As they were speaking, Nestor horseman of Gerene shook the helmet, and from it there fell the very lot which they wanted - the lot of Ajax. The herald bore it about and showed it to all the chieftains of the Achaeans, going from left to right; but they none of them owned it. When, however, in due course he reached the man who had written upon it and had put it into the helmet, brave Ajax held out his hand, and the herald gave him the lot. When Ajax saw his mark [sêma] he knew it and was glad; he threw it to the ground and said, "My friends, the lot is mine, and I rejoice, for I shall vanquish Hektor. I will put on my armor;
meanwhile, pray to King Zeus in silence among yourselves that the Trojans may not hear you - or aloud if you will, for we fear no man. None shall overcome me, neither by force nor cunning, for I was born and bred in Salamis
, and can hold my own in all things."
With this they fell praying to King Zeus the son of Kronos, and thus would one of them say as he looked into the vault of heaven, "Father Zeus, you who rule from Ida, most glorious in power, grant victory to Ajax, and let him win great glory: but if you wish well to Hektor also and would protect him, grant to each of them equal fame and prowess. Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous Ares when he takes part among men whom Zeus has set fighting with one another - even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans, spring forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his long spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they beheld him, but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart even of Hektor beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and withdraw into the ranks behind him, for he had been the challenger. Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like a wall - a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide - the work of Tychios, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in leather. He had made it with the hides of seven full-fed bulls, and over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this shield before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to Hektor, and menaced him saying, "Hektor, you shall now learn, man to man, what kind of champions the Danaans have among them even besides lion-hearted Achilles cleaver of the ranks of men. He now abides at the ships in anger with Agamemnon shepherd of his people, but there are many of us who are well able to face you; therefore begin the fight."
And Hektor answered, "Noble Ajax, son of Telamon, leader of the host, treat me not as though I were some puny boy or woman that cannot fight.
I have been long used to the blood and butcheries of battle. I am quick to turn my leathern shield either to right or left, for this I deem the main thing in battle. I can charge among the chariots and horsemen, and in hand to hand fighting can delight the heart of Ares; howbeit I would not take such a man as you are off his guard - but I will smite you openly if I can."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it from him. It struck the sevenfold shield in its outermost layer - the eighth, which was of bronze - and went through six of the layers but in the seventh hide it stayed. Then Ajax threw in his turn, and struck the round shield of the son of Priam. The terrible spear went through his gleaming shield, and pressed onward through his cuirass of cunning workmanship; it pierced the shirt against his side, but he swerved and thus saved his life. They then each of them drew out the spear from his shield, and fell on one another like savage lions or wild boars of great strength and endurance: the son of Priam struck the middle of Ajax's shield, but the bronze did not break, and the point of his dart was turned. Ajax then sprang forward and pierced the shield of Hektor; the spear went through it and staggered him as he was springing forward to attack; it gashed his neck and the blood came pouring from the wound, but even so Hektor did not cease fighting; he gave ground, and with his brawny hand seized a stone, rugged and huge, that was lying upon the plain; with this he struck the shield of Ajax on the boss that was in its middle, so that the bronze rang again. But Ajax in turn caught up a far larger stone, swung it aloft, and hurled it with prodigious force. This millstone of a rock broke Hektor's shield inwards and threw him down on his back with the shield crushing him under it,
but Apollo raised him at once. Thereon they would have hacked at one another in close combat with their swords, had not heralds, messengers of gods and men, come forward, one from the Trojans and the other from the Achaeans - Talthybios and Idaios both of them honorable men; these parted them with their staves, and the good herald Idaios said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are both of you valiant, and both are dear to Zeus; we know this; but night is now falling, and the behests of night may not be well gainsaid."
Ajax son of Telamon answered, "Idaios, bid Hektor say so, for it was he that challenged our princes. Let him speak first and I will accept his saying."