Classical Texts Library >> Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy >> Book 9




Amazon Penthesilea


Ethiopian Memnon


Death of Achilles


Funeral Games of Achilles


Contest for the Arms


Teuthranian Eurypylus




Death of Eurypylus


Final Battles


Death of Paris


Final Battles


The Trojan Horse


The Sack of Troy


The Returns


[1] When ended was night's darkness, and the Dawn rose from the world's verge, and the wide air glowed with splendour, then did Argos' warrior-sons gaze o'er the plain; and lo, all cloudless-clear stood Ilium's towers. The marvel of yesterday seemed a strange dream. No thought the Trojans had of standing forth to fight without the wall. A great fear held them thralls, the awful thought that yet alive was Peleus' glorious son. But to the King of Heaven Antenor cried: "Zeus, Lord of Ida and the starry sky, hearken my prayer! Oh turn back from our town that battle-eager murderous-hearted man, be he Achilles who hath not passed down to Hades, or some other like to him. For now in heaven-descended Priam's burg by thousands are her people perishing: no respite cometh from calamity: murder and havoc evermore increase. O Father Zeus, thou carest not though we be slaughtered of our foes: thou helpest them, forgetting thy son, godlike Dardanus! But, if this be the purpose of thine heart that Argives shall destroy us wretchedly, now do it: draw not out our agony!"

[26] In passionate prayer he cried; and Zeus from heaven hearkened, and hasted on the end of all, which else he had delayed. He granted him this awful boon, that myriads of Troy's sons should with their children perish: but that prayer he granted not, to turn Achilles' son back from the wide-wayed town; nay, all the more he enkindled him to war, for he would now give grace and glory to the Nereid Queen.

[35] So purposed he, of all Gods mightiest. But now between the city and Hellespont were Greeks and Trojans burning men and steeds in battle slain, while paused the murderous strife. For Priam sent his herald Menoetes forth to Agamemnon and the Achaean chiefs, asking a truce wherein to burn the dead; and they, of reverence for the slain, gave ear; for wrath pursueth not the dead. And when they had lain their slain on those close-thronging pyres, then did the Argives to their tents return, and unto Priam's gold-abounding halls the Trojans, for Eurypylus sorrowing sore: for even as Priam's sons they honoured him. Therefore apart from all the other slain, before the Gate Dardanian -- where the streams of eddying Xanthus down from Ida flow fed by the rains of heavens -- they buried him.

[53] Aweless Achilles' son the while went forth to his sire's huge tomb. Outpouring tears, he kissed the tall memorial pillar of the dead, and groaning clasped it round, and thus he cried: "Hail, father! Though beneath the earth thou lie in Hades' halls, I shall forget thee not. Oh to have met thee living mid the host! Then of each other had our souls had joy, then of her wealth had we spoiled Ilium. But now, thou hast not seen thy child, nor I seen thee, who yearned to look on thee in life. Yet, though thou be afar amidst the dead, thy spear, thy son, have made thy foes to quail; and Danaans with exceeding joy behold one like to thee in stature, fame and deeds."

[68] He spake, and wiped the hot tears from his face; and to his father's ships passed swiftly thence: with him went Myrmidon warriors two and ten, and white-haired Phoenix followed on with these woefully sighing for the glorious dead.

[73] Night rose o'er earth, the stars flashed out in heaven; so these brake bread, and slept till woke the Dawn. Then the Greeks donned their armour: flashed afar its splendour up to the very firmament. Forth of their gates in one great throng they poured, like snowflakes thick and fast, which drift adown heavily from the clouds in winter's cold; sostreamed they forth before the wall, and rose their dread shout: groaned the deep earth 'neath their tramp.

