Minions and Ant People
Tomorrow we will delve into the efforts of Cyrus, a leader who believed and had been encouraged by an ancient Greek myth, retold by Homer in the epic poem, “Iliad”. One of the central figures of the “Iliad” and Trojan War, Achilles was a warrior said to be protected by the gods and goddesses. The child of a nymph and the king of the Ant People, Achilles was said to have only one spot of weakness on his body, his heel. There are, as one might expect, differing stories as to how Achilles came to be so strong. Some believed ambrosia was spread all over his body and set afire. The one weak spot on his heel resulted from this process being interrupted. The more popular story is that his mother dipped him in the River Styx and held him by the heel, thus the only body part not to be protected.
Tomorrow we will explore more about Achilles but today, let’s go back to his father, Peleus. Read that last paragraph again and you will catch that, yes, I did say he was the king of the Ant People. The Myrmidons were a culture dating back to 2000 BCE. They lived on Aegina, one of the Saronic Islands of Greece, located about seventeen miles from Athens. Two thirds of the island is taken up by a large volcano but the island was very important in Greek trade with Asia Minor. However, two generations before Achilles the island culture suffered a great plague with most of its residents killed. King Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles, supposed pleaded with Zeus the once again populate his island. As recorded in Ovid’s text “Metamorphoses”, Zeus agreed to the request stating that the Myrmidons would once again “number as ants on his sacred oak” and from the ants would spring the Myrmidons.
The Myrmidons were great rivals of the Athenians and became known for their skill in battle and fierce loyalty to their leaders. Achilles himself is described as the bravest of warriors and his men follow his orders without question in the “Iliad”. The name became synonymous with someone who was a faithful, able-bodied servant in pre-industrial Europe. It later was a term used to describe a hired fighter and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a loyal follower, especially one who executes orders without question, protest, or pity – unquestioning followers.”
Today some would describe followers of various radical cults and religious zealots in similar terms. Others might claim the difference was that the Myrmidons fought to protect the homeland and commerce. As we have discussed in earlier posts, perspective is often the lens through which one might see black and another white.
You might be wondering what a Greek mythological hero has to do with a movie that was released in the United Kingdom a month ago and in the United States last night. “The Minions” is a film about minions which are described as being small, yellow creatures that look like talking pharmaceutical capsules. They are said to have evolved since the beginning of time from single-cells organisms to their present state, the purpose of which is to serve as hired fighters, as Myrmidons from which the name minion evolved.
IN the movie the minions exist to serve the world’s most despicable bosses (Yes, this movie is a prequel to the movie released several years ago, “Despicable Me”). The minions is our movie have faithfully served a dominating Tyrannosaurus Rex, a belligerent caveman, an Egyptian pharaoh, the mythological vampire Dracula, and the real-life French dictator Napoleon. However, our movie minions are a bit too good at their job and end up executing all their masters. They decide to retreat to Antarctica but are soon hired by a female villain known as Scarlet Hill who is after the crown and monarchy of England.
I won’t spoil the myth of our modern-day minions for you and I do realize that few attending the film will realize how it evolved from a mythological character known as Achilles. I am fairly certain that when imagining his poem, Homer never envisioned his army becoming yellow, talking capsules found on t-shirts, notebooks, and on the big screen.
Ideas are often like ants, and they can scurry about and become larger than life. The importance of directing our thoughts for good is easily seen. The minions in this movie began as minor characters in another flick but took on a life of their own and now are the stars of their own. Whatever we do today, we must be sure that it has purpose and consequences of good.
The ants we know today are the result of over one hundred and thirty million years of evolution. They live in social communities and can carry up to five thousand times their body weight. Interestingly enough, ants do not carry any diseases, although germs live on them just as they do on humans. While it may not sound too complimentary, to be called Ant People was really a good thing. With over ten thousand different species of ants, the Myrmidons were guaranteed success in continuing and protecting their culture.
Today we are all minions of one kind or another. Hopefully, you will protect the innocent and fight for the dignity of all. May your ideas evolve into joy and I hope the day brings you laughter and smiles. Revisit the work of Homer and reread the story of Achilles; he is our coming attraction for tomorrow.