The main characters in the Iliad are Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon, and Menelaus.
Achilles is the greatest of the Greek warriors. After Agamemnon offends him, he withdraws from the battle, but later rejoins and leads the Greeks to victory.
Hector is the greatest of the Trojan warriors. He defends Troy out of love for his family and his people. He dies with honor after battling Achilles.
Agamemnon is the king of Mycenae and brother to Menelaus. He leads the Greek forces in battle.
Menelaus is the king of Sparta. He recruits Agamemnon to help him attack Troy in order to retrieve his wife, Helen.
Achilles (uh-KIH-leez), the son of Peleus and the Nereid Thetis, prince of the Myrmidons, and mightiest of the Achaian warriors at the siege of Troy. At his birth, his mother had dipped him in the Styx, so that all parts of his body are invulnerable to hurt except the heel by which she held him. A young man of great beauty, strength, courage, and skill in battle, he nevertheless possesses two tragic flaws, an imperious will and a strong sense of vanity. Enraged because King Agamemnon orders him to surrender the maid Briseis, whom Achilles had taken as his own prize of war, he quarrels bitterly with the commander of the Greek forces and withdraws from the battlefield. When the Trojan host attacks, driving the Greeks back toward their ships, Achilles remains sulking in his tent. So great is his wrath that he refuses to heed all entreaties that he come to the aid of the hard-pressed Greeks. When the Trojans begin to burn the Greek ships, he allows his friend Patroclus, dressed in the armor of Achilles, to lead the warlike Myrmidons against the attackers. Patroclus is killed by Hector, the Trojan leader, under the walls of the city. Seeing in the death of his friend the enormity of his own inaction, Achilles puts on a new suit of armor made for him by Hephaestus and engages the Trojans in fierce combat. Merciless in his anger and grief, he kills Hector and on successive days drags the body of the vanquished hero behind his chariot while King Priam, Hector’s father, looks on from the walls of the city. When the sorrowing king visits the tent of Achilles at night and begs for the body of his son, Achilles relents and permits Priam to conduct funeral rites for Hector for a period of nine days. In a later battle before the walls of Troy, an arrow shot by Paris, King Priam’s son, strikes Achilles in the heel and causes his death.
Hector (HEHK-tur), the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. As the commander of the Trojan forces, he is the greatest and most human of the heroes, an ideal figure in every respect: a skilled horseman, a brave soldier, an able leader, a man devoted to his family and his city, and the master of his emotions under every circumstance. His courage in battle, his courtesy in conference, his submission to the gods, and his sad fate at the hands of vengeful Achilles provide an admirable contrast to the actions of the blustering, cunning, cruel, and rapacious Greeks.
Andromache (an-DROM-uh-kee), the devoted wife of Hector and the mother of Astyanax. After the fall of Troy, she was taken into captivity by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Still later, according to The Aeneid, she married Helenus, the brother of Hector, and ruled with him in Pyrrhus.
Astyanax (as-TI-eh-naks), the young son of Hector and Andromache. During the sack of Troy, Neoptolemus killed the child by hurling him over the city wall.
Agamemnon (ag-eh-MEHM-non), the king of Mycenae and the older brother of King Menelaus, husband of the lovely Helen, whose infidelity brought about the Trojan War. Courageous and cunning but often rash and arrogant, as in his treatment of Achilles, he is the commander of the Greeks in the war. He stands as a symbol of the capable leader, without the heroic qualities of the more dramatic warriors who fight under his command. He is killed by his wife Clytemnestra after his return from Troy.
(The entire section is 9,355 words.)