Revisiting the Apostrophes to Patroclus in Iliad 16

Emily Allen-Hornblower
Apostrophes in Homeric poetry—those instances where the poet addresses a character directly in the vocative—are “embarrassing” for the reader and critic. [1] The apostrophe disrupts the flow of the third-person narrative by bringing the poet, performer, and audience in direct contact with one of the characters. To what end? [2] In the Iliad, the overwhelming majority of apostrophes are addressed to Patroclus (8 times, all of them in book 16 [3] ) and Menelaus (7 times). [4] Much like a historical present, they take the listener into the here-and-now of the scene, [5] creating a sense of greater proximity with the character being thus addressed. Scholars since Antiquity have interpreted these apostrophes as expressions of particular concern on the part of the poet for the characters in question. [6] The fact that the majority of apostrophes are principally directed at Patroclus and Menelaus is seen as a reflection of the fact that these are the two heroes that the poem represents as “unusually sensitive and worthy of the audience’s sympathy.” [7]
No doubt the large number of apostrophes directed at Patroclus, all confined to book 16, contributes to heighten the pathos and overall emotional effect of his excruciatingly slow and horrible death at the hands of Apollo at the end of the book. [8]
The purpose of the present paper is not to question the power of the apostrophe as an “emotional device.” [9] I believe, however, that there are some overlooked aspects of the apostrophe in the Iliad that stem precisely from its ability to express (the poet’s) and elicit (the audience’s) sympathy, that deserve to be brought to light. In what follows, I want to revisit the apostrophes that accompany Patroclus before and throughout his aristeia, with a special focus on the two that are addressed to him as he is being killed (16.787 and 812). A close examination of the contexts in which these and other apostrophes to him and to Menelaus occur throughout the Iliad reveals that these contexts share certain formulaic and thematic elements, as well as structural patterns, which take on meaning from their relationship to each other, and especially from the variations between them.
There are apostrophes addressed to Patroclus by the poet when the hero reaches new heights in his destructive aristeia that seem at first glance to be incongruous, even at odds with the blatantly pathetic contexts in which the others occur, [10] as for instance when he is scattering the Trojans from Epeigeus’ body, [11] or leaping onto Cebriones’ body to despoil him. [12] Why insert an expression of sympathy in the hero’s moments of glory? The key to understanding the apostrophe’s place in such contexts lies in the relationship of the Patrocleia to Patroclus’ demise. The apostrophe marks a juncture at which a significant step is taken by Patroclus away from the boundaries set by Achilles, and closer to his doom. Each new apostrophe contributes to generate a sense of apprehension in the audience and to gradually build up the tension underlying the entire episode of Patroclus’ glory on the battlefield that will culminate in his death.
One sub-set of apostrophes—those that occur within speech formulae —offers a good illustration of this point. There are three apostrophes to Patroclus that accompany three different speech formulae in book 16: at 16.20, τὸν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ; at 16.744, τὸν δ’ ἐπικερτομέων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ; and at 16.843, τὸν δ’ ὀλιγοδρανέων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ. [13] In response to Milman Parry’s statement that apostrophes to characters within the Homeric poems were used strictly for metrical purposes, Adam Parry retorted that this was only true when they occur within speech formulae. [14] The younger Parry nonetheless went on to point out that even these apostrophes are “emotionally qualified” by a “special, though still formulary, participle in the first half of the line,” before adding, “only by entirely disregarding the context can these apostrophes be regarded as full equivalents, technically determined, of third-person formulae.” He did not develop the point any further. I propose that we examine the speech formulae that include an apostrophe in context, to spotlight the “emotionally qualified” aspect of both the formulae and the apostrophes within them.
For the first of the three speech formulae, we must turn to the beginning of book 16, before Patroclus even heads into battle. It introduces Patroclus’ desperate plea to Achilles that he be allowed to wear his armor and enter the fray in his stead (16.20): Τὸν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ. Patroclus “groans” here because of the destruction that Achilles’ absence from the Achaean ranks has wrought upon them; [15] but the participle is also “special,” to use Parry’s designation. Its wider significance becomes clear if we turn to its subsequent uses by the poet. Every time βαρὺ στενάχων occurs thereafter, it is used in reference to Achilles’ laments for his dead friend. The very next time we find the participle is after Patroclus’ death, when Thetis is about to address Achilles, whose cries of grief she heard from the depths of the sea. She rushes to her son’s side and stands by him “as he groans” (18.70): τῷ δὲ βαρὺ στενάχοντι παρίστατο πότνια μήτηρ. The same formula introduces Achilles’ words of grief when he replies to his mother (18.78): Τὴν δὲ βαρὺ στενάχων προσέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς. In his reply, he blames himself for “killing” Patroclus (18.82: τὸν ἀπώλεσα) and connects his friend’s death with his own by stating that he no longer has the will to live, for he is but “a dead weight on the earth” [16] (18.90–91 and 104 respectively). The same speech formula introduces Achilles’ laments two more times, when he voices his immeasurable grief at the loss of his dearest friend to the rest of the Myrmidons, both at 18.323 (ὣς ὃ βαρὺ στενάχων μετεφώνεε Μυρμιδόνεσσιν) and at 23.59–60 (Πηλεΐδης δ’ ἐπὶ θινὶ πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης | κεῖτο βαρὺ στενάχων πολέσιν μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσιν).
In sum, βαρὺ στενάχων subsequently resurfaces only to introduce laments for Patroclus. This makes its ironically tragic nature at the beginning of book 16 patently clear: at that point, it introduces a speech through which Patroclus unwittingly begs for his own demise. [17] The closing lines following Patroclus’ plea to Achilles make the connection between it and his death explicit. The poet states that Patroclus was νήπιος (“foolish”) to voice such a request because in doing so, he was unknowingly pleading for his own death (16.46–47):

