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This page is about the mythological figure; for other uses, see Hecuba (disambiguation)
The death of Hector on a Roman sarcophagus, c. 200 AD

Hecuba (also Hekábe, Hecabe, Hécube; Ancient Greek: Ἑκάβη) was a queen in Greek mythology, the wife of King Priam of Troy, with whom she had 19 children. The most famous of her children was Hector of Troy. She was of Phrygian birth; her father was Dymas, and her mother Eunoë was said to be a daughter of Sangarius, god of the Sangarius River, the principal river of ancient Phrygia.

In the Iliad, Hecuba appears as the mother of Hector, and laments his death in a well-known speech in Book 24 of the epic.

With the god Apollo, Hecuba had a son named Troilus. An oracle prophesied that Troy would not be defeated as long as Troilus reached the age of twenty alive. He was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.

Polydorus, Priam's youngest son by Hecuba, was sent with gifts of jewelry and gold to the court of King Polymestor to keep him safe during the Trojan War. The fighting grew vicious and Priam was frightened for the child's safety. After Troy fell, Polymestor threw Polydorus to his death to take the treasure for himself. Hecuba, though she was enslaved by the Achaeans when the city fell, eventually avenged her son, blinding Polymestor and killing his children.

In another tradition, Hecuba went insane upon seeing the corpses of her children Polydorus and Polyxena. Dante described this episode, which he derived from Italian sources:

E quando la fortuna volse in basso
l'altezza de' Troian che tutto ardiva,
sì che 'nsieme col regno il re fu casso,
Ecuba trista, misera e cattiva,
poscia che vide Polissena morta,
e del suo Polidoro in su la riva
del mar si fu la dolorosa accorta,
forsennata latrò sì come cane...
And when fortune overturned the pride
of the Trojans, who dared everything, so that
both the king and his kingdom were destroyed,
Poor wretched captured Hecuba,
after she saw her Polyxena dead
and found her Polydorus on the beach,
was driven mad by sorrow
and began barking like a dog...

~ Inferno XXX: 13-20

A third story says that she was given to Odysseus as a slave, but as she snarled and cursed at him, the gods turned her into a dog, allowing her to escape.


Hecuba's children with Priam

see also List of King Priam's children

Hecuba in Music

Hecuba is mentioned in the piece "Fortune Plango Vulnera" from Carl Orffs' "Carmina Burana" in the line:

"Nam sub axe legimus Hecubam reginam", literally, " for under the axis is written Queen Hecuba"

Hecuba in arts and literature

Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Tsotakou-Karveli. Lexicon of Greek Mythology. Athens: Sokoli, 1990.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HECUBA (Gr. `EKa%3n), wife of Priam, daughter of the Phrygian king Dymas (or of Cisseus, or of the river-god Sangarius). According to Homer she was the mother of nineteen of Priam's fifty sons. When Troy was captured and Priam slain, she was made prisoner by the Greeks. Her fate is told in various ways, most of which connect her with the promontory Cynossema, on the Thracian shore of the Hellespont. According to Euripides (in the Hecuba), her youngest son Polydorus had been placed during the siege of Troy under the care of Polymestor, king of Thrace. When the Greeks reached the Thracian Chersonese on their way home Hecuba discovered that her son had been murdered, and in revenge put out the eyes of Polymestor and murdered his two sons. She was acquitted by Agamemnon; but, as Polymestor foretold, she was turned into a dog, and her grave became a mark for ships (Ovid, Metam. xiii. 399-575; Juvenal x. 271 and Mayor's note). According to another story, she fell to the lot of Odysseus, as a slave, and in despair threw herself into the Hellespont; or, she used such insulting language towards her captors that they put her to death (Dictys Cretensis v. 13.16). It is obvious from the tales of Hecuba's transformation and death that she is a form of some goddess to whom dogs were sacred; and the analogy with Scylla is striking.

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Simple English

Hecuba (also Hekuba or Hekabe) was a person in Greek mythology. She was the wife of King Priam of Troy.

Her children with Priam were: Sons: Hector, Paris, Deiphobos, Helenos, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, Polydoros. And daughters: Ilione, Creusa, Laodice, Polyxena, and Kassandra.

After the Trojan War she became a slave of Odysseus.


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