Hector vs Achilles: Comparing the Two Great Warriors

Classical literature enthusiasts have compared Hector vs Achilles during the Trojan War and have analyzed their strengths, weaknesses, missions, and goals in detail.

What they have found is a collection of valuable lessons that can be derived from these two great warriors on opposite sides of the War.

This article will discuss the motivation of these soldiers, who won the duel, and what we can learn from them. So, be sure to read to the very end as we explore the contrasting characters of two champions, Hector vs Achilles.

Comparison Table

FeaturesHectorAchilles
NatureFull humanHalf-deity
StrengthsGreatest Trojan warriorNear invincibility
WeaknessHis entire bodyHis heel
MotivationFought for TroyAvenge the death of his friend
CharacterSelfless and loyalSelfish and unloyal

What Are the Differences Between Hector vs Achilles?

The main difference between Hector and Achilles was their motivation to fight in the Trojan war. Hector was an unselfish, family-oriented man whose loyalty was to the state while Achilles was a self-centered man who was spurred on by revenge for his friend Patroclus.

What Is Achilles Best Known for?

Achille’s Birth, Upbringing, and Character

Achilles was born to the King of Myrmidons of Thessaly and Thetis, a sea nymph, thus he was half-immortal and his mother reinforced his nature by dipping him into the infernal river Styx.

This made him nearly invincible except for his heel which his mother, Thetis, held when she dipped him into the mysterious river. Homer described him as the greatest warrior that ever lived due to both his nature and his exploits on the battlefield.

He was described as “bigger than Heracles, bigger than Sinbad bigger than…well, who’s the greatest warrior living now?“. According to the ancient Greek poet, Achilles grew up in the household of a centaur named Chiron when his mother left him.

Chiron thought him music, hunting, and philosophy and fed him on a diet of a lion’s entrails, she-wolve bones, and wild boars to strengthen the half-immortal boy. As a boy Achilles had the gift of speaking to animals and understanding them.

He was full of pride, had a vengeful spirit, was quick to anger, and was hot-tempered. When he was born the gods prophesied that though he was nearly immortal, his death will come once he ventures to Troy.

Achilles Is Famous for the Phrase Achilles’ Heel

Achilles is best known for the phrase ‘Achilles heel‘ even among people who have never read or heard of the classic poem. Achilles’ heel is a phrase that describes the vulnerability of an otherwise invincible person or system that can lead to a downfall.

According to the origin of the myth, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, wanted to make him immortal by dipping him as a baby in the River Styx. Thetis held the boy’s heel as she immersed the rest of the body into the infernal river.

So, while every part of Achilles’ body was invincible, his heel, which his mother held, was vulnerable because that part stayed above the Styx. Later, Achilles lead the armies of Greek against Troy especially to kill Hector and avenge the death of his dear friend Patroclus.

Though he was successful in fulfilling his mission, he was killed by an error shot into his heel, the only weakness he had. This was how the phrase and idiomatic expression ‘Achilles’ heel’ came about.

Achilles Was Famous for His Strength

The Greek hero was best known for his strength, bravery, confidence, near invincibility and the greatest warrior in the whole of Greece. He was also a dashing man whose handsomeness attracted several women.

When Achilles was young a prophecy claimed that he would die at Troy, forcing his father Peleus to send him away to King Lycomedes on Scyros. The king then disguised Achilles by dressing him up to look, talk and behave like one of his daughters.

Achilles probably took advantage of this and slept with one of the king’s daughters, Deidamia, and they gave birth to a son named Neoptolemus also referred to as Pyrrhus. The young Achilles grew up in the court of King Lycomedes until the Greek states decided to wage war against Troy for taking King Menelaus’s wife, Helen.

However, the Greeks were cautioned by Calchas the seer that defeating Troy would be impossible without a certain Achilles. Hence, a search for Achilles was ordered till he was found on the island of Skyros in the court of King Lycomedes.

The Greeks convinced Achilles to fight for their cause and he agreed and arrived with 50 of his ships. Each ship contained 50 Myrmidon soldiers who were fiercely devoted to him. With his Myrmidons, Achilles fought and destroyed 11 islands and12 cities in the first nine years of the war.

Nonetheless, Achilles withdrew from the war due to what he felt was a dishonor done to him by King Agamemnon. This led to a devastating defeat for the Greek forces as they were fought back by the Trojans.

Achilles Is Also Known for His Loyalty

The ultimate Greek warrior is famous for his loyalty to his friend Patroclus whom he met when they were just boys. When Achilles decided against fighting for the Greeks for dishonoring him, Patroclus disguised himself as Achilles and headed to fight the Trojans.

He was hoping that the sight of him disguised as Achilles would be enough to scare the Trojans and turn the tide in favor of the Greeks. However, Achilles warned Patroclus to not head to Troy but only lead the Myrmidons to drive the Trojans away from the Greek ships.

Patroclus paid no heed to Achilles’ warning and went to Troy which led to his death at the hands of Hector. This angered Achilles who rescinded his decision and went into battle looking to avenge the death of his dear friend Patroclus.

The Greeks and Achilles kill Hector and Achilles dragged his body back to his camp. Achilles’ love for Patroclus has been the subject of many literary works with some opining that they were lovers.

