Book Twenty-One of The Iliad


Refuge sought in the Xanthus, but little found · Lycaon caught a second time · Asteropaeus nearly breaks the Pelian ash · The Scamander enraged · Hephaestus asked to intercede · Fire trumps water · Athena vs. Ares, and Aphrodite · Apollo declines Poseidon · Hera vs. Artemis · Hermes declines Leto · Priam bids the gates be opened · Agenor buys the Trojans time

Yet when they reach the crossing of that freeflowing river
(the eddying Xanthus sired of the deathless Zeus)
they begin to split up, some of them driven over the plain
to the city the Greeks were fleeing in terror the day before
with radiant Hector amok************************************************5
(they spilled from it in flight, even as Hera laid on
a heavy and hindering fog) ·
but half are herded into the deepflowing silveryeddied
river, falling in with a heavy clamor, and the steep falls roar,
and the banks are bruiting deeply on either side · and screaming************10
they are swimming this way and that and are whirled around in the eddies.
As when with the onset of fire the locusts will flutter away
and flee for a river · and the tireless fire scorches them
come on so suddenly · and they huddle in the water ·
like this, there in front of Achilles, the deepeddying Xanthus’s**************15
noisy current fills with a jumble of men and horses.

But he the godgiven leaves his spear here on the bank
leaning on the tamarisks, and jumps in like
a daimon, keeping only a sword, and conceiving ill things
in his mind, and he spins and slashes away · they begin to groan************20
obscenely, sword-struck, and the water reddens with blood.
As when the rest of the fish will flee a greatmawed dolphin
and fill in their fright the inlets of a bay or haven
because it devours whole whatever it catches · like this
the Trojans are huddling in the terrible river’s currents********************25
under the banks. And when his arms have tired of killing
he chooses twelve of the boys still alive and in the river
as recompense for Patroclus Menoetius’s death. He leads them,
stunned as fawns, back out
and ties their hands behind them with fine-cut belts (the ones**************30
they themselves have on around soft shirts), and gives them
to companions to escort away, back to the hollow ships.
Then he jumps in again in his ardor to tear them apart.

He encounters one of the Dardanian Priam’s sons
fleeing the river, the Lycaon he caught once before************************35
and led against his will out of his father’s orchards,
descending on them at night · he was cutting fresh medlar branches
with sharp bronze, for car rails · but then
an unforeseen ill was on him,
in godly Achilles. It was then he sold him in well-built Lemnos,*************40
going by ship, and Jason’s son tendered a sum ·
but a stranger freed him from the place, offering more ·
Eëtion of Imbros, who sent him to godly Arisbe ·
from there he slipped away and returned to the house of his fathers.
He rejoiced eleven days among his friends for leaving**********************45
Lemnos · but on the twelfth
some god threw him again into the hands of an Achilles
prepared now to send him to Hades, and he doesn’t want to go.
And when the godly fleetfooted Achilles eyes him ungirt,
without helmet or shield, not even holding a spear************************50
(instead he threw all these to the ground, the sweat so troubled him
during his flight from the river, and fatigue had tamed his knees),
he says, worriedly, to his own greathearted spirit,
‘O popoi, [1] what a great wonder this is I lay my eyes on ·
The very greathearted Trojans I have been killing rise**********************55
once more out of the foggy murk, the way this one
has come, in flight from the day of reckoning, in spite
of being sold in holy Lemnos · the gray open sea
didn’t stop him, that thwarts so many against their will. But come,
he too will have a taste of the head on the haft, so I see*********************60
and am sure in my mind whether
he will also come back from such a place, or if
the lifegiving earth that stays the powerful will stay him.’

