Example Of The Death Of Patroclus In Homer’s “The Illiad”, Essay
In Homer’s “The Illiad”, three pivotal characters, Sarpedon, Hektor and Patrokolos meet an untimely death at the battle front. The desire for glory and wealth is what drives the characters to the battlefield and in the end, it is what leads the characters to their deaths. The factors responsible for the deaths of Hektor and Sarpedon are easily identifiable but when it comes to Patroclus, clearly pointing out who or what is responsible for his death becomes hard. However, all factors considered, it is reasonably safe to conclude that Patroclus is responsible for his own death mainly because of the flaws in his character that lead him to make several irrational decisions that eventually culminate in his death.
First of all, Patroclus unwavering affection for the Greeks and his thirst for heroism leads him to make the stupid decision of borrowing Achilles’ body armor. Achilles had refused to go to battle because Agamemnon had taken away his captive Briseis, who he had captured from Moesia due to her exceptional beauty (Trazaskoma, 248). He therefore decided to forfeit his participation in the battle and rather chose to remain in the tent “playing the cithara” (Trazaskoma, 248). When he realizes that Achilles will not be going to war, Patroclus sees this as an opportunity to be the hero and the savior of his people (Graverini 67). He tells Achilles to give him his armor so that he may wear it as he goes to war and by doing this, the Trojans will think that he is Achilles and will, therefore “give way from their attack” (Homer 42). Achilles tries to warn him initially about the possible outcomes of this and particularly on the impact that the armor might have but he does not listen. This act in one way or another, drives him to the jaws of death.
The other crucial choice that Patroclus makes and that contributes to his death is his persistent drive against the walls of the Trojans. He is driven by insatiable fury and pride and persists to advance against the Trojans even after being warned by Achilles and Apollo. Lombardo writes that Patroclus “pressed on after the Trojans and Lycians forgetting everything Achilles had said” (169). Patroclus even challenges fate and thinks that he can surpass the will of the gods (Graverini 102). Apollo, for example, warns Patroclus to turn back since Troy is “not destined to fall before your spear” or even that of Achilles, who is much better than him (Homer 707). Patroclus remains oblivious to these warnings and attempts to overcome fate. Therefore, the fury causes him to ignore obvious danger and fate, and this drives him towards his eventual death
The other character flaw that is attributable to the death of Patroclus or that contributes directly to his death is overconfidence. When he initially steps into the battlefront wearing Achilles armor, he instills great fear in the Trojans, and this obviously motivates him to make the first move. He kills the Paionians leader and by doing this, “he drove fear into all of themthe best of them all in battle” (Homer 291-292). Because of this, he gets overconfident and therefore attacks the city of Troy with even greater fury thinking that he poses a great threat to it (Graverini 111). He thinks that he is unbeatable but in the end, he is proven wrong as he is unable to capture Troy and instead perishes.
Morford, Mark. Classical mythology. Oxford University Press.
Homer. The Iliad of Homer. Vol. 3. General Books, 2010.
Graverini, Luca. "Crying for Patroclus. Achilles Tatius and Homer’s Iliad." (2008).
Lombardo, Stanley. The essential Homer: selections from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Hackett Publishing, 2002.
Trzaskoma, Stephen M., et al. Anthology of Classical Myth: primary sources in translation. Hackett Publishing, 2004.