Achilles slaying the Amazon queen· Penthesilea
Glossary of proper names
Greek and Latin terms
Achaians or Achaeans: the name by which the first Indo-European occupants of Greece, prior to the Dorian invasion, were collectively known; perhaps originally a specific tribe. It is the common Homeric term for the Greeks.
Achilles: son of Peleus (king of Phithia and a grandson of Zeus) and Thetis, a sea goddess. He was the mightiest Greek hero in the Trojan War. In his infancy, his mother dipped him into the Styx and so made him invulnerable except in the heel by which she held him. She later tried to prevent him from participating in the war by disguising him as a girl on Scyros. Discovered there by Odysseus, he came to Troy of his own free will and not as a vassal of Agamemnon. With his army of Myrmidons he took many towns in the Troad, including Lyrnessus where he captured Breseis. When Agamemnon took Breseis from him, Achilles withdrew with his warriors from the battle, but he soon returned to avenge the death of his friend Patroclus by slaying Hector. In Ilion he had again retired from combat, but not for the traditional reason of his mourning for Patroclus. He returns to the fight, considerably mellowed in temper but with new ambitions prophetic of Alexander the Great, only after the Trojans reject his offer of peace and his request for Polyxena's hand. He is destined in his last battle to slay the Amazon queen Penthesilea and to die, shot in the heel, at the hands of Paris aided by Apollo.
Aegis: attribute of Zeus and, later, Athene; it is represented variously as a goatskin cloak, breastplate or shield, often bordered with flames or serpents, and possessing supernatural power.
Aeneas, son of Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. He is one of the leading Trojan princes, belonging to the younger branch of the royal house. In Ilion allusion is made to the legend of his escape from Troy at the time of its fall and his journey to Italy where he founded what came to be known as Rome.
Aetna: Mount Etna, an active volcano in northeast Sicily, beneath which the giant Enceladus was said to be buried.
Agamemnon: eldest son of Atreus and brother of Menelas King of Mycenae and Argos. Agamemnon was the commander in chief of the Greek forces against Troy. On his return to Greece, he was murdered by his wife Clymnestra and her paramour Aegisthus; his death was avenged by his children.
Agamemnon's funeral mask
Ajax: son of Telamon, he was also called the Telamonian Ajax. He was the leader of the warriors of Salamis and is already slain by Penthesilea at the opening of Ilion.
Amphitrite: one of the Nereids, queen of the sea, wife of Poseidon and mother of Triton.
Ananke: personification of compelling Necessity or ultimate Fate to which even Zeus and the gods are subject.
Anchises: a member of the younger branch of the Trojan royal house and, in Ilion, a Trojan senator. He had a liaison with Mount Ida and Aeneas was born. Anchises was forbidden to speak of the liaison, but boasted of it to his friends. As a result he was according to different versions either blinded or lamed (in Ilion, he is shown as blind). After the fall of Troy, he was taken away by Aeneas to Italy, where he died.
Aphrodite (4th century BC)
Aphrodite: Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility. She was the daughter of Zeus and Dione according to Homer. In another account, she arose from the foam of the sea that gathered around the severed genital organ of Uranus when his son Cronus, the Titan, mutilated him. She instigated the abduction of Helen by Paris; in the war which resulted, she aids her son Aeneas and the Trojans.
Apollo: Greek god of music, poetry, archery and prophecy, son of Zeus and Latona; originally a god of the sun and mystic illumination (see also his epithets Phoebus and Loxias); sometimes identified with Helios. His chief oracle was at Delphi. With Poseidon he built the walls of Troy for Laomedon. He was on the side of the Trojans in the war despite Laomedon's treachery, but in Ilion he finally deserts the city, though he stands behind Paris in the battle, leaving it open to destruction by the Greeks.
Ares: the Greek war-god, identified with the Roman Mars. The Greeks had a less exalted conception of him than the Romans, however, tending to see him as a mere instigator of strife. He was the son of Zeus and Hera, and sided with the Trojans against the Greeks.
Argives: name used for the Greeks of Argos, also extended to refer to all the Greeks under the leadership of Agamemnon.
