In the Iliad
, Patroclus is the boon companion of the great Achilles
is not explicit about it but later Greek traditions made them lovers.) Achilles is sulk
ing because King Agamemnon
took away his prize slave
; and the Greek army is being beaten back by the Trojan
s. Patroclus, grieving at this, goes to Achilles and pleads to be allowed to take their followers, the Myrmidon
s, into battle, saying he would wear Achilles' armour to raise fear in their enemies' breasts. But Patroclus is slain by Hector
. This is in Book 16 of the Iliad.
Maddened by grief, Achilles rejoins the Greek army, kills Hector, and takes inglorious revenge on his body. The funeral games for Patroclus occur in Book 23.
Patroclus (pa-TROC-lus) was the son of Monoetius. Before letting him join battle, Achilles purified a cup with sulfur and offered up a prayer to Zeus, that Patroclus might scatter the Trojans who encroached upon their ships, and come back safely. Half the prayer Zeus granted.
First he killed Pyraechmes, leader of the Paeones; then Areilycus; then Pronous, then Erylaus; then Erymas, Amphoterus, Epaltes, Tlepolemus Damastorides, Echius, Pyris, Ipheus, Euippus, and Polymelus in quick succession (three lines to be exact). Finally he met the great Sarpedon, leader of the Lycians, one of the many sons of Zeus. With great regret Zeus allows his death.
Patroclus tries to despoil Sarpedon and take his body and armour back to their ships, while the Lycians and Trojans regroup and fight back to try to protect the dead Sarpedon's honour. He wins ground as Hector flees, and now, disregarding Achilles' advice only to beat away the Trojans from the Greek ships, Patroclus advances to the walls of Troy.
Three times he assaults it, and a fourth: the god Apollo calls out to him to leave it: he is not destined to take Troy.
Hector rides out in his chariot once more, and he and Patroclus meet. Patroclus kills Hector's charioteer and they leap down and fight over his body. Patroclus wins and the Greeks seize the body; Patroclus the doomed hero continues to sweep through the Trojans, slaying three times nine.
Finally his time came. The god Apollo struck him from behind and stunned him, knocking Achilles' great plumed helmet from his head. Then Euphorbus speared him from behind. Only then could Hector move in and drive his spear through his flank.
Hector brags over him and taunts him as he lies dying. These are the last words of Patroclus, in Robert Fitzgerald's translation:
In a low faint voice,
Patroclus, master of horse, you answered him:
'This is your hour to glory over me,
Hector. The Lord Zeus and Apollo gave you
the upper hand and put me down with ease.
They stripped me of my arms. No one else did.
Say twenty men like you had come against me,
all would have died before me spear.
No, Leto's son and fatal destiny
have killed me; if we speak of men, Euphorbus.
You were in third place, only in at the death.
I'll tell you one thing more; take it to heart.
No long life is ahead for you. This day
your death stands near, and your immutable end,
at Prince Achilles' hands.'
Here is how Christopher Logue
's free adaptation, War Music
, has it:
Shaking the voice out of his body, says:
Remember it took three of you to kill me.
A God, a boy, and last and least, a hero.
I can hear Death pronounce my name, and yet
Somehow it sounds like Hector.
And as I close my eyes I see Achilles' face
With Death's voice coming out of it."