Gateway to the Classics: The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
The Iliad for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church

The Deeds and Death of Patroclus

P ATROCLUS stood by Achilles, weeping bitterly. And Achilles said to him: "What is the matter, Patroclus, that you weep? You are like a girl-child that runs along by her mother's side, and holds her gown and cries till she takes her up in her arms. Have you heard bad news from Phthia? Yet your father still lives, I know, and so does the old man Peleus. Or are you weeping for the Greeks because they perish for their folly, or, maybe, for the folly of their King?"

Then Patroclus answered: "Be not angry with me, great Achilles. The Greeks are in great trouble, for all the bravest of their chiefs are wounded, and yet you still keep your anger, and will not help them. They say that Peleus was your father and Thetis your mother. Yet I should say, so hard are you, that a rock was your father and your mother the sea. If you will not go forth to the battle because you have had some warning from the gods, then let me go, and let your people, the Myrmidons, go with me. And let me put on your armour; the Trojans will think that you have come back to the battle, and the Greeks will have a breathing space."

So Patroclus spoke, entreating Achilles, but he did not know that it was for his own death that he asked. And Achilles answered: "It is no warning that I heed, and that keeps me from the battle. Such things trouble me not. But these men were not ashamed to stand by when their King took away from me the prize which I had won with my own hands. But let the past be past. I said that I would not fight again till the Trojans should bring the fire near to my own ships. But now, for I see that the people are in great need, you may put on my armour, and lead my people to the fight. And, indeed, it is time to give help, for I see that the Trojans are gathered about the ships, and that the Greeks have scarce standing ground between their enemies and the sea. And I do not see anywhere either Diomed with his spear, nor King Agamemnon; only I hear the voice of Hector, as he calls his people to the battle. Go, therefore, Patroclus, and keep the fire from the ships. But when you have done this, come back and fight no more with the Trojans, for it is my business to conquer them, and you must not take my glory from me. And mind this also: when you feel the joy of battle in your heart, be not over-bold; go not near the wall of Troy, lest one of the gods meet you and harm you. For these gods love the Trojans, and especially the great archer Apollo with his deadly bow."

So these two talked together in the tent. But at the ships Ajax could hold out no longer. For the javelins came thick upon him and clattered on his helmet and his breastplate, and his shoulder was weary with the weight of his great shield. Heavily and hard did he breathe, and the great drops of sweat fell upon the ground. Then, at the last, Hector came near and struck at him with his sword. Him he did not hit, but he cut off the head of his spear. Great fear came on Ajax and he gave way, and the Trojans put torches to the ship's stern, and a great flame rose up into the air. When Achilles saw the flames, he struck his thigh with his hand and said: "Make haste, Patroclus, for I see the fire rising from the ships."

Then Patroclus put on the armour—breastplate and shield and helmet—and bound the sword on his shoulder, and took a great spear in his hand. But the great Pelian spear he did not take, for that no man could wield but Achilles only. Then the charioteer yoked the horses to the chariot. Two of the horses, Bayard and Piebald, were immortal, but the third was of a mortal breed. And while he did this, Achilles called the Myrmidons to battle. Fifty ships he had brought to Troy, and fifty men in each. And when they were assembled he said: "Forget not, ye Myrmidons, what you said when first I kept you back from the battle, how angry you were, and how you blamed me, complaining that I kept you back against your will. Now you have the thing that you desired."

So the Myrmidons went forth to battle in close array, helmet to helmet and shield to shield, close together as are the stones which a builder builds into a wall. Patroclus went before them in the chariot of Achilles, with the charioteer by his side. And as they went, Achilles went to the chest which stood in his tent, and opened it, and took from it a great cup which Thetis his mother had given him. No man drank out of that cup but Achilles only. Nor did he pour libations out of it to any of the gods but to Zeus only. First he cleansed the cup with sulphur and then with water from the spring. After this he filled it with wine, and standing in the space before the tent he poured out from it to Zeus, saying: "O Zeus, this day I send my dear comrade to the battle. Be thou with him; make him strong and bold, and give him glory, and bring him home safe to the ships, and my people with him."

So he prayed; and Father Zeus heard his prayer: part he granted, but part he denied.

Meanwhile Patroclus with the Myrmidons had come to the place where the battle was so hot, namely the ship to which Hector had put the torch and set it on fire. And when the Trojans saw him and the armour he wore, they thought that it had been Achilles, who had put away his anger, and had come forth again to the battle. Nor was it long before they turned to flee. So the battle rolled back again to the trench, and many chariots of the Trojans were broken, for when they crossed it for the second time they took their chariots with them; but the horses of Achilles sprang across it in their stride, so nimble were they and so strong. And great was the fear of the Trojans; even the great Hector fled. The heart of Patroclus was set upon slaying him, for he had forgotten the command which Achilles had laid upon him, that when he had saved the ships from the fire he should not fight any more. But though he followed hard after him, he could not overtake him, so swift were the Trojan horses. Then he left following him and turned back, and caused the chariot to be driven backwards and forwards, so that he might slay the Trojans as they sought to fly to the city.

