Diomēdēs or Diomed (Greek: Διομήδης, English translation: "God-like cunning" or "advised by Zeus") is a hero in Greek mythology, mostly known for his participation in the Trojan War. He was born to Tydeus and Deipyle and later became King of Argos, succeeding his grandfather, Adrastus. In Homer's Iliad Diomedes is regarded alongside Ajax as the second-best warriors of all the Achaeans. He, his paternal uncle Heracles and his close companion Odysseus are the favoured heroes of Athena. In Virgil's Aeneid he is one of the warriors who entered the Trojan Horse shortly before the sack of Troy.
Tydeus participated in the expedition, known as the Seven Against Thebes. This expedition failed and all leaders, including Tydeus were killed. Tydeus was Athena’s favorite warrior at the time and when he was dying, she wanted to offer him Immortality. However, she withdrew the intended privilege when Tydeus ate the brain of the warrior who mortally wounded him.
According to some, Diomedes was 4 years old when his father was killed. At the funeral of their fathers, the sons of Seven Against Thebes (Aegialeus, Alcmaeon, Amphilocus, Diomedes, Euryalus, Promachus, Sthenelus, Thersander) met and vowed to vanquish Thebes one day. They called themselves ‘Epigoni’ because they were born ‘after everything has happened’.
Ten years later, the Epigoni appointed Alcmaeon as their commander in chief and gathered an army. They added to their forces from Argos contingents from Messenia, Arcadia, Corinth, and Megara. This army however was a small one compared to the forces of Thebes.
The Epigoni war is remembered as the most important expedition in Greek Mythology before the Trojan War. It was a favorite topic for epics, but, unfortunately, all of these epics are now lost. The main battle took place at Glisas where the warrior Aegialeus (son of King Adrastus of Argos) was slain by King Laodamas. Diomedes was 15 years old by then and was considered the mightiest of all. Vanquished by the Epigoni, the Thebans followed the counsel of Tiresias and fled away. Epigoni took the city and most Argive commanders returned rich to their countries after having sacked Thebes, but the city they handed over to Thersander.
Adrastus died of grief when he learned that his son Aegialeus had perished in the battle at Glisas. Aegialeus was married to Comaetho, daughter of Tydeus (sister of Diomedes). Diomedes, in turn, married Aegialeus's daughter Aegialia when he returned from battle. He was then appointed as the King of Argos and thus became one of the most powerful rulers of Hellas at such a young age.
According to some, Diomedes ruled Argos for more than five years and brought much wealth and stability to the city during his time. He was a skilled politician and was greatly respected by other rulers. He still kept an eye on Calydonian politics (his father’s homeland), and when the sons of Agrius (led by Thersites) put Oeneus (Diomedes’ grandfather) in jail and their own father on the throne, Diomedes decided to restore the throne to Oeneus.
Diomedes attacked and ceded the Kingdom, slaying all the traitors except Thersites, Onchestus (who escaped to Peloponnesus) and Agrius (who killed himself) restoring his grandfather to the throne. Later, Oeneus passed the Kingdom to his son-in-law Andraemon and headed for Argos to meet Diomedes. He was assassinated on the way (in Arcadia) by Thersites and Onchestus. Unable to find the murderers, Diomedes founded a mythical city called 'Oenoe' at the place where his grandfather was buried to honour his death. Later, Thersites fought against the Trojans in the Trojan War and noble Diomedes did not mistreat him (however, Thersites was hated by all Achaeans). In fact, when Thersites was brutally slain by Achilles (after having mocked him when the latter cried over Penthesilia's dead body) Diomedes was the only person who wanted to punish Achilles.
After some years, Diomedes became one of the Suitors of Helen and, as such, he was bound by The Oath of Tyndareus, which established that all the SUITORS would defend and protect the man who was chosen as Helen's husband against any wrong done against him in regard to his marriage. Accordingly, when the seducer Paris stole Menelaus’ wife, all those who had sworn the oath were summoned by Agamemnon (Menelaus’ brother), so that they would join the coalition that was to sail from Aulis to Troy in order to demand the restoration of Helen and the Spartan property that was stolen.
