This is a chapter of The Trojan War, by C. Witt & F. Younghusband.
The hatred which Achilles had cherished against Agamemnon had been to him at first as sweet as honey, but now he cursed it, in that it had cost him the life of his dearest friend, and his only wish now was to avenge the death of Patroclus.
His armor and his weapons had been seized by Hector, but his mother begged Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, to forge him some new ones. By the next morning, they were ready for him, and far more splendid they were than those he had before. He immediately called an assembly of the Greeks and forswore his enmity to Agamemnon, who on his part acknowledged that he had been in fault and ordered all the costly gifts that he had offered as an atonement to be forthwith carried to the tents of Achilles. But the hero could take no pleasure in them; his one desire was that the battle should begin at once, and the time seemed long to him while the Greeks strengthened themselves with food for the fight. He himself would neither eat nor drink nor allow himself to take pleasure in anything until he had avenged his friend.
The Trojans had again remained all night in the open field. One of their heroes indeed, foreseeing how much greater their peril would be now that Achilles had returned to the help of the Greeks, had advised that they should shut themselves up in the city and repulse the Greeks from the walls if they attempted to storm it. But Hector, who knew no fear, had answered that, though Achilles might indeed be the son of a goddess, yet was he nevertheless a mortal and liable to perish even as any other; and he persuaded the Trojans to continue in the plain. When therefore the Greeks marched out to the battle, they found their enemies waiting for them, and there ensued the bloodiest battle of the whole war.
Some of the Greek heroes were still suffering from the wounds of the previous day and were unable to fight with so great vigor as before, but this availed the Trojans nothing, for Achilles was far stronger than all the rest, and this day he fought like a reaper under the strokes of whose scythe the ripe ears of corn fall helplessly to the earth; for wherever he pressed in among the ranks of the Trojans, there the bodies of the fallen enemies were soon lying on the ground in heaps.
For a long time, however, the Trojans, inspired by Hector, would not give up the struggle; but at last they began to retreat towards the city, and, ever as they drew nearer to the walls, their pace increased in swiftness. The old greybeards of the city had watched their flight from the walls, and now they opened the gates to let them in; but so close at their heels was Achilles that they would not have been able to prevent his pressing in after them, had not Apollo, their protector, come to their assistance. He took the form of a Trojan hero and placed himself in front of Achilles, as if he would have fought with him, but, when the hero turned upon him, he fled, and Achilles pursued him. He took care to keep such a little way in front of him, that each moment Achilles thought he was on the point of overtaking him, and thus he enticed him farther and farther away.
When at last they had left the battle far behind them, Apollo turned and said scornfully, “Why dost thou follow me, Achilles, leaving the Trojans to escape meanwhile? Over me, death has no power.”
And with this, he vanished, and Achilles in anger hurried back to the gates.
The Trojans were by this time in safety behind their walls; only Hector stood outside in front of the gates. It was he who had advised the fight in the open field, and he was ashamed to enter the city as a fugitive. Moreover, so great was his manly courage, that he did not despair of being the victor in a single combat with Achilles himself. In vain did his father and mother cry to him from the walls, beseeching him not to risk his life, but to save it for the sake of the city, of which he was the chief stay and support; he remained deaf to all their entreaties.
But when Achilles drew near and saw the space in front of the gate empty save for the presence of his deadly enemy, he sprang towards him like a panther, with flaming eyes; and as Hector saw those eyes approach him, he was seized with sudden fear and he turned and fled, and Achilles pursued him. It was a race in which each of the runners might well put forth his utmost strength, for to Hector the stake was life, to Achilles the gratification of his thirst for vengeance. Three times they ran around the whole city, and at last, when for the fourth time they reached the gate, Hector paused and awaited his enemy.
When Achilles came up, he said to him, “Let now the gods decide which of us two shall prevail over the other. And if thou shalt fall, I will indeed take thy weapons for spoil, but thy body I will send to thy friends that it may be burned with fitting rites. This I swear to thee, if thou wilt swear to me in like manner.”
But Achilles answered him with dark looks, “Hast thou, then, heard that lions parley with men, or that wolves are wont to make terms with sheep? Defend thyself and from me expect nothing but bitterest enmity.”
He then drew his spear and hurled it at Hector with his utmost strength. But he slipping aside, the spear passed him and sank deep into the earth behind.
“Thou hast failed,” he cried; “and now may the gods grant to me that I succeed better, that so the war may by thy death be lightened for the Trojans.”
