FREE Romance eBooks by Brenda Kennedy

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HOME ON SEASHELL ISLAND

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FREE eBook: Cakes are Not a Diet Food!

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FREE: William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”: A Retelling in Prose

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David Bruce: The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Money, Mothers, Names

Money

• Screenwriter/critic Frank Cottrell Boyce met Nico at Eric’s, a punk nightclub in 1970s Liverpool, but maybe that wasn’t a good thing. He told her that he loved her, and she replied, “Really? Do you have any money? I seem to be a little short.” He had two 50-pence pieces, and he gave her one of them, but he could tell that she wanted the other one, too, so he gave her that one as well. That night, he walked 11 miles home, due to lack of train fare.

• Music critic and scholar Chadwick Jenkins remembers being required to take his choice of music classes when he was in high school. He signed up for chorus, but quickly the teacher wanted him to drop the class — and offered him $50 to do just that. According to Mr. Jenkins, the teacher “said that the sum was a substantial portion of his yearly income but that it was worth it just so he could sleep at night.”

• The Raconteurs have a reputation for producing rock ’n’ roll alchemy. Although they were selling records in 2008, they also made money in other ways than playing music. During their tours, they both played live music and sold their own homemade elixirs. What kind of elixirs? One elixir is intended to put hair on your chest; another elixir is intended to remove the hair on your chest.

Mothers

• Vince Clarke, a former member of the bands Depeche Mode and Erasure, occasionally gets together with Alison Moyet to tour as the duo Yas, aka Yazoo. He is very popular with gays although he is straight with a wife and a son. In fact, he is so popular with gays that the gay magazine The Advocate asked him whether he had to “frequently come out of the closet as straight.” Mr. Clarke replied, “My Mum was surprised, actually. When I phoned her to tell her I’d just gotten married, she didn’t believe me. It was a good half-hour conversation of ‘No, Mum, I really did just get married.’”

• The New Kids on the Block have their fans. Writer David Wild once stayed in a hotel on the same floor that the boy band was staying on. Each time he turned on his light, teenaged female fans outside the hotel screamed. But what really impressed him about the fame of the New Kids on the Block was that lots of hot mothers offered him sexual favors for his All-Access Backstage Pass. He blogged, “For the record — and for my wife who might be reading this — I adamantly refused these propositions for reasons that are not entirely clear to me today.”

• Sam Endicott, the frontman/bass player of the Bravery, an indie-rock band, learned about ethics from his mother when he was very young. He took a grape out of a grocery store without paying for it and ate it. His mother found out, and, Mr. Endicott remembers, “My mom made me go back and tell the cashier lady what I’d done. It was the most humiliating experience of my life. I’ve never stolen since.”

Names

• When the Replacements performed at their first concert, they were supposed to be known as the Impediments. However, their first concert was in the basement of a Presbyterian church, and the promoter thought that the name the Impediments was not very Presbyterian and that it sounded anti-people with handicaps. Forced to pick a replacement name very quickly, they very quickly named themselves the Replacements. Of course, they had nicknames as well. At times, members of the band were so drunk that they could barely perform. At those times, they called themselves the Placemats, or more simply, the ’Mats. Once, in Portland, the ’Mats wore their own clothing on stage — and over their own clothing, they wore the clothing of the opening act.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 24: Achilles and Priam, and Important Terms

Book 24: Achilles and Priam

Now that the funeral games for Patroclus were over, the Greeks returned to their camps. They thought of the evening meal and sleep.

Achilles still mourned Patroclus. He could not sleep. He lay on his back and then his side and then his stomach. He could not sleep. He got up and walked on the shore. In an attempt to get some relief, he mounted his chariot and dragged the corpse of Hector three times around Patroclus’ funeral mound. Then Achilles tried again to go to sleep.

Apollo pitied Hector and kept his body from rotting. Apollo wrapped an invisible shield around Hector so that Hector’s skin would not tear as Achilles dragged him around Patroclus’ funeral mound.

Achilles continued to abuse the corpse of Hector, and the gods pitied Hector. Most of the gods wanted Hermes to steal Hector’s body, but not Hera, Poseidon, and Athena. They still hated Troy, Priam, and Priam’s sons. They were still as angry as they were when the war had started ten years previously. Hera and Athena were still angry because they had lost a beauty contest. Paris had accepted the bribe of Aphrodite and had spurned the bribes of Hera and Athena. Paris had accepted Aphrodite’s bribe of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world.

Apollo, god of plague and of medicine, disliked the abuse of Hector’s corpse. Unburied corpses bring plague to living men.

On the morning of the twelfth day since Hector had been killed, Apollo said to the other gods, “Gods can be hard-hearted. Hector always treated us well. He always made sacrifices of oxen and goats to us. Now the gods will not allow Hector’s wife, father, and mother and the other Trojans to see his corpse and to grieve over it. Hector’s family longs to give his corpse a proper funeral.

“But many of you gods support Achilles, a man without mercy or pity. He is like a lion that pitilessly kills lambs to satisfy his hunger. Achilles has no decency and shame.

“Other men have suffered a worse loss than his. He has lost a friend, but others have lost a brother or a son. These others mourn, they grieve, they cry, and then they continue to live their lives. That is what mortals are supposed to do. The Fates have given mortals hearts that can endure such heavy grief.

“But Achilles refuses to accept the human condition. He slaughtered Hector, he mutilated Hector’s ankles, and now he drags him behind his chariot — he lets Hector’s head drag in the dust. This does Achilles no good. He will never see Patroclus alive again. Achilles needs to learn to accept the human condition. He needs to actually live what little is left of his life, not waste it with excessive grieving!”

Hera was angry and lashed out at Apollo: “Hector and Achilles are not equals. Hector’s parents are mortal. He was formed from the seed of his father, and he nursed at the breasts of his mother. But Achilles’ mother is immortal. His mother is Thetis, a goddess I myself reared and then gave to Peleus, a mortal man. All of you gods attended the wedding, including you, Apollo. You played your lyre. Because Hector and Achilles are not equals, we should not treat them as equals. If Achilles has anger like the anger of the gods, he is worthy of it. You, Apollo, regard Hector with too much respect.”

Zeus cautioned his wife, Hera, “Don’t be angry at another god. These mortals are not worth it. Neither Achilles nor Hector will attain the rank of an immortal god. Both of them are and will remain mortal. Still, many of us gods respect Hector — I certainly do. He always kept me well supplied with sacrifices of animals and wine.

“But we won’t steal the corpse of Hector to give it back to his parents. Thetis is almost always near Achilles. She would see what we were doing.

“One of you gods must go to Thetis and call her to me. I have made up my mind: Achilles must allow King Priam to ransom the corpse of his son — Hector must receive a proper funeral!”

Iris carried Zeus’ message to Thetis. She went down to the sea and plunged into the water and dove like a weighted hook carrying death to fish. She found Thetis in a cave with other sea-nymphs; all of them were mourning the fate of Achilles. They knew that he would die before the Scaean Gates of Troy.

Iris told Thetis, “Zeus calls for you to appear before him immediately.”

Thetis replied, “Why? What does Zeus want with me? I don’t want to see any of the Olympians now. But I will go. I must obey the command of Zeus.”

Thetis put on a dark veil, and she and Iris left the cave. Iris led the way, and once they reached the shore they flew to Mount Olympus.

Thetis sat down beside Zeus, taking the seat that Athena vacated for her, and Hera handed Thetis a golden cup of nectar and said a few words to welcome her. The Olympians were showing Thetis good xenia.

Thetis sipped some nectar, and then she gave the cup back to Hera.

Zeus said to Thetis, “Thank you for coming to Olympus despite all the grief that you are feeling. I myself recently suffered the death of my mortal son Sarpedon.

“For nine days, we gods have been arguing about the way that Achilles has been treating the corpse of Hector. Many gods want Hermes to steal Hector’s body and give it back to his parents. But I have a better way. I do not want to go behind your back. I want to give Achilles kleos, and I want you to continue to respect me.

“Go to Achilles and tell him that the gods are angry at the way he has been treating the corpse of Hector. Tell him that I myself am angry at him because he mistreats Hector’s body and will not allow Hector’s father to ransom the corpse. Perhaps Achilles will respect my wishes and give Hector’s body to Priam.

“At the same time that I am sending you to Achilles, I will send Iris to Priam to command him to bring treasure to Achilles and ransom the corpse of Hector.”

Thetis immediately agreed to do the will of Zeus. She flew from Mount Olympus to Achilles’ camp. He was still mourning the death of Patroclus. He was grieving and shedding tears. The Myrmidons around him were doing the work of living men: slaughtering a sheep and preparing food for the morning meal.

Thetis sat beside her son, stroked his face, and talked to him gently, “Achilles, how much longer will you grieve for your friend? Don’t you ever think of food or sleep? Having sex with a woman is a good thing. Don’t you ever think of that? Remember that you do not have much longer to live. Your fate is coming and bringing death to you.

“Listen to me. Zeus has a message for you. The gods are angry at you because of the way that you have been treating the corpse of Hector. Zeus himself is angry at you. He wants you to allow Priam to ransom with treasure his son’s body.”

Achilles replied, “If that is what Zeus wants to do, I’ll do it. If Priam brings me a ransom, I will accept it.”

Mother and son continued to talk.

Zeus sent Iris speeding down to Troy. He told her, “Be quick! Tell Priam to go to Achilles’ camp and take treasure. He must go with only a herald, an aged man, to accompany him. He will need someone to drive the mules that pull his wagon. Achilles will accept the ransom, and Priam will then bring the corpse of Hector back to Troy.

“We will send Priam a guide. Hermes, the Guide of the Dead, will escort Priam to the camp of Achilles. Hermes is the escort of the dead, taking psyches across the ford of the river and opening for them the gates leading to the Land of the Dead.

“Priam need not be afraid — Achilles will respect him and his supplication. Achilles will also not allow anyone else to kill Priam. Achilles’ anger and grief have been excessive, but he is not a madman or a fool. He will not rebel against my will. Achilles will respect whoever supplicates him for the corpse of Hector.”

Iris raced with Zeus’ message to Troy, where she found Priam and his sons, all of them grieving for Hector. Priam had smeared manure on his head and neck — he mourned his dead son. Throughout his palace, the women mourned for Hector, crying aloud with their grief. Widows remembered the many Trojan warriors whom Achilles had killed.

Iris spoke gently to Priam, but recognizing that she was a goddess, he trembled. She said to him, “Have courage! I am here with good news. Zeus pities you, and he will help you to recover the corpse of your son Hector. Take treasure to Achilles to ransom your son. Be accompanied by only an old herald to drive the mules that pull your wagon. Do not be afraid that Achilles will kill you. He will respect you, accept the ransom, and let you take Hector’s body back to Troy. Zeus is even sending you a guide: Hermes will take you to Achilles’ camp. Achilles will not hurt you, and he will keep the other Greeks from hurting you. Achilles will now respect suppliants.”

Iris sped away.

Priam ordered his sons to hitch a team of mules to a wagon. He went to his treasure chamber, and he sent for his wife, Hecuba, and said to her, “A goddess came to me from Zeus and ordered me to ransom the corpse of our son. What do you think? I think that I need to go to Achilles’ camp.”

Hecuba was afraid and cried, “Don’t go! You used to have sense! If you go to Achilles’ camp, he will kill you just like he has killed so many of our sons! All we can do now is to mourn for Hector. Achilles is feeding his corpse to the dogs and birds. I wish I could eat Achilles’ heart and liver — raw. Only that would avenge what he has done to our son Hector, who fought Achilles and never thought of fleeing!”

Zeus, who was listening on Mount Olympus, thought, How like a mortal mother! Hecuba has chosen not to remember that Hector fled from Achilles three times around the walls of Troy.

Priam replied, “I have decided to go to Achilles. The message came to me from Zeus, who sent a goddess to deliver it to me. If a mortal prophet had advised me to go to Achilles, I would not. I would think that the prophet was wrong. But not Zeus! And not his goddess messenger! I looked her in the eyes — we were face-to-face. I am going to Achilles, and if I am fated to die in his camp, so be it. At least I can hold Hector in my arms and mourn him before I die!”

Priam lifted the lid of a chest and took out twelve robes, twelve cloaks, twelve blankets, twelve capes, and twelve shirts. He also picked out ten bars of gold, two tripods, four cauldrons, and a magnificent cup: a gift from the Thracians. Priam wanted the corpse of his son so much that he was willing to sacrifice even this magnificent work of art.

Many Trojans surrounded Priam in his palace. Priam was nervous and afraid to meet Achilles, and so he took out his emotions on his citizens: “Get out! Don’t you have somewhere else to be! I am in pain! Achilles has killed my son Hector! You should grieve for him, too — without Hector to protect you, you will be the victims of the Greeks! I hope that I die before I see my city fall!”

Priam shook his staff at them, and they quickly left.

Nine of Priam’s sons remained, and he criticized them: Helenus, Paris, Agathon, Pammom, Antiphonus, Polites, Deiphobus, Hippothous, and Dius. None of these sons was Hector, and Priam wanted Hector to be alive. He shouted at them, “Get to work! I wish that all of you had been killed instead of Hector! Of all my sons who were heroes, not one of them is still alive! Mestor, Troilus, and Hector are all dead! Ares, the god of war, killed them all! All I have left are you, and you are better dancers than warriors! You eat well, but you don’t fight well. You are robbing the Trojans of the best food. Get my wagon ready! Now!”

Hector’s nine sons prepared the wagon and hitched up the mules to it. They put the ransom for Hector’s body in the back of the wagon.

Priam and his aged herald Idaeus were ready to go, but Hecuba carried a cup of honeyed wine to her husband and requested, “Pour out a libation to Zeus and pray for a safe and successful return. Ask also for a sign — now! — that your prayer will be answered. Ask for a bird flying to the right — the lucky side! If you see the sign, then go, although you go against my will. If you do not see the sign, then stay here and be safe!”

Priam replied, “It is the right thing to do.”

He poured water over his hands, and he poured out the libation of honeyed wine to Zeus. He prayed, “Zeus, let Achilles receive me and be kind and merciful. Send us a bird-sign that you will grant my prayer. Allow me to see that bird-sign so that I know that it is safe for me to see Achilles and ransom my son.”

Zeus sent a huge eagle that flew to Priam’s right — the lucky side! Priam, Hecuba, the aged herald, and Priam’s sons looked at the eagle and knew that it was a favorable omen.

Priam and his herald drove out of Troy. His wife and sons followed him to the gates and then returned to their homes. They were crying as if Priam were soon to die.

Zeus saw the two men going across the plain toward the ships, and he summoned Hermes to be their guide: “Hermes, you are the guide of many men. Go to Priam, and guide him to the camp of Achilles. Make sure that no one sees him and recognizes him.”

Hermes put on his sandals that make him swift, and he grabbed his wand that enchants men or puts them to sleep as Hermes wishes.

Looking like a young man, newly able to grow a beard, he flew near to Priam’s wagon. Darkness now covered the region.

Priam and his herald had driven to the river but had not crossed it. They watered their mules at the river. The herald saw Hermes and said to Priam, “Danger! I see someone! We may be killed! We should either flee or beg for mercy!”

Priam was frightened, and he stared at the oncoming man. Hermes walked up to Priam and said, “Greetings, old man! Where are you going? Aren’t you afraid of the Greeks? How would you feel if they were to see you — especially with so much treasure in your wagon? You are old, and your wagon-driver is too old to fight off anyone. But don’t worry about me. I would never hurt you. You remind me of my own father.”

Priam replied, “I am facing hard times, but even now Zeus is looking after me. He has sent you to me. You are a lucky omen! Your parents are blessed to have a son like you.”

Hermes said, “My parents are proud of me, just like you said. But tell me what you are doing with this treasure. Are you sending it away so that it may be kept safe for you? Are you fleeing from Troy, certain that the city will fall now that its finest warrior has fallen — Hector, your own son, who fought well and bravely?”

Priam replied, “Who are you? Who are your parents? How do you know about my son?”

Hermes said, “I have often seen Hector fight in battle. I saw him when he pushed the Greeks against their ships and nearly set their entire fleet on fire! That day he killed and killed again! I am a Myrmidon; I am the aide of Achilles. Achilles kept us out of the fighting for a while. I am the son of an aged father named Polyctor. He had seven sons who shook lots to see who would go to Troy — my lot fell out. I have come to scout the terrain because tomorrow the Greeks are planning to fight again.”

Priam requested, “If you really are the aide of Achilles, please tell me about my son’s body. Is it still intact, or has Achilles chopped it into pieces and fed them to the dogs?”

Hermes reassured him: “Hector’s body is still intact. It lies by Achilles’ ships. Although Hector has been dead for twelve days, his corpse has not decayed — no worms eat his flesh. Achilles daily drags the corpse around the funeral mound of Patroclus, but the corpse’s skin does not break. Many Greeks stabbed the corpse, but those wounds have been sealed. The gods themselves are taking care of the corpse of your son. He is dead, but the gods respect him.”

Priam was happy, and he said, “Making sacrifices to the gods is the right thing to do. Hector always made fitting sacrifices in honor of the gods. He remembered them, and now they remember him — now that he is dead. Please take this cup as a gift. Please safely escort me to the camp of Achilles.”

Hermes said, “I will not take the cup. That soon will belong to Achilles, and I will not rob him of what will soon be his. But I will gladly and safely escort you to his camp. I will take you further when needed. I will take you across the ford of a river and open the gates.”

Hermes climbed on the wagon, took the reins in his hands, and drove across a ford of the river. He drove the wagon to the trench and some gates of the Greek wall. In the darkness the sentries were beginning to eat their evening meal — Hermes made them sleep. He opened the gates and drove the wagon through. A second set of gates led to Achilles’ camp. A heavy pine beam was used to bar the gates. Three ordinary men were needed to lift the beam; Achilles was the only mortal man who could bar and unbar the gates by himself. But now Hermes easily unbarred the gates and drove the wagon into Achilles’ camp.

Hermes said to Priam, “Old man, I am the god Hermes. Zeus sent me to be your escort. I will not stay by you now. I should not meet Achilles face-to-face — yet. Go in and clasp Achilles’ knees and beg him to let you ransom your son. Beg him by his father. Beg him by his mother. Beg him by his own son. Move his heart!”

Hermes returned to Olympus.

Priam got off the wagon and left his aged herald behind. Courageously, he went to Achilles’ dwelling. Achilles was sitting. With him were his aides Automedon and Alcimus. Achilles had just finished eating, and the table was still before him.

Priam walked up to Achilles, knelt, clasped his knees with one hand, and with the other brought Achilles’ hands to his lips and kissed them — Priam kissed the hands that had killed so many of his sons in battle.

Achilles recognized Priam and marveled. He marveled at Priam the way people marvel at a man who has murdered a man and fled for his life and then suddenly appears. Automedon and Alcimus stared at Priam.

Priam begged, “Remember your own aged father, Achilles. He is as old as I am. The people in the territories around him must be threatening him now, old as he is, and he does not have you to defend him. But at least he has the joy of hearing that you are still alive, and he hopes to see the day that you leave Troy and return home.

“Now consider me. Some of my sons were heroes, but none of my hero sons is now alive. When the war started, I had fifty sons. Nineteen sons were born to me by one mother, and all of the others were born to me by various women in my palace. Many of my sons died in battle.

“But I had one hero son left: Hector. You killed him! I have come with treasure to ransom his body. Respect the gods! Pity me! Remember your aged father! I deserve pity. I have endured what no man has ever endured before — I have kissed the hands of the man who killed my son!”

Achilles remembered his aged father, and he grieved. Both men grieved together. Priam wept for Hector. Achilles wept sometimes for his aged father, sometimes for Patroclus.

Achilles took Priam’s hand and gently raised him up. This gesture meant that he would respect the suppliant — he would allow Priam to ransom Hector’s body.

Achilles said, “You, old man, have suffered so much — I have caused you so much suffering! You have shown great courage in coming here to my camp without warriors to protect you. You have shown great courage in facing the man who has killed so many of your sons — sons you love. Sit down on this chair. We must get over our grief. We have mourned so long. What good does it do us?

“The gods are the only beings who do not suffer the grief that you and I and other mortals feel. Zeus has two jars in his palace. In one jar are miseries; in the other jar are blessings. From these jars Zeus gives gifts to mortal men. Many men receive gifts from both jars; sometimes they enjoy good things, and sometimes they suffer miseries. But to some men Zeus gives gifts only from the jar of miseries; these men are always unhappy — they wander the earth in misery and hunger. No mortal man receives gifts only from the jar of blessings.

“My own father received gifts from both jars. When he was born, he was blessed. He was wealthy and respected. The gods gave him an immortal goddess to marry. But now his gifts come from the jar of miseries. He had a son — only one son: me. And now his son will soon die. His son will not return to Greece to take care of him. No. I will die here at Troy, where I have brought so much misery to your children and to you.

“And you, Priam, have received gifts from both jars. You used to be prosperous. You used to rule a large and wealthy realm. You had many sons and much wealth. But now Troy is at war. Your warriors suffer in battle. So many of your sons and citizens have died.

“But you must continue to live your life. Excessive grieving is not good. Hector will never come to life again. All too quickly, your own life will end.”

Priam said, “Don’t make me sit here in your shelter, Achilles. Give me my son back, and let me leave immediately! Take the ransom, and let me care for my son’s body.”

Achilles replied, “Don’t make me angry, old man. As I have said, I will give you back your son. A goddess — my mother — brought me a message from Zeus telling me to do that. Also, I know that your guide must have been a god. How else is it possible for you to come into my camp? How else could you get past the sentries? Who else could unbar my gates? Don’t make me angry! I don’t want to kill you and violate the rules of xenia!”

Achilles knew himself, and he knew other people. He knew that he and Priam were still enemies. Hector had killed Patroclus, and Achilles had killed Hector. Tension still existed between Priam and Achilles. Achilles knew that if Priam were to see the uncared-for corpse of Hector, still filthy from being dragged on the ground, Priam could grow angry. Achilles knew that if Priam were to grow angry, then in turn he could grow angry and kill Priam. Achilles knew that he could not give Hector’s body to Priam in its present state.

Priam was afraid, and he sat down on a chair.

Achilles left his shelter with his aides. They unhitched the mules and led Priam’s aged herald into the shelter so he could sit near Priam. They unloaded much of the ransom, but left two capes and a shirt to clothe the corpse of Hector. Achilles ordered some slave women to wash Hector’s body and rub it with olive oil and then to dress the corpse in the fine clothing. After this had been done, he put Hector’s body on a bier and lifted it onto the back of the wagon.

Achilles prayed to the psyche of Patroclus, “Do not be angry at me, Patroclus, if in the Land of the Dead you hear what I have done — I have let Priam have his son. He gave me treasure, and I shall give you your share. I will burn some clothing for you.”

Achilles went back into his shelter and said to Priam, “Your son lies in your wagon, as I promised, and in the morning you will see him and take him to Troy. Now let us eat. As much as we have grieved, we still must eat. Even Niobe, who suffered the deaths of all twelve of her children in one day, remembered to eat. Niobe was proud. She had given birth to six sons and six daughters, and she boasted aloud, ‘I am more worthy of respect than the goddess Leto, who has given birth to only two children: the twins Apollo and Artemis.’ Leto’s children were angry at the disrespect shown to their mother, and with the anger of the gods, they killed all of Niobe’s children, shooting them with arrows. Niobe’s children lay for nine days in their own blood, unburied. On the tenth day, the gods buried her children, and then Niobe, who had grieved for so long, ate.

“We too must eat. Later, you can grieve again for your son, after you have taken him to Troy.”

Achilles slaughtered a sheep, and his aide skinned and cooked it, and then everyone, including Priam and Achilles, ate.

Achilles and Priam looked at each other, marveling. Then Priam said, “Let me go to bed now, Achilles. I have not slept for a long time — not since you killed my son. Instead of sleeping, I lay awake, moaning with grief. I smeared manure on my head and neck. Finally, I have eaten food and drank wine again. Before this meal, I had eaten and drunk nothing.”

Achilles ordered his aides and slaves to make beds for Priam and his aged herald and for himself. But Achilles, a man who thought ahead, said to Priam, “You and your herald should sleep outside my shelter. The Greek commanders often come to my shelter to consult with me, and if one of them were to see and recognize you, he may tell Agamemnon. Then things could go badly for you and your son.

“But tell me one more thing: How much time do you need to mourn and bury Hector? I will keep the Greeks from fighting for that much time. Agamemnon respects me now, and he will agree to my request.”

Priam replied, “You will show me great kindness if you give us nine days to mourn Hector, and two days to burn his body, bury him, build his funeral mound, and hold a feast in his honor. On the twelfth day, we will fight — if we have to.”

The fighting was necessary. Trojans and Greeks were still at war.

Achilles said, “I will give you the time you ask for, Priam. We will not fight until after you have mourned Hector and given him a proper funeral.”

He touched Priam’s wrist, and then Priam and his herald went to their beds outside Achilles’ shelter.

Achilles went to sleep in his own shelter. Briseis slept by his side.

Zeus, who was watching from Mount Olympus, thought, Achilles no longer has the anger of the gods. Achilles has stopped his excessive anger. Achilles has stopped his excessive grief. Achilles has accepted the human condition. Now that Achilles has accepted the human condition, he is ready to die.

Most of the gods and mortal men slept now, but not Hermes. He kept thinking about what he should do. It was important for him to get Priam safely back to Troy, unseen by the Greek guards.

Hermes appeared before the sleeping Priam and said, “You are in the midst of your enemies. Yes, Achilles spared your life, but many Greeks here would like to kill you. You have ransomed your son with a treasure, but if you are captured, it will take three times that amount of treasure to ransom you. Think what will happen if Agamemnon were to learn that you are here.”

