12 Major Myths about Hector, the Great Trojan Warrior in Greek Mythology
Hector— a fierce Greek warrior known for his exploits during the Trojan War—was a mythical Greek hero and a Trojan prince. According to the myths Hector led the Trojan army and vanquished virtually all of his enemies, and during the Trojan War, this Prince of Troy famously killed 31,000 Greek fighters.
The eldest son of Trojan King Priam and Queen Hecuba, Hector was tragically killed by the mighty Achilles, who dragged Hector’s body around the tomb of Patroclus.
But just who was this great Trojan hero? In the article below, World History Edu presents the major myths about Hector.
Hector was the first-born son of the rulers of Troy
According to many versions of the myth, Hector was the oldest child of Trojan rulers King Priam and Queen Hecuba. His family traces their lineage to the first founders of Troy, Dardanus and Tros. Dardanus, the founder of the city of Dardanus in the Troad (present day northwestern part of Anatolia), was believed to be the son of Zeus and Electra, one of the seven companions of the goddess Artemis.
In some versions, King Priam, a monarch who had numerous wives and concubines, is said to have had a total of 18 daughters and 68 sons, many of who died during the Trojan War.
Hector’s mother, Queen Hecuba, was either the daughter of King Dymas of Phrygia (west central part of Anatolia) or the daughter of King Cisseus of Thrace. Hecuba had 19 children, including Hector’s brother Prince Paris of Troy, the prophetess of Apollo Cassandra, and Princess Polyxena.
By virtue of his position as the first son of King Priam, Trojan hero Hector was the heir apparent to the throne of Troy.
Fought some of the bravest Greek heroes
Hector’s reputation as a great warrior was cemented over and over again as he dueled with the best of the best. Homer’s Iliad states that the Trojan warrior battled and killed Greek fighter Protesilaus in one-on-one combat.
Protesilaus was no mere pushover as his acclaim was so high that he had cult following in places like Thessaly and Thrace. He was the first Greek hero who dared to land on the shore of Troy. As a result of the prophecy that stated that the first Greek to step foot on the shores of Troy would die, not even the likes of Ajax or Odysseus were brave enough to land first.
Protesilaus landed first, and in keeping up with the prophecy, Hector killed Protesilaus in a single combat.
Hector dueled bravely with Ajax the Great
In Homer’s Iliad, Hector also had a single combat with the Greek hero Ajax, the son of King Telamon and Periboea. Ajax the Great’s father Telamon was the grandson of Zeus.
The duel between Hector and Ajax came about after the former challenged the Greeks to present their bravest warrior to fight in a single combat. Nine Greek heroes put their names out, and after lots were drawn, Ajax’s name popped out.
In the duel, Hector and Ajax showed exactly why they were one of the greatest warriors of their time. The two warriors fought bravely, and in spite of Hector’s swift moves, he failed at piercing Ajax’s shield. On the contrary, Ajax was able to put his spear through Hector’s armor, spilling a bit of Hector’s blood. The two fighters continued to tussle until sun down, at which point the Greek god Apollo stepped in and stopped the duel.
The death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector forced Achilles to re-enter the Trojan war
Right from the onset of the Trojan War, the will of the gods was to see Troy fall. And in order for that to happen, the Greeks needed to have Achilles fighting for them again.
So, as fate would have it, a series of events during the latter stages of the war ultimately caused the mighty Achilles to rejoin his Greek comrades and fight against the Trojans.
Patroclus, Achilles’ long-time friend and undoubtedly the closest thing to a brother, disguised himself as Achilles by wearing the armor of the great fighter. Patroclus then led the Myrmidons, a group of elite soldiers commanded by Achilles, to battle. Under Patrclus’ command the Trojans were pushed back from the Greek ships.
However, Patroclus got drunk on this victory and decided to pursue the fleeing Trojans to the gates of Troy. It was around this time that the Greek god Apollo cast a spell on Patroclus, removing the warrior’s wits. Patroclus could not react fast enough to see the spear that was thrown at him by Euphorbos. Bleeding from his wounds, Hector went ahead and killed Patroclus. Hector then stripped Patroclus of his armor – Achilles’ armor.
