Panel 12: the seduction of Lyssa
As Achilles contemplates recent events, he incessantly hears Alecto, Tisiphone and Megaera who afflict his thoughts with their voices. Odysseus and Antilochus arrive to find the son of Peleus in a state of exhaustion. Odysseus offers to accompany Achilles to Lesbos where the oracles have suggested that he may find atonement. Antilochus offers to take command of the Myrmidons in his absence. At this very time King Memnon of Susa, acting on a request from Priamos, was approaching the walls of Troy with his multitudes.
Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought
countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying
down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures,
for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the
son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with
Achilles sat by his ship listening to the sound of the water lapping under the planks. The yellow lights of fires continued into the distance. He heard the sounds of bragging and screams of insult but his mind was with the Amazon maiden. His men quietly tended to their ships or weapons. Some were sleeping.
He knew that she deserved his sword. She, like the others, was insulting not only the Myrmidon warriors but all who had died on the plain of Troy. What was the maiden imagining, flinging darts at Ajax and the son of Peleus? Did she think that these events were not planned far in advance by Zeus, father of gods and men who rules from Olympus? Was she not advised by her mentors that she could have come with victorious Achilles to Phthia, where decorated in rich gold jewellery, her hair anointed with precious oils, she would have sat with him as queen. Achilles cursed. Once again envious Zeus, angry with the Nereid, was punishing her progeny for fear that history might construe the name of Achilles as greater than the Olympians.
Hovering close to the prince was Alecto, chattering incessantly and reminding him of how ignoble his life had been. In her words he heard his mother’s voice whispering, “You are still a mortal, my son, and only on your mother’s side is the way of death barred for you.” Alecto could be silenced only by atonement but Achilles did not believe in the very gods by whom he was conceived. Achilles believed in no one and when he focused upon spiritual advancement, it was from within himself, rather than submitting to gods or morals. His rites were practiced with his lance and he received absolution through his withdrawal from the celebration of life.
Alecto in the voice of Thetis cried, “You abandoned Deidamia and Briseis. For the lust of Hemithea you killed Tenes who honoured Apollo. Fair Pisidice of Methymna begged for your love that you lent freely and then you had her stoned as a traitor. Now Achilles has slain the fairest of all maidens, the goddess daughter of great-souled Ares, the slayer of men. You have angered the children of Leto, for Penthesilea came to the city of Apollo for atonement. The gods are silenced by the thunder of Zeus, who has forbidden them to intervene, but the mistress of the wild beasts will not tolerate a mortal in the armour of Hephaestus who wields the lance of Peleus to use his masculine powers to destroy the most chaste of all her daughters. With the cut of a sword you have slain generations of children that will never be born. With your lance you have opened the east gates of Themiskyra but be wary of the west gates of Troy, for it is there that it is portended that you will fall, not as a god but as a common man, to the anger of darkly cloaked Apollo.”
The son of Peleus known as Achilles was male, twenty-nine years of age. He was born to the nereid Thetis in the kingdom of Phthia. We have come to know him as the slayer of men. He found that life among the Myrmidon warriors suited him but he was not a naturally affable person. He had met a handful of people in his life that he had found decent but he found the vast majority to be worthless, conniving, betraying, lying and deceptive manipulators.
He disliked his position as leader of his men. He preferred to fight. He disliked his upbringing, angry that wise Chiron shared with him Prometheus’ seed of hope that had allowed him to endure this long. He disliked the time he spent with Lycomedes for having met Deidamia and left her with child but most of all he disliked having to sit idle by his ships, wasting his skills. He knew that he must die sometime.
Alecto taunted, “Achilles is alive and breathing in a prison of his own making. He has the means to return with his ships and treasures to Deidamia and see his son, Neoptolemus. He can leave this battlefield to the bickering of kings. Achilles wakes to the fingers of dawn each day where Penthesilea took her last breath on the fields of Troy. Penthesilea can never be released from these plains of death.”
Achilles lived in tragedy. His heart was black. He was dead inside because of the past. He felt that he had no emotions left and he was simply waiting. He found it hard to trust people and let them get close to him. His manner was quiet and cool. Individuals were lulled into a false sense of security when they were close to him for he appeared to have a soft and sensitive side. He did not, and when angered he was pitiless.
