In Homer's Iliad, Pandarus is a renowned archer and the son of Lycaon. Pandarus, who fought on the side of Troy in the Trojan War and led a contingent from Zeleia, first appeared in Book Two of the Iliad. In Book Four, he is tricked by Athena, who wishes for the destruction of Troy and assumes the form of Laodocus, son of Antenor, to shoot and wound Menelaus with an arrow, sabotaging a truce that could potentially have led to the peaceful return of Helen of Troy. He then attempts to kill Diomedes at close range, since Athena is protecting him from his deadly arrows, while Aeneas acts as his charioteer. Diomedes narrowly survives the attack, though, retaliating with a deadly blow that knocks Pandarus out of the chariot. Diomedes then pursues Aeneas, who is saved by his mother Aphrodite.
Pandarus is also the name of a companion of Aeneas in Virgil's Aeneid. His skull is cut in half vertically by Turnus' sword in Book IX of the Aeneid; this ending his life and causing a panic among the other Trojans.
Pandarus appears in Il Filostrato by Giovanni Boccaccio, in which he plays the role of a go-between in the relationship of his cousin Criseyde and the Trojan prince Troilus, the younger brother of Paris and Hector. Boccaccio himself derived the story from Le Roman De Troie, by 12th-century poet Benoît de Sainte-Maure. This story is not part of classical Greek mythology. Both Pandarus and other characters in the medieval narrative who carry names from the Iliad are quite different from Homer's characters of the same name.
In Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Troilus and Criseyde (1370), Pandarus plays the same role, though Chaucer's Pandarus is Criseyde's uncle, not her cousin. Chaucer's Pandarus is of special interest because he is constructed as an expert rhetorician, who uses dozens of proverbs and proverbial sayings to bring the lovers Troilus and Criseyde together. When his linguistic fireworks fail at the end of the story, the proverb and human rhetoric in general are questioned as reliable means of communication.
The plot function of the aging lecher Pandarus in Chaucer's and Shakespeare's famous works has given rise to the English terms a pander (in later usage a panderer), from Chaucer, meaning a person who furthers other people's illicit sexual amours; and to pander, from Shakespeare, as a verb denoting the same activity. 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. The verb "to pander" is also used in a more general sense to suggest active or implicit encouragement of someone's weaknesses.