  He did not repay
his parents for the work they'd done to rear him
he did not live long enough, slaughtered on the spear
of great-hearted Ajax.  

                                     Hector then threw his shining spear                  390
at Ajax.  But he was directly facing Hector,
so he saw it coming.  Ajax dodged the weapon,
but only just.  It hit Schedius, by far the best
of men from Phocis, son of great-hearted Iphitus,
who lived at home in celebrated Panopeus,
ruling many men.  Hector's spear struck this man
right on the collar bone.  The bonze point drove on through
and came out by his shoulder.  He fell with a crash,                                           [310]
his armour rattling round him.  Then Ajax struck,
hitting warlike Phorcys, Phaenops' son, in the gut,                                400
as he stood over Hippothous.  Breaking the plate
on Phorcys' body armour, the bronze sliced out his innards.
Phorcys fell in the dust, fingers clawing at the earth.
At that point glorious Hector and his foremost men
drew back.  With a tremendous shout, Argives dragged off
the bodies of dead Hippothous and Phorcys.
Then they began to strip the armour from their shoulders.

Right then war-loving Achaeans would have driven Trojans 
back to Ilion, conquered by their own cowardice,                                             [320]
with Argives winning glory beyond what Zeus decreed,                        410
through their own strong power.  But Apollo himself
stirred up Aeneas, taking on the form of Periphas,
the herald, son of Epytos, who'd grown old
serving as herald to Aeneas' old father.
He was wise and well-disposed towards Aeneas.
In this man's form, Apollo, son of Zeus, spoke up:

"Aeneas, can you not defend steep Ilion
in defiance of some god?  I've seen other men
who trusted their strong power and courage
and with their numbers held their country                                    420         [330]
against Zeus' will.  But Zeus wants us to win
far more than the Danaans, and you all suffer
countless fears and won't keep battling on."

He finished.  Aeneas recognized Apollo,
the far shooter, once he'd looked into his face.
Aeneas then shouted out, addressing Hector:

"Hector and the rest of you commanders,
both Trojans and allies,  it would be shameful
if war-loving Achaeans drive us back 
all the way to Ilion, if we're beaten                                              430
by our cowardice.  Some god's just told me
he came and stood beside methat even now
in this fight high counsellor Zeus is helping us.
So let's go straight at these Danaans,                                                      [340]
and not let them carry dead Patroclus
back to their ships without a battle."

                                                             Aeneas finished.
He strode far ahead of all the fighters at the front,
then stood there.  Trojans rallied and made a stand,
facing the Achaeans.  With his spear, Aeneas
then struck down Leocritus, son of Arisbas,                                          440
courageous companion of Lycomedes.
As he fell, war-loving Lycomedes pitied him.
He moved in close, stood there, and threw his shining spear.
It hit Apisaon, a son of Hippasus,
shepherd of his people, below his abdomen,
right in the liver.  Apisaon's limbs collapsed.
He'd come from fertile Paeonia, their best man                                                 [350]
in a fight after Asteropaeus, and his fall
filled warrior Asteropaeus with sorrow.
He charged ahead, ready to fight Danaans.                                            450
But that was now impossible.  For they stood there,
in a group around Patroclus, holding up their shields
on every side, with their spears extending outward.
Ajax moved around among them all, giving orders,
telling them that no man should move back from the corpse,
or stride out to fight in front of massed Achaeans.
They must all stand firm around the body, fighting
hand to hand.  That's what mighty Ajax ordered.                                              [360]
Dark blood soaked the earth.  The pile of dead bodies grew,
as they fellTrojans, proud allies, Danaans, too,                                  460
all together.  For as Danaans fought, they shed
their own blood also.  But far fewer of them died,
for they were careful to protect each other
from complete destruction in that fighting crowd.

So they fought on, like blazing fire.  You couldn't tell
whether sun and moon still shone, for in that fight 
a mist surrounded all the best men standing there
beside Menoetius' dead son.  Meanwhile, other Trojans                                    [370]
fought other well-armed Achaeans undisturbed,
under a clear sky, bright sunshine all around them,                                470
no clouds above the entire earth or on the mountains.
So they fought more casually, keeping their distance,
staying out of range of each other's painful weapons.
But soldiers in the centre were suffering badly
in the fog and fighting.  The pitiless bronze
was wearing down the finest men.  

