Notes on Characters from The Iliad

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The Iliad Major Characters

Achilles: Greek, a demi-god and son of Peleus and Thetis. Leader of Myrmidons from Pythia. The Iliad begins, ends and pivots on the Achilles' rage. His departure from battle causes Greek ruin. His reentry, guarantees the demise of Troy.

Aeneas: Trojan, a demi-god and son of Anchises and Aphrodite. Captain and warrior who fights bravely on several occasions. He is rescued by a god each time he is wounded. Also destined to become the leader of the refugee Trojans. Founder of Rome. The central character of Virgil's epic, The Aeneid.

Agamemnon: Greek, mortal and son of Atreus, brother of Menelaus. Greek King and leader of Greek armies from Argos and Mycenae. Achilles' chief instigator, responsible for his withdrawal from battle.

Ajax Telamon: Greek, mortal, son of Telamon, half-brother of Teucer. Greek leader from Salamis. Also known as Greater Ajax. Giant warrior who meets Hector's challenge and also wounds Aeneas. A bulwark of the Greek line.

Aphrodite: Trojan supporter, a deity, daughter of Zeus and Dione, mother of Aeneas. Goddess of love and lust. Presented with the golden apple by Paris in exchange for the love of Helen. Aphrodite continues to struggle with Hera and Athena in this war, taking up sides with Paris and her son. She is wounded by Diomedes.

Apollo: Trojan supporter, a deity, son of Zeus and Leto, brother of Artemis. Patron god of arts and archery. God of prophecy. Also associated with the sun. He actively fights with and inspires the Trojans throughout the epic. He continues to support the Trojans in Virgil's Aeneid.

Ares: Trojan supporter, a deity, son of Zeus and Hera. God of War and destruction. Ares strengthens the Trojan line early on but is wounded. He does not return to battle until the end of the epic.

Athena: Greek supporter, a deity, daughter of Zeus. Goddess of wisdom, also associated with cleverness and war. Patron goddess of Odysseus whom she continues to help in Homer's Odyssey. Athena inspires Greeks by taking the form of mortals. She also appeals to Zeus on several occasions and gets him to soften his anger.

Briseis: Trojan, mortal. War prize of Achilles. Focal point of contention between Achilles and Agamemnon. She is given back to Achilles and mourns for the death of Patroclus.

Diomedes: Greek, mortal, son of Tydeus. Greek leader from Argos. Though young, he is a powerful and effective warrior. He is an early mainstay of the Greek offense. His advice returns the captains to battle when the Trojans storm the camp.

Glaucus : Trojan, mortal, cousin to Sarpedon. Co-leader of Lycian allies. He rallies the Trojan troops around the body of his fallen cousin, Sarpedon.

Hades: A deity, brother of Zeus and Poseidon. God of the underworld. He is one of three brother gods: Zeus rules the sky, Poseidon rules the sea and Hades rules the underworld.

Hector: Trojan, mortal, son of Priam and Hecuba, brother of Paris, husband of Andromache, father of Astayanax. Trojan Prince. Primary leader of Trojan forces. Without Hector, the city of Troy is doomed.

Helen: Greek, demi-god, daughter of Zeus and Leda, wife of Menelaus, lover of Paris. Primary object of the Trojan war. Although she is from Greece, she views the entire war from the Trojan walls. Hated by Greeks and Trojans alike.

Hera: Greek supporter, a deity, daughter of Cronus, wife and sister of Zeus, mother of Hephaestus and Ares. Queen of the gods. Primary immortal champion of the Greek armies. Hera seduces Zeus and thwarts his decrees. In Virgil's Aeneid, she continues to persecute the refugee Trojans.

Idomeneus: Greek, mortal. A captain from Crete and a powerful warrior. He is instrumental in many Greek offensives.

Iris: A deity. Messenger goddess. Responsible for delivering Zeus' commands to men and gods. Most of Zeus' decrees and interventions are carried out by her.

