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pg 42BOOK THREE

  • 1Now when both sides had been marshalled with their leaders,
  • 2the Trojans advanced, screeching and shouting like birds;
  • 3as when the screech of cranes is heard in the high sky,
  • 4when they have fled from winter's onset and prodigious rain,
  • 5and screaming fly towards the streams of Ocean,*
  • 6bringing death and destruction to the Pygmy men,*
  • 7challenging them through the air to deadly conflict.
  • 8But the Achaeans went on in silence, breathing fury,
  • 9raging in their hearts to fight on each other's behalf.
  • 10    As when the South Wind sheds a mist over mountain peaks—
  • 11no friend to shepherds but for the thief better than night—
  • 12when a man can see only as far as he can throw a stone,
  • 13so under their feet a dense cloud of dust arose from the men
  • 14as they marched; and very quickly they crossed the plain.
  • 15    When they had advanced to within close range of each other,
  • 16from the Trojans Alexander,* handsome as a god, came out to fight,
  • 17wearing over his shoulder a leopard-skin and a curved bow
  • 18and a sword; shaking his two spears, tipped with bronze,
  • 19he issued a challenge to all the best men of the Argives
  • 20to fight with him in grim conflict, matching strength to strength.
  • 21    When Menelaus, dear to Ares,* caught sight of Alexander
  • 22advancing with great strides in front of the soldiery,
  • 23just as a lion exults when it lights upon a great corpse,
  • 24discovering an antlered stag or a wild goat—the lion is
  • 25starving, and devours it quickly, in case swift hounds
  • 26and strong young men are on its trail—so Menelaus
  • 27exulted when his eyes fell on Alexander, handsome as a god,
  • 28and, thinking to avenge himself on the wrongdoer,
  • 29he quickly leapt fully armed from his chariot to the ground.
  • 30    Now when Alexander, handsome as a god, saw him appear
  • 31in the front ranks, his dear heart was shattered, and he
  • 32withdrew into his companions' ranks, to avoid the death-spectre.
  • 33As when a man who has seen a snake in a mountain glen
  • 34starts back, and a trembling seizes hold of his legs,
  • 35and he jumps backwards and pallor grips his cheeks,
  • 36so Alexander, handsome as a god, shrank back into the
  • pg 4337mass of proud Trojans, terrified by the son of Atreus.
  • 38    But when Hector saw him he rebuked him with shaming words:
  • 39'Paris, Disaster-Paris, superbly beautiful, woman-crazy seducer!
  • 40I wish you had never been born, or had else died unmarried.
  • 41Indeed I would have preferred this, and it would have been far better
  • 42for you than to be thus mocked and despised by others.
  • 43How the flowing-haired Achaeans must laugh out loud, thinking
  • 44that with us a chieftain becomes a champion only because he is
  • 45handsome to look at, even if there is no strength or courage in his heart.
  • 46Was this how you were when you sailed over the sea
  • 47in your sea-traversing ships with a band of trusty companions,
  • 48and lived among foreigners and carried off a beautiful woman
  • 49from a distant land, kin of spear-fighters as she was,
  • 50to be a great affliction to your father, the city, and all the people,
  • 51but a delight to your enemies and a disgrace to yourself?
  • 52Can you really not stand up against Menelaus, dear to Ares?
  • 53You would find out what kind of man he is whose lovely wife you keep;
  • 54and then your lyre would be of no help to you, nor Aphrodite's gifts,
  • 55nor your hair and beauty, when you roll in the dust's embrace.
  • 56But the Trojans are great cowards; otherwise by now you would be
  • 57wearing a stone garment,* in return for all the misery you have caused.'
  • 58    Then Alexander, handsome as a god, addressed him in turn:
  • 59'Hector, you reproach me deservedly, and not beyond my deserts—
  • 60always your heart is like an axe which keeps its edge, and
  • 61which cuts through a plank in the hands of a man who shapes
  • 62ship-timber with his skill, and it adds power to his stroke;
  • 63just so is the never-wavering heart in your breast.
  • 64But do not throw the sensual gifts of golden Aphrodite in my face;
  • 65indeed, men should never spurn the gods' splendid gifts,
  • 66that they alone can bestow, and no man can have them by choice.
  • 67But now, if you want me to engage in the battle and fight,
  • 68make all the rest of the Trojans and Achaeans sit down, and
  • 69set me in the middle ground against Menelaus, dear to Ares,
  • 70to do battle for the sake of Helen and all her possessions;
  • 71and whichever of us is victorious and proves the stronger, let him
  • 72fairly take all the possessions and the woman, and carry them home.
  • 73And let everyone else make a solemn truce and pledge friendship;
  • 74so may you all live on in rich-soiled Troy, and may they return
  • pg 4475to horse-rearing Argos and Achaea, home of beautiful women.'
  • 76    So he spoke, and hearing his words Hector was greatly pleased,
  • 77and went into the middle ground and forced back the Trojans'
  • 78companies, gripping his spear in the middle; and they all sat down.
  • 79But the flowing-haired Achaeans began to shoot at him, making
  • 80him their mark and trying to hit him with arrows and stones.
  • 81Then the lord of men, Agamemnon, gave a great shout:
  • 82'Hold back, Argives; sons of the Achaeans, do not shoot!
  • 83Hector of the glittering helmet is impatient to tell us something.'
  • 84    So he spoke, and they held back from the fighting and quickly
  • 85fell silent. Then Hector addressed both the armies:
  • 86'Listen to me, Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans, and hear
  • 87the words of Alexander, on whose account this quarrel has arisen.
  • 88His command is that all the rest of the Trojans and Achaeans
  • 89should lay their fine armour on the earth that nourishes many,
  • 90and that he and Menelaus, dear to Ares, should fight alone
  • 91in the middle ground for the sake of Helen and all her possessions.
  • 92Whichever of them is victorious and proves the stronger, let him
  • 93fairly take all the possessions and the woman and carry them home.
  • 94Let the rest of us make a solemn truce and pledge friendship.'
  • 95    So he spoke, and they all remained silent and still.
  • 96Then Menelaus, master of the war-cry, addressed them:
  • 97'Listen now to me too, for it is my heart that chiefly feels
  • 98this pain; I am minded that today the Argives and Trojans
  • 99should go their separate ways, since you have suffered much
  • 100because of my quarrel, and because of Alexander, who began it.
  • 101Whichever one of us has death and his destiny in store for him,
  • 102let him die, and the rest of you may quickly go your separate ways.
  • 103Now bring two lambs, one white and the other black, to be
  • 104offered to Earth and Sun, and let us bring a third for Zeus.
  • 105Bring mighty Priam out here, so that he can make a solemn truce
  • 106in person; his sons are arrogant and unreliable, and he will make sure
  • 107no one oversteps the mark and so wrecks the oaths sworn by Zeus.
  • 108Young men's minds are forever floating high in the air,
  • 109but when an old man takes a hand he looks to the future and the past,
  • 110and so the matter may be best concluded for both sides.'
  • 111    So he spoke, and both Achaeans and Trojans were glad,
  • 112since they hoped to put an end to the miseries of war.
  • 113They held back their chariots in the ranks and jumped down
  • 114from them, and took off their armour and laid it on the ground,
  • pg 45115close to one another, and there was little space between them.
  • 116Hector sent two heralds off to the city, with orders
  • 117to bring the lambs quickly and to summon Priam,
  • 118and lord Agamemnon sent Talthybius to go off to
  • 119the hollow ships, and ordered him to fetch two
  • 120lambs; and he did not disobey glorious Agamemnon.
  • 121    Now Iris came with a message to white-armed Helen,
  • 122in the likeness of her husband's sister, the wife of Antenor's son,
  • 123whom the lord Helicaon, the son of Antenor, had as his wife—
  • 124Laodice, the most beautiful of the daughters of Priam.
  • 125She found Helen in her hall; she was weaving a great web,
  • 126a red double cloak, and on it she was working the struggles
  • 127of the horse-breaking Trojans and the bronze-shirted Achaeans
  • 128that they were undergoing for her sake at the hands of Ares.
