Hector of Troy: History, Overview

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore the Trojan warrior, Hector. Devoted husband, defender of the city, and son of Troy's king, Hector plays a crucial part in Homer's ''Iliad'' as the champion of his city and his brother.

Brotherly Love

When was the last time you had to bail one of your siblings out of a mistake? Perhaps your brother ran afoul of some unsavory street urchin, or maybe your sister tried to write a check she either literally or figuratively just couldn't cash. If you could, you probably would have helped your sibling out, whether it was loaning him or her a few bucks until pay day or doing your best to calm down a wronged foe.

For Hector of Troy, however, the stakes were a little bit higher. Due to the transgressions of Hector's brother, Paris, Hector had to defend his city, home, and family from an invading army.

Who was Hector of Troy?

According to Homer's The Iliad, which told the dramatized story of the Trojan War, Hector of Troy was the eldest son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Homer traced Hector's heritage all the way back to Dardanus, the mythical founder of Troy. Hector was married to Andromache, and together they had a son, Astyanax. Prior to the beginning of the war, Andromache implored Hector not to fight. Despite his wife's heartfelt pleas, Hector said that he had to fight, not only for the city of Troy, but for his Andromache and Astyanax most of all.

In the Trojan War, Hector commanded the Trojan troops in his attempt to repel the invading Achaeans (Greeks), and he fought valiantly throughout the conflict. Early in the war, Hector challenged the Achaeans to send out their best warrior to decide the conflict without further bloodshed. Hector battled one of the Greeks' best warriors, Ajax, and after single combat for an entire day the contest was declared a draw. The war was forced to continue.

Afterward, during a prolonged battle, Hector killed Patroclus, whom Hector had mistaken for the great Greek warrior, Achilles. Patroclus and Achilles were incredibly close friends; some interpretations of the nature of their relationship propose that the two were cousins or even lovers. Patroclus' death enraged Achilles, and he entered the battle, leading the Achaean troops and forcing the Trojans back to Troy's walls. At this point, Achilles called out Hector, demanding single combat and satisfaction for the death of Patroclus. After a fierce battle, including Achilles chasing Hector around the city three times, Achilles killed Hector. Fueled by the anger he still felt at Patroclus' death, Achilles strapped the Hector's body to his chariot and dragged the corpse back to his camp.

Hector and Paris

As Troy's fiercest warrior, Hector defended his city because of his brother Paris' mistakes. While in Greece, Paris fell in love with the beautiful Helen of Troy, who was already married to a man named Menelaus. When Paris and Helen snuck off, Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, the Achaean king, resolved to chase Paris and Helen across the Mediterranean in order to take back Helen, kill Paris, and sack Troy itself for the sake of Menelaus' pride.

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