Greek mythology and Roman mythology,
Ἕκτωρ Hektōr, pronounced [héktɔːr]) was a Trojan prince
and the greatest fighter for
Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born
son of King
Priam and Queen Hecuba, who was a descendant of Dardanus
and Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house
and the heir apparent to his father's throne. He was married to
Andromache, with whom he had an infant son,
Scamandrius (whom the
Troy called Astyanax). He acted as leader of the Trojans and
their allies in the defence of Troy, "killing 31,000 Greek fighters",
offers Hyginus. During the European Middle Ages,
Hector figures as
one of the
Nine Worthies noted by Jacques de Longuyon, known not only
for his courage but also for his noble and courtly nature. Indeed,
Hector as peace-loving, thoughtful as well as bold, a
good son, husband and father, and without darker motives. James
Redfield writes of
Hector as a "martyr to loyalties, a witness to the
things of this world, a hero ready to die for the precious
imperfections of ordinary life."
2 Greek mythology
2.1 Greatest warrior of Troy
2.1.1 Duel with Protesilaus
2.1.2 Duel with Ajax
2.1.3 Duel with Achilles
2.2 Trojan counter-attack
2.3 Hector's last fight
3 Historical references
4 In literature
5 See also
7 External links
In Greek, Héktōr is a derivative of the verb ἔχειν ékhein,
archaic form *ἕχειν hékhein, 'to have' or 'to hold' from
Proto-Indo-European *seǵh- 'to hold'. Héktōr, or Éktōr as
Aeolic poetry, is also an epithet of
Zeus in his capacity as
'he who holds [everything together]'. Hector's name could thus be
taken to mean 'holding fast'.
Greatest warrior of Troy
Hector Admonishes Paris for His Softness and Exhorts Him to Go to War
by J. H. W. Tischbein (1751–1828)
According to the Iliad,
Hector does not approve of war between the
Greeks and the Trojans.
For ten years, the Achaeans besieged
Troy and their allies in the
Hector commanded the Trojan army, with a number of subordinates
including Polydamas, and his brothers Deiphobus, Helenus, and Paris.
By all accounts,
Hector was the best warrior the Trojans and all their
allies could field, and his fighting prowess was admired by
his own people alike.
Diomedes and Odysseus, when faced with his attack, described him as
Robert Fagles translated as an 'incredible dynamite', and a
Duel with Protesilaus
In the Iliad, Hector's exploits in the war prior to the events of the
book are recapitulated. He had fought the Greek champion Protesilaus
in single combat at the start of the war and killed him. A prophecy
had stated that the first Greek to land on Trojan soil would die.
Thus, Protesilaus, Ajax, and
Odysseus would not land. Finally,
Odysseus threw his shield out and landed on that, and Protesilaus
jumped next from his own ship. In the ensuing fight,
him, fulfilling the prophecy.
Hector exchange gifts (woodcut in Andreas Alciatus,
Emblematum libellus, 1591).
Duel with Ajax
As described by Homer in the Iliad at the advice of his brother
Helenus (who also is divinely inspired) and being told by him that he
is not destined to die yet,
Hector managed to get both armies seated
and challenges any one of the Greek warriors to single combat. The
Argives were initially reluctant to accept the challenge. However,
after Nestor's chiding, nine Greek heroes stepped up to the challenge
and drew by lot to see who was to face Hector. Ajax wins and fights
Hector to a stalemate for the entire day. With neither able to achieve
victory as the day was about to end, they express admiration for each
other's courage, skill, and strength.
Hector gave Ajax his sword,
which Ajax later uses to kill himself. Ajax gave
Hector his girdle
Achilles will later attach to his chariot to drag Hector's corpse
around the walls of Troy.
Greeks and the Trojans make a truce to bury the dead. In the early
dawn the next day the
Greeks take advantage of it to build a wall and
ditch around the ships.
Zeus is watching in the distance.
Duel with Achilles
Another mention of Hector's exploits in the early years of war was
given in the
Iliad in book IX. During the embassy to Achilles,
Odysseus, Phoenix and Ajax all try to persuade
Achilles to rejoin the
fight. In his response,
Achilles points out that while
terrorizing the Greek forces now, and that while he himself had fought
in their front lines,
Hector had 'no wish' to take his force far
beyond the walls and out from the Skiaian Gate and nearby oak tree. He
then claims, 'There he stood up to me alone one day, and he barely
escaped my onslaught.' Another duel that took place, although Hector
received help from
Aeneas and Deiphobus, was when
Hector rushed to try
to save his brother Troilus from Achilles' hands. But he came too late
and Troilus had already perished. All
Hector could do was to take the
lifeless body of Troilus while
Achilles escaped after he fought his
way through from the Trojans reinforcement.
