Heroes of the War

The Trojan War brought together some of the most famous heroes of classical mythology. There were legendary fighters on both sides:

  • Hector. The oldest son of King Priam, Hector was the best warrior on the Trojan side. A brave, noble man, he had been in favor of returning Helen to her husband. But when war became inevitable, Hector was a vigorous and formidable defender of his city. He killed Protesilaus, the first Greek to die in the war. He also killed Achilles' best friend, Patroclus, an act that led to his own downfall. Hector was favored and protected by Apollo, but even Apollo couldn't protect him from Achilles.

  • Achilles. He was the greatest warrior among the Greeks during this war. Chapter 19 describes Achilles' birth and his mother's attempts to make him invulnerable. Achilles killed a great number of enemies, but when he came into conflict with Agamemnon over a concubine, he got angry and refused to fight. When Achilles heard of his friend Patroclus's death, he swore an oath to kill Hector. He rejoined the war with a fury that drove him to kill countless Trojans, including Hector. Achilles defiled Hector's body. For days, he dragged Hector's corpse behind his chariot as he drove around and around the walls of Troy. Later, Achilles was killed by an arrow shot by Paris, which hit him in the one spot where he was vulnerable: his heel. Some myths say that Apollo guided the arrow to the fatal spot.

    After more than a week of watching Achilles abuse Hector's dead body, the gods had had enough. They sent Iris, a messenger goddess, and Thetis, Achilles' mother, to order Achilles to let King Priam ransom his son's body. Achilles complied, and the war paused for twelve days so that Hector could be given proper funeral rites.

  • Patroclus. Achilles' best friend, he had been raised in the wilderness with Achilles by the centaur Chiron. During the Trojan War, he was a warrior on the Greek side. When Achilles refused to fight, Patroclus wore Achilles' armor and took his place in battle. Patroclus fought well, but he was eventually killed by Hector.

  • Aeneas. A son of Aphrodite, he was second only to Hector on the Trojan side. A valiant warrior with many successes on the battlefield, Aeneas fought to the bitter end, even as Troy burned around him. He was one of the few Trojans to survive the war, and he led the other survivors to their new home.

  • Diomedes. Besides Achilles, he was the best warrior on the Greek side. One of Helen's former suitors, he was bound by his oath to fight with the Greeks. Diomedes killed the Trojan prince Pandarus, wounded Aeneas, and wounded both Ares and Aphrodite — in just one day on the field.

  • Agamemnon. He was commander-in-chief of the Greek forces. He killed Antiphus, one of Priam's sons. Although Agamemnon was an authoritative leader, he came into conflict with Achilles during the war's last year, over a woman, Briseis, whom Achilles felt he'd won as a war prize.

  • Odysseus. A skilled tactician and diplomat, he often soothed tempers when different Greek factions fell into conflict. Along with Ajax, Odysseus retrieved the slain Achilles' body and armor from the middle of a fierce battle. He was favored by Athena, who often helped him.

  • Ajax of Salamis. Often referred to as Ajax the Great, this Greek warrior twice fought Hector. Zeus declared the first battle a draw; in the second battle, Hector disarmed Ajax, who had to withdraw from the fighting. After Ajax and Odysseus retrieved Achilles' body, Odysseus was awarded Achilles' armor. Athena struck the furious Ajax mad, and he slaughtered a herd of sheep, believing that they were the Greeks who had denied him the honor of Achilles' armor. When he regained his senses and realized what he'd done, he committed suicide.

  • Ajax of Locris. Also known as Ajax the Lesser, he defiled a temple of Athena after Troy fell. The Trojan princess Cassandra had sought sanctuary in the temple and was clinging to a statue of the goddess. Ajax dragged her from the temple (in some versions, he raped her first). He was killed by Athena on his journey home from Troy.

  • Nestor. On the Greek side, Nestor was an older man known for his wise advice. Although too old to engage in actual combat, he led his troops in a chariot and carried a golden shield. Nestor's son Antilochus, who had been one of Helen's suitors, was killed in the war.

  • Teucer. Although he was King Priam's nephew, he fought with his half-brother Ajax of Salamis on the Greek side of the war. He was known as a skilled archer, yet every time he shot an arrow at Hector, Apollo deflected it.

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