Patroclus’ death devastated Achilles, forcing the mighty Greek hero to re-enter the Trojan War.
Hector was killed by the mighty Achilles
Achilles, with an anger never before seen, leads the Greek army into battle a day after the death of Patroclus. The Trojans are completely overwhelmed and decided to fall back behind the great walls of their city.
Upon seeing the enraged Achilles, Hector is overwhelmed by fear and decides to flee. Achilles then gives Hector a hot pursuit around the city. It was only in the third chase that Hector manned up and decides to face Achilles in single combat.
The Greek goddess Athena, who by the way was against the Trojans, makes Hector think that his brother Deiphobus was beside him. Athena also offers a little bit of help to Achilles. The goddess retrieves the spear that Achilles threw at Hector. Hector then throws his spear at Achilles, who dodges it.
Left with just his sword, Hector decides that will do whatever it took to die fighting as a brave warrior. Hector charges straight at Achilles, who throws his retrieved spear straight into the collar bone of Hector, killing the Trojan warrior.
Hector’s corpse was desecrated by Achilles
Just before Hector dies, he pleads with Achilles to return his body to Troy so that he can be given an honorable funeral. However, Achilles blatantly refuses, vowing to feed Hector’s corpse to vultures and dogs. Hector also prophesies that Achilles was bound to die after him.
Still reeling from the loss of his dear friend Patroclus, an enraged Achilles attaches Hector’s body with a girdle and dragged the corpse of the fallen Trojan hero all the way to his camp.
In the days that followed, Achilles completely desecrates the body of Hector, leaving it to elements and the vultures. In spite of all that, the corpse remains well preserved kind courtesy to the intervention of Apollo and Aphrodite, two of the major Greek deities that supported the Trojans during the Trojan War.
Realizing that Achilles was not going to release Hector’s corpse, the gods intervene and send Thetis (Achilles’ mother) and Iris, the Greek goddess of rainbow and messenger of the gods, to Achilles. Thetis successfully convinces Achilles to release Hector’s body to his father King Priam.
Achilles then grants the Trojans twelve-day ceasefire that would allow the Trojans properly bury, honor and mourn their greatest hero.
Troy’s most noble prince and greatest warrior
Commander of Trojan army, Hector is described in Homer’s Iliad as the ideal warrior, the best of the best in Troy. Excluding the demigod Achilles, son of the sea nymph Thetis, Hector was perhaps the greatest in all of Greece. Greek commanders like Diomedes and Odysseus had immense praise for Hector, describing him as a colossal force with unimaginable battle prowess.
Homer also described Hector as a very well-mannered prince who loved peace. He only took to arms to defend his kingdom Troy.
Hector’s sister Cassandra foresaw the fall of Troy
Hector’s sister Cassandra was the eldest daughter of the Trojan king Priam and his wife queen Hecuba. A twin sister of the seer Helenus, Cassandra was the famous priestess of the Greek god Apollo.
According to Greek tragedian Aeschylus, Trojan princess Cassandra was given the power to see the future by the god of light and music Apollo. In exchange, Cassandra agreed to be the consort of Apollo. However, she reneged on her promise, much to the frustration of Apollo. Therefore, Apollo cursed her. Cassandra would keep her ability to see the future, however, nobody would ever believe the prophecies that she make.
Even though Cassandra warned the Trojans of their ultimate demise at the hands of the Greeks, nobody believed her prophecies. The Trojans tagged her as an insane woman and a liar. Cassandra even correctly predicted the abduction of Helen by Prince Paris of Troy. Much to her frustration, she was ridiculed by the Trojans when she told them that the Helen’s abduction would cause a war to break out between Troy and the Greeks.
She prophesied about so many things, including Greek soldiers hiding inside the Trojan Horse; the demise of her mother Hecuba; the death of her brother Hector; Aeneas’ founding of Rome; and her own death (at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra). In spite of all those warnings, the Trojans simply disbelieved her.
