The famous king of Troy, at the time of the Trojan war. He was a son of Laomedon and Strymo or Placia. His original name is said to have been Podarces, i.e. "the swift-footed," which was changed into Priamus, "the ransomed" (from πρίαμαι), because he was the only surviving son of Laomedon and was ransomed by his sister Hesione, after he had fallen into the hands of Heracles.1
He is said to have been first married to Arisbe, the daughter of Merops, by whom he became the father of Aesacus; but afterwards he gave up Arisbe to Hyrtacus, and married Hecabe (Hecuba), by whom he had the following children: Hector, Alexander or Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hippothous, Polydorus, Troilus, Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, and Cassandra. By other women he had a great many children besides.2 According to the Homeric tradition, he was the father of fifty sons, nineteen of whom were children of Hecabe, to whom others add an equal number of daughters.3 Previous to the outbreak of the war of the Greeks against his kingdom, he is said to have supported the Phrygians in their war against the Amazons.4
When the Greeks landed on the Trojan coast Priam was already advanced in years, and took no active part in the war.5 Only once did he venture upon the field of battle, to conclude the agreement respecting the single combat between Paris and Menelaus.6 After the death of his son Hector, Priam, accompanied by Hermes, went to the tent of Achilles to ransom Hector's body for burial, and obtained it.7
His death is not mentioned by Homer, but later poets have filled up this gap in the legend. When the Greeks entered the city of Troy, the aged king, it is said, put on his armor, and was on the point of rushing into the crowd of the enemy, but he was prevailed on by Hecabe to take refuge with herself and her daughters, as a suppliant at the altar of Zeus Herceius. While he was tarrying in the temple, his son Polites, pursued by Pyrrhus, rushed into the temple, and expired at the feet of his father, whereupon Priam aimed at Pyrrhus, but was killed by him.8 His body remained unburied.9
Another Priam is mentioned by Virgil,10 as a son of Polites, and is accordingly a grandson of king Priam.
The king was depicted in many scenes related to the Trojan War. He is represented as an old man, occasionally leaning on a cane. His death is shown on a Attic hydria by the Cleophrades Painter (ca. 485 BCE) at Naples: the king has sought asylum at the altar, the body of the murdered son resting on his knees. Priam's visit to Achilles is found on a beautiful frieze at the Casa del Larario at Pompeii.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 6.4, iii, 12.3.
- ibid. iii, 12.5.
- Homer. Iliad xxiv, 495 ff., with the note of Eustathius; comp. Hyginus. Fabulae, 90; Theocritus, xv, 139; Cicero. Tusculan Disputations i, 35.
- Iliad iii, 184.
- ibid. xxiv, 487, 500.
- ibid. iii, 250 ff.
- ibid. xxiv, 470.
- Virgil. Aeneid ii, 512 ff.; Euripides. Trojan Women, 17; Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 24.5, iv, 17.3.
- Aeneid ii, 558; Seneca. Trojan Women, 50 ff.; Quintus Smyrnaeus, xiii, 240 ff.
- Aeneid v, 564.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.