Since it’s Pride Month, I thought I’d let the rest of the month’s Words Crush Wednesday quotes focus on the homoerotic passages in the Iliad. (Though I’m probably straight myself, I want to show my support.) Though “homoerotic” may be a bit of a misnomer. More like “passages that strongly imply a romantic/sexual side to the relationship between Achilles and Patroclos.” But “homoerotic” is faster to type.
Sadly, the three strongest such passages are all after Patroclos’ death…
Anyway, moving on to the quote! From Book Eighteen of the Iliad, Robert Fagles translation this time. (Ideally, I’d have liked to mix and match phrases from a couple of different transations, but…yeah, that wouldn’t have been quoting as such. I don’t know what that would have been.) The quote begins with Thetis seeking out her son…
As he groaned from the depths his mother rose before him
and sobbing a sharp cry, cradled her son’s head in her hands
and her words were all compassion, winging pity: “My child–
why in tears? What sorrow has touched your heart?
Tell me, please. Don’t harbor it deep inside you.
Zeus has accomplished everything you wanted,
just as you raised your hands and prayed that day.
All the sons of Achaea are pinned against the ships
and all for the want of you–they suffer shattering losses.”
And groaning deeply the matchless runner answered,
“O dear mother, true! All those burning desires
Olympian Zeus has brought to pass for me–
but what joy to me now? My dear comrade’s dead–
Patroclus–the man I loved beyond all other comrades,
loved as my own life–I’ve lost him–Hector’s killed him,
stripped the gigantic armor off his back, a marvel to behold–
my burnished gear! Radiant gifts the gods presented Peleus
the day they drove you into a mortal’s marriage bed…
I wish you’d lingered deep with the deathless sea-nymphs,
lived at ease, and Peleus carried home a mortal bride.
But now, as it is, sorrows, unending sorrows must surge
within your heart as well–for your own son’s death.
Never again will you embrace him striding home.
My spirit rebels–I’ve lost the will to live,
to take my stand in the world of men–unless,
before all else, Hector’s battered down by my spear
and gasps away his life, the blood-price for Patroclus,
Menoetius’ gallant son he’s killed and stripped!”
But Thetis answered, warning through her tears,
“You’re doomed to a short life, my son, from all you say!
For hard on the heels of Hector’s death your death
must come at once–”
“Then let me die at once”–
Achilles burst out, despairing–“since it was not my fate
to save my dearest comrade from his death! Look,
a world away from his fatherland he’s perished,
lacking me, my fighting strength, to defend him.
Okay, I know, that went on too long, but I had to go on long enough to get to the part at the end there, where Achilles asserts that it was his duty to protect his underling. Honestly, that may be the strongest proof of all that they were lovers. Realistically, in this kind of war, it was actually Patroclos’ duty to die in Achilles’ place, not that he did so for such impersonal reasons.