Artemis: Greek goddess, daughter of Zeus and Latona and the twin sister of Apollo. She was described in mythology as a virgin huntress and sometimes identifies
with the moon. In Ilion she receives a deeper interpretation: she is a power of the future and, with her lightning-tasseled sandals, seems to represent the swift and luminous faculty of intuition.
Astarte: The name of the Semitic goddess of fertility, beauty and love. Applied to Greek Aphrodite.
Athene: goddess of reason and skill who sprang, unmothered, from the forehead of Zeus. Depicted as a woman of severe beauty in armour, she is a virgin warrior but fights, not like Ares for the sheer assertion of strength and love of battle, but to uphold the right and establish order. She is also known as Pallas. Her statue, the Palladium, stood in Troy, but Athene herself aided the Greeks and especially Odysseus, her favourite.
Babylon: Ancient city on the Euphrates, one of the greatest and most prosperous cities in the ancient world.
Breseis: Daughter of Briseus, a man of Lyrnessus in Troad. Breseis became Achilles' slave-concubine when he sacked her town, killed her husband Mynes, king of Lyrnessus, and carried her off. She was later taken from Achilles by Agamemnon. This act set off the quarrel between the two which forms the central "problem" of the Iliad. She was eventually restored to Achilles.
Cassandra: The most beautiful daughter of Priam and Hecuba, king and queen of Troy. She was loved by Apollo but deceived him. In retaliation the god turned to a curse the gift of prophecy he had bestowed on her, causing her prophecies never to be believed.
Centaurs:Fabulous creatures, for the
most part of a wild and unruly nature, have the upper part of a human being and the lower part of a horse.
Climene: Wife of Merops, king of Ethiopia. She was beloved of the Sun and bore to him Phaethon, who later tried to drive his father's chariot and nearly destroyed the earth.
Cronion: Zeus (son of Cronos).
Cronos or Cronus: Father of Zeus. The youngest of the twelve titans, children of Gaea, the Earth, and Uranus the Sky. Father of six Greek gods: Zeus. Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter and Hestia. He swallowed each of his own children at birth, but Zeus escaped. After a protracted struggle he and the other titans were vanquished.
Cyclops: One of a family of gigantic one eyed-being who, like the titans, were son of Uranus and Gaea (Heaven and Earth) and older than the Olympian gods. They were the craftsmen of Haephaestus, made the thunderbolts of Zeus and were credited with erecting the fortifications of some ancient cities.
Cypris: An epithet of Aphrodite, whose sanctuaries on the island of Cyprus was especially renown.
Cythera: An island of the Southeast promontory of the Peloponnesus on which there was a sanctuary of Aphrodite. According to one legend, Aphrodite floated to Cythera on a seashell after her birth in the sea.
Danaans: The men of Argos (descendants of Danaus).
Danaus: Legendary king of Argos with fifty daughters, regarded as ancestor of the Argives or Danaans.
Dardanus: Son of Zeus and Electra, the daughter of Atlas; ancestor of both the younger and older branches of the royal house of Troy.
Deiphobus: A son of Priam and Hecuba, and a great Trojan hero
Delos: A small island in the center of the Cyclades in the southern Aegean; it was regarded as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis (twin children of Zeus from Leto or Latona) and was the seat of an oracle of Apollo.
Delphi: A rugged spot on the slopes of Mount Parnassus in central Greece, the site of the most important temple of Apollo, where the Pythia delivered the inspired messages of the god.
Demeter: Daughter of Cronos and Rhea, sister of Zeus, Demeter was an ancient goddess of agriculture and of the fruitful soil. Wheat and barley were sacred to
her. She was called "thesmophoros”, "who gives laws", and presided over marriage. Of a severe beauty, she was often portrayed dressed in a long robe, wearing a veil, sometimes crowned with ears of corn and holding in her hand a sceptre, ears of corn, or a torch.
Diomedes: One of the most respected Greek leaders in the Trojan war.
Dionaean: An epithet of Aphrodite
Dione: Original consort of Zeus, supplanted by Hera, and mother of Aphrodite according to Homer.
Dionysus: In origin Dionysus was simply the god of wine; afterwards he became god of vegetation and warm moisture; then he appeared as the god of pleasure and the god of civilisation; and finally according to Orphic conceptions, as supreme god.
Dis: The Roman name for the Greek Pluto or Hades, the god of the nether realm.
Dryads: Nymphs of the woods and trees.
Enceladus: One of the giants who waged war against the gods. He was hurled down by Athene and imprisoned beneath Mount Etna in Sicily. When he stirs, the mountain shakes, and when he breathes, there is an eruption.
Erinnys: One of the Furies (Erinnyes), spirits of vengeance and punishment. The Erinnyes, older than Zeus and Olympian gods, are commonly represented as winged women with snakes about them.
Eryx: The modern Erice, a town on top of Monte San Giuliano in northwest Sicily. Its ancient temple to Aphrodite was famous through the Mediterranean world.
Fury: see Erinnys.
Ganymede: Ancient astronomers identified him with Aquarius, the Water-bearer. Distinguished among mortals for his extraordinary beauty, Zeus had him swept up to Olympus by an eagle, There he became the cup-bearer of the gods.
Gorgons: In the western-lost extremities of the earth, says Aeschilus, "dwell monsters abhorred by mortals, with locks of serpents whom none looked upon without perishing." They were the Gorgons, three sisters out of whom Medusa alone was mortal. Perseus, in his quest, had to kill Medusa which he did with the help of Athene. Later on, Athene fixed the Gorgon's head at the center of her breast-plate, the Aegis.
Grace: Goddess of the beauty, brightness and joy in Nature and humanity.
Hecate: Native of ancient Thrace, she was originally a moon goddess. Her name seems to be a feminine form of a title of Apollo, "the far darter". She and Helios together witnessed the abduction of Persephone by Hades. Hecate was powerful both in the sky and on earth. She gave men richness, victory and wisdom. She was also
Hector and Achilles face to face (6th century BC)
known as the goddess of enchantments and magic. It was especially at crossroads that her image could be found, often with three faces (called triple Hecates) and on the eve of the full moon offerings would be left to propitiate the redoubtable goddess.
Hector: The eldest son of Priam and Hecuba and mightiest of the Trojan forces during the siege until his death. When Ilion opens he has already been slain by Achilles (in one of the best-known episodes of the Iliad).
Hecuba: The chief wife of Priam and mother of nineteen of his fifty sons (many of them slain before the action of Ilion) as well as several daughters.
Helen: Daughter of Zeus and Leda, who was the wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta; Helen was wife of Menelaus, Tyndareus' successor by their marriage, but was carried off to Troy by Paris. She was the most beautiful of women. As she had many suitors, Tyndareus had each of them take an oath swearing to come to the aid of the man chosen as her husband. It was this oath that brought many Greek princes and their armies to Troy to support Menelaus' cause.
Helios: The sun-god. He is conceived as a charioteer who drives daily from east to west across the sky. He was replaced by Apollo in late Greek and Roman mythology.
Hellenes: The name, originally, of a tribe which settled in Phthia in the southeast of Thessaly; it later developed into the national name of the Greeks. The Hellenes traced their descent to Hellen, grandson of Prometheus. In Ilion, the word usually describes Achilles and his men, who came, from Phthia.
Hellespont: Narrow strait dividing Europe from Asia at the final exit of the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara into the Aegean; the modern Dardanelles.
Hephaestus: God of fire (originally, maybe of the sacrificial fire in particular, later the smithy fire) and of labour and craftsmanship. He is a son of Zeus and Hera and is usually depicted as lame. It was he who, after the death of Patroclus, asked by Thetis, Achilles' mother, forged Achilles' marvelous new shield and armor making him almost invincible.
Hera: Consort and sister of Zeus and queen of the heavens; identified with the Roman Juno. In Ilion she is a sublime figure devoid of the passions of jealousy and vanity attributed to her in Greek mythology. Her will is one with that of her spouse, and therefore she works for the destruction of Troy. Ares and Hephaestus are her sons.
Heracles: Hercules (his Latin name), the mightiest and most famous of Greek heroes. He was given twelve great labours the accomplishment of which would make him immortal. One of the labours, referred to in Ilion, was that of killing the Hydra. In Ilion reference is also made to a fight which Heracles had with the Centaurs who, maddened with wine, attacked him.
