Antoine Wiertz’s ‘Greeks and Trojans Fighting over the Body of Patroclus’


In Homer’s Iliad, there are two scenes with bodies being desecrated. First there’s the Greek warrior Patroclus and then there’s the Trojan warrior Hector. I’ve always been baffled by the significance the story gives to the treatment of the corpses of fallen heroes, as opposed to the living. It’s common practice among all civilised armies to collect and bring home the bodies of their comrades, but it wasn’t until recently, when I saw a documentary about the militant Islamic terror group called the Islamic State, that I realised that the abuse of corpses is still very much part of modern warfare. I assume the purpose is to infuse fear, but doesn’t it rather show weakness and desperation?