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With these words, he hurled his spear and struck the shield of Achilles with a mighty blow, but from the work of Hephaestus the spear rebounded without piercing it. Then he tore his sword out of the sheath and rushed against his enemy. But Achilles held his shield before him and meanwhile spied for a part of the body of Hector which was not thoroughly protected by his armor. In the neck he presently perceived a place where he could thrust in his spear, and this he did, wounding him mortally.
Hector sank to the ground in death, and Achilles said to him, with a scornful laugh, “Thou thoughtest in sooth that Patroclus would die unavenged, but now shall thy body be food for dogs and vultures.”
In a weak voice, Hector implored Achilles by all that was dear to him to allow his body to be ransomed by his parents with gold and silver.
But Achilles answered him pitilessly, “Should they offer for thy corpse its weight in gold, it shall not escape the birds and the dogs.”
Hector was now at the point of death, but with his last breath he said, “Thou hast a heart of iron, Achilles, but think of me when thou art laid low by the arrow of Paris.”
In those days men believed that the dying could foretell the future, and Achilles accepted the prophecy. He answered, “Be it so. Should the gods so will it, Death will find me prepared to meet him.”
The Greeks now came crowding around the dead hero, and many who had lost a brother or a friend at the hand of Hector could not refrain from avenging their death by thrusting a spear into the corpse. Even Achilles was not satisfied with his death; and to glut his desire for vengeance, he pierced the heels of the corpse, which lay stripped upon the ground, and tied them with thongs to the step of his chariot. Then he mounted the chariot and urged on the horses, so as to drag after it, along the ground, the body of the noble hero, which was now covered with dust and blood. The whole army of the Greeks followed, shouting a song of victory. When they reached the camp, Achilles, followed by the Myrmidons, drove three times around the bier on which the dead Patroclus lay, dragging the corpse after him; then he unbound the body and laid it, face downwards, at the foot of the bier, as if to testify to his friend that he had indeed been avenged.
Achilles was now willing to take some food, but he would not wash the blood from his face and hands until he had completed his duty to his friend and rendered him the last honors.
On the next day, the Greeks fetched many wagon loads of wood from the forest and raised by the sea a mighty pile, no less than a hundred feet long and a hundred feet wide. Then the Myrmidons marched towards it in full battle array, and in their midst was carried the bier with the corpse of Patroclus, Achilles himself supporting the head. When the bier was set down, all the Myrmidons cut off locks of their hair and covered the corpse with them, and Achilles placed his in the hand. Then the bier was raised up on the top of the pile, and all around it were placed the bodies of slaughtered animals and other things that might be acceptable to the dead. The huge pile was now set on fire, and all night long the flames continued to burn.
It was not until the morning dawned that the funeral pile sank to ashes, and then Achilles and the other princes extinguished the smoldering embers with wine and gathered out from among them the bones of Patroclus, which they laid in a golden urn, the most beautiful that Achilles possessed. The urn, however, was not at once buried, as was the custom, but carried back to the tents of Achilles that his bones might be added to those of his friend, for he knew that he should not long survive him. On the spot where the funeral pile had stood a hillock of earth was raised, but only of moderate height; a more stately mound was to take its place when the united bones of the two friends should rest in the earth beneath it.
After this was over, Achilles prepared magnificent funeral games to do honor to the memory of the dead, and all the Greeks were bidden to assemble — the people to look on, and the nobles and princes to measure their strength and skill one against the other; and Achilles brought out from amongst his treasures costly prizes, whose value would alone have stimulated the ardor of those who were to contend for them, even had they cared nothing for the glory of the victory. The heroes vied with each other first in chariot racing, then in boxing, wrestling, foot racing, hurling the spear, and throwing the discus, and lastly in shooting with the bow. The games lasted till sunset, and those who returned in safety to their homes after the war was ended used to the end of their lives to relate to their children and grandchildren how skilled were the competitors and how magnificent were the prizes on this day.
When the games were at an end, Achilles stretched himself upon his couch, but he could not sleep, for the image of his dead friend was constantly before his eyes. He tossed from side to side, thinking of all the joys and the troubles that Patroclus had shared with him, and at last he sprang up and rushed down to the shore, where he ran wildly to and fro. Then, as the first rays of the morning sun reddened the sky, he returned to his tent, harnessed his horses to his chariot, bound the corpse of Hector to it as before, and dragged it three times around the mound of earth. And this he did for several nights following.