Stories from the Iliad Told to the Children - Jeanie Lang

How Menelaus Was Wounded
and The Brave Deeds of Diomedes

While Menelaus made search for Paris, Hera and Athene plotted together, wrathfully planning how best to bring harm upon Paris and the men of Troy.

No wish had they that the grievous war should be ended, and Paris, whom they hated, allowed to go unpunished.

Like a shooting-star that flashes through the sky, even so did Athene haste down to the earth from Olympus.

In the guise of a man she sought Pandarus, a gallant warrior and a mighty archer.

"Hearken to me, wise Pandarus," said the goddess. "Shoot now a swift arrow at Menelaus, that thou may'st slay him. So shalt thou win fame and glory before all the Trojans, and gain from Paris kingly gifts."

And to her words foolish Pandarus lent willing ears.

He unsheathed his polished bow, made from the horn of a wild ibex that he himself had shot in the mountains. Sixteen palms long were its horns, and these a skilled workman had polished well and joined cunningly together, and tipped with gold. Well did Pandarus string his bow, and from his quiver he chose an arrow, sharp and new. Then did he pull back the bowstring to his breast until the great bow was bent into a round. The horn twanged and the bowstring sang, and the keen arrow sped fiercely on its way. Straight to the heart of Menelaus would it have sped, but Athene made it glance aside, so that it smote against the golden buckles of the belt of his breastplate. Yet even then did it graze his flesh, and the black blood gushed forth from the wound.

When Agamemnon saw the blood flowing, sorely grieved was he.

But Menelaus said:

"Be of good courage. The wound is not deep, for my glistering belt in front and my kirtle of mail beneath stayed the deadly arrow."

Then did they send for a skilled physician. And he, when he was come, drew forth the arrow, and sucked the blood and spread healing drugs upon the wound.

While the physician tended Menelaus, throughout the Greek host went Agamemnon.

"To arms!" he said to his men. "The men of Troy have broken the oath of peace that they took, and for us it is to punish them. No helper of liars is Zeus, and so shall they fall before us and their flesh be given to the vultures for their food!"

All those of his men that he found preparing eagerly for the battle, he praised. But to those that he found shrinking from battle he gave angry words, whether they were common soldiers or great chiefs.

To Diomedes he came at last.

"Dost thou hold back from battle, Diomedes?" he cried. "Such was not thy father's way. Ever in battle was he the first. But his son is not a fighter such as he, though in speech he may be more skilled."

No answer did Diomedes make, for he reverenced Agamemnon the king.

But a comrade who stood by him cried out in anger at the injustice of his words.

"Falsely dost thou speak, Agamemnon!" he said. "Better men than our fathers are we! Did we not, with fewer men and against a stronger wall, take the great city of Thebes which they strove to take in vain!"

But brave Diomedes sternly rebuked him. "Be silent, brother," he said, "for right and just it is that Agamemnon should urge his warriors on to the fight. His will be the glory if we overcome the men of Troy and take their city, and his will be the great sorrow if by the Trojans we Greeks are laid low. Come! let us to arms!"

From his chariot Diomedes leapt to the ground, and his armour clanged as he moved.

And as the great sea-billows raise their heads before the driving of the gale, and crash themselves in fury against the shore, casting afar their briny spray and foam, even as mightily did the Greeks move onward to battle. Horse after horse, and man after man, went as the waves of the sea.

But like bleating sheep were the Trojans as they awaited the coming of their foes.

And amongst the men of Troy fought Mars, god of war, and for the Greeks fought Athene, and with her were Terror and Rout, and Strife that never wearies.

So did the armies meet. Like wolves they fought. Man lashed at man; with blood the earth grew red, and the clamour of their fighting was as the noise of the meeting of the mountain streams when they rush in furious spate into the valleys in the winter floods.

Like trees that the woodmen cut and send crashing to the ground, so fell first one hero, then another. First fell a man of Troy, then a Greek. On that day many a Trojan and many a Greek side by side in the dust lay dead.

Now was it that to Diomedes Athene came and gave fresh strength and courage. From his helmet she made a light to shine, burning brightly as a star in summer.

Amongst the Trojans were two brothers, rich and noble, and well-skilled warriors.

One of them from their chariot cast his spear at Diomedes, who was on foot, but missed his aim. And Diomedes then cast his spear and smote his enemy in the breast, so that from his chariot he fell dead on the ground, while his brother fled, lest he, too, should be slain. He left his beautiful chariot behind, and Diomedes drove away the horses and gave them to his men to keep for him.

And Athene, watching the fray, took the god Mars by the hand and led him aside.

"Let us leave the Greeks and Trojans to fight," said she, "and let Zeus give the victory to whom he will."

Then did Mars sit him down by the river Scamander, and again Greeks and Trojans fought without aid from the gods.

Like heroes they fought. Like heroes they slew and died. But none fought as did Diomedes. Like a winter torrent in full flood did he charge across the plain, driving all before him.

But when Pandarus the archer saw him coming against him in triumph, he bent his bow and drove an arrow in haste to meet him. And in one moment the corslet of Diomedes was dabbled with blood.

Then loudly shouted Pandarus:

"Bestir you, brave Trojans! The best man of the Greeks is wounded, and soon shall he die from the arrow that I sped against him!"

So boasted Pandarus, but Diomedes leapt down from his chariot, and to his charioteer he spoke:

"Haste thee, and draw from my shoulder this bitter arrow."

Speedily the charioteer drew the arrow forth, and from the wound the blood spurted upward.

