Madeline Miller on The Song of Achilles: ‘It helped people come out to their parents’


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The American novelist describes how she overcame her fears of a classical backlash to write a gay love story about Achilles and Patroclus

Many seeds grew to make this book. My mother reading myths to me as a child. The teacher who taught me Greek. An independent LGBTQ+ bookstore near my house in Philadelphia called Giovanni’s Room, filled with luminous, potent stories.

But if I have to name a single beginning, it was the early months of 2000. I was about to graduate with my classics degree and begin a master’s. I was already working on my thesis, on a topic that had long frustrated me: the way that some scholarship dismissed the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus, labelling them “good friends”. I’d read Plato’s Symposium, where Achilles and Patroclus are not just presented as lovers, but the ideal romantic relationship. I knew that interpreting their relationship as romantic was a very old idea, and I was angry at the way homophobia was erasing this reading.

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