The Achaeans (also called the “Argives” or “Danaans”)
son of the military man Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. The most
powerful warrior in The Iliad,
the Myrmidons, soldiers from his homeland of Phthia in Greece. Proud
and headstrong, he takes offense easily and reacts with blistering
indignation when he perceives that his honor has been slighted. Achilles’
wrath at Agamemnon for taking his war prize, the maiden Briseis,
forms the main subject of The Iliad
in-depth analysis of Achilles.
Agamemnon (also called “Atrides”)
- King of Mycenae and leader of the Achaean army; brother
of King Menelaus of Sparta. Arrogant and often selfish, Agamemnon provides
the Achaeans with strong but sometimes reckless and self-serving
leadership. Like Achilles, he lacks consideration and forethought.
Most saliently, his tactless appropriation of Achilles’ war prize,
the maiden Briseis, creates a crisis for the Achaeans, when Achilles,
insulted, withdraws from the war.
beloved friend, companion, and advisor, Patroclus grew up alongside
the great warrior in Phthia, under the guardianship of Peleus. Devoted
to both Achilles and the Achaean cause, Patroclus stands by the
enraged Achilles but also dons Achilles’ terrifying armor in an
attempt to hold the Trojans back.
fine warrior and the cleverest of the Achaean commanders. Along
with Nestor, Odysseus is one of the Achaeans’ two best public speakers.
He helps mediate between Agamemnon and Achilles during their quarrel
and often prevents them from making rash decisions.
Diomedes (also called “Tydides”)
- The youngest of the Achaean commanders, Diomedes
is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws
from combat, Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually
wounds two gods, Aphrodite and Ares.
Achaean commander, Great Ajax (sometimes called “Telamonian Ajax”
or simply “Ajax”) is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after
Achilles. His extraordinary size and strength help him to wound Hector
twice by hitting him with boulders. He often fights alongside Little
Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as the “Aeantes.”
Achaean commander, Little Ajax is the son of Oileus (to be distinguished
from Great Ajax, the son of Telamon). He often fights alongside
Great Ajax, whose stature and strength complement Little Ajax’s
small size and swift speed. The two together are sometimes called
of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken
much of Nestor’s physical strength, it has left him with great wisdom.
He often acts as an advisor to the military commanders, especially
Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus are the Achaeans’ most deft and persuasive
orators, although Nestor’s speeches are sometimes long-winded.
- King of Sparta; the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the
abduction of his wife, Helen, by the Trojan prince Paris that sparks
the Trojan War, Menelaus proves quieter, less imposing, and less
arrogant than Agamemnon. Though he has a stout heart, Menelaus
is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.
of Crete and a respected commander. Idomeneus leads a charge against
the Trojans in Book 13
healer. Machaon is wounded by Paris in Book 11
important soothsayer. Calchas’s identification of the cause of the
plague ravaging the Achaean army in Book 1
inadvertently to the rift between Agamemnon and Achilles that occupies
the first nineteen books of The Iliad
father and the grandson of Zeus. Although his name often appears
in the epic, Peleus never appears in person. Priam powerfully invokes
the memory of Peleus when he convinces Achilles to return Hector’s corpse
to the Trojans in Book 24
kindly old warrior, Phoenix helped raise Achilles while he himself
was still a young man. Achilles deeply loves and trusts Phoenix,
and Phoenix mediates between him and Agamemnon during their quarrel.
soldiers under Achilles’ command, hailing from Achilles’ homeland,
son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, Hector is the mightiest warrior
in the Trojan army. He mirrors Achilles in some of his flaws, but
his bloodlust is not so great as that of Achilles. He is devoted
to his wife, Andromache, and son, Astyanax, but resents his brother
Paris for bringing war upon their family and city.
in-depth analysis of Hector.
of Troy and husband of Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan
warriors, including Hector and Paris. Though too old to fight, he
has earned the respect of both the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue
of his level-headed, wise, and benevolent rule. He treats Helen
kindly, though he laments the war that her beauty has sparked.
of Troy, wife of Priam, and mother of Hector and Paris.