  • 129Standing close to her swift-footed Iris addressed her:
  • 130'Come with me, dear bride, and witness the extraordinary deeds
  • 131of the horse-breaking Trojans and the bronze-shirted Achaeans:
  • 132those who before were waging tear-laden war on each other
  • 133on the plain, and lusting after the deadly conflict,
  • 134are now, look, seated in silence, and the fighting has stopped;
  • 135they are leaning on their shields, and their long spears are stuck
  • 136in the ground beside them. Alexander and Menelaus, dear to Ares,
  • 137are about to fight over you with their long spears, and
  • 138you will be famed as the dear wife of the one who wins.'
  • 139    So the goddess spoke, and thrust into Helen's heart sweet longing
  • 140for her former husband and her city and her parents.
  • 141At once she wrapped a white linen scarf round her head
  • 142and hurried from her chamber, shedding a soft tear,
  • 143not alone, but two women servants accompanied her:
  • 144Aethre daughter of Pittheus, and ox-eyed Clymene.
  • 145Quickly they reached the place where the Scaean gates* were.
  • 146    Those who attended Priam—Panthous and Thymoetes,
  • 147Lampus, Clytius and Hicetaon, shoot of Ares, and
  • 148Ucalegon and Antenor, both men of sound judgement, all elders
  • 149of the people—these were sitting with him at the Scaean gates.
  • 150Because of old age they had given up warfare, but they were
  • 151excellent speakers, like cicadas which perch on trees
  • 152in a wood, singing away in their lily-like voices;
  • 153such were the leaders of the Trojans, as they sat on the tower.
  • 154When they saw Helen making her way to the tower,
  • pg 46155they spoke softly to one another, in winged words:
  • 156'It is not a matter of blame that the Trojans and well-greaved
  • 157Achaeans should suffer agonies for so long over such a woman;
  • 158she is terribly like the immortal goddesses to look on.
  • 159But for all her beauty, it is better for her to go away in their ships,
  • 160and not stay here as a future affliction for us and our children.'
  • 161    So they spoke, but Priam raised his voice and called to Helen:
  • 162'Come here, dear child, and sit beside me, so that you can see
  • 163your former husband, your kinsmen and your friends—
  • 164you are not to blame in my eyes, but the gods are to blame,
  • 165who have stirred up tear-laden war for me with the Achaeans—
  • 166and so that you can give a name to that monstrous man,
  • 167that valiant and mighty Achaean, and tell me who he is.
  • 168There are certainly others who are taller in stature, but
  • 169I have never yet cast eyes on anyone as handsome as him,
  • 170nor one so full of dignity. He looks like a kingly man.'
  • 171    Then Helen, bright among women, answered him and said:
  • 172'Dear father-in-law, you deserve my respect and awe;
  • 173evil death should have been my choice when I came here
  • 174with your son, leaving my home and my family,
  • 175my late-born daughter and the pleasant company of my friends.
  • 176But that is not how it happened, and so I waste away in tears.
  • 177Now I will tell you what you ask and question me about:
  • 178that man is the son of Atreus, wide-ruling Agamemnon,
  • 179both a noble king and a mighty spearman, and he was also my
  • 180husband's brother, bitch-faced that I am—if this ever really happened.'
  • 181    So she spoke, and the old man marvelled at him, and said:
  • 182'Fortunate son of Atreus, child of good fortune, blessed by the gods,
  • 183you have indeed many sons of the Achaeans under your sway.
  • 184In time past I travelled to Phrygia, rich in vines, and there
  • 185I saw a great many Phrygians, men with nimble horses,
  • 186the peoples of Otreus and of godlike Mygdon,* who
  • 187at that time were encamped along the banks of Sangarius.*
  • 188I was their ally, you see, and was numbered among them
  • 189on the day that the Amazons* came, who are a match for men.
  • 190But not even they were as many as the darting-eyed Achaeans.'
  • 191    Next the old man's eyes fell on Odysseus, and he asked her:
  • 192'Come, tell me about this man too, dear child; who is he?
