Ajax in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
1. A son of Telamon, king of Salamis, by Periboea or Eriboea
(Apollod. 3.12.7; Paus. 1.42.4; Pind. I. 6.65; Diod. 4.72),
and a grandson of Aeacus. Homer calls him Ajax the
Telamonian, Ajax the Great, or simply Ajax (Il. 2.768,
9.169, 14.410; comp. Pind. I. 6.38), whereas the other Ajax,
the son of Oileus, is always distinguished from the former
by some epithet. According to Homer Ajax joined the
expedition of the Greeks against Troy, with his Salaminians,
in twelve ships (Il. 2.557; comp. Strab. ix. p.394), and was
next to Achilles the most distinguished and the bravest
among the Greeks. (ii 768, 17.279, &c.) He is described as
tall of stature, and his head and broad shoulders as rising
above those of all the Greeks (iii 226, &c.); in beauty he
was inferior to none but Achilles. (Od. 11.550, 24.17; comp.
Paus. 1.35.3.) When Hector challenged the bravest of the
Greeks to single combat, Ajax came forward among several
others. The people prayed that he might fight, and when the
lot fell to Ajax (Il. 7.179, &c.), and he approached, Hector
himself began to tremble. (215.) He wounded Hector and
dashed him to the ground by a huge stone. The combatants
were separated, and upon parting they exchanged arms with
one another as a token of mutual esteem. (305, &c.) Ajax was
also one of the ambassadors whom Agamemnon sent to
conciliate Achilles. (9.169.) He fought several times
besides with Hector, as in the battle near the ships of the
Greeks (14.409, &c. 15.415, 16.114), and in protecting the
body of Patroclus. (17.128, 732.) In the games at the
funeral pile of Patroclus, Ajax fought with Odysseus, but
without gaining any decided advantage over him (23.720,
&c.), and in like manner with Diomedes. In the contest about
the armour of Achilles, he was conquered by Odysseus, and
this, says Homer, became the cause of his death. (Od.
11.541, &c.) Odysseus afterwards met his spirit in Hades,
and endeavoured to appease it, but in vain.
Thus far the story of Ajax, the Telamonian, is related in
the Homeric poems. Later writers furnish us with various
other traditions about his youth, but more especially about
his death, which is so vaguely alluded to by Homer.
According to Apollodorus (3.12.7) and Pindar (Pind. I. 6.51,
&c.), Ajax became invulnerable in consequence of a prayer
which Heracles offered to Zeus, while he was on a visit in
Salamis. The child was called Αἴας from ἀετός, an eagle,
which appeared immediately after the prayer as a favourable
omen. According to Lycophron (455 with the Schol.), Ajax was
born before Heracles came to Telamon, and the hero made the
child invulnerable by wrapping him up in his lion's skin.
(Comp. Schol. ad Il. 23.841.) Ajax is also mentioned among
the suitors of Helen. (Apollod. 3.10.8; Hyg. Fab. 81.)
During the war against Troy, Ajax, like Achilles, made
excursions into neighbouring countries. The first of them
was to the Thracian Chersonesus, where he took Polydorus,
the son of Priam, who had been entrusted to the care of king
Polymnestor, together with rich booty. Thence, he went into
Phrygia, slew king Teuthras, or Teleutas, in single combat,
and carried off great spoils, and Tecmessa, the king's
daughter, who became his mistress. (Dict. Cret. 2.18; Soph.
Aj. 210, 480, &c.; Hor. Carm. 2.4.5.) In the contest about
the armour of Achilles, Agamemnon, on the advice of Athena,
awarded the prize to Odysseus. This discomfiture threw Ajax
into an awful state of madness. In the night he rushed from
his tent, attacked the sheep of the Greek army, made great
havoc among them, and dragged dead and living animals into
his tent, fancying that they were his enemies. When, in the
morning, he recovered his senses and beheld what he had
done, shame and despair led him to destroy himself with the
sword which Hector had once given him as a present. (Pind.
N. 7.36; Soph. Aj. 42, 277, 852; Ov. Met. 13.1, &c.;
Lycophr. l.c.) Less poetical traditions make Ajax die by the
hands of others. (Dict. Cret. 5.15; Dar. Phryg. 35, and the
Greek argument to Soph. Ajax.) His step-brother Teucrus was
charged by Telamon with the murder of Ajax, but succeeded in
clearing himself from the accusation. (Paus. 1.28.12.) A
tradition mentioned by Pausanias (1.35.3; comp. Ov. Met.
13.397, &c.) states, that from his blood there sprang up a
purple flower which bore the letters αἰ on its leaves, which
were at once the initials of his name and expressive of a
sigh. According to Dictys, Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles,
deposited the ashes of the hero in a golden urn on mount
Rhoeteion ; and according to Sophocles, he was buried by his
brother Teucrus against the will of the Atreidae. (Comp. Q.
Smyrn. 5.500; Philostr. Her. 11.3.) Pausanias (3.19.11)
represents Ajax, like many other heroes, as living after his
death in the island of Leuce. It is said that when, in the
time of the emperor Hadrian, the sea had washed open the
grave of Ajax, bones of superhuman size were found in it,
which the emperor, however, ordered to be buried again.
(Philostr. Her. 1.2 ; Paus. 3.39.11.) Respecting the state
and wandering of his soul after his death, see Plato, De Re
Publ. x. in fin.; Plut. Sympos. 9.5.
Ajax was worshipped in Salamis as the tutelary hero of the
island, and had a temple with a statue there, and was
honoured with a festival, Αἰαντεῖα. (Dict. of Ant. s. v.) At
Athens too he was worshipped, and was one of the eponymic
heroes, one of the Attic tribes (Aeantis) being called after
him. (Paus. 1.35.2; Plut. Sympos. 1.10.) Not far from the
town Rhoeteion, on the promontory of the same name, there
was likewise a sanctuary of Ajax, with a beautiful statue,
which Antonius sent to Egypt, but which was restored to its
original place by Augustus. (Strab. xiii. p.595.) According
to Dictys Cretensis (5.16) the wife of Ajax was Glauca, by
whom she had a son, Aeantides; by his beloved Tecmessa, he
had a son, Eurysaces. (Soph. Aj. 333.) Several illustrious
Athenians of the historical times, such as Miltiades, Cimon,
and Alcibiades, traced their pedigree to the Telamonian
Ajax. (Paus. 2.29.4; Plut. Alc. 1.) The traditions about
this hero furnished plentiful materials, not only for poets,
but also for sculptors and painters. His single combat with
Hector was represented on the chest of Cypselus (Paus.
5.19.1); his statue formed a part of a large group at
Olympia, the work of Lycius. (Paus. 5.22.2; comp. Plin. Nat.
35.10.36 ; Aelian, Ael. VH 9.11.) A beautiful sculptured
head, which is generally believed to be a head of Ajax, is
still extant in the Egremont collection at Petworth.
(Böttiger, Amalthea, iii. p. 258.) - A Dictionary of Greek
and Roman biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.
Ajax in Wikipedia
Ajax or Aias (Greek: Αἴας, gen. Αἴαντος) was a mythological
Greek hero, the son of Telamon and Periboea and king of
Salamis. He plays an important role in Homer's Iliad and in
the Epic Cycle, a series of epic poems about the Trojan War.
To distinguish him from Ajax, son of Oileus (Ajax the Lesser),
he is called "Telamonian Ajax," "Greater Ajax," or "Ajax the
Great". In Etruscan mythology, he is known as Aivas