After the death of Ajax, the rest of Sophocles' play Ajax centers on the debate about whether to bury his body. Why does Odysseus defend Ajax and argue in favor of burial?
Despite their great rivalry, Odysseus recognizes Ajax as a great warrior, wholly deserving of a noble burial. Even one's enemies deserve respect in death, he says. After all, the Greeks allowed Hector's corpse to be buried—eventually—and he was a Trojan.
Odysseus also knows all about the cruel trick that Athena played on Ajax, making him think that the herd of sheep and cattle he slaughtered were the Achaean leaders. Athena is Odysseus's protector among the gods, but Odysseus is under no illusions about her devious, manipulative nature, something she has in common with her fellow immortals. When all's said and done, Odysseus understands that what happened to Ajax could just as easily happen to him. The gods are jealous and capricious and can turn against a mere mortal at the drop of a hat. Odysseus...
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