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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 360

His best beloved. The following elegant remarks of Thirlwall (Greece, vol. i, p. 176 seq.) well illustrate the character of the friendship subsisting between these two heroes—

"One of the noblest and most amiable sides of the Greek character, is the readiness with which it lent itself to construct intimate and durable friendships, and this is a feature no less prominent in the earliest than in later times. It was indeed connected with the comparatively low estimation in which female society was held; but the devotedness and constancy with which these attachments were maintained, was not the less admirable and engaging. The heroic companions whom we find celebrated partly by Homer and partly in traditions which, if not of equal antiquity, were grounded on the same feeling, seem to have but one heart and soul, with scarcely a wish or object apart, and only to live as they are always ready to die for one another. It is true that the relation between them is not always one of perfect equality; but this is a circumstance which, while it often adds a peculiar charm to the poetical description, detracts little from the dignity of the idea which it presents. Such were the friendships of Hercules and Iolaus, of Theseus and Pirithous, of Orestes and Pylades; and though These may owe the greater part of their fame to the later epic or even dramatic poetry, the moral groundwork undoubtedly subsisted in the period to which the traditions are referred. The argument of the Iliad mainly turns on the affection of Achilles for Patroclus, whose love for the greater hero is only tempered by reverence for his higher birth and his unequalled prowess. But the mutual regard which united Idomeneus and Meriones, Diomedes and Sthenelus, though, as the persons themselves are less important, it is kept more in the back-ground, is manifestly viewed by the poet in the same light. The idea of a Greek hero seems not to have been thought complete, without such a brother in arms by his side."—Thirlwall, Greece, vol. i. p. 176, seq.

244.

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