“Then Pallas Athena granted Tydeus’ son Diomedes/ strength and daring—so that the fighter would shine forth/ and tower over the Argives and win himself great glory./ She set the man ablaze, his shield and helmet flaming/ with tireless fire like the star that flames at harvest/ bathed in the Ocean, rising up to outshine all other stars.”
– The Iliad, Book Five, Lines 1-8
So. I’m only on book seven, guys, but I want a pause for a moment and establish with you all that I think Diomedes is a badass. Now, granted, most of his feats from book five, which is titled, “Diomedes Fights the Gods,“ are greatly influenced by the power of Athena, but I kind of look at it like a power up in a video game: he probably could have done all right without the fire shooting from his helmet and shield, but, hell, why would he not use that?
From what I’ve found on the internet, Diomedes seems to be a better example of what it means to be a greek hero than even Achilles, who actually is one. It seems as though his greatest quality is his maturity, showing himself to be a more calm and thoughtful man that is fellow officers in battle, and he is not overly prideful, though he is an incredibly strong and skilled warrior. In his battle with Pandarus and then Aeneus, he finds himself with no weapons. Now, I didn’t see this coming, but Diomedes simply picks up a large boulder—yes, a boulder—and begins to crush Aeneus’ hip with it. Just… he just does that. He then proceeds to attack and wound Aphrodite. He then proceeds to attack Apollo twice, though Apollo warns him not to play with the immortals. With that warning, Diomedes kind of steps back for a bit and lets his men take care of his wounds, because just before this duel, he had been shot in the shoulder with an arrow.
He does later return with Athena and ends up wounding Ares as well, which probably makes him the only man to hurt two gods in one day.
I think perhaps what interests me most about this guy is that he knows when he is could really lose. In a book full of men boasting of their abilities and how easily they plan to take down a man twice as strong as they, it is kind of cool to see a guy say “nope,” and take a break (which is literally a break just short enough for someone to take a look at his shoulder because he goes right back out and causes more mayhem). When Athena goes to shame him for no longer taking part in battle after she bestowed him with these gifts of power, he comes back at her saying, “I’m not afraid of the Trojans. I’m not even actually afraid. But I know that Ares is in there.“ And Ares in battle is something to be wary of. To be fair, Athena told him not to go after any of the gods except for Aphrodite, but I figured Diomedes didn’t really care much about that rule after he’d tried to hurt Apollo, too.
Maybe I’m over-hyping the whole thing, but Diomedes seems to be pretty rad, you know? He’s a smart, resourceful warrior with that handy rock smash ability, and he doesn’t have to talk himself up for people to know of him. He lets his spear do the talking, and he fights through the shoulder-wrenching pain. With enthusiasm.