                                                      But two warriors,
Thrasymedes and Antilochus, well-known men,
had not yet learned about the death of lord Patroclus.
They thought he was still alive, fighting the Trojans
in the front ranks of the throng.  These two were fighting                     480          [380]
some distance off, watching their companions, keeping track
of who was killed or fleeing back, as Nestor had instructed,
when he'd urged them into battle by their black ships.

Throughout that entire day the great combat raged,
a bitter conflict.  The men kept toiling on without a pause,
sweat dripping on their knees and legs, under their feet,
and running down men's eyes and hands, as both sides
battled over swift-footed Achilles' brave companion.
Just as a man gives his people a huge bull's hide
to stretch, after soaking it in fat, and they stand,                                     490         [390]
once they've picked it up, in a circle pulling hard,
so the moisture quickly leaves the hide, as the fat
soaks in under the tension of so many hands
stretching the entire skin as far as it will go
that's how those men on both sides pulled at the corpse,
back and forth in a narrow space, hearts full of hope
Trojans seeking to drag it back to Ilion,
Achaeans to their hollow ships.  Around Patroclus
the conflict grew intense.  Neither Ares or Athena,
who incite warriors to battle, if they'd seen that fight,                           500
would have disparaged it, not even if they'd been
intensely angry.  That's how destructive Zeus made                                         [400]
the conflict for men and horses that day men fought
over Patroclus.

                                               Godlike Achilles, at this time,
knew nothing of Patroclus' death, for they were fighting
under the walls of Troy, away from the fast ships.
He'd never imagined in his heart that Patroclus
was dead.  He thought he was alive and would return
once he'd reached the gates.  He didn't think
he'd lay waste the city with him or without him,                                    510
for often Achilles had learned this from his mother,
listening to her in private, when she'd told him
what great Zeus had planned.  But at that time, Thetis                                    [410]
said nothing of the evil which had taken place,
the death of his companion, his dearest friend by far.

But those beside the corpse kept holding their sharp spears,
with no pause in the fighting.  The mutual slaughter
continued on.  Bronze-armed Achaeans talked together,
using  words like these: 

                                                    "My friends,
there'd be no glory for us if we went back                                    520
to the hollow ships.  So let the black earth
open here for all of us.  That would be better
for us all by far than if we leave this corpse 
for horse-taming Trojans to carry off,
back to their city, winning glory."

Great-heated Trojans, too, spoke words like these:                                          [420]

"Friends, if we're all fated to be killed together
by this man, let no one leave the battle."

Men talked like this to strengthen their companions.
Then they fought on, the smash of iron rising up                                   530
through the bronze sky.  But the horses of Achilles,
descendant of Aeacus, stood some distance from the fight,
weeping from the time they first learned their charioteer
had fallen in the dust at the hands of Hector,
killer of men.  Automedon, brave son of Diores,
often lashed them with a stroke of his quick whip,                                           [430]
and often spoke to them with soothing words or threats,
but the two weren't willing to withdraw back to the ships
by the broad Hellespont, or go towards Achaeans
locked in battle.  They stayed beside their ornate chariot,                      540
immobile, like a pillar standing on the tomb
of some dead man or woman, heads bowed down to earth.
Warm tears flowed from their eyes onto the ground,
as they cried, longing for their driver.  Their thick manes,
covered in dirt, trailed down below their harnesses
on both sides of the yoke.  Looking at those horses,                                         [440]
as they mourned, the son of Cronos pitied them.
Shaking his head, Zeus spoke to his own heart:

                                                    "Poor horses!
Why did we give you to king Peleus,
a mortal man, for you're immortal, ageless?                                  550
Was it so you'd experience sorrow
among unhappy men?  For the truth is this
of all the things which breathe or move on earth,
nothing is more miserable than man.
But at least Hector, Priam's son, won't mount you
or drive your finely decorated chariot.
That I won't permit.  Is it not enough
he wears his armour and then brags about it?                                          [450]
I'll put strength into your legs and hearts,
so you can carry Automedon safely                                              560
from this battle to the hollow ships.
For I'll still grant glory to the Trojans,
to keep on killing till they reach the ships,
at sunset, when sacred darkness comes."

