Repost: Achilles is a slut.

Published September 11, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Pre-repost comment:  I actually grabbed the URL on the original for this one:  http://39years.blog.com/2014/08/31/achilles-is-a-slut/

Aug 31: Achilles is a slut.

No, seriously, he is! Er, was? Would have been?

Well, whatever the proper conjugation of “to be” is for such a statement about a mythological figure, it remains a true statement none the less.

Think about it, just within the firmly established mythic corpus. He has his one, true, abiding, life-long passion, which is either friendship or love depending on what you’re reading, and that is, of course, for Patroclos. But then he also has Deidamia, Iphigenia, Briseis, Diomede, Penthesileia and Polyxena. (Though admittedly he only actually managed to sleep with three of those women, but that’s somewhat immaterial.) Plus there were versions (now lost) in which he secretly met–and had sex with–Helen during the war. (And those versions were well-known enough that according to one of the ancient writers who went to his temple on the Euxene, the statue of him there depicted him in the process of making love to Helen. Although I rather doubt that was really the case, the sheer fact that someone was willing to claim it at a time when anyone with the time and money could go there and see for themselves is impressive!) And let us not forget that some of the later versions of the death of Troilos had Achilles fall in love with him, too. Plus in The Fall of Troy, during the funeral games, Quintus Smyrnaeus implied that Achilles had slept with all the female slaves being offered as prizes. Oh, and two authors–including Apollodorus–said that following his death he married Medea in the Elysian Fields.

If the man wore pants, he would have been unable to keep it in them.

And all that, of course, is on top of the fact that he also apparently had (free) women throwing themselves at him all the time. You know all those towns he sacked during the ten years of the Trojan War? For at least two of them, there are myths about a girl of the town–in both cases, the daughter of the king, I think–falling in love with him from a distance and therefore betraying her people for his sake. (Though in at least one of those cases, he had the girl killed afterwards, so perhaps it’s not the best of examples.) In any case, according to the Iliad, he was the most attractive man among the Greek forces in addition to being the strongest and most skillful warrior, so it’s hardly to be considered surprising if he was popular with the ladies.

Moving beyond that, I’m sure that plenty of non-classical sources have given him additional ladies (and/or men) to play with. (Even I’m guilty on that score: for my semi-Young Adult series, I not only gave him two more (in order to father new bastard children) but also had one of his former Myrmidons assume a completely different (yet still non-mythically accurate) mother for one of them.) Of course, for non-classical sources, that’s more or less just going with the pre-established character we’ve inherited, right?

But just looking at all the things that were written about him during the classical period, you have to wonder. Was he the original male wish-fulfillment fantasy character? Did the ancient Greek men read about all his women (and/or men/boys) and imagine what it would be like to be him? Was that the point? Were those snakes on the worship disks worshiper code for “send me some of your luck with the ladies!”? (Okay, yes, I realize that last one is ridiculous.) But as to the rest of it, I’m totally serious. If he didn’t have so many glaring character flaws, I’d wonder if he was the original “Gary Stu”. (Although the ancients didn’t seem to see his character flaws as being nearly as bad as we see them, they did still see them as flaws. I think.)

Admittedly, a lot of this argument would seem to hold true for Heracles as well. In fact, most of it does. The one thing that doesn’t, though, is the idea of the ancients imagining themselves wanting to be him. Because although Heracles was worshiped even more extensively than any other hero, he was also a figure of fun, almost of mockery. On the Athenian stage, Heracles was treated so comedically that some scholars have suggested that the Alcestis of Euripides was actually performed in lieu of a satyr play. Not only does no work survive that treated Achilles in such a light-hearted fashion, there isn’t even a hint of such a treatment of him among fragments, summaries and references in surviving works. The closest would be Iphigenia at Aulis, also by Euripides, but while he’s not treated as reverentially as usual, he still comes off a lot better than any other man in the play.

I don’t really have any particular reason to be saying all this, mind you. I just thought of it and wanted to get it off my chest. Or whatever.

Gave me something to write about, right?

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