Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.
For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly--moved thereto by Juno, who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon them.
And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth--no, not though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the Achaeans.
And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize?
Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva.
Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must do as you two command him.
Therefore I say, and swear it with a great oath--nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains--for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of heaven--so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him.
The chief greatness of the "Iliad" is in the character of the heroes Achilles and Hector rather than in the actual events which take place: in the Cyclic writers facts rather than character are the objects of interest, and events are so packed together as to leave no space for any exhibition of the play of moral forces.
The "Aethiopis" thus included the coming of the Amazon Penthesilea to help the Trojans after the fall of Hector and her death, the similar arrival and fall of the Aethiopian Memnon, the death of Achilles under the arrow of Paris, and the dispute between Odysseus and Aias for the arms of Achilles.
His work included the adjudgment of the arms of Achilles to Odysseus, the madness of Aias, the bringing of Philoctetes from Lemnos and his cure, the coming to the war of Neoptolemus who slays Eurypylus, son of Telephus, the making of the wooden horse, the spying of Odysseus and his theft, along with Diomedes, of the Palladium: the analysis concludes with the admission of the wooden horse into Troy by the Trojans.
Then follow the incidents connected with the gathering of the Achaeans and their ultimate landing in Troy; and the story of the war is detailed up to the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon with which the "Iliad" begins.
There is a well known, so-called sophism of the ancients consisting in this, that Achilles
could never catch up with a tortoise he was following, in spite of the fact that he traveled ten times as fast as the tortoise.