What Is Hector Best Known For?

Hector’s Birth, Upbringing, and Character

Contrastingly, Hector was fully human, the eldest son of Priam and Hecuba both King and Queen of Troy. Hector is portrayed as level-headed and even-tempered as well as the ultimate warrior of the whole Trojan army.

Scholars have noted that he is the only character mentioned in each of the 24 books of the Iliad. Hector was a good son who brought joy to his father unlike, his younger brother, Paris who kidnapped Helen and put the whole of Troy at risk.

His character endeared him to Apollo, the god of prophecy, and was described as a son of Apollo. He was a good husband who took leave of his wife before heading into the battle to face the Greeks. He was also a loyal friend who defended Sarpedon, son of Zeus.

He was selfless, humble, respectful, and fought for the good of Troy, unlike Achilles who was solely motivated by revenge for his friend Patroclus. Had Patroclus lived, Achilles wouldn’t have had any reason to return to the war after he was offended by Agamemnon.

Hector Is Popular for His Strength and Bravery

Just like Achilles, Hector is known for his bravery and strength in defending the honor of the city of Troy. He was known as the greatest warrior of Troy who dealt heavy defeats to the Greeks repelling their advancements.

At the beginning of the war, Hector fought and killed Protesilaus the leader of the Phylaceans, and fulfilled a prophecy that stated that the first to land in Troy would suffer death.

Though Protesilaus knew of the prophecy, he thought he could outwit the gods by throwing out his shield and landing on it. However, once he landed on he landed on his shield he was confronted and killed by Hector.

Hector Is Known for His Chivalry

Apart from his strength, Hector is known for the nobility and courtesy that he showed towards his enemies. During the war, Hector challenged the Greek warriors to choose their strongest soldier to come and fight him in a duel.

The Greeks cast lots which fell on Ajax from Salamis; a warrior who wielded a huge impenetrable shield. Hector was unable to defeat Ajax so both men exchanged gifts; Ajax received Hector’s sword while Hector got the girdle of Ajax.

This single action by Hector and Ajax led to a truce where both sides agreed to take some time off to bury the dead. Additionally, before going to war to stop the advancing Greeks, Hector’s wife Andromache attempted to stop and convince him to stay. Instead of brushing her aside, he gently reminded her of the need for him to fight to stop Troy from being conquered. He assured her that he could only be killed if his time was up.

He embraced Andromache and his son Astyanax and prayed that his son would become greater than he was. He then left for the battlefield never to return to his family and kingdom.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hector vs Achilles Who Won?

Achilles won the fight against Hector by shooting an arrow through a small gaping hole in the neck area killing him. According to other versions, Achilles stabbed Hector through a gap in his armor around his neck. Thus, Achilles successfully avenged the death of his friend Patroclus.

Why Did Achilles Drag Hector’s Body?

Achilles dragged Hector’s body both to avenge the death of his dear friend Patroclus and also to humiliate Hector. Hector’s father, King Priam of Troy, then pleaded with Achilles to let go of his son’s body so he can give him a decent burial.

Who Killed Achilles and How Did Achilles Die?

Achilles was killed by Paris when he shot an arrow straight into his heel. Some versions claim the arrow was guided by the god Apollo while other versions indicate that Achilles was shot with an arrow while he attempted to sack the city of Troy.

Was Achilles Real?

One cannot say for certain whether Achilles really lived or not. Either he was a real person who was later mythologized and attributed with superhuman strength and capabilities or he was purely fictional.

Is Hector Vs Achilles True Story?

The story was probably fictionalized given the supernatural events that occurred during the battle. Scholars have been unable to determine whether Achilles and Hector truly lived so as things stand, one can safely conclude that the story is a fiction of Homer’s imagination.

Was Achilles Better Than Hector?

When it came to manners, chivalry, and honor, Hector was way ahead of his rival Achilles. However, comparing strength, bravery, confidence, and skill, Achilles was better than Hector. So, we can conclude that Hector was a greater hero while Achilles was the best warrior.

Did Hector Have A Realistic Chance of Defeating Achilles?

No, he did not. First, the gods had willed that Hector will die at the hands of Achilles which is why Athena comes to the help of Achilles. Also, Achilles was a better fighter and warrior and was nearly indestructible, thus Hector stood no chance of defeating Achilles.

Conclusion

As seen in this Hector vs Achilles essay and character analysis, the two characters of the Iliad had some similarities and differences. The two warriors had royal blood in them and were the finest soldiers representing each side of the war.

Both were loyal to their causes and they fought each other believing that their cause was the best. The two great warriors were of immeasurable strength with Hector, known as the greatest warrior in Troy, winning most of his duels while Achilles was stronger than Heracles and Aladdin.

However, Hector was purely mortal and destructible while Achilles was half-mortal with his heel as his only weakness. Though both proved their loyalty, Hector’s loyalty was to the state, and was willing to die for it while Achilles was only motivated by revenge for his friend Patroclus.

Hector was selfless in his actions and displayed respect toward his opponents, on the other hand, Achilles was selfish and dishonored the body of Hector. On the whole, Hector seems a better hero than Achilles, given his superior moral values though Achilles was a better warrior.

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