From Gerald R. Lucas

Major Characters of the Iliad

The major characters and gods form a rich tapestry of personalities and divine influences within the Iliad. Each character brings distinct qualities, motivations, and roles to the narrative, shaping the course of the war and embodying various aspects of heroism, leadership, and divine intervention. Their interactions and conflicts underscore the complex dynamics between mortals and gods, as well as the profound themes and lessons explored throughout Homer’s epic.


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Achilles, the central character of the Iliad, is a formidable warrior and the greatest Greek hero. His wrath and subsequent withdrawal from battle form the core of the epic. Achilles’ intense emotions, internal struggles, and quest for glory make him a complex and tragic figure. His actions and choices profoundly impact the course of the war, highlighting the themes of honor, pride, mortality, and the consequences of one's decisions.
Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae and the leader of the Greek forces, plays a crucial role in the Iliad. His conflict with Achilles over a captured concubine, Briseis, leads to disastrous consequences for the Greek army. Agamemnon represents the struggles of leadership, authority, and the challenges of maintaining unity among the Greek forces. His character showcases the tensions and conflicts within the Greek camp.
Odysseus, known for his cunning and intelligence, is one of the most resourceful Greek heroes in the Iliad. He is a master strategist and diplomat who plays a crucial role in the Greek war effort. Odysseus’ shrewdness and ability to navigate complex situations contribute to the Greeks’ victories. His character represents wit, cleverness, and adaptability, showcasing the importance of intellect and tactical prowess in warfare.
Diomedes is a fearless and skilled Greek warrior known for his strength and bravery. He is favored by the goddess Athena, who empowers him with divine protection and guidance in battle. Diomedes plays a pivotal role in several key engagements, including his nighttime raid with Odysseus and his encounters with gods and legendary figures. His character exemplifies courage, martial skill, and the interplay between mortals and deities.
Ajax (Telamonian Ajax and Ajax the Lesser)
The two Ajaxes are mighty Greek warriors, renowned for their strength and prowess in battle. Telamonian Ajax, also known as Ajax the Great, is second only to Achilles in terms of sheer power. He is a staunch defender of the Greeks and plays a vital role in many pivotal battles. Ajax the Lesser, known for his speed and agility, is a key figure in the Trojan War as well. Both Ajaxes embody valor, loyalty, and the importance of physical might on the battlefield.

Gods Favoring the Greeks

Zeus, the king of the gods, remains neutral throughout most of the Iliad. However, he occasionally favors the Greeks, ensuring their success in critical moments. As the ruler of the gods and the wielder of thunderbolts, Zeus embodies power and authority. His influence over the outcome of the war underscores the divine intervention and the overarching themes of fate and destiny.
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Athena, the goddess of wisdom, is a staunch supporter of the Greeks. She aids them in battle, providing guidance, protection, and inspiration to the Greek heroes. Athena's favor demonstrates the importance of strategic thinking, intellect, and disciplined warfare. Her interactions with mortal characters, particularly her close relationship with Odysseus, highlight the synergy between mortal and divine wisdom.
Hera, the queen of the gods and the wife of Zeus, also favors the Greeks. She is known for her fierce loyalty to the Greeks and her deep-seated hatred for the Trojans. Hera often intervenes on the side of the Greeks, using her influence to thwart the Trojans’ efforts. Her support represents the political and divine dynamics at play in the war, as well as the protective and nurturing aspects associated with her role as a queen and goddess of marriage.
Poseidon, the god of the sea and earthquakes, aligns himself with the Greeks due to a grudge against the Trojans. Poseidon’s support contributes to the Greeks’ naval successes, as he helps guide their ships and punish their enemies. His involvement underscores the multifaceted nature of the gods and their individual motivations, as well as the impact of their favor or disfavor on mortal endeavors.
Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship and fire, supports the Greeks by crafting remarkable armor, including the iconic Shield of Achilles. His creations provide the Greek heroes with enhanced protection and weapons, symbolizing the importance of skill and craftsmanship in war. Hephaestus' involvement highlights the divine contribution to the Greeks' martial prowess and the significance of superior weaponry on the battlefield.


The Trojan characters contribute to the intricate tapestry of the Iliad. Each character brings their unique qualities and motivations, shaping the Trojan perspective of the war and adding depth to the narrative. The gods’ favor underscores the divine presence on the Trojan side, influencing the outcome of battles and highlighting the complex relationship between mortals and deities.

Hector, the greatest Trojan warrior and the eldest son of King Priam, is a central figure in the Iliad. He embodies courage, honor, and familial devotion. Hector’s defense of Troy against the Greek forces serves as a counterpoint to Achilles’ wrath. His character symbolizes the ideals of heroism, duty, and the tragedy of a noble warrior caught in the throes of war.
Priam is the aged king of Troy. As the patriarch of the Trojan royal family, he represents the wisdom and sorrow that come with age and experience. Priam’s interactions with the Greek hero Achilles during the ransom of Hector’s body showcase the potential for empathy and humanity even in the midst of conflict. His character highlights the complexities of leadership and the cost of war on individuals and families.
Paris, also known as Alexandros, is a Trojan prince whose abduction of Helen sparks the war. He is often criticized for his lack of martial prowess and perceived cowardice. Paris represents desire, beauty, and the consequences of impulsive actions. His character serves as a catalyst for the conflict and reflects the tensions within the Trojan side.
Aeneas, a Trojan hero, emerges as an important figure in the Iliad. He showcases bravery, resilience, and loyalty to his city and family. Aeneas plays a significant role in several battles and engages in combat with various Greek heroes. His character foreshadows his future as the legendary founder of Rome, making him a bridge between the Trojan War and Roman mythology.

Gods Favoring the Trojans

Apollo, the god of prophecy, music, and archery, supports the Trojans throughout the Iliad. He aids them in battle, inflicting plagues upon the Greeks and empowering Trojan warriors. Apollo’s favor represents the divine influence on the Trojan side and underscores the themes of fate, prophecy, and the interplay between gods and mortals.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, protects and assists Paris during critical moments. She intervenes to save him from harm, emphasizing the importance of desire, beauty, and the complexities of love within the narrative. Aphrodite’s favor highlights the influence of emotions and personal relationships in shaping the events of the war.
Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and the moon, also favors the Trojans. She supports them by granting them favorable weather conditions and aiding their archers in battle. Artemis' involvement showcases the divine manipulation of natural elements and emphasizes the interconnectedness between the gods and the mortal world.

Women of the Iliad

See also: Women in the Iliad

While the Iliad predominantly focuses on the male heroes and gods, several women play significant roles in the epic, providing insights into the complexities of war, love, and the consequences of human actions. Although their agency is often limited, their presence is crucial in shaping the narrative and exploring themes of honor, sacrifice, and the human experience.

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Helen, the wife of Menelaus and the cause of the Trojan War, is a complex figure. Known for her extraordinary beauty, Helen is both desired and condemned. Her actions and decisions serve as catalysts for the conflict, raising questions about personal responsibility, the power of desire, and the cost of war. Helen’s character highlights the human capacity for both love and betrayal.
Andromache, the wife of Hector, offers a glimpse into the personal struggles and tragedies of the Trojan women. She displays deep love for her husband and son, and her poignant interactions with Hector evoke themes of family, loss, and the devastating consequences of war. Andromache’s character represents the voices of the Trojan women and their experiences of grief and vulnerability.
Briseis, a Trojan captive given to Achilles as a war prize, serves as a symbolic figure representing the spoils of war and the objectification of women. Her presence underscores the devastating impact of conflict on individuals, particularly women, who are subjected to violence, loss, and the erosion of their agency. Briseis’ character raises questions about the ethics of war and the treatment of women in times of conflict.