Iliad: The Slaying of Hector

As promised, Thetis arranges for Hephaestus to forge new weapons for her son Achilles (The Making of the Arms), and Achilles then agrees to go fight (The Quarrel Ended) and the battle between the Greeks and Trojans resumes (The Battle at the River). The moment when Achilles will confront Hector is now drawing near!

[Notes by LKG]

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

The Slaying of Hector

KING PRIAM stood on a tower of the wall and saw how Achilles was driving the men of Troy before him, and his heart was much troubled within him, thinking how he could help his people. So he went down and spoke to those who kept the gates: "Keep now the wicket-gates open, holding them in your hand, that the people may enter by them, for they are flying before Achilles." So the keepers held the wicket-gates in their hands, and the people made haste to come in; they were wearied with toil and consumed with thirst, and Achilles followed close after them.

And the Greeks would have taken the city of Troy that hour but that Apollo saved it, for the gates being open they could enter with the Trojans, whereas the gates being shut, the people were left to perish. And the way in which he saved the city was this. He put courage into the heart of Agēnor, son to Antenor, standing also by him that he should not be slain. Agēnor, therefore, stood thinking to himself: "Shall I flee with these others? Not so: for Achilles will overtake me, so swift of foot is he, and shall slay me, and I shall die the death of a coward. Or shall I flee across the plain to Mount Ida, and hide myself in the thicket, and come back to the city when it is dark? But if he see me, he will pursue me and overtake me. Shall I not rather stand here and meet him before the gates? For he too is a mortal man, and may be slain by the spear."

Therefore he stood by the gates waiting for Achilles, for Apollo had given him courage. And when Achilles came near Agēnor cast his spear, and struck his leg beneath the knee, but the greave turned the spear, so strong was it, having been made by a god. But when Achilles rushed at him to slay him, Apollo lifted him up from the ground and set him safe within the walls. And that

the men of Troy might have time to enter, the god took Agēnor's shape and fled before Achilles, and Achilles pursued him.

Meanwhile the Trojans flocked into the city through the wicket-gates, nor did they stay to ask who was safe and who was dead, so great was their fear and such their haste. Only Hector remained outside the city, in front of the great gates which were called the Sc├Žan Gates.

All the while Achilles was fiercely pursuing the false Agēnor, till at last Apollo turned and spoke to him: "Why do you pursue me, swift-footed Achilles? Have you not yet found out that I am a god, and that all your fury is in vain? And now the Trojans are safe in the city, and you are here, far out of the way, seeking to kill one who cannot die."

Achilles answered him in great anger: "You have done me a great wrong in this. Surely of all the gods you are the one who loves mischief most. If it had not been for this many Trojans more would have fallen; but you have saved your favourites and robbed me of great glory. Oh that I could take vengeance on you! truly you would have paid dearly for your cheat." Then he turned and ran towards the city, swift as a racehorse when it whirls a chariot across the plains. And his armour shone upon him as bright as Orion, which men call also the Dog, shines in the autumn, when the vintage is gathered, an evil light, bringing fevers to men.

Old Priam saw him and groaned aloud, and stretched out his hands crying to Hector his son, where he stood before the gates waiting to fight with this terrible warrior: "O my son, wait not for this man, lest he kill you, for indeed he is stronger than you. I would that the gods had such love for him as I have. Soon would he be food for dogs and vultures. Of many sons has he bereaved me, but if he should bereave me of you, then would not I only and the mother who bore you mourn, but every man and woman in Troy. Come within the walls, my dear son, come, for you are the hope of the city. Come, lest an evil fate come upon me in my old age, that I should see my sons slain with the sword and my daughters carried into captivity, and the babes dashed upon the ground."

(800 words)

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