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Title: Andromache  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Andromache (play), Hector, Trojan War, Jean Racine, Astyanax
Collection: Characters in the Aeneid, Characters in the Iliad, Women of the Trojan War
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


"Andromache Mourning Hector" by Jacques-Louis David, 1783

In Greek mythology, Andromache (; Ancient Greek: Ἀνδρομάχη, Andromákhē ) was the wife of Hector, daughter of Eetion, and sister to Podes. She was born and raised in the city of Cilician Thebe, over which her father ruled. The name means "battle of a man", from ἀνδρός "of a man" and μάχη "battle".[1]

During the Trojan War, after Hector was killed by Achilles and the city taken by the Greeks, the Greek herald Talthybius informed her of the plan to kill Astyanax, her son by Hector, from the city walls. This act was carried out by Neoptolemus who then took Andromache as a concubine and Hector's brother, Helenus, as a slave. By Neoptolemus, she was the mother of Molossus, and according to Pausanias,[2] of Pielus and Pergamus. When Neoptolemus died, Andromache married Helenus and became Queen of Epirus. Pausanias also implies that Helenus' son, Cestrinus, was by Andromache. Andromache eventually went to live with Pergamus in Pergamum, where she died of old age.


  • Classical treatment 1
    • Andromache’s families 1.1
    • Andromache’s role in mourning her husband 1.2
    • Duties as wife 1.3
  • Modern treatment 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Classical treatment

Andromache in Captivity by Frederic Leighton (ca. 1886)

Andromache’s families

Andromache was born in Thebes, a city that Achilles later sacked, killing her father and seven brothers.[3] After this, her mother died of illness (6.425). She was taken from her father’s household by Hector, who had brought countless wedding-gifts (22.470-72). Thus Priam’s household alone provides Andromache with her only familial support. In contrast to the inappropriate relationship of Paris and Helen, Hector and Andromache fit the Greek ideal of a happy and productive marriage, which heightens the tragedy of their shared misfortune. Once Achilles kills Hector, Andromache is utterly alone.

Andromache is therefore completely alone when Troy falls and her son is killed. Notably, Andromache remains unnamed in Iliad 22, referred to only as the wife of Hector (Greek alokhos), indicating the centrality of her status as Hector’s wife and of the marriage itself to her identity.[4] The Greeks divide the Trojan women as spoils of war and permanently separate them from the ruins of Troy and from one another. Hector’s fears of her life as a captive woman are realized as her family is entirely stripped from her by the violence of war, as she fulfills the fate of conquered women in ancient warfare (6.450-465). Without her familial structure, Andromache is a displaced woman who must live outside of familiar and even safe societal boundaries.

Andromache’s role in mourning her husband

Andromache’s gradual discovery of her husband’s death and her immediate lamentation (22.437-515) culminate the shorter lamentations of Priam and Hecuba upon Hector’s death (22.405-36). In accordance with traditional customs of mourning, Andromache responds with an immediate and impulsive outburst of grief (goos) that begins the ritual lamentation.[5] She casts away her various pieces of headdress (22.468-72) and leads the Trojan women in ritual mourning, both of which Hecuba did (22.405-36). Although Andromache adheres to the formal practice of female lamentation in Homeric epic,[6] the raw emotion of her discovery yields a miserable beginning to a new era in her life without her husband and, ultimately, without a home. The final stage of the mourning process occurs in Iliad 24 in the formal, communal grieving (thrēnos) upon the return of Hector’s body (24.703-804).

Duties as wife

In Iliad 22, Andromache is portrayed as the perfect wife, weaving a cloak for her husband in the innermost chambers of the house and preparing a bath in anticipation of his return from battle (22.440-6). Here she is carrying out an action Hector had ordered her to perform during their conversation in Iliad 6 (6.490-92), and this obedience is another display of womanly virtue in Homer’s eyes.[7] However, Andromache is seen in Iliad 6 in an unusual place for the traditional housewife, standing before the ramparts of Troy (6.370-373). Traditional gender roles are breached as well, as Andromache gives Hector military advice (6.433-439). Although her behavior may seem nontraditional, hard times disrupts the separate spheres of men and women, requiring a shared civic response to the defense of the city as a whole.[8] Andromache’s sudden tactical lecture is a way to keep Hector close, by guarding a section of the wall instead of fighting out in the plains. Andromache’s role as a mother, a fundamental element of her position in marriage, is emphasized within this same conversation. Their infant son, Astyanax, is also present at the ramparts as a maid tends to him. Hector takes his son from the maid, yet returns him to his wife, a small action that provides great insight into the importance Homer placed on her care-taking duties as mother (6.466-483). A bonding moment between mother and father occurs in this scene when Hector’s helmet scares Astyanax, providing a moment of light relief in the story. After Hector’s death in Iliad 22, Andromache’s foremost concern is Astyanax’s fate as a mistreated orphan (22.477-514).

In Euripides' The Trojan Women, Andromache despairs at the murder of her son Astyanax and is then given to Neoptolemus as a concubine. In his Andromache, Euripides dramatizes when she and her child were nearly assassinated by Hermione, the wife of Neoptolemus and daughter of Helen and Menelaus.

Modern treatment

Aomawa Baker (Andromache) in Euripides' The Trojan Women, directed by Brad Mays at the ARK Theatre Company in Los Angeles, 2003

She is also the subject of a tragedy by French classical playwright Jean Racine (1639–1699), entitled Andromaque, and a minor character in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. In 1857, she also importantly appears in Baudelaire's poem, "Le Cygne," in Les Fleurs du Mal. Andromache is the subject of a 1932 opera by German composer Herbert Windt and also a lyric scena for soprano and orchestra by Samuel Barber. She was portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave in the 1971 film version of Euripides' The Trojan Women, and by Saffron Burrows in the 2004 film Troy. She also appears as a character in David Gemmell's Troy series. Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Firebrand" makes her an Amazon princess—Homer does name the Amazons among the Trojan allies, interpreting her name as 'she fights like a man.' She also appears as a main character in After Troy, a play written by Glyn Maxwell premiered at the Playhouse Theatre Oxford in March 2011. As Andromakhe, she is the title character and protagonist of a novel by Kristina O'Donnelly.


  1. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Andromache". Behind the Name. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-12. 
  2. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 1.11.1.
  3. ^ Minchin, Elizabeth. 2011. “Andromache.” In The Homer Encyclopedia, edited by M. Finkelberg, 53-4.Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
  4. ^ Segal, Charles. “Andromache’s Anagnorisis: Formulaic Artistry in Iliad 22.437-476.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 75 (1971): 33-57.
  5. ^ Haussker, Faya. “Lament.” In The Homer Encyclopedia, edited by M. Finkelberg, 455-6. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
  6. ^ Lateiner, Donald. “Weeping.” In The Homer Encyclopedia, edited by M. Finkelberg, 933-4. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  7. ^ Keller, Albert Galloway. Homeric Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1913. p. 230.
  8. ^ Graziosi, Barbara, and Haubold, Johannes, ed. Homer Iliad Book VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. pp. 44-46.

External links

  • "Andromache", , 9th ed.Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. II, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1878 .
  • "Andromache", , 11th ed.Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. I, .  
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