Ὡς δ’ ὅτε τίς τ’ ἐλέφαντα γυνὴ φοίνικι μιήνῃ
Μῃονὶς ἠὲ Κάειρα παρήϊον ἔμμεναι ἵππων·
κεῖται δ’ ἐν θαλάμῳ, πολέες τέ μιν ἠρήσαντο
ἱππῆες φορέειν· βασιλῆϊ δὲ κεῖται ἄγαλμα,
ἀμφότερον κόσμός θ’ ἵππῳ ἐλατῆρί τε κῦδος·
τοῖοί τοι, Μενέλαε, μιάνθην αἵματι μηροὶ
εὐφυέες κνῆμαί τε ἰδὲ σφυρὰ κάλ’ ὑπένερθε.
ῥίγησεν δ’ ἄρ’ ἔπειτα ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων
ὡς εἶδεν μέλαν αἷμα καταρρέον ἐξ ὠτειλῆς·
ῥίγησεν δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος.
ὡς δὲ ἴδεν νεῦρόν τε καὶ ὄγκους ἐκτὸς ἐόντας
ἄψορρόν οἱ θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσιν ἀγέρθη.
τοῖς δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων μετέφη κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
χειρὸς ἔχων Μενέλαον, ἐπεστενάχοντο δ’ ἑταῖροι·
“φίλε κασίγνητε, θάνατόν νύ τοι ὅρκι’ ἔταμνον,
οἶον προστήσας πρὸ Ἀχαιῶν Τρωσὶ μάχεσθαι,
ὥς σ’ ἔβαλον Τρῶες, κατὰ δ’ ὅρκια πιστὰ πάτησαν.
οὐ μέν πως ἅλιον πέλει ὅρκιον αἷμά τε ἀρνῶν
σπονδαί τ’ ἄκρητοι καὶ δεξιαὶ ᾗς ἐπέπιθμεν.
εἴ περ γάρ τε καὶ αὐτίκ’ Ὀλύμπιος οὐκ ἐτέλεσσεν,
ἔκ τε καὶ ὀψὲ τελεῖ, σύν τε μεγάλῳ ἀπέτισαν
σὺν σφῇσιν κεφαλῇσι γυναιξί τε καὶ τεκέεσσιν.
εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν·
ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο,
Ζεὺς δέ σφι Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος αἰθέρι ναίων
αὐτὸς ἐπισσείῃσιν ἐρεμνὴν αἰγίδα πᾶσι
τῆσδ’ ἀπάτης κοτέων· τὰ μὲν ἔσσεται οὐκ ἀτέλεστα·
ἀλλά μοι αἰνὸν ἄχος σέθεν ἔσσεται, ὦ Μενέλαε,
αἴ κε θάνῃς καὶ πότμον ἀναπλήσῃς βιότοιο.
καί κεν ἐλέγχιστος πολυδίψιον Ἄργος ἱκοίμην·
αὐτίκα γὰρ μνήσονται Ἀχαιοὶ πατρίδος αἴης·
κὰδ δέ κεν εὐχωλὴν Πριάμῳ καὶ Τρωσὶ λίποιμεν
Ἀργείην Ἑλένην· σέο δ’ ὀστέα πύσει ἄρουρα
κειμένου ἐν Τροίῃ ἀτελευτήτῳ ἐπὶ ἔργῳ.
καί κέ τις ὧδ’ ἐρέει Τρώων ὑπερηνορεόντων
τύμβῳ ἐπιθρῴσκων Μενελάου κυδαλίμοιο·
‘αἴθ’ οὕτως ἐπὶ πᾶσι χόλον τελέσει’ Ἀγαμέμνων,
ὡς καὶ νῦν ἅλιον στρατὸν ἤγαγεν ἐνθάδ’ Ἀχαιῶν,
καὶ δὴ ἔβη οἶκόνδε φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν
σὺν κεινῇσιν νηυσὶ λιπὼν ἀγαθὸν Μενέλαον.’
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει· τότε μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών.”
(Homer, Il. 4.141-182)
As when a woman of Maeonia or Caria stains ivory with
crimson dye, to be a cheek piece for horses—
it lies unused in a storeroom, and many horsemen pray that they
may bear it, but it lies away to delight the king,
both an ornament for the horse and an honor for the rider—
in such fashion, Menelaos, were your thighs stained with blood,
and your muscular calves down to your fine ankles.
Then Agamemnon lord of men shuddered
when he saw dark blood flowing down from the wound,
and Menelaos beloved by Ares shuddered too,
but when he saw the binding thread and arrow barb were outside,
his spirit was rallied again back in his breast.
But groaning deeply lord Agamemnon spoke among their comrades,
holding Menelaos by the hand, and they groaned in response:
“Beloved brother, the oath I cut was your death,
when I put you forward before the Achaeans to fight alone with the Trojans,
seeing now that the Trojans have struck you, and trampled underfoot the sacred treaty.
Yet in no way is our oath in vain, and the blood of lambs,
and the unmixed libations and pledges of hand that we trusted.
For even if the Olympian does not accomplish this at once,
he will accomplish it in full, though late, and they will pay greatly
with their heads and their women and their children.
For I know this well in my mind and in my heart;
there will some time be a day when holy Ilion is destroyed,
and Priam and the people of Priam of the fine ash-spear—
Zeus, son of Cronus, who sits on high, dwelling near heaven,
himself will brandish at them all his storm-black aegis,
in rage for this deception. These things will not pass unaccomplished;
but my grief will be bitter for your sake, O Menelaos,
if you should die and fulfill your life’s destiny,
and I return disgraced to the parched land of Argos.
Immediately the Achaeans would turn their thoughts to their fatherland,
and we would leave as trophy for Priam and the Trojans
Helen of Argos; a field would rot your bones
as you lay in Troy on an unaccomplished mission.
And thus will some Trojan speak in his overweening manhood, as he leaps onto the tomb of glorious Menelaos:
‘Would that Agamemnon brought his anger to completion in this way against all his enemies,
as he once led an army of Achaeans here to no purpose,
and then went home to his beloved fatherland
with his empty ships, leaving behind brave Menelaos.’
Thus in time to come a man will speak; then let the broad earth gape beneath me.”
(tr. Caroline Alexander)