Diomedes – Unrecognized Hero of the Trojan War

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When we think of the Trojan War, we tend to remember Achilles, Odysseus, Helen and Paris. These characters were undoubtedly important, but there were several lesser known heroes who changed the very direction of the war. Diomedes is one such hero, whose life was intricately woven with the events of the Trojan war. In many ways, his participation and contribution altered the very nature and destiny of the war.

Let’s take a closer look at the life of Diomedes, and the role he played in the epic battle. 

Diomedes’ Early Life

Diomedes was the son of Tydeus and Deipyle. He was born into a royal family, but couldn’t remain within the kingdom as his father was banished for killing some of his relatives. When Diomedes’ family didn’t have a place to go, they were taken up by King Adrastus. As a mark of loyalty to Adrastus, Diomedes’ father joined a group of warriors in a battle against Thebes, known as the Seven against Thebes. The combat was dark and bloody, and many valiant warriors, including Tydeus, didn’t return. As a result of these gruesome events, a four-year-old Diomedes swore to avenge his father’s death.  

The death of Tydeus was the most important event of Diomedes’ early life and childhood. The incident instigated profound valour, bravery and courage in Diomedes, like none other.

Diomedes and the Battle Against Thebes

Ten years after his father’s death, Diomedes formed a warrior group called the Epigoni, which consisted of the sons of slain warriors, who had perished in the earlier battle against Thebes. Diomedes, along with other members of the Epigoni, marched to Thebes and overthrew the king.

While some warriors of the Epigoni were left behind, Diomedes returned to Argos and claimed the throne.  The reign of Diomedes was immensely successful, and under his leadership, Argos became a wealthy and prosperous city. He married Aegialia, daughter of Aegialeus, who had died in the battle.

Diomedes and the Trojan War

Athena helps Diomedes
Athena counsels Diomedes. Source

The greatest event of Diomedes life was the Trojan war. As a former suitor of Helen, Diomedes was bound by an oath to protect her marriage and aid her husband, Menelaus. Therefore, when Paris kidnapped Helen, Diomedes was obliged participate in the war against Troy.

Diomedes entered the war with a fleet of 80 ships, and commanded the troops of several regions such as Tiryns and Troezen. Though he was the youngest of Achaena kings, his valour and bravery was on par with Achilles. As Athena’s favourite warrior and soldier, Diomedes was blessed with fire on his shield and helmet.

One of Diomedes greatest feats during the Trojan war, was the slaying of Palamedes, the traitor. While one source says that Diomedes and Odysseus drowned Palamedes in water, according to another version, it’s believed that the friends led him into a well, and stoned him to death.

Diomedesalso led several battles against the valiant Hector. Since Achilles temporarily left the war, due to a feud with Agamemnon, it was Diomedes who lead the Achaean army against the troops of Hector of Troy. Although it was Achilles who eventually killed Hector, Diomedes played a crucial role in stalling the Trojan troops and injuring Hector.

Diomedes’ greatest achievement in the Trojan war was injuring the Olympian gods, Aphrodite and Ares. For Diomedes’ this was truly a moment of glory, because he was the only human to wound two immortal gods. After this incident, Diomedes came to be known as the “Terror of Troy”.

Diomedes’ After the Trojan War

Trojan horse Diomedes
Diomedes and others hid within the Trojan Horse

Diomedes’ and his warriors defeated the Trojans by hiding in a wooden horse and entering the city of Troy – a ploy devised by Odysseus. After Troy was overthrown, Diomedes went back to his own city, Argos. Much to his disappointment, he could not claim the throne, because his wife had betrayed him. This was Aphrodities’ doing, as revenge for his acts against the Olympians.

Not giving up hope, Diomedes went away and founded several other cities. He also undertook many adventures to further prove his valour and courage.

Diomedes Death

There are several accounts regarding the death of Diomedes. According to one, Diomedes died while digging a canal to the sea. In another, Diomedes was fed to flesh eating horses by Heracles. But the most prominent narrative is that Diomedes was granted immortality by goddess Athena and continued to live on. 

The Integrity of Diomedes

Although most people remember Diomedes for his strength, a lesser known fact, is that, he was also a man of kindness and compassion. During the Trojan war, Diomedes had to partner with Thersites, the man who murdered his grandfather. Despite this, Diomedes continued working with Thersites for the greater good, and even sought justice for him, after he was slayed by Achilles.

The kindness of Diomedes could also be witnessed with regard to Odysseus. Diomedes and Odysseus had jointly stolen the Palladium, a cult image which was said to guarantee the safety of Troy, to gain an upper hand in the Trojan war. However, Odysseus betrayed Diomedes by injuring him, and tried to take the Palladium for himself. Despite this, Diomedes did not attempt to hurt Odysseus and continued fighting beside him in the Trojan war.

In Brief

Diomedes was a hero in the Trojan war and played an important role in defeating the forces of Troy.  Although his role was not as central as Achilles, victory against the Trojan’s couldn’t have been possible without Diomedes’ wisdom, strength, skills, and strategy. He remains one of the greatest of all Greek heroes, although not as popular as some others.