Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
THE WOUNDING OF THE CHIEFS
 AS soon as it was light Agamemnon called the Greeks, and Hector called the
Trojans to battle, nor were either unwilling to obey. For a time the
fighting was equal, but at noon, at the time when a man who is cutting down
trees upon the hills grows weary of his work and longs for food, then the
Greeks began to prevail. And the first man to break through the line of the
Trojans was King Agamemnon. Never before had the King done such mighty
deeds, for he drove the Trojans back to the very walls of the city. Hector
himself did not dare to stand up before him, for Iris brought this message
to him from Zeus: "So long as Agamemnon fights in the front, do you hold
back, for this is the day on which it is his lot to win great honour for
himself; but when he shall be wounded, then do you go forward,
 and you shall have strength to drive the Greeks before you till they come to
the ships, and the sun shall set." So Hector held back, and after a while
the King was wounded. There were two sons of Antenor in one chariot, and
they came against him. First the King threw his spear at the younger of the
two, but missed his aim. Then the Trojan thrust at Agamemnon with his
spear, driving it against his breastplate. With all his strength he drove
it, but the silver which was in the breastplate turned the spear, so that it
bent as if it had been of lead. Then the King caught the spear in his hand,
and drove it through the neck of his adversary, so that he fell dead from
the chariot. But when the elder brother saw this he also thrust at the King
with his spear, nor did he thrust in vain, but he pierced his arm beneath
the elbow. But him also did the King slay, wounding him first with his
spear and afterwards cutting off his head with his sword. For a time, while
the wound was warm, the King still fought, but when it grew cold and stiff,
then the pain was greater than he could bear, and he said
 to his charioteer, "Now carry me back to the ships, for I cannot fight any
The next of the chiefs that was wounded was Diomed. Him Paris wounded with
an arrow as he was stripping the arms from a Trojan which he had slain. For Paris
hid himself behind the pillar which stood on the tomb of Ilu, and shot his
arrows from thence. On the ankle of the right foot did Paris hit him, and
when he saw that he had not shot the arrow in vain, he cried out aloud: "I
wish that I had wounded you in the loin, bold Diomed, then you would have
troubled the men of Troy no more!"
But Diomed answered: "If I could but meet you face to face, you coward,
your bow and your arrows would not help you. As for this graze on my foot,
I care no more for it than if a woman or a child had struck me. Come near,
and I will show you what are the wounds which I make with my spear."
Then he beckoned to Ulysses that he should stand before him while he drew
the arrow from his foot. And Ulysses did so.
 But when he had drawn out the arrow, the pain was so great that he could not
stand up, for all the brave words that he had spoken. And he bade his
charioteer drive him back to the ships.
So Ulysses was left alone. Not one of the chiefs stood by him, for now that
King Agamemnon and Diomed had departed, there was great fear upon all the
Greeks. And Ulysses said to himself: "Now what shall I do? It would be a
shameful thing to fly from these Trojans, though there are many of them, and
I am alone; but it would be still worse, if I were to be taken here and
slain. Surely it is the doing of Zeus, that this trouble is come upon the
Greeks, and who am I that I should fight against Zeus? Yet why do I talk in
this way? It is only the coward who draws back; a brave man stands in his
place, whether he lives or dies." But while he was thinking these things
many Trojans came about him, as dogs come about a wild boar in a wood, and
the boar stands at bay, and gnashes his big white teeth. So Ulysses stood
thrusting here and there with his long spear. Five chiefs he
 slew; but one of the five, before he was slain, wounded him in the side,
scraping the flesh from the ribs. Then Ulysses cried out for help; three
times he cried, and the third time Menelaüs heard him, and called to
"O Ajax, I hear the voice of Ulysses, and it sounds like the voice of one
who is in great trouble. Maybe the Trojans have surrounded him. Come, let
us help him for it would be a great loss to the Greeks if he were to come to
Then he led the way to the place from which the voice seemed to come, and
Ajax followed him. And when they came to Ulysses, they found it was as
Menelaüs had said; for the Trojans had beset Ulysses, as the jackals beset a
deer with long horns among the hills. The beast cannot fly because the
hunter has wounded it with an arrow from his bow, and the wound has become
stiff, and he stands at bay. Then a lion comes, and the jackals are
scattered in a moment. So the Trojans were scattered when Ajax came. Then
Menelaüs took Ulysses by the hand, and led him out of
 the throng, while Ajax drove the Trojans before him.