He turns this over and waits · he [2] approaches him stupefied
and intent on embracing his knees, in his soul wanting only****************65
to escape a bad death and black fate.
And godly Achilles lifts the long haft, ready to stab him,
but he ducks and runs under it and takes him by the knees ·
and the spear passes over his back
and stands in the earth, still striving to glut itself on men’s flesh.***********70
One hand around his knees he begs him then, with
the other holding the pointed spear and not letting go ·
and he speaks to him, addressing him with winged words ·
‘I am at your knees, Achilles, and you must honor and pity me.
As you see me, godreared, I come in need, yet worthy**********************75
of reverence · for with you I partook of Demeter’s grain,
that day you took me in that well-tended orchard, and led me
far from father and friends
and sold me in holy Lemnos, and I fetched you a hundred oxen.
I have bought my freedom now for three times that · this morning**********80
now makes it twelve since I arrived in Ilios,
having suffered so much · now fate the ruinous once more
sets me in your hands · it must be I am hateful
to Zeus the father, who gave me over to you again.
My mother Laothoe bore me to be shortlived, her*************************85
the daughter of old Altes (lord of the warloving Leleges,
holding steep Pedasus on the Satnioeis).
It was his daughter Priam kept, with his many others ·
we two were born to her, and you will have throat-cut us both.
You tamed one in with the footsoldiers at the fore, the godlike**************90
Polydorus, when you hit him with a sharp spear ·
and now it is I, here, who will come to harm · I don’t think
there is any escaping your hands when a daimon is leading me.
But I ask of you again, and lodge it in your thoughts ·
don’t kill me, since I wasn’t of-a-womb with Hector,***********************95
the one who killed your gentle and powerful companion.’

Priam’s radiant son addresses him like this
with beseeching words, but the voice he hears is merciless ·
‘You child, offer me no ransom and no speech ·
for until Patroclus came to meet his destined day*************************100
it was the more pleasant thought to me to spare the Trojans,
and I took many of them alive and sold them · yet now
there isn’t a single one who will escape his death,
of those some god throws into my hands in front of Ilios,
down to the last of the Trojans, and above all Priam’s children.************105
No, friend, even you will die · why lament it
like this? Patroclus died too, one much better than you.
Don’t you see how beautiful and great I am?
My father was good, and the mother who bore me was a goddess ·
yet death and force of fate**********************************************110
are upon me. There will come the dawn or noon or dusk
when someone will have my life from me, under Ares,
and hit me with a spear or an arrow from the string.’

He says this, and with it his knees and his very heart are undone ·
he lets go of the spear and slumps and holds his arms out.*****************115
But Achilles draws his sharp sword
and stabs him in the collar at the neck, and the whole
of the two-edged sword is plunged in · he is lying face-down outstretched
on the earth, and the black blood flows, and the earth is wetted. Achilles
takes him by a foot and throws him into the river*************************120
to be borne away, and he vaunts over him with winged words ·
‘Lie there with the fish,
who will lick your wounds unthinkingly · your mother won’t
put you on a bier and wail, the eddying Scamander
will carry you instead into the wide breast of the sea.**********************125
Some fish leaping in the waves will shoot up from under
the rippling blackness, and may it eat of Lycaon’s white fat.
You all must perish, until we reach the holy city
of Ilios, you in flight and I laying waste behind.
The freeflowing silveryeddied river won’t protect you,********************130
the one you have so long sacrificed so many bulls to,
and whose eddies you have thrown monohoofed horses into
alive. But you will come to that bad an end, until
all of you pay for Patroclus’s killing and the loss of Greeks,
the ones you killed at the fast ships when I wasn’t there.’*****************135

He says this, and the heart of the river grows more angry,
mulling in his soul how to end the labors
of the godly Achilles and forestall the Trojans’ ruin.
But through this, holding the longshadowed spear, Peleus’s son
is leaping at Pelegon’s son Asteropaeus, intent***************************140
on killing him · one born of the widerunning Axius
and Periboea, the eldest of Acessamenus’s daughters ·
for the deepeddying river was joined with her. It is he
Achilles charges, and holding two spears he comes out of the river
and stands to face him · and the Xanthus lends force to his will************145
because of his anger over the warslain boys Achilles
is tearing apart without pity
in the current. But once they have come at each other and are close
godly fleetfooted Achilles is first of them to speak ·
‘What kind of man is it who dares come out against me?******************150
Wretched are they whose children face the brunt of me.’

Pelegon’s radiant son addresses him in turn ·
‘Greatsouled Peleus, why the asking after my race?
I am from cloddy Paeonia, far from here,
leading the longspeared Paeonian men · this one is now******************155
the eleventh day since I arrived in Ilios.
But my race is of the wide and flowing Axius
(the Axius of the most beautiful waters there are on earth),
who sired the Pelegon known for the spear · it is he they say
is my forebear ·   and now, radiant Achilles, we fight.’*********************160

He says this as a threat, and godly Achilles raises
the Pelian ash · but the hero Asteropaeus makes
with both hafts at once, since he has two right hands. With one
of the hafts he hits the shield (though it doesn’t break through the shield,
and the godgiven gold stops it) ·*****************************************165
with the other he hits him in the right arm, grazing his elbow,
and black blood spurts, but passing over him it plants
itself in the earth, still striving to glut itself on flesh.
Next Achilles throws the straightflying ash back at him,
wild to kill Asteropaeus · he misses him**********************************170
but hits the high bank and plants
the ashen spear up to its middle in the bank.
And Peleus draws the sharp sword at his thigh and jumps
at him wildly, but even with such thick hands he can’t
pull the ash of Achilles out of the face. Three times************************175
he sets it aquiver, intent on pulling it out, and three times
forfeits the effort · and on the fourth he wants in his soul
to bend and snap Aeacus’s ashen haft · but before
he can Achilles robs him close-in with the sword
of his life. He stabs him in the stomach at the navel,**********************180
and his bowels all spill on the ground · and as he pants the darkness
envelops his eyes · and jumping on his chest Achilles
despoils him of his arms and utters boastful words ·
‘Lie like that · even for one born to a river
it is dangerous to struggle against the powerful Cronos’s******************185
children. You say your race is the wide-running river’s, and yet
I can boast my race is that of the greater Zeus. The man
who sired me is lord of many Myrmidons,
Peleus Aeacus · and it is Aeacus who is Zeus’s.
As Zeus is stronger than the seawardrunning rivers,**********************190
one of Zeus’s line proves stronger than a river’s.
There is even a great river next to you (as if he would somehow
save you) · but there isn’t any fighting Zeus Cronos, the one
the ruling Achelous won’t contend with or even the great
deeprunning Ocean in all his strength, and it is out of him*****************195
all of the rivers flow
and all of the sea and all deep wells and springs · and still
he is in fear of great Zeus and his terrible thunder and lightning
when there is a crack from the sky.’

He speaks, and pulls the brazen spear out of the bank,********************200
and once he has deprived him of his life he leaves him
lying there on the sands, and the black water laps at him.
And the fish and the eels are amphibusied with him, picking
and nibbling at his kidney fat · he then sets off
after the Paeonian horsemen*******************************************205
still cringing along the eddying river, at having seen
the finest of them tamed by force in the thick of combat
with Peleus’s hands and sword. He gets Thersilochus there,
and Mydon, Astypylus,
Mnesus, Thrasius, Aenius, and Ophelestes ·******************************210
and the fast Achilles would kill still more Paeonians
but that the deepeddying river addresses him in his anger,
and taking the shape of a man calls out from deep in an eddy ·
‘O Achilles, strongest of men, but doing the most wrong
(for the gods themselves are always defending you) · if the child***********215
of Cronos bestows it upon you to ruin all of Troy,
then drive them out of me onto the plain to wreak your havoc ·
As it is my lovely waters are filling with the dead,
and I can’t spill my current into the brilliant sea
so clogged I am with corpses of your baneful killing.**********************220
So come, leave me · I am at a loss, prince of the host.’

And in reply to him fleetfooted Achilles speaks ·
‘This thing, godreared Scamander, will be as you command.
But I won’t stop the slaughter of the faithless Trojans
until they are hemmed in the town and I have proved myself**************225
against Hector, and seen if he is to tame me, or I him.’

This said he charges at the Trojans like a daimon ·
and then the deepeddying river addresses Apollo · ‘O popoi,
silverbow and child of God, you aren’t minding
the plans of the Cronos, who told you time and time again****************230
to stand by and defend the Trojans, until the late sunset
comes and throws the shadows over the cloddy fields.’

He speaks, and as spearfamed Achilles dashes off from the bank
and jumps into his midst he rushes him with a running surge,
bringing all his troubled waters to bear and sweeping away***************235
the many corpses in him in their plenty, the ones
of Achilles’s killing · he throws them out and onto dry land,
bellowing like a bull · but under his beautiful waters
he saves the still-living, concealing them in eddies large
and deep. And the terrible troubled wave amphistands*******************240
Achilles, and the current wrests him, breaking on his shield,
and he can’t keep his footing. He seizes at an elm,
one full-grown and big, but thrown down to its roots
it tears the whole bank away, overreaching the beautiful waters
thick in its branches and it dams the very river,**************************245
the whole of it fallen in him · but he leaps out of the eddy
and dashes flying on swift feet over the plain, afraid.
The great god doesn’t stop, but dark and towering
descends on him to end the godly Achilles’s labors
and forestall the Trojans’ ruin.******************************************250
But Peleus bounds away as far as a spear is thrown,
a diving black eagle (the hunter
who is both most powerful and fastest of the winged) ·
he darts like one, and on his chest the bronze is ringing
terribly, and he ducks the flood and is fleeing, and it**********************255
is coming after him and flowing with great tumult.
The way a man will guide a stream of water out
of a blackwater spring and run it around the plants and plots
with mattock in hand, banging on blockages in the trench ·
and as it flows along it dislodges all the pebbles**************************260
on the bottom · and shed from sloping ground, it dribbles quickly
and even ahead of its leader · thus the surge of the waters
keeps overtaking Achilles
nimble as he is · for gods are better than men.
But every time the godly swiftfooted Achilles rallies**********************265
to stand against him and see if it is all the deathless
who hold the wide sky in pursuit,
a great surge of the godrained river
drums down from above on his shoulders · and bounding so high on foot
he tires of soul · and the river’s strong currents beneath him are taming****270
his knees and eating away the soil from under his soles.
And Peleus gazes into the wide sky wailing · ‘Zeus father,
how can not one of the gods have pity enough to try
to save me from the river? Thereafter I will suffer
what I will. There is no other one in heaven******************************275
as guilty as my own mother, who cozened me with lies ·
she told me that under the wall of the armored Trojans I
would come to ruin by Apollo’s nimble arrows.
If only Hector had killed me, him finest of those raised here ·
good would have been the slayer, and good the slain · now****************280
it is mine to be pent and taken by an enormous river
in a wretched death, like some boy swineherd swept away
trying a gully in winter.’

He says this, and very quickly Poseidon and Athena
come to his side in the shape*******************************************285
of men, and take his hands in hand and offer words
of explanation. Earthshaking Poseidon is first to speak ·
‘Peleus, you needn’t tremble so badly or fear a thing ·
for we are two such gods and on your side (and Zeus
approves), Pallas Athena and I · it was never*****************************290
your lot to be tamed by a river,
and he will give over soon, as you will see yourself ·
and we will advise you closely, too, if you will listen ·
your hands must never pause from their making of fickle war
until the stragglers of the Trojan host are pent***************************295
in Ilios’s storied walls. Once you rob Hector
of life, come back to the ships · for we grant you the winning of glory.’

