The Trojan War

28 The Trojans

Achilles, unarmoured but holding a knife, reclines on a bench. The body of Hector, nude, lies on the ground beneath him.
Achilles guarding the body of Hector, red-figure kylix, ca. 490 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

The Gods

The deities that choose to side with the Trojans are Aphrodite, Apollo, Artemis, Leto, Ares and his two sons, Phobos and Deimos, Eris herself, and the god of the local river, Scamander. The reasons for this are various. Aphrodite has a son among the Trojans, Aeneas, and protects Paris and Helen as she is the one who has brought them together. Apollo, Artemis, and Leto are greatly honoured in the city, so they choose to protect it against the invaders. Scamander is the personification of the river that flows next to Troy, and wants to protect his land and waters. Ares seems to just be there for the slaughter and eventually sides with the Trojans along with his sons, but the reason for his choice is never fully explained. However, he is the lover of Aphrodite, detests Athena, and one of his daughters, the queen of the Amazons, is an ally of the Trojans.


Menelaus and Hector lunge at each other with spears. Both have plumed helms, armour, and round shields. They fight over the body of a fallen hero.
Menelaus and Hector, white-ground plate, ca. 600 BCE (British Museum, London)

Firstborn of Priam and Hecuba, husband of Andromache and father of Astyanax. He is the field commander of the Trojans, loved and respected by all. He kills Patroclus and is later slain by Achilles in single combat. His funeral is narrated in detail in the last book of the Iliad.


The body of Hector, nude, lies on the ground. Achilles reclines above him, and Priam, veiled, reaches for Achilles feet in pleading.
Priam asking Achilles for the body of Hector, red-figure hydria, ca. 510 BCE (Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge MA.)


Menelaus, in Greek armour with helm and shield, chases Paris with a sword. Paris is similarly dressed, but carries a spear. Artemis stands in front of Paris with her bow, and Aphrodite stands behind Menelaus.
Menelaus chases Paris, red-figure kylix, ca. 490 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

Prince of Troy raised by shepherds after being left to die on a mountain after a prophecy that marked him as the author of the doom of Troy. Not particularly brave in battle, he is despised by his brothers and (eventually) even by his lover, Helen. He kills Achilles with an arrow with Apollo’s help. His choice of Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess is the act that sets the Trojan War in motion.


Priam, with white hair and beard and a patterned garment, lies on an altar. Neoptolemus, in Greek armour, stabs towards him with a speer. Other figures, two women and two men, watch.
Neoptolemus kills Priam, black-figure amphora, ca. 510 BCE (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)

Old king of Troy, father to fifty children. One of the few people to not resent Helen for the war. He is slain in his palace by Neoptolemos when the city falls.


Helen, in a long himation and headband, runs from Menelaus. Menelaus, with a shield and helm, chases her. A small figure of Eros flies above, and Aphrodite stands beside Helen.
Helen and Menelaus, red-figure krater, ca. 450 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

The only semidivine daughter of Zeus, the most beautiful woman in the world, sister of Clytemnestra and the Dioscuri. Although married to Menelaus she runs away with Paris – although her agency in the matter is doubtful. After his death she marries one of his brothers, Deiphobos, and at the end of the war goes back to Sparta with her husband without facing punishment from him.


Helen, wearing a veil, earrings, and patterned dress. Two warriors in Greek armor, and two nude warriors, flank Helen on either side.
Helen and Menelaus, black-figure amphora, ca. 550 BCE (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)


Andromache, in long patterned himation, sits with the child Astyanax on her lap. Hector stands before them, hodling his helm, shield, and spear.
Hector, Andromache, and Astyanax, red-figure krater, ca. 370 BCE (Palazzo Jatta, Ruvo di Puglia)

Wife of Hector, mother of Astyanax. After the war she is assigned to Neoptolemos, but after his death she escapes to Italy with other Trojan survivors and marries another of Priam’s sons, the seer Helenus.


Hecuba, in himation robes and a headband, stands holding Hector's helm and spear.
Hecuba helping Hector don his armour, red-figure amphora, ca. 500 BCE (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)

Old queen of Troy, wife of Priam and mother of many of his children. At the end of the war she is assigned to Odysseus, who either throws her overboard or abandons her before reaching his kingdom.


Hermes, bearded and carrying a scepter, stands over the dead and bleeding body of Sarpedon. On either side are Thanatos and Hypnos, winged men with war helms, picking up Sarpedon's body.
Hermes watches Hypnos and Thanatos carry away the body of Sarpedon, red-figure krater, ca. 515 BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York)

Son of Zeus and king of the Lycians, allies of the Trojans that come to help the city in the tenth year of the siege. He is slain by Patroclus, causing Zeus to send a shower of bloody raindrops over the Trojans’ heads to express his grief. His body is then spirited away by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death) and brought back to his family.


Patroclus, nude with helm, stabs Sarpedon with a spear. Sarpedon lies on the ground, wounded. He wears a wrapped cloth headdress, and a tunic over patterned leggings. Glaucus stands over Sarpedon with a crescent-shaped shield and pick to defend him. Glaucus wears a Phrygian cap, and a tunic over patterned leggings.
Patroclus kills Sarpedon, with Glaucus, red-figure hydria, ca. 400 BCE (National Archaeological Museum of Siritide, Policoro)


Achilles, in helm and with a shield on his back, stabs Penthesilea. Penthesilea falls to her knees, staring up at Achilles. Another Greek warrior stands by, and another Amazon with patterned limbs lies on the ground.
Achilles and Penthesilea, red-figure kylix, ca. 450 BCE (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)

Daughter of Ares and queen of the Amazons, allies of the Trojans that come to help the city in the tenth year of the siege. She is slain by Achilles, who then kills the Greek Thersites who had accused him of having fallen in love with the Amazon queen.

For further discussion of Penthesilea and the Amazons, and for Homer’s account of her death, see chapter 23.


Cassandra, in a himation that leaves half her chest bare, stumbles backwards against an altar, looking up at Clytemnestra. Clytemnestra stands above her, wearing a peplos and holding an axe above her head, reading to swing down on Cassandra. A delphic tripod is in the background.
Clytemnestra kills Cassandra, red-figure kylix, ca. 450 BCE (National Archaeological Museum, Ferrara)

Daughter of Priam, priestess of Apollo. She is cursed with always speaking the truth and never being believed. After the city falls she is assigned to Agamemnon as war prize, and is killed alongside him and his men by his wife in Mycenae.


The belly of a black-figure amphora depicting Aphrodite at Aeneas' side as warriors with swords and shields press in from either side.
Aphrodite rescuing Aeneas on in battle at Troy, black-figure amphora (Martin Von Wagner Museum)

Son of Aphrodite and Anchises, cousin of Hector and his siblings on his father’s side, prince of the Dardanians. He is protected by the gods and saved from certain death in two instances. When the city falls, he narrowly escapes and brings with him his old father, his young son, and the small statues representing the gods of the city.

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