Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)
with their feet unwashed and their couches made upon the ground- if
you heard me when I prayed to you aforetime, and did me honour while
you sent disaster on the Achaeans, vouchsafe me now the fulfilment
of yet this further prayer. I shall stay here where my ships are
lying, but I shall send my comrade into battle at the head of many
Myrmidons. Grant, O all-seeing Jove, that victory may go with him; put
your courage into his heart that Hector may learn whether my squire is
man enough to fight alone, or whether his might is only then so
indomitable when I myself enter the turmoil of war. Afterwards when he
has chased the fight and the cry of battle from the ships, grant
that he may return unharmed, with his armour and his comrades,
fighters in close combat."
Thus did he pray, and all-counselling Jove heard his prayer. Part of
it he did indeed vouchsafe him- but not the whole. He granted that
Patroclus should thrust back war and battle from the ships, but
refused to let him come safely out of the fight.
When he had made his drink-offering and had thus prayed, Achilles
went inside his tent and put back the cup into his chest.
Then he again came out, for he still loved to look upon the fierce
fight that raged between the Trojans and Achaeans.
Meanwhile the armed band that was about Patroclus marched on till
they sprang high in hope upon the Trojans. They came swarming out like
wasps whose nests are by the roadside, and whom silly children love to
tease, whereon any one who happens to be passing may get stung- or
again, if a wayfarer going along the road vexes them by accident,
every wasp will come flying out in a fury to defend his little ones-
even with such rage and courage did the Myrmidons swarm from their
ships, and their cry of battle rose heavenwards. Patroclus called
out to his men at the top of his voice, "Myrmidons, followers of
Achilles son of Peleus, be men my friends, fight with might and with
main, that we may win glory for the son of Peleus, who is far the
foremost man at the ships of the Argives- he, and his close fighting
followers. The son of Atreus King Agamemnon will thus learn his
folly in showing no respect to the bravest of the Achaeans."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and they
fell in a body upon the Trojans. The ships rang again with the cry
which the Achaeans raised, and when the Trojans saw the brave son of
Menoetius and his squire all gleaming in their armour, they were
daunted and their battalions were thrown into confusion, for they
thought the fleet son of Peleus must now have put aside his anger, and
have been reconciled to Agamemnon; every one, therefore, looked
round about to see whither he might fly for safety.
Patroclus first aimed a spear into the middle of the press where men
were packed most closely, by the stern of the ship of Protesilaus.
He hit Pyraechmes who had led his Paeonian horsemen from the Amydon
and the broad waters of the river Axius; the spear struck him on the
right shoulder, and with a groan he fell backwards in the dust; on
this his men were thrown into confusion, for by killing their
leader, who was the finest soldier among them, Patroclus struck
panic into them all. He thus drove them from the ship and quenched the
fire that was then blazing- leaving the half-burnt ship to lie where
it was. The Trojans were now driven back with a shout that rent the
skies, while the Danaans poured after them from their ships,
shouting also without ceasing. As when Jove, gatherer of the
thunder-cloud, spreads a dense canopy on the top of some lofty
mountain, and all the peaks, the jutting headlands, and forest
glades show out in the great light that flashes from the bursting
heavens, even so when the Danaans had now driven back the fire from
their ships, they took breath for a little while; but the fury of
the fight was not yet over, for the Trojans were not driven back in
utter rout, but still gave battle, and were ousted from their ground
only by sheer fighting.
The fight then became more scattered, and the chieftains killed
one another when and how they could. The valiant son of Menoetius