Once they have said this they are off again back to the deathless ·
he marches on (he is deeply stirred by the gods’ behest)
over the plain, all of it filled with overflown waters,**********************300
many handsome arms of warslain boys afloat
on it, and their corpses · and he bounds with upraised knees
headlong into the current, but the wide and flowing river
can’t stop him · for Athena has endowed him with great strength.
The Scamander doesn’t lessen in its force either**************************305
but is all the more maddened at Peleus, and raises his surging waters
unto a crest, and calls aloud to the Simoïs ·
‘Brother of mine, the two of us must subdue the man’s strength,
or soon he will raze the great city of lord Priam,
and the Trojans won’t be able to hold him in the moil.********************310
Help me as soon as you can, then, and plenish your currents
with springwater and rouse your every torrent and raise
an enormous wave and make a tremendous noise with logs
and rocks to stop this wild man,
who is for now the stronger and keen to equal the gods.*******************315
For I tell you his strength won’t avail him nor his appearance nor
the beautiful arms that will be lying on the bottom
of some pool covered with mud · and I will wrap him in the sands
and peripour shingle-stones by the thousand, enough
the Greeks will never know where to go and gather***********************320
the bones · such will be the bar I cover him with.
It will serve him for a tomb as well, and there will be
no need of a barrow, when the Greeks give him his rites.’

He speaks, and running troubled and high jumps at Achilles
churning with blood and froth******************************************325
and the dead. And the godrained river’s purpling surge is rising
and stands above him and is taking Peleus with it ·
but Hera gives a great shout, fearing for Achilles
that the great deepeddying river will carry him away,
and at once she is addressing her beloved son Hephaestus ·***************330
‘Crookfoot, my child, bestir yourself · for we supposed it
to be you against the eddying Xanthus in the fight.
But come to his aid, and soon, and summon a great deal of flame.
For my part I will go and rile a violent gust
of the west and white south winds out of the sea, to burn******************335
the Trojan bodies and their arms away, and carry
the ill blaze with it · you on the banks of the Xanthus must burn
the trees, and set him aflame · but by no means let him
turn you back with either gentle words or harsh ·
nor should you slacken in force until I give word, shouting,***************340
and only then must you subdue your tireless fire.’

She says this, and Hephaestus prepares the unearthly fire.
The fire flares first on the plain, burning the many dead
lying there plentifully (the ones Achilles killed) ·
the entire plain is drying, and the shining waters checked.****************345
As when the north wind in late summer is quick to dry
a just-watered vineyard (and gratifies him tending it) ·
the entire plain is dried like this, and the dead burnt up ·
and then he turns the pangleaming flame on the river itself.
He burns the elms and willows and the tamarisks************************350
and burns the lotus and the rushes and galingale
that grow plentifully along the river’s beautiful waters ·
the eels and fish in the eddies are in agony,
tumbling in the beautiful waters in every direction
in the agony of the bellows of polywiled Hephaestus.*********************355
The mighty river, burning, speaks, and calls him by name ·
‘None of the gods can rival you, Hephaestus, and I
won’t fight you, you aflame with your fire like this. But enough
of strife, and let the godly Achilles drive the Trojans
out of the town forthwith · what do I have to do**************************360
with partisanship and strife?’

He says this aflame, the beautiful waters roiling. The way
a vessel will boil its contents when the fire plays on it,
melting fatted hog’s lard and foaming all over when
dry kindling is laid underneath, the beautiful waters go up****************365
in flames, the water aboil · and so checked he doesn’t want
to flow any farther · the strong bellows of polywitted Hephaestus
sap him. And he says winged words to Hera, imploring deeply ·
‘Hera, why does this son of yours beset my bed
and do me the most pain? I can’t be as blameworthy to you as all**********370
the rest abetting the Trojans.
But I will stop if you will call on me to do so,
though he must stop as well · I will also swear to this,
never to keep the Trojans from their evil day,
not when all of Troy is alight with ruinous fire****************************375
and burning, the burning done by the warlike sons of Greeks.’

When the whitearmed goddess Hera hears this she says at once
to her beloved son Hephaestus,
‘Hephaestus, you glorious child, stop it · it doesn’t become you
to abuse a deathless god like this on mortals’ account.’*******************380

She says this, and Hephaestus puts out the unearthly fire,
and the waves are running once again down the beautiful waters.

