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Sarcophagus of Polyxena at the Museum of Troy

Brought to daylight during excavations in 1994, in Biga in the Troad region, the Sarcophagus of Polyxena (500-520BC) is an example of the earliest sarcophagi found in Anatolia with figurative depictions.

The figures are carved on all sides.

Polyxena twists in the hands of the soldiers at the time of her sacrifice. According to legend; Achilles falls in love with King Priam’s daugther Polyxena, he so trusts her that he shares his secret vulnerability, the only point he could be wounded, his heel.

Polyxena shared this secret with her brothers Paris and Deiphdous who shoot Achilles in the heel with an arrow steeped in poison. Achilles is dead. At the end of the Trojan War, Achilles’ ghost appears requesting Polyxena’s sacrifice, in return he promises to provide the wind needed to sail back.

As we gaze at these depictions today, we ask these questions: Did Achilles want this sacrifice out of revenge or did he have the hope of meeting Polyxena in his afterlife? Did Polyxena felt guilty of having shared Achilles’ secret?

It is said that Polyxena accepted her own death with will, that she preferred dying instead of living enslaved.


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