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Allegory of The Cave

from “The Republic”

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by Plato

“And now,” I said, “let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or


-Behold! human beings housed in an underground cave, which has a long entrance

towards the light and as wide as the interior of the cave; here they have been from

their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained, so that they cannot move

and can only see before them, being prevented by the from turning around their

heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire

and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall

built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them,

over which they see the puppets.”

“I see.”

“And do you see,” I said, “men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels,

and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials,

which appear over the wall? While carrying their burdens, some of them, as you

would expect, are talking, others silent.”

“You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.”

“Like ourselves,” I replied, “for in the first place do you think they have seen

anything of themselves, and of one another, except the shadows which the fire

throws on the opposite wall of the cave?”

“How could they do so,” he asked, “if throughout their lives they were never

allowed to move their heads?”

“And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the


“Yes,” he said.

“And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that

the things they saw were the real things?”

“Very true.”

“And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side,

would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice

which they heard came from the passing shadow?”

“No question,” he replied.

“To them,” I said, “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the


“That is certain.”

“And now look again, and see what manner they would be released from their

bonds, and cured of their error, whether the process would naturally be as follows.

At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn

his head around and walk and looks towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains;

the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his

former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive someone saying to him

that what he saw before was an illusion; but that now, when he is approaching

nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer

vision, – what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is

pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, – will he not

be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer

than the objects which are now shown to him?”

“Far truer.”

“And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his

eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision

which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things

which are now being shown to him?”

“True,” he said.

“And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up that steep and rugged

ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he

not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be

dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called


“Not all in a moment,” he said.

“He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first

he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the

water, and then the objects themselves; and, when he turned to the heavenly bodies

and the heaven itself, he would find it easier to gaze upon the light of the moon and

the stars at night to see the sun or the light of the sun by day?”


“Last of all he will be able to see the sun, not turning aside to the illusory

reflections of him in the water, but gazing directly at him in his own proper place,

and contemplating him as he is.”


“He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the seasons and the

years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way

cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?”

“Clearly,” he said, “he would arrive at this conclusion after what he had seen.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the cave and his

fellow prisoners, do you suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change,

and pity them?”

“Certainly, he would.”

“And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those

who were the quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of

hem went before and which followed after and which were together, and who were

best able from these observations to divine the future, do you think that he would

be eager for such honors and glories, or envy those who attained honor and

sovereignty among those men? Would he not say, with Homer, ‘better to be a serf,

laboring for a landless master,’ and to endure anything, rather than to think as they

do and live after their manner?”

“Yes,” he said, “I think that he would consent to suffer anything rather than live in

this miserable manner.”


“Imagine once more,” I said, “such a one coming down suddenly out of the

sunlight, and being replaced in his old seat; would he not be certain to have his

eyes full of darkness?”

“To be sure,” he said.

“And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows,

with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still

weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed

to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable), would he not make

himself ridiculous? Men would say of him that he had returned from the place

above with his eyes ruined; and that it was better not even to think of

ascending; and if anyone tried to loose another and lead him to the light, let them

only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.”

“No question,” he said.

“This entire allegory,” I said, “you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous

argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the power of

the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to

be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my surmise,

which, at your desire, I have expressed -whether rightly or wrongly God knows.

But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the Idea of

Good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; although, when seen, it is

inferred of light and of the lord of light in the visible world, and the immediate and

supreme source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that is the power upon

which he who would act rationally either in public or private life must have his

eyes fixed.”

“I agree,” he said, “as far as I am able to understand you.”

“Moreover,” I said, “you must agree once more, and not wonder that those who

attain to this vision are unwilling to take any part in human affairs; for their souls

are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire to dwell; which desire of

theirs is very natural, if our allegory may be trusted.”

“Yes, very natural.”

“And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine contemplations to

the evil state of man, appearing grotesque and ridiculous; if, while his eyes are

blinking and before he has become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is

compelled to fight in courts of law, or

in other places, about the images or the shadows of justice, and must strive against

some rival about opinions of these things which are entertained by men who have

never seen the true justice?”

“Anything but surprising,” he replied.

“Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes

are of two kinds and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or

from going into the light, and, judging that the soul may be affected in the same

way, will not give way to foolish laughter when he sees anyone whose vision is

perplexed and weak; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the

brighter life and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having

turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light And he will count the

one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he

has a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, this laughter

will not be quite so laughable as that which greets the soul which returns from

above out of the light into the cave.”

“That,” he said, “is a very just distinction.”

“But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be wrong when they

say that they can put a knowledge into the soul which was not there before, like

sight into blind eyes.”

“They undoubtedly say this,” he replied.

“Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the

soul already; and that just as if it were not possible to turn the eye from

darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can

only by the movement of the Whole soul be turned from the world of becoming to

that of being, or in other words, of the good.”

“Very true.”

“And must there not be some art which will show how the conversion can be

effected in the easiest and quickest manner; an art which will not implant the

faculty of sight, for that exists already, but will set it straight when it has been

turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?”

“Yes,” he said, “such an art may be presumed.”

