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Homer: Iliad: Characterisation

3. The Achaeans: Antilochus, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes

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About this Lecture


In this module, we focus on four characters from the Achaean side: Antilochus, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes. In particular, we think about what each character adds to the poem, whether that be shedding light on another character (Antilochus) or representing a certain aspect of the heroic ethos in a particularly unadulterated form (Diomedes). We also think of the cultural 'baggage' that might attach to characters who have an independent existence in myth beyond the Homeric epics – especially Odysseus and Ajax.


In this course, Professor Richard Jenkyns (University of Oxford) explores the theme of characterisation in Homer's Iliad, focusing in particular on fourteen key characters. In the first module, we think about what we mean by the terms 'character' and 'characterisation', focusing in particular on the distinctiveness of Achilles and the ordinariness of Hector. After that, we think about the designation 'major' and 'minor' when talking about character, and consider the importance of two characters that appear just once in the poem: Thersites and Phoenix. In the third and fourth modules, we consider the different roles of several characters from both the Greek and Trojan forces, before turning in the fifth module to the figures of Thetis and Helen, two strangely anomalous characters who seem to sit somewhere between mortal and immortal. We end the fifth module by thinking of the importance of female characters more generally, focusing in particular on the very end of the poem.


Richard Jenkyns was an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, from 1972 to 1981, Lecturer in Classics, University of Bristol, 1978-81, and from 1981 to 2010 he was a Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Lady Margaret Hall.

He became Professor of the Classical Tradition in 1999 and the University’s Public Orator in 2004. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship 2007-10.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Jenkyns, R. (2019, January 14). Homer: Iliad: Characterisation - The Achaeans: Antilochus, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Jenkyns, R. "Homer: Iliad: Characterisation – The Achaeans: Antilochus, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jan 2019,