Please Note - This is a very abridged introduction to the characters


Greatest of all Greek heroes, Achilles is the son of the sea nymph Thetis and King Peleus of Phthia, Thessaly. Upon his birth it is prophesied that Achilles will either die after a short life full of glory, or after a long and uneventful life. Planning a long life for her son, Thetis hopes to make him immortal by dipping him by the ankles into the river Styx. However, his life is short, but full of glory, ending when an arrow pierces his vulnerable ankle during the Trojan War. With King Lykomedes' daughter, Deidameia, he is the father of Neoptolemos. Achilles marries Briseis after receiving her as a war prize, upon sacking her city in a raid on the outlying areas prior to the Trojan War.


Greek adoptive brother to Agamemnon, High King of Mycenae. Fathered by his mother's father, Thyestes, he is adopted by Atreus, who is his father's brother, after Atreus marries his mother, Pelopia. Aegisthos finds out who he is, kills Atreus, and rules Mycenae jointly with his father/grandfather, Thyestes. Aegisthos seduces Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra, during the war, in order to regain the throne of Mycenae, and he helps Clytemnestra murder her husband when Agamemnon returns home from Troy. He is killed together with Clytemnestra by her and Agamemnon's son, Orestes, 7 years later, avenging the murder of his father.


Cretan daughter of King Katreos of Crete, and granddaughter of King Minos. Aerope becomes the link between Crete and Mycenae after marrying Pleisthenes, the son of the first King of Mycenae, Atreus. Together they have Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Anaxibia. When Pleisthenes suffers an early death, Aerope marries her father-in-law, King Atreus. She is killed by drowning as a punishment for adultery after her seduction by Atreus' brother, Thyestes.


Greek hero, High King of Mycenae, to whom all the Greeks in the Trojan War are subordinate. The son of Pleisthenes and Aerope, he is adopted by his grandfather, Atreus, after the death of his father. Agamemnon marries Clytemnestra, the sister of Helen. He launches the Trojan War after his brother, Menelaus, reports that Helen has been stolen by Paris of Troy. Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, at Aulis prior to crossing the ocean to Troy, and is murdered by his wife for this deed upon his return home. His death is avenged by his son, Orestes, who kills his mother and her lover, Aegisthos, Agamemnon's adoptive brother.


Greek hero, cousin of Achilles, Aias is the son of Telamon. Second only after Achilles in acts of bravery and feats of war, he kills himself after going insane from the anguish of losing the competition for Achilles' armor. Also known as Ajax.


Trojan hero, son of Aphrodite and the human Anchises. Cousin of Hektor and Paris. Aineas survives the Trojan War, departing the flaming city with his father on his back. He becomes the hero of Vergil's Aenid, where he journeys from Troy to Italy, becoming the founding father of Rome.


Greek god of the winds, married to Ios, goddess of the dawn. Their children are the four winds, Boreos, Notos, Euros, and Zephyros. He is King of Aiolia, a floating island in the Aiolean Sea, near Sicily.


Greek hero, also known as Aias, and Telamonian Aias. Cousin of Achilles, Ajax is the son of Telamon. Second only after Achilles in acts of bravery and feats of war, Ajax kills himself after going insane from the anguish of losing the competition for Achilles' armor.


Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite is the patron goddess of Troy. She is the mother of Anchises' son, Aineas, and protectress of Paris, son of King Priam of Troy. She is married to Hephaistos, but not very faithfully, and is most famous for making Helen fall in love with Paris, returning to Troy with him, which starts the Trojan War.


Greek god of prophecy and art, protector of young men, representing the ideal man, skilled at music, running and archery. Apollo is born on the island of Delos to Leto, fathered by Zeus. After killing the Python at Delphi, this becomes the center of Apollo's worship, where people come to receive prophecy in his name, and attend the games held in his honor.


Greek god of war, son of Zeus and Hera, brother of Eris, and lover of Aphrodite.


Cretan princess, daughter of King Minos and Helios' daughter Pasiphaia. She is most famous for giving Theseus the ball of string to find his way back out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur.


Greek goddess, protectress of Athens, patron of war strategy, wisdom, spinning, weaving, arts and crafts, etc. She earns the love of the Athenians when she giving them an olive tree, winning the competition for the city against Poseidon, who gives them a saltwater well. Springing fully grown, in full armor, from the head of Zeus, her most important place of worship was the Parthenon, a temple built on the Acropolis, a cliff-faced outcropping of rock rising up in the middle of Athens, and her games, the Panathenaia, were held every four years in Athens.


