In Focus: Iliad 19, lines 76–138

cover|76 Then Agamemnon, the king of men, spoke up at their meeting, |77 right there from the place where he was sitting, not even standing up in the middle of the assembly. |78 “Near and dear ones,” said he, “Danaan [= Achaean] heroes, attendants [therapontes] of Arēs! |79 It is a good thing to listen when a man stands up to speak, and it is not seemly |80 to speak in relay after him. [9] It would be hard for someone to do that, even if he is a practiced speaker. |81 For how could any man in an assembly either hear anything when there is an uproar |82 or say anything? Even a public speaker who speaks clearly will be disconcerted by it. |83 What I will do is to make a declaration addressed to [Achilles] the son of Peleus. As for the rest of you |84 Argives [= Achaeans], you should understand and know well, each one of you, the words [mūthos] that I say for the record. |85 By now the Achaeans have been saying these words [mūthos] to me many times, |86 and they have been blaming me. But I am not responsible [aitios]. |87 No, those who are really responsible are Zeus and Fate [Moira] and the Fury [Erinys] who roams in the mist. |88 They are the ones who, at the public assembly, had put savage derangement [atē] into my thinking [phrenes] |89 on that day when I myself deprived Achilles of his honorific portion [geras]. |90 But what could I do? The god is the one who brings everything to its fulfillment [teleutân]. |91 That goddess Atē, senior daughter of Zeus—she makes everyone veer off-course [aâsthai], |92 that disastrous one [oulomenē], the one who has delicate steps. She never makes contact with the ground of the threshold, |93 never even going near it, but instead she hovers over the heads of men, bringing harm to mortals. |94 In her harmfulness, she has incapacitated others as well [besides me], and I have in mind one person in particular. |95 Yes, once upon a time even Zeus veered off-course [aâsthai], who is said to be the best |96 among men and gods. Even he |97 was deceived; Hērā did it, with her devious ways of thinking, female that she is. |98 It happened on the day when the mighty Hēraklēs |99 was about to be born of Alkmene in Thebes, the city garlanded by good walls. |100 He [= Zeus], making a formal declaration [eukhesthai], spoke up at a meeting of all the gods and said: |101 “hear me, all gods and all goddesses, |102 and let me say to you what the heart [thūmos] in my chest tells me to say. |103 Today the goddess who presides over the pains of childbirth, Eileithuia, will help bring forth a man into the light, |104 revealing him, and he will be king over all the people who live around him. |105 He comes from an ancestral line of men who are descended from blood that comes from me.” |106 Thinking devious thoughts, the goddess Hērā addressed him [= Zeus]: |107 “You will be mistaken, and you will not be able to make a fulfillment [telos] of the words [mūthos] that you have spoken for the record. |108 But come, Olympian god, swear for me a binding oath: |109 swear that he will really be king over all the people who live around him, |110 I mean, the one who on this day shall fall to the ground between the legs of a woman |111 who is descended from men who come from your line of ancestry, from blood that comes from you.” |112 So she spoke. And Zeus did not at all notice [noeîn] her devious thinking, |113 but he swore a great oath. And right then and there, he veered off-course [aâsthai] in a big way. |114 Meanwhile, Hērā sped off, leaving the ridges of Olympus behind, |115 and swiftly she reached Achaean Argos. She knew that she would find there |116 the strong wife of Sthenelos son of Perseus. |117 She was pregnant with a dear son, and she was in her sixth [10] month. |118 And she brought him forth into the light, even though he was still premature in his months. |119 Meanwhile she put a pause on the time of delivery for Alkmene, holding back the divine powers of labor, the Eileithuiai. |120 And then she herself went to tell the news to Zeus the son of Kronos, saying: |121 “Zeus the father, you with the gleaming thunderbolt, I will put a word into your thoughts: |122 there has just been born a man, a noble one, who will be king over the Argives. |123 He is Eurystheus son of Sthenelos son of Perseus. |124 He is from your line of ancestry, and it is not unseemly for him to be king over the Argives.” |125 So she spoke, and he was struck in his mind [phrēn] with a sharp sorrow [akhos]. |126 And right away he grabbed the goddess Atē by the head—that head covered with luxuriant curls— |127 since he was angry in his thinking [phrenes], and he swore a binding oath |128 that never will she come to Olympus and to the starry sky |129 never again will she come back, that goddess Atē, who makes everyone veer off-course [aâsthai]. |130 And so saying he threw her down from the starry sky, |131 having whirled her around in his hand. And then she [= Atē] came to the fields where mortals live and work. |132 He [= Zeus] always mourned the fact that she ever existed, every time he saw how his own dear son |133 was having one of his degrading Labors [āthloi] to work on. |134 So also I [= Agamemnon], while the great Hector, the one with the gleaming helmet, |135 was destroying the Argives [= Achaeans] at the sterns of the beached ships, |136 was not able to keep out of my mind the veering [atē] I experienced once I veered off-course [aâsthai]. |137 But since I did veer off-course [aâsthai] and since Zeus took away from me my thinking, |138 I now want to make amends, and to give untold amounts of compensation.”

