The Great Hero of the Trojan War

Achilles' Family

Achilles' father was Peleus, the mortal king of the Myrmidons. His mother was Thetis, a nereid (or a sea nymph). But, Thetis left Peleus soon after the birth of Achilles. His cousin and "inseparable companion" (Greene, 2013) was Patroclus. Also, he was the husband of Briseis and the father of Neoptolemus.

Achilles' Childhood

Achilles was extraordinarily strong, courageous and loyal; but, he had one vulnerability–his “Achilles heel." His mother, Thetis, was extraordinarily concerned about her baby son’s mortality. She did everything she could to make him immortal: she burned him over a fire every night, then dressed his wounds with ambrosial ointment, "and she dunked him into the River Styx, whose waters were said to confer the invulnerability of the gods" (Daly, 1992). She gripped him tightly by the foot as she dipped him into the river–so tightly that the water never touched his heel. Therefore, Achilles was invulnerable everywhere but his heel.

Achilles' Life

When he was 9 years old, a seer predicted that Achilles would die heroically in battle against the Trojans. When Thetis heard about this, she disguised him as a girl and sent him to live on the Aegean island of Skyros. While he was there, Chiron (the gentle and wise Centaur) taught him the arts of riding and hunting, as well as of music and healing. Later, he left Skyros and joined the Greek army. "But before he went to battle, Thetis asked the divine blacksmith Hephaestus to make a sword and shield that would keep him safe," (Greene, 2013).

Achilles' Death

Paris ambushed Achilles as he entered Troy. "He shot his unsuspecting enemy with an arrow, which Apollo guided to the one place he knew Achilles was vulnerable, his heel, where Achilles died on the spot, still undefeated in battle," (Daly, 1992). That is why, to this day, we call it the "Achilles heel."

Works Cited

"Achilles." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. 6th ed. New York: Columbia UP, 2014. 1. EBSCOhost. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <>.

"Achilles." A+E Networks, 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <>.

Daly, Kathleen N. Greek Mythology and Roman Mythology A to Z. New York: Facts on File, 1992. Print.

Greene, Robert. "Achilles." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 4 Sept. 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2014. <>.