In book 8 of the Iliad, why does Hector address his horses by name? Compare the discussion of Aeneas's horses by Diomedes in book 5. What is the obsession over horses all about?

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Hector encourages his horses by name as he goes into battle against the Argives in book 8, crying out,

Xanthus, and thou Podargus, and Aethon, and goodly Lampus, now pay me back your tending wherewith in abundance Andromache, daughter of great-hearted Eëtion, set before you honey-hearted wheat, and mingled wine for you to drink when your souls bade you, sooner than for me, that avow me to be her stalwart husband. (Samuel Butler's translation of the Iliad)

As this passage shows, it is almost impossible to overestimate the importance of horses in the ancient world, not only in Greece, but in every culture until the invention of the steam train. For Hector, his horses were companions in battle, symbols of his high status, and crucial parts of the Trojan military machine. His Homeric epithet is "tamer of horses," and other Greek and Trojan heroes are also distinguished by similar adjectives. Nestor, for instance, is known as "the horseman."

The importance of Hector's horses is apparent when he says that they are served their food before he is. Another prince of Troy, Aeneas, has both royal and divine ancestry, and his horses have a similar pedigree, as Diomedes points out in Book V:

They are of that stock wherefrom Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, gave to Tros recompense for his son Ganymedes, for that they were the best of all horses that are beneath the dawn and the sun.

Horses, therefore, were not only vital to the hero's effectiveness in battle. Their breeding also reflected on his honor and prestige.

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