The Song of Achilles Book Summary - The Song of Achilles Book explained in key points
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The Song of Achilles summary

Madeline Miller

A Novel

4.8 (13 ratings)
21 mins
7 key ideas
Audio & text

What is The Song of Achilles about?

The Song of Achilles (2011) is a creative retelling of Homer’s Iliad. The epic tale of the Trojan War is transformed into a moving love story, told from the perspective of Patroclus, the beloved companion of the Greek hero Achilles.

About the Author

Madeline Miller studied Classics at Brown University and went on to teach Latin and Greek. Her novels, The Song of Achilles and Circe, are adaptations of Greek myths and were both New York Times best sellers.

Table of Contents

    The Song of Achilles
    summarized in 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    Patroclus and Achilles grow up together, and fall in love.

    Patroclus and Achilles grew up together, and they’re both sons of kings. But they’re not brothers – they’re lovers.

    They first met years ago, as children. Patroclus came to live at the palace of Achilles’s father. 

    Even then, Patroclus found himself drawn to Achilles, without knowing exactly why. 

    The prince had a brilliance, a beauty … something that burned like a flame. Patroclus would look at Achilles across the dining hall and feel a jolt of electricity, his skin prickling as though a storm were coming.

    And the interest was mutual. The two boys soon became close friends – and then something more.

    So when Achilles left the palace, naturally, Patroclus followed. He joined Achilles in the woods, which was where the prince had been sent for his education – lessons with a wise centaur named Chiron.

    For a while, the two boys live together in Chiron’s cave. 

    They spend their days studying with the centaur, exploring the woods, and bathing in the river. In the evenings, they eat by the campfire and stargaze, learning the stories of the constellations. And in the cave, they fall asleep side by side.

    Their bond gradually deepens. When Patroclus looks into Achilles’s eyes, he feels a sense of absolute certainty. “I will never leave him,” he thinks.

    Two years pass by peacefully. But they both know that this idyllic existence can’t last forever. They’re now 16 years old, and this is the last year of their childhood. It’s only a matter of time before Achilles is called back to the palace.

    And then there’s the prophecy. It is said that one day, Achilles will be the greatest warrior of his generation. He was born to be a hero.

    Beyond these woods, Achilles’s destiny awaits him. The boys savor the precious time they have left.

    One day, they walk through the woods until they reach a grove of olive trees. There, they sit and talk of their families and the future.

    Achilles asks Patroclus if he can name a hero who lived happily.

    Patroclus thinks, but he can’t come up with a single example. In one way or another, they’ve all had tragic lives. There’s no such thing as a happy hero.

    But then Achilles says to Patroclus, “I’ll be the first. And you’re the reason.”

    With Patroclus by his side, Achilles feels invincible. 

    And it’s just as well, because war is on the horizon.

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    Who should read The Song of Achilles

    • Hopeless romantics
    • Fans of Greek mythology
    • Anyone interested in the Iliad and the Trojan War

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