Briseis marries Achilles after he sacks her home, according to Homer, the "city of royal Mynes," in which her three brothers and her own husband are killed in the battle. Patroklos carries her by ship as a war prize to Achilles and he marries her among the Myrmidons.


Greek goddess, sea nymph daughter of Poseidon and Gaia. Zeus punishes her for flooding her father's kingdom, changing her into a sea monster which three times a day swallows huge amounts of water, forming a terrible whirlpool, sucking in the water and then spitting it back out in a deafeningly loud, high spouting gush of water. She terrifies sailors passing through a very narrow strait, on the other side of which is another sea monster, Skylla.


Greek goddess and enchantress, daughter of Helios and Persi. Changes the shapes of humans and anyone else she doesn't like, e.g., Skylla.


Greek Queen, wife of High King Agamemnon of Mycenae, and sister of Helen. When her daughter, Iphigenia is sacrificed by Agamemnon before the Trojan War, she turns against her husband, taking his adoptive brother for her lover. Murdering Agamemnon when he arrives home, they rule Mycenae together until seven years later, when seeking revenge, her son Orestes murders her and her lover, Aegisthos.


Greek descendant of King Erectheus of Athens. A famous architect and inventor, he is the creator of the Labyrinth on Crete, where the Minotaur was kept, as well as the dance floor for King Minos' daughter, Ariadne, in the palace at Knossos.


Greek princess, daughter of King Lykomedes of Skyros, and mother of Achilles' son Neoptolemos.


Greek goddess of strife, or arguments. Eris is a daughter of Zeus and Hera, and sister to Ares.


Greek underworld of the dead. Named for the Greek god of the same name, who is the brother of Zeus and Poseidon. Hades is married to Persephone, who is considered the Queen of Hades. Hades is divided into two places, one of eternal punishment and the other filled with famous heroes, ruled by three kings, including King Minos of Crete.


Trojan wife of King Priam of Troy. Hecuba is the mother of 19 children, including Hektor, Paris, Polydoros and Cassandra. After the death of Priam at the end of the Trojan War, she leaps to her death into the sea.


Trojan warrior and hero, son of Priam, King of Troy. Brother of Paris, Polydoros, and Cassandra, and 96 other children of Priam. He is killed by Achilles after Hektor kills Achilles' best friend, Patroklos.


Greek demigoddess, fathered by Zeus, and Leda, the sister of Castor, Pollux and Clytemnestra. Famous for her beauty even as a child, she is abducted at a young age by Theseus and rescued quickly by her brothers. Married to Menelaus, King of Sparta, Aphrodite causes Helen to fall in love with Paris when he comes to Sparta in search of her. When Menelaus discovers that Paris has abducted Helen and has taken her back to Troy, he assembles an army under the command of Agamemnon, launching "a thousand ships" and undertaking a ten year war to restore her to her rightful husband.


Greek god of the sun, he is the son of the Titans, Hyperion and Theia, and his sisters are Ios, goddess of the dawn and Selene, goddess of the moon. The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the ancient world's seven wonders is said to have been made in Helios' image, and the island of Rhodes is said to have been pulled out of the sea by him.


Greek god of the forge and metalworking, lame as a result of his mother, the Greek goddess Hera, throwing him down to earth from Mt. Olympos after his birth because of his ugly appearance. He is married to the goddess Aphrodite, but not very happily.


Greek god of many things, especially travelers, son of Zeus and a daughter of Atlas, Maia. Hermes carries all the god's messages to the humans, and conducts the souls in their passage to Hades. Hermes' son is Pan, by the nymph Dryops.


Greek daughter of Helen and Menelaus, King of Sparta. Abandoned by Helen, who goes to Troy with Paris, and then abandoned by Menelaus when he goes to retrieve Helen, Hermione is given into the care of her aunt Clytemnestra, wife of King Agamemnon, of Mycenae. Married to Achilles' son, Neoptolemos at the end of the war, she becomes the wife of Agamemnon's son, Orestes, after Orestes kills Neoptolemos in a competition at Delphi. She and Orestes unite Sparta and Mycenae, finally bringing peace to the region and the turbulent family relations. Their son, Tisamenos, becomes the next king of Mycenae after his father, Orestes.


Famous Greek author of the ageless epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Writing some time before 700BC, he is a very controversial figure. Many believe he was blind. Many believe he was not the original author, but instead a kind of historian putting the early legends to verse, updating parts as he liked.


Greek goddesses, nymph daughters of Atlas and Aithra. They become changed into stars of the Taurus constellation for taking care of Zeus and Dionysos when the two were babies. They are said to be seen rising and setting with the rainy seasons.


Greek goddess, the nymph daughter of Atlas, living on the Island of Ogygia.


Greek goddess of Fate, or Death.


Greek god of tumult, uproar, or confusion.


Greek King of Skyros Island, he provides refuge to young Achilles before the Trojan war, and his daughter Deidameia gives birth to Achilles' son, Neoptolemos.


Greek King of Sparta, brother of Agamemnon, High King of Mycenae. He is married to Helen, the most beautiful mortal woman. Menelaus launches the Trojan War when he discovers that Paris has abducted his wife to Troy.


Greek goddesses, nine in all, they are the patronesses of the arts and sciences. By name and jurisdiction, the nine are: Calliope, epic poetry; Clio, history; Erato, love poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry and songs; Melpomene, tragedy; Polyhymnia, religious songs and dance; Terpsichore, choral song and dance; Thalia, comedy; Urania, astronomy. Homer records that they are all in attendance at the funeral of Achilles, joined by Thetis and all her sister sea nymphs.


"Ant People" is the meaning of this name given to the Greek soldiers under Achilles' command. Said to have been created by Zeus from the ants on the island of Aegina after all the men except King Aiacos die from plague. They are a group of soldiers who leave the island with Peleus when he runs away to Thessaly after he and Telamon kill their brother, Phocis.


Greek warrior, the son of Achilles and Deidameia, daughter of King Lykomedes of Skyros. One of the warriors hidden in the wooden horse, Neoptolemos is the killer of Priam, King of Troy. He marries Andromache, who was wife to Hektor, later abandons her and marries Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus and Helen. Neoptolemos is killed by Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, at a competition at Delphi, and then Orestes takes Hermione for his wife.


Greek King of Pylos, the oldest of the heroes at Troy. One of Jason's Argonauts. All of Nestors brothers and sisters are killed by Heracles. He is the father of Antilokhos, who also fights in the Trojan war and is killed there.


Greek warrior and hero, King of Ithaka, master of strategy and diplomacy. He is the husband of Helen's cousin, Penelope, father of Telemakos, and son of the old king, Laertes. Odysseus is the winner of the shield of Achilles, after Achilles' death, and famous for his ten year long journey home from the Trojan War, the Odyssey, by Homer.


Greek son of the High King of Mycenae, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. Orestes murders his mother and her lover, his uncle, Aegisthos seven years after they murder his father upon his return home from Troy. He also kills Achilles' son Neoptolemos in a competition at Delphi, and then marries Neoptolemos' wife, Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaus. Orestes unites Sparta and Mycenae by this union, which he rules peacefully afterwards. His son by Hermione, Tisamenos, succeeds him as King of Mycenae.


Greek hunter, son of Poseidon and the Gorgon, Euryale. Dedicated to the goddess Artemis, Orion receives punishment often in life for the sake of love. Blinded for trying to kidnap Merope, one of the Pleiades, later his sight is restored. He then settles in Crete and falls in love with the Cretan Princess Aerope. Artemis kills him for this transgression, and his shade is seen by Odysseus in Hades. Transformed into a constellation, he is always seen pursuing the Pleiades in the sky.


Trojan hero, son of King Priam of Troy and Hecuba. One of 50 brothers, including Hektor, Troilus, and Polydoros. When Paris is fated to bring fire to Troy, Priam orders him placed out on a hillside, where he is found and raised by shepherds. Paris ultimately brings the fire, along with tragedy to Troy with the kidnapping of Helen, wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta. The darling of Aphrodite, after naming her "the Most Fair", Paris is the legendary killer of Achilles.


Greek hero, in his boyhood he kills a playmate over a game of dice and his family sends him to Peleus in Thessaly. He becomes Achilles' closest companion, living with him from childhood until he dies in battle at the hand of Hektor.


Greek King of Thessaly. Peleus is the son of King Aiacos of Aegina. He runs away from the island to Thessaly after he and his brother Telamon kill their brother Phocis. Married to the sea nymph Thetis, Peleus is most famous as the father of Achilles.