Saying this, Zeus breathed great strength into those horses.
The two shook out their manes, so the dirt fell on the ground.
They then set off towards the Trojans and Achaeans,
quickly pulling the fast chariot along with them.
Behind them Automedon joined the fighting, 
though still grieving for his comrade, swooping down                            570          [460]
in that chariot like a vulture on a flock of geese.
He easily escaped the Trojan battle noise,
and then with ease charged into the large crowd once more.
But in these attacks he didn't kill a man,
as he rushed to chase them down.  It was impossible,
for in the sacred chariot he was by himself.
He couldn't wield a spear and manage those swift horses.
But at last one of his companions noticed him,
Alcimedon, son of Laerces, Haemon's son.
Standing behind the chariot, he cried to Automedon:                            580

"Automedon, what god put inside your chest
this useless plan, stealing your common sense?                                       [470]
You're fighting against the Trojans by yourself,
in the front ranks of the crowd.  Your comrade
has been killed, and on his shoulders Hector
is now wearing the armour of Achilles
he celebrates his glorious triumph."

Automedon, son of Diores, replied:

"Alcimedon, what Achaean warrior
is better able to control and guide                                                590
these strong immortal horses than yourself,
except Patroclus, a man as wise as gods,
while he was alive?  Now he's met his death,
his fate.  So take the shining reins and whip.
I'll get down from the chariot and fight."                                                 [480]

Automedon spoke.  Then Alcimedon, springing up
into that fast chariot, quickly grabbed the reins and whip.
Automedon jumped out.  Seeing this, glorious Hector
at once spoke to Aeneas, who was close by:

"Aeneas, counsellor to bronze-armed Trojans,                             600
I see the two-horse team of swift Achilles 
coming to this fighting with poor charioteers.
That pair I'd like to capture, if your heart
is willing, since those men lack the courage
to confront the two of us, if we attack,
or to stand and fight against us both."

Hector spoke.  Anchises' strong son was not unwilling,                                    [490]
so the two moved straight ahead, guarding their shoulders
under bull's hide shields, tanned and tough, with thick bronze
hammered out on top.  With them went Chromius,                                610
and godlike Aretus, fully hoping in their hearts
they'd kill the men, then drive those strong-necked horses off.
What fools!  They would not return from Automedon
without shedding their own blood. Then Automedon
prayed to Father Zeus, and his dark heart was filled
with strength and courage.  Immediately he spoke out
to Alcimedon, his loyal companion:                                                                   [500]

                                                       "Alcimedon,
make sure you keep the horses close to me,
so they breathe right on my neck.  I don't think
Hector, son of Priam, will check his fury,                                      620
until he's killed the pair of us and climbed
behind the fine manes of these horses
belonging to Achilles, then driven in flight
the Argive ranks, or himself been slaughtered
among the front-line fighters."

                                                      Automedon finished,
then shouted to both Ajaxes and Menelaus:

"You Ajaxes, both Argive leaders, Menelaus,
leave that corpse to the rest of our best men,
who'll stand firm around it.  Protect the two of us
from ruthless fate while we're still living.                                     630         [510]
For Hector and Aeneas, Troy's best men
in this harsh fight, are coming hard against us.
But these things lie in the lap of the gods,
so I'll attempt a throwwhatever happens
it's all up to Zeus."

                                                 Saying this, Automedon
hefted his long-shadowed spear and threw it, hitting
the round shield of Aretus, which didn't stop it.
The bronze went straight on through, severed his belt,
then drove low in his gut.  Just as a strong man
with a sharp axe strikes a farm ox right behind its horns,                          640         [520]
slicing clean through sinews, so the ox stumbles forward
and falls downthat's how Aretus jerked forward and then fell
onto his back.  Once that sharp spear impaled itself,
quivering in his organs, his limbs gave way.
Then Hector threw his bright spear at Automedon,
but since he was directly facing Hector,
he saw the bronze spear coming and evaded it
by leaning forward.  The long spear stuck in the ground
behind him, its shaft trembling until great Ares
stilled its force.  Now they would have charged each other                     650         [530]
and fought hand to hand with swords, but the Ajaxes
made them move apart for all their battle fury.
They came up through the crowd answering their comrade's shout.
Hector, Aeneas, and godlike Chromius,
afraid of both Ajaxes, moved back again,
leaving Aretus lying there with a mortal wound.
Automedon, swift Ares' equal, stripped the armour,
boasting in triumph:

                                                "I've managed here
to ease somewhat my heart's grief for the death
of Menoetius' son, though the man I've killed                              660
is a lesser man than he."

