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Book 22


Analysis & Themes

Achilles chases the man he believes to beAgenor, but

soon Apollo reveals himself to Achilles, taunting him for chasing
a god. Achilles is angered that Apollo has prevented him from
gaining more glory, and begins running toward the walls of
Troy. Hector is the only Trojan standing outside the citys walls,
waiting to fight Achilles to the death.

By running from Achilles, Apollo prolongs his distraction, saving

more Trojan lives. Both Hector and Achilles are looking for glory,
but in distinctly different ways. Achilles honor is measured by the
size of his slaughter, Hectors by his final ability to protect his city.

Priam sees Achilles coming and imploresHector to come

inside the city walls. He asks Hector to pity him, with all the
losses he has suffered, and suggests that a heros death is
much greater than dying as an old man.

Although Priam desperately wishes to save his son, he also extols

the lives of heroes. To die an old man means that one was not
daring enough in combat.

Hector waits for Achilles as he runs across the plain. He is

ashamed of his decision to allow the Trojans to camp outside
the city walls. He wonders if he can negotiate with his Achilles,
but soon realizes that Achilles anger is unshakable. He resolves
to fight, but as Achilles approaches, he loses his nerve and runs
away. Achilles begins to chase Hector, and they run around the
walls of Troy three times. Zeus, filled with pity for Hector,
wonders if she should rescue him, but Athena tells him
that Hector is fated to die. Zeus relents.

Hector is the more human and relatable character, feeling

motivated to try to make amends (despite near certainty he will fail)
to make up for the harm he has done to his people. Yet such
complicated motivation cannot stand up to the pure, heroic anger
of Achilles. It is interesting that Zeus considers deviating from his
plan, which was conceived in the first book of the poem. It is not
clear if Zeus has the power to change the plan but Athena
dissuades him from doing so, or if Athena is reminding Zeus that
Hector's fate is actually outside Zeus's control. Either way, Zeus's
concern for Hector does highlight Hector's own heroism, even as
that heroism fails in the face of Achilles' fury. Hector can't face
near-certain death, and runs. Achilles accepts his certain death.

On their fourth circuit of Troy, Achilles cannot gain on Hector,

but Hector cannot escape from Achilles speed. Zeus takes up
his scales and tips the balance against Hector, sentencing
Hector to death. Athena appears behind Achilles, telling him she
will persuade Hector to fight. The goddess appears beside
Hector in the form ofDeiphobus, telling him that the two of them
together can face Achilles. Hector, moved that his brother would
leave the city to join him, agrees to the plan. Hector turns to face

With the tipping of the scales, Hectors fate is no longer in the

slightest doubt. Achilles will receive the glory of killing the greatest
of the Trojan fighters. The trick Athena plays on Hector is one of the
final examples of a godly intervention in battle, but the trick is not
portrayed as underhanded. It is simply the effective action of a

Hector speaks to Achilles, asking that they both swear to honor

each others bodies, no matter the outcome of their fight.
Achilles rejects the offer. Achilles hurls his spear at Hector and
misses, but Athena passes the weapon back to Achilles.
Hectors spear hits Achilles shield but cannot pierce it. Hector
turns to Deiphobus but cannot find him. He soon realizes that
the apparition was a trick of the gods, and that his fate is sealed.

Hector tries to appeal to Achilles sense of decency, but Achilles is

bent on shaming Hector as a revenge for the death of Patroclus.
The gods, attempting to ensure their plan, are completely on
Achilles side, giving him every possible advantage.

Hector and Achilles charge one another, and Achilles drives his
spear into the weak spot at Hectors neck. With his dying words,
Hector asks for his body to be returned to Troy, but Achilles
refuses, boasting over Hectors body. He tells Hector that the
dogs will feed on him. The other Achaeans gather over Hectors
body and gleefully stab his corpse.

Hector is wearing Achilles old armor, and the fact that Achilles is
able to pierce his old gear is a testament to Achilles elevated
prowess since the death of Patroclus. After Hector dies, the
Achaeans insist on shaming his body, in effect shaming not just
Hector but his entire family to whom his body is sacred.

Achilles briefly considers further battle, but soon realizes he

must return to the Achaean camp to bury the body of Patroclus.
Triumphant, Achilles ties Hectors body to the back of his chariot
and drags him through the dust, defiling his body.

