The Iliad

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Hector Character Analysis

The eldest prince of Troy and heir to the throne. Hector is brave warrior and a thoughtful leader. He is also a devoted husband and father, and is very concerned for the survival of Troy. Under his leadership, the Trojans push the Achaeans back to their ships. After Hector kills Patroclus, Achilles kills Hector for revenge.

Hector Quotes in The Iliad

The The Iliad quotes below are all either spoken by Hector or refer to Hector. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Honor and Glory Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Iliad published in 1998.
Book 6 Quotes

Why so much grief for me?
No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate.
And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,
neither brave man nor coward, I tell you—
it’s born with us the day that we are born.

Related Characters: Hector (speaker), Andromache
Page Number: 6.580-584
Explanation and Analysis:

In this tender scene, Hector tries to comfort his wife, Andromache. Hector is about to go into battle, and Andromache is frightened that she'll never see him again: there's a good chance Hector will be killed in the line of duty. Hector tries to reassure Andromache by pointing out that everybody dies in the end. the best Hector can do, as a great soldier, is to fight bravely while he still has the energy and the talent. In short, Hector believes that everybody dies, so he might as well die with dignity and honor.

Hector's speech illustrates the strengths and the limitations of the warlike philosophy of the Trojans. Hector is incredibly brave and noble--he's genuinely willing to die for Paris, someone he clearly doesn't even like--and yet he's so focused on war and fighting that he's forced to neglect the other half of life: the life of love, happiness, tenderness, and family.

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Book 12 Quotes

Fight for your country—that is the best, the only omen!

Related Characters: Hector (speaker)
Related Symbols: Zeus’ Eagle
Page Number: 12.281
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Hector and his fellow Trojans see a sign from Zeus: an eagle carrying a bloody snake. The troops interpret the sign as proof that their assault on the Achaeans' camp will fail. But Hector disagrees: he encourages his peers to ignore the ambiguous sign and fight on, inspired by their love for Troy.

The passage is important for a number of reasons. First, Hector's emphasis on patriotism and group loyalty seems somewhat modern, as does his refusal to be swayed by superstition. Hector isn't saying that the Trojans should ignore the gods altogether; rather, he's saying that the Trojans shouldn't try to interpret signs from Zeus themselves (that's the job of the seers and soothsayers). By contemporary standards, Hector seems to be rejecting the strict determinism of ancient Greek religion and culture: he seems to be saying that the Trojans can choose their own destiny by fighting bravely. (And yet in the end, Hector's heroism is impressive precisely because it's futile: Hector has been fated to die, so his insistence that the Trojans should ignore all omens is poignant in its ignorance.)

Book 21 Quotes

Come, friend, you too must die. Why moan about it so?
Even Patroclus died, a far, far better man than you.
And look, you see how handsome and powerful I am?
The son of a great man, the mother who gave me life
a deathless goddess. But even for me, I tell you,
death and the strong force of fate are waiting.

Related Characters: Achilles (speaker), Hector, Patroclus
Page Number: 21.119-124
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we see Achilles at his most nihilistic. Achilles has tracked down Lycaon, one of the sons of Priam (whom Achilles had previously captured and sold into slavery). Lycaon begs for his life, but Achilles mockingly tells Lycaon that better men than he have lost their lives during the war.

Achilles knows that he's going to die: therefore, he sees the world in the grimmest, most cynical terms. He has no mercy for his opponents in battle--they must die, the same as Achilles himself. Furthermore, Achilles is still furious over the death of Patroclus, and wants revenge at all costs. And yet Achilles' mockery of Lycaon simply isn't dignified: he's toying with his victim, savoring the act of murder instead of just getting it over with. For all his strength and skill, Achilles is often portrayed as an angry, cruel soldier.

Book 22 Quotes

Achilles went for him, fast, sure of his speed
as the wild mountain hawk, the quickest thing on wings,
launching smoothly, swooping down on a cringing dove
and the dove flits out from under, the hawk screaming...his fury
driving him down to beak and tear his kill—
so Achilles flew at him, breakneck on in fury
with Hector fleeing along the walls of Troy.

Related Characters: Achilles, Hector
Page Number: 22.165-172
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Achilles and Hector have prepared to fight one another. And yet when Hector catches sight of Achilles in all his glory, he loses his nerve and runs away. Achilles wins up chasing Hector around the walls of Troy, hoping to catch him and kill him.