“And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be akin to bodily

qualities, for even when they are not originally innate they can be implanted later

by habit and exercise, the virtue of wisdom more than anything else contains a

divine element which never loses its power, and by this conversion is rendered

useful and profitable; or, by conversion of another sort, hurtful and useless. Did

you never observe the narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever

rogue — how eager he is, how dearly his paltry souls sees the way to his end; he is

the reverse of blind, but his keen eye-sight is forced into the service of evil, and he

is mischievous in proportion to his cleverness?”

“Very true,” he said.

“But what if such natures had been gradually stripped, beginning in childhood, of

the leaden weights which sink them in the sea of Becoming, and which, fastened

upon the soul through gluttonous indulgence in eating and other such pleasures,

forcibly turn its vision downwards if, I say, they had been released from these

impediments and turned in the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them

would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to now.”

“Very likely.”

“Yes,” I said, “and there is another thing which is likely, or rather a necessary

inference from what has proceeded, that neither the uneducated and uninformed

of the truth, nor yet those who are suffered to prolong their education without end,

will be able ministers of State; not the former, because they have no single aim of

duty which is the rule of all their actions, private as well as public; nor the latter,

because they will not act at all except upon compulsions, fancying that they are

already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest.”

“Very true,” he replied.

“Then,” I said, “the business of us who are the founders of the State will be to

compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which we have already shown to be

the greatest of all, namely, the vision of the good; they must make the ascent which

we have described; but when they have ascended and seen enough we

must not allow them to do as they do now.”

“What do you mean?”

“They are permitted to remain in the upper world, refusing to descend again among

the prisoners in the cave, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are

worth having or not.”

“But is this not unjust?,” he said. “Ought we to give them a worse life, when they

might have a better?”

“You have again forgotten, my friend,” I said, “the intention of our law, which

does not aim at making any one class in the State happy above the rest, it seeks

rather to spread happiness over the whole State, and to hold the citizens together by

persuasion and necessity, making each share with others any benefit which he can

confer upon the State; and the law aims at producing such citizens, not that they

may be left to please themselves, but that they may serve in binding the State


“True,” he said. “I had forgotten.”

“Observe, Glaucon, that we shall do no wrong to our philosophers but rather make

a just demand, when we oblige them to have a care and providence of others; we

shall explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged to share

in the toils of politics; and this is reasonable, for they grow up spontaneously,

against the will of the governments in their several States; and things which grow

up of themselves, and are indebted to no one for their nurture, cannot fairly be

expected to pay dues for a culture which they have never received.”

“But we have brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of

yourselves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better and more

perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better able to share in the

double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his turn comes, must go down to rejoin

his companions, and acquire with them the habit of seeing things in the dark. As

you acquire that habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants

of the cave, and you will know what the several images are and what they

represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good in their. truth. “

“And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a reality and not a dream only,

and will be administered in a spirit unlike that of other States, in which men fight

with one another about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power,

which in their eyes is a great good.”

“Whereas the truth is that the State in which those who are to govern have least

ambition to do so is always the best and most quietly governed, and the State in

which they are most eager, the worst.”

“Quite true,” he replied.

“And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their turn at the toils of

State, when they are allowed to spend the greater part of their time with one

another in the heavenly light?”

“Impossible,” he answered; “for they are just men, and the commands which we

impose upon them are just. But there can be no doubt that every one of them will

take office as a stem necessity, contrary to the spirit of our present rulers of State.”

“Yes, my friend”, I said. “and there lies the point. You must contrive for your

future rulers another and a better life than that of a ruler, and then you may have a

well-ordered State; for only in the State which offers this, will they rule who are

truly rich, not in gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of

life. Whereas if men who are destitute and starved of such personal goods go to the

administration of public affairs, thinking to enrich themselves at the public

expense, order there can never be; for they will be fighting about office, and the

civil and domestic broils which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers themselves

and of the whole State.”

“Most true,” he replied.

“And the only life which looks down upon the life of political ambition is that of

true philosophy. “

“Do you know of any other?”

“Indeed, I do not,” he said. “And those who govern should not make love to their

employment? For, if they do there will be rival lovers, and they will fight.”

“No question.”

“Whom, then, will you compel to become guardians of the State? Surely those who

excel in judgment of the means by which a State is administered, and who at the

same time have other honors and another and a better life than that of politics?”

The Odyssey, Book 9

(1) AND ULYSSES answered, “King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a

bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better

or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,

with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded

with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his

cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.

Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,

and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how

to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand

of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.

(2) “Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,

and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there

guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son

of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so

that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a

high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from

it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,

Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the

horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the

others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it

breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to

look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and

wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess

Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there is

nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and

however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far

from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will

tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove’s will I met

with on my return from Troy.

(3) “When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which

is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the

people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we

divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to

complain. I then said that we had better make off at once, but my

men very foolishly would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking

much wine and killing great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea

shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out for help to other Cicons who

lived inland. These were more in number, and stronger, and they were

more skilled in the art of war, for they could fight, either from

chariots or on foot as the occasion served; in the morning, therefore,

they came as thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of

heaven was against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the

battle in array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their

bronze-shod spears at one another. So long as the day waxed and it was

still morning, we held our own against them, though they were more

in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the time when men

loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we lost half

a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those that

were left.

