Unit One Section B


The Iliad Part II

Menelaus and Paris agree to end the war with a duel What will the gods think about this solution?

The Duel

Now the two armies approached each other, the Trojans shouting like a huge flock of cranes, the Greeks in grim silence. About their feet the dust rose, thick as mist in the mountains when a man can see no farther than a stone's throw.
As the forces came close enough to do battle, out from the Trojan ranks stepped Prince Paris. He offered to meet any Greek in a duel, man to man. With a panther skin flung over his back a curved bow and sword hanging from his shoulders, and two sharp, bronze-headed spears in his hand, he made a fine, godlike figure.
When Menelaus saw that it was Paris, he was filled with joy, like a hungry lion sighting its prey. Now was his chance for revenge on the man who had wronged him! So down he leaped from his chariot, with all his armor clanking.
Paris saw Menelaus come forward, and his heart failed him. He stepped back, like a man who sees a snake in the woods.
Then Hector turned on his brother with scorn.
"Paris, you handsome weakling, I wish you had never been born. Or I wish you had died before you found a wife. What a joke you must seem to the Greeks, with nothing to you but good looks. Can you be the man who sailed the seas and brought home with you the beautiful queen of a warlike land? And now you are too cowardly to stand up to the brave man you wronged. We Trojans should have stoned you long ago for all the trouble you have caused."
"All you say is true enough, Hector," Paris replied. "If you insist on my fighting this duel, have all the troops sit down, and I will fight him between the armies. Let us fight for Helen and her wealth. The one who wins gets both lady and goods, and the rest can have peace at last."
This pleased Hector well enough. He stepped forward through the Trojan lines and made this proposal to all.
"One of us must die, it is certain," said Menelaus, "and it is well that the rest should have peace. Let Priam come then, to make solemn sacrifices to the Earth and Sun, and swear an oath to give Helen to the winner, that afterward there may be peace."
Greeks and Trojans were all delighted by a chance to end the war. They arranged the chariots in order and unyoked the horses. Then, between the heaps of armor they had put down, they cleared a space for the duel.
Hector sent heralds back to the city for King Priam. But meanwhile Iris disguised herself as a daughter of Priam and brought Helen the news. She found Helen in her palace, weaving a great web of purple, double width, in which she was picturing battle scenes from the great war fought for her sake.
When Helen heard the news of the duel, a longing swept over her--a longing for her parents, for her home and child, and for the husband she had left. Putting a white veil over her head, she ran, with tears glistening in her eyes, to the tower above the Scaean Gate, from which the fighting could be seen.
There Priam sat with the old men who could no longer fight. They chirped together like grasshoppers in the sun, and as they saw Helen walking toward them, one said to another, "It is no wonder the Greeks and Trojans have fought all these years for this woman's sake. Her beauty is like that of the immortal gods. Yet it would be better for her to sail away than to stay and bring ruin on our children and our homes."
Priam called her to him kindly, for he did not blame her. He asked her to point out to him Agamemnon and Odysseus. Helen also pointed out old Nestor, towering Ajax, and other leaders of the Greeks. Then the heralds came from Hector to say that Priam was wanted to offer the sacrifice for the duel.
Priam sighed when he heard the news. He feared for the safety of his son. But he set out in his chariot, made the sacrifices, and swore the most solemn oaths for peace. Then he rode back into the city, for he could not bear to watch the duel.
Now Hector and Odysseus measured off the ground. Then into a helmet they put two lots, made of pieces of broken pottery. One lot was marked for Menelaus, one for Paris. The helmet would be shaken, and the lot that leaped out would show which man would cast the first spear.
The watching armies lifted up their hands and prayed. One prayer served them both, for it was a prayer of peace.
Then Hector shook the helmet, looking away, until one lot leaped out. It was marked for Paris.
The troops sat down in rows, and Paris put on his armor--splendid greaves with silver ankle clips on his legs, a breastplate on his chest. Over his shoulders went a silver--studded sword and a great tough shield. On his head he set a helmet with a nodding horsehair plume. In his hands he grasped a spear well suited to his grip. Meanwhge, Menelaus armed himself in the very same way.
Clanking their weapons and glaring fiercely, the two stepped out onto the cleared ground. It was Paris who had won the first cast. His long spear shot out and landed squarely on Menelaus' shield, but did not pierce it; the strong point bent.
Menelaus raised his spear and offered a prayer for revenge to Zeus. His spear went straight through Paris' shield, through the breastplate on his breast, through his tunic--but he swerved aside, and so was saved from death.
Then Menelaus drew his silver--set sword and brought it down with a mighty crash on Paris' helmet. But the blade broke to splinters and fell from his hand.
"O Zeus! How spiteful you are!" cried Menelaus. He hurled himself upon the stunned Paris, dragging him by the chin strap of his helmet back toward the Greek lines. That would have been the end of Paris, but Aphrodite was watching over her favorite. She caused the strap to break, and Menelaus got only an empty helmet. He threw it back to his friends and went after Paris with a spear. But Aphrodite carried Paris off to his own bedroom in Troy. And while Menelaus stormed, searching through the ranks, Paris rested safely there.
At last Agamemnon spoke to the Trojans. "It is clear," he said, "that Menelaus is the conqueror. Now it is up to you to return Helen and her goods."
At this the Greeks applauded loudly. And had Zeus willed it, the Trojan war might have ended then.

The Fatal Arrow

Now, the gods had gathered in the golden--floored palace of Zeus. And while they drank nectar from their golden goblets, they looked down to see what was going on in Troy.
Zeus stroked his beard and smiled to himself as he thought of a way to tease Queen Hera.
"I know we have here two supporters of the Greeks," he said, "in the Lady Hera and Athena. But they sit calmly by while Aphrodite has saved her favorite, Paris, from certain death. Still, there is no doubt that Menelaus has won the duel, so if you approve he will take his Helen home, and the city of Priam will stand."
These words angered both Hera and Athena, who were set on having Troy destroyed. Athena held her tongue, but Hera could not.
"Zeus," she cried, "how can you suggest such a thing? Have I gone to all that trouble for nothing, getting myself and my horses in a sweat from rushing around Greece, gathering the armies? And now you say Troy is to escape! Do as you like, but don't expect me to approve. "
Now Zeus was angry too. "What harm have Priam and his sons ever done to you that you should be so determined to ruin their lovely town? It happens that of all the cities of the world, Troy is the dearest to my heart."
"All I ask," said Hera, "is that you let Athena go down to the battlefield and arrange for the Trojans to break the truce. Surely I deserve that much consideration, as a goddess and your wife."
To this Zeus agreed, since it was also his wish.
Down to earth Athena swooped like a shooting star. The watching men on the plain below knew she brought a message from the gods. But what would it be--peace or war?
Athena knew the answer. She put on the disguise of a Trojan warrior and sought out Pandarus, a fine archer.
"Pandarus, why not win the thanks of all the Trojans," she suggested, "by making an end of Menelaus with a single arrow from your bow? Paris will surely give you a very handsome gift. Come, fit an arrow to the string, pray to Apollo, the god of archers, and the deed is done."
Foolish Pandarus let himself be persuaded. He took down his great bow, sixteen bands long, made of the horns of an ibex. He strung the bow, then laid it down. Hiding behind his companions' shields, he took from his quiver a new feathered arrow and fitted it to the string.
With a prayer to Apollo, he drew back arrow and string until the string was near his breast. When the bow was bent in a great, circle, he let the arrow go, with a twang of the bow and a singing of the string.
Through the crush of men, straight to Menelaus, the arrow found its way. Through the golden buckle of his belt, through the folds of his corselet, even through the tunic it went. But Athena had not forgotten Menelaus. She turned aside the arrow's point so that, though the purple blood gushed out, no vital spot was hit.
Agamemnon shuddered when he saw the dark blood flow, for how could he go home to Argos without his brother at his side?
But Menelaus comforted him. "The wound is nothing," he insisted, "and will soon be cured."
So Agamemnon sent for the surgeon Machaon, who took out the arrow, undid belt and corselet, and sucked out the blood from the wound. Then he applied some healing ointments.
While Machaon was attending to Menelaus, the Trojans began to advance under arms. So the Greeks once more put on their armor, and with gray-eyed Athena to help them, they again turned their thoughts to war.
No one could make light of that battle. Many a warrior went down to darkness, and the Trojans and Greeks fought like wolves for the armor of the fallen men. Many were the Greeks and Trojans who lay in the dust side by side that day, paying with their lives for the broken truce.

