Achilles and Patroclus: Love, Pride and Honor (Pride Month #3)

It’s a question that has been asked thousands of times over the centuries: were they  lovers or not?   Or, just really good friends.

The two heroes of the Trojan War are depicted in the Illiad as sharing a deep bond. Theirs was an unprecedented mythologised  account of a deeply emotional adult male relationship in ancient Greece.

Over time, some authors have been keen to deflect any suggestion that they shared a sexual relationship.  Others have been eager to plant a rainbow flag retrospectively to claim the  love between the two men as ‘gay’.

Whether they did it or not, they help us to understand where ideas of pride and shame come from. For Achilles and Patroclus, the respectability of their relationship comes, in large part, from them being military men and the fact that their relationship is complex, emotional, and a deep form of friendship.

The absence of explicit sexual contact has gave their relationship a sense of honour.

This raises (interesting?) questions about sex between adult males and the insinuation – even back then – that it is/was a source of dishonour. De-sexualisation was/is clearly seen as a precondition for honour, and this is an intriguing assumption that undergirds our understandings of shame even today. At the time, it was only in the multi-dimensionality and poetic love of their relationship that earned their bond honour.

In effect, love was the basis of honour and pride.

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