Living in Holland has inspired me in many ways, especially Dutch people’s love for sports and football. Ajax is one of the most successful football clubs in Holland. However, Ajax is an unusual name of choice for a football club when we think its roots are based on the great epic, Iliad of Homer. It is a curious thing why Ajax’s name was chosen instead of Odysseus, who helped the Greeks to win the battle with the help of his genius plan, the Trojan horse. Cunning Odysseus always got what he wanted either with his slyness or gods’ support, while Ajax got nothing. Brave Ajax didn’t have anything to depend on other than his own power and skills. However, time always reveals the truth and gives the one what he deserves. Today, no one remembers Odysseus, but Ajax’s name is retained and will be remembered through one of the world’s biggest football clubs and chanted by thousands in the arena.
Inspired by the name and grown up in the land of Troy, I decided to pay my tribute to Homer and write a short modern version of the Iliad telling the story of a young Dutch football player named Ajax. For that, I had to go through the old books and ancient scripts. In my book, I did not only use Homer’s Iliad as a reference but also several old books: Aethiopis attributed to Arctinus of Miletus (7-8th century B.C.), Ajax by Sophocles (5th century B.C.), Achilleid by the Roman poet Publius Papinius Statius (1st century AD), The Fall of Troy by Quintus Smyrnaeus (4th Century A.D.).
Iliad ends with the death of Hector, but it is believed to be a lost epic, Aethiopis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, composed around the seventh or eighth century B.C. It is one of the Epic Cycle, called the “Trojan” cycle, which told the Trojan War’s entire history in epic verse. It comes chronologically after the Homeric Iliad and is followed by the Little Iliad. Only five lines survived of the Aethiopis’ original text and what is known entirely depending on a summary of the Cyclic epics contained in the Chrestomathy attributed to an unknown writer Proclus.
As a summary of Aethiopis, The Fall of Troy by Quintus Smyrnaeus (4th Century A.D.) includes some of the major tales: how the Amazonian Queen, Penthesileia, died for Troy; the death of Memnon; how Apollo slew Achilles; and the death of Paris. The Achilleid is an unfinished epic poem by Publius Papinius Statius that was intended to present Achilles’s life from his youth to his death at Troy. Ajax or Aias is a Greek tragedy written by Sophocles in the 5th century B.C.
The play depicts the warrior Ajax’s fate after the great warrior Achilles has been killed in battle. Considering himself the greatest Greek warrior, Ajax feels he should be given Achilles’ armor, but the two kings, Agamemnon and Menelaus, award it instead to Odysseus. Ajax becomes furious about this and decides to kill them. However, Athena steps in and deludes Ajax into instead killing the cattle and the herdsman. Suddenly Ajax comes to his senses and realizes what he has done. Overwhelmed by shame, he decides to commit suicide. Teucer, Ajax’s brother, arrives, but it is too late. Due to Ajax’s insult, the two kings, Agamemnon and Menelaus, want to leave the body unburied for scavengers to ravage, while Teucer intends to bury it. Odysseus arrives and persuades Agamemnon and Menelaus to allow Ajax a proper funeral. Odysseus points out that even one’s enemies deserve respect in death. The play ends with Teucer making arrangements for the burial.
Once I collected and brought all the major events and the stories together, I summarized and blended it into a modern story, telling about a football tournament between the young Greeks and the Trojans after their mascot Helen, the cow abducted.