Menelaus: Greek, mortal, son of Atreus, brother of Agamemnon, husband of Helen. The siege of Troy is primarily on his behalf, in order to return Helen to him, although other characters are more central to the epic. Menelaus fights bravely during the storming of the camps.

Nestor: Greek, mortal, son of Neleus, father of Antilochus. Greek leader from Pylos. Old counselor to the Greeks. Advises Agamemnon on strategy. Famous for his chariot driving ability.

Odysseus: Greek, mortal, son of Laertes. Captain from Ithaca. The central figure of Homer's Odyssey. Instrumental in advising Agamemnon and controlling the army.

Paris: Trojan, mortal, son of Priam and Hecuba, lover of Helen. Paris, although an infrequent character in the epic, is one of the primary antagonists behind the Trojan War. His choice of Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess and his stealing of Helen from her husband's house began the conflict.

Patroclus: Greek, mortal, son of Menoetius. Captain of the Myrmidons. Companion to Achilles. Instrument of Achilles' re-entry into battle. He leads the Myrmidons back into battle dressed as Achilles.

Poseidon: Greek supporter, a deity, son of Cronus, brother of Hades and Zeus. God of the Sea also associated with earthquakes and horses. Poseidon strives with the Greeks against the will of Zeus.

Priam: Trojan, mortal, son of Laomedon, father of Deiphobus, Hector, Helenus, Paris and Polydorus, husband of Hecuba. Wealthy king of Troy. Although his son Hector leads the army, he is the central leadership figure of the city.

Sarpedon: Trojan, demi-god, son of Zeus, cousin of Glaucus. Co-leader of Lycian allies. Singlehandedly holds the breach in the Greek wall. Dies to Zeus' dismay.

Teucer: Greek, mortal, son of Telamon, half-brother of Ajax. From Salamis. Famous archer. Instrumental in the defense of the Greek camp.

Thetis: Greek supporter, a deity, daughter of Nereus, mother of Achilles, wife of Peleus. Queen of the sea nymphs. Thetis protects and aids her son. Her appeal to Zeus causes the Greek losses which require the return of Achilles. She gets Achilles his new set of armor.

Zeus: A deity, son of Cronus, husband of Hera, brother of Hades and Poseidon, father of Aphrodite, Ares, Athena, Helen and Sarpedon. King of the gods. God of the sky and thunder. Also regarded as the god of justice. Zeus dictates the ebb and flow of the war, although the appeals of men and gods often decide his policy for him.

Minor Characters

Ajax Oilean: Greek leader from Locris. Also known as Lesser Ajax. Famous for speed.

Andromache: Trojan. Wife of Hector, mother of Astayanax.

Antenor: Trojan counselor. Father of many sons lost to the war.

Antilochus: Greek from Pylos, son of Nestor.

Artemis: Deity favoring Trojans. Daughter of Zeus and Leto. Sister of Apollo. Goddess of the hunt and the Moon.

Asius: Trojan warrior and charioteer, tries to breach the Greek walls.

Astayanax: Trojan. Son of Hector and Andromache. Real name is Scamandrius. Astayanax means "lord of the city."

Asteropaeus: Trojan warrior. Killed by Achilles.

Automedon: Greek Myrmidon. Achilles' chariot driver.

Calchas: Greek seer.

Cebriones: Trojan. Son of Priam. Half brother of Hector. Chariot driver for Hector.

Chryses: Trojan ally. Priest of Apollo. Father of Chryseis. His prayers to Apollo caused the plague on the Greek troops in Book 1.

Chryseis: Trojan ally. Disputed war prize of Agamemnon.

Deiphobus: Trojan warrior. Son of Priam. Brother of Hector. Impersonated by Athena to encourage Hector to face Achilles.

Dolon: Trojan fighter famed for swift feet. Sent on a night raid only to be killed by Diomedes and Odysseus.

