Gateway to the Classics: The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
The Iliad for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church

How the Oath Was Broken

N OW, if the Trojans had kept the promise which they made, confirming it with an oath, it would have been well with them. But it was not to be. And this is how it came to pass that the oath was broken and the promise not kept.

Among the chiefs who came from the countries round about to help King Priam and the Trojans there was a certain Pandărus, son of the King of Lycia. He was a great archer, and could shoot an arrow as far and with as good an aim as any man in the army. To this Pandărus, as he stood waiting for what should next happen, there came a youth, a son of King Priam. Such indeed, he seemed to be, but in truth the goddess Athené had taken his shape, for she and, as has been before said, the goddess Hera hated the city of Troy, and desired to bring it to ruin.

The false Trojan came up to Pandărus, as he stood among his men, and said to him: "Prince of Lycia, dare you to shoot an arrow at Menelaüs? Truly the Trojans would love you well, and Paris best of all, if they could see Menelaüs killed with an arrow from your bow. Shoot at him as he stands, not thinking of any danger, but first vow to sacrifice a hundred beasts to Zeus, so soon as you shall get back to your own country."

Pandărus had a bow made out of the horns of a wild goat which he had killed. It was four feet long from end to end, and on each end there was a tip of gold on which the bow-string was fixed. While he was stringing his bow, his men stood round and hid him; and when he had strung it, he took an arrow from his quiver, and laid it on the string, and drew back the string till it touched his breast, and then let the arrow fly.

But though none of the Greeks saw what Pandărus was doing, Athené saw it, and she flew to where Menelaüs stood, and kept the arrow from doing him deadly hurt. She would not ward it off altogether, for she knew that the Greeks would be angry to see the King whom they loved so treacherously wounded, and would have no peace with the Trojans. So she guided it to where there was a space between the belt and the breastplate. There it struck the King, passing through the edge of the belt and through the garment that was under the belt and piercing the skin; and the red blood gushed out, and dyed the thighs and the legs and the ankles of the King, as a woman dyes a piece of white ivory to make an ornament for a king's war-horse.

Now Agamemnon was standing near, and when he saw the blood gush out he cried: "Oh, my brother, it was a foolish thing that I did, when I made a covenant with the Trojans, for they are wicked men and break their oaths. I know that they who do such things will suffer for them. Sooner or later the man who breaks his oath will perish miserably. Nevertheless, it will be a great shame and sorrow if you, my brother, should be killed in this way. For the Greeks will go to their homes saying: 'Why should we fight any more for Menelaüs, seeing that he is dead?' And the Fair Helen for whom we have been fighting these many years will be left behind; and one of these false Trojans will say when he sees the tomb of Menelaüs: 'Surely the great Agamemnon has not got that for which he came. For he brought a great army to destroy the city of Troy, but Troy still stands, and he and his army have gone back: only he has left his brother behind him.' "

But Menelaüs said: "Do not trouble yourself, my brother, for the wound is not deep. See here is the barb of the arrow."

Then King Agamemnon commanded that they should fetch Machāon, the great physician. So Machāon came, and drew the arrow out of the wound, and wiped away the blood, and put healing drugs upon the place, which took away all the pain.

After this King Agamemnon went through the army to see that it was ready for battle. When he found any one bestirring himself, putting his men in order, and doing such things as it was his duty to do, him he praised; and if he saw any one idle and slow to move, him he rebuked. When all was ready, then the host went forward. In silence it went; but the Trojans, on the other hand, were as noisy as a flock of sheep, which bleats when they hear the voice of the lambs.

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