Zeus: Zeus is the ruler of the gods. He has absolute control over the eventual destinies of humans, but other gods can influence Zeus in the short term, or even interfere with his intentions. The will of Zeus always prevails, despite any efforts of the other gods to change it. Zeus favors the Greeks in the battle of the Trojan War, but he makes short-term concessions to the gods that favor the Trojans by making the Greeks' victory occur only after years of fighting and tragic sorrow.
Hera: Hera is Zeus' jealous wife. She is very angry because Zeus has pity on
Apollo: Apollo is the god of the sun, and favors the Trojans. In the beginning of the Iliad, it is Apollo who brings a plague to the Greeks, because of Agamemnon's dishonor to one of his human priests. This act becomes significant because it sparks Achilles to leave the fighting, and makes possible the rest of the book.
Aphrodite: Aphrodite is the goddess of love, and she is the patron goddess of Paris, the son of the Trojan king Priam. Aphrodite is one of the more active gods in the Iliad, and she joins the battle on the side of the Trojans and actively fights with them. Unlike Hera, Aphrodite tries to directly influence the outcome of the war by fighting in battle alongside the Trojans, and whisking
Athena: Athena is the goddess of wisdom, and she favors the Greeks. Athena is the goddess who adheres to Zeus' will more strictly than the other gods. She protects the Greeks, specifically Diomedes, Odysseus, and Achilles. Athena is a calming and reasoning influence, and helps to avoid conflict when she calms Achilles after he has threatened Agamemnon because Agamemnon unfairly took Achilles war spoils.
Thetis: Thetis is the mother of Achilles. She is a water nymph, and she does not want her son to fight, because of a prophecy that ensures Achilles' death if he continues to fight. She is a minor god, and so she can only beg Zeus' for mercy on behalf of her son.
The Greeks: Also known as Acheans, Argives and Daanans.
Achilles: Achilles is the Greek's most powerful warrior without question. However, he believes that his superiority of fighting ability gives him the unquestionable right to lead the Greek fighters as a king. When he disagrees with Agamemnon, the legitimate leader of the Greek fighters, Achilles sulks away from the battle, knowing that the Greeks will suffer without him. The main focus of the Iliad is Achilles' internal struggle with leaving the fighting. On one hand, Achilles has been wronged y Agamemnon; also, Achilles remembers the prophecy of his death and must remember that if he fights, he will surely die. On the other hand, by not fighting, Achilles' friends in battle are suffering, and eventually, his best friend Patroclus is killed because of Achilles' refusal to fight.
Agamemnon: Agamemnon is the leader of the Greek forces. He is only a mediocre warrior but he is respected because he is older than Achilles and he has more political power. Agamemnon causes the plague sent by Apollo because he wronged a priest by keeping the daughter of the priest as a concubine. When Agamemnon demands that Achilles give him a replacement concubine, Achilles becomes very upset, and calls Agamemnon on his lack of warrior status, and insults his leadership abilities. This quarrel sets up the framework for the rest of the Iliad.
Menelaus: Brother of Agamemnon. Together the brothers are referred to as the "Sons of Atreus."
Patroclus: Patroclus is Achilles best friend. Patroclus is intensely loyal to Achilles, and so it hurts him when Achilles leaves the fighting, because Patroclus can see the conflict within Achilles. Patroclus is foolishly loyal, and persuades Achilles to lend him his armor so that Patroclus can rally the Greeks in the guise of Achilles, without Achilles actually fighting. However, Patroclus is killed by Hector, the most significant Trojan warrior. Achilles dies in spirit when Patroclus dies, and so he returns to battle, single-minded to destroy Hector and the Trojan army.
Odyssueus: An intelligent and crafty Greek soldier. He is a brave fighter, but his strength lies in his wit and his lack of conscience. Odysseus makes a bold trip into the Trojan camp at night with Diomedes, and kills many and gathers information. This is the same Odysseus featured in Homer's "Odyssey," but here he is much younger and of lesser importance.
Diomedes: Odysseus' best friend, and an excellent fighter.
Nestor of Pylos: Nestor is an older nobleman, and is much like a grandfather to the younger warriors. Nestor functions as a kind of comic relief, and his speeches tend to ramble on for many pages. However, he is significant because of his understanding of the terrible nature of war and his tempered wisdom and views because of his age and experience.
Calchas: Calchas is a prophet. He acts as a mediator between mortals and Gods, and is the one to make Agamemnon aware of Apollo's reason for sending the plague. However, Calchas is rarely listened to, because his news is often unpleasent. His advice and foresight tend to be correct, but he is not respected.
The Trojans: Allied with the Lycians, Illium refers to the city of
Priam: Priam is the king of
Hector: Hector is the last hope for
Andromache: Andromache is the wife of Hector. She has recently had a son, and she begs Hektor to refrain from fighting on behalf of his son, as well as herself. Hector makes a moving speech, the last time he will see his wife, where he talks about facing destiny and not hiding from it. The love between Andromache and Hector is very strong, but eventually she cannot keep Hector from his destiny.
Top Ten Quotes
The Iliad is sometimes translated into modern English prose, but it some translators try to keep a sense of the metrical structure that the original Greek possessed. A metrical pattern can sometimes be difficult for a modern reader, and there exist various translations of the Iliad that have different metrical, grammatical, and vocabulary structures. Any translation should follow the same plot and character structures, but quotations will look different from translation to translation. Therefore, each quotation will have the book number and approximate line number for reference. Different translations have different spellings for some place names and people names, but they should be similar enough to recognize among any translations.
1) Invocation and summary of the story of the Illiad:
"Sing, goddess, of Achilles ruinous anger
Which brought ten thousand pains to the Achaeans,
And cast the souls of many stalwart heroes
To Hades, and their bodies to the dogs
And birds of prey." Lines 1-5
2) Zeus, explaining the absolute power of his will to Thetis, the mother of Achilles:
"Nothing can be revoked or said in vain
nor unfulfilled if I should nod my head." Lines 526-527
3) Hector, rebuking his brother for lack of honor:
"Paris, you handsome, woman-mad deceiver,
you shouldn't have been born, or killed unmarried.
I wish you had-it would have been far better
Than having you our shame, whom all suspect,
Or having the long-haired Acheans laugh
When you appear as champion-champion beauty-
But have no strength, nor character, nor courage." Lines 40-45
4) Hector, saying farewell to his wife:
"No man, against my fate, sends me to Hades'.
And as for fate, I'm sure no man escapes it,
Neither a good nor bad man, once he's born." Lines 487-489
5) Achilles, questioning the motives for the Trojan war as Odysseus tries to bring him back to the fighting:
"But why must the Argives fight
the Trojans? Why did Atreus' son assemble
and bring us? Wasn't it for Helen's sake?
Are Atreus' sons the only men who love their wives?" Lines 336-340
6) Patroclus, asking Achilles for permission to join the fighting:
'"Give me your armor to put on your shoulders;
The Trojans might suppose I was you,
Hold back, and give the Acheans' sons a breather,
For breathing spells in war are very few.
Then, with a shout, fresh men might easily
Turn tired men from the ships toward the city."
So, like a fool he begged; for it would be
An evil death and doom for himself he asked.' Lines 40-47
7) Achilles' remorse for his hand in Patroclus death:
"I sat by the ships, a useless burden,
though there are better in Assembly-
so may this strife of men and gods be done with." Lines 104-107
8) Achilles, as he kills Hector:
"No more entreating, dog, by knees or parents.
I only wish my fury would compel me
To cut away your flesh and eat it raw
For what you've done. No one can keep the dogs
Off of your head, not if they brought me ransom
Of ten or twenty times as much, or more." Lines 345-350
9) Priam, King of Troy, begging for Hector's body:
"'Honor the gods, Achilles; pity him.
Think of your father; I'm more pitiful;
I've suffered what no other mortal has,
I've kissed the hand of one who killed my children.'
He spoke, and stirred Achilles' grief to tears;
He gently pushed the old man's hand away.
They both remembered; Priam wept for Hector,
Sitting crouched before Achilles' feet.
Achilles mourned his father, then again
Patroculs, and their mourning stirred the house." Lines 503-513
Achilles: "Don't be angry, Patroclus, if you learn-
even though you're in Hades-I gave Hector back
to his father for a worthy ransom
But I shall give a proper share to you." Lines 592-596