1. Ajax of Locri is called the son of Oileaus or the Lesser Ajax to distinguish him from Ajax the son of Telamon, or Great Ajax. He was one of the heroes who fought against Troy as commander of the Locrians, bringing with him forty ships. He fought beside his namesake the son of Telamon, but whereas the latter was heavily armed, the son of Oileus was armed only with a breastplate of linen and a bow. He was a participant in all the great battles mentioned in the Iliad, and took part in the drawing of lots for the intended duel with Hector; he fought in the battles around the ships, and around the body of Patroclus, and competed in the funerary games given in honour of Patroclus by Achilles.

    He is said to have been a man of bad character, and he is also compared unfavourably with his namesake in being arrogant, cruel to his enemies, and quarrelsome, as well as impious. His misdeeds led to the loss of a large part of the Greek army; he committed serious sacrilege against Athena, which brought the goddess's wrath down upon him. During the capture of Troy Cassandra had sought refuge near Athena's altar. Ajax wanted to use force to tear her from the statue which she was clasping, and he carried off both girl and statue. The Achaeans wanted to stone him for this failure to observe the laws governing religious practice, but Ajax in his turn sought safety near the altar of Athena and so escaped death. But on the return journey, near the island of Myconos in the Cyclades, Athena sent a storm which wrecked a large number of Achaean ships including the one in which Ajax was travelling. Nevertheless he was saved by Poseidon, who brought him back to the surface. Ajax boasted that he had survived in spite of the goddess's wrath, whereupon Athena insisted that he should be destroyed, so Poseidon took his trident and broke the rock on which Ajax had taken refuge and drowned him. There is also a story that Athena herself destroyed him with a thunderbolt, using the weapon of her father Zeus.

    But the sacrilege committed by Ajax continued to oppress the Locrians his countrymen. Three years after the return of the heros from Troy epidemics broke out in Locris and there was a series of bad harvests. On being questioned the oracle replied that these calamities were a sign of the divine wrath, and that Athena would only be appeased if the Locrians sent two girls chosen by lot to Troy each year, for a thousand years, to expiate the rape and the violation of Cassandra. This was done. The Trojans killed the first pair and scattered their ashes on the sea. Their successors thereafter were better treated in the service of Athena but the custom on their arrival was continued: they were pursued by the populace, armed with sticks and seeking to put them to death. If they escaped they repaired barefooted to the shrine of Athena and there they stayed, unmarried, to a very advanced age. This was how the sacrilege against the priestess Cassandra by the son of Oileus was expiated, long after his own death.
  2. Ajax the son of Telamon (Table 30) is the Great Ajax. He reigned over Salamis and came to Troy leading the island's contingent of twelve ships. In the Achaean camp he commanded the left wing. Next to Achilles he was the most powerful and the bravest hero in the whole army. Strong, large and very handsome, he was calm and self-controlled. He was heavily armed and his remarkable shield was made of seven layers of oxhides, the eighth and outermost coating being a sheet of bronze.

    In terms of morality the son of Telamon was the opposite of the Lesser Ajax, not saying much, benevolent and god-fearing. But if he was steadier than Achilles, with whom he shared many characteristics, he completely lacked the sensitivity, love of music, and kindness of Thetis' son. He was first and foremost a man of war, not without an element of roughness.

    Ajax was the hero chosen by lot to fight Hector in single combat. He struck him to the ground with a stone, but the heralds then intervened to stop the fight. During the Achaean defeats he tried again to stop Hector but was wounded and had to leave the field. When Hector launched his attack on the ships Ajax was at the heart of the Achaean defense; and the uneasy Poseidon had recourse to ask him to redouble his efforts. He wounded Hector once more with a stone but the latter returned with new energy and forced him to defend himself on his own ship. When Hector broke his spear on him he acknowledged the will of the gods and took flight. This was the moment at which Patroclus came on the scene and forced the Trojans to turn back. Ajax returned to the battle after the death of Patroclus; Hector was about to attack him and would have done so had not Zeus, in deference to the fate which ordained that Hector would fall under Achilles' blows, enveloped them both in a cloud.

