Gender Roles in the Illiad

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Gender Roles: Hector in The Iliad
In Homer’s Illiad Hector, one of the primary leaders of Trojan forces and also a prince of the fated city of Troy fulfills the male gender expectations defined through prowess in war. However, male’s heroism is driven by the fear of shame and dishonor in war. Hector is an mortal character in Homer’s Iliad and all Hector seeks is war-glory, and he believes that one must die with a cause. He fears the indignity that he believes will come should he not fight nobly for his city of Troy but it is this way of thinking which steers Hector towards his eventual death. Paris, Hector’s brother actually was a counter example of the drive behind male heroism. In Book three of the Iliad Paris stepped out of the Trojan ranks, an obvious ‘pretty-boy’ challenging any Greek to fight against him. It was not until he saw Menelaus, the legendary king of Sparta, the husband of Helen who Paris abducted which started the Trojan War, did “Paris’ blood / Turn milky when he saw him coming on, / And he faded back into the Trojan troops” (Book 3 lines 36-37). Hector, contrary to his ‘pretty-boy’ brother did not believe in shame and dishonor in war and was extremely oppositional to Paris’ appearance and behavior and even said “I wish you had never been born, or had died unmarried./ Better that than this disgrace before the troops” (Book 3 lines 46-47). It was not until Paris challenged Menelaus to a battle until death, with the winner being able get Helen and all of her possessions that” Hector liked what he heard.” (Book 3 line 80) Even though this was not Paris’ natural persona, he seemed to be driven by the fear of shame and dishonor in war and that is what pleased Hector. Paris probably would have died in this battle, were it not for Aphrodite, who came to Paris' rescue and returned him to safety within the city of Troy.

Hector’s fear of shame and dishonor in war was so strong, that he essentially hated any conduct that was opposite to it. Later on in Book six, Hector went to Paris’ house only to find him fondling his weapons supposedly recovering from his pain. Hector scolded him vigorously telling him that everyone was out fighting in the war, while he was holding back from combat. Hector did not believe in not fighting gloriously for one’s country, and when Helen tried to calm him down he responded saying “My heart is out there with our fighting men.” (Book 6 line 380)

The fear of shame and dishonor in war prevalent in Hector led him to put even his own family second to his war-glory. His wife, Andromache said to him:
Possessed is what you are, Hector. Your courage / Is going to kill you, and you have no feeling left . For your little boy or for me, the luckless woman/ Who will soon be your widow. It wont be long . Before the whole Greek army swarms and kills you” (Book 6 lines 427-431) Yet still, Hector tells her that if he were to try and stay back and care for her and their child, his heart would not let him, for he would be hanging “back from battle like a coward” (Book 6 line 466). Hector’s fear of shame and dishonor in war led him to continue fighting, seemingly with no regard even for his own family. If the idea of cowardice or anything near it came close to Hector, he ran from it and sought only war-glory.

Hector knew that through war-glory, he would eventually die with a cause. His fear of shame and dishonor in war apparently overpowered his fear of death. In Book eleven Hector was described as leading his Trojans onto the Greeks “The way a hunter sets his grinning dogs / On a boar or a lion leading the war himself” (Book 11 lines 313-314). Hector was not willing to stop fighting until he would eventually meet his fate.

Hector’s heroism is driven by his fear of shame and dishonor in war, and what Hector seeks is war-glory. Ultimately with war-glory one eventually will die, but die with a cause. In Hector’s case, he will die having fought for his city, Troy which indeed is Hector’s...
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