(4) “Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have

escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till

we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by

the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us

till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick

clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships

run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to

tatters, so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our

hardest towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights

suffering much alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the

morning of the third day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took

our places, letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should

have got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the

currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me

off my course hard by the island of Cythera.

(5) “I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the

sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,

who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to

take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore

near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company

to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they

had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among

the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the

lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring

about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened

to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the

Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,

though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made

them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at

once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting

to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with

their oars.

(6) “We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the

land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither

plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat,

barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their

wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them.

They have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on

the tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and

they take no account of their neighbours.

(7) “Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not

quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is

overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are

never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will

suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do not

go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a

wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living

thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor

yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore

go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another’s country as

people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would have

colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield

everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come

right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious

grass; grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for

ploughing, and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for

the soil is deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are

wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to

do is to beach one’s vessel and stay there till the wind becomes

fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is

a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars

growing all round it.

(8) “Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must

have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick

mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of

clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked

for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in

shore before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however,

we had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and

camped upon the beach till daybreak.

(9) “When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired

the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove’s daughters

roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On

this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and

dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven

sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got

nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day

to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we had

plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full

when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.

While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of

the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble

fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of

their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark,

we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.

(10) “‘Stay here, my brave fellows,’ said I, ‘all the rest of you,

while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see

if they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.’

(11) “I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the

hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their

oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face

of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It

was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there

was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built

into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode

of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his

flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the

life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at

all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against

the sky on the top of a high mountain.

(12) “I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,

all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with

myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been

given me by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo

the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of

the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared

his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of

great value- seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with

twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite

flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only

himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed

twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the

mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from

drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full

of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to

deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would

respect neither right nor law.

(13) “We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went

inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks

were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens

could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the

hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very

young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all

the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming

with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them

first steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they

would then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board

and sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had

done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the

owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present. When,

however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal with.

(14) “We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others

of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his

sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry

firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such

a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear

at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes

inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving

the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he

rolled a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and

twenty strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from

its place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and

milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of

them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside

in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he

might drink it for his supper. When he had got through with all his

work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:

(15) “‘Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do

you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every

man’s hand against you?’

(16) “We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and

monstrous form, but I managed to say, ‘We are Achaeans on our way home

from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have

been driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son

of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,

by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore

humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us

such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency

fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes

all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger

of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.’

(17) “To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, ‘Stranger,’ said he, ‘you

are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,

indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do

not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so

much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your

companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for

doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you

came on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off

the land?’

(18) “He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught

in that way, so I answered with a lie; ‘Neptune,’ said I, ‘sent my

ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it.

We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are

with me escaped the jaws of death.’

(19) “The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a

sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down

upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were

shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then

he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up

like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,

without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our

hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know

what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,

and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,

he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,

and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it,

and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we

should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift the

stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed

sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came.

(20) “When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again

lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then

let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with

all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them

for his morning’s meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the

stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put

it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid

on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,

and cried ‘Shoo, shoo,’ after his sheep to drive them on to the

mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and

covering myself with glory.

(21) “In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The

Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;

it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it

for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we

could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of

large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this

club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the

men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they

proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring

the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it

under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the

men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to

lift it and bore it into the monster’s eye while he was asleep. The

lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself

made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and

drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and

not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken

him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put

the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked

his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her

own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he

gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went

up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:

(22) “‘Look here, Cyclops,’ said I, you have been eating a great deal

of man’s flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see

what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to

you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion

upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go

on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed

yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you

treat them in this way?’

(23) “He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the

taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. ‘Be so

kind,’ he said, ‘as to give me some more, and tell me your name at

once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We

have wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the

sun ripens them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.’

“I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,

and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when

I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as

plausibly as I could: ‘Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it

you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is

Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always

called me.’

(24) “But the cruel wretch said, ‘Then I will eat all Noman’s comrades

before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the

present that I will make him.’

(25) As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the

ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took

hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and

the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was

very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat

it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn

faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze,

I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round

me, for heaven had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the

sharp end of the beam into the monster’s eye, and bearing upon it with

all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were

boring a hole in a ship’s plank with an auger, which two men with a

wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even

thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood

bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam

from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the

roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe

or hatchet into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives

strength to the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even

thus did the Cyclops’ eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his

hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but

he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and

hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so

to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so

they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him

crying, and asked what was the matter with him.

(26) “‘What ails you, Polyphemus,’ said they, ‘that you make such a

noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from

being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?

Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?

(27) “But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, ‘Noman is

killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!’

(28) “‘Then,’ said they, ‘if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;

when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had

better pray to your father Neptune.’

(29) “Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my

clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,

felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the

door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of

it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be

foolish enough to attempt this.

(30) “As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save

my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as

one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very

great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The

male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I

bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on

which the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under

the middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so

that there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram

finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,

esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on

patiently to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all

the time.

(31) “Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,

but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the

male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about

the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;

but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the

sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out

that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going

out, last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my

crafty self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:

(32) “‘My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave

this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but lead

the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain, and

are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last of

all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are

sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him

down in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If

you could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is

hiding, and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all

over the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a

this no-good Noman has done me.’

(33) “As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way

out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram’s belly,

and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,

by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to

drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those

of us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the

Cyclops had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and

frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all

the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard,

took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then,

when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer

at the Cyclops.

(34) “‘Cyclops,’ said I, ‘you should have taken better measure of your

man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up

your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin

would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished


(35) “He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top

from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so

that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The

sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it

raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the

shore. But I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making

signs to my men by nodding my head, that they must row for their

lives, whereon they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far

as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men

begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue.

(36) “‘Do not,’ they exclaimed, ‘be mad enough to provoke this savage

creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove

us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the

death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would

have pounded our heads and our ship’s timbers into a jelly with the

rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a

long way.’

(37) “But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my

rage, ‘Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out

and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son

of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.’

(38) “On this he groaned, and cried out, ‘Alas, alas, then the old

prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one

time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus,

who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the

Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me

some day, and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I

have been all along expecting some one of imposing presence and

superhuman strength, whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant

weakling, who has managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in

my drink; come here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to

show my hospitality, and urge Neptune to help you forward on your

journey- for Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will,

shall heal me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.’

(39) “Then I said, ‘I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and

sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take more

than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.’

(40) “On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and

prayed, saying, ‘Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own

true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home

alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do so

late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him reach his

home in another man’s ship and find trouble in his house.’]

“Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a

rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with

prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a

little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock

fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on

our way towards the shore of the island.

(41) “When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our

ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting

our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on

to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops’ sheep, and divided

them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to

complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it

as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its

thigh bones to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my

sacrifice, and only thought how he might destroy my ships and my


(42) “Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we

feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and

it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of

morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and

loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey

sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but

glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades.


THUS the Trojans in the city, scared like fawns, wiped the sweat

from off them and drank to quench their thirst, leaning against the

goodly battlements, while the Achaeans with their shields laid upon

their shoulders drew close up to the walls. But stern fate bade Hector

stay where he was before Ilius and the Scaean gates. Then Phoebus

Apollo spoke to the son of Peleus saying, “Why, son of Peleus, do you,

who are but man, give chase to me who am immortal? Have you not yet

found out that it is a god whom you pursue so furiously? You did not

harass the Trojans whom you had routed, and now they are within

their walls, while you have been decoyed hither away from them. Me you

cannot kill, for death can take no hold upon me.”

Achilles was greatly angered and said, “You have baulked me,

Far-Darter, most malicious of all gods, and have drawn me away from

the wall, where many another man would have bitten the dust ere he got

within Ilius; you have robbed me of great glory and have saved the

Trojans at no risk to yourself, for you have nothing to fear, but I

would indeed have my revenge if it were in my power to do so.”

On this, with fell intent he made towards the city, and as the

winning horse in a chariot race strains every nerve when he is

flying over the plain, even so fast and furiously did the limbs of

Achilles bear him onwards. King Priam was first to note him as he

scoured the plain, all radiant as the star which men call Orion’s

Hound, and whose beams blaze forth in time of harvest more brilliantly

than those of any other that shines by night; brightest of them all

though he be, he yet bodes ill for mortals, for he brings fire and

fever in his train- even so did Achilles’ armour gleam on his breast

as he sped onwards. Priam raised a cry and beat his head with his

hands as he lifted them up and shouted out to his dear son,

imploring him to return; but Hector still stayed before the gates, for

his heart was set upon doing battle with Achilles. The old man reached

out his arms towards him and bade him for pity’s sake come within

the walls. “Hector,” he cried, “my son, stay not to face this man

alone and unsupported, or you will meet death at the hands of the

son of Peleus, for he is mightier than you. Monster that he is;

would indeed that the gods loved him no better than I do, for so, dogs

and vultures would soon devour him as he lay stretched on earth, and a

load of grief would be lifted from my heart, for many a brave son

has he reft from me, either by killing them or selling them away in

the islands that are beyond the sea: even now I miss two sons from

among the Trojans who have thronged within the city, Lycaon and

Polydorus, whom Laothoe peeress among women bore me. Should they be

still alive and in the hands of the Achaeans, we will ransom them with

gold and bronze, of which we have store, for the old man Altes endowed

his daughter richly; but if they are already dead and in the house

of Hades, sorrow will it be to us two who were their parents; albeit

the grief of others will be more short-lived unless you too perish

at the hands of Achilles. Come, then, my son, within the city, to be

the guardian of Trojan men and Trojan women, or you will both lose

your own life and afford a mighty triumph to the son of Peleus. Have

pity also on your unhappy father while life yet remains to him- on me,

whom the son of Saturn will destroy by a terrible doom on the

threshold of old age, after I have seen my sons slain and my daughters

haled away as captives, my bridal chambers pillaged, little children

dashed to earth amid the rage of battle, and my sons’ wives dragged

away by the cruel hands of the Achaeans; in the end fierce hounds will

tear me in pieces at my own gates after some one has beaten the life

out of my body with sword or spear-hounds that I myself reared and fed

at my own table to guard my gates, but who will yet lap my blood and

then lie all distraught at my doors. When a young man falls by the

sword in battle, he may lie where he is and there is nothing unseemly;

let what will be seen, all is honourable in death, but when an old man

is slain there is nothing in this world more pitiable than that dogs

should defile his grey hair and beard and all that men hide for


The old man tore his grey hair as he spoke, but he moved not the

heart of Hector. His mother hard by wept and moaned aloud as she bared

her bosom and pointed to the breast which had suckled him. “Hector,”

she cried, weeping bitterly the while, “Hector, my son, spurn not this

breast, but have pity upon me too: if I have ever given you comfort

from my own bosom, think on it now, dear son, and come within the wall

to protect us from this man; stand not without to meet him. Should the

wretch kill you, neither I nor your richly dowered wife shall ever

weep, dear offshoot of myself, over the bed on which you lie, for dogs

will devour you at the ships of the Achaeans.”