When the Xanthus’s force is tamed the two then stop · for Hera
holds then despite her anger ·
but there falls to the rest of the gods an oppressive, dismaying strife,******385
and the spirits in their breasts are blowing contrarily.
They collide with an enormous crash, and the wide earth rings
and the great sky amphitrumpets. From his seat on Olympus Zeus
hears it · and out of delight he laughs from his very heart
at seeing gods meet in strife.*******************************************390
They no longer stand aloof from each other · for shieldgoring Ares
begins the thing, and holding a brazen spear he first
has at Athena, giving her a contemptuous speech ·
‘O dogtick, why are you forcing the gods against each other
in strife, again, fierce of courage and moved by your own*****************395
great soul? Don’t you remember when you moved that Tydeus,
Diomedes, to stab me, and panseen you seized the spear
yourself and came straight for me, and tore through my beautiful skin?
I think I will repay you now for what you did.’

This said he stabs at the terrible and tasseled aegis,**********************400
the one that Zeus’s bolts won’t tame · the bloodstained Ares
stabs it with the long lance.
But falling back she lays a thick hand on a stone
lying on the plain, black, jagged, and big ·
the first men set it to mark the border of a field ·*************************405
she hits the impetuous Ares with it in the neck
and frees his limbs. Splayed in his seven-plethra [3] fall
he sullies his hair and his armor amphiclatters · and Pallas
Athena laughs, and vaunts and utters winged words ·
‘Child, still it doesn’t occur to you how much*****************************410
more warlike I can brag of being when you pit
your force against mine. Thus you repay your mother’s Erinyes ·
out of anger she schemes to do you harm, because
you abandoned the Greeks, and lend your help to the faithless Trojans.’

She tells him this and turns her shining eyes away ·***********************415
but Zeus’s daughter Aphrodite takes his hand
and leads him off, him groaning heavily · he scarcely
has come to his senses. But when the goddess whitearmed Hera
eyes her, she addresses Athena at once with winged words ·
‘O popoi, Zeus-aegisbearer’s child, Atrytone,*****************************420
that dogtick is leading mankilling Ares off again
through the moil and out of war’s danger · but after her.’

She says this, and Athena hastens after pleased of soul,
and she charges and strikes at her chest with one thick hand, and there
and then her knees go free, and her very heart. The pair******************425
lying on the polybounteous earth she vaunts
and declares in winged words ·
‘This is what all of them, abettors of the Trojans,
now come to for their fighting armored Greeks · as daring
and as resolute as Ares’s ally Aphrodite*********************************430
when she faced the brunt of me ·
it should have been a long time ago that we ended the war,
with the sack of Ilios and its well-made citadel.’

She says this, and the whitearmed goddess Hera smiles.
And then the ruling earthshaker addresses Apollo · ‘Phoebus,*************435
why must we stand aside? It isn’t becoming when others
take the lead · and all the more shameful if we go fightless
back to Olympus and Zeus’s bronzefounded house. Lead on ·
you are the younger-born · it wouldn’t be right for me,
as first to be born and greater******************************************440
in knowledge. Such an unfeeling heart you have, child ·
you don’t remember them, the ills we suffered at Ilios
(and we alone, of gods) when we went, for Zeus, and labored
a year for the wage we agreed on, for the haughty Laomedon
who told us what to do.************************************************445
It was I who built the Trojans the wall around the city,
wide, and so handsome, to make the city unbreakable ·
and Phoebus, you were herding the shambling screwhorned cattle
high on polyvaled and forested Ida. But when
the polygladdening seasons were bringing round the term****************450
of our wage, the outrageous Laomedon wrested it from us
(the entire wage), and sent us off with threats. Indeed
he threatened to bind our feet and the hands above them and sell us
off to faraway islands ·
and he swore to cut our ears off with the bronze. And back****************455
we went, resentment in our souls, angry about
the wage he pledged and didn’t see through. And now you bring
his people a boon, not trying
to get the haughty Trojans to perish evilly
and to a man, as we do, with their children and modest wives.’************460

Farreaching lord Apollo addresses him in turn ·
‘Earthshaker, you wouldn’t reckon me sane if I battled you
over mortals, poor things
like leaves, and who prove at some times fiery and eat
of the fruit of the field, and then****************************************465
at others waste into spiritlessness. But we must stop
fighting soon · let them contest it among themselves.’

