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In Praise of Patroclus by Dennis Davies

English 393-52

Mr. Robert K. Upchurch

10/12/99

The great warrior Achilles song1 sent shivers along the spine of his dear friend, Patroclus. The slaughter of
men was nothing to be singing about. Patroclus glanced upon the glistening sword lying next to this warrior-prince
of Greeks, and murder flashed across his mind. One mans honor is not worth the blood of thousands was the
increasing public sentiment. They do not understand Achilles as I do, Patroclus thought, he suffers a darkness of
mind but what can be done? He was not as revered a prince or as feared a warrior. The paranoia of Achilles had
intensified while reports of carnage had swollen during his resentful indifference.
As the two boys ventured along the deserted road, Helios scorched the back of their necks. Achilles
marched ahead, always the warrior. Patroclus stopped to pick some red elderberries in order to relieve his parched
throat. Resting upon a significant rock in the shade, Patroclus extracted juice from the berries in his mouth, closing
his eyelids in order to clear dust. Instantly, a forceful grip engulfed his windpipe. The little Greeks heart leapt to
the area of suffocation attempting to offer assistance but the hand around his neck was large and powerful. Who
killed the sheep, the farmer squeezing the boys throat was hissing. Patroclus couldnt speak. The world turned
upside down as his life was being squeezed to extinction. Suddenly air filled his lungs involuntarily, and a warm
fluid splashed on his face.
He would have killed you the fat cow, said Achilles, his sword planted in the farmers neck. Patroclus
began to cry. Killing the sheep was a childs game of war. Now a man was dead. Achilles embraced his friend,
assuring him nothing would come of it. After all, it was self-defense. Wiping the blood from Patroclus face then
retrieving his sword, Achilles went over their story. Never were they to admit killing the sheep. Achilles grabbed
Patroclus hand and sliced it with his knife. He then pierced his own hand, sealing their pact in blood.
Patroclus filled Odysseus chalice with wine knowing not even he would be able to sway Achilles to fight.
These men do not know Achilles, Patroclus thought. While it is true Agamemnon sent them, they are still wise
enough to know Achilles stance. They were not following the council of their own hearts. Achilles would never
accept anything less than a public apology from Agamemnon and that would not be coming anytime soon.
With a startle, Patroclus awoke. Why was Achilles dragging him from his bed in the middle of
night? Achilles led Patroclus outside where two nymphs giggled in anticipation of young princely company.
Nothing is too good for my friend and brother Patroclus, Achilles said through wine-stained breath. Patroclus tried
to explain the displeasure his mother would express if they were discovered, and Achilles mockingly pouted.
Patroclus laughed with his friend and concurred concerning the beauty of the fair creatures present. The night was
sublime.
Patroclus stabbed the roast on the fire and a vision of Hector flashed across his mind. He was responsible
for the bloodshed of countless Greeks. If somehow Hector could be disposed of, the slaughter would stop. There
was great concern. It was well known the gods favored Hector. His patron reputation had grown beyond that of
most warriors with the exception of Achilles. At this point, it did not seem to matter. Someone needed to act with
frenzy not yet seen since Helens departure. Patroclus stabbed at the roast again while Achilles sat pitiless, the royal
brigade present at his whim.
The champion warrior sobbed in Patroclus lap. Briseis was now Agamemnons, the cowardly king whom
Achilles had faithfully served. A broken heart bedded with shattered pride consumed the son of Peleus and Thetis.
Patroclus had just delivered Briseis to Agamemnon and now wept in conjunction with Achilles, unable to express
words of comfort.
As if guarding Achilles, Patroclus watched him sleep. He slumbers after all he has been told of the
desperation for his strength? Patroclus looked closer to check and see if Achilles was breathing. His mind was
playing tricks on him. He envisioned the armor of Achilles draped over his body, while soldiers saluted him as he
rode proudly along in his chariot. Not to worry, he was telling them. The gods favor a man owning honor and
courage. The great Achilles is out of sorts, but I Patroclus wear his armor anticipating a great and noble outcome.
Patroclus looked at the silhouette of an eagle flying overhead as Hector stood by, robustly. His sight
subsided as he drifted away, mortally stricken by the great Trojan warrior. In his ear, he heard the laughter of
Achilles as when they were boys. As sound faded the laughter converted to a wailing sob, and then silence.
Patroclus portrayed serenity. His sleep fell eternal.
1

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fagles. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. 7th ed. Ed. Sarah Lawall et al. New York: Norton,
1999. (Iliad p.136. lines 220-236)