Thus did the two with many tears implore their son, but they moved

not the heart of Hector, and he stood his ground awaiting huge

Achilles as he drew nearer towards him. As serpent in its den upon the

mountains, full fed with deadly poisons, waits for the approach of

man- he is filled with fury and his eyes glare terribly as he goes

writhing round his den- even so Hector leaned his shield against a

tower that jutted out from the wall and stood where he was, undaunted.

“Alas,” said he to himself in the heaviness of his heart, “if I go

within the gates, Polydamas will be the first to heap reproach upon

me, for it was he that urged me to lead the Trojans back to the city

on that awful night when Achilles again came forth against us. I would

not listen, but it would have been indeed better if I had done so. Now

that my folly has destroyed the host, I dare not look Trojan men and

Trojan women in the face, lest a worse man should say, ‘Hector has

ruined us by his self-confidence.’ Surely it would be better for me to

return after having fought Achilles and slain him, or to die

gloriously here before the city. What, again, if were to lay down my

shield and helmet, lean my spear against the wall and go straight up

to noble Achilles? What if I were to promise to give up Helen, who was

the fountainhead of all this war, and all the treasure that Alexandrus

brought with him in his ships to Troy, aye, and to let the Achaeans

divide the half of everything that the city contains among themselves?

I might make the Trojans, by the mouths of their princes, take a

solemn oath that they would hide nothing, but would divide into two

shares all that is within the city- but why argue with myself in

this way? Were I to go up to him he would show me no kind of mercy; he

would kill me then and there as easily as though I were a woman,

when I had off my armour. There is no parleying with him from some

rock or oak tree as young men and maidens prattle with one another.

Better fight him at once, and learn to which of us Jove will vouchsafe


Thus did he stand and ponder, but Achilles came up to him as it were

Mars himself, plumed lord of battle. From his right shoulder he

brandished his terrible spear of Pelian ash, and the bronze gleamed

around him like flashing fire or the rays of the rising sun. Fear fell

upon Hector as he beheld him, and he dared not stay longer where he

was but fled in dismay from before the gates, while Achilles darted

after him at his utmost speed. As a mountain falcon, swiftest of all

birds, swoops down upon some cowering dove- the dove flies before

him but the falcon with a shrill scream follows close after,

resolved to have her- even so did Achilles make straight for Hector

with all his might, while Hector fled under the Trojan wall as fast as

his limbs could take him.

On they flew along the waggon-road that ran hard by under the

wall, past the lookout station, and past the weather-beaten wild

fig-tree, till they came to two fair springs which feed the river

Scamander. One of these two springs is warm, and steam rises from it

as smoke from a burning fire, but the other even in summer is as

cold as hail or snow, or the ice that forms on water. Here, hard by

the springs, are the goodly washing-troughs of stone, where in the

time of peace before the coming of the Achaeans the wives and fair

daughters of the Trojans used to wash their clothes. Past these did

they fly, the one in front and the other giving ha. behind him: good

was the man that fled, but better far was he that followed after,

and swiftly indeed did they run, for the prize was no mere beast for

sacrifice or bullock’s hide, as it might be for a common foot-race,

but they ran for the life of Hector. As horses in a chariot race speed

round the turning-posts when they are running for some great prize-

a tripod or woman- at the games in honour of some dead hero, so did

these two run full speed three times round the city of Priam. All

the gods watched them, and the sire of gods and men was the first to


“Alas,” said he, “my eyes behold a man who is dear to me being

pursued round the walls of Troy; my heart is full of pity for

Hector, who has burned the thigh-bones of many a heifer in my

honour, at one while on the of many-valleyed Ida, and again on the

citadel of Troy; and now I see noble Achilles in full pursuit of him

round the city of Priam. What say you? Consider among yourselves and

decide whether we shall now save him or let him fall, valiant though

he be, before Achilles, son of Peleus.”

Then Minerva said, “Father, wielder of the lightning, lord of

cloud and storm, what mean you? Would you pluck this mortal whose doom

has long been decreed out of the jaws of death? Do as you will, but we

others shall not be of a mind with you.”

And Jove answered, “My child, Trito-born, take heart. I did not

speak in full earnest, and I will let you have your way. Do without

let or hindrance as you are minded.”

Thus did he urge Minerva who was already eager, and down she

darted from the topmost summits of Olympus.

