Priam

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Priam (Greek Πρίαμος Priamos) was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".[1]

Contents

Marriage and issue

Priam had a number of wives; his first was Arisbe, who had given birth to his son Aesacus, who met his death before the advent of the Trojan War. Priam later divorced her in favor of Hecuba (or Hecebe), daughter of the Phrygian king Dymas. By his various wives and concubines Priam was the father of fifty sons and nineteen daughters. Hector was Priam's eldest son by Hecuba, and heir to the Trojan throne. Paris, another son, was the cause of the Trojan War. Other children of Priam and Hecuba include the prophetic Helenus and Cassandra; eldest daughter Ilione; Deiphobus; Troilus; Polites; Creusa, wife of Aeneas; Laodice, wife of Helicaon; Polyxena, who was slaughtered on the grave of Achilles; and Polydorus, his youngest son.

Life

Priam was originally called Podarces and he kept himself from being killed by Heracles by giving him a golden veil embroidered by his sister, Hesione. After this, Podarces changed his name to Priam. This is an etymology based on priatos "ransomed"; the actual etymology of the name is probably not Greek, but perhaps Lydian in origin.

When Hector is killed by Achilles, the Greek warrior treats the body with disrespect and refuses to give it back. Zeus sends the god Hermes to escort King Priam, Hector’s father and the ruler of Troy, into the Greek camp. Priam tearfully pleads with Achilles to take pity on a father bereft of his son and return Hector’s body. He invokes the memory of Achilles’ own father, Peleus. Priam begs Achilles to pity him, saying "I have endured what no one on earth has ever done before — I put my lips to the hands of the man who killed my son."[2] Deeply moved, Achilles relents and returns Hector’s corpse to the Trojans. Both sides agree to a temporary truce, and Achilles gives Priam leave to hold a proper funeral for Hector complete with funeral games. He promises that no Greek will engage in combat for 11 days, but on the 12th day of peace, the mighty war between the Greeks and the Trojans would resume.

Priam is killed during the Sack of Troy by Achilles' son Neoptolemus (also known as Pyrrhus). His death is graphically related in Book II of Virgil's Aeneid. In Virgil's description, Neoptolemus first kills Priam's son Polites in front of his father as he seeks sanctuary on the altar of Zeus. Priam rebukes Neoptolemus, throwing a spear at him, which misses. Neoptolemus then drags Priam to the altar and there kills him too.

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