  • 193He is shorter in stature than Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
  • pg 47194but broader in the shoulders and chest to look upon.
  • 195His armour is lying on the earth that nourishes many,
  • 196but he is prowling along the ranks of men like a ram;
  • 197I would say he was like a thick-fleeced ram
  • 198that roams in and out of a huge flock of white sheep.'
  • 199    Then in answer Helen, daughter of Zeus, said to him:
  • 200'Now that one is the son of Laertes, much-scheming Odysseus,
  • 201who was reared in the land of Ithaca, rugged though it is, and
  • 202who is skilled in all kinds of trickery and cunning schemes.'
  • 203    Then in his turn sagacious Antenor addressed her:
  • 204'Lady, what you have said is indeed quite true.
  • 205Glorious Odysseus has been here before, some time ago
  • 206with Menelaus, dear to Ares, on a mission concerning you.*
  • 207I received them as guest-friends and welcomed them in my halls,
  • 208and I came to know the appearance of both, and their clever schemes.
  • 209When they mingled with the Trojans in their assembly and
  • 210all were standing, broad-shouldered Menelaus was the taller,
  • 211and when both were sitting Odysseus was the more dignified.
  • 212But when they began to weave their cunning speeches before us all,
  • 213Menelaus for his part spoke with a rapid fluency,
  • 214briefly but very clearly, not being a man of many words,
  • 215nor stumbling in speech; and indeed he was the younger man.
  • 216But whenever much-scheming Odysseus leapt to his feet
  • 217he would stand there and look down, eyes fixed on the ground,
  • 218not waving the staff backwards and forwards, but
  • 219holding it stiffly, like a man who did not know what to do;
  • 220you would take him for a surly person, a genuine fool.
  • 221But when he released his great voice from inside his chest,
  • 222speaking words like flakes of snow falling in winter,
  • 223then no other mortal could compete with Odysseus,
  • 224and we were no longer so surprised at the sight of him.'
  • 225    The third man whom the old man saw was Ajax, and he asked:
  • 226'Who is that other Achaean, a valiant and mighty man,
  • 227whose head and broad shoulders stand out above the Argives?'
  • 228    Then long-robed Helen, bright among women, answered:
  • 229'That is the massive Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans.
  • 230And on the other side, among the Cretans, stands Idomeneus,
  • 231like a god, and around him are gathered the Cretan captains.
  • 232Many times Menelaus, dear to Ares, entertained him
  • 233in our house, whenever Idomeneus came from Crete.
  • pg 48234And now I can see all the other darting-eyed Achaeans,
  • 235whom I could easily recognize and name for you,
  • 236but there are two marshals of the peoples I cannot see:
  • 237horse-breaking Castor and Polydeuces the skilful boxer,
  • 238full brothers of mine, born to the same mother as me.
  • 239Either they did not accompany the army from lovely Lacedaemon,
  • 240or they did come here in their sea-traversing ships
  • 241but are now reluctant to enter the battle of men, made
  • 242uneasy by my disgrace and the many insults against me.'
  • 243    So she spoke; but the life-giving earth already held them
  • 244back home in Lacedaemon, in their dear native land.
  • 245    Now heralds were bringing offerings to the gods throughout the city,
  • 246to ratify the treaty—two lambs and cheering wine, fruit of the earth,
  • 247in a goatskin bag; and Idaeus the herald brought a
  • 248shining mixing-bowl and wine-cups, made of gold,
  • 249and standing next to the old man Priam he roused him, saying:
  • 250'Up now, son of Laomedon;* the chieftains of the Trojan
  • 251horse-breakers and the bronze-shirted Achaeans are calling you
  • 252to go down on to the plain, to make a solemn truce.
  • 253Alexander and Menelaus, dear to Ares, are about
  • 254to fight for the woman's sake with their long spears;
  • 255the woman and her possessions will go to the one who wins,
  • 256and the rest of us will make a solemn truce and pledge friendship—
  • 257we to live on in rich-soiled Troy, and they to return to
  • 258horse-rearing Argos and Achaea, home of beautiful women.'
