Diomedes Strikes Aphrodite
Although Diomedes was the youngest of the Greek chieftains at Troy, he was highly respected as a military strategist and greatly feared as a warrior. Only the semi-divine Achilles exceeded him in battle. Whereas Achilles' sense of honor could not abide insult or wrong from any man, including the prideful high king, Agamemnon, Diomedes was of a more temperate character that allowed him to ignore the pettiness of Agamemnon, focusing instead, and always, on the best way to achieve the defeat of Troy.
Yet even the steely Diomedes could succumb to rage in certain circumstances. In Book V of the Iliad, we are told how, having been inspired by the goddess Athena (some might call it possessed by her), Diomedes performs feats of unmatched martial valor (some might say he went berserk), overwhelming gods and men alike as he mows through the Trojan ranks. Although he retreats after three times attacking Apollo, the Greek god of the Sun, among other things (and also a Trojan partisan), Diomedes boldly confronts Ares and Aphrodite. He vanquishes them both, wounding each and driving them from the field of battle in separate encounters. His set-to with Aphrodite is triggered when he first inflicts what appears to be a fatal wound on a Trojan hero, Aphrodite's mortal son, Aeneas. (And, oh yeah, Hera, the wife of Zeus, gets involved too.) In his "account" of the Iliad, Christopher Logue tells it this way:
. . .
Diomed found, and threw, a stone
As heavy as a cabbage made of lead,
That hit, and split, Aeneas' hip.
Who went down on one knee
And put his shield hand on the grass.
And with his other hand covered his eyes.
Dido might have become a grandmother
And Rome not had its day, except,
As Diomed came on to lop his top,
Aeneas' mama, Aphrodite (dressed
In grey silk lounge pyjamas trimmed with gold
And snakeskin flip-flops) stepped
Between him and the Greek.
A glow came from her throat, and from her hair
A fragrance that betokened the divine.
Stooping, she kissed him better, as
Queen Hera whispered: 'Greek, cut that bitch.'
And, Diomed, you did; nicking Love's wrist.
Studying the ichor as
It seeped across her pulse into her palm
Our Lady of the Thong lifted her other hand,
Removed a baby cobra from her hair
And dropped it, Diomed, onto your neck,
And saw its bite release its bane into your blood.
Then nobody could say
Who Diomed fought for, or for what he fought.
Rapt through the mass
Now shouting at the sky, now stomping on the plain,
He killed and killed and killed, Greek, Trojan, Greek.
Lord/less, fame/shame, both gone; and gone
Loyalty nurtured in the face of death,
The duty of revenge, the right to kill,
To jeer, to strip, to gloat, to be the first
To rally but the last to run, all gone -
And gone, our Lady Aphrodite, giggling.
Original author: Homer