Earlier this year I wrote about the symbolism of the name Operation Odyssey Dawn, chosen for the initial NATO airstrikes against Libya. I noted the obvious connection to Homer’s epic, and the fact that Libya has been identified by scholars as the location Homer intended to allude to when he described the land of the Lotus Eaters. I also pointed out the genealogy of the mythic figure of Libya, after whom the country is named, who was a descendant of Zeus, cousin to Odysseus, a wife of Poseidon, and the grandmother of Aegyptus (father of the Egyptians.)
Now the rebel Libyan forces have come up with a codename for their takeover of Tripoli, “Operation Mermaid Dawn.” They chose this purportedly because Tripoli is nicknamed “The Mermaid of the Mediterranean.” This in itself is probably a reflection of Libya’s marriage relationship to the god of the sea and father of the race of Mermen.
But there is another Greek mythological connection here worth noting. The Myrmidons were a race descended from Eurymedusa, who was seduced by Zeus in the form of an ant. A later version of the tale, told by Ovid, said that Zeus transformed ants on a tree into a race of men in response to a prayer from Aeacus of Aegina begging for people to populate his land, which had been devastated by plague.
The name meant “ant-people,” and they made the best soldiers. According to Ovid, they had several ant-like traits: 1) willingness to follow orders without question; 2) willingness to commit suicidal acts in battle, and; 3) greed for plunder: “They are eager for gain, and never easily relinquish what they have won.” The Myrmidons were the elite shock troops sent in to take over Troy, commanded by Achilles. The term later became used in English to mean both “hired ruffian” (OED) and “faithful follower” (etymonline.com).
Considering that the rebel troops are being assisted by NATO and playing to an international audience, it seems that the name for this operation may have been intentionally chosen for its multiple layers of symbolism, including implied similarities between the rebel forces and the ant-people of the Trojan war. In this light, it is also worth noting that ants will frequently take over other insect colonies and treat them as a subject population. In exchange for military protection, the subject insects will secrete sugary substances from their anal glands and give it over to the ants as tribute.
Extrapolate and draw your own parallels.
Delahoyde & Hughes, “Myrmidons”
TracyRTwyman.com, “Operation Odyssey Dawn: The Birth of a New Atlantean Empire?”