Unit One Section C

heroes

The Iliad Part Four

Achilles finally decides to join the Greeks in their battle against the Trojans. What causes him to change his mind?

Hector at the Ships

Now the fighting had reached the trench and the wall about the Greeks' camp. When the Greeks had built this thick wall, they forgot to offer sacrifices to the gods, so it was destined not to stand for long. But at this time it still stood firm, while the battle raged around it and spears rattled against its stones and wooden towers.
There the battle hung in the balance, until Zeus at last gave a fresh spurt of power to Hector and let him be the first to enter the Greek camp.
"Up we go, Trojans!" he shouted to his followers. "Down with the wall, and let us see flames rising from the ships!"
Every Trojan heard the cry, and charged the walls with spear in hand. But Hector did more. Near the gate he picked up a huge pointed rock, thick as a barrel at the end. Two men could scarcely have raised it into a cart with a lever. But Zeus made the rock light in Hector's hands, and he smashed it against the wings of the gate, which were bolted together at the center.
The panels smashed to splinters, the hinges collapsed, and the great gate groaned as it gave way.
Into the camp strode Hector, with a face like night. He held two spears, and his armor flashed with bronze. Only a god could have stopped him then, as he turned into the camp of the Greeks and bade his men follow him. Over the wall, through the gate they came. And as the Greeks fled among the ships, the uproar rose to the skies.
Now Nestor, leaving his hut, met the wounded kings Diomedes, Odysseus, and Agamemnon, coming up from their ships on the seashore, a long way from the fighting. For the beach, wide as it was, stretching from headland to headland, was not large enough to hold all the ships, so they had been drawn up in rows. The kings, then, to get a view of the battle, had to walk inland, leaning heavily on their spears, in a gloomy frame of mind.
When they saw the wall knocked down, and the Trojans within the camp, Agamemnon was disheartened. "Let us launch the ships closest to the sea and anchor them offshore," he said. "Then by night we can draw down the other ships."
"This is nonsense," said Odysseus. "You had better be still, or the men may get wind of this idea, and then all will really be lost. You should have an army of cowards to command, if this is how you plan."
"Harsh words, Odysseus, but you are right," Agamemnon admitted. "I will not ask the men to launch the ships. But if anyone has a better idea, let us hear it.”
"I say let us go to the battlefield," said brave Diomedes. "We must keep out of range, wounded as we are, but we can encourage the others."
So on they went, but when they arrived Apollo himself was holding the cloak of victory over Hector as he led his men among the ships' high sterns. Hector caught hold of one fine ship, and rallied the battle around him there, more violently than before. Only great Ajax astride the deck kept him from setting it afire.
While this battle was raging around, the ships, Patroclus came to his friend Achilles with tears pouring down his cheeks.
"My dear Patroclus," said Achilles, "why are you crying? You look like a little girl running to her mother, plucking at her skirt and crying, begging to be picked up. What is it, man? Bad news from home, or are you weeping for the Greeks? They are suffering for their own faults, after all."
"Oh, Achilles," sighed Patroclus, "don't be angry with me. Our people are suffering such terrible misfortunes, with all their best men wounded. If you are still so cruel and cold that you will not give up your grudge, at least let me take the Myrmidons, and wear your armor on my shoulders to see if that may help."
So he begged, foolish one, for his own death! And proud Achilles was moved by his words.
"Perhaps you are right and I should not hold this grudge forever. I did think I would wait until the flames and battle reached, my own ships, but you go ahead. Wear my armor and lead our brave Myrmidons into the battle, now that the Trojans are sweeping over the ships like a black cloud and our people are trapped with their backs to the sea.
"Go on and beat them, Patroclus. Save our ships and bring honor to me. But when you have pushed the Trojans away from the ships, come back at once. Even if Zeus offers you a chance for victory, you must not fight on and steal my glory. Don't go as far as the city walls or the archer--god Apollo, who dearly loves Troy, may step in. Just save the ships and come straight back!"
Now while Achilles and Patroclus were talking, Ajax, guarding his tall ship, had come at last to the end of his strength. His helmet rang from the blows upon it. His left shoulder was tired from holding up his shield. His breath came in gasps, and sweat poured from him. Weary as he was, and almost alone among the leaders, he had still been standing off the Trojans. But now, as Ajax gave way at last, fire came to the ships.
Hector's great sword sliced through Ajax's spear, and the useless blade clattered to the ground, leaving the handle in his hand. Then Ajax knew that Zeus was against him. There was nothing more he could do. He retreated, while the Trojans hurled their firebrands. The flames licked first along the stern, and after a moment fire blazed up all over his ship.

