The Iliad Friendship Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Richmond Lattimore's translation.
'Patroklos, far most pleasing to my heart in its sorrows,
I left you here alive when I went away from the shelter,
but now I come back, lord of the people, to find you have fallen.
So evil in my life takes over from evil forever.
The husband on whom my father and honoured mother bestowed me
I saw before my city lying torn with the sharp bronze,
and my three brothers, whom a single mother bore with me
and who were close to me, all went on one day to destruction.
And yet you would not let me, when swift Achilleus had cut down
my husband, and sacked the city of godlike Mynes, you would not
let me sorrow, but said you would make me godlike Achilleus'
wedded lawful wife, that you would take me back in the ships
to Phthia, and formalize my marriage among the Myrmidons.
Therefore I weep your death without ceasing. You were kind always.' (19.287-300)
This is the only time that Briseis speaks in the entire Iliad, revealing her touching relationship with Patroklos, based only upon kindness and respect. Often, one can learn a great deal about a person from looking at their friends (and romantic partners). What light, if any, does Briseis's speech about herself and Patroklos shed on Achilleus? Conversely, what insight, if any, does what we know about Achilleus provide into Briseis and Patroklos, two crucially important characters about whom we know so little?
'There was a time, ill fated, o dearest of all my companions,
when you yourself would set the desirable dinner before me
quickly and expertly, at the time the Achaians were urgent
to carry sorrowful war on the Trojans, breakers of horses.
But now you lie here torn before me, and my heart goes starved
for meat and drink, though they are here beside me, by reason
of longing for you. There is nothing worse than this I could suffer,
not even if I were to hear of the death of my father […]
or the death of my dear son, who is raised for my sake in Skyros
now, if godlike Neoptolemos is still one of the living.' (19.315-322, 326-327)
In these lines, with his typical extreme emotion, Achilleus expresses the depth of his grief at losing Patroklos.
'Hektor, of all my lord's brothers dearest by far to my spirit:
my husband is Alexandros, like an immortal, who brought me
here to Troy; and I should have died before I came with him;
and here now is the twentieth year upon me since I came
from the place where I was, forsaking the land of my fathers. In this time
I have never heard a harsh saying from you, nor an insult.
No, but when another, one of my lord's brothers or sisters, a fair-robed
wife of some brother, would say a harsh word to me in the palace,
or my lord's mother--but his father was gentle always, a father
indeed--then you would speak and put them off and restrain them
by your own gentleness of heart and your gentle words. Therefore
I mourn for you in sorrow of heart and mourn myself also
and my ill luck. There was no other in all the wide Troad
who was kind to me, and my friend; all others shrank when they saw me.' (24.762-775)
This speech of Helen over the body of Hektor is similar to that of Briseis over the body of Patroklos (see above). Both speeches reveal how important it could be for a captive woman to have a friend in her new household – someone who didn't treat her as a possession, and who would stick up for her when the going got tough.