The ideal of character in Homer was what the Greeks called heroic; what we should call chivalrous. Young men studied the Iliad as our ancestors studied the Arthurian romances, finding there a pattern of conduct raised almost too high above the realities of common life for imitation, yet stimulative of enthusiasm and exciting to the fancy. Foremost among the paragons of heroic virtue stood Achilles, the splendour of whose achievements in the Trojan war was only equalled by the pathos of his friendship. The love for slain Patroclus broke his mood of sullen anger, and converted his brooding sense of wrong into a lively thirst for vengeance. Hector, the slayer of Patroclus, had to be slain by Achilles, the comrade of Patroclus. No one can read the Iliad without observing that its action virtually turns upon the conquest which the passion of friendship gains over the passion of resentment in the breast of the chief actor. This the Greek students of Homer were not slow to see; and they not unnaturally selected the friendship of Achilles for their ideal of manly love. It was a powerful and masculine emotion, in which effeminacy had no part, and which by no means excluded the ordinary sexual feelings. Companionship in battle and the chase, in public and in private affairs of life, was the communion proposed by Achilleian friends--not luxury or the delights which feminine attractions offered. The tie was both more spiritual and more energetic than that which bound man to woman. Such was the type of comradeship delineated by Homer; and such, in spite of the modifications suggested by later poets, was the conception retained by the Greeks of this heroic friendship. Even Æschines, in the place above quoted, lays stress upon the mutual loyalty of Achilles and Patroclus as the strongest bond of their affection: "regarding, I suppose, their loyalty and mutual goodwill as the most touching feature of their love." 1
3:1 Compare the fine rhetorical passage in Max. Tyr., Dissert., xxiv. 8, ed. Didot, 1842.