Diomedes

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This article is about the Argive hero of Trojan War, one of the principal generals of the Achaean armies.
For the 4th century Latin grammarian, see Diomedes Grammaticus.

Diomêdês (Gk:Διομήδης - "God-like cunning") is a hero in Greek mythology, mostly known for his participation in the Trojan War. He was born to Tydeus and Deipyle and later became King of Argos, succeeding his grandfather, Adrastus. In Homer's Iliad Diomedes is regarded alongside Ajax as the second-best warriors of all the Achaeans. He, his paternal uncle Heracles and his close companion Odysseus are the favoured heroes of Athena. In Virgil's Aeneid he is one of the warriors who entered the Trojan Horse shortly before the sack of Troy.

Image:Athéna et Diomède.jpg
Sculpture of Athena counseling Diomedes shortly before he enters the battle - (Schlossbrücke, Berlin)

Contents

[edit] Early myths

Prior to his adventures in Troy, Diomedes is remembered for being one of the Epigonoi, the sons of the warrior-kings who fell on the Seven Against Thebes. The Epigonoi organized a military expedition that was meant to avenge their fathers' deaths by ceding the Kingdom of Thebes. After Tydeus' death, Diomedes married an Argive woman and settled in Argos. Even as a permanent citizen of Argos, Diomedes would still spy and interfere with the affairs of his father's Calydonian homeland that was ruled by his grandfather Oeneus. Eventually, a conspiracy is organized aiming to overthrow the King. It is led by a man named Thersites, who has Oeneus put in jail and his father to the throne. Diomedes attacks and cedes the Kingdom, slays all traitors except Thersites who manages to escape, and restores his grandfather to the throne. Later on when Oeneus passes the Kingdom to his son-in-law Andraemon, he heads for Argos to meet Diomedes but gets assassinated on the way by Thersites. Unable to find the murderers, Diomedes founded a mythical city called Oenoe at the place where his grandfather was buried to honour his death. Later during the Trojan War, Thersites is brutally slain by Achilles after having mocked at him when the latter cried over Penthesilia's dead body.

Diomedes is also known for being one of the suitors of Helen, and therefore bound by the Oath of Tyndareus to defend and protect the one who would become her husband. Thus Diomedes and all the suitors will eventually participate on the Mycenaean expedition against Troy.

[edit] Trojan War

According to Homer, Diomedes enters the war with a fleet of 80 ships, only second to Agamemnon's contribution of 100. According to some interpretations, Diomedes is represented in the epic as the most valiant soldier of the war, who never commits hubris. He's often referred to by Homer as the youngest amongst the Achaean warrior-Kings, and yet the most powerful fighter, only bested by Achilles. On other occasions Ajax is also characterized as the second best warrior of the Achaean force. However during Patroclus' funeral games, both Diomedes and Ajax win the first place in the armed sparring tournament with a draw. Apart from his outstanding fighting abilities and courage, Diomedes is in several crucial occasions shown to possess great wisdom, which is acknowledged and respected by his much older comrades, including Agamemnon and Nestor. Instances of Diomedes' maturity and intelligence as they can be seen in parts of the epic:

  • In Book IV Agamemnon taunts Diomedes by calling him a much inferior fighter than his father. One of his enraged comrades enforces Diomedes to stand up to Agamemnon by responding that he has bested his father and avenged his death by conquering "Seven-gated" Thebes. Diomedes responded that it was part of Agamemnon's tasks as a leader to urge forward the Achaean soldiers, and that men of valour should have no problem withstanding such kind of insults.
  • but they all held their peace, till at last Diomed of the loud battle-cry made answer saying, "Son of Atreus, I will chide your folly, as is my right in council. Be not then aggrieved that I should do so..." Achaean counsil - Book IX
  • "The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words of Diomed, and presently Nestor rose to speak. "Son of Tydeus," said he, "in war your prowess is beyond question, and in council you excel all who are of your own years; no one of the Achaeans can make light of what you say nor gainsay it, but you have not yet come to the end of the whole matter. You are still young- you might be the youngest of my own children- still you have spoken wisely and have counselled the chief of the Achaeans not without discretion;" Achaean counsil - Book IX

Instances of Diomedes' valour and expertise in battle according to quotations:

  • "As he (Diomedes) spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have been scared to hear it." - Book IV
  • "Diomed looked angrily at him and answered: "Talk not of flight, for I shall not listen to you: I am of a race that knows neither flight nor fear, and my limbs are as yet unwearied. I am in no mind to mount, but will go against them even as I am;" Battle with Aeneas and Pandarus - Book V
  • "But the son of Tydeus caught up a mighty stone, so huge and great that as men now are it would take two to lift it; nevertheless he bore it aloft with ease unaided," Battle with Aeneas - Book V
  • ""Father Jove, grant that the lot fall on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of rich Mycene himself." Duel of Hector - Book VII
  • "The old man instantly began cutting the traces with his sword, but Hector's fleet horses bore down upon him through the rout with their bold charioteer, even Hector himself, and the old man would have perished there and then had not Diomed been quick to mark" Saving Nestor - Book VII
  • "They all held their peace, but Diomed of the loud war-cry spoke saying, "Nestor, gladly will I visit the host of the Trojans over against us, but if another will go with me I shall do so in greater confidence and comfort. When two men are together, one of them may see some opportunity which the other has not caught sight of; if a man is alone he is less full of resource, and his wit is weaker." Achaean plans - Book X

Book V of the Iliad is centered on the battlefield valour of Diomedes, who during the absence of Achilles, becomes the mightiest soldier of the Achaean army by spreading havoc among the Trojan ranks. Diomedes enters the battle, slays a handful of Trojan soldiers, including some of Priam's sons, causing thus fear to many others. He's spotted and attacked by two of the elite Trojan soldiers, the demi-God Aeneas (son of Aphrodite) and the archer Pandarus. Pandarus shoots an arrow and injures Diomedes, but his battle abilities are not much affected. Diomedes kills Pandarus with his spear and throws a great rock on Aeneas, who gets seriously injured. Aphrodite enters the battle in an attempt to save the life of her son, whom she grabs and manages to escape with. Diomedes attacks and injures Aphrodite, who starts crying, drops Aeneas and heads to Mount Olympus to complain to Zeus. Meanwhile Apollo grabs the unconscious body of Aeneas and tries to walk away. Diomedes attacks him three times and is repelled by a flashing light. On his fourth attack, Diomedes is halted by Apollo's warnings, and he remembers the instructions of Athena, which allowed him to attack Aphrodite, but no other Olympian. Later in the same melee, Diomedes fights with Hector and encounters Ares, the war-god, fighting on the Trojans' side. Thinking still of Athena's instructions, Diomedes calls for his soldiers to fall back slowly. However, Athena encourages Diomedes to re-enter the battle field, and after she mounts a chariot by his side, he attacks and drives a spear into Ares' body. Bellowing in pain, the wounded god ascends to Olympus in a column of smoke, forcing the Trojans to fall back.

In the Iliad, Diomedes and Odysseus steal King Rhesus's team of fine horses during a night raid on the Trojan camp. This demonstrates the two kings' courage and guile, but more importantly fulfills one of the prophecies required for the fall of Troy: that Troy will not fall while the horses of Rhesus feed upon its plains. Another version of the myth suggested Troy would never fall unless the Palladium was stolen (also achieved by the former pair).


There is also an account on a mission in which Diomedes and Odysseus set out to retrieve the cursed and abandoned Philoctetes, whose Heraclean bow was necessarry for the conquest of Ilium. In another version, Odysseus is sent on that mission with Achilles' blood-thirsty son, Neoptolemus.

[edit] Aftermath

Diomedes is one of the Achaean heroes who earns a safe return by the Gods, or almost. Despite Diomedes' noble treatment of her son Aeneas, Aphrodite never managed to forget about the Argive spear that had once pierced her flesh in the fields of Troy. As soon as Diomedes arrives to his Kingdom of Argos he's taken by surprise, as his wife Aegiale had been persuaded by Aphrodite to marry another man and put him to the throne. Diomedes finds that he has no wish to punish a woman nor any further reason to remain on Achaean land. Thus he sets off with his armies to Italy, where he founds the cities of Brindisium and Arpus Hippium. In Virgil's Aeneid, Diomedes has a second encounter with his old enemy Aeneas, whose life he would have taken during the Trojan War if not for the intervention of first Aphrodite and second Apollo. The natives of Latium visit the palace of Diomedes (then already a King) in an attempt to pursue him to lead their armies against the forces of Aeneas. Diomedes turned down the offer, claiming that he had already killed too many Trojans in his life, and that his purpose in Italy was to live in peace.

[edit] Death

Neither Homer nor Virgil gives the reader any foreshadowing of Diomedes's death. In the post-Homeric myths, Athena granted Diomedes the immortality that was once meant for his father Tydeus. Thus Diomedes became a God who was worshipped under various names in Italy.

In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Diomedes in the Eighth Circle of Hell, where he is condemned together with Odysseus to be imprisoned for eternity in a sheet of flame. The specific sin which Dante has in mind as to Diomedes appears to be the theft of the Palladium.

[edit] The Troilus and Cressida legend

Diomedes plays an important role in the medieval legend of Troilus and Cressida, in which he becomes the girl's new lover when she is sent to the Greek camp to join her traitorous father. In Shakespeare's play of that title, Diomedes is often seen fighting Troilus over her.

[edit] See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

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