Hektor’s Bastards and His “Good” Wife

Listen, I know Hektor gets a lot of love in the world and he is often seen as the one good man in a rather bad world. So, I hate to share this with you, but he’s not perfect either…

Euripides Andromache, 222-227

“Dearest Hektor, I tried for your sake
With your love affairs if Kupris made you stumble,
And often then I offered my breast to your bastards
So that I might demonstrate no bitterness for you.
And by doing these things I attracted my husband
To my virtue…”

ὦ φίλταθ᾿ Ἕκτορ, ἀλλ᾿ ἐγὼ τὴν σὴν χάριν
σοὶ καὶ ξυνήρων, εἴ τί σε σφάλλοι Κύπρις,
καὶ μαστὸν ἤδη πολλάκις νόθοισι σοῖς
ἐπέσχον, ἵνα σοι μηδὲν ἐνδοίην πικρόν.
καὶ ταῦτα δρῶσα τῇ ἀρετῇ προσηγόμην
πόσιν·

Scholia in Eur. Andromache 224 [=BNJ 307 F1]

“For they claim that this is against the history—for there is no history of sons born to Hektor from another woman. But those who say these things have not done their research. For Anaksikratês says in the second book of his Argive Affairs that those with Aineias and Skamandrios, Hektor’s son and an older son […] that first was his bastard who was taken away…[and the legitimate son] was killed.

But these men were saved. For Skamandrios arrived in Ida and Aineias—along with his son Askanios—and Ankhises his father, and his other sons and, and Aigestas who was Ankhises’ servant moved to Dardanos. Therefore Euripides does not oddly claim that [Hektor] had illegitimate sons.”

τοῦτο παρὰ τὴν ἱστορίαν φασὶν εἰρῆσθαι· μὴ γὰρ ἱστορεῖσθαι ῞Εκτορι ἐξ ἄλλης γυναικὸς γεγενῆσθαι υἱούς. ἀπερίσκεπτοι δέ εἰσιν οἱ ταῦτα λέγοντες. ᾿Αναξικράτης γὰρ διὰ τῆς β τῶν ᾿Αργολικῶν [frg. 1] οὕτως λέγει· ‘οἱ δ’ ἀμφὶ Αἰνείαν καὶ Σκαμάνδριον τὸν ῞Εκτορος υἱὸν καὶ παλαίτερον ** ἦσαν δὲ αὐτῷ οὗτος μὲν νόθος, ὃς αὐτοῦ κατελήφθη καὶ ἀπόλλυται ** οὗτοι δὲ διασῴζονται· Σκαμάνδριος γὰρ ἀφικνεῖται εἰς τὰ ἐν ῎Ιδῃ, Αἰνείας δὲ <καὶ ᾿Ασκάνιος ὁ υἱὸς> καὶ ᾿Αγχίσης ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄλλοι τινὲς παῖδες αὐτοῦ καὶ Αἰγέστας οἰκεῖος ὢν τῷ ᾿Αγχίσῃ [καὶ Αἰνείας] εἰς Δάρδανον μετανίστανται’. οὐκ ἀτόπως οὖν νῦν Εὐριπίδης νόθους φησὶν αὐτὸν ἐσχηκέναι παῖδας: —MOA

Anatole Mori in her commentary on this fragment for Brill’s New Jacoby notes that there are several later mythographical traditions that put Askanios and Skamandrios together:

“According to the fifth-century mythographer Hellanikos of Lesbos, Neoptolemos released Skamandrios and other descendants of Hektor, who returned with Askanios to Troy (BNJ 4 F 31 = Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Antiquities of Rome 1.47.53). The joint foundation of Skepsis by Skamandrios and Askanios is likewise noted by the geographer Strabo (Geography 13.1.52; Geography 14.5.29… On the various sources for the tradition of Skamandrios as a Trojan survivor, see P. M. Smith, ‘Aineiadai as Patrons of Iliad XX and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite’, HSCPh 85 (1981), 17-58, at 53-58. C.”

