Diomedes Strikes Ares
Diomedes, also known as Tydides (son of Tydeus), was the youngest of the Achean chieftains at Troy. Too, he was, with the exception of Achilles, the most feared and lethal of their warriors. Book V of the Iliad relates his encounters with three Olympian deities: Aphrodite, Apollo and Ares, each of whom sided with Troy. Diomedes fared not so well with Apollo but (with a little help from the goddess Pallas Athena) managed to vanquish both Aphrodite and Ares, wounding each of them and driving them from the field.
Prior to facing Ares, Diomedes is struck by an arrow. He sits apart from the battle, resting and cleansing his wound. Athena rebukes his rest as shameful to his father, Tydeus, a hero she championed in the past as she now does Diomedes. The young chieftain replies that though he has seen Ares wreaking havoc on the field in favor of the Trojans, it is not fear of the god that deters him from battle but, rather, Athena's own instruction that he confront no immortal other than Aphrodite. The goddess relents and bids him retreat from no one, including Ares. She herself will accompany him as his charioteer:
. . . near Tydides stood the Athenian maid;
The king beside his panting steeds she found,
O'erspent with toil reposing on the ground;
To cool his glowing wound he sat apart,
(The wound inflicted by the Lycian dart.)
Large drops of sweat from all his limbs descend,
Beneath his ponderous shield his sinews bend,
Whose ample belt, that o'er his shoulder lay,
He eased; and wash'd the clotted gore away.
The goddess leaning o'er the bending yoke,
Beside his coursers, thus her silence broke:
"Degenerate prince! and not of Tydeus' kind,
Whose little body lodged a mighty mind;
Foremost he press'd in glorious toils to share,
And scarce refrain'd when I forbade the war.
Alone, unguarded, once he dared to go,
And feast, incircled by the Theban foe;
There braved, and vanquish'd, many a hardy knight;
Such nerves I gave him, and such force in fight.
Thou too no less hast been my constant care;
Thy hands I arm'd, and sent thee forth to war:
But thee or fear deters, or sloth detains;
No drop of all thy father warms thy veins."
The chief thus answered mild: "Immortal maid!"
I own thy presence, and confess thy aid.
Not fear, thou know'st, withholds me from the plains,
Nor sloth hath seized me, but thy word restrains:
From warring gods thou bad'st me turn my spear,
And Venus only found resistance here.
Hence, goddess! heedful of thy high commands,
Loth I gave way, and warn'd our Argive bands:
For Mars, the homicide, these eyes beheld,
With slaughter red, and raging round the field."
Then thus Minerva:--"Brave Tydides, hear!"
Not Mars himself, nor aught immortal, fear.
Full on the god impel thy foaming horse:
Pallas commands, and Pallas lends thee force.
Rash, furious, blind, from these to those he flies,
And every side of wavering combat tries;
Large promises makes, and breaks the promise made:
Now gives the Grecians, now the Trojans aid."
She said, and to the steeds approaching near,
Drew from his seat the martial charioteer.
The vigorous power the trembling car ascends,
Fierce for revenge; and Diomed attends:
The groaning axle bent beneath the load;
So great a hero, and so great a god.
She snatch'd the reins, she lash'd with all her force,
And full on Mars impelled the foaming horse:
But first, to hide her heavenly visage, spread
Black Orcus' helmet o'er her radiant head.
Just then gigantic Periphas lay slain,
The strongest warrior of the Aetolian train;
The god, who slew him, leaves his prostrate prize
Stretch'd where he fell, and at Tydides flies.
Now rushing fierce, in equal arms appear
The daring Greek, the dreadful god of war!
Full at the chief, above his courser's head,
From Mars's arm the enormous weapon fled:
Pallas opposed her hand, and caused to glance
Far from the car the strong immortal lance.
Then threw the force of Tydeus' warlike son;
The javelin hiss'd; the goddess urged it on:
Where the broad cincture girts his armour round,
It pierced the god: his groin received the wound.
From the rent skin the warrior tugs again
The smoking steel. Mars bellows with the pain:
Loud as the roar encountering armies yield,
When shouting millions shake the thundering field.
Both armies start, and trembling gaze around;
And earth and heaven re-bellow to the sound.
As vapours blown by Auster's sultry breath,
Pregnant with plagues, and shedding seeds of death,
Beneath the rage of burning Sirius rise,
Choke the parch'd earth, and blacken all the skies;
In such a cloud the god from combat driven,
High o'er the dusky whirlwind scales the heaven.
Wild with his pain, he sought the bright abodes,
There sullen sat beneath the sire of gods,
Show'd the celestial blood, and with a groan
Thus poured his plaints before the immortal throne:
"Can Jove, supine, flagitious facts survey,
And brook the furies of this daring day?
For mortal men celestial powers engage,
And gods on gods exert eternal rage:
From thee, O father! all these ills we bear,
And thy fell daughter with the shield and spear;
Thou gavest that fury to the realms of light,
Pernicious, wild, regardless of the right.
All heaven beside reveres thy sovereign sway,
Thy voice we hear, and thy behest obey:
"Tis hers to offend, and even offending share
Thy breast, thy counsels, thy disinguish'd care:
So boundless she, and thou so partial grown,
Well may we deem the wondrous birth thy own.
Now frantic Diomed, at her command,
Against the immortals lifts his raging hand:
The heavenly Venus first his fury found,
Me next encountering, me he dared to wound:
. . .
Original author: Homer