[82] The Trojans heard that shout, and saw that host, and marvelled. Crushed with fear were all their hearts foreboding doom; for like a huge cloud seemed that throng of foes: with clashing arms they came: volumed and vast the dust rose 'neath their feet. Then either did some God with hardihood thrill Deiphobus' heart, and made it void of fear, or his own spirit spurred him on to fight, to drive by thrust of spear that terrible host of foemen from the city of his birth. So there in Troy he cried with heartening speech: "O friends, be stout of heart to play the men! Remember all the agonies that war brings in the end to them that yield to foes. Ye wrestle not for Alexander alone, nor Helen, but for home, for your own lives, for wives, for little ones, for parents grey, for all the grace of life, for all ye have, for this dear land -- oh may she shroud me o'er slain in the battle, ere I see her lie 'neath foemen's spears -- my country! I know not a bitterer pang than this for hapless men! O be ye strong for battle! Forth to the fight with me, and thrust this horror far away! Think not Achilles liveth still to war against us: him the ravening fire consumed. Some other Achaean was it who so late enkindled them to war. Oh, shame it were if men who fight for fatherland should fear Achilles' self, or any Greek beside! Let us not flinch from war-toil! have we not endured much battle-travail heretofore? What, know ye not that to men sorely tried prosperity and joyance follow toil? So after scourging winds and ruining storms Zeus brings to men a morn of balmy air; after disease new strength comes, after war peace: all things know Time's changeless law of change."

[120] Then eager all for war they armed themselves in haste. All through the town rang clangour of arms as for grim fight strong men arrayed their limbs. Here stood a wife, shuddering with dread of war, yet piling, as she wept, her husband's arms before his feet. There little children brought to a father his war-gear with eager haste; and now his heart was wrung to hear their sobs, and now he smiled on those small ministers, and stronger waxed his heart's resolve to fight to the last gasp for these, the near and dear. Yonder again, with hands that had not lost old cunning, a grey father for the fray girded a son, and murmured once and again: "Dear boy, yield thou to no man in the war!" And showed his son the old scars on his breast, proud memories of fights fought long ago.

[137] So when they all stood mailed in battle-gear, forth of the gates they poured all eager-souled for war. Against the chariots of the Greeks their chariots charged; their ranks of footmen pressed to meet the footmen of the foe. The earth rang to the tramp of onset; pealed the cheer from man to man; swift closed the fronts of war. Loud clashed their arms all round; from either side war-cries were mingled in one awful roar swift-winged full many a dart and arrow flew from host to host; loud clanged the smitten shields 'neath thrusting spears. neath javelin-point and sword: men hewed with battle-axes lightening down; crimson the armour ran with blood of men. And all this while Troy's wives and daughters watched from high walls that grim battle of the strong. All trembled as they prayed for husbands, sons, and brothers: white-haired sires amidst them sat, and gazed, while anguished fear for sons devoured their hearts. But Helen in her bower abode amidst her maids, there held by utter shame.

[158] So without pause before the wall they fought, while Death exulted o'er them; deadly Strife shrieked out a long wild cry from host to host. With blood of slain men dust became red mire: here, there, fast fell the warriors mid the fray.

[163] Then slew Deiphobus the charioteer of Nestor, Hippasus' son: from that high car down fell he 'midst the dead; fear seized his lord lest, while his hands were cumbered with the reins, he too by Priam's strong son might be slain. Melanthius marked his plight: swiftly he sprang upon the car; he urged the horses on, shaking the reins, goading them with his spear, seeing the scourge was lost. But Priam's son left these, and plunged amid a throng of foes. There upon many he brought the day of doom; for like a ruining tempest on he stormed through reeling ranks. His mighty hand struck down foes numberless: the plain was heaped with dead.

[177] As when a woodman on the long-ridged hills plunges amid the forest-depths, and hews with might and main, and fells sap-laden trees to make him store of charcoal from the heaps of billets overturfed and set afire: the trunks on all sides fallen strew the slopes, while o'er his work the man exulteth; so before Deiphobus' swift death-dealing hands in heaps the Achaeans each on other fell. the charging lines of Troy swept over some; some fled to Xanthus' stream: Deiphobus chased into the flood yet more, and slew and slew. As when on fish-abounding Hellespont's strand the fishermen hard-straining drag a net forth of the depths to land; but, while it trails yet through the sea, one leaps amid the waves grasping in hand a sinuous-headed spear to deal the sword-fish death, and here and there, fast as he meets them, slays them, and with blood the waves are reddened; so were Xanthus' streams impurpled by his hands, and choked with dead.

