Ajax was one of the great heroes of the Trojan War. He was the king of Salamis, near Athens. Homer says Ajax was a very big and strong man. Only his cousin Achilles, who he had gone to school with, was a better fighter. When Achilles was killed, Ajax rescued his body.
But afterwards, since he had gotten Achilles’ body, Ajax thought he should get Achilles’armor as a reward. When the Greeks decided to give the armor to Odysseus instead, Ajax went crazy and killed a whole flock of sheep, thinking they were Greeks. Ajax thought he was killing Odysseus and Agamemnon.
When Ajax realized what he had done, he was so ashamed that he killed himself by fixing his sword upright in the ground and then throwing himself on it. Even later on, when Odysseus visited the underworld, Ajax’s ghost was so ashamed that he wouldn’t speak to Odysseus.
The Iliad of Homer (Oxford Myths and Legends), by Barbara Leonie Picard. A retelling of the story.
The Iliad (Penguin Classics) by Homer. Translated by Robert Fagles. A great translation!
Approaches to Teaching Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, by Kostas Myrsiades (1987).