Who Was Prince Hector of Troy?

Hector Visits Andromache With Astyanax on Her Lap. Apulian Red-figure Column-krater. c. 370-360 B.C.
Hector Visits Andromache With Astyanax on Her Lap. Apulian Red-figure Column-krater. c. 370-360 B.C. Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.


The Character of Hector in Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Hector, the oldest child of King Priam and Hecuba, was the presumed heir to the throne of Troy. This devoted husband of Andromache and father of Astyanax was the greatest Trojan hero of the Trojan War, the main defender of Troy, and a favorite of Apollo.

As depicted in Homer's The Illiad, Hector is one of the principle defenders of Troy, and he very nearly won the war for the Trojans. When, after Achilles temporarily deserted the Greeks, Hector stormed the Greek camp, wounded Odysseus and threatened to burn the Greek fleet--until Agamemnon rallied his troops and repelled the Trojans. Later, with Apollo's help, Hector killed Patroclus, the best friend of Achilles, the greatest of the Greek warriors, and stole his armor, which actually belonged to Achilles.

Enraged by the death of his friend, Achilles reconciled with Agamemnon and joined the other Greeks in fighting against the Trojans in order to pursue Hector. As the Greeks stormed the Trojan castle, Hector came out to meet Achilles in single combat--wearing the fateful armor of Achilles taken off the body of Patroclus. . Achilles triumphed when he placed his spear in a small gap in the neck area of that armor. 

Afterward, the Greeks desecrated Hector's corpse by dragging it around the grave of Patroclus three times. King Priam, Hector's father, then went to Achilles to beg for his son's body so he could give it a proper burial. Despite the abuse of the corpse at the hands of the Greek's,  Hector's body had been kept intact due to the intervention of the gods.  

The Illiad ends with the funeral of Hector, held during a 12-day truce granted by Achilles. 

Hector in Literature and Film

  • In 1312 CE, Jacques de Longuyon, in the romance Les Voeux du paon,  included Hector as one of three pagans among the Nine Worthies--chosen as models for medieval chivalry.  
  • In The Inferno, completed about 1314 CE, Dante placed Hector in Limbo rather than hell, since Hector was regarded by Dante as one of the truly virtuous pagans. 
  • In William Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, written in 1609,  Hector's death comes at the end of the play, and his noble nature serves to contrast against the arrogant pride shown by other characters. 
  • The 1956 film, Helen of Troy marked the first time Hector appears in movies, this time played by actor Harry Andrews.
  • In the 2004 film Troy, starring Brad Bitt as Achilles, Hector was played by actor Eric Bana.