ART by Tom Leedy                                                                           ellipsis THMB

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. Diomedes focused 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 (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:


                                          Logue's words:

                                              . . .

                                           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