Hektor and Andromache

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from THE ILIAD of Homer

translated by Samuel Butler

revised by Timothy Power and Gregory Nagy

NOTE: Important Greek terms, in brackets,
 are defined in the glossary.

SCROLL VI

[390] Hektor . . . went down the streets by the same way that he had come. When he had gone through the city and had reached the Scaean gates through which he would go out on to the plain, his wife came running towards him, Andromache, daughter of great Eetion who ruled in Thebe under the wooded slopes of Mount Plakos, and was king of the Cilicians. His daughter had married Hektor, and now came to meet him with a nurse who carried his little child in her bosom - a mere babe, Hektorís darling son, and lovely as a star. Hektor had named him Skamandrios, but the people called him Astyanax, for his father stood alone as chief guardian of Ilion.

Hektor smiled as he looked upon the boy, but he did not speak, and Andromache stood by him weeping and taking his hand in her own. "Dear husband," said she, "your valor will bring you to destruction; think on your infant son, and on my hapless self who ere long shall be your widow - for the Achaeans will set upon you in a body and kill you. It would be better for me, should I lose you, to lie dead and buried, for I shall have nothing left to comfort me when you are gone, save only sorrow [akhos].

I have neither father nor mother now. Achilles slew my father when he sacked Thebe the goodly city of the Cilicians. He slew him, but did not for very shame despoil him; when he had burned him in his wondrous armor, he raised a barrow over his ashes and the mountain nymphs, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus, planted a grove of elms about his tomb [sÍma]. I had seven brothers in my fatherís house, but on the same day they all went within the house of Hades. Achilles killed them as they were with their sheep and cattle. My mother - her who had been queen of all the land under Mount Plakos - he brought hither with the spoil, and freed her for a great sum, but the archer - queen Artemis took her in the house of your father. Nay - Hektor - you who to me are father, mother, brother, and dear husband - have mercy upon me;

[429] stay here upon this wall; make not your child fatherless, and your wife a widow; as for the host, place them near the fig-tree, where the city can be best scaled, and the wall is weakest. Thrice have the bravest of them come thither and assailed it, under the two Ajaxes, Idomeneus, the sons of Atreus, and the brave son of Tydeus, either of their own bidding, or because some soothsayer had told them."

[440] And Hektor answered, "Wife, I too have thought upon all this, but with what face should I look upon the Trojans, men or women, if I shirked battle like a coward? I cannot do so: I know nothing save to fight bravely in the forefront of the Trojan host and win renown [kleos] alike for my father and myself. Well do I know that the day will surely come when mighty Ilion shall be destroyed with Priam and Priamís people, but I grieve for none of these - not even for Hecuba, nor King Priam, nor for my brothers many and brave who may fall in the dust before their foes - for none of these do I grieve as for yourself when the day shall come on which some one of the Achaeans shall rob you for ever of your freedom, and bear you weeping away. It may be that you will have to ply the loom in Argos at the bidding of a mistress, or to fetch water from the springs Messeis or Hypereia, treated brutally by some cruel task-master; then will one say who sees you weeping, ĎShe was wife to Hektor, the bravest warrior among the Trojans during the war before Ilion.í On this your tears will break forth anew for him who would have put away the day of captivity from you. May I lie dead under the barrow that is heaped over my body ere I hear your cry as they carry you into bondage."

[466] He stretched his arms towards his child, but the boy cried and nestled in his nurseís bosom, scared at the sight of his fatherís armor, and at the horse-hair plume that nodded fiercely from his helmet. His father and mother laughed to see him, but Hektor took the helmet from his head and laid it all gleaming upon the ground. Then he took his darling child,

[474] kissed him, and dandled him in his arms, praying over him the while to Zeus and to all the gods. "Zeus," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength, and let him rule Ilion with his might. Then may one say of him as he comes from battle, ĎThe son is far better than the father.í May he bring back the blood-stained spoils of him whom he has laid low, and let his motherís heart be glad.í"

[482] With this he laid the child again in the arms of his wife, who took him to her own soft bosom, smiling through her tears. As her husband watched her his heart yearned towards her and he caressed her fondly, saying, "My own wife, do not take these things too bitterly to heart. No one can hurry me down to Hades before my time, but if a manís hour is come, be he brave or be he coward, there is no escape for him when he has once been born. Go, then, within the house, and busy yourself with your daily duties, your loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants; for war is manís matter, and mine above all others of them that have been born in Ilion."

[494] He took his plumed helmet from the ground, and his wife went back again to her house, weeping bitterly and often looking back towards him. When she reached her home she found her maidens within, and bade them all join in her lament; so they mourned Hektor in his own house though he was yet alive, for they deemed that they should never see him return safe from battle, and from the furious hands of the Achaeans.

 

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READINGS for Powers of Literature
(with Lesson numbers):

1. Genesis 1
Creation Story

1. Genesis 11
Babel Story

2. Odyssey 8
Odysseus' voyage 1

3. Iliad 1-2
Achilles' anger

4. Iliad 9
Mission to Achilles

4. Peleus & Thetis
ancient sources

5. Iliad 15 ff
Death of Patroklos

6. Iliad 20 ff
Burial of Hektor

7. Odyssey 13-18
Return of Odysseus

8. Odyssey 20-24
City of Dreams

9. Life of Alexander
the Homeric king

10. Origins of writing
ancient sources

11. Plato, Euthyphro
Socrates gets busted

12. Plato, Apology
Socrates on trial

13. Plato, Crito
Socrates in jail

14. Plato, Phaedo
Socrates in heaven

15. Luke, Acts
Paul does Christ

16. Saint Francis
gospel without text

17. Chretien, The Knight of the Cart
Sire Lance's genes

18. Virgil, Aeneid
Aeneas & Dido