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Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)   


both men and women marvel as they see him for he keeps all the time
changing his horse, springing from one to another without ever missing
his feet while the horses are at a gallop- even so did Ajax go
striding from one ship's deck to another, and his voice went up into
the heavens. He kept on shouting his orders to the Danaans and
exhorting them to defend their ships and tents; neither did Hector
remain within the main body of the Trojan warriors, but as a dun eagle
swoops down upon a flock of wild-fowl feeding near a river-geese, it
may be, or cranes, or long-necked swans- even so did Hector make
straight for a dark-prowed ship, rushing right towards it; for Jove
with his mighty hand impelled him forward, and roused his people to
follow him.
And now the battle again raged furiously at the ships. You would
have thought the men were coming on fresh and unwearied, so fiercely
did they fight; and this was the mind in which they were- the Achaeans
did not believe they should escape destruction but thought
themselves doomed, while there was not a Trojan but his heart beat
high with the hope of firing the ships and putting the Achaean
heroes to the sword.
Thus were the two sides minded. Then Hector seized the stern of
the good ship that had brought Protesilaus to Troy, but never bore him
back to his native land. Round this ship there raged a close
hand-to-hand fight between Danaans and Trojans. They did not fight
at a distance with bows and javelins, but with one mind hacked at
one another in close combat with their mighty swords and spears
pointed at both ends; they fought moreover with keen battle-axes and
with hatchets. Many a good stout blade hilted and scabbarded with
iron, fell from hand or shoulder as they fought, and the earth ran red
with blood. Hector, when he had seized the ship, would not loose his
hold but held on to its curved stern and shouted to the Trojans,
"Bring fire, and raise the battle-cry all of you with a single
voice. Now has Jove vouchsafed us a day that will pay us for all the
rest; this day we shall take the ships which came hither against
heaven's will, and which have caused us such infinite suffering
through the cowardice of our councillors, who when I would have done
battle at the ships held me back and forbade the host to follow me; if
Jove did then indeed warp our judgements, himself now commands me
and cheers me on."
As he spoke thus the Trojans sprang yet more fiercely on the
Achaeans, and Ajax no longer held his ground, for he was overcome by
the darts that were flung at him, and made sure that he was doomed.
Therefore he left the raised deck at the stern, and stepped back on to
the seven-foot bench of the oarsmen. Here he stood on the look-out,
and with his spear held back Trojan whom he saw bringing fire to the
ships. All the time he kept on shouting at the top of his voice and
exhorting the Danaans. "My friends," he cried, "Danaan heroes,
servants of Mars, be men my friends, and fight with might and with
main. Can we hope to find helpers hereafter, or a wall to shield us
more surely than the one we have? There is no strong city within
reach, whence we may draw fresh forces to turn the scales in our
favour. We are on the plain of the armed Trojans with the sea behind
us, and far from our own country. Our salvation, therefore, is in
the might of our hands and in hard fighting."
As he spoke he wielded his spear with still greater fury, and when
any Trojan made towards the ships with fire at Hector's bidding, he
would be on the look-out for him, and drive at him with his long
spear. Twelve men did he thus kill in hand-to-hand fight before the
ships.

BOOK XVI

THUS did they fight about the ship of Protesilaus. Then Patroclus
drew near to Achilles with tears welling from his eyes, as from some
spring whose crystal stream falls over the ledges of a high precipice.

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