The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 6

 

CHAPTER VI.

THE VALIANT DEEDS OF DIOMED.

When the armies were come into one place, they dashed together with buckler and spear; and there was a great crash of shields that met, boss upon boss. Next rose up a great moaning of them that were stricken down, and shouting of the conquerors; and the ground ran with blood. As when two torrents, swollen with rains of winter, join their waters in a hollow ravine at the meeting of the glens, and the shepherds hear the din far off among the hills, even so, with a mighty noise and great confusion, did the two armies meet.

Antilochus, son of Nestor, was the first to slay a man of Troy, Ecepholus by name, smiting him through the helmet on the forehead. Like a tower he fell, and Elphenor the Eubœan sought to drag him away, that he might strip him of his arms. But Agenor smote him with his spear as he stooped, so baring his side to a wound. Dreadful was the fight around his body. Like wolves the Trojans and the Greeks rushed upon each other. And Ajax Telamon slew Simœisius (so they called him, because he was born on the banks of Simois). He fell as a poplar falls, and Antiphon, son of King Priam, aimed at Ajax, but, missing him, slew Leucus, the valiant comrade of Ulysses. And Ulysses, in great anger, stalked through the foremost fighters, brandishing his spear, and the sons of Troy gave way, and when he hurled it he slew Democoön, a son of Priam. Then Hector and the foremost ranks of Troy were borne backward, till Apollo cried from the heights of Pergamos: "On, Trojans! The flesh of these Greeks is not stone or iron, that ye cannot pierce it. Know, too, that the mighty Achilles does not fight to-day." But on the other side Athené urged on the Greeks to battle. Then Peiros the Thracian slew Diores, first striking him to the ground with a huge stone, and then piercing him with his spear; and him in turn Thoas of Ætolia slew, but could not spoil of his arms, so strongly did the men of Thrace defend the body. Then Athené roused Diomed to battle, making a fire shine from his helmet, bright as Orion shines in the vintage time. First there met him two warriors, sons of Dares, priest of Hephæstus, Phegeus and Idæus, the one fighting on foot and the other from his chariot. First Phegeus threw his spear and missed his aim; but Diomed missed not, smiting him through the breast. And Idæus, when he saw his brother fall, fled, Hephæstus saving him, lest the old man should be altogether bereaved. And when the Trojans saw that of the two sons of Dares one had perished and the other had fled, their hearts were troubled within them.

Then did Athené take Ares by the hand, and say to him: "Come, let us leave the Greeks and the men of Troy to fight, and let Zeus give the glory to whom he will; only let us draw back, and avoid his wrath."

So she drew back fierce Ares from the war, and caused him to sit by the banks of Scamander. Then did the Greeks beat back, the men of Troy. And each of the chiefs slew a foe; but there was none like Diomed, who raged through the battle so furiously that you could not tell with which host he was, whether with the Greeks or with the sons of Troy. Then Pandarus aimed an arrow at him, and smote him in the right shoulder as he was rushing forward, and cried aloud: "On, great-hearted sons of Troy, the bravest of the Greeks is wounded! Soon, methinks, will his strength fail him, unless Apollo has deceived me."

So he spake exulting, but the arrow quelled not Diomed. Only he leapt down from the chariot, and spake to Sthenelus, his charioteer, "Come down, and draw this arrow from my shoulder." Then Sthenelus drew it, and the blood spirted out from the wound. And Diomed prayed to Athené: "O Goddess, if ever thou didst love my father, and stand beside him in the fiery war, be thou a friend to me also; let me come within a spear's cast of this man who hath wounded me, and who boasteth himself over me, saying that I shall not long look upon the shining of the sun."

So he prayed, and Athené heard; and she made light his hands and his feet, and stood beside him, and spake: "Be bold now, O Diomed, and fight with the men of Troy! I have breathed into thy heart the spirit that was in Tydeus, thy father, and I have taken away the mist that was upon thine eyes, that thou mayest know god from man. Fight not thou with any of the immortals, if a god should come in thy way; only if Aphrodité comes into the battle, her thou mayest wound."

So spake Athené, and went her way; and Diomed turned back to the battle, and mingled with the foremost. Eager he had been before to fight, but now his eagerness was increased threefold. Even as a lion whom a shepherd wounds a little as he leaps into the fold, but kills not, and the man escapes into his house, and the sheep flee in their terror, falling huddled in a heap, even so did Diomed rage among the men of Troy.