Having revenged himself on Hector, Achilles now realizes that the

most important thing to do is to pay due respect to the remains of
his beloved comrade. This stands in stark contrast to both
Patroclus and Hector, both of whom made prideful decisions.
Achilles, despite his desire for glory, sets aside such desire to fulfill
the promise he made to give honor to Patroclus, showing that his
love for Patroclus is greater even than his love of glory.

Priam and Hecuba grieve for Hector, and Priam calls his death
the most heartbreaking loss of the war. Hectors
wife Andromache does not yet know of Hectors death, as no
messenger is brave enough to bring her the news. Hearing the
wailing outside her chambers, Andromache fears the worst and

Hectors death is a presentiment of the fall of Troy, as is the

prediction of Astyanaxs orphaning. Andromaches delayed
response is a device that emphasizes the shock of Hectors death,
giving the reader the sense of surprise for something that he or she
had known was coming for a long time.

rushes out to the gates. She is in time to see her husband being
dragged through the dirt by Achilles. She collapses in sorrow,
and laments that Astyanax will grow up as an orphan.

Book 22:
Hector remains outside of the Scaean gates, barring the way into Troy. Apollo reveals himself as a god to Achilles, letting Achilles know
that he has been deceived so that more Trojans could escape his wrath. Achilles is furious, but he cannot harm the god. He turns
toward Troy. Priam, watching from the ramparts, moans with grief. He calls out to Hector, begging him to come inside. Many of Priam's
sons have already died at Achilles' hands. But Hector will not move. He is afraid to face Achilles, but he is also afraid to
face Polydamas, who gave him good advice that was not heeded. He thinks it its better to face Achilles and kill or be killed than to
return inside after having made a decision that cost so many lives. Yet as Achilles approaches, Hector loses his nerve and runs, and
Achilles chases him around the city walls. Zeus asks if the gods should save Hector, who has been loyal and faithful to the gods.
Athena responds as Hera did when Zeus wondered if he should save Sarpedon, and Zeus is won over by his daughter's arguments.

Achilles chases Hector around the outside of the wall, blocking his way back into the city. He motions to the Achaeans to fire no arrows
or spears at Hector, lest Achilles be robbed of glory. After Achilles has chased Hector for three laps around the city of Troy, Athena stops
Achilles and tells him that she will bring Hector around to face him. Putting his trust in the goddess, Achilles stops running. Athena
approaches Hector, taking the shape of his brother Deiphobus, and she entreats him to turn around and face Achilles. Believing that his
brother has come outside the wall to help him fight Achilles, Hector takes heart and does as Athena asks. He calls out to Achilles,
asking him to swear an oath with him that the winner, after stripping the armor of the vanquished, will not desecrate the body. Achilles
replies memorably that there are no vows between lambs and wolves, nor between men and lions. He throws his spear and misses, but
Athena brings it back to him. Hector talks on, speaking of how much better the war will be for his people if he kills Achilles. Hector
throws his spear, and it lands in Achilles shield and remains there, stuck. He calls on Deiphobus for another spear, but when he looks
around, Deiphobus is gone. Hector realizes the truth. Athena has duped him in order to bring him around into a fight he cannot win. He
draws his sword and charges at Achilles, who charges at Hector wielding his great spear. Achilles drives the spear through Hector's
neck. Dying, Hector begs him to treat his body respectfully, but Achilles responds unequivocally and brutally. Nothing will persuade him
to give Hector's body proper treatment. He wishes that he had the heart to eat Hector's raw flesh himself. Hector has a moment of
foresight, and he warns Achilles of the day when Paris and Apollo will kill Achilles. His soul goes down to the land of the dead, and
Achilles vaunts more over his body: "Die: and I will take my own death at whatever time / Zeus and the rest of the immortals choose to
accomplish it" (22.365-6).

Achilles strips away Hector's armor, and the Achaeans run up around the corpse, men taking turns stabbing the body. Achilles pierces
Hector's feet, in the space between heel and ankle, and draws a leather strap through the hole. He lashed Hector behind his chariot, so
that Hector's head drags in the dust, and he then rides around the city of Troy. Hecuba and Priam, Hector's parents, look on in horror,
wailing and pulling out their hair. The people watching from the ramparts all cry out in sorrow. Weaving down in her
quarters,Andromache hears the sounds of mourning and knows what has happened. She runs to the top of the walls and sees her
husband's stripped corpse being dragged behind Achilles chariot. She swoons, and when she recovers she speaks, weeping, of her
son's fate. Without a father, his future is uncertain. And Hector himself will be horribly desecrated in his own land. She speaks weeping,
and the women join her in mourning.

