The Iliad

Original Electronic Text at the web site of the Perseus Project.

The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus' son, Achilles, that destructive wrath which brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls of heroes, and made them themselves spoil for dogs and every bird; thus the plan of Zeus came to fulfillment," [5] from the time when first they parted in strife Atreus' son, king of men, and brilliant Achilles.

Who then of the gods was it that brought these two together to contend? The son of Leto and Zeus; for he in anger against the king roused throughout the host an evil pestilence, and the people began to perish," [10] because upon the priest Chryses the son of Atreus had wrought dishonour. For he had come to the swift ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, bearing ransom past counting; and in his hands he held the wreaths of Apollo who strikes from afar, on a staff of gold; and he implored all the Achaeans," [15] but most of all the two sons of Atreus, the marshallers of the people: ``Sons of Atreus, and other well-greaved Achaeans, to you may the gods who have homes upon Olympus grant that you sack the city of Priam, and return safe to your homes; but my dear child release to me, and accept the ransom" [20] out of reverence for the son of Zeus, Apollo who strikes from afar.''

Then all the rest of the Achaeans shouted assent, to reverence the priest and accept the glorious ransom, yet the thing did not please the heart of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, but he sent him away harshly, and laid upon him a stern command:" [25] ``Let me not find you, old man, by the hollow ships, either tarrying now or coming back later, lest your staff and the wreath of the god not protect you. Her I will not set free. Sooner shall old age come upon her in our house, in Argos, far from her native land," [30] as she walks to and fro before the loom and serves my bed. But go, do not anger me, that you may return the safer.''

So he spoke, and the old man was seized with fear and obeyed his word. He went forth in silence along the shore of the loud-resounding sea, and earnestly then, when he had gone apart, the old man prayed" [35] to the lord Apollo, whom fair-haired Leto bore: ``Hear me, god of the silver bow, who stand over Chryse and holy Cilla, and rule mightily over Tenedos, Sminthian god, if ever I roofed over a temple to your pleasing, or if ever I burned to you fat thigh-pieces of bulls and goats," [40] fulfill this prayer for me: let the Danaans pay for my tears by your arrows''

So he spoke in prayer, and Phoebus Apollo heard him. Down from the peaks of Olympus he strode, angered at heart, bearing on his shoulders his bow and covered quiver." [45] The arrows rattled on the shoulders of the angry god as he moved, and his coming was like the night. Then he sat down apart from the ships and let fly an arrow: terrible was the twang of the silver bow. The mules he assailed first and the swift dogs," [50] but then on the men themselves he let fly his stinging shafts, and struck; and constantly the pyres of the dead burned thick.

For nine days the missiles of the god ranged among the host, but on the tenth Achilles called the people to assembly, for the goddess, white-armed Hera, had put it in his heart," [55] since she pitied the Danaans, when she saw them dying. When they were assembled and gathered together, among them arose and spoke swift-footed Achilles:
``Son of Atreus, now I think we shall return home, beaten back again, should we even escape death," [60] if war and pestilence alike are to ravage the Achaeans. But come, let us ask some seer or priest, or some reader of dreams -- for a dream too is from Zeus -- who might say why Phoebus Apollo is so angry, whether he finds fault with a vow or a hecatomb;" [65] in hope that he may accept the savour of lambs and unblemished goats, and be willing to ward off the pestilence from us.''

When he had thus spoken he sat down, and among them arose Calchas son of Thestor, far the best of bird-diviners, who knew the things that were, and that were to be, and that had been before," [70] and who had guided the ships of the Achaeans to Ilios by his own prophetic powers which Phoebus Apollo had bestowed upon him. He with good intent addressed the gathering, and spoke among them: ``Achilles, dear to Zeus, you bid me declare the wrath of Apollo, the lord who strikes from afar." [75] Therefore I will speak; but take thought and swear that you will readily defend me with word and with might of hand; for I think I shall anger a man who rules mightily over all the Argives, and whom the Achaeans obey. For mightier is a king, when he is angry at a lesser man." [80] Even if he swallows down his wrath for that day, yet afterwards he cherishes resentment in his heart till he brings it to fulfillment. Say then, if you will keep me safe.''

