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Achilles and Penthesileia

Achilles and Penthesileia, on an Athenian vase painted by Exekias

Penthesileia (pen-tha-sill-AY-ah) was the Queen of the Amazons, in Greek mythology. The Amazons were a group of warriors who were all women and girls. Penthesileia’s story happens a little before the time of the Trojan War, in the Late Bronze Age.

So Penthesileia and the Amazons lived to the north of Greece, around the Black Sea. (That’s probably because their story was based on real women fighters among the Scythians). When the Greek hero Achilles was fighting the Trojan War, Penthesileia went to fight with the Trojans. Achilles and Penthesileia were fighting each other hand to hand. But when their eyes met, suddenly they fell deeply in love with each other.

A metope from Sicily showing Amazons fighting men

A metope from Sicily showing Amazons fighting men

Unfortunately, just at that moment Achilles’ sword went right through Penthesileia and killed her. Achilles was very upset by this tragedy.

Compare this story to other similar Indo-European stories: the Persian story of Sohrab and Rustem and the German story of Hildebrand.

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Bibliography and further reading about Penthesileia:

D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire.

Pandora’s Box: A Three-Dimensional Celebration of the Mythology of Ancient Greece, by Sara Maitland and Christos Kondeatis (1995). Not really about Pandora specifically, but a complex of stories, games, and puzzles about Greek mythology. People love it!

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