Character analysis of Iliad

character analysis of iliad

Character analysis of Iliad focuses on major to minor characters that Homer portrays in Iliad.


Achilles is the hero of Iliad whose wrath has turned the story of trojan war. He participated in the Trojan war on the Greek side. He is the son of sea nymph Thetis and Greek king Peleus. Achilles was raised in Phthia. He was the leader of fierce myrmidons. Achilles is bold, fierce as well as quick tempered. At the first stage of The Iliad, Achilles was intrigued to find out the reason for the devastating plague disease by Hera. Thus he calls an assembly and by doing this, he breaks the discipline of command because only the king can call on an assembly. However, Achilles was successful in finding out that The Greek king Agamemnon is solely responsible for their misery. At one stage of discord, he even tries to kill Agamemnon but can not do it because of Athena’s interruption. Athena is a god of wisdom who helps Achilles a numerous time for various purposes. For this discord, Achilles leaves the war. But when Agamemnon sends an embassy with a proposal of expensive gifts, Achilles does not accept this because material gifts can not recover the public insults he had to face. Moreover, as Agamemnon snatches Achilles’ gift Briseis, Achilles seems this conflict as justified as a Trojan war. He thinks himself at the place of Menelaus. The modern readers may find Achilles less than heroic because he is helped by the gods Athena, Hera, Zeus, Thetis for many times. His fight with river god Scamander is one of the most cruel scenes of this book. However this quick tempered hero only shows love towards his friend and cousin Patroclus. He is a tragic figure according to many critics. Even after knowing that his death will be followed just next to Hector’s death, he himself goes to kill Hector for seeking revenge for his dead friend Patroclus. Only after killing Hector, Achilles’ wrath ends. He shows profound respect to king Priam, the Trojan king, whom he finds as a father figure.


Helen of Troy is the most beautiful woman in the world. She is the wife of Menelaus who elopes with Paris, the Trojan prince and her lover. Actually it is the plan of Goddess Aphrodite to unite them as she promised Paris to give him the most beautiful woman in the world because Paris has chose her as the most beautiful among three goddesses. Helen appears only for 6 times in The Iliad in total. Most of the time Helen remains silent. Actually Helen is the reason for which two cities are destroyed. We can take a glance at women’s condition at that time. Actually, in ancient Greek times, women were abused and were used for sex only. They had no social position and often humiliated and objectified by men. Though women were not treated properly, they were the main reason for male conflict. In Helen’s case, it is the same. She has been used just as a gift by the goddess of love and Helen here is unable to express her sorrow or what she feels inside her heart. From the conversation with the Trojan king Priam, it is clear that she is guilty for becoming the reason of thousands of deaths and sufferings. She says it would have been better if she had not followed the Trojan prince. But nobody blames her directly because they are hypnotized by her beauty. Actually, Helen’s beauty keeps her safe from all the troubles.


Hector is the Trojan prince and the next Trojan king. He is the commander of the Trojan army in the Trojan war and the only hero from Troy. No one else in Troy is as heroic as Hector. He is the elder son of Priam, brother of Paris and brother in law of Helen. He is a foil character for both Achilles and Agamemnon as he is a family person and is responsible. Hector is the ideal Homeric man. He shows his qualities from the very beginning as the future king of troy. He is worried for the safety of trojan women and children as they are vulnerable to slavery and sexual abuse by the opponent. In The Iliad there is a clear reflection of Hector’s love for Andromache, his wife and their son. Hector does various heroic deeds in the war. He announces the first duel between Paris and Menelaus. Hector rebukes Paris as “sex-crazed seducer” and tells that he should never have been born. He is very angry at Paris’s cowardice. He challenges the Greeks to fight with him in a duel that frightens the Greeks. After that, he fights with Ajax, son of Telamon and gives him his sword as a gift and as a symbol of mutual respect. Like other heroes Hector also wants to win glory. He kills Patroclus with the help of Apollo which can be detected as his hamartia. He even tries to mutilate the corpse of Patroclus and this makes Achilles angry and desperate for revenge. After killing Patroclus, he puts off Achilles’s armor (as Patroclus participated in the war wearing Achilles’s armor) and puts it on his body. This armor makes Hector as faulty and irrational as Achilles. At last, this brave trojan warrior is killed by Achilles.

