As seen in
King of TroyPriam, as a youngster, was the sole surviving prince when Heracles and his companions crushed the old walls of Ilion and killed just about everyone else. In the Iliad and Posthomeria, as King of Troy, Priam is desperate to hold back a second Achaean invasion force and protect his rather large family.
FamilyPriam boasts fifty sons and daughters, nineteen of them from his wife, Hecuba. The strongest and most noble of his sons was Hector, who died at the hands of Achilles in Homer's Iliad, requiring Priam to undertake a desperate rescue mission to retrieve the corpse for a proper funeral. Priam's notable surviving children include Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus, Cassandra, and Polyxena. Among Priam's extended family is a nephew, Teucer, who fights with the Achaeans.
AppearanceStooped, white-bearded, and balding, Priam is old, not just in years, but in the world-weariness of trauma and loss. And yet, underneath his bent exterior is a hardened core of strength enough to keep him moving forward for just one more day at a time.
PersonalityPriam suffers from survivor's guilt at the loss of his parents and siblings at the hands of Heracles. He takes seriously his role as protector of the large extended family he has built to replace the one he lost. He treasures time spent alone atop the walls of Ilion, where he can let down his uncaring facade and wallow in the honest worry and weariness he feels at all times. Priam knows that he will die soon, either by age or by war, and that his own death will enable a horde of murderous enemies to destroy everything he's built and to kill everyone he loves. Putting off the destruction of Troy for just one more day, day after day, is the only project that keeps him going.
Fighting StyleLong past his physical prime, Priam fights with his words. Specifically, in the Iliad, Priam is able to get into Achilles's head in a way that works better than any spear or arrow we've yet seen. That level of psychology is the reason Troy has lasted nearly ten years against the combined might of the Achaean all-stars of combat.
In the Mythoversal PenthesileiadPriam bares his soul in 7. "The Old King atop the Wall" in Amazons! . We see Priam still atop the wall in 11. "The City Burns!" in Amazons! , where he comforts Cassandra as he disregards her premonitions about admitting Amazons into Ilion. Priam entertains Penthesileia at a feast in 14. "At the King's Table" in Amazons! , prepares to negotiate the terms of Amazonian assistance in 20. "A Dance of Conversation" in Amazons! , and accepts Penthesileia's aid in 21. "Who?" in Amazons! .
In the Epic CycleIn the Iliad, Homer also placed Priam atop the walls of Ilion for a conversation with Helen. Priam has a breezy way of talking to her while picking her brain for whatever intelligence she can provide on the Achaean forces arrayed outside the city. Later in that story, Priam sneaks out of the city in the company of Hermes with enough treasure to ransom the corpse of his favorite son, Hector, from the possession of Achilles. This is arguably the bravest and riskiest thing anyone does in the entire story. As the leader of the Trojan faction, Priam has an outsized role on the sidelines of the battlefield throughout the Posthomerica of Quintus of Smyrna.
Priam is killed during the sack of Troy. In the Quintan version, Priam puts up no fight, asks no favors, and actually begs for his death, describing himself as a broken man who should have died much sooner. Achilles's son, Neoptolemus, is only too eager to comply with this wish. In the version related by Virgil's Aeneid, Priam throws an ineffectual spear before being killed.
TriviaPriam's birth name was Podarces. The change to Priam was explained in Greek folk etymology as meaning "the ransomed one," an allusion to the ransom paid to Heracles to save his life, and which he paid forward to ransom the corpse of Hector. But the name is also attested in Luwian, the language of Bronze Age Ilion, and would have meant "exceptionally courageous."
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