Consider this quotation from Plato's dialogue, The Symposium:
The honor [the gods] gave to Achilles is another matter. They sent him to the
Isles of the Blessed because he dared to stand by his lover Patroclus and
avenge him, even after he had learned that if he killed Hector then he himself
would be killed, but that if he chose otherwise he'd go home and end his life
as an old man. Instead he chose to die for Patroclus -- and more than that, he
did it for a man whose life was already over...
Aeschylus talks nonsense when he claims [in a lost play, The
Myrmidons] that Achilles was the lover; he was more beautiful than
Patroclus -- more beautiful than all the heroes -- and still beardless.
Besides, he was much younger, as Homer says. (Symposium 180A)
Phaedrus, the speaker of these words, says that Patroclus was the lover and
Achilles the beloved, and criticizes Aeschylus for reversing these roles. Among
well-to-do Greeks in Plato's day it was common for older men to fall in love
with, and seek sexual gratification from, adolescent boys. In these
relationships, which existed side by side with conventional marriage, the
older man (the erastês or "lover") played a sort of mentor role
for the younger man (the erômenos or "beloved"). The younger man
was supposed to be beautiful, not too forward, and won over with great
difficulty; and he got from the relationship the benefit of the older man's
wisdom and experience. Once the youth reached a certain age, he was no longer
suitable as a beloved, and became a friend.
What do you make of this account of the relationship between Achilles and
Patroclus? Is it plausible? Does it make sense of the text? What light does it
shed on Achilles' actions after he learns of Patroclus's death?