Andromache in The Iliad

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Poor, doomed Andromache of Thebes, the wife of Prince Hector and the mother of Astyanax, has a small but vital and tragic role in the epic poem by Homer, 'The Iliad'. Read on to learn more.

Andromache in The Iliad

The Iliad is an ancient Greek poem that tells the story of the Trojan War. It is usually attributed to the poet Homer, about whom not much is known. The entire action of The Iliad takes place over the last few weeks of the ten-year Trojan War. This lesson will focus on Andromache, the wife of Prince Hector, and her place in The Iliad.

Andromache's Background and Family

Andromache is from Thebes. Her father and brothers were all killed by the Greek hero Achilles, and her mother died as well, leaving Andromache alone. Hector, the oldest son of the Trojan King Priam, weds Andromache and brings her back to Troy. By the time the action of The Iliad starts, Andromache is a happy wife to the city's hero, with whom she has an infant son, named Scamandrius, though the Trojans call him Astyanax, or ''King of the City'', as the heir to the heir of Troy.

An urn depicting Andromache and her family
An urn depicting Andromache and her family

Throughout her appearances in The Iliad, Andromache is portrayed as a wife and mother. She primarily appears in Books 6 and 22 of the epic poem.

Andromache in Book 6

In Book 6, Andromache is shown in a rather untraditional place for a woman. She is standing atop the walls of the city, watching what is happening below. With her is a lady-in-waiting carrying her infant son. Andromache begs Hector not to fight, as she is sure that he will be killed.

Andromache tells Hector about how his family is all she has. Here, we learn how she lost her family to Achilles and how she is terrified to lose Hector as well. She says she would be better off dead than without him. Hector tells his wife that he can't run away from his fate.

Then, Hector leans down to kiss Astyanax, who screams in terror when he sees Hector's helmet. Hector laughs, takes the helmet off, and kisses the baby. Andromache then nurses the baby. She mourns Hector's death even though he is still alive, since she is convinced that he will soon die. Homer shows us here that the great warrior Hector is still human and cherishes his family, while presenting the possibility that war may tear this happy family apart.

Andromache, Astyanax, and Hector on the walls of Troy
On the Walls of Troy

Andromache in Book 22

In Book 22, Hector and Achilles face off. After a brief battle, Achilles kills Hector. Then, he and the other fighters mutilate and mock Hector's corpse. Up on the walls, Hector's parents see his death and dishonor and begin to wail.

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