THAT night both gods and men slept long;
only Zeus, king of the gods, lay wakeful,
pondering in his heart how best he might do
honour to Achilles. 'I shall send a Dream
to beguile Agamemnon,' at length he resolved.
Then did he call to a Dream, for by Dreams
the gods sent their messages to mortal men.
'Go now, thou evil Dream,' said Zeus, 'go
to where Agamemnon sleeps in his tent near
to his fleet ships, and tell him every word as
I shall tell it thee. Bid him call to arms with
speed his warriors, for now he shall take the
strong city of Troy.'
To the tent of Agamemnon sped the Dream.
Taking the form of the old warrior who had
striven to make peace between Agamemnon
and Achilles, the Dream stooped over the
 sleeping warrior, and thus to him it
'Sleepest thou, Agamemnon? Ill fits it
for the overlord of so mighty a host to sleep
all through the night. From Zeus I come,
and to thee he sends this message: Call to
arms with speed thy warriors, Agamemnon,
for now shalt thou take the strong city of
Off then sped the Dream, winging its way
like a strip of grey mist aloft to Mount
Then Agamemnon awoke from sleep, and
the voice of the Dream still rang in his ears.
Speedily he arose from his bed, donned his
fair tunic, cast around him his great cloak,
and bound his sandals on his feet. Then
over his shoulder he cast his silver-studded
sword, and with the sceptre of his house,
token of his overlordship, in his hand, he
went down to where the Greek ships lay,
and called a council together.
To his lords he told what had befallen him
as they slept.
'Call to arms!' had been the message
 from Zeus. 'Call to arms! for victory shall
Then said the old warrior in whose likeness
the Dream had come:
'My friends, had any other told us this
dream we might deem it false; but to our
overlord the Dream hath come. Let us then
call our men to arms.'
So did all the lords follow his counsel, and
quickly did the Greeks obey their summons.
Like bees that pour from out their nests in
some hollow rock, and fly to where the spring
flowers grow most sweet, even so did the
warriors pour forth from their ships and their
huts by the sea. Loudly they shouted as
they came, till all the earth echoed. Nine
heralds sought to quiet them, but it was
long before they would cease their noise,
and sit silent to listen to the voice of
Agamemnon their lord.
Then did Agamemnon prove his people.
'Ill hath Zeus dealt with us, my friends,' he
said. 'To us he promised ere we sailed
hither that victory should be ours. But nine
years have passed away, and our ships'
 timbers have rotted, and the rigging is
worn. In our halls our wives and children
still sit awaiting us, yet are we no nearer
victory than we were on the day that we
came hither. Come then, let us flee with
our ships to our dear native land, for never
shall Troy be ours.'
So spake Agamemnon, and stirred the
hearts of all that had not heard his secret
As the high sea-waves are swayed by the
winds that rush upon them from the east and
from the south, even so the Greek host was
swayed. And even as the west wind sweeps
over a cornfield and all the ears bow down
before the blast, so were the warriors stirred.
Shouting, they hastened down to their
ships. And the dust rose up in clouds from
under their hurrying feet.
Quickly did they prepare their ships, and
gladly did they make them ready to sail
homeward across the bright salt sea.
Then would the Greeks have returned,
even though fate willed it not. But Hera
spoke to Athene.
 'Shall we indeed allow the Greeks thus to
flee homeward?' she cried. 'Shame it will
be to us if Helen is left in Troy, and Paris
goes unpunished. Haste, then, and with thy
gentle words hold back the men from setting
forth in their ships for their own homeland.'
Down from the peaks of Olympus darted
the bright-eyed Athene, down to where
the dark ships were being dragged to the
By his ship stood Odysseus of the many
devices, and heavy of heart was he.
As one who speaks aloud the thoughts of
another, so then to Odysseus spake the fair
goddess who was ever his guide.
'Will ye indeed fling yourselves upon
your ships and flee homeward to your own
land?' she said. 'Will brave Odysseus leave
Helen, for whose sake so many Greeks have
died, to be the boast of the men of Troy?
Hasten, then, and suffer not the Greeks to
drag their ships down to the sea.'
At the sound of the voice of Athene,
Odysseus cast away his mantle and ran to meet
Agamemnon. From him he received the
 sceptre of overlordship, and bearing it he
went among the ships.
Whenever he saw a chief, he would say to
him with gentle words
'Good sir, it fits thee ill to be a coward.
Stay, now, for thou knowest not what is the
will of Agamemnon. He is only making
trial of thee. Hold back then thy people,
and anger him not.'
But when Odysseus met a common man
hasting to the ships, with his sceptre he
smote him, saying:
'Sit still, sir, and listen to the words of thy
betters. No warrior art thou, but a weak-
ling. One king only hath Zeus given to us.
