Ancient personality: Trait attributions to characters in Homer's Iliad>


  • Boele de Raad
  • Constantinos G. Passakos


The study analyzed Homer’s Iliad, an epic work which contains hundreds of personages many of which are described in quite some detail. Part of those descriptions is formed by the so-called epithets through which major characters in the Iliad are dramatically and psychologically depicted. All trait-epithets in the Iliad are identified, listed, and translated into English and Dutch. The translation into Dutch is done to enable the identification of the listed traits in the trait-vocabulary captured by the Dutch Big Five model of traits. We counted a total of 1,057 trait-attributions (epithets) in the Iliad. These attributions were based on 197 distinct trait-epithets. Although there is a good spread over the various facets of the Big Five system, the large majority of the trait-epithets is accommodated by certain facets of the Agreeableness (both poles), Conscientiousness (positive pole), Extraversion (positive pole), and Emotional Stability (positive pole) factors. Most of the trait-epithets portray the various aspects of the character of the hero, which character is indeed circumscribed by the factor(pole)s above.

Constantinos G. Passakos is Emeritus Professor of Athens University, Department of Education. Recent research: Psycholexical research in Greek language.

Relevant publications:
Passakos, C.G. 1974. Stability and change in values and evaluative attitudes: A research work.Athens,Greece.
Passakos, C.G. 2003. The person in the process of becoming: An introduction to modern personality psychology. University of Athens Publications, Athens, Greece
Passakos, C.G. 2004. ‘Homeric characterology and modern personality theory’, in: B. De Raad, D. Barelds, & K. Van Oudenhoven-Van der Zee (Eds.), Conference Abstracts, 12th European Conference on Personality, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Boele De Raad is Professor of personality psychology, University of Groningen, Department of Psychology. Recent reseach: structure of traits, crosscultural comparisons of personality structures, values and virtues, insults.

Recent relevant publications:
De Raad, B., & Barelds, D.P.H. 2008. ‘A new  taxonomy of Dutch personality traits based on a comprehensive and unrestricted list of descriptors’,  Journal of Personality  and Social Psychology, 94, 347–364.
De Raad, B., & Van Oudenhoven, J.P. 2008. ‘Factors of values in the Dutch language and their relationship to factors of personality’, European Journal of Personality, 22, 81–108.
De Raad, B. 2006. ‘Individuality and personality’, in: K. Pawlik & G. d'Ydewalle (Eds.), Psychological concepts: An international historical perspective (pp. 299–323). Hove: Psychology Press.
De Raad, B. & Ceulemans, E. 2001. ‘The trait-dimensional scope of the characters of Theophrastus’, in: R. Riemann, F.M. Spinath, & F. Ostendorf (Eds.), Personality and Temperament: Genetics, Evolution, and Structure (pp. 168–184). Pabst Science Publishers,Lengerich, Germany