Ajax (Sophocles)

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Preparation of the Aias for suicide

Ajax (also Aias or Rasender Ajax , Greek Αἴας ) is a tragedy by the ancient Greek poet Sophocles .

After Achilles fell in the Trojan War , the military leaders do not award his weapons to Aias , who was a trusted comrade of the fallen warrior, but to Odysseus . Aias wants to take revenge and kill the Greek military leaders. However, he is beaten madly by Athena and then kills some herd animals, which he considers to be the military leaders. As the madness wanes, he realizes the shame of his own actions and throws himself into his sword.

The exact date of the first performance is unknown. Research is based on the middle of the fifth century BC. Dramaturgy, style and historical references in the play make a world premiere in 449 BC. BC plausible. The performance certainly took place as part of a tragedy agon during the urban Dionysia . It is not known which other pieces were part of the tetralogy and which place Sophocles occupied.



Odysseus looks for traces to confirm the rumor that Aias slaughtered the herd cattle. Athena (invisible to Odysseus) turns to him and explains that she had Aias carried out the deed to prevent Aias from killing Odysseus and the other military leaders Agamemnon and Menelaus . She orders Aias to show himself - a lesson for Odysseus in his lamentable condition.

Entry song of the choir

The choir expresses its solidarity with Aias: joy in his happiness, fear in his misfortune.

First main scene

Tekmessa reports the act of Aias to his Salamin followers, the choir. Aias, regained his senses, realizes that he is completely dishonored, hated by the gods and abhorred by the army. He still wishes to kill the military leaders and then to die himself: “The noble one lives with honor or goes away with honor.” Tekmessa begs for pity for her, their son and his parents, because her and the child would be behind his death determined the slaveless. Determined to die, Aias says goodbye to his son, appoints Teukros to be the child's educator and has his weapons at his disposal. He closes himself off to the pleading of his wife and his compatriots not to harm themselves.

First stand song of the choir

The choir Aias contrasts the happiness in Salami's homeland with the misfortune before Troy.

Second main scene

Aias feigns sympathy for wife and child and insight into the violence of the gods and the military leaders in a deceit. He goes to sacrifice.

Second stand song of the choir

In a jubilee song, the choir celebrates Aias' apparent change of heart.

Third main scene

A messenger reports on the return of Teucros and the prophecy of the seer Kalchas that Aias must die if he leaves the tent.


Aias fixes his sword in the earth and begs the gods for the fulfillment of his last wishes.

Second entry song of the choir

The choir and Tekmessa are looking for the endangered Aias. Tekmessa finds him killed by his own sword. Left alone by Aias, they feel the scorn of his enemies, despite the certainty that Aias is the victim of the gods - not his enemies.

Fourth main scene

Teukros laments the death of his brother, because he is certain that he will be banished from Salamis. While Teukros is about to bury his brother, Menelaus appears to forbid this. In a tough battle of words, they put each other in the place of their rights, with the chorus of both sides commenting on arguments as justified, but commenting on the dispute as inappropriate.

Third stand song of the choir

Without a leader, the Salamin compatriots of Aias despair and long for their homeland.

Final scene

Agamemnon argues with Teukros about the burial of Aias in the same way as his brother Menelaus. Odysseus is committed to honoring and burying the dead. Teukros refuses his willingness to help, fearing that he is not doing the dead man a favor.

Newer interpretations

Wolfgang Schadewaldt understands the act of tragedy as a process in which the Aias destroyed in his honor is restored in two stages, on the one hand by suicide and on the other by burial.

Eilhard Schlesinger describes the event based on the lines "think: the hero keeps himself, even the downfall was for him / only a pretext to be: his last birth" from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duineser Elegies as “preservation in the downfall”.

Arata Takeda sees Aias 'suicide as an ancient pre-form of the suicide bombing , as Aias' death is the prerequisite for the Erinyes to be called into action to kill Agamemnon and Menelaus.


Sophoklos' Aias was not received to the same extent as Antigone or King Oedipus in modern art, music and literature. Aias operas and drama music of the 18th and 19th centuries have been forgotten today. Other dramatic adaptations include:


  • Markus Altmeyer: Thinking out of date with Sophokles GoogleBooks
  • Karl Reinhardt: Sophocles. Frankfurt am Main 1947 (3rd edition)
  • Wolfgang Schadewaldt: The Greek tragedy. Tübingen Lectures, Volume 4. Frankfurt a. M. 1991.
  • Eilhard Schlesinger: Sophocles' "Aias" as a 'pathetic' tragedy. In: Poetica, 3 (1970), pp. 359-387.
  • Arata Takeda: Aesthetics of Self Destruction. Suicide bombers in Western literature. Munich 2010, pp. 92–114.

Web links

Wikisource: Αίας  - sources and full texts (Greek)

supporting documents

  1. Cf. Hellmut Flashar: Sophokles. CH Beck, Munich 2000, p. 43.
  2. See Wolfgang Schadewaldt: The Greek tragedy. Tübingen Lectures, Volume 4. Frankfurt a. M. 1991, p. 213.
  3. ^ Eilhard Schlesinger: Sophocles' "Aias" as a 'pathetic' tragedy. In: Poetica, 3, 1970, pp. 359-387.
  4. Arata Takeda: Aesthetics of Self-Destruction. Suicide bombers in Western literature. Munich 2010, pp. 105–112.
  5. Cf. Hellmut Flashar: Sophokles. CH Beck, Munich 2000, p. 57.