Patroclus in the Fight

Seeing flames among the ships, Achilles slapped his thighs and shouted to Patroclus, “Hurry into the armor while I call the men. I see fire at the ships. We must not let them cut off our retreat."

So Patroclus hurried into Achilles' armor-- the leg greaves with silver anklets, the star-- shining corselet, the great, silver--knobbed sword and strong shield. Setting on his head the proud plumed helmet, he took up two lances. He took all but the spear of Achilles, which no other man could lift.
The immortal horses of Achilles were harnessed, and Achilles brought the Myrmidons from their camp, under arms and eager as wolves for the hunt. Led by Partoclus, they closed their ranks firmly, helmet to helmet, shield to shield, man to man, and moved out to battle.
Behind them Achilles offered a sacrifice to Zeus, with a prayer for their success and for Patroclus' safe return. Zeus heard him, and granted half the prayer. But half he did not grant.
Patroclus and his men marched on until they found the Trojans. Then they fell upon them like a swarm of wasps, and the ships echoed back their shouts. The Trojans, seeing Patroclus in his shining armor at the head of the Myrmidons, believed that it was Achilles back in the fighting, and every man looked for escape. They fell back from the burning ships, and the Myrmidons quickly put out the fire.
Then Patroclus and the Greeks behind him set upon the Trojans, who forgot that they had ever been brave and remembered only how to run.
Patroclus circled the fleeing army, driving them toward the ships. He kept them from reaching the safety of their city, herding them there in the space between the river and the ships and their city walls. Again and again he charged and struck, until there were many dead.
Now Zeus was debating Patroclus' fate. Should he let Hector kill him there, and strip Achilles' armor from his shoulders? At last he decided to let Patroclus push the Trojans back to their city walls, killing as he went.
The first step was to make Hector's courage fail. When Zeus himself had sapped his spirit, Hector climbed into his chariot. He called for a retreat, for he knew that in the sacred scales of Zeus, Troy had lost the day. Seeing him, all the Trojans fled.
Now Patroclus, blinded by victory, ignored Achilles' orders and commanded his charioteers to drive him after the Trojans. If he had gone back, as Achilles had told him to do, he might have escaped black death that day. But such was not the will of Zeus.
For Apollo, hidden in a mist so that Patroclus could not see him, struck him between the shoulders with the flat of his hand. Down rolled the proud helmet of Achilles, in the dust of the battlefield. And Patroclus staggered dizzily, while blackness swam before his eyes. Then a spearman struck him between the shoulders, but even that did not finish him. As Patroclus tried to find shelter among the Myrmidons, Hector struck him hard in the stomach, and with that his body crashed to the ground.
Now Hector exulted over fallen Patroclus.
"Boast if you will," said Patroclus feebly, "but I tell you, Hector, you have not long to live. Death at the hands of the great Achilles is drawing close to you."
As he spoke, death stopped Patroclus' words. And his soul went off to Hades, bewailing its youth that was lost forever.

The Grief of Achilles

While the battle went on, Antilochus, son of King Nestor, ran to the ships with the news. He found Achilles in front of his hut, already anxious in his heart. But when he heard the dreadful news Antilochus gave him with tears streaming down his face, black despair overcame Achilles. With both hands he poured dust over his hair and over his handsome face. He tore his hair and fell flat on the earth, like a fallen statue of a god, while the women he and Patroclus had captured beat their breasts and wailed. Antilochus, still weeping himself, held Achilles' hands, for fear he might cut his own throat.

