A big question that on everyone’s mind while reading the Iliad is: “Who is the real hero of the epic?” There are so many possibilities and yet each of those characters has one sort of fault or another. I believe that Hektor is the real hero of the Iliad. He is the one character that stands out, to me, and shows qualities of being noble, wise and a true friend. Unfortunately heroes have their mistakes and downfall. I am here to explain why Hektor is one of the hero’s but not the main hero. He cannot be the main hero because of his errors, his downfall that lead to his death.
Hektor is the prince of Troy and son of Priam and Hekuba. He is the unquestionable commander of all the Trojan and allied forces. He is the greatest of the Trojan warriors and one of the noblest persons in the story. He is also viewed as the future king of Troy, and, as such, he already shows his responsibility to the community. This is a good example of the kleos he has; he already has a reputation and some sort of fame. He is always conscious of his duty and his responsibilities to his people and will not let his personal interests interfere, even with this he is still a dedicated and loving husband and father.
I think that Hektor is a great example of a hero in the Iliad in the beginning of the story. He is viewed as the future king of Troy and even now, as a prince, he already shows his responsibility in the community. Therefore, he is already loved and his reputation will last forever when he is crowned king. Hektor’s acceptance of social responsibilities marks him as the ideal Homeric man. When Homer tests the ideal norm, he finds that man is mortal and he has weaknesses despite his desire to follow the ideal.
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When placed in an uncomfortable and untenable position Hektor stands fast to his virtue and morals. An example of Hektor’s concern for virtue is clear when he rebukes Paris for kidnapping Helen. Paris’s behavior places Hektor in a dilemma: it is socially necessary to protect Paris, but it is morally and socially correct to rebuke him. The heroic code binds Hektor into a very uncomfortable position. Helen also places Hektor in an untenable position, and he being a woman complicates the problem. Helen being improperly married is a source of disorder and a threat to the social systems of both the Trojan and Achaeans. Unlike Helen, Hektor’s wife Andromache is associated with the social order and the continuation of the family. Hektor’s clear love for Andromache symbolizes his concern for proper domesticity. Hektor’s relationship and concern for woman and children is deeply embedded in Homeric culture. Even though Hektor’s community loves him and he is concerned for the well being of his people, he still is human. He still has his faults.He is very heroic in battle and chivalrous to the women, but in the end the same things that made him a hero ruined him and eventually killed him.
There were three major errors that Hektor commits in the Iliad. Well, maybe four if you count Hektor misunderstanding Zeus’ guarantee for a Trojan victory. Hektor has sufficient flaws and errors that lead to his death. His first error is his promise to his fellow Trojan of a Trojan victory after the Achaeans have been driven back to their ships. In his speech he announces his plan for the Trojan troops to remain on the plain, ready for an early attack. The Trojan victory is a result of Hektor’s misunderstanding of Zeus’ plan. Hektor’s success in battle then leads to a presumptuous ‘wish for immortality’ and consequently, to the beginning of Hektor’s deterioration.
Hektor’s second error is his refusal to withdraw his troops back to the city as Poulydamas advises. Hektor is fired with victory and with Zeus’ promise of aid, but he is deluded, for Zeus promised victory only until Hektor reached the Achaean ships. Once his troops are there, Hektor’s reinforcement from Zeus is at an end. Hektor’s gravest error is when he refuses to take refuge within the Trojan walls.
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Homer shows is a portrait of Hektor as a leader concerned for Troy and its people and as a man who believes strongly in the cultural code of his community. Within Troy itself, Hektor reacts to social conditions in accordance with a heroic sense of order. Outside the city walls, he becomes blinded by his military success, by his own strength, and by the delusion that Zeus completely supports the Trojan cause. On the battlefield, Hektor is less responsive to individuals than he was within the walls of Troy; he does not seem to be the same man, the same Hektor as before. The process of isolation has begun, and it will end with complete isolation, outside the walls of Troy, battling with Achilles until one of them is dead.
Hektor’s deterioration became even more evident when he violated the heroic code of honor. After he killed Patroklos (which he actually didn’t do alone, he was actually his third slayer) he threatened to drag Patroklos’s body back to Troy and throw it to the ‘dogs of the city’ instead of allowing the Achaeans to give him a proper burial. Hektor’s treatment of Patroklos’s body prompt Achilles to mutilate Hektor’s body. When Hektor put on Achilles armor, the armor covered Hektor’s true identity to a degree that brought about his death.
Some may have felt sorry for Hektor; some may even have felt pity for him, in the final duel with Achilles. Yet his deterioration, lack of self-knowledge, and his self-delusion brought him to the final reckoning with Achilles. Hektor failed to maintain a heroic balance when he overestimated his powers and refused to retreat when it was vital. As he met Achilles, he stood deluded by a dream of invisibility. Physically and symbolically isolated outside his community, he was cut down by Achilles meeting his final resting place.
So, as we can see yes Hektor was a heroic man and yes he was a good man, but in the end it was his heroic willpower that made him meet his doom. Hektor may appear to be a warrior with greater military qualities that most warriors, but he also seems to be a basically uncomplicated man. So in the end, everything that made Hektor a hero also led him to his death.
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