Iliad, Book XXIII

From Body Shaker

Iliad by Homer, Book XXIII, 653-749

Then set [Achilles] forth prizes for grievous boxing. A sturdy mule he brought and tethered in the place of gathering, a mule of six years, unbroken, the which is hardest of all to break; and for him that should be worsted he appointed a two-handled cup. Then he stood up, and spake among the Argives, saying: “Son of Atreus, and ye other well-greaved Achaeans, for these prizes we invite warriors twain, the best there are, to lift up their hands and box amain. Let him to whom Apollo shall grant strength to endure, and all the Achaeans have knowledge thereof, go his way to his hut leading the sturdy muIe; but he that is worsted shall bear as his prize the two-handled cup.” So spake he, and forthwith uprose a man valiant and tall, well-skilled in boxing, even Epeius, son of Panopeus; and he laid hold of the sturdy mule, and spake, saying:“Let him draw nigh, whoso is to bear as his prize the two-handled cup : the mule I deem that none other of the Achaeans shall lead away, by worsting me with his fists, for I avow me to be the best man. Sufficeth it not that I fall short in battle? One may not, meseemeth, prove him a man of skill in every work. For thus will I speak, and verily this thing shall be brought to pass : utterly will I rend his flesh and crush his bones. Wherefore let them that be next of kin abide here in a throng, that they may bear him forth when worsted by my hands.” So spake he, and they all became hushed in silence. Euryalus alone uprose to face him, a godlike man, son of king Mecisteus, son of Talaus, who on a time had come to Thebes for the burial of Oedipus, when he had fallen, and there had worsted all the sons of Cadmus. And Tydeus’ son, famed for his spear, made Euryalus ready, heartening him with words, and much he wished for him victory. A girdle first he cast about him, and thereafter gave him well-cut thongs of the hide of an ox of the field. So the twain, when they had girded themselves, stepped into the midst of the place of gathering, and lifting their mighty hands on high one against the other, fell to, and their hands clashed together in heavy blows. Dread then was the grinding of their teeth, and the sweat flowed on every side from off their limbs, but upon him goodly Epeius rushed as he peered for an opening, and smote him on the cheek, nor after that, methinks, did he long stand upright, for even there did his glorious limbs sink beneath him. And as when beneath the ripple of the North Wind a fish leapeth up on the tangle-strewn sand of a shallow, and then the black wave hideth it, even so leapt up Euryalus when he was smitten. But great-souled Epeius took him in his hands and set him on his feet, and his dear comrades thronged about him and led him through the place of gathering with trailing feet, spitting out clotted blood and letting his head hang to one side; and they brought him wandering in his wits and set him down in the midst of their company, and themselves went and fetched the two-handled cup.

Then the son of Peleus forthwith ordained in the sight of the Danaans other prizes for a third contest, even for toilsome wrestling — for him that should win, a great tripod to stand upon the fire, that the Achaeans prized amongst them at the worth of twelve oxen; and for him that should be worsted he set in the midst a woman of manifold skill in handiwork, and they prized her at the worth of four oxen. And he stood up and spake among the Argives saying:“Up now, ye twain that will make essay likewise in this contest.” So spake he, and thereat arose great Telamonian Aias, and up stood Odysseus of many wiles, he of guileful mind. Then the twain, when they had girded themselves, stepped into the midst of the place of gathering, and laid hold each of the other in close grip with their mighty hands, even as the gable-rafters of a high house, which some famous craftsman joineth together, that he may have shelter from the might of the winds. And their backs creaked beneath the violent tugging of bold hands, and the sweat flowed down in streams; and many a weal, red with blood, sprang up along their ribs and shoulders; and ever they strove amain for victory, to win the fashioned tripod. Neither might Odysseus avail to trip Aias and throw him to the ground, nor Aias him, for the mighty strength of Odysseus held firm. But when at the last they were like to weary the well-greaved Achaeans, then unto Odysseus spake great Telamonian Aias, saying:“Zeus-born, son of Laertes, Odysseus of many wiles, lift thou me, or let me lift thee; but the issue shall rest with Zeus.” He spake, and lifted him; but Odysseus forgat not his guile. He smote with a sure blow the hollow of Aias’ knee from behind, and loosed his limbs, so that he was thrown backward, and Odysseus fell upon his chest; and the people gazed thereon and were seized with wonder. Then in his turn the much-enduring goodly Odysseus essayed to lift, and moved him a little from the ground, but lifted him not, howbeit he crooked his knee within that of Aias, and upon the ground the twain fell one hard by the other, and were befouled with dust. And now would they have sprung up again for the third time and have wrestled, but that Achilles himself uprose, and held them back: “No longer strain ye now, neither be worn with pain. Victory is with you both; take then equal prizes and go your ways, that other Achaeans too may strive.” So spake he, and they readily hearkened to him and obeyed, and wiping from their bodies the dust they put upon them their tunics.

Then the son of Peleus straightway set forth other prizes for fleetness of foot: a mixingbowl of silver, richly wrought; six measures it held, and in beauty it was far the goodliest in all the earth, seeing that Sidonians, well skilled in deft handiwork, had wrought it cunningly, and men of the Phoenicians brought it over the murky deep, and landed it in harbour, and gave it as a gift to Thoas; and as a ransom for Lycaon, son of Priam, Jason’s son Euneos gave it to the warrior Patroclus. This bowl did Achilles set forth as a prize in honour of his comrade, even for him whoso should prove fleetest in speed of foot.

The complete text of Iliad from The Perseus Project

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