The Iliad, Book XXII

Book I Book II Book III Book IV Book V Book VI Book VII
Book VIII Book IX Book X Book XI Book XII Book XIII Book XIV Book XV 
Book XVI Book XVII Book XVIII Book XIX Book XX Book XXI Book XXII

The Death of Hector

Once all the Trojans, with the exception of Hector, were safely inside Troy, Apollo revealed to Achilles who he was really chasing. Furious, Achilles rushed back to the gates of Troy where he found Hector waiting for him. Both Priam and Hecuba pleaded with Hector not to face Achilles, to no avail. Hector knew he had to fight Achilles and win victory or die but, as Achilles approached, in fear, he fled with Achilles in close pursuit, and they completed three circuits of the walls.

Achilles Defeats Hector, painting by Peter Paul Rubens, 1630.

There appeared to be stalemate: Hector could not escape Achilles but Achilles could not catch Hector. Zeus momentarily considered whether or not to save Hector’s life but was reminded by Athena that it was his fate to die at the hands of Achilles and the scales of destiny reinforced this. Apollo abandoned Hector and Athena, having told Achilles he would kill his opponent, then went to Hector, disguised as his brother, Deiphobus, and persuaded him to fight Achilles with his help.

Hector tried to come to an agreement with Achilles that whoever was victorious would return the body of the other to be buried but Achilles refused. Achilles threw his spear first but it missed. Athena returned it to Achilles. Hector’s spear hit Achilles’ shield but did no damage. As he asked Deiphobus for his spear and he was nowhere to be seen, Hector realised he had been tricked by Athena and was determined to die bravely. A spear thrust in his neck delivered a fatal wound. As he lay dying, Hector pleaded with Achilles to return his body to his parents, to no avail, and he predicted Achilles’ death at the hands of Paris before the Scaean Gate.

Triumphant Achilles dragging Hector’s lifeless body in Troy. A fresco in the Achilleion, Corfu.

Achilles stripped Hector of his armour while other Greeks stabbed Hector’s body. Achilles then tied Hector to the back of his chariot by tying leather thongs through the tendons behind his ankles and dragged him in front of the walls of Troy. Hector’s parents were distraught and Priam wished to go to the Greek camp and supplicate Achilles, in the name of Peleus, to return Hector’s body. When Andromache heard of her husband’s death, she fainted and then grieved for Hector and for the fate of their orphaned child, Astyanax.