The Myrmidons or Myrmidones (Greek: Μυρμιδόνες) were legendary people of Greek history. They were very brave and skilled warriors commanded by Achilles, as described in Homer's Iliad. Their eponymous ancestor was Myrmidon, a king of Thessalian Phthia, who was the son of Zeus and "wide-ruling" Eurymedousa, a princess of Phthia. She was seduced by Zeus in the form of an ant.
An etiological myth of their origins, expanding upon their etymology — the name in Classical Greek was interpreted as "ant-people", from μυρμηδών (murmedon) "ant's nest" and that from μύρμηξ (murmex) "ant" — was first mentioned by Ovid, in Metamorphoses: in Ovid's telling, King Aeacus of Aegina, father of Peleus, pleaded with Zeus to populate his country after a terrible plague. Zeus said his people would number as the ants on his sacred oak, and from the ants sprang the people of Aegina, the Myrmidons.
According to Homer's Iliad, the Myrmidons were the fiercest warriors in all of Greece. As said in Iliad, "Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons".
Later use of the term
The Myrmidons of Greek myth were known for their skill in battle and loyalty to their leaders. In pre-industrial Europe the word "myrmidon" carried many of the same connotations that "minion" does today. Myrmidon later came to mean "hired ruffian" (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) or "a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity - unquestioning followers." (Dictionary.com).
Myrmidons is also the title of the first of a trilogy of plays by Aeschylus, collectively known as the Achilleïs. The other plays in the trilogy are Nereids and Phrygians.
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