The Myrmidons, the soldiers from Achilles's homeland of Thessaly who are under his command in the Iliad, get their name from myrmex or ants. Achilles himself is the arch-Myrmidon. In Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Ulysses refers to him as:
the great Myrmidon,
who broils in loud applause (I.iii.386–387).
What else of the Thessalians? They are reported to worship ants, because they have been taught that Zeus, in the likeness of an ant, had intercourse with Eurymedusa the daughter of Cletor and begat Myrmidon. (Book 2)
The second says that Myrmidons were the descendants of ants on the island of Aegina, whom Zeus transformed into human beings. This legend can be traced as far back as Hesiod, Fragment 76:
And she conceived, and bare knightly Aiakos. But when he came to the measure of lovely youth, he chafed because he was alone. And the Father of men and gods made all the ants that were within the pleasant island men and deep-girdled women. And these were the first who benched curved ships, and the first who set sails as wings of the seafaring ship.
This legend is elaborated in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 7. Juno, jealous because the island of Aegina was named after one of Jupiter's lovers, sent a plague that killed all the men there save the king, Aeacus, and his three sons. Aeacus prayed to Jupiter asking for the island to be repopulated, and Jupiter turned its ants into men.
The Myrmidons retain the industriousness, discipline, and martial valor of their ant forebears. Matthew Sears has argued that these qualities, attributable to their mythological origins, make them the elite infantry of the Iliad.
Some two thousand years after Ovid, contemporary mythology also furnishes an example of ant-like heroes. Three individuals in the Marvel Comics universe are identified with the superhero Ant-Man, a founding member of the Avengers. They are Hank Pym, Scott Lang, and Eric O'Grady. The first originated this superhero identity. The latter two later serially usurped that identity by stealing the Ant-Man costume. Within the universe, each has his own back story and adventures. However, all use a cybernetic helmet, part of the Ant-Man costume, to communicate with and control ants. In this way, Ant-Man is like a latter-day Achilles commanding his army of Myrmidons.
There are other parallels between the story of Achilles and the contemporary Ant-Man mythology. For example, Pym becomes Ant-Man to avenge the death of his beloved wife Maria Trovaya, while Achilles enters the Trojan war only after his lover Patroclus is killed. Additionally both Lang and O'Grady lead rather less than heroic lives before assuming the mantle of Ant-Man, while Achilles spends some time disguised as a woman in an attempt to evade joining the Greek heroes gathering for war (Statius, Book 1, ll.590 ff).
But in the absence of specific allusions, such parallels are tenuous and could be explained away as coincidence. So the question is: Is there any evidence that Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby, the creators of Ant-Man, deliberately associated that superhero with Achilles and his fellow Myrmidons? Do plot lines or allusions within the comics explicitly make this connection? Does a knowledge of the mythological Myrmidons deepen our understanding or enjoyment of the Ant-Man stories?
Clement of Alexandria. Exhortation to the Greeks. Loeb Classical Library. www.theoi.com/Text/ClementExhortation1.html. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.
Hesiod. The Poems and Fragments. Trans. and Intro. A. W. Mair. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. archive.org/stream/hesiodpoemsandf00mairgoog/hesiodpoemsandf00mairgoog_djvu.txt. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.
Homer. The Iliad. Trans. A. S. Kline. 2009. www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Ilhome.php. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. Brookes More. Boston: Cornhill, 1922. www.theoi.com/Text/OvidMetamorphoses1.html. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.
Sears, Matthew. “Warrior Ants: Elite Troops in the Iliad.” The Classical World, vol. 103, no. 2, 2010, pp. 139–155. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40599925. Accessed 17 Jan. 2021.
Shakespeare, William. Troilus and Cressida. 1602. shakespeare.folger.edu/shakespeares-works/troilus-and-cressida/. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.
Statius. Thebaid, Achilleid. Trans. J. H. Mozley. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1928. www.theoi.com/Text/StatiusAchilleid1A.html. Retrieved 16 Jan 2021.