Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)
neither by fear nor slackness, but it seems to be the of almighty Jove
that the Achaeans should perish ingloriously here far from Argos: you,
Thoas, have been always staunch, and you keep others in heart if you
see any fail in duty; be not then remiss now, but exhort all to do
To this Neptune lord of the earthquake made answer, "Idomeneus,
may he never return from Troy, but remain here for dogs to batten
upon, who is this day wilfully slack in fighting. Get your armour
and go, we must make all haste together if we may be of any use,
though we are only two. Even cowards gain courage from
companionship, and we two can hold our own with the bravest."
Therewith the god went back into the thick of the fight, and
Idomeneus when he had reached his tent donned his armour, grasped
his two spears, and sallied forth. As the lightning which the son of
Saturn brandishes from bright Olympus when he would show a sign to
mortals, and its gleam flashes far and wide- even so did his armour
gleam about him as he ran. Meriones his sturdy squire met him while he
was still near his tent (for he was going to fetch his spear) and
"Meriones, fleet son of Molus, best of comrades, why have you left
the field? Are you wounded, and is the point of the weapon hurting
you? or have you been sent to fetch me? I want no fetching; I had
far rather fight than stay in my tent."
"Idomeneus," answered Meriones, "I come for a spear, if I can find
one in my tent; I have broken the one I had, in throwing it at the
shield of Deiphobus."
And Idomeneus captain of the Cretans answered, "You will find one
spear, or twenty if you so please, standing up against the end wall of
my tent. I have taken them from Trojans whom I have killed, for I am
not one to keep my enemy at arm's length; therefore I have spears,
bossed shields, helmets, and burnished corslets."
Then Meriones said, "I too in my tent and at my ship have spoils
taken from the Trojans, but they are not at hand. I have been at all
times valorous, and wherever there has been hard fighting have held my
own among the foremost. There may be those among the Achaeans who do
not know how I fight, but you know it well enough yourself."
Idomeneus answered, "I know you for a brave man: you need not tell
me. If the best men at the ships were being chosen to go on an ambush-
and there is nothing like this for showing what a man is made of; it
comes out then who is cowardly and who brave; the coward will change
colour at every touch and turn; he is full of fears, and keeps
shifting his weight first on one knee and then on the other; his heart
beats fast as he thinks of death, and one can hear the chattering of
his teeth; whereas the brave man will not change colour nor be on
finding himself in ambush, but is all the time longing to go into
action- if the best men were being chosen for such a service, no one
could make light of your courage nor feats of arms. If you were struck
by a dart or smitten in close combat, it would not be from behind,
in your neck nor back, but the weapon would hit you in the chest or
belly as you were pressing forward to a place in the front ranks.
But let us no longer stay here talking like children, lest we be ill
spoken of; go, fetch your spear from the tent at once."
On this Meriones, peer of Mars, went to the tent and got himself a
spear of bronze. He then followed after Idomeneus, big with great
deeds of valour. As when baneful Mars sallies forth to battle, and his
son Panic so strong and dauntless goes with him, to strike terror even
into the heart of a hero- the pair have gone from Thrace to arm
themselves among the Ephyri or the brave Phlegyans, but they will
not listen to both the contending hosts, and will give victory to
one side or to the other- even so did Meriones and Idomeneus, captains
of men, go out to battle clad in their bronze armour. Meriones was
first to speak. "Son of Deucalion," said he, "where would you have
us begin fighting? On the right wing of the host, in the centre, or on
the left wing, where I take it the Achaeans will be weakest?"