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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 10

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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Diomede and Ulysses, as spies, penetrate the camp of the Trojans by night, and first entrap and slay Dolon, who had set out on the same errand for the Trojans. Having obtained from him the desired information, they then attack the Thracians, and slay their king, Rhesus, while asleep. At the suggestion of Minerva, they then return to the camp.


The other chiefs, indeed, of all the Greeks were sleeping the whole night at the ships, overcome by soft slumber; but sweet sleep possessed not Agamemnon, the son of Atreus, shepherd of the people, revolving many things in his mind. As when the husband of fair-haired Juno thunders, preparing either an abundant, immense shower, or hail or snow, when the snow whitens the fields; or somewhere [preparing] the wide mouth[332] of bitter war; so frequently groaned Agamemnon in his breast from the bottom of his heart, and his mind was troubled within him. As often indeed as he looked towards the Trojan plain, he wondered at the many fires which were burning before Ilium, the sound of flutes and pipes, and the tumult of men. But when he looked towards the ships and army of the Greeks, he tore up many hairs from his head by the roots,[333] [enraged at] Jove who dwells aloft, and deeply he groaned in his noble heart. But this plan appeared best to him in his judgment; to repair first to Neleian Nestor, [and see] whether with him he might contrive some blameless counsel, which might be an averter of evil. Rising, therefore, he wrapped his coat around his breast, and beneath his smooth feet bound the beautiful sandals; next he threw around him the blood-stained skin of a huge, tawny[334] lion, stretching to his ankles, and grasped his spear. In like manner, a tremor possessed Menelaus, for neither did sleep rest upon his eyelids, [through fear] lest the Greeks should suffer aught, who on his account had come over the wide sea to Troy, waging daring war. First with a spotted leopard's skin he covered his broad back; and next, lifting his brazen helmet, placed it upon his head, and grasped a spear in his stout hand. But he went to awaken his brother, who had the chief command of all the Greeks, and was honoured by the people like a god. Him he found by the prow of his ship, putting his bright armour around his shoulders; and arriving, he was welcome to him. Him first Menelaus, valiant in the din of war, addressed: "Why arm thus, my respected brother? Or whom dost thou urge of thy companions to go as a spy amongst the Trojans? In truth I very much fear that no one will undertake this deed, going alone through the dead of night to reconnoitre the enemy. Any one [who does so] will be bold-hearted indeed."

[Footnote 332: Cicero pro Arch. Sec. 5, "Totius belli ore ac faucibus."]

[Footnote 333: Or "one after another." Schol.: [Greek: ep' allelous, e prorrizous]. See Merrick on Tryphiodor. 388; Alberti on Hesych. t. ii. p. 1029.]

[Footnote 334: Or, "active, raging." The other interpretation is, however, favoured by Virg. Aen. ii. 721: "Fulvique insternor pelle leonis."]

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