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The Iliad
Terry Pratchett

RPGC Staff Quotes

The Iliad
And loosing a savage yell, Hector led the way and his captains followed close with unearthly cries and Trojan ranks behind them crying shrill. But facing them the Achaean ranks cried back, not forgetting their courage, braced hard for assault as the Trojans' bravest charged and roars from both armies struck the high clear skies, the lightning world of Zeus. -"Battling for the Ships," p. 368

The Iliad, credited to the Greek poet Homer, dates back as far as at least the 7th century BC, and potentially even later. For those that don't know (although everyone should) a major, if not the major Greek myth surrounds the Trojan War, during which a collection of Greek kings (or Achaean kings) laid siege to the city of Troy (in present-day Turkey) for a period of ten years. The purpose of the war was to win back Helen, the wife of Menelaus of Sparta, who was spirited off by the Trojan prince Paris. The most famous figures in Greek lore battle during the Trojan War, among them: Agamemnon, Achilles, Odysseus, and Hector. The Iliad takes place during the ninth year of the war, and covers roughly a period of twenty days, culminating in the death of the Trojan hero Hector at the hands of Achilles. It is a fantastic piece of work that serves as the foundation for all future Western thought and is a must-read.

As I read The Iliad for a college class, I kept a log of some of the better quotes from it, which I will reprint here. They are organized thusly, except the "Miscellaneous" and "Gods" sections which have an extra "Speaker" column:
Quote  Chapter and page number. The poem is divided into 24 "books," the page number is from Robert Fagles' 1990 translation.

Here we go, I arranged them by doing the miscellaneous speakers first, then the gods, then the "heroes," then the narrator. I also arranged the quotes by how much I like them (within each section) from least to most...



Quote Chapter and Page Number
Aeneas, Trojan general, to Apollo That is why no mortal can fight Achilles head-to-head: at every foray one of the gods goes with him, beating back his death. "Olympian Gods in Arms," p. 506
Phoenix, Achilles' mentor, to Achilles It's wrong to have such an iron, ruthless heart. Even the gods themselves can bend and change, and theirs is the greater power, honor, strength. Even the gods, I say, with incense, soothing vows, with full cups poured and the deep smoky savor men can bring them round, begging for pardon when one oversteps the mark, does something wrong. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 268
Polydamas, Trojan general, to Hector Impossible man! Won't you listen to reason? Just because some god exalts you in battle you think you can beat the rest at tactics too. How can you hope to garner all the gifts at once? "Battling for the Ships," p.364
Aeneas, to Achilles A man's tongue is a glib and twisty thing...plenty of words there are, all kinds at its command--with all the room in the world for talk to range and stray. "Olympian Gods in Arms," p. 511
Sarpedon, Trojan captain, to Hector Beware the toils of war...the mesh of the huge dragnet sweeping up the world, before you're trapped, your enemies' prey and plunder--soon they'll raze your sturdy citadel to the roots! All this should obsess you, Hector, night and day. "Diomedes Fights the Gods," p. 180
Epeus, Greek soldier How can a man be first in all events? "Funeral Games for Patroclus," p. 580
Glaucus, Trojan captain, to Diomedes Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men. Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth, now the living timber bursts with the new buds and spring comes round again. And so with men: as one generation comes to life, another dies away. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 200
Phoenix, to Achilles We do have Prayers, you know, Prayers for forgiveness, daughters of mighty Zeus...and they limp and halt, they're all wrinkled, drawn, they squint to the side, can't look you in the eye, and always bent on duty, trudging after Ruin, maddening, blinding Ruin. But Ruin is strong and swift--She outstrips them all by far, stealing a march, leaping over the whole wide earth to bring mankind to grief. And the Prayers trail after, trying to heal the wounds. And then, if a man reveres these daughters of Zeus as they draw near him, they will help him greatly and listen to his appeals. But if one denies them, turns them away, stiff-necked and harsh--off they go to the son of Cronus, Zeus, and pray that Ruin will strike the man down, crazed and blinded until he's paid the price. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 268
Teucer, Greek archer, to Agamemnon Great field marshal, why bother to spur me on? I go all-out as it is. "The Tide of Battle Turns," p. 201
Aeneas, to Achilles Anger stirs up lies. "Olympian Gods in Arms," p. 511
Antilochus, Nestor's son, to Menelaus Well you know how the whims of youth break all the rules. Our wits quicker than wind, our judgment just as flighty. "Funeral Games for Patroclus," p. 577
Phoenix, to Achilles Harder to save the warships once they're up in flames. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 271
Hippolochus, Glaucus' father, to Glaucus Always be the best, my boy, the bravest, and hold your head up high above the others. Never disgrace the generations of your fathers. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 202
Sarpedon, to Glaucus Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal, I would never fight on the front lines again or command you to the field where men win fame. But now, as it is, the fates of death await us, thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive can flee them or escape--so in we go for attack! Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves! "The Trojans Storm the Rampart,"
p. 336-7