[198] Yet not without sore loss the Trojans fought; for all this while Peleides' fierce-heart son of other ranks made havoc. Thetis gazed rejoicing in her son's son, with a joy as great as was her grief for Achilles slain. For a great host beneath his spear were hurled down to the dust, steeds, warriors slaughter-blent. And still he chased, and still he slew: he smote amides war-renowned, who on his steed bore down on him, but of his horsemanship small profit won. The bright spear pierced him through from navel unto spine, and all his bowels gushed out, and deadly Doom laid hold on him even as he fell beside his horse's feet. Ascanius and Oenops next he slew; under the fifth rib of the one he drave his spear, the other stabbed he 'neath the throat where a wound bringeth surest doom to man. Whomso he met besides he slew -- the names what man could tell of all that by the hands of Neoptolemus died? Never his limbs waxed weary. As some brawny labourer, with strong hands toiling in a fruitful field the livelong day, rains down to earth the fruit of olives, swiftly beating with his pole, and with the downfall covers all the ground, so fast fell 'neath his hands the thronging foe.

[225] Elsewhere did Agamemnon, Tydeus' son, and other chieftains of the Danaans toil with fury in the fight. Yet never quailed the mighty men of Troy: with heart and soul they also fought, and ever stayed from flight such as gave back. Yet many heeded not their chiefs, but fled, cowed by the Achaeans' might.

[232] Now at the last Achilles' strong son marked how fast beside Scamander's outfall Greeks were perishing. Those Troyward-fleeing foes whom he had followed slaying, left he now, and bade Automedon thither drive, where hosts were falling of the Achaeans. Straightway he hearkened, and scourged the steeds immortal on to that wild fray: bearing their lord they flew swiftly o'er battle-highways paved with death.

[241] As Ares chariot-borne to murderous war fares forth, and round his onrush quakes the ground, while on the God's breast clash celestial arms outflashing fire, so charged Achilles' son against Deiphobus. Clouds of dust upsoared about his horses' feet. Automedon marked the Trojan chief, and knew him. To his lord straightway he named that hero war-renowned: "My king, this is Deiphobus' array -- the man who from thy father fled in fear. Some God or fiend with courage fills him now."

[252] Naught answered Neoptolemus, save to bid drive on the steeds yet faster, that with speed he might avert grim death from perishing friends. But when to each other now full nigh they drew, Deiphobus, despite his battle-lust, stayed, as a ravening fire stays when it meets water. He marvelled, seeing Achilles' steeds and that gigantic son, huge as his sire; and his heart wavered, choosing now to flee, and now to face that hero, man to man as when a mountain boar from his young brood chases the jackals -- then a lion leaps from hidden ambush into view: the boar halts in his furious onset, loth to advance, loth to retreat, while foam his jaws about his whetted tusks; so halted Priam's son car-steeds and car, perplexed, while quivered his hands about the lance. Shouted Achilles' son: "Ho, Priam's son, why thus so mad to smite those weaker Argives, who have feared thy wrath and fled thine onset? So thou deem'st thyself far mightiest! If thine heart be brave indeed, of my spear now make trial in the strife."

[275] On rushed he, as a lion against a stag, borne by the steeds and chariot of his sire. And now full soon his lance had slain his foe, him and his charioteer -- but Phoebus poured a dense cloud round him from the viewless heights of heaven, and snatched him from the deadly fray, and set him down in Troy, amid the rout of fleeing Trojans: so did Peleus' son stab but the empty air; and loud he cried: "Dog, thou hast 'scaped my wrath! No might of thine saved thee, though ne'er so fain! Some God hath cast night's veil o'er thee, and snatched thee from thy death."

