The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 25



While the Trojans mourned for Hector in the city, the Greeks went back to the camp. All the others were scattered, each to his own ship, but Achilles spake to the Myrmidons, saying, "Loose not your horses from the yoke, but let us do honour to Patroclus, driving our chariots round the dead, and making lamentation the while."

Then the Myrmidons did as he had bidden them; thrice round the dead they drave their chariots, and made lamentation; and Achilles led the mourning. Also he laid the body of Hector in the dust beside the dead. After that he made a funeral feast for his people. He himself was brought by the chiefs, much against his will, to King Agamemnon, who had made a great feast for the leaders of the Greeks. But when the heralds heated water in a caldron, and would have had him wash off the blood, he refused, saying: "Nay; water shall not come nigh me till I have laid Patroclus on the fire, and heaped a mound over him. Now let us eat our meal, though it be in sorrow; to-morrow we will pay due honour to the dead."

So they ate and drank; and when they had had enough, the others lay down to sleep, each in his own tent, but Achilles lay groaning heavily amidst the Myrmidons in an open place by the sea.

While he slept, the shade of Patroclus stood above his head. The very same was he in stature, and voice, and height, yea, even in the garments that he wore. The spirit spake, saying: "Sleepest thou, Achilles, and forgettest me? Bury me speedily, for the spirits of the dead suffer me not to be with them, but I wander alone in Hades. And give me now thine hand, for never shall we two sit apart and hold counsel together, for I shall come again no more from the dead after that the fire hath consumed me. Lay also thy bones with mine, that we may be together, even as when we grew together, thou a lad and I a lad, in thy father's hall."

Then Achilles stretched out his hands, but caught not the ghost, for it fled as a smoke flieth.

The next day they made a great pile of wood, and laid the dead man thereon. Nine dogs had the Prince, and Achilles slew two of them on the pile, and four horses he slew, and also the twelve youths of Troy whom he had taken at the river. Then he set fire to the pile, saying: "Hear, Patroclus; twelve of the sons of Troy doth the fire devour with thee; but Hector will I give to the dogs."

And when the burning was well-nigh ended, Achilles spake, saying: "Quench ye the fire that yet remains with wine, and gather the bones of Patroclus together where they lie apart in the midst of the pile, and put them in an urn of gold against the day of my death. And make over them a tomb not over large; but when I am dead also, then shall ye that are left make it higher, as is meet."

And when all these things were ended, Achilles, willing to do all honour to the dead man, would have games, wherein the chiefs should contend one with the other. So, having called the people together, he brought forth out his ships many things that should be for prizes,—caldrons, kettles of bronze, and horses and mules, and fair women-slaves, and iron.

First, he would have a contest of chariots and horses, for which he set forth three prizes: For the first, a woman-slave, skilled in all the works of the loom, and with her a kettle of bronze with three feet, of twenty and two measures; and for the second, a mare of six years old; and for the third, a kettle of bronze, of four measures, fair and new; and for the fourth, two talents of gold; and for the fifth, a double cup; then he stood up in the midst, and spake: "Ye men of Greece, behold these prizes, which I have set in the midst for a race of chariots. Now know ye that if we were doing honour to another than Patroclus, I myself should carry the first prize to my tent, for there are not in the camp horses such as mine; and, indeed, they are not of mortal breed, but Poseidon gave them to Peleus, my father. But from this race I stand apart, and they also; for he that drave them is dead, whom they loved; therefore they stand grieving sore, and their manes droop to the ground. But contend together ye that will." Then stood up five chiefs; first of all, Eumelus, who was the son of Admetus, and Alcestis his wife, and next to him Diomed, having horses of Troy, which he took from Æneas (but Æneas himself Apollo delivered from death); and third, Menelaüs, driving his horse Whitefoot, and a mare, Flash-of-Fire, which Echepolus of Sicyon gave to King Agamemnon, that he might not sail to Troy, but might tarry at home, for he was very rich. Fourth came Antilochus, son of Nestor of Pylos, and after him Meriones.

Then said Nestor, the old man, to Antilochus: "My son, the gods have given thee skill in driving, wherefore there is small need to teach thee. But thy horses are not swift as those with whom thou contendest, and I fear much that thou wilt suffer defeat. Yet may counsel avail much, by which others also, as woodmen and pilots, excel. For one man, trusting in his chariot and his horses, that they are good, suffereth them to stray over the plain; but another looketh ever unto the turning-post, that he go not far from it, and holdeth well the reins and watcheth him that is before. And now heed what I say. There is a stump of a tree, a fathom high, and by it two white stones, the tomb of some man of old, or may be a boundary. There hath Achilles set the point of turning. To this keep thou as close as may be, leaning thyself to the left in thy chariot. And thy off horse thou must smite with the goad and shout to him, loosing the rein, but the near thou must press close to the stump, till the nave of the wheel be close to it; but touch not the stones, lest thou frighten thy horses and break thy chariot. And be sure that if thou art first here, no man shall pass thee afterwards, not though he drave Arion, which was the horse of Adrastus, or the horses of King Laomedon."

