Achilles Reflects on War

Homer, Iliad. 9.308-322.

“Child of Zeus, son of Laertes, savvy Odysseus,
I need to speak with total frankness, and say
exactly what I think and how this will go.
That should stop your stereophonic badgering.
As ghastly to me as Hades’ gates is the man
who hides one thing in his heart and says another.
I instead will say what I think is best:

“I don’t foresee the son of Atreus, Agamemnon,
or any other Danaan, bringing me around.
It was thankless work, endless warring against determined men:
there was equal share for shirker and fierce fighter;
the same respect for coward and brave;
and, a common death for the shiftless and the doer.
There was no reward for what my heart suffered
in always risking life and limb for war.”

διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη πολυμήχανʼ Ὀδυσσεῦ
χρὴ μὲν δὴ τὸν μῦθον ἀπηλεγέως ἀποειπεῖν,
ᾗ περ δὴ φρονέω τε καὶ ὡς τετελεσμένον ἔσται,
ὡς μή μοι τρύζητε παρήμενοι ἄλλοθεν ἄλλος.
ἐχθρὸς γάρ μοι κεῖνος ὁμῶς Ἀΐδαο πύλῃσιν
ὅς χʼ ἕτερον μὲν κεύθῃ ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἄλλο δὲ εἴπῃ.
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐρέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα·
οὔτʼ ἔμεγʼ Ἀτρεΐδην Ἀγαμέμνονα πεισέμεν οἴω
οὔτʼ ἄλλους Δαναούς, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἄρα τις χάρις ἦεν
μάρνασθαι δηΐοισιν ἐπʼ ἀνδράσι νωλεμὲς αἰεί.
ἴση μοῖρα μένοντι καὶ εἰ μάλα τις πολεμίζοι·
ἐν δὲ ἰῇ τιμῇ ἠμὲν κακὸς ἠδὲ καὶ ἐσθλός·
κάτθανʼ ὁμῶς ὅ τʼ ἀεργὸς ἀνὴρ ὅ τε πολλὰ ἐοργώς.
οὐδέ τί μοι περίκειται, ἐπεὶ πάθον ἄλγεα θυμῷ
αἰεὶ ἐμὴν ψυχὴν παραβαλλόμενος πολεμίζειν.

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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