[287] Then Cronos' Son dispersed that dense dark cloud: mist-like it thinned and vanished into air: straightway the plain and all the land were seen. Then far away about the Scaean Gate he saw the Trojans: seeming like his sire, he sped against them; they at his coming quailed. As shipmen tremble when a wild wave bears down on their bark, wind-heaved until it swings broad, mountain-high above them, when the sea is mad with tempest; so, as on he came, terror clad all those Trojans as a cloak, the while he shouted, cheering on his men: "Hear, friends! -- fill full your hearts with dauntless strength, the strength that well beseemeth mighty men who thirst to win them glorious victory, to win renown from battle's tumult! Come, brave hearts, now strive we even beyond our strength till we smite Troy's proud city, till we win our hearts' desire! Foul shame it were to abide long deedless here and strengthless, womanlike! Ere I be called war-blencher, let me die!"

[308] Then unto Ares' work their spirits flamed. Down on the Trojans charged they: yea, and these fought with high courage, round their city now, and now from wall and gate-towers. Never lulled the rage of war, while Trojan hearts were hot to hurl the foemen back, and the strong Greeks to smite the town: grim havoc compassed all.

[315] Then, eager for the Trojans' help, swooped down out of Olympus, cloaked about with clouds, the son of Leto. Mighty rushing winds bare him in golden armour clad; and gleamed with lightning-splendour of his descent the long highways of air. His quiver clashed; loud rang the welkin; earth re-echoed, as he set his tireless feet by Xanthus. Pealed his shout dreadly, with courage filling them of Troy, scaring their foes from biding the red fray. But of all this the mighty Shaker of Earth was ware: he breathed into the fainting Greeks fierce valour, and the fight waxed murderous through those Immortals' clashing wills. Then died hosts numberless on either side. In wrath Apollo thought to smite Achilles' son in the same place where erst he smote his sire; but birds of boding screamed to left, to stay his mood, and other signs from heaven were sent; yet was his wrath not minded to obey those portents. Swiftly drew Earth-shaker nigh in mist celestial cloaked: about his feet quaked the dark earth as came the Sea-king on. Then, to stay Phoebus' hand, he cried to him: "Refrain thy wrath: Achilles' giant son slay not! Olympus' Lord himself shall be wroth for his death, and bitter grief shall light on me and all the Sea-gods, as erstwhile for Achilles' sake. Nay, get thee back to heights celestial, lest thou kindle me to wrath, and so I cleave a sudden chasm in earth, and Ilium and all her walls go down to darkness. Thine own soul were vexed thereat."

[348] Then, overawed by the brother of his sire, and fearing for Troy's fate and for her folk, to heaven went back Apollo, to the sea Poseidon. But the sons of men fought on, and slew; and Strife incarnate gloating watched.

[353] At last by Calchas' counsel Achaea's sons drew back to the ships, and put from them the thought of battle, seeing it was not foreordained that Ilium should fall until the might
Of war-wise Philoctetes came to aid the Achaean host. This had the prophet learnt. From birds of prosperous omen, or had read in hearts of victims. Wise in prophecy-lore was he, and like a god knew things to be.

[362] Trusting in him, the sons of Atreus stayed awhile the war, and unto Lemnos, land of stately mansions, sent they Tydeus' son and battle-staunch Odysseus oversea. Fast by the Fire-god's city sped they on over the broad flood of the Aegean Sea to vine-clad Lemnos, where in far-off days the wives wreaked murderous vengeance on their lords, in fierce wrath that they gave them not their due, but couched beside the handmaid-thralls of Thrace, the captives of their spears when they laid waste the land of warrior Thracians. Then these wives, their hearts with fiery jealousy's fever filled, murdered in every home with merciless hands their husbands: no compassion would they show to their own wedded lords -- such madness shakes the heart of man or woman, when it burns with jealousy's fever, stung by torturing pangs. So with souls filled with desperate hardihood in one night did they slaughter all their lords; and on a widowed nation rose the sun.

