Homer
The Iliad 

Translation by Ian Johnston

Book Sixteen
Patroclus Fights and Dies

[Patroclus begs Achilles to send him back to the war to help the Achaeans; Achilles agrees but sets conditions; Hector breaks Ajax's spear, sets fire to the ship; Achilles sends Patroclus to war with the Myrmidons; Patroclus arms, Achilles organizes the Myrmidons in fighting groups; Achilles prays to Zeus; Patroclus goes into battle, driving Trojans back from the ships; Trojans retreat; Sarpedon rallies the Lycians, fights Patroclus; death of Sarpedon; Apollo cures Glaucus' wound; the fight over Sarpedon's body; Trojans are driven back towards Troy, Hector kills Patroclus]


While the men kept on fighting at the well-decked ships,
Patroclus went to Achilles, his people's shepherd,
shedding warm tears, like a fountain of dark water
whose stream flows over the lip of a sheer rock face.
Looking at him, swift-footed, godlike Achilles
felt pity.  So he spoke to himhis words had wings:

"Why are you crying, Patroclus, like some girl,
an infant walking beside her mother,
asking to be picked up.  She pulls the robe
and stops her mother strolling on ahead,                                      10
looking up at her in tears, until the mother                                             [10]
lifts her up.  You're crying just like that girl,
Patroclus.  Is there something you need to say
to the Myrmidons or me?  Some news
from Phthia that only you have heard?
People say Menoetius, Actor's son,
is still living, and Peleus is alive,
Aeacus' son, among his Myrmidons.
If these two had died, then we'd have something
real to grieve about.  Or are you feeling sad                                 20 
for Argives as they're being obliterated
among the hollow ships for all their pride?
Speak up.  Don't conceal what's on your mind.
Then we'll both understand."

                                                 With a  heavy sigh,
horseman Patroclus, you then replied:                                                               [20]

                                                                "Achilles,
Peleus' son, by far the strongest of Achaeans,
don't be angry with me.  Such great despair
has overcome the Argives.  For all those
who used to be the bravest warriors 
are lying at the ships with sword and spear wounds                   30
powerful Diomedes, son of Tydeus,
hit by a spear, famous spearman Odysseus
with a stab wound, and Agamemnon, too.
An arrow struck Eurypylus in the thigh.
Many healers, exceptionally skilled
in various medicines, are with them now,
tending their wounds.  But it's impossible
to deal with you, Achilles.  I hope anger
like this rage you're nursing never seizes me.                                          [30]
It's disastrous!  How will you be of use                                        40 
to anyone in later generations,
if you won't keep shameful ruin from the Argives?
You're pitiless.  Perhaps horseman Peleus
was not your father, nor Thetis your mother
the gray sea delivered you, some tall cliff,
for you've an unyielding heart.  If your mind
shuns some prophecy, or your noble mother
has told you news from Zeus, at least send me,
and quickly, with the others in our troop
of Myrmidons.  I could be a saving light                                       50
for the Danaans.  Give me your armour                                                  [40]
to buckle round my shoulders, so Trojans,
mistaking me for you, may stop the fight.
Then Achaea's warrior sons could get some rest.
They're worn out.  War doesn't offer much relief.
We're fresh, so we should easily repulse
the Trojans tired of the battle noise
back from our ships and huts towards the city"

Patroclus finished his entreaty.  How wrong he was!
He was praying for his own death, his dreadful fate.                              60
Swift-footed Achilles, with some heat, replied:

