In Mary Renault’s classic historical-fiction novel The Mask of Apollo, set in Greek in the decades after the Pelopponesian War, the actor Nikeratos makes the acquaintance of Dion of Syracuse after Dion sees him perform in a play put on for the delegates of a peace conference at Delphi. The play is The Myrmidons, and apparently, Achilles and Patroklos are principal characters. I can’t seem to find this play anywhere. The Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrmidons) states that the Myrmidons were a race of ant-men from the island of Aegina (after a plague wiped out the island’s population, King Aecus prayed to his father Zeus, and Zeus transformed a colony of ants into humans). In the Trojan War, the Myrmidons fought on Achilles’ side. But no play is mentioned, and I cannot find any such play mentioned in the entries for Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides, nor in the catalog of my local university library. Did Renault just make it up?
It was a real play, from a lost triology of plays about Achilles, by Aeschylus. Some other ancient writers referred to it, and quoted some passages (providing us with a few fragments), but it is only from those references that we know about it as no copies of the full play survive.
er, trilogy, rather.
I should also point out that The Myrmidons, which does deal with Achilles’ warriors in the Trojan War, is the probable source for the tradition that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers.
Fragments of the Achilles trilogy were recently found in a mummy–plays were reconstructed and apparently were performed this summer. (Actually, the links I’ve seen are short on details–I’d like to see a better link if someone could find one.)
Mary Renault is great.