Agamemnon :

Agamemnon is the king of Mycenae and brother of Menelaus. He is the son of Atreus and queen Aerope and the husband of Clytemnestra. At the end of the story he was killed by Clytemnestra and her lover. Agamemnon is born to handle a position which is greater than his ability. In another word, he is not worthy of maintaining kingship. He is stubborn, quick tempered, irrational and quarrelsome. He is solely responsible for plague disease. But he does not accept that. Rather he wants to take Achilles’ gift Chryseis only in order to demonstrate domination and control over Achilles. His tendency of showing power causes a great hamper for the Greeks and makes the situation more complex. He does not understand that a king must be a selfless person who should put his people’s interests and betterment above his personal pleasure and wish. He wants to abandon the Trojan war when he finds that the Greeks are in a situation which is hard to recover. For his personal conflict with Achilles, the Greeks suffer a lot. One of his soldiers named Thersites calls him “Greedy”. As he makes important decisions with emotions, his followers like Odysseus and especially old Nestor are seen to counsel and to advise him often. Actually, he needs this support from others. Agamemnon is soft only towards his brother Menelaus and understands the importance of family relationships. He supports Menelaus strongly in every situation.


Paris is the Trojan prince, son of Priam and Hecuba and younger brother of Hector. He is known as Alexander of Troy. Before his birth, Hecuba sees a dream that her son is bearing a torch. To know its explanation, she goes near Aesacus who foretells that her son will become a trouble-maker in future. After all, Paris is the reason for whom the Trojan war and all the sufferings starts and that is why he is considered as a villain sometimes. He elopes with Helen who is the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Actually he is under the favor of Goddess Aphrodite as he chooses Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Paris is handsome and goodlooking but very coward for any kind of fight. His abduction of Helen makes Menelaus to feel insulted and thus the war starts. Paris fights a duel against Menelaus to determine who will win Helen between the two of them, but he becomes frightened. For his cowardice, his elder brother Hector rebukes him by saying ‘sex-crazed seducer’. It actually represents Paris’s clear identity who can do nothing but can only run after women. When Menelaus is about to kill Paris, his ‘tender throat’ is chucked by the helmet-strip as Menelaus is hurling him towards the Greek line by grasping his horse-hair crest. At this moment Aphrodite rescues him and puts him in his bedroom near Helen. Thus he often acts as a coward only who is not brave enough to become a warrior.

Patroclus :

Patroclus is the friend and wartime companion of Achilles. We can see no character development in Patroclus. Patroclus’s death is the most significant incident that works as the main reason of Greek victory. Patroclus has been used as a tool to demonstrate the variety or the change of Achilles’s character. But Patroclus has not been given importance by Homer. He always remains around Achilles and always shows obedience to him. When Agamemnon’s ambassador arrives the silently work together to serve the guests-that shows the relationship the have with each other. Achilles permits Patroclus to fight for the Greeks in order to save them. Achilles tells him to fight only to take back the ships and returns and he allows Patroclus to put on Achilles’s armor and also to command the myrmidons. But Patroclus disobeys it and he kills a lot of trojans. Thus he takes pleasure in killing men that works as the reason of his death. Patroclus is killed by Hector with the help of Apollo. After his death, Achilles becomes furious than ever as he understands his own lackings as Patroclus’s protector. Patroclus’s death works as a turning point. In another word Homer has portrayed this character as an instrument to join Achilles in the Greek army again. He is the victim of Zeus’s plan to fulfil the promise which Zeus has given to sea nymph Thetis. However, his killer, Trojan prince Hector, even tries to mutilate his corpse. So Patroclus is the only person whom Achilles loves so dearly and he was more than his war companion and more than his friend indeed.


Priam is the old king and also the last king of Troy. He is the son of Laomedon. His wife is Hecuba and he has many other children including Hector, Paris, Cassandra, Deiphobus and so on. In many stories, it is described that he has fifty sons and fifty daughters. However, He intends to make Hector the next king and relies on Hector for ensuring the safety of his people. Priam is jealous of Agamemnon because he thinks Agamemnon is lucky enough to be both king and warrior at the same time whereas Priam is only a king now,not a warrior. Priam is a generous, wise, humble, benevolent and honest king. He worries about the future of Troy and its people. He does not rebuke Paris for his deeds rather adores him like other siblings. In order to save Paris, he pushes Hector in the face of death and danger many times. Thus he loses Hector and losing his bravest son means endangering Priam’s whole country. After Achilles has killed Hector, Priam goes to Achilles’s camp to take Hector’s body back. Zeus sends Hermes to escort Priam and it seems as a journey to underground. Priam goes near Achilles’ camp and kisses his hands. Priam kisses those hands which has killed his son, thus he break the norms and requests Achilles to give Hector’s body back. Priam’s appearance makes Achilles to remember his own father Peleus. Achilles seems Priam as his father figure and gives Hector’s body back to him.

