There are a multitude of stories about the Greek hero Achilles…Homer’s epic poem The Iliad , focuses on Achilles’ rage at being thwarted by the expedition commander Agamemnon. Achilles’ reputation was that of the greatest of the Greek warriors assembled before the walls of Troy but I don’t want to talk about Achilles the warrior today. I’ve been thumbing through images of Achilles lately an came across one that refers to one of the few “romantic” stories in his mythology.
This part of Achilles’ story is set shortly after the action of The Iliad, when Achilles has rejoined the Greeks in battling the Trojans. Penthesilea (Pen-theh-si-lay-uh) was the queen of the Amazons, a mythical tribe of warrior women who lived on the fringe of Greek society. Penthesilea was crippled by grief after accidentally killing her sister in a hunting accident. (is there no end of tragedy for these mythological characters?) She agreed to fight with the Trojans against the Greeks because it offered her the opportunity to end her misery by dying an honorable warrior’s death – a requirement of an Amazonian queen. There are several variations of the story, but in all of them, Penthesilea and Achilles meet on the battlefield, and powerful as she is, she is no match for Achilles who deals her a fatal blow.
One way or another, Penthesilea’s ends up in Achilles arms as she dies. Several versions recount that their eyes meet and they fall instantly in love just as she dies.
In the detailed image above we can see this moment depicted…damage to the vase obscures Achilles slightly, but one can still make out the connected gaze between the two figures as Achilles drives his sword home just below Penthesilea’s chin. This is among my top ten most evocative moments in Greek myth and it is incredibly similar to a scene between Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne and Lucy Griffiths as Maid Marian in Robin Hood – the infamous death scene of course.
Only seconds after he’s stabbed her, Guy supports Marian’s dying weight as she looks up and their eyes meet. According to Robin Hood’s writers the emotion of the scene is vastly different, at least from Marian’s point of view, but the composition is eerily similar.
Richard Armitage is famously quiet regarding his personal life, (which is fine by me) but I don’t think I’m speculating too wildly to suppose that he couldn’t possibly be as tRAgic in love as either Achilles or Guy… especially since ending love affairs at sword point is highly frowned upon these days. Here’s hoping for a much less classical ending for him in real life!