Iliad: The Rousing of Achilles (cont.)

This story is part of the Iliad unit. Story source: The Iliad retold by Alfred J. Church (1907).

The Rousing of Achilles (cont.)

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And Menelaüs went back to Ajax, where he had left him standing close by the body of Patroclus. And he said to him: "I have found Antilŏchus, and he is carrying the news to Achilles. Yet I doubt whether he will come to the battle, however great his anger may be and his grief, for he has no armour to cover him. Let us think, therefore, how we may best save the body of Patroclus from the Trojans."

Ajax said: "Do you and Meriŏnes run forward and lift up the body and carry it away." So Menelaüs and Meriŏnes ran forward and lifted up the body. But when they would have carried it away, then the Trojans ran fiercely at them. So the battle raged; neither could the Greeks save the body, nor could the Trojans carry it away.

Meanwhile Antilŏchus came to Achilles where he sat by the door of his tent. With a great fear in his heart he sat, for he saw that the Greeks fled and the Trojans pursued after them. Then said Nestor's son: "I bring bad news. Patroclus is dead, and Hector has his arms, but the Greeks and Trojans are fighting for his body."

Then Achilles threw himself upon the ground, and took the dust in his hands, and poured it on his head, and tore his hair. And all the women wailed aloud. And Antilŏchus sat weeping; but while he wept he held the hands of Achilles, for he was afraid that in his anger he would do himself a mischief.

But Achilles' mother heard his cry, where she sat in the depths of the sea, and came to him and laid her hand upon his head, and said: "Why do you weep, my son? Tell me; hide not the matter from me."

Achilles answered: "All that you asked from Zeus, and that he promised to do, he has done: but what is the good? The man whom I loved above all others is dead, and Hector has my arms, for Patroclus was wearing them. As for me, I do not wish to live except to avenge myself upon him."

Then said Thetis: "My son, do not speak so: do you not know that when Hector dies, the hour is near when you also must die?"

Then Achilles cried in great anger: "I would that I could die this hour, for I sent my friend to his death; and I, who am better in battle than all the Greeks, could not help him. Cursed be the anger that sets men to strive with one another, as it made me strive with King Agamemnon. And as for my fate—what matters it? Let it come when it may, so that I may first have vengeance on Hector. Seek not, therefore, my mother, to keep me back from the battle."

Thetis answered: "Be it so, my son: only you cannot go without arms, and these Hector has. But to-morrow I will go to Hephaestus, that he may make new arms for you."

But while they talked, the Trojans pressed the Greeks still more and more, so that Ajax himself could no longer stand against them. Then truly they would have taken the body of Patroclus, had not Zeus sent Iris to Achilles with this message: "Rouse yourself, son of Peleus, or, surely, Patroclus will be a prey to the dogs of Troy."

But Achilles said: "How shall I go? For I have no arms, nor do I know of any whose arms I could wear. I might shift with the shield of great Ajax, but this he is carrying, as is his custom, in the front of the battle.

Then said Iris: "Go only to the trench and show yourself, for the Trojans will be swift and draw back, and the Greeks will have a breathing-space."

So Achilles ran to the trench. And Athené put her great shield about his shoulders, and set as it were a circle of gold about his head, so that it shone like to a flame of fire. To the trench he went, but he obeyed the word of his mother, and did not mix in the battle. Only he shouted aloud, and his voice was as the voice of a trumpet. It was a terrible sound to hear, and the hearts of the men of Troy were filled with fear. The very horses were frightened, and started aside, so that the chariots clashed together.

Three times did Achilles shout across the trench, and three times did the Trojans fall back. Twelve chiefs perished that hour; some were wounded by their own spears, and some were trodden down by their own horses, for the whole army was overcome with fear, from the front ranks to the hindermost.

Then the Greeks took up the body of Patroclus from the place where it lay, and put it on the bier, and carried it to the tent of Achilles, and Achilles himself walked by its side weeping. This had been a sad day, and to bring it sooner to an end Hera commanded the sun to set before his time. So did the Greeks rest from their labours.

On the other side of the field, the Trojans held an assembly. And one of the elders stood up and said: "Let us not wait here for the morning. It was well for us to fight at the ships so long as Achilles was angry with King Agamemnon. But now this has ceased to be. Tomorrow will he come back to the battle, the fiercer on account of his great grief, Patroclus being slain. Surely it will be an evil day for us, if we wait for his coming. Let us go back to the city, for its walls are high and its gates are strong, and the man who seeks to pass them will perish."

But Hector said: "This is bad counsel. Shall we shut ourselves up in the city? Are not our goods wasted? Have we enough wherewith to feed the people? Nay; we will watch to-night and to-morrow we will fight. And if Achilles comes to the battle, I will meet him, for the gods give victory now to one man and now to another."

And the people clapped their hands, for they were foolish, and knew not what the morrow would bring forth.

(1100 words)

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