The story is first found in the Odyssey XI. 543-63, where Ulysses tells how he met the shade of Ajax: “‘The soul of Aias son of Telamon alone stood apart, being still angry for the victory wherein I prevailed against him, in the suit by the ships concerning the arms of Achilles, that his lady mother had set for a prize; and the sons of the Trojans made award and Pallas Athene. Would that I had never prevailed and won such a prize! So goodly a head hath the earth closed over, for the sake of those arms, even over Aias, who in beauty and in feats of war was of a mould above all the other Danaans, next to the noble son of Peleus. To him then I spake softly, saying: “Aias, son of noble Telamon, so art thou not even in death to forget thy wrath against me, by reason of those arms accursed, which the gods set to be the bane of the Argives? What a tower of strength fell in thy fall, and we Achaeans cease not to sorrow for thee, even as for the life of Achilles son of Peleus! Nay, there is none other to blame, but Zeus, who hath borne wondrous hate to the army of the Danaan spearsmen, and laid on thee thy doom. Nay, come hither, my lord, that thou mayest hear my word and my speech; master thy wrath and thy proud spirit.” So I spake, but he answered me not a word and passed to Erebus after the other spirits of the dead that be departed.’” An excellent account of the epic and dramatic treatment of the story will be found in Professor Jebb's edition of the Ajax of Sophocles. In later times the contest became a favourite subject in the rhetorical schools. Ovid is said to have borrowed some ideas from a declamation on the subject by M. Porcius Latro, his tutor.
“Ipse etiam, ut, cuius fuerit, dignoscere possis,
bella movet clipeus, deque armis arma feruntur.
non ea Tydides, non audet Oileos Aiax,
non minor Atrides, non bello maior et aevo
poscere, non alii: solis Telamone creato
Laërteque fuit tantae fiducia laudis.
a se Tantalides onus invidiamque removit
Argolicosque duces mediis considere castris
iussit et arbitrium litis traiecit in omnes.
consedere, ‘are set,’ ‘are in session,’ an almost technical term, as is also surgit. Cf. XI. 157, XII. 622, Cic. pro Rosc. Amer. I. § 1, “Credo ego vos, iudices, mirari, quid sit quod, cum tot summi oratores hominesque nobilissimi sedeant, ego potissimum surrexerim.” corona, the throng of listeners and spectators, our ‘ring.’ Cf. Hor. Epp. I. xviii. 53, “scis quo clamore coronae proelia sustineas campestria”, id. A. P. 381, “ne spissae risum tollant impune coronae.”
surgit ad hos, the Homeric “τοῖσι δ᾽ ἀνέστη”. clipei . . . Aiax, so described also in Amor. I. vii. 7. The description serves to distinguish him from the other Ajax, son of Oileus. Cf. 347, Soph. Aj. 19, “Αἴαντι τῷ σακεσφόρῳ”.
ut ‘introduces a general statement in correspondence with the particular assertion of the principal clause’ (Lewis and Short). English uses a participial clause (‘being, &c.’) or such expressions as ‘with his wonted violence.’ impatiens irae, not ‘impatient in his wrath’ (Lewis and Short), but ‘unable to bear his wrath’ without speech or action, and so to be referred in R. to § 525 (a) rather than to § 526. Cf. Tac. H. II. xl. 3, “aeger mora et spei impatiens”, i.e. unable to endure longer the condition of expectancy, Liv. IX. xviii. 1, “secundis rebus quarum nemo intolerantior fuit”. Sigeia litora. Between the two promontories Sigeum and Rhoeteum, which are three or four miles apart, the rivers Scamander and Simois fell into the sea. Here was supposed to have been placed the naval camp of the Greeks. The south-western promontory, Sigeum, bore the tomb of Ajax, the north-eastern, Rhoeteum, that of Achilles.
agimus. The abrupt opening of Ajax’ speech, like many other details of it, contrasts with the rhetorical skill displayed in that of Ulysses, which gains greatly in effect by being put second.
ante rates. The scene suggests recollections which serve the double purpose of recommending himself and depreciating his adversary: “ad commendationem quoque et invidiam valet [locus],” Quint. V. x. ad fin., quoting this passage. The words rates, mecum and Ulixes are strongly emphasised.
Hectoreis flammis. The words have an emphasis which contrasts the promptitude of Ulysses in giving way before the armed onslaught of Hector with his boldness in advancing his claims in words against Ajax. The incident is narrated in Iliad XVI. 716 sqq.
quas . . . quas, anaphora, R. § 946. hac a classe, ‘from yonder fleet,’ “δεικτικῶς”.
tutius, ‘surer’ (i.e. more promising, a sense often found in our word ‘safer’), since Ulysses has already gained the success of being allowed to appear against him. Cf. Tac. H. I. lxii. 2, “Nihil in discordiis civilibus festinatione tutius”.
nec mihi . . . isti. As Ajax is thinking now only of his own inferiority and the superiority of Ulysses in the department of oratory, the clause nec facere est isti serves only to measure and emphasise the contrast, and would in English be subordinated. Cf. Hor. c. I. vi. 5, “nos, Agrippa, neque haec dicere, nec gravem Pelidae stomachum cedere nescii . . . . conamur”, ib. III. v. 27, “neque amissos colores lana refert medicata fuco, nec vera virtus, cum semel excidit, curat reponi deterioribus”, where Wickham cites the similar use of “οὔτε . . . οὔτε,” Aesch. Cho. 258-61. The contrast between skill in speech or counsel and personal prowess is a very common one. Cf. IX. 29-30, Virg. Aen. X. 338, Liv. X. xix. 8, Hom. Il. XVIII. 252, “ἀλλ᾽ ὁ μὲν ἂρ μύθοισιν ὁ δ᾽ ἔγχεϊ πολλὸν ἐνίκα”.
Marte feroci, ‘in stern fight,’ an instance of metonymy. R. § 949.
tamen. His inferiority in speech, great as it is, matters little.
quorum . . . est. Hence Ulysses is called by Seneca nocturnus miles. Cf. 100 and 243, where Ulysses takes credit to himself for encountering the additional perils of darkness.
demit honorem aemulus. Cf. a line from Pacuvius given in Ribbeck:— “an quis est qui te esse dignum quicum certetur putet?
non est . . . superbum, ‘it were no great honour to gain.’ The force of the perfect infinitive tenuisse (as in Fasti VI. 71, “remque mei iuris malim tenuisse precando”) may be rendered almost indifferently by ‘to have gained’ and ‘to gain,’ i.e. it corresponds most nearly to the aorist infinitive in Greek. Cf. Goodwin, Moods and Tenses, § 23, Roby, § 1371, Wickham on Hor. C. III. iv. 51, Ellis on Cat. LXIX. 2. On the use of the indicative see R. 643 (a).
sit licet. For the construction of licet, which is a principal verb (it should not be considered a mere conjunction until it is found in late Latin with an indicative depending upon it), cf. 328, 862, XIV. 355, R. § 672, Roby § 1606, and contrast the construction of quamvis in R. § 676b.
quo. In prose in would be required, R. §§ 487-9. The usage of poetry is not, however, to be explained as an omission of the preposition, but as an extension of the ablative of attendant circumstance. R. § 504.
virtus, in the general sense of ‘merit.’ in me, emphatic, as opposed to the ancestry he now celebrates.
sub Hercule. Cf. 202. Telamon accompanied Hercules (xi. 216) on his expedition against Troy, for which see 157 n.. Ulysses replies to this in 140.
litoraque intravit Colcha, with the Argonauts under Jason, whose ship Argo was built at Pagasae upon the bay of that name in Thessaly.
huic, sc. Telamon. Aeacus with Minos and Rhadamanthus was judge of the dead, IX. 439. iura reddit, ‘ministers justice,’ as the praetor was said by his decisions ius dicere. On the other hand iura dare in Virg. G. IV. 560, Aen. I. 293, 507, 731 and other passages is explained by Dr. Henry as ‘to legislate,’ though the two functions in heroic times would not be sharply distinguished. See Conington on Virg. Aen.VII. 246-7 Virg. Aen., VIII. 670. silentibus, ‘the dead,’ as in V. 356, XIV. 411, XV. 772. illic, not ‘in the other world,’ “ἐκεῖ”, but simply anticipatory of ubi, ‘in that world, where.’
Aeoliden Sisyphon. According to one story Ulysses was the son not of Laertes, but of Sisyphus. Cf. Soph. Aj. 190 (with Jebb's note), Virg. Aen.VI. 529. The cunning of the father was reproduced in the son.
tertius, third in descent.
in causam. The use of in with the accusative in such expressions (as in vicem, in orbem ire) always involves the idea of motion towards some end, either actual or metaphorical, though this idea need not be kept in translation. Cf. 50, 228, Liv.i. VIII. 4, “in spem futurae multitudinis munire”, ib. XVII. 9, “in incertum comitiorum eventum patres auctores fiunt”, id. II. xxxii. 1, “in consulum verba iurare”Liv., VI. xiv. 2, “facta popularia in speciem”.
frater, more exactly frater patruelis, father's brother's son or first cousin (R. § 919), for which it is also used in Her.VIII. 28. Telamon and Peleus were both sons of Aeacus. The specialisation required in strictness by frater will be seen from de Fin. V. i. § 1, L. Cicero frater noster cognatione patruelis, amore germanus. So soror, ‘cousin,’ I. 351.
inserit, ‘intrudes,’ by claiming what should be heirlooms in the Aeacid family. For inserere in the sense of ‘to enrol’ cf. Hor. C. I. i. 35, III. xxv. 6, and for the additional force of ‘intruding’ something foreign, Tac. Ann.VI. ii.“dum ignobilitatem suam magnis nominibus inserit”, Liv.vi. XXXVIII. 7, “nihil patricium magistratum inseram concilio plebis”.
prior . . . veni. By the advice of Ulysses, who was among their number, Tyndareus made all the suitors of Helen swear jointly and severally to avenge any outrage done on her account to the one who should be successful (cf. 50). When the fulfilment of the oath was required by Agamemnon and Menelaus, Ulysses, whether from affection for his wife (301) or because he had learned what misfortunes and long wanderings would be his lot if he went to Troy (“cui erat responsum si ad Troiam isset, post vicesimum annum solum, sociis perditis, eyentem domum rediturum”, Hygin. f. 95), resolved not to join the expedition. He accordingly feigned madness, ploughing the sea-shore with an ox and an ass yoked together. Palamedes, who accompanied the Atridae, detected the cheat by taking the child Telemachus from the cradle and laying him in the track of the plough, which the father immediately turned aside. Cf. Od.XXIV. 116-9, Aesch. Ag. 841, and six lines from an early tragedian quoted in de Off. III. xxvi. 97-8, where Ulysses' conduct is discussed and condemned. This incident was the cause of Ulysses' hostility to Palamedes. nullo sub indice. For sub introducing a condition or attendant circumstance see Roby § 2133, and cf. Ibis 403, “duo . . . sub eodem vindice caesi”, Liv.ii. XXXVII. 8, “cum ad patres rem dubiam sub auctore certo detulissent”. So it is used in expressing accompanying sound, for which see Munro on Lucr.iv. 545, and cf. the similar use of “ὑπό”, as in Soph. El. 711, “χαλκῆς ὑπαὶ σάλπιγγος”.
commenta, passive, as in VI. 565. 40-2. sumat . . . simus. R. § 674 (a).
utinam . . . esset, ‘would that that frenzy had been either real or undetected.’
Phrygias, i.e. Trojan, the word having a wider acceptation in which it includes several nations of Asia Minor. Cf. 435.
hortator scelerum, ‘to persuade us to wrong,’ predicatively. Ulysses is thus described also in Virg. Aen.VI. 529, and as “scelerum inventor”, ib. II. 164. Poeantia proles, “When Hercules, through the imprudence of his wife Deianira, was seized with that cruel disease from which he had no release to hope for but death, he was carried to mount Oeta, and having ascended the funeral pile he obtained a promise from Philoctetes, the son of Poeas, that he would set fire to the pile, on condition of receiving his divine arrows as a reward for this last office. When the Greeks were on their voyage to Troy, it was foretold to them that they would never be able to overthrow llium, unless they discovered the altar of Chryse, erected on an island of the same name, and offered sacrifice thereon. While Philoctetes was showing where the altar was, he was wounded in the foot by a serpent which guarded it, and from that cause left at Lemnos. In the tenth year of the war Helenus, the Trojan prophet, being captured by Ulysses, predicted that Troy could never be taken but by the arrows of Hercules; upon this, messengers were sent to Lemnos in order to bring back Philoctetes with his arrows to Troy.” There are many variations in the story of Philoctetes; I have taken the above version from Wunder's edition of Sophocles.
nostro cum crimine, ‘to our reproach.’ Cum frequently thus introduces the results which attend action. Cf. Cic. in Cat. I. xiii. § 33, “Hisce ominibus, Catilina, cum summa reipublicae salute, cum tua peste ac pernicie cumque eorum exitio, qui se tecum omni scelere parricidioque iunxerunt, proficiscere ad impium bellum ac nefarium.”
si di sunt, ‘if there be gods, as gods there are.’ But it is to be observed that the assertion is not involved by the form of the sentence, but only by the nature of its contents. Latin makes no distinction between a condition such as this, and one which is merely assumed for the sake of argument, as in Cic. Tusc.I. xi. 24, “nam si cor aut sanguis aut cerebrum est animus, certe, quoniam est corpus, interibit cum reliquo corpore; si anima est, fortasse dissipabitur; si ignis, exstinguetur; si est Aristoxeni harmonia, dissolvetur”. See R. § 641, Madv. § 332 and obs. vana. English uses an adverbial expression, ‘in vain.’ R. § 452.
nobis, dative, Roby § 1143, 6. iuratus. Cf. 34 n., and for the use of the passive inflexion 104 n., R. § 340; cf. also 688 n. eadem in arma, ‘to the same warfare.’ Cf. XIV. 479.
quo . . . utuntur, ‘whom the shafts of Hercules own his heir.’ As in 402, Philoctetes is made the attendant on the divine arrows. Something of the same feeling, though it is there less serious, may be traced in Virg. Ecl.II. 38.
velaturque . . . avibus, ‘wins from the birds alike his raiment and his meat.’ The construction of velatur with avibus is rendered less harsh by the interposition of alitur. For the use as middle of the forms ordinarily passive see R. §§ 566-7, and cf., besides the use of vescor and utor, Virg. Aen.I. 215, “inplentur veteris Bacchi”, and XIV. 45 n. See also Keightley's Excursus on Virg. Ecl.III. 106, and cf. 50 n., 104 n. Cicero (de Fin. V. xi. § 32) gives Philoctetes as an instance of the persistence even under suffering of the love of life. petendo, ‘in assailing,’ ‘to shoot,’ an abl. of manner, Roby § 1385.
debita Troiani fatis, ‘which the doom of Troy requires.’ The fall of Troy depended upon the occurrence of several events. Three are stated in Bacchid. iv. IX. 29-31. “Ilio tria fuisse audivi fata, quae illi forent exitio: signum ex arce si perisset: alterum etiam est Troili mors: tertium cum portae Scaeae limen superum scinderetur.” This last involved the disturbance of the tomb of Laomedon, and was brought about when the gate was widened to bring in the horse. A fourth condition was the presence of an Aeacid. This was satisfied by bringing to the war the young son of Achilles, Pyrrhus (cf. 155 n.), who thence got the name Neoptolemus. For other conditions see 45 n., 98 n. For fatis = ‘destruction,’ see 180 n.
vivit, ‘lives’ however miserably, emphatic as opp. to the fate of Palamedes.
