Iliad: Book 22 | The Death of Hector

Dcn. Harrison Garlick and Adam Minihan discuss Book 22 on the Death of Hector.

“There are no binding oaths between men and lions—wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds—they are all bent on hating each other to death.”

 Achilles (22.310).


97.      What happens in book twenty-two? 

The Trojans scurry back into the city like “panicked fawns,” while Hector remains outside the walls (22.05). Apollo, who had taken the form of a Trojan soldier to make Achilles chase him, reveals his trickery to Achilles (22.09)—and Achilles turns back to the city (22.26). Despite the pleas of Priam (22.31) and Hecuba (22.93), Hector remains outside the walls “nursing his quenchless fury” (22.115). As Achilles approaches, Hector’s courage fails, and he begins to run around the walls of Troy with Achilles in pursuit (22.163). Zeus’ “heart grieves for Hector,” (22.202), but he gives permission to Athena to do as she wills (22.220). Hector tries to enter the city, but Achilles thwarts him (22.234). Achilles also holds back the Achaean army, now observing the chase, from intervening (22.245). Zeus once again holds out his golden scales, and fate elects that it is time for Hector to die (22.249).

Athena takes on the form of Deiphobus, brother of Hector, and convinces Hector to stand together and fight Achilles (22.271). Hector faces Achilles and tries to make a pact that the victor will not mutilate the corpse of the fallen but give it to his people for burial (22.301). Achilles rejects this offer, stating: “There are no binding oaths between men and lions—wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds—they are all bent on hating each other to death” (22.310). Hector and Achilles clash in combat, and Hector calls to his brother, Deiphobus, for help—but there is no answer (22.347). Hector realizes the gods have tricked him and that his time has come (22.350). He elects to die in glory, and he charges Achilles (22.359). Achilles strikes down Hector and tells him: “The dogs and birds will maul you” (22.395). Hector pleads to be given to his people, but Achilles rejects him saying: “My fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw” (22.408). Hector prophesies that “Paris and Lord Apollo” will strike down Achilles outside of Troy (22.423). Hector dies (22.425). The Achaeans all stab his body (22.437), and Achilles drags it behind his chariot (22.466). Priam and Hecuba cry out for their son (22.478), and Andromache “bursts out in grief” (22.560). The book ends with Andromache lamenting the impending fate of her son, Astyanax, the little “Lord of the City” (22.569).


98.      What structure does piety give the death of Hector?

Previously, Hector’s return to Troy provided an insight into the ancient threefold notion of piety: gratitude toward the gods, the city, and the family. It is a gratitude that precipitates a sense of duty. The threefold notion of piety—which is in a hierarchal order—appears to provide a certain infrastructure (and tension) to the narrative around Hector’s death. For example, Hector disregards the appeals of his parents, Priam (22.32) and Hecuba (22.93), to retreat to the walls of Troy presumably due to his duty to defend Troy (22.129). Hector’s piety toward the gods is praised by Zeus in the same conversation in which the son of Cronus orchestrates his death (22.129). It is notable the deception of Hector comes through his comradery toward another soldier of Troy and a familial relation, his brother (22.270). It further raises the question that for all Hector’s piety toward Troy, no one seems interested in helping him. Hector, who is dying, attempts to plead with Achilles by appealing to his parents (22.399). Ultimately, Hector dies prior to the fall of Troy, as he wished.

Whether Hector’s piety has afforded him anything with the gods, Troy, or his family will be a question to watch throughout the end of the Iliad.


99.      What else should be observed in book twenty-two?

Priam gives an insight into his own fate when Troy falls (22.73). Hector acknowledges his fatal error in not listening to Polydamas to retreat to walls of Troy after seeing Achilles, but one may question what culpability Hector bears for such a decision due to Athena’s influence (22.118). One is tempted to find meaning in Scamander (Xanthus) bring fed by both a hot and cold spring (22.177). The pattern of “three times and then on the fourth” occurs again with Hector running around the city (22.248). The golden scales of Zeus return, and again raise the question of whether Zeus is adhering to a separate nameless fate or this is simply a device to express his own will. The fatalistic quality of the Iliad is demonstrable in Achilles state that “Athena” will kill Hector (22.319), and Athena giving Achilles his spear back after he misses (22.325). One may question, as Aeneas did in a way, whether Achilles is even the best warrior in the Trojan war naturally speaking.

In the clash of Achilles and Hector, both men wear armor made by the gods (22.380), and one may imagine Hector’s view of the juxtaposition of Achilles’ rage with the imagery on his shield. Though it arguably found a boundary in attempting a feud with Xanthus, Achilles’ arguably deification through the medium of rage is displayed in his spiritual cruelty in denying Hector his last rites and in his comment on eating Hector raw (22.407). There is a certain irony in Achilles blaming Hector for the agonies he and the Achaeans had suffered (22.448). We find Andromache “working flowered braiding into a dark red folding robe,” which recalls the dark red robe of Helen that served as an analogue to the war (22.518). It is noteworthy to compare Andromache drawing a bath for Hector’s return (22.519) with her earlier singing of his funeral dirges.

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