Was one of the most famous ancient heroes not only heterosexual but necrophilic as well?
We idealize Achilles primarily on the basis of those scraps of Homeric works that remained in our heads from our school days. However, when we take a closer look at the stories of the Greek warrior and confront the poet's stanzas with the works of later ancient authors, it turns out that the hero played by Brad Pitt does not resemble the real Achilles.
And it's not about the actor's beauty, much older than the protagonist of The Iliad. The mythical warrior was probably a man with a disturbed sexual identity.
The undercover seducer
According to the prophecy, the glory of war would cost Achilles his life. No wonder the mother decided to save the boy from this fate. She hid him in the court of the king of the Isle of Skyros and is - to be sure - disguised as a girl . No big deal. After all, this is a classic theme of many ancient stories. Besides, Achilles did not seem to complain - the women's attire did not prevent him from his love affairs.
Achilles on Skyros. It is here, according to legend, that Odysseus found the future hero disguised as a girl. However, female clothes did not prevent the young warrior from conquering both female and male hearts.
By the time the young man was found and identified by the clever Odysseus, the boy had already frizzed with one of his host's daughters. And so actively that he had a son with her. War, however, apparently attracted Achilles more than family life, which is why he set off with Odysseus to Troy. From today's point of view, it would be difficult to consider such a decision as responsible, but the ancients would ruthlessly laugh at our objections.
The death of Patroclus shook Achilles. However, his friend's body did not delight him as much as Penthesilea, the queen of the Amazons, whom the warrior had defeated. While he only sighed for his male companion, he reportedly disgraced her body after her death. Pictured is the painting by Nikolai Ge "Achilles lamenting the death of Patroclus" (1855).
The young dad, however, hungry for fame more than home care, soon found out that he was planning a relationship with another woman. Apparently, the commander-in-chief of the Greeks - Agamemnon - intended to marry him with his daughter Iphigenia. However, this turned out to be a trick by which Agamemnon lured the girl into sacrifice to the gods . Only to be able to set off with his ships to Troy in peace of mind! What are the women, what are the children - for real men, what mattered was the war.
Although, as later events showed, it was not quite so. Already at Troy, Achilles began arguing with Agamemnon about the beautiful kidnapped Trojan, Briseis. Of course, the Achaean warriors did not need to chat. Briseis was simply Achilles' sex slave - this is the cruel prose of war.
He must have liked it very much, since he could not come to terms with the loss of the girl and, because of her, he demonstratively abandoned his comrades. Instead of Achilles, Patroclus entered the fray. A friend with whom he shared not only the hardships of fights. According to the playwright Aeschylus, after the death of Patroclus, Achilles sighed on his thighs .
A bisexual hero? This is how we would probably describe him today. However, Achilles' psychosexual world was much more complicated. The beautiful Trojan prince Troilos was captured and raped - to death . And after defeating the Amazon queen Penthesilea, the great warrior ... fell in love with her strikingly beautiful body almost at first sight.
Could the rape of the dead body of the Amazon Queen be due to her belligerent nature? Or maybe Achilles had no necrophilic tendencies at all, all just myths? The answer is still a mystery.
According to some ancient authors, it was not a platonic love: Achilles, unable to contain his sudden lust, raped her - supposedly still dazzling - corpse . When one of the comrades in the fight laughed at him after this act, the hero knocked out all his teeth with one blow, and then sent him to the other world.
From Homer in the eighth century B.C.E. to Quintus Smyrneus - who in the fourth century C.E. expanded the plot of Achilles and the Amazons with shocking deliberations on the worship of corpses - more than a thousand years have passed. After another eight centuries, the 12th-century Byzantine writer Eustatios branded the ancient hero for using a corpse, and after another eight centuries - English mythology researcher Robert Graves directly called Achilles a necrophile.
You can get offended that such exploration of myths does not make sense and cannot be taken literally, because they are full of symbols and references - after centuries already distorted, unclear, or understandable only to professionals. Nevertheless, the example of Achilles shows how selectively we can draw from ancient tradition and how we filter content that is inconvenient for us ...
The text was written during the author's work on his latest book. "Ages of shamelessness. Sex and erotica in antiquity ”.