At the sound of the voice of Athene, Odysseus cast away his mantle and ran to meet Agamemnon. From him he received the scepter of overlordship, and bearing it he went among the ships.
Whenever he saw a chief, he would say to him with gentle words:
“Good sir, it fits thee ill to be a coward. Stay, now, for thou knowest not what is the will of Agamemnon. He is only making trial of thee. Hold back then thy people, and anger him not.”
But when Odysseus met a common man hasting to the ships, with his scepter he smote him, saying:
“Sit still, sir, and listen to the words of thy betters. No warrior art thou, but a weakling. One king only hath Zeus given to us. Hearken then to the will of Agamemnon!”
Thus did Odysseus rule the people, driving them back from the ships to where sat Agamemnon.
And the noise they made in returning was as the noise of mighty waves of the sea, when they crash upon the beach and drive their roaring echoes far abroad.
Silence came upon them as they sat themselves down before Agamemnon and their lords. Upon all but one did silence fall. Thersites, bandy-legged, round-shouldered, lame of one foot, with ugly head covered with scanty stubble, most ill-favored of all men in the host, would not hold his peace.
Shrilly he poured his upbraidings upon Agamemnon.
“What lackest thou now?” he cried. “Surely thy huts are full of the spoils we have brought to thee each time we have taken a town. What more dost thou want? Soft fools, women, not men, are ye Greeks, else would ye return home now with the ships, and leave this fellow here in Troyland gorging himself on the spoils for which he himself hath never fought. To brave Achilles hath he done dishonor, a far better man than he!”
Straight to the side of Thersites came the goodly Odysseus.
“Hold thy peace,” he sternly said. “Plainly I tell thee that if ever again I find thee raving as thou hast raved now, I myself will strip off thy mantle and tunic, with shameful blows beat thee out of the assembly, and send thee back weeping to the ships.”
So spake Odysseus, and with his scepter smote Thersites on his back and shoulders. And Thersites bowed down, and big tears fell from his eyes, and a bloody weal from the golden scepter stood up from his back. Amazed he sat down, and in pain and amazement he wiped away a tear. The others, though they were sorry, laughed at his bewilderment.
“Many are the good deeds of Odysseus,” said they, “but never did he do a better deed than when he stopped the tongue of this prating railer.”
Then spake Odysseus, scepter in hand.