Greek Mythology: Astyanax, Son of Hector

Greek Mythology: Astyanax, Son of Hector

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In Ancient Greek Mythology, Astyanax was the son of the King Priam of Troy's oldest son, Hector, the Crown Prince of Troy, and Hector's wife Princess Andromache.

Astyanax's birth name was actually Scamandrius, after the nearby Scamander River, but he was nicknamed Astyanax, which translated to high king, or overlord of the city, by the people of Troy because he was the son of the city's greatest defender.

Astyanax's Fate

When the battles of the Trojan War were taking place, Astyanax was still a child. He was not yet old enough to participate in battle, and thus, Andromache hid Astyanax in Hector's tomb. However, Astyanax's hiding place was eventually discovered, and his fate was then debated by the Greeks. They feared that if Astyanax was allowed to live, he would come back with vengeance to rebuild Troy and avenge his father. Thus, it was decided that Astyanax could not live, and he was thrown over the walls of Troy by Achilles' son Neoptolemus (according to Iliad VI, 403, 466 and Aeneid II, 457).

Astyanax's role in the Trojan War is described in the Iliad:

So saying, glorious Hector stretched out his arms to his boy, but back into the bosom of his fair-girdled nurse shrank the child crying, affrighted at the aspect of his dear father, and seized with dread of the bronze and the crest of horse-hair, 470 as he marked it waving dreadfully from the topmost helm. Aloud then laughed his dear father and queenly mother; and forthwith glorious Hector took the helm from his head and laid it all-gleaming upon the ground. But he kissed his dear son, and fondled him in his arms, 475 and spoke in prayer to Zeus and the other gods: “Zeus and ye other gods, grant that this my child may likewise prove, even as I, pre-eminent amid the Trojans, and as valiant in might, and that he rule mightily over Ilios. And some day may some man say of him as he cometh back from war, 'He is better far than his father'; 480 and may he bear the blood-stained spoils of the foeman he hath slain, and may his mother's heart wax glad.”

There are numerous retellings of the Trojan War that actually have Astyanax surviving the overall destruction of Troy and living on.

Astyanax's Lineage and Supposed Survival

A description of Astyanax via The Encyclopedia Britannica:

Astyanax, in Greek legend, prince who was the son of the Trojan prince Hector and his wife Andromache. Hector named him Scamandrius after the River Scamander, near Troy Iliad, Homer relates that Astyanax disrupted the last meeting of his parents by crying at the sight of his father's plumed helmet. After the fall of Troy, Astyanax was hurled from the battlements of the city by either Odysseus or the Greek warrior-and son of Achilles-Neoptolemus. His death is described in the last epics of the so-called epic cycle (a collection of post-Homeric Greek poetry), The Little Iliad and The Sack of Troy. The best-known extant description of the death of Astyanax is in Euripides ' tragedy Trojan Women (415 bc). In ancient art his death is often linked with the slaying of Troy's King Priam by Neoptolemus. According to medieval legend, however, he survived the war, established the kingdom of Messina in Sicily, and founded the line that led to Charlemagne.”


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