Many did he slay, as the two sons of Eurydamas, the old dreamer of dreams, who read no dream to them aright of safe return, and the two sons of Phœnops, darlings of their father, for they were his only sons, and he had none besides, and two sons of Priam, riding in one chariot. As a lion leaps into the herd, and breaks the neck of a heifer or a cow, even so did Diomed dash them struggling from the chariot, and gave their horses to his followers, that they should drive them to the ships.

Æneas saw him, and thought how he might stay him in his course. So he passed through the host till he found Pandarus. "Pandarus," he said, "where are thy bow and arrows? See how this man deals death through the ranks. Send a shaft at him, first making thy prayer to Zeus."

Then Pandarus answered: "This man, methinks, is Diomed. The shield and the helmet and the horses are his. And yet I know not whether he is not a god. Some god, at least, stands by him and guards him. But now I sent an arrow at him, and smote him on the shoulder, right through the corselet, and thought that I had slain him; but lo! I have harmed him not at all. And now I know not what to do, for here I have no chariot. Eleven, indeed, there are at home, in the house of my father Lycaon, and the old man was earnest with me that I should bring one of them; but I would not, fearing for my horses, lest they should not have provender enough. So I came, trusting in my bow, and lo! it has failed me these two times. Two of the chiefs I have hit, Menelaüs and Diomed, and from each have seen the red blood flow, yet have I not harmed them. Surely, if ever I return safe to my home, I will break this useless bow."

"Nay," said Æneas, "talk not thus. Climb into my chariot, and see what horses we have in Troy. They will carry us safe to the city, even should Diomed prevail against us. But take the rein and the whip, and I will fight; or, if thou wilt, fight thou, and I will drive."

"Nay," said Pandarus, "let the horses have the driver whom they know. It might lose us both, should we turn to flee, and they linger or start aside, missing their master's voice."

So Pandarus mounted the chariot, and they drove together against Diomed. And Sthenelus saw them coming, and said to his comrades: "I see two mighty warriors, Lycaon and Æneas. It would be well that we should go back to our chariot."

But Diomed frowned, and said: "Talk not of going back. Thou wilt talk in vain to me. As for my chariot, I care not for it. As I am will I go against these men. Both shall not return safe, even if one should escape. But do thou stay my chariot where it is, tying the reins to the rail; and if I slay these men, mount the chariot of Æneas and drive it into the host of the Greeks. There are no horses under the sun such as these, for they are of the breed which Zeus himself gave to King Tros."

Meanwhile Pandarus and Æneas were coming near, and Pandarus cast his spear. Right through the shield of Diomed it passed, and reached the corselet, and Pandarus cried:—

"Thou art hit in the loin. This, methinks, will lay thee low."

"Nay," said Diomed, "thou hast missed and not hit at all."

And as he spake he threw his spear. Through nose and teeth and tongue it passed, and stood out below the chin. Headlong from the chariot he fell, and his armour clashed about him. Straightway Æneas leapt off with spear and shield to guard the body of his friend, and stood as a lion stands over a carcass. But Diomed lifted a great stone, such as two men of our day could scarcely carry, and cast it. It struck Æneas on the hip, crushing the bone. The hero stooped on his knee, clutching the ground with his hand, and darkness covered his eyes. That hour he had perished, but his mother Aphrodité caught him in her white arms, and threw her veil about him. But even so, Diomed was loath to let his foe escape, and knowing that the goddess was not of those who mingle in the battle, he rushed on her and wounded her on the wrist, and the blood gushed out—such blood (they call it ichor) as flows in the veins of the immortal gods, who eat not the meat and drink not the drink of men. With a loud shriek she dropped her son, but Apollo caught him up and covered him with a dark mist, lest perchance one of the Greeks should spy him and slay him.

But Diomed called aloud after Aphrodité: "Haste thee from the battle, daughter of Zeus. It is enough for thee to beguile weak women."

Wildly did the goddess rush from the battle. And Iris, swift as the winds, took her by the hand, and led her out of the press, for she was tormented with the pain. She found Ares on the left of the field, and knelt before him, begging for his horses with many prayers. "Help me, dear brother," she said, "and lend me thy horses to carry me to Olympus, for I am tormented with a wound which a mortal man gave me, even Diomed, who would fight with Father Zeus himself."

Then Ares gave her his chariot, and Iris took the reins, and touched the horses with the whip. Speedily came they to Olympus, and then Iris reined in the horses, and Aphrodité fell on the lap of her mother Dioné, who took her daughter in her arms, and caressed her, saying:—

"Dear child, which of the immortals hath harmed thee thus?"

