Agamemnon watches as Achilles gives Nestor, as prize of wisdom, the two-handled urn during the funeral games in honour of Patroclus 1. 4509: Joseph Désiré Court 1796-1865: Achille donnant à Nestor le Prix de la Sagesse. Musée des beaux arts, Rouen.
"Who cares to praise his enemy ?" (Nestor. Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.548).
"I seek no other vengeance than to ignore Heracles' mighty deeds" (Nestor. Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.575).
"A lie will Nestor not utter, for he is wise indeed." (Athena. Homer, Odyssey 3.20).
Achilles: The prize I am giving you has no relation to the sports.
Nestor: Now, I must leave this sort of thing to younger men and take the painful lessons of Old Age to heart." (Homer, Odyssey 23.615ff.).
Nestor, whose father and brothers were killed by Heracles 1, was
brought up among the Gerenians and later became the
Leader of the Pylians against Troy.
When Heracles 1 ravaged the Peloponnesus, destroying the kingdoms
of Elis, Lacedaemon, and Pylos in Messenia, Nestor was a
boy or a very young man. It is said that when Heracles 1 occupied Pylos, he killed Nestor's
father Neleus and all of
Nestor's brothers. Nestor survived this massacre
because at the time he was being brought up in
Gerenia, another city in Messenia, or because he
took refuge there escaping the war. During the
battle for Pylos, Heracles 1 wounded Hades, who was siding with
the Pylians, for only in Pylos the lord of the Underworld was
Kingdom entrusted to Nestor ?
However, when the HERACLIDES attacked
the Peloponnesian kingdoms after the Trojan War, they
campaigned in the usual manner, that is both with
weapons and arguments, and so they claimed that Heracles 1, after
occupying Pylos, had
entrusted the kingdom to Nestor, and that now they
had come to claim what was theirs. And in a similar
way they had argued in Elis; for Phyleus 1, the son of King Augeas, was also said to have been bestowed the kingdom by Heracles 1, who also
made Tyndareus king of Sparta.
War between Pylos and Elis
But Nestor says that the war between Pylos and Elis took place after the
invasion of Heracles 1, and that Neleus was still alive when this war, in which Nestor
became a renowned warrior, took place. The Eleans,
as it seems, took advantage of the previous war
between Pylos and Heracles 1, a war in
which the best Pylian warriors had perished, in
order to oppress the city, taking their cattle and
their horses. So when the Pylians reacted
accordingly, Elis sent an
army against them, and in it were fighting the
MOLIONIDES, twins who had two bodies joined to one
another. When the army camped, Athena came from Olympus
and instructed the Pylians to array themselves for
battle. Though Neleus hid
the horses because he feared for his son, whom he
deemed unexperienced in war, he could not prevent
Nestor from going into battle.
Killed by Nestor
In this war, according to Nestor himself, he killed the Elean Itymoneus 1, son of Hypeirochus 1, with a spear. He also killed Mulius 1, who was the son-in-law of King Augeas, for he had married the king's daughter Agamede. Nestor says he could not kill the MOLIONIDES because Poseidon shrouded them
in a thick mist.
War with Arcadia
On another occasion, the Pylians waged war against the Arcadians, and the champion of these was Ereuthalion 1, the squire of King Lycurgus 2, son of Aleus, son of Aphidas 1, son of Arcas 1, son of Zeus and Callisto, the daughter
of impious Lycaon 2. Ereuthalion 1 bore the armour of King Areithous 1, a man surnamed Maceman because he never fought with a bow or a spear but used to break the enemy ranks with an iron mace. King Lycurgus 2 killed Areithous 1, meeting him in a narrow way where his mace was useless. And that is how King Lycurgus 2 came over the precious armour which Ares had given Areithous 1, wearing it from then on in all his battles. But when Lycurgus 2 grew old, he gave the armour to his squire Ereuthalion 1, and while the latter wore this armour no man dared to challenge him, except Nestor, who though being the youngest in the army, defeated and slew Ereuthalion 1, or so he tells us.
Nestor joins the LAPITHS
Nestor joined the LAPITHS, a people from
Thessaly, in their battle against the CENTAURS, and he fought
side by side with other
non-LAPITHS, like Theseus and Peleus, who also
participated in that battle.
Role of Nestor during the Trojan War
When the Trojan War broke out, Nestor and his sons Antilochus and Thrasymedes 1 sailed from Messenia, and joined
the coalition against the Trojans. At this time
Nestor, though still keeps his strength, is already
an old man, and better known for the past deeds he
recalls and tells, or for the wise words he is
believed to utter, than for saving the day in the
battlefield. However, he is respected by all, and
he has wide influence in most decisions.
Mediates between Achilles and Agamemnon
When Agamemnon took
sweetheart, and the conflict that ensued threatened
the unity of the Achaean army fighting at Troy, Nestor attempted to
appease their anger:
you, Agamemnon, mighty though you are, take away
the girl, but let her be, as the Achaeans first
gave her to him as a prize; nor do you, Achilles, be minded to strive with a
king." (Nestor. Homer, Iliad 1.275).
Pride makes them deaf
But they would not listen:
Agamemnon: "All these things, old man,
to be sure, you have spoken as is right. But this
man wishes to be above all others; over all he
wishes to rule and over all to be king, and to all
to give orders; in this, I think, there is someone
who will not obey."
Achilles: "Surely I would be called cowardly
and of no account, if I am to yield to you in every
matter that you say. On others lay these commands,
but do not give orders to me, for I do not think I
shall obey you any longer."