Priam woke up, and he woke up his herald. Hermes harnessed the mules and got the wagon ready, and he drove all of them out of the Greek camps. No guards saw them.

When they reached the ford of the river Xanthus, Hermes left them, and Priam and his herald went to Troy alone. Priam’s daughter Cassandra was the first to see them bearing the corpse of Hector back to Troy. She cried, “Look, Trojan men and Trojan women! Hector is coming home! He was our greatest warrior and our greatest hope!”

The Trojans arose and grieved. They left Troy to go out to the wagon and meet Priam. Hector’s wife and mother flung themselves on the wagon taking his corpse home. They tore their hair, and they held Hector’s head.

Priam ordered his citizens, “Let the wagon through! When we are inside the gates of Troy, then you can have your fill of mourning!” The Trojans moved away from the wagon, and the herald drove inside the walls of Troy. They took Hector’s body into Priam’s palace and placed it on a bed, and women sang laments.

Andromache cradled her husband’s head in her arms and grieved, “My husband, you died so young! You have left me a widow with a baby boy! I do not think that he will live to become an adult. Troy will soon be conquered now that you are no longer alive to defend it and keep its citizens safe and free. Now the women and children will become the slaves of the Greeks. At best, our son will be the slave of a harsh master. Worse, a Greek will take him to the high walls of Troy and throw him to the ground because you killed the Greek’s brother, father, or son — you killed so many Greek warriors! Now all of Troy grieves for you, Hector. You have brought grief to your parents, but most of all to me, your widow. You did not die near me and say some last words to me that I could remember as I weep for you!”

Andromache cried, and the women of the palace cried.

Hecuba grieved, “Hector, you were the son I loved most. The gods respected you while you were alive, and they still respect you now that you are dead. Achilles captured many of my sons and sold them far away as slaves. But he killed you with his spear, and he dragged your corpse around the funeral mound of Patroclus, Achilles’ friend whom you killed. Now you are with me, and I can mourn you.”

The women of the palace shouted cries of mourning.

Helen grieved, “Hector, you were the kindest to me of all of Paris’ brothers. Paris brought me to Troy — I wish I had died before that happened! This is the twentieth year since I have arrived here, and in all of those twenty years, never did you taunt or insult me. If anyone were ever cruel to me, you would talk to them and make them stop their cruelty, no matter who it was: one of your brothers or sisters or sisters-in-law or even your own mother. Your father has always been as kind to me as you were. I mourn for you, and I mourn for myself. I have no friends left in Troy — the Trojans regard me with loathing!”

Helen cried, and the Trojans cried, and Priam ordered, “Cut timber and bring it into Troy. The Greeks will not attack you. Achilles has promised to give us eleven days in which to mourn Hector and give him a proper funeral.”

Trojan men cut and hauled timber into the city for nine days. On the tenth day, they placed Hector’s body on the pier and burned it. In the morning, they poured wine over the fire and collected his white bones. His brothers and brothers-in-law mourned as they gathered the bones, covered them with fine cloth, and placed them in a golden chest that they lowered into a grave over which they placed huge stones. They built a mound over the grave with lookouts alert in case of a Greek attack, and they ate a feast in honor of Hector.

And so the Trojans buried Hector, the most human of heroes.

IMPORTANT TERMS

Achaeans:

Another name for the Greeks.

Aristeia (a-ris-STAY-a):

A warrior’s period of excellence in battle.

Athanatoi:

Immortals, gods.

Displacement:

Occasionally in the Iliad, a scene will occur at a time when it ought not to logically occur. This is known as displacement. Consider the scene in which King Priam asks Helen to identify some of the Greek heroes. By the end of the ninth year or the beginning of the tenth and last year of the Trojan War, King Priam would know who the leading Greeks are, so this episode logically ought not to occur at this time. Logically, this episode ought to occur early in the war. Homer has displaced this episode. Aesthetically, of course, this episode makes sense. For the audience of the Iliad, it is still early in the Iliad, and so Homer needs to introduce some of the leading Greeks to his audience.

Double Motivation:

Many actions in the Iliad are motivated both by humans and by gods. For example, at one point in Book 11 of the IliadGreat Ajax is forced back by the Trojans. On the human level, he has been fighting very hard for a long time, and he is tired. No wonder the Trojan warriors force him back! But we also read that Great Ajax is forced back by Zeus. Often, we can explain actions purely on the human level, but Homer tells us that the gods are also involved in the actions.

Geras:

A particular prize of honor, often a spear-bride.

Human Condition:

Humans are mortal; we will die someday.

In Medias Res:

In the middle of the story.

Klea Andron:

The glories of men.

Kleos:

Glory or fame or reputation.

Kleos is reputation. It is what people say about you after you are dead. Early in the Iliad, Achilles is very interested in his kleos.

Kleos is important because it is the only kind of meaningful immortality that ancient Greek society has. This society believes in a kind of afterlife, but it is insubstantial. Souls go down to the Land of the Dead, but there they have no meaningful kind of afterlife. In some accounts of the afterlife in the Land of the Dead, souls don’t know who they are until they have a drink of blood. At that time, they regain their memory and are able to converse with other souls. Without the drink of blood, they are like gibbering bats.

According to classics scholar Elizabeth Vandiver, kleos can be translated as glory or fame or, sometimes, reputation. What it literally means is what other people say about you, what is spoken aloud about you (The Iliad of Homer 45).

Kleos Aphthiton:

Undying kleos or imperishable glory. Undying glory, reputation, and fame.

Kredemna:

1) The veil and headdress of a married woman. 2) The ramparts and battlements of a city.

Menis:

Anger (used of a god and of Achilles).

Moira:

Fate. Share or portion or lot of life.

Over-determination:

Many actions in the Iliad occur because of the actions both of humans and of the gods. This double motivation is sometimes called by critics over-determination. Over-determination stresses the inevitability of certain actions — they had to occur. In literature, over-determination occurs when an action is explained by more than one cause when only one cause is enough to explain why the action occurred.

Proem:

Short introduction.

Psyche (SOO-KAY):

The spirit, soul.

Sophrosyne:

Lack of presumption, restraint, recognition of human limits. Diomedes has this quality.

Theos (THAY os):

God (with a small ‘g’).

Thnetoi:

Mortals.

Timê (TEE-MAY):

Timê is gifts of honor. After a city has been captured, what is inside the city is given out as gifts of honor. If a warrior has fought bravely, that warrior will get timê. An important kind of timê is a geras or spear-bride or sex-slave. Timê is the physical expression of honor; timê can take the form of booty, gifts, or a particular prize (geras).

In the Iliad, kleos and timê are related. The more timê a warrior has, the more kleos the warrior has. Achilles is upset when Agamemnon takes away his geras because Agamemnon is taking away his timê and therefore is taking away his kleos. At this time Achilles values kleos more than anything else in the world. Achilles — early in the Iliad — is willing to give up his life in order to have kleos.

Xenia:

The guest-host relationship. Civilized people of the ancient world followed rules of hospitality. Uncivilized people (and other beings) did not. This is an odd phrase, and we don’t have exactly that concept in our culture. In ancient Greece, no inns, motels, or hotels existed. If you traveled, you would stay with a family. You would knock on the door of a house and ask for hospitality. The residents of the house, if they observed xenia, would let you stay with them. They would feed you, give you a place to sleep, and offer you water for bathing or washing. As the guest, you of course would not murder your host or run away with your host’s wife. Instead, you would entertain your hosts by giving them news and telling them of your travels. The Trojan War started because of a breach of xenia. Paris, prince of Troy, stayed with Menelaus, King of Sparta, and ran away with his wife, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Xenia was taken seriously in the ancient world. Zeus was Zeus Xenios, Zeus the god of Xenia. He often punished people who did not respect the protocols of xenia.

Xenoi:

Plural of xenos.

Xenos:

Guest, host, stranger, friend, foreigner.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 23: Funeral Games for Patroclus

Book 23: Funeral Games for Patroclus

The Greeks took Hector’s body to the ships. Most of the Greeks went to their camps, but Achilles commanded his Myrmidons, “Let us honor Patroclus. Drive your chariots three times around the corpse of Patroclus. Then we will unhitch the horses from the chariots and eat the evening meal.”

They did that, and Achilles cried in grief. The Myrmidons also grieved, and the sand around Patroclus’ body was wet from tears.

Achilles touched Patroclus’ chest and said, “Farewell, Patroclus. I will do everything that I have promised you that I would do. As I promised, I have killed Hector — the dogs and birds will eat his flesh. I have captured twelve Trojan young men. As I promised, I will sacrifice them at your funeral.”

Achilles threw Hector’s corpse facedown beside the corpse of Patroclus. One corpse was well cared-for; the other was not.

The Myrmidons removed their armor and took care of the horses, and Achilles and his Myrmidons prepared the evening meal. They butchered many cattle, sheep, goats, and swine.

At the request of the other Greek commanders, Achilles went to Agamemnon’s camp. They wanted him to eat with Agamemnon. They also wanted him to wash the blood from his body. Achilles refused, saying, “No. I have taken an oath. I will not wash until I have placed the corpse of Patroclus on a pyre and burned it. Agamemnon, I request that when dawn arrives you order the warriors to cut timber for Patroclus’ pyre. We must do everything necessary for Patroclus’ psyche to enter the Land of the Dead. Patroclus’ body must be cremated, and then we can begin to fight again.”

Agamemnon agreed. The Greeks ate and then returned to their own ships to sleep.

Achilles lay alone on the beach, mourning for Patroclus. Exhausted from fighting and from grief, he managed to fall asleep. Immediately, Patroclus appeared to him in a dream.

Patroclus said to Achilles, “Have you forgotten me now that I am dead? You never forgot me while I was still alive. You must give me a proper funeral — quickly. Burn my corpse and collect the bones so that I may enter the Land of the Dead. My psyche is not allowed to cross the river and pass through the gates that lead to the Land of the Dead — not until my corpse receives a proper funeral. The horrible punishment that you want to give to Hector you are also giving to me because you have not burned my corpse. I mourn. I weep. I cannot enter the Land of the Dead. I wander up and down on the wrong side of the river. I am unable to reach my eternal home. Hermes, the Guide of the Dead, will not allow me to cross the river. I beg you to help me reach the Land of the Dead.

“I will never be alive again. I will never be with you and talk with you again. I am dead, and the dead belong with the dead.

“Achilles, your fate is coming for you. You will die — soon — before the walls of Troy.

“I have one final request to ask you. Let your bones and my bones be together in death. Let them be together just as we have been together since our youth. I came to your father’s palace because I had killed a man and was fleeing for my life. I was just a boy when I killed a man with whom I had been gambling. I had not meant to kill him. My father, Menoetius, took me to the palace of your father, Peleus. You and I finished growing up together. I was your aide. Put my bones in the gold two-handled urn that your mother gave you. Later, your bones can join mine.”

Achilles replied, “Patroclus, I will do everything that you have asked me to do. Let me hug you once more.”

Achilles tried to hug Patroclus three times, but there was nothing substantial for him to touch. Each time he tried to hug Patroclus, it was if he were trying to hug smoke.

Patroclus disappeared, and Achilles woke up. He said to himself, “Even after we are dead, something of our personality remains. We are not alive, we are a phantom, but something of us remains. I saw Patroclus, and I talked to him.”

Dawn arrived, and Agamemnon ordered men to cut timber for the funeral pyre of Patroclus — his corpse must be cremated. Agamemnon put Meriones, Idomeneus’ aide, in charge. They cut down trees, split them, and dragged them back to the ships to the spot where Achilles would burn the corpse of his best friend. Achilles planned to build a funeral mound there; it would house the bones of Patroclus and of himself.

They built the pyre, and Achilles ordered his Myrmidons, “Harness your chariots. We must take the corpse of Patroclus to the pyre.”

They placed the corpse of Patroclus in a chariot, and they covered his corpse with locks of hair they cut off to honor him. In tears, Achilles held the head of his best friend.

They reached the site of the pyre. Achilles cut off a long lock of his own hair. He had been growing the lock long in order to cut it off to honor the river-god Spercheus back home in Greece, but Achilles would never return home.

Achilles cried out, “Spercheus, my father wanted me to cut off this long lock of hair in order to honor you once I returned home. He also wanted me to sacrifice many animals to you once I returned home. But now I will never return home, and so I cut off this lock to honor my fallen friend.”

Achilles placed the lock of his hair in the hands of Patroclus.

Achilles then said to Agamemnon, “You are the leader of the Greek army. The warriors will obey your orders. I request that you dismiss the warriors so that they can go and butcher animals for the evening meal. My Myrmidons and I will attend to the cremation of Patroclus’ body. But I request that you and the other main commanders stay here.”

Agamemnon agreed and dismissed the troops. He and the other main commanders stayed.

The mourners prepared the pyre. It was a hundred feet long and a hundred feet wide, and they placed the corpse of Patroclus on top. They sacrificed sheep and cattle, and Achilles cut fat from their bodies and covered Patroclus’ body with it. He wanted to ensure that the corpse would completely burn.

Achilles put jars of honey and oil beside the corpse. He sacrificed four stallions and threw their bodies on the pyre. He cut the throats of two of the nine dogs that Patroclus had fed — he wanted to be sure that enough dogs remained to feast on Hector’s corpse. Achilles also sacrificed the twelve young Trojans; enraged, he hacked them with his sword.

Achilles said to his friend’s corpse, “Just as I promised, I have sacrificed twelve Trojan youths. Their bodies I will burn, but I will never burn the body of Hector — the dogs will eat his corpse!”

Achilles was wrong about the dogs — the gods protected the corpse of Hector. Aphrodite stood guard over the corpse, and she beat away any dog that came near it. She also anointed the body with oil to protect it when Achilles dragged the body behind his chariot. Apollo, god of the sun, also protected the corpse. He put a cloud between the sun and Hector’s body to keep the body in shadow and protect it from the sun’s rays.

The funeral pyre of Patroclus was not burning the way it should burn. It was burning feebly, not fiercely. Achilles prayed. He promised splendid sacrifices to the West wind and the North wind if they would blow and make the fire burn.

Iris, the messenger of the gods, heard Achilles and took his prayer to the West wind and the North wind. All of the winds were banqueting in the halls of the West wind. Iris stood in the doorway, and the winds invited her in to feast with them.

Iris declined: “Thank you, but no. I am off to the land of the Ethiopians to share in their sacrifice. I have come here to bring you the prayer of Achilles. He promises splendid sacrifices to you, the West wind and the North wind, if you will blow and make Patroclus’ funeral pyre burn.”

Iris sped away, and the West wind and the North wind blew. The winds reached the seas and created waves. They reached the funeral pyre, and the fire burned fiercely. All night the winds blew and the fire burned. All night Achilles poured wine onto the ground as a sacrifice to the gods. All night Achilles mourned for Patroclus. He mourned for Patroclus the way a father mourns a son who dies on the day that he was to be married.

After the morning star came and then the Dawn, the fire burned down and the winds headed for home and the waves died down. Achilles lay down. Exhausted, he slept.

Agamemnon and the other commanders arrived.

Achilles woke up and requested, “Agamemnon, commanders, please pour wine over the fire to put it out. Then we will collect the bones of Patroclus. They are in the center of the pyre, away from the bones of the human sacrifices. We will put the bones of Patroclus in an urn made of gold. We will seal it tight until I myself am dead. For now, we will build a small funeral mound for Patroclus. Later, after I am dead, you can build the funeral mound higher.”

The Greek commanders obeyed Achilles’ wishes. They poured wine over the fire. They gathered Patroclus’ white bones. They put the bones in a golden urn and sealed it tightly and then placed it in Achilles’ shelter. They also built the funeral mound.

The Greek commanders were ready to leave, but Achilles asked them to stay. He wanted to hold funeral games to honor Patroclus. Achilles brought out valuable prizes from his ships: cauldrons, tripods, stallions, mules, cattle, women, and metals.

The first event was the chariot race. The winner of the chariot race would win a beautiful woman who was skilled in crafts and a tripod with two handles. The runner-up would win an unbroken six-year-old mare that was pregnant with a mule foal. The third-place finisher would win a cauldron. The fourth-place finisher would win two bars of gold. The last-place finisher would win a jar with two handles.

Achilles announced to the Greeks, “Agamemnon, Menelaus, all you Greeks, let the funeral games for Patroclus begin. Here are the prizes for the charioteers. If the funeral games were being held for another hero, and if I were a competitor and not the host, I would win first place. My team of horses is the best — my horses are immortal. Poseidon gave these immortal horses to my father, and he gave them to me. But I will not race. My horses are mourning for Patroclus, who took such good care of them. The heads of my horses hang down, their manes in the dust, mourning a fallen warrior. But the rest of you can compete, if you trust in your horses and chariot.”

The competitors stepped forward. Eumelus was a good charioteer with the best team of horses except for Achilles’ own. Diomedes would use horses that he had taken from Aeneas — horses that had descended from those belonging to Tros. Menelaus would use Blaze, a mare belonging to Agamemnon, and Brightfoot, his own stallion. Blaze used to belong to Echepolus, but he gave Blaze to Agamemnon to pay his fine so that he would not have to go to Troy and fight. He was rich, and he preferred to stay in Greece. The fourth charioteer was Antilochus, one of the sons of Nestor, and the fifth and final charioteer was Meriones, the aide of Idomeneus.

Nestor gave Antilochus advice in racing tactics: “Antilochus, you are young, but the gods have shown that they respect you. You have learned horsemanship. You have racing skills. Still, out of all the teams that are competing in the race, your team is the slowest. Nevertheless, the charioteer is as important as the team of horses. A good charioteer can make up for the slowness of his horses by using skill and tactics.

“Too many charioteers drive their horses carelessly. They make wide turns and lose ground. A skilled charioteer will make a tight turn, staying close to the turning point. That way, the charioteer does not travel too much distance and does not lose time.

“In this race, the turning point is a stump that is six feet high. Make a tight turn there. Keep close to the stump but do not hit it or you will lose the race. As you make your turn, lean to the left, in the direction in which you are turning. Whip the horse on the right to make it run faster than the horse on the left. Make the left horse stay close to the stump as you turn the chariot. In the straightaway you will trail the other teams, but you can make up time and distance in the turn.”

Nestor sat down to watch the race.

The charioteers boarded their chariots, and Achilles shook the lots that had been placed in a helmet. Antilochus got the inside track. Next came Eumelus, then Menelaus and Meriones, and Diomedes got the outside track. The referee at the stump was Phoenix, who would ensure that all competed by the rules as they turned and headed for the finish line.

At the signal, the chariots took off. The charioteers whipped their horses and yelled. Dust rose in the air, and the horses’ manes were swept back by the wind the racing horses created. The chariots bounced, and the charioteers drove their teams of horses.

They reached the halfway mark, turned, and then began the final jockeying for position. Eumelus, who had the best horses, was far in front. Diomedes was in second place, close and coming closer.

The gods were watching, and the gods had favorites, and the gods were not above cheating. Apollo knocked Diomedes’ whip out of his hands. His team slowed. But Athena grabbed the whip and placed it back in Diomedes’ hands. She then smashed the yoke of Eumelus’ chariot. The yoke of his chariot plowed a furrow, and Eumelus fell out of the chariot. Contact with the ground ripped skin from his elbows, mouth, and nose. He hit his forehead. He was disappointed and frustrated — he had been far in the lead.

Now Diomedes raced ahead, first by far of all the charioteers. In second place was Menelaus, and close behind him was Antilochus.

Antilochus yelled to his father’s horses, “Faster! We can’t pass Diomedes — he is too far in front! But we can pass Menelaus! If you don’t pass Menelaus, Blaze will beat you — she is a mare! I warn you that if you don’t pass Menelaus, my father will kill both of you horses! Faster! We can pass Menelaus where the road narrows!”

Antilochus’ horses galloped faster. Just ahead was a place where winter rains had washed out part of the road. Enough hard dirt remained for one chariot to drive on, but around it was soft mud and holes that would slow down or ruin a chariot and injure horses. Only a fool would drive a chariot on such dangerous land.

Now Antilochus started to pass Menelaus although ahead there was not enough hard ground for two chariots. One charioteer would have to slow down to avoid the total disaster of two chariots crashed and two teams of horses injured. Menelaus was in front; he had the right of way. The rules of chariot racing stated that Menelaus should stay in the lead until the chariots passed the narrow place, and then Antilochus could attempt to pass him. But Antilochus ignored the rules. He was a young man, willing to take unnecessary, dangerous chances, and he wanted to win the second-place prize: the unbroken, pregnant mare.

Menelaus shouted at Antilochus, “Don’t try to pass me here! Wait until we are past the narrow place, and then you can try to pass me! Don’t wreck both of our chariots — don’t destroy both of our teams of horses!”

Antilochus kept trying to pass, and Menelaus slowed his horses to avoid a disaster.

As Antilochus drove past him, Menelaus shouted at him, “You used to have good sense, or so we thought. We were wrong! The only way you will take the second-place prize is to perjure yourself by swearing to the gods that you did not break the rules of chariot racing!”

Menelaus then shouted to his horses, “Gallop! We can still catch up with Antilochus’ horses! They are older than you! They don’t have staying power!” His horses galloped after Antilochus’ chariot.

Achilles and the other Greek commanders waited for the chariots to arrive. Idomeneus stood on a good spot to see far, and he was the first to see the chariots and horses coming.

He said to the other Greek commanders, “Am I the only one who sees the chariot in front? I think we have a new leader. Eumelus was in front at the beginning of the race, but now it’s someone else. Eumelus must have run into trouble of some kind. Maybe he dropped his reins. Maybe his horses failed to safely make the turn. He may have smashed his chariot, and maybe his horses have run away.

“But look! I think I see Diomedes in the lead!”

Little Ajax disagreed — vehemently. He had faith in the chariot driving of Eumelus and in the swiftness of Eumelus’ horses. Little Ajax said to Idomeneus, “Don’t talk nonsense! You are an older man, and you don’t see as well as younger men. Eumelus is still in the lead — he must be!”

Idomeneus replied, “Little Ajax, you are a fool. Stubborn, too. Let’s make a bet. Let’s bet a tripod or a cauldron each and let Agamemnon be the judge of the chariot race. You will learn to be quiet after you have paid the price of losing the bet.”

Little Ajax and Idomeneus were ready to fight, but Achilles, a dissolver of quarrels, said to them, “No more! No more insulting each other, and no more fighting! Think of where you are! This is not the time or the place for such behavior! When you cool down, you will realize that. Wait, and the winner of the chariot race will soon arrive and you will see who is right.”

Diomedes and his horses stormed to the finish line in first place, well ahead of everybody else. His horses were lathered, and Diomedes was covered with dust from the race. Diomedes’ aide Sthenelus collected his first-place prizes: the beautiful woman who was skilled in crafts, and the tripod. He took them to Diomedes’ camp.

Antilochus crossed the finish line, but Menelaus closely pursued him. His horses had been behind by the length of a spear-throw, but now the distance between them was very small. Menelaus would have passed Antilochus if only the racecourse were longer. Meriones, Idomeneus’ aide, finished fourth. His horses were slow, and the other charioteers were more skilled than he.

Finishing last was the charioteer who, if all had gone well, would have finished first: Eumelus. Achilles wished to give credit to Eumelus for his fine team of horses and for his skill as a charioteer, and so he said, “The best charioteer finishes last. Allow me to give him a better prize than his finish allows — we all know his skill at driving chariots. Allow me to award him the second-place prize. Diomedes has won first place.”

Everyone agreed with Achilles’ desire — everyone but Antilochus. An older man would have agreed with Achilles’ desire, but Antilochus was still young and learning. He said, “Achilles, I will be furious if you give Eumelus the mare that I have won. Yes, Eumelus would have won if the yoke of his chariot had not broken, but he should have prayed to the gods. Then he could have finished the race in a better position. You want to give Eumelus a better prize? No problem. In your shelters you have gold, bronze, sheep, female slaves, and racehorses. Pick out a prize for him and give it to him. But I won’t give up my prize — the mare! Eumelus will have to fight me before he gets it!”

This was an awkward situation, but Achilles, a solver of problems, knew how to handle it. He smiled. He liked Antilochus.

Achilles replied, “You want me to give Eumelus a prize from my shelters? Good idea. I will give Eumelus the breastplate that I stripped from Asteropaeus. It is bronze and tin, and I know that Eumelus will value it.”

Achilles’ aide, Automedon, brought the breastplate from Achilles’ tents, and Achilles was right — Eumelus did value it.

But now more unpleasantness arose. Menelaus was still angry at Antilochus for passing him at the narrow part of the road. He said, “Antilochus, you cheated in the chariot race. You disregarded safety and the rules of chariot racing. You deliberately passed me at a narrow part of the road — a part where there was not enough room for two chariots to race side by side. The rules of chariot racing state that one chariot can pass another only when the passing can be done safely. I want justice, and I want everyone to realize that I am in the right and am not exerting power over you simply because I am older and more powerful than you. Here’s what we will do. You can keep the mare if and only if you swear an oath to the gods that you did not cheat in the chariot race.”

Antilochus matured. He realized that Menelaus was right, and he admitted it in public.

Antilochus said, “I am at fault, Menelaus. I cheated exactly as you said I did. I am young, and sometimes I act like it. Young men sometimes act without intelligence, and I acted that way. You take the second prize: the mare. And if you want an additional prize, anything I have in my shelter, I will get it and give it to you. Just tell me what you want. I do not want to make an enemy of an older man, and I will not swear a lying oath to the gods. I apologize for my bad actions.”

Antilochus led the mare to Menelaus and handed her bridle to him.

Generosity can breed generosity, just as anger can breed anger. Menelaus’ heart melted like dew dripping from corn. Achilles had been generous to Eumelus, and now Menelaus was generous to Antilochus.

