Penguin Books, combined edition, 1992



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* Robert Graves - Penthesileia


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Penthesileia, dead of profuse wounds,
Was despoiled of her arms by Prince Achilles
Who, for love of that fierce white naked corpse,
Necrophily on her committed
In the public view.

Some gasped, some groaned, some bawled their indignation,
Achilles nothing cared, distraught by grief,
But suddenly caught Thersites’ obscene snigger
And with one vengeful buffet to the jaw
Dashed out his life.

This was a fury few might understand,
Yet Penthesileia, hailed by Prince Achilles
On the Elysian plain, pauses to thank him
For avenging her insulted womanhood
With sacrifice.

From: Robert Graves - Selected Poems
edited by Michael Longley






Death of Penthesilea

In the Pseudo-Apollodorus Epitome of the Bibliotheke[6] she is said to have been killed by Achilles, "who fell in love with the Amazon after her death and slew Thersites for jeering at him". The common interpretation of this has been that Achilles was romantically enamored of Penthesilea[7] (a view that appears to be supported by Pausanias, who noted that the throne of Zeus at Olympia bore Panaenus' painted image of the dying Penthesilea being supported by Achilles).[8] Twelfth-century Byzantine scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica postulated a more brutal and literalist reading of the term loved, however, maintaining that Achilles actually committed an act of necrophilia on her corpse as a final insult to her.[9]
The Greek Thersites mockingly jeered at Achilles's treatment of Penthesilea's body, whereupon Achilles killed him. "When the roughneck was at last killed by Achilles, for mocking the hero's lament over the death of the Amazon queen Penthesilea, a sacred feud was fought for Thersites' sake":[10] Thersites' cousin Diomedes, enraged at Achilles' action, harnessed Penthesilea's corpse behind his chariot, dragged it and cast it into the Scamander, whence, however, it was retrieved and given decent burial, whether by Achilles or by the Trojans is not known from our fragmentary sources.[11]


Robert Graves on Penthesilea

In Robert Graves' homonymous poem, Penthesilea is "despoiled of her arms by Prince Achilles". Yet, Achilles slays Thersites for his disrespect towards Penthesilea.
A different tradition, attested in a lost poem of Stesichorus[12] makes Penthesilea the slayer of Hector, seen as a son of Apollo.



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