A 2004 film version of
Hector following a
duel, whereas in the
Iliad it is rather different. In the Iliad,
Hector remains outside the walls, while his army flees into the city.
Hector stands his ground, fights and dies upon
looking up at Troy. The film version of his death more resembles the
single combat between the champions mentioned by
Achilles in the Iliad
in book IX.
Hector's last visit with his wife, Andromache, and infant son
Astyanax, startled by his father's helmet (Apulian red-figure vase,
In the tenth year of the war, observing Paris avoiding combat with
Hector upbraids him with having brought trouble on his whole
country and now refusing to fight. Paris therefore proposes single
combat between himself and Menelaus, with Helen to go to the victor,
ending the war. The duel, however, leads to inconclusive results
due to intervention by
Aphrodite who leads Paris off the field. After
Menelaus with an arrow the fight begins again.
Greeks attack and drive the Trojans back.
Hector must now go out
to lead a counter-attack. According to Homer his wife Andromache,
carrying in her arms her son Astyanax, intercepts
Hector at the gate,
pleading with him not to go out for her sake as well as his son's.
Hector knows that
Troy and the house of
Priam are doomed to fall and
that the gloomy fate of his wife and infant son will be to die or go
into slavery in a foreign land. With understanding, compassion, and
tenderness he explains that he cannot personally refuse to fight, and
comforts her with the idea that no one can take him until it is his
time to go. The gleaming bronze helmet frightens
Astyanax and makes
Hector takes it off, embraces his wife and son, and for
his sake prays aloud to
Zeus that his son might be chief after him,
become more glorious in battle than he, and to bring home the blood of
his enemies and make Hector's wife, his mother, proud. Once he left
for battle, those in the house began to mourn as they knew he would
Hector and Paris pass through the gate and rally the
Trojans, raising havoc among the Greeks.
Zeus weighs the fates of the two armies in the balance, and that of
Greeks sinks down. The Trojans press the
Greeks into their camp
over the ditch and wall and would have laid hands on the ships, but
Agamemnon rallies the
Greeks in person. The Trojans are driven off,
night falls, and
Hector resolves to take the camp and burn the ships
the next day. The Trojans bivouac in the field.
A thousand camp-fires gleamed upon the plain ....
The next day
Agamemnon rallies the
Greeks and drives the Trojans
like a herd of cows maddened with fright when a lion has attacked them
Hector refrains from battle until
Agamemnon leaves the field, wounded
in the arm by a spear. Then
Hector rallies the Trojans:
... like some fierce tempest that swoops down upon the sea ...
Hector and win the
Greeks some time to
retreat, but the Trojans sweep down upon the wall and rain blows upon
Greeks in the camp contest the gates to secure entrance for
their fleeing warriors. The Trojans try to pull down the ramparts
Greeks rain arrows upon them.
Hector smashes open a gate
with a large stone, clears the gate and calls on the Trojans to scale
the wall, which they do, and
... all was uproar and confusion.
Battle at the ships, on a Roman-era sarcophagus, 225–250 AD
The battle rages inside the camp.
Hector goes down, hit by a stone
thrown by Ajax, but
Apollo arrives from Olympus and infuses strength
into "the shepherd of the people", who orders a chariot attack, with
Apollo clearing the way. Many combats, deaths, boasts, threats,
epithets, figures of speech, stories, lines of poetry and books of the
Hector lays hold of Protesilaus' ship and calls for fire.
The Trojans cannot bring it to him, as Ajax kills everyone who tries.
Hector breaks Ajax' spear with his sword, forcing him to
give ground, and he sets the ship on fire.
These events are all according to the will of the gods, who have
decreed the fall of Troy, and therefore intend to tempt
into the war. Patroclus, Achilles' closest companion, disguised in the
armor of Achilles, enters the combat leading the
Myrmidons and the
rest of the Achaeans to force a Trojan withdrawal. After
routed the Trojan army, Hector, with the aid of
Apollo and Euphorbus,
kills Patroclus, vaunting over him:
"Wretch! Achilleus, great as he was, could do nothing to help
Patroclus foretells Hector's death:
"You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already death
and powerful destiny are standing beside you, to go down under the
hands of Aiakos' great son, Achilleus"
Hector's last fight
Alas! the gods have lured me on to my destruction. ... death is now
indeed exceedingly near at hand and there is no way out of it – for
Zeus and his son
Apollo the far-darter have willed it, though
heretofore they have been ever ready to protect me. My doom has come
upon me; let me not then die ingloriously and without a struggle, but
let me first do some great thing that shall be told among men
— Spoken by
Hector facing Achilles, after a missed spear-throw;
Iliad, Book XXII, lines 299–305
Hector strips the armor of
Achilles off the fallen
Patroclus and gives
it to his men to take back to the city. Glaucus accuses
cowardice for not challenging Ajax. Stung,
Hector calls for the armor,
puts it on, and uses it to rally the Trojans.
