The Song of Achilles Book Summary, by Madeline Miller

Download "The Song of Achilles Book Summary, by Madeline Miller" as PDF

Want to get the main points of The Song of Achilles in 20 minutes or less? Read the world’s #1 book summary of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller here.

Read a quick 1-Page Summary, a Full Summary, or watch video summaries curated by our expert team.

Video Summaries of The Song of Achilles

We’ve scoured the Internet for the very best videos on The Song of Achilles, from high-quality videos summaries to interviews or commentary by Madeline Miller.

Full Summary of The Song of Achilles

Overall Summary

The Song of Achilles is a book that retells the events of Homer’s Iliad. The author, Madeline Miller, published this book in 2012 and it has become very popular since then. The story is narrated by Patroclus who explores themes such as fate and glory throughout his narrative.

The novel begins with Patroclus narrating his birth and early childhood. He is the son of King Menoitius, who did not raise him well because he was a disappointment to his father. His father brought him to court when he was 9 years old as a suitor for Helen’s hand in marriage. However, she rejected him because they were too young to get married.

When Patroclus was 10, he accidentally killed a nobleman’s son. He was exiled for this and went to Phthia where he met Achilles, the son of King Peleus and Thetis. Although the two were very close friends, they had feelings for each other that went beyond friendship. They studied together with Chiron who is renowned as having trained many Greek heroes including Heracles (Hercules).

Achilles is 16 when his father Peleus asks him to join the Greek army in a war against Troy. However, Thetis knows that Achilles will die if he goes to Troy. She takes him away and disguises him as a woman. Still determined to keep Achilles from going to war, she marries him off but eventually becomes pregnant with their child.

When Patroclus finds out that his lover, Achilles, has left to fight in the Trojan War without him, he goes to find him. When they are found together by Odysseus and Diomedes, Peleus refuses to tell them where Achilles is. He then tells them about a prophecy that says if Hector dies before Achilles does, then Achilles will die soon after. In order for this not to happen, he will not go into battle against any of the Trojans except for Hector because it would mean his death.

Achilles is an excellent soldier. However, he’s not a leader. He clashes with Agamemnon after the latter announces that Achilles will be marrying his daughter Iphigenia as part of a plan to get them to Troy. The winds are bad and they need to sail there in order for the war to happen. To solve this issue, Agamemnon sacrifices his own daughter at Aulis so that the winds would blow again and allow them all to go on their journey towards Troy. This sacrifice angers Achilles because he doesn’t want any human sacrifices going on during this time period due to how barbaric it is considered by most people today.

The Greeks begin their siege of Troy, a city crafted by Apollo and protected by impenetrable walls. They conduct raids on nearby farms to starve out the population and flood it with refugees. In the process, they take local women as slaves to be used as sex slaves for warriors who need them. Patroclus helps Achilles claim Briseis from another warrior in order to save her from that fate. Meanwhile, Achilles revels in his battle skill while Patroclus works at tending to wounded soldiers in the infirmary even though he is horrified by what happens during battles.

Agamemnon takes Chryseis, a priestess of Apollo. He does this because he wants her to be his slave and not her father’s. Her father is furious at Agamemnon for taking his daughter away from him. He goes to the Greeks and tries to get them to help him retrieve Chryseis but they ignore him and mock him instead. Therefore, he prays to Apollo who sends a plague upon the Greek army as punishment for their actions against Chryseis’ father. Achilles calls an assembly so that Agamemnon can return Chryseis back to her father but in retaliation, Agamemnon takes Briseis from Achilles which makes Achilles even more angry than before. Eventually Thetis convinces Zeus (the King of Gods) that it would be better if the Trojans beat the Greeks and win this war so they will regret what they did with respect towards Achilles by disrespecting his honor further when they refused to give back Chryseis in response for having taken Briseus from him earlier on in the story.

The Greeks suffered losses in the war. The Trojans broke through their defenses and set fire to their ships, which were their only means of returning home. Patroclus became distraught because he couldn’t convince Achilles to return to battle. He then decided to impersonate him by wearing his armor so that he could lead a charge against the Trojans and retreat when necessary. However, once Patroclus started fighting, he failed to turn back despite promising Achilles that he would do so after killing one of Troy’s best leaders. Hector killed him before that happened.

Achilles is no longer interested in living, so he returns to battle and kills Hector. Shortly after, Paris kills Achilles. The Greeks build him a tomb but fail to include Patroclus’s name at the urging of his son; Patroclus’s shade wanders around until Thetis relents and writes his name on the tomb, enabling them to reunite joyfully in the afterlife.

Chapter 1

Patroclus remembers how his parents got married. His father, Menoitius, was a king who married Patroclus’ mother when she was fourteen years old because he wanted to have children. However, his father did not care that the young bride was “really stupid”, and he didn’t let her hold Patroclus when he was born. In spite of being small in stature and weak-voiced, Patroclus had good health and never seemed to get sick like other kids.

When Patroclus was five, he went to a festival hosted by his father. There were runners in the race and one of them won. The winner’s father was proud of him and this made Patroclus jealous because his own dad wasn’t as proud of him as that man’s dad was of his son. He also remembers skipping stones with his mom on the beach at Aegean Sea but he doubts its veracity since she died when he was very young so it is unlikely that they would have been alone together like that.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of 1000+ nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

Chapter 2

When Patroclus is nine, his father tells him to go and try to marry Helen. She’s a princess who was born from Zeus. Her mother had two sets of twins with her husband Tyndareus, king of Sparta: Clytemnestra and Castor by Tyndareus; Helen and Polydeuces by Zeus.

When Patroclus and his father arrive at Tyndareus’s palace, they find that many suitors have already begun to assemble. Patroclus plays with toys he brought from home as well as those given to him by a sympathetic soldier. Eventually, his father prepares to present him to Helen with a gift of a gold mixing bowl decorated with the story of Danae. He tells Patroclus not to disgrace them in front of the other men.

In a room, three women are sitting: Clytemnestra, Helen and Penelope. In front of them is Tyndareus who is welcoming the suitors for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Philoctetes brings Heracles’ bow as a gift to marry Helen. Idomeneus presents a double-headed ax while Menelaus gives him an expensive piece of cloth.

Among the suitors, Patroclus is the youngest. Menoitius speaks for him and proposes that he marry Helen since his own wife is unfit to rule. A man who has not yet presented himself, Odysseus, son of Laertes, says that he thought Patroclus was already a suitor; this angers Menoitius. Tyndareus asks Patroclus to present himself; when he does so, he declares himself a suitor and identifies himself as the son of a king.

There are many suitors who want to marry Helen. Tyndareus had promised her hand in marriage to the man who could best him in a contest of speed and strength. Odysseus suggests that each suitor should swear an oath to uphold Helen’s choice for husband after they compete against each other, so that she can choose the one she wants. The suitors agree because it gives them hope of being chosen by her. A priest sacrifices a goat and all the suitors swear the oaths with their hands on its entrails. When it is Menelaus’ turn, he picks up an axe but is unable to cut through a bundle of tough leather belts; Odysseus takes his turn and easily cuts through them all with his sword, winning Helen’s hand in marriage as well as Penelope’s (the third woman).

The events that Patroclus experienced while he was away from home seemed distant and pale after he returned. They didn’t seem real to him anymore, like something a bard had made up rather than an actual experience. It also seemed foolish and unlikely to him now.

Chapter 3

Patroclus is an orphan, and he ends up being exiled because of this. He had been playing with his dice in a field when the son of a nobleman came by and demanded Patroclus’s dice. The boy began to advance on him, but Patroclus pushed him away from fear that the boy would hurt him; unfortunately, the boy fell down and hit his head on a rock. Although Menoitius agreed to exile Patroclus instead of killing him for accidentally killing the boy, he did send gold as payment for what happened.

Peleus was favored by the gods and married a sea-nymph named Thetis. They had a son together, Achilles. Thetis left after one year to return to her home in the ocean, but she returned occasionally to visit her son.

When Patroclus arrives in Phthia, Peleus is away. His son, Achilles, rejects him. He remembers how he used to be a prince and now lives as an exile in the house of Peleus. He feels like he has fallen from his former position to that of a commoner and thus dislikes Achilles for treating him so poorly.

Patroclus does not want to play with the other children because they are too rowdy for his liking; instead, he chooses to spend time alone with his thoughts about what it means to be alive and dead at sea while dreaming of the boy who died on their voyage there. Every night when he goes back home from training with spears and swords, Patroclus dreams about this same boy who died during their journey here from Troy.

Chapter 4

Patroclus is lonely. His only comfort comes during meals, when he can sit with Achilles and the other boys. One evening, after eating dinner together, Patroclus looks at Achilles while they’re still sitting at the table. The two of them make eye contact for the first time ever and Patroclus feels something that night—anger or resentment toward his friend. Four weeks into their exile from battle, Achilles sits next to Patroclus again. He grabs figs out of a bowl on the table and begins tossing them back and forth between himself and Patroclus. After catching one in his mouth, Patroclus bites into another fig without realizing it’s been tossed by Achilles. Then, as if nothing happened, Achilles gets up from the table without looking back at him.