Apart from his outstanding fighting abilities and courage, Diomedes is in several crucial occasions shown to possess great wisdom, which is acknowledged and respected by his much older comrades, including Agamemnon and Nestor. Diomedes, Nestor and Odysseus were the greatest strategists among Achaeans. Throughout The Iliad, Diomedes and Nestor are frequently seen speaking first in war-counsel.
Instances of Diomedes's maturity and intelligence as they can be seen in parts of the epic:
Instances of Diomedes's valour and expertise in battle according to quotations:
Second only to Achilles, Diomedes is considered to be the mightiest and the most skilled warrior among the Achaeans. He even vanquished Ajax (the great) in an armed sparring tournament. He vanquished (and could have killed) Hector (the greatest Trojan Warrior) on two occasions and Aeneas (second best Trojan warrior) once.
He and Odysseus were the only heroes who participated in tasks such as night missions which demanded discipline, bravery, courage, cunning and resourcefulness.
Diomedes received the most direct divine help and protection. He was the favorite warrior of Athena (who even drove his chariot once). He was also the only person who attacked (and even wounded) Olympian Immortals. He was also given divine vision to identify immortals on one occasion.
Only Diomedes and Menelaus were offered immortality and became gods in post Homeric Mythology.
Diomedes and Odysseus were Agamemnon’s most trusted officers. When the sacrifice of Iphigenia (Agamemnon’s daughter) became a necessity for Achaeans to sail away from Aulis, king Agamemnon had to choose between sacrificing his daughter and resigning from his post of high commander among Achaeans (in which case Diomedes would probably become the leader). When he decided to sacrifice his daughter to Artemis, Diomedes and Odysseus were among the few Achaean officers acquainted with his plans. The two unscrupulous friends carried out this order of Agamemnon by luring Iphigenia from Mycenae to Aulis, where murder, disguised as wedding, awaited her.
Some say that Diomedes was actively involved in this plot of Odysseus. Others say that, though Diomedes guessed or knew about the plot, he did not try to defend Palamedes, because Odysseus was essential for the fall of Troy.
Diomedes’ aristeia ('excellence' --the great deeds of a hero) begins in Book V and continues in Book VI. Some scholars claim that this part of the epic was originally a separate, independent poem (describing the feats of Diomedes) that Homer adapted and included in The Iliad. Diomedes’ aristeia represents many of his heroic virtues such as outstanding fighting skills, bravery, divine protection/advice, carefully planned tactics of war, leadership, humility and self-restraint.
Book V begins with Athena, the war-like goddess of wisdom putting valour into the heart of her champion warrior. She also makes a stream of fire flare from his shield and helmet. Diomedes then slays a number of Trojan warriors including Phegeus (whose brother was spirited away by Hera’s son before being slain by Diomedes) until Pandarus wounds him with an arrow. Diomedes then prays Athena for the slaughter of Pandarus. She responds by offering him special vision to distinguish gods from men and asks him to wound Aphrodite if she ever comes to battle. She also warns him not to engage any other god.
The king of Argos continues to make havoc among the Trojans by killing Astynous, Hypeiron, Abas, Polyidus, Xanthus, Thoon, Echemmon and Chromius (two sons of Priam). Finally, Aeneas (son of Aphrodite) asks Pandarus to mount his chariot and fight Diomedes together. Sthenelus warns his friend of their approach.
Diomedes faces this situation by displaying both his might and wisdom. Although he can face both of these warriors together, he knows that Aphrodite may try to save her son. He also knows the history of Aeneas’ two horses (they descend from Zeus’ immortal horses). Since he has to carry out Athena’s order, he orders Sthenelus to steal the horses while he faces Aphrodite’s son.
