Penthesilea: Forgotten Queen of Amazons


Scarcely mentioned in the Greek mythology, Penthesilea was the Queen of Amazons. Texts suggest that she was the daughter of Ares and Otrera. She is among the most famous Amazonian Queens. She was known for being a fierce warrior and even took part in the great battle of Troy. Amazon had a custom of training their women into fierce warriors and Penthesilea was one such legendary warriors. Some texts suggest that the Amazon women were so dedicated to being warriors that they cut off one of their breasts so that they were able to wield the bow better. Though the truth of this fact has been debated in modern times.

Statue of Penthesilea

Statue of Penthesilea

 

Queen Penthesilea was very skilled with many weapons. Apart from that she was intelligent and beautiful too. Some texts state that she was the inventor of battle axe. But tragedy befell this beautiful and courageous Queen when she went hunting one day. In a freakish accident she killed her sister Hippolyta with a spear that was meant for some other animal. Hippolyta was very close to Penthesilea and she plunged deep in grief. She wished for death, but she could not commit suicide. As Amazon warriors could only die honorably in battlefield.

Penthesilea the Fierce Warrior Queen

Penthesilea the Fierce Warrior Queen

 

Penthesilea continued ruling Amazon kingdom. Her reign collided with the Trojan War. Initially, Amazons did not take part in the war and Penthesilea herself had decided to stay away from this conflict. But two key events: Achilles killing Hector and Penthesilea killing her sister Hippolyta led to Amazon participation in the war. So, the Amazon army marches to Troy. Penthesilea was not like other typical rulers, who would sit and watch other men fight. She used fight in the battle herself and during the ensuing battle she killed every Greek coming in her path. It is written that she was valiant and swift. She fought just like a man and went on a killing spree during the battle. Her goal though was to kill Achilles and avenge the death of Hector. Or to die in the process.

Some Stone Carvings Showing Penthesilea in Trojan War

Some Stone Carvings Showing Penthesilea during Trojan War

 

Some texts depict that, no one was able to stop Penthesilea as she made her way towards Achilles. Soon, two met each other face to face. It is said that Achilles fell in love with Penthesilea at first sight. But that did not stop him from killing her with a swift stroke of his blade. He caught her in his arms as Penthesilea fell after being struck the death blow. However, other Greeks did not have any generous feelings towards Penthesilea. It is noted that Thersites mocked Achilles for his treatment of the Queen’s body. Thersites went ahead and removed the eyes of Penthesilea with his sword, enraging Achilles, who slaughtered Thersites. However, after Achilles left, Diomedes who was the cousin of Thersites, dragged the corpse of Penthesilea behind his chariot. He threw the corpse into the river. Achilles is said to have retrieved the body and given Penthesilea proper burial.

Achilles& Penthesilea

Achilles holds Penthesilea after killing her

 

Ancient Roman poet wrote about Penthesilea in his poem and described her as Bellatrix, which is rumored to be the inspiration for naming of Bellatric Lestrange in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Though Penthesilea’s story is not told in the Illiad which ends with Hector’s funeral, which happened before the Amazons arrived. Her story is told in the lost epic of Aethiopis.

 

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