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In Greek mythology, Thersites ( Θερσίτης ), son of Agrius, was a rank-and-file soldier of the Greek army during the Trojan War.

Homer described him in detail in the Iliad, even though he plays only a minor role in the story. He is said to be bow-legged, lame and had shoulders that caved inward. His head was covered in tufts of hair and came to a point. He was vulgar, obscene, somewhat dull-witted, and Homer has much fun at his expense. He called Agamemnon greedy and Achilles a coward, causing Odysseus to hit him with Agamemnon's sceptre.

According to later stories, Achilles eventually killed him for making fun of Achilles' grief over the death of Penthesilea.

Along with many of the major figures of the Trojan War, Thersites was also a character in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. He begins as Ajax' slave, telling Ajax, "I would thou didst itch from head to foot and I had the scratching of thee; I would make thee the loathsomest scab in Greece." Thersites soon leaves Ajax and puts himself into the service of Achilles (portrayed by Shakespeare as kind of bohemian figure), who appreciates his bitter, caustic humor.

Images

The death of Thersites, Red Figure Volute Krater, c. 340 BC, The Varrese Painter, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Epos, the Language of Blame, and the Worst of the Achaeans


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