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Ajax

AJAX:

(1) - A Greek hero, son of Oileus, king of Locris, called the "lesser" or Locrian Ajax, to distinguish him from Ajax, son of Telamon. In spite of his small stature, he held his own amongst the other heroes before Troy; he was brave, next to Achilles in swiftness of foot and famous for throwing the spear. But he was boastful, arrogant and quarrelsome; like the Telamonian Ajax, he was the enemy of Odysseus, and in the end the victim of the vengeance of Athene, who wrecked his ship on his homeward voyage (Odyssey, iv. 499). A later story gives a more definite account of the offence of which he was guilty. It is said that, after the fall of Troy, he dragged Cassandra away by force from the statue of the goddess at which she had taken refuge as a suppliant, and even violated her (Lycophron, 360, Quintus Smyrnaeus xiii. 422). For this, his ship was wrecked in a storm on the coast of Euboea, and he himself was struck by lightning (Virgil, Aen. i. 40). He was said to have lived after his death in the island of Leuke. He was worshipped as a national hero by the Opuntian Locrians (on whose coins he appears), who always left a vacant place for him in the ranks of their army when drawn up in battle array. He was the subject of a lost tragedy by Sophocles. The rape of Cassandra by Ajax was frequently represented in Greek works of art, for instance on the chest of Cypselus described by Pausanias (v. 17) and in extant works.

(2) - Son Of Telamon, king of Cyprus, a legendary hero of ancient Greece. To distinguish him from Ajax, son of Oileus, he was called the "great" or Telamonian Ajax. In Homer's Iliad he is described as of great stature and colossal frame, second only to Achilles in strength and bravery, and the "bulwark of the Achaeans.', He engaged Hector in single combat and, with the aid of Athene, rescued the body of Achilles from the hands of the Trojans. In the competition between him and Odysseus for the armour of Achilles, Agamemnon, at the instigation of Athene, awarded the prize to Odysseus. This so enraged AJax that it caused his death (Odyssey, xi. 541). According to a later and more definite story, his disappointment drove him mad; he rushed out of his tent and fell upon the flocks of sheep in the camp under the impression that they were the enemy on coming to his senses, he slew himself with the sword which he had received as a present from Hector. This is the account of his death given in the Ajax of Sophocles (Pindar, Nemea, 7; Ovid, Met. xiii. 1). From his blood sprang a red flower, as at the death of Hyacinthus, which bore on its leaves the initial letters of his name AI, also expressive of lament (Pausanias i. 35. 4). His ashes were deposited in a golden urn on the Rhoetean promontory at the entrance of the Hellespont. Like Achilles; he is represented as living after his death in the island of Leuke at the mouth of the Danube (Pausanias iii. 19. 11). Ajax, who in the post-Homeric legend is described as the grandson of Aeacus and the great-grandson of Zeus, was the tutelary hero of the island of.Salamis, where he had a temple and an image, and where a festival called Aianteia was celebrated in his honour (Pausanias i. 35). At this festival a couch was set up, On which the panoply of the hero was placed, a practice which recalls the Roman lectisternium. The identification of Ajax with the family of Aeacus was chiefly a matter which concerned the Athenians, after Salamis had come into their possession, on which occasion Solon is said to have inserted a line in the Iliad (ii. 557 or 558), for the purpose of supporting the Athenian claim to the island. Ajax then became an Attic hero; he was worshipped at Athens, where he had a statue in the market-place, and the tribe Aiantis was called after his name.

Many illustrious Athenians--Cimon, Miltiades, Alcibiades, the historian Thucydides--traced their descent from Ajax.

See D. Bassi, La Leggenda di Aiace Telamonio (1890); P. Girard, "Ajax, fils de Telamon," 1905, in Revue des etudes grecques, tome 18; J. Vurtheim, De Ajacie Origine, Cultu, Patria (Leiden, 1907), accord. ing to whom he and Ajax Oileus, as depicted in epos, were originally one, a Locrian daemon somewhat resembling the giants. When this spirit put on human form and became known at the Saronic Gulf, he developed into the "greater" Ajax, while among the Locrians he remained the "lesser." In the article GREEK ART fig. 13 (from a black-figured Corinthian vase) represents the suicide of Ajax.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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