Throughout the Iliad strong ties of love and friendship are central to the poem’s development. The friendship between soldiers can be a vital force that spurs them onward, whether in living friendship or out of revenge for the fallen. Two warriors, like Great and Little Ajax, can become a powerful fighting team because of their camaraderie. However, the desire to protect friends and loved ones extends beyond the battlefield. In some sense The Trojan War is a marital dispute over the beautiful Helen, who is caught between the desires of Paris and Menelaus.
Parental love is also an extremely important force, including the gods who watch over their mortal children in battle. It is Thetis’ love for her mortal son that causes her to ask Zeus for the favor of glorifying Achilles. Because she loves him and knows that his time on earth is short, she is moved to ask Zeus for the favor of driving the Achaeans back against the ships. Similarly, Hector’s passion to defend Troy is shown in Book VI, a tender moment in which he visits his wife and child, assuring them that he will return from battle safely.
Perhaps the most important relationship in the poem is the intense friendship between Achilles and his comrade Patroclus. More intense than a normal friendship, when Patroclus is killed, Achilles’ grief is deep enough to trigger a massive outpouring of fury on the battlefield. The intensity of his love for his friend is transformed into ruthlessness in combat, causing him to desecrate Hector’s corpse. Finally, when Priam comes in secret to the Achaean camp to ransom the body of Hector from Achilles, it is a risk he takes out of love for his son. Achilles recognizes Priam’s love for Hector and agrees to relinquish the body.
Love and Friendship ThemeTracker
Love and Friendship Quotes in The Iliad
O my son, my sorrow, why did I ever bear you?
All I bore was doom…
Doomed to a short life, you have so little time.
Maddening one, my Goddess, oh what now?...
Well, go to him yourself—you hover beside him!
Abandon the gods’ high road and become a mortal!...
suffer for Paris, protect Paris, for eternity . . .
until he makes you his wedded wife—that or his slave.
With that the son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass…
And so, deep in peace, the Father slept on Gargaron peak, conquered by Sleep
and strong assaults of Love.
Do as you please, Zeus . . .
but none of the deathless gods will ever praise you…
if you send Sarpedon home, living still, beware!
Then surely some other god will want to sweep
his own son clear of the heavy fighting too.
Those words stirred within Achilles a deep desire
to grieve for his own father…And overpowered by memory
both men gave way to grief. Priam wept freely
for man-killing Hector, throbbing, crouching
before Achilles’ feet as Achilles wept himself,
now for his father, now for Patroclus once again,
and their sobbing rose and fell throughout the house.