Euphorbus: Trojan warrior who wounds Patroclus with Apollo's help.

Eurypylus: Greek leader from Thessaly.

Helenus: Trojan seer. Son of Priam and Hecuba. Brother of Hector. Often impersonated by Apollo.

Hephaestus: Deity associated with Greeks. Son of Hera. God of fire and metal working. Creator of Achilles' new armor and shield.

Hermes: Deity favoring Greeks. Son of Zeus. Messenger god. Guides Priam through the Greek camp.

Leto: Pre-olympian deity favoring the Trojans. Mother of Artemis and Apollo.

Meriones: Greek captain from Crete. Fights with the best of the Greek warriors.

Pandarus: Trojan allied archer from Lycia. Breaks an early truce by shooting Menelaus.

Phoenix: Greek Myrmidon. Advisor to Achilles. King of the Dolopians.

Polydamas: Trojan warrior. Advises Hector on strategy.

Polypoetes: Greek leader of Lapiths. Helps to protect the ships.

Stheneleus: Greek from Argos, friend to Diomedes.

Xanthus: Deity favoring the Trojans. River god. Fights Achilles.

Thersites: Greek, mortal. Thersites is called the most horrible of the Greeks by Odysseus in Book 2. Thersites is the Greek man who takes it upon himself to criticize Agamemnon. For this, Odysseus beats him with Agamemnon's scepter.

Machaon: Greek, mortal. Machaon is a co-leader from Thessaly.

Agenor: Trojan, mortal, son of Antenor. Agenor dies in the melee at the end of Book 4.

Dione: A deity, mother of Aphrodite. Aphrodite flees to Dione when she is wounded in Book 5.

Aeantes: Greek, mortal. The name given to the two men named Ajax (Telamon and Oilean) when they are referred to together.

Strife (Eris): Trojan supporter, a deity. This god is identified as the sister of Ares in Book 4. Her Greek name is Eris.

Achaeans: One of the three major names used to refer to the Greeks in the Iliad. The other two are the Danaans and the Argives. None of these names can be translated as 'the Greeks', because the Greek word for this concept was Hellenes.

Thoas (1): Greek, mortal. The Achaean Thoas is a commander of the Aetolians.

Thoas (2): Trojan, mortal. The Trojan Thoas is wounded by Menelaus in Book 16.

Thoas (3): Trojan, mortal. This Thoas is the King of Lemnos mentioned only in passing in Book 14.

Imbrius: Trojan, mortal, son-in-law to Priam. Imbrius is Priam's son-in-law from a nearby region who is killed by Teucer in book 13.

Pisander (1): Trojan, mortal. Pisander is killed by Agamemnon in Book 11.

Pisander (2): Trojan, mortal. Another Trojan killed by Menelaus in book 13.

Pisander (3): Greek, mortal. A commander of the Myrmidons.

Sleep: A deity, brother of Death. This god is featured chiefly in Hera's betrayal of Zeus in Book 14. He is the 'twin-brother of death' because sleep is the closest state to death.

Podes: Trojan, mortal. Podes is killed by Menelaus in Book 17.

Polydorus (1): Trojan, mortal, brother of Hector. The Trojan Polydorus is killed by Achilles. This spurs Polydorus' brother, Hector, to attack Achilles.

Polydorus (2): Greek, mortal. An adversary whom Nestor beat in the spear throw when he was younger.

Lycaon: Trojan, mortal, son of Priam. Lycaon is killed by Achilles.

Laomedon: Trojan, mortal, father of Priam. Laomedon is the old King of Troy.

Hecuba: Trojan, mortal, wife of Priam, mother of Hector and Paris. Hecuba is the strong matriarch of Troy who shares in the burdens of war with her husband and sons.

Eumelus: Greek, mortal. A captain from Thessaly.

Epeus: Greek, mortal. The boxing champion in Patroclus' funeral games.

Euryalus: Greek, mortal. A captain from Argos.

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