The Iliad - The Trojan War

6. The Iliad - The Trojan War


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All that mythology tells us of the history of Troy, from its founding until its final destruction in the famous war. Why the quarrel started, the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the nine years of fighting, the last days of Troy, the Trojan horse. A special chapter is devoted to the Iliad, the fifty days of war described by Homer which takes the anger of Achilles as its theme. This great epic poem is presented in an extended summary, with some of its finest passages given in full. For the poetry of Homer's language often rises to heights of incomparable beauty, as in the parting of Hector from Andromache, or the scene at the end of the 'Iliad' in which Priam asks Achilles for the body of his son.

6. The Iliad - The Trojan War


Retold by Menelaos Stephanides
with 31 pencil drawings by Yannis Stephanides
Translation: Bruce Walter
256 pages, paperback, pocket size 16,5 x 11,5 cm

Ages: 12 and up

ISBN-10: 9604250590, ISBN-13: 9789604250592


Hector bids farewell to Andromache


With long strides, Hector hurried down the city’s streets. He no longer had any hopes of seeing Andromache, and passing once more through the Scaean Gates he was already marching out to battle.


“Oh, Hector, are you mad? Where are you going?” came that familiar voice from behind him; and turning his head he saw her standing there, his incomparable wife, and at her side the nursemaid, with young Astyanax in her arms. A smile lit Hector’s weary face when he set eyes on them. With tears upon her cheeks, Andromache pressed herself against him, and placing both her hands in his broad palm she said:


“Your impetuosity will be the death of you. Take pity on our child, you fool, and on me, who will be left a widow, for soon the Achaeans will throw themselves upon you as one man and that will be the end of you. Yet if I am to lose you, a thousand times better that I descend to Hades than go on living with my pain. I have no one left in this world. My father died by the sword of Achilles, as did all my brothers; and my mother, after first tasting the bitterness of slavery, was killed by Artemis in her rage. Hector, you are father, mother and brother to me as well as my beloved companion. Have pity on us and stay here in the fortress; do not make a widow of me and our child an orphan. Just place our forces near the wild fig-tree, where the wall is easiest to scale and the Argives have three times tried to break into the city.”


“I have thought all these things over, my dear one,” Hector replied, “but I cannot leave the battle. How could I face my men were I to do so, or look their mothers in the eye? To show myself a coward is more than my heart could bear. I have learned to be always in the front rank, earning glory for my father and myself. And yet I know the day will dawn when our sacred city will be lost and with it Priam and all our people. Even so, it is not so much the anguish of the Trojans that distresses me, nor king Priam and my respected mother, nor my any courageous brothers who may roll dead in the dirt; no, none of these burns my soul so much as the thought of your disgrace when some helmeted Achaean drags you behind him as his slave, while you weep bitter tears. If only you could know the hurt it gives me to think of the pain that will weigh upon your heart when you bend enslaved over some loom in distant Argos, or stagger under the pitcher’s weight bringing water from the well. If only you knew how much it tortures me to think that men may look into your tear-filled eyes and say: ‘There is the wife of Hector, the greatest warlord of the Trojans!’ And then you will feel fresh pain at the loss of the one man who could have saved you. But may Zeus make the earth lie heavy on my grave, so that your wailing will not reach my ears as you are dragged away.”


With these words, Hector held his arms out to his son Astyanax. But the little boy was frightened by the glint of his bronze armour and the bristling horsehair on his helmet and cowered back. Both Andromache and her husband laughed at this, and Hector took his polished helmet off and laid it on the ground. Then he took up his son and kissed him, dandled him in his arms and finally said:


“O father Zeus, let my son be as I was, first among the Trojans, to rule with honour over a powerful Ilium! O gods, grant that his mother’s heart may lift in joy when she sees him returning victorious from battle with rich booty, and may she be more joyful still when she hears men say: ‘His father was a mighty man, but he is even finer.’”


Having said this, he placed the baby in its mother’s fragrant arms and she, smiling through her tears, bent forward to receive his caress and parting words.


“If I have hurt you I did not mean to do so. No one can know what his end will be,” he said, putting on his helmet once again. “Neither the brave man nor the coward can escape his fate.”

Hector left – and that was their last farewell.

Excerpted from "The Iliad - The Trojan War" by Menelaos Stephanides
Copyright © by Dimitris Stefanidis. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

read more texts


Prelude to war

Nine years of war

Homer's Iliad

The last days of Troy

The author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

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