“Surely it is the wish of the Greeks to make thee the most despised of all kings, great Agamemnon,” he said, “for like young children or mourning women do they wail that they must go home. Nine years have we stayed in this land, and small wonder is it that we long for our homes again. Yet shameful would it be to wait so long and to return with empty hands. Be of good heart, my friends, and wait a little, for surely Troy shall be ours. Do ye forget, on the day that we set sail for Troyland, the mighty portent that we saw? As we offered sacrifices to the gods beneath a fair plane-tree whence flowed clear water, a snake, blood-red on the back and dreadful to look upon, glided from beneath the altar and darted to the tree. On the tree’s topmost bough was a sparrow’s nest, and in it eight tender nestlings, over which the mother bird spread her wings. Pitifully did the little ones cheep as the snake swallowed them all, and pitifully cried the mother as she fluttered over her nestlings. But of her, too, did the snake lay hold, coiling himself round her and crushing her life out. Then did the god who sent this sign show us that a sign from the gods in truth it was, for he turned the snake into stone. And Chalcas, our soothsayer, told us then the meaning of the sign. ‘Nine years,’ said he—for nine birds did the snake slay—’shall ye fight in Troyland, but in the tenth year the city shall fall before you.’ So then, let us abide here, until we have taken the great city!”
When Odysseus had ceased to speak, the Greeks shouted aloud, until the ships echoed the praises of the goodly Odysseus.
Then said Agamemnon:
“Go now, all of you, and eat, that ye may be ready for battle. Let each man sharpen well his spear and see to his shield, and see to it that the horses are well fed and the chariots prepared. And whomsoever I see minded to stay far away from the fight, beside the ships here by the sea, for him shall there be no hope hereafter, but he shall be food for dogs and for birds of prey.”
And when Agamemnon had spoken, the shouts of the Greeks were as the thunder of mighty breakers on a reef when the winds blow high.
Quickly then they scattered, and kindled fires, and made their evening meal, and offered sacrifices to the gods, praying for escape from death in the coming battle.
To Zeus did Agamemnon offer his sacrifice and to the mighty god he prayed:
“Great Zeus, god of the storm-cloud, let not the sun set nor the darkness fall until I have laid low the palaces of Troy and burned down its walls with fire.”
So he prayed, but as yet Zeus heeded not his prayer. Then did the Greeks gather themselves together to battle, and among them went the bright-eyed Athene, urging on each one, and rousing in each man’s heart the joy of strength and of battle.
As the red and golden blaze of a fire that devours a mighty forest is seen from afar, so was seen from afar the dazzling gleam of their bronze armor as they marched.