Argument between Ajax and Ulysses over Achilles' armor (Ovid XIII). In class we will evaluate the merit of the arguments below. We will use the Iliad as a source when possible.


1. Ulysses ran away when Hector was on a rampage to torch Greek ships.

2. Ajax saved the Greek ships from Hector's torches.

3. House of Fathers: Ajax is Achilles' cousin and greatgrandson of Zeus (Jove).

4. Further blood claim: Telamon, Ajax's father, took walls of Troy with Hercules; therefore, Ajax's line was in on this war from the beginning.

5. Ulysses arrived on the scene of the war later than the other soldiers.

6. Ajax claims Ulysses deserted Philoctetes and Nestor.

7. Ajax saved Ulysses in battle.

8. Ajax threw the boulder at Hector.

9. Ajax acts alone, while Ulysses needs Diomedes as a sidekick.

10. Achilles shield is too heavy for Ulysses to carry.

11. Ajax's shield is full of holes from all his battling, whereas Ulysses' has no holes; therefore Ajax needs a shield.

Ajax proposes the arms be laid down and both men fight for them.

Ulysses (U):

Thesis: "Troy was conquered because I made it possible." (l. 349 -50)

1. U brought Achilles out of hiding on Scyros to join the Greek force; therefore, U indirectly slew Hector (l.179)

2. House of Fathers: U is also a greatgrandson of Jove; as a bonus, neither his grandfather nor his father were banished or exiled, as Ajax's were. U's maternal line is from Hermes (Mercury). And if kinship should determine the new owner of Achilles' armor, then one of his sons is next in line.

3. Blood claims are insignificant anyway: merit alone deserves reward.

4. U convinced Agamemnon to make the human sacrifice (Iphigenia) in order to arrive safely in Troy.

5. U was the Ambassador to Troy. He persuaded Priam and Antenor to return Helen, but Paris and his brothers opposed a peaceful settlement. 

6. During the first nine years of the war, Ajax "did nothing," according to U, while he: set up ambuscades; constructed moats; encouraged the allies; counseled patience; build morale; secured food and arms (209-212)

7. U convinced Agamemnon not to give up the fight in the last year. Ajax was ready to leave Troy. Since U forced Ajax back to the fight, U deserves credit for Ajax's accomplishments in the final year of the war. 

8. Diomedes as Ulysses' sidekick simply means that of the thousands of Greek warriors, U was his pick.

9. U killed Dolon the Trojan spy, then slew sleeping men in their tents. 

10. U has wounds; Ajax has none.

11. U carried Achilles from the field; obviously he is strong enough to carry his armor (see note below).

12. Ajax is too stupid to appreciate Hephaestus' fine handwork in the shield.

13. If arriving late to the Trojan war disqualifies him from receiving the armor, Achilles himself arrived late and fought last.

14. U stole Athena's statue from the Trojan shrine.

15. U promises to bring Philoctetes back to the scene, to help set the prophesied conditions for the fall of Troy.

16. Ajax is "strong and brainless" (360); wits are key to leadership.

Ulysses closes by saying that his role as guardian of this war should be honored with Achilles' armor. 


NOTE: The lost epic Aethiopis is now only fragments. In fragment # 1, the author writes: "A battle takes place in which Antilochus is slain by Memnon and Memnon by Achilles. Eos then obtains of Zeus and bestows upon her son immortality; but Achilles routs the Trojans, and, rushing into the city with them, is killed by Paris and Apollo. A great struggle for the body then follows, Aias taking up the body and carrying it to the ships, while Odysseus drives off the Trojans behind."

In The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization, the authors confrim that Ajax carries the body of Achilles off the battlefield

Around 600 BC, the black figure technique was fully established in Attica pottery. There are many images of Ajax carrying the body of Achilles from the battlefield back to the ships (see image below).

In Ovid's Metamorphoses Ulysses says to the chieftians, "

My tears, my grief, my fears did not prevent
my lifting up his body from the ground
and bearing back the hero to our camp.
I carried him upon these shoulders--yes,
these shoulders bore the great Achilles' body
and all his arms and armor--weaponry


What conclusions can you make about this contradiction?