The Gods


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Zeus Achilles is no madman, no reckless fool, not the one to defy the gods' commands. "Achilles and Priam," p. 594
Hera The gods are hard to handle--when they come blazing forth in their true power. "Olympian Gods in Arms," p. 507
Thetis, to Iris A high decree of the Father must not come to nothing--whatever he commands. "Achilles and Priam," p. 591
Ares, to Zeus We everlasting gods...Ah what chilling blows we suffer--thanks to our own conflicting wills--whenever we show these mortal men some kindness. "Diomedes Fights the Gods," p. 193
Hephaestus, to Olympian Assembly It's hard to fight the Olympian strength for strength. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 97
Poseidon, to Idomeneus May that man, that coward never get home from Troy--let him linger here, ripping sport for the dogs, whoever shirks the fight while this day lasts. "Battling for the Ships," p. 349
Zeus There is nothing alive more agonized than man of all that breathe and crawl across the earth. "Menelaus' Finest Hour," p.457
Thetis, to Achilles No coward's work, to save your exhausted friends from headlong death. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 471
Hephaestus, to Olympian Assembly No more joy for us in the sumptuous feast when riot rules the day. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 97
Athena, to Zeus It is no small labor to rescue all mankind, every mother's son.  "The Achaean Armies at Bay," p. 392
Poseidon, to Idomeneus The worst cowards, banded together, have their power but you and I have got the skill to fight their best! "Battling for the Ships," p. 349
Zeus, to Thetis No word or work of mine--nothing can be revoked, there is no treachery, nothing left unfinished once I bow my head to say it shall be done. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 95
Iris, to Helen Think of it: Paris and Menelaus loved by Ares go to fight it out with their rugged spears--all for you! "Helen Reviews the Champions," p. 133
Dione, to Aphrodite Doesn't the son of Tydeus know, down deep, the man who fights the gods does not live long? "Diomedes Fights the Gods," p. 177

The Heroes


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Nor do I think you'll find us short on courage, long as our strength will last. Past his strength no man can go, though he's set on mortal combat. "Battling for the Ships," p. 366


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Even a fool learns something once it hits him. "Menelaus' Finest Hour," p. 443
Where are the younger troops now we need them? "Marauding Through the Night," p. 282


Quote Chapter and Page Number
No one can match the honors dealt a king. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 86
The gods won't give us all our gifts at once. "The Truce Erupts in War," p. 156
When the man leaps in the breach that way no one can blame or disobey him, no Achaean, not when he spurs the troops and gives commands. "Marauding Through the Night," p. 280
You, the bravest of all Achaeans--and not one with the spine to battle Hector face-to-face! "Ajax Duels with Hector," p. 219
It's skill, not brawn, that makes the finest woodsman. "Funeral Games for Patroclus," p. 569