Hector's pride makes him stay outside the Scaean gates. Some commentators characterize Hector as a selfless defender of his people
and Achilles as a brutal killing machine. Although this characterization has some basis in truth, the decision to remain outside the
Scaean gates complicates that reading. Although it is true that when speaking to Achilles Hector thinks of how much better the war will
go for his people if Achilles could be killed, Hector did not remain outside the gates with that goal foremost in his mind. His decision to
remain outside the gates is not the best one for his people; Priam begs him not to face Achilles alone, lest the Trojans lose their
champion. Here, once again, Hector is partly motivated by the fear of seeming a fool or a coward. He would rather face Achilles and die

than face the scorn of his men; he has boasted before now that he would defeat Achilles when finally they met. His pride makes him
more afraid of being called a coward than he is afraid of facing Achilles. This pride, it must be remembered, is part of what makes him
great. It has made this civilized man, a man best-suited for peacetime, commit acts of great valor. He is a civilized man, and a brave
one, with a great love for his people; he also allows his pride to cloud his judgment. Pride leads to his death, but it has also made him a
And yet when he faces Achilles the Achaean champion is so fearsome that Hector cannot hold his ground. The outcome of the fight is
never in doubt. The duel is actually very brief. Achilles easily overcomes Hector, slaying him with a glee that shows the depth of his
rage and grief.
In Book 1, when Achilles is arguing with Agamemnon, he tells the king that the Trojans, whom he slays at the king's command, have
done him no wrong. By the time he returns to the fighting, he can no longer make that claim. The death of Patroclus has ensured that
his life will end in sorrow and bitterness, and he pursues Hector with single-minded purpose. It might seem that Hector has been a
hapless victim of the gods. Remember that Hector killed Patroclus at the urgings of Apollo, and Apollo then made it possible for Hector
to do it. Achilles has a score to settle with Hector, but it is a score that came about partly through divine intervention. And yet Hector is
not a mere pawn of fate. A mixture of pride, the desire to win glory, and divine intervention doom Hector. Athena prevents his escape by
duping him; when he realizes that he has been tricked by a deity, he knows that his time is running out. But the event that has lead to
Achilles wrath, the death of Patroclus, came about ultimately by his choice. Apollo did not appear as a god and command Hector to
attack Patroclus: the god took human form and persuaded him, using Hector's lust for glory as the bait.
Hector's desire to swear an oath of respect for the body of the vanquished is ironic. It rings hollow, because after the death of Patroclus
Hector fought desperately to desecrate the Achaean hero's body. But one evil does not excuse another. Just as Hector comes off badly
gloating over the body of Patroclus and then trying desperately to desecrate it, Achilles comes off badly in his excessive revenge.
Homer creates still more sympathy for Hector by having his parents and wife helplessly watch the desecration of his corpse. His son
Astyanax has an uncertain future, and the child becomes a symbol for the terrible fate of Troy itself. Troy has no future, and the
vulnerability of Hector's infant son recalls Agamemnon's promise that even the unborn will know no mercy.
Achilles' hatred is dehumanizing and self-destructive. His wish that he had the stomach to eat Hector's raw flesh is nothing less than a
desire to become animal, destroying everything human about himself. His slaughter of the Trojans has been excessively brutal, and the
compassion of his beloved companion has been forgotten. His brutal treatment of Hector is both figuratively and literally selfdestructive, because his own death will follow. Homer emphasizes the self-destructiveness of Achilles' action by creating symmetry
between Achilles and Hector. Achilles mistreats the hero he has vanquished, just as Hector did. The Trojan hero's dying words predict
Achilles' death at the hands of Paris (Paris, of all people) and Phoebus Apollo, in the same way that the dying Patroclus promised
Hector that he would die at the hands of Achilles.
Achilles' treatment of Hector is self-destructive, physically and spiritually, and Homer drives home the point symbolically. Hector is
wearing Achilles' original armor, the armor Achilles gave to Patroclus, which after Patroclus' death was taken from him. Before, the
armor was used to make Patroclus into Achilles' mirror image, to such an extent that he was mistaken for Achilles and drove the Trojans
into a rout. Here, Hector becomes another mirror image of Achilles. Considering the armor, the imagery of Hector's slaying becomes
even more unsettling. Achilles is killing a likeness of himself.

