- Hector putting his armor on, surrounded by Priam and Hecuba. Side A of an Attic red-figure amphora, ca. 510 BC. From Vulci: photo by Bibi Saint-Pol, 13 February 2007 (Staatliche Antikensammlung)
- [The chorus sing the fall of Troy:]
Ilion, o my city,
- no longer will you be named among the cities
- never taken: lost in the Greek stormcloud,
- speared, sacked,
- your wreath of towers hacked
- from your head: sorry, fouled
- in the smoke and the ash strain,
- sad city
- I shall not walk in you again.
- Ruin came at midnight.
- We were in our room, sleepy-eyed, happy,
- tired, with the dancing over
- and the songs for our won war,
- everything over, my husband resting,
- his weapons hung on the wall,
- no Greeks to be seen any more,
- the armed fleet
- lost from our shores and gone.
- I was just doing my hair
- for the night, and the golden mirror
- showed me my own face there
- calm and still with delight,
- ready for love and sleep.
- And then the noise broke out in the streets
- and a cry never heard before:
- Greeks, it is ours.' (They said.) 'Finish the war:
- break kill burn:
- end it, and we can go home.'
- Out of our bed, half naked
- like any Dorian girl
- I ran for the sanctuary
- of Artemis' shrine. No use, for I never made it.
- I saw my husband die.
- They have taken me over the sea.
- I look back at my city.
- ships hasten for home, taking me
- with them, foredone
- with sorrow and pity.
- Curse Helen, curse
- Paris, the fatal pair
whose love came too dear,
- who married to destroy
- my people my marriage and me,
- whose marriage burned Troy,
- May she never tread Greek ground.
- I hope she never makes it over the sea.
- I hope she is wrecked and drowned.
- She ruined me.
Euripides (c. 485-c. 406 B.C.): Hecuba, lines 905-951, translated by Richard Lattimore in The Stride of Time: New Poems and Translations, 1966
Helen's head, detail from a scene representing Menelaus' meeting with Helen. Attic red-figured krater, ca. 450 BC–440 BC. From Gnathia (now Egnazia, Italy): Menelaus Painter (eponymous vase); image by Jastrow, 2007 (Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Musée du Louvre)
- Hecuba, in mythology, chief wife of Priam, daughter of Dymas king of the Phrygians (Iliad 16.719; but later writers, as Euripides, Hecuba 3, call her father Cisseus). Who her mother was posed a problem to mythologists in Tiberius' time (Suetonius, Tiberius 70). She was the mother of Hector and eighteen others of Priam's fifty sons (Il. 24. 495-7), the most noteworthy being Paris.
In Homer she is a stately and pathetic figure, coming only occasionally into the foreground, as in the lament for Hector (Il. 24. 747 ff.) In Tragedy she is more prominent. Euripides (Hecuba) tells the following story of her last days. Her son Polydorus had been murdered by the Thracian Polymestor, to whom he had been entrusted; the discovery of his body came as a fatal blow to Hecuba after the sacrifice of her daughter Polyxena. By a desperate appeal to Agamemnon, she got permission to revenge herself and, enticing Polymestor into her tent, she and her women killed his children and blinded him. He then foretold that she should turn into a bitch before her death, the place Cynos Sema getting its name from her tomb. In Euripides Troades 969 ff., she so convincingly accuses Helen that Menelaus promises to kill her on reaching home, one of Euripides' curious departures from tradition. In several plays no longer extant, she was represented as dreaming, while carrying Paris, that she brought forth a torch, which burned all Troy (Apollodorus 3. 148). All these legends appear in numerous variants, with rationalizations, more or less fanciful additions, and so forth, as is usual with much-handled themes.
- Herbert Jennings Rose, in The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 1948
Willow Hale as Hecuba and Sterling Wolfe as Talthybios in Brad Mays' production of Euripides' The Trojan Women, presented at the ARK Theatre Company in Los Angeles in 2003: photo by Brad Mays, April 2003
In one tradition, Hecuba went mad 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...
Dante, Inferno XXX: 13-20
The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, 1773 (National Gallery, London)