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Upon the arrival of the Greeks in Phrygia, they attacked in a hostile manuer all the cities in the neighbourhood of Troy, particularly those over against Lesbos. Among the rest Achilles, the son of Peleus and Thetis, assaulted Thebè and Lyrnessus, and carried off two beautiful virgins; the one Astyone, daughter of Chryses priest of Apollo Smintheus, the other Hippodamia daughter of Brises, who were both afterwards named from their parents. Chryseis was given by Achilles to Agamemnon: Briseis he reserved for himself. But Agamemnon, being afterwards obliged (in compliance with the will of the gods) to restore Chryseis to her father, violently and unjustly deprived Achilles of his other captive (Iliad 1). The hero, emaged at this insult, withdrew his forces, and refused to assist his country against the Trojans. The Greeks being several times worsted in the sequel, Agamemnon sent deputies to Achilles to appease him, with offers of Briseis, and considerable presents; all which he rejected (Iliad 9). Upon this Briseis is supposed to write to him the following epistle, blaming his over-violent resentment, entreating him to accept the offers of Agamemnon, and take up arms against the Trojans.

A rapta Briseide. She begins by a representation of her unhappy condition as a slave, the more to excite his compassion.

[2] Barbarica manu; for the Greeks accounted all nations beside themselves barbarous. As Hippodamia was a foreigner, and probably knew nothing of the Greek tongue before her captivity, her knowledge of it must have been very imperfect.

[8] Hoc quoque culpa tua est. She seems here to contradict herself. The meaning is, that Achilles was not to be blamed for delivering her up to the king, since that could not have been avoided; but he might justly be charged with delivering her up too quickly, as it would have been easy to create delays; and delays in such cases are grateful.

[9] Eurybates, Talthybius; the deputies of to whom Patroclus, by Achilles' order, delivered up Briseis.

[23] Menoetiades; Patroclus, the son of Menoetius, and the intimate friend of Achilles.

[27] Telamone Ajax the son of Telamon, Phoenix of Amyntor, and Ulysses, were sent ambassadors by Agamemnon to Achilles, to settle their differences. They were empowered to promise that Briseis should be restored, and to offer him rich presents from the king; but all solicita tions were fruitless; he remained inflexible.

[32] Tripodas; tables supported by three feet.

Pondere et arte pares; alike in weight and workmanship. Some translate it, No less valuable for their workmanship than the fineness of the metal.

[34] Bis sex. The greater number of copies have bis septem. But as this contradicts the account given by Homer (Il. 9.123), from whom our poet borrows the whole story, the other reading is preferable.

[36] Lesbides; captive virgins from the isle of Lesbos, not for from Troy.

[39] Atrida; Agamemnon, the nephew and adopted son of Atrens.

[43] Tenaciter. Here she endeavours to raise his pity by a detail of her calamities, and laments her hard fate, and the perpetual succession of misfortunes to which she was doomed. She had seen the ruin of her native country, and the destruction of her nearest relations. She had seen herself captive to a foreign prince, and at the mercy of a conqueror; and, when she flattered herself at last with the hope of some respite, new obstacles arose, so that she could see no end of her miseries.

[45] Lyrnessia. Commentators are divided about Lyrnessus: some pretending that it was a city of Pisidia; others, with more probability, placing it in the greater Mysia, over-against the isle of Lesbos.

[54] Utile capi. This expostulation is strong and pathetic. She had hoped to find in Achilles a recompence for all her misfortunes. He himself had told her that her captivity should turn to her advantage; and yet so little did he regard her, that he preferred gratifying his resentment to her quiet; and rather than bend to Agamemnon, had refused to take her back, and even intended to return home without her.

[57] Eos; a word often used by the Latin poets instead of Aurora.

[61] Cui me. Briseis by this expresses her great love to Achilles. Agamemnon the king had no share in her heart; and, if left by Achilles, by whomsoever she might be addressed beside, she would still look upon herself as abandoned.

[65] Phthiis remis. The followers of Achilles were of Phthia in Thessaly.

[71] Achaiadas; so called from Achaia, a region of Greece. Hence also the Greeks in general were called Achivi.

[73] Socero Jovis aeginaeque nepote; Peleus, the father of Achilles. He was the son of aeacus, who was the son of Jupiter and aegina.

[74] Nereus; a sea-god, the father of Thetis mother to Achilles.

