This is the fourth day of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans.
Very few of the Greeks paid much attention to yesterday’s match sending Meriones against the bulwark of the Achaeans, since most assumed that Meriones would be expire in no more than a few words.
The Cretan captain, however, saved his breath and tried to outdance the larger Salaminian. He darted left to right, throwing his spears and having them glance off the massive shield of Telamon’s son. Ajax stood rather impassively, parrying thrusts and waiting until Meriones ran straight at him before he locked his hands together and swung them directly into the Cretan’s chest. The ax-swing blow launched him into the air. When he hit the ground, his armor rattled around him like dice in a jar.
As he struggled to get up to his elbows, Idomeneus bellowed with a laugh, “Charioteer, my brother, stay down before you get blood on the ground!*”
*A joke: in Greek, Idomeneus said… πρὶν ἐκχεῖν αἵμα ἐπ’ αἶαν, using the word aia-n for “ground” which sounds a lot like Aias, the son of Telamon.
Now we turn to a strange match-up: Patroklos son of Menoitios vs. Makhaon the son of Asklepios. Perhaps this is why Apollo dislikes him?
Patroklos: the son of Menoitios who fights alongside his angrier half, Achilles. He is not originally from Phthia, but grew up there in exile from Opos after he killed a child his own age in anger over a game of dice. He appears by Achilles’ side throughout the Iliad until he takes his place in battle and falls at Hektor’s hands (helped by Apollo and Euphorbos). He even patiently listens to Achilles’ singing (Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ, / δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων, 9.190-191).
Patroklos does everything for Achilles: he gives Briseis back, he makes food, he has a bed made up for Phoinix, he goes to see about Makhaon’s wound, and he leads the Myrmidons to Battle, and dies for him. (But he is not listed as one of the leaders of the Myrmidons in the Catalogue of Ships). In battle he’s a terror: he kills Sarpedon and almost breaks through the walls of Troy themselves. Before he dies he may just be the only one to temper Achilles’ rage: As a scholion states (Schol. BT a Il. 307b) “it is likely that Patroklos goes with Achilles when he is enraged for the purpose of calming his spirit. This is because he is kind, as is clear from the fact that he pities the Acheans” (εἰκότως τῷ ᾿Αχιλλεῖ θυμικῷ ὄντι ἤπιος ὢν Πάτροκλος πάρεστι πρὸς τὸ τὸν θυμὸν αὐτοῦ μαλάσσειν. ὅτι δὲ πρᾷός ἐστι, δῆλον ἐξ ὧν οἰκτείρει τοὺς ᾿Αχαιούς)
Makhaon, a healer and leader of the contingent from Oikhaliê, Trikke and Ithômê (yes, where?) is a son of Asklepios and led 30 ships to Troy. He administered his arts to Menelaos in the middle of battle (book 4) and was enjoying his own aristeia in book 11 until he was shot in the shoulder by Paris. He is so beloved by his companions that when Achilles witnesses his rescue in book 11 he sends Patroklos to inquire about him, setting off the sequence of events that will seal everyone’s fate. Also, Diogenes Laertius lets slip that he just might be Aristotle’s ancestor (Ἀριστοτέλης Νικομάχου καὶ Φαιστίδος Σταγειρίτης. ὁ δὲ Νικόμαχος ἦν ἀπὸ Νικομάχου τοῦ Μαχάονος τοῦ Ἀσκληπιοῦ, καθά φησιν Ἕρμιππος ἐν τῷ Περὶ Ἀριστοτέλους, 5.1).
Let’s be honest. This probably isn’t fair. But it just might come down to how mild a temper Patroklos actually has. Don’t take your feelings out about Aristotle on Makhaon. Diogenes might not trust his sources on this….