Rachel’s Thoughts: Yet Another Paper

The pages of The Iliad are brimming with noble characters, each with sterling values not found in the others: Aias, the only fighter not divinely aided; Hector, who loved his wife and son more than anything else in the world; and Diomedes, who had the courage to attack the gods, to name a few.  But the best of these by far was Achilles’ best friend and sidekick, Patroklos.

Patroklos was fearless. His only thought when plunging into battle was to save the Achaians from annihilation at the hands of Hector and the Trojans. We see this implied in Patroklos’ speech when he pleaded to borrow Achilles’ armor:

Then send me out at least, let the rest of the Myrmidon people follow me, and I may be a light given to the Danaans. Give me your armor to wear on my shoulders into the fighting; so perhaps the Trojans might think I am you, and give way from their attack, and the fighting sons of the Achaians get wind again after hard work.[1]

We see in Genesis 15 that fear of anything other than God (or in the Greeks’ case, the gods) is against God’s command. “After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’”[2] We see this again in 2 Kings: “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”[3] Courage is a goal we should strive to attain, according to 1 Corinthians 16:13, and it is a goal that is admirable in ourselves and in others.

Patroklos had a sense of humor, and retained it to his death. He sounded rather sarcastic as he died beneath Hector’s spear, telling Hector that even though he is only his third slayer, this is the time to gloat. We see in Psalms that laughing at enemies is ‘the thing to do’: “But you, O Lord, laugh at them; you scoff at all those nations.”[4] And a little earlier in the same book, “…But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming.”[5] Patroklos laughed in exactly the same way as he predicted Hector’s death at the hands of Achilleus.

Kindness is one of Patroklos’ greatest assets, and one that was shockingly lacking in his fellows-in-arms. As Briseis mourned over his body, she brought up the fact that, not only did Patroklos comfort her when her family was killed; he promised to arrange her legal marriage to Achilleus. While alive, he commented to Nestor that he dare not sit down, because Achilleus would be rather irate if he didn’t return with news of the fighting; yet he risked Achilleus’ anger in order to help injured Eurypylos: “I am on my way carrying a message to wise Achilleus given me by Geranian Nestor, the Achaians’ watcher. But even so I will not leave you in your affliction.”[6] We see that he was mourning over the apparent demise of the Greeks, and Achilles even asked him why he was crying like a little girl[7]. In Colossians, kindness is one of the greatest virtues, and loving your neighbor as yourself is the second greatest command that has been given in all of history.[8]

Curiously enough, Patroklos demonstrated each of the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”[9] Patroklos showed love and kindness in his treatment of Briseis and Eurypylos; peace and patience in the fact that he never grumbled against Achilleus until right before his aristeia; goodness by his behavior in general; gentleness in all of the above; and self-control in his refusal to join Nestor and the others in a drink in Book 11[10].

Last, but not least, was Patroklos’ faithfulness. Achilleus wasn’t the easiest person in the world to be a faithful friend to. But Patroklos managed quite well (another example of his patience and self-control). He always believed the best of Achilleus, as we see when he said, “But if you are drawing back from some prophecy known in your own heart and by Zeus’ will your honoured mother has told you of something…”[11] He remained with his friend through thick and thin—it is a mark of true friendship to be faithful to someone not only when they’re in the right, but also when they’re wrong. Patroklos was Achilleus’ best friend in part because he was one of the few people who could put up with him for any length of time—even the Myrmidons grumbled against him.[12]

Patroklos was the most honorable character in The Iliad, the best-motivated fighter on the Greek side, and showed far greater patience than anyone else in the Trojan army. He gave his all for his cause, and was not afraid of death—or his own dishonor. He was the only hero in the war who didn’t particularly care about his own honor, which actually gave him honor, and was one of the only two characters noted for his kindness. He showed compassion to the weak, and laughed at the strong. For these reasons, he is my favorite character.

Bibliography

English Standard Version Bible. Wheaton: Good News/Crossway Publishers, 2001.

The Iliad of Homer. Translated by Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1961.


[1] Homer, The Iliad of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimore. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 331,

16.37-43.

2 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Bible Version, Good

News/Crossway Publishers, 2001. Gen. 15:1.

[3] 2 Kings 6:16.

[4] Psalm 59:8.

[5] Psalm 37:13.

[6] Homer, 256-257, 11.827-840.

[7] Ibid., 330, 16.7.

[8] Col. 3:12.

[9] Gal. 5:22-23.

[10] Homer, 251 11.646-647.

[11] Ibid., 331, 16.36-38.

[12] Ibid., 335, 16.200-208.

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