In answer to him spoke swift-footed Achilles: ``Take heart, and speak out whatever oracle you know;" [85] for by Apollo, dear to Zeus, to whom you, Calchas, pray when you reveal oracles to the Danaans, no one, while I live and have sight on the earth, shall lay heavy hands on you beside the hollow ships, no one of the whole host of the Danaans," [90] not even if you name Agamemnon, who now claims to be far the best of the Achaeans.''

Then the blameless seer took heart, and spoke:
``It is not then because of a vow that he finds fault, nor because of a hecatomb, but because of the priest whom Agamemnon dishonoured, and did not release his daughter nor accept the ransom." [95] For this cause the god who strikes from afar has given woes and will still give them. He will not drive off from the Danaans the loathsome pestilence, until we give back to her dear father the bright-eyed maiden, unbought, unransomed, and lead a sacred hecatomb to Chryse. Then we might appease and persuade him.''" [100]

When he had thus spoken he sat down, and among them arose the warrior, son of Atreus, wide-ruling Agamemnon, deeply troubled. With rage his black heart was wholly filled, and his eyes were like blazing fire. To Calchas first of all he spoke, and his look threatened evil:" [105] ``Prophet of evil, never yet have you spoken to me a pleasant thing; ever is evil dear to your heart to prophesy, but a word of good you have never yet spoken, nor brought to pass. And now among the Danaans you claim in prophecy that for this reason the god who strikes from afar brings woes upon them," [110] that I would not accept the glorious ransom for the girl, the daughter of Chryses, since I much prefer to keep her in my home. For certainly I prefer her to Clytemnestra, my wedded wife, since she is not inferior to her, either in form or in stature, or in mind, or in any handiwork." [115] Yet even so will I give her back, if that is better; I would rather the people be safe than perish. But provide me with a prize of honour forthwith, lest I alone of the Argives be without one, since that would not be proper. For you all see this, that my prize goes elsewhere.''" [120]

In answer to him spoke swift-footed brilliant Achilles:
``Most glorious son of Atreus, most covetous of all, how shall the great-hearted Achaeans give you a prize? We know nothing of a hoard of wealth in common store, but whatever we took by pillage from the cities has been apportioned," [125] and it is not seemly to gather these things back from the army. But give back the girl to the god, and we Achaeans will recompense you three and fourfold, if ever Zeus grants us to sack the well-walled city of Troy.''

In answer to him spoke lord Agamemnon:" [130] ``Do not thus, mighty though you are, godlike Achilles, seek to deceive me with your wit; for you will not get by me nor persuade me. Are you willing, so that your yourself may keep your prize, for me to sit here idly in want, while you order me to give her back? No, if the great-hearted Achaeans give me a prize," [135] suiting it to my mind, so that it will be worth just as much -- but if they do not, I myself will come and take your prize, or that of Aias, or that of Odysseus I will seize and bear away. Angry will he be, to whomever I come. But these things we will consider hereafter." [140] Let us now drag a black ship to the shining sea, and quickly gather suitable rowers into it, and place on board a hecatomb, and embark on it the fair-cheeked daughter of Chryses herself. Let one prudent man be its commander, either Aias, or Idomeneus, or brilliant Odysseus," [145] or you, son of Peleus, of all men most extreme, so that on our behalf you may propitiate the god who strikes from afar by offering sacrifice.''

Glaring from beneath his brows spoke to him swift-footed Achilles: ``Ah me, clothed in shamelessness, thinking of profit, how shall any man of the Achaeans obey your words with a ready heart" [150] either to go on a journey or to fight against men with force? It was not on account of the Trojan spearmen that I came here to fight, since they have done no wrong to me. Never have they driven off my cattle or my horses, nor ever in deep-soiled Phthia, nurse of men," [155] did they lay waste the harvest, for many things lie between us -- shadowy mountains and sounding sea. But you, shameless one, we followed, so that you might rejoice, seeking to win recompense for Menelaus and for yourself, dog-face, from the Trojans. This you disregard, and take no heed of." [160] And now you threaten that you will yourself take my prize away from me, for which I toiled so much, which the sons of the Achaeans gave to me. Never have I prize like yours, whenever the Achaeans sack a well-inhabited citadel of the Trojans. The brunt of furious battle" [165] do my hands undertake, but if ever an apportionment comes, your prize is far greater, while small but dear is the reward I take to my ships, when I have worn myself out in the fighting. Now I will go back to Phthia, since it is far better to return home with my beaked ships, nor do I intend" [170] while I am here dishonoured to pile up riches and wealth for you.''

Then the king of men, Agamemnon, answered him: ``Flee then, if your heart urges you; I do not beg you to remain for my sake. With me are others who will honour me, and above all Zeus, the lord of counsel." [175] Most hateful to me are you of all the kings that Zeus nurtures, for always strife is dear to you, and wars and battles. If you are very strong, it was a god, I think, who gave you this gift. Go home with your ships and your companions and lord it over the Myrmidons; for you I care not," [180] nor take heed of your wrath. But I will threaten you thus: as Phoebus Apollo takes from me the daughter of Chryses, her with my ship and my companions I will send back, but I will myself come to your tent and take the fair-cheeked Briseis, your prize, so that you will understand" [185] how much mightier I am than you, and another may shrink from declaring himself my equal and likening himself to me to my face."

So he spoke. Grief came upon the son of Peleus, and within his shaggy breast his heart was divided, whether he should draw his sharp sword from beside his thigh," [190] and break up the assembly, and slay the son of Atreus, or stay his anger and curb his spirit. While he pondered this in mind and heart, and was drawing from its sheath his great sword, Athene came from heaven. The white-armed goddess Hera had sent her forth," [195] for in her heart she loved and cared for both men alike.

She stood behind him, and seized the son of Peleus by his fair hair, appearing to him alone. No one of the others saw her. Achilles was seized with wonder, and turned around, and immediately recognized Pallas Athene. Terribly her eyes shone." [200] Then he addressed her with winged words, and said: ``Why now, daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, have you come? Is it so that you might see the arrogance of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? One thing I will tell you, and I think this will be brought to pass: through his own excessive pride shall he presently lose his life.''" [205]

Him then the goddess, bright-eyed Athene, answered:
``I have come from heaven to stay your anger, if you will obey, The goddess white-armed Hera sent me forth, for in her heart she loves and cares for both of you. But come, cease from strife, and do not grasp the sword with your hand." [210] With words indeed taunt him, telling him how it shall be. For thus will I speak, and this thing shall truly be brought to pass. Hereafter three times as many glorious gifts shall be yours on account of this arrogance. But refrain, and obey us.''

In answer to her spoke swift-footed Achilles:" [215] ``It is necessary, goddess, to observe the words of you two, however angered a man be in his heart, for is it better so. Whoever obeys the gods, to him do they gladly give ear.''

He spoke, and stayed his heavy hand on the silver hilt, and back into its sheath thrust the great sword, and did not disobey" [220] the word of Athene. She returned to Olympus to the palace of aegis-bearing Zeus, to join the company of the other gods.