Ὣς φάτο λισσόμενος μέγα νήπιος· ἦ γὰρ ἔμελλεν
οἷ αὐτῷ θάνατόν τε κακὸν καὶ κῆρα λιτέσθαι. [18]
Following the poet’s comment, Achilles himself remarks on Patroclus’ utterance in a manner that is heavily ironic, although its ironic nature remains unknown to the speaker himself (16.49): ὤ μοι διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες οἷον ἔειπες. The poet is putting in Achilles’ mouth words that have a double meaning. Achilles does not truly know “what sort” (οἷον) of speech Patroclus has just uttered. The apparent meaning of line 49 is the one intended by Achilles, which becomes clearer from the lines that follow: that Patroclus is misguided to think, as Nestor had suggested (11.794–795), that some divine order is what prevents him from rejoining the Achaean ranks. “What a thing to say!” would be a roughly adequate (over)translation, since the formula οἷον ἔειπες is generally used in contexts where the speaker is setting the addressee aright. [19] Patroclus is indeed misguided, but for a far graver reason than Achilles suspects: that in thus begging Achilles, he is asking for death. The audience can perceive the other possible meaning of οἷον because of the poet’s earlier comment just two lines before (lines 46–47). An approximate gloss for line 49 that would reflect this hidden meaning might be “Ah! What a sort of speech you have spoken, god-born Patroclus!” [20] If one considers that, in the context of performance, it is one and the same performer who speaks Achilles’ and the narrator’s lines, it is tempting to suggest that the poet’s emotional reaction to the dire reality he has just shared with the audience transpires through Achilles’ words. If so, then Achilles’ address to Patroclus in the vocative (ὤ μοι διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες) is laden with the sympathy characteristic of a (here embedded) narratorial apostrophe. The two different meanings of ὤ μοι διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες οἷον ἔειπες reflect the tragic tension between what the poet and audience know and Achilles does not. Unwittingly, Achilles is uttering an ironically apt proleptic expression of distress at (what he does not yet know to be) the fatal consequences of Patroclus’ plea.
As with βαρὺ στενάχων, the two other apostrophes to Patroclus that occur within speech formulae also introduce an emotional quality in the line (and ensuing speech) as a whole. This becomes apparent if we pay attention to the broader context in which they occur, and to the “special” quality of the participles at the core of the speech formulae themselves. The first of the two formulae occurs when Patroclus shatters the skull of the bastard son of Priam, Cebriones. The son of Menoetius speaks taunting words over the dead man’s body, mocking the way he fell from his chariot “like a diver” (16.744–750). The tone of derision of Patroclus’ jeer is made clear from the introductory formula at 16.744: τὸν δ’ ἐπικερτομέων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ. The second formula occurs in a reversal of sorts of the previous scene. Patroclus is now the dying warrior over whom an enemy victoriously takes his stand, preparing to despoil him of his armor: none other than Hector, who has just fatally wounded him. Despite the circumstances, Patroclus taunts the Trojan prince by diminishing the role he just played in causing his death (he simply “finished him off” [21] ) and predicting Hector’s own imminent end at the hands of Achilles. [22] The speech formula at line 843, τὸν δ’ ὀλιγοδρανέων προσέφης Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ, along with the jibe that it introduces, both mark this speech as the culmination of Patroclus’ identification with Achilles: [23] he claims that, had not Zeus and Apollo intervened, he could have killed twenty Hectors. [24] From the moment he dons Achilles’ armor, Patroclus gradually loses his identity: [25] as he “becomes” Achilles, he takes on Achilles’ warrior personality as well, but not the equivalent martial prowess. Baltes notes how both of the above speech formulae mark a new stage in Patroclus’ aristeia as he goes from pitiable (βαρὺ στενάχων) to overbearing in his confidence, defiantly questioning first Cebriones’, and then Hector’s superiority (ἐπικερτομέων and ὀλιγοδρανέων). [26] In both of the scenes, the taunts spotlight the growing degree to which Patroclus identifies with Achilles, [27] while the haunting presence of the sympathetic apostrophe reminds the audience of the vulnerability that stems from this very identification, and of Patroclus’ ultimate helplessness in the face of mortality. [28] The apostrophes function like an ominous musical leitmotiv, pointing up the paradox inherent to Patroclus’ every feat on the battlefield: that each new Trojan death he inflicts brings him closer to his own. Thus, the apostrophe accompanying the last of the three formulae introduces his final taunting words to Hector as he is dying (16.843, quoted above). It is the very last apostrophe the poet addresses to the hero in the Iliad. Immediately after his speech, at lines 16.855–857, his psychê departs his body and mourns over him. When Hector responds equally defiantly to Patroclus that he might well be able to face Achilles, Patroclus is already dead. The next time Patroclus is called out by name, the speaker is Achilles, in a context of mourning.
That the poet’s apostrophes to Patroclus as he gloriously slays slews of Trojans are an indication of the paradoxical connection between his present glory and his forthcoming doom is perhaps never more clearly expressed than at the height of his aristeia, when he kills Sarpedon. After Zeus sends Sleep and Death to retrieve his son’s body and carry it to Lycia, [29] Patroclus goes chasing after the Trojans and Lycians in a mad frenzy, killing many. This state leads to his attempt to scale the walls of Troy [30] —an egregious violation of the orders given to him by Achilles. [31] In an emotional comment directed at the audience, the poet calls him “fool” for his transgression, and wistfully contemplates what could have been (16.684–687): [32]

Πάτροκλος δ’ ἵπποισι καὶ Αὐτομέδοντι κελεύσας
Τρῶας καὶ Λυκίους μετεκίαθε, καὶ μέγ’ ἀάσθη
νήπιος· εἰ δὲ ἔπος Πηληϊάδαο φύλαξεν
ἦ τ’ ἂν ὑπέκφυγε κῆρα κακὴν μέλανος θανάτοιο.

The use of a contrafactual clause injects a certain poignancy into the poet’s expression of regret, playing out as it does a far happier scenario in which Patroclus could have lived (ἦ τ’ ἂν ὑπέκφυγε κῆρα κακὴν μέλανος θανάτοιο), had he only respected Achilles’ orders (εἰ δὲ ἔπος Πηληϊάδαο φύλαξεν). [33] Soon thereafter, the poet intensifies the emotional tenor of the passage by shifting to the second person and addressing Patroclus directly with an apostrophe. In his address, the poet poses a rhetorical question to Patroclus that points up the vanity of his killing spree by asking him to draw up an account of every Trojan he killed in the same breath as he announces to him that the time of his death has now come, as decreed by the gods—a warning all the more harrowing as only the audience, and not its alleged addressee, can hear it (16.692–693):

Ἔνθα τίνα πρῶτον τίνα δ’ ὕστατον ἐξενάριξας
Πατρόκλεις, ὅτε δή σε θεοὶ θάνατον δὲ κάλεσσαν;
In fact, the majority of apostrophes addressed to Patroclus in the Iliad occur in scenes in which the hero is explicitly threatened by death. A comparison with those addressed to Menelaus at other points in the poem will enable me to pinpoint the unique manner in which the pathos of Patroclus’ death is enhanced at the end of book 16. In book 4, Menelaus is wounded by Pandarus’ arrow (4.134–140). The narrative plays up the dramatic potential of the situation to its fullest. The spectacular impression made by the red blood covering Menelaus’ white thighs is conveyed in vivid terms, through an extended simile comparing the blood to the scarlet that women use to stain horses’ cheek pieces (4.141–147). The simile concludes with an apostrophe:

τοῖοί τοι Μενέλαε μιάνθην αἵματι μηροὶ
εὐφυέες κνῆμαί τε ἰδὲ σφυρὰ κάλ’ ὑπένερθε. [34]

The apostrophe’s presence makes clear that the situation calls for the poet’s sympathy, which, in turn, heightens the audience’s sense that there is a potential threat at hand to the Atreid’s life. The frightful nature of the circumstances is also strongly conveyed by the concurrent use of an internal audience: Agamemnon, who responds to the sight with great alarm. He panics and launches into a proleptic lament, believing his brother’s death to be imminent. [35] Menelaus himself is also initially frightened on seeing his brother’s reaction to his wound, though he soon realizes that the arrow did not hit a fatal spot. [36] The two brothers’ distress marks the scene as one of acute crisis. [37] The poet, however, counterbalances this impression through the information strategically inserted between the time Pandarus’ arrow leaves his bow and the point at which it reaches Menelaus’ flesh (4.127–129):

Οὐδὲ σέθεν Μενέλαε θεοὶ μάκαρες λελάθοντο
ἀθάνατοι, πρώτη δὲ Διὸς θυγάτηρ ἀγελείη,
ἥ τοι πρόσθε στᾶσα βέλος ἐχεπευκὲς ἄμυνεν.

