Saturday, June 29, 2024

Achilles, Your Wrath is Hurting Patroclus: A Christian Author's Perspective on the Ransom of Hector

In this poem, the author Dracontius composes a rhetorical exercise in which he tries to convince the Trojan War hero Achilles to allow the body of Hector to be ransomed and buried:

A death that is not honored is toxic.

Mother Nature divides

the comings & going of life and death

between the earth

and heaven & hell

with a set boundary.

Heaven does not come for the unburied dead.

Funeral rites do not like to happen in daylight;

The secret rites of the God of the Underworld are sought under the cover of night.

It is not up to you

for the image of your ancestor Aeacus to have to come to you

To criticize you in your sleep

Coming back to camp at night

Raising his fist at you and yelling,

Bitterly blaming you

And saying, fully justified in his criticism:

“Brave Achilles, Famous descendant,

Is this how you,

O Demigod,

A Descendant of the Sea and Sky,

Are supposed to act?

You’re going to deny cremation and burial to the dead?

You won’t let slaughtered youths swim the Acheron river,

Since you forbid their bodies to be buried and honored with tombs?

My holy life brought me in death

to judge the dead for their good & bad deeds. 

Grandson, you aren’t safe from this, either, for you too will come here eventually:

Treat gently the shades!

Minos, Rhadamanthus, and I will seal your fate in the Underworld.

The shades are calling out your name bitterly,

For you deny them the funeral rites they deserve.

Patroclus is denied entry,

He cannot cross over

Until Hector arrives in the Underworld first.

They cannot cross over

Until they are honored with burial.”

Keep your anger in check, Achilles, I beg you.

Hector doesn’t feel

The punishments you are giving out,

You’re only hurting a dead body.

Hector doesn’t feel your punishment,

But it is felt throughout your camp,

As long as you are prolonging this funeral.

You’re hurting your ancestors with your anger,

You’re hurting your dear Patroclus with your torture

Patroclus is the one who suffers the punishment of your wrath.


--Dracontius, On Whether It Will Alleviate The Pain If [Achilles] Feeds Patroclus' Murderer to the Beasts & Burds, [At inquires: dolorem meum leniam, percussorem Patrocli canibus et volucribus si dedero laniandum] 115-147


Mors neglecta nocet, non sunt commercia vitae

manibus et superis divisit limite mundos

imposito natura parents, non congruit aether

funeribus, nec funus amat sub sole iacere

inferni secreta dei sub nocte petuntur.

 Non tibi per somnos aderit censoris imago

Aeacus in medias veniens ad castra tenebras

Voce manuque furens, et te culpabit amare

asper et increpitans? Et iusta voce notabit:

"Tene, deum soboles, Caeli pelagique nepotem,

 atque Erebi gens clara mei, te fortis Achilles

ista decent? Tumuli caesis et usta negentur?

Nec dabis occisos iuvenes Acheronta natare,

prostratis dum busta negas manesque suplcris

abdicas? Me vita pia promovit ad urnam

 humani generis laudes et crimina quaeram.

Nec tamen hinc secures eris quia noster ad urnam

advenies quandoque nepos: ignoscere manes

ignorant mecumque Minos vel Gnossius illic

Iudicium Rhadamanthus habet commune barathri.

 Nominis invidiam vestra per flumina manes

exagitant, sua iura neges quod morte peremptis

Patroclumque tenent quem nec conscendere cymbam

permittunt nisi primus aquas transcenderit Hector.

et nullum pars nostra sinit transire per undas

ac sorte retinere suam nisi rite sepultum."

Desine bellipotens animos retinere feroces

dux iras depone, precor. Non sentient Hector,

quidquid in hoste furis, lacerum tenuisse cadaver.

Supplicium non Hector habet sed poena Pelasgum

servatur per castra tuis, dum funera punis.

Aeacus invidiam, carus tormenta Patroclus

sustinet et vestri  poenas luit ille doloris.



Name:  Dracontius

Date:  455 – 505 CE

Works:  Hylas



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Dracontius was a Christian Latin poet from Carthage who lived during the 5th century CE. His works blend Greco-Roman mythology and Christian themes.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE


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