For the first Women’s Wednesday of the new month we welcome Polixena: daughter of Priam and Hecuba, her sacrifice symbolizes the end of the Trojan War.
Polixena was known for her rather brief infatuation with Achilles. The Trojan princess met the Greek hero one day when accompanying her brother Troilus to a fountain to water his horse. According to the legend, Achilles, after killing her brother, was swayed by Polixena’s beauty and instantly fell in love with her. Some say that, clouded by his affection for her, Achilles confessed to Polixena about his greatest vulnerability: his heel. This heartfelt confession would later be fatal to the hero: it is well known that Achilles was pierced in the heel with an arrow shot by Paris, Polixena’s brother. The myth continues with Achilles’ ghost begging for Polixena to be sacrificed at his tomb after Troy was defeated: it is unclear, however, if this wish was out of love, so that they could spend the afterlife together, or out of revenge. On the day of the sacrifice, Polixena looked the most beautiful she had ever been and, instead of shying away from her doom, she bravely offered her throat to Neoptolemus, Achilles’ son, who was entrusted with the role of executioner.
“Polixena”, illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 28r, 1488-1496, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.