The next day, Peleus calls Patroclus to the throne room. He reminds him of what happened and tells him that he can still become a good man. After his audience with Peleus, the other boys learn why Patroclus was exiled. They regard him with fascination but keep their distance because they’re afraid of catching his bad luck and attracting the attention of the Erinyes (the Furies). Patroclus isolates himself from them so they won’t stare at him anymore.

Achilles is looking for Patroclus. He tells him that his father, Peleus, may be angry with him because of missed training sessions. Achilles suggests an excuse to avoid punishment and invites Patroclus to a lyre lesson so they can go see Peleus together.

Achilles presents two lyres to Patroclus and himself. One of them belonged to Achilles’s mother, Thetis, and the other was a gift from Phthia. Both are beautiful instruments that have their own unique qualities. However, when the lyre instructor arrives, he tries to take away Patroclus’s instrument because it is not as good as Achilles’s. Although angry at first, the instructor does not argue with Achilles about it because his music was so beautiful that he could play any lyre he wanted.

Chapter 5

Achilles brings Patroclus to his father, Peleus. Achilles apologizes for neglecting Patroclus’ training and not telling him that he wanted him as a “therapon” (a brother-in-arms sworn to a prince by blood oaths and love). He says it’s because he didn’t want anyone else to have the position. Peleus is surprised at this choice but tells Achilles that since Patroclus will be an exile, there will be no more honor for Achilles than before. But, Achilles doesn’t care about that; all he wants is someone who understands him.

Peleus asks why they should apologize when they did nothing wrong and sends them both away after sentencing them both to do so anyway.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of 1000+ nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

After meeting Peleus, Achilles tells Patroclus that he will see him at dinner. He has a training session, but no one is allowed to watch it. This order comes from his mother; the goddess of childbirth Eileithyia foretold that he would be the greatest warrior of his generation. At dinner, in front of other foster boys, Achilles announces that Patroclus can now sleep in his room; this surprises the other boys because Patroclus is small and ungrateful and probably cursed.

Achilles’s bedroom is close to the sea. A pallet has been laid out for Patroclus. Achilles asks him if he would like to help Achilles juggle. Patroclus agrees, and they toss the balls back and forth. Eventually, Achilles tires, and they go to sleep. In his sleep, Achilles looks beautiful but cold as moonlight. He longs for him to wake up from this state of suspended animation so that he can return to life again with all its joys and sorrows. The following day, Patroclus returns to the dormitory only find his bed stripped bare, leaving him feeling lost without any property or belonging left behind. From now on, he will be sleeping in Achilles’ room instead of returning home at night. Gradually, Patroclus begins trusting in Agelaus ‘ honesty after realizing that there won’t be anymore attempts made by others trying get rid of him by sending him away from camp. They begin confiding in each other before falling asleep at night time while lying next to each other with their heads resting together on a single pillow

Achilles invites Patroclus to watch him train. He trains alone and is better than anyone else because of his divine gift. Patroclus realizes that he’s seeing “more of the gods” than he has ever seen before, and understands why Achilles doesn’t want others watching him train; it would make them feel worthless in comparison. When Patroclus demands a fight, Achilles refuses, but when he asks if no one else is like Achilles, Achilles says that there are other people who are also great fighters. His response makes Patroclus stop feeling jealous about him being so good at fighting.

Chapter 6

Patroclus and Achilles spend their days climbing trees, racing, playing games, and exchanging stories. Through this friendship with each other, they feel more alive than ever before. They don’t mind that Patroclus always loses to Achilles because it’s enough just to watch him win.

Achilles is very upset with Patroclus for not explaining the circumstances of his exile, which he later learns was because Patroclus killed another boy in self-defense. He asks why Patroclus didn’t explain that to him and realizes it’s because he wasn’t cunning enough. His father thought he wasn’t worthy of being king and exiled him as a result. Achilles asks what would happen if someone were to try to take something from him, assuming that he’d be angry about it.

Peleus allows Patroclus to stay at his side at banquets. Peleus calls him owl, for his big eyes and silent watchfulness. At the end of the night, Peleus tells stories from when he was fighting alongside Hercules. He’s easy with compliments and this is why there are many gifts in his treasury and many alliances in his kingdom. Unlike most bragging heroes, Peleus is modest.

Achilles is not allowed to go see his mother by himself, because he smells like the sea. He tells Patroclus that his mother wants him to visit her underwater caves and Patroclus worries about it, since gods never mix with mortals in stories. When Achilles returns from one of these visits, he says that his mother wants to see him again. Patroclus knows this isn’t a request and goes alone to meet Thetis. She dislikes him and explains that Achilles will become a god soon after dying. She asks if he understands what she’s saying, which he does.

Achilles apologizes to Patroclus for his mother. He says that he doesn’t want to be a god yet, but would like to be a hero if there is war. His mother thinks that he will become better than Hercules was. Achilles asks Patroclus if he wants to become a god and they both laugh at the unlikelihood of this happening.

Chapter 7

Patroclus notices that other boys his age are having sex, but he and Achilles don’t. Patroclus is uncomfortable around most people except for Achilles. He doesn’t want a girl because of this. One evening, the two go to bed late after listening to Peleus (Achilles’ father) tell stories about Meleager, who was denied certain privileges by the king of Calydon and stopped protecting them from enemies as a result. Achilles pulls on Patroclus’s ankle while Peleus tells the story, trying to get him off his chair so they can go to sleep together in their room instead of staying up late with Peleus. Once they’re alone again, Patroclus asks if Achilles wants a girl; he responds by pushing him onto his pallet and lying down above him before saying he’s “sick of talking about her”.

One night, Patroclus dreams of Achilles. He longs for him and can’t express what he’s feeling. One day at the beach, Achilles catches Patroclus staring at him. They share a moment that makes them both uncomfortable. Achilles leaves quickly because he doesn’t want to be attracted to Patroclus. Later on, Thetis confronts Patroclus about his feelings toward her son. She says that she knows about their kiss and tells him not to follow after Achilles when he leaves. When they wake up the next morning, they say goodbye before going their separate ways.

Chapter 8

Patroclus is confused about whether to go back to the dormitory. He wants to leave, but he can’t because of his longing for the sea. So he decides on another path and runs toward Mount Pelion. However, once he realizes there’s no way that he’ll catch up with Achilles, Patroclus stops running and hears a sound behind him. It’s Achilles who tells Patroclus that “I hoped you would come.” Chiron appears and asks why Achilles has not yet come for training at his mountain. Patroclus figures out that it was because of him that Achilles was waiting for him all this time. Chiron greets them both by name and invites them onto his back so they can ride up the mountain together.

Chiron leads them to a cave on the peak, and inside they find bronze medical implements, cooking pots, musical instruments and a bed for Achilles. There’s also water from a spring which is fresh and nutritious. Patroclus expresses a desire to become good at music while Achilles asks Chiron to teach him medicine. In the late afternoon, he shows them around the area ending with a river where they bathe. On their way back home, he continues teaching them about animal tracks that they will need in order to hunt.

They continue to eat dinner in the cave. Chiron reveals that Thetis sent him a message to bar Achilles from following Patroclus if he did so, but he didn’t tell them because they would have obeyed her wishes. He tells them that it’s not his place to interfere with their friendship and asks what they think about this. Patroclus takes responsibility for following Achilles, saying that he had no idea Achilles would follow him. They ask why she doesn’t want him around and Chiron replies that she thinks mortals are unworthy of being friends with gods, then asks if they agree. They both say yes, though Patroclus worries about what will happen when she finds out they disobeyed her orders and Chiron tells them not to worry since nothing bad has happened yet anyway and advises them against giving up on their friendship just because of Thetis’ disapproval.

Chapter 9

The next day, Chiron starts teaching Achilles and Patroclus. They help with chores such as gathering berries, fishing and setting traps. They prepare meals for themselves. When one of them is hurt, they learn medical treatments and healing methods from Chiron. In the evenings, Chiron tells them stories about the constellations and the myths associated with them. When he tells the story of Heracles who went mad and murdered his wife and sons, Achilles remarks that it’s unfair that his family was punished instead of Heracles himself doing so since gods aren’t bound to be fair to mortals like us. However, Chiron points out that even though this may not be fair, being left behind in grief may actually mean a worse punishment than death itself. He also tells the legend of Asclepius who received credit which rightly belonged to his teacher,Chiron. Then, Achilles asks if it bothers him when people say he wasn’t responsible for discovering medicine or anything else. Smiling at first,he says no but then adds “Achilles…you must understand I am immortal; you are not.”

One autumn day, Patroclus is in the clearing alone. Suddenly Thetis appears and tells him that he was not meant to follow Achilles. Chiron arrives and informs Patroclus to return to the cave because his mother has arrived. Once there, they tell him that she will visit more often now. Although it’s an inconvenience for Patroclus, he doesn’t mind so much as long as no one else knows about their relationship.

In winter, the river freezes over and snow falls. Chiron teaches them how to read signs of spring. When the grass starts to grow again and days get warmer, Achilles asks Chiron to teach him how to fight. He agrees but warns that he doesn’t have anything new to teach him since he is already a great warrior like Heracles (Hercules). He tells Patroclus that there’s no glory in war fighting but one can learn basic skills needed for soldiery. When asked if he wants to learn those skills, Patroclus says no because it wouldn’t bring fame or glory; instead, they’d be learning just for self-defense purposes.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of 1000+ nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

The spring turns into summer and messengers from Peleus’s palace arrive with gifts. Achilles notes that they have been gone for almost a year. Patroclus asks if he misses the palace, but Achilles says he doesn’t miss it at all. Two years pass by.

