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Greek mythology race
In-universe information
Base of operationsAegina

In Greek mythology, the Myrmidons (or Myrmidones; Ancient Greek: Μυρμῐδόνες, Murmidónes, singular: Μυρμῐδών, Murmidṓn) were an ancient Thessalian Greek tribe.[1][2]

In Homer's Iliad, the Myrmidons are the soldiers commanded by Achilles.[3] Their eponymous ancestor was Myrmidon, a king of Phthiotis, who was a son of Zeus and "wide-ruling" Eurymedousa, a princess of Phthiotis. In one account, Zeus seduced Eurymedousa in the form of an ant.[4]

An etiological myth of their origins, simply expanding upon their supposed etymology—the name in Classical Greek was interpreted as "ant-people", from myrmedon (Ancient Greek: μῠρμηδών, murmēdṓn, plural: μῠρμηδόνες, murmēdónes), which means "ant-nest"—was first mentioned by Ovid in the Metamorphoses. In Ovid's telling, the Myrmidons were simple worker-ants on the island of Aegina.

Ovid's myth of the repopulation of Aegina[edit]

Hera, queen of the gods, sent a plague to kill all the human inhabitants of Aegina because the island was named for one of the lovers of Zeus. King Aeacus, a son of Zeus and the intended target of Hera along with his mother, prayed to his father for a means to repopulate the island.

As the myrmekes (Ancient Greek: μύρμηκες, múrmēkes, singular: μύρμηξ, múrmēx), the ants of the island, were unaffected by the sickness, Zeus responded by transforming them into a race of people, the Myrmidons.[5] They were as fierce and hardy as ants, and intensely loyal to their leader.[6] Because of their antly origins, they wore brown armour.[citation needed]

After a time, Aeacus exiled his two sons, Peleus and Telamon, for murdering their half-brother, Phocus. Peleus went to Phthia and a group of Myrmidons followed him to Thessaly. Peleus's son, Achilles, brought them to Troy to fight in the Trojan War. They feature as the loyal followers of Achilles in most accounts of the Trojan War.

Another tradition states that the Myrmidons had no such remarkable beginnings, but were merely the descendants of Myrmidon, a Thessalian nobleman, who married Peisidice, the daughter of Aeolus, king of Thessaly. Myrmidon was the father of Actor and Antiphus. As king of Phthia, Actor (or his son) invited Peleus to stay in Thessaly.

Medieval Myrmidons[edit]

Achilles was described by Leo the Deacon (born ca. 950) not as Hellene, but as Scythian, while according to the Byzantine author John Malalas (c. 491–578), his army was made up of a tribe previously known as Myrmidons and "known now as Bulgars".[7][8] The 12th-century Byzantine poet John Tzetzes also identified the Myrmidons with the Bulgars, whom he also identified with the Paeonians, although the latter may be intended in a purely geographical sense.[9][10] In the 11th century, Michael Attaleiates called the Rus' Myrmidons, but this usage did not catch on.[11]

According to Andrew Ekonomous, these represent intentional distortions designed to "minimize the valor of pagan heroes, and eventually to extinguish their memory altogether".[7] Anthony Kaldellis, on the other hand, argues that such use of classical ethnonyms for modern peoples "do not really fall under the category of distortion at all".[11]

Modern Myrmidons[edit]

The Myrmidons of Greek myth were known for their loyalty to their leaders, so that in pre-industrial Europe the word "myrmidon" carried many of the same connotations that "robot" does today. "Myrmidon" later came to mean "hired ruffian", according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

See also[edit]

  • Myrmex, woman who became an ant


  1. ^ The Journal of Indo-European Studies. 2003. p. 289. Achilles is king of the Myrmidons, a Thessalian Greek tribe, and brought them with him to Troy as his troops.
  2. ^ Halliwell, Stephen (12 November 2015). Aristophanes: Frogs and Other Plays: A Verse Translation, with Introduction and Notes. Oxford University Press. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-19-106623-8. Myrmidons (= the Thessalian tribe of Achilles)
  3. ^ Achilles himself is "the great Myrmidon/Who broils in loud applause" in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
  4. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Exhortations Book II
  5. ^ "Myrmidon | Britannica". www.britannica.com. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  6. ^ Hamilton, Edith (1969) [1940]. "Brief Myths Arranged Alphabetically". Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (Renewal ed.). New York: Mentor Books. p. 310. ISBN 0-451-62803-9.
  7. ^ a b Ekonomou, Andrew (2007). Byzantine Rome and the Greek Popes. UK: Lexington Books. p. 123. ISBN 9780739119778. Retrieved 14 September 2015.
  8. ^ Jeffreys, Elizabeth; Croke, Brian (1990). Studies in John Malalas. Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, Department of Modern Greek, University of Sydney. p. 206. ISBN 9780959362657. Retrieved 14 September 2015.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ Mitko B. Panov (2019), The Blinded State: Historiographic Debates about Samuel Cometopoulos and His State (10th–11th Century), Brill, p. 109.
  10. ^ Anthony Kaldellis (2015), Byzantine Readings of Ancient Historians, Routledge, p. 79.
  11. ^ a b Anthony Kaldellis (2013), Ethnography After Antiquity, University of Pennsylvania Press, p. 112.
  12. ^ "750 Years of Merton College - A Timeline"

External links[edit]