mallet esse relictus. For the tense of mallet see R. § 626. In form the sentence is like the English ‘would have preferred to have been left behind,’ but the verbs do not, as in English (R. § 541), refer to the same moment of time. Palamedes was accused by Ulysses, who was already hostile to him (34 n.) of an intention to betray the Greek army to the Trojans. The charge being established by the discovery of gold previously buried beneath his tent by Ulysses, and by the finding upon a dead Trojan of a forged letter from Priam to Palamedes, offering the latter exactly the sum discovered as a reward of his treachery, he was stoned to death (Hygin. 105). The story is not found in Homer, but Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides wrote tragedies upon it. Cf. Virg. Aen.II. 81-5, and for Ulysses' reply 308-12.
male, ‘unhappily’ for himself. Cf. II. 148 (of Phaethon) “male optatos axes”, Hor. C. I. iii. 28, “audax Iapeti genus ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit”. The missing of this sense led to several alterations of the text, and also to the construction of male with nimium.
rem Danaam, ‘the Grecian cause.’
Achivis, dative, R. 474 (b). It is to be noticed that the Latin does not literally express ‘from the Achaeans,’ but only the relation of the act to the Achaeans as indirectly affecting them. See on this a valuable remark in Roby § 1132, and in §§ 1140-1 the contrasted constructions of auferre and extorquere. Cf. 67 n., 660 n.
pugnat . . . metuendus, with contemptuous emphasis. Cf. Liv.ii. XLV. 15, “lingua promptum hostem”.
qui. Notice that in such collocations qui belongs to the subordinate clause, not to the principal. This structure is most clearly seen when there is a change of subject, as in Hor. C. I. ix. 9-12, “permitte divis cetera, qui simul stravere ventos . . . nec cupressi nec veteres agitantur orni”
desertum Nestora, ‘the betrayal of Nestor ’ R. § 560, Roby §§ 1406-11, and cf. 98-9. For similar usages of other participles than the perfect passive, cf. Liv. Praef. 6, “ante conditam condendamve urbem”, id. I. xxv. 3, “publicum imperium servitiumque obversatur animo, futuraque ea deinde patriae fortuna quam ipsi fecissent”. It is to be noticed that this idiom is not confined to participles, as may be seen from Hor. C. I. xxxvii. 12-13, “sed minuit furorem vix una sospes navis ab ignibus”. For its use in respect of what is future or contingent, see the instance cited by Roby from Liv.ii. XX. 2, and cf. id. IX. iii. 13, “vivet semper in pectoribus illorum quicquid istuc praesens necessitas inusserit, nec eos ante multiplices poenas expetitas a vobis quiescere sinet”. Cf. 514 n.
non . . . fingi, ‘that this charge of mine is no false one,’ or ‘that I have not invented this charge.’ The so-called dative of the agent is only a particular phase of the general usage of the dative expressing the indirect object. See 61 n.
The incident is related in Il.XI. 396-488. Ulysses, being left alone, was wounded by Socus, whom in return he killed. He was then hard pressed by the Trojans, but his shout for help was heard by Menelaus, who with Ajax brought him safely to his chariot. Ajax here is made to misrepresent the circumstances.
linquendus erat, ‘deserved to be forsaken.’ But the two expressions are not co-extensive. While the English, by a slight difference in intonation, might mean “he was forsaken and deserved to be so,” the Latin, in accordance with the idiom noticed on 17, might be rendered “he would have deserved to be forsaken (if occasion had arisen).” Cf. Fasti V. 408, “sic flendus Peleus, si moreretur, erat”.
morte futura, ‘with death in sight,’ ‘in face of death.’ So of anything ‘resolved upon,’ as VIII. 405, “saepe metu sceleris pallebant ora futuri”, H. I. xxv. 1, “e libertis Onomastum futuro sceleri praefecit”.
molem clipei, ‘my massy shield,’ “σάκος ἠύτε πύργον”. The genitive is one of definition R. § 533 (a). Cf. (in 108 n.) Virg. Aen.X. 496, id. G. I. 162, “grave robur aratri”, Lucr. i. 882, “minaci robore saxi”.
laudis depends upon hoc, but in Riese's reading upon minimum. For the genitive in either reading see R. § 522. inertem. Notice the effective position of the word, closing the sentence after the parenthesis which prepares the way for it.
