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Ovid XIII Chapter 1: 1-122 The debate over the arms: Ajax speaks
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|When the captains were seated, and the rank and file were standing, in a circle, around them, Ajax, master of the seven-layered shield, leapt up, and, fired with indignation, he looked back fiercely at the Sigean shore, and the ships beached on the shore, and, pointing to them, he said: 'It is in front of these vessels I plead my cause, and Ulysses opposes me, by Jupiter! Yet he did not hesitate to give way before Hector's blazing torches, which I resisted, which I drove away from the boats. But then, it is less risky to battle using lying words, than to fight with fists, and I am not prompt to speak, as he is not to act. I am as powerful in the fierce conflicts of the battle, as that man is in talk. I do not think however that I need to mention my deeds to you, Pelasgians, since you have seen them: let Ulysses tell you of his that are conducted without witness, in which night is the only sharer! I confess the prize I seek is great: but my rival detracts from the honour of it. There is nothing magnificent for Ajax in it, however great the thing is, if Ulysses has aspired to it. He has already won the prize in this contest, since when he is defeated he can say he fought it out with me. As for me, if my courage were in doubt, my noble birth is a powerful argument, a son of Telamon, he who, under brave Hercules, captured the walls of Troy, and sailed in the ship from Pagasae, with the Argonauts, to Colchis. Telamon's father was Aeacus, who judges there, among the silent dead, where Sisyphus,son of Aeolus rolls his heavy stone. Lofty Jupiter acknowledges Aeacus and confesses him to be his son: so Ajax is third in descent from Jove. Yet even this ancestry would not further my cause, if I did not share it with great Achilles. Our fathers, Peleus and Aeacus, were brothers: Achilles was my cousin, I ask for my cousin's weapons! Why are you, Ulysses, the son of Sisyphus, and similar to him in your capability for fraud and trickery, involving an alien race in the affairs of the Aeacidae? Are the arms denied me because I took up arms first, and without being rooted out, and shall he seem the better man who seized his weapons last, and shirked the fight with a pretence of madness, until Palamedes, son of Nauplius, the shrewder man, uncovered this cowardly spirit's deceit, and dragged him to the weapons he shunned? Shall he own all, who wanted none: shall I, who was the first to put myself at risk, be denied honour, and my cousin's gifts? If only his madness had been real, or been believed, and this exhorter to crime had never been our companion against the Phrygian fortresses! Then Lemnos would not hold you, to our shame, Philoctetes, son of Poeas, of whom they say that, hidden in the woodland caves, you move the stones, now, with your laments, calling down on Laertes's son the curses that he deserves, and, if there are gods, do not curse in vain! Now, alas, he who was sworn to the same conflict as ourselves, one of our captains, heir to Hercules's arrows, weakened by sickness and hunger, clothed and fed by the birds, employs the arrows, that fate intended for Troy, in firing at birds! Still, he is alive, because he did not accompany Ulysses further: luckless Palamedes would have preferred to be left behind also: he would have been alive, or at least have died an irreproachable death: that man there, remembering all too well the exposure of his own supposed madness, accused him of betraying the Greek cause, and uncovered gold, he had previously hidden, as evidence of the fabricated charge. So, by abandonment or death, he has drawn the strength of Achaea: that is how Ulysses fights, that is why he is to be feared! Though he be greater than Nestor, the true, in eloquence, I will never believe that his desertion of Nestor in battle was anything but a crime. When Nestor implored Ulysses's help, weary as he was with old age, and slowed by a wound to his horse, he was abandoned by his companion. Diomede, son of Tydeus, is well aware that I am not inventing the charge: he called Ulysses repeatedly, by name, and reproached his cowardly friend for running away. The gods look down, with the eyes of the just, at human dealings! Look, he who gave no help needs it: and as he had abandoned Nestor, so he would have been abandoned: he himself had established his own precedent. He shouted to his companions. I approached, and saw him, trembling and pale, and shaking with fear of impending death. I thrust out the mass of my shield, and covered him as he lay there, and (small cause for praise in that) I saved his cowardly life. If you