Homer breaks off with the burial of Hector, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arctinus, entitled the Æthiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege.
Continuing Fall of Troy,
our selection from History of Greece by George Grote published in 1846. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Fall of Troy.
Time: 1184 BC
A period of comparative intermission, however, was now at hand for the Trojans. The gods brought about the memorable fit of anger of Achilles, under the influence of which he refused to put on his armor, and kept his Myrmidons in camp. According to the Cypria this was the behest of Zeus, who had compassion on the Trojans: according to the Iliad, Apollo was the originating cause, from anxiety to avenge the injury which his priest Chryses had endured from Agamemnon. For a considerable time, the combats of the Greeks against Troy were conducted without their best warrior, and severe, indeed, was the humiliation which they underwent in consequence. How the remaining Grecian chiefs vainly strove to make amends for his absence — how Hector and the Trojans defeated and drove them to their ships — how the actual blaze of the destroying flame, applied by Hector to the ship of Protesilaus, roused up the anxious and sympathizing Patroclus, and extorted a reluctant consent from Achilles to allow his friend and his followers to go forth and avert the last extremity of ruin — how Achilles, when Patroclus had been killed by Hector, forgetting his anger in grief for the death of his friend, reëntered the fight, drove the Trojans within their walls with immense slaughter, and satiated his revenge both upon the living and the dead Hector, — all these events have been chronicled, together with those divine dispensations on which most of them are made to depend, in the immortal verse of the Iliad.
Homer breaks off with the burial of Hector, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arctinus, entitled the Æthiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege. The poem of Quintus Smyrnæus, composed about the fourth century of the Christian era, seems in its first books to coincide with Æthiopis, in the subsequent books partly with the Ilias Minor of Lesches.
The Trojans, dismayed by the death of Hector, were again animated with hope by the appearance of the warlike and beautiful queen of the Amazons, Penthesilia, daughter of Ares, hitherto invincible in the field, who came to their assistance from Thrace at the head of a band of her country-women. She again led the besieged without the walls to encounter the Greeks in the open field; and under her auspices the latter were at first driven back, until she, too, was slain by the invincible arm of Achilles. The victor, on taking off the helmet of his fair enemy as she lay on the ground, was profoundly affected and captivated by her charms, for which he was scornfully taunted by Thersites; exasperated by this rash insult, he killed Thersites on the spot with a blow of his fist. A violent dispute among the Grecian chiefs was the result, for Diomedes, the kinsman of Thersites, warmly resented the proceeding; and Achilles was obliged to go to Lesbos, where he was purified from the act of homicide by Odysseus.
Next arrived Memnon, son of Tithonus and Eos, the most stately of living men, with a powerful band of black Ethiopians, to the assistance of Troy. Sallying forth against the Greeks, he made great havoc among them: the brave and popular Antilochus perished by his hand, a victim to filial devotion in defence of Nestor. Achilles at length attacked him, and for a long time the combat was doubtful between them: the prowess of Achilles and the supplication of Thetis with Zeus finally prevailed; while Eos obtained for her vanquished son the consoling gift of immortality. His tomb, however, was shown near the Propontis, within a few miles of the mouth of the river Æsopus, and was visited annually by the birds called Memnonides, who swept it and bedewed it with water from the stream. So the traveler Pausanias was told, even in the second century after the Christian era, by the Hellespontine Greeks.
But the fate of Achilles himself was now at hand. After routing the Trojans and chasing them into the town, he was slain near the Scæan gate by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the unerring auspices of Apollo. The greatest efforts were made by the Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was, however, rescued and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valor of Ajax and Odysseus. Bitter was the grief of Thetis for the loss of her son; she came into the camp with the Muses and the Nereids to mourn over him; and when a magnificent funeral-pile had been prepared by the Greeks to burn him with every mark of honor, she stole away the body and conveyed it to a renewed and immortal life in the island of Leuce in the Euxine Sea. According to some accounts he was there blest with the nuptials and company of Helen.
Thetis celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of her son, and offered the unrivalled panoply which Hephæstus had forged and wrought for him as a prize to the most distinguished warrior in the Grecian army. Odysseus and Ajax became rivals for the distinction, when Athene, together with some Trojan prisoners, who were asked from which of the two their country had sustained greatest injury, decided in favor of the former. The gallant Ajax lost his senses with grief and humiliation: in a fit of frenzy he slew some sheep, mistaking them for the men who had wronged him, and then fell upon his own sword.
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