Hector's behavior is at once cowardly by the standards of the ancient world, and entirely sympathetic. He knows for a fact that he can't beat Achilles, who is fated to kill him, and therefore has to accept the fact that he's going to die in battle. Hector has tried to come to terms with his own mortality, and yet he can't, at least not right now. He runs in this scene, but Hector then proves his valor by ultimately facing Achilles, and thus accepts his own glorious death.

Book 24 Quotes

Those words stirred within Achilles a deep desire
to grieve for his own father…And overpowered by memory
both men gave way to grief. Priam wept freely
for man-killing Hector, throbbing, crouching
before Achilles’ feet as Achilles wept himself,
now for his father, now for Patroclus once again,
and their sobbing rose and fell throughout the house.

Related Characters: Achilles, Hector, Patroclus, Priam
Page Number: 24.592-599
Explanation and Analysis:

In the climactic scene of the poem, Achilles confronts King Priam, the ruler of Troy and the father of Hector--the man Achilles has just killed on the battlefield. Priam only asks that Achilles surrender Hector's mangled body so that Priam can provide it with the proper funeral rites. Achilles initially refuses to turn over Hector's body: he's still so furious about the death of Patroclus that he wants to cause pain and grief to his enemies, the same grief that Achilles himself feels. And yet something happens in this scene: Priam touches Achilles' heart, reminding Achilles that Achilles' death will cause his own father (Peleus) tremendous sadness. Overcome with grief for his family and for himself, Achilles joins Priam in weeping. Immediately afterward, Achilles will agree to turn over Hector's body, recognizing that even his enemies deserve the chance to care for their dead family members.

At the end of the poem, the tone has moved from rage to compassion. Achilles is no longer hellbent on revenge for the death of Patroclus--rather, he seems to see the limits of revenge, cruelty, and brutality. By connecting with another man--ironically, the leader of his opponents on the battlefield--Achilles discovers the deep sadness and sympathy that unites him with all other human beings.

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Hector Character Timeline in The Iliad

