"Holding fast." The chief hero of the Trojans in their war with the Greeks, was the eldest son of Priam by Hecabe, the husband of Andromache, and father of Scamandrius.1 Some traditions describe him as a son of Apollo,2 and speak of him as the father of two sons by Andromache, viz. Scamandrius and Laodamas, or Amphineus.3
According to the most common account, Protesilaus, who was the first of the Greeks that jumped upon the Trojan coast, was slain by Hector.4 This, however, is not mentioned in the Iliad; and his first act described in that poem is his censure of Alexander (Paris) who, after having gone out to fight Menelaus in single combat, took to flight.5 He himself then challenged Menelaus. During the battle he was accompanied by Ares, with whom he rushed forward to protect his friend Sarpedon, and slew many Greeks.6 When Diomedes had wounded Ares, and was pressing the Trojans very hard, Hector hastened to the city to request Hecabe to pray to Athena for assistance.7 Hereupon he went to Paris and had a conversation with him and Helen, reproaching the former for his cowardice. He then went to his own house to seek Andromache, but she was absent; and he afterwards found her with her child Scamandrius at the Scaean gate. The scene which there took place is one of the most delicate and beautiful scenes in the Iliad.8 After having taken leave of his wife and child, he returned to battle, and challenged the bravest of the Greeks to single combat. No one ventured to come forward except Menelaus, who, however, was dissuaded from it by his friends. The lot then fell upon the Telamonian Ajax. Hector was wounded, and at nightfall the battle ceased, and the two heroes honored each other with presents.
After this he again distinguished himself by various feats.9 In the fierce battle in the camp of the Greeks, he was struck with a stone by Ajax, and carried away from the field of battle.10 Apollo cured his wound, and then led him back to battle. He there repelled Ajax, and fire was set to the ships of the Greeks.11 In the encounter with Patroclus, he at first gave way, but, encouraged by Apollo, he returned, fought with Patroclus, slew him, took off his armor, and put it on himself.12 Thereupon a vehement contest took place about the body of Patroclus, which Hector refused to give up. Polydamas advised him to withdraw to the city before the arrival of Achilles, but the Trojan hero refused.13 Apollo forbade Hector to enter upon a contest with Achilles; but when the two heroes met, they were protected by Apollo and Athena.14
The Trojans fled, but Hector, although called back by his parents in the most imploring terms, remained and awaited Achilles. When, however, the latter made his appearance, Hector took to flight, and was chased thrice around the city.15 His fall was now determined on by Zeus and Athena; and assuming the appearance of Deiphobus, Athena urged him to make his stand against the pursuer. Hector was conquered, and fell pierced by the spear of Achilles.16 Achilles tied his body to his own chariot, and thus dragged him into the camp of the Greeks; but later traditions relate that he first dragged the body thrice around the walls of Ilium.17 In the camp the body was thrown into the dust, that it might be devoured by the dogs. But Aphrodite embalmed it with ambrosia, and Apollo protected it by a cloud. At the command of Zeus, however, Achilles surrendered the body to the prayers of Priam.18 When the body arrived at Ilium, it was placed on a bier; and while Andromache held the head of her beloved Hector on her knees, the lamentations began, whereupon the body was burned, and solemnly buried.19 Funeral games were celebrated on his tomb,20 and on the throne of Apollo at Amyclae, the Trojans were seen offering sacrifices to him.21 In pursuance of an oracle, the remains of Hector were said to have been conveyed to the Boeotian Thebes, where his tomb was shown in later times.22
Hector is one of the noblest conceptions of the poet of the Iliad. He is the great bulwark of Troy, and even Achilles trembles when he approaches him. He has a presentiment of the fall of his country, but he perseveres in his heroic resistance, preferring death to slavery and disgrace. But besides these virtues of a warrior, he is distinguished also, and perhaps more so than Achilles, by those of a man: his heart is open to the gentle feelings of a son, a husband, and a father.
Ovid23 uses Eurydamas as a surname of Hector in the sense of "ruling far and wide."
Hector is frequently depicted on Greek vases which have the Trojan War as subject. An amphora from Attica, made by Euthymides (ca. 510 BCE; Munich) show Hector readying himself before battle: he puts on his armor and Hecuba hands him his helmet. A Chalcidian amphora (ca. 530 BCE; Würzburg) depicts the parting of Hector and Andromache. The François vase (ca. 570 BCE) shows Hector standing before the gates of Troy with his brother Polites. The battle with Achilles, the mutilation of his corpse, and the return of his corpse to King Priam are themes used on Greek vases. Gemstones, coins, and frescoes depict Hector in various episodes of the Trojan War, such as in the Casa del Larario at Pompeii. He was represented in the Lesche at Delphi by Polygnotus,24 and on the chest of Cypselus.25
- Homer. Iliad ii, 817; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 12.5; Theocritis, xv, 139.
- Tzetzes on Lycophron, 265; Scholiast Venetus on Iliad iii, 314.
- Dictys Cretensis, iii, 20.
- Lucian. Dialogues of the Dead xxxii, 1; Hyginus. Fabulae, 113.
- Iliad iii, 39 ff.
- ibid. v, 590 ff.
- ibid. vi, 110.
- ibid. vi, 406 ff.
- ibid. viii, 307 ff.; x, 299 ff.; xi, 163 ff.
- ibid. xiv, 402.
- ibid. xv, 253 ff. xvi, 114 ff.
- ibid. xvi, 654. ff.; xvii, 192.
- ibid. xviii, 160 ff.
- ibid. xx, 375 ff.
- ibid. xxii, 90 ff.
- ibid. xxii, 182-330; comp Dictys Cretensis, iii, 15.
- Virgil. Aeneid i, 483.
- ibid. xxiv, 15 ff.; comp. Eustathius on Homer, p. 1273; Aeneid i, 484.
- ibid. xxiv, 718 ff.
- ibid. v, 371; Philostratus. Heroicus, 10.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 18.9.
- ibid. ix, 18.4; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 1194.
- Ibis, 331.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece x, 31.2.
- ibid. v, 19.1.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.