Ajax the Great:

Ajax is the son of Telamon who is a hero on the Greek side. He is Taucer’s half brother. He is of big stature and in case of bravery and strength, he can only be compared with Achilles. He is the cousin of the great hero Achilles. He fights a duel against Hector and is portrayed slightly more courageous than him. After the duel, Hector gives him his sword as a gift and as a symbol of mutual respect. Legends tell that at the last stage, he fights with Odysseus in a game for Achilles’s armor. But The great Ajax loses the game which drives him mad. Then he kills himself with the sword which is given by Hector.


Odysseus is the king of Ithaca and he fights for the Greeks in the Trojan war in order to serve Agamemnon. His wife’s name is Penelope and his son’s name is Telemachus. Odysseus is calm, humble, prudent, wise as well as a very intelligent and diplomatic person. He works as a foil for both Achilles and Agamemnon as they are very quick tempered and irrational beings. He fights under the leadership of Agamemnon which is diplomatically correct for him. He sometimes advises and counsels Agamemnon. He does some important deeds. For instance, he goes out with Diomedes in the middle of the night to spy on Trojans and he makes this mission successful and fruitful. When Thersites(a common soldier) uses abusive language against their leader Agamemnon, Odysseus is the one who comes forward to handle this situation. He even beats Thersites and makes him cry to maintain the chain of command. This shows his diplomatic power, his ability to control a situation fully and to show obedience to Agamemnon. When Agamemnon sends Odysseus as his ambassador, he presents the offer to Achilles modestly. But when Achilles refuses it, Odysseus does not further force him to accept the offer or to join in the Trojan war because he knows this may worsen the situation. This shows his sense of understanding situations. Odysseus fights for the Greeks dedicatedly and earns a lot of glory there.


Nestor is an old man who is the king of Pylos and In The Iliad he often tells his stories of heroism. He participates in the Trojan war on Greek side. His digressive tales certainly enriches the story of The Iliad and motivates the Greeks by helping to gain courage and valor. Modern readers may detect him as a tiresome and also as a boring character for his long speech. Greeks find the old age as very useful. The Greek army needs Nestor because he is very experienced and it encourages them to fight against the enemies with newer strength. When Trojan warrior Hector challenges the Greeks to fight a duel against him, all of the Greek heroes become frightened. Then Nestor encourages them by telling them if he were young, he would have accepted the challenge himself. He tells them his fight against Ereuthalion in Pylian war. Moreover, he suggests to operate the spy mission in the middle of the night to know secret information about Trojans. Furthermore, Nestor tells them to build a Greek wall and then bury their dead people. Besides, at first part of the novel, Nestor tries to settle the conflict between Agamemnon and Achilles. Besides, he then suggests Agamemnon to send ambassadors to Achilles in order to request him to join in the war again. He also convinces Patroclus to tell Achilles about Greek misery and tell him to return in the war. Thus he is the most experienced person who often advises and counsels the Greek army. He counsels Agamemnon many times which has become very fruitful to him.


Diomedes is a mythological character who is brave and fights against the Trojan in the Trojan war. He proves himself to be the best warrior among the Greeks in absence of Achilles. He fights furiously and kills lot of people in the war. He literally creates havoc and devastation in the war field and evokes terrors among the Trojan soldiers. However he executes the spy mission with Odysseus and kills Dolon and Rhesus there. Even when he is wounded, he is helped by Athena who removes the curtain from his eye which prevents human being to see gods. She does this so that Diomedes can understand it whether any god or goddess is helping his opponent or not. Athena also gives him a sword made by Hephaestus. While fighting with demi-god Aeneas, he understands the presence of goddess Aphrodite and thus he hits her in her hand. Moreover, he also fights with Ares, the war god, and these incidents make the god and goddesses as anthropomorphic and comical characters for a while.