Pandarus throws his spear first and brags that he has killed the son of Tydeus. The latter responds by saying "at least, one of you will be slain" and throwing his spear. Pandarus is killed and Aeneas is left to fight Diomedes (now unarmed). Not bothering with weapons, Diomedes picks up a huge stone and crushes his enemy’s hip with it. Aeneas faints and is rescued by his mother before Diomedes can kill him. Mindful of Athena’s orders, Diomedes runs after Aphrodite and wounds her arm. Dropping her son, the goddess flees towards Olympus. Apollo now comes to the rescue of the Trojan hero. Disregarding Athena’s advice, Diomedes attacks Aeneas twice before Apollo warns him not to match himself against immortals. Respecting Apollo, Diomedes then withdraws himself from that combat. Although he has failed in killing Aeneas, following his orders, Sthenelus has already stolen the two valuable horses of Aeneas. Diomedes then became the owner of the second best pair of horses (after Achilles’ immortal ones) among Achaeans.
Aphrodite complained to her mother about Diomedes’ handiwork. The latter reminded her of mighty Heracles (now, an Olympian himself) who holds the record of wounding not one but two Olympians as a human.
The transgression of Diomedes by attacking Apollo had its consequences. Urged by Apollo, Ares came to the battlefield for helping Trojans. Identifying the god of war, Diomedes protected the Achaeans by ordering them to withdraw towards their ships. Hera saw the havoc made by her son and together with Athena, she came for Achaeans’ aid. When Athena saw Diomedes resting near his horses, she mocked him reminding him of Tydeus who frequently disobeyed her advice. Diomedes replied "Goddess, I know you truly and will not hide anything from you. I am following your instructions and retreating for I know that Ares is fighting among the Trojans". Pallas answered "Diomedes most dear to my heart, do not fear this immortal or any other god for I will protect you". Throwing Sthenelus out of the chariot and mounting it herself, the goddess (who invented the chariot and taught humans to drive it) drove straight at Ares. She also put on the helmet of Hades, making her invisible to even gods. Ares saw only Diomedes in the chariot and threw his spear which was caught by Athena. Diomedes then threw his spear (which was guided by Athena) at Ares, wounding his stomach. The god screamed in a voice of 10000 men and fled away. This was how Diomedes became the only human to wound two Olympians in a single day.
In Book VI, Diomedes continued his feats by killing Axylus and Calesius. Hector’s brother Helenus described Diomedes’ fighting skills in this manner – "He fights with fury and fills men's souls with panic. I hold him mightiest of them all; we did not fear even their great champion Achilles, son of an immortal though he be, as we do this man: his rage is beyond all bounds, and there is none can vie with him in prowess”
Helenus then sent Hector to the city of Troy in order to tell their mother of what’s happening. According to the instructions of Helenus, Priam’s wife gathered matrons at the temple of Athena in the acropolis and offered the goddess the largest, fairest robe of Troy. She also promised the sacrifice of twelve heifers if Athena could take pity on them and break the spear of Diomedes. Athena of course, did not grant it.
Meanwhile, one brave Trojan named Glaucus challenged the son of Tydeus to a single combat. Impressed by his bravery and noble appearance, Diomedes inquired if he were an immortal in disguise. Although Athena has previously told him not to fear any immortal, Diomedes displayed his humility by saying “I will not fight any more immortals”.
Glaucus told the story about how he descended from Bellerophon, who killed the Chimaera and the Amazons. Diomedes realized that his grandfather Oeneus hosted Bellerophon, and so Diomedes and Glaucus must also be friends. They resolved not to fight each other and Diomedes proposed exchanging their armours. Cunning Diomedes only gave away a bronze armour for the golden one he received. The old phrase ‘Diomedian swap’ originated from this incident.
In Book VII, Diomedes was among the nine Achaean warriors who came forward to fight Hector in a single combat. When they cast lots to choose one among those warriors, the Achaeans prayed "Father Zeus, grant that the lot fall on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon Agamemnon." Ajax was chosen to fight Hector.
