homoerotic Homer

All posts tagged homoerotic Homer

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published June 24, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

The quote for this week’s Words Crush Wednesday was homoerotic enough that even in classical times some people looked at it and said “what’s that doing there?”  Seriously.  If this line is as old as the rest of the poem (never a certainty, unfortunately) then it’s one of the strongest indicators that Achilles and Patroclos were always intended to have a romantic/sexual side to their relationship.

From Book 24, Robert Fagles translation:

But Achilles kept on grieving for his friend,
the memory burning on…
and all-subduing sleep could not take him,
not now, he turned and twisted, side to side,
he longed for Patroclus’ manhood, his gallant heart–

And, actually, his insomnia keeps going for a while until he fights it by abusing Hector’s corpse for a while (poor Hector!), but what need is there to keep quoting past his longing for Patroclos’ manhood?  (BTW, the word being translated as “manhood” there, according to James Davidson, can mean many things, including just what you’re thinking, and also “semen,” so it can be even more sexual than you were thinking just by seeing the quote.  Though it probably wasn’t originally intended to be quite that sexual.)


Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published June 17, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So this week’s Words Crush Wednesday quote is a bit more homoerotic than last week’s, but it’s still mostly just “implying a romantic/sexual side to the relationship.”  From Book XXIII of the Iliad, back to the W.H.D. Rouse translation again.

In sleep came to him the soul of unhappy Patroclos, his very image in stature and wearing clothes like his, with his voice and those lovely eyes.  The vision stood by his head and spoke:

“You sleep, Achilles, and you have forgotten me!  When I lived you were not careless of me, but now that I am dead!  Bury me without delay, that I may pass the gates of Hades.  Those phantoms hold me off, the souls of those whose work is done; they will not suffer me to join them beyond the river, but I wander aimlessly about the broad gates of the house of Hades.  And give me that hand, I pray; for never again shall I come back from Hades when once you have given me my portion of fire.  Never again in life shall we go apart from our companions and take counsel together; but I am swallowed up already by that cruel fate with cot me on the day I was born; and you also have your portion, my magnificent Achilles, to perish before the walls of this great city.  One thing more I say, and I will put it upon you as a charge if you will comply; do not lay my bones apart from yours, Achilles, but with the, as I was brought up with you in your home, when Menoitios brought me quite a little one from Opoeis to your house, for manslaughter, the day when I killed Amphidamas’ son–I did not mean it, we had a silly quarrel over the knuckle-bones.  Then Peleus received me, and brought me up kindly in his house, and named me as your attendant.  Then let one urn cover my bones with yours, that golden two-handled urn which your gracious mother gave you.”

Achilles said in answer:

“Why have you come here, beloved one, with all these charges of this and that?  Of course I will do as you tell me every bit.  But come nearer; for one short moment let us lay our arms about each other and console ourselves with lamentation!”

He stretched out his arms as he spoke, but he could not touch, for the soul was gone like smoke into the earth, twittering.

Okay, that turned out to be a very long quote.  Next week’s will be shorter.

But this passage was one of the ones that made me sit up and start paying really close attention to the differences between how certain phrases get translated.  That “beloved one” in particular:  I’ve seen it as “O my brother” and “dear friend” and a considerable variety of things like that.

In typing in the quote, though, I have to note the awkwardness of placing Patroclos’ childhood memory at this juncture.  The phrasing is somewhat fractured in pretty much every translation, so it must be thus in the Greek as well (considering it’s coming from a dead man, that’s hardly surprising), so it presumably was a tale that the audience hearing the Iliad originally would have already known.  That begs the question of why the poet stuck it here, of all places, but…yeah, I’ll leave that discussion for a later post.

One last thought, though:  I find the idea that they’re so in love they have to have their bones buried in the same urn somehow very romantic.  (If extremely macabre.)


Words Crush Wednesday – Homeric Version

Published June 10, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

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.


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