In The Iliad Pandarus is a Trojan archer who attacks Menelaus in a foolish way. When the duel between Menelaus and Paris has finished, the Trojan war is about to end. But it is the trickery of Goddess Hera and Athena and they use Pandarus to revive the war again. Agamemnon announces Menelaus as the winner of the duel. At that time Athena comes down to earth in disguise of a soldier and convinces Pandarus to throw an arrow towards Menelaus and win the greatest glory by killing the Greek hero. Thus, Pandarus throws an arrow towards Menelaus and revives the war again. But actually it is Athena’s plan and due to her double-standard and divine intervention the arrow can not properly hit Menelaus but he is only slightly wounded by the arrow


Andromache is the wife of Hector, daughter of Eetion. She is known for her virtue and represents the sufferings of common women in the Trojan war. Andromache pleads to Hector not to go on war for her and for the future of their son. Her situation evokes sympathy in readers mind. She is the only one of the royal family who survived after the destruction of Troy.


Dolon is the son of Eumedes who volunteers the spy mission at midnight at the Greek ships which is offered by Hector in exchange of precious gifts such as horses and bronze chariot of Achilles. He does not even know that even if he owns the horses, he will not be able to control them. The horses can only be controlled by Achilles. Dolon agrees to spy on the Greek ships and goes out by wearing wolf skin and weasel cap. On the road, he is captured by Odysseus and Diomedes while they were on a secret mission to spy on the trojans. They interrogate Dolon and Odysseus tells that he will not kill Dolon if he says the purpose of his mission. So being afraid of death, Dolon tells all the secrets including why he has come here and also about the gifts. In doing this interrogation, Diomedes takes Athena’s(Goddess of Wisdom) help. Dolon tells that he has been tricked by Hector. He pleads to them not to kills him and leaks all the information regarding which trojan allies are living in which tents and all things about Trojan strength. After this, Diomedes kills Dolon in a cruel manner. Based on his information, the two Greeks makes their spy mission successful and by killing Rhesus and by stealing their powerful horses. Thus, Dolon is a symbol of weakness ar betrayal for whom the Trojan allies are hampered.

Chryseis and Briseis:

Chryseis is the daughter of Chryses who is given as a war booty to Agamemnon. When her father Chryses wants his daughter back, Agamemnon refuses to give her back because he likes Chryses more than his wife Clytemnestra. She is used as sex-slave generally. This shows the degraded situation of women in that society. At last, when Achilles finds out that Agamemnon is responsible for plague, he has to give Chryseis back to his father.

On the other hand, Briseis is a war booty who is very beautiful and given as a war prize to Achilles. When Agamemnon gives Chryseis back to his father, he wants to snatch Achilles’ war prize. He insists like- ‘Fetch me another one’. This shows how women at that time were treated as toys or objects under male domination and power. Agamemnon does this to demonstrate his power and ego over Achilles. Agamemnon’s people go to fetch Briseis from Achilles and Achilles feels insulted for it and decides to leave the Trojan war. Thus, snatching Briseis from Achilles switches the flow of war in another path which leads to Greek misery. Achilles feels that his situation is similar to that of Menelaus. Agamemnon has abducted Briseis in the same way as Paris has abducted Menelaus’s wife. So leaving the Trojan war is justified to him. All this problems arises because of this conflict about two women.


Chryses is the priest of Apollo in Troy. He goes near Agamemnon and requests to give her daughter Chryseis back to him in exchange for a huge ransom. When Agamemnon refuses to give her daughter back, he wants help from Apollo, whom he worships very dearly. Apollo listens to him and spreads plague disease among them.


Hecuba is one of the wives of Trojan king Priam and Hector’s mother. She is a compassionate and caring towards Hector. After the fall of Troy,she becomes a prisoner of the Greeks.


Thersites is a common soldier in Greek troops who uses abusive language about the Greek leader Agamemnon. He directly calls Agamemnon as a ‘greedy’ person who always takes the greater portion of all things. He criticizes him for the conflict which he has made with Achilles. Then Odysseus comes forward and handles the situation. He beats Thersites and makes him cry in front of all other soldiers. Actually it represents the sufferings of common man and the reflection of ‘Hoi Polloi’ or class maintenance in the Greek society.

The small Ajax:

The lesser Ajax is a mythological character who fights against Troy with the Greeks. He is not as strong as the greater Ajax.


Taucer is on the Greek side and he is the half brother of the greater Ajax.


Sarpedon is the son of Zeus

You may find character analysis of Iliad useful if you carefully read the article. If you have any suggestion regarding the character analysis of Iliad , please drop your opinion in comment section of the post.

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