XV HECTOR KILLS PATROKLOS

                                         XV

 

Who was the first of the great Trojan champions to go down before the attack of Patroklos? The first was Sarpedon who had come with an army to help Hector from a City beyond Troy. He saw the Myrmidons fight round the ships and break the ranks of the Trojans and put out a fire on a half-burnt ship. He saw that the warrior who looked like Achilles frightened the Trojans so that they turned their horses’ heads towards the City. The Myrmidons swept on with Patroklos at their head. When he saw him rushing down from the ships Sarpedon threw a spear at Patroklos. The spear did not strike him. Then Patroklos threw a spear and struck Sarpedon in the heart. He fell dead from his chariot and there began a battle for his body.the Trojans wanted to carry it into the City, so that they could bury with all honour the man who had helped them, and the Greeks wanted to carry it away, so that, having his body and his armour, the killing of Sarpedon might be more of a triumph for them.’

‘So a battle for his body went on. Now Sarpedon’s comrade, Glaukos, looked for Hector, who was fighting in another part of the battle field, and he spoke to him reproachfully. “Hector,” he said, “have you completely forgotten those who came from their own country to help you protect your father’s City? Sarpedon has fallen, and Achilles’ Myrmidons want to strip him of his armour and bring his body to the ships so that their triumph over him may be greater still. It will be disgraceful to you, Hector, if they succeed.”‘

‘When Hector heard this he did not delay, but came straight to the spot where Sarpedon had been killed. He instantly killed the Greek who had his hands on the body. But as he fought on it suddenly seemed to Hector that the gods had decided to give victory to the Greeks, and his spirit grew weary and hopeless. He turned his horses’ heads towards the City and galloped from the battle. Then the Trojans who were fighting round it fled from the body of Sarpedon, and the Greeks took it and stripped it of its armour and carried the body to their ships.’

‘It was then that Patroklos forgot the command of Achilles—the command that he was not to bring the battle beyond the ships and that he was to return when the Trojans were beaten towards their City. Patroklos forgot all that, and he shouted to the immortal horses, Xanthos and Balios, that drew his chariot, and, killing warrior after warrior he swept across the plain and came to the very gates of Troy.’

‘ Hector was inside the gates and had not yet left his chariot. Then Apollo appeared before him as a mortal. “Hector,” he said, “why have you fled from the fight? Look, Patroklos is outside the gate of your father’s City. Turn your horses against him now and try to kill him, and may the gods give you glory.”‘

‘Then Hector told his charioteer drive his horses through the gate and into the battle. He drew near to Patroklos, and Patroklos, leaping down from his chariot, seized a great stone and threw it at Hector’s charioteer. It struck him on the head and knocked him from the chariot.’

‘Hector too leaped from the chariot and took his sword in hand. Their men joined Patroklos and Hector and the battle began beside the body of Hector’s charioteer. Three times Patroklos charged the ranks of the Trojans and he killed nine warriors each time. But the doom of Patroklos was near. A warrior hit him in the back and struck the helmet from his head. With its high horse-hair crest it rolled beneath the hooves of the horses. Who was it who hit Prince Patroklos then? Men said it was the god Apollo who would not allow the sacred City of Troy taken until the time the gods had willed it to fall.’

‘The spear fell from his hands, the great shield that Achilles had given him dropped on the ground, and Patroklos stood in amazement. He retreated towards his comrades. Then Hector struck the blow that finished him. With his great spear he struck and drove it through the body of Patroklos.’

‘Then Hector cried out, “Patroklos, you swore that you would take our sacred city and that you would take from our people their freedom. Now you have fallen and our city need not fear you ever again!”‘

‘Then Patroklos said, “You may boast now, Hector, although it was not you that hurt me. It was Apollo that sent me down. Boast of my slaying if you like, but remember this, your fate too is measured and Achilles will kill you.”‘

But Hector did not listen to what the dying Patroklos said. He took the armour of Achilles that had been a gift from the gods from his body. He would have brought the body too inside the city so that his triumph might be greater, but now Aias came to where Patroklos had fallen and he placed his great shield over the body. The fight went on and Hector  put on the armour he had stripped off the body of Patroklos. The armour fitted every limb and joint and as he put it on more courage and strength than ever yet he had felt came into the soul of Hector.’

‘The immortal horses that Patroklos had driven, having galloped from the battle, stood apart and would not move despite all that their charioteer did. They stood apart with their heads bowed, and tears flowed from their eyes down on the ground. Zeus, the greatest of the gods, saw them and had pity upon them and spoke to himself saying, “Ah, immortal horses, why did I give you to king Peleus, whose generations die while you remain young and undying? Was it so that you should know the sorrows that befall mortal men? Pitiful, indeed, is the lot of all men on the earth. Even Hector now, who boasts in the armour that the gods once gave, will shortly go down to his death and the city he defends will be burned with fire.”‘

‘He put courage into the hearts of the immortal horses and they went where the charioteer wanted them to go, and they came safely out of the battle.’

‘ Hector, with the armour of Achilles on him, gathered his companies together and brought them up to the battle to win and carry away the body of Patroklos. But anyone who tried to seize that body was instantly killed by Aias. All day the battle went on, and the Greeks said to each other, “Comrades, let the earth yawn and swallow us rather than let the Trojans carry off the body of Patroklos.” And on their side the Trojans would say, “Friends, it would be better for all of us to be killed together beside this man than let one of us go backward now.”‘

‘ Nestor’s son, Antilochos, who was fighting on the left of the battlefield, heard of the killing of Patroklos. His eyes filled with tears and his voice was choked with grief and he dashed out of the battle to bring the bad news to the hut of Achilles. ” Patroklos is fallen,” he cried, “and Greeks and Trojans are fighting around his body. His body is naked now, for Hector has stripped the armor from it.”‘

Then Achilles fainted away. He woke again and moaned terribly. His goddess-mother heard the sound of his grief as she sat within the depths of the Ocean. She came to him as he was still moaning terribly. She took his hand and said, “My child, why do you weep?” Achilles stopped his moaning and answered, “Patroklos, my dear friend, has been killed. Now I shall have no joy in my life except the joy of killing Hector who killed my friend.”‘

‘Thetis, his goddess-mother, wept when she heard such speech from Achilles. “You will be short lived, my son,” she said, “for it has been decided by the gods that after the death of Hector your death will come.”‘

‘” Then let me die straightway,” said Achilles, “since I let my friend die without giving him help. I wish I had not let my anger overcome my spirit! Here I stayed, a useless burden on the earth, while my comrades and my own dear friend fought for their country. I, who am the best of all the Greeks, stayed here. But now let me go into the battle and let the Trojans know that Achilles has come back.”‘

“But your armour, my son,” said Thetis. “You have no armour now to protect you in the battle. Do not go into battle until you see me again. In the morning I shall return and I shall bring you armour that Hephaistos, the smith of the gods, will make for you.”‘

‘Then she turned from her son, and went to Olympus where the gods live.’

‘Darkness had come down on those who battled round the body of Patroklos, and in that darkness more Greeks than Trojans were killed. It seemed to the Greeks that Zeus had decided to give the victory to the Trojans and not to them, and they were dismayed. But four Greek heroes lifted up the body and put it on their shoulders, and Aias and his brother stood facing the Trojans, holding them back while the four tried to carry the body away. The Trojans pressed on, striking with swords and axes, but Aias and his brother held their ground.’

‘Achilles still lay in his hut, moaning in his grief. The day went on and the battle continued and Hector fought against Aias and his brother. Then the figure of a goddess appeared before Achilles as he lay on the ground. “Get up, Achilles,” she said, “or Hector will drag the body of your friend Patroklos into Troy.”‘

‘Achilles said, “Goddess Iris, how can I go into the battle since the Trojans hold the armour that should protect me?”‘

‘ Iris, the Messenger of the gods ,said, “Go down to the wall as you are and show yourself to the men of Troy, and it may be that they will flee on seeing you and hearing your voice, and so give those who defend the body of Patroklos a breathing space.”‘

‘Then she departed. Achilles arose and went down to the wall that had been built around the ships. He stood on the wall and shouted across the trench, and friends and foes saw him and heard his voice. Around his head a flame of fire arose such as was never seen before around the head of a mortal man. Seeing the flame of fire around his head and hearing his terrible voice the Trojans were frightened and stood still. Then the Greeks picked up the body of Patroklos and carried it out of the battle.’