Zeus regards the donning
of a hero's armor as an act of insolence by a fool about to die, but
Hector strong for now.
The next day, the enraged
Achilles renounces the wrath that kept him
out of action and routs the Trojans, forcing them back to the city.
Hector chooses to remain outside the gates of
Troy to face Achilles,
partly because had he listened to Polydamas and retreated with his
troops the previous night,
Achilles would not have killed so many
Trojans. When he sees Achilles, however,
Hector is seized by fear and
turns to flee.
Achilles chases him around the city three times before
Hector masters his fear and turns to face Achilles. But Athena, in the
disguise of Hector's brother Deiphobus, has deluded Hector. He
Achilles that the victor should return the other's body
after the duel, (though
Hector himself made it clear he planned to
throw the body of
Patroclus to the dogs) but
Achilles hurls his spear at Hector, who dodges it, but Athena brings
it back to Achilles' hands without
Hector then throws
his own spear at Achilles; it hits his shield and does no injury. When
Hector turns to face his supposed brother to retrieve another spear,
he sees no one there. At that moment he realizes that he is doomed.
Hector decides that he will go down fighting and that men will talk
about his bravery in years to come. The desire to achieve ever-lasting
honor was one of the most fierce for soldiers living in the timocratic
(honor-based) society of the age.
Achilles dragging Hector's lifeless body in front of the
Gates of Troy. (From a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main
hall of the Achilleion)
Hector pulls out his sword, now his only weapon, and charges. But
Achilles grabbed his thrown spears that were delivered to him by the
unseen Athena who wore the Hades helmet. And then
Achilles aimed his
spear and pierced the collar bone section of Hector, the only part
that the stolen Armor of
Achilles that not protected
Hector from it.
That wound was fatal yet that wound also allowed
Hector to speak to
Achilles. Hector, in his final moments, begs
Achilles for an honorable
Achilles replies that he will let the dogs and vultures
devour Hector's flesh. (Throughout the Homeric poems, several
references are made to dogs, vultures, and other creatures that devour
the dead. It can be seen as another way of saying one will die.)
Hector dies, prophesying that Achilles' death will follow soon:
Be careful now; for I might be made into the gods' curse ... upon you,
on that day when Paris and Phoibos Apollo...destroy you in the Skainan
gates, for all your valor.
After his death,
Achilles slits Hector's heels and passes the girdle
that Ajax had given
Hector through the slits. He then fastens the
girdle to his chariot and drives his fallen enemy through the dust to
Danaan camp. For the next twelve days,
Achilles mistreats the
body, but it remains preserved from all injury by
Aphrodite. After these twelve days, the gods can no longer stand
watching it and send down two messengers: Iris, another messenger god,
and Thetis, the mother of Achilles. Thetis has told
Achilles to allow
Priam to come and take the body for ransom. Once King
been notified that
Achilles will allow him to claim the body, he goes
to his strongroom to withdraw the ransom. The ransom King
includes twelve fine robes, twelve white mantles, several richly
embroidered tunics, ten bars of yellow gold, a special gold cup, and
Priam himself goes to claim his son's body, and
Hermes grants him safe passage by casting a charm that will make
anyone who looks at him fall asleep.
Think of thy father, and this helpless face behold
See him in me, as helpless and as old!
Though not so wretched: there he yields to me,
The first of men in sovereign misery!
Thus forced to kneel, thus groveling to embrace
The scourge and ruin of my realm and race;
Suppliant my children’s murderer to implore,
And kiss those hands yet reeking with their gore!
— Spoken by
Priam to Achilles; Iliad, Book XXIV, Pope's
Achilles, moved by Priam's actions and following his mother's orders
sent by Zeus, returns Hector's body to
Priam and promises him a truce
of twelve days to allow the Trojans to perform funeral rites for
Priam returns to
Troy with the body of his son, and it is
given full funeral honors. Even Helen mourns Hector, for he had always
been kind to her and protected her from spite. The last lines of the
Iliad are dedicated to Hector's funeral. Homer concludes by referring
to the Trojan prince as the "Breaker of Horses."
