The myth of Achilles describes the prototype of the epic hero: a mortal, but almost perfect and practically invulnerable being. Achilles is the most famous figure of the Trojan War and one of the main protagonists of the Iliad .
This warrior was considered the fastest man ever. The myth of Achilles also mentions that he was called the most beautiful of all heroes who fought in the Trojan War.
In fact, the myth of Achilles is so important that it found its way into the world of anatomy. The Achilles tendon, located on the back of the lower leg, was named after this mythological hero who was revered in different regions of the ancient world.
The origins of the myth of Achilles
The myth of Achilles tells that this hero had a very special origin. His mother was Thetis, the nymph of the sea, daughter of Nereus, the old man of the seas. She was singularly beautiful. Hera, the wife of Zeus, raised her. Nevertheless, both Zeus, the father of gods himself, and Poseidon, the god and ruler of the seas, advertised them.
The myth goes that the Titan Prometheus gave Zeus an oracle, which delivered a worrying prophecy. It said that Thetis would conceive and give birth to a son of great ability, who would become so powerful that he could take over the rule of his father. Faced with such a prediction, Zeus and Poseidon gave up their interest in Thetis.
The beautiful nymph married Peleus, a mortal prince. As of this point, there are two versions of the Achilles myth. The most famous is that his mother, knowing that he would become a great hero, wanted to make him immortal. To do this, she took him to the banks of the Styx (which led into Hades) and immersed him in the river’s waters. However, she held him by one heel, which is why this part of his body remained vulnerable.
But there is another version that says that Thetis rubbed her son’s body with a divine substance called ambrosia and then thrust him into a fire to burn the mortal parts of his body. However, her husband caught her doing it and forcibly tore the child away from her. Achilles suffered burns on his heel. After this incident, Thetis left the two.
An extraordinary hero
Even as a child, Achilles showed how strong and fast he was. In addition, he proved to be tough and tough, demonstrating his greed for fame and violence. His main teacher was Phoenix, a wise and courageous centaur. During his childhood Achilles met Patroclus, with whom he had a lifelong friendship. He later became a student of Chiron, where he finished his training.
To keep Achilles out of the war, his father sent him to the court of King Lykomedes in the disguise of a woman. He stayed there for a while and had his only son Neoptolemus, also known as Pyrrhus. Odysseus saw him and asked him to come with him to Troy to save Helena.
The myth of Achilles tells that his intervention in the war demonstrated his great abilities and made his enemies deeply fear him. The daring deeds of this demigod became legendary, especially when he defeated Cieno, son of Poseidon, and Troilus, son of Priam.
The death of the hero
The Trojan War lasted a long time and was very brutal. Achilles was the most feared and most beautiful of all warriors. Although he was not afraid himself, he was feared by everyone. Many of his adversaries fled before they even saw him, believing he was invincible. And then his enemies managed to overpower Patroclus, his childhood friend.
The myth of Achilles reports that this fascinating hero fought even more bitterly and mercilessly from this point onwards. Because he only wants one thing : to take revenge for the death of his friend (who was killed by Hector). Hephaestus, god of fire and forge, made a special weapon for him because an oracle had foretold that Achilles would die fighting Hector. But he managed to defeat Hector.
Some time later, under the guidance of Apollo and knowing the only weakness of the hero, Paris wounded his heel with a poisoned arrow. Thereupon Achilles died and his death was mourned for 17 days by his mother Thetis and his sisters, the Nereids. Paradoxically, this great hero is reported to have said that he wanted to live fast and die young.