Iliad: The Slaying of Hector (end)

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

The Slaying of Hector (end)

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So Achilles stood leaning on his spear. And Athené took the shape of Deïphobus, and came near to Hector and said to him: "My brother, Achilles presses you hard; but come, we two will stand up against him."

Hector answered, "O Deïphobus, I have always loved you above all my brothers, and now I love you still more, for you only have come to my help, while they remain within the walls."

Then said Deïphobus: "Much did my father and my mother and my comrades entreat me to stay within the walls, but I would not, for I could not bear to leave you alone. Come, therefore, let us fight this man together, and see whether he will carry our spoils to the ships or we shall slay him here."

Then Hector said to Achilles: "Three times have you pursued me round the walls, and I dared not stand against you, but now I fear you no more. Only let us make this covenant. If Zeus gives me the victory to-day, I will give back your body to the Greeks, only I will keep your arms: do you, therefore, promise to do the same with me?"

Achilles frowned at him and said: "Hector, talk not of covenants to me. Men and lions make no oaths to each other, neither is there any agreement between wolves and sheep. Make no delay; let us fight together, that I may have vengeance for the blood of all my comrades whom thou hast slain, and especially of Patroclus, the man whom I loved beyond all others."

Then he threw the great spear, but Hector saw it coming and avoided it, crouching down so that the spear flew over his head and fixed itself in the ground. But Athené snatched it up and gave it back to Achilles; but this Hector did not see.

Then said Hector to Achilles: "You have missed your aim, Achilles. Now see whether I have not a truer aim." Then he cast his spear, and the aim, indeed, was true, for it struck upon the shield; it struck, but it bounded far away. Then he cried to Deïphobus: "Give me another spear;" but lo! Deïphobus was gone. Then he knew that his end was come, and he said to himself: "The gods have brought my doom upon me. I thought that Deïphobus was with me; but he is behind the walls, and this was but a cheat with which Athené cheated me. Nevertheless, if I must die, let me at least die in the doing of such a deed as men shall remember in the years to come."

So he spoke, and drew his great sword, and rushed upon Achilles as an eagle rushes down from the clouds upon its prey. But never a blow did he deal; for Achilles ran to meet him, holding his shield before him and the plumes of his helmet streamed behind him as he ran, and the point of his spear was as bright as the evening star. For a moment he doubted where he should drive it home, for the armour of Patroclus which Hector wore guarded him well.

But a spot there was, where the stroke of spear or sword is deadliest, by the collar-bone where the neck joins the shoulder. There he drove in the spear, and the point stood out behind the neck, and Hector fell in the dust. Then Achilles cried aloud: "Hector, you thought not of me when you slew Patroclus and spoiled him of his arms. But now you have fallen, and the dogs and vultures shall eat your flesh, but to him the Greeks will give honourable burial."

But Hector said, his voice now growing faint: "O Achilles, I entreat you, by all that you hold dear, to give my body to my father and mother that they may duly bury it. Large ransoms will they pay of gold and silver and bronze."

"Speak not to me of ransom," said Achilles. "Priam shall not buy thee back, no, not for your weight in gold."

Then Hector said: "I know you well, what manner of man you are, and that the heart in your breast is of iron. Only beware lest the anger of the gods come upon you for such deeds in the days when Paris and Apollo shall slay you hard by these very gates."

So speaking, he died. And Achilles said: "Die, dog that you are; but my doom I will meet when it shall please the gods to send it."

Then did Achilles devise a cruel thing. He pierced the ankle-bones of the dead man, and fastened the body with thongs of ox-hide to the chariot, and so dragged it to the ships.

Now Andromaché knew nothing of what had come to pass. She sat in her house weaving a great mantle, embroidered with flowers. And she bade her maidens make ready the bath for Hector, when he should come back from the battle, knowing not that he would never need it any more. Then there rose a great wailing from the walls, and she rose up from her weaving in great haste, and dropped the shuttle from her hands and said to the maids: "Come now, I must see what has happened, for I fear that some evil has come to the men of Troy. Maybe Hector is in danger, for he is always bold, and will fight in the front."

Then she ran along the street to the walls like a madwoman. And when she came to the walls she looked, and lo! the horses of Achilles were dragging the body of Hector to the ships. Then a sudden darkness came upon her, and she fell to the ground as though she were dead.

(1000 words)

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