Idaeus of Trojan side came for a peace negotiation where he offered to give back all the treasures Paris stole (plus more) except Helen. In the Achaean council, Diomedes was the first one to speak; “Let there be no taking, neither treasure, nor yet Helen, for even a child may see that the doom of the Trojans is at hand.” These words were applauded by all and Agamemnon spoke “This is the answer of the Achaeans.”
In Book VIII, Zeus ordered all other deities not to interfere with the battle. He made Trojans stronger so they can drive away the Achaeans from battle. Then he thundered aloud from Ida, and sent the glare of his lightning upon the Achaeans. Seeing this, all the great Achaean warriors including the two Ajaxes, Agamemnon, Idomeneus and Odysseus took flight. Nestor could not escape because one of his horses was wounded by Paris’ arrow. He could have perished then and there if not for Diomedes.
This incident is the best example for Diomedes’ remarkable bravery. Seeing that Nestor’s life was in danger, the son of Tydeus shouted for Odysseus’ help. The latter ignored his cry and ran away. Left alone in the battleground, Diomedes took his stand before Nestor and ordered him to take Sthenelus’ place. Having Nestor as the driver, Diomedes bravely rushed towards Hector. Struck by his spear, Hector’s driver Eniopeus was slain. Taking a new driver Archeptolemus, Hector advanced forward again. Zeus saw that both Hector and Archeptolemus are about to be slain by Diomedes and decided to intervene. He took his mighty weapon ‘Thunderbolt’ and struck its lightning in front of Diomedes’ chariot. Nestor advised Diomedes that they must turn back for no person should try to transgress Zeus’ will. Diomedes answered, “Hector will talk among the Trojans and say, 'The son of Tydeus fled before me to the ships.' This is the vaunt he will make, and may earth then swallow me.” Nestor said “Son of Tydeus, though Hector say that you are a coward the Trojans and Dardanians will not believe him, nor yet the wives of the mighty warriors whom you have laid low." Saying these words, Nestor turned the horses back. Hector, seeing that they have turned back from battle, called Diomedes a ‘woman and a coward’ and promised to slay him personally. Diomedes thought of turning back and fighting Hector three times but Zeus thundered from heaven each time.
When all the Achaean seemed discouraged, Zeus sent an eagle as a good omen. Diomedes was the first warrior to read this omen and he immediately attacked the Trojans and killed Agelaus.
At the end of the day’s battle, Hector made one more boasting, “Let the women each of them light a great fire in her house, and let watch be safely kept lest the town be entered by surprise while the host is outside……. I shall then know whether brave Diomed will drive me back from the ships to the wall, or whether I shall myself slay him and carry off his bloodstained spoils. To-morrow let him show his mettle, abide my spear if he dare. I ween that at break of day, he shall be among the first to fall and many another of his comrades round him. Would that I were as sure of being immortal and never growing old, and of being worshipped like Minerva and Apollo, as I am that this day will bring evil to the Argives.”
These words subsequently turned out to be wrong. In spite of careful watch, Diomedes managed to launch an attack upon the sleeping Trojans. Hector was vanquished by Diomedes yet again and it was Diomedes that ended up being worshipped as an immortal.
Book IX – Agamemnon started shedding tears and proposed to abandon the war for good because Zeus was supporting Trojans. Diomedes pointed out that this behavior was inappropriate for a leader like Agamemnon. He also declared that he will never leave the city unvanquished for the gods were originally with them. This speech signifies the nature of Homeric tradition where fate and divine interventions have superiority over human choices. Diomedes believed that Troy was fated to fall and had absolute and unconditional faith in victory.
However, this was one of the two instances where Diomedes’ opinion was criticized by Nestor. He praised Diomedes’ intelligence and declared that no person of such young age could equal Diomedes in counsel. He then criticized Diomedes for not making any positive proposal to replace Agamemnon’s opinion – a failure which Nestor ascribed to his youth. Nestor believed in the importance of human choices and proposed to change Achilles’ mind by offering many gifts. This proposal was approved by both Agamemnon and Odysseus.
