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Greek Mythology > People, Places, & Things > Protesilaus
P to Peitho Pelasgians to Phaedrias Phaeo to Pitys Plataea to Polyphemos 2 Polyxena to Pyxis 2
Protesilaus has the dubious honor of being the first Greek warrior killed at the siege of Troy.
When he leapt from his ship he was immediately killed by the Trojan hero, Hektor (Hector); after his death, his younger brother, Podarkes (Podarces), took over his command; the two brothers were descended from the god of War, Ares; his wife, Laodameia (or perhaps her name was Polydora), was so grief stricken that the Immortals allowed Protesilaus to leave the Underworld and return to her for three hours; when he went back into the Underworld Laodameia committed suicide so that she could be with him.
In the city of Elaeus, which is very near Troy (but on the European side of the Hellespont), a tomb and a temple were built for Protesilaus; it is unlikely that the body of Protesilaus was in the tomb because the Greeks normally burned their dead.
Circa 480 BCE, a Persian viceroy named Artayktes (Artayctes) stole the valuables and violated the women of the temple; Artayktes informed the Persian king Kyrus that he had only stolen from a Greek hero who had once invaded the Persian king’s land and Kyrus granted him permission to keep the plunder; Artayktes had carefully worded the justification of his looting of the temple so as not to say that Protesilaus had been dead for almost eight hundred years and that, when the now-dead hero had attacked Troy, he had not attacked the Persian king’s people or property.
At this same time, Kyrus was preparing his invasion of Greece and was ready to cross over from Asia Minor into Europe when the Athenians surrounded Artayktes, his son and his companions at Elaeus; Artayktes managed to escape but the Athenians tracked him down and took him and his son as prisoners; it would seem that Artayktes did not understand the seriousness of his situation because, when he saw one of the soldiers cooking fish, he joked that the fish danced around in the hot coals as if they were still alive just as the dead Protesilaus still had influence with the gods and was able to mete out vengeance to those who had wronged him; Artayktes then tried to use the gold and silver he had stolen from Protesilaus’ temple to bribe the Athenians but they were too honorable to exchange stolen booty from a dead hero’s tomb for the life of a scoundrel; Artayktes was crucified and his son was stoned to death.
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