Achilleus as Patroklos' Father: Iliad 19.321-337 and 23.221-225 (GE)

Kathleen S. Collins

CUNY Graduate Center

The relationship between Achilleus and Patroklos has mystified Homeric scholars for millennia, and there still exists no wholly satisfactory explication of their enigmatic friendship.  I suggest that we are unable to decipher definitively or to interpret accurately the alliance between Achilleus and Patroklos because their relationship is deliberately depicted ambiguously.  I further submit that the reason for the palpable mystery in their portrayal is to allow the poet to present Achilleus in the role of the father within the poem.  It has long been observed that Priam and Achilleus constitute a father-son pair, respectively, and that it is primarily through Achilleus' affirmation, in the climactic final scenes, of Priam's tragic resemblance to his own father that he is able to empathize with his antagonist and, ultimately, accept Priam's ransom for the corpse of Hector.  In this paper, I expand upon this reading by proposing that it is vital for Achilleus to also appear in the inverse role, i.e. as a father, before he can fully liken Priam to Peleus, and thus, realize his overwhelming pity and affinity for Priam that both allows him to release Hector and the poet to conclude his story.  I suggest that two specific passages in the Iliad clearly portray Achilleus as Patroklos' father, and I maintain that these critical scenes enable us to interpret the relationships between Achilleus and Patroklos and between Achilleus and Priam more comprehensively and more accurately.  This paper will focus on 19.321-337, in which Achilleus mourns the death of Patroklos, claiming in front of the other Achaean chiefs that the grief he is suffering now is even greater than what he had imagined he would feel for his own father's death (as well as for the death of his own son), and on 23.221-225, in which Achilleus, burning Patroklos' bones on the funeral pyre, is presented in a simile explicitly comparing him to a father mourning a son.


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