Menelaus said, “Antilochus, I accept your apology. I am no longer angry at you. In the past, you have always exhibited good sense. Please continue to do so. Let me give credit where credit is due. You, Nestor, and your brother have served me well in my fight to get Helen back. You can keep the mare. I don’t want people to think that I am unforgiving.”

Menelaus gave the mare to Antilochus’ aide, and he led it away. Menelaus accepted the third-place prize: a cauldron. Meriones accepted the fourth-place prize: two bars of gold.

One prize was left: the two-handled jar.

Achilles, a master of etiquette, wanted to honor Nestor. He said to Nestor, “Here is a prize for you, old friend. When you look at it, remember the funeral of Patroclus. We will never see him again among the living. You are too old to compete for prizes, but nevertheless you should have a prize.”

Achilles handed the two-handled jar to Nestor, who was pleased to be so honored.

Nestor said to Achilles, “You are right about my old age. I cannot race, and I cannot box. Not now. No longer. But I was young at one time, and then I could compete in funeral games! When the Epeans buried Amarynceus, I was present and competed in the games. In boxing, I was the victor, defeating Clytomedes. In wrestling, I was the victor, defeating Ancaeus. In foot racing, I was the victor, defeating swift Iphiclus. In the spear-throwing competition, I was the victor, outhurling Phyleus. Only in chariot racing did I come in second, and it took two men working together to beat me. The two sons of Actor — twins — cut in front of me and defeated me. One steered, and the other twin whipped the team. That’s the kind of athlete I was when I was young. Now I am old, but once I was a champion athlete.

“But let me stop talking. You need to hold the funeral games to honor Patroclus. But I value this gift. You honor me, Achilles, and I hope that the gods may give you joy!”

Achilles enjoyed listening to Nestor’s story.

The next event was the boxing match, and Achilles set out two prizes: a six-year-old unbroken mule for the victor, and a two-handled cup for the runner-up.

Achilles said to the Greeks, “Two men will box for these prizes. If you are willing, step up and box. The victor will take away the mule, and the other boxer will take away the two-handled cup.”

Epeus, a huge boxing champion, stood up. He was willing to fight anyone, and he intended to win. He placed a hand on the mule and announced, “This is my prize — the first-place prize. Anyone who is willing to come in second place can box me. I may not be the best warrior, but I am the best boxer. No man is good at doing everything. But be warned — I will not go easy on you. I will break your ribs, and I will beat you so badly that you will need help leaving the field of our combat.”

The Greeks were silent following his boast. But then Euryalus stood up and met Epeus’ challenge. Diomedes helped him get ready for the boxing match. He fastened the boxer’s belt on him and wrapped his hands with strips of rawhide.

The boxers at first traded jabs, testing each other, and they then traded heavier blows. They then boxed in earnest, grinding their teeth and trying to knock each other out. Epeus looked for an opening, found one, and hurled his fist at Euryalus’ head. Euryalus’ knees bent, and he crashed to the ground. A fish can jump out of the water and be carried by a strong North wind to land, where it will become unconscious. Much like that, Epeus’ fist made Euryalus fall to the ground, unconscious. Epeus, a kind man, lifted him, and Euryalus’ friends dragged him away and sat him down, still half-unconscious and spitting blood. They got the two-handled cup for him.

The third event was the wrestling match. Achilles set out a large tripod — worth twelve oxen — for the winner. The runner-up would win a woman, skilled in crafts and worth four oxen. Achilles said to the assembled Greeks, “Two men are needed to wrestle for first prize.”

The challengers were Great Ajax and Odysseus. Great Ajax was stronger, but Odysseus knew more wrestling moves.

The two locked arms. They were like rafters bolted together to keep a roof from being ripped apart by storm winds. They wrestled, and sweat poured from their bodies and their bones made cracking noises. The two were evenly matched. Odysseus was unable to force Great Ajax to the ground and pin him, and Great Ajax was unable to force Odysseus to the ground and pin him. The two wrestlers were so evenly matched that the Greeks watching them grew bored.

Finally, Great Ajax said to Odysseus, “Either you lift me, or I will lift you. Victory will go to the wrestler whom Zeus favors!”

Great Ajax lifted Odysseus, but Odysseus used his heels to kick Great Ajax in the back of his knees, and Great Ajax fell with Odysseus on top of him. Now the Greeks watching the wrestling match were interested.

Odysseus tried to lift Great Ajax, but he could not lift him completely off the ground. Odysseus hooked his leg around Great Ajax, and both fell to the ground.

The two wrestlers would have attempted a third time to achieve a clear victory, but Achilles said, “Enough. There is no profit in killing yourselves. Both of you are the victors. Share the prizes between you. Now let the other Greeks have a chance at winning prizes.”

Great Ajax and Odysseus wiped off their sweat and the dust and put their shirts back on.

The next event was the footrace. The first prize was a silver bowl: a work of art created by craftsmen of Sidon. Phoenicians had taken it across the sea and given it to Euneus, king of Lemnos, who had given it to Patroclus in order to buy Lycaon, the son of Priam, as a slave. The runner-up would win an ox, and the third and last runner would win a half-bar of gold.

Competing were Little Ajax, known for his swiftness; Odysseus, who liked prizes; and Antilochus, the son of Nestor and the fastest runner among the young warriors.

Achilles pointed out where the runners would turn, and the three runners took off. Little Ajax was in the lead with Odysseus behind him. As much space was between Little Ajax and Odysseus as there is between the breast of a weaver and the weaver’s rod after she has pulled it toward her. As Odysseus ran, his feet hit Little Ajax’ footprints before the dust stirred up by Little Ajax could settle.

Odysseus prayed to Athena, who respected him, “Goddess, help me!”

Athena heard and answered Odysseus’ prayer. She made him faster.

Near the finish line, Little Ajax slipped on some cow manure. He fell, and the manure got in his mouth and nostrils. Odysseus finished in first place.

Little Ajax, who finished second, kept spitting out manure. He said, “Athena made sure that Odysseus would win. She must love the mortal.”

The Greeks laughed.

Antilochus, who finished last, said, “The gods prefer mature men over young men. Little Ajax is just a few years older than I am, but Odysseus is much older. You could almost call him an old man, but his old age is the early, healthy, vigorous part of old age. It is difficult for anyone to beat Odysseus in a footrace — that is, for everyone except swift Achilles.”

Achilles was flattered, and he also wondered, Did Antilochus deliberately finish last? As the son of Nestor, who is too old to compete, Antilochus ought to compete in the funeral games, but perhaps Antilochus has learned from his earlier interaction with Menelaus not to make older men angry in any way.

Achilles said to Antilochus, “Thank you for your praise. Allow me to give you a better third-place prize. Instead of a half-bar of gold, here is a full bar of gold.”

Antilochus was happy to receive the better prize.

The next event was the duel. Two warriors would fight and draw blood but not kill each other. Achilles brought out a broadsword, a spear, a shield, and a helmet.

Achilles announced, “Two warriors will fight with armor and spears. Whoever draws blood first will win the broadsword. Both warriors will share the spear, shield, and helmet. I will also give both of them a feast in my shelter.”

The two challengers were Great Ajax and Diomedes. They charged at each other three times, trying to draw blood. The third time they charged, Great Ajax stabbed his spear through Diomedes’ shield but failed to wound him — Diomedes’ breastplate stopped Great Ajax’ spear!

Diomedes tried to stab Great Ajax with his spear and draw blood from Great Ajax’ throat.

The Greeks were afraid for Great Ajax. They cried for Achilles to stop the combat. They declared the contest a draw. Achilles stopped the combat and gave Diomedes the broadsword.

The next event was throwing a lump of pig-iron that King Eetion had used to test his strength before Achilles had killed him in battle and conquered his city.

Achilles announced, “This is the prize for first place. There is enough iron here to keep the winner in iron for five years. Even if he lives far out in the country, he won’t have to go to a market to buy iron. He will have plenty at home.”

The competitors were Polypoetes, Leonteus, Great Ajax, and Epeus, who threw first. His throw was so poor that the Greeks laughed. Leonteus out-threw Epeus. Great Ajax out-threw Leonteus. Finally, Polypoetes far out-threw Great Ajax. Polypoetes won with a throw that out-distanced the field of competitors by as far as a herdsman could throw his staff.

Zeus, who was watching the funeral games, thought, Great Ajax always seems to finish in second place in the games.Odysseus was a little better than Great Ajax in wrestling, and Great Ajax also came in second in throwing the lump of pig-iron. Diomedes was a little better than Great Ajax in dueling. Diomedes is an offensive warrior, while Great Ajax is a defensive warrior. Diomedes is known for his aristeia in which he wounded Aphrodite and Ares. Great Ajax is known for his defense of the ships. Here offense conquers defense. Similarly, the Trojans, who are on the defensive, will be conquered by the Greeks, who are on the offensive. Great Ajax also comes in second in real life. Achilles is the greatest Greek warrior, while Great Ajax is the second greatest Greek warrior. Even when Great Ajax was heroically almost single-handedly fighting the Trojans at the ships, he still came in second — he was forced back after Hector cut off the head of his spear, one ship was set on fire, and it was up to Patroclus to save the Greeks. After Achilles is dead and his armor is distributed, Great Ajax again will come in second. When the vote is taken on whom to give Achilles’ armor, Odysseus — not Great Ajax — will be awarded the armor.

The next event was the archery contest. The first-place prize was ten double-headed axes; the second-place prize was ten single-headed axes. Achilles tied the foot of a dove to the mast of a ship, and he challenged two archers to shoot the dove.

Achilles said, “Whoever shoots the dove will win first prize, but whoever hits the cord that ties the dove to the mast will win second prize.”

The competitors were the master archer Teucer and Meriones, Idomeneus’ aide.

They shook lots, and Teucer shot first. He failed to pray to the gods, and so he missed the dove. Instead, he hit the cord that tied to the dove to the mast. Freed, the dove took flight.

Meriones was already holding an arrow in his hands. He quickly took the bow from Teucer, prayed to Apollo and promised him sacrifices, aimed, and shot the dove. The arrow went through the dove’s body and fell at Meriones’ feet. The dove settled back on the mast, fluttered briefly, died, and fell.

The final event was the spear-throwing contest. The first prize was a cauldron, and the second prize was a spear.

Two competitors stepped forward: Agamemnon and Meriones.

Achilles, a master of tact, said, “This is a contest that we do not even need to hold. Everyone, including Meriones, already knows what an excellent spear-thrower you are, Agamemnon. You are going to win, and so let me give you the first prize. We need not hold the contest.”

Achilles said this to honor Agamemnon, who could get angry when things did not go his way. Achilles, who knew that sometimes the best man did not win, as seen in the chariot race in which the best man, Eumelus, finished last, did not want Agamemnon to risk a last-place finish.

Meriones, an older and wiser man than Antilochus had so recently been, agreed with Achilles’ decision.

Agamemnon was pleased at the honor shown to him. Generosity breeds generosity, and Agamemnon gave away his prize. He gave the cauldron to Talthybius, his herald.

The funeral games were over. Patroclus had received a proper funeral. So now Hermes, the Guide of the Dead, went down to the Land of the Dead. He landed on the bank of the river opposite the entrance to the Land of the Dead. There, he saw the psyches of the dead who had not yet crossed the river. Some, such as Patroclus, had received proper funerals and were ready to enter the Land of the Dead. Other psyches had not yet received proper funerals. They wailed. They were dead, and they wanted to be with the dead.

Hermes separated the psyches who were allowed to enter the Land of the Dead from those who were not. Hermes led the psyches of Patroclus and the others to a ford where they crossed. On the other side of the river, Hermes opened the gates barring the way to the Land of the Dead. He led the psyches inside.

If a psyche can be happy, the psyche of Patroclus was happy. The dead belong with the dead.

Soon, Hermes would lead Priam across a river and then he would open a gate so that Priam could visit Achilles, who would soon die.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 22: Hector Fights Achilles

Book 22: Hector Fights Achilles

In Troy, the warriors who had fled like fawns away from Achilles drank to quench their thirst. Outside the walls, the Greek troops approached the city. Still outside Troy’s walls was Hector, standing by the Scaean Gates. His fate approached.

Apollo now revealed himself to Achilles, saying, “Look at the god you are chasing. You thought that you were chasing Agenor! I tricked you. I wanted to save Trojan warriors. Look! They have reached the walls of Troy! But you are out here, far from the walls. You have been trying to kill me, but you can’t — I am immortal!”

Achilles was furious. He shouted at Apollo, “You saved many Trojans whom I would have killed! You have stolen kleos away from me. Because you are an immortal god, I cannot punish you, but if I were powerful enough to kill you, I would!”

Achilles ran to Troy. He was like a stallion pulling a chariot in a race.

Priam, King of Troy, saw Achilles first. Achilles blazed like the star known as Orion’s Dog, the star that brings dangerous fevers to mortals. Priam saw Achilles’ armor glinting, and he groaned and called to Hector, who was still standing outside the walls of Troy, “Don’t try to fight Achilles, my son! You have no friends by you to help you! Achilles will kill you without mercy! He is a much stronger warrior than you. I wish that the gods would answer my prayers and kill him and allow the dogs and birds to eat his flesh. Seeing that would relieve much of my misery!

“Achilles has taken so many of my sons away from me. Either he killed them, or he captured them and sold them into slavery far away. I look, but I cannot find my young sons Lycaon and Polydorus. They are two sons whom Laothoë bore to me. If Achilles captured them alive, I will ransom them with bronze and gold, treasure that is still left to me. We still have treasure left in Troy — treasure that Laothoë’s father gave to me as a dowry. But Lycaon and Polydorus may be already dead. Their mother and I will grieve long for them. The Trojans, however, will grieve for them for only a moment because they were minor warriors.

“But you, Hector, are the main defense of Troy! All Troy will grieve long for you if Achilles kills you! So come into the city — be safe behind the walls. You can still defend the Trojan men and the Trojan women. Don’t let Achilles kill you and gain kleos!

“Hector, pity me! I am an old man. I am not senile, but old age has withered my limbs. I have already looked on much horror, and no doubt Zeus knows that the end of my life will be additional horror. What will I see at the end of my life? With you dead, I will see my sons killed, my daughters dragged away to become sex-slaves, my treasure carried away, infants killed by being flung to the ground from the high walls of Troy, and the wives of my sons carried away to be slaves and serve their masters in bed!

“As for me, an enemy will kill me and my dogs will eat my body. The dogs that I have raised to guard me will lap up my blood.

“Young men who die in battle have a noble death. They win kleos as they defend wives, children, parents, and citizens. But when an old man dies, the dogs chew his head and his genitals. Does a crueler sight exist?”

Priam groaned, but Hector stayed outside the walls of Troy.

Hecuba, Hector’s mother, cried and opened her robe. She revealed a breast and held it. She called to Hector, “My child, look at this! Pity me, your mother, who breastfed you. Come behind the walls of Troy and fight Achilles from here. Don’t try to fight Achilles outside the walls of Troy in single combat. Achilles has no pity. If he kills you, I won’t be able to mourn over your body. Neither will Andromache, your wife, who loves you. Achilles will take your corpse back to the ships and allow the dogs and birds to eat your flesh!”

Both Priam and Hecuba wept and cried out to Hector, but he stayed outside the walls of Troy, waiting for Achilles. A poisonous snake can lie in wait, ready to strike and kill. So Hector waited for Achilles.

As he waited, Hector said to himself, “I must fight Achilles. I have no other good course of action. If I go inside the walls of Troy, I must face Polydamas, who urged me last night to return to Troy now that Achilles is once again fighting for the Greeks. I would not do as Polydamas advised. I was wrong. I should have followed his advice. Now the Trojan army is defeated. Now many Trojan warriors and allies are dead who would be still alive if I had followed Polydamas’ advice. Now many Trojan parents lack sons who would be still alive if I had followed Polydamas’ advice. Now many Trojan sisters lack brothers who would be still alive if I had followed Polydamas’ advice. Now many Trojan women are widows who would be still wives if I had followed Polydamas’ advice. I am ashamed to face the Trojans. Someone will point this out — correctly: ‘Hector destroyed his army because he was so confident in his own strength.’

“Now the best thing I can do is to fight Achilles and kill him. That is the best course of action available to me, and that is the best outcome.

“But suppose I put aside my weapons and armor and greet Achilles with respect. I could promise to give Helen back to the Greeks and give back the treasure that Paris stole from Menelaus. As war reparations, I could give half of the treasure that is inside Troy. I could swear an oath that we will hide no treasure from the Greeks.

“But why even daydream about such things. Achilles will have no pity for me, no mercy. If I don’t wear armor, he will kill me anyway. Instead of killing me like the warrior I am, he will kill me as if I were an unarmed woman.

“I can’t reason with Achilles. I can’t talk to him. It is not as if we are a boy and a girl talking together and sharing secrets.”

Hector was trying very hard not to think of Andromache, his wife.

Hector continued speaking to himself, “All I can do now is to fight Achilles. Zeus will give one of us — maybe even me — the victory.”

Achilles was close now, looking like Ares, the god of war, running straight at Hector. Achilles’ armor blazed like a fire or the sun.

Hector looked at him and lost his nerve. He was afraid, and he ran. He had no time to get through the Scaean Gates before Achilles reached him, so he ran away, around the city. Achilles was like a hawk chasing a dove, eager to tear it to pieces.

They ran and ran, passing the washing grounds outside the city. Two streams were there: one hot and steaming, and the other cold. In the days of peace, women would gather here to wash their laundry and then dry it on the grass. In the days of peace, so many things were different. People, including women and children, could leave the city and be safe. Shepherds could take their sheep to good pasture. Now only armed warriors left the city. The blessings of peace were gone. The people of Troy had traded the blessings of peace away for Helen so that Paris and she could have an adulterous relationship.

Achilles and Hector ran. Hector was a great warrior, but Achilles was a greater warrior. The two raced for a prize. They raced for a life — the life of Hector. They were like stallions racing in funeral games to celebrate the life of a fallen warrior. They were racing for a fine, notable prize worth racing for.

Achilles chased Hector three times around Troy, and the gods watched them.

Zeus said to the other gods, “I pity Hector. He is a mortal I respected, who respected me. Hector sacrificed many oxen to me both on Mount Ida and inside the walls of Troy. Now Achilles is chasing him, eager to take his life. Achilles is a faster runner than Hector.

“Gods, what should we do? Should we intervene and save the life of Hector or allow Achilles to take his revenge and kill him?”

Athena replied, “Hector is only a mortal. He has a fate — like all mortals, he is fated to die. You can do as you wish, but if you save his life, you will cause trouble.”

Zeus said, “Athena, I was merely pitying Hector. I do not intend to save his life. Go, and do to him whatever you wish to do.”

Athena flew from Olympus to outside the walls of Troy.

Achilles kept chasing Hector. He was like a hound hunting a fawn until the hound finds and kills the fawn. Hector could not outrun Achilles. Hector tried to run to the walls of Troy so that the Trojans could throw spears at Achilles, but Achilles headed off every attempt, making sure that Hector stayed in between Achilles and the other Greek warriors.

Hector ran like a man in a nightmare. He runs and runs and he can’t escape his pursuer, and his pursuer cannot catch him. Apollo gave Hector enough speed to keep just ahead of Achilles.

Achilles shook his head at the Greek warriors, warning them not to try to kill Hector. Only Achilles would kill Hector. Only Achilles would avenge the death of Patroclus.

When Achilles and Hector reached the washing springs for the fourth time, Zeus held his scales. On one scale he placed Hector’s fate, and on the other scale, he placed Achilles’ fate. Hector’s fate sank; on this day, his psyche would journey to the Land of the Dead. Apollo then left Hector.

Athena said to Achilles, “Now we will kill Hector. He cannot escape us. Not even Apollo can save his life. Stay here, and I will convince Hector to face and fight you.”

Athena assumed the form of Deiphobus, one of Hector’s brothers. She said to him, “Brother, I have come to help you fight Achilles. You and I can face him together.”

Hector replied, “Deiphobus, you are the brother closest to me, the one I have loved the most out of all the sons whom Priam and Hecuba produced. Now I love you even more. Only one brother left the walls of Troy to come and help me. All my other brothers have stayed where they are safe.”

Athena, still disguised as Deiphobus, said, “The others were afraid, both for themselves and for me, and they did not want to leave Troy. Even Priam and Hecuba wanted me to stay behind the walls of Troy. Everyone begged me to stay there.

“But now let’s fight Achilles. Either he will kill both of us, or you will kill him.”

Athena was luring Hector to his death.

Hector said to Achilles, “I will no longer run from you, Achilles. I was afraid, and I ran three times around the walls of Troy. No longer will I run. Now I want to fight you. Either you will kill me, or I will kill you.

“But first let us make an agreement with the gods as our witnesses. I swear to the gods that if I kill you I will not mistreat your corpse. I will strip your armor from you, but I will give your corpse to the Greeks so that they can give your body a proper funeral and your psyche will be allowed to enter the Land of the Dead and not be kept from it, wailing. The dead belong with the dead.”

Achilles frowned and said, “No, Hector! You and I shall make no agreements. Do lions and men make agreements? Do wolves and lambs make agreements? No, the only thing that they have in common is that they hate each other. The same is true of you and me. We have no love for each other. The only thing we desire for the other is death. But let’s fight. Use whatever courage you have, but it won’t do you any good. You do not have long to live. You will pay for the grief you have caused me.”

Achilles hurled his spear, but Hector ducked and avoided death. Athena instantly grabbed Achilles’ spear and gave it back to him — but Hector did not see her.

Hector said to Achilles, “You missed! You were sure that I would die, but that is not something you can know for sure. You are bluffing. You are trying to scare me with words. You may kill me, but you will not spear me in my back. I will not run. Even if the gods help you, the most you can do is to spear me in the front of my body. But maybe I can kill you with my spear — I want to bury it in your body. With you dead, the Trojans will have an easier time in battle.”

Hector hurled his spear and it hit Achilles’ shield right in the center — but the spear bounced harmlessly off it. Hector did not have a second spear, so he asked Deiphobus to give him his spear — but Deiphobus was not present. Hector realized that he was alone, and he knew that he must die.

Hector shouted, “My fate has arrived! The gods have let me know that I must die now. I thought that my brother Deiphobus was helping me, but Athena was tricking me. And now my death has arrived — the death that long ago all the gods must have planned for me. So let me die — but let me go down fighting!”

Hector drew his sword and charged Achilles. Hector was dangerous like an eagle attacking a lamb. But Achilles also charged, holding his shield in front of him. He also held his spear, the metal point of which blazed like the evening star.

Achilles thought about how best to kill Hector, who was wearing Achilles’ armor — armor that Hector had stripped from the corpse of Patroclus. Achilles knew the armor well, and he knew that the armor left the warrior’s throat exposed. As Hector charged him, Achilles stabbed him in the throat. The mortal wound did not damage the windpipe, so Hector was able to choke out some words as he lay dying.

Achilles spoke first: “Hector, when you stripped my armor from the corpse of Patroclus and put it on, you must have thought that you would be safe — even from me! I was far away, but I am a better warrior than you and I am the avenger of Patroclus’ death. You are not yet done paying for his death. The dogs and birds will mutilate your corpse as they feed on it. You will not be buried, but we Greeks will bury Patroclus. Your psyche will not be allowed to enter the Land of the Dead.”

Gasping, Hector pleaded, “I beg you by your parents and by the gods, don’t let the dogs and birds mutilate my corpse. My father and mother will ransom my corpse with bronze and gold. Give my corpse to the Trojans so that it can receive a proper funeral and my psyche can enter the Land of the Dead. The dead belong with the dead.”

Achilles frowned and said, “Don’t beg, dog! If I could, I myself would eat your corpse. I would hack off strips of your flesh and eat them raw. You have caused me agonies of grief.”

Zeus thought, Hector killed Achilles’ best friend, but Achilles has killed or sold into slavery many of Hector’s brothers. The person who has the bigger grievance is Hector, not Achilles. Achilles sent his best friend into battle — Achilles should have known that Patroclus could die in battle. What is the essence of war? The death of a loved one.

Achilles continued, “I will not allow you to be ransomed. No one will be able to keep the dogs and birds away from your corpse — not even for ten or twenty times the ransom you speak of, not even if they give me all that now and promise more later. I will not allow you to be ransomed even if Priam offers me your weight in gold. Your father and mother shall never give you a funeral. Instead, the dogs and birds will eat your flesh!”

Hector replied, “You have no mercy. You are incapable of pity. I am dying, and so I have the gift of prophecy. Your mutilation of my corpse will make the gods angry. Soon, Paris and Apollo will kill you before the Scaean Gates.”

Hector died. His psyche went down to the Land of the Dead, but not until his corpse had received a proper funeral would it be allowed to enter. His psyche mourned at having died in the prime of manhood. His psyche mourned at not being allowed to cross the river that kept it from the Land of the Dead. His psyche mourned at not being allowed to enter Hades.

Achilles said to the corpse, “Die! Die! Die! Now that you are dead, I will die willingly whenever Zeus chooses to bring my fate to me.”

Achilles pulled his spear out of Hector’s neck, and then he stripped the armor — Achilles’ old armor — from Hector’s body. The other Greek warriors now came close to look at the corpse of Hector, Troy’s greatest warrior. Every Greek warrior stabbed the corpse of Hector. They laughed and said, “Hector isn’t so tough now — not like he was when he burned one of our ships!”

Achilles said to the other Greeks, “Now that the gods have allowed me to kill Hector, we will have to see what the Trojans plan to do next. Will they surrender to us? Will they make a last stand? But first, I have to attend to unfinished business. Patroclus is still unburied. His corpse is lying in my camp. I will never forget Patroclus, not even in the Land of the Dead, a place where souls are thought to lose all memory.