Except for Hector, the Trojans are inside the walls of Troy. Apollo turns to Achilles to tell him he is wasting his time pursing a god since
he can't kill him. Achilles is angry, but turns around to return to Troy where Priam is the first to spot him. He tells Hector he will be killed
since Achilles is much stronger. If not killed he will be sold into slavery as has already happened to others of Priam's sons. Priam can't
dissuade Hector, even when his wife Hecuba joins the effort.
Hector gives some thought to going inside but fears the ridicule of Polydamas, who had given sage advice the day before. Since Hector
wants to die in glory, he has a better chance facing Achilles. He thinks about giving Achilles Helen and the treasure and adding to it an
even split of the treasure of Troy, but Hector rejects these ideas realizing Achilles will just cut him down, and there would be no glory in
As Achilles bears down on Hector, Hector begins to lose his nerve. Hector runs towards the Scamander River (Xanthus). The two
warriors race three times around Troy.
Zeus looks down and feels sorry for Hector, but tells Athena to go down and do what she wants without restraint.
Achilles is chasing Hector with no chance of reprieve unless Apollo steps in (which he does not do). Athena tells Achilles to stop running
and face Hector. She adds that she will persuade Hector to do the same. Athena disguises herself as Deiphobus and tells Hector the
two of them should go fight Achilles together.
Hector is thrilled to see his brother has dared to come out of Troy to help him. Athena uses the cunning of disguise until Hector
addresses Achilles to say it's time to end the chase. Hector requests a pact that they will return each other's body whoever dies.

Achilles says there are no binding oaths between lions and men. He adds that Athena will kill Hector in just a moment. Achilles hurls his
spear, but Hector ducks and it flies past. Hector does not see Athena retrieve the spear and return it to Achilles.
Hector taunts Achilles that he didn't know the future after all. Then Hector says it's his turn. He throws his spear, which hits, but glances
off the shield. He calls to Deiphobus to bring his lance, but, of course, there is no Deiphobus. Hector realizes he has been tricked by
Athena and that his end is near. Hector wants a glorious death, so he draws his sword and swoops down on Achilles, who charges with
his spear. Achilles knows the armor Hector is wearing and puts that knowledge to use, finding the weak point at the collarbone. He
pierces Hector's neck, but not his windpipe. Hector falls down while Achilles taunts him with the fact that his body will be mutilated by
dogs and birds. Hector begs him not to, but to let Priam ransom him. Achilles tells him to stop begging, that if he could, he would eat the
corpse himself, but since he can't, he'll let the dogs do it, instead. Hector curses him, telling him Paris will kill him at the Scaean Gates
with the help of Apollo. Then Hector dies.
Achilles pokes holes in Hector's ankles, ties a strap through them and attaches them to the chariot so he can drag the body in the dust.
Hecuba and Priam cry while Andromache is asking her attendants to draw a bath for her husband. Then she hears a piercing wail from
Hecuba, suspects what has happened, emerges, looks down from the rampart where she witnesses her husband's corpse being
dragged, and faints. She laments that her son Astyanax will have neither land nor family and so will be despised. She has the women
burn the store of Hector's clothing in his honor.

Hector - champion of the Trojans and son of Priam.

Priam - King of the Trojans and father of Hector, Paris, Cassandra, and Helenus, among others.
Achilles - best warrior and most heroic of the Greeks. After Agamemnon stole his war prize, Briseis, Achilles sat out the war
until his beloved comrade Patroclus was killed. Although he knows his death is imminent, Achilles is determined to kill as many
Trojans as possible, including Hector whom he blames for Patroclus' death.
Xanthus - a river near Troy known to mortals as Scamander.
Zeus - king of the gods. Zeus attempts neutrality.
Known as Jupiter or Jove among the Romans and in some translations of the Iliad.
Athena - favors the Greeks. Also known by the Romans as Minerva.
Apollo - god of many attributes. Favors the Trojans.
Deiphobus - brother of Paris.
Andromache - wife of Hector and mother of Astyanax.

