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King Priam, detail of an Attic red-figure amphora

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

Marriage and issue

See List of King Priam's children
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.


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, Achilles 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". Deeply moved, Achilles finally relents and returns Hector’s corpse to the Trojans. Both sides agree to a temporary truce, and Hector receives a hero’s funeral. Achilles further goes on to give 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.

It has been suggested by Hittite sources, specifically the Manapa-Tarhunta letter that there is historical basis for the archetype of King Priam. The letter describes one Piyama-Radu as a troublesome rebel who overthrew a Hittite client king and thereafter established his own rule over the city of Troy (mentioned as Wilusa in Hittite). There is also mention of an Alaksandu, suggested to be Paris Alexander (King Priam's son from the Iliad), a later ruler of the city of Wilusa who established peace between Wilusa and Hatti (see the Alaksandu treaty).

In popular culture

In Dark Mirror, a Star Trek novel taking place in the Mirror Universe, Priam has a much darker fate - as he is begging for the release of Hector's body for the burial rites, Achilles kills him in cold blood.

In the historical fantasy novel Troy: Fall of Kings by David Gemmell, Priam leaps to his death from the Great Tower in Troy.

In the 2004 film Troy, King Priam is portrayed by actor Peter O'Toole. In the film he is killed by Agamemnon during the Sack of Troy.

Family Tree


  1. Starke, Frank. "Troia im Kontext des historisch-politischen und sprachlichen Umfeldes Kleinasiens im 2. Jahrtausend". // Studia Troica 7, 1997, 458 with fn. 114, referring to F. Starke, Untersuchungen zur Stammbildung des keilschrift-luwischen Nomens, 1990, 455, fn. 1645 (PN Priya-muwa- "der hervorragenden/vortrefflichen Mut hat".
  2. "The Iliad", Fagles translation. Penguin Books, 1991, p. 605.

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