Achilles, in Greek mythology, son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the Nereid, or sea nymph, Thetis. Achilles was the bravest, handsomest, and greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. According to Homer, Achilles was brought up by his mother at Phthia with his inseparable companion Patroclus. Later non-Homeric tales suggest that Patroclus was Achilles’ kinsman or lover. Another non-Homeric episode relates that Thetis dipped Achilles as a child in the waters of the River Styx, by which means he became invulnerable, except for the part of his heel by which she held him—the proverbial “Achilles’ heel.”
Who was Achilles?
In Greek mythology, Achilles was the strongest warrior and hero in the Greek army during the Trojan War. He was the son of Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and Thetis, a sea nymph. The story of Achilles appears in Homer’s Iliad and elsewhere.
Why was Achilles considered a hero?
Achilles was considered a hero because he was the most successful soldier in the Greek army during the Trojan War. According to post-Homeric myths, Achilles was physically invulnerable, and it was prophesied that the Greeks could not win the Trojan War without him.
What is an Achilles heel?
The term Achilles heel references a vulnerability or weakness. It is rooted in the myth of Achilles’ mother dipping him in the River Styx, making his entire body invulnerable except for the part of his foot where she held him—the proverbial Achilles heel. (Achilles tendon is an anatomical term.)
Thetis immersing her son, Achilles, in the River Styx by Antoine Borel, 18th century; in the collection of the Galleria Nazionale, Parma, Italy.
The later mythographers related that Peleus, having received an oracle that his son would die fighting at Troy, sent Achilles to the court of Lycomedes on Scyros, where he was dressed as a girl and kept among the king’s daughters (one of whom, Deïdamia, bore him Neoptolemus). Hearing from the soothsayer Calchas that Troy could not be taken without Achilles, the Greeks searched for and found him.
James Barry (1741-1806) painting title: The Education of Achilles, oil on canvas by James Barry, c. 1772; in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut. 102.9 x 128.9 cm Alternate title: Chiron and Achilles
During the first nine years of the war, Achilles ravaged the country around Troy and took 12 cities. In the 10th year a quarrel with Agamemnon occurred when Achilles insisted that Agamemnon restore Chryseis, his prize of war, to her father, a priest of Apollo, so as to appease the wrath of Apollo, who had decimated the camp with a pestilence. An irate Agamemnon recouped his loss by depriving Achilles of his favourite slave, Briseis.
Achilles refused further service, and consequently the Greeks floundered so badly that at last Achilles allowed Patroclus to impersonate him, lending him his chariot and armour. Hector (the eldest son of King Priam of Troy) slew Patroclus, and Achilles, having finally reconciled with Agamemnon, obtained new armour from the god Hephaestus and slew Hector. After dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot, Achilles gave it to Priam at his earnest entreaty. The Iliad concludes with the funeral rites of Hector. It makes no mention of the death of Achilles, though the Odyssey mentions his funeral. The poet Arctinus in his Aethiopis took up the story of the Iliad and related that Achilles, having slain the Ethiopian king Memnon and the Amazon Penthesilea, was himself slain in battle by Priam’s son Paris, whose arrow was guided by Apollo.