Hearken then to the will of Agamemnon!'
Thus did Odysseus rule the people,
driving them back from the ships to where sat
And the noise they made in returning was
as the noise of mighty waves of the sea, when
they crash upon the beach and drive their
roaring echoes far abroad.
Silence came upon them as they sate
themselves down before Agamemnon and their
 lords. Upon all but one did silence fall.
Thersites, bandy-legged, round-shouldered,
lame of one foot, with ugly head covered
with scanty stubble, most ill-favoured of all
men in the host, would not hold his peace.
Shrilly he poured his upbraidings upon
'What lackest thou now?' he cried.
'Surely thy huts are full of the spoils we
have brought to thee each time we have
taken a town. What more dost thou want?
Soft fools, women, not men, are ye Greeks,
else would ye return home now with the ships,
and leave this fellow here in Troyland
gorging himself on the spoils for which he himself
hath never fought. To brave Achilles hath he
done dishonour, a far better man than he!'
Straight to the side of Thersites came the
'Hold thy peace,' he sternly said. 'Plainly
I tell thee that if ever again I find thee
raving as thou hast raved now, I myself will
strip off thy mantle and tunic, with shameful
blows beat thee out of the assembly, and
send thee back weeping to the ships.'
 So spake Odysseus, and with his sceptre
smote Thersites on his back and shoulders.
And Thersites bowed down, and big tears
fell from his eyes, and a bloody weal from
the golden sceptre stood up from his back.
Amazed he sat down, and in pain and
amazement he wiped away a tear. The others,
though they were sorry, laughed at his
'Many are the good deeds of Odysseus,'
said they, 'but never did he do a better deed
than when he stopped the tongue of this
Then spake Odysseus, sceptre in hand.
'Surely it is the wish of the Greeks to
make thee the most despised of all kings,
great Agamemnon,' he said, 'for like young
children or mourning women do they wail
that they must go home. Nine years have
we stayed in this land, and small wonder is
it that we long for our homes again. Yet
shameful would it be to wait so long and to
return with empty hands. Be of good heart,
my friends, and wait a little, for surely Troy
shall be ours. Do ye forget, on the day that
 we set sail for Troyland, the mighty
portent that we saw? As we offered sacrifices
to the gods beneath a fair plane-tree whence
flowed clear water, a snake, blood-red on the
back and dreadful to look upon, glided from
beneath the altar and darted to the tree. On
the tree's topmost bough was a sparrow's
nest, and in it eight tender nestlings, over
which the mother-bird spread her wings.
Pitifully did the little ones cheep as the
snake swallowed them all, and pitifully cried
the mother as she fluttered over her nestlings.
But of her, too, did the snake lay hold,
coiling himself round her and crushing her life
out. Then did the god who sent this sign
show us that a sign from the gods in truth
it was, for he turned the snake into stone.
And Chalcas, our soothsayer, told us then
the meaning of the sign. "Nine years," said
he—for nine birds did the snake slay—"shall
ye fight in Troyland, but in the tenth
year the city shall fall before you." So then,
let us abide here, until we have taken the
When Odysseus had ceased to speak, the
 Greeks shouted aloud, until the ships echoed
the praises of the goodly Odysseus.
Then said Agamemnon:
'Go now, all of you, and eat, that ye may
be ready for battle. Let each man sharpen
well his spear and see to his shield, and
see to it that the horses are well fed and
the chariots prepared. And whomsoever I
see minded to stay far away from the
fight, beside the ships here by the sea, for
him shall there be no hope hereafter, but
he shall be food for dogs and for birds of
And when Agamemnon had spoken, the
shouts of the Greeks were as the thunder of
mighty breakers on a reef when the winds
Quickly then they scattered, and kindled
fires, and made their evening meal, and
offered sacrifices to the gods, praying for
escape from death in the coming battle.
To Zeus did Agamemnon offer his
sacrifice, and to the mighty god he prayed:
'Great Zeus, god of the storm-cloud, let
not the sun set nor the darkness fall until
 I have laid low the palaces of Troy and
burned down its walls with fire.'
So he prayed, but as yet Zeus heeded not
his prayer. Then did the Greeks gather
themselves together to battle, and amongst
them went the bright-eyed Athene, urging
on each one, and rousing in each man's
heart the joy of strength and of battle.
As the red and golden blaze of a fire that
devours a mighty forest is seen from afar,
so was seen from afar the dazzling gleam of
their bronze armour as they marched.
Like wild geese and cranes and swans that
in long-drawn strings fly tirelessly onward,
so poured they forth, while the earth echoed
terribly under the tread of men and horses.
As flies that swarm in the spring when the
herdsmen's milk-pails are full, so did the
Greeks throng to battle, unnumbered as the
leaves and the flowers upon which they trod
in the flowery plain by the banks of the river