Paris (also known as “Alexander”)
- A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector.
Paris’s abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked
the Trojan War. Paris is self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively
with a bow and arrow (never with the more manly sword or spear)
but often lacks the spirit for battle and prefers to sit in his
room making love to Helen while others fight for him, thus earning
both Hector’s and Helen’s scorn.
to be the most beautiful woman in the ancient world, Helen was stolen from her husband, Menelaus, and taken to Troy by Paris. She loathes herself
now for the misery that she has caused so many Trojan and Achaean
men. Although her contempt extends to Paris as well, she continues
to stay with him.
Trojan nobleman, the son of Aphrodite, and a mighty warrior. The
Romans believed that Aeneas later founded their city (he is the
protagonist of Virgil’s masterpiece the Aeneid
loving wife, Andromache begs Hector to withdraw from the war and
save himself before the Achaeans kill him.
and Andromache’s infant son.
young Trojan commander, Polydamas sometimes figures as a foil for
Hector, proving cool-headed and prudent when Hector charges ahead.
Polydamas gives the Trojans sound advice, but Hector seldom acts
powerful Trojan warrior, Glaucus nearly fights a duel with Diomedes.
The men’s exchange of armor after they realize that their families
are friends illustrates the value that ancients placed on kinship
Trojan warrior who attempts to fight Achilles in Book 21
Agenor delays Achilles long enough for the Trojan army to flee inside
Trojan sent to spy on the Achaean camp in Book 10
Trojan archer. Pandarus’s shot at Menelaus in Book 4
the temporary truce between the two sides.
Trojan nobleman, advisor to King Priam, and father of many Trojan
warriors. Antenor argues that Helen should be returned to Menelaus
in order to end the war, but Paris refuses to give her up.
of Zeus’s sons. Sarpedon’s fate seems intertwined with the gods’
quibbles, calling attention to the unclear nature of the gods’ relationship
- Chryses’ daughter, a priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town.
war prize of Achilles. When Agamemnon is forced to return Chryseis
to her father, he appropriates Briseis as compensation, sparking
Achilles’ great rage.
priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town; the father of Chryseis,
whom Agamemnon takes as a war prize.
The Gods and Immortals
of the gods and husband of Hera, Zeus claims neutrality in the mortals’
conflict and often tries to keep the other gods from participating
in it. However, he throws his weight behind the Trojan side for
much of the battle after the sulking Achilles has his mother, Thetis,
ask the god to do so.
of the gods and Zeus’s wife, Hera is a conniving, headstrong woman.
She often goes behind Zeus’s back in matters on which they disagree,
working with Athena to crush the Trojans, whom she passionately hates.
goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts; Zeus’s
daughter. Like Hera, Athena passionately hates the Trojans and often
gives the Achaeans valuable aid.
sea-nymph and the devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis gets Zeus to
help the Trojans and punish the Achaeans at the request of her angry
son. When Achilles finally rejoins the battle, she commissions Hephaestus
to design him a new suit of armor.
son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god
of the sun and the arts, particularly music. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes
in the war on their behalf.
of love and daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus
but maintains a romantic relationship with Ares. She supports Paris
and the Trojans throughout the war, though she proves somewhat ineffectual
brother of Zeus and god of the sea. Poseidon holds a long-standing
grudge against the Trojans because they never paid him for helping
them to build their city. He therefore supports the Achaeans in
of fire and husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus is the gods’ metalsmith
and is known as the lame or crippled god. Although the text doesn’t
make clear his sympathies in the mortals’ struggle, he helps the Achaeans
by forging a new set of armor for Achilles and by rescuing Achilles
during his fight with a river god.
of the hunt, daughter of Zeus, and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis
supports the Trojans in the war.
of war and lover of Aphrodite, Ares generally supports the Trojans
in the war.
messenger of the gods. Hermes escorts Priam to Achilles’ tent in