The timeline below shows where the character Hector appears in The Iliad. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2
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...messenger Iris to Troy, alerting them to assemble their own armies to meet the Achaeans. Hector breaks up their meeting of chiefs, and a similar catalogue of the Trojans and their... (full context)
Book 3
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...plans to fight him for revenge. Paris, seeing Menelaus, retreats back into the Trojan lines. Hector criticizes Paris’ cowardice, telling him his talents and looks are useless on the battlefield. Paris... (full context)
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Paris tries to save face from Hector’s criticism by offering to fight Menelaus in single combat while both armies watch. The winner... (full context)
Book 5
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...Ares drives the Trojans forward, lending them his fighting spirit. The Trojan ally Sarpedon taunts Hector, and Hector drives his men into battle with new force. Aeneas reappears on the battlefield,... (full context)
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...in response. Sarpedon is Zeus’ son and is not fated to be killed by Odysseus. Hector pushes past the injured Sarpedon, looking to drive the Achaeans back to their ships, and... (full context)
Book 6
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Helenus, a seer and a son of Priam, tells Aeneas and Hector to stand fast and to rally the troops. He also tells Hector to return to... (full context)
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Hector reaches the gates of Troy and tells the people to “Pray to the gods.” He... (full context)
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Hector comes across Paris in his chambers, polishing his armor. Hector and Helen berate Paris for... (full context)
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Hector speeds to his own house, but his wife Andromache is not there. A servant tells... (full context)
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Hector reaches down to cradle his son, but Astyanax is frightened, not recognizing his father in... (full context)
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Hector puts his helmet back on and heads back into battle. The women of Troy begin... (full context)
Book 7
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Hector and Paris sweep back into battle, and each kills an Achaean. Athena notices the Trojan... (full context)
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Ajax prays to Zeus and prepares himself for battle. The duel begins, and Hector’s spear throw fails to pierce Ajax’ shield. Ajax’ spear tears Hector’s shield apart, but Hector... (full context)
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Hector and Ajax agree to end their duel. They exchange gifts of friendship: Hector gives up... (full context)
Book 8
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In battle, Hector bears down on the elderly Nestor. Nestor is barely saved by Diomedes, who takes him... (full context)
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...behind Ajax’ massive shield. Teucer kills several Trojans. Agamemnon praises Teucer’s bravery. Teucer aims for Hector, but is only able to kill the men around him. Hector, seeing the threat, injures... (full context)
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With Hector in command, the Trojans drive the Achaeans back into their fortifications. Hera and Athena take... (full context)
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...them the next day, but until then many more Achaeans will die. He says that Hector will not quit the fight until Achilles returns from his absence. (full context)
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Night comes and the battle ceases until the next day. Hector, encouraged by the Trojan success, decides to make his camp on the battlefield, so as... (full context)
Book 10
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In the Trojan camp, Hector also plans a night mission to gain information, promising treasure to a volunteer. A soldier... (full context)
Book 11
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...fills the Achaeans with panic. The Trojans prepare for battle as well, driven forward by Hector. The armies clash with Strife hovering over them, and many men are killed in combat. (full context)
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Zeus sends his messenger Iris to Hector, telling the soldier to hold back and command his men until Agamemnon is wounded. After... (full context)
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...realizes he is wounded. He mounts his chariot and drives back to the Achaean camp. Hector recognizes the sign of Agamemnon’s wound and springs into action. He begins to drive the... (full context)
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...a complete disaster for the Achaeans. They turn and hold their ground, killing several Trojans. Hector charges them, and Diomedes throws his spear. It hits Hector’s helmet and dazes him. Hector... (full context)
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Hector continues his onslaught, pushing the Achaeans back. The healer Machaon is wounded by Paris, causing... (full context)
Book 12
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Hector leads the charge against the Achaean ramparts. His strength is described as being like a... (full context)
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As Hector and Polydamas try to storm the ramparts, they see an omen, an eagle holding a... (full context)
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...men but are unable to prevent Sarpedon from finally breaching the Achaean wall. Soon after, Hector shatters the Achaean gate with an enormous boulder. The Trojans swarm through the gateway. (full context)
Book 13
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...reaches the entire Achaean army. Holding a tight formation, the Aeantes begin to push back Hector. (full context)
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The battle rages on, and the Aeantes are locked in battle with Hector. Hector tries to kill Teucer, but misses and kills Amphimachus, Poseidon’s grandson, instead. Poseidon is... (full context)
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Back at the center of the battle, Hector is unaware of the wounds inflicted on the Trojans elsewhere. He drives his Trojans on,... (full context)
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Polydamas rushes to Hector’s side and asks him to listen to his good advice. He asks Hector to draw... (full context)
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With new resolve and some fresh reinforcements, Hector once again pushes the Trojans forward. Great Ajax taunts Hector, and another eagle sweeps past... (full context)
Book 14
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...the Achaean camp. He meets the wounded captains Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Diomedes. Agamemnon, afraid that Hector’s forces will prevail, suggests again that the Achaeans should sail for home. Odysseus harshly criticizes... (full context)
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...take up larger shields and move forward. The Trojans and Achaeans collide once again, and Hector and Great Ajax engage each other. Hector cannot pierce Ajax’s armor, but Ajax hurls an... (full context)
Book 15
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...awakes from his slumber and sees the catastrophe created in his absence. Feeling pity for Hector, he curses Hera for her disobedience, promising to punish her. Hera, trying to escape blame,... (full context)
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On Zeus’ orders, Apollo goes to Hector and rouses him from his stupor. Hector says that he thought he was going to... (full context)