Achilles was still in full pursuit of Hector, as a hound chasing a

fawn which he has started from its covert on the mountains, and

hunts through glade and thicket. The fawn may try to elude him by

crouching under cover of a bush, but he will scent her out and

follow her up until he gets her- even so there was no escape for

Hector from the fleet son of Peleus. Whenever he made a set to get

near the Dardanian gates and under the walls, that his people might

help him by showering down weapons from above, Achilles would gain

on him and head him back towards the plain, keeping himself always

on the city side. As a man in a dream who fails to lay hands upon

another whom he is pursuing- the one cannot escape nor the other

overtake- even so neither could Achilles come up with Hector, nor

Hector break away from Achilles; nevertheless he might even yet have

escaped death had not the time come when Apollo, who thus far had

sustained his strength and nerved his running, was now no longer to

stay by him. Achilles made signs to the Achaean host, and shook his

head to show that no man was to aim a dart at Hector, lest another

might win the glory of having hit him and he might himself come in

second. Then, at last, as they were nearing the fountains for the

fourth time, the father of all balanced his golden scales and placed a

doom in each of them, one for Achilles and the other for Hector. As he

held the scales by the middle, the doom of Hector fell down deep

into the house of Hades- and then Phoebus Apollo left him. Thereon

Minerva went close up to the son of Peleus and said, “Noble

Achilles, favoured of heaven, we two shall surely take back to the

ships a triumph for the Achaeans by slaying Hector, for all his lust

of battle. Do what Apollo may as he lies grovelling before his father,

aegis-bearing Jove, Hector cannot escape us longer. Stay here and take

breath, while I go up to him and persuade him to make a stand and

fight you.”

Thus spoke Minerva. Achilles obeyed her gladly, and stood still,

leaning on his bronze-pointed ashen spear, while Minerva left him

and went after Hector in the form and with the voice of Deiphobus. She

came close up to him and said, “Dear brother, I see you are hard

pressed by Achilles who is chasing you at full speed round the city of

Priam, let us await his onset and stand on our defence.”

And Hector answered, “Deiphobus, you have always been dearest to

me of all my brothers, children of Hecuba and Priam, but henceforth

I shall rate you yet more highly, inasmuch as you have ventured

outside the wall for my sake when all the others remain inside.”

Then Minerva said, “Dear brother, my father and mother went down

on their knees and implored me, as did all my comrades, to remain

inside, so great a fear has fallen upon them all; but I was in an

agony of grief when I beheld you; now, therefore, let us two make a

stand and fight, and let there be no keeping our spears in reserve,

that we may learn whether Achilles shall kill us and bear off our

spoils to the ships, or whether he shall fall before you.”

Thus did Minerva inveigle him by her cunning, and when the two

were now close to one another great Hector was first to speak. “I

will-no longer fly you, son of Peleus,” said he, “as I have been doing

hitherto. Three times have I fled round the mighty city of Priam,

without daring to withstand you, but now, let me either slay or be

slain, for I am in the mind to face you. Let us, then, give pledges to

one another by our gods, who are the fittest witnesses and guardians

of all covenants; let it be agreed between us that if Jove

vouchsafes me the longer stay and I take your life, I am not to

treat your dead body in any unseemly fashion, but when I have stripped

you of your armour, I am to give up your body to the Achaeans. And

do you likewise.”

Achilles glared at him and answered, “Fool, prate not to me about

covenants. There can be no covenants between men and lions, wolves and

lambs can never be of one mind, but hate each other out and out an

through. Therefore there can be no understanding between you and me,

nor may there be any covenants between us, till one or other shall

fall and glut grim Mars with his life’s blood. Put forth all your

strength; you have need now to prove yourself indeed a bold soldier

and man of war. You have no more chance, and Pallas Minerva will

forthwith vanquish you by my spear: you shall now pay me in full for

the grief you have caused me on account of my comrades whom you have

killed in battle.”

He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. Hector saw it

coming and avoided it; he watched it and crouched down so that it flew

over his head and stuck in the ground beyond; Minerva then snatched it

up and gave it back to Achilles without Hector’s seeing her; Hector

thereon said to the son of Peleus, “You have missed your aim,

Achilles, peer of the gods, and Jove has not yet revealed to you the

hour of my doom, though you made sure that he had done so. You were

a false-tongued liar when you deemed that I should forget my valour

and quail before you. You shall not drive spear into the back of a

runaway- drive it, should heaven so grant you power, drive it into

me as I make straight towards you; and now for your own part avoid

my spear if you can- would that you might receive the whole of it into

your body; if you were once dead the Trojans would find the war an

easier matter, for it is you who have harmed them most.”

He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it. His aim was true

for he hit the middle of Achilles’ shield, but the spear rebounded

from it, and did not pierce it. Hector was angry when he saw that

the weapon had sped from his hand in vain, and stood there in dismay

for he had no second spear. With a loud cry he called Diphobus and

asked him for one, but there was no man; then he saw the truth and

said to himself, “Alas! the gods have lured me on to my destruction. I

deemed that the hero Deiphobus was by my side, but he is within the

wall, and Minerva has inveigled me; death is now indeed exceedingly

near at hand and there is no way out of it- for so Jove and his son

Apollo the far-darter have willed it, though heretofore they have been

ever ready to protect me. My doom has come upon me; let me not then

die ingloriously and without a struggle, but let me first do some

great thing that shall be told among men hereafter.”