                                                                    With these words,
he took the blood-stained spoils and put them in his chariot.                           [540]
Then he got in, feet and upper arms all bloody,
like a lion that's just gorged itself on cattle.

Then once more over Patroclus the bitter fight
resumedfierce and full of sorrow.  Athena
stirred up the conflict, coming down from heaven,
sent by wide-seeing Zeus to urge on the Danaans.
For his mind had changed.  Just as for mortal men
Zeus bends his coloured rainbow down from heaven,                           670
an omen prophesying war or some harsh storm,
upsetting flocks and stopping men from work                                                   [550]
upon the earththat's how Athena then placed herself
in the Achaean throng, wrapped in a purple mist.
She stirred up all the men, giving encouragement
first to courageous Menelaus, son of Atreus,
who was close by her.  Taking the form of Phoenix,
in his untiring voice she said:

                                                             "Surely, Menelaus,
you'll be disgraced and have to hang your head in shame,
if Achilles' fine and loyal companion                                            680
is ravaged by swift dogs beneath Troy's walls.
So be brave.  Stand firm.  Encourage all your men."

Menelaus, expert in war shouts, answered her:                                                 [560]

"Old Phoenix, you venerable old man, 
if only Athena would give me strength,
defend me from this shower of weapons,
I'd be happy to stand above Patroclus,
protecting him. For his death has touched my heart.
But Hector has the power of deadly fire.
He won't stop cutting men down with his bronze,                       690
for Zeus is giving him the glory."

Menelaus' words pleased the bright-eyed goddess,
Athena, for he'd first prayed to her of all the gods.
She put strength into his shoulders and his knees.
Then in his chest she set the persistence of a gnat,                                           [570]
which, no matter how much one brushes it away
from someone's skin, keeps on biting—it finds human blood
so sweetwith that stamina she filled up his dark heart.
Standing over Patroclus, he hurled his shining spear.
Among the Trojans was a rich, brave man called Podes,                        700
son of Eëtion, to whom Hector gave
a special honour among men as his companion,
his good friend at a feast.  Fair-haired Menelaus
struck him with his spear, as he began to flee.
He hit him on the belt.  The bronze drove straight on through.
Podes fell with a thud.  Then Menelaus, Atreus' son,                                        [580]
dragged the corpse away from Trojans into the crowd
of his companions.

                                                 At that point, Apollo
came up close to Hector to reinforce his spirit.
He took the form of Phaenops, son of Asius,                                         710 
of all Hector's guests the one he liked the most.
Phaenops lived at home in Abydos.  In his shape,
Apollo, son of Zeus, spoke out:

                                                     "Hector,
which of the Achaeans will now fear you,
since you're afraid of Menelaus,
who so far has been a feeble spearman?
But all by himself he's snatched a body
from the Trojans and gone off with it.
He's killed your trusty comrade Podes,
Eëtion's son, a noble front-line warrior."                                      720         [590]

As he spoke, black clouds of grief enveloped Hector. 
He strode by the foremost fighters, armed in gleaming bronze.
Then the son of Cronos took his tasselled aegis,
all glittering, hid Ida behind clouds, then flashed
his lightning, with a tremendous peal of thunder,
as he shook the aegis, awarding victory
to Trojans and making Achaeans run away.

