Iliad: Hector and Andromache

After Zeus sends the false Dream to Agamemnon, there is a whole series of events which I have omitted here, with various duels and battles between the Greeks and the Trojans: The Duel of Paris and MenelausHow the Oath Was BrokenThe Great Deeds of DiomedConcerning Other Valiant Deeds, and Of Glaucus and Diomed. The story selection now moves into the city of Troy, and you will meet Hector, eldest son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, and brother to Paris. He is the leader of the Trojan forces, and Andromache is his wife.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Iliad unit. Story source: The Iliad retold by Alfred J. Church (1907).

Hector and Andromache 

WHEN Hector passed through the gates into the city, hundreds of Trojan women crowded round him, asking what had happened to their sons or husbands. But he said nothing to them, except to bid them to pray that the gods would protect those whom they loved.

When he came to the palace there met him his mother, Queen Hecuba. She caught him by the hand, and said: "O Hector, why have you come from battle? Have the Greeks been pressing you hard? Or have you come, maybe, to pray for help from Father Zeus? Let me bring a cup of wine, that you may pour out an offering to the god, aye, and that you may drink yourself and cheer your heart."

But Hector said: "Mother, give me no wine, lest it should make my knees weak, and take the courage out of my heart. Nor must I make an offering to the gods with my hands unwashed. What I would have you do is this—gather the mothers of Troy together, and take the most beautiful and precious robe that you have, and go with them and lay it upon the knees of Athené, and pray to her to keep this terrible Diomed from the walls of Troy. And do not forget to promise a sacrifice of twelve heifers. And I will go and call Paris, and bid him come with me to the battle. Of a truth I could wish that the earth would open her mouth and swallow him up, for he is a curse to his father and to you his mother, and to the whole city of Troy."

Then Queen Hecuba went into her palace, and opened the store where she kept her treasures, and took out of it the finest robe that she had. And she and the noblest ladies that were in Troy carried it to the temple of Athené. Then the priestess, who was the wife of Antenor, received it from her hands, and laid it upon the knees of the goddess, making this prayer: "O Lady Athené, keeper of this city, break, we beseech thee, the spear of Diomed, and make him fall dead before the gates of Troy. If thou wilt have pity on the wives and children of the men of Troy, then we will offer to thee twelve heifers that have never been made to draw the plough."

So the priestess prayed; but Athené would not hear. And indeed, it was she who stirred up Diomed to fight so fiercely against Troy and had given him fresh strength and courage.

Meanwhile Hector went to the house of Paris. It stood on the citadel, close to his own house and to the palace of King Priam. He found him cleaning his arms and armour, and the fair Helen sat near him, with her maids, busy with needlework.

Then Hector thought to himself, "If I tell him that he went away from the battle because he was afraid, then I shall offend him and do no good: I will try another way." So he said: "O Paris, is it right that you should stand aside and not fight in the battle because you are angry with your countrymen? The people perish, and the fight grows hotter and hotter every minute about the city. Rouse yourself and come forth before Troy is burnt up. For, remember, it is you that are the cause of all these troubles."

Then Paris answered: "O my brother, you have spoken well. But it was not because I was angry that I came away from the battle; it was because I was so much ashamed of being beaten. But now I will come back, for this is what my wife would have me to do; maybe I shall do better another time, for the gods give victory now to one man and now to another."

Then the fair Helen said to Hector: "Sit down now and rest a little, for you must be very tired with all that you have done."

But Hector answered: "You must not ask me to rest; I must make haste to help my countrymen, for indeed they are in sore need of help. But do you see that your husband overtakes me before I go out of the city gate. Now I am going to my house to see my wife and my little boy, for I do not know whether I shall ever see them again."

When he said this, Hector went to his house to see his wife Andromaché, for that was her name. But he did not find her at home, for she had gone to the wall, being very much afraid for her husband.

Hector asked the maids: "Where is the Lady Andromaché? Has she gone to see one of her sisters-in-law, or, maybe, with the other mothers of Troy, to the temple of Athené?"

Then an old woman who was the housekeeper said: "Nay; she went to one of the towers of the wall that she might see the battle, for she had heard that the Greeks were pressing our people very much. She seemed like a madwoman, so much haste she did make, and the nurse went with her carrying the child."

(900 words)

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