The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 13



When the next day dawned, King Agamemnon called the Greeks to battle. And first he donned his arms; about his breast he put the corselet which Cinyras of Cyprus gave him; twelve bands it had of dark iron, and twelve of gold, and of tin twenty, and on either side three dragons upright, stretching up to the neck, with many colours, as the rainbow which Zeus setteth in the clouds to be a sign to men. From his shoulder he hung his flashing sword with bosses of gold and silver scabbard; and on his arm he put his shield, ankle-long, with a Gorgon head, dreadful to look upon, in the midst, and Fear and Flight on either side. Rimmed with silver was the shield, and wrought upon the rims in iron a dragon with three heads growing from a single neck. Last he took two spears, one in either hand; and Athené and Hera thundered as he went to do him honour.

On the other side Hector set in order the men of Troy. As a baleful star now shineth from the clouds, and now is hidden, so Hector now shone among the foremost ranks, and now ordered the rearward.

Then the men of Troy and the Greeks leapt upon each other. As reapers reap in a rich man's field, making the barley and the wheat fall in long swathes, so did the Trojans and the Greeks slay one another. So long as the day was waxing the battle was equal, and the people fell alike on either side; but at noon, at the hour when he that cutteth wood among the hills groweth weary of his work and craveth for food, then the Greeks with a great onset brake the Trojan line, and Agamemnon leapt first into the breach. First he slew two men in one chariot, Bienor and his charioteer; and next to these two sons of Priam, Isus and Antiphus. These two Achilles had taken aforetime as they fed their flocks on the slopes of Ida, and had let them go for a ransom. Now Agamemnon came upon them, and he knew them, having seen them before at the ships. One he smote upon the breast with his spear, the other on his ear with his sword. Even as a lion comes upon the young of a doe, and crusheth them in his teeth, and the mother cannot help them, though she be near, but flieth trembling through the wood, so did these two perish, and none of the Trojans dared to help them, but rather fled themselves.

Next to these Agamemnon found the sons of Antimachus. These two he took alive in their chariot, for they had dropped the reins, and stood helpless before him, crying out that he should spare them, and take ransom, for that Antimachus their father had much gold and bronze and iron in his house, and would gladly buy them back alive. Now Antimachus had taken a bribe from Prince Paris, and had given counsel to the Trojans that they should not give back the fair Helen. So when King Agamemnon heard them, he said: "Nay, but if ye be sons of Antimachus, who counselled the men of Troy that they should slay Menelaüs when he came an ambassador to their city, ye shall die for your father's sin."

So he slew them both, and, leaving them, still rushed on, driving back the Trojans, even to the walls of their city, and the Greeks came after him, and footman slew footman, and horseman, horseman. As a fire falleth on a wood, and sweepeth it away, so Agamemnon fell upon the men of Troy, and swept them before him. Past the Tomb of Ilus, and past the wild fig tree in the plain, they fled, and the King followed hard upon them, shouting aloud. But when they came to the Scæan gate they turned and stood, and the battle was renewed.

Then spake Zeus to Iris, saying: "Get thee away, swift Iris, and bear this word to Hector. So long as he shall see King Agamemnon laying waste the ranks of men, so long let him hold back from the battle. But when the King shall be wounded with spear or arrow, and shall leap from his chariot, then let him advance, and I will give him strength to slay till he shall come to the ships, and the sun shall set."

So he came, and told these words to Hector. And when Hector heard them, he leapt from his chariot, and went up and down the ranks of Troy, strengthening them for the fight. And the two hosts stood, and faced each other.

Then did King Agamemnon slay the two sons of Antenor. First he slew Iphidamas, who had been reared in his grandsire's halls, the father of fair Theano, Antenor's wife. There he had married a wife, giving for her many gifts; a hundred oxen he paid in hand, and a thousand sheep and goats he promised; but little joy he had, for while yet a bridegroom he came to fight for Troy, and now the King slew him. First Agamemnon threw his spear, but missed his cast; then Antenor's son smote the King upon the girdle, beneath the corselet, leaning his weight upon the blow; but he pierced not the girdle, for the spear point came full upon the silver, and turned aside as it had been lead. Then the King caught the spear, and wrenched it from his hand, and smote him a deadly blow upon the neck.

But Coön, Antenor's first-born son, was grieved for his brother, and standing sideways, so that the King saw him not, he stabbed him in the middle of the arm, beneath the elbow, and the spear pierced it through. The King started, yet ceased not from battle, but as Coön dragged his brother by the foot out of the press, calling upon the chiefs to help, then Agamemnon smote him with the spear, beneath the shield, and drove him to the ground, and after smote off his head with the sword. Thus did Agamemnon slay the two sons of Antenor.

For a while, while the wound was warm, the King fought as before; but when it grew cold and stiff, great pain came upon him, and he leapt into his chariot and bade the charioteer drive him to the ships, for that he could fight no more.