Chapter 10

When the boys are 15, Patroclus notices that Achilles has begun to look older. They also notice each other’s body changes. Aroused by Achilles’s attention, Patroclus abruptly moves away. He observes that Patroclus “would not be displeased”  with how he looks now. When they turn 16, the boys will be considered men and can get married if they want to but there is only one person for him: Achilles. He recalls a conversation about sex he overheard from the foster boys at Peleus’ palace and reflects that for him there is only Achilles who ran from him at the beach and thinks too of Thetis’ disapproval on his relationship with her son because she wants him to have a wife instead of a lover like Patroclus. On Achilles’ 16th birthday, he receives gifts from Peleus, Chiron (Achilles’ teacher) and finally presents it to his best friend/lover -Patroclus- as well which made them both happy because this is their first gift between them two where Chiron saw it all coming in advance since he knew what was going on between these two teenagers so when everyone went off into bed after celebrating Achillies 16th birthday; Chiron yawned which made Achillies excuse himself along with Patrocess saying good night sleep tight old man (Chiron). But then again even though Achillies said it out loud but never really meant it cause deep down inside its just an facade or sort of lie towards chirons face cause hes still angry over what happened earlier today before hand where Achillies mother came up to see her son while visiting her brother Peleus over at his place were she told her brother about how unhappy she was seeing how close those 2 boys were getting together lately especially under your roof as well my dear brother besides i know you wouldnt approve either since im pretty sure you dont want your nephew being homosexual nor do you want me having any part in this kind of lifestyle myself anyway so yeah thats why i had no choice but to send patrecs back home with my mommy dearest later on tonight anyways long story short ill just leave u guys alone now ok? Goodnight!”

Achilles and Patroclus go back to the cave. Achilles tells Patroclus that they can’t be seen by Thetis in there, but she saw them on the beach. Patroclus realizes that this is an invitation, and they go to bed together. After, Achilles asks if he’s sorry about it now, and he isn’t. Neither is Achilles. He knows then that as long as Achilles wants him around, he won’t leave him again. The next morning, Patroclus worries about how things will change now that they’ve slept together; however, when Achilles reaches for his hand upon waking up after sleeping with each other last night (and every night since), everything feels right again—Achilles still loves him! They swim together at a river nearby afterwards; this time without worrying whether or not anyone sees them holding hands or kissing while swimming in public like lovers would do…

Patroclus worries that Chiron will be angry. Achilles does not care either way since he will not stop loving Patroclus. Likewise, neither his father nor his mother’s disapproval concerns him. This shocks Patroclus, who cannot fathom disregarding a father’s disapproval. Achilles asks Patroclus to name a hero who was happy and famous at the same time, but he can’t think of anyone except himself and Odysseus (a man with whom many people would disagree). He says that the gods never let you be both famous and happy because they give one without the other; however, since he loves Patroclus so much, he is going to try to become the first person in history to have both fame and happiness.

A soldier enters, and Achilles recognizes him as a messenger from his father. The man says that Mycenaean soldiers have arrived at Phthia, and they want to talk to Achilles. He tells Patroclus that he needs to go with him, so they prepare for the journey while Chiron asks them not to fight in other people’s wars. To Patroclus, Chiron notes how much he has changed since the last time they met and wishes them well on their journey.

Chapter 11

Achilles and Patroclus return home to find that Thetis and Peleus are there. Achilles asks for news, so they go into the dining hall where a raised platform holds three seats. Achilles tells them to set another seat for Patroclus because he is his “sworn companion”. He adds that it’s proper for him to sit beside him since he has been gone from home for three years. Patroclus worries that Thetis will be angry, but Achilles says she already hates him. They wonder why she came back since Chiron told them war was coming.

Peleus relays Mycenae’s message: Paris, son of Troy’s King Priam, has abducted Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon seek men from kingdoms throughout the Greek-speaking world to sail with them to Troy to rescue Helen. The Greeks promise that those who join the war effort will return home “wealthy and renowned”. They have asked Peleus for a delegation of soldiers, and he has agreed to send one, though he will not force anyone to go. A man asks who will lead the troops, and Peleus replies that it hasn’t been decided yet but his eyes flicked toward Achilles when he said this. Patroclus panics inwardly about how to keep Achilles safe as they are planning on sending him off on a dangerous mission where many people might die or get hurt in battle.

Peleus says that her message is more complicated than it seems. Before Helen was married to Menelaus, the suitors swore an oath to protect her marriage. Peleus begins reading a list of these suitors but Patroclus listens closely and realizes that his patronymic is included in the list, which makes him feel uncomfortable because he remembers how he had been forced as a boy to take part in this ceremony. Achilles tells Patroclus not to worry because they will consult with Chiron about what they should do next.

After the assembly is dismissed, Patroclus and Achilles sit by the fire with Peleus. He admits that he thought Achilles would want to lead the army. Achilles replies that he has not finished with Chiron. Peleus notes that Achilles has spent more time with the centaur than any hero before him, adding that the message came from Agamemnon. Peleus suspects that Agamemnon, having watched Troy grow wealthy, “now thinks to pluck her”. He adds that taking Troy would be “a feat worthy of our greatest heroes”. Peleus asks him about Patroclus, who is bound by an oath but will go if his friend does so too. However, Achilles argues against this saying it was undone when Menoitius disowned his son for breaking his word in front of all Trojans and Greeks alike during battle at Troy’s gates. Later on, they both discuss their options and agree to decide together whether or not to join Agamemnon’s expeditionary force to take Troy ‘s riches back home as a sign of Greek superiority over Trojan culture.

Chapter 12

Patroclus wakes and finds that Achilles has left. He looks for him, but he is nowhere to be found. Patroclus asks Peleus’s guards where he is, but they will not let him in. Finally, Phoinix tells Patroclus that Thetis took Achilles while they were sleeping and no one knows where she went with him. Patroclus worries that his mother has drugged or tricked Achilles into leaving the palace and going somewhere that Patroclus can’t follow her to. He fears she will poison his mind against mortals and make it impossible for them to live together again as friends. Grief paralyzes Patroclus until he remembers Chiron’s final words: ”“And when you see your friend heading down a dark road… You must do everything you can to save him from himself.”” So, he goes back to Peleus who tells him where Achilles went—to the island of Scyros—because of their piety towards each other.

Patroclus understands why Peleus told him this because of their rules of supplication, so now there is something heavy between them like anger. This makes sense because if someone were angry at you then they would tell everyone about it. However, even though there was some tension between them, the king sent money along with gold so that Patoiclius could pay a ship captain for passage on his ship.

At Scyros, Patroclus seeks an audience with King Lycomedes but is instead brought to his daughter, the princess Deidameia. She knows who he really is and flirts with him. She tells him that she’s unsure of where Achilles is and invites him to dinner so that he can watch her dance with her women.

At dinner, the queen is seductively dancing with a tall woman. When the dance ends, the two women bow to each other and then hug. It’s actually Achilles in disguise as Patroclus. The queen begins crying, calling him “Pyrrha”. King Lycomedes wants an explanation for this strange behavior. She says that she thought Pyrrha was her husband who has come to get her back home from being fostered here at court by Queen Thetis (who brought her here). Lycomedes asks if Pyrrha knows about his real wife Deidameia? She cries out that he doesn’t and calls him heartless using masculine pronouns. Then she threatens to tell everyone that Achilles is there disguised as Pyrrha!

Thetis appears in the doorway and tells everyone that Achilles will not go to war. Everyone is stunned except for Achilles, who rips off his disguise and declares that he will go to war. He turns to Lycomedes and apologizes for deceiving him, but Thetis wanted him to stay at the palace. Deidameia reminds him that they got married, so she has lost her honor because of Thetis’s deception. She reveals that she is pregnant with Patroclus’s child as well as hers, which causes Patroclus to leave the room angrily.

Achilles is chasing after Patroclus, who reveals that it was Peleus rather than Thetis who told him where Achilles was. He also says that he’s disgusted by Achilles’ foolishness and wants nothing to do with him. However, Achilles begs for forgiveness from Patroclus, saying he didn’t want to sleep with Deidameia.

Achilles and Lycomedes have a discussion about Deidameia’s child. Achilles swears that the child will bear his name, and Lycomedes is satisfied with that. Then Thetis comes in and tells him to go back to the war because of Patroclus’ death.

Like this summary? Have too much to read? You'll love my book summary product Shortform.

Shortform has the world’s best summaries of 1000+ nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What's special about Shortform:

Sound like what you've been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.

Chapter 13

Achilles and Patroclus remain hidden at the palace. They spend their days exploring the island, seeking out private places where Achilles can shed his disguise and train. In the evenings, they return to the palace for meals. Deidameia longs for Achilles’ attention but he feels no interest towards her. One morning when Achilles is away, guards come to fetch Patroclus. They deliver him to Deidameia who blames him for Achilles lack of interest in her because she thinks that if he knew about her pregnancy then maybe he would have been interested in spending time with her which makes Patroclus feel sorry for her even after she slaps him and tells him that she hates him like how his father’s indifference made him feel bad as a child so it makes sense why he has compassion on this girl since it was just like what happened between himself and his own dad before comforting her by telling here not to worry about anything before leading here back into bed with each other while feeling guilty inside knowing that there were things left undone from last night but still trying not to make this situation any worse than it already is by being sympathetic towards one another afterwards before leaving without saying goodbye first only making sure that everything will be okay until next time they meet again someday soon.

Achilles and Patroclus are reunited. Patroclus tries to convince himself that nothing happened between him and Deidameia, but he knows it’s not true.

Chapter 14

The next day, Deidameia leaves. Achilles and Patroclus are also eager to leave, but they stay because of the news of the war that reached them. Agamemnon has united all Greek-speaking kings into one army and is now ready for battle with Troy.

One day, they see a ship on the horizon. They realize that it could be one of Agamemnon’s messengers and Achilles goes back to the women’s quarters in disguise. Meanwhile, Patroclus wakes up from a nap and finds Odysseus in his room. He is looking for recruits but doesn’t seem to recognize Patroclus as his name isn’t “Chironides” (which was given by Odysseus). Before he leaves, Odysseus says that Patroclus looks familiar but decides that he must have been confusing him with someone else. He asks where Patroclus is from and reminds him to find him if he wants to join the war effort or knows any other suitable candidates.

At dinner, the king of Argos and Ithaca’s prince are introduced to Chironides. The king makes polite conversation with Odysseus, but Diomedes interrupts rudely by asking about Penelope, Odysseus’ wife. Odysseus begins telling a story about how he met Penelope when Tyndareus entertained suitors for Helen. Diomedes interrupts that story to mock him because it is the same story every time he tells it. He wants to kill himself from boredom at hearing it again. This offends King Lycomedes who was just making polite conversation before this outburst occurred. However, in order for things not to get awkward between them all, Odysseus diffuses the tension by joking around with Diomedes about getting some dancing girls from Scyros which is where they’re having dinner at tonight.

Odysseus is able to get the girls out of hiding because Thetis wants them to be seen. He brings trunks full of treasure for Lycomedes and his men, as a token of thanks. Achilles sifts through the jewelry while in disguise, but Patroclus notices Diomedes talking with one of his servants.

Moments later, the trumpet blasts an alert to danger. The girls scream and cling to each other while Achilles tears off his disguise, leaps over the table, and grabs a spear. Odysseus greets him and tells him that he’s been looking for him. Achilles replies that it is an honor to have so much effort spent on finding him. Odysseus requests from Lycomedes a room where they can talk in private with Achilles without being disturbed by Patroclus who overhears their request and looks at Achilles for confirmation of whether or not he should leave them alone together. Lycomedes agrees but is obviously frightened about what Thetis will do if she finds out about this meeting with Odysseus. Seeing this, Odysseus asks Achilles to bring Patroclus along because they need to speak with both of them.

Chapter 15

Achilles accuses Diomedes and Odysseus of tricking him into coming to Troy. Odysseus explains that Achilles was the one who tricked him in disguise as a woman, and he wants to offer reasons why they should all come together. At first, Achilles says there will be other wars for them to fight but Diomedes counters with how this war is going to be great for their people.

Odysseus tells Achilles that the gods have revealed a prophecy to him. The prophecy says that if he stays behind, he will never be remembered or famous. He will die without glory like his host Lycomedes. Patroclus is afraid of this possibility and realizes that Odysseus is using Achilles’ desire for glory against him to get him to go back into battle.

Thetis, Achilles’s mother, suddenly bursts into the room and reveals that she knows about his plans. Odysseus has told her everything. She admits that he is going to die if he goes to Troy, but adds that it would be better for him to go than stay at home. Patroclus doesn’t want Achilles to leave because he loves him so much. He understands why Achilles wants to go though and tells him that they will both go together as warriors because this is what they were born for.

Patroclus: I know you’re a great warrior; you’ve always been one since you were young! But I don’t think we should go…

Achilles: Why not? You know how much I love being a warrior! They need me in Troy- my fellow Greeks are counting on me! It’s time for us both to grow up and accept our fate as men. We’ll fight together like we have always done…and perhaps even more importantly, die together too…

The next morning, Patroclus rushes out to the cliffs and calls Thetis. Grudgingly, she appears. Falling to his knees, Patroclus asks her how to prevent Achilles’s death. She tells him the only thing she knows: Hector’s death will precede Achilles’s. She warns Patroclus that fame will not be easy for Achilles to gain, that he is too trusting, and that he must not disgrace him. Hearing Achilles approach, she leaves. Patroclus reveals what Thetis told him of the prophecy and warns Achilles not to kill Hector; however, when they return home from battle tomorrow night they find an invitation for a peace conference with Priam in Troy’s city center at dawn on their doorstep as if by magic—and it seems like a good idea…

Before Achilles leaves to join Agamemnon’s forces, he visits Lycomedes and gives him a message from Thetis. She says that his daughter will have a son, whom she will claim as her own. Patroclus sees how sad Lycomedes is about losing his daughter and having no one to pass down the family name. He tells Achilles that he wishes they had never come here because of all this sadness. On board the ship, Patroclus admires Odysseus’ craftsmanship on the prow of the boat and asks Odysseus who it resembles; Odysseus answers by saying it looks like Nausicaa, his wife. Patroclus reflects on how much Odysseus loves Nausicaa because she makes him want to be more loyal than most people are in today’s society; however, he still doesn’t trust or like him very much yet (it takes time for people to warm up). Diomedes continues with their verbal sparring back-and-forth as they did at Scyros when first meeting each other earlier in Book 9. It seems that this is something they both enjoy doing together since neither one backs down from an argument with each other (they’re almost best friends). This also shows us what kind of person Patroclus is: even though he doesn’t really know these characters well yet, we can tell that he likes them because they seem fun/interesting/likeable enough for him not to mind spending time with them around Achilles (his favorite person)

When Odysseus makes camp, he puts up a tent for Achilles and Patroclus. He says that they prefer to share one tent because he has heard it from others. However, this is shocking news to them both since they are men and should not be sharing a tent together. Patroclus realizes what Thetis meant when she warned him not to disgrace Achilles by having sex with him in public or else no one will respect them anymore because of their relationship. Therefore, Patroclus tells Odysseus that “true” is simply what people believe it to be and therefore there’s nothing wrong with them sharing the same bed together as long as they do not let anyone know about their relationship. Later on, however, Achilles suggests that perhaps someone might find out about their secret relationship even though they try hard enough to keep it hidden from everyone. Nonetheless, he adds that if this happens then so be it since taking away anything more would just make him feel worse than ever before.

The next day, Achilles asks Odysseus about the leaders of Agamemnon’s and the Trojans’ armies. He describes Menelaus as fearless and well-liked, while Nestor is an old man who has earned respect for his good advice. On the Trojan side, Priam is pious and loved by gods that favor him. Aphrodite loves Priam’s son Paris because he’s beautiful; she also gives birth to Aeneas, another Trojan royal.

Achilles asks Odysseus about Hector. Odysseus tells him that he is favored by Apollo, and Achilles will earn the greatest glory if he kills Hector. Achilles says that such thinking would make war obsolete. Odysseus laughs at this, saying that if it were up to him instead of Achilles then he would be “Aristos Achaion” (the best Achaean). Finally, Achilles asks about Agamemnon. Odysseus tells him of the House of Atreus—they are all related because they come from Tantalus, who was punished for his arrogance when he tried to feed the gods human flesh and was thrown into Tartarus by Zeus. Zeus restored Pelops to life but Tantalus’ sons continued their grandfather’s evil ways and raped women as well as murdering them in order to steal their possessions; Thyestes fathered Aegisthus with his daughter-in-law while Atreus murdered Thyestes’ children before serving them back to their father in a stew cooked by his wife/sister Clytemnestra (and assisted by her lover Aegisthus) so she could have her revenge on both brothers; after killing Agamemnon and taking control of Mycenae, Aegisthus married Clytemnestra only for Orestes—their son—to kill them both after matricide became unbearable; Orestes then went into exile where Pylades took care of him until Orestes returned home upon hearing news that Electra had killed her mother Clytemnestra and married Helen’s brother Castor (who had been visiting Troy); finally, Iphigenia sacrificed herself so Artemis could bring winds needed for sailing against Troy while Menelaus stayed behind due to an oracle stating that if any man sailed against Troy there would be no return home alive; furthermore, Helen has left Sparta with Paris while Cassandra is staying in Troy with Andromache

Odysseus notes that Menelaus and Agamemnon have brought good fortune to the Greeks. He is a great general, but Achilles doesn’t want to follow his orders. Odysseus shakes his head because he hopes that the gods will save them from their own greed for honor. Patroclus thinks about how much time they have left with Achilles alone later on, and admits that he doesn’t trust those men either.

Chapter 16

The next day, people are excited to see them. They call out the name of Achilles and say that he is a great man. Patroclus says that this was the moment when their lives changed. He tells himself that it’s time for him to become a legend, so he can return home with honor as well. His father tells everyone about his son’s greatness and how they’ll all benefit from having such a powerful leader around.

Patroclus realizes that Achilles will never come back after going off on his own adventure, but still feels happy for him because he knows what it means to be wanted by others and have your life change in an instant like this one did for Achilles.

