Poor old Dolon

In book 10 of the Iliad, Dolon volunteers to spy for the Trojans on condition he gets the horses of Achilles. They would have been useless to him because only Achilles can control them. On his way to the Greek camp he is captured by Odysseus and Diomedes. Hoping to save his life, he tells them everything and gives them useful information that will lead to the deaths of several Thracians who were Trojan allies. Even though Dolon is evidently an idiot, weak and quite willing to sacrifice his fellow warriors to save his own life and on top of that ugly, I can’t help feeling sorry for him. He just seems so clueless. He should have extracted an oath to protect his life before he gave the information. As it was when he had told them what they wanted to hear, Diomedes killed him anyway.

τὸν δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη κρατερὸς Διομήδης:
‘μὴ δή μοι φύξίν γε Δόλων ἐμβάλλεο θυμῷ:
ἐσθλά περ ἀγγείλας, ἐπεὶ ἵκεο χεῖρας ἐς ἁμάς.
εἰ μὲν γάρ κέ σε νῦν ἀπολύσομεν ἠὲ μεθῶμεν,
ἦ τε καὶ ὕστερον εἶσθα θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας Ἀχαιῶν
ἠὲ διοπτεύσων ἢ ἐναντίβιον πολεμίξων:
εἰ δέ κ᾽ ἐμῇς ὑπὸ χερσὶ δαμεὶς ἀπὸ θυμὸν ὀλέσσῃς,
οὐκέτ᾽ ἔπειτα σὺ πῆμά ποτ᾽ ἔσσεαι Ἀργείοισιν.
ἦ, καὶ ὃ μέν μιν ἔμελλε γενείου χειρὶ παχείῃ
ἁψάμενος λίσσεσθαι, ὃ δ᾽ αὐχένα μέσσον ἔλασσε
φασγάνῳ ἀΐξας, ἀπὸ δ᾽ ἄμφω κέρσε τένοντε:
φθεγγομένου δ᾽ ἄρα τοῦ γε κάρη κονίῃσιν ἐμίχθη

Scowling at him, mighty Diomedes spoke: “don’t entertain any thought of escape although you brought us good news when you fell into our hands. If we release you now and let you go you will come another time to spy or fight against us. But if you lose your life at my hands, then never again will you be a nuisance to the Argives.” He spoke and Dolon tried to touch his chin with his strong hand and supplicate him. But he quickly drove his spear into the middle of his neck and severed both his sinews. Even as he was speaking his head mixed with the dirt.

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3 Responses to Poor old Dolon

  1. I love how graphic Homer is. An excellent picture of Dolon’s death. And a fantastic reason by Diomedes to end his life. No rat, no rat problem. None of this double-agent crap we keep seeing in modern film.


  2. platosparks says:

    He deserves his death but there are resemblances between him and Odysseus. He’s just not as clever, even more self-seeking and perhaps most important he is not the favourite of any of the gods.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Precisely! The man falls short of the mark and pays with his life. How ironic that one can be a self-serving fool, but a self-serving fool without the support of a self-serving god gets dead.


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