Then Achgles gave a terrible cry, which his mother heard in the depths of the sea where she sat with her sisters, the nymphs. She cried out, hearing her son's grief, and all the nymphs of the sea wailed with their sorrowing sister, and joined in her lament.
"Hear, my sisters, the sorrow of my heart," she said. "I am the mother of a hero of all heroes. I brought him up gently, like a tender plant, and sent him off to fight at Troy, because he had chosen a short and glorious life. But even that short life is darkened now by sorrow, and I must go to him to see what its cause may be."
She left the sea cave then, and all the nymphs went with her, up through the sea to the darkened beach where the ships of the Myrmidons lay. There Thetis found her son Achilles as he sat and mourned.
Taking his dear head in her hands, she asked, "My child, why are you weeping? What is the trouble now, since Zeus has given you your way in everything, driving the Greeks back to huddle at their ships?"
"Yes," replied Achilles with a groan, "Zeus has done all this for me. But what does it matter, now that Patroclus is dead? For I do not wish to live unless I can kill Hector with my spear."
"Ah, my child," Thetis wept, "that brings your death close. For soon after Hector, you die."
"Then let death come quickly," Achilles said, "for I am going now to find Hector, and make him pay with his life. Though you love me, do not try to make me change my mind."
"But my child," said Thetis, "the Trojans have your armor. Hector now is wearing it proudly himself. Do not go into the battle until tomorrow, for by then I shall bring you a new set, from the god Hephaestus himself."
With that she sped off to Olympus to ask Hephaestus, the great craftsman, to make armor for her son.
When Dawn in her yellow robe rose from the ocean to bring light to men and gods, Thetis was back at the Greek camp with the armor for Achilles.
She found him still weeping, holding the body of Patroclus in his arms. But when he and his Myrmidons saw her gift of armor, they all were struck with awe. Now a flame flashed in Achilles' eyes, and he felt a battle passion rising in his heart.
"Mother, this is armor of the gods indeed," he cried. "I shall go off to battle at once!"
"First make your peace with Agamemnon," Thetis answered. "Then you may arm yourself with all your strength."
Achilles obediently strode along the shore of the sea, calling all the Greeks to an assembly. Diomedes and Odysseus came, still limping from their wounds, and Agamemnon still troubled by his. How the cries rose up from the host of the Greeks when Achilles declared the feud at an end! Again Agamemnon offered his gifts, but Achilles lusted for battle and did not want to wait for them.
"Give us a little time, Achilles," Odysseus urged, "for the men must have food and drink. No one fights well on an empty stomach, but with plenty of food a man can fight all day."
Reluctantly, Achilles agreed.
First Odysseus sent men to Agamemnon's quarters, to bring the promised treasures before the assembly, including the lady Briseis. She wept when she saw Patroclus' body, for he had been kind to her. Then Agamemnon slew a boar for a sacrifice to Zeus. Next the Greek soldiers had their meal. Only Achilles would not eat, nor be comforted in his sorrow.
But he put on the armor of Hephaestus, which shone in that place like a moon and star. It seemed to lift him up like wings. When he had taken up his father's spear, which no other man in the host could handle, he stepped into his chariot, armed for war and shining like the god of the sun himself.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. Why are the Trojans able to enter the Greeks' camp?
2 .When Agamemnon wants to retreat from battle, what does Odysseus say that persuades him to stay?
3. What does Patroclus ask of Achilles?
4. Achilles grants Patroclus' request and gives him advice. Does Achilles seem most concerned with Patroclus' safety, the Greek army, or his own glory? Explain your answer.
5 .How does Patroclus die? What role do the gods play in his death?
6. How does Patroclus' death affect Achilles? How will this affect Achilles' own life?
7. Achilles is portrayed as a many--sided individual. He is shown as being both peace--loving and warlike. He sorrows over his friend's death, but also remains concerned about his own glory. In your opinion, is Achilles a believable, realistic character?

celtic

The Iliad Part Five

The Greeks devise a plan to bring a quick end to the war. Their plan involves one of the most famous tricks in the history of war. What is the trick, and how does it end the fighting?

