“And so he stands. Alone. The city walls towering over him. They were built to protect him. Now they isolate him.”
The cry engulfs the city, bringing it to a standstill.
“HECTOR…” The anger. The authority. Only one man could make such a demand.
“HECTOR…”. Don’t do it Hector. You don’t need to go. You didn’t know it was Patroclus. He was wearing his lover’s armour. It was a mistake. It was just a mistake. The city holds its breath. Hoping. Praying. The silence is broken by the loud unmistakable creak of a gate opening.
Send the army. Crush him.
But no, the Gods would never allow it. Hector would never allow it. And so he stands. Alone. The city walls towering over him. They were built to protect him. Now they isolate him. His polished armour reflects the evening sun. His stance is sure. His resolve unwavering. Only one man stands any chance against him on the battlefield. That man waits for him. Achilles. Sand kicks up off the floor as a gust of wind interrupts the encounter. Hector steps forward to face his opponent. The city sends out a desperate, woeful cheer for their champion. Words are spoken. Brief. Blunt. Today, one of them must die.
Hector reaches for his sword. Does his hand quiver?
Achilles is on him. He covers the ground like a gazelle and thrusts his spear at Hector’s face. It clashes against shield and ringing cuts through the air.
Defend yourself Hector. Fight back.
The onslaught is unbearable. Achilles attacks again, his spear lightning quick. Hatred fuels his every move. The intensity is inconceivable. The city can barely watch as their hero is forced back. Each attack more brutal and ferocious than the last. The same thought occupies everyone’s mind.
Then a reprieve.
The enemies face off. More words are spoken.
Hector attacks. The city cheers their champion on. His sword swings are powerful and fluid, his footwork eloquent. It’s Achilles’ turn to backtrack. Hope, perhaps?
But they can’t see where the spear has pierced the armour. They can’t feel the weight of the sword in their hand. They can’t taste the blood in their mouths.
Achilles slips, presenting a glorious opportunity. Hector throws his sword towards his unprotected neck. It was a ruse. Of course it was. Achilles dances out of the way. Hector falls forward, his sword cutting through thin air.
Now it’s Hector who’s exposed.
The city watches as their hero lets out a scream no mother should hear. Their champion is on his knees, his ankles a mess of blood and shattered ligament. All hope is lost.
But still they watch. And pray.
Let it be done with. Let it be over. Achilles kicks away his opponent’s sword and shield. He raises his spear. It pauses in the air. Hector looks up, defeated, ready to accept his fate.
Has he changed his mind. Is he merciful?
No – today is for revenge, not mercy. The spear plunges down. Hector collapses. The city gasps and finally looks away, unable to watch anymore. Unable to accept what has happened.
But still the torment is not over. Achilles removes his enemy’s armour as the city stands by in disbelief, unable to act. Powerless to intervene. Has he no honour? Hector’s bloodied naked corpse is visible to all. A final humiliation. His legs are bound and tied to Achilles chariot. You can’t take him. You can’t have him…please. The city’s pleas fall on deaf ears as Achilles rides off. His vengeance complete, his anguish still raw. Hector’s broken body stains the sand as it’s dragged back to the Greeks. They have the prince of Troy. They have the war.
Poor Hector didn’t stand much of a chance against Achilles given that the latter was (almost) immortal. His fate was sealed when he killed Patroclus fighting the Greeks on the beaches of Troy. Patroclus had donned Achilles armour after Achilles had withdrawn from the war in order to trick the Myrmidons into battle against the Trojans.
The battle between Hector and Achilles is one of my favourite parts of the Iliad. Two heavyweights squaring up for the first time. The Mohammad Ali vs. George Foreman of the Trojan war. Everytime I see it depicted on television I can never work out who I’m rooting for – Hector the darling of Troy, or Achilles whose story I find fascinating. In the Iliad, Hector loses his nerve and runs away from Achilles around the city walls. I don’t like this version of events. I can’t picture it without the Benny Hill music playing in the background and a trail of scantily clad girls following them (and he has an entire army behind him, why run?).
The death of Hector would steal Troy of its heart and soul. Would the Trojan horse have been so easily accepted had Hector remained in the city? I guess we’ll never know.