At a Glance

  • Achilles, son of a mortal man and a goddess, is the greatest of the Greek warriors. Told by his mother that he must choose between a long peaceful life at home and death with glory in Troy, he chooses the latter and fulfills his destiny.

  • Trojan prince 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 a great battle with Achilles.

  • Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and brother to Menelaus, leads the Greek forces in battle. Though clever and capable, he is also arrogant and blunders by offending Achilles.

  • Menelaus, Greek king of Sparta, recruits his brother to help him attack the Trojan citadel to retrieve his wife Helen, who was stolen by Trojan prince Paris.

  • Patroclus, friend and mentee of Achilles, dies a hero when he decides to take Achilles’ place in battle; his death at Hector’s hand causes Achilles to rejoin the fight.

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


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...

(The entire section is 9,355 words.)