The Death of Patroclus in The Iliad

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Ajax the Lesser's Role in The Iliad

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 Summary & Characters Part 1
  • 1:12 The Fall of Patroclus
  • 2:58 Significance of…
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed
Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Richard Pierre

Richard has a doctorate in Comparative Literature and has taught Comparative Literature, English, and German

The death of Patroclus is one of the most powerful scenes in Homer's 'Iliad.' This lesson will summarize the events surrounding the hero's end, and explain its significance for the epic as a whole.

Summary & Characters Part 1

In The Iliad, for ten long years, the Greek forces lay siege to the city of Troy, without conquering it. By Book 15, Trojan forces have counterattacked the Greeks, breaking through a wall that protected their ships anchored on the shore outside of Troy. Patroclus can't stand it, and is determined to vanquish the Trojans. He begs his dear friend, the great warrior Achilles, to lend him his armor so he can battle the Trojans. This isn't just any armor: Achilles is a demigod, or half-man, half-deity, and considered fierce and essentially invincible in battle.

Achilles is angry at the leader of the Greek troops, Agamemnon, and refuses to fight. Patroclus thinks that if he wears Achilles' armor, he will fool the Trojans into believing it is actually Achilles doing the fighting, and they will be terrified. Achilles reluctantly agrees to lend his friend the armor.

There's a twist, however. The god Zeus has declared that Patroclus will be killed by the Trojan hero, Hector. Achilles warns Patroclus only to defend the Greek ships, and not to go after the Trojans. Zeus' prophecy spells doom for Patroclus, but he forges ahead anyway.

The Fall of Patroclus

Out on the battlefield, feeling especially brave with the help of Achilles' armor, Patroclus goes on a bit of a killing spree. He leads a group of Greeks known as the Myrmidons against the surprised Trojans, who flee. Despite Achilles' warning, Patroclus can't help himself, and he chases after the Trojans all the way to the gates of their city.

A battle scene from The Iliad
A battle scene from The Iliad

Throughout The Iliad, gods and goddesses intervene in the action, and this scene is no exception. The god Apollo sides with the Trojans, like Zeus, and Apollo steps in to stop Patroclus, who is wounded. At the end of Book 16, Hector kills Patroclus, fulfilling Zeus' prophecy. Hector is bold, telling Patroclus as he kills him that ''here the vultures shall eat you. / Wretch! Achilleus, great as he was, could do nothing to help you.'' With his last breaths, however, Patroclus gives his own prophecy, telling Hector: ''You yourself are not one who shall live long, but now already / death and powerful destiny are standing beside you, / to go down under the hands of Aiakos' great son, Achilleus.''

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account