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Agenor & Antenor in The Iliad

Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Antenor and Agenor are both described as skilled men in 'The Iliad': Antenor is a wise counselor, and his son Agenor is a fearless soldier. In this lesson, we'll learn more about the roles of these characters in Homer's epic poem.

Antenor

In The Iliad, Antenor is one of the senior elders and counselors to King Priam and the Trojans. He is also referred to as 'the horseman Antenor.' Homer writes that Antenor and Ucalegon, another elder, had 'unfailing good sense,' 'were eloquent speakers,' and 'held seats above the gates' of Troy. Antenor is married to Theano and has numerous children; his sons are mentioned throughout The Iliad, and many of them are killed in the Trojan War.

In Book 3, Antenor enters a conversation Helen and King Priam are having about King Odysseus. He recalls having hosted Odysseus and Menelaus at his house in Troy when they visited as ambassadors. He also observes the sacrifices that are made prior to the duel between Paris and Menelaus (the fight to keep Helen and her wealth).

In Book 7, after an inconclusive duel between Hector and Telamonian (Greater) Ajax, Antenor advises the Trojans to give Helen back to Menelaus: 'Hear me, Trojans, Dardans, all our loyal allies, I must speak out what the heart inside me urges. On with it - give Argive Helen and all her treasures back to Atreus' sons to take away at last. We broke our sworn truce. We fight as outlaws. True, and what profit for us in the long run? Nothing - unless we do exactly as I say.' Here, Antenor states that any further bloodshed over Helen isn't worth the cost.

However, Paris retorts: 'Stop, Antenor! No more of your hot insistence - it repels me... I won't give up the woman!' He offers instead to give back all the treasure he's won from Argos and some of his own wealth as compensation for Helen.

Agenor

Prince Agenor is one of Antenor's many sons and is a Trojan warrior. Homer notes that at the time of the war, he is unmarried, and he and his brothers Polybus and Acamas are 'three men in their prime like gods who never die.' Later, he is also described as 'Antenor's son, a courageous, rugged soldier.'

In Book 4, Agenor kills 'the enormous Elephenor' as he tries to loot the body of a just-fallen Trojan captain. Homer writes that he 'spied his ribs, bared by his shield as he bent low - Agenor stabbed (Elephenor) with a bronze spear and loosed his limbs, his life spirit left him and over his dead body now the savage work went on.' This is the first Greek kill in the war.

In Book 12, Agenor, Alcathous, and Paris together lead a battalion of Trojan soldiers into the battle. In Book 13, Agenor is described as a 'comrade' of Aeneas who is 'brave' and 'gallant.' When Menelaus shoots the prophet Helenus in the hand, Agenor 'b(inds) it up in a band of tightly twisted wool, a sling his aide retained for the good commander.' When Hector falls in battle in Book 14, Agenor and other Trojan leaders rush in to cover him with their shields, then carry him off the battlefield. In Book 15, a 'dashing' Agenor kills Clonius, and in Book 16, Glaucus looks for Agenor among the Trojans.

Agenor enters the spotlight more fully in Book 21, when he fights Achilles. The Trojan troops are running from this 'monstrous' man so they can get safely behind the walls of Troy, but Agenor realizes Achilles will catch him even if he runs - and he'll die a coward's death. He turns to fight the great warrior instead. First, he taunts the man, telling him: '(Y)ou still have plenty of pain to suffer for (Troy's) sake. We have fighting men by the hundreds still inside her... you rush on to meet your doom, headlong man as you are, breakneck man of war!'

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