“Now we have triumphed! Let us take the corpse of Hector to our ships. Let us cry out in triumph: Hector is dead!”

Achilles was not finished shaming the corpse of Hector. He cut holes in Hector’s ankles. Through them he threaded rawhide ropes. He tied the ropes to his chariot and left Hector’s head lying on the ground. Then Achilles mounted his chariot and drove away, dragging Hector’s handsome head in the dust.

Hecuba, Hector’s mother, tore the veil and headdress from her face and screamed as she looked at her son’s corpse being dragged away with no hope for a funeral.

Priam cried, and the citizens of Troy cried with him. They cried as if Troy were in flames and were being sacked. They knew that soon — now that Hector was dead — Troy would fall to the Greeks.

Priam wanted to get Hector’s corpse back immediately so he could bury it and allow Hector’s psyche to enter the Land of the Dead. He wanted to ransom it immediately. Troy’s citizens physically held him back.

Priam cried to his citizens, “Let me go! I must go to Achilles and give him treasure. I must ransom the corpse of my son. Maybe Achilles will respect an old man. His own father is an old man now. He raised Achilles, who has been a horror to me — he has killed so many of my sons. I mourn Hector most of all. I mourn him so much that I could die. I wish that Hector could have died here, in my arms — then his mother and I could give him a proper funeral!”

Hecuba mourned, “How can I live without you, Hector? I was so proud of you. You were the defender of Troy. Trojan citizens honored you. But now you are dead.”

Andromache still did not know that she had become a widow. No one had brought to her the news that Achilles had killed Hector. She was still in their home, weaving and embroidering flowers onto a robe. She had ordered her serving women to heat water so that Hector could have a hot bath when he returned home from the fighting. She did not know that Achilles was dragging Hector’s head in the dust.

Andromache heard screams coming from the walls of Troy. She knew that something bad had happened. She stopped weaving; she shook with fright. She ordered her serving women, “Two of you go with me to the walls. I must find out what has happened — I just heard the screams of Hecuba, Hector’s mother. Something horrible must have happened! Maybe Achilles has killed my husband!”

She ran to the walls, her serving women following her. She looked down on the plain. She saw Achilles dragging the corpse of her husband behind his chariot. She fainted, and as she fainted she tore her veil and headdress from her face.

Zeus thought, I see so much when Andromache — and Hecuba earlier — tears off her veil and headdress. Married women wear veils and headdresses. When in Greek art a warrior tears off the veil and headdress from the head of a woman, it means that woman is now a widow and a slave. If the woman is young and pretty, like Andromache, she will be forced to serve her master in bed — she will be a sex-slave, just like Briseis and Chryseis. If the woman is older, like Hecuba, she will be a slave. The tearing off of a married woman’s headdress and veil is a way of representing that the woman’s marriage is being violated. The word for a married woman’s veil and headdress is kredemna. This is also the word for the ramparts and battlements of a city. When the ramparts and battlements of a city are thrown down, that city has been conquered. When Andromache tears off her veil and headdress, her kredemna, we see in that image the coming fall of Troy. Now that Hector is dead, the fall of Troy is inevitable — the Greeks will conquer Troy.

Andromache regained consciousness and struggled to breathe. The women of Troy tried to help her.

Andromache cried, “Hector, both of us are destroyed! We share the same sad fate, although you were born and raised in Troy and I was raised elsewhere. I wish that I had never been born!

“Now your psyche is journeying to the Land of the Dead, and I am still alive: a widow with a baby boy who has no father. What will happen to him now that you are dead and can no longer protect him? Even if he does not die during the war, his life will be filled with misery. Strangers will steal his land. Fatherless children have no friends. He will be humiliated and hungry. He will go to your former friends, and they will give him some food, but not enough. He will not starve, but he will be hungry. Bullies will beat him and tell him, ‘Go away. You have no father. You are not welcome here.’ Then he will come crying to me, his mother, a widow.

“But when you were alive, our son ate well. He ate the best, tastiest cuts of meat. When he was tired, he would go to sleep in the arms of his nurse; he was safe, secure, with no worries. He was called the Lord of the City because he was your son. You were the great hope of the Trojans to fight off the Greeks and keep Trojan citizens alive and free.

“But now your corpse will lie by the Greek ships. Worms will crawl through your corpse and eat it after the dogs and birds have eaten their fill.

“Your corpse will lie naked although in our home we have fine clothing. The clothing will never serve as your shroud, so I will burn it. I will sacrifice the clothing to honor you.”

Andromache cried, and the Trojan women cried.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 21: Achilles Fights the River

Book 21: Achilles Fights the River

Achilles continued attacking Trojans, and he split their army into two parts at the ford of the river Xanthus. One half of the Trojans ran across the plain toward Troy. The previous day the Greeks had fled across the plain to escape from Hector. Now the Trojans fled across the plain to escape from Achilles. Hera spread thick fog across the plain to slow down the Trojans so that Achilles could kill more of them.

Achilles trapped the other half of the Trojans in the river. They spun around in whirlpools. They screamed. They had little control of their movements. They were like locusts feeling the heat of a fire and flying into the air and heading toward a river as the fire burns them and beats them down. Now, because of Achilles, the river was choked with men and horses.

Achilles dropped his spear on the riverbank and plunged into the river with his sword, eager to kill and kill again. Trojans groaned and screamed. Stabbed by Achilles’ sword, they bled and the river water grew red. Like fish fleeing from a dolphin that devours all it can, the Trojans attempted to flee from Achilles.

Even Achilles grew tired because of all the effort he exerted while killing. He captured twelve young Trojans warriors alive so that he could kill them later as a human sacrifice at the funeral of Patroclus. He took the young Trojans from the river and onto the riverbank. They were dazed; they were as helpless as fawns. He tied their hands behind them with their own war-belts, and he gave them to aides to take back to the ships. Then he returned to killing.

Now he saw Lycaon, a son of Priam, climbing out of the river. Achilles had captured him not long ago. Achilles had been on a night raid, and he had found Lycaon in Priam’s orchard, where he was cutting branches from a fig tree so that he could use them to make rails for a chariot. Achilles captured him. Achilles had sold him off as a slave to King Euneus of Lemnos, but Eetion of Imbros ransomed him and sent him to Arisbe, and from there Lycaon went back to Troy and his father, Priam.

Lycaon stayed with his father for eleven days, and the twelfth day — this day — he returned to war and again ran into Achilles — an Achilles now without mercy, an Achilles very willing to send him to the Land of the Dead. Lycaon was disarmed — no shield, no helmet, no spear.

Achilles, recognizing him at once, said, “These Trojans keep coming back. I captured this man and sold him as a slave in Lemnos, and here he is again! Let me see if I can keep him from coming back this time. My spear should accomplish that goal. Either he will return yet one more time or the life-giving earth will cover him and keep him from rising.”

Lycaon was afraid. He wanted to live. He stumbled toward Achilles, wanting to grab his knees and plead for mercy. Achilles raised his spear — Lycaon ducked underneath it and grabbed Achilles’ knees with one hand and Achilles’ spear with the other. He begged, “Achilles, have mercy on me. Respect me — a suppliant! Don’t kill me! When you captured me, I ate your food, that day you captured me in my father’s orchard. You sold me and made a lot of money. I have been at home in Troy for only a few days. I have suffered much already, and yet again fate has placed my life in your hands. Zeus must hate me! My mother, Laothoë, must have given birth to a man with a short life. Priam wed my mother, one of his many wives. My mother gave birth to two sons. You have already killed one of her sons — don’t kill the other! You have already killed my brother Polydorus. You speared him in the back as he ran, and the spear came out his navel. He died screaming and holding his intestines. Now I may face a horrible death. You are angry at the death of kind and gentle Patroclus, whom Hector killed. But I am only a half-brother to Hector. We have the same father, but we did not come out of the same womb.”

Achilles replied, “You are a fool if you think I will allow you to be ransomed. Don’t even speak of it. Before Hector killed Patroclus, sometimes I would spare the lives of a few Trojans. I would take them alive and then sell them as slaves. No longer. I will spare the lives of no Trojans. I especially will not spare the lives of Trojans who have Priam as their father.

“Friend, you are going to die anyway. You are mortal. Why are you complaining? Look at me. I am handsome. I am strong. I have an immortal goddess as a mother. Does that make me immortal? No. I will die. Someday, not long from now, my death and my fate are coming. Perhaps at dawn, perhaps at sunset, perhaps at noon, a warrior will kill me with a spear or an arrow.”

Lycaon knew that he was going to die. He let go of Achilles’ spear, and he sank to the ground. Achilles drew his sword and plunged it to the hilt into Lycaon’s neck. Lycaon died quickly, his blood spilling as he fell on the ground.

Achilles grabbed Lycaon’s foot and threw him in the river. Lycaon’s corpse washed downstream and Achilles shouted after it, “Stay with the fish. They will eat your corpse! No need for a funeral! Your mother will not be able to give your body a proper funeral. The river Scamander will carry your corpse to the sea. The fish will dine on your fat.

“Trojans, die! I will kill and kill again until I reach Troy. Try to run from me, and I will run you down and kill you! Not even this river will be able to save you. You have sacrificed to the river-god many bulls and horses. Those sacrifices won’t help you. All of you Trojans will pay with your blood for the death of Patroclus and the other Greeks!”

The river-god of the Xanthus River grew angry at Achilles and his words. A Trojan river-god, he supported the Trojans and wished to slow down or stop Achilles’ rout of the Trojans. The river-god was angry at pitiless Achilles for killing so many Trojans.

Achilles charged Asteropaeus, whose father was the son of the river-god of the Axius River. The river-god of the Xanthus River filled Asteropaeus, who carried two spears, with courage.

Achilles asked, “Who are you? Where do you come from? Pity all warriors who attempt to fight me!”

Asteropaeus replied, “I am a Trojan ally, not a Trojan. I come from a land that is far away. This is the eleventh day since I arrived at Troy. The Axius River fathered Pelagon, and he is my father. I know who you are, Achilles. Let’s fight!”

Achilles raised his spear, but ambidextrous Asteropaeus threw both of his spears at the same time. One spear hit Achilles’ shield, but the third layer — the gold layer — stopped it. The other spear grazed Achilles’ arm, cutting the skin and drawing blood. Achilles threw his spear. It missed, plunging half its length into the ground because of Achilles’ great strength.

Achilles drew his sword and rushed at Asteropaeus, who tried but failed to pull Achilles’ spear out of the ground. Three times he grabbed the spear and pulled, but the spear would not move. The fourth time he tried to pull out the spear, Achilles was on him, cutting open his midriff so that his intestines fell out onto the ground.

Normally, Achilles was too eager to kill to stop and strip off his fallen enemies’ armor, but he was angry at being wounded and so he stripped off the armor of Asteropaeus, telling the corpse, “Stay there with the other corpses! You say that your ancestry includes a river-god? My ancestry includes Zeus himself. My grandfather is Aeacus, and his father was Zeus, who is much stronger than any river-god.

“Look at this river beside us! Can it help you? No! No river — not even the Ocean River — is more powerful than Zeus!”

Achilles pulled his spear from the ground and left Asteropaeus lying in the river, fish nibbling at his fat.

Achilles charged Asteropaeus’ warriors — the Paeonians — who fled from him now that their leader was dead. Achilles killed and killed again. He killed Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus, Mnesus, Thrasius, Aenius, and Ophelestes.

Achilles would have killed more Paeonians, but the river-god of the Xanthus River cried out, “Achilles, stop! You are strong, and you are merciless. You have the help of the gods! If you must kill Trojans, do it on the plain, not in my river, which is choked with so many corpses that the water cannot reach the sea. The amount of slaughter you are committing horrifies me!”

Achilles replied to the river-god, who is called Scamander by mortals and Xanthus by the gods, “I will kill on the plain, as you want, but I will not stop killing Trojans and their allies until either I kill Hector or he kills me.”

Achilles ran to the plain, but the river-god cried out to Apollo, “Why are you holding back and doing nothing? Don’t you have orders from Zeus to help the Trojans and save their lives until the sun sets?”

Hearing that, Achilles became angry and not recognizing the limits of a human being, he ran to the river and jumped into its waters, eager to fight the river-god, who caused the waters to rise and throw all of the corpses in the river out onto the plain. The river-god also hid the still living Trojans in the river’s water so that Achilles could not find and kill them.

The river-god caused a tremendous wave to slam against Achilles’ shield and stagger him. Achilles grabbed a full-grown elm tree and held on to it, but the elm tree fell into the river, taking much of the riverbank with it. Achilles rose to the surface and rushed toward the plain. But the river-god was not finished with Achilles, although Achilles ran as fast as a swooping eagle. The river-god caused the river’s waters to run after Achilles. A farmhand sets up an irrigation system to bring water to plants, but the water gets out of control. Too much water flows, and what should be a trickle becomes a flood that threatens the farmhand. Much like that, the waters threatened Achilles. Mortals should not fight gods unless they have the permission of gods more powerful than the ones they are fighting.

Achilles kept whirling about trying to find the river-god to fight him, wondering if all the gods were now opposed to him. Again and again, huge waves crashed down on Achilles, trying to knock him off his feet.

Achilles prayed, “Zeus! Won’t even one god rescue me! If I escape this river-god, I will face any fate you give me. My mother must have lied to me. She said that I would die before the walls of Troy, killed by the arrows of Apollo. A better death than drowning would be for Hector to kill me. He is the best Trojan warrior. Hector is a hero, and anyone he kills in battle is a hero, even if Hector strips the fallen warrior’s armor. Better a death like that than to be drowned like a young pig-keeper who falls into a river!”

Poseidon and Athena heard Achilles’ prayer. They assumed human form and came to assist him and give him courage. They grabbed his hands and brought him onto the plain.

Poseidon said, “Achilles, have courage! Don’t be afraid. Two gods — Athena and I — are helping you. Your mother did not lie. You will not drown in the river. Soon this river will subside.

“Listen to us. Keep killing Trojans until you have routed them back to Troy. Do not stop killing Trojans until you have killed Hector. Then return to the ships. You will win kleos today!”

Poseidon and Athena left Achilles, and filled with courage by Athena, he ran down the plain in search of Trojans to kill.

But the river-god was not finished. The waters flooded the plain, and corpses rolled in the waters. Still angry at Achilles, the river-god of the Xanthus River called to the river-god of the other Trojan river — the Simois, “Arise, brother, and attack Achilles! He can this day conquer Troy — no Trojan can stop him in battle! Use your waters as weapons against him, and together we can stop him. He is strong, and his armor is glorious, and we can drown him and keep the Greeks from ever finding his corpse. I myself will bury his corpse under river-silt! His grave-mound will be under water!”

The waters attacking Achilles grew stronger and more powerful, but Hera was watching. She said to her son, Hephaestus, the god of fire, “Fire opposes water. You are the one who ought to fight the river-god. You are a worthy opponent. Rescue Achilles with your fire! I will order the West and the South winds to blow and make the fire burn hotter. Burn the river-god into submission. Don’t listen to the river-god’s threats or flattery! Keep burning the river-god until I order you to stop!”

Hephaestus followed her orders. His fire burned the plain and the corpses lying on the plain — corpses that Achilles had scattered. In the autumn the North wind blows on a wet field and dries it, gladdening the farmer who can now work in the field. Much like that, Hephaestus and the winds parched the plain and burned the corpses, and then Hephaestus turned the fire on the trees and the river. Elms burned, willows burned, tamarisk bushes burned, and lotus, galingale, reeds, and rushes burned. Eels and fish writhed and jumped in agony.

The river-god, conquered, shouted, “Hephaestus, stop! I give up! I cannot oppose you and win. Let Achilles kill the Trojans! Why should I worry about mortals!”

The river-god screamed. The river’s waters bubbled just like a cauldron bubbles as it melts pig-fat.

The river-god then shouted, “Hera, why is Hephaestus attacking me so much more than any other? Have I ever done anything to you? I have not done anything more than the others who help the Trojans! If you want me to stop helping the Trojans, I will obey! But tell your son — Hephaestus — to stop torturing me! I swear not to do anything to help keep Troy from falling!”

Hera heard the river-god, and she shouted, “Stop, Hephaestus! Enough! There is no need for one god to fight another god over some mortals!”

Hephaestus heard her and quenched his fire, and the waters of the river settled back into their natural channel.

The river-god was defeated, but now many of the gods decided to go to war. Not Zeus. He remained on Mount Olympus. Amused, he watched the battle of the gods.

Ares charged Athena and shouted, “Flea of a dog, I have not forgotten when you helped Diomedes to wound me. You yourself grabbed his spear and guided it into my body. Now it’s payback time!”

He stabbed at her shield — without result. Athena backed away and grabbed a boulder from the ground. It was jagged and weighty; it was an old boundary stone. She threw it at Ares and hit his neck. He fell, and his godly body covered seven acres. Athena laughed at him and said, “Fool, I am better than you are! Ask Hera, who is angry at you because you support the Trojans!”

Athena moved away, and Aphrodite came over to assist Ares and take him away from the gods’ battlefield. He groaned. He could not support his weight. Hera saw Aphrodite. Hera said to Athena, “Your work is not done yet. Look at Aphrodite as she helps Ares. Bring her down!”

Athena charged at Aphrodite. Athena used her fists to beat Aphrodite’s breasts — a painful punishment. Aphrodite sank to the ground with Ares. Neither Aphrodite nor Ares wanted to go to war against Athena.

Athena boasted, “You are no match for me! May all the gods who support the Trojans have the same ‘success’ in battle as you two! Then the Trojan War will soon be over, with Troy conquered at last!”

Hearing Athena, Hera smiled.

Poseidon challenged Apollo, his nephew, to fight: “Why not try to take me down? The other gods are fighting, so why shouldn’t we? Won’t we two be disgraced unless we come to blows? You should throw the first punch. You are younger than I am. I have experienced more and know more than you do.

“But you must have a short memory. You and I labored here at Troy. Zeus punished us when we rebelled against him — Zeus sent us to Troy to work for an entire year for Priam’s father, Laomedon, who promised us wages. I labored at building the walls of Troy, and you worked as a shepherd of the king’s flocks — but Laomedon refused to pay us the wages he had promised us. He cursed us. He sent us away. He threatened to bind us and make us slaves. He threatened to cut off our ears with an ax. So we went back to Mount Olympus, angry. So why do you now support the Trojans?”

Watching and listening on Mount Olympus, Zeus thought, Poseidon and Apollo were able to get revenge against Laomedon, the father of Priam. Apollo sent a plague to Troy, and Poseidon sent a sea-monster to terrorize Troy. An oracle told Laomedon that to stop the plague he would have to sacrifice his daughter Hesione to the sea-monster, so Laomedon chained her to a rock so that the sea-monster could kill her. But Heracles showed up at Troy and offered to kill the sea-monster and save Hesione in return for a team of excellent horses. Heracles kept his part of the deal, but Laomedon, treacherous as ever, reneged on giving the horses to Heracles. Angry at this treachery, Heracles conquered Troy and killed Laomedon.

Apollo replied, “Poseidon, I should not fight you because of some wretched mortal men. Mortal men are like leaves. They flourish for a moment, and then they die. You and I need not fight. Let the mortals fight.”

Apollo left. He would be ashamed to fight his uncle, a god older than he.

But Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis, insulted him: “So, Apollo, you are a coward who flees from Poseidon. You give him kleos without his having to fight you. Why are you even carrying that bow if you aren’t willing to use it? Never let me hear you boast on Mount Olympus that you are willing to fight Poseidon.”

Apollo did not reply to Artemis, but Hera had heard her words. Hera said to her, “Artemis, do you have the nerve to fight me with your bow and arrows? You have the power to kill women in childbirth, but I doubt that you have the power to defeat me. You are much more talented at hunting wild animals in the woods than you are at fighting a goddess! So let me teach you not to fight me!”

Hera’s left hand grabbed Artemis’ wrists, and Hera’s right hand stripped away Artemis’ bow and quiver of arrows. She then used the weapons to hit Artemis’ ears. Hera smiled as Artemis writhed and Artemis’ arrows fell on the ground. Artemis cried and ran away from Hera like a dove escaping the attack of a hawk. She left her weapons behind as she fled.

Hermes told Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, “I would never fight you. It is not wise to fight any goddess who has slept with Zeus. So leave. Tell everyone that you defeated me in battle.”

Leto gathered her daughter’s bow, quiver, and arrows and followed Artemis to Mount Olympus. Artemis arrived first and sought refuge in the arms of Zeus, her father. Crying like a little girl, she sat on her father’s lap.

Zeus hugged her and asked, “Who has hurt you, child? It is as if you have been punished for doing something unseemly in public.”

Artemis replied, “Your own wife — Hera — hit me! It’s all her fault!”

Apollo arrived at Mount Olympus next. He was worried. Troy was not fated to fall on this day, but the Trojans were routed and the Greeks were triumphant, and Troy could fall despite its fate.

The other gods and goddesses soon returned to Mount Olympus. Their battle had been very brief.

Achilles kept on slaughtering Trojans and Trojan allies. Fire can kill many people in its path, and Achilles killed every enemy he could.

Priam was watching from the high walls of Troy. He saw Achilles triumphant, killing and killing again. He saw the routed Trojans trying to make it to Troy alive. He cried out, “Open the gates of Troy! Let our routed troops inside Troy! Achilles is pursuing them. Once our warriors are inside the gates, close them. Don’t let Achilles in!”

The Trojan guards opened the gates, and Apollo decided to help the Trojan warriors, who ran to the gates, hoping to save their lives as Achilles pursued them.

Apollo put courage into the heart of Agenor, a minor Trojan warrior and one of the many sons of Antenor. Agenor saw Achilles running toward him, and Agenor wondered what he should do. He said to himself, “Should I run away from Achilles and run toward Troy as the other Trojans are doing? Is that the best course of action? Achilles is fast, and he will catch up to me and kill me. Or should I leave the other Trojans and run away from Achilles on the plain toward Mount Ida? Is that the best course of action? I could hide from Achilles in the underbrush and stay alive. Then I could wash off my sweat in the river and make my way to Troy. But that is also a bad choice. If I run away from Achilles, he will run after me and kill me. Achilles is much, much stronger and faster than I am. I will not be able to run away from my death at his hands.

“Have I not even one good choice? I could face Achilles here and now. He is stronger than I am. I will almost certainly die, but still I may be able to kill him and bring hope to the Trojans. If I were to fight Achilles a hundred times, at least ninety-nine of those times would result in him killing me. But maybe — not certainly, but maybe! — the hundredth time I would kill Achilles! That is what I will do. I will fight Achilles and almost certainly die. But maybe I will defeat him. At the very least, Achilles will take a few minutes to kill me and that will allow some of my fellow Trojans to escape.”

Zeus, who sometimes knows the thoughts of men, thought, The battle of the gods was silly. The gods who did not fight ended up with more dignity than those who did fight. Many battles of the gods are silly. The gods cannot die, and their wounds heal quickly. In contrast, the battles of mortals are deadly serious. Mortals die, and their psyches go down to the Land of the Dead.

Agenor is a hero. Heroes are willing to risk their lives to help other human beings. Agenor is willing to fight Achilles although he knows that almost certainly Achilles will kill him. Agenor is not going to run away from Achilles. Instead, Agenor is willing to sacrifice his life in an effort to kill Achilles, knowing that that effort will almost certainly fail. Gods cannot die; gods cannot be heroes. But even a warrior who is usually a minor warrior can be a hero.

Agenor stood, waiting for Achilles. Agenor was willing to fight to the death, just like a panther that attacks a huntsman who has a pack of dogs. The panther is not afraid. Even if the panther is speared, she still fights. Either she will kill the huntsman, or the huntsman will kill her.

Agenor held his shield in front of his chest, and gripped his spear. He said to Achilles, “You must be hoping to conquer Troy today. It won’t happen. We still have plenty of warriors — hundreds — left to defend their wives, children, and parents. You will meet your fate at Troy.”

Agenor hurled his spear at Achilles. It hit Achilles below the knee, but it bounced off his armor.

Achilles charged Agenor, but something happened that Agenor had not anticipated — Apollo saved his life. Apollo wrapped fog around Agenor and took him away from Achilles.

Apollo assumed the form of Agenor, returned to Achilles, and fooled him. Apollo allowed Achilles to chase him — Achilles wanted to kill Agenor. Apollo teased Achilles by letting him almost but not quite catch up to him. Apollo ran away from Achilles, leading him to the Scamander River and away from Troy.

Meanwhile, Trojan warriors ran back to Troy. Defeated, they crowded into the city, grateful that they were fast enough to save their lives.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 20: Achilles Returns to Battle

Book 20: Achilles Returns to Battle

As the Greeks prepared for war, Zeus on Mount Olympus ordered the goddess Themis to call a council of the gods. She summoned all gods and all goddesses to the halls of Zeus. Every river-god and every nymph came to the halls of Zeus. No one resisted Zeus’ order. Poseidon also came and asked Zeus, “Why are you summoning a council of the gods? Is this about the Trojan War? A major battle is about to occur.”

Zeus replied, “Poseidon, god of the sea and of earthquakes, you are correct. I am concerned about the mortal warriors of the Trojan War. I myself will stay here on Olympus and watch the war. The rest of you gods and goddesses are welcome to go down to the war and help whichever side you want to help. Gods must take part in the war. Unless some gods oppose Achilles, he is so powerful that he will destroy all the Trojans. Before, they shook with fear to see him. Now, with his intensified anger — all because of the death of Patroclus — I am afraid that his menis — his anger that is equivalent to the anger of the gods — will cause him to conquer Troy although it is not fated to fall at his hands.”

The gods and goddesses went to Troy to support their sides. On the side of the Greeks were Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes, and Hephaestus. On the side of the Trojans were Ares, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, the god of the river Xanthus, and Aphrodite.