But the son of Peleus again addressed with violent words the son of Atreus, and in no way ceased from his wrath: ``Heavy with wine, with the face of a dog but the heart of a deer," [225] never have you had courage to arm for battle along with your people, or go forth to an ambush with the chiefs of the Achaeans. That seems to you even as death. Indeed it is far better throughout the wide camp of the Achaeans to deprive of his prize whoever speaks contrary to you." [230] People-devouring king, since you rule over nobodies; else, son of Atreus, this would be your last piece of insolence. But I will speak out to you, and will swear thereto a mighty oath: by this staff, that shall never more put forth leaves or shoots since first it left its stump among the mountains," [235] nor shall it again grow green, for the bronze has stripped it on all sides of leaves and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans carry it in their hands when they act as judges, those who guard the ordinances that come from Zeus; and this shall be for you a mighty oath. Surely some day a longing for Achilles will come upon the sons of the Achaeans" [240] one and all, and on that day you will not be able to help them at all, for all your grief, when many shall fall dying before man-slaying Hector. But you will gnaw the heart within you, in anger that you did no honour to the best of the Achaeans."

So spoke the son of Peleus, and down to the earth he dashed" [245] the staff studded with golden nails, and himself sat down, while over against him the son of Atreus continued to vent his wrath. Then among them arose Nestor, sweet of speech, the clear-voiced orator of the Pylians, from whose tongue flowed speech sweeter than honey. Two generations of mortal men had passed away in his lifetime," [250] who had been born and reared with him before in sacred Pylos, and he was king among the third. He with good intent addressed the gathering and spoke among them: ``Comrades, great grief has come upon the land of Achaea. Truly would Priam and the sons of Priam" [255] rejoice, and the rest of the Trojans would be most glad at heart, were they to hear all this of you two quarrelling, you who are chief among the Danaans in counsel and chief in war. Listen to me, for you are both younger than I. In earlier times I moved among men more warlike than you," [260] and never did they despise me. Such warriors have I never since seen, nor shall I see, as Peirithous was and Dryas, shepherd of the people, and Caeneus and Exadius and godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus, son of Aegeus, a man like the immortals." [265] Mightiest were these of men reared upon the earth; mightiest were they, and with the mightiest they fought, the mountain-dwelling centaurs, and they destroyed them terribly. With these men I had fellowship, when I came from Pylos, from a distant land far away; for they themselves called me." [270] And I fought on my own; with those men could no one fight of the mortals now upon the earth. Yes, and they listened to my counsel, and obeyed my words. So also should you obey, since to obey is better. Neither do you, mighty though you are, take away the girl," [275] but let her be, as the sons of the Achaeans first gave her to him as a prize; nor do you, son of Peleus, be minded to strive with a king, might against might, for it is no common honour that is the portion of a sceptre-holding king, to whom Zeus gives glory. If you are a stronger fighter, and a goddess mother bore you," [280] yet he is the mightier, since he is king over more. Son of Atreus, check your rage. Indeed, I beg you to let go your anger against Achilles, who is for all the Achaeans a mighty bulwark in evil war.''

In answer to him spoke lord Agamemnon:" [285] ``All these things, old man, to be sure, you have spoken as is right. But this man wishes to be above all others; over all he wishes to rule and over all to be king, and to all to give orders; in this, I think, there is someone who will not obey. If the gods who exist for ever made him a spearman," [290] do they therefore license him to keep uttering insults?''

Brilliant Achilles broke in upon him and replied: ``Surely I would be called cowardly and of no account, if I am to yield to you in every matter that you say. On others lay these commands, but do not give orders to me," [295] for I do not think I shall obey you any longer. And another thing I will tell you, and take it to heart: with my hands I will not fight for the girl's sake either with you nor with any other, since you are taking away what you have given. But of all else that is mine by my swift black ship," [300] nothing will you take or carry away against my will. Come, just try, so that these too may know: forthwith will your dark blood flow forth about my spear.''

So when the two had made an end of contending with violent words, they rose, and broke up the gathering beside the ships of the Achaeans." [305] The son of Peleus went his way to his huts and his balanced ships together with the son of Menoetius, and with his men; but the son of Atreus launched a swift ship on the sea, and chose for it twenty rowers, and drove on board a hecatomb for the god, and brought the fair-cheeked daughter of Chryses and set her in the ship;" [310] and Odysseus of many wiles went on board to take command.

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