"My dear divinely born Patroclus,
what are you saying?  I'm not concerned
with any prophecy I know about,                                                            [50]
nor has my noble mother said a thing
from Zeus.  But dreadful pain came in my heart
and spirit when that man wished to cheat
someone his equal and steal away that prize, 
and just because he's got more power.
That really hurt, given that I've suffered                                       70
in this war so many pains here in my chest.
Achaea's sons chose that girl as my prize.
I won her with my spear, once I'd destroyed
her strong-walled city.  Lord Agamemnon
took her back, out of my hands, as if I were
some stranger without honour.  But let that be                                   [60]
it's over, done with.  Besides, my spirit
didn't mean to stay enraged for ever,
although I thought I wouldn't end my anger
until the cries of warfare reached my ships.                                  80
Come, put my famous armour on your shoulders
and lead war-loving Myrmidons to battle, 
since black clouds of Trojans now surround the ships,
expecting victory, and Argives stand
crammed in by the sea shore, with little space, 
while a city full of Trojans comes at them
without fear, because they don't see near them                                       [70]
my helmet with its glittering front.  Soon enough,
they'd be running back, filling the gullies
with their dead, if mighty Agamemnon                                         90
treated me with kindnessbut now they fight
all through our camp.  For there's no spear raging
in the fists of Diomedes, son of Tydeus,
to protect Danaans from disaster.
I've not heard the voice of Agamemnon
crying out in his vile head.  As for Hector,
that man-killer's voice echoes everywhere,
shouting at Trojans, who fill all the plain
with their noise, as they defeat Achaeans
in this battle.  Even so, Patroclus,                                                100        [80]
you must stave off disaster from the fleet.
Go after them in forcethey may fire those ships
and rob us of the journey home we crave.
Now, pay attention to what I tell you,
about the goal I have in mind for you,
so you'll win me great honour and rewards,
so all Danaans will send back to me
that lovely girl and give fine gifts as well.
Once you push the Trojans from the ships, come back.
If Zeus, Hera's mate, who loves his thunder,                               110
gives you the glory, don't keep on battling
those war-loving Trojans with me not there.                                           [90]
You would decrease my honours.  Don't let
the joy of fighting and of killing Trojans
lead you on to Ilion, just in case
some deathless Olympian god attacks you.  
Apollo, the far-worker, loves his Trojans.
So make sure you come back here again, 
once your saving light has reached our ships.
Let others keep on fighting in the plain.                                       120
Oh, Father Zeus, Athena, and Apollo
if only no single Trojan or Achaean
could escape death, and just we two alone
were not destroyed, so that by ourselves
we could take Troy's sacred battlements!"                                              [100]

As these two were talking on like this together,
Ajax was losing ground, under attack from spears,
overcome by the will of Zeus and Trojans,
who kept throwing weapons.  The bright helmet on his head
rattled dangerously as it was struck.  Many hits                                     130
landed on the well-made armour on his cheeks.
His left shoulder was worn out from always holding up
his shining shield.  But for all the onslaught with their spears,
the Trojans couldn't budge him. Still, he was in trouble,
breathing heavily, sweat pouring down in rivulets                                            [110]
from every limb.  He'd had no time for any rest.
In every way, his desperate plight was getting worse.

Tell me now, you Muses living on Olympus,
how the fire first got tossed onto Achaean ships.
It was Hector.  He came up close to Ajax,                                             140
then with his great sword hacked Ajax's ash spear,
right behind the point.  He cut straight through it,
so Telamonian Ajax still gripped the spear,
but it was useless without its bronze spear head,
which fell some distance off, clanging on the ground.
The heart in mighty Ajax's recognized gods' work.
He shuddered, for he perceived how high-thundering Zeus
was denying completely all his fighting skill,                                                     [120]
wanting the Trojans to prevail.  Ajax backed off,
out of range.  Then onto that swift ship the Trojans threw                    150
untiring fire, which spread itself immediately
in a fiery blaze that no one could extinguish.
The ship's stern started burning.  

                                                      At that moment,
Achilles, slapping his thighs, said to Patroclus:

                                                          "Up now,
divinely born Patroclus, master horseman.
In the ships I see destructive flames going up.
Trojans must not seize our ships and leave us
with no way to escape.  Put armour on,
and quickly.  I'll collect the soldiers."

