From Phantis
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In Greek mythology, as recorded in the Iliad by Homer, Patroclus, or Pátroklos (Gr. Πάτροκλος "glory of the father"), son of Menoetius, was Achilles' best friend.


Menoetius was a member of the Argonauts in his youth. He had made at least four marriages. All four of his wives were identified as the "mother" of Patroclus in different versions. Which one was mother or step-mother seems uncertain:

Menoetius was a son of Actor, King of Opus in Locris by Aegina. 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 Deion, 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.

Life before the Trojan War

In his youth, Patroclus killed his friend, Clysonymus, during an argument. His father had to escape into exile with Patroclus to escape punishment, and they took shelter at the palace of their kinsman King Peleus of Phthia. There Patroclus apparently first met Peleus' son Achilles. Peleus sent the boys to live in the wilderness and be raised by Chiron, the wise King of the centaurs.

Patroclus was likely somewhat older than Achilles. He is listed among the unsuccessful suitors of Helen of Sparta. Helen instead was given by Tyndareus to Menelaus. All suitors took a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband against whoever should quarrel with him.

At about that time Patroclus killed Las, founder of a namesake city near Gytheio, Laconia, according to Pausanias the geographer. Pausanias reported that the killing was alternatively attributed to Achilles. However Achilles was not otherwise known to have ever visited Peloponnesos.

Nine years later, Helen fled Sparta with Prince Paris of Troy. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, started contemplating war against Troy. The preparations for war and gathering of allies and armies took him ten years, according to some versions.

Trojan War activities

When Achilles refused to fight because of his feud with Agamemnon, Patroclus donned his armor, led the Myrmidons and killed many Trojans, including Sarpedon(a son of Zeus), and Cebriones (the chariot driver of Hector). He was killed by Hector and Euphorbos, with help from Apollo.

After retrieving his body, which had been protected on the field by Menelaus and Telamonian Aias, Achilles returned to battle and avenged his companion's death by killing Hector and desecrated his body behind his chariot instead of allowing the Trojans to honorably dispose of it by burning it. Achilles' grief was great and for some time, he refused to bury Patroclus' body, but he was persuaded to do so by an apparition of Patroclus, who told him he could not enter Hades without a proper cremation. Achilles cut a lock of his hair and sacrificed horses, dogs, and twelve Trojan captives before placing Patroclus' body on the funeral pyre.

Achilles then organized an athletic competition to honour his dead companion, which included a chariot race (won by Diomedes), boxing (won by Epeios), wrestling (a draw between Telamonian Aias and Odysseus), a foot race (won by Odysseus), a duel (a draw between Aias and Diomedes), a discus throw (won by Polypoites), an archery contest (won by Meriones) and a javelin throw (won by Agamemnon, unopposed). The games are described in Book 23 of the Iliad, one of the earliest references to Greek sports.

Relationship to Achilles

In the Iliad, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is a vital part of the story. The relationship contributes to the overall theme of the humanization of Achilles. While the Iliad does not explicitly say so, in later Greek writings, such as Plato's Symposium, the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is held up as a model of sexual love. However, other ancient authors, such as Xenophon in his Symposium, argue that it is a mistake to label their relationship as a sexual one.

Burial and later reports

The death of Achilles is given in sources others than the Iliad. His body was placed on a funeral pyre. His bones were mingled with those of Patroclus so that the two would be companions in death as in life and the remains were transferred to Leuke, an island in the Black Sea. Their souls were reportedly seen wandering the island at times.

In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus meets Achilles in Hades, accompanied by Patroclus, Telamonian Aias and Antilochus.

A general of Croton identified either as Autoleon or Leonymus reportedly visited Leuke while recovering from wounds received in battle against the Locri Epizefiri. The event was placed during or after the 7th century BC. He reported having seen Patroclus in the company of Achilles, Ajax the lesser, Telamonian Aias, Antilochus and Helen.

Spoken-word myths - audio files

Achilles and Patroclus myths as told by story tellers
1. Achilles and Patroclus, read by Timothy Carter
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 BC-367 BC); Statius Achilleid, 161, 174, 182 (96 CE)