Ajax (āˈjăks) [key], Gr. Aias, in Greek mythology. 1 Hero of the Trojan War, son of Telamon, thus called the Telamonian Ajax, also called Ajax the Greater. In the Iliad he is represented as a gigantic man, slow of thought and speech, but quick in battle and always showing courage. He led the troops of Salamis against Troy and was one of the foremost Greek warriors, fighting both Hector and Odysseus to draws. He and Odysseus rescued the corpse of Achilles from the Trojans, but when the armor of Achilles was awarded to Odysseus, the disappointment of Ajax was so great that he went mad and committed suicide. The Ajax of Sophocles deals with the madness and death of the great warrior. Ajax had hero cults at Salamis, Attica, and Troad. 2 Leader of the forces from Locris in the Trojan War, called the Locrian Ajax, Ajax of Oileus (after his father, Oileus), or Ajax the Lesser, because he was not the equal of the Telamonian Ajax. In the sack of Troy he violated Cassandra at the altar of Athena, and Athena caused him to be shipwrecked on the way home. Poseidon saved him, but Ajax, boasting of his own power, defied the lightning to strike him down and was instantly struck by it. Other versions of the story say that he stole the Palladium and that later Poseidon destroyed him for blasphemy.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.