The embassy failed because Achilles himself had more faith in his own choices than fate or divine interventions. He threatened to leave Troy, never to return believing that this choice will enable him to live a long life. When the envoys returned, Diomedes criticized Nestor’s decision and Achilles’ pride saying that Achilles’ personal choice of leaving Troy is of no importance (therefore, trying to change it with gifts is useless). Diomedes said, “Let Achilles stay or leave if he wishes to, but he will fight when the time comes. Let’s leave it to the gods to set his mind on that”. (In Book 15, Zeus tells Hera that he has already planned the method of bringing Achilles back to battle, confirming that Diomedes was right all along) Book X – Agamemnon and Menelaus rounded up their principal commanders to get ready for battle the next day. They woke up Odysseus, Nestor, Ajax, Diomedes and Idomeneus. While the others were sleeping inside their tents, king Diomedes was seen outside his tent clad in his armour sleeping upon an ox skin, already well-prepared for any problem he may encounter at night. During the Achaean council held, Agamemnon asked for a volunteer to spy on the Trojans. Again, it was Diomedes who stepped forward.
The son of Tydeus explained “If another will go with me, I could do this in greater confidence and comfort. When two men are together, one of them may see some opportunity which the other has not caught sight of; if a man is alone he is less full of resource, and his wit is weaker.” These words inspired many other heroes to step forward. Agamemnon put Diomedes in charge of the mission and asked him to choose a companion himself. The hero instantly selected Odysseus for he was loved by Athena and was quick witted. Although Odysseus had deserted Diomedes in the battlefield that very day, instead of bashing him, the latter praised his bravery in front of others. Odysseus’ words hinted that he actually did not wish to be selected.
Athena sent a heron as a good omen for her two favorite heroes. On their way to the Trojan camp, they discovered a man named Dolon -also a spy-, who approached the Achaean camp. The two kings lay among the corpses till Dolon passed them and ran after him. Dolon proved to be the better runner but Athena infused fresh strength into the son of Tydeus for she feared some other Achaean might earn the glory of being first to hit Dolon. Diomedes threw his spear over Dolon’s shoulders and ordered him to stop.
Dolon gave them several valuable pieces of information. According to Dolon, Hector and the other councilors were holding conference by the monument of great Ilus, away from the general tumult. In addition, he told about a major weakness in Trojan army. Only the Trojans had watchfires; they, therefore, were awake and kept each other to their duty as sentinels; but the allies who have come from other places were asleep and left it to the Trojans to keep guard.
On further questioning, Diomedes and Odysseus learnt that among the various allies, Thracians were the most vulnerable for they had come last and were sleeping apart from the others at the far end of the camp. Rhesus was their king and Dolon described Rhesus’ horses in this manner; ‘His horses are the finest and strongest that I have ever seen, they are whiter than snow and fleeter than any wind that blows’. Having truthfully revealed valuable things, Dolon expected to be taken as a prisoner to the ships, or to be tied up, while the other two found out whether he had told them the truth or not. But Diomedes told him: "You have given us excellent news, but do not imagine you are going to get away, now that you have fallen into our hands. If we set you free tonight, there is nothing to prevent your coming down once more to the Achaean ships, either to play the spy or to meet us in open fight. But if I lay my hands on you and take your life, you will never be a nuisance to the Argives again." Having said this, Diomedes cut off the prisoner's head with his sword, without giving him time to plead for his life.
Although the original purpose of this night mission was spying on the Trojans, the information given by Dolon persuaded the two friends to plan an attack upon the Thracians.They took the spoils and set them upon a tamarisk tree in honour of Athena. Then they went where Dolon had indicated, and having found the Thracian king, Diomedes let him and twelve of his soldiers pass from one kind of sleep to another; for they were all killed in their beds, while asleep. Meanwhile, Odysseus gathered the team of Rhesus’ horses. Diomedes was wondering when to stop. He was planning to kill some more Thracians and stealing the chariot of the king with his armour when Athena advised him to back off for some other god may warn the Trojans.
