Calling on Achilles

Homer, Iliad 9.182-204.

They made their way along the shore of the crashing sea,
praying earnestly to Earth-Bearer Earthquaker
that it would be easy to sway Aeacus’s proud-hearted kin.
They arrived at the Myrmidon huts and ships
and found him lifting his spirits with the lyre,
one with clear notes, handsome, ornate, its bridge made of silver.
He had taken it from the spoils of Eetion’s sacked city,
and with it he cheered himself up, singing of men’s famous deeds.
Only Patroclus sat with him, and in silence
he waited for the grandson of Aeacus to end his song.

The party stepped forward, noble Odysseus in the lead.
Now they stood before him. Achilles jumped up, flabbergasted.
He had left his seat, but held his lyre.
When Patroclus saw the men he too reacted, and stood.
Fast-footed Achilles welcomed them:
“Greetings! Dear men have come (the need must be great!),
the Achaeans I love most, even in my anger.”

After these words, noble Achilles ushered the party in
and seated them on couches and purple carpets.
He told Patroclus who was standing near:
“Set out the mixing bowl, son of Menoitius!
Mix the wine quite strong! A cup for each man!
Those I love most are under my roof!”

τὼ δὲ βάτην παρὰ θῖνα πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
πολλὰ μάλʼ εὐχομένω γαιηόχῳ ἐννοσιγαίῳ
ῥηϊδίως πεπιθεῖν μεγάλας φρένας Αἰακίδαο.
Μυρμιδόνων δʼ ἐπί τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἱκέσθην,
τὸν δʼ εὗρον φρένα τερπόμενον φόρμιγγι λιγείῃ
καλῇ δαιδαλέῃ, ἐπὶ δʼ ἀργύρεον ζυγὸν ἦεν,
τὴν ἄρετʼ ἐξ ἐνάρων πόλιν Ἠετίωνος ὀλέσσας·
τῇ ὅ γε θυμὸν ἔτερπεν, ἄειδε δʼ ἄρα κλέα ἀνδρῶν.
Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ,
δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων,
τὼ δὲ βάτην προτέρω, ἡγεῖτο δὲ δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
στὰν δὲ πρόσθʼ αὐτοῖο· ταφὼν δʼ ἀνόρουσεν Ἀχιλλεὺς
αὐτῇ σὺν φόρμιγγι λιπὼν ἕδος ἔνθα θάασσεν.
ὣς δʼ αὔτως Πάτροκλος, ἐπεὶ ἴδε φῶτας, ἀνέστη.
τὼ καὶ δεικνύμενος προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς·
χαίρετον· ἦ φίλοι ἄνδρες ἱκάνετον ἦ τι μάλα χρεώ,
οἵ μοι σκυζομένῳ περ Ἀχαιῶν φίλτατοί ἐστον.
ὣς ἄρα φωνήσας προτέρω ἄγε δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
εἷσεν δʼ ἐν κλισμοῖσι τάπησί τε πορφυρέοισιν.
αἶψα δὲ Πάτροκλον προσεφώνεεν ἐγγὺς ἐόντα·
μείζονα δὴ κρητῆρα Μενοιτίου υἱὲ καθίστα,
ζωρότερον δὲ κέραιε, δέπας δʼ ἔντυνον ἑκάστῳ·
οἳ γὰρ φίλτατοι ἄνδρες ἐμῷ ὑπέασι μελάθρῳ.

Face mask depicting Achilles playing the lyre before Patroclus et al.
A Gerard de Lairesse is selling it for $17.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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