In Greek mythology, Penthesilea (Greek: Πενθεσίλεια) or "Penthesileia" was an Amazonian queen, daughter of Ares and Otrera, [Otrera is commonly invoked as the founder of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.] and sister of Hippolyta, Antiope and Melanippe. Quintus Smyrnaeus [Quintus Smyrnaeus, "Posthomerica"i.18ff.] explains more fully than pseudo-Apollodorus how Penthesilea came to be at Troy: Penthesilea had killed Hippolyta with a spear when they were hunting deer; this accident caused Penthesilea so much grief that she wished only to die, but, as a warrior and an Amazon, she had to do so honorably and in battle. She therefore was easily convinced to join in the Trojan War, fighting on the side of Troy's defenders.

Penthesilea in the Epic Cycle

Proclus, who summarized the lost epic, the "Aethiopis" of Arctinos of Miletus, of which only five lines survive in a quotation, [ [ Quintus Smyrnaeus on-line text.] ] gave the events of Penthesilea's life. The story of Penthesilea segues so smoothly from the "Iliad" in the Epic Cycle that one manuscript tradition of the "Iliad" ends

:"Such were the funeral games of Hector. And now there came an Amazon, the great-hearted daughter of man-slaying Ares."

According to Diodorus Siculus

:"Now they say that Penthesileia was the last of the Amazons to win distinction for bravery and that for the future the race diminished more and more and then lost all its strength; consequently in later times, whenever any writers recount their prowess, men consider the ancient stories about the Amazons to be fictitious tales." (Diodorus Siculus, ii. 46).

Alongside Penthesilea were twelve other Amazons, including Antibrote, Ainia, and Cleite. The rest were Alcibie, Antandre, Bremusa, Derimacheia, Derinoe, Harmothoe, Hippothoe, Polemusa, and Thermodosa. [ [ Julie Ruffell, "Brave women warriors of Greek myth: an Amazon roster"] gives a long alphabetized list of Amazon names, but with no citations.] However, Cleite's ship was blown off course and she never reached Troy.

Death of Penthesilea

In the Pseudo-Apollodorus "Epitome of the Bibliotheke" [Pseudo-Apollodorus "Epitome of the Bibliotheke" 5.1 (Sir James George Frazer's translation).] 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 [Sextus Propertius, in Book III.11, poem XI, of his "Elegies"] (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). [""And, at the extremity of the painting, is Penthesilea breathing her last, and Achilles supporting her" (Pausanias, 10.31.1 and 5.11.2, noted by Graves 1960) This was the action that aroused Thersites' scorn.] Twelfth-century Byzantine scholar Eustathius of Thessalonica postulated a more brutal and literalist reading of the term "loved", however, maintaining that Achilles actually committed necrophilia on her corpse as a final insult to her. [Eustathius on Homer, 1696. An act of necrophilia is not otherwise attested in any Greek epic, and this alleged act passed without notice by any commentator in Antiquity. Pseudo-Apollodorus "Epitome" v.1-2 does not mention this reading, and its editor Sir James George Frazer did not mention Eustathius' reading in his notes. For the death of Penthesilea, the medieval Rawlinson Excidium Troie was noted by Robert Graves, "The Greek Myths" section 164, London: Penguin, (1955) 1960; Baltimore: Penguin. ISBN 0-14-001026-2. ]

The Greek Thersites 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": [Abraham Feldman, "The Apotheosis of Thersites" "The Classical Journal" 42.4 (January 1947, pp. 219-220) p 220. ] 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. [Graves 1960:section 164.]

Another tradition

A different tradition, attested in a lost poem of Stesichorus [Quoted by John Tzetzes, "On Lycophron", 266, noted by Graves 1960, section 163q, note 21.] makes Penthesilea the slayer of Hector, seen as a son of Apollo.

Theme of Penthesilea

The subject of Penthesilea was treated so regularly by a sixth-century BC Attic vase-painter, whose work bridged the "Severe style" and Classicism, that Adolf Furtwängler dubbed the anonymous master "The 'Penthesilea Painter". A considerable corpus for this innovative and prolific painter, who must have had a workshop of his own, was rapidly assembled [Mary Hamilton Swindler, "The Penthesilea Master" "American Journal of Archaeology" 19.4 (October 1915), pp. 398-417. In the series "Bilder Griechischen Vasen" volume 10, edited by Hans Diepolder (1936) is devoted to the Penthesilea-Maler.] in part by J.D. Beazley.

Heinrich von Kleist's "Penthesilea"

The treatment of Penthesilea that has received most critical attention since the early twentieth century, however, is the drama "Penthesilea" by Heinrich von Kleist, who cast its "precipitously violent tempo" [ John C. Blankenagel, "The Dramas of Heinrich von Kleist: A Biographical and Critical Study" (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press) 1931, p 145.] in the form of twenty-four consecutive scenes, without formal breaks into acts. The Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck wrote a 90' one-act opera, "Penthesilea" (Dresden, 1927) based on Kleist's drama.



*Justinus, "Epitome Historiarum philippicarum Pompei Trogi ii.4.31-32"
* [ Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus Book 2]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • PENTHESILEA — Amazonnm regina, quae, teste Iustinô l. 2. c. 4. Otterae, sive (ut alii) Orithyrae successit in regno: Eius Troianô bellô inter fortissimos viros, cum auxilium Priamo adversus Graecos ferret, magna virtutis documenta exstitêre. Virg. l. 1. Aen. v …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Penthesiléa — PENTHESILÉA, æ, Gr. Πενθεσίλεια, ας, (⇒ Tab. XII.) Königinn der Amazonen, des Mars und der Otrere Tochter. Hygin. Fab. 112. & Serv. ad Virg. Aen. I. v. 491. Sie kam dem Priamus mit einigen tausenden ihrer Leute zu Hülfe nach Troja, und Hektor… …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

  • Penthesilea — Penthesilea,   griechisch Penthesịleia, griechischer Mythos: Königin der Amazonen; sie kam im Trojanischen Krieg nach Hektors Tod den Troern zu Hilfe, wurde aber von Achill getötet, der sich in die Sterbende verliebte und ihren Tod betrauerte.… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Penthesilēa — Penthesilēa, Königin der Amazonen, Tochter des Ares u. der Otrera, half im Trojanischen Kriege den Trojanern u. wurde von Achilles erlegt. Diomedes wollte ihren Leichnam in den Skamander werfen, aber Achilles, welcher von Liebe zu der sterbenden… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Penthesilea — Penthesilea, in der spätern Mythe Tochter des Mars, Königin der Amazonen, vor Troja von Achill getödtet …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Penthesilea — Penthesileia stirbt durch das Schwert des Achilleus (griechische Keramik, ca. 460 v. Chr.) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • PENTHESILEA —    the daughter of Ares and the queen of the Amazons; on the death of Hector she came to the assistance of the Trojans, but was slain by Achilles, who mourned over her when dying on account of her beauty, her youth, and her courage …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Penthesilea —    From Greek mythology, the leader of the Amazons, who fought against the Greeks in the Trojan War …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • Penthesilea — Pen|the|si|lea, Pen|the|si|leia <griechisch> (eine Amazonenkönigin in der griechischen Sage) …   Die deutsche Rechtschreibung

  • Penthesilea (opera) — Penthesilea is a one act opera by Othmar Schoeck, to a German language libretto by the composer, after the work of the same name by Heinrich von Kleist. It was first performed at the Staatsoper in Dresden, Germany on 8 January 1927. Schoeck used… …   Wikipedia