Achilles glowered at Agamemnon and said,
“Clothed as you are in shamelessness and deceit,
how can any Achaean follow your orders
to go on a mission or risk his life in this war?
I didn’t come here to Troy because of the Trojans.
I have no quarrel with them; they have done me no harm. 160
They have never ridden off with my horses or cattle,
nor on the rich plains of Phthia, my native country,
have they cut down and stolen my harvests; too many miles
stretch out between us—high mountains and thundering sea.
We followed you here for your sake, not for our own;
we all came to win back Menelaus’s honor
and yours too, dog-face. You don’t even mention that.
And now you threaten to carry away my prize,
which I worked for so hard and which the whole army gave me.
My prizes are never like yours whenever we take 170
and plunder one of the Trojans’ richly stocked towns;
although it is my strong hands that have won the battles,
when it comes to dividing the spoils, you always get
the biggest prize, while the prize that I take to my ships,
having worn myself out in the fighting, is small, though precious.
Now I will sail home to Phthia; there is no point
in staying here with my ships. I refuse to keep on
piling up riches for your sake, while I am dishonored.”
Then Agamemnon answered him with these words:
“Fine—go home, if that is the way you feel. 180
I will not beg you to stay. There are many others
who will help me regain my honor, especially Zeus.
And to tell the truth, no man, of all the commanders
gathered here, is as hateful to me as you are,
because you are steeped in strife and contention and fighting.
If you are a great warrior, that is the gift of a god.
Go home, and take all your ships and your precious companions,
and lord it over the Myrmidons, back in your province.
I care nothing for you; your anger cannot affect me.
But I promise you this: When the god takes Chryséïs from me, 190
I will come to your hut in person and take your prize,
that girl Briséïs. And then you will understand
how much greater I am than you are—and anyone else
will think twice before he challenges me as an equal.”
He stood there, glaring. Fury came over Achilles.
He could not move. His mind was paralyzed: should he
draw his sword and plow through the ranks and plunge it
into the king’s heart? Or should he try to choke off
his own rage? And while he pondered this, slowly drawing
the sword from its sheath, Athena came down from heaven, 200
sent by Hera, who loved and cared for them both.
She stood right behind him and seized him by his blond hair.
In deep amazement, Achilles wheeled round, and at once
he knew the goddess: her terrible blazing eyes.
(No one else, among the assembly, could see her.)
When Achilles was able to speak, he said, “Why now,
daughter of Zeus, have you come here? Is it to see
the intolerable contempt of King Agamemnon?
I am telling you, and I promise that it will happen:
Soon he will pay for this insolence with his life.” 210
To this, the goddess, gray-eyed Athena, answered,
“I have come to hold back your blind rage. Hera sent me.
Enough: abandon this quarrel; put up your sword.
Attack him with words instead; and I promise that someday
because of this insult, three times as many gifts
will be granted to you. But hold back now, and obey us.”
Achilles answered her, “Goddess, a man must do
what you two require, though his heart is seething with fury.
Whoever obeys the gods, the gods will favor.”
So, with his massive hand on the silver pommel, 220
he thrust the great sword back into its sheath, as Athena
had commanded him to. But she had already left
to join the other immortals, in Zeus’s palace.