  • 259So he spoke, and the old man shuddered, and told his companions
  • 260to yoke the horses, and they quickly obeyed his order.
  • 261Priam mounted the chariot and pulled back on the reins, and
  • 262Antenor climbed into the finely made chariot beside him, and
  • 263they drove the swift horses through the Scaean gates on to the plain.
  • 264    When they reached the assembled Trojans and Achaeans,
  • 265they got down from the chariot to the earth that nourishes many
  • 266and strode to the middle ground between the Trojans and Achaeans.
  • 267Immediately Agamemnon, lord of men, rose to his feet,
  • 268and with him much-scheming Odysseus. Excellent heralds
  • 269drove the solemn truce offerings together, and mixed wine
  • 270in a bowl, and poured water over the kings' hands.
  • 271Then the son of Atreus with his hand drew the knife
  • 272that always hung next to his sword's great scabbard,
  • pg 49273and cut hairs from the lambs' heads, and the heralds
  • 274distributed these among the Trojan and Achaean chieftains.
  • 275Then Atreus' son prayed in a loud voice, holding up his hands:
  • 276'Father Zeus, ruling from Mount Ida,* greatest and most glorious,
  • 277and you, Sun, who sees all things and hears all things!
  • 278Rivers and Earth, and you two who below the earth punish
  • 279men who have died, if any have sworn false oaths*
  • 280be witnesses, and see that these solemn oaths are kept.
  • 281If it should happen that Alexander kills Menelaus, then
  • 282let him keep Helen for himself, and all her possessions,
  • 283and let us return home in our sea-traversing ships.
  • 284But if fair-haired Menelaus should kill Alexander, then
  • 285the Trojans must give back Helen and all her possessions,
  • 286and must pay the Argives the compensation that is proper
  • 287and recognized as such, even by generations in time to come.
  • 288But if Priam and the sons of Priam are unwilling to pay me
  • 289compensation when Alexander has fallen, then
  • 290I shall fight on after that to secure reparation,
  • 291and I shall stay here until I reach the end of the war.'
  • 292    So he spoke, and slit the lambs' throats with the pitiless bronze.
  • 293He laid them on the ground, gasping as their life ebbed
  • 294away, for the bronze had taken away their strength.
  • 295Then they drew the wine from the mixing-bowl into cups
  • 296and poured it out, and prayed to the gods who live for ever.
  • 297And this is what one of the Trojans or Achaeans would say:
  • 298'Zeus, greatest and most glorious, and all you other gods;
  • 299whichever side is the first to violate these oaths, may their
  • 300brains be poured out on the ground as this wine is, theirs and
  • 301their children's; and may their wives be mastered by strangers.'
  • 302    So they spoke, but the son of Cronus did not yet fulfil their prayers.
  • 303And among them Priam of the line of Dardanus spoke, saying:
  • 304'Listen to me, Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans;
  • 305I am now going back to Troy that is swept by the winds,
  • 306since I cannot bring myself to see my dear son
  • 307doing battle before my eyes with Menelaus, dear to Ares.
  • 308Zeus doubtless knows, as do the other immortal gods,
  • 309for which of the two the end of death has been appointed.'
  • 310    So the godlike man spoke, and laid the lambs in his chariot,
  • 311then mounted himself, and pulled back on the reins,
  • 312and Antenor climbed into the finely made chariot beside him.
  • pg 50313So the two of them went on their way, back towards Ilium;
  • 314but Hector, the son of Priam, and glorious Odysseus
  • 315first measured out the ground, and after that
  • 316took two lots and shook them in a bronze helmet,
  • 317to see which man should throw his bronze-tipped spear first.
  • 318And the peoples prayed, and held up their hands to the gods,
  • 319and this is what one of the Achaeans or Trojans would say:
  • 320'Father Zeus, ruling from Mount Ida, greatest and most glorious;
  • 321whoever it was who brought these troubles on to both sides,
  • 322grant that he may die and go below into the house of Hades,
  • 323but grant too that we may enjoy friendship and a solemn truce.'
