Athena appears to Achilles

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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.


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