The First Labour of Heracles is shown on this cup, where he kills the lion of Nemea.
Hermes: Son of Zeus and Maia, daughter of the titan Atlas; Hermes was born in the depth of a cave on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. He had many functions: protector of the home, god of the travellers; he was also charged with conducting the souls of the dead to the underworld. In Homer, Hermes appears as the messenger of Zeus and is often charged with delicate missions. In order to rapidly cross the celestial spaces, Hermes wears winged sandals. He sometimes adds wings to his hat to aid his flight. In Iliad, help-bringing Hermes is sent by Zeus to escort old Priam to Achilles without being seen by the Achaean sentinels. In the same fashion, he also helped the old king and his herald get away from the ships, in the dead of night to bring back to Troy the dead body of the king's son Hector.
Hydra: In Greek mythology, a poisonous water-snake with many heads, which multiplied when they were cut off. It was killed by Heracles, with the help of lolaus, as one of his twelve labors.
Ida: A mountain in northwest Asia Minor, southeast of the site of ancient Troy. It was a seat of Zeus, who directed the Trojan War from there.
Ilion: or Ilium, a name of Troy as the city of Ilus.
lonians: A section of the ancient Greek people; they inhabited the south of Greece before the Dorian invasion sent many of them across the Aegean to the central part of Asia minor, which became known as "Ionia".
Laocoon: Trojan prince, son of Priam and priest of Apollo. He prophesies that Troy shall triumph and spurs the Trojans on to their destruction.
Laomedon: A legendary king of Troy, grandson of Tros and father of Priam. He employed Apollo and Poseidon to build the walls of Troy, but cheated them of their payment, as a result of which Poseidon sent a sea monster to ravage the land. Heracles killed the monster, but he too was refused the reward Laomedon had promised him, whereupon Heracles attacked Troy and slew Laomedon and all his sons except Priam. Laomedon's grave lay over the Scaean Gate of Troy, the northwestern gate which, when opened, signified war.
Latona: Latin equivalent of Leto, daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoeba. She had a union with Zeus, but when she was due to give birth, no land would receive her for fear of the wrath of Hera until she reached the island of Delos in the Cyclades. There Apollo and Artemis were born to her.
Leieges: one of the peoples who helped Troy fight the Greeks. Priam married Laothoe, and daughter of the Lelege king, Altes. From her he had two sons, Lycaon and Polydorus, both killed by Achilles during the Trojan war.
Lesbos: Greek island in the Aegean sea; also known as Mytilene.
Lycaon: Son of Priam to the Leiege princess Laothoe, Lycaon was once captured in his father's orchard to be sold as a slave on sacred Lemnos. Ransomed and taken back to Troy, he met Achilles once more after the death of Patroclus, by the river Xanthus, and this time, although unarmed and begging for his death, is killed by him.
Marpessa: Daughter of Euenus, son of Ares. Idas, an Argonaut, had won Marpessa as his bride, but she was carried off by Apollo. Zeus intervened in the fight which ensued and offered her a choice between the two. She chose Idas.
Menelaus: Younger brother of Agamemnon and husband of Helen. He was the king of Sparta, succeeding Tyndareus, Helen's foster-father, to the throne, and led the Spartan contingent against Troy.
Mycenae: City in the northeast corner of the plain of Argos, ruled by Agamemnon. It was one of the chief centers of the Aegean world in the latter part of the second millennium BC.
Myrmidons: A warlike tribe, supposedly turned into men from ants by Zeus to repopulate the island of Aegina (the kingdom of his son Aeacus, Achilles' grandfather) after a plague. They later migrated to Phthia, and Achilles was their leader in the Trojan war.
Nereids: the daughters of the sea-god Nereus, and of Doris. They were nymphs who presided over the sea, protecting sailors in distress.
Nymphs: Any of the minor divinities of Nature in classical mythology represented as beautiful maidens dwelling in the mountains, forests, trees and water.
Oceanus: The primitive Greeks imagined an immense river which formed a liquid girdle around the Universe. It lay beyond the sea and embraced the sea without however mingling with its waters. Son of Uranus and of Gaea, the river Ocean or Oceanus had himself neither source nor outlet, but gave birth to all the rivers, the entire sea, to all the waters which gushed from the earth, to all deep wells. Oceanus married his sister Thetis and by her had the three thousand oceanids (nymphs of the sea) and the three thousand rivers.