Greek wife of King Odysseus of Ithaka. Cousin of Helen, and mother of Telemakos, Penelope is most famous as the epitome of the faithful, patient and cunning wife.


Greek philosopher, student and author of most of what we know about the Greek philosopher, Socrates, and his philosophy.


Greek sisters born to Atlas and Pleione, their names are Alcyone, Celaino, Elektra, Maia, Merope, and Sterope. They are rescued from the hunter Orion, by being changed into doves. Upon death they are transformed into a constellation, with Orion, changed into a constellation as well, always close by, still hunting them.


Greek prince, son of Atreus, first King of Mycenae. Marries Aerope, the daughter of the King of Crete, uniting these two great powers. He is the true father of Agamemnon, Menelaus and Anaxibia. He dies an early death and his wife marries her father-in-law, King Atreus, who adopts his grandchildren as his own.


Greek god of the sea and of earthquakes. The son of Kronos and Rhea, and the brother of Zeus and Hades. He is married to Amphitriti, who gives birth to Titan. Poseidon fathers various other children, including Theseus, Orion, and the Cyclops Polyphemos, who becomes blind by Odysseus and his men. He is considered a protector of the Greeks, but not of Odysseus because of this deed.


Trojan King of Troy. Father of 100 children, 19 of whom are born to his Queen, Hecuba, including Hektor, Paris, Cassandra and Polydoros. Priam is killed by Achilles' son Neoptolemos at the end of the Trojan War.


Greek god, the "Ancient of the Sea". A son of Zeus and a naiad. Has the gift of prophecy, but will not foretell the future unless he is captured. To avoid capture he changes into monsters and other terrible shapes.


Heinrich Schliemann, 1822-1890. Considered the Father of Modern Archaeology, Schliemann discovered the sites of Troy and Mycenae using only Homer's words and his own intuition as a guide. There are many wonderful biographies written about Schliemann, including a section in Chapter 11 of Durant's, The Life of Greece, pp. 24-29.


Greek goddesses, sea nymph daughters of the Muse, Calliope and the sea god, Phorcys. The sirens live on islands surrounded by rocks and cliffs, and their beautiful singing entices sailors to sail too closely, wreaking their ships and drowning them.


Greek sea nymph daughter of the sea god, Phorcys and Ceto. Once beautiful, Circe changes Skylla into a monster from her waist down. Having six man-eating dogs' heads at her waist, and the body of a fish below, she goes to live alone on one side of a very narrow strait, across from Charybdis, and the two of them terrorize all passing ships.


Greek Tragedy writer, author of over 120 plays, only 7 of which survived complete. Expounding dramatically on the anguish of Ajax, Sophocles writes of Ajax' suicide after losing the competition for Achilles' armor.


Greek King of Salamis, to which he escapes from Aegina after he and his brother, Peleus, kill their brother Phocis. He is the father of Aias, also known as Ajax, and Teucros, and he is the uncle of Achilles. Telamon is a warrior with Herakles (Hercules) in an earlier war against Troy, earning fame as the first warrior to enter the city.


Greek son of Odysseus and Penelope. An infant when the war begins, Telemakos grows up in his fathers absence. He journeys to find his father in Homer's Odyssey, and helps Odysseus kill all the suitors in his palace when he returns home.


Greek goddess, one of the 50 sea nymph daughters of the Old Man of the Sea, Nereus, and Doris. She is the mother of Achilles by her mortal husband, Peleus, King of Thessaly. Planning a long life for her son, Thetis hopes to make him immortal by dipping him by the ankles into the river Styx. But ultimately the place on his ankles where she holds him is fatally vulnerable.


Greek seer, blinded after an argument between Zeus and Hera, in which he agrees with Zeus. Hera blinds him for it, and in reparation Zeus gives him the ability to see the future.


Greek nymph, originally named Callisto, a companion of Artemis. Loved by Zeus, who fathers her son, Arcas. Hera or Artemis turns her into a bear for this, and her son unknowingly almost kills her in a hunt. Zeus stops him, and turns them both into constellations, Callisto being Ursa Major, and Arcas is Ursa Minor, also known as the Big and the Little Dipper.


Greek god, and King of the Greek gods. The son of Kronos and Rhea, and the brother of Poseidon and Hades. Zeus is unfaithfully married to Hera, and is the father of many of the gods and goddesses, including Apollo, Ares, and Artemis, Aphrodite, Eris and Athena, etc., as well as many mortals, including Leda, the mother of Helen.