Achilles’ Heel

Achilles is an ancient Greek hero, most noted for two things: his participation in the Trojan War, and his tender heel. Achilles' mother, Thetis, was predicted to bear a child that would be stronger than his father. When Zeus and Poseidon discovered this fact, they both stopped actively pursuing Thetis. Instead, Thetis married Peleus, and bore him a son, Achilles. When he was a young child, his mother Thetis dipped him in the river Styx, the river that separated the mortal world from the underworld. Dipping a mortal into the river was known to create immortality in the person being dipped. She wanted to do this because, although Achilles inherited the "god," and therefore immortal, half from his mother, his father was mortal, so Achilles too would be mortal. However, his mother held on to his left heel while dipping him, thereby leaving him more vulnerable in that particular area (and just a little bit mortal). Despite Achilles' extreme talent in battle, as well as his physical strength and endurance, his one weak area would eventually prove to be fatal. During battle, a clever enemy shot at his left heel with a poison arrow. This killed him, because that part of his foot was not protected by the immortality of the river Styx.

As a child, Achilles showed a natural tendency to hunt, and both Athena and Artemis were impressed with his growing talent. However, with this talent came the prophecy that Achilles would either be glorious and die early, or not be glorious and live a long life. Achilles chose the former option, knowing he would not return from the Trojan War alive. Before going to battle, Achilles' mother sent him to the island of Skyros, disguised as a female, to avoid the prophecy that he would die in the war. A seer predicted that the Greeks would not win without the help of Achilles, so Odysseus sought him out from his hiding place on the island. Achilles then joined the Greeks. He led the Myrmidones and Achaeans in battle against Troy. Achilles was favored by both Athena, goddess of War, and Hera. After ten years of fighting, Achilles got into an argument with Agamemnon, and refused to continue fighting.

One of Achilles' most famous battles was against the Trojan hero Hector. After chasing Hector around the perimeter of Troy several times, Achilles killed Hector and then proceeded to tie him to a chariot and run it out to sea.

Achilles died before Troy was overtaken by the Greeks. The Iliad does not mention his death, but the Odyssey expressly mentions it. His killer is not named in some accounts; in others, it is Paris. The remains of his body were burned and, along with the remains of his friend, Patroclus, were buried in an urn near Hellespont. People continued to pay tribute to his burial site.

In literature, Achilles was loved and admired, and readers met his tale with a deep sense of sympathy. He is seen as a courageous, handsome Greek, sent unfairly to die in war. He is affectionate with others, including friends and family. He is considered fearless though vengeful, and extracting anger upon others is often referenced in his myths. However, he always remains obedient to the gods.

In today's modern language, an "Achilles heel" is a weak spot, or a spot that, if tampered with, could cause great harm to the person in possession of said heel. The Achilles tendon is also a muscle running through the back of the calf of one's leg, and into the ankle. It's unlikely that one would ever die from an arrow wound here; however, the arrow that slayed the Greek Achilles was said to have been coated with poison.

Sign up for free to access more Greek gods resources like . Wyzant Resources features blogs, videos, lessons, and more about Greek gods and over 250 other subjects. Stop struggling and start learning today with thousands of free resources!
if (isMyPost) { }