While the apostrophe within this line (οὐδὲ σέθεν Μενέλαε…) signals the poet’s concern and points up the fact that the plot finds itself at a crucial juncture, the tension is immediately resolved by the mention of the gods’ shared concern for the hero, and the account of Athena’s intervention. [38] Zeus’ daughter steps in and redirects the arrow away from Menelaus’ flesh with the ease of a mother waving a fly away from her sleeping child. [39]

An exceptional (and unique) apostrophe to the hero Melanippus—a distinction granted to an otherwise unimportant hero that has left commentators quite perplexed—makes for another enlightening comparison to keep in mind when we turn to the addresses to Patroclus at the time of his death. When Antilochus kills Melanippus at 15.579–584, another menace still looms over the hero even after he has been killed: that of being despoiled of his armor. The diction strengthens our sense of the threat as Antilochus leaps onto Melanippus’ corpse “like a dog after a wounded fawn” (15.579–580: Ἀντίλοχος δ’ ἐπόρουσε κύων ὥς, ὅς τ’ ἐπὶ νεβρῷ | βλημένῳ ἀΐξῃ)—a simile that plays up Melanippus’ vulnerability, as does the apostrophe with which the simile ends (15.582–584): [40]

ὣς ἐπὶ σοὶ Μελάνιππε θόρ’ Ἀντίλοχος μενεχάρμης
τεύχεα συλήσων· ἀλλ’ οὐ λάθεν Ἕκτορα δῖον,
ὅς ῥά οἱ ἀντίος ἦλθε θέων ἀνὰ δηϊοτῆτα.

In a similar manner to what we observed in the scene involving Menelaus’ wound, the apostrophe here marks the poet’s sympathy for Melanippus at a time of crisis for the hero. [41] It is as though the poet were uttering a warning that remains unheard by its alleged addressee. It is a signal to the audience (the only ones to actually perceive it) that the narrative finds itself at a turning point: a dire event may follow for the hero whom the poet thus addresses. Here as above, the situation is resolved and the tension released, through the intervention, not of a god, but of one who is like a brother to Melanippus: [42] the bulwark of Troy, Hector (ἀλλ’ οὐ λάθεν Ἕκτορα δῖον). As had Athena when Pandarus’ arrow was headed for Menelaus, Hector steps in in extremis and prevents the dark scenario foreshadowed by the simile and suggested by the apostrophe from playing itself out. Therein, I believe, lies the explanation for the presence of the apostrophe to an otherwise unimportant hero: its point, in zeroing in on the danger at hand, is to highlight the role of savior played by Hector in rescuing a philos at the close of the scene.

That the apostrophe, by expressing the narrator’s sympathy, marks a potential watershed moment in the narrative is never so clear as when Menelaus volunteers to fight Hector one-on-one. In the same line, the poet calls out Menelaus’ name directly in the vocative and states that such a confrontation would mean certain death for him. Both the apostrophe and the accompanying statement contribute to foreground the threat at hand (7.104–105): [43]

ἔνθά κέ τοι Μενέλαε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτὴ
Ἕκτορος ἐν παλάμῃσιν, ἐπεὶ πολὺ φέρτερος ἦεν…
It remains, however, merely a hypothetical threat: the whole address to Menelaus is part of a “pivotal contrafactual:” “then death would have appeared to you, Menelaus…” [44] This “would… have” apodosis stresses the dire nature of the possible outcome of the duel (Menelaus’ death) by preceding the “if…not” protasis that follows, in which the ruinous outcome is prevented by Menelaus’ brother, Agamemnon (7.106–108), whose role is thus magnified:

εἰ μὴ ἀναΐξαντες ἕλον βασιλῆες Ἀχαιῶν,
αὐτός τ’ Ἀτρεΐδης εὐρὺ κρείων Ἀγαμέμνων
δεξιτερῆς ἕλε χειρὸς ἔπος τ’ ἔφατ’ ἔκ τ’ ὀνόμαζεν·
As in the previous cases we have observed, the dramatic potential of the threat is pointed up by the apostrophe (and, in this instance, the accompanying contrafactual it is a part of), before a protective figure steps in to protect his philos. [45] Here, the intervention is a verbal, not a physical one (7.106–119): Agamemnon issues a sharp warning to his brother, in which he marvels at his aphrosunê for thinking he might be a match for one whom even Achilles shudders to face (7.113–114). [46] The apostrophe is a warning that its addressee cannot hear, and creates a sense of foreboding in the audience. Only when a character from within the narrative (in this case, Agamemnon) pronounces a warning can it be heard and (in this case) heeded. His speech both echoes the warning that was unrealized in the apostrophe and actualizes it. When he addresses Menelaus in the vocative, Agamemnon does so at the very same place within the hexameter as the poet had (7.109–111):

ἀφραίνεις Μενέλαε διοτρεφές, οὐδέ τί σε χρὴ
ταύτης ἀφροσύνης· ἀνὰ δὲ σχέο κηδόμενός περ,
μηδ’ ἔθελ’ ἐξ ἔριδος σεῦ ἀμείνονι φωτὶ μάχεσθαι… [47]
Let us turn now to two nearly identical scenes that follow a similar sequence to the one observed above: in both, verbal markers signal that death may be at hand for a hero, before a character steps in and voices a warning enabling the hero to avoid death. These scenes are of interest to me here because they provide another pattern from which the scene of the death of Patroclus diverges. The two scenes occur in books 5 and 16 respectively, when Diomedes and Patroclus each reaches a point at which he has carried his aristeia to its limits. The decisive point in both cases is marked by the presence of the traditional “three + one crescendo,” which points up the threat posed to the heroes, as each of them reaches the pinnacle of his heroic achievements. [48] When he comes face to face with Apollo (5.432–444), Diomedes has already successfully wounded Aphrodite and the god of war Ares himself. On his end, Patroclus has gone far beyond the limits established by Achilles in his instructions to him. [49] The moment both heroes reach the height of their respective aristeiai is a critical one, as is made clear from the presence of the epithet δαίμονι ἶσος, which signals the moment in which they have reached the climax of their antagonistic relationship to the god Apollo. [50] Compare 5.436–439:

τρὶς μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἐπόρουσε κατακτάμεναι μενεαίνων,
τρὶς δέ οἱ ἐστυφέλιξε φαεινὴν ἀσπίδ’ Ἀπόλλων·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας προσέφη ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων·

and 16.702–706:

τρὶς μὲν ἐπ’ ἀγκῶνος βῆ τείχεος ὑψηλοῖο
Πάτροκλος, τρὶς δ’ αὐτὸν ἀπεστυφέλιξεν Ἀπόλλων
χείρεσσ’ ἀθανάτῃσι φαεινὴν ἀσπίδα νύσσων.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·
As Menelaus was by Agamemnon, Diomedes and Patroclus are deterred from pursuing a deadly confrontation with a far greater opponent than they. Their deaths are averted here through a warning issued not by a philos, but by the lethal opponent himself: Apollo. The stern warnings issued by the god to both Diomedes and Patroclus present the same elements as Agamemnon’s speech to Menelaus: an address in the vocative (Τυδεΐδη, διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες) and a reminder of how inferior they are to their stronger opponent, and hence (in the second case) inept to the feat they are attempting. Compare 4.440–442:

φράζεο Τυδεΐδη καὶ χάζεο, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν
ἶσ’ ἔθελε φρονέειν, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτε φῦλον ὁμοῖον
ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ’ ἀνθρώπων

and 16.707–709:

χάζεο διογενὲς Πατρόκλεες· οὔ νύ τοι αἶσα
σῷ ὑπὸ δουρὶ πόλιν πέρθαι Τρώων ἀγερώχων,
οὐδ’ ὑπ’ Ἀχιλλῆος, ὅς περ σέο πολλὸν ἀμείνων.

Both Diomedes and Patroclus take heed of Apollo’s warning, and retreat. They live.

Shortly after the first confrontation with Apollo in book 16, Patroclus faces him again. This second confrontation also follows a “three + one” structure and, on Patroclus’ fourth attempt, we again find the epithet equating him with a god, δαίμονι ἶσος (16.784–786):

τρὶς μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἐπόρουσε θοῷ ἀτάλαντος Ἄρηϊ
σμερδαλέα ἰάχων, τρὶς δ’ ἐννέα φῶτας ἔπεφνεν.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
ἔνθ’ ἄρα τοι Πάτροκλε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή·
But this sequence has a different outcome. Patroclus’ continued attack on the Trojans has roused the god’s anger, as Achilles predicted, and he must pay the price for his stubborn persistence. [51] The audience is led to suspect as much from the beginning of the crescendo, where another epithet, θοῷ ἀτάλαντος Ἄρηϊ (16.784), has been introduced, which marks Patroclus for death by likening him to Ares. [52] In this three + one sequence, the fourth attempt is not followed by a warning from Apollo or any fellow Achaean: [53] instead, Patroclus will be killed. At this crucial juncture, the poet calls out to the hero with an apostrophe (line 786), which I would now like to focus on, taking into consideration my earlier observations to note the significant variations that demarcate this scene as unique: most importantly, the place and function of the apostrophes within it.
In the scenes I analyzed above, the apostrophe was part of a sequence: the poet voiced his sympathy for the character in a manner that called attention to the threat at hand, thereby exalting the audience’s sense of danger and momentarily heightening the dramatic effect of a scene before an intervention in word or deed on the part of a god or hero prevented the grim event envisaged by the apostrophe from taking place. As Patroclus’ name is called out when he confronts Apollo a second time, no such intervention takes place. The narrator goes on to describe, after the first apostrophe, how Apollo appears in back of Patroclus, in a mist, and strikes him from behind, making his eyes reel and sending his helmet crashing to the ground, covered in blood (16.788–80); and after the second (line 812), how Euphorbus’ spear wounds Patroclus (16.805–815), before Hector deals him the final blow (16.818–829).
Throughout the scene, the deviation from the protective intervention pattern is all the more patent as the formula used to address Patroclus when death comes at him in the form of the god Apollo (ἔνθ’ ἄρα τοι Πάτροκλε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή [16.787]) is the very same as the one that occurs when Menelaus is threatened by death at the hands of Hector in book 7 (ἔνθά κέ τοι Μενέλαε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή [7.104]), before being rescued by Agamemnon. Agamemnon’s presence at his brother’s side and the speech he utters deter Menelaus and save him from going to his doom. [54] The parallelism in diction brings out the contrast between Patroclus’ and Menelaus’ respective fates, making the audience feel the stinging absence of any intervention, in word or action, that would be necessary to save Patroclus from his fate. The conspicuously absent figure here is, of course, Achilles. Unlike Agamemnon, the son of Peleus is tragically missing from the scene of Patroclus’ demise. [55] Though Patroclus is his nearest and dearest philos, [56] he remains unable to eliminate the danger and the audience’s sense of the vulnerability of the hero. [57] Patroclus dies hopelessly alone. [58]
The two apostrophes in the scene of Patroclus’ death (16.787 and 16.812) [59] contribute to making Patroclus’ helplessness and Achilles’ powerlessness the focus of the scene, both of which confer a distinctive note of pathos on the episode. Mueller convincingly demonstrated that the poet makes us view the scene of Patroclus’ terrifying death through the eyes of Achilles. Referring to the lines describing the last time Achilles sees Patroclus as he walks off to meet his fate, [60] he states that they “are a discreet reminder of Achilles’ anxiety; they also guide the perspective of the reader, who follows Patroklos where Achilles leaves off. The peculiar horror and pathos of Patroklos’ death are in good measure a result of the manipulation of the reader’s response so that he stands in for Achilles and becomes the witness of the friend’s death. From the pursuing glances to the moment of foreboding, Patroklos is never out of the eyes of the reader/Achilles.” [61]
In his study of the language of heroes in the Iliad, Martin establishes that Achilles’ language is the foregrounding of Homer’s own aesthetic. [62] He takes Mueller’s important observation that Achilles is the focalizer of the scene of Patroclus’ death a step further, [63] noting that Achilles’ voice merges with the poet’s in this scene, as is manifest in the use of the apostrophe. At the time of Patroclus’ undoing, Martin writes, “… Homer himself sees the death through the eyes of Achilles, his alter ego. In this regard, apostrophe is natural: Achilles, after all, is the one hero who most often addresses Patroklos in the course of the poem. If Homer puts on the role of his hero, this speech habit comes with it.” [64] Achilles is not only the one who addresses Patroclus most often over the course of the Iliad; barring one exception, [65] he is the one who utters every address to Patroclus in the vocative within book 16 outside of the poet’s apostrophes. Thus, when death comes to Patroclus through the ranks in the form of an invisible Apollo, the audience hears the poet’s voice and viewpoint merge with that of Achilles as the narrator shifts from “the otherwise rigidly third-person narrator of the Iliad [66] to a more direct second-person address directed at Patroclus just before Apollo strikes him with a down-turned hand and disarms him (16.787–789): [67]

ἔνθ’ ἄρα τοι Πάτροκλε φάνη βιότοιο τελευτή·
ἤντετο γάρ τοι Φοῖβος ἐνὶ κρατερῇ ὑσμίνῃ
δεινός· ὃ μὲν τὸν ἰόντα κατὰ κλόνον οὐκ ἐνόησεν…
We hear the same shift in the narratorial voice once again when the young Trojan Euphorbus steps forward, seizing the opportunity to stab Patroclus now that he is naked before hastening back into the Trojan ranks in fear (16.812–813):

ὅς τοι πρῶτος ἐφῆκε βέλος Πατρόκλεες ἱππεῦ
οὐδὲ δάμασσ’· ὃ μὲν αὖτις ἀνέδραμε, μίκτο δ’ ὁμίλῳ… [68]
The above apostrophes call to mind the earlier utterances addressed to Patroclus by characters within the narrative (Achilles’ and Apollo’s); like those earlier warnings, they also remain without effect, this time with fatal consequences. The particular pathos of these apostrophes is accentuated by the audience’s strong sense of Achilles’ desire to protect Patroclus, which the poet repeatedly emphasizes before this scene, most notoriously in Achilles’ prayer to Zeus as he watches Patroclus head into battle (16. 241–245). [69] From the time he set out with him for Troy, Achilles has been concerned with keeping Patroclus safe and returning him home to his father in Opoeis. Before allowing Patroclus to don his armor and enter the fray in his stead, he urges him not go beyond pushing the Trojans away from the Achaean ships. [70] After Patroclus’ death, Achilles painfully recalls his promise to Menoetius that he would bring his son back home again after sacking Troy (18.323–327). [71] The very utterance of the apostrophes calls attention to their own vanity by playing up the tension between the danger looming and the desire to warn and protect that they express, along with the inability to intervene of both the poet and Achilles qua poet. [72] The pathetic focalization of the scene through Achilles’ eyes, whereby he is “viewing” the death of Patroclus without being able to prevent it, is thus reinforced by the presence of the apostrophes: both play up the themes of power and vulnerability, heroism and mortality, which lie at the core of the Iliad. [73]
The audience has known all along that Patroclus’ death would come. The poet creates a sense of its ineluctability by making reference to it both within the narrative and in words spoken by the gods. [74] By showing the scene of Patroclus’ killing through Achilles’ eyes, however, the poet intensifies its dramatic impact by making the audience witness the scene through the emotional lens of one who did not foresee it. Achilles’ virtual witnessing of the scene is all the more poignant as several details stress Patroclus’ own lack of awareness that his death is close at hand. Even as Apollo strikes him, he remains unable to comprehend the divine aggression to which he is being subjected (16.788–792):

ἤντετο γάρ τοι Φοῖβος ἐνὶ κρατερῇ ὑσμίνῃ
δεινός· ὃ μὲν τὸν ἰόντα κατὰ κλόνον οὐκ ἐνόησεν,
ἠέρι γὰρ πολλῇ κεκαλυμμένος ἀντεβόλησε·
στῆ δ’ ὄπιθεν, πλῆξεν δὲ μετάφρενον εὐρέε τ’ ὤμω
χειρὶ καταπρηνεῖ, στρεφεδίνηθεν δέ οἱ ὄσσε.
He does not notice (οὐκ ἐνόησεν) that Apollo is approaching; nor could he, given that the god is hidden in a mist (ἠέρι γὰρ πολλῇ κεκαλυμμένος ἀντεβόλησε), and strikes him from behind (στῆ δ’ ὄπιθεν) with such overwhelming force that his eyes spin (πλῆξεν δὲ μετάφρενον εὐρέε τ’ ὤμω | χειρὶ καταπρηνεῖ, στρεφεδίνηθεν δέ οἱ ὄσσε). His blindness and confusion contrast with the audience’s knowledge that death is near, and with Achilles’ “poetic” awareness of it throughout this scene. [75]
As the audience witnesses the death of Patroclus, it is the inevitability of his own death that we see Achilles come to terms with. The whole scene does not merely show us Patroclus’ death through Achilles’ eyes; it is also simultaneously a “rehearsal” of Achilles’ own death, as seen by Achilles. [76] The apostrophe serves as a reminder that Patroclus both is and is not Achilles—the distinction of their identities being made clear from the mere fact that “Achilles” here addresses Patroclus in the second person. Muellner calls attention to this point: “…. The otherwise rigidly third-person narrator of the Iliad actually addresses in the second-person singular, as a “you,” right before the moment of his death. That is a grammatical symptom of the special sympathy and philotês his character evokes and expresses. One could characterize Patroklos’ substitution for Achilles as the combination of a character that embodies solidarity (a “you”) with one who embodies remoteness (a “he”) because each is the other’s “I.” [77]
It has been suggested that the apostrophes to the dying in Homeric poetry may be connected with the ritual practice of apostrophizing the dead. [78] Whether or not the connection with ritual is there, it remains true that every address to Patroclus in the vocative throughout the Iliad following book 16 is uttered by Achilles in lament for his philos; the last occurrence is an address to Patroclus’ ghost. [79] The apostrophes punctuating the scene of Patroclus’ death thus gesture toward Achilles’ later, mournful invocations to Patroclus. Through the apostrophes, the poetry anticipates Achilles’ excruciating grief to come [80] by initiating his transition from ignorance to painful knowledge on a poetic level, before Achilles has actually been informed of Patroclus’ fate. [81]
The scene of Patroclus’ death has a profound impact on us because it generates a sense of Achilles’ emotional reaction to it. It is a perfect example of the way in which the Homeric epic acquires its tragic nature, aptly described by Bassett (1938) as follows: “… both Attic tragedy and the Homeric poems show clearly that action is only, as it were, the skeleton of the organism, whose life is most deeply revealed by the effect of the incidents upon the persons. [82] In Attic tragedy we witness only the psychological “reaction” to off-scene occurrences. In Homer, “father of tragedy,” it is less the actions than their dramatized effect upon the persons which makes the deepest impression of the finality of great lives…” Bassett goes on to cite the laments for Patroclus and Hector as examples. I would add that the apostrophes to Patroclus (and the Achillean focalization they reflect in the scene of his death) are crucial tools in the poet’s arsenal that convey the “dramatized effect” of Patroclus’ death on his nearest and dearest philos—an effect which, in turn, guides the audience’s response as well. [83] By expressing the sympathy of the poet and merging the poet’s voice with that of Achilles, the apostrophe plays an important role in foregrounding the tension that lies at the heart of the scene of Patroclus’ death, between the necessity that Patroclus (and, subsequently, Achilles) die in order for them to receive kleos, [84] and the cost at which this kleos comes.


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[ back ] 1. Culler thus describes apostrophes across all genres (1977:59).
[ back ] 2. Parry (1972) convincingly offers a definitive argument against the explanation of apostrophes on strictly metrical grounds (pace Matthews [1980]). Yamagata [1989:91] gives a summary of those who align themselves with Parry and those who maintain the metrical explanation, with bibliography.
[ back ] 3. All citations of the Iliad are from the OCT text of Monro and Allen.
[ back ] 4. For a complete list of all the apostrophes in the Iliad and an attempt to categorize them by context, see Henry (1905). Henry labels one category “at an important crisis for the hero apostrophized,” which is relevant to my analysis below, but omits several examples that belong under it.
[ back ] 5. See Culler (1977:68) on the tension between the narrative’s temporal sequence and the resistance of the apostrophe, whose now is the now of discourse. In the case of Homeric poetry, that now is also the now of performance.
[ back ] 6. The scholion on Π 787 offers the most thorough explanation of what the poet is expressing as he condoles with his characters (συναχθόμενος) by way of the apostrophe. For a complete list of all relevant scholia that comment on the apostrophes as expressions of the compassion of the poet for the character, see De Jong (1987:13 and 225n.40). Pseudo-Longinus’ On the Sublime 16.2 includes a discussion of the powerful psychological effect of the apostrophe on the listener, due to its sublimity and emotional quality (see Zyroff (1971:13–14). The compassionate tone of the apostrophe is recognizable across genres; see Culler (1977:59): the apostrophe “indicate intense involvement,” a “powerful outburst of concern.”
[ back ] 7. Parry (1972:9). Patroclus is “the sweetest and most compassionate of the Homeric warriors” (1972:10), “der Lieblingsheld des Iliasdichters” (Baltes [1983:47, including n.59]. On Patroclus as a “loyal, sensible, altruistic character,” see also Janko (1992:317–318) with bibliography. On the emotional effect of apostrophes and their role in eliciting the audience’s sympathy, see Zyroff (1971); Block (1986); and Martin (1989:235 n.17, with bibliography).
[ back ] 8. On the death of Patroclus, and parallel scenes in the Iliad, see Lowenstam (1981). Apollo is only the first of three agents involved. For a fresh take on the surprising presence and role of the Trojan Euphorbus in the killing of Patroclus, after he has been struck by Apollo and before he is dealt the final, lethal blow by Hector (16.806–815), see Allan (2005).
[ back ] 9. I am borrowing the expression from Griffin (1976:162); he touches briefly on apostrophes, but his article focuses on the creation of pathos in Homeric poetry through the short “obituaries” given heroes at the time of their death.
[ back ] 10. I will turn to these in the second part of this paper.
[ back ] 11. 16.584–585: ὣς ἰθὺς Λυκίων Πατρόκλεες ἱπποκέλευθε |ἔσσυο καὶ Τρώων, κεχόλωσο δὲ κῆρ ἑτάροιο.
[ back ] 12. 16.754: ὣς ἐπὶ Κεβριόνῃ Πατρόκλεες ἆλσο μεμαώς.
[ back ] 13. Each includes the same form of Patroclus’ name in the vocative, accompanied by the epithet ἱππεῦ. On the parallels between Nestor and Patroclus created by the attribution of the epithet “horseman” to both and their significance, see Frame (2009: chapter 4, §2.16 and §2.17; I use the paragraph designation here for easy reference to Frame’s monograph, available in its entirety online). Yamagata (1989:102–103) suggests this particular epithet is a “definitive epithet reserved for ” because it is laden with meaning: it is driving Achilles’ horses, she notes, that both glorifies Patroclus and leads to his death.
[ back ] 14. Parry (1972:12–14).
[ back ] 15. On the connections between Achilles’ name, akhos, and the Achaeans, see Nagy (1979:69–93).
[ back ] 16. This is Lombardo’s evocative translation. On Achilles’ feeling of regret (rather than guilt), see Muellner (1996:160–161).
[ back ] 17. There is another association of the speech formula with death and lament, when it introduces Agamemnon’s proleptic lament for Menelaus on seeing his brother bleed abundantly, in a scene from book 4 that I discuss below (4.153ff).
[ back ] 18. The English word “fool” or “foolish” hardly conveys the loaded semantic richness of the Greek term νήπιος. On the mental and social disconnection of those who are called νήπιος in the Homeric poems and the often fatal consequences of their lack of foresight, see Edmunds (1990) 60ff. Edmunds draws attention to the fact that the same νήπιος is used when Patroclus attempts to overcome Hector and causes his own death: first, by the poet, when Patroclus blatantly disregards Achilles’ advice (16.686), and then again by Hector right after he has dealt Patroclus the final, deadly blow (16.833). It is tragically ironic that the same term that the poet uses to highlight Patroclus’ fatal lack of foresight is also employed lightheartedly by Achilles at the very beginning of book 16, when he compares Patroclus to a little girl weeping and tugging at her mother’s skirt (16.7–8). On this intriguing first scene of book 16, see Ledbetter (1993). On νήπιος and other evaluative and affective words explicitly formulating the poet’s judgment of a character’s actions, see De Jong (1987:136–145). Zyroff (1971) discusses the use of terms foreshadowing misfortune in conjunction with apostrophes in the section of her dissertation on “apostrophes to characters.”
[ back ] 19. See for instance 7.455 and 8.152.
[ back ] 20. Since Patroclus’ speech leads to his death, and his death in turn will lead to Achilles’ own, it is of “a deadly sort” for Achilles himself.
[ back ] 21. 16.850: σὺ δέ με τρίτος ἐξεναρίζεις. For more on the derogatory nature of this comment, see e.g. Lowenstam (1981:122–123) and Allan (2005).
[ back ] 22. After Patroclus breathes out his last breath, Hector in turn utters defiant words (16.859–861) over his dead body that show him to be as fatally dismissive of Patroclus’ warning as Patroclus was (indirectly) of Achilles’, and as Achilles will be of his own advice to Patroclus in his ultimate confrontation with Apollo, beyond the confines of the Iliad. On the relationship of the Patrocleia to the rest of the Iliad, see Reinhardt (1961) 17–37.
[ back ] 23. On the death that must accompany Patroclus’ identification with Achilles, see Sinos (1975), especially the chapter on Patroclus as therapôn. On the Patrocleia as a ritual substitution, see Nagy (1979:292–295). See also below nn.30, 51, and 71.
[ back ] 24. 16.843–850.
[ back ] 25. On Patroclus’ loss of identity and its connection with philotês, see Sinos (1975).
[ back ] 26. Baltes (1983:47–48).
[ back ] 27. Whitman (1958:199ff) points out that, in the Patrocleia, Patroclus’ behavior is ever more at odds with his own nature, and more and more a reflection of Achilles’. He describes the superimposition of the two heroes’ identities as “a kind of double image, as in surrealistic painting… Patroclus is playing the role of Achilles… and acts much more like the great hero than himself.”
