|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
THE DEATH OF HECTOR
 FIERCE and long raged the battle around the body of Patroclus. And while the
armies fought, a messenger hastened to the tent of Achilles to tell him
that his comrade was slain and that the Trojans fought for his body as
it lay naked on the ground, stripped of its armour. "Thy armour," said
the messenger, "Hector has taken for himself."
When Achilles heard the bitter tidings he took dust and poured it with
both hands upon his head. "As he thought thereon, he shed big tears,
now lying on his side, now on his back, now on his face, and then anon
he would rise upon his feet, and roam wildly beside the beach of the
salt sea." As he cried aloud in his grief his mother, Thetis, heard in
her home beneath the sea. Swiftly she sped to her son that she might
learn why he wept.
Achilles told her all that had befallen Patroclus, and how he himself
cared no longer to live, save only that he might slay Hector who had
killed his friend.
Thetis bade her son wait but till the morrow before he went to battle
and she would bring him armour made by the great Fire-god.
Then she left him and prayed the god Hephaestus, keeper of the forge,
to give her armour for her dear son.
Hephaestus was pleased to work for so goodly a warrior as Achilles.
Quickly he set his twenty bellows to work, and when the fire blazed in
the forge, he threw into it bronze and silver and gold. Then taking a
great hammer in his hand he fashioned a marvellous shield, more
marvellous than words
 can tell. Before morning a complete suit of
armour was ready for Achilles.
Meanwhile Hector had all but captured the body of Patroclus. But the
gods spoke to Achilles, bidding him now succour the body of his friend.
Without armour Achilles could not enter the fray, yet he hastened to
the trenches that the Trojans might see him.
Around his head gleamed a golden light, placed there by Athene. When
the Trojans saw the flame and heard the mighty cry of Achilles, they
drew back afraid.
Three times the warrior shouted, and three times the Trojans drew back
in fear. While they hesitated the Greeks rushed forward and carried
away the body of Patroclus, nor did they lay it down until they laid it
in the tent of Achilles.
On the morrow Thetis came back to her son, bringing with her the armour
made by Hephaestus. She found him weeping over the body of his friend.
"My child," she said, "him who lieth here we must let be, for all our
pain. Arm thyself now and go thy way into the fray."
Then Achilles put on the armour of the god in haste, for he feared lest
another than he should slay Hector.
With Achilles once again at their head, the Greek warriors attacked the
Trojans with redoubled fury. But it was Hector alone whom Achilles
longed to meet, and soon he saw his enemy near one of the gates of
Troy. Now he would avenge the death of Patroclus. But when Hector saw
the great hate in the eyes of his enemy, lo, he turned and fled.
"As a hawk, fastest of all the birds of the air, pursues a dove upon
the mountains," so did Achilles pursue the prince until he was forced
to stand to take breath. Then Hector, encouraged by the gods, drew
near to him and spoke, "Thrice, great Achilles, hast thou pursued me
round the walls of Troy, and I dared not stand up against thee; but now
I fear thee
 no more. Only do thou promise, if Zeus give thee the
victory, to do no dishonour to my body, as I also will promise to do
none to thine should I slay thee."
But Achilles, remembering Patroclus, cried out in anger that never
would he make a covenant with him who had slain his friend.
Then with fierce blows each fell upon the other, until at length
Achilles drove his spear through the armour that Hector wore, and the
Trojan prince fell, stricken to the ground.
Achilles, his anger still burning fiercely, stripped the dead man of
his armour, while many Greek warriors standing near thrust at him with
their spears, saying to one another,
"Go to, for easier to handle is Hector
now, than when he burnt the ships with blazing fire."
Then Achilles tied the dead man to his chariot with thongs of ox-hide
and drove nine times round the city walls, dragging the fair head of
Hector in the dust.
From the tower Priam and Hecuba saw the body of their son dragged in
the dust, and bitter was their pain.
But Andromache knew not yet what had befallen her lord, for she sat in
an inner chamber wearing a purple cloth. Soon she bade her maids
prepare a bath for Hector, for she thought that he would return ere
long from the battle. She knew not yet that
Hector would never return, but as the noise of the wailing of the people
reached the room in which she sat, her heart misgave her. In haste she
ran to the wall of the city, only to see the chariot of Achilles as it
dragged Hector down to the loud-sounding sea.
Then fainting with grief, Andromache fell to the ground, and the diadem
which Aphrodite had given to her on her wedding morn dropped from her
head, to be worn by her no more.
Down by the seashore Achilles burned the body of Patroclus with great
honour, and when the funeral rites were
 ended, he dragged the dead body
of Hector round the tomb, weeping for the loss of his dear comrade.
But Zeus was angry with Achilles for treating the Trojan prince so
cruelly, and he sent Thetis to bid her son give back Hector's body to
Priam, who would come to offer for it a ransom. "If Zeus decrees it,
whoever brings a ransom shall return with the dead," answered Achilles.
Then Zeus sent a messenger to the house of Priam, where the mother and
the wife of Hector wept, saying, "Be of good cheer in thy heart, O
Priam. . . . I am the messenger of Zeus to thee, who though he be afar off,
hath great care and pity for thee. The Olympian biddeth thee ransom
noble Hector's body, and carry gifts to Achilles that may gladden his
So Priam set out alone, save for the driver of the wagon which was to
bring Hector again to Troy, for so had the messenger commanded. But
Hecuba feared to let the old man go alone to the tent of the enemy.
When he reached the camp of the Greeks, Priam hastened to the tent of
Achilles, and entering it before his enemy was aware, the old king fell
at the feet of his enemy and begged for the body of his dear son.
Achilles could not look upon the grief of the old man unmoved, but when
Priam offered him gifts he frowned and haughtily he answered, "Of
myself am I minded to give Hector back to thee, for so has Zeus
Then a truce for nine days was made between the Greeks and the Trojans,
so that King Priam and his people might mourn for Hector and bury him
undisturbed by fear of the enemy.
Priam tarried with Achilles until night fell. Then while he and his
warriors slept, the king arose and bade the driver yoke the horses and
mules. When this was done they laid the body of Hector upon the wagon,
and in the silence of the night set out on their homeward journey.
At the gates of Troy stood Andromache and Hecuba
 watching until Priam
returned. And when the wagon reached the city the Trojans carried
Hector into his own house. Then Andromache took the head of her dear
husband in her arms and said, "Husband, thou art gone young from life
and leavest me a widow in thy halls. And the child is yet but a little
one . . . nor methinks shall he grow up to manhood, for ere then shall this
city be utterly destroyed. For thou art verily perished who didst
watch over it and guard it, and keptest safe its noble wives and infant
The following morning Priam bade his people go gather wood for the
burial, and after nine days the body of Hector was laid on the pile and
burned. Then his white bones, wrapped in purple cloth, were placed in
a golden chest. Above the chest a great mound was raised, and thus,
Hector, the brave prince of Troy, was buried.
Soon after the burial of Hector Achilles was killed by a poisoned arrow
which Paris aimed at his heel, the one spot of his body that Thetis had
failed to bathe in the magic waters of the river Styx. Paris himself
perished soon after the death of Achilles.
Troy still remained untaken. Then goodly Odysseus told the Greeks that
although they could not take the city by storm, they might take her by
a stratagem or trick.
So the Greeks, as he bade them, built a huge wooden horse, which was
hollow within. Here they hid a number of their bravest warriors, and
then the main body of the army marched away, as though they were tired
of trying to take the city. The wooden horse they left as an offering
to Poseidon. Only a slave named Sinon was left behind to persuade the
Trojans to drag the horse into the city. But the Trojans needed little
persuasion. They came out of the city, gazed at the strange horse,
half feared a trick, and then, like children amused with a new toy,
they pulled it within the walls of Troy.
So glad were the Trojans that the enemy had gone away,
 that they made a
great feast. While they ate and drank, careless of danger, Sinon
helped the Greek warriors out of the hollow wooden horse. They waited
until it was late and all was quiet, then they slipped down to the
gates and flung them open, while their comrades, who had not marched
far away, rushed in to plunder and burn the city. Thus after many long
years Troy was taken by the counsel of Odysseus.
One of the first to sail away from the city was Menelaus, with his
beautiful queen safe at his side. After many adventures he reached
Sparta and lived with Helen "in peace, comfort, and wealth, and his
palace shone in its splendour like the sun or the moon."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics