18 Classics of LGBTQ Literature

8 of 19

The Song of Achilles cover (Image via HarperCollins)

7. The Song of Achilles

Likely, most of you know the story of Achilles, the fabled hero of the Trojan War. He’s mentioned many times over in Homer’s Iliad as a practically mythical figure – Achilles is indestructible, Achilles kills the Trojan hero Hector, Achilles is the son of a god, etc., etc.

The epic poem also mentions Achilles’ companion, Patroclus. Though many sources describe Patroclus as a comrade and brother in arms, others pretty clearly see him as Achilles’ lover. When offended by military commander Agamemnon, Achilles descends into such a sulk that, without his martial prowess, the Greeks nearly lose the war.

It is only after Patroclus is killed that a grief-ravaged Achilles re-enters the fray. Whereas some writers see that and comment on the importance of such deep friendship (looking at you, Victorians), others interpret that as a man mourning his romantic companion.

The Song of Achilles is a modern novel, though it deals with the events of the Iliad, now over 3,000 years old. It tells the story of Achilles from the perspective of Patroclus, an awkward young prince from a Greek backwater. Patroclus is sent to live at the court of King Peleus.

The king’s son, Achilles, is a formidable figure, a golden man, an accomplished warrior, and son of a goddess. Despite this, he befriends Patroclus and the two grow close. As the Trojan War descends upon them, the pair go to war, unaware of the consequences that face them.