What I do when I’m bored: Top 10 Nastiest Deaths in Homer
So, like everyone and their mothers I have a blog now. This first little thing neatly unites the themes of the ‘About’ and ‘Biography’ pages: the Greeks and gore.
Honourable mention – ELPENOR by misadventure; Odyssey X 550-60 (Buckley)
‘…nor even from thence did I lead away my companions unharmed, for there was a certain Elpenor, the youngest, not very courageous in war, nor sound in his thoughts, who, heavy with wine, lay down, desiring coolness at a distance in the house of Circe: but hearing the noise and bustle of his companions moving, he rushed up on a sudden, and forgot in his mind to descend backwards when he came to a long ladder; but he fell straight down from the roof; his neck was broken from the vertebrae and his soul went down to Hades.’
10. UNNAMED COMRADES OF ODYSSEUS devoured by Polyphemos the Cyclops; Odyssey IX 287-93 (Lattimore)
‘So I spoke, but he in pitiless spirit answered/ Nothing, but sprang up and reached for my companions,/ Caught up two together and slapped them, like killing puppies,/ Against the ground, and the brains ran all over the floor, soaking/ The earth. Then he cut them up limb by limb and got supper ready,/ And like a lion reared in the hills, without leaving anything,/ Ate them, entrails, flesh and the marrowy bones alike…’
9. ANTINOÖS slain by Odysseus; Odyssey XXII 6-21 (Buckley). There’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip…
‘This decisive contest has at length been accomplished; but now I will see whether I can hit another mark, which no man has yet struck, and may Apollo give me glory.’
He spoke, and directed a bitter arrow against Antinoös. He indeed was about to take up a beautiful cup, golden, with two ears; and he was now handling it with his hands, that he might drink of wine: but slaughter was not a care to him in his mind; (who, forsooth, would think amongst men banquetting that one alone amongst greater numbers, although very strong, would prepare evil death and black fate for him?) But Odysseus catching him on the throat, struck him with the shaft: and the point came right through his tender neck. And he was rolled to the other side, and the cup fell from the hand of him stricken: and immediately a thick channel of human gore came through his nostrils; and quickly he thrust the table from him striking it with his foot, and he poured the viands to the ground: both bread and roasted flesh were polluted.
8. HARPALION slain by Meriones, Iliad XIII 650-55 (Hammond)
But Meriones sent a bronze-tipped arrow at him as he retreated, and struck him in the right buttock: the arrow passed on through under the bone and into his bladder. He sank down where he was, in the arms of his dear companions, the life breathing from him, and lay there curled on the earth like a worm: and the dark blood left him, soaking the ground.
7. HEKTOR slain by Achilles; Iliad XXII 380-5 (Hammond). I quote in full to edify you with its deathless brilliance, violence notwithstanding; a nasty way to go in any case.
Then Hektor realised in his heart and cried out, ‘Oh, for sure now the gods have called me to my doom! I thought the hero Deïphobos was with me: but he is inside the wall, and Athena has tricked me. So now vile death is close on me, not far now any longer, and there is no escape. This must long have been the true pleasure of Zeus and Zeus’ son the Far-shooter, and yet before now they readily defended me: but now this time my fate has caught me. Even so, let me not die ingloriously, without a fight, without some great deed done that future men will hear of.’
So speaking he drew his sharp sword that hung long and heavy at his side, gathered himself, and swooped like a high-flying eagle which darts down to the plain through the dark clouds to snatch up a baby lamb or cowering hare. So Hektor swooped to attack, flourishing his sharp sword. And Achilles charged against him, his heart filled with savage fury. In front of his chest he held the covering of his lovely decorated shield, and the bright four-crested helmet nodded on his head, with the beautiful golden hairs that Hephaistos had set thick along its ridge shimmering round it. Like the Evening Star on its path among its fellows in the darkness of the night, the loveliest star in the sky, such was the light gleaming from the point of the sharp spear Achilles held in his right hand, as he purposed death for godlike Hektor, looking his fine body to find the most vulnerable place. All the rest of his body was covered by his bronze armour, the fine armour he had stripped from the body of Patroklos when he killed him. But flesh showed where the collar-bones hold the join of neck and shoulders , at the gullet, where a man’s life is most quickly destroyed. Godlike Achilles drove in there with his spear as Hektor charged him, and the point went right through the soft neck: but the ash spear with its weight of bronze did not cut the windpipe, so that Hektor could still speak and answer Achilles. He crashed in the dust, and godlike Achilles triumphed over him…
6. MELANTHO and ELEVEN OTHER MAIDSERVANTS executed by Telemachos, Eumaios and Philoetios; Odyssey XXII 461-73 (Lattimore)
Then thoughtful Telemachos began speaking among them:/ ‘I would not take away the lives of these creatures by any/ Clean death, for they showered abuse upon the head of my mother,/ And on my own head too, and they have slept with the suitors.’/ So he spoke, and taking the cable of a dark-prowed ship, Fastened it to the tall pillar, and fetched it about the round-house; And like thrushes, who spread their wings, or pigeons, who have/ Flown into a snare set for them in a thicket, trying/ To find a resting-place, but the sleep given them was hateful;/ So their heads were all in a line and each had her neck caught/ Fast in a noose, so that their death would be most pitiful./ They struggled with their feet for a little, not for very long.
5. ERYMAS slain by Idomeneus, Iliad XVI 345-50 (Hammond)
Idomeneus stabbed Erymas in the mouth with the pitiless bronze. The bronze spear passed right through and up under the brain, smashing the white bones. His teeth were knocked out and both his eyes flooded with blood: wide-mouthed he spurted a well of blood through nostrils and mouth: and the black cloud of death covered him over.
4. THESTOR slain by Patroklos, Iliad XVI 402-10 (Hammond)
He next sprang at Thestor, son of Enops – he was sitting in his polished chariot, his wits crazed and the reins slipped from his hands. Patroklos came up and stabbed him with his spear in the right side of the jaw, piercing on through the teeth, then gripped the spear and with it swung him over the chariot-rail , as when a man sitting on a rocky point hauls a monster fish out of the sea with his line and bright bronze hook. So Patroklos hauled him out of the chariot, his mouth gaping round the shining spear, and thrust him down on his face: the life left him where he fell.
3. KEBRIONES slain by Patroklos, Iliad XVI 733-43 (Hammond)
On the other side Patroklos jumped to the ground from his chariot holding his spear in his left hand. With the other he picked up a jagged glinting stone which the grasp of his hand could cover, took a firm stance, and hurled it. The stone was not long in reaching a man, and his throw was not wasted, but he hit Hektor’s charioteer Kebriones, a bastard son of famous Priam, who was holding the reins of the horses. The sharp stone hit him in the space between the eyes, smashing the two brows together: the bone could not hold, and his eyes dropped to the ground in the dust right there in front of his feet. He fell like a diver from the well-made chariot and the life fled his bones.
2. PANDAROS slain by Diomedes, Iliad V 290-6 (Hammond)
So speaking he let fly: and Athena guided the weapon to hit on the nose by his eye, and it pierced through his white teeth. The tireless bronze sheared away the tongue at its root, and the point came out by the base of his chin. He crashed from the chariot, his bright-glittering armour clattering about him, and his swift-footed horses shied apart. Life and strength collapsed where he lay.
1. MELANTHIOS executed by Telemachos, Eumaios and Philoetios; Odyssey XXII 474-7 (Murray)
Then out they led Melanthios through the doorway and the court, and cut off his nose and his ears with the pitiless bronze, and tore off his genitals for the dogs to eat raw, and cut off his hands and feet in the anger of their hearts.