Words Crush Wednesday – Still the Homeric Version

Published September 16, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I promise, though, after I finish quoting this section of the Iliad, I have something non-Homeric in mind for Words Crush Wednesday.  But first I want to show how Patroclos reacted to Nestor’s speech from last week.

So, diving right into Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation.

This touched the heart of Patroclos, and he set off at a run.  But as he was passing the ships of Odysseus, close to the place of public meeting and the altars, he met Eurypylos limping out of the battle with the arrow in his thigh.  Sweat poured over his head and shoulders, and the blood still ran from his cruel wound, but he was undaunted.  Patroclos was very sorry to see this, and he spoke out his feelings plainly:

“Oh, you poor captains and princes!  So you were to die far from home, your white fat to be gorged by the dogs of Troy!–But my dear man Eurypylos, tell me–will they keep off this fiend Hector, or will he make an end of us all?”

The wounded man answered:

“Nothing can save us now, Patroclos.  They will soon be upon our ships.  All our best men are laid up here already, some shot with arrows, some stabbed with spears:  the enemy just grows stronger and stronger.  But you can save my life–just help me to my ship, and cut out this arrow, wash the blood off with warm water, put on a soothing plaster, that good stuff you learnt about from Achilles, which he got from Cheiron the Centaur, bless him! he was a gentleman.  You know our surgeons, Podaleirios and Machaon–one is in camp, I think, wounded, and wants a good surgeon himself; the other is on the battlefield!”

Patroclos said:

“What will come of it?  What are we do to do, my dear man?  I am in a hurry to give Achilles a message from Gerenian Nestor, but I can’t help that, I will not desert you in this dreadful state.”

He put his arm around Eurypylos and led him to his quarters.  His man saw them coming, and made a bed of hides on the ground.  There Patroclos laid the wounded man; he cut out the arrow, and washed the place with warm water, and crumbled a bitter root between his fingers, letting the shreds drop into the wound.  This was a bitter root which cures all pain, and it took away all his pain; the blood was staunched and the wound dried.

And that’s the end of the book.  (I wonder if that root would work on my arm?)  When it says “led him to his quarters” there, it means Eurypylos’ quarters, of course; Patroclos shares with Achilles.  (Seriously, even when they’re both sleeping with slave girls, they’re still in the same hut.)

Anyway, I just wanted to keep the quote going to show how Patroclos couldn’t bear to leave a wounded companion untreated.  Also I thought it was pretty cool that he’d learned medicine in second-hand lessons that originated with Cheiron.  (In Statius’ Achilleid, Patroclus is also being trained by Chiron.  But Statius was probably following the tradition that held Menoitios and Peleus to be brothers.  Can’t be sure, though; he didn’t get very far before dying.)  I need to check different translations (or re-learn Greek enough to check the text directly) though, because that “he was a gentleman” line’s past tense implies that Cheiron is dead.  (But the question is, was the past tense a translation thing, or was it always in the past tense?)  Cheiron, of course, is immortal, but there are versions where he had to give up his immortality, handing it over to someone else, usually the dying Heracles, but strangely there’s also a version where he gives it up to save Prometheus from his torment, which doesn’t actually make much sense.  Of course, in either of those instances, he would then be dead before Achilles was even born, which is just a wee bit awkward in this context!

Anyway, next week I’ll actually be quoting something (gasp) Roman…though it’s still Trojan War related.  (Well, what else did you expect?)


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