Respecting the authority

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, "Lost soul" (1629)

Now the others sate them down and were stayed in their places, only there still kept chattering on Thersites of measureless speech, whose mind was full of great store of disorderly words, wherewith to utter revilings against the kings, idly, and in no orderly wise, but whatsoever he deemed would raise a laugh among the Argives.

Evil-favoured was he beyond all men that came to Ilios: he was bandy-legged and lame in the one foot, and his two shoulders were rounded, stooping together over his chest, and above them his head was warped, and a scant stubble grew thereon. Hateful was he to Achilles above all, and to Odysseus, for it was they twain that he was wont to revile; but now again with shrill cries he uttered abuse against goodly Agamemnon. With him were the Achaeans exceeding wroth, and had indignation in their hearts. Howbeit with loud shoutings he spake and chid Agamemnon: “Son of Atreus, with what art thou now again discontent, or what lack is thine? Filled are thy huts with bronze, and women full many are in thy huts, chosen spoils that we Achaeans give thee first of all, whensoe’er we take a citadel. Or dost thou still want gold also, which some man of the horse-taming Trojans shall bring thee out of Ilios as a ransom for his son, whom I haply have bound and led away or some other of the Achaeans? Or is it some young girl for thee to know in love, whom thou wilt keep apart for thyself? Nay, it beseemeth not one that is their captain to bring to ill the sons of the Achaeans. Soft fools! base things of shame, ye women of Achaea, men no more, homeward let us go with our ships, and leave this fellow here in the land of Troy to digest his prizes, that so he may learn whether in us too there is aught of aid for him or no—for him that hath now done dishonour to Achilles, a man better far than he; for he hath taken away, and keepeth his prize by his own arrogant act. Of a surety there is naught of wrath in the heart of Achilles; nay, he heedeth not at all; else, son of Atreus, wouldest thou now work insolence for the last time.”

So spake Thersites, railing at Agamemnon, shepherd of the host. But quickly to his side came goodly Odysseus, and with an angry glance from beneath his brows, chid him with harsh words, saying:“Thersites of reckless speech, clear-voiced talker though thou art, refrain thee, and be not minded to strive singly against kings. For I deem that there is no viler mortal than thou amongst all those that with the sons of Atreus came beneath Ilios. Wherefore ’twere well thou shouldst not take the name of kings in thy mouth as thou protest, to cast reproaches upon them, and to watch for home-going. In no wise do we know clearly as yet how these things are to be, whether it be for good or ill that we sons of the Achaeans shall return. Therefore dost thou now continually utter revilings against Atreus’ son, Agamemnon, shepherd of the host, for that the Danaan warriors give him gifts full many; whereas thou pratest on with railings. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass: if I find thee again playing the fool, even as now thou dost, then may the head of Odysseus abide no more upon his shoulders, nor may I any more be called the father of Telemachus, if I take thee not, and strip off thy raiment, thy cloak, and thy tunic that cover thy nakedness, and for thyself send thee wailing to the swift ships, beaten forth from the place of gathering with shameful blows.”

So spake Odysseus, and with his staff smote his back and shoulders; and Thersites cowered down, and a big tear fell from him, and a bloody weal rose up on his back beneath the staff of gold. Then he sate him down, and fear came upon him, and stung by pain with helpless looks he wiped away the tear. But the Achaeans, sore vexed at heart though they were, broke into a merry laugh at him, and thus would one speak with a glance at his neighbour: “Out upon it! verily hath Odysseus ere now wrought good deeds without number as leader in good counsel and setting battle in army, but now is this deed far the best that he hath wrought among the Argives, seeing he hath made this scurrilous babbler to cease from his prating. Never again, I ween, will his proud spirit henceforth set him on to rail at kings with words of reviling.”