Achilles spoke.  Patroclus dressed in gleaming bronze.                          160         [130]
First, he fixed on his shins the beautiful leg armour,
fitted with silver ankle clasps.  Around his chest
he  put on the body armour of Achilles,
swift-footed descendant of Aeacusfinely worked
and glittering like a star.  On his shoulders he then slung
his bronze silver-studded sword and a large strong shield.
On his powerful head he set the famous helmet
with its horsehair crest. The plume on top nodded
full of menace.  Then Patroclus took two strong spears
well fitted to his grip.  He'd didn't choose Achilles' spear,                     170 
for no Achaean man could wield that weapon,
so heavy, huge, and strong, except for brave Achilles.                                      [140]
It was made of ash wood from the peak of Pelion.
Chiron gave it to Achilles' father to kill warriors.
Patroclus told Automedon to yoke the horses quickly
the man he most esteemed after Achilles,
breaker of men, and the one he trusted most
to carry out his orders in a battle.
For Patroclus Automedon put swift horses 
in the harnessesXanthus and Balius, who flew along                         180
as swiftly as the wind.  These horses Podarge,
the harpy, had conceived with West Wind, as she grazed                                 [150]
in a meadow beside the stream of Oceanus.
In the side traces he set Pedasus in harness,
a fine horse Achilles had taken for himself,
when he'd captured the city of Eëtion.
Though mortal, it kept pace with his deathless horses.

Meanwhile Achilles went to and fro among the huts,
getting all his Myrmidons to arm themselves.
They rushed out, like flesh-eating wolves, hearts full                             190
of unspeakable fury, beasts which in the mountains
have caught and ripped apart some huge antlered stag.
Then in a pack they charge off, jaws all dripping blood,                                   [160]
to lap black surface water with their slender tongues
in some dark spring, vomiting up clots of blood
from their crammed bellies, while in their chests their hearts
are resolute.  That's how the leaders and commanders
of the Myrmidons rushed round brave Patroclus,
comrade of swift Achilles, Aeacus' descendant,
who stood among them there, urging on the horses                               200
and the warriors carrying their shields.

Achilles had brought fifty ships to Troy
in each were fifty men, his own companions.                                                    [170]
He'd picked five leaders whom he trusted to give orders.  
His great power gave him overall command.  
The first contingent was led by Menesthius, 
with his flashing breastplate, son of Sperchius, 
the river fed from heaven.  Lovely Polydora, 
Peleus' daughter, had conceived Menesthius
with timeless Sperchius, a woman copulating                                         210
with a god.  But in name Borus was his father,                             
son of Perieres, who'd married her in public, 
after paying out a huge price for the bride.
The second group was led by warrior Eudorus,
a bastard child of Polymele, Phylus' daughter,                                                  [180]
a lovely dancer. The god who slaughtered Argus,
mighty Hermes, fell in love when he noticed her
among the singing maidens in the chorus
dancing for Artemis, the golden-arrowed goddess
in the echoing hunt.  Hermes the helper,                                                 220
going at once into her upper room in secret,                                        
had sex with her.  She bore him a fine son, Eudorus,
outstanding as a warrior and speedy runner.
But when Eileithyia, goddess of labour pains,
brought him into the light and he saw sunshine,
then strong Echecles, Actor's son, took Polymele
to his home, after giving an enormous bride price.                                            [190]
Old man Phylus was very kind to the young boy.
He looked after him, surrounding him with love,
as if he were his son.  The third commander                                           230
was warlike Peisander, son of Maemalus,                                       
a man pre-eminent among the Myrmidons
for spear fighting, second only to Patroclus.
Phoenix led the fourth contingent, and Alcimedon,
splendid son of Laerces, was leader of the fifth.

Once Achilles had set all the ranks in order
behind their leaders, he addressed them sternly:

"My Myrmidons, let none of you forget                                                   [200]
those threats you spoke about by our swift ships,
while I was angryyou'd go on and on                                         240
against the Trojans.  Each of you blamed me:                        
'Cruel son of Peleus, surely your mother
suckled you with bile, you pitiless man
who keeps his comrades by their ships
against their will.  Why don't we go home
in our seaworthy ships, since evil rage
has fallen on your heart?'  That's what you men
complained about me in your meetings.
Now a great work of war awaits you,
the sort of enterprise you used to love.                                        250
So make sure each man's heart is resolute,                      
as you go to battle with these Trojans."

