Athena Restrains Achilles

To end a plague visited upon his army by Apollo, Agamemnon, high king of the Greeks has been made to return Cryzia, a young woman taken as a "prize" in the conquest of a Trojan town, to her father, a priest of the god.  Driven by pride and anger to assert his power and privilege, Agamemnon threatens to take as compensation the prize of some other Greek chieftain. He is vocally opposed in this by Achilles, a king in his own right and the greatest, most feared of the Greek warriors.  Insults are exchanged, the argument escalates. Achilles levels his own threat - to sail home, abandoning the Greeks to attempt their conquest of Troy without him - a thing which every Greek knows cannot be done.  Agamemnon issues one last insult, telling the assembled army that he will wish "Good riddance to bad rubbish" as Achilles departs but not before he takes, by force of arms if necessary, Achilles' own prize, Briseis.  This is Agamemnon's right, as high king, but it is a foolhardy move given the might and ferocity of Achilles.  Nonetheless, Agamemnon taunts Achilles, telling him he is the foolish one, stupid to have challenged the high king in word or deed.

Achilles is livid, his own rage ignited, as he prepares to kill Agamemnon on the spot:

   

                                           Logue's words:

   

                                              Achilles' face is like a chalkpit fringed with roaring wheat.

                                           His brain says: "Kill him. Let the Greeks sail home."

                                           His thigh steels flex.

   

                                              And then, 

                                           Much like a match-flame struck in full sunlight,

                                           We lose him in the prussic glare

                                           Teenage Athena, called the Daughter Prince - who burst

                                           Howling and huge out of God's head - sheds

                                           From her hard, wide-apart eyes, as she enters

                                           And stops time.

    

                                              But those still dying see:

                                              Achilles leap the 15 yards between

                                           Himself and Agamemnon;

                                           Achilles land, and straighten up, in one;

                                           Achilles' fingertips - such elegance! - 

                                           Push, push-push push, push Agamemnon's chest;

                                           The King lean back; Achilles grab

                                           And twist the mace out of his royal hand

                                           And lift it . . . Oh . . . flash! flash!

                                           The heralds running up . . .

                                           

                                              But we stay calm,

                                            For we have seen Athena's radiant hand

                                            Collar Achilles' plait,

                                            Then as a child its favorite doll

                                            Draw his head back towards her lips

                                            To say:

      

                                                "You know my voice?

                                                 You know my power?

         

                                                "Be still.

  

                                                 "God's wife has sent me:

                                             'Stop him.  I like them both,' she said.

                                                  I share her view.

                                              If you can stick to speech, harass him now.

                                              But try to kill him, and I kill you."

   

                                                  She goes,

                                              And time restarts.

   

   

                                            Original author: Homer