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Homer 137  Homer (ca. Twelfth Century b.c.) Helen on the Walls The Iliad, iii, 121–242 Now to Helen of the white arms came a messenger, Iris, disguised in the form of her sister by marriage, Laodike, loveliest of the daughters of Priam, whom Helikaon wed, the strong son of Antenor. And she found her in her rooms, weaving with crimson cloth a great web that folded double, in which she was working the tale of the numberless struggles between Trojans, tamers of horses, and the bronze-clad Achaians, all they had suffered for her at the bitter hands of Ares. And Iris the quick-footed came, and stood beside her, and said: “Come with me, dear girl, and see the wonder that has happened. For those who once were at war, each man against the other struggling in the plain, and whose only lust was for killing, now sit in a sudden silence, and a lull has come in the war, and they rest upon their shields and the tall spears are stuck in the ground beside them. For now in a duel of single spears, Alexander and brave Menelaos will fight together for you, and you shall be the wife of the man who wins in the fighting.” So she spoke, and awoke a passion of longing in Helen, sweet desire for the husband she had before, for her home and her parents. Over her head she drew a veil of shimmering cloth, and the tears stood in her eyes as she quickly went from her room; but not alone, for two serving-girls went with her— Aithre, daughter of Pittheus, and Klymene with gentle eyes like the gentle eyes of cattle. And these three went swiftly down toward the Skaian gates. Now Priam was already there, and with him were Panthios and Thmyoites, Lampos and Klytios, Hiketaion, descended of Ares, Antenor and Oukalegon, men of perceptive advice and the elders of the people, 138 Ancient Greek whom age had retired from war, but excellent speakers still, with voices clear and fine, like the voices of cicadas who sing in the trees of the forest, and its fineness trembles the air like the whiteness of a lily. Such were they, the leaders of Troy, who sat upon the tower. But when they saw Helen ascending, the old men murmured together and spoke their wingèd words: “Surely no blame can touch either the men of Troy or Achaia, because they suffer so long for the sake of a woman like this, whose face, in its terrible beauty, is like the face of a goddess. But goddess though she be, let her go away in the ships and not remain in this land, a curse to us and our children.” So the old men murmured, but Priam called out to Helen: “Come here, dear child, beside me. Sit here and now look down on the husband you had before and your former friends and your people. In my eyes you are blameless; the gods, I say, are guilty who drove upon me this bitter war with the men of Achaia. But enough, and now tell me the name of that magnificent man. Who is that man, so majestic among the Achaians? He stands shorter by a head than most of the other fighters, but never before have my eyes seen any man so noble, so splendid or royal as this. Yes, he stands like a king.” And Helen, the glory of womankind, answered the king: “Dearest father, never have I failed in the respect and fear I owe you. But now I wish that I had died by my own hand on that day when I came with your son across the sea in his ship, leaving my home behind me, and my growing child, and my friends, the lovely friends of my girlhood. But it has not happened that way, and now I am worn with remorse. But this is my answer to you: that man is the son of Atreus, powerful Agamemnon, a king but also a fighter, a brave and an able spearsman, and once my kinsman too—though who could believe that now, whore that I am? Homer 139  So she spoke, and the king marvelled at Agamemnon and exclaimed: “Happy son of Atreus, favored of fortune, how many men of Achaia stand mustered beneath your sway! Long ago I journeyed to Phrygia with its lovely vineyards and saw the Phrygian people in their...


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