Story of Achilles

Achilles was the son of King Peleus of Thessaly and the sea nymph Thetis. He was the greatest f the Greek warriors, although in comparison with Agamemnon and the other Greek kings who went on the expedition against Troy, he appears to have been something of a barbarian. His anger was as legendary as his prowess.

The uncertain nature of Achilles is apparent in the story of his birth. Both Zeus and Poseidon wanted to a son by the beautiful Thetis, but Prometheus, the fire god, had warned them that her offspring would be greater than his father. Anxious to avoid the emergence of a power superior to themselves, the gods carefully arranged the marriage of Thetis to a mortal. Because she was so attached to Achilles. Thetis tried to make him immortal by various means. The best known was dipping the new-born baby in the Styx, the river that ran through Hades, the world of the dead. Since Thetis had to hold him by the heel, this one spot was left vulnerable and at Troy brought about Achilles death from a poisoned arrow shot from the bow of Paris.

Achilles learned the skills of warfare from Chiron, leader of the centaurs. Who also fed him on wild game to increase his ferocity. Under Chiron’s care Achilles became renowned as a courageous fighter, but his immortal mother knew that he was doomed to die at Troy if he went on the expedition. So Thetis arranged for him to be disguised as a girl and hidden among the women at the palace of King Lycomedes on the island of Scyros. The Greeks felt that without Achilles their chances of beating the Trojans were slim, but no one could identify the hidden hero. At last, cunning Odysseus was sent to discover Achilles, which he did by means of trick.

Having traced the young man to Scyros, Odysseus placed weapons among some jewellery in the palace. While Achilles female companions were admiring the craftsmanship of the jewels, a call to arms was sounded and the warrior quickly reached for the weapons, giving himself away. Unmasked, Achilles had no choice but to sail for Troy.

There he bitterly quarreled with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks. It may be that he was angered by Agamemnon’s use of his name to bring Iphigenia to Aulis, for she had been told she was to marry Achilles, whereas Agamemnon intended to sacrifice her to the goddess Artemis, to ensure a favorable wind for the Greek fleet. For a long time Achilles stayed in his tent and refuse to fight the Trojans. He even persuaded his mother to use her influence with Zeus to let the tide of the war go against the Greeks. But Achilles was roused to action by the death of Patroclus, his squire and lover, at the hands of the Trojan Hector. Patroclus had borrowed Achilles armor, which had been forged by the smith god Hephaestus, and entered the fray, but he came up against Hector who easily defeats him.

In brand new armor Achilles sought out Hector, who asked for a respect to be shown for his body if he was defeated. Achilles refused, slew Hector with his spear and dragged the Trojan hero round the tomb of Patroclus for twelve days. Only Thetis could persuade her son to let the Trojans recover the corpse and arrange a funeral, a serious obligation for the living.

Back in the fight, Achilles struck fear into the Trojans, of whom he killed hundreds, but his own life was coming to an end, which he had been warned about by his steed Xanthus, before the Furies struck the divine creature dumb. An arrow from the bow of Paris, guided by the god of prophecy Apollo, gave Achilles a mortal wound. Which leads to the hero’s death.

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