Nestor was sitting over his wine, but the cry of battle did not escape him, and he said to the son of Asklepios, "What, noble Machaon, is the meaning of all this? The shouts of men fighting by our ships grow stronger and stronger; stay here, therefore, and sit over your wine, while fair Hekamede heats you a bath and washes the clotted blood from off you. I will go at once to the look-out station and see what it is all about."
As he spoke he took up the shield of his son Thrasymedes that was lying in his tent, all gleaming with bronze, for Thrasymedes had taken his father's shield; he grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod spear, and as soon as he was outside saw the disastrous rout of the Achaeans who, now that their wall was overthrown, were fleeing pell-mell before the Trojans. As when there is a heavy swell upon the sea, but the waves are dumb - they keep their eyes on the watch for the quarter whence the fierce winds may spring upon them, but they stay where they are and set neither this way nor that, till some particular wind sweeps down from heaven to determine [krinô] them - even so did the old man ponder whether to make for the crowd of Danaans, or go in search of Agamemnon. In the end he deemed it best to go to the son of Atreus; but meanwhile the hosts were fighting and killing one another, and the hard bronze rattled on their bodies, as they thrust at one another with their swords and spears.
The wounded kings, the son of Tydeus, Odysseus, and Agamemnon son of Atreus, fell in Nestor as they were coming up from their ships - for theirs were drawn up some way from where the fighting was going on, being on the shore itself inasmuch as they had been beached first, while the wall had been built behind the hindermost. The stretch of the shore, wide though it was, did not afford room for all the ships, and the host was cramped for space, therefore they had placed the ships in rows one behind the other, and had filled the whole opening of the bay between the two points that formed it. The kings, leaning on their spears, were coming out to survey the fight, being in great anxiety, and when old Nestor met them they were filled with dismay. Then King Agamemnon said to him, "Nestor son of Neleus, honor to the Achaean name, why have you left the battle to come hither? I fear that what dread Hektor said will come true, when he vaunted among the Trojans saying that he would not return to Ilion
till he had fired our ships and killed us; this is what he said, and now it is all coming true. Alas! others of the Achaeans, like Achilles, are in anger with me that they refuse to fight by the sterns of our ships."
Then Nestor horseman of Gerene answered, "It is indeed as you say; it is all coming true at this moment, and even Zeus who thunders from on high cannot prevent it. Fallen is the wall on which we relied as an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet. The Trojans are fighting stubbornly and without ceasing at the ships; look where you may you cannot see from what quarter the rout of the Achaeans is coming; they are being killed in a confused mass and the battle-cry ascends to heaven; let us think, if counsel [noos] can be of any use, what we had better do; but I do not advise our going into battle ourselves, for a man cannot fight when he is wounded."
And King Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, if the Trojans are indeed fighting at the rear of our ships, and neither the wall nor the trench has served us - over which the Danaans toiled so hard, and which they deemed would be an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet - I see it must be the will of Zeus that the Achaeans should perish ingloriously here, far from Argos
. I knew when Zeus was willing to defend us, and I know now that he is raising the Trojans to like honor with the gods, while us, on the other hand, he bas bound hand and foot. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let us bring down the ships that are on the beach and draw them into the water; let us make them fast to their mooring-stones a little way out, against the fall of night - if even by night the Trojans will desist from fighting; we may then draw down the rest of the fleet. There is no sense of nemesis in fleeing ruin even by night. It is better for a man that he should flee and be saved than be caught and killed."
Odysseus looked fiercely at him and said, "Son of Atreus, what are you talking about? Wretch, you should have commanded some other and baser army, and not been ruler over us to whom Zeus has allotted a life of hard fighting from youth to old age, till we every one of us perish. Is it thus that you would quit the city of Troy
, to win which we have suffered so much hardship? Hold your peace, lest some other of the Achaeans hear you say what no man who knows how to give good counsel, no king over so great a host as that of the Argives should ever have let fall from his lips. I despise your judgment utterly for what you have been saying. Would you, then, have us draw down our ships into the water while the battle is raging, and thus play further into the hands of the conquering Trojans? It would be ruin; the Achaeans will not go on fighting when they see the ships being drawn into the water, but will cease attacking and keep turning their eyes towards them; your counsel, therefore, Sir leader, would be our destruction."
Agamemnon answered, "Odysseus, your rebuke has stung me to the heart. I am not, however, ordering the Achaeans to draw their ships into the sea whether they will or no. Some one, it may be, old or young, can offer us better counsel which I shall rejoice to hear."
Then said Diomedes, "Such an one is at hand; he is not far to seek, if you will listen to me and not resent my speaking though I am younger than any of you. I am by lineage son to a noble sire, Tydeus, who lies buried at Thebes
. For Portheus had three noble sons, two of whom, Agrios and Melas
, abode in Pleuron
and rocky Calydon. The third was the horseman Oeneus, my father's father, and he was the most valor [aretê] of them all. Oeneus remained in his own country, but my father (as Zeus and the other gods ordained it) migrated to Argos
. He married into the family of Adrastos, and his house was one of great abundance, for he had large estates of fertile grain-growing land, with much orchard ground as well, and he had many sheep; moreover he excelled all the Argives in the use of the spear. You must yourselves have heard whether these things are true or no; therefore when I say well despise not my words as though I were a coward or of ignoble birth. I say, then, let us go to the fight as we needs must, wounded though we be. When there, we may keep out of the battle and beyond the range of the spears lest we get fresh wounds in addition to what we have already, but we can spur on others, who have been indulging their spleen and holding aloof from battle hitherto."