But there were some among the Trojans and their allies who would not flee. Among these was Sarpēdon the Lycian; and he, when he saw his people flying before Patroclus, cried aloud to them: "Stand now and be of good courage: I myself will try this great warrior and see what he can do." So he leapt down from his chariot, and Patroclus also leapt down from his, and the two rushed at each other, fierce and swift as two eagles. Sarpēdon carried a spear in either hand, and he threw both of them together. With the one he wounded to the death one of the horses of Achilles, that which was of a mortal strain, but the other missed its aim, flying over the left shoulder of Patroclus. But the spear of Patroclus missed not its aim. Full on the heart of Sarpēdon it fell, and broke through his armour, and bore him to the earth. He fell, as a pine or a poplar falls on the hills before the woodman's axe. And as he fell, he called to Glaucus his kinsman: "Now show yourself a man, O Glaucus; suffer not the Greeks to spoil me of my arms." And when he had said so much, he died. Now Glaucus was still troubled by the wound which Teucer the archer had given him. But when he heard the voice of Sarpēdon he prayed to Apollo, saying: "Give me now strength that I may save the body of my kinsman from the hands of the Greeks." And Apollo heard him and made him whole of his wound. Then he called first to the Lycians, saying, "Fight for the body of your king," and next to the Trojans, that they should honour the man who had come from his own land to help them, and lastly to Hector himself, who had now returned to the battle. "Little care you, O Hector," he said, "for your allies. Lo! Sarpēdon is dead, slain by Patroclus. Will you suffer the Myrmidons to carry off his body and do dishonour to it?"


Sleep and Death Conveying the Body of Sarpedon to Lycia

Hector was much troubled by these words, and so were all the men of Troy, for among the allies there were none braver than Sarpēdon. So they charged and drove back the Greeks from the body; and the Greeks charged again in their turn. No one would have known the great Sarpēdon as he lay in the middle of the tumult, so covered was he with dust and blood. But at last the Greeks drove back the Trojans from the body, and stripped it of its arms; but the body itself they harmed not. For at the bidding of Zeus, Apollo came down and carried it out of the tumult, and gave it to Sleep and Death that they should carry it to the land of Lycia. Then again Patroclus forgot the commands of Achilles, for he thought in his heart, "Now shall I take the city of Troy," for, when he had driven the Trojans up to the very gates, he himself climbed on to an angle of the wall. Three times did he climb upon it, and three times did Apollo push him back, laying his hand upon the boss of his shield. And when Patroclus climbed for the fourth time, then Apollo cried to him in a dreadful voice: "Go back, Patroclus; it is not for you to take the great city of Troy, no, nor even for Achilles, who is a far better man than you." Then Patroclus went back, for he feared the anger of the god. But though he thought no more of taking the city, he raged no less against the Trojans. Then did Apollo put it into the heart of Hector to go against the man. So Hector said to his charioteer: "We will see whether we cannot drive back this Patroclus, for it must be he; Achilles he is not, though he wears his armour." When Patroclus saw them coming he took a great stone from the ground, and cast it at the pair. The stone struck the charioteer full on the helmet. And as the man fell head foremost from the chariot, Patroclus laughed aloud, and said: "See now, how nimble is this man! See how well he dives! He might get many oysters from the bottom of the sea, diving from the deck of a ship, even though it should be a stormy day. Who would have thought that there should be such skilful divers in Troy?"

Three times did Patroclus charge into the ranks of the Trojans, and each time he slew nine warriors. But when he charged the fourth time, then, for the hour of his doom was come, Apollo stood behind him, and gave him a great blow on his neck, so that he could not see out of his eyes. And the helmet fell from his head, so that the plumes were soiled with the dust. Never before had it touched the ground, from the first day when Achilles wore it. The spear also which he carried in his hand was broken, and the shield fell from his arm, and the breastplate on his body was loosened. Then, as he stood without defence and was confused, one of the Trojans wounded him in the back with his spear. And when he tried to hide himself behind his comrades, for the wound was not mortal, Hector thrust at him with his spear, and hit him above the hip, and he fell to the ground. And when the Greeks saw him fall they sent up a dreadful cry. Then Hector stood over him, and said: "Did you think, Patroclus, that you would take our city, and slay us with the sword, and carry away our wives and daughters in your ships? This you will not do, for, lo! I have overcome you with my spear, and the fowls of the air shall eat your flesh. And the great Achilles cannot help you at all. Did he not say to you, 'Strip the fellow's shirt from his back and bring it back to me'? and you, in your folly, thought that you would do it."

Patroclus answered: "You boast too much, O Hector. It is not by your hand that I am overcome; it has been Apollo who has brought me to my death. Had twenty such as you come against me, truly I had slain them all. And mark you this: death is very near to you, for the great Achilles will slay you."

Then said Hector: "Why do you prophesy my death? Who has shown you the things to come? Maybe, as I have slain you, so shall I slay the great Achilles." So Hector spoke, but Patroclus was dead already. Then he drew the spear from the wound, and went after the charioteer of Achilles, hoping to slay him and take the chariot for spoil, but the horses were so swift that he could not come up with them.

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