He turns back once he says this · for he is embarrassed to be
at fisticuffs with his father’s brother. Still his sister
the queen of beasts, Artemis of the wilderness,**************************470
scolds him thoroughly and gives a contemptuous speech ·
‘Do you flee now, farreacher, and turn the victory over wholly
to Poseidon, granting him an idle boast? You child,
why bother to hold a bow that is so much wind? I don’t
want to hear you bragging in our father’s halls***************************475
(the way you once did to the deathless gods) of facing
Poseidon in open battle.’

She says this, and the farreacher Apollo doesn’t answer,
but Zeus’s modest wife is angered and with harsh words
she scolds the arrowlover ·*********************************************480
‘How is it you are so keen now, you impudent bitch, to stand
and face me? Even bowbearing you will find it hard
to rival my force, since it was for women Zeus made you a lion
and granted you to kill whatever you want. Surely
slaying wild deer and other beasts in the mountains is better**************485
than pitched battle with your greaters.
But if you wish, come learn of war, and know how much
better I am when you come to pit your force against mine.’

She speaks, seizing both her hands at the wrist with her left
and with her right hand stripping the bow from her shoulders and thrashing
her ears with it and grinning
as she squirms around · and the fast arrows are falling away.
And the crying goddess flees from her like a dove, one
that flies from a falcon into a chink or a cleft in the rock ·
but it isn’t her fate to be caught ·****************************************495
and she flees, crying like this, and leaves her bow behind.
And the Argusslaying courier addresses Leto ·
‘I won’t fight you, Leto · it is a baleful thing
to come to blows with cloudgathering Zeus’s wives ·
but go and boast in all good faith to the deathless gods*******************500
the victory is yours by grace of your strength and power.’

He is saying this, as Leto picks up the curved bow
fallen there in the dust-swirl.
And taking her daughter’s bow she is making her way back ·
but the girl has reached Olympus and Zeus’s bronzefounded house,********505
and she is sitting crying on her father’s knees,
the ambrosial gown around her trembling · the Cronos clasps her
to him, questioning her with a merry laugh · ‘Now what
Uranian can have done such things to you, dear child,
so recklessly, as though for some shameless ill treatment of yours?’********510

And she (the clamorous and well-crowned) addresses him ·
‘Father your wife the whitearmed Hera misused me, and through her
rivalry and strife have the deathless in their clutch.’

Thus they are discussing these things with one another ·
but Phoebus Apollo enters holy Ilios, then,*******************************515
fraught with cares about the well-built city’s wall,
and the sack of the Greeks coming that day, before its time.
But the rest of the gods (who are forever) go to Olympus,
some in anger and some in utter glory · and they
are seating themselves by their blackclouded father · but all the while******520
Achilles is ruining Trojans and their monohoofed horses
alike. As when the rising smoke from a burning town
reaches the wide sky, the gods’ ire behind it
(it means labor for everyone, and most are beset with sorrow),
like this Achilles means sorrow and labor for the Trojans.*****************525

The aged Priam has come to stand on a godmade tower,
and eyes the giant Achilles · and what is more the Trojans
fleeing in utter panic before him, no mettle left
to them · and with a cry he comes down off the tower
to the ground, rousing the vaunted gatekeepers on the wall ·**************530
‘Throw the gates open and hold them there, until the fleeing
host can get inside the town · for now Achilles
is close and panicking them · it seems sorry things are in
the offing now. But once they reach the wall and catch
their breath, set the close-mated doors as they were · I am****************535
afraid of this man of ruin bounding inside the wall.’

He says this, and they unlatch the gates and shove the bars
aside · and flung wide they are rendered a beacon · further Apollo
jumps out to face him and forestall the Trojans’ ruin.
Straight for the high wall and the city, hoarse with thirst******************540
and plain-dust on them they are fleeing · and he harries
with the spear, ardently, always a powerful lust
having hold of his heart, and him intent on winning the glory.

