and the Achaeans valued it among themselves at twelve oxen. For the loser he brought out a woman skilled in all manner of arts, and they valued her at four oxen. He rose and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who will essay this contest [athlon]."
Forthwith uprose great Ajax the son of Telamon, and crafty Odysseus, full of craft [kerdos] rose also. The two girded themselves and went into the middle of the ring [agôn]. They gripped each other in their strong hands like the rafters which some master-builder frames for the roof of a high house to keep the wind out. Their backbones cracked as they tugged at one another with their mighty arms - and sweat rained from them in torrents. Many a bloody weal sprang up on their sides and shoulders, but they kept on striving with might and main for victory and to win the tripod. Odysseus could not throw Ajax, nor Ajax him; Odysseus was too strong for him; but when the Achaeans began to tire of watching them, Ajax said to Odysseus, "Odysseus, noble son of Laertes
, you shall either lift me, or I you, and let Zeus settle it between us."
He lifted him from the ground as he spoke, but Odysseus did not forget his cunning. He hit Ajax in the hollow at back of his knee, so that he could not keep his feet, but fell on his back with Odysseus lying upon his chest, and all who saw it marveled. Then Odysseus in turn lifted Ajax and stirred him a little from the ground but could not lift him right off it, his knee sank under him, and the two fell side by side on the ground and were all begrimed with dust. They now sprang towards one another and were for wrestling yet a third time, but Achilles rose and stayed them. "Put not each other further," said he, "to such cruel suffering; the victory is with both alike, take each of you an equal prize, and let the other Achaeans now compete."
Thus did he speak and they did even as he had said, and put on their shirts again after wiping the dust from off their bodies.
The son of Peleus then offered prizes for speed in running - a mixing-bowl beautifully wrought, of pure silver. It would hold six measures, and far exceeded all others in the whole world for beauty; it was the work of cunning artificers in Sidon
, and had been brought into port by Phoenicians from beyond the sea [pontos], who had made a present of it to Thoas. Eueneus son of Jason had given it to Patroklos in ransom of Priam's son Lykaon, and Achilles now offered it as a prize [athlon] in honor of his comrade to him who should be the swiftest runner. For the second prize he offered a large ox, well fattened, while for the last there was to be half a talent of gold. He then rose and said among the Argives, "Stand forward, you who will essay this contest [athlon]."
Forthwith uprose fleet Ajax son of Oileus, with cunning Odysseus, and Nestor's son Antilokhos, the fastest runner among all the youth of his time. They stood side by side and Achilles showed them the goal. The course was set out for them from the starting-post, and the son of Oileus took the lead at once, with Odysseus as close behind him as the shuttle is to a woman's bosom when she throws the woof across the warp and holds it close up to her; even so close behind him was Odysseus - treading in his footprints before the dust could settle there, and Ajax could feel his breath on the back of his head as he ran swiftly on. The Achaeans all shouted approval as they saw him straining his utmost, and cheered him as he shot past them; but when they were now nearing the end of the course Odysseus prayed inwardly to Athena. "Hear me," he cried, "and help my feet, O goddess." Thus did he pray, and Pallas Athena heard his prayer; she made his hands and his feet feel light, and when the runners were at the point of pouncing upon the prize [athlon], Ajax, through Athena's spite slipped upon some offal that was lying there from the cattle which Achilles had slaughtered in honor of Patroklos, and his mouth and nostrils were all filled with cow dung.
Odysseus therefore carried off the mixing-bowl, for he got before Ajax and came in first. But Ajax took the ox and stood with his hand on one of its horns, spitting the dung out of his mouth. Then he said to the Argives, "Alas, the goddess has spoiled my running; she watches over Odysseus and stands by him as though she were his own mother." Thus did he speak and they all of them laughed heartily.
Antilokhos carried off the last prize [athlon] and smiled as he said to the bystanders, "You all see, my friends, that now too the gods have shown their respect for seniority. Ajax is somewhat older than I am, and as for Odysseus, he belongs to an earlier generation, but he is hale in spite of his years, and no man of the Achaeans can run against him save only Achilles."