The Landing: Protesilaos, Kyknos, and the Embassy to Troy (page 594)

Chapter 16, The Trojan War

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Kypria, epitome – Poetae Epici Graeci 1, p. 42, ed. A. Bernabé. Leipzig 1987.

Pindar, Olympian 2.82

Achilles, who laid low Hector, the irresistible, unswerving pillar of Troy, and who consigned to death Memnon the Ethiopian, son of the Dawn.  Greek Text

Pindar, Isthmian 5.39

Tell me, who killed Cycnus, and who Hector, [40] and the fearless commander of the Ethiopians, bronze-armed Memnon?  Greek Text

Aristophanes, Batrachoi (Frogs) 962-63

and I didn’t scare them,
creating Cycnuses and Memnons of the bell-cheeked steeds.  Greek Text

Sophokles, Poimenes fr 501 R – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta vol. 4, p. 396, ed. S.L. Radt. Göttingen 1977.

Sophokles, Poimenes fr 500 R – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta vol. 4, p. 396, ed. S.L. Radt. Göttingen 1977.

neither bronze nor iron takes hold of (someone’s) flesh (Transl. T. Gantz)

Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.22.12

By common I mean, for instance, praising Achilles because he is a man, or one of the demigods, or because he went on the expedition against Troy; for this is applicable to many others as well, so that such praise is no more suited to Achilles than to Diomedes. By particular I mean what belongs to Achilles, but to no one else; for instance, to have slain Hector, the bravest of the Trojans, and Cycnus, who prevented all the Greeks from disembarking, being invulnerable; to have gone to the war when very young, and without having taken the oath; and all such things.  Greek Text

Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.72-144

The Sigean shores
grew red with death-blood: Cygnus, Neptune‘s son,
there slew a thousand men: for which, in wrath,
Achilles pressed his rapid chariot
straight through the Trojan army; making a lane
with his great spear, shaped from a Pelion tree.
And as he sought through the fierce battle’s press,
either for Cygnus or for Hector, he
met Cygnus and engaged at once with him
(Fate had preserved great Hector from such foe
till ten years from that day).

Cheering his steeds,
their white necks pressed upon the straining yoke,
he steered the chariot towards his foe,
and, brandishing the spear with his strong arm,
he cried, “Whoever you may be, you have
the consolation of a glorious death
you die by me, Haemonian Achilles!”

His heavy spear flew after the fierce words.
Although the spear was whirled direct and true,
yet nothing it availed with sharpened point.
It only bruised, as with a blunted stroke,
the breast of Cygnus! “By report we knew
of you before this battle, goddess born.”
The other answered him, “But why are you
surprised that I escape the threatened wound?”
(Achilles was surprised). “This helmet crowned,
great with its tawny horse-hair, and this shield,
broad-hollowed, on my left arm, are not held
for help in war: they are but ornament,
as Mars wears armor. All of them shall be
put off, and I will fight with you unhurt.
It is a privilege that I was born
not as you, of a Nereid but of him
whose powerful rule is over Nereus,
his daughters and their ocean.” So, he spoke.

Immediately he threw his spear against Achilles,
destined to pierce the curving shield through brass,
and through nine folds of tough bull’s hide.
It stopped there, for it could not pierce the tenth.
The hero wrenched it out, and hurled again
a quivering spear at Cygnus, with great strength.
The Trojan stood unwounded and unharmed.
Nor did a third spear injure Cygnus, though
he stood there with his body all exposed.
Achilles raged at this, as a wild bull
in open circus, when with dreadful horns
he butts against the hanging purple robes
which stir his wrath and there observes how they
evade him, quite unharmed by his attack.

Achilles then examined his good spear,
to see if by some chance the iron point
was broken from it, but the point was firm,
fixed on the wooden shaft. “My hand is weak,”
he said, “but is it possible its strength
forsook me though it never has before?
For surely I had my accustomed strength,
when first I overthrew Lyrnessus’ walls,
or when I won the isle of Tenedos
or Thebes (then under King Eetion)
and I drenched both with their own peoples’ blood,
or when the river Caycus ran red
with slaughter of its people, or, when twice
Telephus felt the virtue of my spear.
On this field also, where such heaps lie slain,
my right hand surely has proved its true might;
and it is mighty.”

So he spoke of strength,
remembered. But as if in proof against
his own distrust, he hurled a spear against
Menoetes, a soldier in the Lycian ranks.
The sharp spear tore the victim’s coat of mail
and pierced his breast beneath. Achilles, when
he saw his dying head strike on the earth
wrenched the same spear from out the reeking wound,
and said, “This is the hand, and this the spear
I conquered with; and I will use the same
against him who in luck escaped their power;
and the result should favor as I pray
the helpful gods.”

