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

The Adventure of Diomed and Ulysses

W HILE the other chiefs of the Greeks were sleeping that night, King Agamemnon was awake, for he had great trouble in his heart and many fears. When he looked towards Troy he saw the fires burning, and heard the sound of flutes and pipes, and the murmurs of many men, and he was astonished, for it seemed to him that the army of the Trojans was greater and stronger than it had ever been in times past. And when he looked towards the ships, he groaned and tore his hair, thinking what evils might come to his people. Then he thought to himself: "I will go and look for old Nestor; maybe he and I will think of something which may help us." So he rose from his bed, and put the sandals on his feet, and wrapped his coat about him, and put the skin of a lion round his shoulders, and a spear in his hand.

Now it so happened that Menelaüs could not sleep that same night, for he knew that it was on his account that the Greeks had come to Troy. So he arose from his bed, and wrapped the skin of a leopard about his shoulders and took a spear in his hand, and went to look for his brother. And when he found him, for, as has been said, he also had armed himself, he said: "What seek you? See you the Trojans there? Let us send a spy to find what they are doing, and how many there are of them, for I do not doubt that they are planning something against us. But is there any one who will dare to do such a thing, for, indeed, it is a great danger."

Agamemnon answered: "It is true, my brother, that we are in great trouble, and need good advice if we are to save the people. Surely Zeus has greatly changed his mind concerning us. There was a time when he favoured us, but now it is of his doing that Hector drives us before him in this fashion. Never did I see a man so manifestly strengthened by Zeus, and yet he is but a man, having neither a god for his father, nor goddess for his mother. But go now call the chiefs to counsel, and I will go to Nestor."

So the chiefs were called, and Nestor said: "First let us see whether the watch are sleeping or waking." So they went the round of the wall, and found the watchmen not sleeping but waking. As a dog that hears the sound of a wild beast in the wood, so they looked towards the plain, thinking to hear the feet of the Trojans. Old Nestor was glad to see them and said: "You do well, my children, lest we become a prey to our enemies."

After this they passed over the trench and sat down in an open place that was clear of dead bodies, for here it was that Hector had turned back from slaying the Greeks when darkness came over the earth. And Nestor rose up and said: "Is there now a man who will go among the Trojans and spy out what it is in their mind to do? Such a one will win great honour to himself, and the King will give him many gifts."

Diomed stood up in his place and said: "I will go, but it is well that I should have some one with me. For to have a companion gives a man courage and comfort; also two wits are better than one."

Many were willing to go with Diomed. And Agamemnon, fearing for his brother Menelaüs, for he offered himself among others, said: "Choose, O Diomed, the man whom you would most desire to have with you; think not of any man's birth or rank; choose only him whom you would best like for a companion."

Then Diomed said: "If I may have my choice, Ulysses shall go with me. He is brave, and he is prudent, and Athené loves him."

Ulysses answered: "Do not praise me too much, nor blame me too much. But let us go, for the night is far spent."

So the two armed themselves. Diomed took a two-edged sword and a shield, and a helmet without a crest, for such is not easy to be seen. Ulysses took a bow with a quiver full of arrows and a sword, and for a helmet a cap of hide, with the white teeth of a wild boar round it. Then they both prayed to Athené that she would help them. That being done, they set out and went through the night, like to two lions, and they trod on dead bodies and arms and blood.

Meanwhile Hector was thinking about the same thing, how that it would be well to find out what the Greeks were doing, and what they were planning for the next day. So he called the chiefs of the Trojans and the allies to a council and said: "Who now will go and spy among the Greeks, and see whether they are keeping a good watch, and find out, if he can overhear them talking together, what they mean to do to-morrow. Such a man shall have a great reward, a chariot, that is to say, with two horses, the best that there is in the whole camp of the Greeks."

Then there stood up a certain Dolon. He was the son of a herald, the only son of his father, but he had five sisters. He was an ill-favoured man, but a swift runner. Dolon said: "I will go, O Hector, but I want a great reward, even the horses of Achilles, for these are the best in the whole camp of the Greeks. Do you lift up your sceptre and swear that you will give me these, and none other."

It was a foolish thing, for who was Dolon that he should have the chariot and horses of the great Achilles? And Hector knew this in his heart; nevertheless he lifted up his sceptre, and swore that he would give to Dolon these horses and none others. Then Dolon armed himself. He took his bow, and a cap of wolf's skin for a helmet, and a sharp spear, and went his way, nor did he try to go quickly, for he did not think that any one from the camp of the Greeks would be abroad. So Ulysses heard his steps and said to Diomed: "Here comes a man; maybe he is a spy, maybe he is come to spoil the dead bodies. Let him pass by, that we may take him, for we must not suffer him to go back to the city."