Achilles becomes preoccupied with the Trojan War. Peleus’s troops, eager and cheerful, begin calling themselves Myrmidons (ant-men) because Zeus created ants in Phthia. Servants admire Achilles. Patroclus begins to slip away by himself, thinking about the prophecy that Achilles will be killed during this war.

Patroclus asks Achilles when he’s going to tell his father about the prophecy. Achilles tells him that it would only make his father upset, so he doesn’t plan on telling him at all. He also makes Thetis promise not to tell him about it. Patroclus is fine with this; he plans on dying before Achilles does anyway.


After a few weeks of preparation, the fleet is ready to sail. Peleus gives his men presents including for Achilles, a driver named Automedon and a spear crafted by Chiron. Patroclus wonders if Chiron knew about the prophecy or guessed it as he trained boys for music and medicine. On the day of departure fifty ships sailed from Phthia with shouts and cheers from its people.

Chapter 17

Achilles is the most famous warrior in Greece, and he has been invited to join the Greek forces at Aulis. He arrives on a boat with his soldiers, who cheer for him as they step onto the shore. As Achilles steps off of his ship, sunlight shines on him from Thetis, who wants everyone to see that he’s divinely inspired by her son so that all of Greece will know how important he is. Agamemnon and other Greek leaders are there to greet Achilles when he arrives at Aulis. They expect him to kneel down before them as a sign of loyalty; instead, Achilles remains standing until someone tells him what to do next.

Finally, Achilles speaks and calls himself a “god-like warrior” who has come to help Agamemnon. The crowd cheers for him. Odysseus tries to get Achilles to promise loyalty but he says that he’s here of his own free will and is honored to be among so many great warriors. Agamemnon welcomes him, saying it took too long for him to arrive. They leave tomorrow with the army and go their separate ways.

Although Agamemnon’s followers go with him, many of them stay behind to mock him. Achilles’ counselor Phoinix takes him to the Myrmidons’ camp. A herald representing Menelaus arrives and offers a tour of the Greek camp. Patroclus understands this as diplomatic maneuvering because Menelaus does not come himself because he wants to keep himself in good standing with “the best” (Achilles) of Achaea.

Chapter 18

One night, Patroclus wakes up in a sweat. The air is hot and humid, which makes him feel uncomfortable. He realizes that there’s no wind blowing—if the conditions continue like this for three weeks, it will be impossible to sail. After three weeks of hot and humid weather with no wind, Achilles talks to his mother about the situation. She tells him that something is preventing them from sailing but she doesn’t know what or who’s responsible for it.

Patroclus tells Agamemnon about the problem they’re facing because of the lack of wind during their voyage home but he ignores him and says that nothing can be done about it since they have no idea what’s causing this phenomenon.

Achilles and Patroclus are summoned to Agamemnon’s tent, where he offers Achilles his daughter Iphigenia’s hand in marriage. He also tells them that they must sacrifice their own animals as a show of respect for the gods. Odysseus mentions how lucky Achilles is to get this offer, since it will increase his status among the Greeks and make him more influential with Agamemnon. Achilles accepts the terms of the deal, noting that Agamemnon looks sad when shaking hands with him.

A thirteen-year-old girl named Iphigenia is excited to be marrying Achilles, who is considered the best of the Greeks. On her wedding day, she steps onto a dais with two other men and her father, Agamemnon. She throws herself into his arms and turns to face Achilles. As he approaches, she seems to stumble or trip on something behind her; it’s actually Diomedes pulling at her dress so that she stumbles towards an altar where Agamemnon slashes open her throat in sacrifice for the goddess Artemis. The assembled crowd is horrified by this human sacrifice but before they can respond, everyone feels a cool breeze from the sea which proves that Agamemnon has done what was required of him.

Agamemnon calls the men back to the marketplace, where he explains that Iphigenia knew about her sacrifice. Patroclus doesn’t believe it, but Agamemnon’s lie is accepted gratefully by all of them. Achilles feels guilty for not being able to save his sister and becomes upset with Odysseus. He accuses him of dishonoring him by involving in the wedding ruse without telling him about Iphigenia’s fate. Odysseus admits that he knew what was going on and didn’t stop it from happening because no one would have cared if they had known earlier than this morning. He notes that everyone has already forgotten Achilles’ role in this whole thing; they are only grateful for their new bride instead of angry at Agamemnon or any other leader involved in the plan to take a girl who wasn’t meant for them as a wife anyway. Odysseus advises Patroclus not to let Achilles get too emotionally involved with people who aren’t part of their war effort, since they will be fighting against Trojans soon enough. As far as weapons go, he says that Achilles is like none other, made by gods themselves.

Chapter 19

The next day, the Greek fleet sets sail. Achilles is concerned that he will not be able to fight and kill because of his love for Iphigenia. Patroclus is glad but does not say anything. He understands that Achilles must win a war in order to have immortality as opposed to himself who can achieve it without warring. Although, he tells Achilles that those they are fighting will not be innocent young girls like Iphigenia was; they will be strong fighters who could kill them if they do not strike first. This reminds him of how Patroclus would never hurt anyone even if it meant being killed by them or someone else. Therefore, he asks Patroclus if he would forgive him for killing people during battles since both their lives could potentially be at risk due to the other’s actions which may lead to death on either side. However, Patroclus says that he has no need for forgiveness because it is impossible for Achilles to offend him in any way since having each other means everything and nothing more than what needs saying can ever come between them again. At this point, while walking through a field together, a water snake attacks from behind and bites into Achilles’ leg before slithering away with its head still attached. Before leaving, however, it manages one last look at its killer. With tears streaming down his face, an expressionless looking Patroclus looks back at the snake ‘ s corpse with a hint of sadness in his eyes before turning around towards his friend once again

The Greek fleet is getting ready to attack Troy. They’re about to make landfall, but they need to be careful because there are Trojan soldiers waiting for them on the beach. Patroclus sees Hector and realizes that he’s in trouble.

When the Greeks are almost within range of the Trojans’ arrows, Achilles launches his spear. Despite its distance from him, it hits a Trojan and kills him. The Greeks cheer loudly because they’ve drawn first blood. Patroclus notes that Achilles’ face is “still” when he does this; however, Automedon (his charioteer) brings him more spears and he sends them flying toward the Trojans with great accuracy.

The Greeks suffer their first casualty, Protesilaus. He jumps into the water and is struck down by an arrow while trying to swim to shore. The Trojans retreat from the beach after proving that they are not as easy to kill as previously thought.

Chapter 20

The Greeks secure the beach, send scouts to guard against further attacks, and post guards. Odysseus draws lots to determine the placement of each kingdom’s camp. Phthia’s is located at the far end of the beach, in shade and quiet, which was a good location for them. Patroclus wondered if this was a gift from Odysseus because it seemed like such an ideal place for their camp. Leaving Phoinix to oversee the raising of their camp, Patroclus and Achilles head for the main camp along with Ajax’s group that had been assigned there as well. They pass by Ajax’s campsite where they see people working hard on building up their own area while many are not doing anything at all but sitting around enjoying themselves instead of helping out with tasks that need completing.

Patroclus pities Ajax; if not for Achilles he would have been “Aristos Achaion” (the best Greek warrior). They arrive at a hill overlooking Troy whose walls were said to have been crafted by Apollo himself later on when they get closer enough to look over these walls closely they will be amazed how strong these fortifications really are since no one has ever breached them before!

The leaders debate whether to attack or attempt diplomacy. Menelaus supports making a diplomatic effort because they are not savages; Odysseus notes that if war follows failed diplomacy, neighboring cities may feel less inclined to defend Troy; Nestor agrees that a show of force should be their priority. Agamemnon sides with Nestor and Odysseus, and the raid is planned for the following day. Patroclus notes that raiding was typical siege warfare: it allowed the invading army to choke off the city from supplies of grain and meat while holding wives and daughters as hostages.

Agamemnon orders the armies to be positioned in an orderly manner. The Myrmidons, Achilles’ army, are given a place of honor. That night Patroclus asks Achilles if he’s afraid about going into battle the next day; Achilles replies that he is not and adds that this is what he was born for.

Achilles and Patroclus are the two main characters in the Iliad. Achilles is a prince who has to fight or be seen as a coward, while Patroclus is his dearest companion. Before going into battle, they kiss each other goodbye and say that they love each other dearly. Achilles then leaves with his army of Myrmidons, but he doesn’t look like himself anymore; instead, he looks like someone else—someone much more dangerous. This makes Patroclus happy because he knows that it will keep Achilles safe in battle.

Later, Achilles returns to the camp and is greeted by his men with cheers. He is amazed at how easy it was for him to kill those twelve men and he wonders why his fellow soldiers are cheering him on so much. Patroclus asks Achilles if they were farmers or warriors. Achilles quickly points out that all of them were armed. Remembering their promise not to fight anymore, Patroclus feels ashamed because he can hear an edge in his voice when he talks to Achilles about the raid. He listens as Achilles describes each of the people who died during the raid, imagining them as images on urns like those found in ancient Greek tombs. By listening intently, Patroclus hopes that it will help release some of the pain from killing twelve unarmed civilians into something more manageable.

