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Andromache in Greek Mythology

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

The surviving stories from Greek mythology are male dominated, with the male gods more powerful than the goddesses, and the male mortals more famous than most females.

The emergence of the Hellenes people had resulted in the emergence of the mythology of the Olympian gods, with these gods usurping previous gods, and confining them to minimal roles. This was especially evident with goddesses such as Gaia and Phoebe.

That being said, there were of course still prominent female figures in later mythology, and important goddesses included the likes of Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, and famous mortals included Helen, Cassandra and Andromache.

The Aeneid

The Start of Andromache's Story

Many writers in antiquity would write of Andromache, with the likes of Homer, Euripides, Seneca, Virgil and Ovid, all calling her by her name, or referring to her as the wife of Hector; and of course Andromache is in the Iliad.

Andromache would become famous for her part in the Trojan War, but also because of her life after the fall of Troy.

In Greek mythology, Andromache was the daughter of King Eetion of Thebae in Cilicia. King Eetion and Andromache’s seven brothers were killed when Thebae was sacked by Achilles; Andromache’s mother would eventually end up in Troy after the sacking, when she paid a large ransom for her life.

Luckily for Andromache, by the time Achilles attacked Thebae, she was herself in Troy, for she had been wed to King Priam’s son Hector.

Hector, Andromache and Astyanax

Carl Friedrich Deckler (1838–1918) PD-art-100

Carl Friedrich Deckler (1838–1918) PD-art-100

Hector and Andromache

In the ancient sources, Andromache is normally described as being beautiful, although not as beautiful as the Spartan queen Helen. Andromache though, had the advantage over Helen in other ways, for Hector’s wife was said to be the perfect wife; loving, dutiful and loyal.

Andromache could be considered to be the female equivalent of Hector, for like her husband, she is mindful of her duties as wife to Hector, mother to Astyanax, and future queen of Troy.

Andromache could also be outspoken, and she was not above offering her husband military advice, as well as reminding him of his duties to her and their son. In many ancient sources, Andromache is also noted for placing the blame for the Trojan War upon the shoulders of Helen, in much the same way that Hector would blame Paris.

Despite Andromache’s pleadings, Hector would take to the battlefield once too often, and the Trojan prince would be killed by Achilles; and so Andromache was transformed from the dutiful wife, to the dutiful widow.

Andromache and the Fall of Troy

The sorrow of Andromache would be added to though, as Troy would fall shortly after the death of her husband, and so the wife and son of Hector, found themselves prisoners of the Achaeans. The Achaeans were fearful that the son of Hector would one day seek revenge on those who had captured Troy, and so the young Astyanax was thrown from the city’s walls. This act of infanticide was sometimes attributed to Talthybius, the Greek herald, Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, or to Odysseus.

As with the other women of Troy, Andromache became a prize of war, and for his role in the taking of the city, Neoptolemus took the widow of Hector as his concubine. The ties between Andromache and Troy were being cut, and the only remaining thread was the companionship of Helenus, Andromache’s brother-in-law, who Neoptolemus also took as a prize.

The Captive Andromache

Frederic Leighton (1830–1896) PD-art-100

Frederic Leighton (1830–1896) PD-art-100

Andromache After Troy

The story of Andromache after Troy is one which is the basis for Euripides’ play Andromache.

Neoptolemus, along with his growing household, would settle in Epirus, and establish the ruling line their. The son of Achilles would then be married to the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, Hermione, although the marriage was not a happy one.

Hermione would take a dislike to Andromache, and the wife of Neoptolemus would become jealous of the concubine, when Andromache bore Neoptolemus three sons, Molossus, Pielus and Pergamus, whilst Hermione could not get pregnant.

When Neoptolemus was absent at Delphi, Hermione plotted to do away with her rival, and gained an ally in the form of Menelaus. Andromache sensed the danger, and prayed to Thetis, the mother of Achilles for help. Menelaus though threatened the concubine, stating that it was either her life or the life of Molossus that would be lost that day. Help for Andromache came not from the mother of Achilles but from the father of Achilles, for Peleus, a hero of some repute, acted as her protector.

Neoptolemus himself would never return from Delphi, as he was killed by Orestes, as Hermione had been promised to the son of Agamemnon previously; after the death of her husband, Hermione would become the wife of Orestes.

Andromache and Neoptolemus

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833) PD-art-100

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774–1833) PD-art-100

Andromache's Lot Improves

The kingdom of Neoptolemus was now kingless, and the throne of Epirus was given to Helenus, the slave and friend of the former king. Helenus would then make Andromache his new queen; and Andromache would provide her new husband with a new son, Cestrinus.

For the first time since her marriage to Hector, Andromache was happy, and for many years Helenus and Andromache contentedly ruled Epirus. Eventually, Helenus would die and the crown would be passed to Molossus, Andromache’s son.

Andromache would not remain in Epirus, and instead, in the company of Pergamus, would travel to Asia Minor. Eventually, the pair would arrive in Teuthrania, and their Pergamus would kill King Areius, the king of Teuthrania, and take the throne for himself. Pergamus would then name the new kingdom after himself. It was said that Andromache would die in Pergamus’ kingdom of all age.

The life of Andromache was one of many ups and downs, or happiness and despair. Once happily married to Hector, Andromache would then lose her husband, her son and her home, but eventually, she would be blessed with four further sons.

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