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A few words may suffice to characterise those minor
persons of the drama whose principal function is to bring the central figure into relief. Tecmessa, the daughter of a Phrygian prince, whom the fate of war has given to Ajax, loves him with a submissive devotion, and has won from him a constant affection. He is ‘her dread lord, of rugged might’; standing to her in the place of country, parents, everything; her only stay and hope on earth. She appreciates his great qualities in their obvious aspects. His laments, in his first despair, affright her, because they seem alien from his nature; but she has no insight into the workings of his mind. She is easily lulled into the belief that he has abandoned the purpose of self-destruction, since the only distinct idea which she had connected with it was that of the misery which it would bring upon her. When her fears are suddenly re-awakened, she bitterly cries that she has been ‘deceived.’ To her, the one question had been whether the love that he owed her would prevail on him to live; she had no clear perception of any other motives, that might urge him to die; still less could she measure their force. After his death, her simple loyalty refuses to think of him as crushed by his foes. It is no triumph for them, but a blank loss: the victory is rather his: ‘All that he yearned to win hath he made his own,—the death for which he longed.’ Death was what he desired, and the gods consented; that is all that she understands, beyond the import for herself1.

The Salaminians

The Chorus.
are the staunch followers of Ajax, true to him in weal or woe, and jealous of his good name, which is their own. He turns to them in his misery, as to tried friends, charging them with his last wishes, and with his message to Teucer. But their leading characteristic is their complete dependence on Ajax, and their utter helplessness when his protection is withdrawn. They are dismayed by the anger of the Greeks, and at one moment even think of seeking safety in flight; they bewail the hardships of the camp, and pine for the delights of home. In thus portraying them, the poet probably intended to suggest the Homeric contrast between the passive common folk (“λαοί”) and the ‘Zeus-nurtured’ chiefs. The Salaminians contribute to illustrate the greatness of the hero who had been their ‘defence against nightly terror and the darts of the foe’; even their complainings, however unmeet for warriors, serve to recall the weary stress of those ten years at Troy during which Ajax had been the bulwark of the ungrateful Achaeans.

1 See vv. 961—973.

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