THE FALL OF TROY
THE FALL OF TROY
OTHER TRANSLATIONS --
Combellack Frederick M. (Trans.): "The War at Troy: What Homer
Didn't Tell" (University of Oklahoma Press Norman OK 1968).
RECOMMENDED READING --
Fitzgerald Robert (Trans.): "Homer: The Iliad" (Viking Press
New York 1968).
Homer's "Iliad" begins towards the close of the last of the ten
years of the Trojan War: its incidents extend over some fifty
days only and it ends with the burial of Hector. The things
which came before and after were told by other bards who between
them narrated the whole "cycle" of the events of the war and so
were called the Cyclic Poets. Of their works none have survived;
but the story of what befell between Hector's funeral and the
taking of Troy is told in detail and well told in a poem about
half as long as the "Iliad". Some four hundred years after
Christ there lived at Smyrna a poet of whom we know scarce
anything save that his first name was Quintus. He had saturated
himself with the spirit of Homer he had caught the ring of his
music and he perhaps had before him the works of those Cyclic
Poets whose stars had paled before the sun.
We have practically no external evidence as to the date or place
of birth of Quintus of Smyrna or for the sources whence he drew
his materials. His date is approximately settled by two passages
in the poem viz. vi. 531 sqq. in which occurs an illustration
drawn from the man-and-beast fights of the amphitheatre which
were suppressed by Theodosius I. (379-395 A.D.); and xiii. 335
sqq. which contains a prophecy the special particularity of
which it is maintained by Koechly limits its applicability to
the middle of the fourth century A.D.
His place of birth and the precise locality is given by himself
in xii. 308-313 and confirmatory evidence is afforded by his
familiarity of which he gives numerous instances with many
natural features of the western part of Asia Minor.
With respect to his authorities and the use he made of their
writings there has been more difference of opinion. Since his
narrative covers the same ground as the "Aethiopis" ("Coming of
Memnon") and the "Iliupersis" ("Destruction of Troy") of Arctinus
(circ. 776 B.C.) and the "Little Iliad" of Lesches (circ. 700
B.C.) it has been assumed that the work of Quintus "is little
more than an amplification or remodelling of the works of these
two Cyclic Poets." This however must needs be pure conjecture
as the only remains of these poets consist of fragments amounting
to no more than a very few lines from each and of the "summaries
of contents" made by the grammarian Proclus (circ. 140 A.D.)
which again we but get at second-hand through the "Bibliotheca"
of Photius (ninth century). Now not merely do the only
descriptions of incident that are found in the fragments differ
essentially from the corresponding incidents as described by
Quintus but even in the summaries meagre as they are we find
as German critics have shown by exhaustive investigation serious
discrepancies enough to justify us in the conclusion that even
if Quintus had the works of the Cyclic poets before him which is
far from certain his poem was no mere remodelling of theirs but
an independent and practically original work. Not that this
conclusion disposes by any means of all difficulties. If Quintus
did not follow the Cyclic poets from what source did he draw his
materials? The German critic unhesitatingly answers "from
Homer." As regards language versification and general spirit
the matter is beyond controversy; but when we come to consider
the incidents of the story we find deviations from Homer even
more serious than any of those from the Cyclic poets. And the
strange thing is that each of these deviations is a manifest
detriment to the perfection of his poem; in each of them the
writer has missed or has rejected a magnificent opportunity.
With regard to the slaying of Achilles by the hand of Apollo
only and not by those of Apollo and Paris he might have pleaded
that Homer himself here speaks with an uncertain voice (cf.
"Iliad" xv. 416-17 xxii. 355-60 and xxi. 277-78). But in
describing the fight for the body of Achilles ("Odyssey" xxiv. 36
sqq.) Homer makes Agamemnon say:
"So we grappled the livelong day and we had not refrained
But Zeus sent a hurricane stilling the storm of the battle
Now it is just in describing such natural phenomena and in
blending them with the turmoil of battle that Quintus is in his
element; yet for such a scene he substitutes what is by
comparison a lame and impotent conclusion. Of that awful cry
that rang over the sea heralding the coming of Thetis and the
Nymphs to the death-rites of her son and the panic with which it
filled the host Quintus is silent. Again Homer ("Odyssey" iv.
