This is the thirdday of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans.
A brief recap from yesterday’s match which pitted the hero-king of Crete, Idomeneus, against one of the Epigonoi, Sthenelos the sacker of Thebes.
Idomeneus stepped away from his corner where Nestor was still giving him instructions he had not heard and stood still, waiting for Sthenelos. Sthenelos, was talking heatedly with Phoinix, and the only words any word heard sound like “father”, “better”, and “destruction of Thebes”. Sthenelos turned around and said, “Hail, descendant of Minos, Lord of Crete,King of one hundred cities, the Son of Capaneus will bring you down like the city of seven-gated Thebes!”
Idomeneus waited. Sthenelos hurled his first spear, and missed. The second lodged in Idomeneus’ shield without piercing it. Sthenelos drew his sword and charged, dropping it after he struck Idomeneus’ shield with all his force. Idomeneus was about to draw his sword when Diomedes caught his eye. The Cretan shrugged, raised his shield, and thwamped Sthenelos on the head. The light left the eyes of the Argive prince as he knelt to the ground. Unconscious, but still breathing.
As Idomeneus hefted his shield again, Epeios chuckled to Eurypulos, “ἴδε οἱ μένος!*”
*ide hoi menos: “look at his strength!” a play on the name Idomeneus
Today’s contest pits the Cretan Charioteer, Meriones, against the Salaminian Tower of Strength, Ajax. The winner will face Idomeneus in the next round, which will be super awkward if it is Meriones.
Meriones: In the first version of this bracket, Meriones had slipped out. But there was a roar from justice as people clamored to have him back in. So, who is he? He is the half-brother of Idomeneus, often called his charioteer and he has at least seven kills in the Iliad, where he is first named as “equal to man-slaying Enyalios” (Μηριόνης τ’ ἀτάλαντος ᾿Ενυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ, 2.651). In book 7, he is one of the 9 who stands to face Hektor in a dual and he volunteers to join Diomedes on his night raid in book 10. In each case he is second only to the more famous Ajax and Odysseus. Perhaps his most humorous moment is when he rushes out of the battle in book 13 and meets Idomeneus, saying “I am going to see if there are any spears left / in our dwellings for I have just now broken the one I was holding / when I threw it at the spear of that super-manly Deiphobos” (ἔρχομαι εἴ τί τοι ἔγχος ἐνὶ κλισίῃσι λέλειπται / οἰσόμενος· τό νυ γὰρ κατεάξαμεν ὃ πρὶν ἔχεσκον / ἀσπίδα Δηϊφόβοιο βαλὼν ὑπερηνορέοντος, 13.256-258). He stands with Idomeneus in book 13 to rally again the Trojan attack. He’s fast, he’s good with the bow too.
Ajax: What is there to say about Ajax? Outside the Iliad he is most famous for losing to Odysseus in the judgment of Achilles’ arms. He is a son of Telamon, which by most accounts makes him Achilles’ cousin (Peleus and Telamon were brothers). He came to Troy from Salamis with 12 ships and was central in later traditions for arguing the ‘ownership’ of Salamis. He is by far the best man after Achilles and Helen describes him as the “monstrous tower of the Achaeans” (οὗτος δ’ Αἴας ἐστὶ πελώριος ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιῶν, 3.229) since both he and Idomeneus standout from afar. He tears battle lines apart singlehandedly! He carries a shield as large as a tower (Αἴας δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων σάκος ἠΰτε πύργον, 7.219). When he runs out of spears, well he’s hero enough to toss boulders at people. He duels Hektor (and then later Odysseus) to a draw. But for all these he seems pretty even-headed. IN book 9, he’s the one who breaks Achilles down a bit (Iliad 9.632-638):
“You are relentless: someone might even accept payment
for the murder of a brother or the death of his own child.
and after making great restitution, the killer remains in his country,
and though bereft, the other restrains his heart and mighty anger
once he has accepted the price. But the gods put an untouchable
and wicked rage in your heart over only a girl…”
νηλής· καὶ μέν τίς τε κασιγνήτοιο φονῆος
ποινὴν ἢ οὗ παιδὸς ἐδέξατο τεθνηῶτος·
καί ῥ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν δήμῳ μένει αὐτοῦ πόλλ’ ἀποτίσας,
τοῦ δέ τ’ ἐρητύεται κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
ποινὴν δεξαμένῳ· σοὶ δ’ ἄληκτόν τε κακόν τε
θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι θεοὶ θέσαν εἵνεκα κούρης