Patroclus was Achilles dearest friend who accompanied him in the Trojan War. Achilles had withdrawn his troops, the Mymidons because of a disagreement between Agamemnon, the Greek commander. Patroclus persuaded Achilles to allow him to go to war in his stead. In Achilles armor, Patroclus led the Greek troops to victory. Hector, the commander of the Trojans, slew Patroclus. Achilles avenged his friend’s death by killing Hector.
Patroclus’ role in the Iliad is minor, but Patroclus’ influence in the Iliad is colossally memorable. Patroclus is heroic in an unassuming manner. The gallant impression Patroclus leaves on Achilles and fellow comrades earns Patroclus heroic status. Although Patroclus shares in many exploits with Achilles, Patroclus never receives an equitable share of glory, however; Patroclus is not a glory-seeker. Patroclus is content to reside in Achilles’ shadow, even though Patroclus’ merit often surpasses Achilles. Patroclus shares comparable qualities with Achilles, but not to the same magnitude. Patroclus is quick-tempered, brave, and rages also. Patroclus possesses compassion, which balances his personality.
Patroclus’ temperament manifests as a young boy when he experiences rage. Patroclus quick-temper flares and he kills, Clysonymus, a childhood friend during an argument over a dice game (Grant & Hazel 317). Patroclus learns at an early age the penalty rampant rage produces. An imprint is left on Patroclus’ mind taming his rage at an impressionable age. If not for the death of Clysonymus, Patroclus rage could have flourished uncontrollably.
After killing Clysonymus, Patroclus and his father flees to Phthia seeking asylum from King Peleus. Patroclus meets Achilles and the two become good friends. King Peleus sends Patroclus along with Achilles to Mount Pelion to be raised by Chiron the king of Centaurs (Barthell 68). Patroclus and Achilles are reared together as brothers, yet they are never equals. Being mortal, pedigree wise, Patroclus can never equal half-mortal nobility, half-divine Achilles that the gods favor because Achilles is god-like (Lefkowitz 72). Patroclus is the son of mortals Menoetius and Sthenele. The gods show Patroclus no favoritism.
During the Trojan War, Patroclus is sent by Menoetius to watch over Achilles. Patroclus retires along with his friend Achilles, after Achilles leaves the battle refusing to fight. Despite tremendous losses to the Achaeans troops, Achilles refuses to return to battle. Second in command of Myrmidons, Patroclus demonstrates his allegiance to the Myrmidons when he decides not to stand by his treasonous friend Achilles’ side. Patroclus returns to battle not only to defend the Myrmidons, but also sulking Achilles’ honor. Patroclus wearing Achilles divine armor fight valiantly bestowing accolades to Achilles.
Patroclus drives back the Trojans troops, kills many Trojans in his path, and seems unstoppable. One of Patroclus notable kills is Zeus’ son Sarpedon. Patroclus kills a god’s son although Patroclus is mortal. As Patroclus fights zealously, Zeus makes him forget the command Achilles gave not to storm the walls of Troy (Lefkowitz 71).
The death of Patroclus slain comrade Epigeus causes Patroclus’ rage to escalate, as Patroclus’ death would cause Achilles’ rage to escalate. In Book XVI like a mad man three times Patroclus makes a dynamic dash for the walls of Troy. Patroclus almost takes the wall on his fourth attempt if not for the hand of Apollo hurling him back. Although Patrolcus often fail short of glory, hinder by the gods and fate, Patroclus always displays courage.
Patroclus dies impetuously letting rage and brazen overconfidence overwhelm him. Yet, Patroclus does not succumb to death willingly. God Apollo, Euphorbus, and Hector the greatest Trojan warrior are needed to slain Patroclus.
Patroclus is one of the least celebrated, but most admired warriors in the Iliad. Patroclus humbleness functions as a shield obscuring Patroclus true valor. Achilles’ rage is so formidably unforgettable that Patroclus’ compassionate gallantry is unseen. Examining Patroclus out of Achilles shadow, Patroclus is heroic in his own right.
Edward E. Barthell, Jr. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece. FL: University of Miami Press, 1971.
Grant, Michael and Hazel, John. Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology. MA: G. & C. Merriam Company Publishers, 1973.
Lefkowitz, Mary. Greek Gods, Human Lives What We Can Learn From Myths. CT: Yale University Press, 2003.
Homer. The Iliad. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Eds. Lawall, Sarah and Mack, Maynard. 7th. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1999. 104-209.