Now the sons of the Greeks would take tallgated Troy
but for Phoebus Apollo’s sending the godly Agenor,**********************545
Antenor’s son, an unblemished and powerful man. He casts
daring into his heart and stands at his side himself
to keep death’s heavy hands off, leaning on the beech
enveloped in heavy fog.
But when he eyes the citysacking Achilles he halts,***********************550
and much is mulled in his purpling heart · and worried he says
to his own greathearted spirit ·
‘Alas that if I flee Achilles’s power, the way
the rest of them are bolting panicked, even then
he will get me, and slaughter me for a coward. But if**********************555
I leave them to their rout
by Achilles Peleus, and flee on my feet away from the wall
for Ilion’s plain until I reach the heights of Ida
and can hide in the undergrowth ·
come evening once my sweat is washed off in the river********************560
and I am dry I might return to Ilios ·
but why does my own soul debate these things with me?
He mustn’t notice me removing myself from city
to plain, and dash after and overtake me by quickness of foot.
Then there will be no stopping death and the fates, so vastly**************565
more powerful is he than all other men.
But then if I march out to face him in front of the city? ·
I take it his flesh too is vulnerable to sharp bronze,
and that he has one life, and men say that he is deathful ·
but Zeus Cronos bestows him glory.’************************************570

Saying this he crouches in wait for Achilles and in him
a courageous heart is stirred to battle and the fight.
The way a leopard comes out of the deep of a thicket to face
a huntsman, and doesn’t startle
in her soul or flee to hear the barking · for should the man****************575
strike first with thrust or cast
she won’t reliquish her fury, though skewered on the haft,
until she closes with him or is tamed · like this
the lordly Antenor’s son, the godly Agenor,
doesn’t want to flee until having the proof of Achilles,********************580
and instead he holds the circle of his shield before him
and points the spear at him and bellows deeply · ‘I take it
in your thoughts you long expected, you radiant Achilles,
you child, to sack the lordly Trojans’ city today ·
there is still a great deal of grief to be wrought on her account.************585
We are men of mettle and many within her, defending Ilios
in front of our very parents, and our wives and children,
and even so outrageous and daring a warrior
as you will meet his end here.’

He speaks, and throws a sharp javelin from a heavy hand*****************590
and hits the greave below the knee and doesn’t miss.
The neowrought tin greave
clangs terribly · but the bronze leaps off the one it struck
and leaves him unpierced, and the god’s gift stops it. Peleus next
springs at the godlike Agenor, but now Apollo****************************595
won’t let the glory be won,
but plucks him out and envelops him in a thick fog,
and sends him away from the war to return home unmolested.
Peleus he keeps away from the host by means of a trick ·
for likened all over to Agenor the farreacher has stood********************600
there where his feet were, and on foot Achilles charges
in pursuit. And while he is pursuing him over
the wheatbearing plain, steering him for the deepeddying
Scamander, he runs only slightly ahead · and Apollo misleads him
with the trick, so he keeps hoping to overtake him on foot ·***************605
in the meantime the rest of the fleeing Trojans make in a press
for the town, gratified, and they throng the city and fill it.
They won’t risk waiting for each other anymore
outside the city and its wall, learning who
has fled and who been killed in battle · instead they pour briskly***********610
into the city, those their knees and feet have saved.



[1] An oath of disappointment or surprise (“My goodness”)

[2] Lycaon

[3] About seven hundred feet



Called the "first teacher" by Plato, Homer was esteemed in ancient Greece as the finest of the epic poets. Classical sources place his birth between the ninth and twelfth centuries BC, but it is presently unknown whether he was a historical figure or whether the works attributed to him were collectively authored. The Iliad has its roots in an oral tradition dating from the seventh and eighth centuries BC.

D. H. Tracy

D. H. Tracy is the author of Janet's Cottage (St. Augustine's Press, 2012). His poems, translations, reviews, and criticism appear widely. He has served as editor of the Poetry Foundation’s online archive, and is founder and executive editor of Antilever Press (

English translation copyright (c) D. H. Tracy, 2016.