In honor of all the students going back to school, I wanted to share one of my favorite Patroclus-related teaching stories.
In my middle-school Latin class, we were discussing which gods had taken which sides in the Trojan War. I asked who was on the Greek side, and the students called out answers:
“Athena!” “Hera!” “Apollo!”
“No!” another student shouted. “Apollo wasn’t on the Greek side. Remember? He pantsed that guy.”
The class paused. In US slang, ‘pantsing’ refers to yanking someone’s trousers down as a prank, preferably in front of an audience.
“He did what?” I asked.
“Pantsed that guy. On the walls, or something? You told us he did!”
I ran back over every Trojan War myth, trying to find an incident that could possibly be interpreted as ‘pantsing.’ At last, light dawned. The week before I had told them about Apollo knocking off Patroclus’ helmet and armor, to reveal that he wasn’t really Achilles.
“Do you mean Patroclus?”
I explained that pantsing wasn’t really a good term for it, since they didn’t wear pants in Homeric Greece. The student listened to my explanation with polite tolerance. Then turned to his neighbor, “See! I told you he pantsed him.”
I can just imagine the student one day saying to his college professor: “Sure I know who Apollo is! My teacher told us how he pantsed this guy…”