Hector is the mightiest warrior in the Trojan army. Although he meets his match in Achilles, he wreaks havoc on the Achaean army during Achilles’ period of absence. He leads the assault that finally penetrates the Achaean ramparts, he is the first and only Trojan to set fire to an Achaean ship, and he kills Patroclus. Yet his leadership contains discernible flaws, especially toward the end of the epic, when the participation of first Patroclus and then Achilles reinvigorates the Achaean army. He demonstrates a certain cowardice when, twice in Book 17, he flees Great Ajax. Indeed, he recovers his courage only after receiving the insults of his comrades—first Glaucus and then Aeneas. He can often become emotionally carried away as well, treating Patroclus and his other victims with rash cruelty. Later, swept up by a burst of confidence, he foolishly orders the Trojans to camp outside Troy’s walls the night before Achilles returns to battle, thus causing a crucial downfall the next day.
But although Hector may prove overly impulsive and insufficiently prudent, he does not come across as arrogant or overbearing, as Agamemnon does. Moreover, the fact that Hector fights in his homeland, unlike any of the Achaean commanders, allows Homer to develop him as a tender, family-oriented man. Hector shows deep, sincere love for his wife and children. Indeed, he even treats his brother Paris with forgiveness and indulgence, despite the man’s lack of spirit and preference for lovemaking over military duty. Hector never turns violent with him, merely aiming frustrated words at his cowardly brother. Moreover, although Hector loves his family, he never loses sight of his responsibility to Troy. Admittedly, he runs from Achilles at first and briefly entertains the delusional hope of negotiating his way out of a duel. However, in the end he stands up to the mighty warrior, even when he realizes that the gods have abandoned him. His refusal to flee even in the face of vastly superior forces makes him the most tragic figure in the poem.
More characters from The Iliad
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