Achilles was one of the greatest warriors and heroes in Greek Mythology. He was a major character in the Iliad by Homer where he fought in the Trojan War against the city of Troy.
Birth of Achilles
Achilles' father was Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and his mother was Thetis, a sea nymph. After Achilles was born, his mother wanted to protect him from harm. She held him by the heel and dipped him into the river Styx. In Greek Mythology, the river Styx was located in the Underworld and had special powers. Achilles became invulnerable everywhere but at his heel where his mother held him.
Because Achilles was a half-god, he was very strong and soon became a great warrior. However, he was also half human and wasn't immortal like his mother. He would get old and die someday and he could also be killed.
The Trojan War Begins
When Helen, the wife of the Greek King Menelaus, was taken by the Trojan Prince Paris, the Greeks went to war to get her back. Achilles joined the battle and brought along a group of powerful soldiers called the Myrmidons.
Achilles Fights Troy
During the Trojan War, Achilles was unstoppable. He killed many of Troy's greatest warriors. However, the battle raged on for years. Many of the Greek gods were involved, some helping the Greeks and others helping the Trojans.
Achilles Refuses to Fight
At one point during the war, Achilles captured a beautiful princess named Briseis and fell in love with her. However, the leader of the Greek army, Agamemnon, became angry with Achilles and took Briseis from him. Achilles became depressed and refused to fight.
With Achilles not fighting, the Greeks began to lose the battle. The greatest warrior of Troy was Hector and no one could stop him. Achilles' best friend was a soldier named Patroclus. Patroclus convinced Achilles to lend him his armor. Patroclus entered the battle dressed as Achilles. Thinking that Achilles was back, the Greek army was inspired and began to fight harder.
Just when things were improving for the Greeks, Patroclus met up with Hector. The two warriors engaged in battle. With the help of the god Apollo, Hector killed Patroclus and took Achilles' armor. Achilles then rejoined the battle in order to avenge his friend's death. He met Hector on the battlefield and, after a long fight, defeated him.
Achilles continued to battle the Trojans and it seemed like he could not be killed. However, the Greek god Apollo knew his weakness. When Paris of Troy shot an arrow at Achilles, Apollo guided it so that it struck Achilles on the heel. Achilles eventually died from the wound.
The Achilles' Heel
Today, the term "Achilles' heel" is used to describe a point of weakness that could lead to ones' downfall.
Interesting Facts About Achilles
One story tells how Thetis disguised Achilles as a girl in the court of king of Skyros in order to keep him from war. Another Greek hero, Odysseus traveled to Skyros and tricked Achilles into giving himself away.
The Achilles tendon that connects the heel to the calf is named after the hero Achilles.
The Greek god Apollo was angry with Achilles because Achilles killed Apollo's son.
He fought and killed Penthesilea, the Queen of the Amazons.
After Achilles' death, the heroes Odysseus and Ajax competed for Achilles' armor. Odysseus won and gave the armor to Achilles' son.