Hermione hated Andromache because Neoptolemus loved her

The eminent Greek warrior Achilles killed Andromache’s husband Hector, an eminent Trojan warrior, in the brutal violence against men of the Trojan War. Achilles had also killed Andromache’s father and her seven brothers. After the Greeks conquered Troy, Achilles’s son Neoptolemus threw Andromache and Hector’s baby boy Astyanax down from the Trojan city walls to death on the rocks below.[1] Then Neoptolemus took Andromache as his concubine. That’s a rocky way to start an intimate personal relationship.

Andromache’s name means literally “man fighter.” But Andromache in fact related to men with generous love. She tried to protect her husband Hector from the most dangerous fighting in the Trojan War. Moreover, she loved him despite his extramarital affairs:

Dearest Hector, I even went so far as to help you
with your love affairs, if the Love Goddess tripped you up.
And often I gave my breast to your bastards
so that I might demonstrate no bitterness towards you.
And by doing this, I won my husband’s love
with my goodness.

{ 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 }[2]

After Andromache became Neoptolemus’s concubine, she treated him well despite the violence that he and his father Achilles had done to males in her family. She treated him well even after he married Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus.

Hermione bitterly resented her husband Neoptolemus retaining Andromache as a concubine. In his twelfth-century Romance of Troy {Roman de Troie}, Benoît de Sainte-Maure explained:

Menelaus’s daughter believed,
such it appeared and seemed to her,
that she didn’t have the courtly love
nor true heart of her husband.
Hector’s wife was the trouble, for
Neoptolemus loved her beyond measure.
She had from him it well seemed
all his favor and his desire.
For this Hermione hated her very much.

{ La fille Menelaus cuidot,
Ço li ert vis, ço li semblot,
Qu’el n’aveit mie fine amor
Ne verai cuer de son seignor:
En la femme Hector ert sa cure;
Celi amot a desmesure,
Cele aveit de lui bel semblant
E tot son buen e son talant.
Mout l’en haï Hermiona }[3]

Neoptolemus loved Andromache profoundly despite her being a foreigner and a slave. She explained to Hermione why Neoptolemus loved her and liked Hermione much less:

No, not because of my drugs does your husband hate you,
but because you are an unpleasant living companion.
And this is the love charm: not beauty, O woman,
but goodness delights a husband.

A woman, even if married to a low-born husband,
must respect him, not contend with him in prideful intellect.

{ οὐκ ἐξ ἐμῶν σε φαρμάκων στυγεῖ πόσις,
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ ξυνεῖναι μὴ ‘πιτηδεία κυρεῖς.
φίλτρον δὲ καὶ τόδ᾽: οὐ τὸ κάλλος, ὦ γύναι,
ἀλλ᾽ ἁρεταὶ τέρπουσι τοὺς ξυνευνέτας.

χρὴ γὰρ γυναῖκα, κἂν κακῷ πόσει δοθῇ,
στέργειν, ἅμιλλάν τ᾽ οὐκ ἔχειν φρονήματος. }

According to the structure of traditional understanding, one might claim that men help to civilize women and to foster in them ennobling love. Meninism rejects that gender essentialism. It certainly doesn’t apply to Hermione. Neoptolemus’s preference for Andromache relative to Hermione is simply men’s common sense of love through the ages.

Hermione complained and plotted against Andromache. As soon as Neoptolemus went on a pilgrimage to Delphi, Hermione summoned her father Menelaus:

She had him come to her, and complained to him
and said that in no way whatsoever did Neoptolemus
love her, which was obvious to her.
Hector’s wife had stolen him from her.
No joy or good solace did she receive from him.
Indeed, he scarcely ever held her in his arms.
She told and asked her father to kill Andromache,
because she very much hated her rival,
as well as Andromache’s son Laudamanta
that the vile Hector had engendered with her.
And Neoptolemus was planning to make him his heir,
Laudamanta, that foul dog that puts on airs.

{ Venir l’a fait, a lui se claime
E dit ne tant ne quant ne l’aime
Danz Pirrus, bien s’en aparceit:
La femme Hector li a toleit;
N’en a joie ne bel solaz;
A tart la tient entre ses braz.
Dit li e prie qu’il l’ocie,
Quar trop par het sa compaignie,
Neïs son fil Laudamanta,
Qu’Ector li coilverz engendra,
E ja en cuide son heir faire,
De l’ort, del chien, del de put aire }

What’s a father to do when his daughter asks him to kill her husband? Men, including fathers, know their place:

Menelaus saw that he had to do her bidding,
and he couldn’t backtrack from doing it.
He didn’t want to ignore his daughter’s wishes.

{ Menelaus veit faire l’estuet
E que retraire ne s’en puet:
Ne vueut sa fille mesoïr. }

Having discovered Hermione’s plot to have her murdered, Andromache fled with her son Laudamanta to the people outside the palace. She cried and appealed for their help. As is typical, the people united in support of the damsel in distress:

She implored loudly and pitifully
that they help her.
The common people jumped
in an ugly, foul mood toward Menelaus.
Among them they nearly killed him
before with great effort he escaped.
Nothing would have kept them back
until they had killed him.
They defended well the lady
and held her in such high honor
that whatever she wanted and desired
they did from that day forward.

{ Hauz criz lor crie e merciables,
Que il li seient aïdables.
Li pueples comuns est sailliz
Vers Menelau fel e marriz.
Por poi qu’entre eus ne l’ont ocis;
A grant peine lor estort vis:
Ja rien nes dut mais retenir
Jusqu’il l’eüssent fait morir.
Bien ont la dame défendue
E a si grant honor tenue
Que lot son buen e son talant
Firent de cel jor en avant. }

Trojan or Greek, Gentile or Jew, a woman’s life is commonly valued much more than a man’s. When Orestes showed up, Menelaus urged him to behead Andromache. He didn’t dare. Orestes, however, arranged to have Neoptolemus killed at Delphi and then took Hermione as his wife. Orestes received the reward he deserved.

Men must unite in solidarity to overcome violence against men and other gender injustices. With the help of Achilles’s parents Thetis and Peleus, Andromache and her son Laudamanta found refuge in Molose. Then pregnant by Neoptolemus, Andromache gave birth to a boy named Achillides. Hector’s son Laudamanta and Achilles’s grandson Achillides loved each other as worthy brothers of the same mother. Laudamanta became a Trojan king and Achillides a Greek king. They were loyal allies to each other.[4] Another Trojan War became unthinkable.

* * * * *

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[1] On Achilles killing Andromache’s father Eetion and her seven brothers in Thebe, Iliad 6.414-24. On Neoptolemus killing Andromache and Hector’s son Astyanax, Pausanius, Description of Greece 10.25.9 (following the account in the epic cycle Little Iliad) and 10.26.4. Neoptolemus is also known as Pyrrhus / Pirrus.

[2] Euripides, Andromache vv. 222-6, Greek text and English translation (modified) from Kovacs (1995). The subsequent quote “No, not because of my drugs…” is from Andromache vv. 205-8, 213-4 and is similarly sourced. On Andromache attempting to protect Hector from dangerous fighting in the Trojan War, Iliad 6.430-9.

[3] Benoît de Sainte-Maure, Roman de Troie, vv. 29623-31, Old French text from Constans (1904), English translation (modified slightly) from Burgess & Kelly (2017). Subsequent quotes from the Roman de Troie are similarly sourced. They are vv. 29635-46 (She had him come to her…), 29651-3 (Menelaus saw that he had to do her bidding…), 29662-74 (She implored loudly and pitifully…).

Medieval authors recognized women’s cruelty to other women. In a story in the Deeds of the Romans {Gesta Romanorum}, an empress forced another noble woman to suckle two serpents at her breasts. The serpents bit her breasts and killed her. See Chapter 80, “Serpents Suckled,” in the Anglo-Latin Gesta Romanorum, edition of Bright (2019). This story is Chapter 279, drawn from the Anglo-Latin manuscript British Library Harley MS 2270, in the Gesta Romanorum edition of Oesterley (1872). It doesn’t occur in continental Gesta Romanorum manuscripts. Bright (2019) p. 531, note for ch. 80.

[4] Despite similarly serious familial trauma, Odysseus’s sons Telemachus and Telegonus, mothered by Penelope and Circe, respectively, also became close allies. Roman de Troie vv. 30263-300.

[image] Andromache, with her son Astyanax, mourns her husband Hector, who Achilles killed in the Trojan War. Excerpt from painting by Jacques-Louis David in 1783. Preserved as accession # DL 1969-1 and MR 1433 in the Louvre Museum (Paris, France). Via Wikimedia Commons.


Bright, Philippa, ed. and trans. 2019. The Anglo-Latin Gesta Romanorum: from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce MS 310. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Burgess, Glyn S., and Douglas Kelly. 2017. The Roman de Troie by Benoît de Sainte-Mauré: a translation. Gallica, 41. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer. Review by Sylvia Federico and by Cristian Bratu.

Constans, Léopold, ed. 1904-12. Le roman de Troie, par Benoît de Sainte-Maure, publié d’après tous les manuscrits connus. Société des Aanciens Textes Français. Paris: F. Didot. Vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Kovacs, David, ed. and trans. 1995. Euripides. Children of Heracles. Hippolytus. Andromache. Hecuba. Loeb Classical Library 484. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Oesterley, Hermann, ed. 1872. Gesta Romanorum. Berlin: Weidmann. Alternate presentation of chapters 1-181.

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