Madeline Miller did what the movie producers of the film Troy (2004) were too cowardly to do; she stayed true to the homosexuality of Homer’s Iliad rather than writing a censored version of the story which stank of homophobia. Achilles and Patroclus were passionately in love, which resulted in their respective destructions. They were not cousins or man at arms, but soul mates.
The attraction between these two men wasn’t something that was rushed and squandered. It was built up, ever so slowly, and delivered eloquently. The two were friends from boyhood, and Patroclus was enamoured by Achilles after just one glance. He didn’t want to be parted from him. The two grew up together, they fought together, they learnt together and they developed together. They became inseparable and reliant on each other. Their sexual relationship just matured as they did it; it was the most natural thing in the world.
Like all relationships, there were issues. The two weren’t without their differences. They clashed and quarrelled but only because they truly cared for each other. Patroclus wanted to end the war, and Achilles didn’t think the fight was worthy of his name: he wanted a bigger war to fight in. So, Patroclus, in his most bravest and stupid move goes against his lover’s wish and tries to end the war with a stroke of his sword. But he is no Achilles: he is not a god of war. He was out of his depth, outmatched and doomed.
It could only end in tragedy
I’ve not included a spoiler warning because everybody knows the story of Homer’s Iliad. Well, at least, I hope they do! Following the traditional narrative arc, Achilles goes on a mad rampage to avenge the death of his beloved. In the process he simultaneously destroys and immortalises himself. He got what he wanted, but not in the way he wanted it.