[383] To hallowed Lemnos came those heroes twain; they marked the rocky cave where lay the son of princely Poeas. Horror came on them when they beheld the hero of their quest groaning with bitter pangs, on the hard earth lying, with many feathers round him strewn, and others round his body, rudely sewn into a cloak, a screen from winter's cold. For, oft as famine stung him, would he shoot the shaft that missed no fowl his aim had doomed. Their flesh he ate, their feathers vestured him.And there lay herbs and healing leaves, the which, spread on his deadly wound, assuaged its pangs. Wild tangled elf-locks hung about his head. He seemed a wild beast, that hath set its foot, prowling by night, upon a hidden trap, and so hath been constrained in agony to bite with fierce teeth through the prisoned limb ere it could win back to its cave, and there in hunger and torturing pains it languisheth. So in that wide cave suffering crushed the man; and all his frame was wasted: naught but skin covered his bones. Unwashen there he crouched with famine-haggard cheeks, with sunken eyes glaring his misery 'neath cavernous brows. Never his groaning ceased, for evermore the ulcerous black wound, eating to the bone, festered with thrills of agonizing pain. As when a beetling cliff, by seething seas aye buffeted, is carved and underscooped, for all its stubborn strength, by tireless waves, till, scourged by winds and lashed by tempest-flails, the sea into deep caves hath gnawed its base; so greater 'neath his foot grew evermore the festering wound, dealt when the envenomed fangs tare him of that fell water-snake, which men say dealeth ghastly wounds incurable, when the hot sun hath parched it as it crawls over the sands; and so that mightiest man lay faint and wasted with his cureless pain; and from the ulcerous wound aye streamed to earth fetid corruption fouling all the floor of that wide cave, a marvel to be heard of men unborn. Beside his stony bed lay a long quiver full of arrows, some for hunting, some to smite his foes withal; with deadly venom of that fell water-snake were these besmeared. Before it, nigh to his hand, lay the great bow, with curving tips of horn, wrought by the mighty hands of Hercules.

[433] Now when that solitary spied these twain draw nigh his cave, he sprang to his bow, he laid the deadly arrow on the string; for now fierce memory of his wrongs awoke against these, who had left him years agone, in pain groaning upon the desolate sea-shore. Yea, and his heart's stem will he had swiftly wrought, but, even as upon that godlike twain he gazed, Athena caused his bitter wrath to melt away. Then drew they nigh to him with looks of sad compassion, and sat down on either hand beside him in the cave, and of his deadly wound and grievous pangs asked; and he told them all his sufferings. And they spake hope and comfort; and they said: "Thy woeful wound, thine anguish, shall be healed, if thou but come with us to Achaea's host -- the host that now is sorrowing after thee with all its kings. And no man of them all was cause of thine affliction, but the Fates, the cruel ones, whom none that walk the earth escape, but aye they visit hapless men unseen; and day by day with pitiless hearts now they afflict men, now again exalt to honour -- none knows why; for all the woes and all the joys of men do these devise after their pleasure." Hearkening he sat to Odysseus and to godlike Diomede; and all the hoarded wrath for olden wrongs and all the torturing rage, melted away.

[463] Straight to the strand dull-thundering and the ship, laughing for joy, they bare him with his bow. There washed they all his body and that foul wound with sponges, and with plenteous water bathed: so was his soul refreshed. Then hasted they and made meat ready for the famished man, and in the galley supped with him. Then came the balmy night, and sleep slid down on them. Till rose the dawn they tarried by the strand of sea-girt Lemnos, but with dayspring cast the hawsers loose, and heaved the anchor-stones out of the deep. Athena sent a breeze blowing behind the galley taper-prowed. They strained the sail with either stern-sheet taut; seaward they pointed the stout-girdered ship; o'er the broad flood she leapt before the wind; broken to right and left the dark wave sighed, and seething all around was hoary foam, while thronging dolphins raced on either hand flashing along the paths of silver sea.