    During the funery games given by Achilles Ajax fought against Odysseus, but neither vanquished the other and Achilles gave them both the prize. When fencing against Diomedes Ajax was not defeated, but neither did he succeed in overcoming his opponent. He did not throw the discus so far as did one of the other competitors.

    Legends later in date than the Iliad glorified Ajax's reputation and put him nearly on par with Achilles. He was, like Achilles, made out to be the grandson of Acacus (see Telamon). In Attica his mother was said to be Periboea, one of the girls sent by Aegeus to Crete as tribute to Minos, whom Theseus had saved from death when he killed the Minotaur.

    When Heracles, came to invite Ajax' father Telamon to take part in his expedition against Troy, he found Telamon in the middle of a banquet. Heracles stretched him lion-skin beneath him and begged Zeus to grant Telamon a son as brave as himself and as strong as the lion to whose skin he pointed. Zeus heard his prayer and, as a sign that he would accede to it, sent an eagle (the origin of the child's name, since Ajax is reminiscent of the Greek word for eagle which is αιετος). According to another legend Ajax had already been born at the time of the visit of Heracles and the hero wrapped him in his lion-skin, asking Zeus to make him invulnerable with the result that the child grew up to be so, except for those parts which on the body of Heracles supported the quiver: armpit, hip and shoulder.

    Gradually Ajax' character as portrayed in the Iliad acquired new features. When he left for Troy his father advised him to fight first of all with the spear, but also with the help of the gods. Ajax replied that 'the coward as well could be victorious with the help of the gods'. Then he seems to have removed the picture of Athena from his shield, thereby incurring the goddess's wrath.

    There is no account in the Iliad but tradition insists that Ajax played an important part in the preliminary expeditions. Having been the first to arrive at the mustering at Argos, with his brother Teucer, he was appointed to command the fleet together with Achilles and Phoenix. He even replaced Agamemnon as commander-in-chief when the latter was removed from that position for having killed the sacred doe of Artemis. After the landing in Mysia, Ajax and Achilles took charge of the operations and, while Achilles was wounding Telephus, Ajax killed Teuthranius, the latter's brother.

    During the first nine years of the fighting before Troy Ajax took part in the armed raids against the Asian towns. He attacked the town of the Phrygian king Teleutas, and carried off his daughter Tecmessa. He also laid waste the Thracian Chersonese (now known as the Gallipoli peninsula) of which Polymestor, a son-in-law of Priam, was king. Polymestor surrendered Polydoris, one of his father-in-law's children, of whom he had custody. Ajax also hunted the Trojan flocks, both on Mount Ida and in the countryside.

    But it was after Achilles' death, during the final stages of the war, that legends expanded the exploits of Ajax; he is described as welcoming Achilles' son, Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, treating him as his own son and fighting alongside him. He also fought beside the archer Philoctetes, just as, in the Iliad, he fought beside the archer Teucer. Once the city had been captured, he demanded that Helen should be punished for her adultery by being put to death, but this roused the sons of Atreus to anger against him, and Odysseus secured her return to Menelaus. Then Ajax demanded the Palladium as his share of the spoils, but Odysseus, under pressure from the Atrides, managed to prevent him taking it. This episode gave rise to dissension. Ajax threatened to take vengeance on Menelaus and Agamemnon. The Atrides surrounded themselves with guards and on the morning of the following day Ajax was found stabbed with is own sword.

    Another account of his death, and one better known to the tragic poets, tells how Ajax went mad after being refused not the Palladium but the arms of Achilles. These arms had been destined by Thetis for the bravest of the Greeks or at least for whoever had inspired most fear in the Trojans. To discover who this was the Trojan prisoners were questioned and they, in resentment, named not Ajax but Odysseus and he received the arms. During the night Ajax went mad, slaughtered the flocks which were to feed the Greeks and killed himself in the morning when he realized the state of distraction into which he had fallen.

    Ajax was not cremated, as was the normal practice, but placed in a coffin and buried. The Athenians offered him divine honours every year at Salamis.

    There is an amphora at the Vatican Museum with Ajax and Achilles playing draughts, painted by Exekias, c. 550-540 B.C.


