The Myrmidons (or Myrmidones Μυρμιδόνες) were an ancient nation of Greek mythology. In Homer's Iliad, the Myrmidons are the soldiers commanded by Achilles. Their eponymous ancestor was Myrmidon, a king of Phthiotis who was a son of Zeus and "wide-ruling" Eurymedousa, a princess of Phthiotis. She was seduced by him in the form of an ant. An etiological myth of their origins, simply expanding upon their supposed etymology— the name in Classical Greek was interpreted as "ant-people", from murmekes, "ants"— was first mentioned by Ovid, in Metamorphoses: in Ovid's telling, the Myrmidons were simple worker ants on the island of Aegina.
Hera, queen of the gods, sent a plague to kill all the human inhabitants of Aegina because the island was named for one of the lovers of Zeus. King Aeacus, a son of Zeus and the intended target of Hera along with his mother, prayed to his father for a means to repopulate the island. As the ants of the island were unaffected by the sickness, Zeus responded by transforming them into a race of people, the Myrmidons. They were fierce and hardy as ants, and intensely loyal to their leader. Because of their ant-ish origins, they wore brown armour.
After a time, Aeacus exiled his two sons, Peleus and Telamon, for murdering their half-brother, Phocis. Peleus went to Phthia and a group of Myrmidons followed him to Thessaly. Peleus's son, Achilles, brought them to Troy to fight in the Trojan War. They feature as the loyal followers of Achilles in most accounts of the Trojan War from Homer to the 2004 film Troy.
Another tradition states that the Myrmidons had no such remarkable beginnings, but were merely the descendants of Myrmidon, a Thessalian nobleman, who married Peisidice, the daughter of Aeolus, king of Thessaly. Myrmidon was the father of Actor and Antiphus. As king of Phthia, Actor (or his son) invited Peleus to stay in Thessaly.
The Myrmidons of Greek myth were known for their loyalty to their leaders, so that in pre-industrial Europe the word "myrmidon" carried many of the same connotations that "robot" does today. "Myrmidon" later came to mean "hired ruffian", according to the Oxford English Dictionary.
The term myrmidon enjoys widespread use in computer and video games, especially those in the role-playing game genre. It is in common use as a title for character classes or enemies, and even occasionally used as the name for a piece of equipment or vehicle within a game.