In Homer’s The Iliad books 1-14, Hector is an example of the ultimate Trojan warrior, who is brave, honorable, and willing to die to protect his city. As the leader of his troops, he is responsible for the fate of Troy. At the beginning of the epic poem, he is portrayed as a caring and responsible leader. However, he becomes increasingly reckless and his bravery becomes a sign of his hubris. He blindly believes in the protection of Zeus, breaks social norms, is overconfident in battle, and becomes wounded fighting Ajax. Nevertheless, he is still a heroic character, who is willing to die for his Trojan values.
Like Achilles, Hector is the ideal Greek hero. He is proud, brave, noble, honorable, responsible, and willing to die for his people. However, he also has a tragic flaw. He is obsessed with honor and immortality, and becomes increasingly reckless and delusional as he becomes manipulated into fighting Achilles. He is manipulated by Zeus, who tricks him into believing that the Trojans would be invincible. He recklessly believes that Zeus is honest, and that his promise to give victory to the Trojans would come true. Hector promised his men a victory, based on a misunderstanding, because Zeus only promised success until they reached the Greek ships at the shore. Hector was also aware that the God’s were not always truthful and enjoyed tricking humans to pursue their own agendas. He predicted that “the deathless gods will strike me down at last at the hands of Argive fighters”(6.436-7). He also recklessly ignores bad omens, such as when an eagle appeared over Ajax’s shoulder, a sign that he would lose the battle.
Furthermore, off the field of battle, Hector is willing to bend the rules to suit his own goals. He is willing to defend his brother Paris for eloping with Helen, even though he believes it was shameful. He also protects Helen, even though she has no dowry and is not a proper wife for a Trojan warrior. This willingness to ignore societal rules shows that Hector is his own man, and would foolishly ignore warnings or social customs when it suited his desires.
On the field of battle, Hector is even more reckless. He is cocky and confident of his skill in combat. He approaches the Achaean line and offers himself to anyone who will fight him, which is clear sign of his arrogant recklessness. Hector is obsessed with being perceived as honorable, and becoming a legendary and immortal hero. This overriding desire made him recklessly engage in battles that ensured his own destruction. He fears Ajax, but is willing to fight him out of fear of losing his status as a heroic warrior. Hector also recklessly ignores the counsel of his lieutenant Poulydamas, who advised him to retreat to Troy to avoid destruction. In his search for vain glory, Hector refuses to retreat, because he wants to earn immortality on the battlefield. his stubborn recklessness and pursuit of vain glory and immortality over safety and the responsibility to serve his people. In Homer’s world, bravery was what defined a hero. To retreat and avoid battle was a sign of weakness and corruption. Hector’s bravery overpowered his sense of responsibility. He believes he is invincible, protected by the God’s who are only manipulating him for their own agenda. Hector has lost control of his emotions. He is no longer a somber, respectful, and responsible leader. When Ajax injures him with a boulder, he leaves his troops without a leader.
However, Hector’s recklessness does not diminish his heroism. In Homer’s world, warriors do not listen to their mothers, retreat, or act rationally all the time. A hero is strong, forceful, passionate, and is willing to die fighting. He is also a fatalist, who accepts his fate as part of nature: “Why so much grief for me? No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate. And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward, I tell you—it’s born with us the day that we are born” (6.579-584). is a complicated character, who is both responsible and reckless. According to the values of his people, he is willing die on the battlefield to be respected as an honorable warrior. He is a tragic hero, because he is responsible for the fate of his people, but is only human, and manipulated by forces outside of his control. He is a great warrior, who only wants to protect his people and become a hero. He is impulsive and driven by the values that make warriors fight and die.
Ultimately, a hero must be proud, it is part of the Homeric worldview. A hero does not sit back and calculate his chances, he rushes into battle with the bravery of a thousand men. Throughout the poem, Hector is a powerful warrior, but also a pawn in a much larger narrative. His heroism is based on recklessly pursuing honor, even when it seems impossible or doomed. Hector’s reckless heroism is a sign that he is deeply concerned for his people, committed to fate, and willing to fight the forces that conspire against him.
Homer, and Herbert Jordan. The Iliad. Norman: U of Oklahoma, 2008. Print.