The Death of Hector in The Iliad

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  • 0:03 War and Death
  • 0:43 What Hector Did
  • 1:37 Gods Interfere
  • 2:32 Hector's Death
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Belknap

Jake has taught English in middle and high school, has a degree in Literature, and has a master's degree in teaching.

'The Iliad' by Homer pits heroes against each other in this tale of the Trojan War. This lesson will explore the events that lead up to the death of the Trojan hero, Hector.

War and Death

There are many deaths in war, but the deaths of heroes are immortalized in the stories we tell of them. The death of the Trojan hero Hector becomes a turning point in Homer's epic poem The Iliad. This work from Ancient Greece tells the story of the ending of the Trojan War, which lasted for ten years in total. This war was between the city of Troy and the combined might of several Greek kings known as the Achaeans.

The death of the respected Trojan prince Hector comes at the hands of the Achaean demigod, Achilles. But first, Hector drew Achilles' attention by killing his friend Patroclus. Let's look at the event of Patroclus' death before turning to the death of Hector.

What Hector Did

Achilles, the fierce Achaean hero, had a disagreement with his leader, King Agamemnon, and refused to fight. With their best fighter absent from the battles, the tide of war began to turn against the Achaeans.

Achilles' friend and cousin Patroclus wished to help his men. So wearing Achilles' armor, he enters the fight. The armor tricks people into thinking he is Achilles. This helps the Achaeans until a god helps Prince Hector realize who the fighter truly is. With this insight, Hector kills Patroclus and strips him of the armor that formerly belonged to Achilles.

As you can imagine, the death of Patroclus enrages Achilles. With a new set of divine armor given to him by his goddess mother, Thetis, and crafted by the smith god Hephaestus, Achilles leaves the Achaean camp to pursue Hector. Achilles' rage at losing Patroclus and his need for revenge draw him back into the war. He now stalks after Hector with a deadly purpose.

Gods Interfere

In Book 22 of The Iliad, while Achilles rampages through the Trojan army, Hector retreats toward the walls of Troy. Many Trojans make it inside the city of Troy, but Hector remains outside while Achilles approaches. Both Hector's father, King Priam, and his mother, Queen Hecuba, beg Hector to come inside the walls to be safe from Achilles.

Hector decides to stay and fight, but then his confidence crumbles and he runs. Achilles chases Hector around the city three times. At this point, the gods interfere with the events. They had been discussing whether to help Hector, but Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategy, persuades the others to let Hector meet his destined fate and die.

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