This first night mission demonstrates another side of these two kings where they employed stealth and treachery along with might and bravery but more importantly fulfills one of the prophecies required for the fall of Troy: that Troy will not fall while the horses of Rhesus feed upon its plains (According to another version of the story, it had been foretold by an oracle that if the stallions of Rhesus were ever to drink from the river Scamander, which cuts across the Trojan plain, then the city of Troy would never fall. The Greeks never allowed the horses to drink from that river for all of them were stolen by Diomedes and Odysseus shortly after their arrival). These horses were given to king Diomedes.
According to some scholars, the rest of Thracians, deprived of their king, left Troy to return to their kingdom. This was another bonus of the night mission.
Book XI- In the forenoon, the fight was equal, but Agamemnon turned the fortune of the day towards the Achaeans until he got wounded and left the field. Hector then seized the battlefield and slew many Achaeans. Beholding this, Diomedes and Odysseus continued to fight with a lot of valor, giving hope to the Achaeans. The king of Argos slew Thymbraeus, two sons of Merops, and Agastrophus.
Hector soon marked the havoc Diomed and Ulysses were making, and approached them. Diomedes immediately threw his spear at Hector, aiming for his head. This throw was dead accurate but the helmet given by Apollo saved Hector’s life. Yet, the spear was sent with such great force that Hector swooned away. Meanwhile, Diomedes ran towards Hector to get his spear. Hector recovered and mingled with the crowd, by which means he saved his life from Diomedes for the second time. Frustrated, Diomedes shouted after Hector calling him a dog. The son of Tydeus, frequently referred to as the lord of war cry, was not seen speaking disrespectful words to his enemies before.
Shortly after that Paris jumped up in joy for he managed to achieve a great feat by fixing Diomedes’ foot to the ground with an arrow. Dismayed at this, Diomedes said “Seducer, a worthless coward like you can inflict but a light wound; when I wound a man though I but graze his skin it is another matter, for my weapon will lay him low. His wife will tear her cheeks for grief and his children will be fatherless: there will he rot, reddening the earth with his blood, and vultures, not women, will gather round him”. Under Odysseus’ cover, Diomedes withdrew the arrow but unable to fight with a limp, he retired from battle.
Book XIV- The wounded kings (Diomedes, Agamemnon and Odysseus) held council with Nestor regarding the possibility of Trojan army reaching their ships. Agamemnon proposed drawing the ships on the beach into the water but Odysseus rebuked him and pointed out the folly of such council. Agamemnon said, “Someone, it may be, old or young, can offer us better counsel which I shall rejoice to hear.” Wise Diomedes said, "Such a one is at hand; he is not far to seek, if you will listen to me and not resent my speaking though I am younger than any of you……. I say, then, let us go to the fight as we needs must, wounded though we be. When there, we may keep out of the battle and beyond the range of the spears lest we get fresh wounds in addition to what we have already, but we can spur on others, who have been indulging their spleen and holding aloof from battle hitherto." This council was approved by all.
Book XXIII- In the funeral games of Patroclus, Diomedes (though wounded) won all the games he played. First, he participated in the chariot race where he had to take the last place in the starting-line (chosen by casting lots). Diomedes owned the fastest horses after Achilles (who did not participate). A warrior named Eumelus took the lead and Diomedes could have overtaken him easily but Apollo (who had a grudge against him) made him drop the whip. Beholding this trick played by the sun-god, Athena reacted with great anger. She not only gave the whip back to the son of Tydeus but also put fresh strength to his horses and went after Eumelus to break his yoke. Poor Eumelus was thrown down and his elbows, mouth, and nostrils were all torn. Antilochus told his horses that there is no point trying to overtake Diomedes for Athena wishes his victory. Diomedes won the first prize – ‘a woman skilled in all useful arts, and a three-legged cauldron’.
