Andromache is the epitome of the loyal wife. She was married to Hector, son of Priam, and with him had two sons, Astyanax (Scamandrius) and Laodamas.
Andromache's father was Eetion, king of Thebae in Cilicia. Achilles slew her father and her seven brothers when he captured Thebae, but Andromache was already married to Hector and residing in Troy.
In Amores I.9, Ovid gives a touching description of the relationship between Andromache and Hector, in which Andromache prepares Hector for battle:
(35) Hector ab Andromaches conplexibus
ibat ad arma,
et, galeam capiti quae daret, uxor erat.
|Hector from Andromache's embrace went to arms, and it was his wife who placed his helmet upon his head.|
In Ovid's Heroides XIII, Laodamia writes to Protesilaus. In the letter, she writes of her envy of the Trojan women. Her description of the life of a Trojan woman and her lover is often thought to represent the relationship between Hector and Andromache (Isbell, 117). The excerpt from the Heroides XIII is as follows:
(137) Troasin invideo, quae
si lacrimosa suorum
Ille ferens dominae mandata
I envy a Trojan woman because they observe the tearful funerals of their own, nor will the enemy be far away, with her own hands the young bride will place the helmet on the brave husband and will offer the Trojans weapons. She will offer the weapons and while she will offer the weapons, at the same time she receives kisses - this type of duty is sweet to both - and she will bring her husband forth, and will give commands to return and will say, "Bring back those weapons to Jove!"
That one, carrying clear with himself the commands of his wife, will fight carefully and will consider his home. For that one returned she will strip him of his shield and will unfasten his helmet, and will take in his exhausted body with protection. We [who are not in Troy] are uncertain; anxious fear forces us to imagine all deeds which are able to occur.
Hector was eventually killed by Achilles. In the Aeneid, Aeneas sees Hector's death drawn on a mural in a temple of Carthage. Virgil writes:
(I.483) Ter circum iliacos raptaverat
exanimumque auro corpus vendebat Achilles.
|Three times he (Achilles) had dragged Hector around the Trojan walls, and Achilles sold the lifeless body for gold.|
Jacques-Louis David, below, depicts Andromache's grief.
In the Troades, Seneca describes the death of Hector as the death of Andromache. This connection serves to emphasize the close relationship between the husband and wife. Andromache says:
(412) Ilium vobis modo,
mihi cecidit olim, cum ferus curru incito
mea membra raperet et gravi gemeret sono
Peliacus axis pondere Hectoreo tremens.
Tunc obruta atque eversa quodcumque accidit
torpens malis rigensque sine sensu fero.
|Ilium only just now for you has fallen, for me it has fallen already, when the savage one (Achilles) drives his war chariot, my limbs had been dragged and the axle of Pelion (made from trees of Mt. Pelion, in Thessaly), trembling with Hector's heavy weight, was groaning with noise. Then [myself] having been overpowered and ruined, whatever has come to pass, I endure rigid and without emotion, being numbed by hardships.|
After the fall of Troy, during which Seneca's play Troades takes place, Seneca portrays Andromache as a powerful mother. Andromache says:
(582) Propone flammas, vulnera
et diras mali
doloris artes et famem et saevam sitim
variasque pestes undique, et ferrum inditum
visceribus istis, carceris caeci luem,
et quidquid audet victor iratus timens.
|Threaten with flames wounds and dire arts of evil grief and starvation and savage thirst and varied plagues from all directions and iron thrusted in my internal organs, the plague of a dark prison, and whatever the victor dares in anger.|
The use of polysyndeton serves to emphasize large number of the evils, making her next words even more powerful, as she goes on to say:
|(588) Animosa nullos mater admittit metus.||Courageous mother admits no fears.|
While Seneca has Andromache compare her resolve to resist the Greeks with that of "fierce" Penthesilea and a "terrorizing" maenad, Andromache's power comes from her devoted loyalty to her family, both husband and sons. This kind of loyalty is internal, and does not express itself in external violence. Andromache states:
(668) Fuerat hoc prorsus nefas
Danais inausum. Templa violastis, deos
etiam faventes; busta transierat furor.
Resistam, inermes offeram armatis manus,
dabit ira virus. Qualis Argolicas ferox
turmas Amazon stravit, aut qualis deo
percussa Maenas entheo silvas gradu
armata thyrso terret atque expers sui
vulnus dedit nec sensit, in medios ruam
tumuloque cineris socia defenso cadam.
|This impious deed, utterly, had not been dared by the Greeks. Temples you have violated, even the favoring gods; [however] rage had passed over tombs. I will resist, I will offer my unarmed hands to you who are armed, anger will give strength. Just as the fierce Amazon dispersed the Argive troops, or as a Maenad, having been struck by a god, armed with a thyrus, and she terrorizes the forests with her divinely inspired step and also free from herself, she has given a wound neither has she felt [them], I will rush into the midst and I will fall in the tomb, defended, a companion of the ash.|
After the fall of Troy, it fell to the Greek council to determine Astyanax's fate. However, the seer Calchas prophesied that Astyanax would grow up to avenge Troy and his father, Hector. In the Troades, Odysseus tells Andromache that if Astyanax cannot be found to be sacrificed, Calchas has ordained that Hector's ashes must be strewn over the ocean, and his tomb destroyed.
Seneca then sets Andromache with a moral dilemma. Should she let her husband's remembrance be disgraced, and let her son die? Or is her son's life worth the desecration of her husband's tomb? This question is addressed in Andromache's following speech:
(642) Quid agimus? Animum
distrahit geminus timor:
Poteris nefandae deditum mater
Quid fluctuaris? statue, quem
What do I do? A twin fear distracts my heart: here my son, there my husband's sacred ash. Which side shall prevail? I appeal to the pitiless gods, and the true deities, [which are] the shades of my husband, not another, Hector, other than my son is [more] pleasing to me than you. May he live, that he is able to restore your countenance. - Shall your (Hector's) ashes, having been removed from your tomb, be drowned? Shall I permit the bones to be strewn and scattered in the vast waves? Better let this one (Astyanax) encounter death. -
Will you (Andromache), the mother, be able to see him dedicated to a nefarious death? Will you be able [to see him] sent to be whirled from the lofty heights? I will be able, I shall endure, I shall bear, while my Hector after his fate will not be thrown by the victor's hand. - That one (Astyanax) is able to feel punishment, but fate now moved the other into safety. -
Why are you (Andromache) uncertain? Determine whom you pull away from punishment. Ungrateful, why do you doubt? Your Hector is on that side - you are mistaken - on both sides is Hector; this one (Astyanax) [has] a powerful sense of pain, perhaps he will be a future avenger to his father's death - it is not possible to spare both. Now what are you doing? Preserve from the two, my soul, the one whom the Danai fear (Astyanax).
Although this passage shows Andromache's decision to preserve her son, Astyanax, he is ultimately found and sacrificed.
Andromache was then given to Pyrrhus (Neoptolemus), son of Achilles, as a spoil of the war. The two settled in Epeirus, and Andromache bore Molossus, Pielus, Pergamus, and Amphialus (Bell, 40).
Pyrrhus left Andromache in Epeirus while he went to Phthia to marry Hermione (although she was betrothed to Orestes). Orestes stabbed Pyrrhus to death in Phthia.
Some stories tell of jealous Hermione's cruelty toward Andromache, for Hermione could not bear children (Tripp, 51).
After Pyrrhus' death, Andromache married Helenus, and bore him Cestrinus. Molossus succeeded Helenus to the throne of Epeirus, but Andromache journeyed with Pergamus to Asia Minor after Helenus' death and there lived out the rest of her days (Bell, 40).
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