With the Trojans now secure in their city, Hektor as their sole representative stands outside the city gates and prepares to meet
Achilles. His mother and father appeal to him to seek safety behind the city walls, but their pleas are in vain. While waiting, Hektor
considers the various courses of action open to him and decides that the only real possibility is to fight Achilles.
Yet, when Achilles arrives, Hektor is overcome by fear and he flees. Achilles pursues him around the city walls three times, and, as they
run, Hektor tries unsuccessfully to draw Achilles within range of the Trojan archers on the battlements.
Finally, Athena deludes Hektor into believing that he will have assistance against Achilles. He turns and stands his ground. But before
the two heroes fight, Hektor attempts to make Achilles promise to treat his body with respect if he is killed, but Achilles is so full of fury
that he refuses.
The two warriors engage in a decisive duel. Achilles casts his spear first and misses the mark, but it is returned to him by Athena. Next,
Hektor throws his spear and hits the center of Achilles' shield, but the divine armor cannot be penetrated. The two men circle each
other, slowly closing in. Hektor is armed with only a sword, while Achilles still has his spear. After several feints, Achilles lunges and
stabs Hektor in the throat. As the Trojan dies, he begs that his body be returned to his family for a proper funeral, but Achilles again
refuses Hektor's request. Hektor dies reminding Achilles that his own death is imminent.
All the Achaians run up to see the corpse of the almost-mythic, now-dead Trojan leader. Many of them jest and stab Hektor's corpse.
Achilles strips off Hektor's armor and fastens his naked body to his chariot by the heels. Then he gallops off, dragging the corpse
behind him in disgrace.
When Priam and Hekuba, Hektor's parents, witness the vicious treatment of their dead son, they begin to wail and bemoan their fate,
and all of the citizens of Troy join in the piteous lamentations. The sound of this weeping is heard by Andromache, and when she learns
of her husband's death, she collapses.


Structurally, this book has three early appeals to Hektor, begging him to come inside the walls of Troy, balanced late in the book by
three laments for Hektor's death. In between occurs the fight between Hektor and Achilles.
The battle between Hektor and Achilles brings about a reconsideration of two ideas that have been implicit throughout the Iliad. The first
idea is the conflict between the values symbolized by the two warriors. The second idea is the nature of the relationship between the
gods and men.
The duel between Hektor and Achilles has been interpreted as a clash between two diametrically opposed world views: Hektor, the
representative of hearth, home, and city-state, is the defender of the principles of individual self-control and of a constructive, positive
way of life. Achilles is the personification of primitive brutality, anti-social destructiveness, and undisciplined instinct. Thus, it is a fight
where human civilization itself is at stake, and although the destructive forces triumph, Achilles (their embodiment) is rehabilitated and
rejuvenated in the final book of the epic. The institutions represented by Hektor are reborn in a new form during the confrontation
between Achilles and Hektor's aged father, Priam.
Two scenes explore the god/human relationship in complementary fashion. Zeus considers saving Hektor's life by "plucking the man
from death." Athena counters that Zeus can do as he pleases, "but none of the deathless gods will ever praise you."
The first suggestion in this scene is that Zeus can overcome fate, but only in a way that brings turmoil to heaven and earth. The second
suggestion is that Zeus' intervention in human affairs in this instance is not justifiable because fate has decreed otherwise. Hektor is
preordained to die at the hands of Achilles, so there is no justification for intervention.
This second idea about the nature of the relationships between gods and men is reinforced in the much discussed role of Athena in
Hektor's death. Hektor runs when he first encounters Achilles, and the pall mall race around the walls of Troy is almost humorous.
However, this race has to end and the inevitable conflict must take place. Athena intervenes in the form of Deiphobus and convinces
Hektor to fight. Hektor does so and dies.
Commentary has focused on Athena's role, suggesting that Homer shows the gods as tricksters who cannot be trusted by humans.
Actually, the opposite view is more accurate. Athena intervenes on the side of what must happen. Unlike Zeus' notion to save Hektor
and avoid fate, Athena's goal is precisely to bring about what fate has decreed. She does not cause Hektor's death; instead she ends
his unseemly flight and makes him turn to face what must be. Here again, the voice of the god is like the voice in the mind telling the
hero what he must do. A heroic warrior cannot run from his foe, even if that foe is the invulnerable and deadly Achilles. The gods
sometimes help humans face up to their human obligations and destinies.
For Achilles, the nature of his society and values, where competition and victory are everything, leaves him alone at the end of the
battle, waiting for his own certain death.