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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 21

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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Having divided the Trojan army, Achilles drives one part towards the city, and the other into the Xanthus, where he takes twelve youths alive, in order to sacrifice them at the tomb of Patroclus. He then slays Lycaon and Asteropaeus, deriding the river-god, Xanthus, as unable to aid his friends. The river endeavours to overwhelm him by the aid of Simois, but Vulcan defends him from the danger. Single combats of the gods then follow, but they afterwards retire to Olympus. Apollo then leads Achilles away, assuming the form of Agenor, and the Trojans are thus enabled to regain the city.


But when they at last reached the course of the fairly-flowing river, the eddying Xanthus, which immortal Jove begat; there separating them, he pursued some indeed through the plain towards the city, by the [same] way that the Greeks, on the preceding day, being astounded, had fled, when illustrious Hector raged. By that way were they poured forth terrified; but Juno expanded a dense cloud before them, to check them: but the other half were rolled into the deep-flowing river, with silver eddies. But they fell in with a great noise; and the deep streams resounded, and the banks around murmured; but they, with clamour, swam here and there, whirled about in the eddies.[668] As when locusts, driven by the force of fire, fly into the air, to escape to a river, but the indefatigable fire, suddenly kindled, blazes, and they fall, through terror into the water: thus, by Achilles, was the resounding river of deep-eddied Xanthus filled promiscuously with horses and men. But the Jove-sprung [hero] left his spear upon the banks, leaning against a tamarisk; and he leaped in, like unto a god, having only his sword, and meditated destructive deeds in his mind. And he smote on all sides, and a shocking lamentation arose of those who were stricken by the sword, and the water was reddened with blood. And, as when the other fish, flying from a mighty dolphin, fill the inmost recesses of a safe-anchoring harbour, frightened; for he totally devours whatever he can catch; so the Trojans hid themselves in caves along the streams of the terrible river. But he, when he was wearied as to his hands, slaying, chose twelve youths alive out of the river, a penalty for dead Patroclus, the son of Menoetius. These he led out [of the river], stupified, like fawns. And he bound their hands behind them[669] with well-cut straps, which they themselves bore upon their twisted tunics; and gave them to his companions to conduct to the hollow ships. But he rushed on again, desiring to slay.

[Footnote 668: Virg. Aen. i. 118: "Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto." With the following description may be compared Aesch. Ag. 670: [Greek: Oromen anthoun pelagos Aigaion nekron andron Achaion nautikon t' ereipion]. Aristid. Panath. p. 142: [Greek: Os de eora ten thalattan aimati kai rothio reousan, kai panta nekron kai nayagion mesta].]

[Footnote 669: As was customary with captives. Cf. Virg. Aen. ii. 57, and Moll. on Longus, ii. 9.]

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