Table of Sources:

  1. - Hom. Il. 13, 46; 23, 483; 754
    - schol. on Il. 13, 66; Od. 4, 499ff.
    - Paus. 10, 31, 1ff.
    - Callim. fragments 35 Pfeiffer
    - Prop. 4, 1, 117ff.
    - Cic. De Or. 2, 66, 265
    - Hyg. Fab. 116
    - Pliny NH 35, 60
    - Tzetzes on Lyc. Alex. 1141; Iliu Persis, Hom. Oxf. Class. Text V, p. 108
    - Sophocles Ajax Locr. (lost tragedy, Jebb-Pearson I, p. 8ff.)
  2. - Hom. Il. 2, 556; 7, 183; 11, 472; 13, 46; 23, 842; Od. 11, 469
    - Sophocles, Ajax passim
    - Plato Symp. 219e
    - Apollod. Bibl. 3, 12, 7
    - Plutarch, Thes. 29
    - Pind. Isth. 5, 48; (61)
    - Hyg. Fab. 81
    - Dictys Cretensis 1, 13
    - Ovid, Met. 13, 384; 284ff.
    - Quint. Smyrn. Posthom. 4, 500ff.; Aethiopis, Hom. Oxf. Class. Text V, p. 106
    - Hyg. Fab. 107
    - Appolod. Epit. 5, 6f

A type of one design racing dingy used internationally but mostly in the coastal waters of the South West of England, particularly around the River Fal in Cornwall and along the south coast.

The concentration of the boat in this region stems both from the design originating from this area, and the numbers of racing events and sailing clubs there, which maintain the Ajaxes popularity.

Ajaxes are 21 foot long single masted two or three hand (needing 2-3 people to crew them) dingies with a reefable mainsail, 3/4 rigged jib and spinnaker for running downwind. They are steered by a tiller and have a fixed keel. The hull is mostly contructed of fibreglass and there is no cabin, but the raised desk at the bow allows protected storage of sails and other kit.

The one design nature means that all the boats are raced to very similar specification. However, they still vary widely in age-range, and consequently, race results are not entirely based on the crew's skill! They are very easy to sail, and reasonably popular for leisure sailing as well, although the restricted space aboard and lack of a cabin does limit their versitility, especially with families and those not too comfortable afloat.

I had a cat when I was little, called Ajax. Aha! you cry, you named him after that Greek bloke didn't you? Well actually, no. My parents named him; and they named him after a ship whose crew showed great courage and determination during World War II - the ship's name may have had the obvious origin; I don't know. The naming of my next (and current cat) fell to me. So he is called something much more mundane: Jet; because he's black.

The Ajax I'm going to talk about is actually an acronym. Yet another one. And, of course, it has to do with computers. Sorry. So, what is this AJAX of which I speak? It is the latest buzzword to hit the blogging world and it also is not related to that guy who played draughts with Achilles. Everybody seems to want a piece of the action, even though the actual acronym has only been in existence a few weeks. In its full name, it is:

Normally, when browsing, you're used to working synchronously: You click on something; it forces a page reload; you wait. In the synchronous scenario, you and the server take turns working. In the asynchronous scenario, your browser silently talks with the server in a way that shouldn't affect the flow of what you are doing.
Any programming on the client-side is best done in javascript. This language (or rather support for it) has come a long way in the past few years and, to use the appropriate marketing speak, its full potential can now be leveraged. Seriously, I love javascript: it can do a variety of really cool things and isn't too difficult to get to work.
This is of course a whole hype windbag in its own right. In the mind of the man who coined the term, the xml component of this acronym describes the data-holding powers of xml, both on the server and on the client. Javascript, for instance, can visit the DOM of xml with the same API as for html.

In the minds of most people, however, Ajax is associated with the XMLHttpRequest object in javascript, which actually powers all three aspects. It enables you to send a request to a server via http from javascript. Its calls can be either synchronous or asynchronous and it can return plaintext or preparsed xml.

So this is an exciting new technology?

Not really. It is exciting because it has had a lot of hype recently, what with Gmail, Flickr, Google Suggest and our very own e2 annotation tool. But it is not new. The potential for browsers to communicate silently with the server has existed since 1996 and the XMLHttpRequest object has existed in the main browsers since 2001. In fact, the web-based email client I use at school uses this and was developed in 2002.

The main thing we have here is a technology: in various ways, it is demonstrably possible to communicate with the server in a silent manner. Yay! And this leads us to a solution: Ajax. And now, as is the manner with all solutions, many people are desperately looking for a problem to solve. In other words, it's new, it's shiny, only the enlightened know about it, I want to be part of the in crowd. As much as the man who coined the term Ajax, Jesse James Garrett1 would like us to believe otherwise, Ajax has, in the month the term has existed, just become another (shorter) word for "Solution using XMLHttpRequest".

How does it work?

Well, assuming you know javascript, the workings are quite simple: You create an XMLHttpRequest object; you set the url, the http method and whether you want the call to be asynchronous or not; you define a return method; and send it off; voilĂ !.

// create a new request -- not quite as simple with Internet Explorer
xmlhttp = new XMLHttpRequest();

// open a GET request to www.server.com which is non-blocking
xmlhttp.open("GET", "www.server.com", true);

// define a function to call when the server sends stuff back
xmlhttp.onreadystatechange = function() {
    if (xmlhttp.readyState==4) { // request has been completed
        // do something         

// send the request off to the server

What do you put instead of do something? You can either get an xml tree or, as most people do, you write the response text as a javascript object and use the eval() method to assign this object to a new variable. Something like:

// assigns whatever was encoded in the response to myvar
eval("var myvar = " + xmlhttp.responseText);

And there you have it: There is little point in actually using the XML part and it would be foolish to use something other than javascript so from all this A-J-A-X, we are just left with A: the asynchronous part.

I shall call it CLIC

There are three things wrong with this Ajax thingamajig:

  1. It's really only about the asynchronous part of browser scripting. Bad name.
  2. There are now hundreds of people trying to find a problem to associate with this solution. Bad hype.
  3. The hype is all around a technology and does not encompass the usability which this technology could improve. Bad philosophy.

Let us consider this last point for a minute. Up until recently, one of the major problems with web-based applications was their start-stop nature. Forever having to submit a form and wait for a new page to load. But this does not mean that such a way of doing things is bad. In fact, sometimes it is the best way of doing things. In particular, the only widget common to all browsers is the back button. Do things asynchronously and it will be broken - we lose our usual way of correcting errors. Further pitfalls include creating unusual widget behaviour and accessibility problems. In the next few months, I predict a proliferation of bewildering websites. Because they modify default behaviours and because they want to use a new technology to solve problems which do not exist; because it is all shiny and new and I want to do it too!

For the purposes of this writeup and the benefit of future generations, I have coined the term CLIC: Clientside Cleverness. This is my philosophy of where we should go. Take all the clientside web-based technologies which have matured and use the right ones at the right time to create the best possible user experience:

  • Do as many clever things as possible, like form validation and such, on the clientside. Nothing worse than waiting a minute for the page to reload only to discover that you didn't fill in a mandatory field.
  • Get data silently from the server, but only when absolutely necessary.
  • Preserve the navigation user-elements of the web whenever possible.
  • Try to make any innovations integrate into existing widgets so as not to confuse the user.
  • Incorporate the remaining usability principles such as feedback and efficiency to web applications.

You'll notice that the one of the points of this philosophy is to not use this Ajax stuff - or only when it will really improve the user experience. As an example of these principles in action, let's look at how we give our credit card details to a site. It's a text box; and half the time, we get told we entered it wrong. Because we included spaces or didn't include spaces or included dashes; or not. After this Ajax noise, I'm sure some people will be silently sending credit card numbers over the network, unsecured, to have them validated by the server. Bad move! Better would be to check the form with javascript and immediately tell the user whether his credit card number is in an acceptable form or not. Even better, be informative and don't make us guess how we should enter our credit card details. Best of all: Let us enter the number any way we please, use some javascript to figure out whether you can make sense of it and only make us correct the format if really necessary.

So, if ever you feel like joining the Ajax bandwagon, think for a minute. It might take some extra coding, but there is always the CLIC way of doing things.


  1. http://www.adaptivepath.com/publications/essays/archives/000385.php The first article to use the term.
  2. http://www.quirksmode.org/blog/archives/2005/03/ajax_promise_or.html Explores whether Ajax is promising or just more hype.
  3. http://jibbering.com/blog/index.php?p=161 Wonders why it took so long for this technology to take off.

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