Achilles and the Greeks went to war. The Trojans were afraid as they looked at Achilles. His armor shone like fire. Now the Olympian gods merged with the mortal warriors. On the side of the Greeks, Athena shouted a cry of war. On the side of the Trojans, Ares answered her with his own cry of war.

The gods roused the mortals whose side they supported, whether Greek or Trojan. Poseidon, who supported the Greeks, created an earthquake. The entire earth shook, and Hades, the god of the Land of the Dead, screamed. He was afraid that the earthquake would rip open the earth, and living men and gods would be able to look down into the Land of the Dead and see its horrors.

The opposing gods faced each other. Poseidon opposed Apollo. Athena opposed Ares. Hera opposed Artemis. Hermes opposed Leto. Hephaestus opposed the god of the river that gods call the Xanthus and mortals call the Scamander.

Achilles went into battle looking for Hector above all — it was Hector whom Achilles most wanted to kill. But Apollo encouraged Aeneas to face Achilles and fight him. Apollo assumed the form of Lycaon, one of Priam’s sons, and said, “Aeneas, you used to make threats against the Greeks and boast to the Trojans about what you would do to them. Where have the threats and boasts gone? Didn’t you used to boast that you would fight Achilles face-to-face?”

Aeneas replied, “Lycaon, son of Priam, why are you encouraging me to fight Achilles face-to-face? I really do not want to. Achilles is powerful, and he is angry. I have met him face-to-face before. On the day that he conquered Lyrnessus and raided our flocks, he found me on Mount Ida and chased me. I ran from him and escaped — but only with help from Zeus. If not for the help of Zeus, I would have died at the hands of Achilles and of Athena — she was helping to keep him safe. She was also encouraging him to kill Trojans and their allies. No mortal can face Achilles and live. The gods are on his side. But even if he did not have the help of the gods, his strength and skill in war are overwhelming. His spear flies straight and causes mortal wounds. Still, if Zeus would stop giving Achilles the advantage, Achilles would have to work hard to defeat me.”

Apollo, still disguised as Lycaon, replied, “Like Achilles, you are a heroic warrior. Why not ask for help from the gods? Isn’t Aphrodite, an Olympian goddess, your mother? Achilles’ mother is also a goddess, but she is lesser than Aphrodite. Thetis is a minor sea goddess, the daughter of the Old Man of the Sea. So fight Achilles! Don’t let his pride and his threats scare you!”

Apollo convinced Aeneas to fight Achilles. He went to the front line to find and to fight him. Hera was watching, and she shouted, “Poseidon! Athena! Aeneas is coming to fight Achilles. Apollo has encouraged him. Either drive Aeneas back, or one of us must stand by Achilles and help him. We need to let Achilles know that many gods respect him. The gods who support the Trojans are worthless! We have come down to the war to make sure that Achilles does not die on this day. Later, he will die, as fated. We need to let Achilles know that we gods support him, or he may be terrified when he sees a god — we can be terrifying to humans.”

But Poseidon said to Hera, “We need not get involved in the war right now. The Greeks are much more powerful and much stronger than the Trojans. Let us move to one side, out of the way, and watch the war. Let the mortals do all of the fighting. But if Ares or Apollo decides to oppose Achilles and keep him from fighting, then we can oppose them. We gods can then fight each other. The fight will not last long. Defeated, the gods who support the Trojans will go back to Olympus.”

Poseidon, Hera, and Athena went to one side of the battle and relaxed. They rested on a breastwork that Athena and the Trojans had built for Heracles to use when he fought and killed the sea-monster that was threatening the daughter of Laomedon: Hesione. Fog hid the gods so that the mortals could not see them. The gods who supported the Trojans went to the other side of the battle and relaxed. Zeus stayed on Mount Olympus.

The two armies rushed toward each other. In the middle, Achilles and Aeneas faced each other. Achilles was like a lion. Many men hunt the lion, but the lion has only contempt for the men and ignores them until one of the hunters spears him. Then the lion crouches to spring and attack. Furious, the lion is determined to kill or be killed. Just like the lion, Achilles was proud and furious.

Achilles said to Aeneas, “Why are you so far away from your fellow Trojans? Do you really want to fight me? Do you think that if you kill me that you will become king of Troy? That won’t happen. Priam will instead make one of his own sons king of Troy. Or do you hope to win a fine estate — a gift of the Trojans — if you kill me? I do not think you will kill me. We met once before, remember? You were guarding sheep, alone, and you fled down Mount Ida for your life. You were so scared that you did not even look behind you. You escaped me then. You fled to Lyrnessus, which I conquered with the help of Athena and Zeus. I made all the women of Lyrnessus slaves. You escaped me on that day — Zeus helped you. But I doubt that you will escape me now, although you must be hoping that you will stay alive. Don’t challenge me! Go back to your troops! If you fight me, I will kill you!”

Aeneas replied, “Don’t try to scare me with words, Achilles. I am not a child or a fool. I am a warrior. We know each other, and we know about each other’s parents, although I have not seen your parents and you have not seen my parents. You are the son of Peleus, a king, and of Thetis, a sea-nymph. I am the son of Anchises and of Aphrodite. Either your parents or my parents will mourn the death of a son today. We will fight, not just talk.

“If you want to know more about my family, here is my story. Let us start with Dardanus, the son of Zeus who founded Dardania before the city of Troy was founded. Dardanus had a son: King Erichthonius. This king was rich and owned three thousand mares. The North wind assumed the form of a stallion and had sex with some of the mares — twelve colts were the result. These offspring could run on the tops of corn stalks without breaking them and could run on the tops of sea waves.

“King Erichthonius fathered Tros, a Trojan lord. Tros fathered three sons: Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede. Ganymede was a beautiful man, and the gods took him away so that he could be Zeus’ cupbearer.

“Ilus fathered Laomedon, who fathered five sons: Tithonus, Priam, Lampus, Clytius, and Hicetaon.

“Assaracus fathered Capys, and Capys fathered Anchises, who fathered me.

“Priam fathered Hector.

“That is my lineage.

“In battle Zeus helps some warriors and he hurts other warriors. Zeus is a strong god — the strongest of all gods.

“Achilles, let’s have no more talking. We could hurl insults at each other, but this is a battlefield. Let us fight.”

Aeneas hurled his spear at Achilles. It hit Achilles’ shield — a masterpiece created by Hephaestus. Achilles was afraid that Aeneas’ spear would punch through the shield, but the work of Hephaestus was and is better than Achilles realized. Aeneas’ spear broke through two layers of the shield, but the middle layer — made of gold — stopped it. The layers around the gold were made of tin, and the outermost layers were made of bronze. Achilles was strong enough to carry a shield that was made of metal, including heavy gold.

Achilles hurled his spear. It hit the edge of Aeneas’ shield, and Aeneas ducked. The spear tore through the two layers — bronze and oxhide — at the edge of Aeneas’ shield and then buried itself in the earth. Aeneas was afraid — the spear had come close to killing him.

Achilles drew his sword and shouted a war-cry and charged Aeneas, who picked up a huge rock that no two men of today could lift, although Aeneas did so easily. Aeneas would have thrown the rock at Achilles, whose armor and shield would have protected him. Achilles would then have killed Aeneas with his sword, but Poseidon was watching the battle.

Poseidon said to the gods with him, “Aeneas is close to dying and going down to the House of the Dead. Achilles is about to kill him — all because Apollo tempted Aeneas to fight Achilles! Aeneas is a fool — Apollo is not going to save him! Why should Aeneas die? He is a good person. He has always sacrificed to the gods. Why should he die because of Paris and Helen? So let us save Aeneas’ life. Zeus wants Aeneas to stay alive because Aeneas is fated to survive the Trojan War. He is fated to stay alive so that he may have descendants and the bloodline of Dardanus will not vanish from the earth. Dardanus was the son of Zeus, and Zeus loved him more than his other mortal sons. After Troy falls, Aeneas will rule the surviving Trojans and their children.”

Hera replied, “Do as you wish, Poseidon. If you want Aeneas to live, save him. If you want him to die, let him die. But Athena and I will stay here. We have sworn never to help the Trojans, even when their city burns and falls.”

Poseidon went to Aeneas and Achilles. He put fog in front of Achilles’ eyes, and then he pulled Achilles’ spear out of the ground and lay the spear near Achilles. Then he picked up Aeneas and threw him far away to the side of the battle.

Poseidon went to Aeneas and said, “Aeneas, what god tempted you to fight Achilles? Are you mad! Achilles is a much better warrior than you are, and the gods respect Achilles more. Do not fight him. If you do, you will die. But Achilles will soon die. After he dies, then fight whomever you wish. Achilles is the Greek capable of killing you against your fate.”

Poseidon then went to Achilles and removed the fog in front of his eyes. Achilles looked around. Aeneas was no longer present. Achilles said to himself, “It is impossible. I threw my spear at Aeneas, and now my spear is lying beside me. And I can’t see Aeneas. The gods truly love that warrior. So him I will not be able to kill. No matter. I will rally the Greeks, and we will kill the many Trojans who remain.”

Achilles shouted to the Greek warriors, “No more staying away from the fighting. Let each warrior find a Trojan to kill. I am powerful, but I am a single warrior. Not even the gods Ares and Athena — masters of war — could fight an army singlehandedly. But I will fight the best I can. I will attack the Trojans head-on. No Trojan will want to fight me — they will be afraid to meet me face-to-face.

At the same time, Hector rallied the Trojans: “Don’t be afraid of Achilles! Fight him with spears rather than with words! Achilles makes many boasts. Some he will make good on, some he will partially do, and others he will be unable to accomplish! I will seek him and fight him!”

But Apollo told Hector, “Don’t fight Achilles face-to-face! Fight him with other Trojan warriors to help you. If you try to fight him by yourself, he will kill you with his spear or his sword.”

Hector kept his warriors near him, but Achilles charged the Trojans and killed and killed again. He killed Iphition, whose mother was a river-nymph and whose father was named Otrynteus. Iphition charged at Achilles, and Achilles speared him in the head, splitting his skull. Achilles boasted, “Here you die, Iphition — far from home.”

Achilles killed Demoleon, again with a wound to the head. Achilles’ spear stabbed Demoleon’s temple, going through his helmet’s cheekpiece. Demoleon’s brain splattered inside his helmet.

Achilles killed Hippodamas, who jumped from his chariot and fled from Achilles. Achilles speared him in the back. Hippodamas died bellowing like a bull about to be sacrificed.

Achilles killed Polydorus, the youngest son of Priam. Priam did not want him to fight, but Polydorus was proud of his fast running. He ran by Achilles, and Achilles speared him in the back. The spear went through his breastplate and came out his naval, taking his intestines with it. Polydorus died screaming with his intestines in his hands.

As he killed, Achilles demonstrated his skill at warfare. The head is a smaller target than the chest. A warrior who misses an enemy’s chest could hit the stomach, shoulders, or head. A warrior who misses an enemy’s head is likely to miss altogether. Achilles often killed Trojans by inflicting head wounds.

As he killed, Achilles demonstrated his lack of mercy. He killed every Trojan he could, including those fleeing from him. Achilles often killed Trojans by inflicting back wounds.

Hector saw his brother Polydorus die, and Hector charged Achilles, who saw him. Achilles said to himself, “This is the person who has caused me the most grief, who has killed Patroclus. At last, I can fight him.”

Achilles shouted at Hector, “You are now going to die.”

Hector replied, “Don’t try to scare me with words. I am a warrior. I know that you are a great warrior. I am much weaker than you are, but I may still be able to kill you. I have killed warriors before.”

Hector hurled his spear at Achilles, but Athena gently blew her breath, and the spear flew back to Hector and fell at his feet. Achilles charged at Hector eager to kill him, but Apollo surrounded Hector in fog and kept him away from Achilles’ weapons — a god has that power. Three times Achilles stabbed with his spear — three times his spear encountered only fog. The fourth time Achilles stabbed with his spear, he realized that he would not be able to kill Hector — yet.

Achilles said, “Hector, you dog, you have dodged your death. Apollo has saved your life. But we will meet again in battle, and then I will kill you. Right now, I will kill as many Trojans as I can.”

Achilles killed Dryops, spearing him in the neck.

Achilles killed Demuchus, spearing him in the knee and then taking his life with a sword.

Achilles killed two sons of Bias: Laogonus and Dardanus. He threw them from their chariot and killed one with a spear and the other with a sword.

Tros supplicated Achilles and begged for mercy. He grabbed Achilles’ knees, hoping to stay alive, hoping that Achilles would not kill him. He was wrong. This Achilles was not merciful — not to Trojans and their allies. Achilles used his sword to slit open Tros’ liver. Tros’ wound gushed with blood, and his psyche went to the Land of the Dead.

Achilles killed Mulius. Achilles rammed his spear through one of Mulius’ ears so that it came out through the other ear.

Achilles killed Echeclus. Achilles used his sword to split open Echeclus’ head. Achilles’ sword was hot from blood and friction.

Achilles killed Deucalion. Achilles speared Deucalion’s arm, rendering it useless. Deucalion stood with his arm dangling and waited for Achilles to kill him. Achilles used his sword to cut off Deucalion’s head. The head and helmet dropped to the ground, and marrow spurted from Deucalion’s spine.

Achilles killed Rhigmus and his charioteer, Areithous. Achilles speared Rhigmus in the belly, and Rhigmus fell out of the chariot. Rhigmus’ charioteer, Areithous, tried to escape, but Achilles speared him in the back and Areithous fell out of the chariot beside Rhigmus.

Achilles was like a wild fire, blazing through a mountain gorge and feasting on dry timber and creating chaos. Achilles used his chariot to kill Trojans, running over them and their corpses like oxen stomp on barley. The axle under Achilles’ chariot was covered with blood. The handrails of his chariot were covered with blood. Blood sprayed into the air from the horses pulling his chariot. Blood sprayed into the air from his chariot’s wheels. Blood covered Achilles’ powerful arms.

Zeus thought, At one time, Achilles showed mercy to his enemies. This is something that Andromache, Hector’s wife, knows. Achilles killed her father, King Eetion, but he did not strip his armor and he did give the corpse a proper funeral. Achilles showed respect to his enemy King Eetion. Also, Achilles did not make Andromache’s mother a slave but instead allowed her to be ransomed. In addition, Achilles used to often respect suppliants and allow them to stay alive so they could be ransomed.

In battle, suppliants beg for their life. The suppliant takes one arm and puts it around the knees of the person he is supplicating. This keeps the warrior from moving. The suppliant often uses his other hand to reach up and grab the warrior’s chin or beard or weapon. Then the suppliant begs for mercy. By doing these things, the suppliant is showing that he does not have a weapon. One hand is around the warrior’s knees; the other hand is grabbing the warrior’s chin or beard or weapon. Obviously, the suppliant is not holding a weapon in either hand. In addition, the suppliant is making the warrior pay attention to the suppliant. One hand is around the warrior’s knees, so the warrior can’t move. The other hand is grabbing the warrior’s chin or beard or weapon. The warrior is forced to pay attention to the suppliant. Most importantly, the act of supplication shows that the suppliant is completely vulnerable. The suppliant is unarmed, and the suppliant’s throat is exposed because he is looking up at the warrior.

Achilles used to respect suppliants. Not now.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 19: Achilles Arms for Battle

Book 19: Achilles Arms for Battle

Dawn arrived, and Thetis reached Achilles’ camp. Achilles was still lying facedown, mourning Patroclus’ death. The other Greeks also were mourning Patroclus’ death. Thetis held Achilles’ hand and said to him, “Achilles, get up and leave your friend’s body. You must. Patroclus is dead. But look at the new armor that Hephaestus, god of fire, created for you. No mortal has ever worn such fine armor!”

Thetis put the brightly polished armor on the ground beside Achilles. The armor blazed, and the Greeks saw it and trembled. No one could look directly at the armor — except Achilles and the gods. Achilles looked at the armor, and he knew that he would be wearing it when he killed Hector. His anger at Hector deepened, and he said to Thetis, his mother, “You are right. Only a god could make such armor. No mortal man has ever seen or worn armor such as this, and no mortal man could ever create armor such as this. I will put on this armor, and I will kill Hector.

“But I am worried about the corpse of Patroclus. It will decay. Insects will get to it, and worms will eat his flesh. Patroclus’ psyche has left his body; now his body will rot.”

Thetis replied, “Don’t worry about the corpse of Patroclus. I will take care of it and ensure that it does not rot. I will keep the insects and the worms away from it. Patroclus’ body could lie here an entire year, and it still would not rot. I will put nectar and ambrosia — the food and drink of the gods — in Patroclus.

“Now call a council and be reconciled with Agamemnon. You and he must not be angry at each other anymore. Afterward, you can arm for battle.”

Thetis instilled courage into Achilles, and she instilled nectar and ambrosia, the food and drink of the immortal gods, into the corpse of Patroclus to ensure that the corpse would not rot.

Achilles went among the Greeks, calling the leaders to a council. They readily came, wanting to see what Achilles would do — Achilles who had stayed away from the fighting for so long. Diomedes and Odysseus arrived at the council. Still hurting from their wounds, they moved slowly. The last Greek leader to arrive was Agamemnon. He also still hurt from his wound — Coon had slashed his arm in battle.

Achilles spoke first, “Agamemnon, you and I foolishly fought over a mere girl. It would have better if she had died when I conquered Lyrnessus, the city she lived in — Artemis should have killed her with an arrow. If she had died then, many more Greeks would be alive now. Our arguing with each other has been good only for Hector and his Trojans. It has not been good for the Greeks. People will remember, I think, our argument and its consequences. Epic poets will sing about it. But let us end our argument now. It is over. Done. Finished. All the anger I felt at you I now turn to Hector. Call the Greeks to combat so I can begin fighting and killing Trojans! I can convince them to stay behind the walls of Troy and not camp on the plain before Troy!”

These were words that the Greeks wanted to hear. They shouted with pleasure.

Agamemnon said, “Greeks, listen. Do not interrupt. Listen as I speak to Achilles. I have been blamed for the argument between us, but it was not my fault! Zeus and Fate and the Furies are at fault! They are the ones who made me insane when I took Achilles’ prize — Briseis — away from him. I was utterly mad! What can a mortal do when the gods are against him? The goddess Ate, who is also called Ruin, is the main one at fault — she blinded me as she has blinded so many other mortals!

“Ate even blinded Zeus once! Hera had the help of Ate as she deceived Zeus. Alcmena was about to give birth to the great hero Heracles in Thebes. Zeus wanted him to be the king of the surrounding region, so he said to the other gods, ‘Listen to me. Today a woman will give birth to a son — my son who will rule the region around him.’

“Hera hates all the bastard children fathered by her husband, Zeus. She set out to make a fool of her husband.

“Hera said to him, ‘I don’t believe you — not unless you swear an inviolable oath. Swear by the river Styx that a son born today from your line will rule the region around him.’

“Zeus swore the oath; he did not know that Hera was trapping him.

“Hera flew to Argos, where the wife of Sthenelus, son of Peleus, whose father was Zeus, was seven months pregnant. Hera, the goddess of marriage, caused her to give birth two months early to a son: Eurystheus. She also kept Alcmena from giving birth.

“Hera then rushed back to Zeus and taunted him: ‘Today a new ruler is born from your line: Eurystheus. As you promised in your inviolable oath, he will rule the region around him.’

“Zeus was furious at being tricked, but the oath he had sworn was inviolable. Eurystheus, not Heracles, would be a ruler. But he grabbed the goddess Ate and threw her from Mount Olympus. Never again can she return to Olympus, so now she ruins the lives of mortals. Zeus thought of the goddess Ate whenever Eurystheus forced Heracles to perform one of his famous twelve labors.

“Ate harmed Zeus, and Ate harmed me! Ate made it possible for Hector to reach our ships.

“But that was then. Now let us put everything right again. I promised you, Achilles, magnificent gifts if you would fight again. I will give you everything I promised. Odysseus was the emissary who conveyed my promise to you. Aides will bring those gifts from my ships and convey them to you now.”

Achilles replied, “Agamemnon, I don’t care about the gifts. Keep them, or give them to me. I don’t care which. Right now, let’s go to battle — right now! We have Trojans to kill!”

Odysseus, a practical man, said, “We can’t fight yet, Achilles. We are hungry. A hungry man cannot fight for long. He will grow weak and be useless in battle. So let us eat and drink, and that way we can fight all day until the sun sets. Our legs and arms will not fail us, and we can kill and kill again. So order everyone to eat.

“Also, allow Agamemnon to bring the gifts so that every man can see that he has given to you everything that he promised. And allow Agamemnon to swear an oath that he has not touched Briseis — that he has not forced her to sleep with him.

“Also, Achilles, be sure to show Agamemnon the respect that is due to him.

“Achilles, allow Agamemnon to prepare a feast for you in his tents. You two should break bread.

“Agamemnon, show your warriors the respect that is due to them. It is not a disgrace for you to give gifts to Achilles, whom you have wronged. It is kingly to reconcile with those whom you have wronged.”

Agamemnon replied, “Odysseus, all you have said is right. I will swear the oath: I have not touched Briseis — I have not slept with her. I swear this oath to the gods. Everyone, including Achilles, should stay here until everything I promised to give to Achilles has been brought from my ships.

“Odysseus, pick out a few men to help you to bring here everything I promised to give to Achilles, including the women. I will have Talthybius prepare a wild boar for sacrifice to Zeus and the sun.”

Achilles, however, was impatient to return to the fighting. He said to Agamemnon, “Let us leave these things for a different time. I am set on fighting and killing Trojans. Why should I sit down to a feast when I could be doing what I want to do most? If it were my decision, I would lead the Greeks, hungry as they are, into combat now. Only after many Trojans are dead and the sun has set would I lay out a feast for everyone.

“I myself will not eat or drink. Patroclus is dead. His body is ready for burial. Instead of feasting, I will kill and kill again.”

Odysseus, a practical man, said, “Achilles, you are stronger by far than I am. You are the greatest warrior among the Greeks. But I am older, and I know more about ordinary warriors. Listen to me. We ordinary men must eat. Hungry men cannot fight. Warriors cannot mourn the dead by starving. It cannot and will not work. War is wearying work.

“We ordinary men mourn the dead, but our mourning must come to an end. Warriors should mourn the dead the day they die and then move on with their lives. Everyone who is still alive must eat and drink. That way, we can continue to go to war.

“So, after we eat and drink, no warrior who is capable of fighting will hold back. May pain and death come to those who shirk the work of war. Today, many Trojans will die.”

Odysseus led men to Agamemnon’s ships: Meges, Meriones, Thoas, Lycomedes, and Melanippus. They brought out the gifts that Agamemnon had promised to give to Achilles if he would fight again: seven tripods, twenty polished cauldrons, twelve stallions, ten bars of gold, seven women skilled in crafts, and Briseis. They brought the gifts back to the meeting place.

Talthybius had the wild boar ready for sacrifice. Agamemnon drew his dagger and cut a few tufts of hair from the boar. He lifted his arms and prayed, “Zeus and the Furies, I swear that I never touched Briseis — I never slept with her. If I have falsely sworn this, may the gods punish me!”

He cut the boar’s throat, and Talthybius swung the boar and threw it into the water for the fishes to enjoy.

Achilles said, “Zeus, you sometimes send miseries to men. You make us blind. Otherwise, Agamemnon could never have made me so angry. He would never have taken Briseis away from me. Zeus, you wanted the Greeks to die.

“Warriors, eat and drink quickly. I am eager to go to war.”

The Greeks went to their own camps and prepared their meals. Achilles’ Myrmidons happily took Agamemnon’s gifts back to Achilles’ ships.

Briseis arrived at Achilles’ camp, where she saw the corpse of Patroclus. She threw herself on the corpse and wailed, “Patroclus, you were my friend. You looked out for me. When Agamemnon forced me to leave, you were alive. Now you are dead. I used to be married, but now I am a widow. My husband died defending his city, Lyrnessus, one of the cities that Achilles conquered. I saw Achilles kill my husband. I watched my husband and my three brothers die in battle. I loved them all. You, Patroclus, kept me from crying. You promised that you would convince Achilles to make me his lawful, wedded wife. Being a wife is better than being a slave. You promised that in Greece Achilles would marry me. I mourn your death. Gentle Patroclus, you were always kind to me.”

Briseis cried, and the female slaves around her cried.

The Greek warriors tried to convince Achilles to eat. He would not, saying, “Stop bothering me. I will not eat at least until the sun sets.”

The Greek warriors knew that Achilles meant what he said, so they did not press him to eat. Some Greek leaders stayed and tried to comfort him, including Agamemnon and Menelaus, Odysseus, Nestor, Idomeneus, and Phoenix. He could not be comforted.

Achilles remembered past times and he said, “Often, Patroclus, you would set out the meal for us, but now you are dead. Plenty of food lies in my ships, but I shall not eat. I grieve for you! I want you to be alive! I cannot feel worse than I do now — not even if I were to hear news that my father has died! My father, I know, is mourning back home in Greece because he is separated from his only son. Instead of being with him, I am here, fighting Trojans because of the misdeeds of Helen. I cannot feel worse than I do now — not even if I were to hear news that my son — Neoptolemus — has died.

“I had hoped that only I would die at Troy and that you, Patroclus, would return home alive. You would bring my son from Scyros to my father’s high-vaulted palace and show him all of my wealth and servants.

“I don’t even know whether my father is alive or dead. He may be alive although he is very old and waits to hear news of me. Soon, if he is alive, he will learn that I have died.”

Zeus and Athena were watching Achilles. Zeus said to Athena, “Have you abandoned Achilles? Don’t you respect him? He is grieving, and he refuses to eat. Put nectar and ambrosia into his stomach. Give him the nourishment of the gods.”

Athena flew through the air like a hawk, and she put nectar and ambrosia into Achilles’ stomach. During battle, he would not grow weak. Then she returned to her father, Zeus.

The Greek troops marched out of the camps, ready for battle. Zeus sometimes sends thickly falling snowflakes to earth. The marching Greek warriors were as numerous as those snowflakes.

Achilles armed himself for battle. He ground his teeth. His eyes blazed. He was on fire to fight. He put on the armor that Hephaestus had made for him. He put on his greaves. He put on his breastplate, and he slung his sheathed sword over his shoulder. He lifted his shield — a masterpiece created by Hephaestus. The shield gleamed like a full moon or like a watch fire on a mountain — a watch fire seen by sailors on ships at sea. The light reflected from Achilles’ shield shone far into the sky. Achilles then put on his helmet with waving plumes. He tested the fit on the armor. He spun to see whether the armor fitted him. Yes, it did. He spun to see if he could move easily while wearing the armor. Yes, he could. Finally Achilles grabbed his spear. It was a gift from the Centaur Chiron to Achilles’ father, Peleus. The spear had been made to kill warriors.

Achilles’ aides Alcimus and Automedon yoked Achilles’ immortal horses to his chariot. Automedon grabbed a whip and jumped on the chariot; he was Achilles’ charioteer. Achilles was ready for battle. He said to his immortal horses, “Roan Beauty and Charger, do better this time. Bring me back alive to the ships! You failed to bring Patroclus back alive!”

Hera gave the immortal horse Roan Beauty the ability to speak. Roan Beauty said, “We will bring you back alive, Achilles! Today. But you will die soon at the hands of a god and your fate.

“We are not responsible for the death of Patroclus or the stripping of your armor. Apollo is responsible for Patroclus’ death — he gave kleos to Hector.

“We immortal horses are as swift as the wind, but we will be unable to save you. Your fate, a god, and a mortal man will end your life!”

The Furies took away the voice of Roan Beauty. The immortal horse could no longer speak.

Achilles said, “Why are you prophesying my death? I know I will die soon after I kill Hector. I know that I will die at Troy far from home, far from my mother and father. But before I die, I will kill many Trojans and especially Hector!”

Achilles went to war.

Zeus was watching. He thought, I can see at least part of the future. Achilles is now both less and more than human. He is both less than a living human and more than a living human being.

Achilles is such a remarkable being that he will refuse to recognize his human limits. Achilles’ anger is more than human. It is excessive — the anger of a god. Previously, he was angry at Agamemnon. Now, he is angry at Hector. His anger was and is more than it should be. Achilles’ anger at Agamemnon got many Greeks killed, including Achilles’ best friend, Patroclus.

Why is Achilles so angry now? It is because he does not accept the human condition. The human condition is that humans live for a time and then they die. Achilles has no problem accepting the human condition for himself. As long as he can kill many Trojans and especially Hector first, he is willing to die. But Achilles will not accept the human condition when it comes to Patroclus. Achilles sent Patroclus into battle, and Patroclus died. Patroclus is mortal. All mortals die. But Achilles desperately wants Patroclus to be alive again, and that cannot happen. Therefore, Achilles’ anger now is more excessive than it was when he was angry at Agamemnon. Because he is so angry, Achilles is now both less and more than human.

Achilles is such a remarkable being that he is almost a god. Only the gods eat ambrosia and drink nectar, yet that is the food and drink that is nourishing Achilles’ body. I myself gave Athena the order to put ambrosia and nectar in Achilles’ stomach.

Achilles is such a remarkable being that only a god can slow down or stop his killing. Achilles will kill all human beings who oppose him. Achilles will kill all Trojans he comes across except for those whom he captures so that he can kill them later as a human sacrifice. Achilles will be almost a god in this battle, and only a river-god can successfully oppose him. Only Apollo or some other god will be able to distract Achilles enough that some Trojans will escape him and return to Troy.

Achilles is such a remarkable being that his death is foreshadowed in his life. Achilles will die. Achilles knows that. When Thetis mourned the death of Patroclus, it was if she were mourning the death of Achilles. When Thetis held Achilles’ head as he lay in the dust grieving for Patroclus, she was just like a woman mourning a fallen warrior. Other foreshadowings of Achilles’ nearing death will take place. Achilles is less than a living human being because in some ways it is as he were already a corpse.

Achilles is not now a normal human being. Achilles has two natures because of his parents. His mother, Thetis, is a goddess, so part of Achilles’ nature is divine. His father, Peleus, is mortal, so part of Achilles’ nature is mortal. Achilles’ two sides are now in opposition. Achilles is almost a god, and his coming death is foreshadowed in his life — it is as if he were already dead. An ordinary human being would grieve for a while for Patroclus, and then he would return to living his normal life. Achilles finds it very, very difficult to do that.

Achilles completely rejects the human condition — the fact that human beings and their loved ones are mortal and they die. Achilles will put off holding a funeral for Patroclus. Patroclus’ psyche will have to appear before Achilles in a dream and beg to be buried before Achilles will hold the funeral for Patroclus. It takes the gods to protect the body of Patroclus and keep it from decaying. Thetis put nectar and ambrosia in Patroclus to keep the body from decaying. Because of Achilles’ anger at Hector and desire to kill him, Patroclus has not had a funeral yet, and so his psychecannot enter the Land of the Dead. This is horrible for a psyche.

Because of his grief at the death of Patroclus, Achilles has put his life on hold. Achilles will not eat or drink or sleep or wash or have sex with Briseis. Thetis wants Achilles to stop putting life on hold and to do all of these things. Achilles finds it very, very difficult to do any of these things right now.

Achilles must learn to accept the human condition.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 18: The Shield and Weapons of Achilles

Book 18: The Shield and Weapons of Achilles

Pursued by Trojans and protected by the two Ajaxes, Menelaus and Meriones carried the corpse of Patroclus to the ships as Antilochus arrived at Achilles’ camp. Achilles was worried. He said to himself, “Once again, the Greeks are routed, but why? They shouldn’t be. Mother once revealed to me a prophecy that I fear that I am just now beginning to understand. She said that while I still lived, the best of the Myrmidons — the warriors I lead — would die at Troy. Patroclus must be dead — I know it. I warned him to stop fighting once he had saved the ships. I warned him not to fight on the plain before Troy. I warned him not to attempt to fight Hector.”

As Achilles worried, Antilochus, panting and with tears streaming down his face, came up to him and said, “Patroclus is dead. The two armies are fighting over his body. Hector now has your armor!”

Achilles grabbed handfuls of dust from the ground and poured it over his face to express his grief in the classic Greek manner. He tore his hair. His slave women knew kind, gentle Patroclus, and they mourned his death. They beat their breasts to express their grief in the classic Greek manner. They fell to the ground like Achilles had. Antilochus, weeping warm tears, grabbed Achilles’ hands because he was afraid that Achilles would end his own life, cutting his own throat with a knife or sword. Achilles screamed with grief.

Achilles’ mother, Thetis, seated near her father, the Old Man of the Sea, in a sea cave, heard Achilles’ cries of mourning. She also cried out in mourning. And the Nereids — minor goddesses of the sea like Thetis — came to her, also mourning: Glauce, Thaleia, Cymodoce, Nesaea, Speio, Thoe, Halië, Cymothoë, Actaia, Limnoreia, Melite, Iaera, Amphithoe, Agave, Doto, Proto, Pherousa, Dynamene, Dexamene, Amphinome, Callianeira, Doris, Panope, Galatea, Nemertes, Apseudes, Callianassa, Clymene, Ianeira, Ianassa, Maera, Orithyia, Amatheia, and others. The Nereids beat their breasts.

Thetis mourned, “Sisters, I grieve. I am the mother of a son who is flawless and great. He is a warrior and a hero. I reared him, but then he sailed to Troy to fight Trojans. I will never be able to hug him as he walks through the doors of the palace of his father. He will not live long. Most of the short amount of life he has left will be wracked with grief. But I will go to him, although I cannot stop his grief. I will go to him, and he will tell me why he grieves.”

Thetis and the other Nereids left the sea cave and swam to Troy. They all came ashore and walked to Achilles. He lay on the ground. Greek artwork sometimes shows a woman cradling the head of a man in her hands as he lies on the ground. The man is a dead warrior, and the woman is a mother or wife who grieves for him. Exactly like that, Thetis cradled Achilles’ head in her hands. Crying warm tears, she asked him, “Why are you crying, my son? What is wrong? Please tell me. Don’t keep it hidden from me. Zeus has done everything that you wanted him to do. The Trojans have forced the Greeks back to their ships. The Trojans have killed many Greeks.”

Groaning, Achilles replied, “All you say is true, mother. Zeus has done everything I asked him to do. But Patroclus, the man I valued most as a friend, is dead. I valued him as much as I valued my own life, and he is dead — Hector butchered him and stripped him of my armor, armor that the gods gifted to Peleus the day he married you. I wish that Peleus had taken a mortal wife and that you had stayed with the other Nereids. Now you must mourn your own son’s death. I have nothing to live for except to kill Hector. I will watch Hector gasp as he dies, mortally wounded by my spear. That is the price he will pay for killing Patroclus!”

Thetis replied, “If what you say is true, you have little time left to live. After Hector dies, you will quickly die.”

Achilles replied, “Then let me die as quickly as possible! I was unable to save the life of Patroclus. He died far from home. If I had been with him, I could have kept him from death. I have been sitting here in my camp, and I have not been fighting the Trojans. No Greek is a better warrior than I am, although other Greeks are better at public speaking. I wish that anger would disappear from the earth and from Mount Olympus. Anger is too destructive. Just look at the anger that Agamemnon created within me.

“But enough. I will end my anger at Agamemnon so that I can turn my anger fully against Hector. He is a murderer. He murdered Patroclus in cold blood. I don’t even care that he did it on the battlefield — in my eyes, it is murder. I will kill him, and then I will freely meet my own death. Whenever Zeus wishes to end my life will be all right with me as long as I have first killed Hector. Heracles is the greatest Panhellenic hero, and even he met his fate, Hera’s anger and fate brought him down. As long as I send Hector down to death first, I will die willingly. Now I will earn great kleos as I kill Trojan warriors and make their wives widows. I am well rested, and I will kill and kill again. Don’t try to stop me from returning to battle. You can’t stop me.”

Thetis replied, “All you say is true. But you have no armor that fits you. Hector is wearing your armor, but he will not live long. His fate quickly approaches. Do not go into battle now. You can’t. Wait until I come back tomorrow, and I will bring you armor created by Hephaestus, the blacksmith-god.”

Thetis told the Nereids, “Go to my father, the Old Man of the Sea, and tell him all that has happened. I will go to Olympus, and I will ask Hephaestus to make armor for my son.”

The Nereids dived into the sea, and Thetis flew to Olympus.

Guarding Patroclus’ body, the Greeks, pursued by Hector, reached the ships. Again and again the Trojans attacked. It seemed impossible that the Greeks could carry the corpse of Patroclus to Achilles’ camp. Three times Hector grabbed Patroclus’ feet. Three times the Greeks fought him off the corpse. Always, Hector attacked again. Shepherds sometimes cannot scare a hungry lion away from a kill, and the Greeks could not scare Hector away from the corpse.

Hector would have captured the corpse, but Hera — without Zeus’ knowledge — sent Iris to take a message to Achilles: “You must help recover the corpse of Patroclus. This battle by the ships is over who will have possession of the corpse. The Greeks are struggling to take it to you; the Trojans are struggling to take it to Troy. Hector wants the corpse so that he can cut off the head and display it on a stake on the palisade of Troy. Get up! Don’t let dogs and birds eat the corpse of your friend!”

Achilles asked, “Which god has sent you to me with this message?”

Iris replied, “Hera sent me. Zeus knows nothing of this, nor do any of the other gods.”

Achilles asked, “How can I fight the Trojans? I have no armor: Hector is wearing it. My mother, Thetis, told me not to go to war until she brings me armor made by Hephaestus, the god of fire. Even the armor of Great Ajax is not big enough for me, except for his shield, and he is using it in battle. I am sure that he is fighting hard to save the corpse of Patroclus.”

Iris thought of a plan and said to Achilles, “We gods know that the Trojans have your armor. But go and show yourself — without armor — to the Trojans. They will be afraid of you, and the Greeks can carry Patroclus’ body into your camp.”

Achilles rose, and Athena slung her shield over his shoulder. He stood in front of the Greeks and Trojans fighting over Patroclus. Behind him the sun set, and Achilles’ head and hair blazed with fire sent by Athena. Smoke rises from a city under siege on an island. Enemies attack it, and defenders stand on the city walls and defend the city. When the sun sets, the city lights beacon fires to ask neighbors for help. Much like that, Achilles’ fire-capped head blazed.

Achilles shouted three times. Each time Athena shouted with him. The shouts panicked the Trojans; the shouts were as loud as war trumpets blown by the enemies attacking a city. The Trojan horses panicked, too, as did the charioteers. Three times the flame-capped Achilles cried out, and three times the Trojans and their allies were thrown into confusion. Twelve fighting Trojans died as horses reared — the Trojans were crushed by horses and chariots or were impaled on their own spears.

The Greeks took advantage and carried the corpse of Patroclus to the camps and put it on a litter. Achilles looked at his dead friend and grieved. Achilles had sent his best friend into battle, but he never welcomed him home — alive — again.

Hera drove the sun into the sea. Hector’s day of glory was over.

The Trojans held a council even before they ate. No one sat; all stood. The decision to be made was serious: Should they return to Troy tonight and stay behind the high, strong walls of Troy, or should they camp out on the battlefield tonight and fight the great Achilles tomorrow? While he had been absent from the battle, the Trojans had been triumphant, but now Achilles was ready to fight again.

Polydamas, a good man at debate and a man who was born the same night that Hector was born, advised, “Let’s go back to Troy now. We are too close to the ships and too far from the walls of Troy. While Achilles stayed angry at Agamemnon and refrained from fighting, we defeated the Greeks. Like you, I hoped to set fire to their ships. But now Achilles is back. He is furious at the death of his friend, and he will return to battle. He will kill Trojan warriors and enslave Trojan wives and conquer Troy itself. So let us retreat behind the high, strong walls of Troy.

“This night has stopped Achilles from fighting, but he will fight tomorrow, and all too many of us will learn how deep is his anger at us. Whoever escapes his wrath and makes it alive back to Troy will be lucky. Tomorrow, dogs and birds will feast on Trojan flesh. I do not want to hear Trojan cries of grief tomorrow. So let us return to Troy tonight. Instead of fighting on the plain, we will stay on the walls of Troy and fight from there. Achilles will never be able to conquer the walls of Troy; he will be forced to return to the ships still thirsty for vengeance.”

Hector objected, “No, Polydamas! I don’t want to go back to Troy and be crammed behind its walls. I don’t want to be in a cage. Troy was once a rich city, but our wealth has been sold to pay the costs of war. Finally, Zeus is allowing me to seize kleos at the Greek ships. He is allowing me to be triumphant as I defend Trojan wives, children, and parents. He is allowing me to cram the Greeks inside their own camps with their backs up against the sea. I will not retreat back to Troy! Everyone will follow my orders. Eat and set guards around our camps. If any Trojan warrior thinks that he will die tomorrow, he can give his property now to other Trojans. Better that than to allow the Greeks to have it. Tomorrow at dawn we attack. If it really was Achilles we saw tonight and if he really wishes to return to battle, then we fight him tomorrow. I will never run from him. Either he will win kleos by killing me or I will win kleos by killing him. The god of war supports those who succeed at killing.”

The Trojans unwisely shouted their approval of Hector’s words. Athena made them approve of Hector’s advice — and not of Polydamas’ advice.

They set the guards and prepared their evening meal.

All night, the Greeks mourned the death of Patroclus. They shouted cries of grief. Achilles’ strong hands touched Patroclus’ chest as he mourned. A hunter sometimes takes away the cubs of a lion when the lion is away hunting. The lion returns, but where are its cubs? Angry, it runs to find the thief. But where is the thieving hunter? Achilles groaned with the lion’s anger and misery. He cried to his Myrmidons, “I promised Menoetius, the father of Patroclus, that Patroclus would return safely home after we had sacked Troy. I promised that Patroclus would have his fair share of plunder. But Zeus will not give to us what I planned. Both Patroclus and I are fated to die at Troy and make its ground red with our blood. Like Patroclus, I will never see my father again. I will never greet and hug him.

“Patroclus, I will follow you into the Land of the Dead. I will not bury you now. Before I bury you, I will kill Hector, the Trojan who killed you. I will capture alive twelve Trojan warriors, and I will cut their throats in a human sacrifice in front of the pyre that will burn your corpse down to bones. Until I vent my anger on the Trojans, you will lie here unburied. The slave women I have won will mourn your death. You and I fought hard to win these slave women by sacking cities allied to Troy.”

Achilles ordered his friends to heat water using a three-footed cauldron. They washed away the blood that had clotted in Patroclus’ wounds. They bathed his body, and they rubbed it with olive oil. They closed his wounds with an ointment. They then put his corpse on a bier and covered it with a white cloth. All night they mourned the death of Patroclus.

Zeus and Hera watched all, and Zeus said to Hera, “Are you happy? You have gotten what you wanted: You wanted Achilles to return to war against the Trojans. Now Achilles will be as unreasonably angry as you so often are. Is it possible that you — and not Thetis — is his mother? Is it possible that you are the mother of the Greeks?”

Hera replied, “Yes, I have gotten what I wanted. The Trojans will suffer many, many deaths at the hands of weapon-bearing Achilles tomorrow. But why shouldn’t I get what I want? Often, a mortal man will kill a man he hates. I am a goddess. I am so much more than a mere mortal. So why shouldn’t I get what I want?”

As Zeus and Hera argued, Thetis reached the house of Hephaestus, the blacksmith god. As is so often the case, he was at work. Although his legs were lame, his arms and shoulders and chest were powerful and his mind and creativity and sense of aesthetics were marvelous. He was sweating as he created twenty three-legged cauldrons. Much of the work he had finished, including bolting golden wheels to them. Still needing to be done was attaching their handles. This work he had just started: He was hammering in the rivets.

Thetis approached the famous smith, but his wife, Charis, saw her first and warmly welcomed her. She held Thetis’ hand and said to her, “Thetis, welcome to our house. You are loved and honored here, and we are happy that you have come. We have often wished that you would more frequently visit us. Come in, please, and let me give you xenia.”

Charis led Thetis into the home and sat her in a chair and slipped a stool under her feet. She called to her husband, “Hephaestus, we have a visitor: honored Thetis. Perhaps you can do a favor for her.”

Hephaestus replied, “Thetis? Here? Wonderful! She is always welcome. She saved my life when I was born. My mother, Hera, looked me over, saw that my legs were lame, and threw me from Mount Olympus. She did not want the other gods and goddesses to know that she had given birth to an infant with crippled legs.

“Thetis found me and breastfed me. Another goddess, Eurynome, also breastfed me. These two goddesses reared me for nine years, and I became a blacksmith. I created brooches, pins, necklaces, and other jewelry. The only ones who knew where I was were the two goddesses. And now Thetis is here. I must do anything I can for her — I owe her so much. Quick, give her something to eat and drink while I put away my current blacksmithing project.”

Hephaestus packed away his tools and washed his arms, shoulders, chest, and neck, and then he put on a shirt. Using a staff, he hobbled in to see Thetis. Handmaids, whom he had created out of gold but who were otherwise like real girls, waited on him, his wife, and his guest.

He said to Thetis, “Welcome. You should visit more often. I will do for you whatever I can do.”

Thetis started to cry. She said, “Hephaestus, Zeus has given me misery. The prophecy said that I would give birth to a man who would be greater than his father. Zeus did not want me to give birth to a son who would overpower him, and so he married me to a mortal man: Peleus. I married him. I had to, but I didn’t want to. Now he is old and will soon die, and now I grieve because my son will also soon die. I reared my son, and he grew strong, but he went to fight in the Trojan War, and now I will never again give him a hug as he returns home — alive — to his father’s palace. My son, Achilles, has little time left to live, and he is miserable. I cannot bring him out of his misery. There is nothing I can do. The Greeks awarded him a young woman after he sacked the city of King Eetion, but Agamemnon tore the young woman from him. Achilles grieved for her and stopped fighting. The Trojans triumphed because my son was not fighting, and the Greeks begged my son to fight and wanted to give him treasure. He refused to fight, but he did send his best friend, Patroclus, into battle wearing Achilles’ own armor. Patroclus and the Trojans battled all day, and Patroclus and the Greeks could have conquered Troy but Apollo caused Patroclus to die. Apollo gave the kleos of killing Patroclus to Hector. Now I beg you on my knees to give my son armor: shield, breastplate, helmet, and greaves. When the Trojans killed Patroclus, Hector took Achilles’ armor that Patroclus had been wearing. Now Achilles lies on the ground grieving for Patroclus.”

Hephaestus replied, “I will make your son the best armor that ever was made. Whoever sees it will marvel at it. I wish that I could change your son’s fate.”

Hephaestus returned to his forge and turned the bellows on the fire. He commanded, “To work!” The bellows, all on their own, blew on the fire and made it hotter — the right degree of heat for the work to be done. He heated bronze, tin, gold, and silver, and he grabbed his hammer and tongs.

First Hephaestus created the shield. He made the rim with three layers of metal. The shield itself had five layers of metal. The shield strap he made of silver. Then he focused on the design of the shield: a design that would depict much of what was known of the universe and of human civilization.

On the shield, Hephaestus created the earth and the sky and the sea and the sun and the moon and the constellations: Pleiades, Hyades, Orion, and the Great Bear.

On the shield, Hephaestus created two populous cities.

In one city weddings and wedding feasts took place. Torches burned. The brides came out of the women’s dwellings. Choirs sang. Young men danced. Flutes and harps played. Women stood in their doorways and watched.

In the same city people ran to the marketplace to witness a lawsuit. Two men argued over the blood-price for a murdered kinsman. One person offered money. The other argued against the proposed recompense, preferring to get satisfaction with more money or with the blood or exile of the murderer. The crowd watched excitedly. Elders rendered their judgments. Two talents of gold lay before them. The elder who rendered the most righteous judgment would be awarded the gold.

Outside the other city, an army lay in siege. The warriors were divided about what to do. Should they conquer the city and take all its wealth? Or should they accept half of the city’s wealth and lift the siege? Inside the city the male citizens were arming. They did not want to surrender. They wanted to make a raid that would lift the siege and give them freedom. The warriors marched out of the city, and women and children and old men stood on the walls of the city. Wearing gold armor, Ares and Athena led the warriors. The gods towered over the mortal warriors. They reached the zone from which they would attack: a place where they watered the herding animals. Two scouts waited as two enemy herdsmen approached, playing music on pipes, as they drove their animals to the besieging army. The scouts killed the herdsmen and stole the animals. The besieging army heard the cries of alarm and raced to the site where the scouts had ambushed the herdsmen. Both armies fought each other at the river, throwing spears and killing and dying. Havoc and Strife and Death — all immortals — fought alongside the mortal men. Their bodies grew red with the blood of mortals.

Hephaestus created a field that farmers plowed, driving their teams from one end of the field to the other, and back again. Farmhands gave the plowmen wine to refresh them so that they could continue to work. The earth the farmers plowed was black although Hephaestus had made it out of solid gold — Hephaestus had that skill.

Hephaestus created the estate of a king. Harvesters reaped the grain with scythes. Boys gathered the stalks and brought them to laborers who bound them with rope. The king watched, happy with the bountiful harvest. His heralds prepared a great feast and roasted meat from the ox they had slaughtered. Women servants generously measured out the barley. Soon the reapers and all the others would eat the noonday meal.

Hephaestus created a vineyard loaded with ripe grapes and long vines. Around the vineyard was a ditch, and around the ditch was a fence that he made of tin. Grape pickers walked on the path leading to the vineyard, and boys and girls carried away the grapes in baskets. A boy played the lyre and sang about the ending year. His was a fine voice, and the boys and girls stepped in rhythm to his song.

Hephaestus created a herd of cattle with long horns. The cattle walked from the dung-filled farmyard out to green pastures. Four herdsmen and nine dogs kept the herd moving, but lions attacked a bull and killed it and were eating it. The herdsmen tried to make the dogs attack the lions, but the dogs were afraid.

Hephaestus created a meadow in a valley. Flocks grazed there amid the shepherds’ homes.

Hephaestus created a circle that depicted a dance. Boys and girls — handsome and pretty — danced and danced. The girls wore linen robes and the boys wore fine tunics. The girls wore garlands of flowers on their heads, and the boys wore daggers on their belts. Sometimes they danced in rings and sometimes they danced in rows. A crowd had gathered to watch the dancers, and tumblers performed tricks.

Finally, Hephaestus created the Ocean River on the rim of the shield — the Ocean River that surrounds the entire earth.

After creating the shield, Hephaestus created a breastplate, a helmet, and greaves.

Having finished the armor, Hephaestus laid all of it at the feet of Thetis. She gathered it in her arms and flew to Achilles’ camp. When Achilles went into battle, he would carry on the shield on his arm a depiction of the universe with the exception of Hades — the Land of the Dead — and Mount Olympus — the abode of the major gods.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 17: The Fight Over Patroclus’ Corpse

Book 17: The Fight Over Patroclus’ Corpse

Red-haired Menelaus saw that the Trojans had slain Patroclus. He ran to the corpse and stood over it to protect it like a mother cow protects her first-born calf. Menelaus stood over the corpse with his spear and his shield.

Euphorbus wanted the fruits of his kill, so he challenged Menelaus. Close to the corpse, he boasted to Menelaus, “I was the first Trojan to wound Patroclus. I speared him. Let me have the corpse to further my kleos. If not, I will kill you, also.”

