previous next

“I need not linger over the many things
which by my counsel and my bravery
I have accomplished through this long-drawn war.

“A long time, after the first battle clash,
the foe lay quiet within city walls,
giving no challenge for an open fight—
he stood nine years of siege before we fought
what were you doing all that tedious time,
what use were you, good only in a fight?
If you will make inquiry of my deeds:
I fashioned ambuscades for enemies;
and circled our defenses with a trench;
I cheered allies so they might all endure
with patient minds a long, protracted war;
I showed how our own army might subsist
and how it could be armed; and I was sent
wherever the necessity required.

“Then, at the wish of Jove, our king, deceive
by A false dream, bids us give up the war—
he could excuse his order by the cause.
Let Ajax tell him Troy must be laid low
or let him fight—at least he can do that!
Why does he fail to stop the fugitives?
Why not take arms and tell the wavering crowd
to rally round him? Would that be too much
for one who never speaks except to boast?
But now words fail me: Ajax turns and flees!
I witnessed it and was ashamed to see
you turn disgraced, preparing sails for flight.
With exclamations and without delay,
I said, ‘What are you doing? O my friends,
has madness seized you that you will quit Troy,
which is as good as taken? What can you
bear home, after ten years, but your disgrace?’

“With these commanding words, which grief itself
gave eloquence, I brought resisting Greeks
back from their purposed flight. Atrides called
together his allies, all terror struck.
Even then, Ajax the son of Telamon
dared not vouchsafe one word. But impudent
Thersites hurled vile words against the kings,
and, thanks to me, he did not miss reproof.
I rose and spoke to my disheartened friends,
reviving their lost courage with my words
from that time forth, whatever deeds this man,
my rival, may have done, belong to me.
'Twas I who stayed his flight and brought him back.

“Which of the noble Greeks has given you praise
or sought your company? Yet Diomed
has shared his deeds with me and praises me,
and, while Ulysses is with him, is brave
and confident. 'Tis worthy of regard,
when out of many thousands of the Greeks,
a man becomes the choice of Diomed!

“It was not lot that ordered me to go;
and yet, despising dangers of the night,
despising dangers of the enemy,
I slew one, Dolon, of the Phrygian race,
who dared to do the very things we dared,
but not before I had prevailed on him
to tell me everything, by which I learned
perfidious actions which Troy had designed.

“Of such things now, I had discovered all
that should be found out, and I might have then
returned to enjoy the praise I had deserved.
But not content with that, I sought the tent
of Rhesus, and within his camp I slew
him and his proved attendants. Having thus
gained as a conqueror my own desires,
I drove back in a captured chariot,—
a joyous triumph. Well, deny me, then.
The arms of him whose steeds the enemy
demanded as the price of one night's aid.
Ajax himself has been more generous.

“Why should I name Sarpedon's Lycian troops
among whom I made havoc with my sword?
I left Coeranos dead and streaming blood,
with the sword I killed Alastor, Chromius,
Alcander, Prytanis, Halius, and Noemon,
Thoon and Charops with Chersidamas,
and Ennomus—all driven by cruel fate,
not reckoning humbler men whom I laid low,
battling beneath the shadow of the city walls.
And fellow citizens, I have my wounds
honorable in the front. Do not believe
my word alone. Look for yourselves and see!”
Then with one hand, he drew his robe aside.
“Here is a breast,” he cried, “that bled for you!
But Ajax never shed a drop of blood
to aid his friends, in all these many years,
and has a body free of any wound.

“What does it prove, if he declares that he
fought for our ships against both Troy and Jove?
I grant he did, for it is not my wont
with malice to belittle other's deeds.
But let him not claim for himself alone
an honor in which all may have a share,
let him concede some credit due to you.
Disguised within the fear inspiring arms
of great Achilles, Actor's son drove back
the host of Trojans from our threatened fleet
or ships and Ajax would have burned together.

“Unmindful of the king, the chiefs, and me,
he dreams that he alone dared to engage
in single fight with Hector—he the ninth
to volunteer and chosen just by lot.
But yet, O brave chief! What availed the fight?
Hector returned, not injured by a wound.

“Ah, bitter fate, with how much grief I am
compelled to recollect the time, when brave
Achilles, bulwark of the Greeks, was slain.
Nor tears, nor grief, nor fear, could hinder me:
I carried his dead body from the ground,
uplifted on these shoulders, I repeat,
upon these shoulders from that ground
I bore off dead Achilles, and those arms
which now I want to bear away again.
I have the strength to walk beneath their weight,
I have a mind to understand their worth.
Did the hero's mother, goddess of the sea,
win for her son these arms, made by a god,
a work of wondrous art, to have them clothe
a rude soldier, who has no mind at all?
He never could be made to understand
the rich engravings, pictured on the shield—
the ocean, earth, and stars in lofty skies;
the Pleiades, and Hyades, the Bear,
which touches not the ocean, far beyond
the varied planets, and the fire-bright sword
of high Orion. He demands a prize,
which, if he had it, would be lost on him.

“What of his taunting me, because I shrank
from hardships of this war and I was slow
to join the expedition? Does he not see,
that he reviles the great Achilles too?
Was my pretense a crime? then so was his.
Was our delay a fault? mine was the less,
for I came sooner; me a loving wife
detained from war, a loving mother him.
Some hours we gave to them, the rest to you.
Why should I be alarmed, if now I am
unable to defend myself against
this accusation, which is just the same
as you have brought against so great a man?
Yet he was found by the dexterity
of me, Ulysses, and Ulysses was
not found by the dexterity of Ajax.

“It is no wonder that he pours on me
reproaches of his silly tongue, because
he charges you with what is worthy shame.
Am I depraved because this Palamedes has
improperly been charged with crime by me?
Then was it honorable for all of you,
if you condemned him? Only think, that he,
the son of Naplius, made no defence
against the crime, so great, so manifest:
nor did you only hear the charges brought
against him, but you saw the proof yourselves,
and in the gold his villainy was shown.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Notes (Charles Simmons, 1899)
load focus Latin (Hugo Magnus, 1892)
load focus English (Arthur Golding, 1567)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Troy (Turkey) (4)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: