AJAX (gr. Aías, lat. Aiax)
in Greek mythology (1) the son of ➚ Oileus and Eriopis (or Alcimache), king of Locrians known as “Ajax the Lesser”. He was one of the suitors of ➚ Helen  and this was the reason for his participation in the ➚ Trojan war , in the course of which he was among the most outstanding warriors, often cooperating with the other ➚ Ajax (2) . On the night of the fall of Troy he committed a sacrilege by kidnapping ➚ Cassandra together with the statue of ➚ Athena, at the foot of which the girl sought for shelter . According to later versions Ajax raped Cassandra at the foot of the goddess’ statue  for what the Achaeans – advised by ➚ Odysseus – wanted to stone him , but he hid at the altar . He left Troad, but angered Athena stroke his ship with lightning. Ajax survived clinging onto a sea rock, and when he started to insult the goddess, ➚ Poseidon shattered the rock with the trident and the hero drowned [8,9]; according to another versions Athena killed him by herself . His body was washed up on the shore of Mykonos island, where it was buried by ➚ Thetis . After death Ajax, together with the other heroes from Troy, resided on ➚ Leuke (1) .
Ajax’s Trojan crime brought plague upon his people, the Locrians. Oracle advised the plagued to placate Athena by sending two supplicant maidens chosen by fate over the next thousand years. First to go to Troad were Periboea and Cleopatra. They met with a cold reception and had to take refuge in the temple of Athena, where they swept the floor barefoot, wearing only one chiton and with their hair cut. The Locrian punishment expired after the Phocian war (357-346 B.C.) [13,14].
Italian Locrians believed that the Ajax’s spirit participated in their fights, what was experienced by Leonymus (or Autoleon) of Croton, who was wounded in battle by the ➚ hero. Because his wound didn’t want to heal, he took the oracle’s advice to go to Leuke where Ajax cured him [15, 16].
(2) Son of ➚ Telamon and Periboea (Eriboea), King of Salamis known as “Ajax the Great”. He was born when ➚ Heracles was visiting the Telamon’s house. Great hero pleaded ➚ Zeus to gift the boy with a body resistant to blows . As the sign of his consent god sent an eagle (Greek ateiós), from which the name Ajax is derived .
Ajax took part in the ➚ Trojan war  as he was amongst the ➚ Helena’s suitors . He was one of the bravest Achaean warrior (see ACHAEANS) alongside ➚ Achilles (2) and ➚ Diomedes (2). Ajax fought a victorious duel against ➚ Hector, heroically defended the walls, prevented the defilement of the ➚ Patroclus’ body and carried dead Achilles from the battlefield. He claimed the honour of keeping his armour, but lost the argument to ➚ Odysseus [21-24]. Enraged with this verdict, he wanted to take revenge by attacking the Greek troops, but in the attack of madness inflicted on him by ➚ Athena he slaughtered a herd of cattle. After regaining his consciousness he regarded himself disgraced and decided to commit suicide . Despite several attempts he failed to pierce himself with a sword until “some goddess” (Athena?) showed him his soft spot , i.e. the armpit – as was concluded from the iconographic data. From the hero’s blood grew hyacinths (more properly: gladioli or irises , compare with HYACINTHUS). ➚ Agamemnon forbid to burn the Ajax’s body, so – as the only Greek fallen at Troy – he was buried (at the Rhoetean promontory ). After death he resided in ➚ Hades (2)  or – according to other version – on Leuke (1) .
 A p d., III, 10, 8;  H o m., Il., II, 527 ff.;  H o m., Il., XII, 265, ff.; XIII, 46 ff.; XIII, 126 ff.; XVII, 531 ff.;  E u r i p., Troad., 69 ff.;  A p d., Epit., V, 22;  P a u s., X, 31, 2;  A p d., Epit., V, 23;  H o m., Od., IV, 499 ff.;  S e n., Agam., 550 ff.;  V e r g., Aen., I, 43;  A p d., Epit., VI, 6;  P a u s., III, 19, 12 f.;  A p d., Epit., VI, 20 ff.;  P o l y b., XII, 5;  P a u s., III, 19, 11 ff.;  C o n o n, Narr., 18;  P i n d., Isthm., VI, 56 ff.;  A p d., III, 12, 6;  H o m., Il., II, 557 f.;  A p d., III, 10, 8;  H o m., Od., XI, 542 ff.;  A p d., Epit., V, 6 f.;  S o p h o c l., Aiax 1 ff.;  O v i d., Met., XIII, 1 ff.;  S o p h o c l. Aiax, 1 ff.;  A e s c h y l., fragm. 83;  O v i d., Met., XIII, 391 ff.;  A p d., Epit., V, 7;  H o m., Od., XI, 541 ff.;  P a u s., III, 19, 13.
P. M ü h l l, Der grosse Aias, Basel 1930; M. E. B r o w n, Sophocles’ Ajax and Homer’s Hector, “Classical Journal” 61, 3, 1965.