“Do not pretend it matters not,” Alecto whispered into his ear. “Nothing can bring the maiden back. Lives have been forever changed, and the world will carry the pain of her death. Will you ever understand the unspeakable despair, pain, suffering and grief that you have manufactured with your anger. On a blood-soaked field the beautiful Penthesilea lay slain by your sword. How could such a young, vibrant, healthy and loving maiden be still? But there she lay naked, covered for modesty to her shoulders with the cloaks of Achaean princes. All those who were present in tears attempted to raise her, but the body did not move nor respond. They all recognized a goddess but she could not answer them for she was dead.”
The underworld was Achilles’ home. It was bleak and sinister. He hated the living world and felt that he was its victim. He had no objections to causing other people pain as he put himself through his rituals of self-denial. He was a suffering child with the hard exterior of a warrior.
“You are not the one who suffers,” Alecto taunted. “This is not in the natural order of life. The mother should die before the child, not the child before the mother. With your sword you severed the maiden from all her futures. Penthesilea will never walk her children on the lawns outside the walls of Themiskyra nor will she speak of legends of the ancient queen or of Lysippe’s journey from the land by the Oxos River. She will never tell them how Otrere held her close to her heart to wipe the tears of a minor scrape. Penthesilea will never teach her daughters to ride the ponies or string the arc on a summer afternoon. She will never see grandchildren who bring honour to their queen.”
Achilles tried to escape the Erinýes by concentrating on his thoughts. When alone, the warrior recorded words of great personal meaning as if he wished to leave an untarnished record from his heart. He took time and effort to ensure that the writings were kept for it was highly important to him that he be not forgotten:
He rides down to the earth from an invisible mountain.
As pounding hoofs touch wet grass, the steed releases his angry growl,
For he yearns to be elsewhere.
The Hellene creatures scream in panic and run in all directions with lies and deceptions.
Death gazes at the humans with an empty stare.
They knock each other down in their dash for safety.
He would slaughter them as they flee, but sensing that his horse is hungry and weary,
He decides to rest.
He wrote again:
It rained for three days. The sky is so grey.
A deep cut makes its way through pallid clouds, and a figure emerges,
Draped head to foot in black cloth, black as night.
His cloak lashes to and fro with the wind.
He carries a sword on his back, an axe on his left side and a lance on the right.
The disgusting Hellene creatures scream in panic and flee in all directions,
With lies and deceptions.
Death gazes with an empty stare, as they knock each other down in their dash to safety.
He wishes to slaughter them as they flee.
Now Megaera and Tisiphone joined Alecto to cry as violent wind through the trees when a storm rises from the darkened sea, “Why does Thetis grieve for the son whom she has loved and protected? Is it that she has gathered all favours owed to her and now watches as Hephaestus and Dionysus forge a golden vase as a burial gift? Even Olympian Zeus intervened on her behalf and granted Achilles respect from the Achaeans and showered him with recompense and victory, but look how she prepares her dismal mourning clothes!”
“Quiet!” Achilles whispered as he looked for the source of the sounds. “Why do you torment me?”
Odysseus and Antilochus, the son of Nestor, arrived in the camp of Achilles to overhear him speaking to a void. It was clear to them that the dark sisters were angry with the son of Peleus for the dissention in the ranks of the Greeks sown by the death of Thersites.
Antilochus greeted Achilles with the embrace of a confidant. The hero reacted with empty eyes, not wishing to reveal his preoccupation with the slain Amazon. He had no such concern for a dead fool.
Odysseus spoke. “My friend, you appear gaunt and worn from the events at Troy.”
Said Achilles, “I have not slept for I am plagued through the night by Alecto, Megaera and Tisiphone, who tear at my soul. Give me strong wine that I might rest before battle.”
Odysseus reached for the wine and mixing some in the bowl he offered it to Achilles and Antilochus and spoke. “Did you not know that the Erinýes are demanding sacrifice and atonement, for without the shedding of innocent blood there can be no release from their cries. There is much talk in the camp of the death of Thersites and Nestor’s speech on the field. There is hearsay that you lusted after the maiden even after her body lay cold.”
“I should have tied her by the ankles to my chariot and dragged her naked around the walls of the city!” Achilles interrupted.
“Be it such, but it was not considered proper by the princes and chiefs to see such a maiden dishonoured before their men. The nature of such actions breeds mutiny in the hearts of those who have been so long away from their wives.” Odysseus sipped from his kylix, looking briefly toward the sea, before continuing quietly, “The oracles have advised that it might please the gods that we sail to Lesbos for a time that these things may fade from conversations and that you might offer sacrifice to Leto, Apollo and Artemis. I can sail with you to Mithymna but they advise that the rituals must be performed by you alone.”