Aphrodité answered, "No immortal hath done it, but a mortal man, even Diomed, who now fighteth with the immortal gods."

But Dioné answered: "Bear up and endure thy pain, for many who dwell in Olympus have suffered pain at the hands of mortal men. So Ares endured when the two giants bound him with mighty bonds. Nineteen months he lay in a jar of bronze, aye, and had perished there, but that Hermes stole him therefrom. Pain also did Hera endure when the strong Hercules smote her in the breast with a three-pointed arrow; and Pluto also when the same man struck him at Pylos, where are the gates of hell. And now Athené hath urged on the son of Tydeus. Fool that he is! he knoweth not that brief are the days of him who would fight with the immortal gods. No children shall stand at his knee and call him father. Let him take heed, for all that he is so strong!"

So spake she, and wiped the moisture from the wound with both her hands, and the grievous hurt was healed. But Hera and Athené looked on and mocked. And Athené said to Zeus, "Now hath thy daughter been moving one of the Greek women to follow the Trojans whom she loveth so well, and lo! she hath wounded her hand with the pin of a golden brooch."

But the father smiled, and called Aphrodité to him, and said, "My child, deeds of war are not for thee, but love and marriage; leave the rest to Athené and Ares."

Meanwhile Diomed sprang upon Æneas, though he knew that Apollo himself held him. He regarded not the god, for he was eager to slay the hero and to strip off his arms. Thrice he sprang, and thrice Apollo dashed back his shining shield. The fourth time Apollo warned him with awful words, "Beware, son of Tydeus, and fall back, nor think to match thyself with gods." But Apollo carried Æneas out of the battle, and laid him down in his own temple in the citadel of Troy, and there Artemis and Latona healed him of his wound. And all the while the Trojans and the Greeks were fighting, as they thought, about his body, for Apollo had made a likeness of the hero and thrown it down in their midst. Then Sarpedon the Lycian spake to Hector with bitter words:—

"Where are thy boasts, Hector? Thou saidst that thou couldst guard thy city, without thy people or thy allies, thou alone, with thy brothers and thy brothers-in-law. But I cannot see even one of them. They go and hide themselves, as dogs before a lion. It is we, your allies, who maintain the battle. I have come from far to help thy people,—from Lycia, where I left wife and child and wealth,—nor do I shrink from the fight, but thou shouldst do thy part."

And the words stung Hector to the heart. He leapt from his chariot and went through the host, urging them to the battle. And on the other side the Greeks strengthened themselves. But Ares brought back Æneas whole from his wound, and gave him courage and might. Right glad were his comrades to see him, nor did they ask him any question; scant leisure was there for questions that day. Then were done many valiant deeds, nor did any bear himself more bravely than Æneas. Two chieftains of the Greeks he slew, Crethon and Orsilochus, who came from the banks of Alpheüs. Sore vexed was Menelaüs to see them fall, and he rushed to avenge them, Ares urging him on, for he hoped that Æneas would slay him. But Antilochus, Nestor's son, saw him go, and hasted to his side that he might help him. So they went and slew Pylæmenes, King of the Paphlagonians, and Medon, his charioteer. Then Hector rushed to the front, and Ares was by his side. Diomed saw him, and the god also, for his eyes were opened that day, and he fell back a space and cried:—

"O my friends! here Hector comes; nor is he alone, but Ares is with him in the shape of a mortal man. Let us give place, still keeping our faces to the foe, for men must not fight with gods."

Then drew near to each other Sarpedon the Lycian and Tlepolemus, the son of Hercules, the one a son and the other a grandson of Zeus. First Tlepolemus spake:—

"What art thou doing here, Sarpedon? Surely 'tis a false report that thou art a son of Zeus. The sons of Zeus in the old days were better men than thou art, such as my Father Hercules, who came to this city when Laomedon would not give him the horses which he had promised, and brake down the walls and wasted the streets. No help, methinks, wilt thou be to the sons of Troy, slain here by my hands."

But Sarpedon answered: "He, indeed, spoiled Troy, for Laomedon did him grievous wrong. But thou shalt not fare so, but rather meet with thy death."