As he spoke he drew the keen blade that hung so great and strong

by his side, and gathering himself together be sprang on Achilles like

a soaring eagle which swoops down from the clouds on to some lamb or

timid hare- even so did Hector brandish his sword and spring upon

Achilles. Achilles mad with rage darted towards him, with his wondrous

shield before his breast, and his gleaming helmet, made with four

layers of metal, nodding fiercely forward. The thick tresses of gold

wi which Vulcan had crested the helmet floated round it, and as the

evening star that shines brighter than all others through the

stillness of night, even such was the gleam of the spear which

Achilles poised in his right hand, fraught with the death of noble

Hector. He eyed his fair flesh over and over to see where he could

best wound it, but all was protected by the goodly armour of which

Hector had spoiled Patroclus after he had slain him, save only the

throat where the collar-bones divide the neck from the shoulders,

and this is a most deadly place: here then did Achilles strike him

as he was coming on towards him, and the point of his spear went right

through the fleshy part of the neck, but it did not sever his windpipe

so that he could still speak. Hector fell headlong, and Achilles

vaunted over him saying, “Hector, you deemed that you should come

off scatheless when you were spoiling Patroclus, and recked not of

myself who was not with him. Fool that you were: for I, his comrade,

mightier far than he, was still left behind him at the ships, and

now I have laid you low. The Achaeans shall give him all due funeral

rites, while dogs and vultures shall work their will upon yourself.”

Then Hector said, as the life ebbed out of him, “I pray you by

your life and knees, and by your parents, let not dogs devour me at

the ships of the Achaeans, but accept the rich treasure of gold and

bronze which my father and mother will offer you, and send my body

home, that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire

when I am dead.”

Achilles glared at him and answered, “Dog, talk not to me neither of

knees nor parents; would that I could be as sure of being able to

cut your flesh into pieces and eat it raw, for the ill have done me,

as I am that nothing shall save you from the dogs- it shall not be,

though they bring ten or twenty-fold ransom and weigh it out for me on

the spot, with promise of yet more hereafter. Though Priam son of

Dardanus should bid them offer me your weight in gold, even so your

mother shall never lay you out and make lament over the son she

bore, but dogs and vultures shall eat you utterly up.”

Hector with his dying breath then said, “I know you what you are,

and was sure that I should not move you, for your heart is hard as

iron; look to it that I bring not heaven’s anger upon you on the day

when Paris and Phoebus Apollo, valiant though you be, shall slay you

at the Scaean gates.”

When he had thus said the shrouds of death enfolded him, whereon his

soul went out of him and flew down to the house of Hades, lamenting

its sad fate that it should en’ youth and strength no longer. But

Achilles said, speaking to the dead body, “Die; for my part I will

accept my fate whensoever Jove and the other gods see fit to send it.”

As he spoke he drew his spear from the body and set it on one

side; then he stripped the blood-stained armour from Hector’s

shoulders while the other Achaeans came running up to view his

wondrous strength and beauty; and no one came near him without

giving him a fresh wound. Then would one turn to his neighbour and

say, “It is easier to handle Hector now than when he was flinging fire

on to our ships” and as he spoke he would thrust his spear into him


When Achilles had done spoiling Hector of his armour, he stood among

the Argives and said, “My friends, princes and counsellors of the

Argives, now that heaven has vouchsafed us to overcome this man, who

has done us more hurt than all the others together, consider whether

we should not attack the city in force, and discover in what mind

the Trojans may be. We should thus learn whether they will desert

their city now that Hector has fallen, or will still hold out even

though he is no longer living. But why argue with myself in this

way, while Patroclus is still lying at the ships unburied, and

unmourned- he Whom I can never forget so long as I am alive and my

strength fails not? Though men forget their dead when once they are

within the house of Hades, yet not even there will I forget the

comrade whom I have lost. Now, therefore, Achaean youths, let us raise

the song of victory and go back to the ships taking this man along

with us; for we have achieved a mighty triumph and have slain noble

Hector to whom the Trojans prayed throughout their city as though he

were a god.”

On this he treated the body of Hector with contumely: he pierced the

sinews at the back of both his feet from heel to ancle and passed

thongs of ox-hide through the slits he had made: thus he made the body

fast to his chariot, letting the head trail upon the ground. Then when

he had put the goodly armour on the chariot and had himself mounted,

he lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing loth. The dust

rose from Hector as he was being dragged along, his dark hair flew all

abroad, and his head once so comely was laid low on earth, for Jove

had now delivered him into the hands of his foes to do him outrage

in his own land.

Thus was the head of Hector being dishonoured in the dust. His

mother tore her hair, and flung her veil from her with a loud cry as

she looked upon her son. His father made piteous moan, and

throughout the city the people fell to weeping and wailing. It was

as though the whole of frowning Ilius was being smirched with fire.

Hardly could the people hold Priam back in his hot haste to rush

without the gates of the city. He grovelled in the mire and besought

them, calling each one of them by his name. “Let be, my friends,” he

cried, “and for all your sorrow, suffer me to go single-handed to

the ships of the Achaeans. Let me beseech this cruel and terrible man,

if maybe he will respect the feeling of his fellow-men, and have

compassion on my old age. His own father is even such another as

myself- Peleus, who bred him and reared him to- be the bane of us

Trojans, and of myself more than of all others. Many a son of mine has

he slain in the flower of his youth, and yet, grieve for these as I

may, I do so for one- Hector- more than for them all, and the

bitterness of my sorrow will bring me down to the house of Hades.

