Diomedes is known primarily for his participation in the Trojan War. According to Homer, Diomedes enters the war with a fleet of 80 ships, third only to the contributions of Agamemnon (100 ships) and Nestor (90). Both Sthenelus and Euryalus (former Epigoni) fought under his command with their armies. Sthenelus was the driver of Diomedes’ chariot and probably his closest friend. All the troops from Argos, Tiryns, Troezen and some other cities were headed by Diomedes. According to some interpretations, Diomedes is represented in the epic as the most valiant soldier of the war, who never commits hubris. He is often referred to by Homer as the youngest amongst the Achaean warrior-kings, and yet the most powerful fighter, second only to Achilles. On other occasions, Ajax is also characterized as the second-best warrior of the Achaean force. However, during Patroclus' funeral games, Diomedes was overwhelming Ajax when his comrades advised the fighting to stop, lest one of them get injured. In this way, he won first place in the armed sparring tournament.
Apart from his outstanding fighting abilities and courage, Diomedes is on 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 some of the greatest Achaean strategists. Throughout the Iliad, Diomedes and Nestor are frequently seen speaking first in war-counsel.
Instances of Diomedes' maturity and intelligence as described in parts of the epic:
- In Book IV Agamemnon taunts Diomedes by calling him a much inferior fighter than his father. His enraged comrade Sthenelus urges Diomedes to stand up to Agamemnon by responding that he has bested his father and avenged his death by conquering "Seven-gated" Thebes. Diomedes responded that it was part of Agamemnon's tasks as a leader to urge forward the Achaean soldiers, and that men of valour should have no problem withstanding such insults. However, when Agamemnon uses the same kind of taunting to Odysseus, the latter responds with anger.
- Although Diomedes dismissed Agamemnon’s taunting with respect, he did not hesitate to point out Agamemnon’s inadequacy as a leader in certain crucial occasions. In Book IX, Agamemnon proposes going back to Hellas because Zeus has turned against them. Diomedes then reminds him of the previous insult and tells him that his behavior is not proper for a leader. "but they all held their peace, till at last Diomed of the loud battle-cry made answer saying, 'Son of Atreus, I will chide your folly, as is my right in council. Be not then aggrieved that I should do so. In the first place you attacked me before all the Danaans and said that I was a coward and no soldier...'" Achaean council - Book IX
- Diomedes also points out that because Troy is destined to fall, they should continue fighting regardless of Zeus’ interventions. "If your own mind is set upon going home—go—the way is open to you; the many ships that followed you from Mycene stand ranged upon the seashore; but the rest of us stay here till we have sacked Troy. Nay though these too should turn homeward with their ships, Sthenelus and myself will still fight on till we reach the goal of Ilius, for heaven was with us when we came."
- "The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words of Diomed, and presently Nestor rose to speak. 'Son of Tydeus,' said he, 'in war your prowess is beyond question, and in council you excel all who are of your own years; no one of the Achaeans can make light of what you say nor gainsay it, but you have not yet come to the end of the whole matter. You are still young- you might be the youngest of my own children—still you have spoken wisely and have counselled the chief of the Achaeans not without discretion;'" Achaean council - Book IX
- When Agamemnon tried to appease Achilles's wrath so that he would fight again, by offering him many gifts, Nestor appointed three envoys to meet Achilles (Book IX). They had to return empty handed; Achilles had told them that he will leave Troy and never return. The Achaeans were devastated at this. Diomedes points out the folly of offering these gifts, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon, you ought not to have sued the son of Peleus nor offered him gifts. He is proud enough as it is, and you have encouraged him in his pride still further". Here, Diomedes makes a prediction based on his reasoning that eventually becomes true. He says that even if Achilles somehow manages to leave Troy, he will never be able to stay away from battle because he cannot change the fate; "let him go or stay—the gods will make sure that he will fight." In Book XV, Zeus says to Hera that he had already made a plan to make sure that Achilles will eventually enter the battle.
- Diomedes also encourages Agamemnon to take the lead of tomorrow's battle. "But when fair rosy-fingered morn appears, forthwith bring out your host and your horsemen in front of the ships, urging them on, and yourself fighting among the foremost." (Book IX) Agamemnon accepts this counsel and the next day's battle starts with his "aristeia" where he becomes the hero of the day.
Instances of Diomedes's valour and expertise in battle according to quotations:
- "As he (Diomedes) spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have been scared to hear it." - Book IV
- "Diomed looked angrily at him and answered: "Talk not of flight, for I shall not listen to you: I am of a race that knows neither flight nor fear, and my limbs are as yet unwearied. I am in no mind to mount, but will go against them even as I am;" Battle with Aeneas and Pandarus - Book V
- "But the son of Tydeus caught up a mighty stone, so huge and great that as men now are it would take two to lift it; nevertheless he bore it aloft with ease unaided," Battle with Aeneas - Book V
- "Father Jove, grant that the lot fall on Ajax, or on the son of Tydeus, or upon the king of rich Mycene himself." Duel of Hector - Book VII
- "The old man instantly began cutting the traces with his sword, but Hector's fleet horses bore down upon him through the rout with their bold charioteer, even Hector himself, and the old man would have perished there and then had not Diomed been quick to mark" Saving Nestor - Book VII
- "They all held their peace, but Diomed of the loud war-cry spoke saying, 'Nestor, gladly will I visit the host of the Trojans over against us, but if another will go with me I shall do so 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.'" Achaean plans - Book X
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