one of the rank and file


In my continuing series creating backstories based on epic literature, here’s a bit from Illiad.

One of the Rank and File


            Archanon was the only son of Darthian the Lesser and his wife, Lucilina, both bakers who died in a tragic baking accident.  His grandmother and grandfather took him into their home after the accident and raised Archanon as their own son; however, while he was still a beardless boy, he left, charging off into battle.  Archanon shipped away into the glory of war unwed, leaving his grandmother’s eyes wet with sorrow and his grandfather’s heart beating proud, though broken. 

The excitement-craving young men from the village joined the troops at Syme, under the command of the handsome Nireus.  Their band of two thousand men in their three sparkling cedar ships seemed unimaginably large.  Archanon thought they would be the greatest forces in all of the Argive army. 

The Symian ships faced a stormy voyage, during which Archanon kept to his bed or his position at the oars.  No matter where he was, he remained violently sick, as were many of his comrades.  Finally, they arrived at the beaches of Troy, shaken but with their spirit of adventure intact.  Archanon followed his commander down the gangplank and stopped dead in his tracks.  Swarming all over the beach, and flowing between the massive tent camp and the beached ships like a mighty river, were hundreds of thousands of hundreds of men and animals.  All around him was noise, clamor, and shouting. 

Archanon looked up from the spectacles before him to find himself alone; his troops had marched away down toward the camp.  At first, he thought he had lost his only family in this strange new world, but just before his moment of panic, he caught sight of the red horsehair and plated bronze helmet that was Nireus’s trademark.  Archanon ran like the wind until he caught the tail end of the troops.  As they passed by the established troops, some men said they had arrived late in the war—too late because the glorious battles were nearly over.  ‘Not our fault!’  Archanon thought, ‘The news took so long to reach us back home.  Who goes home from war to ask for reinforcements?’ 

Although he was stunned by all the activity around him, Archanon was bored after the first few days of camp chores, standing guard, and cooking for the seemingly endless feasts.  Archanon was tired of work and was itching for the scent of battle.  He had signed up for the army to have the excitement of war and sea travel; yet, here he was washing tent canvas, shining armor, and standing guard over the camp.  Boring.

        Early one morning, after along night of guard duty when Archanon wanted nothing but his bed, all the chiefs came marching out of the council tent.  The call went up to gather at the meeting grounds.  Rumors spread between the men.  Whispered tendrils of thoughts crept around the camp about great battles to come and royal treasure to be won.  Some soldier even nudged him with his elbow and told him in great secrecy that great king Agamemnon himself would speak at the meeting…

            “…Rank and file

 Streamed out behind and rushed like swarms of bees…

 Dark hordes swirling into the air, this way, that way

 So the many armed platoons from the ships and tents

 Came marching on, close file, along the deep wide beach

 To crowd the meeting grounds, and Rumor, Zeus’ crier,

 Like wildfire, blazing among them, whipped them on.”  (Homer 104)


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