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The first circumstance which demands notice is the fact
The veto on the burial.
that Athena visited Ajax with madness only at the moment when he already stood, in the darkness of night, before the tents of the Atreidae, prepared to murder them in their sleep. He was still sane when he plotted that bloody vengeance against them and the other chiefs. When, after his madness, he regains his sanity, he bitterly laments, at first, that his plan had been foiled. The award of the arms had been unjust. But, none the less, Ajax had merited, by his murderous design, the resentment of the Atreidae and of the Greek army. The public feeling in the camp, on the morning after the outrage, would have fully sustained Agamemnon in visiting him with the extreme penalty which the usage of that age sanctioned in regard to public enemies—the refusal of sepulture. The poet has taken care to let us know this—before the death of Ajax—by the mouth of the messenger who brings the warning of Calchas to Teucer. The Greeks, crowding around Teucer, threaten to stone him, guiltless as he is, merely because he is ‘the kinsman of the maniac who had plotted against the army1.’ Ajax himself, in his last speech, forebodes that burial will be refused to him; his only prayer to Zeus is that his body may not be cast to the dogs and birds. The spectators are thus clearly forewarned that, after the fall of Ajax, anger must inevitably break forth against him, menacing him with a calamity more dreadful than death. Hence the intervention of the Atreidae, when it occurs, appears as a necessary consequence of what has preceded. It is the bursting of a storm of which we have seen menacing signs, and even heard the first distant mutterings.

1 Vv. 726 ff.

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