Then they both hurled their spears, aiming truly, both of them. For Sarpedon smote Tlepolemus in the neck, piercing it through so that he fell dead, and Tlepolemus smote Sarpedon in the left thigh, driving the spear close to the bone, but slaying him not, for his Father Zeus warded off the doom of death. And his comrades carried him out of the battle, sorely burdened with the spear, which no one had thought to take out of the wound. And as he was borne along, Hector passed by, and Sarpedon rejoiced to see him, and cried:—

"Son of Priam, suffer me not to become a prey to the Greeks; let me at least die in your city; for Lycia I may see no more, nor wife, nor child."

But Hector heeded him not, so eager was he for the battle. So his comrades carried him to the great beech tree and laid him down, and one of them drew the spear out of his thigh. When it was drawn out he fainted, but the cool north wind blew and revived him, and he breathed again.

But all the while Hector, with Ares at his side, dealt death and destruction through the ranks of the Greeks. Hera and Athené saw him where they sat on the top of Olympus, and were wroth. So they went to Father Zeus, and prayed that it might be lawful to them to stop him in his fury. And Zeus said, "Be it as you will." So they yoked the horses to the chariot of Hera and passed down to earth, the horses flying at every stride over so much space as a man sees who sits upon a cliff and looks across the sea to where it meets the sky. They alighted on the spot where the two rivers Simoïs and Scamander join their streams. There they loosed the horses from the yoke, and then sped like doves to where the bravest of the Greeks stood round King Diomed. There Hera took the shape of Stentor with the lungs of bronze, whose voice was as the voice of fifty men, and cried: "Shame, men of Greece! When Achilles went to the battle, the men of Troy came not beyond the gates, but now they fight far from the city, even by the ships." But Athené went to Diomed, where he stood wiping away the blood from the wound where Pandarus had struck him with the arrow. And she spake: "Surely the son of Tydeus is little like to his sire. Small of stature was he, but a keen fighter. But thou—whether it be weariness or fear that keeps thee back I know not—canst scarcely be a true son of Tydeus."

But Diomed answered: "Nay, great goddess, for I know thee who thou art, daughter of Zeus, it is not weariness or fear that keeps me back. 'Tis thy own command that I heed. Thou didst bid me fight with none other of the immortal gods but only with Aprodité, should she come to the battle. Therefore I give place, for I see Ares lording it through the ranks of war."

Then Athené spake: "Heed not Ares; drive thy chariot at him, and smite him with the spear. This very morning he promised that he would help the Greeks, and now he hath changed his purpose."

And as she spake she pushed Sthenelus,


Diomed casting his spear against Ares.jpg

Diomed casting his spear against Ares.


who drove the chariot, so that he leapt out upon the ground, and she mounted herself and caught the reins and lashed the horses. So the two went together, and they found Ares where he had just slain Periphas the Ætolian. But Athené had donned the helmet of Hades, which whosoever puts on straightway becomes invisible, for she would not that Ares should see her who she was. The god saw Diomed come near, and left Periphas, and cast his spear over the yoke of the chariot, eager to slay the hero. But Athené caught the spear in her hand, and turned it aside, so that it flew vainly through the air. Then Diomed in turn thrust forward his spear, and Athené leant upon it, so that it pierced the loin of Ares, where his girdle was clasped. And Ares shouted with the pain, loud as a host of men, thousands nine or ten, shouts when it joins in battle. And the Greeks and Trojans trembled as they heard. And Diomed saw the god go up to Olympus as a thunder-cloud goes up when the wind of the south blows hot.

By the side of Zeus did he sit down, and showed the immortal blood as it flowed from the wound, and cried: "Father Zeus, canst thou contain thyself, seeing such deeds as these? See now this daughter of thine, how she is bent on evil and mischief. All we that dwell in Olympus are obedient to thee; but her thou checkest not with word or deed; she is thy child, forsooth, a very child of mischief. And now she hath set on this bold Diomed to wreak his madness on the immortal gods: first he wounded Aphrodité on the wrist; then he rushed on me; my swift feet bare me away, else surely I had suffered the pains of death among the carcasses of the slain."

But Zeus frowned on him, and spake: "Come not to me with thy complaints, for of all the Olympian gods thou vexest me the most, for battle and strife are ever dear to thee. 'Tis thy mother Hera that hath put thee to this pain. Yet I may not suffer thee to endure the anguish any more, for thou art my child; verily, hadst thou been the offspring of any other god, thou hadst lain long since deep down in Tartarus below the giant race."

Then Zeus called Pæon the healer, and bade him tend the wound; and he, sprinkling on it pain-dispelling simples, cured it of its smart. Then Hebe gave to Ares the bath, and clad him in fair array, and he sat down by Zeus, rejoicing.