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"Nevertheless he did distribute some prizes of honor among the chieftains and kings, and these have them still; from me alone of the Achaeans did he take the woman in whom I delighted - let him keep her and sleep with her. Why, pray, must the Argives needs fight the Trojans? What made the son of Atreus gather the host and bring them? Was it not for the sake of Helen? Are the sons of Atreus the only men in the world who love their wives? Any man of common right feeling will love and cherish her who is his own, as I this woman, with my whole heart, though she was but a fruitling of my spear. Agamemnon has taken her from me; he has played me false; I know him; let him tempt me no further, for he shall not move me. Let him look to you, Odysseus, and to the other princes to save his ships from burning.

He has done much without me already. He has built a wall; he has dug a trench deep and wide all round it, and he has planted it within with stakes; but even so he stays not the murderous might of Hektor. So long as I fought the Achaeans Hektor suffered not the battle range far from the city walls; he would come to the Scaean gates and to the oak tree, but no further. Once he stayed to meet me and hardly did he escape my onset: now, however, since I am in no mood to fight him, I will tomorrow offer sacrifice to Zeus and to all the gods; I will draw my ships into the water and then victual them duly; tomorrow morning, if you care to look, you will see my ships on the Hellespont, and my men rowing out to sea with might and main. If great Poseidon grants me a fair passage, in three days I shall be in Phthia. I have much there that I left behind me when I came here to my sorrow, and I shall bring back still further store of gold, of red copper, of fair women, and of iron, my share of the spoils that we have taken; but one prize, he who gave has insolently taken away. Tell him all as I now bid you, and tell him in public that the Achaeans may hate him and beware of him should he think that he can yet dupe others for his effrontery never fails him.

"As for me, hound that he is, he dares not look me in the face. I will take no counsel with him, and will undertake nothing in common with him. He has wronged me and deceived me enough, he shall not cozen me further; let him go his own way, for Zeus has robbed him of his reason. Hateful [ekhthra] to me are his presents, and for himself care not one straw. He may offer me ten or even twenty times what he has now done, nay- not though it be all that he has in the world, both now or ever shall have; he may promise me the wealth of Orkhomenos or of Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the whole world, for it has a hundred gates through each of which two hundred men may drive at once with their chariots and horses;

he may offer me gifts as the sands of the sea or the dust of the plain in multitude, but even so he shall not move me till I have been revenged in full for the bitter wrong he has done me. I will not marry his daughter; she may be fair as Aphrodite, and skillful as Athena, but I will have none of her: let another take her, who may be a good match for her and who rules a larger kingdom. If the gods spare me to return home, Peleus will find me a wife; there are Achaean women in Hellas and Phthia, daughters of kings that have cities under them; of these I can take whom I will and marry her. Many a time was I minded when at home in Phthia to woo and wed a woman who would make me a suitable wife, and to enjoy the riches of my old father Peleus. My life [psukhê] means more to me than all the wealth of Ilion while it was yet at peace before the Achaeans went there, or than all the treasure that lies on the stone floor of Apollo's temple beneath the cliffs of Pytho. Cattle and sheep are to be had for harrying, and a man buy both tripods and horses if he wants them, but when his life has once left him it can neither be bought nor harried back again.

"My mother Thetis tells me that there are two ways in which I may meet my end [telos]. If I stay here and fight, I shall lose my safe homecoming [nostos] but I will have a glory [kleos] that is unwilting: whereas if I go home my glory [kleos] will die, but it will be a long time before the outcome [telos] of death shall take me. To the rest of you, then, I say, ‘Go home, for you will not take Ilion.’ Zeus has held his hand over her to protect her, and her people have taken heart. Go, therefore, as in duty bound, and tell the princes of the Achaeans the message that I have sent them; tell them to find some other plan for the saving of their ships and people, for so long as my displeasure lasts the one that they have now hit upon may not be. As for Phoenix, let him sleep here that he may sail with me in the morning if he so will. But I will not take him by force."

They all held their peace, dismayed at the sternness with which he had denied them, till presently the old horseman Phoenix in his great fear for the ships of the Achaeans, burst into tears and said, "Noble Achilles, if you are now minded to have your homecoming [nostos], and in the fierceness of your anger will do nothing to save the ships from burning, how, my son, can I remain here without you? Your father Peleus bade me go with you when he sent you as a mere lad from Phthia to Agamemnon. You knew nothing neither of war nor of the arts whereby men make their mark in council, and he sent me with you to train you in all excellence of speech and action. Therefore, my son, I will not stay here without you - no, not though heaven itself grant to strip my years from off me, and make me young as I was when I first left Hellas the land of fair women. I was then fleeing the anger of father Amyntor, son of Ormenus, who was furious with me in the matter of his concubine, of whom he was enamored to the wronging of his wife my mother. My mother, therefore, prayed me without ceasing to lie with the woman myself, that so she hate my father, and in the course of time I yielded. But my father soon came to know, and cursed me bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness. He prayed that no son of mine might ever sit upon knees - and the gods, Zeus of the world below and awful Persephone, fulfilled his curse. I took counsel to kill him, but some god stayed my rashness and bade me think on men's evil tongues and how I should be branded as the murderer of my father: nevertheless I could not bear to stay in my father's house with him so bitter a against me. My cousins and clansmen came about me, and pressed me sorely to remain; many a sheep and many an ox did they slaughter, and many a fat hog did they set down to roast before the fire; many a jar, too, did they broach of my father's wine. Nine whole nights did they set a guard over me taking it in turns to watch, and they kept a fire always burning, both in the room of the outer court and in the inner court at the doors of the room wherein I lay;

but when the darkness of the tenth night came, I broke through the closed doors of my room, and climbed the wall of the outer court after passing quickly and unperceived through the men on guard and the women servants. I then fled through Hellas till I came to fertile Phthia, mother of sheep, and to King Peleus, who made me welcome and treated me as a father treats an only son who will be heir to all his wealth. He made me rich and set me over many people, establishing me on the borders of Phthia where I was chief ruler over the Dolopians.

"It was I, Achilles, who had the making of you; I loved you with all my heart: for you would eat neither at home nor when you had gone out elsewhere, till I had first set you upon my knees, cut up the dainty morsel that you were to eat, and held the wine-cup to your lips. Many a time have you slobbered your wine in baby helplessness over my shirt; I had infinite trouble with you, but I knew that heaven had granted me no offspring of my own, and I made a son of you, Achilles, that in my hour of need you might protect me. Now, therefore, I say battle with your pride and beat it; cherish not your anger for ever; the excellence [aretê] and might [biê] and honor [timê] of the gods are more than ours, but even gods may be appeased; and if a man has erred he prays the gods, and reconciles them to himself by his piteous cries and by frankincense, with drink-offerings and the savor of burnt sacrifice. For prayers are as daughters to great Zeus; halt, wrinkled, with eyes askance, they follow in the footsteps of Derangement [Atê], who, being fierce and fleet of foot, leaves them far behind him, and ever baneful to humankind outstrips them even to the ends of the world; but nevertheless the prayers come hobbling and healing after. If a man has pity upon these daughters of Zeus when they draw near him, they will bless him and hear him too when he is praying; but if he deny them and will not listen to them, they go to Zeus the son of Kronos and pray that he may presently fall into derangement [atê] - to his ruing bitterly hereafter.

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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Ajax, 900
    • Walter Leaf, Commentary on the Iliad (1900), 22.213
  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Raphael Kühner, Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, KG 1.pos=2.2
    • Raphael Kühner, Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, KG 3.2.4
    • William Watson Goodwin, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, Chapter II
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