After this they drew lots for their places. And the first lot fell to Antilochus, and after him came Eumelus, and Menelaüs, and Meriones, and Diomed, in this order. Then Achilles marked the course, making old Phœnix the judge. After this the race began, and the men lifted their whips and smote their horses, and shouted also. And the dust rose up beneath the horses' breasts, and their manes were blown by the wind, and the chariots were seen now low upon the earth and now high in the air. But when they were come near to the end of the course at the turning-point, it might be seen which steeds were the better. For the horses of Eumelus were foremost, and next to these the horses of King Diomed, very close, so that they seemed about to step upon the chariot that was before them, and the back and broad shoulders of Eumelus were hot with breath, their heads being close upon him. And, indeed, Diomed had now passed him, or been equal in the race, but Apollo grudged him the victory,—for the god loved him not,—and struck the whip out of his hand. Very wroth was Diomed, and his eyes were filled with tears, that his horses should thus lack control. But Athené saw the thing and had pity on him, and gave him back the whip, and put strength into his horses. Also she went near to the son of Admetus, and brake the yoke of his chariot, so that the pole smote upon the ground, and the man himself was thrown down, having his elbows and mouth and nostrils sorely bruised, and a wound on his forehead over the eyebrows. Then did Diomed take the first place with his chariot, and next to him came Menelaüs. But Antilochus cried to his horses, saying: "Now speed ye as best ye can. I bid you not strive with the horses of King Diomed, for Athené giveth them swiftness and strength; but the horses of Menelaüs ye can overtake. It were a shame to you that Flame-of-Fire, being a mare, should surpass you. Nay, hear me. If ye be worsted in this, to Nestor ye shall not return, for I will slay you here with my sword."

And the horses feared the fury of the Prince, and leapt forward. Now Antilochus had spied a narrow place in the way, where it had been broken by the floods in the winter; and as Menelaüs drove his chariot thereby, Antilochus, turning a little out of the way, sought to pass at the same time. Now there was not space sufficient for two chariots, and Menelaüs feared, and cried: "Why drivest thou so madly, Antilochus? Stay awhile, and thou canst pass me if thou wilt, where the way is broader; but now thou wilt hurt thy chariot and mine." But Antilochus drave the more furiously, making as though he heard not. And for the space of a quoit's throw the chariots were abreast, but then Menelaüs held back, fearing lest they should clash together. But he cried to Antilochus: "Was there ever man so evil-minded as thou? Yet shalt thou not win this prize unless thou shalt forswear thyself that thou hast dealt fairly." And to his horses cried: "Speed ye! Stand not still; ye shall overtake them, for they will grow weary before you."

In the meantime the Greeks sat waiting till the chariots should come back. And Idomeneus of Crete espied them first, for he sate apart from the crowd, where the ground was higher. Then he said,—for he noted one horse that was bay, with a great circle of white, like unto the moon, upon his forehead,—"Do ye also see these chariots, men of Greece? For surely the order is changed, and he is not foremost that was so, but some mishap hath befallen him on the way. But it may be that my eyes see not as well as they were wont. Look ye, therefore; for I know not who cometh first, yet do I think that it is Diomed, son of Tydeus."

Then spoke Ajax Oïleus, swift of foot: "Why talkest thou thus idly, and before the time? Thou art not the youngest among the Greeks, nor thine eyes the keenest. The horses are yet foremost that were at the first, and the charioteer is Eumelus."

Then Idomeneus, in great wrath, made reply: "Ajax, thou art ready to strive and fierce of speech, for in naught else dost thou excel. Come, let us wager a kettle of bronze or a caldron, and Agamemnon shall judge. So when thou payest thou wilt learn wisdom."

But when Ajax would have answered him again, Achilles suffered him not, but made peace between them. Then came in Diomed first of all, and leapt from the chariot; and next to him Antilochus, having surpassed Menelaüs by craft and not by speed; nor, indeed, was Menelaüs far behind, being as near to him as a chariot is near to the horse which draweth it, so swift was the mare Flame-of-Fire, for at the first he had been a whole quoit's throw behind. But Meriones was vanquished by the flight of a spear, for his horses were the slowest, and he himself less skilled to drive. Last of all came Eumelus, drawing his chariot, and driving his horses before him. And Achilles pitied him, and said: "The most skilful cometh last. Surely he shall have the second prize."

And the Greeks gave consent; but Antilochus cried aloud: "Wilt thou take away this prize from me because his chariot was broken? Had he prayed to the gods, this had not happened. But if thou pitiest him, give him somewhat of thine own. As for this prize, no man taketh it from me but by arms."

And Achilles laughed and said: "'Tis well said, Antilochus. I will give him of mine own, even a breastplate which Asteropæus wore."

Then stood up Menelaüs, in great wrath, and said: "What is this that thou hast done, Antilochus? For thou hast shamed me and my horses, putting thine own in front, which are, of a truth, much worse than they. Judge, therefore, between us, ye chiefs of the Greeks. And thou, Antilochus, stand before thy chariot and thy horses, as the custom is, holding in one hand thy whip, and laying the other hand on thine horses, and swear by Poseidon that thou didst not hinder my chariot by fraud."

To him Antilochus made reply: "Bear with me, Menelaüs, for I am younger than thou, and thou knowest how young men go astray, for their judgment is hasty and their wit small. And as for the mare, I give it thee, and aught else that thou desirest, rather than that I should be at strife with thee or sin against the gods."

And the soul of Menelaüs was glad, as the corn is glad when the dew falleth upon it; and he said: "This is well said, son of Nestor. And now—for thy father and thy brother have borne much for my sake—I give thee this mare."

And he himself took the kettle of bronze, and the fourth prize Meriones had; but the double cup Achilles gave to old Nestor, saying: "Take this to be a memorial of the burial of Patroclus, whom thou wilt not see any more. For I know that old age hinders thee, that thou canst not contend in wrestling or boxing with the rest."

And the old man gave him thanks, and told what marvellous things he had done in his youth; that no man had vanquished him in wrestling, or in boxing, or in the race, or in casting the spear; only in the chariot-race he had been surpassed, and that by craft, for the two sons of Actor rode together, and one held the reins and the other plied the whip.

After this Achilles set forth two prizes for boxers: for the conqueror a mule, and for him that should be vanquished a cup with two mouths. Then stood up Epeüs, the son of Panopeus, and spake: "Who desireth to take this cup? for the mule no man but I shall have. In battle I am weak—for what man can do all things?—but whosoever shall stand against me to-day, verily, I will tear his flesh and break his bones, so that his friends had best be at hand to carry him away."

Then there rose up against him Euryalus, son of Mecisteus, a man of Argos. King Diomed stood by him, wishing much that he might prevail, and brought him his girdle that he might gird himself, and gave him the great gloves of bull's hide. Then the two stood together in the midst. Many blows did they deal to each other, so that the noise was dreadful to hear, and the sweat ran down from them. But after a while Epeüs sprang forward and smote Euryalus on the jaw, even through his guard, and Euryalus could not stand against him; but even as a fish is dashed by the north wind against the shore, so was he dashed to the earth. But Epeüs raised him up, and his companions led him away, sorely wounded and amazed.

After this Achilles would have a match of wrestling, saying that the conqueror should have a great kettle of bronze, of twelve oxen's worth, and the vanquished a woman-slave, skilful at the loom, worth four oxen. Then stood up Ajax the Greater and Ulysses, and took hold of one another with their hands, and strove together for the mastery. But after a while, when neither could prevail, and the people were weary with looking, Ajax spake, saying: "Come, Ulysses; thou shalt lift me from the ground if thou canst, and I thee. So shall we finish this matter." Then Ajax laid hold of Ulysses to lift him; and this he had done, but Ulysses used craft, as was his wont, and put forth his leg and smote Ajax on the sinew behind the knee, so that he fell, and Ulysses also above him. Then Ulysses would have lifted Ajax from the ground; a little space he moved him, but lifted him not, and his knee yielded beneath him, and they fell to the ground, both of them. But when they would have striven the third time, Achilles hindered them, saying: "Hold! it is enough. Ye are conquerers both, and your prizes shall be equal."

Next to this was a trial of racers on foot, in which three contended, Ajax the Less, and Ulysses, and Antilochus. Three also were the prizes; first of all, a great mixing-bowl of silver; six measures it held, nor was there aught fairer upon earth. In Sidon was it wrought, and Phœnician merchants brought it over the sea and gave it King Thoas; and Euneus, who was son of Hypsipyle, daughter to Thoas, gave it to Patroclus to be a ransom of Lycaon, son of King Priam. And for the second winner was a well-fattened ox, and for the third half a talent of gold. From the point where the chariots had turned in the race they ran, and in a short space Ajax the Less was foremost, with Ulysses close upon him, close as is the shuttle to the breast of a woman who stands at the loom and weaves. Hard behind him he ran, treading in his steps before the dust could rise from them. And when they were now drawing to the end of the course Ulysses prayed to Athené that she should help him, and Athené heard him, and made his knees and feet right nimble, and even at the very end she caused that Ajax slipped in the filth where certain oxen had been slain, so that his mouth and nostrils were filled with it. So Ulysses gained the mixing-bowl; but Ajax stood and spat the filth from his mouth, and laid his hand on the head of the ox, and cried, "Surely the goddess caused my feet to slip, for she ever standeth by Ulysses, and helpeth him as a mother helpeth a child."