The Gods Join the Battle

As the Trojans took battle positions on the plain, awaiting the attack of Achilles and the Greeks, Zeus ordered all the gods to Olympus, and they came--down to every river sprite and nymph. When they had taken their places in the galleries of the palace of Zeus, Poseidon, god of the earthquakes, rose up and spoke for them.
"Why have you called us here, Lord of the Lightning?" he asked. "Are you worried about the Trojans and Greeks, who are about to fight again?"
"You are right, Earthshaker," said Father Zeus. "I am concerned about them. Nevertheless, I shall stay on Olympus to watch from some shady glen. The rest of you, though, may take sides as you wish. For if Achilles is left to himself, he may take the city before its time."
The gods lost no time in making their way to the battlefield after this! To the Greek camp went Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Hermes the god of luck, and Hephaestus. To the Trojans went Ares, god of war, Apollo, Artemis his huntress sister, Leto their mother, the river Xanthus, and beautiful, laughing Aphrodite.
Before the gods came down to the battle, the Greeks had swept everything before them. But now, when Athena raised her war cry, she was answered by Ares, raging like a storm at sea.
Up on high Father Zeus crashed out his thunder. Down below Poseidon shook the earth and mountaintops. Troy and the Greek ships trembled alike, and in the underworld the King of the Dead leaped from his throne in fear! Now Hera was faced by Apollo's sister, Leto by Hermes, and Hephaestus by the river Xanthus. Thus the gods went to war.
Achilles, meanwhile, hurried through the ranks with a word for every man. And as he went among the Greeks, Hector was stirring up the Trojan warriors, promising them to stop Achilles himself.
Apollo warned him against attempting that. "Do not seek out Achilles," he said, "or he will fell you with his spear and sword."
This warning sent Hector back into the crowd, until he saw Achilles down Polydoros with his spear. Polydoros was the youngest and favorite child of old King Priam, and the swiftest runner of them all. His father had forbidden him to fight, because he was still a boy. But this day his youthful vanity made him run back and forth among the fighters. Now death, in the form of the swift Achilles, caught up with him. As he ran by, Achilles caught him in the back with his spear, through the gold clasps of his belt.
When Hector saw his beloved young brother sink to the earth, clutching his wound, tears dimmed his eyes. He could stay away from Achilles no longer. Like a flash of fire, he rushed at him, brandishing his spear.
Achilles sprang to meet him, shouting, "Here is the man who killed my dearest friend! We have finished now with dodging one another among the battle lines. Come quickly and meet your end!"
Hector answered him quite calmly. "You cannot frighten me with words, Achilles. I know you are the better man, and stronger. But these things lie in the lap of the gods. They may let me take your life with my spear, which has a sharp point, too."
With that he hurled his spear, and hurled it well. But Athena was watching over Achilles. She turned the spear aside with a puff of wind so that it lost all its force and fell at Hector's feet.
Achilles rushed forward, charging with his spear, but Apollo caught Hector up in a dust cloud and carried him away. Three times Achilles charged that dust cloud. Three times his bronze spear point struck only air.
"Once more you have escaped me, dog!" cried Achilles, whirling his spear through the dust again. "Next time I shall have a god at my side, too, and then I shall finish you. For the present I shall find someone else."
Meanwhile, the feud between the gods broke out with violence. They fell upon each other with a great din that made the heavens ring. Zeus on Mount Ida heard the noise and turned to watch. He laughed in delight as Athena, in revenge for Ares' insults, hit him in the neck with a huge stone. Down he went, with his head in the dust. When Aphrodite tried to lead him away, Athena struck her a blow with her fist that sent her tumbling down.
White-armed Hera smiled. But when she heard Artemis chiding Apollo for not fighting old Poseidon, she snatched away Artemis' bows and arrows and boxed her ears with them. Poor Artemis went off in tears to the arms of her father Zeus, and her mother Leto picked up her bows and arrows to bring them back to her.
Then one by one, thegods drifted home, tiring of the battle. Only Apollo stayed. He went into the city of Troy, fearing that in spite of fate Achilles might take it that day.
Old King Priam on the city walls watched the great Achilles sweep the Trojans before him in terrified defeat. Groaning aloud, he came down to the gates. He ordered the watchmen to throw them open until the fleeing men were safe inside.
But Fate, for her own dark purposes, kept Hector outside the walls, in front of the Scaean gate.

