Hector’s Struggle for Survival and Immortality in the Iliad

In Homer’s Iliad, two conflicting desires motivate Hector. He adheres to the heroic code by fighting for honor and glory, but he does not always actively pursue battle. He has a strong instinct for self survival that urges him to remove himself from danger and conflicts with his desire to fight heroically. However, his desire to follow the heroic ideals that he holds so dear ultimately influences him more than his will to protect himself. Hector’s drive to attain glory and immortality in the hearts of his followers impels him to fight while placing himself in danger and battling more valorously than he naturally would.

When Hector ferociously wages battle, he does not fight because he likes Paris and supports his stealing of Helen; nor even does he fight to protect Troy and his father, wife, or son. For example, when the Greeks, under Diomedes, push the Trojans back, Hector begs Hecuba to pray to Athena for help and then curses his brother: "A great curse Olympian Zeus let live and grow in him, / for Troy and high-hearted Priam and all his sons" (6.334-335). Hector expresses his resentment of his brother and the “curse” of the war that Paris has brought upon Troy, and all the suffering it has caused both for him and...

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