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‘NOW that Hector was dead, King Priam, his father, had only one thought in his mind, and that was to get his body from Achilles and bring it into the City so that it might be treated with the honour befitting the man who had been the guardian of Troy. And while he sat in his grief, thinking of his noble son lying so far from those who would have wept over him, behold! there appeared before him Iris, the messenger of Zeus, the greatest of the Gods. Iris said to him, "King, thou mayst ransom from Achilles the body of Hector, thy noble son. Go thou thyself to the hut of Achilles and bring with thee great gifts to offer him. Take with thee a wagon that thou mayst bring back in it the body, and let only one old henchman go with thee to drive the mules."’

‘Then Priam, when he heard this, arose and went into his treasure chamber and took out of his chests twelve beautiful robes; twelve bright-coloured cloaks; twelve soft coverlets and ten talents of gold; he took, too, four cauldrons and two tripods and a wonderful goblet that the men of Thrace had given him when they had come on an embassy to his city. Then he called upon his sons and he bade them make ready the wagon and load it with the treasures he had brought out of his treasure-chamber.’

‘When the wagon was loaded and the mules were yoked under it, and when Priam and his henchman had mounted the seats, Hekabe, the queen, Priam’s wife and the mother of Hector, came with wine and with a golden cup that they might pour out an offering to the gods before they went on their journey; that they might know whether the gods indeed favoured it, or whether Priam himself was not going into danger. King Priam took the cup from his wife and he poured out wine from it, and looking towards heaven he prayed, "O Father Zeus, grant that I may find welcome under Achilles’ roof, and send, if thou wilt, a bird of omen, so that seeing it with mine own eyes I may go on my way trusting that no harm will befall me."’

‘He prayed, and straightway a great eagle was seen with wide wings spread out above the City, and when they saw the eagle, the hearts of the people were glad for they knew that their King would come back safely and with the body of Prince Hector who had guarded Troy.’

‘Now Priam and his henchman drove across the plain of Troy and came to the river that flowed across and there they let their mules drink. They were greatly troubled, for dark night was coming down and they knew not the way to the hut of Achilles. They were in fear too that some company of armed men would come upon them and slay them for the sake of the treasures they had in the wagon.’

‘The henchman saw a
young man coming towards them. And when he reached them he spoke to them kindly and offered to guide them through the camp and to the hut of Achilles. He mounted the wagon and took the reins in his hands and drove the mules. He brought them to the hut of Achilles and helped Priam from the wagon and carried the gifts they had brought within the hut. "Know, King Priam," he said, "that I am not a mortal, but that I am one sent by Zeus to help and companion thee upon the way. Go now within the hut and speak to Achilles and ask him, for his father’s sake, to restore to thee the body of Hector, thy son."’

‘So he spoke and departed and King Priam went within the hut. There great Achilles was sitting and King Priam went to him and knelt before him and clasped the hands of the man who had slain his son. And Achilles wondered when he saw him there, for he did not know how one could have come to his hut and entered it without being seen. He knew then that it was one of the gods who had guided this man. Priam spoke to him and said, "Bethink thee, Achilles upon thine own father. He is now of an age with me, and perhaps even now, in thy far-away country, there are those who make him suffer pain and misery. But however great the pain and misery he may suffer he is happy compared to me, for he knows that thou, his son, art still alive. But I no longer have him who was the best of my sons. Now for thy father’s sake have I come to thee, Achilles, to ask for the body of Hector, my son. I am more pitiable than thy father or than any man, for I have come through dangers to take in my hands the hands that slew my son."’

‘Achilles remembered his father and felt sorrow for the old man who knelt before him. He took King Priam by the hand and raised him up and seated him on the bench beside him. And he wept, remembering old Peleus, his father.’

‘He called his handmaids and he bade them take the body of Hector and wash it and wrap it in two of the robes that Priam had brought. When they had done all this he took up the body of Hector and laid it himself upon the wagon.’

‘Then he came and said to King Priam, "Thy son is laid upon a bier, and at the break of day thou mayst bring him back to the City. But now eat and rest here for this night."’

‘King Priam ate, and he looked at Achilles and he saw how great and how goodly he was. And Achilles looked at Priam and he saw how noble and how kingly he looked. And this was the first time that Achilles and Priam the King of Troy really saw each other.’

‘When they gazed on each other King Priam said, "When thou goest to lie down, lord Achilles, permit me to lie down also. Not once have my eyelids closed in sleep since my son Hector lost his life. And now I have tasted bread and meat and wine for the first time since, and I could sleep."’

‘Achilles ordered that a bed be made in the portico for King Priam and his henchman, but before they went Achilles said: "Tell me, King, and tell me truly, for how many days dost thou desire to make a funeral for Hector? For so many days space I will keep back the battle from the City so that thou mayst make the funeral in peace." "For nine days we would watch beside Hector’s body and lament for him; on the tenth day we would have the funeral; on the eleventh day we would make the barrow over him, and on the twelfth day we would fight," King Priam said. "Even for twelve days I will hold the battle back from the City," said Achilles.’

‘Then Priam and his henchman went to rest. But in the middle of the night the young man who had guided him to the hut of Achilles--the god Hermes he was--appeared before his bed and bade him arise and go to the wagon and yoke the mules and drive back to the City with the body of Hector. Priam aroused his henchman and they went out and yoked the mules and mounted the wagon, and with Hermes to guide them they drove back to the City.’

‘And Achilles on his bed thought of his own fate--how he too would die in battle, and how for him
there would be no father to make lament. But he would be laid where he had asked his friends to lay him--beside Patroklos--and over them both the Greeks would raise a barrow that would be wondered at in after times.’

‘So Achilles thought. And afterwards the arrow fired by Paris struck him as he fought before the gate of the City, and he was slain even on the place where he slew Hector. But the Greeks carried off his body and his armour and brought them back to the ships. And Achilles was lamented over, though not by old Peleus, his father. From the depths of the sea came Thetis, his goddess-mother, and with her came the Maidens of the Sea. They covered the body of Achilles with wonderful raiment and over it they lamented for seventeen days and seventeen nights. On the eighteenth day he was laid in the grave beside Patroklos, his dear friend, and over them both the Greeks raised a barrow that was wondered at in the after-times.’

Next: Chapter XXII