Anna Granville

The Death of Penthesilea


They sweat and groan,

he thrusts, she moans,

panting together.

Not lovers, no affection in battle,

they lust for each others’ blood,

overcome by the heat of war.


Blade strikes blade,

shield deflects shield,

broad in their armor with

faceless strength behind

bronze helmets.


Both dismounted,

her horse slain,

he sees a long-haired warrior,

formidable, tall, strong,

he examines the length of her,

the curve beneath her armor,

the stretch of her muscled legs,

and he must conquer her.

He must win.


Thetan Achilles,

most powerful of the Greeks fighting

for himself, for a short life, knows he

will die soon, but with glory and fame.

He is content to die a hero’s death,

his choice for immortality over life.


Yet his strikes seem untrained to hers,

he does not attack and only defends,

in awe of the woman warrior,


dancing with sword and shield,

twirling in sandals and armor,

her only breast exposed, not

maternal but powerful, she

fights against men with the pride of

women, the pride of women.



His breast plate filled with arrows:

hers. None pierce him, but fill him with

his famous rage, rage for fighting kings.

Her graceful war dances stop him with

shield and turns,

parries to nothing against

him, his feet firm in the dirt,

square, unmoving, immutable.


He waits, she tires.

She spins with a final blow,

screaming, her head high in the

air, and as her sword whirls through

the air, The Raging One impales her

though her armor with a single stroke,

as her dance turns into him.


She falls, a spin onto her back,

her hair spread beneath her,

panting, pink, shining with sweat.

Her hands hold her core,

a deep gash runs from hip to hip,

through a womb that will never hold a child.


But as she crumbles, as she falls,

the son of Peleus drops his sword

to the blackened dirt, and catches her.

He falls with her, and she lies in his arms,

Prone across his lap, she holds her wound,

And spits blood, and whispers, “Achilles.”


He must see her face.

Who is this woman who has conquered him

as he has overcome her body

on the plains of Ilium?


As she rests against him, breast heaving,

he pulls her helmet from her head.

Black hair falls back to reveal her lovely face:

Dark skin warm and caked with sweat,

she breaths blood from her parted lips,

gray eyes peer up and search for his.




He swiftly pulls his helmet from his head,

and lets it fall and roll across the ground.

“I am here, my Queen” he utters softly.

The greatest warrior among Greeks

holds her close, and wipes the

blood from her lips.


He presses his glistening

brow to hers, his golden hair matted

against her forehead.

She reaches her shaking hand to

grasp his arm.


The queen retains her Amazonian strength,

even as she slips towards the Styx.

She looks for him, and his eyes meet hers.

He shudders. She sees through him.

For a moment, they are within one another,

as lovers always are.


As the battle crashes around them,

She forms words to the Myrmidon prince,

but can only breathe blood.

He wipes it away and kisses her,

And in the soft, even voice of a lover,

murmurs, “Good night, dear queen.”


She rises briefly to meet her

conqueror’s kiss and then her grip eases,

Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons,

slowly slips towards the underworld,

drifting from the world of mortals,

safely falling asleep in her beloved’s arms.


Anna Granville was born in New York. She has returned to writing after a four-year hiatus. She currently lives in California on the edge of the Pacific. 


About Copperfield

Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for short historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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