The most valuable historical evidence for the Battle of
treaties and letters mentioned in Hittite cuneiform texts of the same
approximate era, which mention an unruly Western Anatolian warlord
Piyama-Radu (possibly Priam) and his successor Alaksandu
(possibly Alexander, the nickname of Paris) both based in Wilusa
(possibly Ilion/Ilios), as well as the god Apaliunas (possibly
Other such pieces of evidence are names of Trojan heroes in Linear B
tablets. Twenty out of fifty-eight men's names also known from Homer,
including 𐀁𐀒𐀵, E-ko-to (Hector), are Trojan warriors and
some, including Hector, are in a servile capacity. No such
conclusion that they are the offspring of Trojan captive women is
warranted. Generally the public has to be content with the knowledge
that these names existed in Greek in Mycenaean times, although
Page hypothesizes that
Hector "may very well be ... a familiar
Greek form impressed on a similar-sounding foreign name."
When Pausanias visited Thebes in Boeotia, in the second century AD, he
was shown Hector's tomb and was told that the bones had been
transported to Thebes according to a Delphic oracle. Moses I. Finley
observes "this typical bit of fiction must mean that there was an
old Theban hero Hector, a Greek, whose myths antedated the Homeric
poems. Even after Homer had located
Troy for all time, the
Thebans held on to their hero, and the Delphic oracle provided the
The pseudepigraphical writer
Dares Phrygius states that
with a slight lisp. His complexion was fair, his hair curly. His eyes
would blink attractively. His movements were swift. His face, with its
beard, was noble. He was handsome, fierce, and high-spirited, merciful
to the citizens, and deserving of love."
The Grief and Recriminations of
Andromache over the Body of
Husband (1783) by Jacques-Louis David
In Dante Alighieri's Inferno (which is part of the Divine Comedy
Hector and his family are placed in Limbo, the outer circle
wherein the virtuous non-Christians dwell.
Roland's sword in early 12th century French poem Song of Roland, was
named Durendal. According to Ludovico Ariosto's
Orlando Furioso it
once belonged to
Hector of Troy, and was given to
Roland by Malagigi
In William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, Hector's death is used
to mark the conclusion of the play. His nobility is shown in stark
contrast to the deceit and pridefulness of the Greeks, especially
List of King Priam's children
^ Iliad, XX, 215 ff.
^ Redfield, James M. (1994). Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The
Tragedy of Hector. Durham: Duke University Press. p. ix.
^ R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p.
^ This etymology is given under
Hector in the Online Etymological
Dictionary, which, if true, would make it an Indo-European name, of
root *seĝh-. The Dardanians would not have been Greek, but the
language of the city of
Troy is still an open question.
^ Iliad, VII 43-305.
^ Iliad, VII, 433 ff.
^ Iliad, III.
^ Iliad, VI 390-480
^ This Trojan helmet was made famous by Denys L. Page in History and
the Homeric Iliad, Chapter VI, "Some Mycenaean relics in the Iliad",
Greeks do not wear bronze helmets in the poem's epic formulae,
but they did in the Homeric Age; therefore, scholar Denys L. Page
concludes (on other evidence as well) that the bronze helmet of Hector
descends in oral poetry from Mycenaean times.
^ Iliad, VIII, 542 ff.
^ Iliad, XI, 171 ff.
^ Iliad, XII.
^ Iliad, XV, end.
^ a b The Iliad, book XVI
^ Iliad, XVII
^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad. University of Chicago Press.
p. 467. ISBN 978-0-226-47049-8.
^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. Bibliotheca. III, xii, 5–6; "Epitome" IV,
Linear B word e-ko-to". Palaeolexicon: Word study tool for
^ Template:Cite book editor1-first=Michael
^ Page, Denys Lionel (1972) . "V". History and the Homeric
Iliad. Sather Classical Lectures. University of California
^ Finley, Moses I. (1978) . The World of
Odysseus (Revised ed.).
Viking Press. p. 44.
^ Dares of Phrygia. History of the Fall of
Troy 12. A short prose work
which purports to be a first-hand account of the
Trojan War by Dares,
a Trojan priest of Hephaestus in the Iliad.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hector.
"Hector". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
Characters in the Iliad
Ajax the Greater
Ajax the Lesser
Balius and Xanthus
Mygdon of Phrygia
Rhesus of Thrace