The Death of Hector

Hector had taken his stand at the gate, resolved to fight Achilles there. But it was King Priam who first saw Achilles come running over the plain, his armor flashing like the Dog Star' at harvest time, brightest of all in the sky. And old Priam groaned, stretching out his arms to Hector in last appeal.

"Come in, I beg you," cried the king, "and save our city. Remember me, your old father --old, but not too old to grieve if my sons are killed, my city destroyed, my house looted, my daughters dragged off into slavery before my eyes. For it will be last of all that someone will strike me down and leave my body for the dogs."
As the old man spoke, he tore his white hair, but Hector still stood firm. His mother, too, pleaded and wailed and wept. But Hector, though he was deeply moved and indeed feared his own fate, would not retreat. Resting his shield against the wall, he watched the dreadful Achilles come on.
"This is no time for retreat or for bargaining, " he told his heart sternly. "Better to get to work and see whom the gods have chosen as victor."
So he thought, while Achilles, like the war god himself, drew near, his burnished armor shining like a flame.
Hector looked up and, seeing him close before him, trembled and lost heart. He could no longer stand and wait. He ran from the gate in terror.
Achilles was after him in a flash, as a hawk pursues a dove. Under the walls of Troy they ran, past the lookout, past the fig tree, keeping on the cart road there, until they came to Scamander's springs.
On went the chase, a good man in front but a far stronger at his heels. They ran hard, for this was no common race--the life of Hector was the prize. Three times around the walls they ran, with all the gods watching from above. Zeus grieved for Hector and would have saved him, but Athena would have none of that.
"This man is mortal, and his day of fate has come," she cried. "How could you save him from death?"
It was like a race in a dream, where both run and run, yet neither can escape nor catch the other. Then, as they came to the fountains the fourth time, Apollo, who had been helping Hector run, left his side at last. And Athena appeared at Hector's right hand, in the shape of one of his brothers, treacherously offering help.
"Brother, you are worn out from this chase," said Athena in the voice of a Trojan prince. "Let us make a stand and face Achilles here."
Heartened by this help, and by the brave show of friendship, Hector turned and spoke as Achilles drew near.
"I shall run from you no longer, Achilles," he said. "Let us fight and kill or be killed. But first let us make a promise by the gods. If Zeus grants me the victory, I will not harm your body, but will give it to your friends for burial, once I have stripped it of its armor. Promise me you will do the same."
Achilles glared as he replied, "There can be no bargains between us. Lions do not come to terms with men, nor wolves with lambs. Between you and me there can be nothing but hatred. Now call up your courage and your skill, for I intend to pay you back for all the pain and grief you have caused."
At this, Achilles hurled his long spear. But Hector crouched down so that it sailed past his shoulder, and stuck in the earth behind. Athena pulled it out and returned it to Achilles, but Hector did not see this.
Hector poised his own spear and cast it. It hit the shield squarely, but the god's workmanship sent it bouncing off. Hector was angry that his fine cast had failed. He called to his brother for a second spear, but no brother was in sight. Then Hector knew that the gods had fooled him and he was facing death.
"At least let me face it bravely!" he said.
Then, brandishing his long, heavy sword, he swooped down on Achilles like an eagle pouncing on a lamb. Achilles rushed to meet him, full of savage anger, searching for an opening in his armor. He found a spot on the neck, by the collar bone, and there he stabbed with his spear.
Down went Hector in the dust, and Achilles roared his triumph over him.
"No doubt you thought that you were safe when you downed Patroclus, O fool! But a better warrior by far was waiting at the ships, I who have laid you low. Now Patroclus shall be buried with honor while you are eaten by the dogs!"
Once Hector spoke, from the gates of death.
"Remember before you do this thing that the gods may bear it in mind. For you, too, will fall at the Scaean gate to Paris and Apollo."
Then death cut short his words, and his soul went off to the depths of Hades, bewailing its lost youth.
Now Achilles stripped the armor from the body, and the other Greeks gathered round, marveling at his size and good looks. But each in turn stuck his spear into the corpse, for it was safer to come near Hector now than when he had been burning the ships.
Next Achilles did a shameful thing. He cut the tendons of Hector's feet, threaded them through with leather thongs, and fastened the thongs to his chariot. Mounting his chariot, he drove across the plain, dragging the body of Hector behind him with his black hair streaming out, and the once handsome face bumping over stones and trailing in the dust.
The people in Troy had all they could do to keep King Priam from rushing out the gate.
And the weeping and wailing reached the room where Hector's wife sat at her loom, weaving flowers on a wide purple web. The shuttle dropped from her quivering hand, and she ran from the house like a mad woman, with two servants to support her.
When she came to the wall, she climbed quickly to the tower, where a large crowd had gathered. Searching the plain, she saw her husband being brutally dragged before the town. Then the blackness of night came before her eyes, and she fell, fainting, to the dusty ground. The women of Troy gathered around her. When she could speak again, she cried out, "O Hector, I am left a widow in our once happy home. And our baby son, Astyanax, as they call him because you were the hope of Troy--fatherless. What will become of him? His lot will be one of sorrow."
So she spoke and wept, and the women wept with her, sorrowing for the lost hope of Troy.

