Memnon (mythology)

Memnon (mythology)

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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Memnon (Greek: Mέμνων) was an Ethiopian
Ethiopia (mythology)
Aethiopia first appears as a geographical term in classical sources, in reference to the Upper Nile region, as well as all the regions south of the Sahara desert. Its earliest mention is in the works of Homer: twice in the Iliad, and three times in the Odyssey...

 king and son of Tithonus
Tithonus
In Greek mythology, Tithonus or Tithonos was the lover of Eos, Titan of the dawn. He was a Trojan by birth, the son of King Laomedon of Troy by a water nymph named Strymo . The mythology reflected by the fifth-century vase-painters of Athens envisaged Tithonus as a rhapsode, as the lyre in his...

 and Eos
Eos
In Greek mythology, Eos is the Titan goddess of the dawn, who rose from her home at the edge of Oceanus, the ocean that surrounds the world, to herald her brother Helios, the Sun.- Greek literature :...

. As a warrior he was considered to be almost Achilles' equal in skill. During the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

, he brought an army to Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

's defense. The death of Memnon echoes that of Hector
Hector
In Greek mythology, Hectōr , or Hektōr, is a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, a descendant of Dardanus, who lived under Mount Ida, and of Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house and the...

, another defender of Troy whom Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 also killed out of revenge for a fallen comrade, Patroclus
Patroclus
In Greek mythology, as recorded in the Iliad by Homer, Patroclus, or Patroklos , was the son of Menoetius, grandson of Actor, King of Opus, and was Achilles' beloved comrade and brother-in-arms....

. After Memnon's death, Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 was moved by Eos' tears and granted her immortality. Memnon's death is related at length in the lost epic Aethiopis
Aithiopis
The Aethiopis or Aithiopis is a lost epic of ancient Greek literature. It was one of the Epic Cycle, that is, the "Trojan" cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse. The story of the Aethiopis comes chronologically immediately after that of the Homeric Iliad, and is...

, composed after The Iliad circa the 7th century BC. Quintus of Smyrna records Memnon's death in Posthomerica
Posthomerica
The Posthomerica is an epic poem by Quintus of Smyrna, probably written in the latter half of the 4th century, and telling the story of the Trojan War, between the death of Hector and the fall of Ilium....

. His death is also described in Philostratus' Imagines
Imagines (work by Philostratus)
Imagines is a work in Ancient Greek in two volumes describing and explaining various artworks. The first volume is generally attributed to Philostratus of Lemnos, or possibly to his more famous father-in-law Philostratus of Athens. The second volume is by the grandson of Philostratus of Lemnos,...

.

Memnon in Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica


Memnon arrives at Troy in the immediate aftermath of an argument between Polydamas, Helen, and Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

 that centers on whether or not the Aethiopian King will show up at all. Memnon's army is described as being too big to be counted and his arrival starts a huge banquet in his honour. As per usual the two leaders (Memnon and, in this case, Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

) end the dinner by exchanging glorious war stories, and Memnon's tales lead Priam to declare that the Aethiopian King will be Troy's saviour. Despite this, Memnon is very humble and warns that his strength will hopefully be seen in battle, although he believes it is unwise to boast at dinner. Before the next day's war, so great was the divine love towards Memnon, Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 makes all the other Olympians promise not to interfere with the fighting. In battle, Memnon kills Nestor
Nestor (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Nestor of Gerenia was the son of Neleus and Chloris and the King of Pylos. He became king after Heracles killed Neleus and all of Nestor's siblings...

's son, Antilochos, after Antilochos had killed Memnon's dear comrade, Aithops. Seeking vengeance and despite his age Nestor tries to fight Memnon but the African warrior insists it would not be just to fight such an old man, and respects Nestor so much that he refuses to fight. In this way, Memnon is seen as very similar to Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 - both of them have strong sets of values that are looked upon favourably by the warrior culture of the time. When Memnon reaches the Greek ships, Nestor begs Achilles to fight him and avenge Antilochos, leading to the two men clashing whilst both wearing divine armour made by Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, making another parallel between the two warriors. Zeus favours both of them and makes each man tireless and huge so that the whole battlefield can watch them clash as demi-Gods. Eventually, Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 stabs Memnon through the heart, causing his entire army to flee in terror. In honour of Memnon, the Gods collect all the drops of blood that fall from him and use them to form a huge river that on every anniversary of Memnon's death bears the stench of human flesh. The Aethiopians that stayed close to Memnon in order to bury their leader are turned into birds (which we now call Memnons) and they stay by his tomb so to remove dust that gathers on it.

Memnon in Africa



Roman writers and later classical Greek writers such as Diodorus Siculus believed Memnon hailed from "Aethiopia", a vaguely defined geographical area in Africa, usually south of Egypt. Earlier Greek writers placed Memnon in "Asia", which most of them equated with "Cissia", corresponding to the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 Kassite
Kassites
The Kassites were an ancient Near Eastern people who gained control of Babylonia after the fall of the Old Babylonian Empire after ca. 1531 BC to ca. 1155 BC...

 state and to modern Khuzestan in southwest Iran. These Greek writers also credited Memnon with founding Khuzestan's main city, Susa
Susa
Susa was an ancient city of the Elamite, Persian and Parthian empires of Iran. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers....

. Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

 and Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 both identified Memnon as a Cissian and founder of Susa. Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 called Susa "the city of Memnon," but distinguished between Cissia and Asiatic Ethiopia, which he placed in the 17th Persian satrapy together with Paricanians, probably located in present-day Iran. Herodotus describes two tall statues with Egyptian and Ethiopian dress that some, he says, identify as Memnon; he disagrees, and says he doesn't know who it is. One of the statues was on the road from Smyrna
Smyrna
Smyrna was an ancient city located at a central and strategic point on the Aegean coast of Anatolia. Thanks to its advantageous port conditions, its ease of defence and its good inland connections, Smyrna rose to prominence. The ancient city is located at two sites within modern İzmir, Turkey...

 to Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

. A carved figure matching this description has been found near the old road from Smyrna to Sardis.

Pausanias describes how he marveled at a colossal statue in Egypt:

In Egyptian Thebes, on crossing the Nile to the so called Pipes, I saw a statue, still sitting, which gave out a sound. The many call it Memnon, who they say from Aethiopia overran Egypt and as far as Susa. The Thebans, however, say that it is a statue, not of Memnon, but of a native named Phamenoph, and I have heard some say that it is Sesostris. This statue was broken in two by Cambyses, and at the present day from head to middle it is thrown down; but the rest is seated, and every day at the rising of the sun it makes a noise, and the sound one could best liken to that of a harp or lyre when a string has been broken.


In Blacks in Antiquity, Frank Snowden examined the later Greek and Roman tradition tying Memnon to African "Ethiopia". Snowden notes that according to Greek tradition, Memnon was the progenitor of the Ethiopians, which in this context referred to African people. Through changing depictions of Memmnon on vase paintings and scenes of the Trojan War, Snowden shows that the Asiatic portrayal of Memnon was abandoned in favor of an African origin. Literary accounts of the Trojan war, as well as numerous Roman authors, consistently describe Memnon with African characteristics as an Ethiopian from Sudan and Egypt.

In Snorri Sturluson


In the prologue to his Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

, the Icelandic scribe Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

 states that Memnon (whom he says is also known as Munon) was one of the kings present at Troy, who married Troana, the daughter of king Priam. He further relates that they gave birth to their son Tror, that is, Thor
Thor
In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, oak trees, strength, the protection of mankind, and also hallowing, healing, and fertility...

, born with hair "fairer than gold", who later becomes king of Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, and ancestor to all the Germanic kings.