THE ILIAD: CAST OF CHARACTERS
PRINCIPAL GODS AND GODDESSES
APHRODITE: goddess of love and
daughter of Zeus, although in later legends she was said to have been
born from the foam of the sea. She protected Helen, to whom she
gave great beauty, and, in book three, she
rescues Paris from Menelaos, and brings him to Helen.
PHOIBOS APOLLO: the archer god,
cause of plagues, god of
prophecy and a divine singer; the son of Zeus and Leto; a partisan of
Trojans. In the opening scene of the Iliad, he sends a plague
the Achaians because Agamemnon has dishonored his priest,
Later, he helps Hektor in the killing of Patroklos, and, in the final
his complaint about the treatment of Hektor’s corpse leads the gods to
the ransom of the body by Priam.
ARES: god of war, son of Zeus, and lover of
Aphrodite. He supports the Trojans, and Zeus describes him as
“the most hateful of all gods who
hold Olympos” (5.890). The comic story of his affair with
is told in book eight of the Odyssey.
ARTEMIS: sister of Apollo, goddess of the
hunt. It is said that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter,
Iphigeneia, to appease her anger on the Greeks’ expedition to
Troy. In book twenty-one, Hera beats her in
the battle of the gods, and she is a protagonist in two stories told by
warriors: Phoenix’ story of Meleagros (bk. 9), and Achilleus’ story of
PALLAS ATHENE: Zeus' daughter, a warrior
goddess, goddess of wisdom, patroness of the women's craft of weaving,
a powerful ally of the Greeks
and protectress of Odysseus; she hated the Trojans because of the
of Paris. She restrains Achilleus from killing Agamemnon in book
inspires Odysseus to rally the Greek troops in book two; tricks the
warrior, Pandaros, into breaking the truce in book four; and intervenes
support of the Greeks - and particularly on behalf of Odysseus -
HADES: god of the underworld, the realm
assigned to him when the sky, sea and underworld were divided among the
three sons of Kronos. As a figure of unyielding death, he is
described as “most hateful to mortals among all the gods” (9.159).
HEPHAISTOS: the divine smith and god
of fire, son of Zeus and Hera. In book one, he urges Hera not to
provoke Zeus’ anger. In book eighteen, he makes marvelous armor
for Achilleus at Thetis’ request, and, in book
twenty-one, he uses his fire to help rescue Achilleus in his battle
HERA: jealous wife - and sister - of Zeus;
she is a vigorous patron of the Greeks because of her anger at the
Trojans over the judgement of
Paris, and she repeatedly bickers with her husband, Zeus, over his
for the Trojans. In book one, she inspires Achilleus to call an
to deal with the plague, and, in book fourteen, she seduces her husband
Zeus to distract him while the god of the sea, Poseidon, aids the
Greeks on the battlefield.
HERMES: son of Zeus who guides souls to
the Underworld; he is sent to guide Priam on his risky trip to the tent
of Achilleus for the ransom
of the body of his son, Hektor (bk. 24).
KRONOS: father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades
and Hera; he was overthrown by Zeus.
POSEIDON: son of Kronos, brother of
Zeus and lord of the sea. Though a supporter of the Greeks, he
intervenes in book twenty (20.288-339) to save the Trojan hero,
Aineias, lest he be killed by Achilleus against
THETIS: a sea goddess, wife of the
warrior, Peleus, and divine mother of Achilleus. She foretold
Achilleus' fate, intervened with Zeus on his behalf (bk. 1), mourned
the death of Patroklos (bk. 18), and brought her son divine armor made
by the god, Hephaistos (bk. 18).
ZEUS: the son of Kronos and most powerful
of the gods; brother of Poseidon, Hades and the goddess, Hera, his
wife; as lord of the sky, the
thunderbolt is his most potent weapon. He responds to Thetis’
by turning the battle against the Greeks, so that they will honor
Throughout the Iliad, he acts as an overseer: he ensures that fated
like the deaths of Patroklos and Hektor, take place, and he prevents
from falling at the hands of Achilleus against fate (bk. 20). At
insistence, he even allows his own mortal son, Sarpedon, to die, so
fate will not be overturned (bk. 16).
Greeks (called Argives, Danaans and Achaians by Homer)
ACHILLEUS: leader of the Myrmidons and
central character of the
Iliad; son of the goddess, Thetis, and the warrior, Peleus.
AGAMEMNON: son of Atreus, king of
Mykenai, brother of Menelaos and most powerful Greek king. His
quarrel with Achilleus (bk. 1) sparks
Achilleus’ anger and sets in motion the plot of the Iliad.
spurns his offer of compensation in book nine.
AIAS (Telamonian Aias): duels with Hektor
(bk. 7), forms part of
the embassy to Achilleus (bk. 9), defends the ships (bk 15), and leads
effort to recover Patroklos' body (bk. 17).
