The importance of interactions with female protagonists in the characterization of Homer’s Hector in The Iliad
Hector performs a number of social roles in The Iliad: he is the commander of the Trojan army, the defender of the city against the Greeks, and the future king of Troy. This is a man of honour and authority for whom his duties to others always come first, but also one whose very real personal fears we catch a glimpse of. Unlike wild and unbridled Achilles, he is the moral compass of his community who not only upholds moral standards and principles, but also considers it his duty to make others uphold them. Many of these traits surface in Hector’s interactions with three female characters in Book VI: his mother Hecuba, his sister-in-law Helen, and his wife Andromache. After Trojans suffer some serious losses in the battlefield, Hector arrives to Troy to tell the women of the city to make an offering to Athena. Like Hector, Hecuba performs an important social role, but she also plays an important role in his personal life, which is manifested when she inquires after the reasons of his return to the palace. Hecuba wonders if he has come to seek rest or to pray to Zeus, and immediately assumes that the latter is the case, implying that Hector’s arrival to the palace to pray to Zeus would be acceptable because he would thus be fulfilling a social duty, whereas his arrival to pursue personal comforts would not. She attempts to assert her authority over him by offering to bring him wine for a libation, but also, a typical mother, advises him to drink some of the wine to restore his strength. By refusing her offer, Hector firmly reasserts his authority: “Revered mother, do not bear for me the honeyed wine” (Il. VI. 264). He is the town defender and as such he is responsible for his mother, not the other way around, as it had been the case in his childhood. His social role is thus given precedence over his personal feelings. Hector gives his...
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