In Book 21, as Achilles clogs the Scamander with corpses, the gods begin fight one another as well. In this scene Ares and Athena hit each other and brag about it like squabbling children, says Mickey Galamba. He compares the appeal of such humorous scenes among the gods to that of contemporary celebrity gossip magazines in which we are treated to witnessing the undignified doings of superior beings. Iliad 21.391-414, discussed, translated, and read aloud in Greek by Mickey Galamba.

Ares, the shield piercer, began. He first attacked Athena, having his bronze spear in hand, and he spoke with words of reproach:

“Why, dog-fly, do you once again set strife upon the gods with your furious audacity? Why has your bold spirit compelled you to do this? Do you not remember how you prompted Diomedes, son of Tydeides, to wound me, or how you yourself took up your spear in the sight of all, drove straight for me and pierced my fair flesh? I think now you will pay for what you have done.”

Thus speaking, he struck the terrible, tassled aegis, which not even the lightening of Zeus can pierce. This furious Ares struck with his long sword. Athena, forced back, picked up a stone, rough and jagged, with her massive hand, which earlier men placed in the field as a boundary stone: She hit Ares with this on the neck, and loosed his limbs. Falling, he covered seven plethra, his hair became covered in dust, and his armor clanged around him. Pallas Athena laughed, and vaunting over him she addressed him with winged words:

“Fool! You have obviously never noticed how much mightier I am than you, since you are now attempting to match me in strength. Keep it up and you might fulfil the curses of your mother. She is angry and schemes against you because you abandoned the Achaeans and are helping the insolent Trojans.”

ἦρχε γὰρ Ἄρης
ῥινοτόρος, καὶ πρῶτος Ἀθηναίῃ ἐπόρουσε
χάλκεον ἔγχος ἔχων, καὶ ὀνείδειον φάτο μῦθον:
τίπτ’ αὖτ’ ὦ κυνάμυια θεοὺς ἔριδι ξυνελαύνεις
θάρσος ἄητον ἔχουσα, μέγας δέ σε θυμὸς ἀνῆκεν; 395
ἦ οὐ μέμνῃ ὅτε Τυδεί̈δην Διομήδε’ ἀνῆκας
οὐτάμεναι, αὐτὴ δὲ πανόψιον ἔγχος ἑλοῦσα
ἰθὺς ἐμεῦ ὦσας, διὰ δὲ χρόα καλὸν ἔδαψας;
τώ σ’ αὖ νῦν ὀί̈ω ἀποτισέμεν ὅσσα ἔοργας.
ὣς εἰπὼν οὔτησε κατ’ αἰγίδα θυσσανόεσσαν 400
σμερδαλέην, ἣν οὐδὲ Διὸς δάμνησι κεραυνός:
τῇ μιν Ἄρης οὔτησε μιαιφόνος ἔγχεϊ μακρῷ.
ἣ δ’ ἀναχασσαμένη λίθον εἵλετο χειρὶ παχείῃ
κείμενον ἐν πεδίῳ μέλανα τρηχύν τε μέγαν τε,
τόν ῥ’ ἄνδρες πρότεροι θέσαν ἔμμεναι οὖρον ἀρούρης: 405
τῷ βάλε θοῦρον Ἄρηα κατ’ αὐχένα, λῦσε δὲ γυῖα.
ἑπτὰ δ’ ἐπέσχε πέλεθρα πεσών, ἐκόνισε δὲ χαίτας,
τεύχεά τ’ ἀμφαράβησε: γέλασσε δὲ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη,
καί οἱ ἐπευχομένη ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:
νηπύτι’ οὐδέ νύ πώ περ ἐπεφράσω ὅσσον ἀρείων 410
εὔχομ’ ἐγὼν ἔμεναι, ὅτι μοι μένος ἰσοφαρίζεις.
οὕτω κεν τῆς μητρὸς ἐρινύας ἐξαποτίνοις,
ἥ τοι χωομένη κακὰ μήδεται οὕνεκ’ Ἀχαιοὺς
κάλλιπες, αὐτὰρ Τρωσὶν ὑπερφιάλοισιν ἀμύνεις.

Image: Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825), “The Combat of Ares and Athena,” 1771. Louvre Museum.