Antilochus added quickly, “In this time of appeasement, I will remain with your ships and the Myrmidons and I will speak with my father reasonably to soften the words of Nestor that have been whispered throughout the camp. While the Trojans mourn the Amazon queen, their last hope, the multitudes of Agamemnon continue an assault on the gates of Troy. Priamos and his princes dare not leave the city.”
Odysseus counselled Achilles, “The high priest Prokopios who tends the altar in the ruins of the temple has instructed that on your arrival you are entreated to search for three spotless goats from the forest of stone in the wilderness. You will then capture and patiently tame the wild animals so that they remain by you. When the goats trust and follow you, they must be taken to the temples of Leto in Issa, Apollo on Mount Lepetymnos, and Artemis close to the city of Mytilene, each on a different day. You must inflict death upon the kids to make sacrifice to Leto and Apollo. You may roast and share the meat of the sacrifice to Leto, having burned the bones and offal, but you must leave the offering to Apollo to the wild birds and animals. These creatures have taken your place and can provide atonement, but only temporarily. The third goat, your offering to the mistress of the animals, must be released to the wilderness. If the tamed kid leaves your care, then you will have received the acknowledgement of Artemis. If however, the goat remains with you and refuses the wilderness, then you must bring the animal back to Troy to be sacrificed by the Scaean Gates before you will be left in peace.”
Achilles addressed his companions. “Friends, for you truly are dear to me, Odysseus, sacker of cities and beloved of Zeus, and Antilochus son of Nestor who has been close to me since Patroclus, lying bloodied and defenceless by the lance of Euphorbus, was treacherously slain by Hektor; I will do all the things that the children of Leto command, but more so I go for those with whom I now share this sweet wine. In due time, when our weapons have been sharpened and the horses have rested, we will return to our business with King Priamos on these blood-soaked fields.”
While Troy’s daughters mourned within her walls, her young men, having toiled through the night, prepared to meet a reorganized Achaean horde. As the first light of day appeared on the sparkling water, waves of men pressed hard on the Trojan defenders at the Dardanian Gate. Still the Trojans charged forth and despite initial losses held their position firmly. They had little choice, for Eris and deadly Enyo stalked in their midst. Encouraged by the Erinýes, Achaeans, breathing destruction from their lips like flame, raged ahead ruthlessly.
Fiercely Ares stirred the horde until sheer willpower made men forget that they were spent to exhaustion. Each side feigned to be stronger than the other, masking their dread with icy faces. All around fell javelins, spears, and arrows from the parapets as Achaeans grouped and crouched, each in their turn, under heavy shields and armour. Slowly like rising black water they advanced closer and closer to the murderous fight.
Two years earlier Priamos had sent messengers to King Memnon, son of Tithonus who founded the city of Susa, to come in aid of Troy. With little news, hope of his arrival had long been abandoned and with the death of the queen of the Amazons it appeared that Troy was lost. Already preparations had been surreptitiously undertaken for the escape of the noblest sons of Priamos.
On year eight of the Trojan War, the first month of the second season, day 9, under the majesty of cloud gatherer Zeus, Memnon, king of Susa, son of Helios, in life, prosperity and health received the heralds of King Priamos of Troy. The messengers, in chariots and dressed in battle mail, brought gifts of oil and perfumed wine and pine nuts along with finely wrought gold vessels and iron spear tips.
They told of dissention in the Greek camp and of ambassadors having been sent to all the cities of Asia, petitioning Paeonia, Ismarus, Thrace, Tenedos, Lesbos, Thebe, Adramytium, Lymessus, Mysia, Larisa, Ionia, Thermodon, Alybe, Paphlagonia, Ascania and Lycia to come to the defence of Troy. They spoke of hope that Queen Otrere of the Amazons was at this moment gathering her multitudes and allies to join the fray. They told of how glorious Hektor was leading the defeat of Achilles, Odysseus and Ajax.
The ambassadors prayed that the king of Susa would come to Troy where he would be met as a brother of Hektor and Paris and would enjoy equal share of all the treasures that the city could offer. Memnon, being the son of Tithonus, shared blood in the line of King Laomedon and could not as a prince of Troy refuse but surmised that he would require a considerable army for the task as well as the approbation of his council.
