On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XXII

Andromache draws a hot bath, for Hector to slip into when he comes home from the war. Actually she has her maids heat the water, while she herself weaves flowers into a tapestry.

Mouth of stream forming border between Balıkesir and İzmir

All the Trojans managed to slip into the safety of Troy, while Achilles was distracted in Book XXI of the Iliad. Only Hector and Deiphobus have stayed outside. Hector is really glad to have his brother along to confront Achilles.

Hector thinks he is alone at first. He cannot retreat to Troy, not after chiding Polydamas for recommending it in Book XVIII. He considers surrendering himself to Achilles, and offering Helen and whatever else Paris stole from the Atrides, along with half the wealth of Troy.

What’s the use? he figures. If I disarm, Achilles will only kill me.

When Achilles draws near, Hector’s decisions are made. His knees take flight. Hector runs around Troy, Achilles in hot pursuit. They pass the twin springs of the Scamander, that is, the Xanthus. One spring is fiery hot, the other cold as snow. In times of peace, the Trojan women do the washing there.

Border stream

I used to run in dreams, but make no progress. I thought later this must have revealed something about me. Homer then reveals the same about himself, by noting that Achilles and Hector run as if in a dream: neither man can achieve what he is trying to do, be it catch up or get some distance.

When the runners reach the springs a fourth time, Deiphobus comes to the aid of Hector, who is now bold to make one last offer of civility: single combat with Achilles, the winner to strip the arms of the loser, but relinquish the body.

No conditions, says Achilles, and throws his spear. Hector ducks.

Now is his chance. He throws at Achilles, but the spear bounces off his shield. Hector calls to Deiphobus for another spear. Deiphobus is not there; he was an illusion.

It is an illusion of Andromache that her husband will come home to enjoy a hot bath. Hector is already dead.

Hayfield in İzmir province

That is the human story of Book XXII. The illusory Deiphobus is really Pallas though, who also returns to Achilles the spear that misses, the spear that Achilles goes on to use to find the chink in his own armor, the armor now worn by Hector, who stripped it from Patroclus.

Jove is a softie: he does not want to see Hector die (lines 146–50):

A man I loue much, I see forc’t, in most vnworthy flight
About great Ilion; my heart grieues; he paid so many vowes,
With thighes of sacrificed beeues; both on the loftie browes
Of Ida, and in Ilions height. Consult we; shall we free
His life from death? or giue it now, t’Achilles victorie?

While Juno recognizes that changing fate is possible in principle, she points out that it would be most unwise.

All right then, says Jove. You see to Hector’s death.

She does.

Though struck through the neck, Hector still has a voice, which begs for his body to be given for ransom.

No way, says Achilles; I want to slice you up and eat you raw.

There is a lot of wailing in the book. Priam shrieks when he sees that his son is outside the walls, where Achilles is. He asks pity for an old man, who would leave an ugly corpse after the Greeks sacked Troy (lines 61–65):

… A faire yong man, at all parts it beseemes,
(Being brauely slaine) to lie all gasht; and weare the worst extremes
Of warres most crueltie; no wound, of whatsoeuer ruth,
But is his ornament: but I, a man so farre from youth;
White head, white bearded, wrinkl’d, pin’d; all shames must shew the eye.

Hecuba shows her breasts: if they ever comforted Hector, he should come comfort her.

Stream in Balıkesir province

It’s no use. Hector waits for Achilles as the dragon in her cave waits for the passer-by.

When Hector is dead, the worst thing is to see his body dragged away by the heels. Hecuba covers her head with dust, as Hector’s is covered. Priam wants to throw himself on the mercy of Achilles, just to hold Hector’s body.

When Andromache hears the commotion, and comes out to find what has happened, she faints. From her head falls the veil that Venus gave her to wear on her wedding day.

sign: Karanfil Sokak

Carnation Street

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] « On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XXII […]

  2. By On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XXIV « Polytropy on September 26, 2019 at 8:26 am

    […] Achilles wished to eat Hector raw in Book XXII, so Hecuba wants to devour Achilles’s liver. It makes no sense to her to visit the Greek […]

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