Treasure Island

Homer

(Disputed - c 850 B.C.E. / Disputed)

The Iliad: Book 12


So the son of Menoetius was attending to the hurt of Eurypylus
within the tent, but the Argives and Trojans still fought desperately,
nor were the trench and the high wall above it, to keep the Trojans in
check longer. They had built it to protect their ships, and had dug
the trench all round it that it might safeguard both the ships and the
rich spoils which they had taken, but they had not offered hecatombs
to the gods. It had been built without the consent of the immortals,
and therefore it did not last. So long as Hector lived and Achilles
nursed his anger, and so long as the city of Priam remained untaken,
the great wall of the Achaeans stood firm; but when the bravest of the
Trojans were no more, and many also of the Argives, though some were
yet left alive when, moreover, the city was sacked in the tenth
year, and the Argives had gone back with their ships to their own
country- then Neptune and Apollo took counsel to destroy the wall, and
they turned on to it the streams of all the rivers from Mount Ida into
the sea, Rhesus, Heptaporus, Caresus, Rhodius, Grenicus, Aesopus,
and goodly Scamander, with Simois, where many a shield and helm had
fallen, and many a hero of the race of demigods had bitten the dust.
Phoebus Apollo turned the mouths of all these rivers together and made
them flow for nine days against the wall, while Jove rained the
whole time that he might wash it sooner into the sea. Neptune himself,
trident in hand, surveyed the work and threw into the sea all the
foundations of beams and stones which the Achaeans had laid with so
much toil; he made all level by the mighty stream of the Hellespont,
and then when he had swept the wall away he spread a great beach of
sand over the place where it had been. This done he turned the
rivers back into their old courses.
This was what Neptune and Apollo were to do in after time; but as
yet battle and turmoil were still raging round the wall till its
timbers rang under the blows that rained upon them. The Argives, cowed
by the scourge of Jove, were hemmed in at their ships in fear of
Hector the mighty minister of Rout, who as heretofore fought with
the force and fury of a whirlwind. As a lion or wild boar turns
fiercely on the dogs and men that attack him, while these form solid
wall and shower their javelins as they face him- his courage is all
undaunted, but his high spirit will be the death of him; many a time
does he charge at his pursuers to scatter them, and they fall back
as often as he does so- even so did Hector go about among the host
exhorting his men, and cheering them on to cross the trench.
But the horses dared not do so, and stood neighing upon its brink,
for the width frightened them. They could neither jump it nor cross
it, for it had overhanging banks all round upon either side, above
which there were the sharp stakes that the sons of the Achaeans had
planted so close and strong as a defence against all who would
assail it; a horse, therefore, could not get into it and draw his
chariot after him, but those who were on foot kept trying their very
utmost. Then Polydamas went up to Hector and said, "Hector, and you
other captains of the Trojans and allies, it is madness for us to
try and drive our horses across the trench; it will be very hard to
cross, for it is full of sharp stakes, and beyond these there is the
wall. Our horses therefore cannot get down into it, and would be of no
use if they did; moreover it is a narrow place and we should come to
harm. If, indeed, great Jove is minded to help the Trojans, and in his
anger will utterly destroy the Achaeans, I would myself gladly see
them perish now and here far from Argos; but if they should rally
and we are driven back from the ships pell-mell into the trench
there will be not so much as a man get back to the city to tell the
tale. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let our squires hold our
horses by the trench, but let us follow Hector in a body on foot, clad
in full armour, and if the day of their doom is at hand the Achaeans
will not be able to withstand us."
Thus spoke Polydamas and his saying pleased Hector, who sprang in
full armour to the ground, and all the other Trojans, when they saw
him do so, also left their chariots. Each man then gave his horses
over to his charioteer in charge to hold them ready for him at the
trench. Then they formed themselves into companies, made themselves
ready, and in five bodies followed their leaders. Those that went with
Hector and Polydamas were the bravest and most in number, and the most
determined to break through the wall and fight at the ships. Cebriones
was also joined with them as third in command, for Hector had left his
chariot in charge of a less valiant soldier. The next company was
led by Paris, Alcathous, and Agenor; the third by Helenus and
Deiphobus, two sons of Priam, and with them was the hero Asius-
Asius the son of Hyrtacus, whose great black horses of the breed
that comes from the river Selleis had brought him from Arisbe.
Aeneas the valiant son of Anchises led the fourth; he and the two sons
of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, men well versed in all the arts of
war. Sarpedon was captain over the allies, and took with him Glaucus
and Asteropaeus whom he deemed most valiant after himself- for he
was far the best man of them all. These helped to array one another in
their ox-hide shields, and then charged straight at the Danaans, for
they felt sure that they would not hold out longer and that they
should themselves now fall upon the ships.
The rest of the Trojans and their allies now followed the counsel of
Polydamas but Asius son of Hyrtacus would not leave his horses and his
esquire behind him; in his foolhardiness he took them on with him
towards the ships, nor did he fail to come by his end in
consequence. Nevermore was he to return to wind-beaten Ilius, exulting
in his chariot and his horses; ere he could do so, death of ill-omened
name had overshadowed him and he had fallen by the spear of
Idomeneus the noble son of Deucalion. He had driven towards the left
wing of the ships, by which way the Achaeans used to return with their
chariots and horses from the plain. Hither he drove and found the
gates with their doors opened wide, and the great bar down- for the
gatemen kept them open so as to let those of their comrades enter
who might be flying towards the ships. Hither of set purpose did he
direct his horses, and his men followed him with a loud cry, for
they felt sure that the Achaeans would not hold out longer, and that
they should now fall upon the ships. Little did they know that at
the gates they should find two of the bravest chieftains, proud sons
of the fighting Lapithae- the one, Polypoetes, mighty son of
Pirithous, and the other Leonteus, peer of murderous Mars. These stood
before the gates like two high oak trees upon the mountains, that
tower from their wide-spreading roots, and year after year battle with
wind and rain- even so did these two men await the onset of great
Asius confidently and without flinching. The Trojans led by him and by
Iamenus, Orestes, Adamas the son of Asius, Thoon and Oenomaus,
raised a loud cry of battle and made straight for the wall, holding
their shields of dry ox-hide above their heads; for a while the two
defenders remained inside and cheered the Achaeans on to stand firm in
the defence of their ships; when, however, they saw that the Trojans
were attacking the wall, while the Danaans were crying out for help
and being routed, they rushed outside and fought in front of the gates
like two wild boars upon the mountains that abide the attack of men
and dogs, and charging on either side break down the wood all round
them tearing it up by the roots, and one can hear the clattering of
their tusks, till some one hits them and makes an end of them- even so
did the gleaming bronze rattle about their breasts, as the weapons
fell upon them; for they fought with great fury, trusting to their own
prowess and to those who were on the wall above them. These threw
great stones at their assailants in defence of themselves their
tents and their ships. The stones fell thick as the flakes of snow
which some fierce blast drives from the dark clouds and showers down
in sheets upon the earth- even so fell the weapons from the hands
alike of Trojans and Achaeans. Helmet and shield rang out as the great
stones rained upon them, and Asius the son of Hyrtacus in his dismay
cried aloud and smote his two thighs. "Father Jove," he cried, "of a
truth you too are altogether given to lying. I made sure the Argive
heroes could not withstand us, whereas like slim-waisted wasps, or
bees that have their nests in the rocks by the wayside- they leave not
the holes wherein they have built undefended, but fight for their
little ones against all who would take them- even so these men, though
they be but two, will not be driven from the gates, but stand firm
either to slay or be slain."
He spoke, but moved not the mind of Jove, whose counsel it then
was to give glory to Hector. Meanwhile the rest of the Trojans were
fighting about the other gates; I, however, am no god to be able to
tell about all these things, for the battle raged everywhere about the
stone wall as it were a fiery furnace. The Argives, discomfited though
they were, were forced to defend their ships, and all the gods who
were defending the Achaeans were vexed in spirit; but the Lapithae
kept on fighting with might and main.
Thereon Polypoetes, mighty son of Pirithous, hit Damasus with a
spear upon his cheek-pierced helmet. The helmet did not protect him,
for the point of the spear went through it, and broke the bone, so
that the brain inside was scattered about, and he died fighting. He
then slew Pylon and Ormenus. Leonteus, of the race of Mars, killed
Hippomachus the son of Antimachus by striking him with his spear
upon the girdle. He then drew his sword and sprang first upon
Antiphates whom he killed in combat, and who fell face upwards on
the earth. After him he killed Menon, Iamenus, and Orestes, and laid
them low one after the other.
While they were busy stripping the armour from these heroes, the
youths who were led on by Polydamas and Hector (and these were the
greater part and the most valiant of those that were trying to break
through the wall and fire the ships) were still standing by the
trench, uncertain what they should do; for they had seen a sign from
heaven when they had essayed to cross it- a soaring eagle that flew
skirting the left wing of their host, with a monstrous blood-red snake
in its talons still alive and struggling to escape. The snake was
still bent on revenge, wriggling and twisting itself backwards till it
struck the bird that held it, on the neck and breast; whereon the bird
being in pain, let it fall, dropping it into the middle of the host,
and then flew down the wind with a sharp cry. The Trojans were
struck with terror when they saw the snake, portent of aegis-bearing
Jove, writhing in the midst of them, and Polydamas went up to Hector
and said, "Hector, at our councils of war you are ever given to rebuke
me, even when I speak wisely, as though it were not well, forsooth,
that one of the people should cross your will either in the field or
at the council board; you would have them support you always:
nevertheless I will say what I think will be best; let us not now go
on to fight the Danaans at their ships, for I know what will happen if
this soaring eagle which skirted the left wing of our with a monstrous
blood-red snake in its talons (the snake being still alive) was really
sent as an omen to the Trojans on their essaying to cross the
trench. The eagle let go her hold; she did not succeed in taking it
home to her little ones, and so will it be- with ourselves; even
though by a mighty effort we break through the gates and wall of the
Achaeans, and they give way before us, still we shall not return in
good order by the way we came, but shall leave many a man behind us
whom the Achaeans will do to death in defence of their ships. Thus
would any seer who was expert in these matters, and was trusted by the
people, read the portent."
Hector looked fiercely at him and said, "Polydamas, I like not of
your reading. You can find a better saying than this if you will.
If, however, you have spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven
robbed you of your reason. You would have me pay no heed to the
counsels of Jove, nor to the promises he made me- and he bowed his
head in confirmation; you bid me be ruled rather by the flight of
wild-fowl. What care I whether they fly towards dawn or dark, and
whether they be on my right hand or on my left? Let us put our trust
rather in the counsel of great Jove, king of mortals and immortals.
There is one omen, and one only- that a man should fight for his
country. Why are you so fearful? Though we be all of us slain at the
ships of the Argives you are not likely to be killed yourself, for you
are not steadfast nor courageous. If you will. not fight, or would
talk others over from doing so, you shall fall forthwith before my
spear."
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after
with a cry that rent the air. Then Jove the lord of thunder sent the
blast of a mighty wind from the mountains of Ida, that bore the dust
down towards the ships; he thus lulled the Achaeans into security, and
gave victory to Hector and to the Trojans, who, trusting to their
own might and to the signs he had shown them, essayed to break through
the great wall of the Achaeans. They tore down the breastworks from
the walls, and overthrew the battlements; they upheaved the
buttresses, which the Achaeans had set in front of the wall in order
to support it; when they had pulled these down they made sure of
breaking through the wall, but the Danaans still showed no sign of
giving ground; they still fenced the battlements with their shields of
ox-hide, and hurled their missiles down upon the foe as soon as any
came below the wall.
The two Ajaxes went about everywhere on the walls cheering on the
Achaeans, giving fair words to some while they spoke sharply to any
one whom they saw to be remiss. "My friends," they cried, "Argives one
and all- good bad and indifferent, for there was never fight yet, in
which all were of equal prowess- there is now work enough, as you very
well know, for all of you. See that you none of you turn in flight
towards the ships, daunted by the shouting of the foe, but press
forward and keep one another in heart, if it may so be that Olympian
Jove the lord of lightning will vouchsafe us to repel our foes, and
drive them back towards the city."
Thus did the two go about shouting and cheering the Achaeans on.
As the flakes that fall thick upon a winter's day, when Jove is minded
to snow and to display these his arrows to mankind- he lulls the
wind to rest, and snows hour after hour till he has buried the tops of
the high mountains, the headlands that jut into the sea, the grassy
plains, and the tilled fields of men; the snow lies deep upon the
forelands, and havens of the grey sea, but the waves as they come
rolling in stay it that it can come no further, though all else is
wrapped as with a mantle so heavy are the heavens with snow- even thus
thickly did the stones fall on one side and on the other, some
thrown at the Trojans, and some by the Trojans at the Achaeans; and
the whole wall was in an uproar.
Still the Trojans and brave Hector would not yet have broken down
the gates and the great bar, had not Jove turned his son Sarpedon
against the Argives as a lion against a herd of horned cattle.
Before him he held his shield of hammered bronze, that the smith had
beaten so fair and round, and had lined with ox hides which he had
made fast with rivets of gold all round the shield; this he held in
front of him, and brandishing his two spears came on like some lion of
the wilderness, who has been long famished for want of meat and will
dare break even into a well-fenced homestead to try and get at the
sheep. He may find the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks
with dogs and spears, but he is in no mind to be driven from the
fold till he has had a try for it; he will either spring on a sheep
and carry it off, or be hit by a spear from strong hand- even so was
Sarpedon fain to attack the wall and break down its battlements.
Then he said to Glaucus son of Hippolochus, "Glaucus, why in Lycia
do we receive especial honour as regards our place at table? Why are
the choicest portions served us and our cups kept brimming, and why do
men look up to us as though we were gods? Moreover we hold a large
estate by the banks of the river Xanthus, fair with orchard lawns
and wheat-growing land; it becomes us, therefore, to take our stand at
the head of all the Lycians and bear the brunt of the fight, that
one may say to another, Our princes in Lycia eat the fat of the land
and drink best of wine, but they are fine fellows; they fight well and
are ever at the front in battle.' My good friend, if, when we were
once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death
thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself
nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over
our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and
either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another."
Glaucus heeded his saying, and the pair forthwith led on the host of
Lycians. Menestheus son of Peteos was dismayed when he saw them, for
it was against his part of the wall that they came- bringing
destruction with them; he looked along the wall for some chieftain
to support his comrades and saw the two Ajaxes, men ever eager for the
fray, and Teucer, who had just come from his tent, standing near them;
but he could not make his voice heard by shouting to them, so great an
uproar was there from crashing shields and helmets and the battering
of gates with a din which reached the skies. For all the gates had
been closed, and the Trojans were hammering at them to try and break
their way through them. Menestheus, therefore, sent Thootes with a
message to Ajax. "Run, good Thootes," said and call Ajax, or better
still bid both come, for it will be all over with us here directly;
the leaders of the Lycians are upon us, men who have ever fought
desperately heretofore. But if the have too much on their hands to let
them come, at any rate let Ajax son of Telamon do so, and let Teucer
the famous bowman come with him."
The messenger did as he was told, and set off running along the wall
of the Achaeans. When he reached the Ajaxes he said to them, "Sirs,
princes of the Argives, the son of noble Peteos bids you come to him
for a while and help him. You had better both come if you can, or it
will be all over with him directly; the leaders of the Lycians are
upon him, men who have ever fought desperately heretofore; if you have
too much on your hands to let both come, at any rate let Ajax son of
Telamon do so, and let Teucer the famous bowman come with him."
Great Ajax, son of Telamon, heeded the message, and at once spoke to
the son of Oileus. "Ajax," said he, "do you two, yourself and brave
Lycomedes, stay here and keep the Danaans in heart to fight their
hardest. I will go over yonder, and bear my part in the fray, but I
will come back here at once as soon as I have given them the help they
need."
With this, Ajax son of Telamon set off, and Teucer his brother by
the same father went also, with Pandion to carry Teucer's bow. They
went along inside the wall, and when they came to the tower where
Menestheus was (and hard pressed indeed did they find him) the brave
captains and leaders of the Lycians were storming the battlements as
it were a thick dark cloud, fighting in close quarters, and raising
the battle-cry aloud.
First, Ajax son of Telamon killed brave Epicles, a comrade of
Sarpedon, hitting him with a jagged stone that lay by the
battlements at the very top of the wall. As men now are, even one
who is in the bloom of youth could hardly lift it with his two
hands, but Ajax raised it high aloft and flung it down, smashing
Epicles' four-crested helmet so that the bones of his head were
crushed to pieces, and he fell from the high wall as though he were
diving, with no more life left in him. Then Teucer wounded Glaucus the
brave son of Hippolochus as he was coming on to attack the wall. He
saw his shoulder bare and aimed an arrow at it, which made Glaucus
leave off fighting. Thereon he sprang covertly down for fear some of
the Achaeans might see that he was wounded and taunt him. Sarpedon was
stung with grief when he saw Glaucus leave him, still he did not leave
off fighting, but aimed his spear at Alcmaon the son of Thestor and
hit him. He drew his spear back again Alcmaon came down headlong after
it with his bronzed armour rattling round him. Then Sarpedon seized
the battlement in his strong hands, and tugged at it till it an gave
way together, and a breach was made through which many might pass.
Ajax and Teucer then both of them attacked him. Teucer hit him
with an arrow on the band that bore the shield which covered his body,
but Jove saved his son from destruction that he might not fall by
the ships' sterns. Meanwhile Ajax sprang on him and pierced his
shield, but the spear did not go clean through, though it hustled
him back that he could come on no further. He therefore retired a
little space from the battlement, yet without losing all his ground,
for he still thought to cover himself with glory. Then he turned round
and shouted to the brave Lycians saying, "Lycians, why do you thus
fail me? For all my prowess I cannot break through the wall and open a
way to the ships single-handed. Come close on behind me, for the
more there are of us the better."
The Lycians, shamed by his rebuke, pressed closer round him who
was their counsellor their king. The Argives on their part got their
men in fighting order within the wall, and there was a deadly struggle
between them. The Lycians could not break through the wall and force
their way to the ships, nor could the Danaans drive the Lycians from
the wall now that they had once reached it. As two men, measuring-rods
in hand, quarrel about their boundaries in a field that they own in
common, and stickle for their rights though they be but in a mere
strip, even so did the battlements now serve as a bone of
contention, and they beat one another's round shields for their
possession. Many a man's body was wounded with the pitiless bronze, as
he turned round and bared his back to the foe, and many were struck
clean through their shields; the wall and battlements were
everywhere deluged with the blood alike of Trojans and of Achaeans.
But even so the Trojans could not rout the Achaeans, who still held
on; and as some honest hard-working woman weighs wool in her balance
and sees that the scales be true, for she would gain some pitiful
earnings for her little ones, even so was the fight balanced evenly
between them till the time came when Jove gave the greater glory to
Hector son of Priam, who was first to spring towards the wall of the
Achaeans. As he did so, he cried aloud to the Trojans, "Up, Trojans,
break the wall of the Argives, and fling fire upon their ships."
Thus did he hound them on, and in one body they rushed straight at
the wall as he had bidden them, and scaled the battlements with
sharp spears in their hands. Hector laid hold of a stone that lay just
outside the gates and was thick at one end but pointed at the other;
two of the best men in a town, as men now are, could hardly raise it
from the ground and put it on to a waggon, but Hector lifted it
quite easily by himself, for the son of scheming Saturn made it
light for him. As a shepherd picks up a ram's fleece with one hand and
finds it no burden, so easily did Hector lift the great stone and
drive it right at the doors that closed the gates so strong and so
firmly set. These doors were double and high, and were kept closed
by two cross-bars to which there was but one key. When he had got
close up to them, Hector strode towards them that his blow might
gain in force and struck them in the middle, leaning his whole
weight against them. He broke both hinges, and the stone fell inside
by reason of its great weight. The portals re-echoed with the sound,
the bars held no longer, and the doors flew open, one one way, and the
other the other, through the force of the blow. Then brave Hector
leaped inside with a face as dark as that of flying night. The
gleaming bronze flashed fiercely about his body and he had tow
spears in his hand. None but a god could have withstood him as he
flung himself into the gateway, and his eyes glared like fire. Then he
turned round towards the Trojans and called on them to scale the wall,
and they did as he bade them- some of them at once climbing over the
wall, while others passed through the gates. The Danaans then fled
panic-stricken towards their ships, and all was uproar and confusion.


Translated by Samuel Butler

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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