Odysseus: Son and successor of Laertes, king of Ithaca, and leader of the Ithacan contingent against Troy. He was famous as a cunning and resourceful warrior and wise counselor and was especially favoured by Athene.
Olympians: The twelve high gods of Greek religion, so named because they dwelt on Mount Olympus.
Olympus: Mountain at the east end of the range forming the northern boundary of Thesasly and Greece proper. It was regarded as the home of the chief Greek gods, led by Zeus.
Oreads: Nymphs of the mountains and hills.
The famous Troyan horse, a huge wooden horse secretly filled with Greek warriors, was an idea of Odysseus.
Orpheus: A legendary pre-Homeric Thracian poet and musician, founder of the Orphic mysteries, who was able to charm even wild beasts and birds by his music.
Palladium: an ancient sacred image of Athene which was the guardian of a city. The Palladium of Troy is especially famous.
Pallas: A title of Athene, of uncertain meaning and origin.
Pandemian: Of Pandemos, "goddess of all the people", an epithet of Aphrodite.
Paphos: A city a short distance inland from the west coast of Cyprus and the site of a famous temple of Aphrodite.
Paris: A son of Priam and Hecuba, was reputed to be the handsomest of mortal men. Hence, in the quarrel over the golden apple, inscribed "For the fairest", thrown down by Strife at the wedding of Peleus, he was asked to be the judge between Hera, Athene and Aphrodite, who all claimed it. Hera promised him greatness if he chose her, Athene offered victory, and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite (thereby incensing the other two) who helped him to obtain Helen. Paris was left exposed on a mountain after his birth because of a prophecy that he would bring destruction to Troy, but was brought up by shepherds and later accepted by his parents. He was allowed, despite further prophecies, to sail to Sparta where he carried Helen off and thus caused the Trojan War. He was the slayer of Achilles and was slain by Philoctetes.
Peleus: Son of Aeacus, who was a son of Zeus, and king of Phthia. For his virtue he was given as wife the sea goddess Thetis, who bore him Achilles.
Pelion: Mountain in Thessaly, northern Greece. It was the legendary home of the centaurs.
Penthesilea: Amazon queen, daughter of Ares. She came to the aid of the Trojans in the last year of the war after Hector was killed and gave them new hope, slaughtering the Greeks who fought without Achilles. Her beauty was such that it is told that when Achilles,
finally killing her in battle, removed her helmet and looked on her face, he fell wildly in love with her and was filled with remorse.
Persephone: It is believed that the last part of the name Persephone comes from a word meaning "to show" and evokes an idea of light. Whether the first part comes from a word meaning "to destroy" (in which case Persphone would mean "she who destroyed the light") or from an adverbial root meaning "dazzling light" like in Perseus, it is not clear. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. First known under the name of Kore, (The Maiden) she took the name Persphone after her abduction by Hades. As goddess of the underworld her attributes were the bat, the narcissus and the pomegranate.
Poseidon: Greek god of the sea, also of earthquakes and horses; brother of Zeus and wielder of the trident. With Apollo, he built the walls of Troy for Laomedon, whose failure to pay for the work turned Poseidon against the Trojans.
Priam: Son of Laomedon and king of Troy. In Ilion, he is pictured as an old man of imposing presence who has retired from active rule.
Pyrrhus: an alternative name for Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles.
Rhea: Born to Gaea and Uranus she was one of the twelve titans. An earth goddess, like her mother, she gave birth to Hestia, Demeter and Hera. She also bore Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. Legend says that she saved Zeus, her last born from his father Cronos (who was in the habit of swallowing his children as soon as they were born) by presenting him with an enormous stone wrapped up in swaddling clothes which he swallowed instead.
Satyrs: Sylvan deities representing the luxuriant forces of' Nature, having partly a human, partly an animal appearance (either that of a horse or a goat). They are lustful and fond of revelry.
Scamander: The river near whose banks Troy was situated, the modern Menderes, rising on Mount Ida and emptying into the Dardanelles; also called the Xanthus.
