King Arthur had twelve of them. Even Alexander the Great had a small group he consulted during his widespread occupation of Asia Minor all the way through to Egypt. They have many names: advisors, counsellors, gerousia, a council of elders. One of the Elders of Troy during the tenth year of the war even suggested giving Helen back to the Greeks to cease the fighting. His wise counsel was ignored and as they say “the rest is history”.
Antenor was considered as one of the wisest of the Trojan Elders and was King Priam’s counsellor during the war. In Book 3, there is a scene where King Priam and the elders convene on a tower by the Scaean gate to take stock of the fighting when Helen arrives. It is clear from the narrative the elders both desired and abhorred Helen.
‘All the same, and lovely as she is, let her sail home and not stay here, a scourge to us and our children after us.’
In a number of scenes the importance of Antenor is highlighted by Homer. Why would the bard give such significance to this character? Although the elder comes across as one dimensional, he epitomises the “voice of reason”, a character ploy set in stories to place doubt in the listeners’ mind. Is the death of so many really over one woman? It is a great strategy to add excitement to the plot and questions the veracity of the king’s decision to keep fighting.
Antenor was the first high ranking Trojan to meet and host Greek emissaries, Odysseus and Menelaos, at his palace. King Priam sanctioned their arrival and entrusted Antenor be their intermediary. They were presented to the assembly of Trojans and each given the opportunity to convince them to return Helen and stolen goods. (Book 3, Lines 204-225) In another scene, when Paris and Menelaos are about to duel, King Priam commanded Antenor to head down to the battle ground and be his herald. In this role, Antenor performs “oath offerings” to gods with Agamemnon and Odysseus.
In later poets’ and historians rendition of the sack of Troy, Antenor’s actions were questioned and labelled a traitor. His house and family were the only ones spared during the invasion. Did his actions make him a turncoat of his own people? I don’t believe so. He was the single voice who tried to end the war and wanted to stop the endless deaths.