Who Is Priam in the Iliad?

The last King of Troy was a wise ruler who extended control over Hellespont (ancient name for The Dardanelles). His first wife was Arisbe. Then he married Hecuba. According to Homer’s text, Priam had 50 children from these two women and other concubines. Achilles killed his eldest son, Hector, who he expected to become his successor on the throne.

Priam is a person of great respect from the Greek and Trojan side. His benevolent and thoughtful kingship has brought Troy to prosperity. By the ninth year of the Trojan War, he is already old and weak. He is a kind person and never reproaches Helen for her guilt in the conflict. 

Homer describes Priam mainly as a loving father. He does not do anything about Paris, which has brought disaster upon the city. The King risks his life going to the Achaean camp to collect Hector’s body. In Book 14, Zeus asks Hermes to protect Priam on his way to Achilles, who kept the dead son. On arrival, Priam abstains from reproaching Achilles for disrespectful treatment of his deceased enemy. He kisses Achilles’ hand and begs the Achaean to pity him. “I put my lips to the hands of the man who killed my son,” he says. This action moves Achilles, and he returns Hector’s corpse to the father.  

But at the end of the poem, Priam hints that none of his other sons could compare with Hector. According to Priam, the Trojan warrior was the only person who could help him protect Troy, but he was dead. 

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