Posts Tagged ‘Achilles’

More Worries About Achilles

June 7, 2015

…….Was I fraternizing with the enemy? Did my conduct pose a threat to Troy’s survival? How could it? Whether I was with Achilles or not, nothing we did here changes what is happening at Troy at this moment. And if we are separated once we get back, what we have done has no more relevance and cannot influence what will then occur.       -Polyxena



To Resist Achilles or Not?

June 1, 2015

We shared an affinity for each other, while knowing this could only result in unhappiness and heartbreak for us both if we succumbed to our basic instincts. So we resisted our impulses, the strain of our exertions very much evidenced in our glances. I wished at times that he would just seize me, take his pleasures with me, ending all my hesitations over this, and through this release me from my obsessive cravings. The question paramount in my mind, and I think also in his, was whether to submit to our impellent inclinations or continue resisting these, thereby depriving us of what we most desired.  – Polyxena

Meeting Achilles

May 26, 2015

…He removed his helmet and let his fair hair wave freely from its confines, shaking his head. He was, by any measure, a most handsome man with an almost beautiful face, if such a description might be applied toward that gender. He again looked me in the eye, revealing no particular emotion. “I am Achilles,” he said.




On the Amazons

January 24, 2011

Greek mythology is our source on the Amazons, a tribe of warrior women who have no use for men.  Bellerophon fights them; Jason knows them; Heracles (Hercules) kills one of their queens, Hippolyte, to get her girdle as one of his twelve labors; Theseus abducts another of their queens, Antiope (or a different Hippolyte), who bears him a son;  Homer has Priam describing them as ‘a match for men in war’ in the Iliad.  We know their queens through the myths:  Antiope, Hippolyte, Melanippe, Myrine, Penthesileia (some share the same name).  They were very war-like, fierce in battle, and united by one common bond: their loathing of men.  The myths originally placed their homeland along the southeastern shores of the Black Sea, with Themiscyra their main city.  The more the Greeks learned of geography, the further remote they placed their domain into central Asia, keeping them on the outer edge of the known civilized world.  

In the Trojan myths, Penthesileia and her Amazons come to Troy’s assistance a short time after Hector’s funeral and do a lot of damage.  Achilles kills her and is said to have fallen in love with her dying or dead body; he is mocked for this by Thersites, an interesting disfigured malcontent among the Greeks, and so also kills him (in front of Polyxena in my novel, shocking her to the core).     

The name Amazon means ‘breastless’ and was given them because they supposedly seared off their right breast so it would not interfere with bowstrings when firing arrows. According to Hippocrates, this was done while the girls were still babies with a red-hot bronze instrument constructed for this purpose.  They were horse-soldiers, often depicted in art on horseback, and may actually be western civilization’s earliest description of an all mounted force, with the bow and arrow their weapon of choice, although they also wielded javelins, and carried axes and a crescent shaped shield for close-order combat.  They perpetuated their culture by having sexual contact with the men of neighboring tribes at periodic intervals, by some accounts permitting only a third of their numbers to engage in each of these so that eventual pregnancies would not impede their ability to fight.  They reared only the girls, the boys being sent back to their father’s tribes, killed, mutilated (emasculated), or enslaved (to do womanly duties).  Training and discipline was harsh, exposing the girls to rigorous exercise and extremes of weather to inure them to a hard warrior’s life.  They worshipped Ares, God of War, and Artemis, virgin Goddess of Wildlife and Hunting.   To this day, they continue to fascinate us.

 Although there have been archaeological attempts to prove the Amazons existed, it is generally held that, as written about, they are purely mythical.  Evidence has been found that there were women of prominence in some ancient cultures, namely the Scythians and Sarmatians, but none of these findings confirm an exclusively female society. 

 For one-third of my novel, Polyxena is away from Troy, most of that time spent with the Amazons.  I am more benign to the Amazons than the myths suggest, with Polyxena finding some appeal in their culture and falling in love with Antiope, a chief commander in Penthesileia’s army.

