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‘WHO was the first of the great Trojan Champions to go down before the onset of Patroklos? The first was Sarpedon who had come with an army to help Hector from a City beyond Troy. He saw the Myrmidons fight round the ships and break the ranks of the Trojans and quench the fire on the half-burnt ship. He saw that the warrior who had the appearance of Achilles affrighted the Trojans so that they turned their horses’ heads towards the City. The Myrmidons swept on with Patroklos at their head. Now when he saw him rushing down from the ships Sarpedon threw a dart at Patroklos. The dart did not strike him. Then Patroklos flung a spear and struck Sarpedon even at the heart. He fell dead from his chariot and there began a battle for his body--the Trojans would have carried it into the City, so that they might
bury with all honour the man who had helped them, and the Greeks would have carried it away, so that, having his body and his armour, the slaying of Sarpedon might be more of a triumph for them.’

‘So a battle for his body went on. Now Sarpedon’s comrade, Glaukos, sought out Hector, who was fighting in another part of the battle-field, and he spoke to him reproachfully. "Hector," he said, "art thou utterly forgetful of those who came from their own country to help thee to protect thy father’s City? Sarpedon has fallen, and Achilles’ Myrmidons would strip him of his armour and bring his body to the ships that their triumph over him may be greater still. Disgraceful will it be to thee, Hector, if they win that triumph."’

‘Hector, when this was said to him, did not delay, but came straight to the spot where Sarpedon had been slain. The Greek who had laid hands upon the body he instantly slew. But as he fought on it suddenly seemed to Hector that the gods had resolved to give victory to the Greeks, and his spirit grew weary and hopeless within him. He turned his horses’ heads towards the City and galloped from the press of battle. Then the Trojans who were fighting round it fled from the body of Sarpedon, and the Greeks took it and stripped it of its armour and carried the body to their ships.’

‘It was then that Patroklos forgot the command of Achilles—the command that he was not to bring the battle beyond the ships and that he was to return when the Trojans were beaten towards their City. Patroklos forgot all that, and he shouted to the immortal horses, Xanthos and Balios, that drew his chariot, and, slaying warrior after warrior he swept across the plain and came to the very gates of Troy.’

‘Now Hector was within the gates and had not yet left his chariot. Then there came and stood before him one who was thought to be the god Apollo, but who then had the likeness of a mortal man. "Hector," said he, "why hast thou ceased from the fight? Behold, Patroklos is without the gate of thy father’s City. Turn thy horses against him now and strive to slay him, and may the gods give thee glory."’

‘Then Hector bade his charioteer drive his horses through the gate and into the press of battle. He drew near to Patroklos, and Patroklos, leaping down from his chariot, seized a great stone and flung it at Hector’s charioteer. It struck him on the brow and hurled him from the chariot.’

‘Hector too leaped from the chariot and took his sword in hand. Their men joined Patroklos and joined Hector and the battle began beside the body of Hector’s charioteer. Three times did Patroklos rush against the ranks of the Trojans and nine warriors did he slay at each onset. But the doom of Patroklos was nigh. A warrior smote him in the back and struck the helmet from his head. With its high horse-hair crest it rolled beneath the hooves of the horses. Who was it smote Prince Patroklos then? Men said it was the god Apollo who would not have the sacred City of Troy taken until the time the gods had willed it to fall.’

‘The spear fell from his hands, the great shield that Achilles had given him dropped on the ground, and all in amaze Patroklos stood. He gave ground and retreated towards his comrades. Then did Hector deal him the stroke that slew. With his great spear he struck and drove it through the body of Patroklos.’

‘Then did Hector exult crying, "Patroklos, thou didst swear that thou wouldst sack our sacred City and that thou wouldst take from our people their day of freedom. Now thou hast fallen and our City need not dread thee ever any more!"’

‘Then said Patroklos, "Thou mayst boast now, Hector, although it was not thy stroke that slew me. Apollo’s stroke it was that sent me down. Boast of my slaying as thou wilt, but hear my saying and keep it in thy heart: Thy fate too is measures and thee Achilles will slay."’

‘BUT Hector did not heed what the dying Patroklos said. He took from his body the armour of Achilles that had been a gift from the gods. The body too he would have brought within the City that his triumph might be greater, but now Aias came to where Patroklos had fallen and over the body he placed his great
shield. The fight went on and Hector, withdrawing himself to the plain, put upon himself the armour he had stripped off the body of Patroklos. The armour fitted every limb and joint and as he put it on more courage and strength than ever yet he had felt came into the soul of Hector.’

