Book III When the companies were thus arrayed, each under its own captain, the Trojans
advanced as a flight of wild fowl or cranes that scream overhead when rain
and winter drive them over the flowing waters of Oceanus to bring death
and destruction on the Pygmies, and they wrangle in the air as they fly;
but the Achaeans marched silently, in high heart, and minded to stand by
As when the south wind spreads a curtain of mist upon the mountain
tops, bad for shepherds but better than night for thieves, and a man can
see no further than he can throw a stone, even so rose the dust from under
their feet as they made all speed over the plain.
When they were close up with one another, Alexandrus came forward
as champion on the Trojan side. On his shoulders he bore the skin of a
panther, his bow, and his sword, and he brandished two spears shod with
bronze as a challenge to the bravest of the Achaeans to meet him in single
fight. Menelaus saw him thus stride out before the ranks, and was glad
as a hungry lion that lights on the carcase of some goat or horned stag,
and devours it there and then, though dogs and youths set upon him. Even
thus was Menelaus glad when his eyes caught sight of Alexandrus, for he
deemed that now he should be revenged. He sprang, therefore, from his chariot,
clad in his suit of armour.
Alexandrus quailed as he saw Menelaus come forward, and shrank
in fear of his life under cover of his men. As one who starts back affrighted,
trembling and pale, when he comes suddenly upon a serpent in some mountain
glade, even so did Alexandrus plunge into the throng of Trojan warriors,
terror-stricken at the sight of the son Atreus.
Then Hector upbraided him. "Paris," said he, "evil-hearted Paris,
fair to see, but woman-mad, and false of tongue, would that you had never
been born, or that you had died unwed. Better so, than live to be disgraced
and looked askance at. Will not the Achaeans mock at us and say that we
have sent one to champion us who is fair to see but who has neither wit
nor courage? Did you not, such as you are, get your following together
and sail beyond the seas? Did you not from your a far country carry off
a lovely woman wedded among a people of warriors- to bring sorrow upon
your father, your city, and your whole country, but joy to your enemies,
and hang-dog shamefacedness to yourself? And now can you not dare face
Menelaus and learn what manner of man he is whose wife you have stolen?
Where indeed would be your lyre and your love-tricks, your comely locks
and your fair favour, when you were lying in the dust before him? The Trojans
are a weak-kneed people, or ere this you would have had a shirt of stones
for the wrongs you have done them."
And Alexandrus answered, "Hector, your rebuke is just. You are
hard as the axe which a shipwright wields at his work, and cleaves the
timber to his liking. As the axe in his hand, so keen is the edge of your
scorn. Still, taunt me not with the gifts that golden Venus has given me;
they are precious; let not a man disdain them, for the gods give them where
they are minded, and none can have them for the asking. If you would have
me do battle with Menelaus, bid the Trojans and Achaeans take their seats,
while he and I fight in their midst for Helen and all her wealth. Let him
who shall be victorious and prove to be the better man take the woman and
all she has, to bear them to his home, but let the rest swear to a solemn
covenant of peace whereby you Trojans shall stay here in Troy, while the
others go home to Argos and the land of the Achaeans."
When Hector heard this he was glad, and went about among the Trojan
ranks holding his spear by the middle to keep them back, and they all sat
down at his bidding: but the Achaeans still aimed at him with stones and
arrows, till Agamemnon shouted to them saying, "Hold, Argives, shoot not,
sons of the Achaeans; Hector desires to speak."
They ceased taking aim and were still, whereon Hector spoke. "Hear
from my mouth," said he, "Trojans and Achaeans, the saying of Alexandrus,
through whom this quarrel has come about. He bids the Trojans and Achaeans
lay their armour upon the ground, while he and Menelaus fight in the midst
of you for Helen and all her wealth. Let him who shall be victorious and
prove to be the better man take the woman and all she has, to bear them
to his own home, but let the rest swear to a solemn covenant of
Thus he spoke, and they all held their peace, till Menelaus of
the loud battle-cry addressed them. "And now," he said, "hear me too, for
it is I who am the most aggrieved. I deem that the parting of Achaeans
and Trojans is at hand, as well it may be, seeing how much have suffered
for my quarrel with Alexandrus and the wrong he did me. Let him who shall
die, die, and let the others fight no more. Bring, then, two lambs, a white
ram and a black ewe, for Earth and Sun, and we will bring a third for Jove.
Moreover, you shall bid Priam come, that he may swear to the covenant himself;
for his sons are high-handed and ill to trust, and the oaths of Jove must
not be transgressed or taken in vain. Young men′s minds are light as air,
but when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which
shall be fairest upon both sides."