The Ransom of Hector

Achilles went on grieving for his friend Patroclus. Each day at dawn, after a sleepless night, he would harness his horses to his chariot, drag Hector's body three times around Patroclus' burial mound, then leave it facedown in the dust.
Through all this mistreatment, Apollo kept Hector's body from harm, and many of the gods felt pity for him. Only Hera and Athena would not forgive Troy and Priam's family for the fatal choice that Paris had made.
As the twelfth day came on, Apollo angrgy insisted that something must be done.
So Zeus sent word to Achilles, through his mother Thetis, that he was to accept a ransom for Hector's body when King Priam should offer it.
Zeus meanwhile sent Iris, goddess of the rainbow, off to Priam in Troy. When Priam heard the whisper of the goddess at his ear, he trembled with fear. But he did not hesitate. At once he gave orders to his sons to make ready a mule cart with a wicker body on it. Meanwhile, he went to the high--roofed room lined with cedar where he kept his richest ornaments.
From this storeroom he took twelve handsome robes, twelve cloaks, with mantles and tunics for all. He took out ten great lumps of gold, two shining tripods, four cauldrons, and a magnificent cup.
Then he hustled his sons into loading the ransom goods into the wagon they had prepared.
When everything was almost ready, Queen Hecuba, in great distress, brought out a golden goblet of wine, for a drink offering to Zeus. In response, Zeus sent an eagle, a bird of good omen.
Cheered by this sign, King Priam mounted his cart and drove out through the gateway and across the plain. When he stopped to give the mules a drink at the river, Zeus sent Hermes, disguised as a young prince, who guided him, unseen, past the Greek sentries and straight to Achilles' hut.
Then back to Olympus went Hermes, while Priam opened the door and, still unseen, walked into the hut where Achilles sat with two servants.
Priam at once clasped Achilles about the knees and kissed the hands that had slaughtered so many of his sons. Achilles and his men stared in amazement at this.
Then Priam made his plea. He reminded Achilles of his own father, until Achilles' heart ached with longing. Gently he pushed the old man from him, and they both burst into tears. Priam, crouching at Achilles' feet, wept for Hector. Achilles wept for his father, and then for Patroclus again.
When they could speak, Achilles, out of pity, took Priam by the arm and raised him from the floor.
"Ah, poor man, you have suffered many sorrows. And what strength of heart you have, to come alone to the camp of the Greeks! I shall let you take Hector back with you."
Achilles sent men out to unload the cart and bring the ransom in. He also called out women to wash Hector's body, anoint it with oil, and wrap it securely for the journey home.

