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Minor Trojan Characters in The Iliad

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Many discussions about Homer's ''The Iliad'' are about Hector and Achilles, but the minor characters of the poem are important too. In this lesson, we will learn about the minor Trojan characters of this epic poem.

Background

The Combat of Diomedes by Jacques Louis David
trojans

Homer's The Iliad is often spoken about with respect to the major characters, namely, Achilles, Hector, Priam, Agamemnon, and Paris. But what about all those other minor characters that help develop the plot? Characters such as Polydamas, Dolon, Glaucus, Polydorus, and Agenor are important in moving the story forward and offering words of wisdom to the major characters. In this lesson, we will focus on minor Trojan characters to learn more about who they are and what they offer to the story.

Polydamas

Polydamas is a Trojan soldier. Oftentimes, Polydamas is argued to be Hector's foil in the story. A foil is a character that works to highlight the main character's good and bad qualities; a foil is usually the mirror opposite of the protagonist too.

So, if we are looking at Polydamas as the foil to Hector, then we can presume that he is more cautious and practical than Hector. And he is! Polydamas thinks before rushing into battle, and he often questions whether Hector is making the right choice for the entire Trojan people and not just for his own pride.

For example, Polydamas says to Hector, ''Impossible man! Won't you listen to reason? Just because some god exalts you in battle you think you can beat the rest at tactics too…'' Polydamas pleads with Hector to think about his actions and take a moment to consider everything in front of him rather than just push forward for the sake of pushing forward. Ultimately, not listening to Polydamas seals Hector's fate: being killed by Achilles.

Dolon

Dolon is a very minor character, but his work in the story is important because he is a spy sent by the Trojans to check out what the Achaeans are up to on the beach. According to Homer, Dolon is a ''good runner.'' For his service, Hector promises him Achilles's chariot, even though Hector knows that only Achilles can control those horses.

Sadly, the Greeks, Diomedes and Odysseus catch Dolon on his way to the camp. They convince him to tell them why he was sent to spy on them, swearing not to kill him. For some reason, he believes them and spills the beans. Not only does he tell them everything, but he tells them where each major Trojan warrior sleeps!

After Odysseus and Diomedes get everything they need, ''Diomed struck him in the middle of his neck with his sword and cut through both sinews so that his head fell rolling in the dust while he was yet speaking.'' Dolon's inability to keep his mouth shut results in the deaths of several Trojan men, as Diomedes and Ulysses go to the Trojan camps, knowing where some of the important men are sleeping.

Glaucus

Glaucus is a Trojan warrior. Glaucus and Diomedes come together on the battlefield, about to fight one another, when they realize that they share a connection that stops them from fighting. Glaucus's grandfather was a good friend of Diomedes's father.

Diomedes ''planted his spear in the ground'' and tells Glaucus that their kinship would not be broken by war; the two agree to part ways and Glaucus ''exchanged golden armour for bronze'' with Diomedes knowing that it wasn't worth as much, as a display of the friendship.

This exchange between enemies on the battlefield shows how men can show respect to one another even when they are on opposites sides of a war. Honor, respect, and friendship are all traits valued by these cultures.

Polydorus

Do you remember how the death of Patroclus inspired Achilles to seek out Hector? Well, the death of Polydorus, Hector's youngest brother does the same thing for Hector. Hector witnesses Achilles kill his brother on the battlefield.

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