In the second of his two great epic poems concerned with the Trojan War, the Greek poet Homer tells of Odysseus’s 10-year long struggle to get home afterwards.
The sample given begins the 24th and last ‘book’ - that recounting the descent into the Underworld of the hero’s fellow-islanders - killed by him for wooing his wife and living off his land and goods while he was away.
“...The souls of the suitors twittered like disturbed bats as Hermes, shepherd of the dead, led them down mouldering pathways to the Underworld. They passed the river called Ocean, the White Rock, the gates of the sun-god and the country of dreams before arriving in the fields of asphodel where dwell souls that are the images of dead men. There they found Achilles and Patroclus, Antilochus and Ajax. There, too, came Agamemnon and the souls of all those who had died with him in the hall of Aegisthus.
Achilles spoke first. ‘To you, too, Agamemnon, who throughout your days alive we thought the luckiest of men, death finally came. It would have been better if you had fallen at Troy, for then we Greeks would have heaped up a funeral mound to cover your bones, and so you would have been honoured in your death.’
‘Great Achilles,’ Agamemnon answered, ‘when you fell in the dust of Troy, we Greeks fought all day over your handsome body - and would have done so longer had Zeus not stopped us. Afterwards we carried you to the ships, washed, anointed and wept over you. For you we cut off our hair, and when your goddess mother heard what had happened, she came out of the sea attended by immortal sea-nymphs. At your passing, all the nine muses sang. For seventeen days, mortals and immortals alike mourned you, and on the eighteenth we committed your body to the flames robed in beautiful clothing and anointed with spices and honey. Afterwards, we laid your bones in a two-handled golden jar, the gift of Dionysus, and over them, on a promontory jutting towards the Hellespont where it would be visible for miles out to sea, we heaped up your grave mound. There your goddess mother brought prizes, and there we held games and contests in your honour. Thus, although you are dead, great Achilles, your fame will live for ever.’"