Telamonian Ajax

Quote Chapter and Page Number
No, no, it's not that we lack the skill in battle, it's just the brutal lash of Zeus that beats us down.  "Battling for the Ships," p. 367
Fight--the light of safety lies in our fighting hands, not spines gone soft in battle! "The Achaean Armies at Bay," p. 411
Quick, better to live or die, once and for all, than die by inches, slowly crushed to death--helpless against the hulls in the bloody press--by far inferior men! "The Achaean Armies at Bay," p. 404


Quote Chapter and Page Number
I have no mind to sit it out in the shelters--what I love is battle!  "Battling for the Ships," p. 349
The skin of the coward changes color all the time, he can't get a grip on himself, he can't sit still, he squats and rocks, shifting his weight from foot to foot, his heart racing, pounding inside the fellow's ribs, his teeth chattering--he dreads some grisly death. But the skin of the brave soldier never blanches. He's all control. Tense but no great fear. The moment he joins his comrades packed in ambush he prays to wade in carnage, cut-and-thrust at once.  "Battling for the Ships," p. 350
On with it! No more standing round like bragging boys. "Battling for the Ships," p. 351


Quote Chapter and Page Number
It is no disgrace for a king to appease a man when the king himself was first to give offense. "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 494
Who are you to wrangle with kings, you alone? "The Great Gathering of Armies," p. 107
How can all Achaeans be masters here in Troy? Too many kings can ruin an army--mob rule! Let there be one commander, one master only. "The Great Gathering of Armies," p. 106
We must steel our hearts. Bury our dead, with tears for the day they die, not one day more. "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 496
And all those left alive, after the hateful carnage, remember food and drink--so all the more fiercely we can fight our enemies, nonstop, no mercy, durable as the bronze that wraps our bodies. "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 496
Death is your last worry. "Marauding Through the Night," p. 289

King Priam

Quote Chapter and Page Number
Back, come back! Inside the walls, my boy! Rescue the men of Troy and the Trojan women--don't hand the great glory to Peleus' son, bereft of your own sweet life yourself. "The Death of Hector," p. 543
If it is my fate to die by the beaked ships of Achaeans armed in bronze, then die I shall. Let Achilles cut me down straightway--once I've caught my son in my arms and wept my fill! "Achilles and Priam," p. 596
Ah for a young man all looks fine and noble if he goes down in war, hacked to pieces under a slashing bronze blade--he lies there dead...but whatever death lays bare, all wounds are marks of great glory. When an old man's killed and the dogs go at the gray head and the gray beard and mutilate the genitals--that is the cruelest sight in all our wretched lives! "The Death of Hector," p. 544
I have endured what no one on earth has ever done before--I put to my lips the hands of the man who killed my son. "Achilles and Priam," p. 605


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Oh the two of us! Zeus planted a killing doom within us both, so even for generations still unborn we will live in song. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 207
I wish I had been the wife of a better man, someone alive to outrage, the withering scorn of men. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 207
There was a world...or was it all a dream? "The Great Gathering of Armies," p. 134


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Better to flee from death than feel its grip. "Hera Outflanks Zeus," p. 372
I've never seen or heard tell of a single man wreaking so much havoc in one day as Hector, Zeus's favorite, wreaks against our troops, and all on his own--no son of god or goddess. He's made a slaughter, I tell you. Pain for Achaeans, enough to last us down the years to come...what blows he's dealt our men! "Marauding Through the Night," p. 278
Father Zeus has lopped the crowns of a thousand cities, true, and Zeus will lop still more--his power is too great. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 252
Only the god of death is so relentless, Death submits to no one--so mortals hate him most of all the gods. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 256
Don't you recognize Agamemnon? The one man, past all others, Zeus has plunged in troubles, year in, year out, for as long as the life breath fills my lungs and the spring in my knees will lift me. "Marauding Through the Night," p. 279
A god impels all things to their fulfillment: Ruin, eldest daughter of Zeus, she blinds us all, that fatal madness--she with those delicate feet of hers, never touching the earth, gliding over the heads of men to trap us all. She entangles one man, now another. Why, she and her frenzy blinded Zeus one time, highest, greatest of men and gods. "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 491
Not too proud now. We are the ones who ought to do the work. On our backs, from the day that we were born.  "Marauding Through the Night," p. 278
Zeus, Zeus, god of greatness, god of glory...don't let the sun go down or the night descend on us! Not till I hurl the smoke-black halls of Priam headlong--torch his gates to blazing rubble! "The Great Gathering of Armies," p. 113
Now be men, my friends! Courage, come, take heart! Dread what comrades say of you here in bloody combat! When men dread that, more men come through alive--when soldiers break and run, good-bye glory, good-bye all defenses! "Diomedes Fights the Gods," p. 181


