An Emotional, Brutal Translation of Iliad 5.1–29: The Beginning of Diomedes’ Aristeia
By Noah Apter
Through my word choice and overall translation of the text, I want to preserve the vivid imagery and raw emotions we feel while reading Homer (examples include intense feelings of awe, glory, and dread). When reading any original narrative Greek text, I feel like I can produce a realistic and precise painting of what is happening in the passage inside my head. If I can do that while reading a translation, the translator has succeeded in conveying that sort of vividness found in the Greek text. I seek to do this in my translation. Not all translations succeed at creating such vividness for various reasons. Some sacrifice this vividness for a more strictly literal, “by the book,” translation, while some retain it in an English that is almost too complex for many to understand (the raw emotions conveyed in the Iliad are subdued when one has to read the passage three times over to understand the English). I seek to find the best of both worlds—a widely readable translation that harnesses all of the emotion and vividness found in the Greek text.
The brutality of war is a central theme in this small section of Book 5. I have tried to preserve this crushing brutality as much as possible, as it’s the soul of the passage.
The secondary goal of this translation is to preserve markedly Homeric and Greek ideas, such as kleos, what we would roughly translate as “honor,” the agon (“struggle” or “contest”), thumos (“the soul” but is better left untranslatable) and other concepts like divine intervention. Since the primary goal of my translation is to retain a core part of the Greek text, that is, its vivid and emotional nature, it only makes sense that I attempt to maintain these Greek ideas as well. The concepts of kleos and the agon and others background the entirety of the Iliad and Odyssey, and it would be a disservice to the Greek text to leave out something so essential. Besides leaving the words kleos and thumos untranslated, I have made some other translation decisions to build upon these fundamental principles of Homeric and later Greek society.
In pursuit of the aforementioned goals, my translation adheres to the Greek fairly strictly at some times and ventures off at others, where I see fit. In general, “filler” moments like the few lines where Diomedes drives the horses toward his comrades are translated literally, while I take more freedom with scenes of high physical or emotional tension.
ἔνθ᾽ αὖ Τυδεΐδῃ Διομήδεϊ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη
δῶκε μένος καὶ θάρσος, ἵν᾽ ἔκδηλος μετὰ πᾶσιν
Ἀργείοισι γένοιτο ἰδὲ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἄροιτο:
δαῖέ οἱ ἐκ κόρυθός τε καὶ ἀσπίδος ἀκάματον πῦρ
ἀστέρ᾽ ὀπωρινῷ ἐναλίγκιον, ὅς τε μάλιστα
λαμπρὸν παμφαίνῃσι λελουμένος ὠκεανοῖο:
τοῖόν οἱ πῦρ δαῖεν ἀπὸ κρατός τε καὶ ὤμων,
ὦρσε δέ μιν κατὰ μέσσον ὅθι πλεῖστοι κλονέοντο.
ἦν δέ τις ἐν Τρώεσσι Δάρης ἀφνειὸς ἀμύμων
ἱρεὺς Ἡφαίστοιο: δύω δέ οἱ υἱέες ἤστην
Φηγεὺς Ἰδαῖός τε μάχης εὖ εἰδότε πάσης.
τώ οἱ ἀποκρινθέντε ἐναντίω ὁρμηθήτην:
τὼ μὲν ἀφ᾽ ἵπποιιν, ὃ δ᾽ ἀπὸ χθονὸς ὄρνυτο πεζός.
οἳ δ᾽ ὅτε δὴ σχεδὸν ἦσαν ἐπ᾽ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντες
Φηγεύς ῥα πρότερος προΐει δολιχόσκιον ἔγχος:
Τυδεΐδεω δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ὦμον ἀριστερὸν ἤλυθ᾽ ἀκωκὴ
ἔγχεος, οὐδ᾽ ἔβαλ᾽ αὐτόν: ὃ δ᾽ ὕστερος ὄρνυτο χαλκῷ
Τυδεΐδης: τοῦ δ᾽ οὐχ ἅλιον βέλος ἔκφυγε χειρός,
ἀλλ᾽ ἔβαλε στῆθος μεταμάζιον, ὦσε δ᾽ ἀφ᾽ ἵππων.
Ἰδαῖος δ᾽ ἀπόρουσε λιπὼν περικαλλέα δίφρον,
οὐδ᾽ ἔτλη περιβῆναι ἀδελφειοῦ κταμένοιο:
οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδέ κεν αὐτὸς ὑπέκφυγε κῆρα μέλαιναν,
ἀλλ᾽ Ἥφαιστος ἔρυτο, σάωσε δὲ νυκτὶ καλύψας,
ὡς δή οἱ μὴ πάγχυ γέρων ἀκαχήμενος εἴη.
ἵππους δ᾽ ἐξελάσας μεγαθύμου Τυδέος υἱὸς
δῶκεν ἑταίροισιν κατάγειν κοίλας ἐπὶ νῆας.
Τρῶες δὲ μεγάθυμοι ἐπεὶ ἴδον υἷε Δάρητος
τὸν μὲν ἀλευάμενον, τὸν δὲ κτάμενον παρ᾽ ὄχεσφι,
πᾶσιν ὀρίνθη θυμός:
Then, in turn, Pallas Athena bestowed strength and courage upon Diomedes, son of Tydeus, so that he might win great kleos and tower over all the Argives. She ignited an unrelenting fire from his helmet and shield, similar to a late summer’s star that gleams most brightly fresh from Ocean’s bath. She ignited such a fire from both his head and shoulders and thrusthim toward the center, where the struggle was greatest.
There was a certain man amongst the Trojans, Dares, rich and noble, a priest of Hephaestus; he had two sons, Pegasus and Idaeus, both well-versed in all aspects of battle. The two parted from the crowd and rushed forth against Diomedes. They did so in their chariot, Diomedes on foot.
Then when they were near, advancing against one another, Phegeus acted first and immediately launched his long-shafted spear. The tip missed, sailing over the left shoulder of the son of Tydeus. Then the son of Tydeus rushed forth, copper spear in hand, and let it fly—it left his hand true and smashed into the dead center of Phegeus’ chest, hurling him from the chariot.
Idaeus darted away, leaving behind an extremely beautiful chariot, nor did he even dare to defend his brother’s slain body. Not at all would he himself have escaped black death, but Hephaestus shielded him by shrouding him in night and ultimately saved him so that aged Dares would be spared some grief.
But the son of Tydeus of great thumos drove the two horses away and gave them to his comrades to lead onto the hollowed ships. When the Trojans of great thumos beheld the two sons of Dares, one fleeing for his life and the other slain beside the chariot, the thumos of all was stunned…
Noah Apter (College ’25) is a student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Philosophy and Classical Studies.