The Iliad, Book X

Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII
Book VIII Book IX Book X Book XI Book XII Book XIII Book XIV Book XV 
Book XVI Book XVII Book XVIII Book XIX Book XX Book XXI Book XXII

Diomedes Kills Rhesus

Neither Agamemnon nor Menelaus could sleep through worry about the Greek situation. Menelaus sought out his brother who then sought out Nestor, who was also awake, and they in turn woke Diomedes, Odysseus and Meges whilst Menelaus went in search of Ajax and Idomeneus. All these leaders, after checking that the guards were all awake and alert, which they were, met in council along with Meriones and Thrasymedes.

Nestor suggested that a Greek volunteer should go to spy on the Trojan camp overnight to try to find out the Trojans’ battle plans. Diomedes volunteered immediately and he chose Odysseus to go with him. Both men, heavily armed, set off immediately as much of the night had already passed and Athena sent a heron on the right as a good omen for their expedition. Both Odysseus and Diomedes acknowledged this with prayers to the goddess, asking for her protection and success.

Dolon crawling on all fours in his wolf skin, Attic red-figure lekythos. (c) Marie-Lan Nguyen

Coincidentally, Hector also called an assembly of the Trojan leaders to suggest a similar venture and asking for a volunteer to ascertain whether the Greeks were guarding their ships and discussing going home. Dolon volunteered, on condition he would receive Achilles’ chariot and two thorough-bred horses if he was successful, which Hector promised him.

The three men set out from the two camps. Odysseus spotted Dolon coming towards them , so they hid and let Dolon pass them and then chased and captured him. Under interrogation Dolon told Diomedes and Odysseus the purpose of his mission, details about Hector and the guards in the Trojan camp and their intentions in the next stage of the war. Finally, after mentioning the location of Rhesus, leader of the Thracians, and his two lovely white horses, Diomedes beheaded Dolon with his sword and Odysseus took his weapons as plunder of war, dedicating them to Athena.

Odysseus and Diomedes stealing Rhesus’ horses, red-figure situla, c. 360 BC. Naples Archaeological Museum.

Diomedes and Odysseus then headed for the Thracians and found them all asleep. As Diomedes killed twelve of the Thracians and their leader, Rhesus, Odysseus pulled their bodies out of the way to clear a path for Rhesus’ horses which he stole. After a warning from Athena to leave immediately, they both returned to the Greek camp. Apollo warned Hippocoon in the Trojan camp but it was too late to save the Thracians. When Diomedes and Odysseus arrived back they described to Nestor what had happened. Then Diomedes led Rhesus’ horses to his hut while Odysseus placed Dolon’s armour in his ship in readiness for dedication to Athena. Both men then bathed and ate.

Book IX Book XI