And now yet another chief was wounded, for Paris from his hiding-place
behind the pillar on the tomb of Ilus shot an arrow at Machāon, and
wounded him on the right shoulder. And one of the chiefs cried to old
Nestor, who was fighting close by: "Quick, Nestor, take Machāon in
your chariot, and drive him to the ships, for the life of a physician is
worth the lives of many men."
So Nestor took Machāon in his chariot, and touched his horses with the
whip, and they galloped to the ships.
Now Hector was fighting on the other side of the plain, and his charioteer
said to him: "See how Ajax is driving our people before him. Let us go and
stop him." So they went, lashing the horses that they might go the faster,
and the chariot rolled over many bodies of men, and the axle and the sides
of it were red with blood. Then Zeus put fear into the heart of the great
Ajax himself. He would not fly, but he turned round, throwing his great
shield over his shoulder, and
 moved towards the ships slowly, step by step. It was as when an ass breaks
into a field and eats the standing corn, and the children of the village
beat him with sticks. Their arms are weak, and the sticks are broken on the
beast's back, for he is slow in going, nor do they drive him out till he has
eaten his fill. So the Trojans thrust at Ajax their lances. And now he
would turn and face them, and now he would take a step backwards towards the
Now Achilles was standing on the stern of his ship, looking at the battle,
and Patroclus stood by him. And when old Nestor passed by taking
Machāon to the ships, Achilles said to his friend: "Soon, I think,
will the Greeks come and pray me to help them, for they are in great
trouble. But go now and see who was this whom Nestor is taking to the
ships. His shoulders, I thought were the shoulders of Machāon, but his face
I could not see, for the horses went by very fast."
Then Patroclus ran to do his errand. Meanwhile Nestor took Machāon to
his tent. And there the girl that waited on
 the old man mixed for them a bowl of drink. First she set a table, and laid
on it a bronze charger, and on it she put a flask of wine, and a leek, with
which to flavour it, and yellow honey, and barley meal. And she fetched
from another part of the tent a great bowl with four handles. On each side
of the bowl there was a pair of handles, and on each handle there was a
dove, wrought in bronze, and the doves seemed to be pecking at each other.
A very big bowl it was, and, when it was full, so heavy that a man could
scarcely lift it from the table; but Nestor, though he was old, could lift
it easily. Then the girl poured the wine from the flask into the bowl, and
put honey into it, and shredded cheese made from goat's milk, and the leek
to flavour it. And when the mess was ready, she bade them drink. So they
drank, and talked together.
But while they talked, Patroclus stood in the door of the tent. And Nestor
went to him, and took him by the hand, and said: "Come now and sit down
with us, and drink from the bowl." But Patroclus would not. "Stay me not,"
he said; "I came to see
 who it was whom you have brought wounded out of the battle. And now I see
that it is Machāon. Therefore I will go back without delay, for you
know what kind of man is Achilles, how he quickly grows angry and is ready
Then said Nestor: "What does Achilles care about the Greeks? Why does he
ask who are wounded? O Patroclus, do you remember the day when Ulysses and
I came to the house of Peleus? Your father was there, and we feasted in the
hall; and when the feast was finished, then we told Peleus why we had come,
how we were gathering the chiefs of Greece to go and fight against Troy.
And you and Achilles were eager to go. And old men gave you much advice.
Old Peleus said to Achilles: 'You must always be the very first in battle.'
But to you your father said: 'Achilles is of nobler birth than you, and
he is stronger by far. But you are older, and years give wisdom.
Therefore it will be your part to give him good counsel when there is need.'
Why then do you not advise him to help us? And if he is still resolved
not to go
 forth to the battle, then let him send you forth, and let him lend you his
armour to wear. Then the Trojans will think that Achilles himself has come
back to the battle, and they will be afraid, and we shall have a breathing
Then Patroclus turned and ran back to the tent of Achilles.