Greek Hero


The Greeks and Trojans fighting for the Body of Patroclus by Antoine Wiertz

The Greeks and Trojans fighting for the Body of Patroclus by Antoine Wiertz (1836)

Antoine Wiertz Museum, IxellesPublic Domain


Patroclus, son of Menoetius, was a Greek hero from northern Greece and the closest companion of the famous Achilles. Patroclus accompanied Achilles to the Trojan War and stood loyally by his side when Achilles withdrew from the fighting due to a quarrel with the Greek general Agamemnon.

The Trojans took advantage of Achilles’ anger to storm the Greek camp, but Patroclus donned his friend’s armor to drive them back. During the battle, he was killed by the Trojan hero Hector. Achilles, crushed by the loss of his best friend, returned to the fighting and slew Hector to avenge Patroclus.[1]

Who were Patroclus’ parents?

Patroclus was the son of Menoetius, a hero from the region of Eastern Locris who had taken part in the voyage of the Argonauts. His mother’s name varied depending on the source, but we know that she was Menoetius’ wife.

Patroclus by Jacques-Louis David

Patroclus by Jacques-Louis David (1780)

Musée Thomas-Henry, Cherbourg-OctevillePublic Domain

Where did Patroclus live?

Patroclus originally hailed from Eastern Locris, a region in northern or north-central Greece. But he was banished as a boy for accidentally killing one of his playmates. Patroclus traveled north to Phthia and was taken in by Peleus, the father of Achilles.

In Phthia, Patroclus became the best friend and attendant of Achilles. The two grew up together and later traveled together to Troy to fight in the Trojan War.

Vase painting of Achilles and Patroclus

Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix showing Achilles (right) tending the wounded Patroclus (left), from Vulci (ca. 500 BCE)

Altes Museum, Berlin / Bibi Saint-PolPublic Domain

How did Patroclus die?

Patroclus was killed in the ninth year of the Trojan War. After Achilles withdrew from the fighting (due to a bitter quarrel with the Greek commander Agamemnon), the Trojans pressed their advantage and attacked the Greek camp. Patroclus, unable to watch his friends die, received permission from Achilles to don his friend’s fearsome armor and chase the Trojans back to their walls.

Patroclus managed to drive the Trojans back, killing several great heroes in the process. But he made the mistake of fighting Hector, the strongest of the Trojan warriors. Hector killed Patroclus and stripped Achilles’ armor from the body.

Menelaus holding the body of Patroclus

Roman statue of Menelaus holding the body of Patroclus (or Achilles holding the body of Achilles), 1st century CE copy after a Greek original from the 3rd century BCE

Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence / Mary HarrschCC BY-SA 4.0

Patroclus and Achilles

Patroclus and Achilles grew up together after the young Patroclus was banished from his homeland for accidentally killing another boy. The two were inseparable; in a tradition that seemingly goes back to the tragedian Aeschylus, they may have even been lovers.

Because Patroclus and Achilles were so close, Achilles went nearly mad with grief when Hector killed Patroclus in battle. Achilles wasted no time avenging his friend, slaying Hector and mutilating his corpse before giving his beloved Patroclus a lavish funeral.

Achilles Displaying the Body of Hector at the Feet of Patroclus by Joseph-Barthélemy Lebouteux

Achilles Displaying the Body of Hector at the Feet of Patroclus by Joseph-Barthélemy Lebouteux (1769)

Beaux-Arts de ParisPublic Domain