go through with this contest, let us revisit that spot: revisit the enemy, your wound, and your usual cowardice, hide behind my shield, and contend with me under it! Yet, after I had snatched him up, he who was granted no strength to stand, because of his wounds, ran for it, not slowed by his wounds at all. Hector approaches, and, with him, leads the gods to battle, and brave men as well as you are terrified, Ulysses, when he rushes onwards, such is the fear he brings. I felled him to the ground with a huge rock hurled from a distance, as he was exulting in the success of his bloodthirsty slaughter. When he challenged one warrior to meet him, I withstood him. You wished the lot would fall to me, Achaeans, and your prayers were answered. If you ask what the outcome of that conflict was I was not beaten by Hector. See, the Trojans bring fire and sword, and Jupiter himself, against the Greek ships: where now is the eloquent Ulysses? Surely I, with my own breast, shielded the thousand ships, your hope of return: grant me the arms for all that fleet. Yet, if I may speak the truth, the arms search for greater honour than I do, to be linked to my glory, and the arms seek out Ajax, not Ajax the arms. Let the Ithacan compare with these things his killing of Rhesus, and of cowardly Dolon, his taking captive Helenus, Priam's son, and his theft of Pallas's image, the Palladium: nothing performed in daylight, nothing without Diomede present. If ever you grant the armour for such worthless service, divide it, and let Diomede have the greater share of it. Nevertheless why give them to the Ithacan, who carries things out secretly, and always unarmed, deceiving the unsuspecting enemy with his tricks? The gleam of the helmet, radiant with shining gold, will reveal his scheming, and show where he hides. The Dulichian's head beneath Achilles's helmet, will not bear so great a weight, and the spear-shaft, from Pelion, cannot be anything but heavy and burdensome for his arm, unsuited to war, and the shield, with its engraved design of the vast world, will not be fit for that cowardly left hand born for stealing. Perverse man, why do you go after a prize that will cripple you, one that, if it is given you in error by the Achaean people, will be a reason for being despoiled by the enemy, not feared by them? And running away, in which you surpass everyone, you master-coward, will turn out to be a slow game for you, if you are carrying such a weight. Add to that your shield that is rarely used in battle, and uninjured, and mine split in a thousand places from fending off spear-thrusts, that needs a new successor. Finally (what is the use of words?) let us be seen together in action! Send out the brave hero's arms into the middle of the enemy ranks: order them to be recovered from there, and let the retriever be equipped with what he retrieves.'||
Consedere duces et vulgi stante corona |
surgit ad hos clipei dominus septemplicis Aiax,
utque erat inpatiens irae, Sigeia torvo
litora respexit classemque in litore vultu
intendensque manus 'agimus, pro Iuppiter!' inquit
'ante rates causam, et mecum confertur Ulixes!
at non Hectoreis dubitavit cedere flammis,
quas ego sustinui, quas hac a classe fugavi.
tutius est igitur fictis contendere verbis,
quam pugnare manu, sed nec mihi dicere promptum,
nec facere est isti: quantumque ego Marte feroci
inque acie valeo, tantum valet iste loquendo.
nec memoranda tamen vobis mea facta, Pelasgi,
esse reor: vidistis enim; sua narret Ulixes,
quae sine teste gerit, quorum nox conscia sola est!
praemia magna peti fateor; sed demit honorem
aemulus: Aiaci non est tenuisse superbum,
sit licet hoc ingens, quicquid speravit Ulixes;
iste tulit pretium iam nunc temptaminis huius,
quod, cum victus erit, mecum certasse feretur.
'Atque ego, si virtus in me dubitabilis esset,
nobilitate potens essem, Telamone creatus,
moenia qui forti Troiana sub Hercule cepit
litoraque intravit Pagasaea Colcha carina;
Aeacus huic pater est, qui iura silentibus illic
reddit, ubi Aeoliden saxum grave Sisyphon urget;
Aeacon agnoscit summus prolemque fatetur
Iuppiter esse suam: sic a Iove tertius Aiax.
nec tamen haec series in causam prosit, Achivi,
si mihi cum magno non est communis Achille:
frater erat, fraterna peto! quid sanguine cretus
Sisyphio furtisque et fraude simillimus illi
inseris Aeacidis alienae nomina gentis?
'An quod in arma prior nulloque sub indice veni,
arma neganda mihi, potiorque videbitur ille,
ultima qui cepit detractavitque furore
militiam ficto, donec sollertior isto
sed sibi inutilior timidi commenta retexit
Naupliades animi vitataque traxit ad arma?
optima num sumat, quia sumere noluit ulla:
nos inhonorati et donis patruelibus orbi,
obtulimus quia nos ad prima pericula, simus?