Chapter 21

After a successful raid, the spoils of war are divided up among those who participated in the raid. The leader gets first pick and then others can choose whatever they want from what’s left over. Agamemnon picks first because he is their leader, and Achilles picks second because he is stronger than everyone else. After three weeks of raiding other cities, a woman with dark hair and eyes stands on a stage for all to see. She has been beaten up pretty badly, so Patroclus urges his friend Achilles to ask her out as his prize from the raid (this means that she will be given to him). He does this impulsively without thinking about how it might affect his relationship with Agamemnon or anyone else involved in the camp.

A farm girl from Anatolia, Briseis does not speak Greek and is frightened of Achilles. He takes out his knife to cut her ties, but Patroclus kisses him to calm him down. She allows Patroclus to cut the ties that bind her hands and bandage them with a cloth. The next day, Patroclus introduces himself as “Patroclus”.

As the raids continue, more girls appear on the dais and throughout the camp. Patroclus urges Achilles to request as many as possible, to save them from becoming bed slaves. The other warriors tease Achilles for his seemingly insatiable appetite for women, while Patroclus puts up a larger tent for the women. He and Phoinix oversee the women’s care, along with Briseis. Achilles stays away because he killed their fathers, brothers, and husbands in battle.

Chapter 22

Eventually, the Greeks’ attacks on Troy are successful. Priam and his people have no choice but to accept that Helen will not be returned. Agamemnon is glad that there’s going to be war between the two sides because he wants to avenge the death of his brother, Menelaus’ wife, who was taken by Paris. Meanwhile, Patroclus and Achilles wonder whether Helen left Sparta with Paris willingly in order increase her own legend or if Agamemnon would attack Troy even if she were returned.

The first day of battle was overwhelming for Patroclus. He didn’t know what to expect, but he knew that he wasn’t going to be safe with Achilles. However, Achilles protected him and kept him safe from the chaos of the battlefield. Patroclus couldn’t believe how beautiful and talented Achilles was when he watched him fight in battle.

The war continues, with no clear winner. Achilles is unconcerned about the lack of progress, and he enjoys fighting for honor rather than to achieve a specific goal. When it becomes clear that the war will not end quickly, Patroclus does not have to fight every day. He fights when Achilles needs him but spends most of his time in camp because he misses Patroclus dearly. Sometimes, he wishes that Patroclus was there so that they could watch each other’s backs during battle; however, they’re both happy knowing that their love is strong enough to survive long periods apart from one another. One day while watching the Trojan War unfold on a hilltop overlooking the battlefields below them (a vantage point similar to Thetis’ own), Patroclus sees her mother walking through the crowd of warriors until she comes face-to-face with him. She hisses at him before disappearing into thin air once again as if she had never been there at all. Meanwhile, Hector stands off by himself and looks thoughtful as well as capable and pious. In battle against Achilles or any other Greek warrior who gets in his way, Hector avoids confrontation whenever possible because he knows how powerful Achilles can be ; Agamemnon even asks why Hector doesn’t attack Achilles directly since everyone else seems afraid of doing so. However, instead of responding directly, each time someone challenges him, Achilles just smiles confidently and says “What has Hector ever done to me?”

Chapter 23

Achilles spends a lot of time with his mother, Thetis. Patroclus is jealous because he thinks Achilles will leave him for her. Briseis notices that Achilles doesn’t move like other people and wonders if he’s not human at all.

After Achilles leaves, Patroclus asks his mother what they talked about. She reveals that the gods are worried about the Trojan War and have been fighting among themselves. Thetis is concerned that her son won’t get enough glory for killing Hector, fearing another warrior will do it first. Achilles assures him he won’t kill Hector or anyone else in battle; instead, he’ll capture them to make sure they’re not killed by others. He then shares a dream he had where he kills Hector and feels relief afterwards. Patroclus becomes uneasy because of this dream since it seems like an omen of things to come. However, Achilles dismisses this notion saying that there’s nothing wrong with dreaming about killing people who’ve done nothing against him personally.

Achilles and Patroclus are good friends. However, Achilles is often away on military campaigns so Patroclus starts helping the physician Machaon in the infirmary. This way he can keep his friend’s spirits up by keeping him informed of what’s going on with their fellow soldiers. One day a soldier comes in with an arrow tip stuck in his shoulder and Patroclus carefully removes it, which results in a quick healing process for the soldier, little pain, and no infection at all. Impressed by this skill, Machaon asks Patroclus to help another warrior who has been injured similarly but hasn’t had such great care yet.

Meanwhile, Achilles’s fate hangs over him and Patroclus. As months turn into two years, they begin to live with a sense of doom. They become like family members, and Briseis becomes part of their circle. She knows more about Hector than anyone else because she was his wife before Achilles killed him in battle.

Briseis leaves Achilles and Patroclus, and they talk about the raids that Achilles has done. During one of those raids, he killed Andromache’s father and brothers. He thinks about how many people he has killed because of his wars; therefore, he feels bad for all the people who are suffering because of him. When Achilles looks at his hands, which have caused so much destruction in the world through war, he realizes that it was not worth it. He wishes that no more lives would be lost as a result of their battles with Troy. Patroclus thinks to himself how strange it is to see such a great warrior act like this—to feel sorry for others instead just focusing on killing them or letting them live so they can continue fighting another day. It seems like an act of grace when compared to what warriors typically do: kill everyone in sight without thinking twice about it or showing any mercy whatsoever. After Briseis leaves, Hector cannot say anything mean about Achilles anymore.

Chapter 24

After four years of stalemate, the men begin to complain that Agamemnon’s promises of a short war and treasure have not been fulfilled. They worry that the war is hopeless and threaten mutiny. After Agamemnon clubs one of the mutinous soldiers to death, they threaten to turn on him. Achilles distracts them by leaping onto a pile of discarded armor and asking them whether “Aristos Achaion” would fight in a hopeless war. They reply that he would not, so Achilles tells them that he will stay until the end but warns them that he will take their share of treasure if they leave. The men laugh appreciatively at his joke and are no longer angry with him or Agamemnon.

Following the mutiny, Odysseus kept the men busy with building a palisade around their camp. He does not let this happen again and things go back to normal. The men have children with slave women and they start living together in harmony; all of them are united by their common goal of conquering Troy.

Meanwhile, Patroclus develops a reputation for medical skill and bonds with the soldiers. The women that he brought to the camp pair off with Myrmidon soldiers, leaving only Briseis. She and Patroclus grow close as she teaches him about local herbs. On a walk through the woods, they kiss but then fear hurting each other since both are in love with Achilles. Aware that some men have wives and lovers at once, she asks if he would like to take a wife or have children one day; he admits that if it were possible, she’d be his choice.

Later, Patroclus asks Achilles if he would want to have a child. He reminds him that he has a son, Neoptolemus. His name means “new war” and was given by Thetis because of his red hair. He lives with her in the sea now but is still jealous of anyone who gets close to Patroclus. Though jealous, Achilles wouldn’t mind having a child with Briseis if Patroclus wants to do so. He’s happy as things are now since Thetis visits them and tells them that Apollo is angry at the Greeks for not sacrificing enough animals. She urges them to sacrifice more animals to appease him because she fears what will happen if they don’t appease him soon. Further, there’s another prophecy stating that one man among the Myrmidons will die within two years but it won’t be Achilles this time around either since someone else will die instead of him this time around too according to Thetis’ new prophecy about their future deaths which she just shared with everyone just before leaving after telling them all about how Apollo is mad at them right now due to their failure in offering sacrifices like they promised earlier when they were preparing for battle against Troy back then during the Trojan War all those many years ago while explaining why she had warned everyone back then about how upset Apollo was going get once he found out what happened later on after everything started falling apart between both sides thanks mostly due to Paris’ actions involving Helen)

Chapter 25

In the ninth year of war, a girl named Chryseis appears on the dais. She’s identified by her braids as being the daughter of a priest and servant to a god. Patroclus nods at Achilles, who steps up to claim her for himself. However, Agamemnon beats him to it and takes her instead. Calchas frowns but doesn’t object because he knows that if he does so, things will get worse for them all in this situation with their leader being very angry with them and demanding more sacrifices than they can afford already.

A month later, the girl’s father, Chryses, a high priest of Apollo comes to the Greek camp. He demands that they return his daughter because she was taken unlawfully. Diomedes and Odysseus agree with him but Agamemnon refuses to give up his prize ever. Chryses leaves crying out and shaking his staff at the sky. That night plague descends on them for nine nights prompting Achilles to ask his mother what is happening.

The next day, Achilles calls a meeting. He announces that it is time to investigate why they are being punished by the gods. To appease Agamemnon, he pretends that he is following the general’s advice. Agamemnon summons Calchas who admits Apollo is angry with them for not giving Chryses back his daughter as well as providing proper offerings and sacrifices (which would include returning her). Agamemnon refuses because he does not want to give up the girl but also reminds everyone at the assembly that their soldiers make up most of their army so no one speaks in support of him or against him. Achilles reminds him that they are allies and should be allowed to speak freely without fear of reprisal from their leader.

Agamemnon tells Achilles that he has never learned his place among men and is excessively arrogant. He reminds him of the time when Achilles was young, and how he had to kneel before Agamemnon in order to be accepted as a part of society.