  • 324    So they spoke, and great Hector of the glittering helmet shook
  • 325the lots, looking away; and the lot of Paris quickly leapt out.
  • 326Then they all sat down in ranks, in the place where each one's
  • 327high-stepping horses and finely worked armour lay.
  • 328Then that man put his fine armour on over his shoulders—
  • 329glorious Alexander, husband of Helen of the beautiful hair.
  • 330First of all he fastened greaves around his shins,
  • 331splendid ones, fitted with silver ankle-pieces;
  • 332then over his chest he put on a corslet which belonged
  • 333to his brother Lycaon; and it fitted him equally as well.
  • 334Around his shoulders he threw his silver-riveted sword,
  • 335made of bronze, and after that his huge, massive shield.
  • 336On his powerful head he set a well-made helmet with a
  • 337horse-tail crest; and the plume nodded terribly above him.
  • 338Then he chose a stout spear, which fitted his grasp.
  • 339And in the same way Menelaus, dear to Ares, put on his armour.
  • 340    So when they were armed among the soldiery on either side,
  • 341they strode into the middle ground between Trojans and Achaeans,
  • 342glaring grimly at each other; and amazement gripped the onlookers,
  • 343both horse-breaking Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans.
  • 344They took their stand near each other on the measured ground,
  • 345shaking their spears and full of rage at each other.
  • 346Alexander was the first to throw his far-shadowing spear,
  • 347and it hit the perfectly balanced shield of Atreus' son, but
  • 348the spear did not shatter it, for its bronze point was bent back
  • 349on the mighty shield. Then Menelaus, Atreus' son, stood up
  • 350ready to throw the bronze, and made a prayer to father Zeus:
  • 351'Lord Zeus, grant me revenge on the man who wronged me at the start,
  • 352glorious Alexander, and beat him down under my hands,
  • pg 51353so that among later generations too a man may shudder to
  • 354think of wronging the host who has offered him friendship.'
  • 355    So he spoke, and poised his long-shadowing spear and threw it,
  • 356and it hit the perfectly balanced shield of Priam's son;
  • 357the massive spear passed through the shining shield
  • 358and drove through the intricately worked corslet,
  • 359going straight on to cut through the tunic next to his ribs;
  • 360but Paris leaned aside and avoided the black death-spectre.
  • 361Then the son of Atreus drew his silver-riveted sword and
  • 362swinging his arm high struck the other's helmet plate, but there
  • 363the sword shattered into three or four pieces, and fell from his hand.
  • 364Atreus' son gazed up at the broad high sky and cried out:
  • 365'Father Zeus, there is no one who causes more mischief than you!
  • 366Truly, I thought I had taken revenge on Alexander for his villainy,
  • 367but instead my sword has broken in my hands, and my spear
  • 368sped uselessly from my hand, and I did not strike him down.'
  • 369    So he spoke, and sprang and seized Paris by the horsehair-crested helmet,
  • 370and swinging him round began to drag him towards the well-greaved Achaeans.
  • 371Paris was being choked by the embroidered strap at his soft throat,
  • 372which was drawn tight under his chin to secure his helmet; and
  • 373now Menelaus would have dragged him away, winning immense glory,
  • 374had not Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, been sharp enough to see it,
  • 375and broken the strap that was made from a slaughtered ox's hide.
  • 376The helmet came away empty in Menelaus' brawny hand,
  • 377and the hero whirled it round his head and flung it among
  • 378the well-greaved Achaeans, and his trusty companions retrieved it;
  • 379then he leapt back towards Paris, raging to kill him with his
  • 380bronze-tipped spear; but Aphrodite snatched Paris away,
  • 381very easily, as a god will do, wrapping him in a dense mist,
  • 382and set him down in his fragrantly perfumed chamber.
  • 383    She herself went off to summon Helen, and found her on the
  • 384high tower, with a large group of Trojan women around her.
  • 385Grasping Helen's nectar-scented veil in her hand she pulled it
  • 386and spoke to her, likening herself to a woman of many years,
  • 387a wool-comber, who when Helen lived in Lacedaemon
  • 388used to work fine wool; and Helen loved her very much.