Soon after Memnon received word he met in council. Memnon seized the adornments of battle, and arrayed himself in his coat of mail that Eos had forged by Hephaestus. When the scion of Laomedon appeared before his princes like the rising of Hyperion, he assumed the appearance of his father, Tithonus. He stood erect and spoke, “Our brethren, who belong to the greatest of the families, we have received a petition from Priamos of Troy, that has been under siege for ten years now, that we may join in the battle and defeat King Agamemnon who wishes all to bow as subjects of Mycenae. Agamemnon is stationed, together with many countries, which he has brought with him by force, being every country in Thessaly, Argos, Achaea, Crete, Boetia, Elis, Laconia, Attica, Phocis, Aetolia, Hestiaeotis, Rhodesa and Euboea. They brought a thousand ships to the harbour and are well equipped with infantry bearing weapons, steeds and chariotry. More numerous are they than the sand of the shore. We have been told that they are standing, drawn up for battle, behind the deceitful Agamemnon.”
The same evening they, in council, drank dark sweet wine, danced to music and feasted in honour of Apollo. Then, as Memnon sat upon a throne of gold, there arrived scouts who were in the following of the Achaean invaders. They were conducted into his presence, and Memnon said to them: “What are you?” They said, “As for us, Agamemnon has caused that we should come to spy out where Memnon is, for he has received word of a powerful alliance from all of Asia gathering for the defence of Troy. The king bade us to determine the truth in such hearsay.”
Then Memnon had the princes and chiefs called into the presence of the spies, and had them hear every word that the scouts of Agamemnon had spoken. Said King Memnon to them, “See that this is proof of the dissention in the Greek ranks, for the peasantry and the officials that have fought daily under the king question openly the endless war and its outcome. But the presence of his scouts in Susa tells us that Agamemnon also fears defeat. Yea I say, however, that should Troy fall, Agamemnon will follow his scouts to Asia together with the numerous countries that are with him, being people and horses, like the multitudes of the sand.”
Said the princes and chiefs who were in the presence of Memnon, “It is a great fault which the governors of the countries and the officials of Agamemnon have committed in not informing us of these things.”
Then Memnon said, “Let us gather every prince of Susa and Aetheopia, their infantry and their chariotry, and march in force, to stand, equipped, drawn up in line of battle at Troy before Agamemnon and the Achaean princes rout and plunder Asia.”
Then the high priests and oracles were instructed to offer a sacrifice of oil and wine to the god of the silver bow and the next morning rose-coloured Eos portended a fruitful march for Memnon and his princes. With these signs, the order was given to prepare infantry and chariotry and hasten to Troy. The council gave the plan of battle.
The army would cross the mountains, defeat Memnon’s enemies and spread word of the Aethiopians throughout Asia. With seized treasures they would winter on the plateau by the Salt Sea to continue the march to the Hospitable Sea to join the Amazons during the warm months and then surprise the Greeks from the north.
Memnon betook himself to his horses, and led quickly on, being alone by himself. With such leadership he gathered a multitude of warriors, five thousand strong. Those from the country of Susa rode a thousand chariots dressed in bone mail and armed with pikes and arcs. The Aethiopians, in animal hide and furs, carried short broad spears and wide shields and ran as swiftly as the steeds.
Year nine of the Trojan war, the tenth month of the third season, Memnon marched with the Aethiopians through Asia, laying waste to those who opposed him and gathering fame and reinforcements from those who with their chiefs were with him. The allies brought to him chariotry, horses and warriors in quantity without its like. They covered the mountains and the valleys like grasshoppers with their multitudes. He left not silver or gold in the lands that fought him, plundering all possessions and sharing them with those who would choose to join him in battle.
Every country trembled before him, fear was in their hearts and all the rebels came bowing down for fear of the fame of Memnon when his army came upon them. Then Memnon continued northward and when he arrived at the highland of the Salt Lake he made a vast camp where his army and his allies with their princes prepared for the advance to Hellespontos early in the first season.
During this time messengers reached Troy to announce that Memnon who had marched from Susa for one-and-a-half years was arriving with an army of Aethiopians larger than the world had ever seen and with a multitude of allies with horses and chariots. The son of Tithonus with the help of Apollo had driven through the land between the rivers, north across the mountains to the Euxine Sea and then southwest to Troy following the path of the Amazons. In his march he had laid waste to those lands that opposed him plundering their gold and rich possessions. He had gathered together many allies from Asia and was determined to put an end to adventuresome King Agamemnon. The half-god Memnon shone from his chariot with the light of Eos and wore golden mail forged for him by Hephaestus.
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