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Sarpedon, Son of Zeus & Laodamia, in The Iliad

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Sarpedon, the son of Zeus, is an ally of Troy and a huge hero of the Trojan War. Even though he is killed in battle, this king manages to rally those around him and to motivate the great Hector to carry the day.

You can't beat Fate

Do you believe in fate? The ancient Greek poet Homer certainly did. In Homer's The Iliad, even the children of the gods are not immune to their fate. This lesson will focus on the role of Sarpedon, son of the king of the gods Zeus and the mortal woman Laodamia, in The Iliad.

The half-mortal Sarpedon is the king of Lycia, and an important ally on Troy's side in the Trojan War. He is often mentioned in conjunction with Glaucus, his cousin, during the battle scenes. Sarpedon's role in the epic shows us that not even the children of the gods can expect their divine parents to help them when they are on the wrong side of fate. Sarpedon has left behind his wife and infant son to come to help Troy with the war.

Zeus knows how the war will end
Zeus knows how the war will end

The Loyal Sarpedon

Sarpedon is unhappy with the way the Trojan War is proceeding. In Book 5 he talks to Hector, the Prince of Troy, about his concerns. He says that Hector has lost courage, and that 'Those of us who've come as allies, we do all the fighting.' He feels like Hector has made the allies do all the hard work.

He also warns Hector that he may lose the war if he isn't careful. Although Sarpedon's words 'stung Hector's heart', they also served as a sort of rally for the Trojans. Hector and his men return to the war with renewed vigor. In Book 5, Homer describes Sarpedon as 'godlike' and retells in detail his fight with an Achaean man named Tlepolemus, who questions Sarpedon's divine heritage. Sarpedon is wounded, but kills Tlepolemus. Sarpedon is rescued by his comrades and brought back into Troy.

The Fate of Sarpedon

In Book 15, Zeus mentions that his son is destined to die at the hands of Patroclus, the friend of the Greek hero Achilles. He basically tells the other gods how the war will end, and while he mourns the fate of his son, Zeus knows he can not get in the way of what must be.

Sarpedon is killed by Patroclus
Sarpedon is killed by Patroclus

Sarpedon's last fight

Sarpedon meets his Fate at the hands of Patroclus. Patroclus is in battle, wearing Achilles' armor. Many of Sarpedon's Lycian fighters fall to Patroclus, and they start to run away. Sarpedon rallies his men with a passionate speech, telling them, 'Now's the time for you to fight on bravely.'

Then Sarpedon jumps off his chariot and runs at Patroclus. The narrative pauses while Zeus spends a moment mourning the fact his son is about to be killed. 'Sarpedon, dearest of all men, is fated now to die...My heart's divided'. Zeus wonders if he should save Sarpedon, but his wife Hera convinces him to let the man meet his fate.

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