Sing of the wrath, my goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles,
doomed and destructive, which gave the Achaeans numberless sorrows,
sending so many robust souls down to the house of Hades,
spirits of heroes, but bodies abandoned as meat for the dogs and
flesh for the birds, and the will of God was all but accomplished
right at the outset of strife, at the moment they clashed, when the conflict
7 parted Atrides, master of men, from god-like Achilles.
Which of the gods had brought them together to wage such a quarrel?
Leto and Zeus’s son Apollo: enraged at the king, he
stirred up a plague through the army; and people all over were dying,
all because Atreus’ son had dishonored the priest of Apollo,
Chryses, who’d come to the swift Greek ships to buy back his daughter,
13 bearing a boundless ransom, and holding a golden scepter
tied with the banner of far-shooting archer Apollo—he pled with
all the Achaeans, but most of all he beseeched the Atridae,
both of the sons of Atreus, marshals of men and the people:
“Sons of Atreus, and you other Achaeans with strong greaves,
truly, may all of the gods who dwell on Olympus give you
19 Priam’s city to plunder, and then safe passage homewards;
but, may you let my child go free, and accept this ransom,
honoring Zeus’s son, the far-shooting archer Apollo.”
Then all the other Achaeans cried out with shouts of approval,
out of respect for the priest, and to reap the magnificent ransom;
but, unmoved in his heart, the king Agamemnon Atrides
25 harshly dismissed him, and speaking with powerful words, he commanded:
“Don’t let me find you again, old man, by the hollow vessels—
lingering here today, or returning again tomorrow—
or else the scepter and banner of god will no longer protect you.
As for the girl, I will never set her free until old age
comes to her, back in my house in Argos, far from her homeland,
31 working away at the loom, and sharing my bed beside me.
Leave us, and try not to vex me, so you may return in safety.”
So he spoke; and the old man feared him, obeyed his commandment,
silently walking away by the shore of the rumbling ocean.
Then, going farther away from them, over and over the old man
prayed to the Lord Apollo, whom fair-haired Leto gave birth to:
37 “Hear me, god of the silver bow, who keeps watch around Chryse,
sacrosanct Cilla, and Tenedos, where you reign with power:
Smintheus, if I ever built you a roof on your beautiful temple,
or if I ever have burned you the slivers of rich fat thighs of
bulls and of goats, then you can accomplish for me this one prayer:
make the Danaans pay for each of my tears with your arrows.”
43 So he spoke in his prayer; and Phoebus Apollo had heard him.
Down from the heights of Olympus he came, with rage in his heart, his
bow in his hand, and a covered quiver slung on his shoulder,
arrows behind him clattering as he departed with fury,
plummeting forth, and the raging god came down like nightfall.
Out by the ships he descended, and kneeling, let fly an arrow—
49 with it, a terrible clang pealed out from the bow of silver.
First he fell on the mules and the circling dogs; but thereafter,
launching a piercing shaft at the Greeks themselves, he struck them.
Piles and piles of corpses were burning on funeral pyres.