War-seasoned Menelaus replied, “Zeus, listen to this arrogant youngster! Listen to his boasts! The leopard, the lion, and the wild boar are all proud, but none is as proud as the sons of Panthous: Euphorbus and Hyperenor. Earlier, Hyperenor challenged me. He insulted me and said that I was the weakest of all the Greek warriors. I sent him home, but he did not go home alive. His homecoming brought no joy to his wife and his parents. And now you challenge me! Go back to the other Trojan troops. Stay safe. Challenge me, and I will give you a bloody death. I will give you a bloody education about whom you ought not to challenge.”

Euphorbus did not retreat to the Trojan troops. He replied, “Menelaus, now you will pay for the life of my brother whom you killed. You boast about making his wife a widow. You boast about bringing grief to his and my parents. I can lessen their grief by bringing them gifts: your bloody head and your bloody armor. I will give them to my parents: Panthous and Phrontis. But let’s stop talking. It’s time to fight and see who will kill the other.”

Euphorbus stabbed Menelaus’ shield. The shield was stronger and bent the point of Euphorbus’ weapon. Euphorbus retreated, and Menelaus pursued him and speared him in the throat. Menelaus put all his strength into the thrust of his spear. The spear went through Euphorbus’ soft neck, and Euphorbus fell. He was a young man, and he paid attention to his hair, which he braided like the hair of the Graces. He decorated his hair with gold and silver clips. But his hair and clips were bloody now.

A farmer will tend a young olive tree on a hilltop. The farmer waters it carefully, and the young olive tree bursts into bloom. But a gale wind arises and rips it out of the earth, and it lies on the ground, fallen and dead. Euphorbus was like that young olive tree.

Menelaus had killed him, and now Menelaus stripped him of his armor.

Menelaus was like a powerful and dangerous mountain lion that sees a herd and picks out the best heifer. The mountain lion bites the heifer’s neck and kills it and then begins eating the heifer. The dogs and shepherds make a lot of noise, but they are too afraid to attack the mountain lion.

The Trojans were afraid to challenge Menelaus as he stripped the armor from Euphorbus’ corpse.

Apollo took the shape of the Trojan Mentor and challenged Hector, who was trying to capture Achilles’ immortal horses. Disguised as a mortal man, Apollo said to Hector, “You have better things to do than chase Achilles’ immortal horses. Only Achilles, whose mother is immortal, can control them. Menelaus is protecting Patroclus’ corpse. He has killed Euphorbus!”

Hector surveyed the battlefield and saw Menelaus stripping the armor off Euphorbus’ corpse, which was still spurting blood. Hector charged Menelaus and filled the air with a war cry. Menelaus heard Hector and said to himself, “What is the best thing for me to do? If I leave Euphorbus’ armor and Patroclus’ corpse, won’t I be criticized? After all, Patroclus was fighting to help redeem the honor that Paris stole from me. But am I able to fight Hector and his Trojans by myself? They can circle me and kill me. I am one warrior against many. Be careful. Hector is having a day of glory; Zeus is helping him. If Zeus is helping Hector, the Greek warriors will forgive me for retreating.

“I need help to fight Hector. If I can find Great Ajax, he and I together could fight Hector and his Trojans. Then we could bring Patroclus’ corpse back to Achilles’ camp. This is a bad situation, and this course of action is the best that we can do in it.”

Hector and the Trojans kept charging toward Menelaus, and he retreated. He left behind Patroclus’ corpse, but he kept turning to look back to be ready to fight if necessary. He was like a lion that the dogs and farmhands force away from the farm. The lion does not want to leave, but the dogs and farmhands force it to.

Menelaus reached the other Greeks and looked for Great Ajax, who was fighting on the left flank. Great Ajax was trying to convince the other Greek warriors to fight fiercely — Apollo had made them afraid. Menelaus ran to him and said, “Friend, help me. Patroclus is dead. Help me to recover his body so that we may bring it to Achilles. Hector is now stripping Achilles’ armor from Patroclus’ body so we cannot bring the armor back to Achilles.”

Great Ajax went with Menelaus. Hector was eager to chop off Patroclus’ head and then drag the rest of the corpse to Troy to feed the dogs and birds. But Great Ajax charged him, and Hector threw Achilles’ armor to aides to take back to Troy. Hector retreated, and Great Ajax guarded Patroclus’ corpse. He was like a lion guarding its cubs when hunters see them. Menelaus stood beside Great Ajax.

Glaucus, who was now the leader of the troops from Lydia, said to Hector, “Where is your fighting fury? You need to start planning how to save Troy without the help of the Lycians. Why should we fight for you if you are going to allow the Greeks to let dogs and birds eat Sarpedon’s body? Sarpedon fought fiercely for Troy when he was alive. Now you are unwilling to fight for him and save his body from dogs and birds. If I can get the Lycians to obey my orders, we will leave Troy and return to Lycia. If only you could fight well enough to get Patroclus’ corpse and drag it to Troy, we could trade it for Sarpedon’s armor and corpse.”

Glaucus did not know that Apollo had taken Sarpedon’s body to Lycia. He thought that the Greeks had taken Sarpedon’s armor and body back to the Greek ships.

Glaucus continued, “Patroclus was a great warrior and Achilles’ great friend. The Greeks will definitely trade to get his body back. But you are afraid to fight Great Ajax. He is a better, stronger, fiercer warrior than you!”

Hector replied, “Glaucus, you are a good man and a good warrior, but you are speaking nonsense. I thought that you were more intelligent. I am not afraid to fight Great Ajax. But Zeus is more powerful than any mortal. Zeus can turn a brave man into a coward. Zeus can also make a brave man even braver. He both gives and takes away kleos. Watch me fight! See if I am a coward or if I can stop a Greek from trying to protect Patroclus’ corpse.”

Hector shouted to the Trojans, “Be ready to fight. I am going to put on the armor of Achilles — armor that I stripped from Patroclus’ corpse!”

He ran after the aides who were taking Achilles’ armor to Troy. Away from the fighting, Hector took off his own armor and put on Achilles’ armor. When Achilles’ father grew old, he gave this armor to Achilles, but Achilles would not grow old.

Zeus saw Hector putting on Achilles’ armor. He knew that Hector would soon die. Zeus said, “Poor Hector. You are not thinking of dying, but death is quickly coming for you. The armor you are putting on is that of a great warrior — a great warrior whose kind and gentle and strong friend you killed. You stripped Achilles’ armor from Achilles’ friend. I will give you strength and fierceness in battle to recompense you for your death that is soon to come. You will never return from battle alive, Hector. You will never give Achilles’ armor to your loving wife, Andromache.”

Zeus bowed his head. He changed Achilles’ armor so that it fitted Hector well. Ares filled Hector with fighting fury. Hector motivated his men to fight well: Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon, Thersilochus, Asteropaeus, Disenor, Hippothous, Phorcys, Chromius, and the prophet Ennomus, who knew how to interpret bird-signs. Hector told them, “Listen to me, all of you allies. When I called on you to come to Troy and fight, it was not for show. I needed and need you to protect Trojan women and children. That is what I want. I tax the Trojans to give you gifts and food so that you will fight fiercely. So let us now fight the Greeks. Let us feel the joy of war. If anyone can force back Great Ajax and drag the dead Patroclus to our chariots to haul back to Troy, that warrior will get half of the spoils and he will get kleos that will be the equal of my own.”

This reward was worth fighting for. The Trojans and Trojan allies attacked Great Ajax, hoping to get the body of Patroclus and drag it to Troy, but their hope was foolish. Great Ajax was a mighty warrior, and he had killed many men around the corpse of Patroclus. Still, Great Ajax said to Menelaus, “We are outnumbered. Theirs is a mighty force. I don’t think that we can stay here, alone. I am afraid that Patroclus’ corpse will feed dogs and birds inside the walls of Troy, and I am afraid that you and I will die here. Hector and his Trojans are covering the battlefield. Shout for help. I hope that someone will hear you.”

Menelaus was known as the lord of the war cry. He shouted, “All Greek captains who fight for Agamemnon and me and drink our wine and command your own men, help us. I can’t see where you are because of the dust kicked up by so many warriors, but come and save Patroclus’ corpse. Don’t let the Trojans feed it to the dogs and birds!”

Little Ajax heard him and ran to help. He arrived first, followed by Idomeneus and Idomeneus’ second-in-command, Meriones. More captains followed them, but only the gods can name them all.

Hector charged the Greeks the way that surf charges into the mouth of a swollen river. The surf booms as it crashes against land. The Trojans charged the Greeks, but the Greeks were ready to fight them. They stood ready to fight in a circle around Patroclus’ body holding their shields in front of them. Zeus created a heavy fog to help hide Patroclus’ corpse. Zeus had not hated Patroclus when the mortal was alive, and Zeus did not want Trojan dogs to eat Patroclus’ corpse.

The Trojans forced the Greeks to retreat and leave Patroclus’ corpse behind although they did not kill any Greeks. Instead, they tried to drag away Patroclus’ corpse. Great Ajax, the best warrior of the Greeks except for Achilles, led the Greeks as they attacked the Trojans. He fought in front like a wild boar that charges dogs and hunters and makes them run and pursues them. Now Great Ajax charged the Trojans and forced them to scatter although they wanted to drag Patroclus’ body back to Troy.

The Trojan Hippothous had tied a shield strap around Patroclus’ ankle. He was dragging the corpse away, hoping to win kleos and praise from Hector. Great Ajax charged Hippothous and speared him through his helmet, cracking the horsehair crest. Hippothous’ brain burst out of his skull as he dropped Patroclus’ foot. Hippothous’ body fell onto Patroclus’ body, face-to-face. Hippothous died far from Larissa, his home. The spear of Great Ajax prevented Hippothous from repaying his parents who had reared him. He died too young.

Hector hurled his spear at Great Ajax, but he dodged death and the spear hit Schedius, who was from Phocis. Hector’s spear went through his collarbone and came out through his shoulder. He fell, and his armor rattled.

Great Ajax stabbed Phorcys, who was trying to protect the corpse of Hippothous. Great Ajax ripped open Phorcys’ belly and his intestines fell out. Phorcys fell and clawed at the ground. The Trojans backed away, and the Greeks dragged away the corpses of Hippothous and Phorcys and stripped off their armor.

The Trojan warriors were on the verge of running back to Troy, overcome by fear, and the Greeks would have seized great kleos because of their own great merit despite the will of Zeus. But Apollo took the form of the Trojan Periphas, the son of a herald to Aeneas’ father. Disguised as a mortal, Apollo spurred Aeneas to fight fiercely: “Aeneas, no one can save himself when the gods are against him. But here and now Zeus is for you and the Trojans. Zeus wants the Trojans to triumph over the Greeks. So why are you and the other Trojans so afraid and so unwilling to fight?”

Aeneas looked at the god and recognized him, and then Aeneas shouted to the Trojans, “Hector! Trojan captains! Don’t retreat to Troy! A god just told me that Zeus wants us to fight and win. So charge the Greeks! Don’t let them take Patroclus’ corpse back to the ships! Not without a fight!”

Aeneas went to the front of the Trojan line and the Trojans turned around and faced the Greeks. Aeneas speared Leocritus all the way through his body. Leocritus’ friend Lycomedes grieved but hurled his spear and buried it in the liver of the Trojan ally Apisaon, the best of the warriors from Paeonia, except for Asteropaeus.

Asteropaeus wanted revenge, but the Greeks maintained a good defensive formation, protecting themselves with their shields, surrounding Patroclus’ corpse, and defending it with their spears.

Great Ajax gave the Greeks orders: “Protect the corpse! Nobody try to be a hero! Stay in defensive formation, and don’t jump in front of the line to try to make a kill. Stand shoulder to shoulder, and protect the corpse of Patroclus.”

Warriors on both sides inflicted mortal wounds, and blood covered the ground. But the Trojans suffered many more deaths than the Greeks, who fought in tight formation. Greek warriors defended Greek warriors.

The battle around Patroclus was difficult to see because of the haze of dust kicked up by warriors and fog sent by Zeus, but other parts of the battlefield were clear, lit well by bright sunlight on a cloudless day. Some warriors fought from a distance, shooting arrows and dodging arrows. Others fought face-to-face and suffered as warriors hacked at opposing warriors.

Fighting in the front lines on one side of the battle, the Greeks Antilochus and Thrasymedes did not know that Patroclus had died. They thought that he was still alive and fighting in the front lines although Nestor had ordered them to keep watch and note who had died and whether any Greeks were retreating.

The fighting and the dying continued all day. The work of war did not stop.

Around the corpse of Patroclus, warriors sweated. In the fight to possess Patroclus’ body, the warriors engaged in a tug of war. A tanner sometimes gives a huge bull’s hide to his laborers, and they stretch it, pulling it as hard as they can. Much like that, Greeks and Trojans grabbed Patroclus’ body and pulled. The Trojans hoped to bring the corpse to Troy. The Greeks hoped to bring the corpse to their ships and to Achilles. Ares, god of war, delighted in the struggle and the slaughter.

Achilles still did not know that the Trojans had killed Patroclus, whose death had occurred far from the ships and by the walls of Troy. Achilles believed that Patroclus was still alive and would return soon. Achilles thought, Would Patroclus try to conquer Troy without my help? No.

Achilles’ mother, the goddess Thetis, had told him many things, but she had never told him directly that Patroclus would die without him nearby to protect him and keep him alive.

The fight continued over Patroclus’ body, and a Greek shouted, “We can’t return to our ships without Patroclus’ body! We will lose kleos! It is better to die here and now than to let the Trojans take his corpse to Troy!” And a Trojan shouted, “Keep fighting even if you are fated to die beside the corpse of Patroclus!”

So they fought and kept fighting, but away from the fighting Achilles’ immortal horses wept. Achilles’ charioteer tried to get the horses to return to the ships, but they resisted. Sometimes, he whipped them. Sometimes, he tried to coax them with winning words. But they stayed and continued to mourn. Their heads hung low like the depictions of horses on a gravemarker. Achilles’ immortal horses wept, grieving for the death of Patroclus and the coming death of Achilles.

Zeus saw the immortal horses, and he pitied them. He said, “Why did we give you to a mortal: Achilles’ father, Peleus? He will die, but you horses are immortal and will never grow older or die. Did we want you to suffer? Did we want you to learn about the pain of mortals? Mortals suffer more than any other being on the earth. Almost all animals are mortal, but they do not know that they are mortal and do not think about their coming deaths. Gods are immortal and know that they will never die. Only human beings are mortal and know that they will die and think about their coming deaths. This makes mortals wretched. However, I will never allow Hector to capture you immortal horses and use you to pull his chariot. He has Achilles’ armor. That is enough. Hector can boast now, but he will die soon. But I will give you immortal horses strength so that you can save the life of Automedon and take him back to the ships. I am giving the Trojans a day of glory. They will kill and kill again until they drive the Greeks back to their ships.”

Odysseus was still wounded and unable to fight. Watching the battle from the ships, he thought, The gods are born and they grow older until they reach a certain age and then they stop aging. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades are all mature men and they will never grow older. Apollo and Hermes are young men, and they will never grow older. Human beings can grow old. Human beings are mortal, and they can die at a young age or at an old age, but they will definitely die. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Mortality makes our decisions important. We have only a very limited amount of time to live. Will we spend it wisely or foolishly? A god can waste thousands of years on trivial pursuits and still have eternity to do something important. Human beings can’t. And who is a hero? A hero is someone who risks his life to save other people. Great Ajax is a hero. He fought magnificently to keep the Trojans from setting fire to our ships. He saved himself, true, but he saved the rest of us, too. Only a mortal can be a hero. A god in a good mood may go into a burning house and save someone, but the god is risking little. The god can’t die. If the god is injured — or wounded in battle — the god will quickly heal. And saving someone will take only a little of the eternity of time that lies before the god. A mortal who tries to rescue someone from a burning building is risking everything: life. Mortality need not be a curse; mortality is what makes heroism possible.

Zeus gave Achilles’ immortal horses strength, and they galloped, taking Automedon with them. Automedon did his best to control the horses. They came close to the Trojans, but no spearman stood in the chariot, so no one could kill a Trojan.

Alcimedon shouted, “Automedon, what are you doing? These are poor battle tactics! You have no spearman! Patroclus is dead, and Hector is wearing Achilles’ armor that Patroclus wore to battle!”

Automedon replied, “Alcimedon, you are a good charioteer. You are better at controlling these horses than anyone except Achilles and Patroclus. You take over and drive this team. I’ll fight on foot.”

Alcimedon climbed aboard the chariot, and Automedon jumped to the ground. Hector saw them and said to Aeneas, “I see Achilles’ team. They have drivers who cannot control them. You and I can capture them, if you work with me. These two Greeks can’t stand up to us.”

Hector and Aeneas, and their fellow Trojans Chromius and Aretus, moved to capture the horses and to kill Automedon and Alcimedon. But Automedon was alert. He shouted, “Alcimedon, keep the horses close to me. Hector hopes to kill both of us and take the horses. He is so implacable that he will do that or die in the attempt.”

Then Automedon called for help: “Great Ajax! Little Ajax! Menelaus! Let other warriors defend Patroclus’ body. Because of you three, we Greeks are still alive. Here come Aeneas and Hector — they are Troy’s best warriors! They are better warriors than I, but the gods may bless me as I hurl my spear.”

Automedon hurled his spear and hit Aretus’ shield. The shield broke, and the spear rammed through Aretus’ shield and war-belt and stuck in his stomach. A farmhand sometimes kills a bull for butchering. He swings an ax and hits the bull behind its horns. The bull rears up and then falls. Much like that, Aretus reared up and then fell on his back. The spear quivered in his intestines.

Hector hurled his spear at Automedon, who saw it coming and dodged death. Now Hector and Automedon would have fought with swords, but Great Ajax and Little Ajax arrived in answer to Automedon’s call for help, and the Trojans backed away. Hector, Aeneas, and Chromius left the dead Aretus behind. Automedon started to strip off Aretus’ armor, shouting, “I have made the psyche of Patroclus feel a little better although this dead warrior is only half the man that Patroclus was.”

Automedon then climbed into Achilles’ chariot. His hands and feet were dripping blood just like the paws of a lion that has killed and fed on a bull.

The fight for Patroclus’ body intensified. Zeus sent Athena to the battlefield to encourage the Greeks. He wanted the Greeks to rally — briefly — on the day of Hector’s triumph. Zeus sometimes sends a lurid rainbow as an omen to warn humans of approaching war or a blizzard that will put an end to all kinds of work. Iris, whose mode of transportation is the rainbow, sometimes brings news of war and other tragedies. Now Athena came wrapped in a lurid cloud to encourage the Greeks to kill and kill again. Lurid clouds sometimes forecast bad weather.

The first Greek she encouraged was Menelaus. She assumed the form of Phoenix and said to him, “You will be ashamed if the Greeks succeed in taking the corpse of Patroclus to Troy and allow the dogs and birds to eat it, so fight fiercely and encourage your men to fight fiercely!”

Menelaus replied, “Phoenix, I pray to Athena that she will give me strength and courage to defend Patroclus’ body. Hector is fierce and never stops stabbing with his spear. He never stops killing. Zeus is giving him kleos today.”

Menelaus had prayed to Athena instead of any of the other gods — she was thrilled. She answered his prayer and gave him strength and courage. She also gave him persistence. A horsefly is persistent. It wants human blood. Each time the man brushes the horsefly away, back again it comes. It wants to feed on human blood.

Standing over the corpse of Patroclus, Menelaus hurled his spear and hit Podes, cutting his war-belt and ripping his skin and body. Podes fell. He had been a drinking buddy to Hector, and he had been courteous and wealthy.

Apollo assumed the form of the Trojan ally Phaenops, a man whom Hector valued most of his foreign allies. The disguised Apollo said, “Hector, why are you afraid of Menelaus? He has not been a great warrior before today, but now you are holding off from attacking him although he has killed your friend Podes.”

Hector felt grief and rushed to fight Menelaus, and at that moment Zeus hurled a thunderbolt from Mount Ida, and he shook his storm-shield that could cause any army to panic. Zeus was now giving the Trojans triumph and routing the Greeks.

Peneleos was the first Greek to be hurt. Polydamas speared his shoulder and hit bone.

Hector speared Leitus in the wrist. No longer could he fight the Trojans with spears. Leitus ran for the ships.

Hector rushed at Idomeneus, but Idomeneus speared him. He hit Hector’s breastplate, but his spear broke. The Trojans shouted, first in horror and then in relief. Hector hurled his spear at Idomeneus and missed him but hit Coeranus, the charioteer and aide of Meriones. Idomeneus was fighting on foot that day, but Coeranus saved Idomeneus’ life by driving the chariot up to him. Although Coeranus saved Idomeneus’ life, he lost his own life. Hector’s spear came up under Coeranus’ jaw. His teeth fell from his mouth, and his tongue was cut in two. He fell to the ground, taking the reins with him.

Meriones grabbed the reins and said to Idomeneus, “Whip the horses and drive to the ships. The Greeks will not be victorious today.” Idomeneus obeyed.

Great Ajax and Menelaus saw that the Trojans were winning. In frustration, Great Ajax said, “Anyone can see that Zeus favors the Trojans now. All Trojan weapons hit a Greek target, even when weak warriors hurl them. Our spears hit only ground. They are harmless to Trojans. What is the best thing we can now do? How can we save our own lives and still carry Patroclus’ body back to the ships? Right now, Hector is invincible. We cannot stop him. We need to get word to Achilles that Patroclus is dead. I am sure that he does not know. But I can’t see anyone we can send to Achilles. This dust and fog make it impossible to see! Zeus, at least make it so that we can see! If you are going to kill us, at least do it in the clear sunlight!”

Zeus heard and granted Great Ajax’ prayer. The dust and fog dissipated, and the sun shone. Great Ajax could see.

He said to Menelaus, “Look for Antilochus, Nestor’s son. He is a swift runner. If he is still alive, he is the one to carry the bad news to Achilles, to tell Achilles that his great friend Patroclus is dead.”

Menelaus was exhausted but obeyed. A lion grows exhausted from fighting the dogs and men who guard sheep and cattle. The lion craves meat, but the dogs and men fight him all night long. The lion charges and charges again, but the men and dogs fight him and drive him away from the sheep and cattle each time. Finally, at dawn, the lion leaves, exhausted and hungry.

Menelaus left Patroclus’ body, reluctantly. He was afraid that the Trojans would capture the corpse. He said to Great Ajax, Little Ajax, and Meriones, “Remember how gentle and kind Patroclus was when he was alive. Protect his corpse, now that he is dead.”

Menelaus then left and searched for Antilochus, looking to the left and to the right like a sharp-eyed eagle that flies high, looks for and sees a rabbit, and swoops down and tears its life away. Menelaus hoped that Antilochus was still alive. Fortunately, he quickly saw him on the left flank. Menelaus called to him, “Antilochus, today victory goes to Troy. They have killed Patroclus. Run to Achilles and tell him the horrible news: Patroclus is dead. Hector killed him. If Achilles acts quickly, he may be able to help us to bring Patroclus’ body — stripped of armor as it is — back to the ships.”

Antilochus hated the message that he had to bring to Achilles: His best friend was dead. He gave his armor to his aide Laodocus, and then he ran as fast as he could to Achilles’ camp. Antilochus wept as he ran.

Menelaus put Thrasymedes in charge of the men whom Antilochus had commanded, and then he ran to defend the corpse of Patroclus, standing alongside Great Ajax, Little Ajax, and Meriones. He told the two Ajaxes, “Antilochus is taking the news of Patroclus’ death to Achilles. But how can Achilles help us? He has no armor! He is a big, strong, powerful man, and ordinary armor will not fit him. He will be furious at Hector, but how can he fight him? Achilles is not invulnerable, although he does have a goddess for his mother. So what can we do to take Patroclus’ body back to the ships?”

Great Ajax said, “You and Meriones grab hold of the body and carry it. Little Ajax and I will protect you and fight Hector and the Trojans. We two Ajaxes are no strangers to war, no strangers to protecting others.”

Menelaus and Meriones lifted Patroclus’ body onto their shoulders. The Trojans and their allies closed in to attack. The Trojans were like dogs that attack a wounded boar before the hunters can reach it. The hounds want to rip apart the boar, but it turns back and charges the pack of hounds. They are afraid, and they scatter out of the boar’s path. The Trojans charged them, and Great Ajax and Little Ajax turned toward them, and the Trojans were afraid.

They made their way to the ships as the Trojans pursued them like a flash fire racing its way to a city, catching houses on fire as winds whip it to frenzy. Much like that, the Trojans bore down on the Greeks. Menelaus and Meriones worked like mules pulling heavy loads of timber as they worked to get Patroclus’ body to the ships.

The two Ajaxes fought off the Trojans. Great Ajax and Little Ajax were like a rocky ridge that stops the waters of a flood. The Trojans kept coming, led by Hector and Aeneas. They were like hawks or falcons pursuing crows or starlings as they pursued the Greeks, who raced for the ships.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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David Bruce: Homer’s ILIAD: A Retelling in Prose — Book 16: Patroclus Fights and Dies

Book 16: Patroclus Fights and Dies

As Greeks and Trojans fought and killed each other, Patroclus reached Achilles’ camp. Patroclus was crying, and his tears ran down his face like water runs down the face of a rock.

Achilles saw him coming, and he saw his tears. He said gently to his best friend, “Why are you crying, Patroclus? You are crying like a young girl holding on to her mother’s skirts and begging to be picked up. The young girl looks up pleadingly at her busy mother, who picks her up. Your tears remind me of the tears of a little girl like that.

“But why are you crying? Do you have a message for our warriors or for me? Do you have a message from home? The last I heard, your father and my father were still alive. If our fathers have died, then we should cry.

“Or are you crying because the Trojans are defeating the Greeks? The Greeks are dying against their ships because Agamemnon insulted me.

