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Odysseus and Thersites


Only Thersites still chattered on, the uncontrolled of speech, whose mind was full of words many and disorderly, wherewith to strive against the chiefs idly and in no good order, but even as he deemed that he should make the Argives laugh. And he was ill-favored beyond all men that came to Ilium. Bandy-legged was he, and lame of one foot, and his two shoulders rounded, arched down upon his chest; and over them his head was warped, and a scanty stubble sprouted on it. Hateful was he to Achilles above all and to Odysseus, for them he was wont to revile.

But now with shrill shout he poured forth his upbraidings upon goodly Agamemnon. . . . "Son of Atreus, for what art thou now ill content and lacking? Surely thy huts are full of bronze and many women are in thy huts, the chosen spoils that we Achæans give thee first of all, whene’er we take a town. Can it be that thou yet wantest gold as well, such as some one of the horse-taming Trojans may bring from Ilium to ransom his son, whom I perchance or some other Achæan have led captive; or else some young girl whom thou mayest keep apart to thyself? But it is not seemly for one that is their captain to bring the sons of the Achæans to ill. Soft fools, base things of shame, ye women of Achæa and men no more, let us depart home with our ships, and leave this fellow here in Troy-land to gorge him with meeds of honor." . . .

So spake Thersites, reviling Agamemnon, shepherd of the host. But goodly Odysseus came straight to his side, and looking sternly at him with hard words rebuked him: "Thersites, reckless in words, shrill orator though thou art, refrain thyself, nor aim to strive singly against kings. . . . But I will tell thee plain, and that I say shall even be brought to pass: if I find thee again raving as now thou art, then may Odysseus’ head no longer abide upon his shoulders. Nor may I any more be called father of Telemachus, if I take thee not and strip from thee thy garments, thy mantle and tunic that cover thy nakedness, and for thyself send thee weeping to the fleet ships, and beat thee out of the assembly with shameful blows."

So spake Odysseus, and with his staff smote Thersites’ back and shoulders. And he bowed down and a big tear fell from him, and a bloody weal stood up from his back beneath the golden scepter. Then he sat down and was amazed, and in pain with helpless look wiped away the tear. But the rest, though they were sorry, laughed lightly at him. And thus would one speak looking at another standing by: "Go to, of a truth Odysseus hath wrought good deeds without number ere now, standing foremost in wise counsels, and setting battle in array, but now is this thing the best by far that he hath wrought among the Argives, to wit, that he hath stayed this prating railer from his harangues. Never again, forsooth, will his proud soul henceforth bid him revile the kings with slanderous words."1

1 , ii, 212–277.

1 It has been well said that the poet who drew this portrait of Thersites must have been perfectly familiar with the mob-orator found in every Greek city.


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Chicago: "Odysseus and Thersites," Iliad in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 29–30. Original Sources, accessed July 21, 2024,

MLA: . "Odysseus and Thersites." Iliad, Vol. ii, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 29–30. Original Sources. 21 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Odysseus and Thersites' in Iliad. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.29–30. Original Sources, retrieved 21 July 2024, from