Read More: Greek God Apollo’s Consorts and Love Life
Hector’s character is perceived in a very good light by many writers and poets
Compared to the Greek heroes, especially Achilles, Hector was depicted as a very noble warrior. According to many ancient Greek writers and poets, his character was not only a brave Trojan commander but he was also a very good husband and father, willing to put his life on the line to protect his family and nation.
It comes as no surprise that Hector was worshipped in the Troad (present-day Çanakkale province of Turkey) and Tanagra, east of Thebes.
In the 1602 play Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare brilliantly contrasts Hector’s character to that of the very prideful Greek heroes.
A great number of Hector’s siblings either died or were enslaved after the Trojan War
Homer’s Iliad provides us with the names of some of the siblings of Hector. As stated above, Hector’s father King Priam is believed to have fathered 68 sons and 19 daughters. Many of his sons, including the likes of Paris, Troilus, Helenus and Deiphobus, fought bravely in defending Troy against the Greeks.
The sad thing is that many of those defenders of Troy were killed by the Greeks. For example, Troilus was ambushed and murdered by Achilles, according to the ancient Greek tragedian Sophocles. Similarly, Mestor, Lycaon, Dryops, Hipponous, and Hippodamas were slain by Achilles.
Prince Paris of Troy was killed by Philoctetes, the famed archer and Greek hero of the Trojan War. Odysseus killed Deiphobus, and Kebriones was killed by Patroclus. Odysseus also took into custody Helenus, the seer who was the twin brother of the prophetess Cassandra.
Additionally, many of Hector’s sisters were enslaved by the Greek following the fall of Troy. For example Polyxena was captured and later sacrificed by the Greeks.
Hector’s wife Andromache was enslaved after the fall of Troy
Hector married Andromache, the daughter of Eetion, king of Cilician Thebe. Together with Andromache, Hector fathered a son called Astyanax.
Following the death of Hector and the fall of Troy, Neoptolemus (son of Achilles and princess Deidamia) killed the infant Astyanax by throwing him from the city walls. Neoptolemus not only killed Hector’s father King Priam but also Hector’s brother Polites. As if that was not enough, Neoptolemus went ahead to enslave Andromache, making the widow of Hector his concubine. With Neoptolemus, Andromache gave birth to Molossos, Pielus and Pergamus.
Following the death of Neoptolemus, Andromache went on to marry Hector’s brother Helenus, who was by then the king of Epirus (a place located between modern day Albania and Greece).
The spirit of Hector inspired Aeneas to flee Troy
According to the ancient Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro (also known as Virgil), the spirit of Hector appeared to Aeneas, urging him to flee Troy to Italy. Aeneas was a famous Trojan hero and the cousin of Hector. Aeneas, whose parents were Anchises and the Greek goddess Aphrodite, is believed to have been the legendary founder of Rome.
More Hector facts
Hector’s name in Greek was most likely obtained from a word that means ‘to have’ or ‘to hold’. Homer in his Iliad describes Hector as the “Breaker of Horses”.
In some myth, Hector and his extremely handsome brother Prince Troilus were born out of an affair between Queen Hecuba and Apollo, the Greek god of light, music and poetry.
Hector’s wife Andromache was a sister to Podes, one of the seven brothers Achilles killed during a raid on Thebe. Andromache’s name means “man battler” or “fighter of men”. Achilles also killed Andromache’s father Eetion, according to Book 6 of the Iliad. In some versions, Podes is killed by Menelaus and Andromache’s mother dies of sickness
After Hector’s fight with Ajax the Great, the two fighters exchanged items. Hector gave Ajax his sword; while Ajax gave Hector his girdle. Ajax ended up committing suicide with the very sword that he received from Hector. And in Hector’s case, the girdle he received from Ajax was used by Achilles to attach Hector’s dead body to his chariot in order to drag it around Troy’s walls and the tomb of Patroclus.
Hector was not in favor of a war between Troy and the Greeks. According to Homer’s Iliad, Hector was forced to take arms against the enemies of Troy after the kingdom and its allies in the east were constantly attacked by the Achaeans.