Andromache

Mythical Wife of Trojan Prince Hector

Andromache intercepting Hector at Scaean Gate, by Fernando Castelli, 1811 oil painting
Andromache intercepting Hector at Scaean Gate, by Fernando Castelli, 1811 oil painting. Dea / A. De Luca / Getty Images

Andromache: Basics

Known for: mythological figure in Greek literature, including the Iliad and plays by Euripides, including one play named for her.

Andromache was, in Greek legends, the wife of Hector, first-born son and heir apparent of King Priam of Troy and Priam’s wife, Hecuba.  She then became part of the spoils of war, one of the captive women of Troy, and was given to the son of Achilles.

Marriages:

  1. Hector
    • Son: Scamandrius, also called Astyanax
  2. Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, king of Epirus
    • Three sons, including Pergamus
    Helenus, a brother of Hector, king of Epirus

Andromache in the Iliad

Most of the story of Andromache is in Book 6 of the Iliad by Homer. In book 22 the wife of Hector is mentioned but is not named.

Andromache’s husband Hector is one of the major characters in the Iliad, and in first mentions, Andromache functions as the loving wife, giving a sense of Hector’s loyalties and life outside of battle. Their marriage is also a contrast to that of Paris and Helen, being fully legitimate and a loving relationship.

When the Greeks are gaining on the Trojans and it’s clear that Hector must lead the attack to repel the Greeks, Andromache pleads with her husband at the gates. A maid holds their infant son, Astyanax, in her arms, and Andromache pleads for him on behalf of both herself and their child.

  Hector explains that he must fight and that death will take him whenever it is his time.  Hector takes his son from the maid’s arms. When his helmet scares the infant, Hector takes it off. He prays to Zeus for his son’s glorious future as a chief and warrior.  The incident serves in the plot to show that, while Hector has affection for his family, he is willing to put his duty above staying with them.

 

The following battle is described as, essentially, a battle where first one god, then another, prevails. After several battles, Hector is killed by Achilles after killing Patroclus, Achilles’ companion.  Achilles treats the body of Hector dishonorably, and only reluctantly finally releases the body to Priam for a funeral (Book 24), with which the Iliad ends.

Book 22 of the Iliad mentions Andromache (though not by name) preparing for the return of her husband. When she receives word of his death, Homer depicts her traditional emotional lamenting for her husband. 

Brothers of Andromache in the Iliad

In Book 17 of the Iliad, Homer mentions Podes, a brother of Andromache. Podes fought with the Trojans. Menelaus killed him. In Book 6 of the Iliad, Andromache is depicted as saying that her father and his seven sons were killed by Achilles in Cilician Thebe during the Trojan War.  (Achilles would also later kill Andromache’s husband, Hector.)  This would seem to be a contradiction unless Andromache had more than seven brothers.

Andromache’s Parents

Andromache was the daughter of Eëtion, according to the Iliad. He was the king of Cilician Thebe.  Andromache’s mother, Eëtion’s wife, is not named.

  She was captured in the raid that killed Eëtion and his seven sons, and after her release, she died in Troy at the instigation of the goddess Artemis.

Chryseis

Chryseis, a minor figure in the Iliad, is captured in the raid on Andromache’s family in Thebe and given to Agamemnon. Her father was a priest of Apollo, Chryses. When Agamemnon is forced to return her by Achilles, Agamemnon instead takes Briseis from Achilles, resulting in Achilles absenting himself from battle in protest.  She is known in some literature as Asynome or Cressida.

Andromache in the Little Iliad

This epic about the Trojan War survives only in thirty lines of the original, and a summary by a later writer.

In this epic, Neoptolemus (also called Pyrrhus in Greek writings), the son of Achilles by Deidamia (a daughter of Lycomedes of Scyros), takes Andromache as a captive and slave, and throws Astyanax – the heir apparent after the deaths of both Priam and Hector – from the walls of Troy.

Making Andromache his concubine, Neoptolemus became king of Epirus. A son of Andromache and Neoptolemus was Molossus, an ancestor of Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great.

Deidamia, the mother of Neoptolemus, was, according to the stories told by Greek writers, pregnant when Achilles left for the Trojan War.  Neoptolemus joined his father in the fighting later. Orestes, son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, killed Neoptolemus, angered when Menelaus first promised his daughter Hermione to Orestes, then gave her to Neoptolemus.

Andromache in Euripides

The story of Andromache after the fall of Troy is also the subject of plays by Euripides.  Euripides tells of the slaying of Hector by Achilles, and then the throwing of Astyanax from the walls of Troy. In the division of captive women, Andromache was given to Achilles’ son, Neoptolemus.  They went to Epirus where Neoptolemus became king and fathered three sons by Andromache.  Andromache and her first son escaped being killed by Neoptolemus’ wife, Hermione.

Neoptolemus is killed at Delphi.  He left Andromache and Epirus to Hector’s brother Helenus who had accompanied them to Epirus, and she once again is the queen of Epirus.

After the death of Helenus, Andromache and her son Pergamus left Epirus and went back to Asia Minor. There, Pergamus founded a town named after him, and Andromache died of old age.

Other Literary Mentions of Andromache

Classical period artworks depict the scene where Andromache and Hector part, she trying to persuade him to stay, holding their infant son, and he comforting her but turning to his duty – and death.

  The scene has been a favorite in later periods, as well.

Other mentions of Andromache are in Virgil, Ovid, Seneca and Sappho.

Pergamos, probably the city of Pergamus said to have been founded by Andromache’s son, is mentioned in Revelation 2:12 of the Christian scriptures.

Andromache is a minor character in Shakespeare’s play, Troilus and Cressida. In the 17th century, Jean Racine, French playwright, wrote Andromaque.  She has been featured in a 1932 German opera and in poetry.

More recently, science fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley included her in “The Firebrand” as an Amazon.  Her character appears in the 1971 film The Trojan Women, played by Vanessa Redgrave, and the 2004 film Troy, played by Saffron Burrows.