Hector the Brave

The treachery of Pandarus put new fury into the Greek fighters. The Trojans were about to be forced back into their city, defeated and disgraced. But Helenus, a son of Priam and the best prophet in Troy, sought out Hector at this moment.
"It is up to you to make a stand," he said. "You are the best of all our leaders. Keep the men away from the gates, or they will go running in to the women and give our enemies the victory. Once you have the ranks in order, we will stand and fight, weary though we are, for we can do nothing else.
"Then go to our mother, Queen Hecuba, and ask her to offer to Athena the largest, finest robe she has. And let her promise the goddess twelve heifers if she will spare our wives and children and have pity on our town."
Hector at once leaped down from his chariot. Swinging his spears, he moved among the men. He put such new heart into their fighting that the Greeks thought some god must be fighting for Troy, and many of them turned away.
Then Hector walked back into the city, with the rim of his black shield slung behind him, tapping at his ankles and neck. When he reached the great oak tree at the Scaean gates, Trojan wives and daughters swarmed about him, pleading for news of their men. "Pray to the gods," he told them all, for the news he had for many was sad.
On he went to Priam's handsome palace, with its doorways and columns of polished stone. Here his mother came out to meet him, and clasped his hand.
Why have you left the battle?" she asked. "The Greeks must be pressing you hard. Come, make your sacrifice to Zeus, and have some refreshment for yourself."
"No, mother," said Hector, "I cannot offer a satrifice with the blood and grime of battle on my hands. But you and the older women go to Athena. Offer her the finest robe you have. Lay it on her knees, and promise her twelve young heifers if she will spare our wives and children and hold off the Greeks from Troy."
The queen made the sacrifice and placed on Athena's knees a great robe of the finest needlework, shining like a star. But Athena refused her prayers.
Then Hector left and went to his own house. "My place is with the army," he said to himself. "But first I must go home for one look at my wife and little boy. For I cannot tell whether I shall ever see them again."
Andromache, his wife, was not at home. From the maids he learned that she had gone off to the wall, upset by the news that the battle was going badly for Troy.
So Hector hurried back through the streets until he reached the Scaean gates. There his dear wife came running to meet him. The nurse followed with their little boy in her arms--a merry little boy, his father's darling and the hope of Troy. Hector smiled when he saw his son, but Andromache burst into tears,
"My dear, can you do nothing but fight?" she cried. "Have you no thought for your little boy, or for your unhappy wife, who will be a widow soon? If I lose you, I do not want to live, for I have no one but you. You are father and mother and brother to me, as well as my dearly loved husband."
"I have not forgotten that, dear wife," said Hector, "but I could not show my face in Troy if I hid like a coward from danger."
He said, "My dearest, do not grieve too much. We cannot escape our fate, but no one will send me down to Hades before my appointed time."
Then Hector took up his helmet and spear, and Andromache went on her way home, turning again and again to look back, while her tears flowed fast.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. How does Paris propose to end the war?
2. What is King Priam's reaction to news of the duel?
3. How is Paris saved from death? How does Menelaus explain the fact that Paris has been saved?
4. Why doesn't the war end after Menelaus is called the winner? Do the gods seem really to care about the humans who worship them?
5 .Why does Pandarus try to kill Menelaus? What effect does his action have on the Greeks, and on the war?
6. In your opinion, do the humans have any control over events, or are they completely at the mercy of the gods? Explain your answer.

The Iliad Part III

Victory seems close at handfor the Trojans. Yet Achilles still does not return to battle. Can his close friends persuade him to fight for the Greeks before it's too late?

The Scales of Victory

Now Zeus had the horses harnessed to his chariot, swift, bronze--hoofed horses with manes of gold. Robed all in gold, and flicking his golden whip, Zeus mounted the chariot and flew away to Mount Ida. There he hid his horses in a cloud and sat himself down near his altar on the hilltop, looking down at the city and the ships.
As the day wore on, with men clashing and dying, Zeus laid out his golden scales. Into each pan he put the sentence of death, one for the Greeks and one for the Trojans. Then be raised the balance at the middle. Down sank the beam on the side of the Greeks, spelling a day of doom. Up to the sky went the Trojan side. Then Zeus thundered loud from Mount Ida, and sent a flash of lightning down among the Greeks, which struck terror into every man.
Now neither Odysseus nor Agamemnon could stand his ground, nor could the two Ajaxes, great warriors though they were. Even old Nestor, King of Pylos, was in danger, when Paris struck one of his chariot horses, throwing the team into confusion. The old mah would have lost his life had not Diomedes, another hero, seen him and gone to his rescue.
As Diomedes and Nestor raced back toward the ships, Hector cried out to his men:
"Trojans! Now is the time to prove your valor. Zeus has granted us a great victory, and a great disaster for our foes. Look at the wretched wall they have raised--it will be no defense. And as for their ditch, our horses will jump it. Then on to the ships, and let the watchword be Fire! I want to burn the ships and kill the men as they stagger in the smoke. "
Zeus gave the Trojans such courage that they drove the Greeks straight back to their trench, with Hector leading the way. He hung on the heels of the Greeks, striking down whoever was in the rear as they ran. At last the troops crossed both ditch and fence, though many fell along the way. Closed in among the ships, they lifted their hands and prayed to heaven. And Hector, relentless, wheeled his horses back and forth, glaring like the god of war.
Now the bright sun set in the ocean, drawing darkness behind it across the earth. The Trojans were sorry to see the light go, but to the Greeks it brought more-than-welcome relief.

Agamemnon's Apology

While the Trojans kept their watch on the plain, panic gripped the men in the camp of the Greeks. Agamemnon wandered about, crushed by pain and grief. When his leaders met in a gloomy assembly, he faced them with tears running down his cheeks.
"My friends, Zeus has been most cruel to me. He once promised that I should bring down the walls of Troy. But now he has managed it so that I must go home defeated to Argos, after losing so many lives. Well, if this is the will of the gods, let us be off on our ships while we can, for surely Troy will never fall to us."
The soldiers listened in downcast silence, until Diomedes rose to speak.
"My lord," he,said, "I must tell you in public assembly that your advice is foolish. You may run away if you wish. There is the sea, there are the ships--the whole great fleet you brought from Mycenae. But the rest of the Greeks will stay here till we sack Troy. And even if the rest wish to go, my charioteer and I will stay to work out the will of heaven!"
Everyone cheered Diomedes, and Nestor rose up to make the peace.
"Good advice is what we need most," he said, "that and a good meal. Let us eat, for we have stores in plenty, and then let us make our plans."
When they had all eaten, Nestor spoke to Agamemnon.
"My lord, there is something you could do. Even at this late hour you could make peace with Achilles, in whom the gods delight. By giving in to your proud temper, you drove him away. You could win him back with soft words and gifts."
"You speak the truth," Agamemnon agreed. "I was mad indeed, I do not deny. And now it is my only wish to make peace with him. This is what I will offer Achilles now: seven new tripods, ten ingots of gold, twenty fine cauldrons, twelve splendid race horses, and seven women skilled in handwork whom we captured in Lesbos. I will return to him the girl Briseis, and if we capture the city of Troy, he shall have his pick of the spoils.
"All this I will do if he will only serve with me again. For surely one man whom the gods love so much is worth an army of others."
Nestor spoke again. "Lord Agamemnon, such gifts as yours surely no one could despise. Now let us choose envoys to take them. Let us send great Ajax and wise Odysseus."
This choice was approved by all.
As they walked together beside the sounding sea, Ajax and Odysseus offered many a prayer to Poseidon, god of the earth--circling waters, that they might successfully persuade the strong--willed one.
When they reached the huts of the Myrmidons, they found Achilles playing on a beautiful lyre with a silver bridge. He was singing songs of great heroes for his friend Patroclus and himself.
As the two envoys approached, Odysseus in the lead, Achilles sprang to his feet. He greeted them warmly, and led them to purple--covered chairs in his hut.
"Now, Patroclus," he cried, "bring out bigger bowls and better wine, for of all the Greeks these are my two best friends."
Patroclus did as his friend bade him. And on a big bench in the firelight he laid out good meat, too, and spitted it, and laid it over the coals. When it was nicely browned, he handed around baskets of bread, while Achilles himself served the meat.
After they had all had enough, Odysseus spoke.
"Your health, Achilles! " he began. "Surely we have never had a better feast at the board of Agamemnon himself. But tonight our business is not feasting, but life and death for all our troops. Unless you will come back to fight with us, we stand no more than an even chance of coming off with our lives. The Trojans are at this very moment camped by their watch fires on the plain, planning tomorrow to burn our ships and slaughter us beside them. So rise up now, I beg you, if you wish to save your people.
"Remember your father, when you left home, warned you against quarrels and pride of heart. It is not too late to change, for we come from Agamemnon to offer you the richest gifts, if you will forgive him." And then Odysseus listed the gifts, the gold and the horses, the women skilled in handwork, and all the rest.
But Achilles was not moved by such promises.
"I must tell you two exactly how I feel," he said. "I hate this man with all my heart. I am tired of sleepless nights and days of battle, all for his profit and his sake. Why must the Greeks make war on the Trojans? For Helen? Are Agamemnon and Menelaus the only men here who love their wives? Does not every right--minded man love his wife? And are not the Trojans, too, fighting only for their homes and womenfolk?
"Not if he offered me all the riches in the treasure houses of Delphi or Thebes would Agamemnon move me. For to me life is worth more than all the world's wealth. You may capture cattle, and buy gold and horses, but to win back a man's life, once the breath has passed from his lips, that no one can do.
"My mother Thetis offered me two roads--either to stay here at Troy and die, winning deathless fame, or to live out a long, quiet life at home. Now that is what I shall do. What is more, I advise you to go, too. For Zeus holds this city under his loving hand, and you will never find your way into Troy's hilly streets.
"No, go back and take this message to your princes, and let them find some better plan than this, if they wish to save their ships and men."
When Achilles had finished, the envoys each offered wine to the gods from a two--handled,cup. Then they made their way back along the line of ships, with Odysseus in the lead.
When they reached Agamemnon's quarters, everyone sprang to his feet, toasting them from golden cups, then asked for the news.
"Your majesty," Odysseus said, "Achilles refuses all your gifts. He is further than ever from giving in. He threatens to put to sea at dawn, and advises us to do the same."
A long silence followed this heavy blow. But at last Diomedes broke it, as before.
"Let him go, to stay or sail as he likes. But for our part, let us have a good night's sleep, and at the first light of dawn let us lead our men into battle, and by our example inspire them to noble deeds!"
Everyone applauded this heartily, and so they went off to sleep.