“Please tell me why you are crying. Don’t keep the reason a secret from me.”

Patroclus groaned and answered, “Achilles, please don’t be angry at me! The Greeks are being hit hard! Many of our champions are wounded and unable to fight! Diomedes, Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Eurypylus have all been wounded. Healers are trying to help them, but these warriors cannot fight.

“Achilles, I hope that I never grow as angry as you! You have courage and fighting ability, but you are not using them to defend the troops. Peleus must not be your father! Thetis must not be your mother! No, your parents must be the ocean and rocks.

“Are you worried about a prophecy? Are you worried about something that Thetis said that Zeus told her? So be it. But at least send me into battle wearing your armor. That way the Trojans will think that I am you, Achilles, and that will give the Greek warriors a chance to regroup. Our Myrmidons are fresh and ready to fight. The Trojans have been fighting hard and are exhausted. The Myrmidons and I can fight these Trojans and force them away from the ships!”

Patroclus did not know it, but he was pleading to go to his own death.

Achilles replied, “No, Patroclus, I am not worried about any prophecy. I am not worried about anything that my mother has said to me. But I am still angry at the way that Agamemnon treated me. I am the greatest Greek warrior, and yet he took my prize of honor — Briseis — away from me. To earn Briseis, I conquered an entire city. The Greeks awarded her to me. Agamemnon treated me like a beggar, not like an honored warrior!

“I cannot be angry forever. However, I said that I would not fight until the Trojans reached my own camp, my own ships. But I do not want all the Greeks to die. So put on my armor and fight with our Myrmidons! The Trojans are triumphant and have fought the Greek warriors back into this little strip of land where we have our camps and our ships. Why? Because I am not fighting. The Trojans do not see my distinctive armor and so they are not afraid. If they were to see my armor, they would flee.

“If Agamemnon were to come to me now with a real apology and not just a bribe, I would return to battle. Maybe he will do that later, after you have saved the Greeks and their ships.

“I hear the Trojans fighting at our camps. I do not hear the battle cries of Diomedes or hated Agamemnon. All I can hear is Hector urging his troops on to fight. All I can hear are the triumphant cries of Trojans. They are routing the Greeks.

“So fight, Patroclus, and save the Greeks. Fight the Trojans away from our camps and ships. Fight the Trojans before they set fire to all the ships.

“Listen, Patroclus, and remember. Fight hard. By doing so, you will win kleos for yourself and for me. If you fight hard and save the Greeks, I think that Agamemnon will give me a real apology, Briseis, and treasure. But after you have forced the Trojans away from the camps and ships, stop fighting. Come back to my camp. Even if Zeus and Hera are allowing you to win great kleos, do not fight the Trojans on the plain in front of Troy. Leave that for me to do later.

“Remember, Patroclus, do not take the battle back to Troy. If you were to fight on the plain, Apollo, who respects the Trojans, may decide to fight you.

“Again, Patroclus, listen and remember: Once you have forced the Trojans away from the Greek camps and ships, return to my camp. Don’t continue to fight. Let the other warriors die on the plain.

“I wish that the Trojan warriors and the Greek warriors could all die fighting, and then you and I could conquer Troy all by ourselves!”

Great Ajax was still fighting magnificently, but he was exhausted. The Trojans were forcing him back. His left arm ached from holding up his shield. Trojan weapons kept hitting his helmet and shield. He breathed hard, gasping for breath, and sweat streamed down his body. Everywhere he looked, he saw enemy warriors.

Muses, sing to me how fire came to the Greek ships!

Hector battled Great Ajax and cut off the head of his spear. Suddenly, Great Ajax was holding a useless stick, not a deadly weapon. Great Ajax knew that Zeus was now on the side of the Trojans and was bringing them victory.

Great Ajax was forced to retreat — without a spear, he had no other choice.

The Trojans flung fire on a ship, and smoke filled the air.

Achilles saw the smoke. He slapped his thighs hard and ordered Patroclus, “Get ready for battle. At least one ship is on fire. The Trojans must not burn all the ships. The Greeks will have no way to escape the enemy. Put on my armor, and I will encourage the Myrmidons to fight well.”

Patroclus put on the armor of Achilles: greaves to protect his legs, breastplate, sword, shield, and helmet. He took two spears, but neither belonged to Achilles. Achilles’ spear was so big and heavy that only Achilles could use it well in battle. The Centaur Chiron had given it to Peleus, Achilles’ father. Its purpose was to kill warriors.

Patroclus ordered Automedon, the charioteer of Achilles, to yoke Achilles’ horses to the chariot. Automedon yoked Roan Beauty and Dapple to the chariot. Bold Dancer served as the trace horse. Achilles won the purebred Bold Dancer when he conquered King Eetion’s city.

Achilles gathered the Myrmidons together. They were armed and ready for battle. They were as hungry to fight and kill Trojans as wolves are hungry to hunt in a pack and rip apart their prey and eat the raw meat as their jaws drip with blood.

Achilles had brought fifty ships to Troy. Each ship carried fifty warriors. Five commanders led his troops into battle.

Menesthius led the first battalion. He was the son of the god of the river Spercheus — the river-god had slept with the mortal Polydora. But people called Menesthius the son of a mortal man, Boris, who had given Polydora many gifts and had married her.

Eudorus led the second battalion. Like Menesthius, he was born to an unmarried mother and he had an immortal father. Hermes lusted for Polymela after seeing her dancing and singing to the immortal Artemis, goddess of the hunt. Hermes climbed up to her bedchamber one night and slept with her, and she gave birth to Eudorus, a good leader and warrior. As soon as Eudorus was born, the mortal Echecles led Polymela to his home and married her.

Pisander led the third battalion. He fought well with spears — better than any Myrmidon except Patroclus and Achilles.

Phoenix, Achilles’ old friend and father figure, led the fourth battalion.

Alcimedon led the fifth and final battalion.

After all the battalions were assembled and ready to fight, Achilles commanded them, “Myrmidons, remember the threats you made against the Trojans while I was angry and kept you out of battle! You blamed me. You complained, ‘Achilles is merciless. He forces his warriors not to fight. We might as well go home in our ships since Achilles feels such anger!’ You warriors denounced my anger and me! You have no need to complain now. You are going back into battle. Fight the Trojans away from the Greek camps and ships!”

The Myrmidon warriors moved closer together in tight fighting formation. They were as close as the stones in a well-built wall built for a house that can resist strong winds. And now Patroclus and Automedon came and stood in front of them, eager to fight in the vanguard — in the front lines!

Achilles went to his shelter and opened a chest that contained war-shirts and cloaks and rugs. It also contained his drinking cup — the one that he used to pour libations of wine to Zeus, the king of gods and men. He purified his drinking cup with sulphur and then rinsed it with water. He washed his hands and poured wine into his drinking cup.

Achilles poured out the wine as a sacrifice to Zeus and prayed, “You heard my earlier prayer and answered it. You made the Trojans triumphant. Once more, please listen to my prayer and answer it. I will not fight now, but I am sending my best friend, Patroclus, into battle with my Myrmidons. Give him so much courage and fighting ability that Hector will know that Patroclus is a mighty warrior in his own right and does not need me by his side to protect him. Give him kleos. Allow him to fight the Trojans away from the Greek camps and ships. But once he has done that, allow him to come back to my camp safely with my armor and with the Myrmidons!”

Zeus heard Achilles’ prayers, but he would grant only one of the two requests. Yes, Patroclus would drive the Trojans away from the Greek camps and ships. No, Patroclus would not safely return to Achilles’ camp.

Achilles stored the cup in his chest and then returned to watch Patroclus and the Myrmidons go into battle.

Patroclus and the Myrmidons swarmed into battle like wasps that have been angered by idiot boys who make travel on a road dangerous by torturing wasps and making them all too eager to fight for their home and for their young.

Patroclus shouted to the Myrmidons, “Be warriors and fight! Win kleos for Achilles. Achilles is the greatest Greek warrior, and we are the greatest Greek troops. We must fight well so that Agamemnon realizes how much he needs Achilles and us!”

The Trojans saw Achilles’ distinctive armor and his charioteer, and they thought that Achilles had returned to battle. They thought that Achilles had put aside his anger and was now fighting for the Greeks. The Trojans looked around — what would be a good escape route?

Patroclus made the first kill. He hurled his spear at the Trojans and their allies around the burning ship and hit the shoulder of Pyraechmes, the leader of the Paeonians. Pyraechmes fell, and his Paeonians panicked. Patroclus drove them away from the burning ship. The Greeks battered back the Trojans.

The Greeks were rallying. Zeus sometimes moves a storm cloud away from the top of a mountain, and suddenly the mountain peaks can be seen in the bright air. Much like that, the Greek warriors suddenly could be seen as they battered back the Trojans.

But the Trojans were not being routed. They had been forced away from the ships, but they stood and held their ground. The fierce fighting continued.

Patroclus saw Areilycus moving, and he speared him in the hip. The spear broke bone and came out through his body. Areilycus fell on his face.

Menelaus speared Thoas in the chest over his shield.

The Trojan Amphiclus tried to kill Meges, but Meges speared him at the top of his thickly muscled thigh. The spear tore through the muscles, and Amphiclus died.

Now the sons of Nestor gained glory! Two brothers killed two brothers!

Antilochus speared the Trojan Atymnius in the side and through his body. Atymnius fell at the feet of Antilochus.

Enraged at the death of Atymnius, his brother, the Trojan Maris charged forward and stood over his brother’s corpse. Maris wanted to kill Antilochus, but Thrasymedes, Antilochus’ brother, stabbed Maris in the shoulder. His spear cut through the tendons and the socket and tore off Maris’ entire arm. Atymnius and Maris were the sons of Amisodarus, who had bred the Chimaera, which was a lion in the front, a snake in the rear, and a goat in between. The Chimaera had killed many men, and now Antilochus and Thrasymedes had killed the sons of the man who had bred the Chimaera.

Little Ajax ran at Cleobulus and could have taken him alive but instead plunged his sword in Cleobulus’ neck and through his neckbone.

The Greek Peneleos and the Trojan Lycon hurled spears at each other and missed, and so now they fought with swords. Lycon chopped off the horsehair crest of Peneleos’ helmet, but Peneleos’ sword entered Lycon’s neck through the ear. Lycon’s head drooped as he fell, but some skin still connected his head to his body.

Meriones ran at the Trojan Acamas as he mounted his chariot. Meriones stabbed him through the right shoulder.

Idomeneus speared Erymas in his mouth. His skull split, his teeth shattered, and blood gushed from his nose and mouth as he died.

Wolves will harry a flock and kill sheep and lambs when a careless shepherd gives them the opportunity. Much like that, the Greek warriors killed Trojans, who were losing their lust for battle.

Great Ajax, newly rearmed with a spear, wanted to kill Hector, but Hector was an experienced warrior who was always alert for spears and arrows. Hector knew that the Greeks had the momentum, but he defended his warriors.

But the Greeks could not be stopped. Their battle cries filled the air. The Greeks were like a storm cloud that Zeus uses to bring cyclones. The Trojans retreated past the Greek wall and into the trench. Hector’s horses carried him away as the Trojans struggled in the trench. In the confusion, chariots crashed.

Patroclus charged the Trojans and shouted, “Kill them all!”

The Trojan line broke, dust rose in the air, and the Trojans retreated. Horses galloped away from the Greek camps and ships. Trojans fell from and were run over by their own chariots.

Patroclus charged wherever he saw the greatest number of Trojan warriors. The immortal horses of Achilles kept him safe, and Patroclus sought Hector, but Hector’s horses kept him away from Patroclus.

Zeus can grow angry at evil men who lie in assemblies. He sends rains to flood and wash away the land that men have plowed. The floodwaters scream as they rush down to the sea. Much like that, the Trojan horses screamed.

Patroclus drove to the front of the Trojans running to Troy and then he turned, wanting to stop them from reaching Troy. He wanted to slaughter them on the plain between the ships and the city. He killed and killed again, avenging the many Greeks whom the Trojans had killed in the battle at the ships.

The shield of the Trojan Pronous did not protect part of his chest — Patroclus speared him there.

The Trojan Thestor was crouching, terrified in his chariot. He dropped the reins. Patroclus speared him in the right jawbone between his teeth. The spearhead stopped in Thestor’s head, and Patroclus lifted him out of the chariot just like a fisherman lifts a fish out of the sea. Patroclus dropped Thoas’ body facedown on the battlefield.

Patroclus killed, and he killed quickly. He made corpses out of Amphoterus, Erymas, Epaltes, Tlepolemus, Echius, Pyris, Ipheus, Euippus, and Polymeus. The corpses lay on the earth that nourishes us all.

Sarpedon saw Patroclus killing so many warriors. He shouted to his Lycian warriors, “Where is your joy of war? Why are you running away? Attack! I will fight this warrior myself. We have seen him clearly enough that we know he is not Achilles although he is wearing Achilles’ armor. I will find out who this warrior is — he is routing our troops!”

Sarpedon and Patroclus jumped from their chariots and charged each other and shouted war cries. They were like two vultures that swoop and attack each other.

Zeus watched from Mount Olympus and pitied his son, Sarpedon, whose fate had arrived. Zeus said to Hera, his wife, “Sarpedon is the mortal son I love the most. He is fated now to die at the hands of Patroclus. I don’t know what to do. Should I pick him up and put him — alive — in his home country of Lycia? Or should I allow Patroclus to kill him, as is fated?”

Hera protested, “Sarpedon is a mortal man, and his fate was set when he was born. He is fated to die here — now. Do you wish to keep a mortal man from dying? If you save Sarpedon, the other gods and goddesses will want to save their sons. Many warriors battling in front of Troy have an immortal god or goddess for a parent. Do you think the result will be good?

“I have a better idea. Allow Sarpedon to die as fated. Allow Patroclus to kill your son. After Sarpedon has died, send the immortals Death and Sleep to pick his corpse up and carry it to Lycia, where he can be properly buried so his psyche can enter the Land of the Dead. That is an honor that the dead deserve.”

Zeus agreed to do as Hera wished, but he cried tears — not of water, but of blood — that wet the ground.

Patroclus and Sarpedon came close to each other, and Patroclus hurled his spear. He missed Sarpedon, but he killed Thrasymedes, Sarpedon’s charioteer. His spear spilled Thrasymedes’ intestines.

Sarpedon hurled his spear, missing Patroclus but hitting Bold Dancer, Achilles’ mortal trace horse, in the shoulder. The horse fell, screaming, and died. Achilles’ two immortal horses reared. Automedon quickly drew his sword and cut the dead horse free, and then he was able to control the chariot and two immortal horses again.

Sarpedon hurled his second spear, but it harmlessly passed over Patroclus’ left shoulder.

Patroclus then hurled his second spear and struck Sarpedon between the midriff and the heart. Sarpedon fell the way that an oak or an elm falls that shipwrights have cut for lumber. Sarpedon fell in front of his chariot and horses. He clawed the ground and bellowed like a bull that a lion is killing. As Sarpedon died, he shouted, “Glaucus, be a leader and a warrior. Find the Lycians and protect my body. Get possession of it so that I may receive a proper funeral and my psyche can enter the Land of the Dead. Don’t let the Greeks strip my armor. You will be ashamed whenever you remember that. Fight to get my corpse!”

Patroclus put one of his feet on Sarpedon’s corpse and pulled out his spear. As he pulled out his spear, he pulled out Sarpedon’s inner organs. Sarpedon’s last breath and his inner organs exited his body together. The Myrmidons held on to Sarpedon’s horses that were now straining to run away.

Glaucus had heard Sarpedon’s last request, but Glaucus was wounded — Teucer had shot Glaucus’ right arm with an arrow when Glaucus was fighting at the Greek wall.

Glaucus prayed, “Hear me, Apollo. Wherever you are, you can hear a prayer to you, especially one that comes from a man who is in pain. My right arm has an ugly wound. My entire arm throbs with pain. The blood keeps running, and I can’t use my shoulder or arm. I can’t pick up and use a spear. I can’t even hold a spear steady. I can’t fight, and the Lycians’ best warrior — Sarpedon — is dead. Sarpedon was Zeus’ son, and Zeus did not keep him alive!

“Help me, Apollo. Heal my wound. Stop the pain. Make me able to fight again. I want to rally the Lycians and get possession of the corpse of Sarpedon.”

Apollo heard and answered Glaucus’ prayer. The pain stopped. The blood clotted. Glaucus could use his arm and shoulder. He was ready to go to battle. He was grateful that Apollo had quickly answered his prayer.

Glaucus gathered the Lycians together, and then he ran for the Trojan lines and Hector. He found Polydamas, Agenor, Aeneas, and Hector, and he said, “Hector, have you forgotten your allies? We have come to Troy to fight for you far from our homes. We bleed and die here. But we need you to fight, too. Sarpedon is dead. I was close enough to recognize the warrior who killed him. He was Patroclus, who is wearing Achilles’ armor. Fight to get Sarpedon’s corpse! Don’t let the Greeks strip his armor! Don’t let the Greeks mutilate his corpse! The Myrmidons would gladly do that to get revenge for all the Greek warriors we killed as we attacked their ships!”

The Trojans grieved for Sarpedon, who had been a formidable warrior for their city. Hector drove them at the Greeks, and Patroclus rallied his troops. He yelled, “Great Ajax! Little Ajax! Fight! Sarpedon is dead — he was the first to tear down part of our defensive wall. Let’s get his corpse and tear off his armor! And let’s kill anyone who tries to stop us!”

Trojans and Greeks now fought around the body of Sarpedon. They shouted cries of war, and Zeus spread darkness around the corpse of his son Sarpedon to make the fighting more difficult.

The Trojans killed the first warrior in the battle over Sarpedon’s body. The Myrmidon Epigeus had ruled a city, but he killed a kinsman and fled for his life. He went to Peleus and Thetis and begged for help. They sent him to the Trojan War with Achilles. As Epigeus grabbed Sarpedon’s body, Hector hit him with a rock and split his skull in his helmet.

Grieving for Epigeus, Patroclus drove straight at the enemy army like a hawk diving at crows and starlings. Patroclus threw a rock and hit Sthenelaus in the neck, snapping the tendons that hold the head up.

Hector and the Trojans retreated a short distance — the distance of a spear toss in a game of strength or in battle. Glaucus was the first to turn back to fight the Greeks. Bathycles was about to catch up to Glaucus when Glaucus suddenly turned and speared him in the chest. A brave Greek died. Bad news for the Greeks. Good news for the Trojans.

Trojans and Greeks swarmed over Sarpedon’s body.

Meriones speared Laogonus under his jaw and ear. Laogonus’ psyche left his corpse.

Aeneas hurled his spear at Meriones, but Meriones saw the spear and ducked. Aeneas’ spear stuck in the ground and quivered. Aeneas shouted, “Meriones, you should be dead! I barely missed you!”

Meriones replied, “Aeneas, you are a good warrior, but you can’t kill everyone you would like to kill. Like me, you are mortal. If I were to spear you in the intestines, I would win kleos and you would earn a trip to the Land of the Dead.”

Patroclus said to Meriones, “Why waste time with threats? They won’t force the Trojans away from Sarpedon’s body. The only thing that will do that is a fight with many deaths. Don’t talk! Fight!”

The sound of weapons hitting shields and bodies was as loud as the sound of men cutting trees on a mountain. The woodsmen’s axes can be heard far away, and so could the warriors’ swords and spears.

Fallen weapons, blood, and dust hid Sarpedon’s body. Not even a scout with sharp eyes could see him clearly. But the warriors kept fighting over the corpse — they were like flies buzzing over a milk-filled bucket.

Zeus kept watching the battle over the corpse of his son. He was thinking of the best way for Patroclus to meet his fate. He would die, yes, but how? Should he die in the battle over the corpse of Sarpedon? Should Hector kill Patroclus now and strip Achilles’ armor off Patroclus’ body? Or should Patroclus kill and kill again and earn more kleos?

Zeus decided to allow Patroclus to earn more kleos. Patroclus would drive Hector and the other Trojans back to Troy. Zeus created fear in Hector, and Hector jumped in his chariot and shouted, “Trojans, retreat!” Hector knew that Zeus was now favoring Patroclus and the Greeks.

With Zeus’ aid, the Greeks routed the Trojans and the Lycians. Sarpedon, the Lycians’ leader, was dead, and they were now afraid. Now the Greeks stripped the armor off Sarpedon’s body. Patroclus gave it to aides to take to the ships.

Zeus ordered Apollo, “Get the corpse of my son, Sarpedon, and wipe the blood off him. Take him away from the battle. Bathe his corpse in a river, anoint him with oil, and dress him in fine robes. Then give Sarpedon’s body to the immortals Sleep and Death to take home to Lycia. There his corpse will receive a proper funeral. This is an honor that the living owe the dead.”

Apollo obeyed. He went to the battlefield and picked up Sarpedon’s body. He wiped off the blood, bathed Sarpedon in a river, and dressed him in fine clothing. He then handed over the corpse to the immortals Sleep and Death, who took the corpse to Lycia.

Patroclus kept fighting. He ignored Achilles’ order to return to the camp after he had forced the Trojans away from the ships. Zeus put the urge to fight in Patroclus.

Patroclus killed and killed again and won great kleos. He killed Adrestus, Autonous, Echeclus, Perimus, Epistor, Melanippus, Elasus, Mulius, and Pylartes. The other Trojans fled.

Patroclus and the Greeks might have conquered Troy, but Apollo himself stood on the city’s ramparts and fought off their attack. Three times Patroclus hurled himself against the city ramparts, and three times Apollo forced him back. The fourth time Patroclus began to hurl himself at Troy, Apollo shouted, “Patroclus, stop! Troy is not fated to fall before you! And it is not fated to fall before Achilles!”

Patroclus then backed away, respecting the god.

Hector thought about what he should do. Should he continue to fight? Should he call his army to go back inside the walls of Troy? Apollo assumed the form of the mortal Asius and said, “Hector, keep fighting out here! You are a mighty warrior. Challenge Patroclus. Apollo may help you to kill him!”

Hector ordered his charioteer, “Cebriones, let’s go where the fighting is fiercest!”

Hector sought Patroclus, the most devastating Greek warrior now on the battlefield. Patroclus saw Hector, got off his chariot, and seized and hurled a rock. He threw it hard, and he hit Hector’s charioteer. The rock hit Cebriones in between his eyes and crushed his skull. Cebriones’ eyes hit the ground before the rest of his body did.

Patroclus taunted the corpse, “This man has great ability as a tumbler! He knows how to dive! He would do well at diving for oysters in the sea!”

Patroclus ran to the corpse of Cebriones as Hector leapt from his chariot and rushed toward Patroclus. The two warriors fought over the corpse the way that lions fight over a freshly killed stag. Hector grabbed the corpse’s head, and Patroclus grabbed one of the corpse’s feet. They fought to gain possession of the corpse.

The East and South winds sometimes roar in a wooded mountain valley, and the branches of trees thrash against each other. Trees fall with a crash. Greeks and Trojans crashed against each other. Each side fought to defeat the other side; no warrior thought of fleeing. Around the corpse of Cebriones, arrows, spears, and rocks flew. Weapons struck shields. Cebriones lay dead; he was no longer a master horseman.

The fighting continued until and past noon, and then the Greeks mounted a fiercer offensive. They dragged the corpse of Cebriones away from the Trojans and stripped its armor.

Patroclus charged the Trojans three times, and each time he charged he killed nine warriors.

But the fourth time Patroclus charged, he met his fate.

Apollo came up behind Patroclus and hit him with the force of a god. Patroclus was stunned. Apollo knocked off Patroclus’ helmet, broke his spear, knocked his shield to the ground, and ripped off his breastplate. Patroclus was vulnerable and exposed to the enemy warriors.

A young warrior named Euphorbus speared Patroclus in the back in between the shoulder blades. Although Euphorbus was young, he was a good warrior. This was his first battle in which chariots were used, and he had killed twenty charioteers.

Euphorbus wounded Patroclus, but he did not kill him. He pulled his spear out of Patroclus’ body and ran back to the Trojan troops. Euphorbus would not finish off Patroclus, vulnerable as he was.

Hector saw the wounded Patroclus trying to stagger back to the Greek troops. Hector rushed forward and speared him in the intestines and the spear went through his body and out his back. Patroclus fell. A lion and a boar sometimes fight. The boar is fierce, but the lion kills him as the boar struggles to breathe. So Hector killed Patroclus.

Hector said, “Patroclus, you thought that you could conquer Troy. You thought that you could make slaves of the Trojan women and drag them to your ships and take them to Greece. Fool! The Trojans and I are fighting so that the Trojan women can continue to be free. I fight for them, but as for you, I will allow the vultures to eat your corpse!

“Achilles must have given you this order: ‘Don’t return to my camp until after you have killed Hector.’ You tried to obey the order, but you failed.”

Struggling to breathe, Patroclus replied, “Victory is yours — today. You have defeated me, but Zeus and Apollo are the ones who killed me. Without the help of the gods, you and nineteen other Hectors would have all died at the end of my spear. Apollo and my fate killed me. The mortal Euphorbus helped. You are only the third of those who killed me, and you simply finished me off after I was already disarmed and wounded. I am a dying man, and I have the gift of prophecy. You do not have much longer to live. Death and your fate are swiftly coming for you. I see that you will die at the end of the spear of a great warrior — Achilles!”

Patroclus died, and his psyche, mourning the loss of life, went to the Land of the Dead.

Hector said, “Who can tell what the future will bring? Why are you trying to prophesy? Achilles may very well go down to the Land of the Dead before I do. Achilles may die at the end of my spear!”

Hector put his foot on Patroclus’ chest and pulled out his spear. He then ran after the charioteer Automedon and tried to kill him, but Achilles’ immortal horses kept Automedon out of danger and away from death.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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