(Homer, Iliad 1.285).
False dream in his shape
Later Zeus, who wished
to vindicate Achilles for the outrage Agamemnon had
inflicted on him, sent Agamemnon a false
dream in the shape of Nestor, whom the king
trusted, so that Agamemnon would
believe that the hour of victory was at hand, and
that he would soon take the city of Troy. When Agamemnon referred the
dream to his war council, even wise Nestor deemed
it to be a true dream though it was false, for as
it is said, the wisest of men, if compared with a
god, will in wisdom appear as a monkey.
More divine intervention
So Zeus decided, after
having lifted on high his golden scales with the
fates of death, to give defeat to the Achaeans, and
award victory to the Trojans, and thundering from
Mount Ida he sent a blazing flash among the
Achaeans. At the sight of this no one had the heart
to continue the battle, except Nestor. But then his
horse was shot dead by Paris, and after him came Hector 1, and Nestor
would have probably died had it not been for the
intervention of Diomedes 2. So Nestor mounted his chariot, and together
they kept on fighting until Zeus hurled his
lighting-bolt to earth in front of their horses.
Now Nestor understood, and telling Diomedes 2:
"A man may in
no wise thwart the purpose of Zeus" (Nestor. Homer, Iliad 8.144).
exhorted him to leave the field.
Nestor advises Agamemnon
Since Achilles retired to his tent, it had not been possible for
the Achaeans to improve the course of the war.
Nestor tried then to persuade King Agamemnon to placate Achilles' wrath:
"Let us now
take thought how we may make amends, and persuade
him with kindly gifts and with gentle
words." (Nestor to Agamemnon. Homer, Iliad 9.113).
It is now that Agamemnon, realizing
his fault and wishing to appease Achilles, offered the
seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities,
and many other gifts besides Achilles' sweetheart Briseis, for, as it
seemed, without the participation of Achilles in the war,
only defeat could be expected. Concerning Briseis, Agamemnon swore that
he had not slept with her, and no one has ever said
anything against this oath, nor suggested that it
When these words were uttered and the gifts were
offered, Nestor appointed envoys to meet Achilles, and among
these were Odysseus, Ajax 1, and Phoenix 2. But when Achilles heard
from Odysseus what was
offered to him he refused to give up his wrath:
"Hateful in my
eyes, as the gates of Hades, is that man that hides one thing
in his mind and says another." (Achilles.
Homer, Iliad 9.313).
"Why has he
gathered and led here his host, this son of Atreus? Was it not for Helen's sake? Do they then alone of
mortal men love their wives, these sons of Atreus? No, for he who is a true man
loves his own and cherishes her, as I too loved Briseis with all my heart, though she was but the captive of my spear … Never again shall Agamemnon beguile me with words…Hateful in my eyes are his gifts." (Achilles to Agamemnon's envoys.
Homer, Iliad 9.340).
Nestor present at the turning point
But some time after, when Achilles saw Nestor
carrying away from battle the wounded Machaon, son
of Asclepius, he
started to pity the Achaeans, and sent Patroclus 1 to find
out whether the wounded man was indeed Machaon.
Nestor and Patroclus 1
When Patroclus 1 came to Nestor's tent, he was sitting with his squire Eurymedon 4, telling tales and drinking the Pramnian wine that
Hecamede, a woman from Tenedos given to Nestor
after Achilles sacked
the island, served them. Patroclus 1 would not
sit with them, but was nevertheless informed about
all the wounded and the severe military defeat that
the Achaeans were suffering. And Patroclus 1 also was
instructed by Nestor, who wished him to convince Achilles of fighting again:
"It is not too
late for you to talk to Achilles … A good thing is the persuasion of a friend … But if Achilles is secretly deterred by some
prophecy or word from Zeus that Thetis has disclosed to him,
let him at least allow you to go to battle with the Myrmidon force behind you … " (Nestor to Patroclus 1. Homer, Iliad 11.790).
These were decisive words (see Patroclus 1).
Return from Troy
After the sack of Troy,
Nestor and Diomedes 2 put to sea in company, joining Menelaus in Lesbos.
Later Menelaus was
overtaken by a storm, and having lost the rest of
his vessels, arrived to Egypt with only five ships. Diomedes 2 returned to Argos, but having met a
sedition, had to leave for Italy. Of these, only
Nestor had a regular return, being one of the few ACHAEAN LEADERS who ruled undisturbed after the Trojan War.
Nestor in Pylos
When Telemachus was still looking for his father Odysseus, who had not
yet returned from Troy, he
came to Pylos, and there
he met prosperous Nestor, sitting with his sons
while people about him were roasting meat and
making preparations for a feast. In this meeting
Nestor informed Telemachus about the
fate of the ACHAEAN
LEADERS (see also The
Returns), and then took him to his palace, where Telemachus,
having drunk an eleven years old wine, was accommodated. The next day, Nestor's youngest daughter Polycaste 2 bathed Telemachus and
anointed him with oil, and after having a meal, Telemachus left for Sparta.
Life for three generations
This clear-voiced orator of the Pylians is said
to have lived three generations by favor of Apollo. For Apollo had once killed the brothers and sisters of Nestor's mother Chloris 1. And it is asserted that the years Apollo took from these
young men and women (the NIOBIDS), he granted to
Nestor. So at the time of the Trojan War two
generations had passed away in his lifetime, and he
was now in the third. The circumstances of his
death are still unknown.