Then cried Diomedes:

"Hear me, Athene! If ever thou didst stand by my father in heat of battle, stand now by me. Bring me within a spear's thrust of this man who hath wounded me, and grant that I may slay him."

So he prayed, and Athene heard him.

"Be of good courage, Diomedes," she said. "Thy prayer is granted. But if thou shouldst meet any of the gods in battle, smite none of them save golden Aphrodite."

Then did Diomedes turn back to the battle, and threefold courage came upon him, so that he fought as fights an angry lion.

Ten warriors, brave and gallant, fell before him, and the horses of these he took and gave to his men to drive to the ships.

Then said Aeneas, captain of the Trojan host, son of a mortal warrior and of the goddess Aphrodite:

"Where are thy bows and arrows, Pandarus? Canst thou not slay this man who makes havoc of the host?"

"Methinks this man is Diomedes," answered Pandarus. "Already have I smitten him, but without avail. Surely he is no man, but a wrathful god. Behind me in my own dear land left I eleven fair chariots, each with its yoke of horses, for I feared that my good horses might not find fodder in the camp. So now have I no chariot but only my bow, and now is my bow of no help to me, for Menelaus and Diomedes have I smitten, yet they have not died."

Then said Aeneas:

"Talk not thus, but mount in my chariot and take the reins and whip, and I myself will stand upon the car and fight with Diomedes."

"Nay," said Pandarus, "take thou thyself the reins. Should thy horses be driven by one they know not, and hear a strange voice from him who drives them, mad might they go with fear. So drive thine own horses, Aeneas, and with my spear will I go against Diomedes."

In the chariot then mounted Aeneas and Pandarus, and swiftly galloped the horses against Diomedes. His charioteer saw them coming and to Diomedes he said:

"Pandarus and Aeneas come against us, Diomedes—mighty warriors both. Let us haste back to our chariot."

"Speak not of flight!" answered Diomedes "It is not in my blood to skulk or cower down. As for these, both shall not escape me. But if Athene grant that I slay them both, then stay my chariot where it is, binding the reins to the chariot rim, and leap upon the horses of Aeneas and drive them forth into the host of the Greeks. For truly there are no better horses under the sun than these horses of Aeneas."

When Pandarus and Aeneas drew near, fiercely Pandarus hurled his bronze-shod spear. Through the shield of Diomedes it passed, and reached his breastplate.

"Thou art hit in the loin!" cried Pandarus; "now, methinks, thou soon shalt die."

But Diomedes, unafraid, replied:

"Nay! thou hast missed and not hit."

With that he hurled his spear. Through the nose and teeth and tongue of Pandarus it passed, and from the chariot he fell, his gleaming armour clanging on the ground. And it was from a dead man that the horses swerved aside.

Then Aeneas leapt from his chariot and stood astride the lifeless body, like a lion at bay, fearful lest the Greeks should take from him the body of his friend.

In his hand Diomedes seized a mighty stone, and with it smote Aeneas on the thigh, crushing the bone, and tearing the skin. On his knees fell the great Aeneas, and soon must he have perished, but Aphrodite saw the peril of her son and wound her white arms about him, and would have borne him safely away. But Diomedes, leaping in his chariot, pursued her, and with his spear he wounded her sorely on the wrist. With a great cry Aphrodite let fall her son, but another of the gods was near and bore him away in the covering of a cloud.

"Away with thee, Aphrodite!" called Diomedes. "It is surely enough for thee to beguile feeble women and to keep away from battle!"

Then upon Aeneas he leapt, not knowing that it was a god whose arms held him. Three times did he seek fiercely to slay Aeneas, and three times did the god beat him back.

"Thou warrest with the gods! Have a care, Diomedes!" shouted the god in a terrible voice, and Diomedes for a little shrank back.

Then truly did the gods come to war against Greeks and Trojans, for Mars and Athene and Hera in fury fought amongst the hosts.



"Shame on ye! men of Greece," cried Athene. "While noble Achilles went forth to war, the Trojans dared scarcely pass without their gates, but now they bring their fighting close to the ships on the beach!" So she roused the Greeks to further fury.

To Diomedes then she went. Him she found beside his chariot, wiping away the blood. from the wound dealt him by Pandarus.

"An unworthy son of thy brave father are thou, Diomedes," she said. "Alone would thy father fight; but though I stand by thy side to guard thee, either weariness or fear hath taken hold on thee."

"I have no fear, neither am I weary," answered Diomedes, "but thou hast told me to smite none of the gods save Aphrodite, and now see I the god Mars leading the men of Troy. So have I stayed my hand and called back my men from the battle."

Then answered bright-eyed Athene:

"Diomedes, joy of mine heart, fear not Mars nor any other of the gods, for I am thy helper. Go now, guide thy chariot against Mars and smite him hand to hand. This day did he promise me to fight for the Greeks, and now he fights against them."

So saying, she made the charioteer of Diomedes give her his place, and herself, with whip and reins, did she guide the fiery horses.

And Mars, seeing the chariot of Diomedes draw near, leaving many dead behind him, eagerly came to meet it. With furious thrust did he drive his spear at Diomeaes, but Athene seized it in her hand and turned it aside. Then did Diomedes thrust at Mars with his spear of bronze, and it Athene guided so that it pierced the thigh of the god of war. Loud as nine thousand or ten thousand warriors cry in battle, did Mars bellow with rage and pain, and like a thunder- cloud he swept upwards through the sky to Olympus.

And still the fight went on, and sorrow came to many from the slaying of that day.