  • 389In the likeness of this woman bright Aphrodite addressed her:
  • 390'Come with me; Alexander is calling for you to return home.
  • pg 52391There he is in his chamber, on the spiral-decorated bed,
  • 392glowing in his beauty and clothing. You would not think
  • 393he had come from fighting with someone, but was going to
  • 394the dance, or had just returned and was sitting down to rest.'
  • 395    So she spoke, and quickened Helen's heart within her breast;
  • 396and when she recognized the goddess's beautiful neck,
  • 397her desirable breasts and her bright-sparkling eyes,
  • 398she was amazed, and spoke to her, saying:
  • 399'Lady, why are you so anxious to lead me astray like this?
  • 400Are you intending to take me away to some well-populated city,
  • 401to somewhere in Phrygia or lovely Maeonia, where
  • 402there is perhaps some other mortal man who is dear to you?
  • 403Or is it because Menelaus has overcome glorious Alexander,
  • 404and wishes to take me, loathed woman, to his home,
  • 405that you now stand beside me here with guile in your heart?
  • 406Well, go and sit beside him yourself, and forsake the path
  • 407of the gods, and never set your feet again on Olympus,
  • 408but all the time suffer on his behalf and wait on him,
  • 409until such time as he makes you his wife, or even his slave.
  • 410As for me, I will not go there to serve that man's bed,
  • 411for that would bring blame on me; all future Trojan women
  • 412will despise me, and I already have grief enough in my heart.'
  • 413    At this bright Aphrodite became enraged and addressed her:
  • 414'Do not provoke me, obstinate woman, or I may grow angry and
  • 415desert you, and come to hate you as violently as now I love you;
  • 416I may well plan some fatal enmity between the two sides,
  • 417Trojans and Danaans, and then you will die a wretched death.'
  • 418    So she spoke, and Helen, daughter of Zeus, was afraid,
  • 419and went away, covering her face with her shining white veil,
  • 420in silence, and no Trojan woman saw her; a divinity guided her.
  • 421    When they reached the splendid house of Alexander,
  • 422the women servants at once turned to their tasks, while she,
  • 423bright among women, went to her high-roofed chamber.
  • 424Then the goddess Aphrodite who loves to smile brought
  • 425a chair and placed it for her opposite Alexander; and
  • 426Helen, daughter of Zeus the aegis-wearer, took her seat on it,
  • 427and turning her eyes away from him spoke sharply to her husband:
  • 428'So you have returned from the fighting! I wish you had died there,
  • 429beaten down by the mighty man who was my husband before you.
  • 430There was a time when you would boast that you were a better man
  • pg 53431than Menelaus, dear to Ares, in strength of arm and with the spear;
  • 432so go now, make your challenge to Menelaus, dear to Ares,
  • 433to fight you once again, face to face. But no—I advise you
  • 434to hold back, and not to match your strength recklessly
  • 435with fair-haired Menelaus in battle or in the fighting,
  • 436because you may be quickly beaten down by his spear.'
  • 437    Then Paris answered and addressed her with these words:
  • 438'Wife, do not attack my heart with these harsh taunts.
  • 439Yes, this time Menelaus defeated me, with Athena's help,
  • 440but another time I shall defeat him; we too have gods on our side.
  • 441Come now, let us go to bed and find delight in love;
  • 442never before has desire enveloped my senses like this,
  • 443not even when I first stole you away from lovely Lacedaemon
  • 444and sailed away in my sea-traversing ships, and on the island
  • 445Cranae* I took you to bed and made love to you—that is how
  • 446I now desire you, and sweet longing takes hold of me.'
  • 447    So he spoke, and led the way to the bed, and his wife went with him.
  • 448And so the two of them lay together on the fretted bed;
  • 449but Atreus' son prowled among the soldiery like a wild beast,
  • 450hoping to catch sight of Alexander, handsome as a god.
  • 451But no man of the Trojans or of their far-famed allies
  • 452could point Alexander out to Menelaus, dear to Ares; certainly
  • 453they would not have hidden him out of love, if anyone had
  • 454seen him, since they all hated him like the black death-spectre.
