Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Judah Ben-Hur

Judah Ben-Hur, the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant. After accidentally injuring Valerius Gratus, the imperial governor of Judea, he is sentenced to life as a galley slave while his mother and sister are entombed in a prison tower. On his way to the sea, he is given water by a young boy, Jesus. He spends three years rowing in the galleys. When Quintus Arrius is given command of the Roman fleet, he is dismayed after he hears the story of the unjust treatment of Ben-Hur and his family. When Ben-Hur rescues Arrius during a sea battle, he is freed and made the son and heir of the rich Roman. After the death of Arrius, Ben-Hur uses his new wealth to search for his family and seek revenge against the treacherous Messala. While he works to accomplish these goals, his life becomes interwoven with the life of Jesus Christ.


Messala (muh-SAH-luh), a Roman raised in Jerusalem, Ben-Hur’s boyhood friend. After being educated in Rome, he returns to Jerusalem full of contempt for all things Jewish. When Ben-Hur challenges these attitudes, their friendship turns to hatred. After the tragic accident, he refuses to help Ben-Hur and his family, encouraging and even profiting from their destruction. Eventually Ben-Hur destroys him, both physically and financially, during a chariot race. Messala continues to plot, unsuccessfully, against Ben-Hur.


Simonides (sih-MAH-nih-deez), a servant of Ben-Hur’s father. After the family was destroyed, he salvaged what he could of their fortune, refusing to reveal its location even under the questioning of the Roman torturers. He prospered as a...

(The entire section is 707 words.)