[483] Full soon to fish-fraught Hellespont they came and the far-stretching ships. Glad were the Greeks to see the longed-for faces. Forth the ship with joy they stepped; and Poeas' valiant son on those two heroes leaned thin wasted hands, who bare him painfully halting to the shore staying his weight upon their brawny arms. As seems mid mountain-brakes an oak or pine by strength of the woodcutter half hewn through, which for a little stands on what was left of the smooth trunk by him who hewed thereat hard by the roots, that its slow-smouldering wood might yield him pitch -- now like to one in pain it groans, in weakness borne down by the wind, yet is upstayed upon its leafy boughs which from the earth bear up its helpless weight; so by pain unendurable bowed down leaned he on those brave heroes, and was borne unto the war-host. Men beheld, and all compassionated that great archer, crushed by anguish of his hurt. But one drew near, Podaleirius, godlike in his power to heal. Swifter than thought he made him whole and sound; for deftly on the wound he spread his salves, calling on his physician-father's name; and soon the Achaeans shouted all for joy, all praising with one voice Asclepius' son. Lovingly then they bathed him, and with oil anointed. All his heaviness of cheer and misery vanished by the Immortals' will; and glad at heart were all that looked on him; and from affliction he awoke to joy. Over the bloodless face the flush of health glowed, and for wretched weakness mighty strength thrilled through him: goodly and great waxed all his limbs. As when a field of corn revives again which erst had drooped, by rains of ruining storm down beaten flat, but by warm summer winds requickened, o'er the laboured land it smiles, so Philoctetes' erstwhile wasted frame was all requickened: -- in the galley's hold he seemed to have left all cares that crushed his soul.

[525] And Atreus' sons beheld him marvelling as one re-risen from the dead: it seemed the work of hands immortal. And indeed so was it verily, as their hearts divined; for 'twas the glorious Trito-born that shed stature and grace upon him. Suddenly he seemed as when of old mid Argive men he stood, before calamity struck him down. Then unto wealthy Agamemnon's tent did all their mightiest men bring Poeas' son, and set him chief in honour at the feast, extolling him. When all with meat and drink were filled, spake Agamemnon lord of spears: "Dear friend, since by the will of Heaven our souls were once perverted, that in sea-girt Lemnos we left thee, harbour not thine heart within fierce wrath for this: by the blest Gods constrained we did it; and, I trow, the Immortals willed to bring much evil on us, bereft of thee, who art of all men skilfullest to quell with shafts of death all foes that face thee in fight. For all the tangled paths of human life, by land and sea, are by the will of Fate hid from our eyes, in many and devious tracks are cleft apart, in wandering mazes lost. Along them men by Fortune's dooming drift like unto leaves that drive before the wind. Oft on an evil path the good man's feet stumble, the brave finds not a prosperous path; and none of earth-born men can shun the Fates, and of his own will none can choose his way. So then doth it behove the wise of heart though on a troublous track the winds of fate sweep him away to suffer and be strong. Since we were blinded then, and erred herein, with rich gifts will we make amends to thee hereafter, when we take the stately towers of Troy: but now receive thou handmaids seven, fleet steeds two-score, victors in chariot-race, and tripods twelve, wherein thine heart may joy through all thy days; and always in my tent shall royal honour at the feast be thine."

[567] He spake, and gave the hero those fair gifts. Then answered Poeas' mighty-hearted son; "Friend, I forgive thee freely, and all beside whoso against me haply hath trangressed. I know how good men's minds sometimes be warped: nor meet it is that one be obdurate ever, and nurse mean rancours: sternest wrath must yield anon unto the melting mood. Now pass we to our rest; for better is sleep than feasting late, for him who longs to fight."

[577] He spake, and rose, and came to his comrades' tent; then swiftly for their war-fain king they dight the couch, while laughed their hearts for very joy. gladly he laid him down to sleep till dawn.

[581] So passed the night divine, till flushed the hills in the sun's light, and men awoke to toil. Then all athirst for war the Argive men 'gan whet the spear smooth-shafted, or the dart, or javelin, and they brake the bread of dawn, and foddered all their horses. Then to these spake Poeas' son with battle-kindling speech: "Up! let us make us ready for the war! Let no man linger mid the galleys, ere the glorious walls of Ilium stately-towered be shattered, and her palaces be burned!"

[592] Then at his words each heart and spirit glowed: they donned their armour, and they grasped their shields. Forth of the ships in one huge mass they poured arrayed with bull-hide bucklers, ashen spears, and gallant-crested helms. Through all their ranks shoulder to shoulder marched they: thou hadst seen no gap 'twixt man and man as on they charged; so close they thronged, so dense was their array.