The Fall of the City

Now the Greeks, with the help of the goddess Athena, built a gigantic horse with sides of fresh--cut pine. They pretended it was an offering to the gods for their safe return to Greece. But secretly, under cover of night, they hid the pick of their warriors, fully armed, inside the wooden horse.
Now, not far from the shore, within sight of Troy, lay an island, Tenedos by name. There the Greeks sailed, and hid their ships on its lonely beaches. All the while, the Trojans thought they had fled and were running before the wind back to Mycenae.
In Troy all the long sorrow turned to joy. The gates which had so long been barred were flung open. How pleasant it was to be able to wander freely through the deserted camp of the Greeks, seeing the empty places where their ships had stood, and the long, deserted shore.
The Trojans stood amazed when they saw the horse, a deadly offering to the goddess Athena, and marveled at its tremendous size. Then one man urged that it be taken into the city and set up in the inner fortress itself. Whether the voice of treachery spoke through him, or whether the fate of Troy had already been decreed, who can say?
At word of this plan, down from the highest point of the city came running the priest Laocoon, with his heart aflame. "My ill--fated countrymen," he cried when he was still far off, "what madness is this? Do you trust the enemy really to have left? Do you think it safe to accept any gifts from the Greeks? In this wood Greeks may be hidden--or perhaps it is an engine of war planned to ram down our walls or invade our houses from above. There is some trick about it, mark my words! Men of Troy, do not trust this horse!"
With these words he hurled his heavy spear against the monster's side. And had not the will of Heaven been against it, the men of Troy would have joined him in hacking the Greek horse to bits with their good steel--and Troy might still be standing today.
For the gods sent a terrible sign. As Laocoon, priest of Poseidon, stood beside his accustomed altar, ready to slay a sacrificial bull, up from the sea came two dreadful serpent--dragons. Seizing upon Laocoon and his sons, they devoured them all!
Now a horrid dread filled every heart. The word went around that Laocoon had suffered for striking the holy wood with his spear. So with one voice the men cried out that the horse should be dragged into the holy place of the city, and prayers offered to the goddess there.
The walls had to be cut, and the town laid open. But everyone set to work. Wheels were placed under the base of the horse, ropes were stretched about its neck. And while boys and maidens chanted sacred songs, it rolled onward, upward, into the city.
Four times on the threshold it halted. And four times the clank of armor could be heard within. But heedless and blind, the Trojans pressed on. They set the accursed thing in the city's holiest place, while the temples were hung with garlands as if for a feast.
Meanwhile, Night rushed down over Ocean, and soon the Trojans lay deep in quiet sleep. Now the Greek fleet was moving in orderly array from Tenedos, through the silent moonbeams, back toward the familiar beach.
At a signal from the royal galley, a Greek lad stealthily unbarred the pine horse and released the Greek warriors hidden inside.
They rushed upon the sleeping city, slew the sentinels, and welcomed their comrades through the wide--flung gates. Then, with a braying of trumpets and shouting of men, they rushed through the city with sword and flame.
So fell the ancient city, a queenly city for many long years. And the bodies of her children lay scattered in great numbers in the streets and in the houses--even in the very temples themselves.
Developing Comprehension Skills

1. What event angers Hector and makes him face Achilles?
2. How is the battle between the gods similar to the one between the humans? How is it different? After reading about this battle, what is your opinion of the gods?
3. How does Hector die? What role does Athena play in his death?
4. How do the Greeks treat Hector's body? Why does Achilles drag Hector's body around the city?
5. How do the Greeks get the wooden horse into the city?
6. What warnings do the Trojans receive that suggest that the horse is a trick? Why do they ignore these warnings?
7. In your opinion, did the Trojans ever have any chance to win the war? Explain your answer.