Quote Chapter and Page Number
What good will a man, even one in the next generation, get from you unless you defend the Argives from disaster? "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 413
Breathing room in war is all too brief. "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 413
Trust me, my friend, you'll never force the Trojans back from the corpse with a few stinging taunts--Earth will bury many a man before that. Come--the proof of battle is action, proof of words, debate. No time for speeches now, it's time to fight! "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 433


Quote Chapter and Page Number
Not a word of retreat. You'll never persuade me. It's not my nature to shrink from battle, cringe in fear with the fighting strength still steady in my chest. I shrink from mounting our chariot--no retreat--on foot as I am, I'll meet them man-to-man. Athena would never let me flinch. "Diomedes Fights the Gods," p. 172
When two work side-by-side, one or the other spots the opening first if a kill's at hand. When one looks out for himself, alert but alone, his reach is shorter--his sly moves miss the mark. "Marauding Through the Night," p. 284


Quote Chapter and Page Number
One and the same lot for the man who hangs back and the man who battles hard. The same honor waits for the coward and the brave. They both go down to Death, the fighter who shirks, the one who works to exhaustion. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 262
Mother tells me...that two fates bear me on to the day of death. If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy, my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies. If I voyage back to the fatherland I love, my pride, my glory dies...true, but the life that's left me will be long, the stroke of death will not come on me quickly. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 265
It wasn't Trojan spearmen who brought me here to fight. The Trojans never did me damage, not in the least...No, you colossal, shameless--we all followed you [Agamemnon], to please you, to fight for you, to win your honor back from the Trojans. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 82
My honors never equal yours [Agamemnon's], whenever we sack some wealthy Trojan stronghold--my arms bear the brunt of the raw, savage fighting, true, but when it comes to dividing up the plunder the lion's share is yours, and back I go to my ships, clutching some scrap, some pittance that I love, when I have fought to exhaustion. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 83
When one man attempts to plunder a man his equal, to commandeer a prize, exulting so in his own power. That's the pain that wounds me, suffering such humiliation. "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 414
I hate that man like the very Gates of Death who says one thing but hides another in his heart. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 262
I say no wealth is worth my life! ...A man's life breath cannot come back again--no raiders in force, no trading brings it back, once it slips through a man's clenched teeth. "The Embassy to Achilles," p. 265
Enough. Let bygones be bygones now. Done is done. How on earth can a man rage on forever? "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 414
You talk of food? I have no taste for food--what I really crave is slaughter and blood and the choking groans of men! "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 495
My spirit rebels--I've lost the will to live, to take my stand in the world of men. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 470
Agamemnon--was it better for both of us, after all, for you and me to rage at each other, raked by anguish, consumed by heartsick strife, all for a young girl? "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 490
If only strife could die from the lives of gods and men and anger that drives the sanest man to flare in outrage--bitter gall, sweeter than dripping streams of honey, that swarms in people's chests and blinds like smoke. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 471
Despite my anguish I will beat it down, the fury mounting inside me, down by force.  "The Shield of Achilles," p. 471
Not even Heracles fled his death, for all his power. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 471
It's wrong to keep on raging, heart inflamed forever. "The Champion Arms for Battle," p. 490
There are no binding oaths between men and lions--wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds. "The Death of Hector," p. 550
What good's to be won from tears that chill the spirit? "Achilles and Priam," p. 605
Then let me die at once since it was not my fate to save my dearest comrade from his death! "The Shield of Achilles," p. 470


