Even more so than Paris, Helen is the unwitting agent of Aphrodite. In her one important scene with the goddess she is literally forced to go to Paris against her wishes. Helen has a mysterious quality throughout the poem — as she will throughout Greek history — and her descent from Zeus (and Leda) may give her a special divine aura. Renowned for her beauty, she appears in the poem in flowing, sheer robes that only intensify her spectral quality. She frequently regrets her abduction by Paris and sometimes longingly thinks of her past with Menelaos.

She furiously rebukes Paris for his cowardice, even expressing a wish that he die in battle so that she won’t have to be with him any longer. By recognizing that Aphrodite has misled and used her, she also recognizes her own mistake. In the Iliad, Helen is a love goddess against her will.


Andromache, wife of Hektor, is the most emotionally up-front character in the Iliad. Her speeches to Hektor are filled with passion and intensity. She is a devoted wife and mother and also shows her knowledge of the pleasure of emotional intimacy. Her grief is so directly communicated that she seems to stand for all Trojan women who have lost husbands and sons in the war. Her devotion and immediacy make us feel how much is wasted by the conflict at Troy, and add to our appreciation of Hektor.

Hekabe (Hecabe)

Wife of Priam and mother of Hektor, Hekabe incorporates the wisdom of women who understand intuitively the value of life. In urging Hektor not to go back into battle she reminds us of all the positive social aspects of existence. Her response to Priam’s mission of recondition is similarly a primal concern: she has seen too much loveliness destroyed to trust anymore in the vicious war and its participants. She has a mother’s instinctual protectiveness and rage, and says she would devour the liver of the hated Achilleus if she could — but her fury is born of grief and desperation.