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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 17

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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Euphorbus, attempting to despoil Patroclus of his armour, is slain by Menelaus. It falls to the lot of Hector, but he retires on the approach of Ajax. Being rebuked by Glaucus, he returns, and a fierce contest is renewed over the body of Patroclus. The chariot of Achilles is bravely defended by Automedon, but the Greeks at last begin to give way, even Ajax being seized with consternation. Meriones and Menelaus, however, succeed in carrying off the body of Patroclus, although the Greeks are completely routed.


Nor did Patroclus, subdued in fight by the Trojans, escape the notice of the son of Atreus, Mars-beloved Menelaus; but he advanced through the foremost warriors, armed in glittering brass. And round him he walked, like a dam around its calf, having brought forth for the first time, moaning, not being before conscious of parturition: thus did yellow-haired Menelaus walk around Patroclus. But before him he extended his spear, and his shield on all sides equal, anxious to slay him, whoever indeed should come against him. Nor was the son of Panthus, of the good ashen spear, neglectful of blameless Patroclus, fallen; but he stood near him, and addressed warlike Menelaus:

"O Menelaus! son of Atreus, Jove-nurtured one, leader of the people, retire, and leave the body, and let alone the bloody spoils; for not any of the illustrious Trojans or allies smote Patroclus with the spear in the violent conflict before me. Wherefore permit me to bear away the great glory amongst the Trojans, lest I should strike thee, and take away thy sweet life."

But him yellow-haired Menelaus, very indignant, addressed:

"Father Jove, certainly it is not fitting to boast inordinately. Not so great is the might of a panther, nor a lion, nor of a destructive wild boar, whose most mighty courage rages in his heart, violently in its strength, as much as the sons of Panthus, of the good ashen spear, breathe forth. Nor did the might of horse-breaking Hyperenor enjoy his youth, when he reproached me, and withstood me; and said that I was the most reproachful warrior amongst the Greeks; nor did he, I think, returning upon his feet, gratify his dear wife and respected parents. Thus certainly will I dissolve thy strength, if thou wilt stand against me. But I advise thee, retiring, to go back into the crowd; nor do thou stand against me, before thou suffer any harm: for it is a fool that perceives a thing when it is done." [548]

[Footnote 548: Cf. Hesiod, Opp. 216: [Greek: Pathon de te nepios egno]. Plato, Sympos. p. 336, A.: [Greek: All' apo ton emeteron pathematon gnonta, eylabethenai, key me kata ten paroimian, oesper nepion, pathonta gnonai]. Aesch. Ag. 177: [Greek: Ton mathei mathos thenta kyrios echein—kai par' akontas elthe sophronein]. See Proclus on Hesiod, Opp. 89.]

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