The City in Peace

The Shield of Achilles

Iliad 18.490-508

by Stephen Jagoe

 

ἐν δὲ δύω ποίησε πόλεις μερόπων ἀνθρώπων

καλάς. ἐν τῇ μέν ῥα γάμοι τ’ ἔσαν εἰλαπίναι τε,

νύμφας δ’ ἐκ θαλάμων δαί̈δων ὕπο λαμπομενάων

ἠγίνεον ἀνὰ ἄστυ, πολὺς δ’ ὑμέναιος ὀρώρει:

κοῦροι δ’ ὀρχηστῆρες ἐδίνεον, ἐν δ’ ἄρα τοῖσιν

αὐλοὶ φόρμιγγές τε βοὴν ἔχον: αἳ δὲ γυναῖκες

ἱστάμεναι θαύμαζον ἐπὶ προθύροισιν ἑκάστη.

λαοὶ δ’ εἰν ἀγορῇ ἔσαν ἀθρόοι: ἔνθα δὲ νεῖκος

ὠρώρει, δύο δ’ ἄνδρες ἐνείκεον εἵνεκα ποινῆς

ἀνδρὸς ἀποφθιμένου: ὃ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ’ ἀποδοῦναι

δήμῳ πιφαύσκων, ὃ δ’ ἀναίνετο μηδὲν ἑλέσθαι:

ἄμφω δ’ ἱέσθην ἐπὶ ἴστορι πεῖραρ ἑλέσθαι.

λαοὶ δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπήπυον ἀμφὶς ἀρωγοί:

κήρυκες δ’ ἄρα λαὸν ἐρήτυον: οἳ δὲ γέροντες

εἵατ’ ἐπὶ ξεστοῖσι λίθοις ἱερῷ ἐνὶ κύκλῳ,

σκῆπτρα δὲ κηρύκων ἐν χέρσ’ ἔχον ἠεροφώνων:

τοῖσιν ἔπειτ’ ἤϊσσον, ἀμοιβηδὶς δὲ δίκαζον.

κεῖτο δ’ ἄρ’ ἐν μέσσοισι δύω χρυσοῖο τάλαντα,

τῷ δόμεν ὃς μετὰ τοῖσι δίκην ἰθύντατα εἴποι.

 

 

On it he made two lovely towns

Inhabited by mortal men.

In one there was a solemn feast

and joyful weddings for young brides

who from chambers well lit by torch

were led through streets by marriage song.

While young men shouted, danced, and spun

To flowing tunes on flutes and lyres,

The girls watched from their doors in awe.

 

But then the crowds went to the square

To hear the fight and angry shouts—

Two men fought over one’s dead friend.

A man was killed, a price unpaid.

The first assured he fully gave

Money for that one lying dead

Both longed for ending to their fight

And sought a verdict from a judge.

The crowds cried out in favor of

The one they felt was in the right,

And heralds held the mobs at bay.

On hewn rocks in a sacred ring,

The old men sat and motioned for

the scepters from the deep voiced men

And one by one they each stood up

To give their judgement to these men.

Between them sat two golden coins

To give to him they deemed most just.

 

 

Translating Greek into English will never be an exact science. There will always be hundreds of ways to convey any single passage. Due to this fact, every translator must choose what to stress in his or her translation. In this passage, Homer describes Achilles’ shield and the scenes that decorate it, specifically the “town in peace.” The imagery stands in direct contrast to the rest of the poem’s theme of war. It reminds the reader of the bygone days before the fighting started, and gives him hope that someday the fighting will stop. I also decided to emphasize the rhythm and the meter of the Iliad by translating in English meter. As dactylic hexameter (the poem’s original meter) does not naturally lend itself to English, I chose something much more familiar to the modern audience, iambic tetrameter (which is used in many English poems). Having only four metrical feet per line allowed me to create quicker, more vivid lines, while the iambs help to mimic the natural rhythm of the human voice.

 

Stephen Jagoe is a junior in the College double-majoring in Classical Studies and Physics.

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