(trans. Gregory Nagy, Hour 1 Text C, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours)

|76 τοῖσι δὲ καὶ μετέειπεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων |77 αὐτόθεν ἐξ ἕδρης, οὐδ’ ἐν μέσσοισιν ἀναστάς· |78 ὦ φίλοι ἥρωες Δαναοὶ θεράποντες Ἄρηος |79 ἑσταότος μὲν καλὸν ἀκούειν, οὐδὲ ἔοικεν |80 ὑββάλλειν· χαλεπὸν γὰρ ἐπισταμένῳ περ ἐόντι. |81 ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐν πολλῷ ὁμάδῳ πῶς κέν τις ἀκούσαι |82 ἢ εἴποι; βλάβεται δὲ λιγύς περ ἐὼν ἀγορητής. |83 Πηλεΐδῃ μὲν ἐγὼν ἐνδείξομαι· αὐτὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι |84 σύνθεσθ’ Ἀργεῖοι, μῦθόν τ’ εὖ γνῶτε ἕκαστος. |85 πολλάκι δή μοι τοῦτον Ἀχαιοὶ μῦθον ἔειπον |86 καί τέ με νεικείεσκον· ἐγὼ δ’ οὐκ αἴτιός εἰμι, |87 ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς καὶ Μοῖρα καὶ ἠεροφοῖτις Ἐρινύς, |88 οἵ τέ μοι εἰν ἀγορῇ φρεσὶν ἔμβαλον ἄγριον ἄτην, |89 ἤματι τῷ ὅτ’ Ἀχιλλῆος γέρας αὐτὸς ἀπηύρων. |90 ἀλλὰ τί κεν ῥέξαιμι; θεὸς διὰ πάντα τελευτᾷ. |91 πρέσβα Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἄτη, ἣ πάντας ἀᾶται, |92 οὐλομένη· τῇ μέν θ’ ἁπαλοὶ πόδες· οὐ γὰρ ἐπ’ οὔδει |93 πίλναται, ἀλλ’ ἄρα ἥ γε κατ’ ἀνδρῶν κράατα βαίνει |94 – βλάπτουσ’ ἀνθρώπους· κατὰ δ’ οὖν ἕτερόν γε πέδησε. |95 καὶ γὰρ δή νύ ποτε Ζεὺς ἄσατο, τόν περ ἄριστον |96 ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ θεῶν φασ’ ἔμμεναι· ἀλλ’ ἄρα καὶ τὸν |97 Ἥρη θῆλυς ἐοῦσα δολοφροσύνῃς ἀπάτησεν, |98 ἤματι τῷ ὅτ’ ἔμελλε βίην Ἡρακληείην |99 Ἀλκμήνη τέξεσθαι ἐϋστεφάνῳ ἐνὶ Θήβῃ. |100 ἤτοι ὅ γ’ εὐχόμενος μετέφη πάντεσσι θεοῖσι· |101 κέκλυτέ μευ πάντές τε θεοὶ πᾶσαί τε θέαιναι, |102 ὄφρ’ εἴπω τά με θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἀνώγει. |103 σήμερον ἄνδρα φόως δὲ μογοστόκος Εἰλείθυια |104 ἐκφανεῖ, ὃς πάντεσσι περικτιόνεσσιν ἀνάξει, |105 τῶν ἀνδρῶν γενεῆς οἵ θ’ αἵματος ἐξ ἐμεῦ εἰσί. |106 τὸν δὲ δολοφρονέουσα προσηύδα πότνια Ἥρη· |107 ψευστήσεις, οὐδ’ αὖτε τέλος μύθῳ ἐπιθήσεις. |108 εἰ δ’ ἄγε νῦν μοι ὄμοσσον Ὀλύμπιε καρτερὸν ὅρκον, |109 ἦ μὲν τὸν πάντεσσι περικτιόνεσσιν ἀνάξειν |110 ὅς κεν ἐπ’ ἤματι τῷδε πέσῃ μετὰ ποσσὶ γυναικὸς |111 τῶν ἀνδρῶν οἳ σῆς ἐξ αἵματός εἰσι γενέθλης. |112 ὣς ἔφατο· Ζεὺς δ’ οὔ τι δολοφροσύνην ἐνόησεν, |113 ἀλλ’ ὄμοσεν μέγαν ὅρκον, ἔπειτα δὲ πολλὸν ἀάσθη. |114 Ἥρη δ’ ἀΐξασα λίπεν ῥίον Οὐλύμποιο, |115 καρπαλίμως δ’ ἵκετ’ Ἄργος Ἀχαιικόν, ἔνθ’ ἄρα ᾔδη |116 ἰφθίμην ἄλοχον Σθενέλου Περσηϊάδαο. |117 ἣ δ’ ἐκύει φίλον υἱόν, ὃ δ’ ἕβδομος ἑστήκει μείς· |118 ἐκ δ’ ἄγαγε πρὸ φόως δὲ καὶ ἠλιτόμηνον ἐόντα, |119 Ἀλκμήνης δ’ ἀπέπαυσε τόκον, σχέθε δ’ Εἰλειθυίας. |120 αὐτὴ δ’ ἀγγελέουσα Δία Κρονίωνα προσηύδα· |121 Ζεῦ πάτερ ἀργικέραυνε ἔπος τί τοι ἐν φρεσὶ θήσω· |122 ἤδη ἀνὴρ γέγον’ ἐσθλὸς ὃς Ἀργείοισιν ἀνάξει |123 Εὐρυσθεὺς Σθενέλοιο πάϊς Περσηϊάδαο |124 σὸν γένος· οὔ οἱ ἀεικὲς ἀνασσέμεν Ἀργείοισιν. |125 ὣς φάτο, τὸν δ’ ἄχος ὀξὺ κατὰ φρένα τύψε βαθεῖαν· |126 αὐτίκα δ’ εἷλ’ Ἄτην κεφαλῆς λιπαροπλοκάμοιο |127 χωόμενος φρεσὶν ᾗσι, καὶ ὤμοσε καρτερὸν ὅρκον |128 μή ποτ’ ἐς Οὔλυμπόν τε καὶ οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα |129 αὖτις ἐλεύσεσθαι Ἄτην, ἣ πάντας ἀᾶται. |130 ὣς εἰπὼν ἔρριψεν ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος |131 χειρὶ περιστρέψας· τάχα δ’ ἵκετο ἔργ’ ἀνθρώπων. |132 τὴν αἰεὶ στενάχεσχ’ ὅθ’ ἑὸν φίλον υἱὸν ὁρῷτο |133 ἔργον ἀεικὲς ἔχοντα ὑπ’ Εὐρυσθῆος ἀέθλων. |134 ὣς καὶ ἐγών, ὅτε δ’ αὖτε μέγας κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ |135 Ἀργείους ὀλέκεσκεν ἐπὶ πρυμνῇσι νέεσσιν, |136 οὐ δυνάμην λελαθέσθ’ Ἄτης ᾗ πρῶτον ἀάσθην. |137 ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ ἀασάμην καί μευ φρένας ἐξέλετο Ζεύς, |138 ἂψ ἐθέλω ἀρέσαι, δόμεναί τ’ ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα.

Iliad 19, lines 76–138

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Footnotes (from The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours):

[9] The previous speaker was Achilles.

[10] In the original Greek, with its inclusive counting system (which has no concept of zero), the numbering is ‘seventh’.