[ back ] 28. See below, pp.13ff.
[ back ] 29. 16.666–683.
[ back ] 30. 16.684ff.
[ back ] 31. See 16.86–90 in particular. Sinos (1975:30–52) demonstrates how Patroclus only qualifies as the therapôn of Achilles so long as he stays within limits that define him as Achilles’ “recessive equivalent:” “The therapôn becomes vulnerable when he goes off on his own” (Sinos [1975:33]). See above n.22 and below, nn. 51 and 71.
[ back ] 32. On the poet’s judgment of a character’s actions and νήπιος, see n.17.
[ back ] 33. The injection of such a note of regret gives the audience a sense of Patroclus’ tragic involvement in bringing about his own death (although Zeus’ role is also mentioned at 16.688). In a direct echo of the narrator’s words, Achilles voices the same regret that Patroclus did not follow his instructions when he has a premonition that his dear friend has died, just before Antilochus delivers the ghastly news of his death to him (18.13–14): σχέτλιος· ἦ τ’ ἐκέλευον ἀπωσάμενον δήϊον πῦρ | ἂψ ἐπὶ νῆας ἴμεν, μηδ’ Ἕκτορι ἶφι μάχεσθαι.
[ back ] 34. 4.146–147.
[ back ] 35. For Agamemnon’s frightened reaction, see 4.148–182.
[ back ] 36. At 4.150 and 4.183–187 respectively.
[ back ] 37. The tradition, of course, forbids the crisis from fully playing itself out: the death of Menelaus would entail (as Agamemnon repeatedly emphasizes when he begins his lament after his brother is wounded in book 4 [4.148–182]) the nostos of all the Greek warriors, and hence bring an end to the narrative of the Iliad.
[ back ] 38. On the poet’s reasons for focusing our attention on both Menelaus and Athena at this decisive point, see Parry (1972:15).
[ back ] 39. 4.130–133.
[ back ] 40. The role of similes in foreshadowing the outcome of a battle scene has been thoroughly examined; see e.g. Moulton (1977, esp. 24–26, and 74–75) and Lonsdale (1990). Létoublon (2005:4 n.14) provides additional bibliography.
[ back ] 41. Zyroff (1971:37–39) discusses other scholars’ assessments of the different but comparable use of the poet’s apostrophes to the Muses as a way of heralding a new development or signaling a major change in the plot.
[ back ] 42. See 15.551 regarding Melanippus’ being treated “like a son” by Priam.
[ back ] 43. The link between apostrophes and death has been made by e.g. Henry (1905:9), who formulates the interesting hypothesis that there is a connection between the apostrophe to the dying in poetry and the ritual practice of apostrophizing the dead. See below n.76.
[ back ] 44. Compare the apostrophe to Patroclus above where the poet also included a mention of his imminent death at 16.692–693—and no contrafactual. On “if… not” clauses in the Iliad, see De Jong (1987:68–81) and Lang (1989); on their role in leading the audience down a path forbidden by the tradition that encourages us to “momentarily … expect or fear the death of a major figure,” see Louden (1993, quotation from 184), with bibliography (nn.1–3 especially).
[ back ] 45. The protective figure may be divine or mortal. For examples of divine interventions preventing dire events (whose destructive potential is played out within pivotal contrafactuals) from taking place, see Louden (1993:184 n8).
[ back ] 46. This is an inverse variation on type-scenes in which gods intervene to encourage one or the other camp not to flee; see Fenik (1968:212).
[ back ] 47. Compare 7.104: ἔνθά κέ τοι Μενέλαε and 7.109: ἀφραίνεις Μενέλαε.
[ back ] 48. I am borrowing the “three + one” designation from Parry (1972:14). Death is a distinct possibility as the outcome of such a crescendo. Janko (1992:399) provides other examples of these triple attempt scenes, in which the fourth attempt ends in death.
[ back ] 49. Patroclus has already accomplished practically all of Achilles’ objectives from the time he kills his very first man in battle, Pyraichmes (16. 287); from then on, he defies Achilles’ instructions by going beyond the limits Peleus’ son had clearly established.
[ back ] 50. See Nagy (1979:142–144): “the deployment of this epithet <δαίμονι ἶσος> coincides with the climax of ritual antagonism between the god and the hero.” Only Diomedes, Patroclus, and Achilles receive the epithet.
[ back ] 51. See Achilles’ warning at 16.87–96. Achilles himself, according to the tradition, will not back down when faced with Apollo in his attempt to take Troy single-handedly, ignoring the very advice he gives Patroclus at 16.86–100; see Whitman (1958:201) and Lowenstam (1981:115–118).
[ back ] 52. On Patroclus as the therapôn of Ares himself at this particular point, see Nagy (1979:292–295). On Patroclus as the therapôn of Achilles here, see above, nn.22 and 30, and below n.71.
[ back ] 53. At 20.447ff we find another triple attempt scene with a remarkable variation in relation to the two examined above. Achilles is also called δαίμονι ἶσος as he faces Hector and simultaneously challenges Apollo; but on the fourth attempt, instead of being the addressee of words of warning issued by the god, it is Achilles himself who speaks, warning Hector that his death is imminent. As the audience knows, and as Thetis herself reminds Achilles, Hector’s death means his own (18.95–96).
[ back ] 54. Agamemnon’s words at lines 109–110 of book 7: ἀφραίνεις Μενέλαε διοτρεφές, οὐδέ τί σε χρὴ | ταύτης ἀφροσύνης· ἀνὰ δὲ σχέο κηδόμενός περ… (with the name in the vocative appropriately changed) would be appropriate for Achilles to speak to Patroclus at this point, were he present at his side.
[ back ] 55. Achilles is not present on the battlefield at his side because the Achaeans took away his geras and brought him akhos (16.48–79); see n.12. Block (1986) 160 notes how the use of the apostrophe in books 7 and 16 underlines the similarity between Menelaus and Patroclus while also bringing out the contrast between the “arrogant and insensitive protector Agamemnon,” who nonetheless successfully rescues his younger brother, and Achilles, “whose sense of honor leads him to sacrifice his friend and protégé.” Note that no god intervenes on Patroclus’ behalf either, as Athena did when Pandarus shot his arrow at Menelaus.
[ back ] 56. On the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, see Sinos (1975). Achilles himself says Patroclus is dearer to him than father and son (19.321–324). Mills (2000) explores the role of similes, both animal and human, in developing the theme of protection that is central to their relationship.
[ back ] 57. Accordingly, the part of the hexameter pertaining to Patroclus (ἔνθ’ ἄρα τοι Πάτροκλε) does not have any of the grammatical markers of a contrafactual apodosis (compare the κέ in 7.104). The poet’s statement is in the indicative: death actually did “appear for you, Patroclus,” though it merely would have for Menelaus, had not Agamemnon launched into the tirade that saves his brother (7.109–119).
[ back ] 58. As Patroclus is dying, Hector mocks his helplessness in light of the tragic absence of Achilles: (16.837: ἆ δείλ’, οὐδέ τοι ἐσθλὸς ἐὼν χραίσμησεν Ἀχιλλεύς). The son of Menoetius’ helpless terror is accentuated by the fact that he is not even able to see whether or whence his opponent is coming: Apollo covers himself in mist and comes at him from behind (16.788–790); I return to this below. Mueller (1985:58) contrasts the death of Sarpedon earlier on in book 16 (at the hands of Patroclus) with that of Patroclus himself, who dies “alone and unexpectedly,” while Glaucus remains at Sarpedon’s side until death overcomes him.
[ back ] 59. Both are quoted below.
[ back ] 60. 16.253–256: στῆ δὲ πάροιθ’ ἐλθὼν κλισίης, ἔτι δ’ ἤθελε θυμῷ| εἰσιδέειν Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν φύλοπιν αἰνήν.
[ back ] 61. Mueller (1985:55–56). In fact, by book 11, Achilles is concerned for all of the Achaeans, and watches the strife from afar (11.600–601); see Whitman (1958:195) and Kim (2000:103–120).
[ back ] 62. Martin (1989).
[ back ] 63. On narrators and focalizers in the Iliad, see De Jong (1987).
[ back ] 64. Martin (1989); see 235–236 on apostrophes in particular.
[ back ] 65. The exception is Apollo, when he utters his warning (16.707–709) that Patroclus is not fated to take Troy.
[ back ] 66. Muellner (1996:160).
[ back ] 67. On the significance of the down-turned hand, see Lowenstam (1981).
[ back ] 68. This second apostrophe expresses deep sympathy for Patroclus at a moment when he is made yet more vulnerable and helpless. The audience’s heightened sense of apprehension at what is to come is enforced by the combination of πρῶτος and the ensuing negation οὐδὲ δάμασσ’, both of which stress that this is but the first step in Patroclus’ slow killing. On the “slow-motion technique” used by the poet in this scene, see Janko (1992:411). On the three different agents involved, see n.6.
[ back ] 69. Zeus only grants Achilles half of his wish: Patroclus will receive glory, but not return to the ships (16.249–252).
[ back ] 70. 16.87–96, especially lines 91–94 (Apollo subsequently utters another warning [16.707–709]). The protective and caring note underlying Achilles’ warning speech is retroactively accentuated by the harsh tenor of Hector’s own fictitious speech when he impersonates Achilles, standing over Patroclus’ body (16.830–841). In the speech, Hector wrongly supposes that Achilles ordered Patroclus not to return to the Achaean ships before killing him. For other examples of Achilles’ desire to protect Patroclus, see also 17.411, 655 and 18.80–81 and Nagy (1979:102–106).
[ back ] 71. Compare Menoetius, who advised Patroclus to guide Achilles using his maturity and wisdom, as the older one of the pair (11.780–790). The same motif of returning a dear one safely to his home is found in Agamemnon’s lament over Menelaus after the latter is wounded by Pandarus in the scene from book 4 I discussed above.
[ back ] 72. Achilles’ powerless presence is also strongly felt in the scene through the account of his divine weapons’ inability to protect Patroclus (16.793–804). When Apollo strikes Patroclus on his back, they come crashing to the ground, and his helmet is grimed with dust and blood. The poet specifically stresses how differently the armor fared when it was worn by Achilles himself (16.796–799) and the gods protected it. The bloodied helmet also foreshadows Achilles’ own ultimate fate to come at the hands of Apollo: Patroclus’ death is a “shadow play” of the death of Achilles; see Whitman (1958:198ff) and above nn.22, 30, and 51 on Patroclus as Achilles’ therapôn.
[ back ] 73. Though Thetis foresees and repeatedly predicts her son Achilles’ death, she too, like Achilles for Patroclus, remains nonetheless unable to prevent it, in spite of her divine nature. The audience witnesses her helplessness already within the confines of the Iliad, though Achilles’ death is not narrated per se, through the death of Patroclus. The description of Achilles in his grief, his head held in his mother’s lap, would also fittingly describe a dead Achilles being lamented by his mother (18.70–72 and beyond). On the power—and helplessness—of Thetis and her impotent grief in the Iliad and beyond, see Slatkin (1991).
[ back ] 74. Zeus predicts the death of Patroclus at 15.53–67. The poet also announces its inevitability at several points; see e.g., 11.604.
[ back ] 75. Achilles’ “poetic” knowledge—that is, the knowledge conferred on him by the poetics of the scene—precedes his veritable discovery of Patroclus’ death when it is announced to him by Antilochus at 18.18–21, though he strongly suspects it before it is announced to him (see n.32).
[ back ] 76. See nn. 21, 28, 50, and 69 on Patroclus as Achilles’ therapôn. Mueller (1984:60) describes the unique process at hand: “Homer uses the convention of the death speech for Sarpedon, Patroklos and Hektor. But for his protagonist he resorted to a fiction that provided him with richer opportunities to express the consciousness of death. Achilles witnesses and reflects on the death of Patroklos-as-Achilles. He experiences his own death as if it were that of another.” When Thetis launches into a proleptic lament for Achilles himself on hearing her son describe his grief at the death of Patroclus (18.50–64), she underlines the connection between Patroclus’ death and Achilles’ own. Kim (2000:121–129) examines the many instances in which the language describing Achilles’ grief is barely distinguishable from language associated with death.
[ back ] 77. Muellner (1996:160).
[ back ] 78. Henry (1905); see n.42.
[ back ] 79. See 18.333, 19.287, and 23.19.
[ back ] 80. See his reaction at 18.22ff.
[ back ] 81. On what I have called Achilles’ “poetic knowledge,” see above, n.74. The dramatic impact of the scene in which the news is finally broken to Achilles at the beginning of book 18 is all the greater as the audience has been made to anticipate Achilles’ reaction to Patroclus’ death as it was occurring, while the tension between the audience and other heroes’ knowledge of Patroclus’ death and Achilles’ continued ignorance of it is maintained throughout the entirety of book 17. Even as the fight over Patroclus’ body rages, the divine Thetis herself does not inform her son of his friend’s death. The poet highlights the fact that Thetis specifically withholds this information from Achilles; see Beck (2012:176ff) on the unusual nature of 17.408–411, wherein the narrator “presents speech that was not actually spoken” by Thetis to Achilles.
[ back ] 82. Italics mine for emphasis.
[ back ] 83. In her discussion of narrative judgment and audience response in Homer, Block (1986:160–161) demonstrates that the use of the apostrophe “directs the audience to the necessary response” to Patroclus’ death by exposing the cost at which comes Achilles’ adherence to the heroic code.
[ back ] 84. On the relationship and tension between kleos (glory) and penthos (grief) in the Homeric poems, see Nagy (1979:94–117, including 102ff regarding the name of Patroclus). On the necessity of Patroclus’ death for Achilles to reenter battle as a philos and acquire kleos, see Sinos (1975:70–79).