When Achilles pulled his troops back, Patroclus, in an act of both defiance and love, went in his place, wearing his golden armor, and fought. He slaughtered many and it took Apollo, a god, to stop him. When Hector, seeing him without his armor, approached him, Patroclus, a mortal (not a hero, not like Achilles, not the best of the Greeks), stood his ground and fought with the unyielding knowledge that it would be his last fight.
Now, I am not here to speak of Achilles and of his rage; I am not here to retell the hero’s anguish. We’ve all seen it before, we’ve all been witnesses to the famous rage that let to the death of mighty Hector.
I would much rather muse on Patroclus’ fight, on the humanity in him that led him to his death. He must have known that he was going to die, maybe not when he first put on the armor, but when he was riding away from Achilles and the safety of their tent. He must have known, the knowledge must have come to him stealthily, and the wind must have whispered in his ear the inevitable truth. And yet- here’s the silver thread of destiny unraveling before our eyes- he fought. And he did so with such ferocity that it took Apollo to bring him down.
[Roads divide in the woods and ships can be taken off course. Adrenaline will pump through your veins like ichor and when faced with our ultimate fear we will be tempted to step down.]
I think the difference between a mortal and a hero is whether or not it takes Apollo to bring you down.