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Patroclus by Jacques-Louis David (1780)

In Greek mythology, as recorded in Homer's Iliad, Patroclus (/pəˈtrkləs, pəˈtrɒkləs/; Ancient Greek: Πάτροκλος, translit. Pátroklos; "glory of the father") was the son of Menoetius, grandson of Actor, King of Opus.

Contents

Life and deathEdit

According to Hyginus, Patroclus is the child of Menoetius and Philomela.[1] Homer also references Menoetius as the individual who gave Patroclus to Peleus.[2] Menoetius is the son of Actor, King of Opus in Locris by Aegina.[3] Aegina was a daughter of Asopus and mother of Aeacus by Zeus. Aeacus was father of Peleus, Telamon and Phocus. Actor was a son of Deioneus, King of Phocis and Diomede. His paternal grandparents were Aeolus of Thessaly and Enarete. His maternal grandparents were Xuthus and Creusa, daughter of Erechtheus and Praxithea.

During his childhood, Patroclus had killed another child in anger over a game. Menoetius gave Patroclus to Peleus, Achilles' father, who named Patroclus one of Achilles' "henchmen" as Patroclus and Achilles grew up together.[2] Patroclus acted as a male role model for Achilles, as he was both older than Achilles and wise regarding counsel.[4]

According to the Iliad, when the tide of war had turned against the Greeks and the Trojans were threatening their ships, Patroclus convinced Achilles to let him lead the Myrmidons into combat. Achilles consented, giving Patroclus the armor Achilles had received from his father, in order for Patroclus to impersonate Achilles. Achilles then told Patroclus to return after beating the Trojans back from their ships.[5] Patroclus defied Achilles' order and pursued the Trojans back to the gates of Troy.[6] Patroclus killed many Trojans, including a son of Zeus, Sarpedon.[7] While fighting, Patroclus' wits were removed by Apollo, after which Patroclus was hit with the spear of Euphorbos. Hector then killed Patroclus by stabbing him in the stomach with a spear.[8]

Achilles retrieved his body, which had been stripped of armor by Hector and protected on the battlefield by Menelaus and Ajax.[9] Achilles did not allow the burial of Patroclus' body until the ghost of Patroclus appeared and demanded his burial in order to pass into Hades.[10] Patroclus was then cremated on a funeral pyre, which was covered in the hair of his sorrowful companions. As the cutting of hair was a sign of grief while also acting as a sign of the separation of the living and the dead, this points to how well-liked Patroclus had been.[11] The ashes of Achilles were said to have been buried in a golden urn along with those of Patroclus by the Hellespont.[12]

 
A cup depicting Achilles bandaging Patroclus' arm, by the Sosias Painter.
 
The body of Patroclus is lifted by Menelaus and Meriones while Odysseus and others look on (Etruscan relief, 2nd century BC)

Relationship with AchillesEdit

The exact nature of Achilles' relationship with Patroclus has been a subject of dispute in both the classical period and modern times. In the Iliad, it appears to be the model of a deep and loyal friendship. Homer does not suggest that Achilles and his close friend Patroclus were lovers.[13][14] Despite there being no direct evidence in the text of the Iliad that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers, this theory was expressed by some later authors.[14] Commentators from classical antiquity to the present have often interpreted the relationship through the lens of their own cultures. In 5th-century BC Athens, the intense bond was often viewed in light of the Greek custom of paiderasteia. In Plato's Symposium, the participants in a dialogue about love assume that Achilles and Patroclus were a couple; Phaedrus argues that Achilles was the younger and more beautiful one so he was the beloved and Patroclus was the lover.[15] But ancient Greek had no words to distinguish heterosexual and homosexual,[16] and it was assumed that a man could both desire handsome young men and have sex with women.

Further readingEdit

  • Evslin, Bernard (2006). Gods, Demigods and Demons. London, ENG: I. Tauris. 
  • Michelakis, Pantelis (2007). Achilles in Greek Tragedy. Cambridge, ENG: Cambridge University Press. 
  • Kerenyi, Karl (1959). The Heroes of the Greeks. London, ENG: Thames and Hudson. pp. 57–61, et passim. 
  • Sergent, Bernard (1986). Homosexuality in Greek Myth. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. 
  • Miller, Madeline (2011). The Song of Achilles. London, ENG: Bloomsbury. 

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae. 
  2. ^ a b Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 474 b.23 l.85. 
  3. ^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 274 b. 11 l. 384. 
  4. ^ Finlay, Robert (1980). Patroklos, Achilleus, and Peleus: Fathers and Sons in the Iliad. The Classical World. pp. 267–273. 
  5. ^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 353 b. 16 l. 64–87. 
  6. ^ Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. Boston: Little. p. 140. 
  7. ^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 363 b. 16 l. 460. 
  8. ^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 373 b. 16 l. 804–822. 
  9. ^ Bulfinch, Thomas (1985). The Golden Age. London: Bracken Books. p. 272. 
  10. ^ Lattimore, Richmond (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 474 b.23 l. 69–71. 
  11. ^ Martin, Richard (2011). The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. p. 561. 
  12. ^ Chisholm, Hugh (1911). "Achilles". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 
  13. ^ Robin Fox (2011). The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind. Harvard University Press. p. 223. ISBN 9780674060944. There is certainly no evidence in the text of the Iliad that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers. 
  14. ^ a b Martin, Thomas R (2012). Alexander the Great : the story of an ancient life. Cambridge University Press. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0521148448. The ancient sources do not report, however, what modern scholars have asserted: that Alexander and his very close friend Hephaestion were lovers. Achilles and his equally close friend Patroclus provided the legendary model for this friendship, but Homer in the Iliad never suggested that they had sex with each other. (That came from later authors.) If Alexander and Hephaestion did have a sexual relationship, it would have been transgressive by majority Greek standards... 
  15. ^ Plato, Symposium, 180a; the beauty of Achilles was a topic already broached at Iliad 2.673–674.
  16. ^ Kenneth Dover, Greek Homosexuality (Harvard University Press, 1978, 1989), p. 1 et passim.

External linksEdit

Achilles and Patroclus myths as told by story tellers
Bibliography of reconstruction: Homer Iliad, 9.308, 16.2, 11.780, 23.54 (700 BC); Pindar Olympian Odes, IX (476 BC); Aeschylus Myrmidons, F135-36 (495 BC); Euripides Iphigenia in Aulis, (405 BC); Plato Symposium, 179e (388-367 BC); Statius Achilleid, 161, 174, 182 (96 AD)