And, as he said such words,
in haste he hurled his ashen spear, again
at Cygnus. It went straight and struck unshunned.
Resounding on the shoulder of that foe,
it bounced back as if it hit a wall
or solid cliff. Yet when Achilles saw
just where the spear struck, Cygnus there
was stained with blood. He instantly rejoiced;
but vainly, for it was Menoetes’ blood!
Then in a sudden rage, Achilles leaped
down headlong from his lofty chariot;
and, seeking his god-favored foe, he struck
in conflict fiercely, with his gleaming sword.
Although he saw that he had pierced both shield
and helmet through, he did not harm the foe—
his sword was even blunted on the flesh.

Achilles could not hold himself for rage,
but furious, with his sword-hilt and his shield
he battered wildly the uncovered face
and hollow-temples of his Trojan foe.
Cygnus gave way; Achilles rushed on him,
buffeting fiercely, so that he could not
recover from the shock. Fear seized upon
Cygnus, and darkness swam before his eyes.
Then, as he moved back with retreating steps,
a large stone hindered him and blocked his way.
His back pushed against this, Achilles seized
and dashed him violently to the ground.
Then pressing with buckler and hard knees the breast
of Cygnus, he unlaced the helmet thongs,
wound them about the foeman’s neck and drew
them tightly under his chin, till Cygnus‘ throat
could take no breath of life. Achilles rose
eager to strip his conquered foe but found
his empty armor, for the god of ocean
had changed the victim into that white bird
whose name he lately bore.  Latin Text

Apollodoros, Epitome 3.31

On the death of Protesilaus, Achilles landed with the Myrmidons, and throwing a stone at the head of Cycnus, killed him.  Greek Text

Hellanikos 4F148 – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 142, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Hesiod, Ehoiai (Catalogue of Women) fr 237 MW – Fragmenta Hesiodea, p. 116, ed. R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford 1967.

Kypria, epitome – Poetae Epici Graeci 1, p. 42, ed. A. Bernabé. Leipzig 1987.

Homer, Iliad 3.205-24

for erstwhile on a time goodly Odysseus came hither also on an embassy concerning thee, together with Menelaus, dear to Ares; and it was I that gave them entertainment and welcomed them in my halls, and came to know the form and stature of them both and their cunning devices. Now when they mingled with the Trojans, as they were gathered together, [210] when they stood Menelaus overtopped him with his broad shoulders; howbeit when the twain were seated Odysseus was the more royal. But when they began to weave the web of speech and of counsel in the presence of all, Menelaus in truth spake fluently, with few words, but very clearly, seeing he was not a man of lengthy speech [215] nor of rambling, though verily in years he was the younger. But whenever Odysseus of many wiles arose, he would stand and look down with eyes fixed upon the ground, and his staff he would move neither backwards nor forwards, but would hold it stiff, in semblance like a man of no understanding; [220] thou wouldest have deemed him a churlish man and naught but a fool. But whenso he uttered his great voice from his chest, and words like snowflakes on a winter’s day, then could no mortal man beside vie with Odysseus; then did we not so marvel to behold Odysseus’ aspect.”  Greek Text

Homer, Iliad 11.122-42

Then took he Peisander and Hippolochus, staunch in fight. Sons were they of wise-hearted Antimachus, who above all others in hope to receive gold from Alexander, goodly gifts, [125] would not suffer that Helen be given back to fair-haired Menelaus. His two sons lord Agamemnon took, the twain being in one car, and together were they seeking to drive the swift horses, for the shining reins had slipped from their hands, and the two horses were running wild; but he rushed against them like a lion, [130] the son of Atreus, and the twain made entreaty to him from the car: “Take us alive, thou son of Atreus, and accept a worthy ransom; treasures full many he stored in the palace of Antimachus, bronze and gold and iron, wrought with toil; thereof would our father grant thee ransom past counting, [135] should he hear that we are alive at the ships of the Achaeans.” So with weeping the twain spake unto the king with gentle words, but all ungentle was the voice they heard: “If ye are verily the sons of wise-hearted Antimachus, who on a time in the gathering of the Trojans, when Menelaus [140] had come on an embassage with godlike Odysseus, bade slay him then and there, neither suffer him to return to the Achaeans, now of a surety shall ye pay the price of your father’s foul outrage.”  Greek Text

Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, January 2023

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