As Mori also notes, this name might be familiar to readers of the Iliad which takes pain to not that “Hektor used to call his son Skamandrios but the rest / called him Astyanax, for he alone kept Ilion safe” (τόν ῥ’ ῞Εκτωρ καλέεσκε Σκαμάνδριον, αὐτὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι
/ ᾿Αστυάνακτ’· οἶος γὰρ ἐρύετο ῎Ιλιον ῞Εκτωρ. 6.402–403). The Homeric scholia are silent on this. This seems a likely case of an instance where the Iliad knowingly suppresses details from myth to streamline the themes in its narrative (so, here, conflating multiple sons of Hektor into one). Indeed, Homeric epic seems to have a thing with eliminating second sons (as with Telegonus in the Odyssey.)

When it comes to the act of nursing a husband’s illegitimate children, the scholia to Euripides do bring up a Homeric example:

“[and I often then [gave my] breast]: This is the kind of woman Antênor’s wife was. For Homer has “Megês killed Pedaios, the son of Antênor / who was actually a bastard, but shining Theanô raised him carefully / equal to her own dear children, because she wanted to please her husband.”

καὶ μαστὸν ἤδη πολλάκις: ὁποία ἦν ἡ Θεανὼ ἡ ᾿Αντήνορος γυνή. ῞Ομηρος [Ε 69]·
‘Πηδαῖον δ’ ἂρ ἔπεφνε Μέγης, ᾿Αντήνορος υἱὸν,
ὅς ῥα νόθος μὲν ἔην, πύκα δ’ ἔτρεφε δῖα Θεανὼ
ἶσα φίλοισι τέκεσσι χαριζομένη πόσεϊ ᾧ’:

(Note some linguistic similarity to Euripides’ passage above in the phrases χαριζομένη πόσεϊ ᾧ and τὴν σὴν χάριν.) The Homeric epics are not wholly silent on bastard sons--they feature Menelaos’ son Megapenthes. According to the scholion to this passage (Schol. A ad Hom. 5.70b) “it was the foreign custom to have children with a lot of women. (Ariston. ὅς ῥα νόθος μὲν ἔην: ὅτι βαρβαρικὸν ἔθος τὸ ἐκ πλειόνων γυναικῶν παιδοποιεῖσθαι. A). The bT Scholion to the same passage goes further:

“It is the foreign custom to have sex with many women—indeed, Laertes* “avoids the wrath of his wife” (1.433) Or she must quickly make it right through the priesthood. But the poetry attributes this custom to women—for it is a mark of a wise woman to cover the mistake her husband has made.”

ex. | ex. βάρβαρον ἔθος τὸ ταῖς πολλαῖς γυναιξὶ μίγνυσθαι· Λαέρτης γοῦν
„χόλον δ’ ἀλέεινε γυναικός” (α 433). | ἢ τάχα ἥγνευεν αὐτὴ διὰ τὴν ἱερωσύνην. νόμον δὲ τοῦτον ὑπογράφει ταῖς γυναιξὶν ὁ ποιητής· σώφρονος γὰρ γυναικὸς τὸ γεγονὸς ἁμάρτημα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς σκέπειν.

*The Odyssey specifically remarks that Laertes did not sleep with Antikleia, his very attractive slave, because he did not want to anger Eurykleia, his wife.

So, in Euripides’ play, Andromache’s nursing of her husbands’ bastards is both a sign of her foreignness and of her dedication to her husband (and, perhaps here, a mark of her quality as a slave since she was already so accustomed to supporting another….).

A few Bonus Bastard Passages from Euripides (and here for the language of illegitimacy in Greek)

Andromache, 636–639 [Peleus speaking]

“For as often as the dry ground surpasses
deep earth in the life it brings forth,
so many a bastard is better than legitimate children.”

…πολλάκις δέ τοι
ξηρὰ βαθεῖαν γῆν ἐνίκησε σπορᾷ,
νόθοι τε πολλοὶ γνησίων ἀμείνονες.

Fr. 824

“They say that step-mothers think nothing helpful
About bastard children—I will guard against their rebuke.”

ὡς οὐδὲν ὑγιὲς φασὶ μητρυιὰς φρονεῖν
νόθοισι παισίν, ὧν φυλάξομαι ψόγον.

Thanks to Theo Nash for sending this passage to me:

Also, check this out:

One response

  1. “The Odyssey specifically remarks that Laertes did not sleep with Antikleia, his very attractive slave, because he did not want to anger Eurykleia, his wife.”
    Or rather, the other way around. 🙂

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