Achilles refuses to bow down again, but Agamemnon declares that he is a traitor and vows to take Briseis away from him by force. Outraged, Achilles warns him that if anything happens to her then the Myrmidons will not fight for them anymore because they are dishonoring him. The Greeks will die while he laughs at them all with no one there beside him fighting for their cause.

Achilles is furious with Agamemnon because of the dishonor he has been dealt. He tells Patroclus that there’s nothing they can do for Briseis, and he will let Agamemnon punish her. Patroclus feels sorry for Briseis and thinks she should be treated like one of them, not a prize to be given away. Achilles doesn’t care about what happens to her; instead, he is angry at Agamemnon for taking his honor from him in front of everyone else. So Patroclus rushes back into their tent to warn Briseis of what’s going to happen. While walking back toward the camp, they hear a trumpet being blown somewhere in the distance; it means that the heralds are coming for Briseis soon. She begs him not to tell anyone where she went or who she was so no one would hurt her anymore by killing those who helped her escape from Agamemnon’s quarters before this happened.

Chapter 26

The heralds come to take Briseis away. Patroclus realizes that Achilles is happy with his new role as a wronged man who accepts the theft of his prize, and he revels in it. Patroclus leads Briseis away and apologizes to her for what’s about to happen. She kisses him goodbye before they lead her off. After she leaves, Patroclus turns on Achilles because he wants only to speak with his mother and not be bothered by anyone else.

Patroclus: ”You should have let me kill Agamemnon!”

Achilles: ”I’m sorry I didn’t do that.”

Patroclus: ”What kind of leader are you?”

Achilles: ”It doesn’t matter anymore.”

Patroclus: ”You’re no better than a slave!”

Achilles (walking away): “So be it.”‘’’’’

Patroclus goes to Agamemnon’s tent and finds Briseis tied up. He grabs his knife, cuts himself, and makes an oath to tell the truth about Achilles. Patroclus tells Agamemnon that he will be in danger if he rapes her because she is still Achilles’ prize. If Agamemnon violates her, then it would give him a reason to kill him for taking what was rightfully his (Achilles).

Agamemnon is angry at Patroclus for revealing Achilles’ plan. He points out that he was wrong to steal Briseis, since the Trojans have decided not to fight without her. Agamemnon insists on freeing Briseis if Achilles will kneel and swear loyalty. Patroclus ignores him, because he knows that both of these things would hurt Achilles more than anything else ever could.

Achilles and Patroclus are back at their tent when Patroclus returns. Achilles notices the blood on his wrist and asks who hurt him. Patroclus tells him everything that happened, including Agamemnon’s threats against Briseis. Achilles reminds him that he could have killed or exiled Agamemnon to save Briseis, but instead he chose to protect his honor by not fighting the king.

Patroclus reminds Achilles of all they’ve been through together, saying that there is no honor in betraying your friends for personal gain. He says it was a choice between saving Briseis or avenging himself against Agamemnon; he chose Briseis because she didn’t deserve what had happened to her while Achilles deserved his fate for being so arrogant (hubris).

Achilles accuses Patroclus of choosing love over loyalty to a friend, but Patroclus corrects him: he chose loyalty over arrogance (hubris). If anyone deserves glory it’s you, says Patroclus. You’ll be remembered forever, if only people remember you as well as I do.

Chapter 27

Achilles is upset that the Greeks have dishonored him. He complains to his mother, Thetis, who devises a plan for revenge. She will make Zeus repay her by making the Greeks lose because of their disrespect towards Achilles. Patroclus doesn’t agree with this decision and tells Achilles so.

The author recalls a conversation that he and Achilles had with Chiron. They talked about the value of life, specifically how every man is someone’s brother, son or friend. Patroclus and Achilles couldn’t understand this as children because they were torn between their loyalty to soldiers under their care and to Achilles. As an adult, however, Patroclus knows what he would say if given the chance to speak with Chiron again: “Whatever you choose is wrong.” He saved Briseis from being raped by another soldier but could not save everyone else; he did not take away from Achilles his honor since it was all that remained for him after losing his family in war.

Patroclus visits Briseis and finds her wearing a lapis lazuli necklace, which indicates that Agamemnon must have treated her well. He hovers over Patroclus and Briseis, reminding him that all Achilles needs to do is apologize for his excessive pride. In her native tongue, Briseis asks Patroclus how long it will be before she is released. He tells her that he does not know, but privately muses about when iron turns soft enough to bend in the fire.

The next day, all the armies but the Phthian one marched off to fight the Trojans. Achilles and Patroclus wondered how things would go with them fighting against Troy’s army.

Chapter 28

The Greek hero, Phoinix, is excited to tell King Menelaus that the Trojans offered a single combat with Paris. The winner would have Helen and the loser would be exiled from Troy forever. However, Menelaus was wounded by Paris before he could finish him off. The Greeks were outraged at what they saw as betrayal and attacked the Trojans. They fought all day long until Hector offered another truce for one-on-one combat between Ajax and himself. Neither side gained an advantage in this fight so it ended without a victor or a clear loss on either side’s part.

The next day, Achilles sees the Lycians and their leader Sarpedon. They are Anatolian allies of Troy and they seem to have been summoned by Zeus himself. The battle goes on for days and many soldiers fall in battle, including Machaon’s tent that is filled with wounded soldiers. Patroclus feels grief at all the funeral pyres burning because each one represents a soldier he once knew.

Phoenix visits Achilles’ tent. He tells him that the Greeks have brought treasure, including Briseis, and warns him of an impending Trojan attack. Odysseus reminds Achilles that he chose to fight in Troy and must accept his fate.

Phoinix: ”We come from Agamemnon, who offers you a great deal of treasure if you will return to battle.”

Achilles: ”I won’t fight until Agamemnon apologizes publicly for taking my prize.”

Odysseus: ”You knew what would happen when you came here; now live with it.”

Phoenix tells Achilles that he will abide by his decision, but first Achilles should listen to the story of Meleager. Patroclus vaguely recalls hearing Peleus telling the story years earlier. Phoenix tells how Meleager of Calydon, having been dishonored by his own men, refused to fight until his wife Cleopatra begged him to defend her friends and city from harm. His love for her compelled Meleager to fight even though too many people had died already in the battle. The people hated him for not helping sooner because they felt like he abandoned them when they needed him most. Achilles again refuses to fight but Patroclus understands why Phoenix told this story: he must convince Achilles that it is important that he fights before the Greeks turn against him as well as they turned against Meleager when he didn’t help when they needed him most.”

Phrases are two or more words (like ‘the world’s greatest communicators’, ‘phrases’ and ‘ideas’) while phrases can be longer than four words (such as “I need your help”). Phrase is a part of speech which consists of at least three words; phrase is shorter than sentence which contains a subject and predicate. Sentence also has an independent clause, whereas phrase does not have one.

After Achilles falls asleep, Patroclus sneaks out of the tent to visit Briseis. He warns her that there’s going to be a Trojan attack and she’ll be in danger. She offers to protect him by claiming him as her husband if the attack succeeds. They hold each other and Patroclus wonders if he’d have been happy with her if he “had never known” Achilles.

That night, Patroclus lies next to Achilles and looks at his face. He notices that he has a boyish look, but is also full of mischief. However, he does not have any malice. He wishes that he could free him from the power games played by Agamemnon and Odysseus.

Chapter 29

Achilles and Patroclus wake up to shouts and thunder. Zeus has sent a storm to remind the Trojans that they are vulnerable, especially because they have no way of escaping if their ships burn down. Achilles wants to know when he will intervene, but he tells his friend that it won’t be anytime soon unless Agamemnon begs for forgiveness or dies in front of him.

Achilles and Patroclus get dressed and eat breakfast. Achilles is preoccupied with thoughts of how to spend the day, while Patroclus can’t focus on what he’s saying because he keeps thinking about all the wounded soldiers that Achilles treated. He sees a man being carried into the infirmary so he goes to investigate. It turns out to be Machaon, who is severely injured and begs him to talk sense into Achilles.

The Trojans get past the Greek wall and into their camp. They burn down some of the ships, which demoralizes everyone on the Greek side. Hector throws a torch onto one of the ships, setting it ablaze and smiling at his handiwork. The only thing keeping Ajax going is his strength; however, he falls as well.

Chapter 30

Patroclus runs back to Achilles and cries that he will be hated for what Agamemnon did. He begs him not to blame the Greek soldiers for this, as they honored him. Achilles bitterly says that no one stood up for him, but Patroclus replies that they are still their people. Achilles tells him that the Myrmidons are their people, and everyone else should save themselves.

Patroclus tries to convince Achilles to help the Greeks. He wants him to wear his armor and pretend he is fighting, so that the Trojans will think he has returned from war and flee. If Achilles does this, Patroclus argues, he can save both the Greeks and his reputation as a hero without breaking his oath not to fight. Achilles agrees because it would make him look like a true hero if people thought an empty chariot was actually being driven by someone wearing his armor into battle.

