Achilles : Greek Mythology

Introduction :

Achilles, in Greek mythology, greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War. He was the son of the sea nymph Thetis and Peleus, king of the Myrmidons of Thessaly. When the Fates prophesied that Achilles would die in the Trojan War, Thetis attempted to make her infant son immortal. In one version of the story, Thetis rubbed Achilles with ambrosia and placed him in the hearth fire to make him immortal. According to a later legend, she bathed him in the River Styx. The waters made him invulnerable except for the heel by which his mother held him. The term Achilles heel has become popularized to refer to someone’s or something’s key weakness.

Youth :

While Achilles was growing up, the Greek armies were preparing for their assault on Troy in Asia Minor. Knowing that her son was fated to die if he took part in the war, Achilles’s mother dressed him in women’s clothing and sent him to Skyros to live among the young women in the court of King Lycomedes. Warned that they could not conquer Troy without the aid of Achilles, the Greeks sent Odysseus, king of Ithaca, to find him. Disguised as a peddler, Odysseus went to Skyros bearing a shield and a spear among his goods. When Achilles betrayed his identity by seizing the weapons, Odysseus persuaded him to join the Greek expedition to Troy.

The Trojan War :

Achilles fought many battles during the Greeks’ ten-year siege of Troy. When the Mycenaean king Agamemnon seized the captive slave Briseis from him during the war, Achilles withdrew the Myrmidons from battle and sulked in his tent. The Trojans, emboldened by his absence, attacked the Greeks and drove them into headlong retreat. Then Patroclus, Achilles’s friend and companion, begged Achilles to lend him his armor and let him lead the Myrmidons into battle. Achilles consented.

Patroclus was killed by the Trojan prince Hector. Afterward the grief-stricken Achilles returned to battle, slew Hector, and dragged his body in triumph behind his chariot. Achilles fought his last battle with Memnon, king of the Ethiopians. After killing the king, Achilles led the Greeks to the walls of Troy. There he was mortally wounded in the heel by Paris, the Trojan prince whose abduction of Helen, queen of Sparta, started the Trojan War. The quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, the subsequent battle, and the ransoming of Hector’s body are recounted in the Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem attributed to the poet Homer.

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