[75] Nos humiles. Nothing can affect the heart more strongly than what Briseis here writes to Achilles. No condition of life appeared to her more cruel than that of being separated from the man she loved. She would consent to see him in the arms of another, and do the meanest service in his house, if she could only enjoy the favour of being near his person. She would even submit to ill treatment from the lady whom he might choose for the partner of his bed, rather than be absent from her beloved hero. What idea can we frame of a stronger affection? or what could be able to bend his stubborn soul, if this should be urged without effect?

[86] Quid lacerat. She had before endeavoured to move Achilles by arguments drawn from her own love and affection to him; here she studies to rouse his courage, and awaken him to a sense of glory. He alone was able to resist the impetuosity of Hector. Was it possible that he could stand still and tamely behold the victories of his enemy, see him triumph over his country, and carry off the prize of valour?

[92] Oenides; Meleager, the son of Oeneus, king of Calydonia, and Althea. Diana, incensed against his father, who in a general sacrifice to the gods had neglected her, sent a prodigious boar to destroy his lands. Meleager hunted the boar, killed him, and presented his head to Atalanta, daughter of Jasius, king of the Argives; which raising a jealousy and indignation in Toxeus and Plexippus, his mother's brothers, he slew them both. Upon this a war arising between the Curates and Calydonians, Meleager, terrified by the imprecations of his mother, would neither drive away the enemy, nor assist his country, though in the most imminent danger. At length, by the prayers and entreaties of Cleopatra his wife, he was prevailed upon to take arms. Phoenix uses the same story in an attempt to convince Achilles, Il. 9.527 ff.

[93] Fratribus; the sons of Thestius, and uncles of Meleager by the mother's side. They endeavoured to take away the head of the boar which Meleager had presented to Atalanta, but were opposed by him and slain in the conflict.

[94] Devovit. When Meleager was newly born, his mother by accident overheard the Fates in discourse about him. One of them, holding a stick in her hand, said, "The child shall live till that be consumed," putting it into the fire round which they sat. Upon their departure she took it from the fire, and laid it up carefully. But after he had slain his uncles, as above related, his mother, enraged to the highest degree, burned the billet; and Meleager, seized with a burning fever, died.

[97] Sola virum coniux. Her name was Alcyone, according to Hyginus. Antoninus Liberalis and Homer call her Cleopatra, the daughter of Aphareus and Mirpissa. The same is asserted by Apollodorus; who adds, that, after the death of Meleager, she committed suicide.

[99] Nec me pro coniuge gessi. 'Your goodness did not increase my presumption: I did not boast that I was your wife, but was willing to undergo all the rigors of servitude.'

[107] Perque tuum caput. It was the custom among the Greeks to swear by each other's head. Juvenal, 6.16-17:Nondum Graecis iurare paratis per caput alterius”.

Iunximus una; iungere capita; a phrase usual among the Romans to denote an amorous commerce.

[113] Tibi plectra moventur; that is, 'I languish in your absence, while you pass the time with music and other diversions;' for the plectrum was the thin stick or quill with which they touched the strings of the harp.

[114] Mollis amica. She means probably Diomeda, the daughter of Phorbas, with whom, as we are told by Homer, Achilles was wont to pass the time in the absence of Briseis.

[118] Threiciam lyram; such a lyre as was used by Orpheus in Thrace.

[126] Pelias hasta; the Thessalian spear, so called from mount Pelius. Homer tells us of Achilles' spear, that it was of such weight as to be wielded only by himself; and that, when Patroclus put on his other armour, he was obliged to leave this.

[127] Mittite me, Danai. This passage is inexpressibly beautiful. Briseis fancied that she could have more influence over her lord than the deputies, and prevail where they were repulsed. The remembrance of past endearments, the presence of the person who he loved, and those tender sentiments which the sight of her must raise in him, would, she flattered herself, make him incapable of resisting her suit. From this she falls very naturally into an expostulation with him as present, chides him for his obstinacy and neglect, and tells him that it would be less cruel to deprive her of life at once, than thus make her languish in uncertainty and fears. The whole is concluded in the most simple and natural manner imaginable. 'It would be better to deprive me of life altogether, than keep me in this cruel uncertainty; but better still to preserve my life and happiness together, and prolong those days which are your own gift. Troy will afford objects upon which you may wreak your vengeance. Restore me then to my former place in your affections.'

[136] Pyrrhus; the son of Achilles by Deidamia, daughter of Lycomedes. After his father's death, he repaired to the Grecian camp, and distinguished himself by his valour.

[147] Dea; Minerva, who when (as Homer relates) Achilles drew his sword against Agamemnon, checked his fury.

[151] Neptunia. Neptune, according to the fables of the poets, assisted in building the walls of Troy.

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