The first to begin the rout was Peneleus,
a Boeotian.  Standing there facing the enemy,
as usual, he was hit in the shoulder by a spear                                       
730
from Polydamas, who'd come in close to throw.
It was a glancing blow, but the point of the spear
sliced quite near the bone.  Then at close quarters, Hector                             
[600]
attacked Leitus, son of great-hearted Alectryon.
Hector sliced his wrist, and so his fighting ended.
Looking around him anxiously, Leitus drew back—
he knew that if he couldn't grip his spear, he had no hope
of fighting Trojans.  As Hector went at Leitus,
Idomeneus threw and struck his body armour
on the chest, right beside the nipple.  But the long spear                      
740
broke at the socket.  The Trojans gave a shout.
Then Hector threw a spear at Idomeneus,
Deucalion's son.  He missed him, but not by much.
He did hit Coeranus, Meriones' comrade,                                                        
[610]
his charioteer, who'd followed him from well-built Lyctus.
Idomeneus had come from the curving ships that day
on foot and would've given the Trojans a great triumph,
if Coeranus hadn't quickly driven up
with his swift-footed horses.  For Idomeneus
he came as a saving light, protecting him                                              
750
from ruthless fate.  But it cost him his own life
at the hands of man-killing Hector, who struck him
under his jaw and ear.  The spear smashed his teeth,
roots and all, splitting his tongue in half.  Coeranus
tumbled from the chariot. The reins fell on the ground.
Meriones stooped down and scooped them from the plain                              
[620]
with his own hands, then spoke to Idomeneus:

"Now lash these horses on until you reach
our swift ships.  For you recognize yourself
that Achaeans will not win this victory."                                     
760

Meriones finished.  Then Idomeneus
whipped the fair-maned horses back to the hollow ships,
for by now a fear had fallen on his heart, as well.

Great-hearted Ajax and Menelaus also knew
that Zeus had turned the tide of battle now, giving
victory to the Trojans.  The first one to speak
was Telamonian Ajax:

                                         "Here's a problem.
Even a fool can see that Father Zeus
is now personally helping Trojans.                                                         
[630]
All their flying weapons hit a target,                                            
770
whether a brave man throws them or a coward—
Zeus makes them all fly straight.  In our case,
all our throws fall wasted on the ground.
But come, let's sort out the best course of action,
so we both can drag the corpse and then get back
in person to bring joy to our companions.
They must be anxious as they watch us here, 
thinking we can't check the fighting frenzy
of man-killing Hector, his all-conquering hands,
and we'll withdraw to our black ships.  I wish                             
780
some comrade would report back quickly                                              
[640]
to Peleus' son, for I don't think he's learned
the dreadful news of his dear comrade's death.
But I can't see any Argive who could do that.
Men and horses are all shrouded in this mist.
Father Zeus, rescue these Achaean sons
from this fog, make the sky clear, let us see
with our own eyes.  Since it give you pleasure,
kill us, but do in the light of day."

As he finished, Ajax wept.  Father Zeus pitied him.                              790
At once he dispersed the mist, scattering the haze.
The sun shone down, and all the fight came into view.                                    
[650]
Then Ajax spoke to Menelaus, skilled at war shouts:

"Look now, divinely raised Menelaus,
see if you can spot Antilochus alive,
son of great-hearted Nestor.  Get him to go
with speed to rouse up fiery Achilles,
by telling him his companion, the man
he loves the most by far, has just been killed."

Ajax spoke.  Menelaus, expert at war shouts, agreed.                             800
He went off like some lion moving from a farm,
exhausted by his attacks on dogs and men, 
who prevent it tearing flesh out of some cow,
keeping their watch all nightbut ravenous for meat,                                      [660]
the beast keeps charging in without success, for spears
rain down, thrown by keen hands, then burning sticks,
which, for all his fierce desire, make him afraid,
so he slinks away at dawn in disappointment
that's how Menelaus, skilled at war cries,
left Patroclus, much against his will
he feared                                     810
Achaeans might be pushed back in painful flight,
leaving the corpse a trophy for the enemy.
He issued many orders to Meriones
to the Ajaxes, as well:

                                "You two Ajaxes,
Argive leaders, and you, Meriones,
let each man bear in mind the kindness                                                   [670]
of poor Patroclus, who, when he was alive,
knew how to treat every man with care.
Now fatal death has overtaken him."

With these words, fair-haired Menelaus went away,                               820
glancing warily in all directions, like an eagle,
which, men say, has the sharpest sight of all the animals
flying in the skya bird which, while soaring high,
doesn't miss the swiftly running hare crouched down
under a leafy bush, and, swooping low, seizes it
at once, and then tears out its lifethat's how, Menelaus,
raised by gods, your bright eyes searched then all around
through groups of many comrades, seeking Nestor's son,                                  [680]
to see if he was still alive.  Then Menelaus, 
quickly seeing him on the left flank of the battle                                    830
encouraging his companions, urging them to fight,
came up to him. Then fair-haired Menelaus said:

"Divinely raised Antilochus, come here,
so you can learn the painful news, something
I wish had never happened.  You already know,
I think, for your own eyes can see it,
how some god is rolling this disaster
over the Danaans, giving victory
to the Trojans.  The best Achaean,
Patroclus, has been slaughtered, a huge loss                                 840         [690]
for the Danaans, who miss him badly.
You must run quickly to Achaean ships
to tell Achilles, so he can bring the corpse
in safety to his shipthe naked body,
for now Hector of the gleaming helmet
wears his armour."