The Battle Before the City

As Dawn arose from her bed to bring light to men and gods, Zeus sent down the Spirit of Battle to the ships of the Greeks. She stood on the black hull of Odysseus' ship and uttered a loud and dreadful cry. It could be heard to the ends of the camp and filled the men with bravery.
Agamemnon himself shouted the call to arms. Then he buckled on his own fine greaves, and put on his breast the corselet which had been sent him by the King of Cyprus when he heard of the expedition to Troy. Over his shoulder he slung his great sword, knobbed with gold on the end, and cased in a silver sheath. His huge shield was made of ten circles of bronze, studded with knobs of white tin. On his head he put a two--horned helmet with a dreadful, nodding horsehair plume. With two spears of glittering bronze in his hands, the King of Golden Mycenae started off to war.
The two hosts were like lines of reapers before whom the rich grain falls. So the Trojans and Greeks leaped at each other, cutting down men in swaths. All through the morning, while the sun was climbing, the arrows flew from both sides and the men fell evenly. But, about the time when a woodsman in the mountains tires of felling trees and wants a bite to eat, about then the Greeks broke through the enemy ranks with a triumphant shout.
In the thickest of the fighting was Agamemnon, with his men backing him up. Now foot soldiers fell on foot soldiers, charioteers on charioteers, while the thundering hooves of the horses kicked up a great cloud of dust. Agamemnon slew and slew, like a forest fire blown on by the wind. As the trees topple over before the flames, so the Trojans fell before the king.
Past the ancient tomb of Ilos, past the wild fig tree which marked the middle of the plain, on toward the city, Agamemnon pushed the Trojans, with his hands dripping blood. When they came near the Scaean gates and the great oak, both armies made a stand. And the Trojans would have been pushed to their very walls, had not Zeus sent a message down to Hector by Iris, goddess of the rainbow.
"Tell Hector that as long as Agamemnon is dealing out death at the head of his army, he is to keep away himself. But when Agamemnon, wounded by some spear or arrow, mounts his chariot to retreat, I will give Hector the victory, to drive them to their ships until darkness falls."
So spoke Zeus to Iris.
As soon as Iris had delivered the message and sped swiftly away, Hector leaped down from his chariot. He rallied his men with a great rattling of spears. But he avoided Agamemnon, as Zeus had warned.
Agamemnon, as always, was at the front. And when he was pulling his spear from the throat of a Trojan victim, another warrior of Troy stabbed him broadside, below the elbow, straight through the flesh of the arm. Agamemnon shuddered at the blow, but fought sternly on.
As long as the blood flowed from his wound, Agamemnon could still fight. But when it began to dry, the stabbing pains came strongly, and Agamemnon mounted his chariot, crying to his friends to carry on. Then he told the driver to hurry to the ships, for he was in great pain.
Hector saw that Agamemnon was retreating, wounded, and shouted for all to hear: "
Trojans, allies! He is gone, their best man! Zeus has given us the victory, so drive straight for the ships! "
Thus Hector, son of Priam, like the war god himself spurred the Trojans on. And he flung himself into the battle like a whirlwind from the upper air sweeping down on the sea. Who fell first and last to the mighty Hector? There were too many to name.
Now complete disaster threatened the Greeks, who were being pushed back against their ships. For all their leaders were hard hit. Diomedes was caught square in the foot with an arrow from Paris' bow. A Trojan spear pierced the shield of Odysseus, pierced his belt, and tore away the flesh from his flank. Mighty Ajax, too, at last had to make a stubborn retreat to the ships.
As a final blow from the gods, one of Paris' arrows put Machaon, the great surgeon, out of the fight. Nestor saw him wounded, and went to his rescue at once. Soon Nestor's horses, sweating and steaming, brought the two to the camp beside the hollow ships.
Achilles was standing on the high stern of his ship, watching the rout of the Greeks. When he saw Nestor's chariot come in, he called Patroclus, his good friend, to him.
"Now at last I shall have the Greeks on their knees before me," he said, "for they are in a bad way. Go to Nestor and ask who is the wounded man he has just brought in. He looked to me like Machaon, but I could not clearly see his face. I want to know, for a surgeon who can heal an arrow wound is worth many fighting men."
Patroclus set off at a run through the huts and ships. By this time Nestor's chariot had reached his hut. The two men got out and, after standing on the beach to dry their sweaty tunics, they went inside.
Just then Patroclus appeared in the doorway. Nestor rose to invite him to join them, but Patroclus declined.
"Achilles asked me to find out who the wounded man was. Now that I see it is the honorable Machaon, I must hurry to tell him, for you know how hot--tempered he is!"
"I cannot see why Achilles is so concerned over one wounded man," said Nestor, "when our whole army is in such distress. Our best men are wounded--Agamemnon, Diomedes, Odysseus. Yet Achilles is not concerned about that, brave fighter that he is! Is he waiting for our ships to go up in flames?
"You should remember, Patroclus, what your own father said, when he sent you off to the war. 'My son,' he said, 'Achilles is of nobler blood than you, and also is stronger. But you are older. You must give him good advice and set him a noble example.'That was your father's bidding. Have you forgotten?
"You are Achilles' great friend. Perhaps you can still persuade him. Or perhaps he will give you his Myrmidons, and his own armor to wear. Then the Trojans, seeing fresh troops in the field, and thinking Achilles is leading them, may fall back and give our weary men a rest."
Patroclus was moved by Nestor's words, and as he hurried, back to the hut of Achilles, his mind was busy with sober thoughts all the while.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. How does Zeus decide the outcome of the present battle between the Greeks and the Trojans?
2. Why is Agamemnon at first willing to give up and go home in defeat? What makes him change his mind?
3. Why does Agamemnon agree to make peace with Achilles? Does this indicate that Agamemnon has changed in any way? Explain your answer.
4. How does Achilles respond to Agamemnon's offer of peace? What reasons does he give for deciding as he does? Are these reasons good ones?
5 .How do the gods affect the battle before the city?
6. What does Nestor ask Patroclus to do? Why is Patroclus the most logical choice for this mission?
7. What is your opinion of Agamemnon and Achilles at this point in the story? How has your opinion changed since the story began?