Thus spoke the son of Peleus and the drivers of chariots bestirred themselves. First among them all uprose Eumelos, king of men, son of Admetos, a man excellent in horsemanship. Next to him rose mighty Diomedes son of Tydeus; he yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken from Aeneas, when Apollo bore him out of the fight. Next to him, yellow-haired Menelaos son of Atreus rose and yoked his fleet horses, Agamemnon's mare Aithe, and his own horse Podagros. The mare had been given to Agamemnon by Echepolos son of Anchises, that he might not have to follow him to Ilion
, but might stay at home and take his ease; for Zeus had endowed him with great wealth and he lived in spacious Sicyon
. This mare, all eager for the race, did Menelaos put under the yoke.
Fourth in order Antilokhos, son to noble Nestor son of Neleus, made ready his horses. These were bred in Pylos
, and his father came up to him to give him good advice of which, however, he stood in but little need. "Antilokhos," said Nestor, "you are young, but Zeus and Poseidon have loved you well, and have made you an excellent horseman. I need not therefore say much by way of instruction. You are skillful at wheeling your horses round the post, but the horses themselves are very slow, and it is this that will, I fear, mar your chances. The other drivers know less than you do, but their horses are fleeter; therefore, my dear son, see if you cannot hit upon some artifice [mêtis] whereby you may insure that the prize shall not slip through your fingers. The woodsman does more by skill [mêtis] than by brute force [biê]; by skill [mêtis] the pilot guides his storm-tossed ship over the sea [pontos], and so by skill [mêtis] one driver can beat another. If a man go wide in rounding this way and that, whereas a man of craft [kerdos] may have worse horses, but he will keep them well in hand when he sees the turning-post [terma];
he knows the precise moment at which to pull the rein, and keeps his eye well on the man in front of him. I will give you this certain sign [sêma] which cannot escape your notice. There is a stump of a dead tree-oak or pine as it may be - some six feet above the ground, and not yet rotted away by rain; it stands at the fork of the road; it has two white stones set one on each side, and there is a clear course all round it. It may have been a tomb [sêma] of someone who died long ago, or it may have been used as a turning-post in days gone by; now, however, it has been fixed on by Achilles as the mark [terma] round which the chariots shall turn; hug it as close as you can, but as you stand in your chariot lean over a little to the left; urge on your right-hand horse with voice and lash, and give him a loose rein, but let the left-hand horse keep so close in, that the nave of your wheel shall almost graze the post; but mind the stone, or you will wound your horses and break your chariot in pieces, which would be sport for others but confusion for yourself. Therefore, my dear son, mind well what you are about, for if you can be first to round the post there is no chance of any one giving you the go-by later, not even though you had Adrastos' horse Arion behind you horse which is of divine race - or those of Laomedon, which are the noblest in this country."
When Nestor had made an end of counseling his son he sat down in his place, and fifth in order Meriones got ready his horses. They then all mounted their chariots and cast lots. - Achilles shook the helmet, and the lot of Antilokhos son of Nestor fell out first; next came that of King Eumelos, and after his, those of Menelaos son of Atreus and of Meriones. The last place fell to the lot of Diomedes son of Tydeus, who was the best man of them all. They took their places in line; Achilles showed them the turning-post round which they were to turn, some way off upon the plain; here he stationed his father's follower Phoenix as umpire, to note the running, and report truly.
At the same instant they all of them lashed their horses, struck them with the reins, and shouted at them with all their might. They flew full speed over the plain away from the ships, the dust rose from under them as it were a cloud or whirlwind, and their manes were all flying in the wind. At one moment the chariots seemed to touch the ground, and then again they bounded into the air; the drivers stood erect, and their hearts beat fast and furious in their lust of victory. Each kept calling on his horses, and the horses scoured the plain amid the clouds of dust that they raised.
It was when they were doing the last part of the course on their way back towards the sea that their pace was strained to the utmost and it was seen what each could do in striving [aretê] toward the prize. The horses of the descendant of Pheres now took the lead, and close behind them came the Trojan stallions of Diomedes. They seemed as if about to mount Eumelos' chariot, and he could feel their warm breath on his back and on his broad shoulders, for their heads were close to him as they flew over the course. Diomedes would have now passed him, or there would have been a dead heat, but Phoebus Apollo to spite him made him drop his whip. Tears of anger fell from his eyes as he saw the mares going on faster than ever, while his own horses lost ground through his having no whip. Athena saw the trick which Apollo had played the son of Tydeus, so she brought him his whip and put spirit into his horses; moreover she went after the son of Admetos in a rage and broke his yoke for him; the mares went one to one side the course, and the other to the other, and the pole was broken against the ground. Eumelos was thrown from his chariot close to the wheel; his elbows, mouth, and nostrils were all torn, and his forehead was bruised above his eyebrows; his eyes filled with tears and he could find no utterance. But the son of Tydeus turned his horses aside and shot far ahead, for Athena put fresh strength into them and covered Diomedes himself with glory.
Menelaos son of Atreus came next behind him, but Antilokhos called to his father's horses. "On with you both," he cried, "and do your very utmost. I do not bid you try to beat the steeds of the son of Tydeus, for Athena has put running into them, and has covered Diomedes with glory; but you must overtake the horses of the son of Atreus and not be left behind, or Aethe who is so fleet will taunt you. Why, my good men, are you lagging? I tell you, and it shall surely be - Nestor will keep neither of you, but will put both of you to the sword, if we win any the worse a prize [athlon] through your carelessness, fly after them at your utmost speed; I will hit on a plan for passing them in a narrow part of the way, and it shall not fail me."
They feared the rebuke of their master, and for a short space went quicker. Presently Antilokhos saw a narrow place where the road had sunk. The ground was broken, for the winter's rain had gathered and had worn the road so that the whole place was deepened. Menelaos was making towards it so as to get there first, for fear of a foul, but Antilokhos turned his horses out of the way, and followed him a little on one side. The son of Atreus was afraid and shouted out, "Antilokhos, you are driving recklessly; rein in your horses; the road is too narrow here, it will be wider soon, and you can pass me then; if you foul my chariot you may bring both of us to a mischief."