                                        Menelaus finished speaking.
Hearing that news, Antilochus was overwhelmed.
For a long time he stood in shock, speechless.  His eyes
filled up with tears, his strong voice failed.  But even so,
he did not neglect what Menelaus told him.                                           850
Giving his armour to his noble comrade
Laodocus who drove the horses close beside him,
he set off on the run.  As he wept, his swift feet                                               [700]
took him from the battle, bearing the bad news
to Achilles, son of Peleus.  And then your heart,
divinely raised Menelaus, had no desire
to help defend the hard-pressed comrades left there
by Antilochus, men of Pylos, who felt his loss
severely.  But to assist them, Menelaus
sent godlike Thrasymedes.  Then he went in person                              860
to stand by warrior Patroclus.  Running over,
he took up a position by both Ajaxes and said:

"I've sent Antilochus to our fast ships,
to swift Achilles.  Still, I don't expect
he'll come out now, no matter how enraged
he is with godlike Hector.  He can't fight                                                [710]
at all against the Trojans without armour.
But now we should consider for ourselves
the best thing we should do, so we'll be able
to haul off the corpse and leave this Trojan tumult,                     870
escaping our own death and our destruction."

Great Telamonian Ajax then answered him:

"Glorious Menelaus, everything you say
is true enough.  So you and Meriones
stoop down and lift the body quickly,
as fast possible.  Take it from this fight.
We'll hold off the Trojans and godlike Hector, 
standing behind you with a single heart,                                                  [720]
just as we share one name.  We've stood firm before,
holding our positions by each other,                                             880
in the face of Ares, the fierce god of war."

Ajax spoke.  Then they raised the body off the ground,
lifting it high with one great heave.  Behind them,
Trojans soldiers gave a shout, as they saw Achaeans
hoisting the corpse.  They went after them like hounds
charging ahead of youthful hunters, as they chase
some wounded wild boar, eager to tear it apart,
but once it wheels around on them, sure of its strength,
they run back in fear, scattering in all directions
that's how groups of Trojans kept following them a while,                     890         [730]
thrusting at them with swords and double-bladed spears,
but when both Ajaxes turned round to stand against them,
their colour changed, and no one dared rush forward
to battle for the dead.

                                            So these men worked hard
to bring that body from the battle to the hollow ships,
in the face of a fierce conflict, like some fire
suddenly rushing at a city full of people,
setting it alight, so houses fall among the flames,
as winds whip the inferno on.  That's how the din
of chariots and spearmen coming up against them                                 900          [740]
kept resounding as they moved along.  But like mules
throwing their great strength into their work, as they haul
a beam or huge ship timber on an uneven path
down from the mountains, hearts worn out with the strain,
as they work on covered in sweatthat's how these men
strove hard to carry off the corpse.  Behind them,
both Ajaxes held off the enemy, just as
a wooded ridge which cuts across a plain holds back
a flood, even the strong flow of some harsh rivers,
pushing their waters back to go across the plain,                                   910           [750]
for the strength of their current cannot rupture it
that's how both Ajaxes held back the Trojans then
in that fight.  But Trojans kept up their pursuit,
especially two of themAeneas, Anchises' son,
and glorious Hector.  Just as a flock of daws or starlings
flies off in screaming fear, once they see a falcon
as it comes after them, bringing death to all small birds
that's how the young Achaean soldiers then ran off,
away from Hector and Aeneas, screaming in panic,
forgetting all their fierce desire for battle.                                               920
As Danaans fled, plenty of fine weapons fell                                                     [760]
around the ditch.  But there was no let up in the war.


Translation by Ian Johnston, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.  This document is in the public domain and may be used by anyone without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged. 

[Last modified March 7, 2004]

[Note that the line numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text]

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