Group Members: Rev. Emily Daws, Mr. B. P. Dailey, Dr. Shannon Paul,
Jake Hansen, Esq.
Mo' sources, Mo' betta:
Achilles' mother, Thetis, wished to make her newborn son immortal. She immersed
him in fire, but when his father, Peleus, cried out, his mother forsook
her infant son and returned to the sea. Apollodorus
-Gantz, Timothy. Early Greek Myth.
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. pages 230-1.
While The Iliad portrays Achilles as an only child, the Aigimos
tells the story of Thetis placing six of her children before Achilles
in a boiling cauldron to see if they are mortal.
As a child, Achilles was trained by a Centaur to hunt wild animals without
the aid of dogs or nets. His power came from quickness and skill. Pindar
Thetis knew that Achilles would surely perish in the Trojan War, so to
prevent him from going, she disguised him as a girl, and gave him to Lycomedes
as a maiden of the court. Apollodorus
Achilles the Healer
Telephus is only able to take the Greeks to Troy if Achilles heals his
wounds. Hearing this, Achilles uses rust from the spear that struck Telephus
to heal the wound. Apollodorus
Fagles, Robert, trans. Homer's The Iliad.
Penguin Books USA Inc, 1990.
Web connection: http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.xiii.html
The rage of a hero and the resolve of a war. Book 24 tells the story
of Achilles and Priam, the king of Troy, meeting to discuss the ransom
of Prince Hector's body after he was killed by Achilles.
Achilles' Death: Conflicting Versions
Ovid's version of Achilles' death states that Paris discharged the arrow,
but Apollo directed it to Achilles' heal, his only vulnerable point. Ovid
Euripedes' version of Achilles' death implies that Paris' shaft alone
brought down Achilles. Euripides
Analysis of the hero/divinity in antiquity
The identity of Achilles that transcends myth is the
universal Achilles, a hero for all times, a mortal man favored by the
immortal gods. Achilles was driven to fight and doomed to die. His parents
were Thetis, an immortal goddess, and Peleus, a mortal man. His mother
wished, from his birth, to make him immortal, but there are several
discrepancies as to her methods. Apollodorus 2.71 says that she hid
him in fire to destroy the mortal parts he inherited from his father.
His father stopped her and she forsook her baby and returned to the
sea. Another version says that she placed him in a cauldron of boiling
water to see if he would die. This version also states that Achilles
was the seventh child Thetis had attempted to make immortal. The other
six children did not survive her test. Whether it was boiling water
or fire, though, does not seem to be the point. Rather, these stories
focus on Achilles' mortality. By attempting to make her son immortal,
Thetis only succeeds in emphasizing the fact that he is mortal, and
can be wounded or killed.
There are other parts to these stories that say that
Thetis dipped Achilles into the waters of the river Styx in order to
make his body invulnerable (find a description of one artist's interpretation
on part two of our page). His only weak spot resulted from Thetis forgetting
to immerse the ankle by which she was holding him. In Apollodorus 2.71,
Peleus pulls Achilles from the fire in time to save him, but his heel
has been burnt. Peleus uses the bone of a dead warrior to heal this
wound, and the spot is Achilles' only weak point.
Peleus gave his son to Chiron, a centaur, to be raised
and taught to hunt and fight. Apollodorus 2.71 says that he is fed lion,
swine, and bear. Other stories say he is fed fawn and deer. These foods
encourage and nurture the development of his inherent animal nature.
They are meant to allow him to take on the strenghts of these animals.
For instance, he is supposed to inherit a "lion heart" for bravery,
and the feet of deer for speed. The consumption of these animals show
and symbolize the animal within Achilles.
When Achilles is nine years old, Calchas prophesies
that the battle of Troy cannot be won without Achilles. Thetis knows
that he will surely die if he should fight in Troy. In an effort to
prolong the life of her precious mortal son, Thetis dresses Achilles
as a girl and sends him to the court of Lycomedes in disguise. When
Odysseus sounds a war cry, Achilles cannot resist his warrior instincts
and comes out of his disguise (Apollodorus 3.13.8). Achilles is a warrior;
to deny this is to deny his life, and Thetis' efforts to keep him safe
are futile. For his mother to attempt to make him deny his masculinity
only serves to make him reinforce it when Odysseus comes to recruit
him to fight in the war. He joins the Greek forces getting ready to
fight in the battle of Troy.
On the way to Troy, the army fights with Telephus and
the Mysians (the people of Mysia) (Apollodorus 2.191). Mysia is on the
way from Greece to Troy and the Mysians will not let the Greeks pass.
Telephus is wounded by Achilles, but the Greeks are forced to return
to their homeland because they are not sure in which direction to continue.
Telephus is told by Apollo that his wound can only be healed by the
man and the weapon which inflicted it upon him. He travels to Argos
in search of Achilles and asks for his help in "heel"-ing the wound.
Achilles agrees, in return for Telephus' guidance to the Greeks on their
way to Troy. This is similar to Book 24 of the Iliad, when Achilles
meets with Priam to discuss the return of Hector's body. Achilles has
killed Priam's son and caused him pain, but Achilles is the only man
who can "heel" the pain of the king by returning the body of his son.
Achilles and Priam need to join together to "heel" the pain of loss,
just as he and Telephus need to work together to "heel" the wound. None
of the men alone can ease the suffering.
Despite the efforts of his mother, Achilles does die
in Troy. Priam's son Paris shot Achilles in his only weak spot, the
heel. Ovid's Metamorphoses 12.609 asserts that Apollo assisted
Paris (at the request of Poseidon) by guiding his arrow. This version
would imply that Achilles could not be killed by mortals alone, making
him "more immortal" than most. Sophocles 3.34 tells that Apollo killed
Achlles without enlisting the aide of a mortal. This would attest even
more highly of Achilles' near immortality, since only a god can kill
him. Euripides 3.82 gives Achilles the least credit, relating that pretty-boy
Paris killed Achilles without any help from the immortals.
These myths profile the life of Achilles from birth to death with
many variations. Although he was mortal, he possessed many universal
traits that were godlike and divine. He was a warrior that seemed to
be invincible in every tale told of his life and conquests in battle.
However, like the men he killed, he was vulnerable. No matter what version
of the stories is told, Achilles remains a mighty warrior, protected
by the gods; but even the gods could not protect a mortal man from fate.