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Hector

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In Greek mythology, Hector ("holding fast"), or Hektor, was a Trojan prince and one of the greatest fighters in the Trojan War, equal to Ajax and surpassed only by Achilles.

He was the son of Priam and Hecuba. With his wife, Andromache, he fathered Astyanax. He had a horse named Lampos and friends named Misenus and Poludamas. His charioteer was Cebriones, his half-brother.

In the Iliad, Homer calls him "breaker of horses," largely to maintain the meter of his lines and because Troy in general was known for horse raising. In the narrative of the Iliad Hector is never actually shown breaking horses. Another epithet applied to him is "of the flashing helmet".

Hector provides a stark contrast for Achilles, who was from first to last a man of war. Hector represents Troy and what it stood for. Some modern scholars have even suggested that he, not Achilles, is the true hero of the Iliad. Hector was fighting, not for personal glory, but in defense of his homeland. His rebuke to Poludamas, "Fight for your country - that is the first and only omen" became a proverb to patriotic Greeks. Through him we can see glimpses of what life in Troy and elsewhere in the Bronze Age Mediterranean civilization depicted by Homer might have been like in more peaceful times. The scene where he bids farewell to his wife Andromache and his infant son is one of the more moving scenes in the Iliad.

During the Trojan War, Hector killed Protesilaus and was wounded by Ajax. In the portion of the war described in the Iliad, he fights with many of the Greek warriors and usually (but not always) succeeds in killing or wounding his opponent. When, with the assistance of Apollo, he kills Patroclus and throws the entire Greek force into disarray, it seems that the war has reached a turning point.

Nonetheless, Hector's personal fate, as decreed by Zeus early on in the story, is never in doubt. Achilles, raging over the death of Patroclus, kills him and drags his body around the walls of Troy. Ultimately, with the assistance of the god Hermes, Priam convinces Achilles to permit him to bury Hector. The final passage in the Iliad is his funeral, after which the doom of Troy is just a matter of time. In the final sack of Troy, as described in Book II of the Aeneid, his father and many of his brothers are killed, his son is hurled from the walls in fear that he would avenge Hector, and his wife is carried off by Neoptolemus to live as a slave.

Homer. Iliad; Apollodorus. Bibliotheke III, xii, 5-6; Apollodorus. Epitome IV, 2.

In the Middle Ages Hector's legend was held so highly that Jean de Longuyon included him as one of the Nine Worthies. In the Divine Comedy Dante sees the shade of Hector with the other noble Roman and Trojan personages in the portion of Limbo reserved for the most virtuous pagans.

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