The many characters of the Iliad are catalogued; the latter-half of Book II, the "Catalogue of Ships", lists commanders and cohorts; battle scenes feature quickly slain minor characters.
- The Achaeans (Ἀχαιοί) – also called Hellenes (Greeks), Danaans (Δαναοί), or Argives (Ἀργεĩοι).
- Agamemnon – King of Mycenae, leader of the Greeks.
- Achilles – son of Peleus, foremost warrior, leader of the Myrmidons, son of a divine mother, Thetis.
- Odysseus – King of Ithaca, Greek commander.
- Ajax the Greater – son of Telamon and king of Salamis.
- Menelaus – King of Sparta, husband of Helen and brother of Agamemnon.
- Diomedes – son of Tydeus, King of Argos.
- Ajax the Lesser – son of Oileus, often partner of Ajax the Greater.
- Patroclus – Achilles' closest companion.
- Nestor – King of Pylos, and trusted advisor to Agamemnon.
Achilles and Patroclus
Much debate has surrounded the nature of the relationship of Achilles and Patroclus, as to whether it can be described as a homoerotic one or not. Classical and Hellenistic Athenian scholars perceived it as pederastic, while others perceived it as a platonic warrior-bond.
- The Trojan men
- Hector – son of King Priam and the foremost Trojan warrior.
- Aeneas – son of Anchises and Aphrodite.
- Deiphobus – brother of Hector and Paris.
- Paris – Helen's lover-abductor.
- Priam – the aged King of Troy.
- Polydamas – a prudent commander whose advice is ignored; he is Hector's foil.
- Agenor – a Trojan warrior, son of Antenor, who attempts to fight Achilles (Book XXI).
- Sarpedon, son of Zeus – killed by Patroclus. Was friend of Glaucus and co-leader of the Lycians (fought for the Trojans).
- Glaucus, son of Hippolochus – friend of Sarpedon and co-leader of the Lycians (fought for the Trojans).
- Euphorbus – first Trojan warrior to wound Patroclus.
- Dolon – a spy upon the Greek camp (Book X).
- Antenor – King Priam's advisor, who argues for returning Helen to end the war.
- Polydorus – son of Priam and Laothoe.
- Pandarus – famous archer and son of Lycaon.
- The Trojan women
- Hecuba (Ἑκάβη, Hekabe) – Priam's wife, mother of Hector, Cassandra, Paris, and others.
- Helen (Ἑλένη) – daughter of Zeus; Menelaus's wife; espoused first to Paris, then to Deiphobus; her abduction by Paris precipitated the war.
- Andromache – Hector's wife, mother of Astyanax.
- Cassandra – Priam's daughter.
- Briseis – a Trojan woman captured by Achilles from a previous siege, over whom Achilles's quarrel with Agamemnon began.
In the literary Trojan War of the Iliad, the Olympic gods, goddesses, and demigods fight and play great roles in human warfare. Unlike practical Greek religious observance, Homer's portrayals of them suited his narrative purpose, being very different from the polytheistic ideals Greek society used. To wit, the Classical-era historian Herodotus says that Homer, and his contemporary, the poet Hesiod, were the first artists to name and describe their appearance and characters.
In Greek Gods Human Lives: What We Can Learn From Myths, Mary Lefkowitz discusses the relevance of divine action in the Iliad, attempting to answer the question of whether or not divine intervention is a discrete occurrence (for its own sake), or if such godly behaviors are mere human character metaphors. The intellectual interest of Classic-era authors, such as Thucydides and Plato, was limited to their utility as "a way of talking about human life rather than a description or a truth", because, if the gods remain religious figures, rather than human metaphors, their "existence"—without the foundation of either dogma or a bible of faiths—then allowed Greek culture the intellectual breadth and freedom to conjure gods fitting any religious function they required as a people.
In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, psychologist Julian Jaynes uses the Iliad as a major supporting evidence for his theory of Bicameralism, which posits that until about the time described in the Iliad, humans had a much different mentality than present day humans, essentially lacking in what we call consciousness. He suggests that humans heard and obeyed commands from what they identified as gods, until the change in human mentality that incorporated the motivating force into the conscious self. He points out that almost every action in the Iliad is directed, caused, or influenced by a god, and that earlier translations show an astonishing lack of words suggesting thought, planning, or introspection. Those that do appear, he argues, are misinterpretations made by translators imposing a modern mentality on the characters.
- The major deities:
- Zeus (Neutral)
- Hera (Achaeans)
- Artemis (Trojans)
- Apollo (Trojans)
- Hades (Neutral)
- Aphrodite (Trojans)
- Ares (Trojans)
- Athena (Achaeans)
- Hermes (Neutral)
- Poseidon (Achaeans)
- Hephaestus (Achaeans)
- The minor deities: