"Glory of the father." The celebrated friend of Achilles, was a son of Menoetius of Opus,1 and a grandson of Actor and Aegina, whence he is called Actorides.2 His mother is commonly called Sthenele, but some mention her under the name of Periapis or Polymele.3 Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles, was a brother of Menoetius,4 and, according to Hesiod,5 Menoetius was a brother of Peleus, so that the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus arose from their being kinsmen.
When yet a boy Patroclus, during a game of dice, involuntarily slew Clysonymus, a son of Amphidamas, and in consequence of this accident Patroclus was taken by his father to Peleus at Phthia, where he was educated together with Achilles.6 He is also mentioned among the suitors of Helen.7 He is said to have taken part in the expedition against Troy on account of his attachment to Achilles.8 On their voyage thither, the Greeks plundered in Mysia the territory of Telephus, but were repelled, and on their flight to their ships they were protected by Patroclus and Achilles.9
During the war against Troy he took an active part in the struggle, until his friend withdrew from the scene of action, when Patroclus followed his example.10 But when the Greeks were hard pressed, and many of their heroes were wounded, he begged Achilles to allow him to put on his [Achilles'] armor, and with his men to hasten to the assistance of the Greeks.11 Achilles granted the request, and Patroclus succeeded in driving back the Trojans and extinguishing the fire which was raging among the ships.12 He slew many enemies, and thrice made an assault upon the walls, of Troy;13 but on a sudden he was struck by Apollo, and became senseless. In this state Euphorbus ran him through with his lance from behind, and Hector gave him the last and fatal blow.14 Hector also took possession of his armor.15
A long struggle now ensued between the Greeks and Trojans about the body of Patroclus; but the former obtained possession of it, and when it was brought to Achilles, he was deeply grieved, and vowed to avenge the death of his friend.16 Thetis protected the body with ambrosia against decomposition, until Achilles had leisure solemnly to burn it with funeral sacrifices.17 His ashes were collected in a golden urn which Dionysus had once given to Thetis, and were deposited under a mound, where subsequently the remains of Achilles also were buried.18 Funeral games were celebrated in his honor.19
Achilles and Patroclus met again in the lower world,20 or, according to others, they continued after their death to live together in the island of Leuce.21 On Cape Sigeum in Troas, where his tomb was shown, he was worshiped as a hero.22
Homer describes the heroic deeds of Patroclus in book xviof the Iliad, which is named Patrokleia.
In antiquity, there was a famous painting of the underworld, created by Polygnotus in the Lesche of the Cnidians at Delphi (ca. 458-477), which showed the life-sized figures of Achilles and Patroclus.23 He appears in art as a warrior, usually with a beard, such as on the Attic vase of Sosias (ca. 500 BCE; Berlin), which depicts Achilles bindings the wounds of Patroclus. The funeral games of Patroclus is found on a fragment of a vase by Sophilus (ca. 570 BCE; Athens) on which a crowd is seated on a platform watching the contest.
Patroclus is also found on Pompeian murals, such as at the Casa degli Amorini Dorati where he is shown together with Achilles and Briseis in Achilles' tent. The Pasquino Group (second half of the third century BCE; Rome) depicts Menelaus with the body of Patroclus.
- Homer. Iliad xii, 608; Ovid. Heroides i, 17.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses xiii, 273.
- Hyginus. Fabulae, 91; Eustathius on Homer, p. 1498.
- Homer. Iliad xvi, 14.
- On Eustathius on Homer, p. 112.
- Homer. Iliad xxiii, 85 ff.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 13; Ovid. Epistulae ex Ponto i, 3.73.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 10.8.
- Hygin. Fub. 257; Philostratus. Heroicus xix, 9.
- Pindar. Olympian Odes x, 105 ff.
- Homer. Iliad ix, 190.
- ibid. xvi, 20 ff.
- ibid. xvi, 293.
- ibid. xvi, 293 ff., 702, 785.
- ibid. xvi, 791 ff.
- ibid. xviii, 122.
- ibid. xvii, 735; xviii, 22.
- ibid. xix, 38.
- ibid. xxiii, 83, 92, 126, 240 ff.; Odyssey xxiv, 74 ff.; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 273.
- Iliad xxiii, 262 ff.
- Odyssey xxiv, 15.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 19.11.
- Homer. Odyssey xxiv, 82; Strabo. Geography xiii, 596.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece x, 26.2, 30.1.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.