The Aeacides: Sons of Aeacus & Heroes of Greek Mythology

Also known as Aiakides or AiakídaiΑἰακίδης), a patronymic name that derives from Aeacus, the son of Zeus and Aegina (daughter of River-God Asopus).

The name Aecides or Aiakides is given to various of Aeacus’s descendants:

Peleus: a son of Aeacus and Endeis, was king of the Myrmidons at Phthia in Thessaly. Peleus and Telamon resolved to get rid of their step-brother Phocus, because he excelled them in their military games, and Telamon killed him with a disk which he threw at him. (Apollod. 3.12.6; comp. Horat. ad Pison. 96).

The two brothers concealed their crime by removing the body of Phocus, but were nevertheless found out, and expelled by Aeacus from Aegina.

After being exiled from Aegina, Peleus went to Phthia in Thessaly, where he was purified from the murder by Eurytion, the son of Actor, married his daughter Antigone, and received with her a third of Eurytion’s kingdom. (Hom. Il. 16.175 ; Apollod. 3.13.1).

By Antigone, Peleus is said to have become the father of Polydora and Achilles. (Enstath. ad Hom. p. 321.) Peleus accompanied Eurytion to the Calydonian hunt, and involuntarily killed him with his spear, in consequence of which he fled from Phthia to Iolcus, where he was again purified by Acastus.

Telamon: After Telamon and Peleus had killed their step-brother Phocus, they were expelled by Aeacus from Aegina, and Telamon went to Cychreus in Salamis, who bequeathed to him his kingdom. (Apollod. l.c. ; Paus. 2.29. §§ 2, 7.)

He is said to have been a great friend of Heracles (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. 1.1289; Theocrit. Id. 13.38). and to have joined him in his expedition against Laomedon of Troy, which city he was the first to enter.

He there erected to Heracles Callinicus or Alexicacus, an altar. Heracles, in return, gave to him Theaneira or Hesione, a daughter of Laomedon, by whom he became the father of Teucer and Trambelus.

Achilles: Hero of Greek legend, son of Peleus and the Nereid (sea nymphs) Thethis. The young Achilleus had been dipped by his mother Thetis in the water of the Styx to make him invulnerable, but the water did not touch the heel by which she held him (hence ‘Achilles’ heel’).

In the Trojan War he was slain by Paris. Achilleus was venerated as a hero throughout Greece. In the Black Sea area he had divine status, and was known from the Hadrian era onwards by the epithet Pontarchos, meaning ruler of the sea.

Ajax the Great:  A son of Telamon, king of Salamis, by Periboea or Eriboea (Apollod. 3.12.7; Paus. 1.42.4; Pind. I. 6.65; Diod. 4.72), and a grandson of Aeacus. Homer calls him Ajax the Telamonian, Ajax the Great, or simply Ajax (Il. 2.768, 9.169, 14.410; comp. Pind. I. 6.38).

According to Homer Ajax joined the expedition of the Greeks against Troy, with his Salaminians, in twelve ships (Il. 2.557; comp. Strab. ix. p.394), and was next to Achilles the most distinguished and the bravest among the Greeks.

He is described as tall of stature, and his head and broad shoulders as rising above those of all the Greeks (iii 226, &c.); in beauty he was inferior to none but Achilles.

Later writers furnish us with various other traditions about his youth, but more especially about his death, which is so vaguely alluded to by Homer. According to Apollodorus (3.12.7) and Pindar (Pind. I. 6.51, &c.), Ajax became invulnerable in consequence of a prayer which Heracles offered to Zeus, while he was on a visit in Salamis. The child was called Αἴας from ἀετός, meaning eagle, which appeared immediately after the prayer as a favourable omen.

In the contest about the armour of Achilles, Agamemnon, on the advice of Athena, awarded the prize to Odysseus. This discomfiture threw Ajax into an awful state of madness. In the night he rushed from his tent, attacked the sheep of the Greek army, made great havoc among them, and dragged dead and living animals into his tent, fancying that they were his enemies.

When, in the morning, he recovered his senses and beheld what he had done, shame and despair led him to destroy himself with the sword which Hector had once given him as a present. (Pind. N. 7.36; Soph. Aj. 42, 277, 852; Ov. Met. 13.1, &c.; Lycophr. l.c.).

Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus)

Also known as Neoptolemos, meaning “young warrior“, a son of Achilles and Deidameia (the daughter of Lycomedes). He was also called Pyrrhus (Apollod. 3.13.8; Hom. Od. 11.491, &c.).

Not to be confused with Pyrrhus of Epiros. Pyrrhus of Epirus was a real historical figure, and claimed his royal lineage to Neoptolemus.

According to some, however, he was a son of Achilles and Iphigeneia (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 133; Eustath. ad Hoom. p. 1187), and after the sacrifice of his mother he was carried by his father to the island of Scyros.

Neoptolemus was brought up in Scyros in the house of Lycomedes (Hom. Il. 19.326; Soph. Philoct. 239, &c.), whence he was fetched by Odysseus to join the Greeks in the war against Troy (Hom Od. 11.508), because it had been prophesied by Helenus that Neoptolemus and Philoctetes, with the arrows of Heracles, were necessary for the taking of Troy (Soph. Phil. 115).

At Troy Neoptolemus showed himself in every respect worthy of his great father, and at last was one of the heroes that were concealed in the wooden horse (Hom. Od. 11.508, &100.521).

At the taking of the city he killed Priam at the sacred hearth of Zeus Herceius (Paus. 4.17.3, 10.27; Verg. A. 2.547, &c.), and sacrificed Polyxena to the spirit of his father (Eurip. Hecub. 523).

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