I’m working on a paper for a mythology class that’s too good not to share with the internet.
So Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad are shown having a close relationship, and people for centuries have been interpreting it as sexual and/or romantic.
It’s common for people to assume that it was a case of Athenian pederasty. This is definitely what a lot of Athenians thought. Aescylus is one of the earliest recorded patrochilles shippers; he wrote a (mostly lost) play about Achilles portraying him and Patroclus as lovers.
(Important things to remember about Athenian pederasty- it was a teacher/student dynamic, involving an adolescent boy and an older man who acted as a mentor figure to him. The older one had to top, it was a really important part of the arrangement as far as the Athenians were concerned.
This kind of relationship is actually probably anachronistic in Homeric Greece! A lot of people contend that this kind of social arrangement just didn’t exist at the time. In reality if they were a couple they were probably not following pederastic dynamics.)
In Aescylus‘s play, he put Achilles as the mentor in the relationship, probably because he was the higher-ranked general and Patroclus wasn’t even really known for being a warrior.
However, Plato evidently headcanoned them differently, and he was willing to start shit over it; in his famous Symposium, he said, “the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two…and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far.”
Of course, even then, not everybody shipped it. Xenophon, a contemporary of Plato’s, insisted that the two of them were platonic friends (’platonic‘ for lack of a better word, obviously, since Plato himself shipped it.) Xenophon was I guess a big fan or bromance.
So if you ever think think that ‘shipping’ as a concept is new or different than it was hundreds of years ago…think again.