Andromache’s life as viewed by Euripides
Euripides had written a play that dramatized the life of Andromache after the Trojan war. It depicted how she was treated and used by Neoptolemus and Hermione. It started when Troy was sacked and Hector was killed and Andromache was taken as a concubine by Achilles’ son Neoptolemus. Andromache ended up giving birth to Neoptolemus’ son, Molossus. Hermione became jealous of Andromache due to the fact that she herself was unable to bear any children for her husband. When her husband went away to another city, she turned to her father’s help for getting rid of Andromache and her son. Euripides’ account exaggerated some situations in Andromache’s life, where she and her son were nearly assassinated. In the play, Menelaus, Hermione’s father captured Andromache’s son and demanded that she choose if she was willing to spare his life in exchange for her own. Peleus arrived and saved them both (Euripides, 1995). As a captive woman, Andromache’s life was continuously put into danger. Neoptolemus ended up dying and Andromache married Helenus, the brother of Hector, and she became the Queens of Epirus. Andromache also bore a son with Helenus, Cestrinus. Andromache continued with her life until she ultimately left to live in Pergamum with her son Pergamus, where she would die from old age (Pausanias, 1918).
Andromache’s Life as Viewed by Homer
Throughout the Iliad, books 6 and 22, in which she was portrayed, she was seen as a mother and a wife. Andromache was from an area called Cilician Thebe. She was the daughter of Eëtion, who was the ruler of the city. Her father was killed by Achilles, along with her several brothers, when he sacked their city. Later, her mother also died, but from an illness, leaving Andromache alone. During that time, Andromache became the wife of Hector, a Trojan warrior. Together, they had a son, named Scamandrius, more commonly referred to as Astyanax. While Hector was taking part in the Trojan war, he was killed by Achilles when the Greeks took over Troy (Homer, 2015).
The Iliad Portrayal – Book 6
Within book 6 of The Iliad, where Andromache was most prominent, she was displayed in an nontraditional setting for a typical woman. Andromache was on the walls of the city, spectating the events that were taking place below. She was not alone, with her was another woman who was holding her child (Homer, 2015). At that time, Andromache begged Hector not to partake in the war, she was confident that he would end up dead. Andromache continued to talk to Hector, telling him that his family was all that she had, remembering how she lost her family to Achilles. She worried that Hector would die, leaving her all alone once again. Hector tells Andromache that he must fight in the war, he cannot run away from his destiny. Afterward, Hector embraced his family once more before he left. Andromache began her mourning for her husband, even though he had not yet died, because she was convinced he would be soon.
Hector’s Departure from Andromache by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1812). via Wikimedia Commons
Role as a wife
The role of a woman and a man is divided. The woman is to stay inside and work within the household and the man is to do the physically demanding work outside. Hector says to Andromache “But returning to the house, attend to your work, the loom and the distaff, and bid your handmaidens to do so also; but the men will have charge of the fighting, all of those from Ilium, but I more than others” (Fantham, Foley, Kampen, Pomeroy, & Shapiro, 1994, p. 34). In the above passage, Hector is telling Andromache that the duties in the house are for her to attend to and that she needs to leave the war and fighting to the men of the society. Andromache was viewed at the “perfect wife”, she would weave clothing for her husband and would go above and beyond the expectations of women within the society.
Role in mourning her husband
An important public role that women in antiquity played was being mourners of the dead. Women were responsible for laying out the bodies, preparing them for burial and even more importantly, they would lament over them (Fantham, Foley, Kampen, Pomeroy, & Shapiro, 1994). Women would do many different gestures and would participate in mourning songs. When Andromache learns about her husband’s death, she throws down her headdress, the “Golden Aphrodite” which had been given to her on her wedding day (Dué, 2006 ). She is quick to mourn with Hector’s female relatives (Fantham, Foley, Kampen, Pomeroy, & Shapiro, 1994). In accordance to typical traditions in society, Andromache expresses an outburst of grief that began with a ritual of lamentation.
Andromache Mourning Over Body of Hector by Jacques-Louis David (1783). via Wikimedia Commons
“Go now; but I, the things in which I always wrap myself , thrênoi and gooi and tears, I will draw out, lifting them up toward the heavens… For I have not one but many things lament, my native city and my dead husband Hektor and the hard daimôn to which I am yoked, since I undeservedly met the day of slavery” (Dué, 2006 , p. 155).
In the above passage it explains what Andromache is going through and shows the traditions for when someone has died, even though she adheres to these customs. With the mourning of he husband’s death, she complains about how Hector never left her with any “intimate phrase,” nor did he embrace her before his untimely death.
“But for me especially you have left behind grievous pain. For when you died you did not stretch out your arms to me from our marriage bed, nor did you speak to me an intimate phrase, which I could always remember when I weep for you day and night” (Iliad 24.7 42-45) (Dué, 2006 ).
Andromache is pained with the realization of her new life, without a home and ultimately being the slave to her husband’s murderers.
Modern media treatment
Andromache is the subject of many modern media creations. She was the main character of a tragedy Andromaque, a French classical playwright Jean Racine (1639-99). She was also used as a minor character in one of Shakespeare’s plays Troilus and Cressida. Andromache can also be found in a poem “Le Cygne” in Les Fleurs du Mal, which is Baudelaire’s creation in 1857. In 1932 Andromache can be found the subject of an opera composed by German Herbert Windt and a lyric scene for soprano and orchestra by Samuel Barber. She has also appeared in many films from 1971-2004, including a film version of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. Although, most recently, Andromache has been portrayed in a 2018 miniseries Troy: Fall of a City.
Aomawa Baker as Andromache in Brad Mays’ production of Euripides’ The Trojan Woman (2003). via Wikimedia Commons
Dué, C. (2006 ). The Captive Woman’s Lament in Greek Tragedy. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Euripides. (1995). Andromache. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Fantham, E., Foley, H. P., Kampen, N. B., Pomeroy, S. B., & Shapiro, H. A. (1994). Women in the Classical World. New York: Oxford University Press.
Homer. (2015). The Iliad. Oakland: University of California Press.
Pausanias. (1918). Description of Greece. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.