The Trojans and Achaeans were glad when they heard this, for they
thought that they should now have rest. They backed their chariots toward
the ranks, got out of them, and put off their armour, laying it down upon
the ground; and the hosts were near to one another with a little space
between them. Hector sent two messengers to the city to bring the lambs
and to bid Priam come, while Agamemnon told Talthybius to fetch the other
lamb from the ships, and he did as Agamemnon had said.
Meanwhile Iris went to Helen in the form of her sister-in-law,
wife of the son of Antenor, for Helicaon, son of Antenor, had married Laodice,
the fairest of Priam′s daughters. She found her in her own room, working
at a great web of purple linen, on which she was embroidering the battles
between Trojans and Achaeans, that Mars had made them fight for her sake.
Iris then came close up to her and said, "Come hither, child, and see the
strange doings of the Trojans and Achaeans till now they have been warring
upon the plain, mad with lust of battle, but now they have left off fighting,
and are leaning upon their shields, sitting still with their spears planted
beside them. Alexandrus and Menelaus are going to fight about yourself,
and you are to the the wife of him who is the victor."
Thus spoke the goddess, and Helen′s heart yearned after her former
husband, her city, and her parents. She threw a white mantle over her head,
and hurried from her room, weeping as she went, not alone, but attended
by two of her handmaids, Aethrae, daughter of Pittheus, and Clymene. And
straightway they were at the Scaean gates.
The two sages, Ucalegon and Antenor, elders of the people, were
seated by the Scaean gates, with Priam, Panthous, Thymoetes, Lampus, Clytius,
and Hiketaon of the race of Mars. These were too old to fight, but they
were fluent orators, and sat on the tower like cicales that chirrup delicately
from the boughs of some high tree in a wood. When they saw Helen coming
towards the tower, they said softly to one another, "Small wonder that
Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of
a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely. Still, fair though she be,
let them take her and go, or she will breed sorrow for us and for our children
But Priam bade her draw nigh. "My child," said he, "take your seat
in front of me that you may see your former husband, your kinsmen and your
friends. I lay no blame upon you, it is the gods, not you who are to blame.
It is they that have brought about this terrible war with the Achaeans.
Tell me, then, who is yonder huge hero so great and goodly? I have seen
men taller by a head, but none so comely and so royal. Surely he must be
"Sir," answered Helen, "father of my husband, dear and reverend
in my eyes, would that I had chosen death rather than to have come here
with your son, far from my bridal chamber, my friends, my darling daughter,
and all the companions of my girlhood. But it was not to be, and my lot
is one of tears and sorrow. As for your question, the hero of whom you
ask is Agamemnon, son of Atreus, a good king and a brave soldier, brother-in-law
as surely as that he lives, to my abhorred and miserable
The old man marvelled at him and said, "Happy son of Atreus, child
of good fortune. I see that the Achaeans are subject to you in great multitudes.
When I was in Phrygia I saw much horsemen, the people of Otreus and of
Mygdon, who were camping upon the banks of the river Sangarius; I was their
ally, and with them when the Amazons, peers of men, came up against them,
but even they were not so many as the Achaeans."
The old man next looked upon Ulysses; "Tell me," he said, "who
is that other, shorter by a head than Agamemnon, but broader across the
chest and shoulders? His armour is laid upon the ground, and he stalks
in front of the ranks as it were some great woolly ram ordering his
And Helen answered, "He is Ulysses, a man of great craft, son of
Laertes. He was born in rugged Ithaca, and excels in all manner of stratagems
and subtle cunning."
On this Antenor said, "Madam, you have spoken truly. Ulysses once
came here as envoy about yourself, and Menelaus with him. I received them
in my own house, and therefore know both of them by sight and conversation.
When they stood up in presence of the assembled Trojans, Menelaus was the
broader shouldered, but when both were seated Ulysses had the more royal
presence. After a time they delivered their message, and the speech of
Menelaus ran trippingly on the tongue; he did not say much, for he was
a man of few words, but he spoke very clearly and to the point, though
he was the younger man of the two; Ulysses, on the other hand, when he
rose to speak, was at first silent and kept his eyes fixed upon the ground.
There was no play nor graceful movement of his sceptre; he kept it straight
and stiff like a man unpractised in oratory- one might have taken him for
a mere churl or simpleton; but when he raised his voice, and the words
came driving from his deep chest like winter snow before the wind, then
there was none to touch him, and no man thought further of what he looked
Priam then caught sight of Ajax and asked, "Who is that great and
goodly warrior whose head and broad shoulders tower above the rest of the
"That," answered Helen, "is huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans,
and on the other side of him, among the Cretans, stands Idomeneus looking
like a god, and with the captains of the Cretans round him. Often did Menelaus
receive him as a guest in our house when he came visiting us from Crete.