274-89) describes how Helen came in the night with Deiphobus and
stood by the Wooden Horse and called to each of the hidden
warriors with the voice of his own wife. This thrilling scene
Quintus omits and substitutes nothing of his own. Later on he
makes Menelaus slay Deiphobus unresisting "heavy with wine"
whereas Homer ("Odyssey" viii. 517-20) makes him offer such a
magnificent resistance that Odysseus and Menelaus together could
not kill him without the help of Athena. In fact we may say
that though there are echoes of the "Iliad" all through the
poem yet wherever Homer has in the "Odyssey" given the
outline-sketch of an effective scene Quintus has uniformly
neglected to develop it has sometimes substituted something much
weaker -- as though he had not the "Odyssey" before him!
For this we have no satisfactory explanation to offer. He may
have set his own judgment above Homer -- a most unlikely
hypothesis: he may have been consistently following in the
framework of his story some original now lost to us: there may
be more and longer lacunae in the text than any editors have
ventured to indicate: but whatever theory we adopt it must be
based on mere conjecture.
The Greek text here given is that of Koechly (1850) with many of
Zimmermann's emendations which are acknowledged in the notes.
Passages enclosed in square brackets are suggestions of Koechly
for supplying the general sense of lacunae. Where he has made no
such suggestion or none that seemed to the editors to be
adequate the lacuna has been indicated by asterisks though here
too a few words have been added in the translation sufficient to
connect the sense.
-- A.S. Way
How died for Troy the Queen of the Amazons Penthesileia.
When godlike Hector by Peleides slain
Passed and the pyre had ravined up his flesh
And earth had veiled his bones the Trojans then
Tarried in Priam's city sore afraid
Before the might of stout-heart Aeacus' son:
As kine they were that midst the copses shrink
From faring forth to meet a lion grim
But in dense thickets terror-huddled cower;
So in their fortress shivered these to see
That mighty man. Of those already dead
They thought of all whose lives he reft away
As by Scamander's outfall on he rushed
And all that in mid-flight to that high wall
He slew how he quelled Hector how he haled
His corse round Troy; -- yea and of all beside
Laid low by him since that first day whereon
O'er restless seas he brought the Trojans doom.
Ay all these they remembered while they stayed
Thus in their town and o'er them anguished grief
Hovered dark-winged as though that very day
All Troy with shrieks were crumbling down in fire.
Then from Thermodon from broad-sweeping streams
Came clothed upon with beauty of Goddesses
Penthesileia -- came athirst indeed
For groan-resounding battle but yet more
Fleeing abhorred reproach and evil fame
Lest they of her own folk should rail on her
Because of her own sister's death for whom
Ever her sorrows waxed Hippolyte
Whom she had struck dead with her mighty spear
Not of her will -- 'twas at a stag she hurled.
So came she to the far-famed land of Troy.
Yea and her warrior spirit pricked her on
Of murder's dread pollution thus to cleanse
Her soul and with such sacrifice to appease
The Awful Ones the Erinnyes who in wrath
For her slain sister straightway haunted her
Unseen: for ever round the sinner's steps
They hover; none may 'scape those Goddesses.
And with her followed twelve beside each one
A princess hot for war and battle grim
Far-famous each yet handmaids unto her:
Penthesileia far outshone them all.
As when in the broad sky amidst the stars
The moon rides over all pre-eminent
When through the thunderclouds the cleaving heavens
Open when sleep the fury-breathing winds;
So peerless was she mid that charging host.
Clonie was there Polemusa Derinoe
Evandre and Antandre and Bremusa
Hippothoe dark-eyed Harmothoe
Alcibie Derimacheia Antibrote
And Thermodosa glorying with the spear.
All these to battle fared with warrior-souled
Penthesileia: even as when descends
Dawn from Olympus' crest of adamant
Dawn heart-exultant in her radiant steeds
Amidst the bright-haired Hours; and o'er them all
How flawless-fair soever these may be
Her splendour of beauty glows pre-eminent;
So peerless amid all the Amazons Unto
Troy-town Penthesileia came.
To right to left from all sides hurrying thronged
The Trojans greatly marvelling when they saw
The tireless War-god's child the mailed maid
Like to the Blessed Gods; for in her face
Glowed beauty glorious and terrible.
Her smile was ravishing: beneath her brows
Her love-enkindling eyes shone like to stars
And with the crimson rose of shamefastness
Bright were her cheeks and mantled over them
Unearthly grace with battle-prowess clad.
Then joyed Troy's folk despite past agonies
As when far-gazing from a height the hinds
Behold a rainbow spanning the wide sea
When they be yearning for the heaven-sent shower
When the parched fields be craving for the rain;