‘And the immortal steeds that Patroklos had driven, having galloped from the battle, stood apart and would not move for all that their charioteer would do. They stood apart with their heads bowed, and tears flowed from their eyes down on the ground. And Zeus, the greatest of the gods, saw them and had pity upon them and spoke to himself saying, "Ah, immortal steeds, why did I give ye to king Peleus, whose generations die while ye remain young and undying? Was it that ye should know the sorrows that befall mortal men? Pitiful, indeed, is the lot of all men upon the earth. Even Hector now, who boasteth in the armour that the gods once gave, will shortly go down to his death and the City he defendeth will be burned with fire."’

‘So saying he put courage into the hearts of the immortal steeds and they went where the charioteer would have them go, and they came safely out of the battle.’

‘Now Hector, with the armour of Achilles upon him, gathered his companies together and brought them up to the battle to win and carry away the body of Patroklos. But each one who laid hands upon that body was instantly slain by Aias. All day the battle went on, for the Greeks would say to each other, "Comrades, let the earth yawn and swallow us rather than let the Trojans carry off the body of Patroklos." And on their side the Trojans would say, "Friends, rather let us all be slain together beside this man than let one of us go backward now."’

‘Now Nestor’s son, Antilochos, who was fighting on the left of the battlefield, heard of the slaying of Patroklos. His eyes filled with tears and his voice was choked with grief and he dashed out of the battle to bring the grievous tidings to the hut of Achilles. "Fallen is Patroklos," he cried, "and Greeks and Trojans are fighting around his body. And his body is naked now, for Hector has stripped the armour from it."’

‘THEN Achilles fainted away, and his head lay in the ashes of his hut. He woke again and moaned terribly. His goddess-mother heard the sound of his grief as she sat within the depths of the Ocean. She came to him as he was still moaning terribly. She took his hand and clasped it and said, "My child, why weep’st thou?" Achilles ceased his moaning and answered, "Patroklos, my dear friend, has been slain. Now I shall have no joy in my life save the joy of slaying Hector who slew my friend."’

‘Thetis, his goddess-mother, wept when she heard such speech from Achilles. "Short-lived you will be, my son," she said, "for it is appointed by the gods that after the death of Hector your death will come."’

‘"Straightway then let me die," said Achilles, "since I let my friend die without giving him help. O that I had not let my wrath overcome my spirit! Here I stayed, a useless burthen on the earth, while my comrades and my own dear friend fought for their country--here I stayed, I who am the best of all the Greeks. But now let me go into the battle and let the Trojans know that Achilles has come back, although he tarried long."’

‘"But thine armour, my son," said Thetis. "Thou hast no armour now to protect thee in the battle. Go not into it until thou seest me again. In the morning I shall return and I shall bring thee armour that Hephaistos, the smith of the gods, shall make for thee."’

‘So she spoke, and she turned from her son, and she went to Olympus where the gods have their dwellings.’

‘Now darkness had come down on those who battled round the body of Patroklos, and in that darkness more Greeks than Trojans were slain. It seemed to the Greeks that Zeus had resolved to give the victory to the Trojans and not to them, and they were dismayed. But four Greek heroes lifted up the body and put it upon their shoulders, and Aias and his brother stood facing the Trojans, holding them back while the four tried to bear the body away. The Trojans pressed on, striking with swords and axes, but like a wooded ridge that stretches across a plain and holds back a mighty flood, Aias and his brother held their ground.’

‘Achilles still lay in his hut, moaning in his grief, and the servants raised loud lamentations outside the hut. The day wore on and the battle went on and Hector strove against Aias and his brother. Then the figure of a goddess appeared before Achilles as he lay on the ground. "Rouse thee, Achilles," she said, "or Hector will drag into Troy the body of thy friend, Patroklos."’

‘Said Achilles, "Goddess Iris, how may I go into the battle since the Trojans hold the armour that should protect me?"’

‘Said Iris, the Messenger of the gods, "Go down to the wall as thou art and show thyself to the men of Troy, and it may be that they will shrink back on seeing thee and hearing thy voice, and so give those who defend the body of Patroklos a breathing-spell."’

‘So she said and departed. Then Achilles arose and went down to the wall that had been built around the ships. He stood upon the wall and shouted across the trench, and friends and foes saw him and heard his voice. Around his head a flame of fire arose such as was never seen before around the head of a mortal man. And seeing the flame of fire around his head and hearing his terrible voice the Trojans were affrighted and stood still. Then the Greeks took up the body of Patroklos and laid it on a litter and bore it out of the battle.’

Next: Chapter XVI