With these words, Achilles stirred the spirit in each man.                                 [210]
As they heard their king, the ranks bunched up more closely.
Just as a man constructs a wall for some high house,
using well-fitted stones to keep out forceful winds,
that's how close their helmets and bossed shields lined up,
shield pressed against shield, helmet against helmet
man against man.  On the bright ridges of the helmets,
horsehair plumes touched when warriors moved their heads.                 260
That's how near they were to one another.  In the front,                  
ahead of all of them, two men stood fully armed
Automedon and Patroclussharing a single urge,
to fight in the forefront of their Myrmidons.                                                     [220]
Achilles went into his hut and opened up the lid
on a beautifully decorated chest
placed on board his ship by silver-footed Thetis
for him to take.  She'd packed it with cloaks and tunics,
and woollen blankets, tooprotection from the wind.
There he kept an ornate goblet.  Other than Achilles                            270
no one used it to drink gleaming wine.  With this cup                       
Achilles poured libations to no god but Father Zeus.
Taking this out of the chest, first he purified it
with sulphur, then rinsed it out in streams of water.
He washed his hands and drew some gleaming wine.                                        [230]
Standing in the middle of the yard, he poured it out,
gazing up at heaven.  Thunder-loving Zeus looked on.

"Zeus, king, lord of Dodona, Pelasgian,
you who live far off, ruling cold Dodona,
around whom live the Selli, your prophets,                                  280
with unwashed feet, who sleep upon the ground,                
you heard me when I prayed to you before.
You gave me honour then by striking hard
at the Achaean army.  So grant me now
what I still desire.  I intend to stay
beside this group of ships, but I'm sending out
my comrade and my many Myrmidons.                                                   [240]
Send glory with him, all-seeing Zeus.
Strengthen the heart inside his chest, so Hector
sees if Patroclus can fight on alone                                               290
or if his hands are always conquering
only when I'm with him in the raging war,
in the centre of the havoc Ares brings.
But when he's pushed the fight and battle noise
back from the ships, let him return to me,
here at my hollow ships, without a scratch,
with all his weapons and companions,
men who do their fighting in the killing zone."

                                                                        So Achilles prayed.
Counsellor Zeus heard his prayer.  He granted part of it,                                 [250]
part he denied.  Father Zeus agreed that Patroclus                                 300
should drive the battle fighting from the ships,                               
but not that he'd return in safety from the war.
Once Achilles had made his libation and prayed
to Father Zeus, he went back into his hut,
put the goblet in the chest, came out, and stood there,
in front of his hut, still wishing in his heart
to see the fatal clash of Trojans and Achaeans.

The armed warriors who went with brave Patroclus
marched out in formation, until, with daring hearts,
they charged the Trojans, immediately swarming out,                            310
like wasps beside a road, which young lads love to torment,                             [260]
constantly disturbing them in their roadside nests
those fools make mischief for all sorts of people.
If some man going past along the road upsets them
by accident, they all swarm out with fearless hearts
to guard their young—with that same heart and spirit
the Myrmidons then poured out from their ships
with a ceaseless roar.  In a loud shout, Patroclus
called out to his companions:

                                         "You Myrmidons, 
companions of Achilles, son of Peleus,                                        320
be men, my friends, recall your fighting strength,                                         [270]
so we may honour the son of Peleus,
by far the best Achaean at the ships,
with the best companions in a close combat.
Wide-ruling Agamemnon, Atreus' son, will see
his folly in not honouring Achilles,
the best of the Achaeans."

                                                        With these words,
Patroclus spurred the strength and heart in every soldier.
Then, in a massed group, they fell upon the Trojans.
Terrifying cries came from Achaeans by their ships.                              330

When Trojans saw the brave son of Menoetius 
with his attendant, both in glittering armour,
all their hearts were shaken and their ranks fell back.                                       [280]
They thought Peleus' swift-footed son by his ships 
had set aside his anger and made friends again.
Each man glanced around, checking how he might escape
his own complete destruction.

