On the night Troy was sacked, Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, ran into Andromache. The widow of his father’s most bitter foe (Hector) was running for her life, with baby Astyanax in her arms. Snatching the infant, Neoptolemus killed it savagely, throwing his little body off the city walls. Many other Trojan children must have perished that night.
In the Olympic Games of 492 BCE, the boxer Kleomedes of Astypalaia killed his opponent. However, the judges disqualified him for intentional fouling. The athlete was so upset by the news that he lost it. Shortly after arriving back home, he went into a school and brought down the pillar that supported the ceiling. The roof collapsed, killing nearly all of the 60 children in the building at the time.
In the summer of 413 BCE, a troop of 1400 Thracian warriors arrived in Athens to take part in the reinforcements the city was sending to its troops in Sicily. They were late; the ships had left.
Not wishing to support such a large contingent, the Athenians decided to send them back. They put them on ships under an Athenian commander with orders to cause mayhem to the city’s enemies on their way. The Thracians landed on the coast of Boeotia and made it to the city of Mykalissos (present day Ritsona). They found the city’s walls low and sparsely guarded, as the citizens believed the city safe, due to its location. The invaders sacked the city, killing everyone indiscriminately. It is said that they entered a school killing all the children in it.
These events took place more than 2500 years ago. Thucidides, Pausanias and other authors who described them, as well as the artists who depicted them lived centuries ago. Yet, as a parent and a student of history, I am disappointed to see that these history lessons were not learned. On the contrary, children throughout the world continue to suffer, for the same reasons, but in ever greater numbers. The only thing that has changed since then is the means adults use against them….
Priam, king of Troy, mourns with the body of his dead grandson, Astyanax, in his lap. Having killed the boy, Neoptolemus raises his sword to kill the King too. Red-figure vase by the hand of Greek painter Kleofrades, from 480-475 BCE. Naples, Italy, Museo Nazionale Archeologico. Image from “Greek Mythology,” vol. 5.
Thracian warrior. Red-figure cup from the cemetery of Mykalissos, dated at 480 BCE. Thebes, Greece, Archaeological Museum. My heartfelt thanks to the museum personnel for the use of the image.
Scenes from the sack of Troy. Large amphora, dated 670 BCE. Mykonos, Greece, Archaeological Museum.