A subscriber of my e-Bulletin emailed me some months back to let me know about a new television series produced by BBC called Atlantis, based on Greek mythology. It follows the adventures of three friends Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras in the mythical city Atlantis. The stories blend a variety of Greek myths and though many are chronologically out of context, I must admit to enjoying the series.
For ten long years’ war raged between the Greeks and Trojans with no end in sight. Each side equally matched, both in valour and skilled fighters. It was the era of the golden age, men with a status of demi-gods and many others favoured by the immortals. The war won with a trick, a ruse which duped the Trojans and sealed their fate. Hektor’s funeral marks the conclusion of the Iliad, there’s no mention of how and who wins the conflict. Yet how it was won has become part of the story’s lore. It is also why many people believe Homer is not the author of both the Iliad and Odyssey. Those who have been following my blog know what my thoughts are and new readers may refer back to the post.
It all comes down to fate, whatever a person does or decides there are always consequences. They can be good or bad, I wish for the former but as we all know that depends on the individual. Sometimes it’s a small thing and in other circumstances it is big, so huge it changes the course of events. Why is it fate? We are all destined to certain actions and decisions. We may deviate from the path at some time but somehow the lines of destiny reassert themselves. And so Agamemnon sealed his fate and those of his allies when he chose to take Briseis from Akhilleus.
There are a number of plot twists in the Iliad, causation’s for many key events in the story. Each have a significant role in the final outcome of the story and perhaps one of the more pivotal scenes was the death of Patroklos. It changed the losing team into a winning one and saw the annihilation of a city and its people.
Who was Patroklos? He was not only a boyhood friend of Akhilleus but also a relative. There’s also the inference they were lovers which was possible as it was common in ancient Greece and much of the ancient world to have same sex relationships. Unlike the movie Troy where the character of Patroklos was younger, he was older than Akhilleus, though it was never mentioned by how much.
He was considered wiser and more level-headed than Akhilleus, which was why Nestor approached Patroklos. He suggested Patroklus should advise Akhilleus to re-join the war and reiterated the words of his father, Menoetius on the day they left to join the allies:
‘My son, Achilles is of nobler birth than you and he is also by far the stronger man. But you are older than he is. It is for you to give sound advice, make suggestions and give him a lead which he will follow to his own advantage.’
Iliad, Book 11, Lines 785-89
While he was a boy, Patroklos killed a youth during a game of dice. How? It was never explained except it was an accident. Dangerous game by the sounds of it! As a consequence his father, brother or first cousin to Peleus Akhilleus’ father, sent Patroklos to live with the king. Both he and Akhilleus were educated together. Patroklos, a prince in his own right, was one of Helen’s suitors and bound by oath to take up arms if something amiss happened.
In Book 16, Patroklos tries to convince Akhilleus to re-join the fight. The Achaeans suffered heavy losses and without Akhilleus were certain to lose. He refuses. However, Patroklos persuades his friend to let him borrow his armour and lead the Myrmidons into the fray. Patroklos and his men charge into the fight, rallying the Greeks, who thought he was Akhilleus. He was a competent warrior and killed many men in the battle including the king of Lycia, Sarpedon who happened to be the son of Zeus. Then he faced Hektor.
‘[Hektor]… stabbed him with his spear in the lower belly, driving the bronze clean through. Patroklos thudded to the ground…’
Iliad, Book 16, Lines 821-822
Patroklos showed great strength of character and virtue, elements which Akhilleus did not possess. The character of Patroklos demonstrated a person didn’t need to be the best warrior, however goodness and integrity was more important.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Hope you enjoyed the post. As always, I look forward to your comments.
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The concept of a physician or medicine man, depending on the culture, has been around since prehistoric times and used both natural and supernatural means to treat patients. The first recorded physician dates back to Egypt (2667-2648 BCE) named Imhotep and the first surgery performed in 2750 BCE. The Egyptians were also the first to write medical texts outlining the disease, diagnosis and treatment. Herodotos makes note in his ‘Histories’ of the specialist treatment by the Egyptians. The Babylonians also had written medical texts dating back to the first half the 2nd millennium BCE. The first field doctors to be mentioned were in Homer’s Iliad, two men each skilled in different medical practices, much like a specialist and a GP today.
Four years ago I was in a newsagency, fossicking through the myriad of magazines when one caught my attention and so I picked it up. I flicked through the pages and was hooked. The magazine titled: Archaeological Diggings, is an Australian publication on ancient history and archaeology. The stories covered include the latest discoveries and recent digs throughout the Middle East and the world in general.
It was common practice for ancient Greeks and many ancient cultures to visit oracles and seers before they made big decisions or to find out whether the prospects of their future looked good. There is a difference between an oracle and a seer. An oracle, usually a priest or priestess, would relay predictions as given by the gods. The Delphic Oracle, a priestess called Pythia, was the most famous in Ancient Greece and the ancient world. A seer interpreted the signs given by the gods, such as bird signs or through the process of divination. They would sacrifice an animal, either bird, bull, sheep, or goat, make note of the animal’s dying throes, the blood flow and read the entrails.