Would that he had died in my arms, for so both his ill-starred

mother who bore him, and myself, should have had the comfort of

weeping and mourning over him.”

Thus did he speak with many tears, and all the people of the city

joined in his lament. Hecuba then raised the cry of wailing among

the Trojans. “Alas, my son,” she cried, “what have I left to live

for now that you are no more? Night and day did I glory in. you

throughout the city, for you were a tower of strength to all in

Troy, and both men and women alike hailed you as a god. So long as you

lived you were their pride, but now death and destruction have

fallen upon you.”

Hector’s wife had as yet heard nothing, for no one had come to

tell her that her husband had remained without the gates. She was at

her loom in an inner part of the house, weaving a double purple web,

and embroidering it with many flowers. She told her maids to set a

large tripod on the fire, so as to have a warm bath ready for Hector

when he came out of battle; poor woman, she knew not that he was now

beyond the reach of baths, and that Minerva had laid him low by the

hands of Achilles. She heard the cry coming as from the wall, and

trembled in every limb; the shuttle fell from her hands, and again she

spoke to her waiting-women. “Two of you,” she said, “come with me that

I may learn what it is that has befallen; I heard the voice of my

husband’s honoured mother; my own heart beats as though it would

come into my mouth and my limbs refuse to carry me; some great

misfortune for Priam’s children must be at hand. May I never live to

hear it, but I greatly fear that Achilles has cut off the retreat of

brave Hector and has chased him on to the plain where he was

singlehanded; I fear he may have put an end to the reckless daring

which possessed my husband, who would never remain with the body of

his men, but would dash on far in front, foremost of them all in


Her heart beat fast, and as she spoke she flew from the house like a

maniac, with her waiting-women following after. When she reached the

battlements and the crowd of people, she stood looking out upon the

wall, and saw Hector being borne away in front of the city- the horses

dragging him without heed or care over the ground towards the ships of

the Achaeans. Her eyes were then shrouded as with the darkness of

night and she fell fainting backwards. She tore the tiring from her

head and flung it from her, the frontlet and net with its plaited

band, and the veil which golden Venus had given her on the day when

Hector took her with him from the house of Eetion, after having

given countless gifts of wooing for her sake. Her husband’s sisters

and the wives of his brothers crowded round her and supported her, for

she was fain to die in her distraction; when she again presently

breathed and came to herself, she sobbed and made lament among the

Trojans saying, ‘Woe is me, O Hector; woe, indeed, that to share a

common lot we were born, you at Troy in the house of Priam, and I at

Thebes under the wooded mountain of Placus in the house of Eetion

who brought me up when I was a child- ill-starred sire of an

ill-starred daughter- would that he had never begotten me. You are now

going into the house of Hades under the secret places of the earth,

and you leave me a sorrowing widow in your house. The child, of whom

you and I are the unhappy parents, is as yet a mere infant. Now that

you are gone, O Hector, you can do nothing for him nor he for you.

Even though he escape the horrors of this woful war with the Achaeans,

yet shall his life henceforth be one of labour and sorrow, for

others will seize his lands. The day that robs a child of his

parents severs him from his own kind; his head is bowed, his cheeks

are wet with tears, and he will go about destitute among the friends

of his father, plucking one by the cloak and another by the shirt.

Some one or other of these may so far pity him as to hold the cup

for a moment towards him and let him moisten his lips, but he must not

drink enough to wet the roof of his mouth; then one whose parents

are alive will drive him from the table with blows and angry words.

‘Out with you,’ he will say, ‘you have no father here,’ and the

child will go crying back to his widowed mother- he, Astyanax, who

erewhile would sit upon his father’s knees, and have none but the

daintiest and choicest morsels set before him. When he had played till

he was tired and went to sleep, he would lie in a bed, in the arms

of his nurse, on a soft couch, knowing neither want nor care,

whereas now that he has lost his father his lot will be full of

hardship- he, whom the Trojans name Astyanax, because you, O Hector,

were the only defence of their gates and battlements. The wriggling

writhing worms will now eat you at the ships, far from your parents,

when the dogs have glutted themselves upon you. You will lie naked,

although in your house you have fine and goodly raiment made by

hands of women. This will I now burn; it is of no use to you, for

you can never again wear it, and thus you will have respect shown

you by the Trojans both men and women.”

In such wise did she cry aloud amid her tears, and the women

joined in her lament.

O c t 2 , 2 0 2 1

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Your project will be a minimum three page essay discussing the actions of Achilles (Iliad), Odysseus (Odyssey) and the prisoner who breaks free (Plato’s Allegory of the Cave). How do you describe the characters of these three actors, based on what they do and say? Submit your three page analysis on a Word document, double-spaced with 12-pitch font. You will not be penalized for exceeding three pages, but your score will be docked if the text falls short. Do your best to distribute evenly (one page each) your discussion of each of the three characters.

Choose your own vocabulary as you describe the characters (brave, cowardly, arrogant, foolish, cunning, curious, adventurous, loving, hateful, vengeful, etc.). How do their actions support your description of their characters?

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