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Pages of Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)

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Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)   

reek of blood and slaughter; they know not what fear is, for it is
hunger drives them- even so did the leaders and counsellors of the
Myrmidons gather round the good squire of the fleet descendant of
Aeacus, and among them stood Achilles himself cheering on both men and
Fifty ships had noble Achilles brought to Troy, and in each there
was a crew of fifty oarsmen. Over these he set five captains whom he
could trust, while he was himself commander over them all.
Menesthius of the gleaming corslet, son to the river Spercheius that
streams from heaven, was captain of the first company. Fair Polydora
daughter of Peleus bore him to ever-flowing Spercheius- a woman
mated with a god- but he was called son of Borus son of Perieres, with
whom his mother was living as his wedded wife, and who gave great
wealth to gain her. The second company was led by noble Eudorus, son
to an unwedded woman. Polymele, daughter of Phylas the graceful
dancer, bore him; the mighty slayer of Argos was enamoured of her as
he saw her among the singing women at a dance held in honour of
Diana the rushing huntress of the golden arrows; he therefore-
Mercury, giver of all good- went with her into an upper chamber, and
lay with her in secret, whereon she bore him a noble son Eudorus,
singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. When Ilithuia goddess
of the pains of child-birth brought him to the light of day, and he
saw the face of the sun, mighty Echecles son of Actor took the
mother to wife, and gave great wealth to gain her, but her father
Phylas brought the child up, and took care of him, doting as fondly
upon him as though he were his own son. The third company was led by
Pisander son of Maemalus, the finest spearman among all the
Myrmidons next to Achilles' own comrade Patroclus. The old knight
Phoenix was captain of the fourth company, and Alcimedon, noble son of
Laerceus of the fifth.
When Achilles had chosen his men and had stationed them all with
their captains, he charged them straitly saying, "Myrmidons,
remember your threats against the Trojans while you were at the
ships in the time of my anger, and you were all complaining of me.
'Cruel son of Peleus,' you would say, 'your mother must have suckled
you on gall, so ruthless are you. You keep us here at the ships
against our will; if you are so relentless it were better we went home
over the sea.' Often have you gathered and thus chided with me. The
hour is now come for those high feats of arms that you have so long
been pining for, therefore keep high hearts each one of you to do
battle with the Trojans."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
serried their companies yet more closely when they heard the of
their king. As the stones which a builder sets in the wall of some
high house which is to give shelter from the winds- even so closely
were the helmets and bossed shields set against one another. Shield
pressed on shield, helm on helm, and man on man; so close were they
that the horse-hair plumes on the gleaming ridges of their helmets
touched each other as they bent their heads.
In front of them all two men put on their armour- Patroclus and
Automedon- two men, with but one mind to lead the Myrmidons. Then
Achilles went inside his tent and opened the lid of the strong chest
which silver-footed Thetis had given him to take on board ship, and
which she had filled with shirts, cloaks to keep out the cold, and
good thick rugs. In this chest he had a cup of rare workmanship,
from which no man but himself might drink, nor would he make
offering from it to any other god save only to father Jove. He took
the cup from the chest and cleansed it with sulphur; this done he
rinsed it clean water, and after he had washed his hands he drew wine.
Then he stood in the middle of the court and prayed, looking towards
heaven, and making his drink-offering of wine; nor was he unseen of
Jove whose joy is in thunder. "King Jove," he cried, "lord of
Dodona, god of the Pelasgi, who dwellest afar, you who hold wintry
Dodona in your sway, where your prophets the Selli dwell around you

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