AIAS OILEUS: the lesser of the two
men named Aias, leader of the Lokrians, warriors famed as
archers. Later authors tell the story of how he seized and raped
Cassandra, a prophetess and daughter of Priam, during the sack of
Troy. As a result, Poseidon and Athene destroyed his ship and
drowned him on his return from Troy (Odyssey, bk. 4)
DIOMEDES: son of Tydeus, great warrior
whose exploits form the subject of book five; he also accompanies
Odysseus on a bloody spying mission to
the Trojan camp (bk. 10)
HELEN: daughter of Zeus and Leda,
step-daughter of Tyndareus; wife of Menelaos who eloped with Paris,
causing the Trojan war; through the gifts of the goddess, Aphrodite,
she was said to be the most beautiful of all
women. She reflects on her actions in books three and six, and
concludes the lament for Hektor at the end of the Iliad.
KALCHAS: the seer or prophet of the
Greeks; he identifies Agamemnon as the cause of the plague sent by
Apollo in book one, and, in book two, Odysseus
describes how he had interpreted omens and predicted victory - after
years - when the Greeks set out for Troy.
MENELAOS: son of Atreus, brother of
Agamemnon, lord of Lakedaimon (Sparta), husband of Helen.
NESTOR: aged king of Pylos and a wise
counsellor who often uses
stories from the past to advise and instruct the Greek warriors.
tries unsuccessfully to make peace between Achilleus and Agamemnon in
one, and he helps persuade Agamemnon to offer compensation to Achilleus
in book nine. In book eleven, he urges Patroklos to ask Achilleus
let him lead his men into battle, the plan that leads to Patroklos’
ODYSSEUS: son of Laertes, lord of
Ithaka, famed for his wisdom and trickery; he rallies the troops in
book two, forms part of the embassy to Achilleus in book nine, and
urges Achilleus to put aside his grief in book nineteen.
PATROKLOS: son of Menoitios and
companion of Achilleus. He was raised in Achilleus’ household
(23.84-90), and accompanied Achilleus to
Troy (bk 11, lines 764ff). He enters the battle in Achilleus’
place in book sixteen and his death at the hands of Hektor provokes
return to the battle. After his ghost visits Achilleus, Achilleus
splendid funeral games in his honor in book twenty-three.
PHOINIX: aged tutor of Achilleus and one
of the members of the embassy to Achilleus in book nine. He
speaks as a surrogate for Achilleus’
father, and uses the story of Meleagros to try to persuade Achilleus to
to the battle.
Trojans and their allies
SCHEDULE OF READINGS
AINEIAS: leader of the Dardanians, a
Trojan clan, and son of Anchises and the goddess, Aphrodite; he is
rescued from Achilleus' onslaught by Poseidon (20.288-339) because he
was destined to be a survivor who would continue
the Trojan line; his legendary foundation of a kingdom in Italy is the
subject of the Roman epic, the Aeneid, by Virgil.
ANDROMACHE: wife of Hektor; she
describes how her father and brothers were killed by Achilleus in a
raid (6.413-38), and tries to persuade Hektor to be more cautious.
BRISEIS: woman captured by the Greeks in
a raid and given to Achilleus as a slave; Agamemnon took her from him
by force (bk. 1), sparking their
quarrel. She is returned to Achilleus in book nineteen, but
says then that it would have been better if she had died.
CHRYSEIS: daughter of Chryses, a priest
of Apollo (at a place called
Chryse!); she was captured by the Greeks in a raid and given to
as a slave; Agamemnon's refusal to return her to her father led Apollo
send a plague on the Greeks (bk. 1)
GLAUKOS: an ally of the Trojans and
Sarpedon's second-in-command; he exchanged armor with the Greek
warrior, Diomedes, after they discovered that they were bound by ties
of guest-friendship (their ancestors had entertained each other and
exchanged gifts) (6.119-236)
HEKABE: queen of Troy, wife of king Priam
and mother of Hektor. She leads the Trojan women in their (vain)
prayers to Athene (bk. 6), and, later (bk. 22), she begs her son,
Hektor, not to confront Achilleus.
HEKTOR: son of Priam and Hekabe and
leading warrior of the Trojans. He duels with Aias in book seven,
and leads the Trojan onslaught against
the Greek ships in book fifteen. With Apollo’s help, he kills
Patroklos in book sixteen. In book twenty-two, he is slain by
Achilleus outside the walls of Troy before his parents’ eyes, and his
body is brutally abused by Achilleus.
PARIS (Alexandros): a son of Priam;
according to later legend, he had been asked to judge which of the
three goddesses, Hera, Athene or Aphrodite, was the most beautiful;
each goddess tried to bribe him and he accepted
Aphrodite's offer of Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman. In
three, he challenges Menelaos to a duel, but is rescued from the fight
PRIAM: aged king of Troy, married to
Hekabe, father of fifty sons; he ransoms the body of his son, Hektor,
from Achilleus in book twenty-four.
SARPEDON: son of Zeus by a mortal
woman, Laodameia; lord of the
Lykians and the most important ally of the Trojans; in book twelve
310-28) he offers an eloquent summary of the values by which these
lived - and died. Zeus permits him to be killed by Patroklos (bk.
16), as was fated.
SCHEDULE OF READINGS (Tuesday night)
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