So the two lay down among the dead bodies on the plain, and Dolon passed by them, not knowing that they were there. And after he had gone fifty yards or so, then they rose up and ran after him. He heard the noise of running and stood still, thinking to himself: "Hector has sent men after me; perhaps he wishes me to go back." And this, indeed, he would gladly have done, for he was beginning to be afraid. But when they were but a spear's throw from him, he saw that they were Greeks, and fled. And the two ran after him, as two dogs follow a fawn or a hare; and though he was swift of foot he could not outrun them, nor could they come up to him, but they kept him from turning back to the city. But when they were near the trench, then Diomed called out to the man: "Stop, or I will slay you with my spear." And he threw his spear, not meaning to kill the man, but to frighten him, making it pass over his shoulder, so that it stood in the ground before him. When Dolon saw the spear he stood still, and his teeth chattered with fear. And the two came up to him, breathing hard, for they had been running fast. Then said Dolon, weeping as he spoke: "Do not kill me; my father will pay a great ransom for me, if he hears that you are keeping me at your ships; much gold and bronze and iron will he pay for my life."

Ulysses answered: "Be of good cheer. Tell us truly why you were coming through the darkness. Was it to spoil the dead, or did Hector send you to spy out what was going on at the ships, or was it on some private business of your own?"

Dolon answered: "Hector persuaded me to go, promising that he would give me the chariot and horses of Achilles. And I was to spy out what you had in your minds to do on the morrow and whether you were keeping watch."

Ulysses laughed when the man spoke of the chariot and horses of Achilles. "Truly," he said, "it was a grand reward that you deserved. The horses of Achilles are hard to manage except a man be the son of a god or a goddess. But tell me, where is Hector? and what watch does the Trojan keep?"

Dolon answered: "When I came away from the camp of the Trojans, Hector was holding council with the chiefs close to the tomb of Ilus. As for the watches, there are none set, except in that part of the camp where the Trojans are. As for the allies, they sleep without caring for watches, thinking that the Trojans will do this for them."

Then Ulysses asked again: "Do the allies then sleep among the Trojans or apart?"


Diomed and Ulysses Returning with the Spoils of Rhesus

Then Dolon told him about the camp, who were in this place and who were in that. "But," he went on, "if you would know where you may best make your way into the camp and not be seen, go to the furthest part upon the left. There are newcomers, men from Thrace, with Rhesus their king. Never have I seen horses so big and so fine as his. And they are whiter than snow, and swifter than the wind. But now send me to the ships, or, if you cannot do that, having no one to take me, bind me and leave me."

But Diomed said: "Think not, Dolon, that we will suffer you to live, though, indeed, you have told us that which we desired to know. For then you would come again to spy out our camp, or, maybe, would fight with us in battle. But if we kill you, then you will trouble us no more."

So they killed him, and stripped him of his arms. These they hung on a tamarisk tree that there was in the place, makig a mark with reeds and branches that they might know the place when they came back. Then they went on to the camp of the Trojans, and found the place of which Dolon had told them. There the men of Thrace lay asleep, each man with his arms at his side. And in the midst of the company lay King Rhesus, with his chariot at his side, and the horses tethered to the rail of the chariot. Then Diomed began to slay the men as they slept. He was like a lion in the middle of a fold full of sheep, so fierce and strong was he, and they so helpless. Twelve men he slew, and as he slew them, Ulysses dragged thir bodies out of the way, that there might be a clear road for the horses, for horses are wont to start aside when they see a dead body lying in the way. And "these maybe," so he thought to himself, "are not used to war." Twelve men did Diomed slay, and King Rhesus the thirteenth, as he lay and panted in his sleep, for he had a bad dream at the very time Diomed slew him. Meanwhile Ulysses had unbound the horses from the chariot and driven them out of the camp. With his bow he struck them, for he had not thought to take the whip from the chariot. And when he had got the horses clear, then he whistled, for a sign to Diomed that he should come without more delay, for well he knew that Diomed would not easily be satisfied with slaying. And truly, the man was lingering, doubting whether he might not kill yet more. But Athené whispered in his ear: "Think of your return; maybe some god will rouse the Trojans against you."

And indeed, Apollo was rousing them. The cousin of King Rhesus awoke and seeing the place of the horses empty, cried out, calling the King. So all the camp was roused. But Diomed and Ulysses mounted the horses and rode to the camp of the Greeks. Right glad were their comrades to see them and to hear the tale of what they had done.

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