The Death of Achilleus (page 627)

Chapter 16, The Trojan War

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QS 3.60-185 – Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy

[70] From mortal sight he vanished into cloud, and cloaked with mist a baleful shaft he shot which leapt to Achilles’ ankle: sudden pangs with mortal sickness made his whole heart faint. He reeled, and like a tower he fell, that falls smit by a whirlwind when an earthquake cleaves a chasm for rushing blasts from underground; so fell the goodly form of Aeacus’ son. He glared, a murderous glance, to right, to left, [upon the Trojans, and a terrible threat] shouted, a threat that could not be fulfilled: “Who shot at me a stealthy-smiting shaft? Let him but dare to meet me face to face! So shall his blood and all his bowels gush out about my spear, and he be hellward sped! I know that none can meet me man to man and quell in fight — of earth-born heroes none, though such an one should bear within his breast a heart unquailing, and have thews of brass. But dastards still in stealthy ambush lurk for lives of heroes. Let him face me then! — ay! though he be a God whose anger burns against the Danaans! Yea, mine heart forebodes that this my smiter was Apollo, cloaked in deadly darkness. So in days gone by my mother told me how that by his shafts I was to die before the Scaean Gates a piteous death. Her words were not vain words.”

[98] Then with unflinching hands from out the wound incurable he drew the deadly shaft in agonized pain. Forth gushed the blood; his heart waxed faint beneath the shadow of coming doom. Then in indignant wrath he hurled from him the arrow: a sudden gust of wind swept by, and caught it up, and, even as he trod Zeus’ threshold, to Apollo gave it back; for it beseemed not that a shaft divine, sped forth by an Immortal, should be lost. He unto high Olympus swiftly came, to the great gathering of immortal Gods, where all assembled watched the war of men, these longing for the Trojans’ triumph, those for Danaan victory; so with diverse wills watched they the strife, the slayers and the slain.

[114] Him did the Bride of Zeus behold, and straight upbraided with exceeding bitter words: “What deed of outrage, Phoebus, hast thou done this day, forgetful of that day whereon to godlike Peleus’ spousals gathered all the Immortals? Yea, amidst the feasters thou sangest how Thetis silver-footed left the sea’s abysses to be Peleus’ bride; and as thou harpedst all earth’s children came to hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills, rivers, and all deep-shadowed forests came. All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought a ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man, albeit thou with other Gods didst pour the nectar, praying that he might be the son by Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer hast thou forgotten, favouring the folk of tyrannous Laomedon, whose kine thou keptest. He, a mortal, did despite to thee, the deathless! O, thou art wit-bereft! Thou favourest Troy, thy sufferings all forgot. Thou wretch, and doth thy false heart know not this, what man is an offence, and meriteth suffering, and who is honoured of the Gods? Ever Achilles showed us reverence — yea, was of our race. Ha, but the punishment of Troy, I ween, shall not be lighter, though Aeacus’ son have fallen; for his son right soon shall come from Scyros to the war to help the Argive men, no less in might than was his sire, a bane to many a foe. But thou — thou for the Trojans dost not care, but for his valour enviedst Peleus’ son, seeing he was the mightest of all men. Thou fool! how wilt thou meet the Nereid’s eyes, when she shall stand in Zeus’ hall midst the Gods, who praised thee once, and loved as her own son?”

[151] So Hera spake, in bitterness of soul upbraiding, but he answered her not a word, of reverence for his mighty Father’s bride; nor could he lift his eyes to meet her eyes, but sat abashed, aloof from all the Gods eternal, while in unforgiving wrath scowled on him all the Immortals who maintained the Danaans’ cause; but such as fain would bring triumph to Troy, these with exultant hearts extolled him, hiding it from Hera’s eyes, before whose wrath all Heaven-abiders shrank.

[162] But Peleus’ son the while forgat not yet war’s fury: still in his invincible limbs the hot blood throbbed, and still he longed for fight. Was none of all the Trojans dared draw nigh the stricken hero, but at distance stood, as round a wounded lion hunters stand mid forest-brakes afraid, and, though the shaft stands in his heart, yet faileth not in him his royal courage, but with terrible glare roll his fierce eyes, and roar his grimly jaws; so wrath and anguish of his deadly hurt to fury stung Peleides’ soul; but aye his strength ebbed through the god-envenomed wound. Yet leapt he up, and rushed upon the foe, and flashed the lightning of his lance; it slew the goodly Orythaon, comrade stout of Hector, through his temples crashing clear: his helm stayed not the long lance fury-sped which leapt therethrough, and won within the bones the heart of the brain, and spilt his lusty life. Then stabbed he ‘neath the brow Hipponous even to the eye-roots, that the eyeball fell to earth: his soul to Hades flitted forth. Then through the jaw he pierced Alcathous, and shore away his tongue: in dust he fell gasping his life out, and the spear-head shot out through his ear. These, as they rushed on him, that hero slew; but many a fleer’s life he spilt, for in his heart still leapt the blood.

[191] But when his limbs grew chill, and ebbed away his spirit, leaning on his spear he stood, while still the Trojans fled in huddled rout of panic, and he shouted unto them: “Trojan and Dardan cravens, ye shall not even in my death, escape my merciless spear, but unto mine Avenging Spirits ye shall pay — ay, one and all — destruction’s debt!”

[199] He spake; they heard and quailed: as mid the hills fawns tremble at a lion’s deep-mouthed roar, and terror-stricken flee the monster, so the ranks of Trojan chariot-lords, the lines of battle-helpers drawn from alien lands, quailed at the last shout of Achilles, deemed that he was woundless yet. But ‘neath the weight of doom his aweless heart, his mighty limbs, at last were overborne. Down midst the dead he fell, as fails a beetling mountain-cliff. Earth rang beneath him: clanged with a thundercrash his arms, as Peleus’ son the princely fell. And still his foes with most exceeding dread stared at him, even as, when some murderous beast lies slain by shepherds, tremble still the sheep eyeing him, as beside the fold he lies, and shrinking, as they pass him, far aloof and, even as he were living, fear him dead; so feared they him, Achilles now no more.  Greek Text

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

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