Odysseus and the sirens
Sidon; The oldest city of ancient Phoenicia, the modern Saida in Lebanon. Simois: A small river near ancient Troy, a tributary of the Scamander.
Sirens: According to legend, the sirens were depicted as malevolent monsters of the sea, enticing sailors with the beauty of their voices to better devour them when their vessels shipwrecked on their rocky islands. They were represented with the head and bust of a woman and the body of a bird. In the Odyssey, when Odysseus is about to leave Circe on whose island he and his companions have been stranded for a year, she warns him of the dangers ahead; "First thou shalt arrive where the enchanter sirens dwell, they who seduce men. The imprudent man who draws near them never returns, for the sirens, lying in the flower-strewn field, will charm him with sweet songs; but around them the bodies of their victims lie in heaps". Odysseus escaped that fearful danger by having himself lashed to the mast of his ship; as for his companions, he had cautiously sealed their ears with wax.
Sparta: City-State, south Peloponnesus, Sparta was the kingdom of Tyndareus, foster-father of Helen. Menelaus succeeded him to the throne and led the Spartan contingent against Troy.
Taygetus: Highest Mountain range in the Peloponnesus.
Themis: Titaness who came to personify law and justice; her name probably meant "steadfast".
Thetis: A sea goddess, one of the Nereids. She was desired by Zeus, but he learned that she was destined to have a son who would be greater than his father. He consequently gave her in marriage to Peleus, king of Phthia, to whom she bore Achilles.
Thrace: Region situated in the Balkan Peninsula; ancient Thrace extended to the Danube and included what is now modern Turkey (European side).
Titans: Immortal children bom to Gaia (the earth) and Uranus (the sky), the titans form what the Greeks called "the first race". There were twelve of them, six male and six female: Oceanus, Coeus, Hyperion, Crius, lapetus, Cronus.Theia, Rhea, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Thetys and Themis. Cronus married his sister Rhea and fathered three daughters: Hestia, Demeter and Hera; and three sons: Hades, Poseidon and Zeus. When Zeus reached manhood he liberated his brothers and sisters who according to legend had been swallowed by their father as soon as they were born. Then began ten-year-long terrible struggle between the titans and the gods at the end of which the gods prevailed. The titans, defeated, were bound with chains and cast for eternity into Tartarus, the abysmal depths of the earth.
Triton: son of Poseidon. He was a sea creature like a merman, the uper half of his body being human, the lower half fishlike.
Troad: A territory in the northwest corner of Asia Minor surrounding Troy, its capital city.
Trojans: The people of Troy.
Troy: Ancient city in northwest Asia Minor, which was situated a few miles south of the Aegean entrance to the Hellespont (Dardanelles) on a mound commanding the triangular plateau between the rivers Scamander and Simois. In the second millennium BC, it was the strongest power on the coast of Asia Minor and its location gave it control over trade between the Aegean and the Black Sea; the Trojan War (1200 BC) may have actually been fought by the Greeks mainly to destroy this control. Excavations have discovered on the site of Troy a series of towns one above the other dating back to the third millennium BC. The city of Priam, named after Tros and also known
The ruins of Troy
as Ilium or Ilion, was built on the ruins of earlier cities and was surrounded by a massive wall erected, according to Greek legend, by Poseidon and Apollo for Laomedon. The Trojans, according to the Greeks, traced their descent through Dardanus to Zeus and considered their city to be inviolable because of the presence of the Palladium.
Xanthus: The river Scamander or, as in Homer, the god of that river.
Zeus: The supreme god in Greek religion; son of Cronus, the Titan, whom he overthrew. He decrees all that shall be, subject only to the mysterious power of Ananke. The lord of the heavens, he has as his special manifestations in Nature thunder, lightning and tempest. He is regarded as the universal father, though mythology makes him the actual father (by a variety of goddesses and mortal women besides his consort Hera) of only some of the gods and certain extraordinary human beings such as Helen, Sarpedon and Dardanus. The fall of Troy is the inscrutable will of Zeus which even the gods cannot prevent, though they are free to struggle against it. By his command, the gods withdrew from the fighting during the last year of the Trojan War, resuming their participation only when Achilles returned to battle.
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