Greek vase: Achilles and Ajax playing a board game





liad 24. 396-404

[The messenger, ARGEIPHONTES is speaking to KING PRIAM of Troy]

I am [Achilles'] squire [therapon], and one and the same well-wrought ship brought us. I am one of the MYRMIDONS; my father is Polyktor. He is indeed rich in substance, and an old man, just as you are. He has six sons, and I myself am the seventh. From these sons, chosen by the casting of lots, I have come here. And now, I have come from the plain, from the [Greek] ships. For at dawn the bright-eyed Achaeans will set the battle array around the city [of Troy]. For it annoys them to just sit there, and the leaders [basileis `chieftains'] of the Achaeans [Greeks] do not have the ability to hold them back in their eagerness for war.

Iliad 16. 188-199

[description of the contingent of Achilles' MYRMIDONS]

Fifty were the swift ships which Achilles, dear to Zeus, led to Troy, and in each ship, at the oarlocks were fifty men , his companions [hetairoi]. And five leaders (hegemones) he had appointed, in whom he trusted to give command: he himself in his great might, was commander over all (wanax). One squadron was led by Menestheus of the flashing corslet, son of Spercheius the heaven-fed river. Polydora, the daughter of Peleus, bore him to Borus the son of Perieres, who publically wedded her after he had given innumerable courting gifts. The second squadron was led by warlike Eudorus... and of the third company warlike Peisander was the leader, the son of Maemalus, preeminent among all the Myrmidons for fighting with the spear, second only to the Hetairos of the son of Peleus [i.e. Patroklos, the Hetairos of Achilles]. The fourth squadron was led by the old warriro Phoenix, and the fifth by Alkimedon, the peerless son of Laerkes. But when finally Achilles had them drawn up in battle order with their leaders, appropriately separating one squadron from the next, he commanded them sternly ... [a speech follows]

Iliad 2. 360-368

[NESTOR, king of Pylos, grandson of Poseidon, is advising AGAMEMNON the Wanax, great-grandson of Zeus]

But, O Commander-in-chief (Wanax), take good advice yourself, and listen to someone else. Do not casually dismiss my advice. Separate your soldiers by tribe [phyle] and by clans (phratries), O Agamemnon, so that one clan may bring aid to another, and one tribe to another. If you do it this way, and the Achaeans obey you, you will then know who among the chieftains and who among the soldiers is a coward and who is brave. For each man will fight for his own. And so you will know whether it is actually by the Will of Heaven that you will not seize the city, or whether because of the cowardice of the men and their foolishness in war.

Iliad 4. 292-309

[Agamemnon looks in on Nestor and the men from Pylos]

Then he found Nestor, the clear voiced orator of the Pyleans, arraying his men and urging them to fight... First he arrayed the charioteers with their horses and cars, and behind them the footsoldiers, many and valiant, to be a first line of defense in battle. But the cowards he stationed in the middle, so that they had to fight even if they were unwilling. First he gave commands to the charioteers, ordering them to keep their horses reined in and not to drive them on tumultuously into the mele]e `Let no man trust to his own personal horsemanship and valor, and be eager to fight with the Trojans all by himself in front of the rest, but let him not hold back either.'...

50 ships X 50 men per ship = 2500 Myrmidons. In Book II of the Iliad, the total number of ships is said to be 1083; thus the entire Greek army numbered 54,150 men.

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May 25, 2009 4:34 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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