The Iliad 

Translation by Ian Johnston

Book Twelve
The Fight at the Barricade

[The battle continues at the wall, with Achaeans hemmed in; Polydamas advises Hector to leave the chariots behind; Trojans organize themselves into five companies for the assault; two Lapith spearmen guard the Achaean gate; Trojans receive a bad omen; Polydamas advises Hector not the attack the wall; Sarpedon's speech to Glaucus about their warrior code; Sarpedon assaults the wall; Menestheus asks for help from Ajax and Teucer; Ajax responds; Glaucus is wounded; Hector demolishes the doors in the gate; the Trojans breach the wall; Achaeans retreat to their ships] 

Thus, as Patroclus, Menoetius' fine son, looked after
wounded Eurypylus in his hut, Trojans and Achaeans
kept fighting on in clusters.  The Danaan ditch
and the high broad wall weren't going to hold out long.
They'd built the wall, then dug the ditch around it,
to protect the ships and guard the ample plunder
stored inside.  But they'd built it without sanction
from immortal gods—they'd made no splendid offering,  
no sacrifices to the gods, asking them to keep 
their swift ships safe, so the wall soon fell apart.                                    10
As long as Hector lived and Achilles' anger                                                          [10]
did not relent and Priam's city wasn't captured,
the huge Achaean wall remained intact.
But after so many of the finest Trojans died,
many Achaeans, too, though many did survive,
in the war's tenth year, Priam's city was destroyed.
When Achaeans sailed back to their dear native land,
then Poseidon and Apollo planned to erase that wall,
by stirring up the raging power of all rivers
flowing from Mount Ida to the seaRhesus,                                          20 
Heptaporus, Caresus, Rhodius, Granicus,                                                         [20]
Aesepus, the sacred Scamander and Simoeis,
where many ox-hide shields and helmets had fallen
in the dust, along with a race of people half-divine.
Phoebus Apollo merged the mouths of all these rivers,
then for nine days drove the flood against the rampart.
Zeus brought constant rain to wash the wall away
into the sea more quickly.  And Poseidon, too,
the Earthshaker himself, holding his trident, 
led the work, his waves eroding all foundations,                                       30  
wood and stone Achaeans had worked so hard to set there.
He smoothed the shores of the fast-flowing Hellespont,                                   [30]
covering huge beaches once again with sand. The wall gone,
he changed the rivers back so they flowed as before,
their lovely waters in their customary channels.
All this Apollo and Poseidon would do later on.

But then the din of war raged round the sturdy wall.
The battered timbers on the tower rattled.
Argives, broken by Zeus' whip, were all hemmed in
beside their hollow ships, held back by fear of Hector,                           40   
whose powerful presence scared them, for, as before,
he battled like a whirlwind.  Just as some wild boar                                          [40]
or lion faced with dogs and huntsmen keeps turning,
confident of his strength, and men form in a line,
preparing to go against the beast, hurling spears
in volleys from their handsstill it doesn't tremble,
show any fear in its brave heart, but its courage
kills the beastrepeatedly it whirls itself around,
threatening the ranks of menthat's how Hector then
moved through the troops, urging men to attack the ditch                     50
and charge across it.  But his swift-footed horses balked,                                 [50]
standing at the very edge, neighing loudly,
terrified because the trench was wide to cross.
They couldn't easily jump over it or get through.
On both sides there were steep banks along its length,
with many large sharp stakes fixed in the upper edge,
set there by Achaea's sons as a protection
against their enemies.  There was no easy way
for horses pulling chariots with wheels to move across.  
Even men on foot weren't confident about it.                                         60
Then Polydamas, coming up beside bold Hector, said:                                     [60]

"Hector, you other leaders, you allies,
it's foolish to think of driving our swift horses
through this trench. It's difficult to get across,
with those sharpened stakes projecting from it,
right by the Achaean wall.  There's no way
any charioteer could get down and fight.
There's not much room.  I think we'd get badly hurt.
If high-thundering Zeus intends to help the Trojans,
and harm Achaeans, wipe them out completely,                           70     
I'd prefer that happened right away,
so Achaeans all die here, far from Argos,                                                [70]
unremembered.  But if they turn us back,
drive us from the ships, and trap us in the trench,
and if Achaeans then reorganize,
I don't think any of us will get back
to our city with the news.  But come,
let's all agree to what I now propose
attendants should hold the horses at the ditch.
We'll arm ourselves with heavy weapons,                                      80
then all follow Hector bunched up tightly.
Achaeans will not push us back, if it's true
they're already headed for destruction."

What Polydamas had just proposed pleased Hector.                                        [80]
With his weapons, he jumped from his chariot to the ground.
The other Trojans did not hesitate. Seeing him do that, 
they leapt quickly from their chariots and left them there.
Each man told his charioteer to keep the horses
in good order by the ditch.  The men broke up in groups
and organized themselves to form five companies,                                 90
with each one following its own leadership.
Some went with Hector and worthy Polydamas.
They were the most numerous and the best, especially keen
to breach the wall and fight on at the hollow ships.                                          [90]
With them as third went Cebriones as the third commander.
Paris led the second group, along with Agenor
and Alcathous.  Helenus and godlike Deïphobus,
two sons of Priam, led the third contingent,
with a third commander, warlike Asius,
son of Hyrtacus, whose huge horses had carried him                             100
all the way from Arisbe by the Selleïs river.
The fourth group of warriors was headed by Aeneas,
Anchises' brave son, with Archelochus
and Acamas, two sons of Antenor, well skilled                                                 [100]
in all the elements of war.  The famous allies
Sarpedon led.  He'd chosen to command with him
Glaucus and warlike - NEXT

[Translation by Ian Johnston, Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.  This document is in the public domain and may be used by anyone without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged. 

[Last modified March9, 2004]

[Note that the numbers in square brackets refer to the Greek text]