So he spake, and all men laughed to hear him; and last of all came Antilochus, taking the third prize. And he said: "Ye know well, my friends, that the immortal gods ever help the aged. As for Ajax, he is but a little older than I, but Ulysses is of another generation. Yet is his verily a green old age; hardly may any of the Greeks strive with him, but only Achilles himself."

This was Achilles well pleased to hear, and said: "Thou shalt not praise me in vain, Antilochus. Take now another half talent to thy half."

And he gave him the gold, and Antilochus took it, and was glad.

Then did Achilles set in the midst a long-shafted spear, and a shield, and a helmet. The arms of Sarpedon they were, which Patroclus had taken from him on the plain of Troy, in the day wherein he also had been slain. And he spake, saying: "Now let two chiefs, such as are the bravest among the men of Greece, come forth and fight for the mastery, having armed themselves as if for the battle. And it shall be that he who shall first pierce the skin of him that standeth against him shall have the victory. To him will I give this sword, with studs of silver, fair work of Thrace, which I took from the great Asteropæus. As for these arms, the two shall divide them. Also to both will I give a great banquet in my tent."

Then stood up to contend together Ajax, the son of Telamon, and Diomed, son of Tydeus. Three times did they charge each other; and Ajax drave his spear through Diomed's shield, but the skin he touched not, for the breastplate hindered him. But Diomed smote with his spear over the edge of the shield at the neck of Ajax. Then were the Greeks sore afraid for the hero, and cried out that the battle should cease, and that the two should have equal rewards. Nevertheless, the victory was counted to Diomed, and Achilles gave him the sword with the scabbard, and also the belt thereof.

Then took Achilles a great weight of iron for a quoit, which had been King Eëtion's, who was the father of Andromaché, Hector's wife. And he said: "He who shall cast this the farthest shall have it for his own. And, verily, he that hath it, though his field be very wide, shall not lack for iron. Five years shall it last, so that neither shepherd nor ploughman shall have need to go to the town to buy.

Then there rose up to contend Polypœtes, who was of the race of the Lapithæ, and Leonteus, his comrade, also Ajax, the son of Telamon, and Epeüs. And first Epeüs cast it, and all the Greeks laughed, for he cast it not far, for all that he was so strong; and after him Leonteus made trial of it, and next Ajax, overpassing the marks of them that had gone before. But when Polypœtes stood up, lo! he cast it as far beyond the others as a herdsman flings his staff among his herd. And all the people shouted, and the comrades of Polypœtes rose up and bare the prize to the ships.

And after this the archers contended together, and the prize for the first was ten axes of iron, with an edge on either side; and for the second ten axes also, but having one edge only. Now the two that strove were Teucer, who was the brother of Ajax the Greater, and Meriones, who was the comrade of King Idomeneus of Crete. The mark that was set for them was the mast of a ship which Achilles had set up far off in the sands by the sea, to the top whereof he had bound a wood-dove, having a cord about its foot. And the lot fell to Teucer that he should shoot the first, and he shot, drawing the bow mightily; but he prayed not to Apollo, nor vowed that he would offer to him a sacrifice of a hundred lambs. The bird he hit not, for this Apollo gave not to him; but he smote the cord wherewith the dove was bound, and divided it; and the bird flew into the air, and the Greeks clapped their hands to see it. Then did Meriones take the bow from his hand,—for they shot with the same, the two of them,—and the arrow he had made ready before against his turn. Also he vowed a sacrifice of a hundred lambs to King Apollo. Then he beheld, and lo! the dove was very high in the clouds above his head, and he shot, and the arrow smote it under the wing as it wheeled in the air, and passed right through it. Before the feet of the archer fell the arrow, and the bird lighted on the mast. Then speedily it died, so that it fell upon the ground. So Meriones took the double-edged axes, and Teucer them that had one edge only.

Then there was a contest of throwing the spear; and the prize was a long-shafted spear, and a caldron that had never felt the fire, of the worth of an ox. For this there stood up King Agamemnon and Meriones, who was the comrade of King Idomeneus. But when Achilles saw the two, he spake, saying: "King Agamemnon, all men know that thou excellest in strength. Take thou this prize for thyself; and, if thou wilt, we will give a spear to Meriones."

And the saying pleased King Agamemnon. So the Games of Patroclus were ended; and the people were scattered to the ships, and sat down to eat and drink; and afterwards they slept. But Achilles slept not, for he remembered his dear Patroclus, and all that the two had done and endured together, journeying over sea and land, and standing against the enemy in the day of battle.