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Homer The Iliad

Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Stephen Mitchell

FREE PRESS New York London Toronto Sydney New Delhi

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or one of your brothers wives, or Athenas temple. She went to the tower as soon as she heard the news that our army was overwhelmed. She was in a total frenzy and rushed offit seemed as if she was out of her mindand the nurse went with her, holding the baby.

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At these words, Hector ran from the house, back along the route he had taken, through the broad streets of Troy. He had crossed the city and come to the Scaean Gates, where soon he would make his way out onto the plain, when breathlessly his wife came running to meet him, Andromache, King tions noble daughter (he had ruled the Cilcians in Theb under the wooded 400 slopes of Mount Placus). Now she ran up to meet him, and behind her a handmaid came who was holding the child in her arms, an infant, cooing and gurgling, Hectors beloved son, as beautiful as a star. Though Hector had named him Scamndrius, everyone called him Astanax, Lord of the City, because his father seemed to them all the one defender of Troy. Hector smiled as he looked at the boy in silence. Andromache came even closer and stood beside him weeping and said to him, taking his hand in hers, 410 My dearest, this reckless courage of yours will destroy you. Have pity now on your little boy and on me, your unfortunate wife, who before long will be your widow. Soon the Achaeans will kill you, and when you are gone, it will be far better for me to die and sink down under the earth, since once you have met your fate I will have no comfortonly unending sorrow. I have no one else. My father and mother are dead. Achilles cut down my father when he took Theb, though he didnt strip off his armorrespect touched his heart 420 and he couldnt do thathe burned his body with all his beautiful war gear and heaped a mound over his ashes, and the nymphs of the mountain planted elm trees around it. I had seven brothers, who lived in my fathers palace, and all of them, on the very same day, went down

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to the realm of Hades; Achilles slaughtered them all while they were tending their sheep and their lumbering oxen. As for my mother, the queen of our proud city, he carried her here along with the rest of his spoils, then set her free, in exchange for a huge ransom; but rtemis shot her down in her fathers halls. Hector, you are my everything now: my father, my mother, my brotherand my beloved husband. Have pity on me. Stay with me here on the tower. Dont make your child an orphan, your wife a widow. Hector answered her, Dearest, what you have said troubles me too. Yet I would feel terrible shame at facing the men and the long-robed women of Troy if, like a coward, I shrank from the fighting. Nor can I: my heart would never allow that; it is my place to be brave and scorn danger and always fight in the front line, winning great fame for my father and for myself. But however it is, deep in my heart I know that a day will come when the sacred city of Troy will be devastated, and Priam, and Priams people. And yet it is not their anguish that troubles me so, nor Hecubas, nor even my father, King Priams, nor the blood of the many brave brothers of mine who will fall in the dirt at the hands of their enemiesthat is nothing compared to your grief, when I picture you being caught by some bronze-armored Achaean who claims you and takes your freedom away and carries you off in tears. Then, all your life, in the Argives land, you will work long days, bent over the loom of some stern mistress or carrying water up from her wellhating it but having no choice, for harsh fate will press down upon you. And someone will say, as he sees you toiling and weeping, That is the wife of Hector, bravest of all the Trojans, tamers of horses, when the great war raged around Troy. And then a fresh grief will flood your heart, and you will start sobbing again at the thought of the only man who was able to ward off your bondage.

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But may I be dead, with the cold earth piled up upon me, before I can hear you wail as they drag you away. Then Hector reached out to take his son, but the child shrank back, screaming, into his nurses arms, scared by the flashing bronze and the terrible horsehair crest that kept shaking at him from the peak of the helmet. At this, his father and mother both burst out laughing; and right away Hector took off his helmet and laid it, glittering, on the ground. And he picked up the child, dandled him in his arms and stroked him and kissed him and said this prayer to Zeus and the other immortals: Zeus and you other gods who can hear my prayer, grant that this child, this boy of mine, may grow up to be as I am, outstanding among the Trojans, strong and brave, and rule over Troy with great power. And let people say of him, He is a better man than his father was, as they see him returning from battle, having killed his enemy, carrying back in triumph the gore-stained armor to gladden his mothers heart.

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He handed the child to his wife then, and she took him to her fragrant breast and smiled with tears in her eyes. And looking at her, her husband was touched with pity, and he stroked her face, and he said, My foolish darling, please do not take these things so greatly to heart. No man shall send me to Hades before my time, and no man, I promise, has ever escaped his fate from the moment that he was born, whether brave man or coward. Go now, return to our house and your daily work 490 at loom and spindle; command your women as well to go about their work. The men must take care of the fighting all men of Troy, but I more than any other. As he said this, Hector picked up his gleaming helmet with its horsehair crest. Andromache walked home, slowly, and she stopped many times, turning around to look back and bitterly weeping. And when she came to the palace

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of man-killing Hector, she found all her handmaids inside, and they burst into lamentation. So, in his own house, they mourned for Hector even though he was alive, for they thought that he would never return from the fighting or escape from the deadly hands of the Achaeans. Paris did not remain in his palace for long. Once he had put on his beautiful inlaid armor he rushed through the city, confident of his swift legs. Just as a stabled horse who has fully eaten breaks his tether and gallops across the plain, eager to have a swim in the fast-flowing river, and exults as he runshe holds his head high, and his mane streams in the wind, and he runs on, aware of his own magnificence, to the fields where the mares are at pasture: so Paris ran down from the height of Prgamus, shining in his armor like sunlight, exulting, laughing out loud, and his swift legs carried him onward. And right away he caught up with Hector, as he was leaving the spot where he just had been speaking so tenderly with his wife. Paris said, Here I am, Brother; I must have delayed you by taking so long and not coming as fast as you wished. And Hector answered, What kind of warrior are you? No man of any sense could ever belittle your exploits in war, since you are such a brave fighter; but then you slack off and willfully hang back from battle and my heart is grieved when I hear the contemptuous words of our men, who endure such hardship because of you. But come. Later on, we will make these things right, if someday Zeus grants that we celebrate, drinking wine in our halls in thanks to the gods for our freedomif we should ever manage to drive the Achaeans away from Troy.

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