I see, moreover, many other Achaeans whose names I could tell you, but
there are two whom I can nowhere find, Castor, breaker of horses, and Pollux
the mighty boxer; they are children of my mother, and own brothers to myself.
Either they have not left Lacedaemon, or else, though they have brought
their ships, they will not show themselves in battle for the shame and
disgrace that I have brought upon them."
She knew not that both these heroes were already lying under the
earth in their own land of Lacedaemon.
Meanwhile the heralds were bringing the holy oath-offerings through
the city- two lambs and a goatskin of wine, the gift of earth; and Idaeus
brought the mixing bowl and the cups of gold. He went up to Priam and said,
"Son of Laomedon, the princes of the Trojans and Achaeans bid you come
down on to the plain and swear to a solemn covenant. Alexandrus and Menelaus
are to fight for Helen in single combat, that she and all her wealth may
go with him who is the victor. We are to swear to a solemn covenant of
peace whereby we others shall dwell here in Troy, while the Achaeans return
to Argos and the land of the Achaeans."
The old man trembled as he heard, but bade his followers yoke the
horses, and they made all haste to do so. He mounted the chariot, gathered
the reins in his hand, and Antenor took his seat beside him; they then
drove through the Scaean gates on to the plain. When they reached the ranks
of the Trojans and Achaeans they left the chariot, and with measured pace
advanced into the space between the hosts.
Agamemnon and Ulysses both rose to meet them. The attendants brought
on the oath-offerings and mixed the wine in the mixing-bowls; they poured
water over the hands of the chieftains, and the son of Atreus drew the
dagger that hung by his sword, and cut wool from the lambs′ heads; this
the men-servants gave about among the Trojan and Achaean princes, and the
son of Atreus lifted up his hands in prayer. "Father Jove," he cried, "that
rulest in Ida, most glorious in power, and thou oh Sun, that seest and
givest ear to all things, Earth and Rivers, and ye who in the realms below
chastise the soul of him that has broken his oath, witness these rites
and guard them, that they be not vain. If Alexandrus kills Menelaus, let
him keep Helen and all her wealth, while we sail home with our ships; but
if Menelaus kills Alexandrus, let the Trojans give back Helen and all that
she has; let them moreover pay such fine to the Achaeans as shall be agreed
upon, in testimony among those that shall be born hereafter. Aid if Priam
and his sons refuse such fine when Alexandrus has fallen, then will I stay
here and fight on till I have got satisfaction."
As he spoke he drew his knife across the throats of the victims,
and laid them down gasping and dying upon the ground, for the knife had
reft them of their strength. Then they poured wine from the mixing-bowl
into the cups, and prayed to the everlasting gods, saying, Trojans and
Achaeans among one another, "Jove, most great and glorious, and ye other
everlasting gods, grant that the brains of them who shall first sin against
their oaths- of them and their children- may be shed upon the ground even
as this wine, and let their wives become the slaves of
Thus they prayed, but not as yet would Jove grant them their prayer.
Then Priam, descendant of Dardanus, spoke, saying, "Hear me, Trojans and
Achaeans, I will now go back to the wind-beaten city of Ilius: I dare not
with my own eyes witness this fight between my son and Menelaus, for Jove
and the other immortals alone know which shall fall."
On this he laid the two lambs on his chariot and took his seat.
He gathered the reins in his hand, and Antenor sat beside him; the two
then went back to Ilius. Hector and Ulysses measured the ground, and cast
lots from a helmet of bronze to see which should take aim first. Meanwhile
the two hosts lifted up their hands and prayed saying, "Father Jove, that
rulest from Ida, most glorious in power, grant that he who first brought
about this war between us may die, and enter the house of Hades, while
we others remain at peace and abide by our oaths."
Great Hector now turned his head aside while he shook the helmet,
and the lot of Paris flew out first. The others took their several stations,
each by his horses and the place where his arms were lying, while Alexandrus,
husband of lovely Helen, put on his goodly armour. First he greaved his
legs with greaves of good make and fitted with ancle-clasps of silver;
after this he donned the cuirass of his brother Lycaon, and fitted it to
his own body; he hung his silver-studded sword of bronze about his shoulders,
and then his mighty shield. On his comely head he set his helmet, well-wrought,
with a crest of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it, and he grasped
a redoubtable spear that suited his hands. In like fashion Menelaus also
put on his armour.
When they had thus armed, each amid his own people, they strode
fierce of aspect into the open space, and both Trojans and Achaeans were
struck with awe as they beheld them. They stood near one another on the
measured ground, brandishing their spears, and each furious against the
other. Alexandrus aimed first, and struck the round shield of the son of
Atreus, but the spear did not pierce it, for the shield turned its point.