'Atque utinam aut verus furor ille, aut creditus esset,
nec comes hic Phrygias umquam venisset ad arces
hortator scelerum! non te, Poeantia proles,
expositum Lemnos nostro cum crimine haberet!
qui nunc, ut memorant, silvestribus abditus antris
saxa moves gemitu Laertiadaeque precaris,
quae meruit, quae, si di sunt, non vana precaris.
et nunc ille eadem nobis iuratus in arma,
heu! pars una ducum, quo successore sagittae
Herculis utuntur, fractus morboque fameque
velaturque aliturque avibus, volucresque petendo
debita Troianis exercet spicula fatis.
ille tamen vivit, quia non comitavit Ulixem;
mallet et infelix Palamedes esse relictus,
[viveret aut certe letum sine crimine haberet]
quem male convicti nimium memor iste furoris
prodere rem Danaam finxit fictumque probavit
crimen et ostendit, quod iam praefoderat, aurum. 60
ergo aut exilio vires subduxit Achivis,
aut nece: sic pugnat, sic est metuendus Ulixes!
'Qui licet eloquio fidum quoque Nestora vincat,
haut tamen efficiet, desertum ut Nestora crimen
esse rear nullum; qui cum inploraret Ulixem
vulnere tardus equi fessusque senilibus annis,
proditus a socio est; non haec mihi crimina fingi
scit bene Tydides, qui nomine saepe vocatum
corripuit trepidoque fugam exprobravit amico.
aspiciunt oculis superi mortalia iustis!
en eget auxilio, qui non tulit, utque reliquit,
sic linquendus erat: legem sibi dixerat ipse.
conclamat socios: adsum videoque trementem
pallentemque metu et trepidantem morte futura;
opposui molem clipei texique iacentem
servavique animam (minimum est hoc laudis) inertem.
si perstas certare, locum redeamus in illum:
redde hostem vulnusque tuum solitumque timorem
post clipeumque late et mecum contende sub illo!
at postquam eripui, cui standi vulnera vires
non dederant, nullo tardatus vulnere fugit.
'Hector adest secumque deos in proelia ducit,
quaque ruit, non tu tantum terreris, Ulixe,
sed fortes etiam: tantum trahit ille timoris.
hunc ego sanguineae successu caedis ovantem
eminus ingenti resupinum pondere fudi,
hunc ego poscentem, cum quo concurreret, unus
sustinui: sortemque meam vovistis, Achivi,
et vestrae valuere preces. si quaeritis huius
fortunam pugnae, non sum superatus ab illo.
ecce ferunt Troes ferrumque ignesque Iovemque
in Danaas classes: ubi nunc facundus Ulixes?
nempe ego mille meo protexi pectore puppes,
spem vestri reditus: date pro tot navibus arma.
'Quodsi vera licet mihi dicere, quaeritur istis
quam mihi maior honos, coniunctaque gloria nostra est,
atque Aiax armis, non Aiaci arma petuntur.
conferat his Ithacus Rhesum inbellemque Dolona
Priamidenque Helenum rapta cum Pallade captum:
luce nihil gestum, nihil est Diomede remoto;
si semel ista datis meritis tam vilibus arma,
dividite, et pars sit maior Diomedis in illis.
'Quo tamen haec Ithaco, qui clam, qui semper inermis
rem gerit et furtis incautum decipit hostem?
ipse nitor galeae claro radiantis ab auro
insidias prodet manifestabitque latentem;
sed neque Dulichius sub Achillis casside vertex
pondera tanta feret, nec non onerosa gravisque
Pelias hasta potest inbellibus esse lacertis,
nec clipeus vasti caelatus imagine mundi
conveniet timidae nataeque ad furta sinistrae:
debilitaturum quid te petis, inprobe, munus,
quod tibi si populi donaverit error Achivi,
cur spolieris, erit, non, cur metuaris ab hoste,
et fuga, qua sola cunctos, timidissime, vincis,
tarda futura tibi est gestamina tanta trahenti?
adde quod iste tuus, tam raro proelia passus,
integer est clipeus; nostro, qui tela ferendo
mille patet plagis, novus est successor habendus.
'Denique (quid verbis opus est?) spectemur agendo!
arma viri fortis medios mittantur in hostes:
inde iubete peti et referentem ornate relatis.'