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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 23

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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Achilles, admonished in a dream by the ghost of his friend, celebrates the funeral of Patroclus.


Thus they indeed were mourning through the city; but the Greeks, as soon as they reached the ships and the Hellespont, were separated each to his own ship. But Achilles did not permit the Myrmidons to be dispersed, but he spoke amongst his warlike companions [thus]:

"Ye swift-horsed Myrmidons, comrades dear to me, let us not yet loose the solid-hoofed steeds from under our chariots, but with the very horses and chariots, going near, let us bewail Patroclus; for this is the honour of the dead. But when we have indulged[720] sad lamentation, unyoking our steeds, we will all sup here."

Thus he spoke; but they mourned in a body; and Achilles led the way. Thrice they drove their fair-maned steeds around the body,[721] grieving; and among them Thetis kindled a longing for lamentation. Moistened were the sands, and moistened were the arms of the men with tears; for so brave a master of the flight they longed. But among them the son of Peleus led the abundant lamentation, laying his man-slaughtering hands upon the breast of his companion:

[Footnote 720: Excellently paraphrased by Gaza: [Greek: Epeidan de tou olethriou threnou apolausomen]. Ernesti well observes that [Greek: tetarpomestha] implies "delight mingled with satiety."]

[Footnote 721: This was a frequent rite at funerals. Cf. Apollon. Rh. i. 1059; Virg. Aen. xi. 188, sqq.; Heliodor. Ethiop. iii. p. 136: [Greek: Epeide to mnema tou Neoptolemou periestoichesato e pompe, kai triton oi epeboi ten ippon perielasan, eloluxan men ai gunaikes, lalaxan de oi andres]. Among the Romans this rite was called decursio. Cf. Liv. xxv. 17: Tacit. Ann. ii. 7; Sueton. Claud. Sec. i. According to Plutarch, Alexander the Great performed the same honours at the tomb of Achilles, that Achilles had bestowed upon the manes of his friend Patroclus. See also Bernart on Stat. Theb. vi. 217.]

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