ἄλλοι μέν ῥ’ ἕζοντο, ἐρήτυθεν δὲ καθ’ ἕδρας:
Θερσίτης δ’ ἔτι μοῦνος ἀμετροεπὴς ἐκολῴα,
ὃς ἔπεα φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἄκοσμά τε πολλά τε ᾔδη
μάψ, ἀτὰρ οὐ κατὰ κόσμον, ἐριζέμεναι βασιλεῦσιν,
ἀλλ’ ὅ τι οἱ εἴσαιτο γελοίϊον Ἀργείοισιν
ἔμμεναι: αἴσχιστος δὲ ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθε:
φολκὸς ἔην, χωλὸς δ’ ἕτερον πόδα: τὼ δέ οἱ ὤμω
κυρτὼ ἐπὶ στῆθος συνοχωκότε: αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε
φοξὸς ἔην κεφαλήν, ψεδνὴ δ’ ἐπενήνοθε λάχνη.
ἔχθιστος δ’ Ἀχιλῆϊ μάλιστ’ ἦν ἠδ’ Ὀδυσῆϊ:
τὼ γὰρ νεικείεσκε: τότ’ αὖτ’ Ἀγαμέμνονι δίῳ
ὀξέα κεκλήγων λέγ’ ὀνείδεα: τῷ δ’ ἄρ’ Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐκπάγλως κοτέοντο νεμέσσηθέν τ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ.
αὐτὰρ ὃ μακρὰ βοῶν Ἀγαμέμνονα νείκεε μύθῳ:
Ἀτρεί̈δη τέο δ’ αὖτ’ ἐπιμέμφεαι ἠδὲ χατίζεις;
πλεῖαί τοι χαλκοῦ κλισίαι, πολλαὶ δὲ γυναῖκες
εἰσὶν ἐνὶ κλισίῃς ἐξαίρετοι, ἅς τοι Ἀχαιοὶ
πρωτίστῳ δίδομεν εὖτ’ ἂν πτολίεθρον ἕλωμεν.
ἦ ἔτι καὶ χρυσοῦ ἐπιδεύεαι, ὅν κέ τις οἴσει
Τρώων ἱπποδάμων ἐξ Ἰλίου υἷος ἄποινα,
ὅν κεν ἐγὼ δήσας ἀγάγω ἢ ἄλλος Ἀχαιῶν,
ἠὲ γυναῖκα νέην, ἵνα μίσγεαι ἐν φιλότητι,
ἥν τ’ αὐτὸς ἀπονόσφι κατίσχεαι; οὐ μὲν ἔοικεν
ἀρχὸν ἐόντα κακῶν ἐπιβασκέμεν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν.
ὦ πέπονες κάκ’ ἐλέγχε’ Ἀχαιί̈δες οὐκέτ’ Ἀχαιοὶ
οἴκαδέ περ σὺν νηυσὶ νεώμεθα, τόνδε δ’ ἐῶμεν
αὐτοῦ ἐνὶ Τροίῃ γέρα πεσσέμεν, ὄφρα ἴδηται
ἤ ῥά τί οἱ χἠμεῖς προσαμύνομεν ἦε καὶ οὐκί:
ὃς καὶ νῦν Ἀχιλῆα ἕο μέγ’ ἀμείνονα φῶτα
ἠτίμησεν: ἑλὼν γὰρ ἔχει γέρας αὐτὸς ἀπούρας.
ἀλλὰ μάλ’ οὐκ Ἀχιλῆϊ χόλος φρεσίν, ἀλλὰ μεθήμων:
ἦ γὰρ ἂν Ἀτρεί̈δη νῦν ὕστατα λωβήσαιο:

ὣς φάτο νεικείων Ἀγαμέμνονα ποιμένα λαῶν,
Θερσίτης: τῷ δ’ ὦκα παρίστατο δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
καί μιν ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν χαλεπῷ ἠνίπαπε μύθῳ:
Θερσῖτ’ ἀκριτόμυθε, λιγύς περ ἐὼν ἀγορητής,
ἴσχεο, μηδ’ ἔθελ’ οἶος ἐριζέμεναι βασιλεῦσιν:
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ σέο φημὶ χερειότερον βροτὸν ἄλλον
ἔμμεναι, ὅσσοι ἅμ’ Ἀτρεί̈δῃς ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθον.
τὼ οὐκ ἂν βασιλῆας ἀνὰ στόμ’ ἔχων ἀγορεύοις,
καί σφιν ὀνείδεά τε προφέροις, νόστόν τε φυλάσσοις.
οὐδέ τί πω σάφα ἴδμεν ὅπως ἔσται τάδε ἔργα,
ἢ εὖ ἦε κακῶς νοστήσομεν υἷες Ἀχαιῶν.
τὼ νῦν Ἀτρεί̈δῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι ποιμένι λαῶν
ἧσαι ὀνειδίζων, ὅτι οἱ μάλα πολλὰ διδοῦσιν
ἥρωες Δαναοί: σὺ δὲ κερτομέων ἀγορεύεις.
ἀλλ’ ἔκ τοι ἐρέω, τὸ δὲ καὶ τετελεσμένον ἔσται:
εἴ κ’ ἔτι σ’ ἀφραίνοντα κιχήσομαι ὥς νύ περ ὧδε,
μηκέτ’ ἔπειτ’ Ὀδυσῆϊ κάρη ὤμοισιν ἐπείη,
μηδ’ ἔτι Τηλεμάχοιο πατὴρ κεκλημένος εἴην,
εἰ μὴ ἐγώ σε λαβὼν ἀπὸ μὲν φίλα εἵματα δύσω,
χλαῖνάν τ’ ἠδὲ χιτῶνα, τά τ’ αἰδῶ ἀμφικαλύπτει,
αὐτὸν δὲ κλαίοντα θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας ἀφήσω
πεπλήγων ἀγορῆθεν ἀεικέσσι πληγῇσιν.

ὣς ἄρ’ ἔφη, σκήπτρῳ δὲ μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμω
πλῆξεν: ὃ δ’ ἰδνώθη, θαλερὸν δέ οἱ ἔκπεσε δάκρυ:
σμῶδιξ δ’ αἱματόεσσα μεταφρένου ἐξυπανέστη
σκήπτρου ὕπο χρυσέου: ὃ δ’ ἄρ’ ἕζετο τάρβησέν τε,
ἀλγήσας δ’ ἀχρεῖον ἰδὼν ἀπομόρξατο δάκρυ.
οἳ δὲ καὶ ἀχνύμενοί περ ἐπ’ αὐτῷ ἡδὺ γέλασσαν:
ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν ἰδὼν ἐς πλησίον ἄλλον:
ὢ πόποι ἦ δὴ μυρί’ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἐσθλὰ ἔοργε
βουλάς τ’ ἐξάρχων ἀγαθὰς πόλεμόν τε κορύσσων:
νῦν δὲ τόδε μέγ’ ἄριστον ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἔρεξεν,
ὃς τὸν λωβητῆρα ἐπεσβόλον ἔσχ’ ἀγοράων.
οὔ θήν μιν πάλιν αὖτις ἀνήσει θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
νεικείειν βασιλῆας ὀνειδείοις ἐπέεσσιν.

—Homer, Iliad (II, 211-277), translation by A.T. Murray

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