Achilles helps Patroclus get into his armor. Achilles reminds him not to fight since that will give away the fact that he’s not really Achilles. Patroclus steps into the chariot and lifts his spear, which makes the Greeks think it is actually Achilles in battle again. The Greeks shout out his name with joy while Patroclus gives an answering cry. He begins fighting as if he were really Achilles, and many Trojans flee from him because of this belief or because they have seen what a great warrior he has been for years now. Automedon tries to remind him that he can’t be doing this but fails at stopping him since Patroclus believes himself to be truly invincible when wearing this armor; perhaps it was made by Hephaestus himself! He reaches for more spears and kills two more Trojans due to their fear of being killed by someone who looks like one of their greatest warriors (Achilles). This emboldens them even further so Hector organizes a full retreat back towards Troy while Patroclus continues killing those who are fleeing. From spending time in the infirmary, however, Patroclus knows where they’re weak on defense so he exploits these weaknesses once again with his deadly spears

From the chaos of battle, a chariot emerges carrying Sarpedon. Patroclus thinks about how he tore down the wall and killed his comrades. He raises his spear to kill Sarpedon, but Automedon grabs it before it can strike. They drive away from him, and Sarpedon throws his spear at them as they flee. It pierces one of their horses and sends Patroclus’s chariot into the dirt. Patroclus stands up in his seat again and hurls his own spear at Sarpedon, which does not pierce through armor but instead knocks him backwards off of his horse onto the ground, breaking both of is legs when he hits the ground head first because there was no helmet to protect him from that injury; this forces him to die soon after impact with the earth for lack of oxygen due to broken neck caused by fall. To ensure that Achilles gets credit for killing Sarpedon in revenge for killing Patroclus’s companions earlier on during war against Troy, Patroclus places a sword into where heart should be located so that people will think Achilles has stabbed him while trying to steal armor from body after death occurs.

Seeing their leader fall, the Lycian soldiers begin to swarm Patroclus. Automedon arrives in his chariot and begs him to leave, but bloodlust has taken over Patroclus. He jumps out of the chariot and begins climbing Troy’s impenetrable walls. Apollo calls down from above, lifts Patroclus by his armor and drops him back on earth. Intent on breaching Troy and rescuing Helen, Patroclus repeats his climb yet again. Apollo knocks off Patroclus’ helmet as he is thrown back to earth for a third time; this reveals that it was indeed Achilles all along who had been fighting Hector this whole time! While he is lying there in pain after being struck with spears one of them lodges into his leg making it hard for him to stand up straight while another spear comes flying towards him landing right into his chest killing him instantly!

Chapter 31

Achilles has a premonition of the Greeks defeating the Trojans. He feels numb when he sees Agamemnon kneeling before him, but doesn’t know why.

Achilles walks toward the Myrmidon camp, carrying Patroclus’s body. He realizes that he gave his sword to Patroclus and starts to scream his name in grief before realizing that it is too late. Briseis runs toward them and wails over the body of her husband. Achilles asks who killed him; Menelaus tells him it was Hector, whom they will kill tomorrow.

Achilles refuses to eat or sleep after Patroclus’s death. He keeps holding on to the body, crying and mourning his friend. His mother, Thetis, appears and tells him that he killed Patroclus by not letting him return home. She tries to convince Achilles that it was all for the best but he won’t listen to her. He says that he will kill Hector next time they meet in battle so she can take care of Patroclus’ body then.

Agamemnon visits Achilles and tells him that they should stop fighting. He says the gods are to blame, but they can be allies again. Achilles is furious with Agamemnon for killing Patroclus, and he doesn’t care about being an ally anymore. He only wants to kill Hector now. Briseis comes in while he’s talking to Agamemnon, and she begs them not to fight anymore because it will hurt her even more than it hurts them both. She says Patroclus was worth ten of Achilles (meaning better), but Achilles didn’t appreciate what he had until it was too late. She also tells him that she hopes Hector kills him so his suffering will end sooner rather than later.

Thetis goes to the river at dawn and returns with new armor. Achilles immediately starts looking for Hector, screaming his name. Hector runs away because he knows that if he is caught, he will die. He jumps into the Scamander River, but a god rises out of it to fight Achilles for him. After a long battle, Achilles defeats this god by striking him in the head and forces him back under water. The rest of the story follows as we all know from reading Homer’s Iliad.

Achilles returns to his camp with Hector’s body, which he has dragged behind him in the dirt. Thetis appears again and orders Achilles to return Hector’s body, but Achilles refuses. When he sleeps, he dreams of Patroclus who tells him that it is time for them to burn and bury his body. The next morning, Achilles drags Hector’s body around Troy’s walls for everyone in the city to see, repeating the act in the afternoon and evening. Thetis tells him that he has gone too far and angered Apollo. She says that if she had not gone to Zeus then Patroclus would still be alive. She also says that Pyrrhus at 12 years old is a man now whereas Achilles isn’t one yet since he’s only 23 years old. She will bring Pyrrhus (Achilles’ son) over there so Troy can fall through him according to fate because of her anger towards Achilles because of Patroclus’ death; she thinks it’s disgusting how much destruction Achilles causes just by letting go off everything she did so Achiles could have a legacy after his death like what happened with Agamemnon; even though Agamemnon was killed by Clytemnestra herself when Odysseus went on an expedition against Troy as per request from Athena while they were talking about how terrible war is before going into battle against each other during Paris & Sparta incident where Menelaus was taken captive along with Helen by Paris & Helena respectively before returning back home after 10 long years thanks to help from Hermes who helped them escape & Aphrodite who told Helen how beautiful she looked while returning home without anyone noticing; however this didn’t happen until 2nd Trojan War due to several events including Oedipus killing Laius (Oedipus Rex); however both wars are fought between Greeks/Trojans as per wish from Poseidon (who wanted revenge on Zeus for throwing Mount Olympus out of heaven) which resulted into various conflicts including:

Chapter 32

After the death of Hector, Priam asks Achilles for his son’s body. He wants to bury it so that he can rest in peace and also because that would be a gesture of goodwill between them. It is well known that when two enemies are mourning their loved ones they should help each other through grief as friends rather than kill each other over vengeance. Even though Achilles has taken revenge on Hector by killing him, he still gives the body back to Priam who takes care of it with great respect until funeral arrangements have been made.

Achilles is the one who collected Patroclus’s ashes and placed them in a golden urn. He also instructed the Greeks to put his own ashes in that same urn after he died, so they could be buried together. Achilles went back into battle, killing Trojan allies like Aethiopian King Memnon, Amazon leader Penthesilea, and Priam’s youngest son Troilus as well as many others.

Paris and Apollo are on the walls of Troy. Paris is about to shoot an arrow at Achilles, who smiles as he falls to the ground.

Chapter 33

The sea nymphs prepare the body of Achilles for his funeral. Odysseus asks Thetis if he can combine Patroclus’ ashes with those of her son. She agrees, and Odysseus honors Achilles’s last wish. The Greek kings meet to decide where they will build a tomb for Patroclus and Achilles but are interrupted by the arrival of Pyrrhus, who is 12 years old and very beautiful. Agamemnon questions whether Pyrrhus is ready to fight in battle, but Pyrrhus says that it was fated that he be there because without him they cannot win the war. Menelaus responds diplomatically by saying that everyone is happy to have him there; then they go back to discussing how they will build the monument for Patroclus and Achilles since both men died fighting together in battle.

Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles and King Priam’s sister, is fighting for Troy. He demands the loyalty of his cousin Ajax’s Myrmidons to be part of his inheritance from his father. He sees Briseis (Achilles’ concubine) and calls her a reason why Achilles refused to fight in battle. Pyrrhus has her brought into his tent where he asks if she was used as a bed-slave by Achilles. She denies it, but subtly alludes to Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship by saying that they were close like brothers. Pyrrhus accuses her of lying then grabs her arm and tries to pull off her bracelet which she won’t let him do because it was given to her by Patroclus before he died. Pyrrhus smacks Briseis across the face then tells another man named Odysseus that she tried to stab him so they throw Briseis into the sea where she dies under water after being speared in the back.

Troy falls and Pyrrhus demands another sacrifice for Achilles. He wants a white heifer, but Calchas gives him a young girl instead. He slashes her throat and declares her to be an acceptable sacrifice for his father’s death. Agamemnon is horrified when he sees the boy being murdered against the walls of Troy.

The night before the Greeks leave Troy, Patroclus visits Odysseus in a dream. He asks him to ensure that his name is written on the monument with Achilles’s. The next day, Odysseus meets with Pyrrhus and urges him to honor his father’s wishes by including Patroclus’s name on Achilles’s monument, but Pyrrhus refuses.

Many people visit Achilles’ grave, including Thetis. She is filled with hatred when she sees him. He then tells her that he should be remembered not only for the men he killed but also for his moments of grace (returning Hector’s body and saving captured women) and artistry (voice, lyre). Patroclus asks why she isn’t with Pyrrhus anymore. She admits that he was killed by Agamemnon’s son because he raped his bride.

Thetis asks Patroclus to tell her stories about Achilles. He hates Thetis, but he wants to bring back his friend so much that he agrees. When he’s done telling everything he can remember, Thetis says she wishes she could have made Achilles a god. Patroclus responds by saying “But you did make him.” After a long pause, Thetis tells him that she has engraved his name on the monument and that he should go now because “he waits for you”. In the end, they see each other in a flood of light and are reunited as friends again.

The Song of Achilles Book Summary, by Madeline Miller

Enjoy this summary?

Subscribe to get my next book summary in your email.

Want to get smarter, faster?

Subscribe to my newsletter to get free book summaries and startup notes.