Ajax the Lesser

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Ajax (Greek: Αἴας) was a Greek mythological hero, son of Oileus, the king of Locris. He was called the "lesser" or "Locrian" Ajax,[1] to distinguish him from Ajax the Great, son of Telamon. He was the leader of the Locrian contingent during the Trojan War. He is a significant figure in Homer's Iliad and is also mentioned in the Odyssey[2] and Virgil's Aeneid. In Etruscan legend, he was known as Aivas Vilates.

Contents

Mythology

His mother's name was Eriopis. According to Strabo, he was born in Naryx in Locris,[3] where Ovid calls him Narycius Heros.[4] According to the Iliad,[5] he led his Locrians in forty ships against Troy.[6] He is described as one of the great heroes among the Greeks. When the grammatical dual form of Ajax is used in the Iliad, it was once believed that it indicated the lesser Ajax fighting side-by-side with Telamonian Ajax, but now it is generally thought that that usage refers to the Greater Ajax and his brother Teucer. In battle, he wore a linen cuirass (λιμνοθώρηξ), was brave and intrepid, especially skilled in throwing the spear and, next to Achilles, the swiftest of all the Greeks.[7]

In the funeral games at the pyre of Patroclus, he contended with Odysseus and Antilochus for the prize in the footrace; but Athena, who was hostile towards him and favored Odysseus, made him stumble and fall, so that he won only the second prize,[8] On his return from Troy, his vessel was wrecked on the Whirling Rocks (Γυραὶ πέτραι), but he himself escaped upon a rock through the assistance of Poseidon and would have been saved in spite of Athena, but he said that he would escape the dangers of the sea in defiance of the immortals. In punishment for this presumption, Poseidon split the rock with his trident and Ajax was swallowed up by the sea.[9]

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