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In Homer's Iliad, Pandarus or Pandaros (gr. Πάνδαρος) is the son of Lycaon and a famous archer. Pandarus, who fights on the side of Troy in the Trojan War, first appears in Book Four of the Iliad. He shoots Menelaus with an arrow, sabotaging a truce that could have led to the peaceful return of Helen of Troy. He first wounds but is later himself killed by Diomedes.

Pandarus is also the name of a companion of Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid.

In Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde (1370), Pandarus is an active go-between between his niece Criseyde and the Greek warrior Troilus. The lovers pine for each other from afar, fearful of the danger of consorting with the enemy in a war zone, but Pandarus helps them meet in secret and consummate their love. This love story is not part of classical Greek mythology, but was created in the twelfth century. Both Pandarus and other characters in the medieval story who have names from the Iliad are quite different from Homer's characters of the same name.

William Shakespeare used the medieval story again in his play Troilus and Cressida (1609).Shakespeare's Pandarus is more of a bawd than Chaucer's, and he is a lecherous and degenerate individual.

The plot function of Pandarus in Chaucer's and especially Shakespeare's famous works has given rise to the English words to pander, meaning to further other people's illicit amours, and a pander (in later usage a panderer), a person who does this. The strong pejorative connotations of pander apparently come less from Chaucer's well-meaning young Pandarus than from Shakespeare's cynical uncle figure who concludes the play's epilogue by wishing upon the audience all his many diseases. A panderer is, specifically, a bawd — a male who arranges access to female sexual favors, the manager of prostitutes. Thus, in law, the charge of pandering is an accusation that an individual has sold the sexual services of another.

Pandarus is not to be confused with Pandareus.


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