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Before the age of the Attic dramatists, the Ajax
Ajax and the Aeacidae.
legend received some further developments which were probably unknown to the Cyclic poets. One of these was the enrolment of Ajax among the Aeacidae. The Iliad bestows the name of “Αἰακίδης” on two persons only,—Peleus, the son, and Achilles, the grandson, of Aeacus. The logographer Pherecydes1 (circ. 480 B.C.) made Telamon the son of Actaeus and Glaucè, a daughter of the Aeginetan hero Cychreus,—recognising no tie, except friendship, between Telamon and Peleus. According to another legend, however, both Peleus and Telamon were sons of Aeacus by Endeïs2 (“Ἐνδηΐς”=“ἔγγαιος” or “ἔγγειος”, from the Doric “δᾶ”=“γῆ”). The cult of Aeacus, son of Zeus, had its chief seat in the island called after his mother, the nymph Aegina. Telamon and Ajax belonged to Salamis. By making Telamon and Peleus brothers, the Aeginetans linked their local hero with the others. This engrafting of Telamon and his son on the Aeacid stock had gained general acceptance before the fifth century B.C. The sculptures of Athena's temple at Aegina date from the period of the Persian wars. On the east pediment Heracles and Telamon were the prominent figures; on the west, Ajax was seen defending the corpse of Achilles. Herodotus3 says that when the Greeks had resolved, just before the battle of Salamis, ‘to invoke the Aeacidae as allies,’ they called on Ajax and Telamon to come to them from Salamis itself, but sent a ship to Aegina to summon ‘Aeacus and the other Aeacidae’ (i.e., Peleus, and his son Achilles; Phocus, and his sons Crisus and Panopeus). The passage has an especial interest as showing that, though Ajax had now been thoroughly adopted into the Aeacid cult of Aegina, this had been done without weakening the immemorial tradition which made Salamis his home.

Another addition

Ajax invulnerable.
to the Ajax legend—worthy of notice, since Aeschylus used it—is that which made the hero invulnerable. This was borrowed from the story of Achilles,— which, indeed, influenced at several points the later development of the Ajax-myth: and it served also to connect Ajax with Heracles. In Pindar's fifth Isthmian ode, Heracles, the guest of Telamon at Salamis, prays that his host may have a son, as ‘staunch of frame’ as the hide of the Nemean lion which he himself is wearing4. From some such germ grew the story that Ajax had been born before the arrival of Heracles, who wrapped the child in the lion-skin, making him invulnerable, except in one place which the hide had not covered5. This legend is unknown to the Iliad6; but in Plato's time it was generally current7.

1 Apollod. 3. 12.§ 6.

2 Apollod. l.c. This “Ἐνδηΐς” appears in Megarian legend as a daughter of “Σκείρων” or “Σκίρων” of Megara ( Paus. 2. 29. 9; Plut. Thes. 10). Another legend makes her a daughter of Cheiron (schol. Pind. N. 5. 12: schol. Il. 16. 14: Hyginus Fab. 14). In Apollod. l.c. the MSS. have “Ἐνδηΐδα τὴν Σκείρωνος”: but Aegius in his edition (Rome, 1555) gave “Χείρωνος”, which Heyne (ed. 1803) retained.

3 8. 64 “ἔδοξε δέ σφι εὔξασθαι τοῖσι θεοῖσι καὶ ἐπικαλέσασθαι τοὺς Αἰακίδας συμμάχους, ὡς δέ σφι ἔδοξε,...αὐτόθεν μὲν ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος Αἴαντά τε καὶ Τελαμῶνα ἐπεκαλέοντο, ἐπὶ δὲ Αἰακὸν καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους Αἰακίδας νέα ἀπέστελλον ἐς Αἴγιναν”. It has generally been supposed that the ship sent to Aegina was intended to bring sacred images or symbols of the Aeacidae (so CurtiusE. , Hist. Gr. II. p. 291 Eng. tr.). Stein, however, thinks that the object was merely to make the invocation at Aegina in the proper form; and would similarly explain the presence of the Dioscuri with the Spartan armies ( Her. 5. 75) in a purely spiritual sense.—After the victory, three Phoenician triremes were dedicated by the Greeks to deities who had helped them— one to Poseidon at the Isthmus, one to Athena at Sunium, and one to Ajax at Salamis ( Her. 8. 121).

4 Isthm. 5. 47ἄρρηκτον φυάν, ὥσπερ τόδε δέρμα με νῦν περιπλανᾶται θηρός”.

5 Tzetzes on Lycophron 455—461. Argument to Soph. fin.), and schol. on v. 833.

6 Thus in Il. 23. 822 the Greeks fear that Ajax may be wounded by Diomedes.

7 Plat. Symp. 219 E (“χρήμ<*>”) “πολὺ μᾶλλον ἄτρωτος ἦν πανταχῇ” (sc. Σωκράτης”) “ σιδήρῳ Αἴας”.

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hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (10):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.12.6
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.75
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.121
    • Homer, Iliad, 16.14
    • Homer, Iliad, 23.822
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.29.9
    • Pindar, Isthmean, 5
    • Pindar, Nemean, 5
    • Plato, Symposium, 219e
    • Plutarch, Theseus, 10
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