Gateway to the Classics: The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
The Iliad for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church

Hector and Andromache

W HEN Hector passed through the gates into the city, hundreds of Trojan women crowded round him, asking what had happened to their sons or husbands. But he said nothing to them, except to bid them to pray that the gods would protect those whom they loved. When he came to the palace there met him his mother, Queen Hecuba. She caught him by the hand, and said: "O Hector, why have you come from battle? Have the Greeks been pressing you hard? or have you come, maybe, to pray for help from Father Zeus? Let me bring a cup of wine, that you may pour out an offering to the god, aye, and that you may drink yourself and cheer your heart."

But Hector said: "Mother, give me no wine, lest it should make my knees weak, and take the courage out of my heart. Nor must I make an offering to the gods with my hands unwashed. What I would have you do is this—gather the mothers of Troy together, and take the most beautiful and precious robe that you have, and go with them and lay it upon the knees of Athené, and pray to her to keep this terrible Diomed from the walls of Troy. And do not forget to promise a sacrifice of twelve heifers. And I will go and call Paris, and bid him come with me to the battle. Of a truth I could wish that the earth would open her mouth and swallow him up, for he is a curse to his father and to you his mother, and to the whole city of Troy."

Then Queen Hecuba went into her palace, and opened the store where she kept her treasures, and took out of it the finest robe that she had. And she and the noblest ladies that were in Troy carried it to the temple of Athené. Then the priestess, who was the wife of Antenor, received it from her hands, and laid it upon the knees of the goddess, making this prayer: "O Lady Athené, keeper of this city, break, we beseech thee, the spear of Diomed, and make him fall dead before the gates of Troy. If thou wilt have pity on the wives and children of the men of Troy, then we will offer to thee twelve heifers that have never been made to draw the plough."

So the priestess prayed; but Athené would not hear. And indeed, it was she who stirred up Diomed to fight so fiercely against Troy and had given him fresh strength and courage.

Meanwhile Hector went to the house of Paris. It stood on the citadel, close to his own house and to the palace of King Priam. He found him cleaning his arms and armour, and the fair Helen sat near him, with her maids, busy with needlework.


Hector Chiding Paris

Then Hector thought to himself, "If I tell him that he went away from the battle because he was afraid, then I shall offend him and do no good: I will try another way." So he said: "O Paris, is it right that you should stand aside and not fight in the battle because you are angry with your countrymen? The people perish, and the fight grows hotter and hotter every minute about the city. Rouse yourself and come forth before Troy is burnt up. For, remember, it is you that are the cause of all these troubles."

Then Paris answered: "O my brother, you have spoken well. But it was not because I was angry that I came away from the battle; it was because I was so much ashamed of being beaten. But now I will come back, for this is what my wife would have me to do; maybe I shall do better another time, for the gods give victory now to one man and now to another."

Then the Fair Helen said to Hector: "Sit down now and rest a little, for you must be very tired with all that you have done."

But Hector answered: "You must not ask me to rest; I must make haste to help my countrymen, for indeed they are in sore need of help. But do you see that your husband overtakes me before I go out of the city gate. Now I am going to my house to see my wife and my little boy, for I do not know whether I shall ever see them again."

When he said this, Hector went to his house to see his wife Andromaché, for that was her name. But he did not find her at home, for she had gone to the wall, being very much afraid for her husband.

Hector asked the maids: "Where is the Lady Andromaché? Has she gone to see one of her sisters-in-law, or, maybe, with the other mothers of Troy, to the temple of Athené?"

Then an old woman who was the housekeeper said: "Nay; she went to one of the towers of the wall that she might see the battle, for she had heard that the Greeks were pressing our people very much. She seemed like a madwoman, so much haste she did make, and the nurse went with her carrying the child."

Then Hector ran towards the gate, and Andromaché saw him from where she stood on the wall, and made haste to meet him. And the nurse came with her, carrying the child, Hector's only son, a beautiful boy, with a head like a star, so bright was his golden hair. His father called him Scamandrius, after the river which runs across the plains of Troy; but the people called him Astyănax, which means the "City King," because it was his father who saved the city. And Hector smiled when he saw the child. But Andromaché did not smile, for she caught her husband by the hand, and wept, saying, "O Hector, your courage will be your death. You have no pity on your wife and child, and you do not spare yourself. Some day all the Greeks will join together and rush on you and kill you"—for she did not believe that any one of them could conquer him. "But if I lose you, then it would be better for me to die than to live. I have no comfort but you. My father is dead; for the great Achilles killed him when he took our city. He killed him, but he did him great honour, for he would not take his arms for a spoil, but burnt them with him; yes, and the nymphs of the mountains planted poplars by his grave. I had seven brothers, and they also are dead, for the great Achilles killed them in one day. And my mother also is dead, for when my father had redeemed her with a great sum of money, Artĕmis slew her with one of her deadly arrows. But you are father to me and mother, and brother, and husband also. Have pity on me, and stay here upon the wall, lest you leave me a widow and your child an orphan. And set your people in order of battle by this fig-tree, for here the wall is easier to attack. Here too, I see the bravest chiefs of the Greeks."

Hector answered her: "Dear wife, leave these things to me; I will look after them. One thing I cannot bear, that any son or daughter of Troy should see me skulking from battle. I hate the very thought of it; I must always be in front. Alas! I know that Priam and the people of Priam and this holy city of Troy will perish. But it is not for Troy, or for the people of Troy, nor even for my father and my mother, that I care so much; it is for you, when I think how some Greek will carry you away captive, and you be set to spin or to carry water from the spring in a distant land. And some one will say: 'See that slave woman there! She was the wife of Hector, who was the bravest of the Trojans.' "

Then Hector stretched out his arms to take the child. But the child drew back into the bosom of his nurse, making a great cry, for he was frightened by the helmet which shone so brightly, and by the horsehair plume which nodded so awfully. And both his father and mother laughed to hear him. Then Hector took the helmet from his head and laid it on the ground, and caught the boy in his hands, and kissed him and dandled him. And he prayed aloud to Father Zeus and to the other gods, saying:

"Grant, Father Zeus, and other gods who are in heaven, that this child may be as I am, a great man in Troy. And may the people say some day when they see him carrying home the bloody spoils of some enemy whom he has killed in battle: 'A better man than his father, this!' And his mother will be glad to hear it."


The Meeting of Hector and Andromache

Then he gave the boy to his mother, and she clasped him to her breast and smiled, but there were tears in her eyes when she smiled. And Hector's heart was moved when he saw the tears; and he stroked her with his hand and said:

"Do not let these things trouble you. No man will be able to kill me, unless it be my fate to die. But fate no one may escape, whether he be a brave man or a coward. But go, dear wife, to your spinning again, and give your maids their tasks, and let the men see to the battle."

Then he took up the helmet from the ground, and put it on his head, and Andromaché went to her home, but often, as she went, she turned her eyes to look at her husband. And when she came to her home she called all the maids together, and they wept and wailed for Hector as though he were already dead. And, indeed, she thought in her heart that she should never again see him coming home safe from the battle.

Hector went on his way to the gate, and as he went Paris came running after him. His arms shone brightly in the sun, and he himself went proudly along like a horse that is fresh from his stable, and prances over the grass and tosses his mane. And he said to Hector: "I am afraid that I have kept you when you were in a hurry to get back to your comrades."

Hector answered: "No man doubts that you are brave. But you are wilful, and hold back from the battle when you should be foremost. So it is that the people say shameful things about you. But now let us make haste to the battle."

So they went out by the gate, and fell upon the Greeks and killed many of them, and Glaucus the Lycian went with them.

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