mecum, sc. with my help against the Trojans. sub illo, sc. sub clipeo, under the protection of the shield of Ajax. Korn doubts the genuineness of the lines 77-9, partly because they separate 76 and 80, which are in sense closely connected, partly because the proposal is so extravagant. But the extravagance is perhaps in character.
standi, strongly contrasted with fugit.
dederant describes a state of things that had ceased at the time of fugit (‘had previously given’). That is, it describes in past time an antecedent and not a contemporary state. Cf. Livy, II. xxii. 7, “pergunt domos eorum, apud quem quisque servierant”. The difference is exhibited in passives and deponents by the use of fueram instead of eram. See Roby § 1453, R. § 590, Madv. § 344 obs. 1 with § 342 obs. (from which it will be seen that the distinction is not always observed), and cf. Liv.v. XLVI. 4, “convenientibus ex agris, qui aut proelio adverso aut clade captae urbis palati fuerant”, id. I. ii. 1, Turnus rex Rutulorum, cui pacta Lavinia ante adventum Aeneae fuerat, ib. VII. 8, Carmentae matris, quam fatiloquam ante Sibyllae in Italiam adventum miratae eae gentes fuerant, ib. XXVI. 2, “cui soror virgo, quae desponsa uni ex Curiatiis fuerat, obvia ante portam Capenam fuil”. nullo tardatus vulnere. This is not intended to suggest that Ulysses was unwounded.
deos. See Il.XV. 306-11, whence it will appear that the reference is to Apollo only, unless Jupiter is intended to be included as having given to Apollo his mission, ib. 220-35.
quaque . . . timoris. See Il.XV. 262-80.
trahit. Cf. VIII. 498, “regnique trahat patriaeque ruinam”.
successu, ‘career.’ The word keeps more of its literal force than can be rendered by the English ‘success.’ Cf. Virg. Aen.V. 210-2, ib. XII. 616, “iam minus atque minus successu laetus equorum”, ib. 913-4, “sic Turno, quacumque viam virtute petivit, successum dea dira negat”. 85-90. These two incidents, distinct from each other and from the battle by the ships, are apparently introduced to cover the retreat to the ships. The first comes from IliadXIV. 409-20, the second from VII. 37-312. Hector challenged the best of the Achaeans to single combat, and after some hesitation nine of the Greek chiefs came forward, among them Ajax and Ulysses. An indecisive combat, in which Ajax had the better (cf. 279 n.) was terminated by the interposition of the heralds Talthybius and Idaeus and by the oncoming of night. The combatants exchanged presents at parting.
cum quo concurreret, ‘an antagonist.’ For the subjunctive see R. § 680.
sortemque meam vovistis, ‘you prayed for my lot,’ i.e. for its appearance from the helmet of Agamemnon, into which the nine lots were cast, sors being the actual token, as may be seen from Plaut. Cas.II. vi. 32, “num ista aut populna sors aut abiegna est tua?” For vovistis with acc. of the thing wished for cf. IX. 674, “quae voveam duo sunt”, XI. 128, “quae modo voverat, odit”. The prayer of the Greeks was that the lot might fall to Ajax or Diomede or Agamemnon, Il.VII. 177-80.
non sum superatus. Cf. 278-9 for Ulysses' comment.
ferrumque ignesque Iovemque. Cf. Liv. VIII. vii. 5. For the union of abstract and concrete (for the god does not here, as in 82, enter the battle in person) cf. Virg. Aen.III. 176, “tendoque supinas ad caelum cum voce manus”, Hor. C. I. xv. 11-2, “iam galeam Pallas et aegida currusque et rabiem parat”, where see Orelli, H. I. lxiii. 2, “ut venienti mox agmini universae civitates cum magistratibus et precibus occurrerent”. 95-6. quaeritur . . . honos, ‘they seek a greater honour than i.’ For the dative cf. 67 n. The arms are personified, and long to be owned by Ajax. So the standards recovered from the Parthians were glad to be among Roman troops again: Fasti V. 590, “agnorunt signa recepta suos”. For a grander expression of the same thought see Tennyson's Revenge, xiv.