Heroic Virtues Don’t Always Win

The ability to inspire and encourage others is a characteristic not many people possess. Some are born with it, a few have to work hard to develop the skill and then there are those who believe who can but have no idea how to lead. Agamemnon is the perfect example of the latter. He ruled by force and show of power. He certainly did not evoke loyalty or a harmonious union. Hektor, Troy’s greatest fighter and hero put the defence of his city and people before his own personal needs. For his bravery and virtue, he was Troy’s favoured and most respected son.

Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy. The original painting is a fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion at Corfu, Greece. Franz von Matsch (1861–1942)  Wikimedia

Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy. The original painting is a fresco on the upper level of the main hall of the Achilleion at Corfu, Greece.
Franz von Matsch (1861–1942)
Wikimedia

‘Fully armed, he immediately leapt from his chariot to the ground and, brandishing a pair of sharp spears, went everywhere among his men, urging them to fight and rousing their spirit for grim battle.’
Book 6, Lines 102-105

Hektor was the eldest son of Priam and Hekuba and would have inherited the kingdom after his father if he hadn’t been killed. Homer portrayed him as a good son, a loving husband and loyal to his city. He blames his brother Paris for bringing the war to their home yet Hektor does not hesitate to defend Troy. In one particular scene, he berates Paris for avoiding the battlefield and wasting time polishing his armour. Paris was licking his wounded pride after he and Menelaos met in a duel which the Spartan King would have won if Aphrodite hadn’t rescued him.

‘What do you think you are doing? It doesn’t do you much credit to sit and sulk by yourself like this, while our men are falling in action around town and its steep walls. It’s your fault this town flares with the sound of fury of battle…’
Book 6, Lines 326-329

Cassandra (on the left) offering a libation while her brother Hector (on the right) prepares to go to battle. Attic red-figure kantharos by the Eretria Painter, ca. 425–420 BC.  Wikimedia

Cassandra (on the left) offering a libation while her brother Hector (on the right) prepares to go to battle. Attic red-figure kantharos by the Eretria Painter, ca. 425–420 BC.
Wikimedia

Hektor doesn’t mince his words and blames the elders of Troy for holding him back when he wanted to push the fight to the Akhaian ships. He showed confidence and was certain they could win the war, especially when Akhilleus bowed out of the battle. Hektor was smart enough to realise in a one to one combat situation he could not beat Akhilleus and took advantage of the Myrmidon’s absence. The Trojans’ under Hektor’s command came very close to defeating the Akhaians until he sealed his fate by killing Patroklos. He even predicted his own death.

‘Who knows—Akhilleus, son of a lovely-haired Thetis, may still get there first, dispatched with a blow from [his] spear.’
Book 16, Lines 859-861

Was Hektor the real hero of the Iliad as some scholars suggest? You have Akhilleus who’s idea was to fight and be immortalised for his ability; Agamemnon who’s true reason for the war was to steal Priam’s riches and power; Odysseus clever with words and used a trick to win the war. If one takes the virtuous characteristics of Hektor, then he is the hero of the story.

Menelaos and Hector fighting over the body of Euphorbos. Middle Wild Goat style. Circa 600 BC British Museum  Wikimedia

Menelaos and Hector fighting over the body of Euphorbos. Middle Wild Goat style.
Circa 600 BC
British Museum
Wikimedia

Do you agree with my hypothesis Hektor was the true hero of the Iliad? Love to know your thoughts.
Thank you for visiting and reading.

Further reading:
Hector, Greek mythology link
Hector, Greek and Roman mythology
Hector, Myths Encyclopaedia—Myths and Legends of the world

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11 thoughts on “Heroic Virtues Don’t Always Win

  1. Interesting contrast between Hektor and Agamemnon…
    But despite it all, The greeks beat the trojans at the war, didn’t they ..
    An army can do more than a man and replace their faults…
    Apollo and Athena’s favor and protection towards the greeks were surely also crucial to determine their success.
    Best wishes, cara Luciana,

    Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • That they did and not only win, but slaughtered and destroyed a city and its citizens. A tragedy and a sobering message about the terrible results of war.
      The gods playing favourites certainly helped towards the final outcome and shows their fickleness much like their offspring’s.
      Homer certainly knew how to create a great story!
      As always your comments are wonderful.
      Thank you, cara Aquileana
      ciao
      Luciana 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Luciana, this was another thought-provoking post about the complex theme of the Iliad and what constitutes heroic traits. What makes the Iliad such a memorable story is that it tells of the tragic demise of Hector, who as you said demonstrated all of the admirable qualities of a hero. Unfortunately, the outcome of war is not always decided by the heroic bravery of the warriors, but is usually due to other factors. Ultimately, it was the Greeks’ trickery and deception of using the Trojan Horse that swayed the outcome and broke the stalemate.

    Thank you again for sharing your insight into Homer’s Iliad.

    Regards,
    Linnea

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    • Thank you so much Linnea! Heroic behaviour does come in many forms, I guess it depends on the outcome and the intent.
      Always appreciate your insightful comments.
      cheers
      Luciana

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  3. I love reading about the heroism displayed at Troy….but I hate the bloodshed and tragedy. All wars have those same ingredients. To me, Hektor was the personification of bravery and leadership in battle, and Troy probably had many Hektors.

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