Next, he fought with great Ajax in an armed sparring contest where the winner was to draw blood first. Ajax attacked Diomedes where his armour covered his body and achieved no success. Ajax owned the biggest armour and the tallest shield which covered most of his body leaving only two places vulnerable; his neck and armpits. So, Diomedes maneuvered his spear above Ajax’s shield and attacked his neck, drawing blood. The Achaean leaders were scared that another such blow would kill Ajax and they stopped the fight. Diomedes received the prize for the victor. This is the final appearance of Diomedes in the epic.
It is seen that although Diomedes received Athena’s help without asking for it, Odysseus prayed for help even before the start of the footrace he participated.
It is generally accepted that Athena is closest to Diomedes in the epic. In the early traditions, Athena (a virgin goddess) is described as being shy in the company of males. But she spoke to the hero without any disguise in Book5 where he could see her in the true divine form (a special vision was granted to him). Such an incident doesn’t happen even in the other Homeric Epic, The Odyssey where Athena disguises herself while speaking to Odysseus.
Thersites was quarrelsome and abusive in character, that only his cousin, Diomedes, mourned for him. Diomedes would have avenged Thersites, but the other leaders persuaded the two mightiest Achaean warriors from fighting among themselves. Hearkened to prayers of comrades, the two heroes reconciled at last. According to Quintus Smyrnaeus, the Greek leaders agreed to the boon of returning her body to the Trojans for her funeral pyre. According to some other sources, Diomedes angrily tossed Penthesileia's body into the river, so neither side could give her decent burial.
After Paris’ death, Helenus left the city but was captured by Odysseus. The Greeks somehow managed to persuade the seer/warrior to reveal the weakness of Troy. The Greeks learnt from Helenus, that Troy would not fall, while the Palladium, image or statue of Athena, remained within Troy's walls. The difficult task of stealing this sacred statue again fell upon the shoulders of Odysseus and Diomedes.
Odysseus, some say, went by night to Troy, and leaving Diomedes waiting, disguised himself and entered the city as a beggar. There he was recognized by Helen, who told him where the Palladium was. Diomedes then climbed the wall of Troy and entered the city. Together, the two friends killed several guards and one or more priests of Athena’s temple and stole the Palladium ‘with their bloodstained hands’. Diomedes is generally regarded as the person who physically removed the Palladium and carried it away to the ships. There are several statues and many ancient drawings of him with the Palladium.
According to the ‘Epic-Cycle’ stories (Little Iliad), on the way to the ships, Odysseus plotted to kill Diomedes and claim the Palladium (or perhaps the credit for gaining it) for himself. He raised his sword to stab Diomedes in the back. Diomedes was alerted to the danger by glimpsing the gleam of the sword in the moonlight. He disarmed Odysseus, tied his hands, and drove him along in front, beating his back with the flat of his sword. From this action was said to have arisen the Greek proverbial expression “Diomedes’ necessity”, applied to those who act under compulsion. (The incident was commemorated in 1842 by the French sculptor Pierre-Jules Cavelier (1814-94) in a muscle-bound plaster statue; it depicts Diomedes alone, his noble face peering apprehensively over his right shoulder, as he cradles the Palladium). Because Odysseus was essential for the destruction of Troy, Diomedes refrained from punishing him.
Diomedes took the Palladium with him when he left Troy. According to some stories, he brought it to Italy. Some say that it was stolen from him on the way. According to some stories, the Palladium failed to bring Diomedes any luck due to the unrighteous way he obtained it. Therefore he gave it back to his enemy, Aeneas.
Stealing the Palladium after killing the priests was viewed as the greatest transgression committed by Diomedes and Odysseus by Trojans. Odysseus used this sentiment to his advantage when he invented the Trojan Horse stratagem.