  • 455Then Agamemnon lord of men spoke among them:
  • 456'Listen to me, Trojans and Dardanians and allies:
  • 457since the victory clearly belongs to Menelaus, dear to Ares,
  • 458you must give back Argive Helen, and her possessions
  • 459along with her, and must pay the compensation that is proper
  • 460and recognized as such, even by generations in time to come.'
  • 461    So spoke Atreus' son, and the rest of the Achaeans applauded him.

Notes Settings

Notes

Editor’s Note
The armies line up, ready for battle: Paris steps forward, but quickly withdraws when he sees that Menelaus is ready to fight against him (1–37). Hector rebukes him bitterly (38–57), and Paris declares himself willing to face his rival (58–75). The two sides agree that the winner will take Helen and her possessions (76–120). Meanwhile, Helen is busy weaving a robe depicting the Trojan war, when Iris—disguised as Priam's daughter Laodice—calls her out to witness the events on the battlefield (121–45). The old men of Troy comment on Helen's beauty as she approaches the city walls, and yet declare themselves ready to hand her over to the Achaeans; Priam addresses her kindly, and asks her to identify the main Achaean warriors on the battlefield (146–244). The two sides swear an oath, and make sacrifice before the duel (245–323). Paris and Menelaus start fighting and Menelaus quickly gains the upper hand, when Aphrodite wraps Paris in mist, removes him from the battlefield, and deposits him in his own bedroom (324–82). Then, disguised as an old woman, she tells Helen to go and join him there; Helen recognizes the goddess from her lovely neck and breasts and vents all her anger and frustration; ultimately, however, she must comply (383–420). Back in the bedroom, Helen addresses Paris with contempt, and he expresses his overwhelming desire for her; finally they make love (421–47). On the battlefield Agamemnon declares Menelaus the winner, and demands the return of Helen and her possessions, as well as compensation for war damages (448–61).
Editor’s Note
5 the streams of Ocean: see note to 1.423.
Editor’s Note
6 Pygmy men: the Pygmies and their battle with the cranes are mentioned only here in Homer, but are popular in later poetry and art.
Editor’s Note
16 Alexander: more frequent than the alternative name Paris. Homer never explains why this character has two names. 'Paris' does not seem to be Greek in origin, and 'Alexander' may be a memory of Alakšandu, prince of Wilusa, mentioned in a Hittite treaty of the early thirteenth century BCE.
Editor’s Note
21 dear to Ares: often of Menelaus, not because he is especially bellicose, but perhaps because he is implicated in the causes of the Trojan War.
Editor’s Note
56–7 you would be | wearing a stone garment: i.e. you would have been killed by stoning.
Editor’s Note
145 the Scaean gates: the main gates facing the battlefield. The Trojans often observe the battlefield from a tower near or above the gates.
Editor’s Note
186 Otreus … Mygdon: otherwise unknown.
Editor’s Note
187 Sangarius: in Asia Minor, discharging into the Black Sea.
Editor’s Note
189 Amazons: described in the Iliad as warlike women who posed a threat to the populations east, north, and south of Troy. In the Aethiopis, an early sequel to the Iliad (now largely lost), the Amazons join forces with the Trojans, and Achilles kills their queen Penthesilea.
Editor’s Note
205–6 Glorious Odysseus has been here before … concerning you: see note to 11.139–40.
Editor’s Note
250 son of Laomedon: on Priam's father, see note to 21.441–57, and cf. the family tree included in the note to 20.215–41.
Editor’s Note
276 ruling from Mount Ida: Zeus is invoked here as a local deity. In the Iliad he often observes the Trojan War from Mount Ida, south-east of Troy.
Editor’s Note
278–9 and you two … false oaths: the ancient scholar Aristarchus took this as a reference to Hades and Persephone (cf. 9.456–7); alternatively, it may be a reference to the Furies (cf. 19.259–60).
Editor’s Note
444–5 the island | Cranaë: the location of this island was debated in antiquity; the name probably just means 'rocky island'.
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