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Exekias : Black-figured amphora (540-530 Before Century); British Museum, London Inggris

Did Brad Pitt study just the Troy movie script or Homer’s complete Iliad when he played Greek warrior hero Achilles? Homer’s 8th century BC epic only covered 51 days of the legendary ten-year siege, sandwiched between a quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilles and Hector’s funeral. If Brad read it, he will have found little similarity with the movie. But neither the script nor the Iliad provides insight into all Troy spin-offs in Greek and Roman mythology.
One of these tells the tale of Amazon queen Penthesileia, who brought her women warriors to help defend King Priamos and his Trojans. Homer only hints at ‘that day when the Amazon women came, men's equals.’ Roman writer Virgil describes Penthesileia’s heroism more vividly in his epic Aeneid: ‘Furious Penthesileia leads the crescent-shielded ranks of Amazons, blazing amid her thousands; a golden belt she binds below her naked breast, and, as a warrior queen, dares battle, a maid clashing with men.’ But her success in battle rouses Achilles’ anger. A Greek writer describes the tragedy that follows: ‘He thrust with sudden spear, and pierced Penthesileia. Straightway fell she down into the esenih, the arms of death, in grace and comeliness, for naught of shame dishonoured her fair form. Face down she lay on the long spear, outgasping her last breath. There, fallen in dust and blood she lay, pink, like the breaking of dawn, revealing beneath pencilled brows a face lovely in death so that Achilles might be pierced with the sharp arrow of repentant love.’
The tragic scene was popular in Greek seni. Exekias painted this 6th-century BC black-figured amphora, showing Achilles looming above Penthesileia as she sinks to the ground. His helmet protects his face, while hers is pushed back to expose her features. Harmlessly, her spear passes across Achilles’ chest, while his pierces her throat and blood spurts out. According to myth, at this very moment the eyes of the two warriors met and they fell, too late, in love.
(text: Jos Hanou)

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