Three Latin Fragments from Ajax’ s Speech Against Odysseus: Lucius Accius’ Lost Arms

The mythical and poetic traditions around the Trojan War make the Judgment of the Arms (the contest for Achilles’ weapons between Odysseus and Ajax) a common motif in art and literature. The Roman Tragedian Accius had his own version. Here are some fragments.


“His words [i.e. Achilles’] speak clearly, if you understand them.
He commands that his weapons be given to the kind of man
Who bore them, if we desire to overpower Pergamum.
I declare that I am that man, that it is right for me to use
The weapons of my kin, that they be allotted to me
Either because I am his relative or his rival in bravery.”

Aperte fatur dictio, si intellegas:
Tali dari arma, qualis qui gessit fuit,
Iubet, potiri si studeamus Pergamum.
Quem ego me profiteor esse, me est accum frui
Fraternis armis mihique adiucarier
Vel quod propinquus vel quod virtuti aemulus.


“This man [Odysseus] was the only man who ignored the sworn oath
Which he took first and you all made together.
He tried to pretend to be insane to avoid the fighting.
If observant Palamedes in his wisdom
Had not noticed the malicious daring of this coward
The law of sacred oath would be meaningless forever.”

Cuius ipse princeps iuris iurandi fuit
Quod omnes seitis, solus neglexit fidem;
Furere adsimulare, ne coiret, institit
Quod ni Palamedi perspicax prudentia
Istius percepset malitosam audaciam,
Fide sacratae ius perpetuo falleret.


“Yeah, saw you, Ulysses, breaking Hector on a rock.
I watched you defending the Greek fleet with your shield,
While I, trembling, clamored for shameful flight.”

Vidi, te, Ulixes, saxo sternentem Hectora,
Vidi tegentem clipeo classem Doricam;
Ego tunc pudendum trepidus hortabar fugam.

2 thoughts on “Three Latin Fragments from Ajax’ s Speech Against Odysseus: Lucius Accius’ Lost Arms

  1. Two observations: 1) only the third fragment could be ascribed to Accius’ Armorum Iudicium (the others have been traditionally included in Pacuvius’ Armorum Iudicium); 2) in the third fragment, the text is “pudendam” (vs. pudendum); moreover we read two variae lectiones “trepidus / pedibus”

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