Quote Chapter and Page Number
All this weighs on my mind too, dear woman. But I would die of shame to face the men of Troy and the Trojan women trailing their long robes if I would shrink from battle now, a coward. Nor does the spirit urge me on that way. I've learned it all too well. To stand up bravely, always to fight in the front ranks of Trojan soldiers, winning my father great glory, glory for myself. For in my heart and soul I also know this well: the day will come when sacred Troy must die, Priam must die and all his people with him, Priam who hurls the strong ash spear. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 210
Come, let us give each other gifts, unforgettable gifts, so any man may say, Trojan soldier or Argive, 'First they fought with heart-devouring hatred, then they parted, bound by pacts of friendship.' "The Tide of Battle Turns," p. 234
You tell me to put my trust in birds, flying off on their long wild wings? Never. I would never give them a glance, a second thought, whether they fly on the right toward the dawn and sunrise or fly on the left toward the haze and coming dark!  "The Trojans Storm the Rampart," p. 333
Bird-signs! Fight for your country--that is the best, the only omen! You, why are you so afraid of war and slaughter? Even if all the rest of us drop and die around you, grappling for the ships, you'd run no risk of death: you lack the heart to last it out in combat--coward! "The Trojans Storm the Rampart," p. 333
Aren't you sick of being caged inside those walls? "The Shield of Achilles," p. 476
No use to you then, the fine lyre and these, these gifts of Aphrodite, your long flowing locks and your striking looks, not when you roll and couple with the dust. "Helen Reviews the Champions," p. 130
You fool, enough! No more thoughts of retreat paraded before our people. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 477
Come, now for attack! We'll set all this to rights, someday, if Zeus will ever let us raise the winebowl of freedom high in our halls, high to the gods of cloud and sky who live forvever--once we drive these Argives geared for battle out of Troy!  "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 213
And that comrade that who meets his death and destiny, speared or stabbed, let him die! He dies fighting for fatherland--no dishonor there! He'll leave behind him wife and sons unscathed, his house and estate unharmed--once these Argives sail for home, the fatherland they love. "The Achaean Armies at Bay," p. 403
The god of war is impartial: he hands out death to the man who hands out death. "The Shield of Achilles," p. 477
I too could battle deathless gods with words--it's hard with a spear, the gods are so much stronger. "Olympian Gods in Arms," p. 515
So now I meet my doom. Well let me die--but not without struggle, not without glory, no, in some great clash of arms that even men to come will hear of down the years! "The Death of Hector" p. 551

The Narrator

Quote Chapter and Page Number
But Achilles wept. "The Rage of Achilles," p. 89
Strife, only a slight thing when she first rears her head, but her head soon hits the sky as she strides across the earth. "The Truce Erupts in War," p. 160
Hector was the lone defense of Troy. "Hector Returns to Troy," p. 209
And there he dropped and slept the sleep of bronze. "Agamemnon's Day of Glory," p. 304
Both gods knotted the rope of strife and leveling war, strangling both sides at once by stretching the mighty cable, never broken, never slipped, that snapped the knees of thousands. "Battling for the Ships," p. 353
There is no way in the world a man can meet its edge and still survive the slashing--fear holds all men back. "Hera Outflanks Zeus," p. 382
Hector knew full well the tide of battle had turned but still stood firm, defending die-hard comrades. "Patroclus Fights and Dies," p. 424
So they wept, the two of them crying out to their dear son, both pleading time and again but they could not shake the fixed resolve of Hector. "The Death of Hector," p. 544
And the other sons of Achaea, running up around him, crowded closer, all of them gazing wonder-struck at the build and marvelous, lithe beauty of Hector. And not a man came forward who did not stab his body. "The Death of Hector," p. 553
And so the Trojans buried Hector breaker of horses. "Achilles and Priam" p. 614 (the last line of the poem)

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