                                                  Patroclus was the first
to throw his bright spear right at the central mass
where most troops clustered, by the stern of the ship
of great-hearted Protesilaus.  He hit a man,                                           340
Pyraechmes, who'd led Paeonian charioteers                                  
from Amydon, by the broad flowing Axius.
Struck by that spear in his right shoulder, he fell down
screaming on his back there in the dust.  Comrades round him,                        [290]
his Paeonians, ran offPatroclus terrified them,
now he'd killed their leader and best fighter.
He drove them from the ships and doused the blazing fire.
The half-burnt ship he left there.  The Trojans scattered,
making a tremendous noise.  Danaans poured out
from among the ships throughout the constant uproar.                          350
Just as from a high peak of some great mountain, 
Zeus, who gathers lightning, shifts a bulky cloud,
once more revealing all the peaks, high headlands,
and mountain glades, while from heaven the huge bright sky                           [300]
breaks openthat's how Danaans saved their ships
from fire and could rest, if only for a moment,
since the fighting was not over yet.  At this point,
Achaean troops had not fully pushed the Trojans
from the ships.  They'd been forced back from the sterns,
but they still stood there, facing the Achaeans.                                     360

The leaders then began to kill each other        
in the scattered fighting.  First, Menoetius' brave son
with his sharp spear struck Areilycus in the thigh,
as he was turning.  He drove the bronze straight through,                                [310]
breaking the bone.  Areilycus fell face down in the dirt.
Then warlike Menelaus hit Thoas in the chest,
in a place where it was open right beside his shield.
The blow collapsed his limbs.  Meges, Phyleus' son,
saw Amphiclus charging at him, but hit him first,
spearing the top of his leg, where a man's muscle                                  370
is the thickest.  The spear point sliced his tendons,
and darkness closed his eyes.  Then the sons of Nestor
went into action.  Antilochus jabbed his sharp spear
at Atymnius, driving the bronze point in his side,
so he fell forward.  Maris, who was close by,                                                    [320]
angry about his brother, charged Antilochus
holding his spear, and then stood by his brother's body.
But godlike Thrasymedes moved too quickly for him.
Before Maris could thrust, he lunged at his shoulder.
He didn't miss.  The spear point sheared off muscle                              380
at the bottom of his arm and broke the bone in two.                           
Maris fell with a crash, and darkness veiled his eyes.
Thus, these two, slaughtered by two brothers, went off
to Erebus.  They'd been Sarpedon's brave companions,
spearmen sons of Amisodarus—he'd reared
the raging Chimera, who'd killed so many men.
Ajax, son of Oïleus, jumped out at Cleobulus,                                                  [330]
captured him alive, stuck in that confusion.  Even so,
Ajax struck him with his sword across the neck,
and drained his fighting strength.  The sword grew warm with blood.    390
Dark death closed up his eyes, and strong fate embraced him.          

Then Peneleus and Lycon charged each other.
Each had thrown his spear and missed, wasting the throw
so they went at one another once again with swords.
Lycon struck the helmet ridge on its horse-hair crest,
but his sword shattered at the hilt. Then Peneleus
slashed Lycon's neck below the ear.  The sword bit deep,
sinking the entire blade, so Lycon's head hung over,                                        
[340]
held up on one side only by the uncut skin.
His limbs gave way.  

                                      Meriones, with quick strides,                            400
caught up with Acamas, then hit him with his spear                        
in his right shoulder, as he was climbing in his chariot.
He tumbled out. A mist descended on his eyes.

Idomeneus' pitiless bronze then struck Erymas
right in his mouththe spear forced itself straight through,
below his brain, splitting his white skull apart,
smashing out his teeth.  His eyes filled up with blood.
More blood spurted from his nose and open mouth.
Then death's black cloud enveloped Erymas.                                                   
[350]

Thus these Danaan leaders each killed his man.                                    410
Just as ravenous mountain wolves suddenly attack                      
young goats or lambs and seize them from the flock,
when in the mountains an inattentive shepherd 
lets them wander off
once the wolves see them, 
they attack at once, for those young lack the heart to fight

that's how Danaans then went after Trojans,
whose minds now turned to shameful flight, for they'd lost
their will to battle on.

                                     Great Ajax kept on trying
to throw his spear at bronze-armed Hector.
But Hector's battle skills kept his broad shoulders hidden                    
420        [360]
behind his bull's hide shield, as he watched arrows                  
and thudding spears flying past.  Hector realized
the tide of victory in that fight was changing,
but he stood there, trying to save his loyal companions.
Just as those times a cloud comes from Olympus,
moving from the upper air across the sky,
when Zeus brings on a rain storm
that's how Trojans
fled yelling from the ships, crossing the ditch again
in complete disorder.  Hector's swift-footed horses
carried him and his weapons back, leaving behind,                               
430
against their will, the Trojans held up at the trench
dug by Achaeans.  In that ditch many swift horses                                           
[370]
lost their master's chariots when poles snapped at the end.
In pursuit, Patroclus, intent on killing Trojans,
yelled fierce orders to Danaans.  Meanwhile, the Trojans,
shouting and scattering in panic, were jammed up
in every pathway.  Under the clouds a high dust storm rose,
as sure-footed horses strained to get away,
leaving the huts and ships and rushing for the city.

Wherever Patroclus saw the biggest crowd                                            440
of soldiers in retreat, with a yell he's go after them.                           
Bodies kept rolling underneath his axle,
as men fell out when chariot cars rolled over.
His swift horses, those immortal beasts the gods gave                                     
[380]
as a priceless gift to Peleus, flew straight on
across the ditch, charging forward.  Patroclus' heart
was set on finding Hector, eager to strike him down.
But Hector's own swift horses carried him away.
Just as in late summer rainstorms, the dark earth
is all beaten down, when Zeus pours out his waters                             
450
with utmost violence, when he's enraged with men  
who have provoked him with their crooked judgments,
corrupting their assemblies and driving justice out,
not thinking of gods' vengeance, so all the rivers                                             
[390]
crest in flood, their torrents carving many hillsides,
as they roar down from the mountains in a headlong rush
toward the purple sea, destroying the works of men

that's how, as they sped on, the Trojan horses screamed.

When Patroclus had cut the Trojans' front ranks off,
he pushed them back again towards the ships,                                      
460
keeping them from the city they were trying to reach.
Between the ships, the river, and the lofty wall,
in that middle ground, he kept charging at them,
killing them, avenging deaths of many comrades.
There he first struck Pronous with his shining spear,
where Pronous' shield had left his chest exposed.                                            
[400]
His limbs gave way, and he fell down with a thud.
Patroclus next rushed at Thestor, son of Enops,
who just sat crouching in his polished chariot,
paralyzed with terror, reins slipping from his hands.                              
470
Coming up, Patroclus struck him with his spear
right on the jawbone, smashing through his teeth.

Patroclus pulled his spear back, dragging Thestor
out across the chariot rail.  Just as a man
sitting on a rocky point hauls up a monstrous fish
out of the sea, using a line and bright bronze hook

that's how Patroclus dragged Thestor from his chariot,
mouth skewered on the shining spear.  He threw him down,
face first.  As Thestor fell, his spirit left him.                                                   
[410]
Then Erylaus rushed up, but Patroclus struck him                                
480
with a rock right on his head, smashing the entire skull 
inside his heavy helmet.  Erylaus collapsed
on the ground face down.  

                                Death, who destroys men's hearts,
flowed all around Patroclus, as he slaughtered
Erymas, Amphoterus, Epaltes,
Tlepolemus, son of Damastor, Echius,
Pyris, Ipheus, Euippus, and Polymelus,
son of Argeas
all these Patroclus laid out,
one by one on the earth, which nourishes all men.

When Sarpedon observed his Lycian companions,                                 490
who wear no belt around their tunics, being cut down                      
by the hands of Menoetius' son Patroclus,                                                        
[420]
he called out to reprimand his godlike Lycians:             

"Shame on you Lycians!  Where are you running?
Now's the time for you to fight on bravely.
I'll stand up to this man, so I'll find out
who it is that fights so well, who brings with him
so much destruction for the Trojans,
breaking the limbs of many fearless soldiers."

Sarpedon finished.  He jumped out of his chariot                                  500
down to the ground holding his weapons.  On the other side, 
when Patroclus saw him, he leapt from his chariot.
Then they rushed at each other, screaming out like vultures
fighting with hooked talons and curved beaks, screeching                               
[430]
on some rocky height.

                                       Looking down upon the two men there,
the son of crooked-minded Cronos pitied them.
He spoke to Hera, his sister and his wife:

"AlasSarpedon, dearest of all men,
is fated now to die, killed by Patroclus,
son of Menoetius.  My heart's divided,                                        
510
as I think this over.  Should I snatch him up, 
while still alive and place him somewhere else,
in his rich land of Lycia, far distant
from this wretched fighting, or have him killed,
at the hands of Menoetius' son."

Ox-eyed queen Hera then replied to Zeus:

                                        "Dread son of Cronos,                                     [440]
how can you say this? The man is mortal,
doomed long ago by fate.  Now you desire
to rescue him from miserable death.
Do as you wish.  But we other gods                                            
520
will not all agree with you.  And I'll tell you      
something else
make sure you remember it
if you send Sarpedon home alive,
take care some other god does not desire
to send his dear son from the killing zone.
Around Priam's great city, many men,
sons of the immortals, are now fighting.
You'll enrage those gods and make them bitter.
But if Sarpedon's dear to you, if your heart                                            
[450]
feels pity for him, then let him be killed                                      
530
in a fierce combat at Patroclus' hands,                                 
son of Menoetius.  Once his living spirit
has abandoned him, send Death and sweet Sleep
to carry him away, back to the spacious land
of Lycia, where his brother and his kinsmen
will bury him with a mound and headstone.
That's what appropriate for those who die."

Hera spoke.  The father of gods and men agreed.
But he shed blood rain down upon the ground, a tribute
to his dear son Patroclus was about to kill                                             
540        [460]
in fertile Troy, far from his native land.                                      

The two approached within range of each other.
Patroclus threw and struck renowned Thrasymelus,
lord Sarpedon's brave attendant, low in the gut.
His limbs gave way.  Then Sarpedon charged Patroclus.
His bright spear missed him, but it struck a horse,
Pedasus, in its right shoulder.  The horse screamed,
gasping for life, then fell down in the dust, moaning
as the spirit left him.  The two other horses reared,                                          
[470]
their yoke cracked, and their reins got intertwined                                
550
with the trace horse Pedasus lying in the dust.                               
But famous spearman Automedon cleared the tangle.
Pulling out the long sword on his powerful thigh,
he dashed in and, without a pause, cut the trace horse loose.
The two other horses straightened out, then pulled
together in their harness.  The two men kept going,
taking up again their heart-destroying combat.
Once more Sarpedon failed with his bright spear.  Its bronze point
sailed past Patroclus' left shoulder, missing him.
Then Patroclus, in his turn, threw his bronze spear,                              
560
which did not leave his hand in vain.  It struck                                
                     [480]
right between Sarpedon's midriff and his beating heart.
Sarpedon toppled over, as an oak tree falls,
or poplar or tall mountain pine which craftsmen cut 
with sharpened axes, to harvest timber for a ship

that's how he lay there stretched out before his chariot
and horses, groaning and clawing at the bloody dust.
Just as a lion moves into a herd, then kills a bull,
a sleek great-hearted steer among the shambling cattle,
which bellows as it dies right in the lion's jaws
—                                  570
that's how Sarpedon, leader of the Lycian spearmen,                                      
   [490]
struggled as he died, calling to his dear companion:

"Glaucus, my friend, you warrior among men,
now you must really show yourself a spearman,
a true courageous fighter.  Now you must
embrace this evil war, if you're brave enough.
First, move around and urge the Lycian leaders
to make a stand here by Sarpedon.  And then,
you fight over me in person with your bronze.
I'll be a source of misery to you,                                                  
580
and shame as well, for all your days to come,  
if Achaeans strip my armour now I'm down                                           
[500]
among the fleet of ships.  So hold your ground
with force.  Spur on the army."

                                                               As he said this,
death's final end covered Sarpedon's eyes and nostrils.
Then Patroclus set his foot upon Sarpedon's chest,
pulled his spear out of the body.  The guts came with it.
So in the same moment he tugged out the spear point
and took Sarpedon's life. Myrmidons reined in the horses,
snorting in their eagerness to bolt, now they'd left                                
590
their master's chariot.

                              When Glaucus heard Sarpedon's voice,         
he was overcome with savage grief, his heart dismayed
that he could not have come to his assistance.
With his hand he grabbed and squeezed his wounded arm,                              
[510]
still painful from being hit by Teucer's arrow,
as he'd attacked him on that high defensive wall.
Teucer had been defending his companions
from disaster.  So Glaucus prayed then to Apollo:

"Hear me, my lord.  You may be in Lycia,
somewhere in that rich land, or here in Troy.                              
600
But you can hear a man's distress from anywhere.               
Bitter grief has now come in my heart.
For I have this cruel wound.  Sharp pains
run up and down my arm, the flow of blood
won't stop.  The wound wears out my shoulder,
so I can't grip my spear with any force,                                                  
[520]
or move to fight against our enemies.
And our finest man has perished
Sarpedon,
child of Zeus, who would not assist his son.
But, my lord, heal my savage wound at least,                              
610
and ease my pain. Give me strength, so I can call 
my Lycian comrades, urge them on to war,
and I can fight in person by the corpse
of our Sarpedon now he's dead."

                                                So Glaucus spoke in prayer.
Phoebus Apollo heard him.  He eased the pains at once,
stopped the dark blood flowing from the cruel wound,
and filled his chest with fighting strength.  In his heart
Glaucus recognized with joy that the great god                                                
[530]
had quickly heard his prayer.  First, he moved around
and spurred on Lycia's leading men in every spot                                  
620
to rally round Sarpedon.  Then, with long strides,                            
he went among the Trojans
to Polydamas,
son of Panthous, and brave Agenor.  He searched out
Aeneas and Hector dressed in bronze.  Approaching him,
he spoke
his words had wings:

                                                      "Hector,
now you're neglecting all your allies,
men who for your sake are far away from friends,
their native land, wasting their lives away.
You've no desire to bring assistance.                                                      
[540]
Sarpedon, leader of Lycian spearmen,                                         
630
lies dead, the man who protected Lycia     
with his judgment and his power
slaughtered
by Ares on the bronze spear of Patroclus.
My friends, stand by him, keep in your hearts
your sense of shame, in case the Myrmidons
strip off his armour and mutilate his corpse,
in their anger at the dead Danaans,
the ones killed by our spears at their fast ships."

Glaucus finished.  Trojans were completely overwhelmed
with grief
unendurable and inconsolable.                                             640
For Sarpedon had always fought to guard their city, 
although he was a distant stranger.  Many soldiers                                           
[550]
followed him, and he was pre-eminent in war.
Full of furious passion, they went at Danaans,
Hector in the lead, angry about Sarpedon.
But Patroclus, Menoetius' son, with his strong heart,
rallied the Achaeans.  He spoke first to the Ajaxes,
both eager for the fight:

                                                   "You two Ajaxes,
now you must get your joy protecting us,
as you've done before, but even better.                                       
650
The man who was the first to jump inside                              

Achaea's wall lies dead
Sarpedon.
We must try to mutilate the body,
to seize and strip the armour off its shoulders,                                       
[560]
slaughtering with our pitiless bronze
any of his comrades who defend him."

Patroclus spoke.  The Ajaxes both were fiercely eager
to fight off the enemy in person.  Then both sides
reinforced their ranks
Trojans and Lycians,
Achaeans and Myrmidons.  These forces struggled,                              
660
with terrific shouts across the dead man's corpse.
The warriors' armour rang out harshly.  Then Zeus,
to make the fight for his dear son more difficult,
spread ominous darkness over that fierce battle.

At first the Trojans pushed bright-eyed Achaeans back,
for they hit a man who was by no means the worst                                          
[570]
among the Myrmidons
noble Epeigeus,
son of great-hearted Agacles.  He'd once been king
of populous - 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 revised March 13, 2004]

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