Altar with the Suicide of Ajas
The route of the Greek myths to the Western Mediterranean
From the 7th century BC onwards the Greeks settled in Southern Italy and Sicily. With them they brought their myths of gods and heroes.
An altar of clay, probably from Gela in Sicily, bears a representation of a dramatic, popular myth in Greek art: the Suicide of Ajas. After his great exploits during the Trojan War Ajas suffered a crushing defeat. Even though he had prevented the body of Achilles from falling into enemy hands it was another Greek hero, Odysseus, who was awarded Achilles’ armour. Cheated and passed over, Ajas vented his rage on a flock of sheep. When the blood lust had abated and he realised what he’d done Ajas took his own life out of shame. The scene depicts Ajas at the moment of his death. The sword stands upright in the ground with Ajas impaled on its blade.