Sylum Inspiration: Hector

Vampire Council: Second-in-Command

 

Hector was a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, a descendant of Dardanus, who lived under Mount Ida, and of Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house and the heir apparent to his father’s throne. He was married to Andromache, with whom he had an infant son, Scamandrius (whom the people of Troy called Astyanax). He acted as leader of the Trojans and their allies in the defense of Troy, killing 31,000 Greek fighters in all.

In the European Middle Ages, Hector figures as one of the Nine Worthies noted by Jacques de Longuyon, known not only for his courage but also for his noble and courtly nature. Indeed Homer places Hector as peace-loving, thoughtful as well as bold, a good son, husband and father, and without darker motives. When the Trojans are disputing whether the omens are favorable, he retorts: “One omen is best: defending the fatherland.”

According to the Iliad, Hector did not approve of war between the Greeks and the Trojans.

For ten years, the Achaeans besieged Troy and their allies in the east. Hector commanded the Trojan army, with a number of subordinates including Polydamas, and his brothers Deiphobus, Helenus, and Paris. By all accounts, Hector was the best warrior the Trojans and all their allies could field, and his fighting powers were admired by Greeks and his own people alike.

Diomedes and Odysseus, when faced with his attack, described him as what was translated as an ‘invincible headlong terror’, and a ‘maniac’.

In the Iliad, Hector’s exploits in the war prior to the events of the book are recapitulated. He had fought the Greek champion Protesilaus in single combat at the start of the war and killed him. A prophecy had stated that the first Greek to land on Trojan soil would die. Thus, Protesilaus, Ajax, and Odysseus would not land. Finally, Odysseus threw his shield out and landed on that, and Protesilaus jumped next from his own ship. In the ensuing fight, Hector killed him, fulfilling the prophecy.

At the advice of his brother, Helenus (who also is divinely inspired), and being told by him that he is not destined to die yet, Hector managed to get both armies seated and challenges any one of the Greek warriors to single combat. The Argives were initially reluctant to accept the challenge. However, after Nestor’s chiding, nine Greek heroes stepped up to the challenge and drew by lot to see who was to face Hector. Ajax wins and fights Hector to a stalemate for the entire day. With neither able to achieve victory, they express admiration for each other’s courage, skill, and strength. Hector gave Ajax his sword, which Ajax later uses to kill himself. Ajax gives Hector his girdle, which later was used to attach Hector’s corpse to Achilles’ chariot by which he is dragged around the walls of Troy.

Another mention of Hector’s exploits in the early years of war was given in the Iliad book 9. During the embassy to Achilles, Odysseus, Phoenix and Ajax all try to persuade Achilles to rejoin the fight. In his response, Achilles points out that while Hector was terrorizing the Greek forces now, and that while he himself had fought in their front lines, Hector had ‘no wish’ to take his force far beyond the walls and out from the Skiaian Gate and nearby oak tree. He then claims, ‘There he stood up to me alone one day, and he barely escaped my onslaught.’ A 2004 film version of Troy has Achilles slaying Hector following a duel, whereas in the Iliad it is rather different. Hector remains outside the walls, while his army flees into the city. As Achilles approaches, Hector stands his ground, fights and dies upon looking up at Troy. The film version of his death more resembles the single combat between the champions mentioned by Achilles in the Iliad, book 9.

In the tenth year of the war, observing Paris avoiding combat with Menelaus, Hector upbraids him with having brought trouble on his whole country and now refusing to fight. Paris therefore proposes single combat between himself and Menelaus, with Helen to go to the victor, ending the war. The duel, however, leads to inconclusive results due to intervention by Aphrodite who leads Paris off the field. After Pandarus wounds Menelaus with an arrow the fight begins again.

The Greeks attack and drive the Trojans back. Hector must now go out to lead a counter-attack. His wife, Andromache, carrying in her arms their son Astyanax, intercepts him at the gate, pleading with him not to go out for her sake as well as his son’s. Hector knows that Troy and the house of Priam are doomed to fall and that the gloomy fate of his wife and infant son will be to die or go into slavery in a foreign land. With understanding, compassion, and tenderness he explains that he cannot personally refuse to fight, and comforts her with the idea that no one can take him until it is his time to go. The gleaming bronze helmet frightens Astyanax and makes him cry. Hector takes it off, embraces his wife and son, and for her sake prays aloud to Zeus that his son might be chief after him and become more glorious in battle than he.

Hector and Paris pass through the gate and rally the Trojans, raising havoc among the Greeks.

Hector chooses to remain outside the gates of Troy to face Achilles, partly because had he listened to Polydamas and retreated with his troops the previous night, Achilles would not have killed so many Trojans. However, when he sees Achilles Hector is seized by fear and turns to flee. Achilles chases to him around the city three times before Hector masters his fear and turns to face Achilles. But Athena, in the disguise of Hector’s brother Deiphobus, has deluded Hector. He requests from Achilles that the victor should return the other’s body after the duel, but Achilles refuses. Achilles hurls his spear at Hector, who dodges it, but Athena brings it back to Achilles’ hands without Hector noticing. Hector then throws his own spear at Achilles; it hits his shield and does no injury. When Hector turns to face his supposed brother to retrieve another spear, he sees no one there. At that moment he realizes that he is doomed.

Hector decides that he will go down fighting and that men will talk about his bravery in years to come. The desire to achieve ever-lasting honor was one of the most fierce for soldiers living in the timocratic (honor based) society of the age.

Hector pulls out his sword, now his only weapon, and charges. A raging duel ensues, and eventually Achilles finishes it. He slices at Hector’s armor, throwing him off guard and spinning him around. Achilles spins around too, and when Hector turns around completely, Achilles grapples him, stabbing him through the belly with his sword and throwing him a short way over his shoulder. Hector, in his final moments, begs Achilles for an honorable funeral, but Achilles replies that he will let the dogs and vultures devour Hector’s flesh. Hector dies, prophesying that Achilles’ death will follow soon.

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy.

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