Zeus commanded Themis to call the gods.
If Achilles fights the Trojans – unopposed by us –
not for a moment will they hold his breakneck force.
Even before now they’d shake to see him coming.
Now, with his rage inflamed for his friend’s death,
I fear he’ll raze the walls against the will of fate.
And terror-struck in the underworld, Hades lord of the dead
cringed and sprang from his throne and screamed shrill,
fearing the god who rocks the ground above his realm,
giant Poseidon, would burst the earth wide open now
and lay bare to mortal men and immortal gods at last
the houses of the dead – the dank, moldering horrors
that fill the deathless gods themselves with loathing.
So immense the clash as the war of gods erupted.
Hera, so hard, so senseless! Don’t leap to extremes.
I, at least, have no real lust to drive our forces
against the gods of Troy. Our side is so much stronger.
Come now, let us move off and settle down together
far from the trampled field, take a lookout post
and leave the war to mortals…
But if Ares or Phoebus cares to start things off,
if they block Achilles and keep him out of action,
they will have a fight on their hands, then and there,
an all-out fight with us.
what god on high commands you to play the madman?
Fighting against Achilles’ overwhelming fury! –
both a better soldier and more loved by the gods.
Pull back at once, whenever you’re thrown against him –
or go down to the House of Death against the will of fate.
But once Achilles has met his death, his certain doom,
take courage then, go fight on the front lines then –
no other Achaean can bring you down in war.
Ah, so the deathless gods must love Aeneas too.
like inhuman fire raging on through the mountain gorges
splinter-dry, setting ablaze big stands of timber,
the wind swirling the huge fireball left and right –
chaos of fire – Achilles storming on with brandished spear
like a frenzied god of battle trampling all he killed
and the earth ran black with blood.
All my lovely rapids are crammed with corpses now,
no channel in sight to sweep my currents out to sacred sea –
I’m choked with corpses and still you slaughter more,
you blot out more! Leave me alone, have done –
captain of armies, I am filled with horror!
But the hero sprang away, far as a hard-flung spear,
swooping fast as the black eagle, the fierce marauder,
both the strongest and swiftest bird that flies the sky –
on he streaked.
As a farmhand runs a ditch from a dark spring, sluicing
the gushing stream through plants and gardens, swinging
his mattock to knock the clods out down the shoot
and the water rushes on, tearing the pebbles loose
and what began as a trickle hits a quick slope and
down it goes, outstripping the man who guides it –
so the relentless tide kept overtaking Achilles,
yes, for all his speed – gods are stronger than men.
Father Zeus! To think in all my misery not one god
can bring himself to rescue me from this river!
Then I’d face any fate. And no god on high,
none is to blame so much as my dear mother –
how she lied, she beguiled me, she promised me
I’d lie beneath the walls of the armored Trojans
cut down in blood by Apollo’s whipping arrows!
Courage, Achilles! Why such fear, such terror?
Not with a pair like us to urge you on – gods-in-arms
sent down with Zeus’s blessings, I and Pallas Athena.
It’s not your fate to be swallowed by a river:
he’ll subside, and soon – you’ll see for yourself.
But we do have sound advice, if only you will yield.
Never rest your hands from the great leveler war,
not till you pack and cram the Trojan armies tight
in the famous walls of Troy – whoever flees your onset.
But once you’ve ripped away Prince Hector’s life,
back to the ships you go! We give you glory –
seize it in your hands!
Hard as the autumn North Wind hits a leveled field
just drenched in a downpour, quickly dries it off
and the farmer is glad and starts to till his soil –
so the whole plain was parched and the god of fire devoured
all the dead.
He screamed in flames, his clear currents bubbling up
like a cauldron whipped by crackling fire as it melts down
the lard of a fat swine, splattering up around the rim –
dry logs blazing under it, lashing it to the boil –
so the river burned, his clear currents seethed
and lost all will to flow.
But the distant deadly Archer volleyed back,
"God of the earthquake – you’d think me hardly sane
if I fought with you for the sake of wretched mortals…
like leaves, no sooner flourishing, full of the sun’s fire,
feeding on earth’s gifts, than they waste away and die.
Stop. Call off this skirmish of ours at once –
let these mortals fight themselves to death."
Bursting into tears
the goddess slipped from under her clutch like a wild dove
that flies from a hawk’s attack to a hollow rocky cleft
for it’s not the quarry’s destiny to be caught –
so she fled in tears, her archery left on the spot.
As smoke goes towering into the broad vaulting sky
from a burning town and the gods’ wrath drives it on,
dealing struggle to all, to many searing grief –
so Achilles dealt the Trojans struggle, grief.
God forbid that Achilles sees me turning tail,
heading from town and out to open country –
he’ll come after me full tilt and run me down!
and then no way to escape my death, my certain doom –
Achilles is far too strong for any man on earth.
Wait…what if I face him out before the walls?
Surely his body can be pierced by bronze, even his –
he has only one life, and people say he’s mortal:
it’s only the son of Cronus handing him the glory.
You unforgivable, you…don’t talk to me of pacts.
There are no binding oaths between men and lions –
wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds –
they are all bent on hating each other to the death.
So with you and me. No love between us. No truce
till one or the other falls and gluts with blood
Ares who hacks at men behind his rawhide shield.
And now death, grim death is looming up beside me,
no longer far away. No way to escape it now. This,
this was their pleasure after all, sealed long ago –
Zeus and the son of Zeus, the distant deadly Archer –
though often before now they rushed to my defense.
Friends – lords of the Argives. O my captains!
Now that the gods have let me kill this man
who caused us agonies, loss on crushing loss –
more than the rest of all their men combined –
…raise a song of triumph!
Down to the ships we march and bear this corpse on high –
we have won ourselves great glory. We have brought
magnificent Hector down, that man the Trojans
glorified in their city like a god!
Hovering at his head the phantom rose and spoke:
"Sleeping Achilles? You’ve forgotten me, my friend.
You never neglected me in life, only now in death.
Bury me, quickly – let me pass the Gates of Hades.
They hold me off at a distance, all the souls,
the shades of the burnt out breathless dead,
never to let me cross the river, mingle with them…
They leave me to wander up and down, abandoned, lost
at the house of death with the all-embracing gates.
Oh give me your hand – I beg you with my tears!
Never, never again shall I return from Hades
once you have given me the soothing rites of fire."
Come over here, Antilochus, royal prince –
this is the old custom. Come, stand in front
of your team and chariot, grasp the coiling whip
that lashed them home, lay your hand on their manes
and swear by the mighty god who grips and shakes the earth
you never blocked my chariot – not by deliberate foul.
You never forget my friendship, never miss a chance
to pay me the honor I deserve among our comrades.
For all that you have done for me Achilles,
may the immortals fill your cup with joy!
the lot fell to Teucer to shoot first…
He quickly loosed an arrow, full-draw force
but never swore to the Archer
he’d slaughter splendid victims, newborn lambs,
so he missed the dove – Apollo grudged him that.
But Apollo pitied Hector –
dead man though he was – and warded all corruption off
from Hector’s corpse and round him, head to foot,
the great god wrapped the golden shield of storm
so his skin would never rip as Achilles dragged him on.
But murderous Achilles – you gods, you choose to help Achilles.
That man without a shred of decency in his heart…
his temper can never bend and change – like some lion
going his own barbaric way, giving in to his power,
his brute force and wild pride, as down he swoops
on the flocks of men to seize his savage feast.
But this Achilles – first he slaughters Hector,
he rips away the noble prince’s life
then lashes him to his chariot, drags him round
his beloved comrade’s tomb. But why, I ask you?
What good will it do him? What honor will he gain?
Let that man beware, or great and glorious as he is,
we mighty gods will wheel on him in anger – look,
he outrages the senseless clay in all his fury!
Now, Hera, don’t fly into such a rage at fellow gods.
These two can never attain the same degree of honor.
Still, the immortals loved Prince Hector dearly,
best of all the mortals born in Troy…
so I loved him, at least:
he never stinted with gifts to please my heart.
Never once did my altar lack its share of victims,
winecups tipped and the deep smoky savor. These,
these are the gifts we claim – they are our rights.