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Apollo assists the Trojans in battle, and Hector’s forces begin to progress, killing many Achaeans. Apollo tears down the wall and fills up... (full context)
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...in front of the ships, and neither side is able to advance. Great Ajax and Hector once again encounter each other in battle. Teucer kills several Trojans, but Zeus breaks his... (full context)
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Hector notices Teucer’s bow break and takes it as a sign from Zeus. He rallies his... (full context)
Book 16
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The tide of battle turns further, and the Trojans’ orderly retreat turns into a rout. Hector speeds away, but many Trojans are trapped in the Achaean trench. With Patroclus in the... (full context)
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...grief at the death of Sarpedon, his co-commander. Apollo fills Glaucus with strength. He exhorts Hector to remember his Trojan allies, and a battle begins over Sarpedon’s body. The great Trojan... (full context)
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...Sarpedon, or to let him gain more glory first. He decides on the latter, influencing Hector to call a full Trojan retreat. As the Trojans flee, Patroclus pursues them across the... (full context)
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Apollo appears beside Hector in mortal form, and convinces him to attack Patroclus. Patroclus kills Hector’s chariot driver, and... (full context)
Book 17
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...Patroclus’ armor, but Menelaus kills him. Menelaus attempts to strip Euphorbus’ armor, but Apollo rouses Hector to defend his body. Hector charges Menelaus. Menelaus, knowing that he cannot defend against Hector... (full context)
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...converge over the body of Patroclus, fighting hard to remove his corpse from the battlefield. Hector and Great Ajax clash once again. The Achaeans begin to drive the Trojans back to... (full context)
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...fills them with strength. They take their driver Automedon back into the thick of battle. Hector and Aeneas attack Automedon, attempting to take Achilles’ horses. Automedon escapes Hector’s attack, kills a... (full context)
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...of Phoenix and breathes fresh strength into Menelaus. Revived, Menelaus kills a close friend of Hector. Apollo in turn gives strength to Hector. Zeus lets forth a thunderbolt that turns the... (full context)
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...body while the Aeantes defend them from the Trojans. The Achaeans beat a retreat, with Hector and Aeneas in pursuit. (full context)
Book 18
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...death of Patroclus. Achilles says he’s lost the will to live other than to kill Hector. (full context)
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...the battlefield, the Achaeans continue the retreat of Patroclus’ body. The Aeantes keep defending and Hector keeps pressing them closely. Hector is close to seizing Patroclus’ body. Iris informs Achilles that... (full context)
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...were difficult enough foes without Achilles, and now he is sure to return. Zues causes Hector to reject Polydamas’ advice, calling it cowardice, and commands the Trojans to camp outside the... (full context)
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...Patroclus’ body for burial, but says he will not bury him until he has slain Hector. Achilles again says he is doomed never to voyage home. (full context)
Book 20
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Battle breaks out, and Achilles searches everywhere for Hector. Apollo, taking the form of the Trojan Lycaon, urges Aeneas to attack Achilles. Aeneas is... (full context)
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Achilles and Hector both marshal their men forward. Apollo speaks to Hector, instructing him not to fight Achilles... (full context)
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Achilles curses Hector for escaping, and blames Apollo for intervening. Achilles continues on his murderous warpath, “like inhuman... (full context)
Book 21
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...and Athena reassure Achilles. They tell him that he must keep fighting until he kills Hector, and that afterward he must return to the ships. Xanthus calls to the river Simois... (full context)
Book 22
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...has prevented him from gaining more glory, and begins running toward the walls of Troy. Hector is the only Trojan standing outside the city’s walls, waiting to fight Achilles to the... (full context)
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Priam sees Achilles coming and implores Hector to come inside the city walls. He asks Hector to pity him, with all the... (full context)
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Hector waits for Achilles as he runs across the plain. He is ashamed of his decision... (full context)
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On their fourth circuit of Troy, Achilles cannot gain on Hector, but Hector cannot escape from Achilles’ speed. Zeus takes up his scales and tips the... (full context)
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Hector speaks to Achilles, asking that they both swear to honor each other’s bodies, no matter... (full context)
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Hector and Achilles charge one another, and Achilles drives his spear into the weak spot at... (full context)
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...must return to the Achaean camp to bury the body of Patroclus. Triumphant, Achilles ties Hector’s body to the back of his chariot and drags him through the dust, defiling his... (full context)
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Priam and Hecuba grieve for Hector, and Priam calls his death the most heartbreaking loss of the war. Hector’s wife Andromache... (full context)
Book 23
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...camp. Achilles organizes an elaborate funeral for Patroclus, and the Myrmidons grieve for their losses. Hector is left desecrated in the dust. The men eat a funeral feast, but Achilles will... (full context)
Book 24
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...consumed by grief for Patroclus. Flooded with memories, he repeatedly uses his chariot to drag Hector’s body around Patroclus’ tomb. Apollo, pitying Hector, protects his body from harm and decay. (full context)
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The gods feel sorry for Hector and desire to rescue his body from Achilles. They ask the god Hermes to steal... (full context)
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Twelve days after Hector’s death, Apollo addresses the gods. He tells them that Hector always respected the gods, and... (full context)
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...Achilles how long he will grieve, and then tells him of Zeus’ decree to release Hector’s body. Achilles agrees, saying that he will not resist the will of the gods. (full context)
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...Troy, letting Priam know that he must travel alone to the Achaean ships to ransom Hector’s body. He is told that Achilles will not kill him. Priam orders that a wagon... (full context)
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...is. Hermes replies that he is an aide of Achilles, and lets Priam know that Hector’s body is still intact. Hermes guides Priam’s wagon through Achilles’ gate and puts the sentries... (full context)
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Achilles fetches Hector’s body for Priam and apologizes to Patroclus for letting the body go. Achilles asks Priam... (full context)