What was Achilles's reaction to Patroclus's death in the Iliad?

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Homer's Iliadopens with thematic lines:

Anger be now my song, immortal one,

Akhileus' anger, doomed and ruinous,

That causes the Akhaians loss on bitter loss

And crowded brave souls into the undergloom,

Leaving so many dead men—carriot

For dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.

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Homer's Iliad opens with thematic lines:

Anger be now my song, immortal one,

Akhileus' anger, doomed and ruinous,

That causes the Akhaians loss on bitter loss

And crowded brave souls into the undergloom,

Leaving so many dead men—carriot

For dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.

These opening lines speak not of any anger Achilles felt at the outset of the Trojan War but of the fierce anger he displays when his beloved friend and companion Patroclus dies. Achilles reluctantly allowed Patroclus to return to battle wearing Achilles's armor, with a strict command not to pursue the Trojans but to only beat them back a leader of the Myrmidons.

Patroclus ignores Achilles instructions and follows Hector as the Greeks beat the Trojans back. Hector, thinking he was encountering Achilles, ends up killing Patroclus. When he discovers he has killed the wrong man, Hector seems to glory over Achilles, suggesting that Achilles was not powerful enough to protect Patroclus (Book 16).

Achilles's grief at the news is intense, and when it begins to evolve it turns to blind rage. If Achilles's prior motivation in the Trojan War had been to earn glory, he now has a personal reason to defeat the Trojans, and specifically Hector. Grief and "ruinous" anger (and likely some self-incrimination for allowing Patroclus to fight without him) find expression in Achilles's vengeful pursuit of Hector, whom he not only kills but also desecrates, dragging his body around the gates of Troy and taking it back to the Greek camp.

Significantly, Homer offers a depth of characterization regarding Patroclus's death and Achilles's reaction. Notably, Achilles says nothing when he first learns that his friend has died and that Hector has taken Achilles's armor from the body. He waits nearly 100 lines before he speaks, and within that space a reader can process what this death means to Achilles and how for Achilles this news is also news of his own eventual death. He had been told that were he to join the Greeks in fighting the Trojans he would be trading long life for glory. It seems at this moment that Achilles sees precisely how that prophecy will play out. One can also read into those lines the complexity of Achilles's reaction—shock, guilt, grief, anger, and powerlessness to change Patroclus's fate. All this will be expressed in action when Achilles returns to battle.

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Achilles is absolutely devastated by Patroclus's death. Patroclus was his bosom buddy, his best friend in the whole world. They had such a strong connection, both as friends and soldiers. It's a sign of just how much Patroclus meant to Achilles that his friend's death causes him to return to battle.

Previously, the Achaeans' finest warrior had been sulking in his tent, furious at being disrespected by Agamemnon. No matter how much his comrades pleaded with him, no matter how many Achaeans were slaughtered by the Trojans, Achilles steadfastly refused to set foot outside his tent and give battle. It took the death of his closest friend to get him to come out.

For Achilles, the death of Patroclus is personal; he regards the actions of Hector in killing Patroclus as an insult to him. So even when he finally returns to the fray, Achilles is fighting to avenge the death of his fallen friend and comrade, not for the greater glory of the Achaeans in their seemingly never-ending war with the Trojans.

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In The Iliad, by Homer, Achilles refuses to fight for the Greeks in the siege of Troy after King Agamemnon takes his concubine. Achilles' refusal turns the tide of war against the Greeks. To prevent seemingly imminent defeat, Achilles' best friend (and, in some readings, his lover), Patroclus, begs Achilles to let him use Achilles' famous armor in battle. Achilles reluctantly lets him use it, and Patroclus staves off defeat before dying in battle with Hector.

Achilles' reaction to the news of Patroclus' death is intense. He is mad with grief, and vows to kill Hector, despite knowing that the death of Hector is destined to bring about his own demise. His mother, the goddess Thetis, brings him a new set of armor, newly made by the god Hephaestus, despite also knowing that Achilles is destined to die soon after the death of Hector. Achilles returns to battle in his new armor, ravages the Trojan army, kills Hector, and defiles Hector's body, which raises the ire of the gods and cements his own demise.

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Achilles is enraged when Patroclus is killed by Hector. Achilles will not eat or drink until he exacts revenge upon Hector, even though he knows killing Hector will result in his own death. Achilles' mother tries to help him by having Hephaestus make a new armor for him, but Achilles will die soon anyway. Achilles' anger is so great that he goes on a murderous rampage, killing so many Trojans that the river Scamander is overflowing with the dead bodies of Trojan warriors. Killing Hector isn't enough for Achilles, however; he then drags his body back to the Greek camp in front of Hector's family.

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The brief answer to this is that Achilles's reaction to Patroclus's death was one of intense anger and an overwhelming desire for revenge.  It was when Patroclus died that Achilles finally got over being angry about having Briseis taken from him.  When he heard that Patroclus had died, Achilles stopped "sulking in his tent" and went out to take revenge for Patroclus's death.

Some traditions hold that Achilles and Patroclus were actually lovers and not just good friends.  Whether that is "true" or not, Patroclus's death got Achilles angry enough for him to come out and fight.  He then killed Hector and many others of the Trojans.

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