The Iliad "One Prodigious Ruin Swallow All"

Simone Weil

"One Prodigious Ruin Swallow All"

Context: In the tenth year of the Trojan War a truce prevails for a time between the Greeks and the Trojans; the truce gives an opportunity for the two armies to have a single combat between Paris, who stole Helen from her husband, and Menelaus, the aggrieved spouse. The Trojans and their besiegers agree to let this combat between the two men decide the outcome of the war, caused by the theft of Helen. However, the fight is inconclusive, for Venus, the protector of Paris, rescues him from the fight and spirits him away from the battlefield when it becomes apparent that he will be the loser. After this episode among the mortals, the gods meet in council upon Mount Olympus to discuss the future of the war. They agree to the war's continuation, and Jupiter sends Minerva down to the battlefield to cause a breaking of the truce. Minerva, appearing as the Trojan warrior Laodocus, moves through the throng of Trojans until she finds Pandarus, whom she persuades to shoot an arrow, despite the terms of the truce, at Menelaus. The arrow wounds the Greek champion, though not fatally. Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, angry at the violation of the truce and the injury to his brother, vows, as the leader of the Greek forces, to open the fighting again. He predicts that total victory will come for the Greeks and that Troy, the kingdom of Priam, will be destroyed:

Not thus our vows, confirm'd with wine and gore,
Those hands we plighted, and those oaths we swore,
Shall all be vain: when Heaven's revenge is slow,
Jove but prepares to strike the fiercer blow.
The day shall come, that great avenging day,
When Troy's proud glories in the dust shall lay,
When Priam's powers, and Priam's self shall fall,
And one prodigious ruin swallow all.
I see the god, already from the pole
Bare his red arm, and bid the thunder roll;
I see the Eternal all his fury shed,
And shake his aegis o'er their guilty head.