Priam

Hector takes the armor from his parents Priam and Hecuba vase painting by Euthymides, c. 510 BC

Detail of Priam of the vase painted by Euthymides

In Greek mythology, Priam (Greek Priamos, Πρίαμος) (from priamai 'to buy') was the king of Troy during the Trojan War, and son of Laomedon. Priam had a number of wives (his first was Arisbe); his chief wife, Hecuba, bore him twenty children. Another wife, Laothoe, was the mother of Lycaon. He also fathered Cebriones with a slave. Priam was originally called Podarge (or Podarces) and he kept himself from being killed by Heracles by giving him a golden veil embroidered by his sister, Hesione. After this, Podarge changed his name to Priam, meaning "ransomed".

Priam expressed a desire to recover his sister Hesione, whom Heracles had carried into Greece, and married to Telamon, his friend. To carry this plan into execution, Priam manned a fleet, of which he gave the command to his son Paris, with orders to bring back Hesione. Paris, to whom Aphrodite had promised the fairest woman in the world , neglected, in some measure, his father's injunctions, and, as if to make reprisals upon the Greeks, carried away Helen, the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, during the absence of her husband. This violation of hospitality caused the Trojan war. All the suitors of Helen, at the request of Menelaus , assembled to avenge the abduction of his wife, and the combined armament set sail for Troy. Priam might have averted the impending blow by the restoration of Helen; but this he refused to do when the ambassadors of the Greeks came to him for that purpose. Troy was accordingly beleaguered, and frequent skirmishes took place, in which the success was various

Polydorus, Priam's youngest son, was sent with gifts of jewelry and gold to the court of King Polymestor to keep him safe during the Trojan War. The fighting was getting vicious and Priam was frightened for the child's safety.

Priam, BM E75

Priam asks Achilles for the the return of the body of the dead Hector

The siege was continued for ten successive years, and Priam had the misfortune to see the greater part of his sons fall in defence of their native city. Hector, the eldest of these, was the only one upon whom now the Trojans looked for protection and support; but he, too, fell a victim to his own courage, and was slain by Achilles. The father thereupon resolved to go in person to the Grecian camp, and ransom the body of the bravest of his children. The gods interested themselves in his behalf, and Hermes was directed to guide the aged monarch in safety amid the dangers of the way, and conduct him to the tent of Achilles. The meeting of Priam and Achilles was solemn and affecting. The conqueror paid to the Trojan monarch the reverence due to his dignity, his years, and his misfortunes; and Priam, as a suppliant, addressed the prince who had robbed him of the greatest and best of his sons. Achilles was moved by his tears and entreaties. He restored Hector, and permitted Priam a truce of twelve days for the funeral of his son. Some time after Troy was betrayed into the hands of the Greeks by Antenor and Aeneas, and Priam was slain by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, at the foot of the altar of Zeus Herceus; the wounded Polites, one of the sons of Priam, also fell, who, after the example of his father and mother, had fled thither for protection during the burning of the city ( Hom. Il.xxiv. 139 foll.; Verg. Aen.ii. 507 foll.; Horace, Carm.x. 14; Hygin. Fab.110).

After Troy fell, Polymestor threw Polydorus to his death to take the treasure for himself. Hecuba eventually avenged her son.

Priam's Children

Apollodorus: Library and Epitome 3.12.5

and he married first Arisbe, daughter of Merops, by whom he had a son Aesacus, who married Asterope, daughter of Cebren, and when she died he mourned for her and was turned into a bird. But Priam handed over Arisbe to Hyrtacus and married a second wife Hecuba, daughter of Dymas, or, as some say, of Cisseus, or, as others say, of the river Sangarius and Metope. The first son born to her was Hector; and when a second babe was about to be born Hecuba dreamed she had brought forth a firebrand, and that the fire spread over the whole city and burned it. When Priam learned of the dream from Hecuba, he sent for his son Aesacus, for he was an interpreter of dreams, having been taught by his mother's father Merops. He declared that the child was begotten to be the ruin of his country and advised that the babe should be exposed. When the babe was born Priam gave it to a servant to take and expose on Ida; now the servant was named Agelaus. Exposed by him, the infant was nursed for five days by a bear; and, when he found it safe, he took it up, carried it away, brought it up as his own son on his farm, and named him Paris. When he grew to be a young man, Paris excelled many in beauty and strength, and was afterwards surnamed Alexander, because he repelled robbers and defended the flocks. And not long afterwards he discovered his parents.

After him Hecuba gave birth to daughters, Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, and Cassandra. Wishing to gain Cassandra's favours, Apollo promised to teach her the art of prophecy; she learned the art but refused her favours; hence Apollo deprived her prophecy of power to persuade. Afterwards Hecuba bore sons, Deiphobus, Helenus, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, Polydorus, and Troilus: this last she is said to have had by Apollo.

By other women Priam had sons, to wit, Melanippus, Gorgythion, Philaemon, Hippothous, Glaucus, Agathon, Chersidamas, Evagoras, Hippodamas, Mestor, Atas, Doryclus, Lycaon, Dryops, Bias, Chromius, Astygonus, Telestas, Evander, Cebriones, Mylius, Archemachus, Laodocus, Echephron, Idomeneus, Hyperion, Ascanius, Democoon, Aretus, Deiopites, Clonius, Echemmon, Hypirochus, Aegeoneus, Lysithous, Polymedon; and daughters, to wit, Medusa, Medesicaste, Lysimache, and Aristodeme.

Trojan Asteroid 884 Priamus


Homer, The Iliad , Bernard Knox (Introduction), Robert Fagles (Translator) Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (November 1, 1998) ISBN: 0140275363

Carl Kerenyi , The Heroes of the Greeks , Thames & Hudson (October, 1997) ISBN: 050027049X

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