On Priam

January 17, 2011

I thought I should briefly say something about Polyxena’s relationship with her father, Priam, King of Troy, a major character in my novel.  She very much loves him and is closer to him than her mother and could even be said to have an Electra complex.  A lot of this is due to her own interests paralleling those of Priam (the politics and conduct of the war, riding horses, etc.), regarding him as: …my loving father, King Priam, whom I adored more than anyone.  She describes him as: Tall and lean, with his whitened hair and beard, he appeared the perfect embodiment of dignity and kingship, a truly majestic figure….I felt a comfort in his presence; I could have sworn he was thinking what I was thinking.  She appreciates his confidence in her when deciding to send her as an envoy to the Amazons:  I savored the element of excitement that surrounded this mission, an opportunity to be of true value to my father’s objectives, to please him in a most meaningful way.  

When she returns to her life in Troy, with its clear demarcation of men’s and women’s roles, Polyxena finds the going rough, but is helped by Priam:  My frustration was alleviated somewhat by the curious behavior of my father who met with me frequently in private, usually in the courtyard, after having concluded one of his meetings, and asked me what I thought about some of the decisions that had been made….His regard for my opinion helped a lot in giving purpose to my otherwise meaningless existence -I am being hard on myself- and kept me stimulated and abreast of the current problems besetting our city.  I looked forward to my sessions with him, as they constituted the most compelling part of the day for me.

While her mother is dismayed over her being unmarried and engaged in unfeminine pursuits such as riding her horse, she says this of her father:  None of the things that so preoccupied my mother about me seemed to matter to him.  Best of all, he had no problem with my single status, never once alluding to it, accepting it as perfectly normal, even making me feel quite good about it.  He saw me as a true individual, tolerating my idiosyncrasies, recognizing the boredom my womanly gatherings posed for me, and understanding the pleasures I derived from riding Zephyrus.  He actually admired my skill in horsemanship, thinking it worthy of a royal princess.  In every respect, his views vividly contrasted those of my mother’s concerning me.  That is why I looked so adoringly upon him.  And although he diligently avoided making references to my mother, he ignored her designs for me as much as I did, dismissing these as not applicable to me.  The importance this had for me, not only in elevating my spirit, but in stimulating my interests, was immeasurable.

 Sad to say, Polyxena was to see her father slain when the Greeks take Troy.

Protected: Neoptolemus, an envious villain.

January 3, 2011

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How Polyxena fits into Greek Mythology…

November 5, 2010

Iphigenia was sacrificed for the Greeks, signifying the beginning of the Trojan War with the launching of Greek ships. Polyxena is Iphigenia’s Trojan counterpart. Polyxena, however, was sacrificed in Troy, signifying the end of the war.

Polyxena was the youngest daughter of Priam, king of Troy, and Hecuba.

According to legend, Polyxena went with her brother Troilus to a fountain where he watered his horse. Achilles appeared and slew Troilus. When Achilles caught sight of Polyxena, he fell in love with her.

And this is the way in which love always seems to exist in the realm of mythology.  Love in Greek Mythology did not limit its effects to the mere mortal. The gods often played starring roles in these tales, and often showed their human traits like jealousy and fear. However, in the sad case of Polyxena, her love was fatal in that it was the folly of man, to be specific, that of Achilles, who either wanted her sacrificed so that she may marry him in the afterlife, or because he felt she had or would betray him.

In Seneca’s play Troades, Helen laments Polyxena’s fate:

Miserable Polyxena, whom Achilles commands be surrendered to him and to be sacrificed before his own ashes, so that he may be married in the Elysian fields.

In stories of Mythology, it is often the case that love leads to tragedy. One must wonder whether or not it was a sign of the times that brought such sadness and cynicism in their stories of love, or if the idea of love itself was a powerful as the myths assigned to them.

Many of these issues are explored in my novel Polyxena, where I do go in an flesh out how some of this played out, however tragic it came to be. I wonder what some of you think of stories such as these. Is love that powerful that it must be satisfied by sacrifice in the most literal of terms?

Until next week…