Menelaus next took aim, praying to Father Jove as he did so. "King Jove,"
he said, "grant me revenge on Alexandrus who has wronged me; subdue him
under my hand that in ages yet to come a man may shrink from doing ill
deeds in the house of his host."
He poised his spear as he spoke, and hurled it at the shield of
Alexandrus. Through shield and cuirass it went, and tore the shirt by his
flank, but Alexandrus swerved aside, and thus saved his life. Then the
son of Atreus drew his sword, and drove at the projecting part of his helmet,
but the sword fell shivered in three or four pieces from his hand, and
he cried, looking towards Heaven, "Father Jove, of all gods thou art the
most despiteful; I made sure of my revenge, but the sword has broken in
my hand, my spear has been hurled in vain, and I have not killed
With this he flew at Alexandrus, caught him by the horsehair plume
of his helmet, and began dragging him towards the Achaeans. The strap of
the helmet that went under his chin was choking him, and Menelaus would
have dragged him off to his own great glory had not Jove′s daughter Venus
been quick to mark and to break the strap of oxhide, so that the empty
helmet came away in his hand. This he flung to his comrades among the Achaeans,
and was again springing upon Alexandrus to run him through with a spear,
but Venus snatched him up in a moment (as a god can do), hid him under
a cloud of darkness, and conveyed him to his own bedchamber.
Then she went to call Helen, and found her on a high tower with
the Trojan women crowding round her. She took the form of an old woman
who used to dress wool for her when she was still in Lacedaemon, and of
whom she was very fond. Thus disguised she plucked her by perfumed robe
and said, "Come hither; Alexandrus says you are to go to the house; he
is on his bed in his own room, radiant with beauty and dressed in gorgeous
apparel. No one would think he had just come from fighting, but rather
that he was going to a dance, or had done dancing and was sitting
With these words she moved the heart of Helen to anger. When she
marked the beautiful neck of the goddess, her lovely bosom, and sparkling
eyes, she marvelled at her and said, "Goddess, why do you thus beguile
me? Are you going to send me afield still further to some man whom you
have taken up in Phrygia or fair Meonia? Menelaus has just vanquished Alexandrus,
and is to take my hateful self back with him. You are come here to betray
me. Go sit with Alexandrus yourself; henceforth be goddess no longer; never
let your feet carry you back to Olympus; worry about him and look after
him till he make you his wife, or, for the matter of that, his slave- but
me? I shall not go; I can garnish his bed no longer; I should be a by-word
among all the women of Troy. Besides, I have trouble on my
Venus was very angry, and said, "Bold hussy, do not provoke me;
if you do, I shall leave you to your fate and hate you as much as I have
loved you. I will stir up fierce hatred between Trojans and Achaeans, and
you shall come to a bad end."
At this Helen was frightened. She wrapped her mantle about her
and went in silence, following the goddess and unnoticed by the Trojan
When they came to the house of Alexandrus the maid-servants set
about their work, but Helen went into her own room, and the laughter-loving
goddess took a seat and set it for her facing Alexandrus. On this Helen,
daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, sat down, and with eyes askance began to
upbraid her husband.
"So you are come from the fight," said she; "would that you had
fallen rather by the hand of that brave man who was my husband. You used
to brag that you were a better man with hands and spear than Menelaus.
go, but I then, an challenge him again- but I should advise you not to
do so, for if you are foolish enough to meet him in single combat, you
will soon all by his spear."
And Paris answered, "Wife, do not vex me with your reproaches.
This time, with the help of Minerva, Menelaus has vanquished me; another
time I may myself be victor, for I too have gods that will stand by me.
Come, let us lie down together and make friends. Never yet was I so passionately
enamoured of you as at this moment- not even when I first carried you off
from Lacedaemon and sailed away with you- not even when I had converse
with you upon the couch of love in the island of Cranae was I so enthralled
by desire of you as now." On this he led her towards the bed, and his wife
went with him.
Thus they laid themselves on the bed together; but the son of Atreus
strode among the throng, looking everywhere for Alexandrus, and no man,
neither of the Trojans nor of the allies, could find him. If they had seen
him they were in no mind to hide him, for they all of them hated him as
they did death itself. Then Agamemnon, king of men, spoke, saying, "Hear
me, Trojans, Dardanians, and allies. The victory has been with Menelaus;
therefore give back Helen with all her wealth, and pay such fine as shall
be agreed upon, in testimony among them that shall be born
Thus spoke the son of Atreus, and the Achaeans shouted in
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