According to Quintus Smyrnaeus, while slaughtering countless Trojans, Diomedes met an elderly man named Ilioneus who begged for mercy. Despite his fury of war, Diomedes held back his sword so that the old man may speak. Ilioneus begged ‘Oh compassionate my suppliant hands! To slay the young and valiant is a glorious thing; but if you smite an old man, small renown waits on your prowess. Therefore turn from me your hands against young men, if you hope ever to come to grey hairs such as mine.' Firmly resolved in his purpose, Diomedes answered. ‘Old man, I look to attain to honored age; but while my Strength yet exists, not a single foe will escape me with life. The brave man makes an end of every foe.’ Having said this, Diomedes slew Ilioneus.
Some of the other Trojan warriors slain by Diomedes during that night were Coroebus (who came to Troy to win the hand of Cassandra), Eurydamas and Eurycoon.
She caused a quarrel between Agamemnon and Menelaus about the voyage from Troy. Agamemnon then stayed on to appease the anger of Athena. Diomedes and Nestor were in the opinion that they should leave immediately. They took their vast armies and left Troy. They managed to reach home safely but Athena called upon Poseidon to bring a violent storm upon most of other Greek ships.
The Palamedes affair haunted Diomedes as well. Palamedes's brother Oeax went to Argos and reported to Aegialia, falsely or not, that her husband was bringing a woman he preferred to his wife. Others say that Aegialia herself had taken a lover, Cometes (son of Sthenelus), being persuaded to do so by Palamedes's father Nauplius. Still others say that despite Diomedes's noble treatment of her son Aeneas, Aphrodite never managed to forget about the Argive spear that had once pierced her flesh in the fields of Troy. She helped Aegialia to obtain, not one but many lovers.
In any case Aegialia, being helped by the Argives, prevented Diomedes from entering the city. Or else, if he ever entered Argos, he had to take sanctuary at the altar of Hera, and thence flee with his companions by night.
Diomedes later married Daunus's daughter Euippe and had two sons named Diomedes and Amphinomus. (Some say that, after the sack of Troy, Diomedes came to Libya, where he was put in prison by King Lycus. It is said that it was the king's daughter Callirrhoe, who loosing Diomedes from his bonds, saved him. Diomedes is said to have thanklessly sailed away, and the girl killed herself with a halter.)
Some say that he named a city as 'Venusia' (or Aphrodisia) after Venus (Aphrodite) as a peace-offering. When war broke out between Aeneas and Turnus, Turnus tried to persuade Diomedes to aid them in the war against the Trojans. Diomedes told them he had fought enough Trojans in his lifetime, and urged Turnus that it was best to make peace with Aeneas than to fight the Trojans. He also said that his purpose in Italy is to live in peace. Virgil's Aeneid describes the beauty and prosperity of Diomedes’ kingdom.
The worship and service of gods and heroes was spread by Diomedes far and wide : in and near Argos he caused temples of Athena to be built. His armour was preserved in a temple of Athena at Luceria in Apulia, and a gold chain of his was shewn in a temple of Artemis in Peucetia. At Troezene he had founded a temple of Apollo Epibaterius, and instituted the Pythian games there.
Other sources claim that Diomedes had one more meeting with his old enemy Aeneas where he gave the Palladium back to the Trojans.
There are traces in Greece also of the worship of Diomedes. Greek sources say that he was placed among the gods together with the Dioscuri.
Diomedes was worshipped as a hero not only in Greece, but on the coast of the Adriatic, as at Thurii and Metapontum. At Argos, his native place, during the festival of Athena, his shield was carried through the streets as a relic, together with the Palladium, and his statue was washed in the river Inachus.
In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Diomedes in the Eighth Circle of Hell, where he is condemned together with Odysseus to be imprisoned for eternity in a sheet of flame. The specific sin Dante holds against Diomedes is the theft of the Palladium and of King Rhesus's horses, while Odysseus is also punished for having persuaded Achilles to fight in the Trojan war, well knowing that he would die, and thereby hurting Deïdameia.