Who was Achilles?
Achilles was the hero of Homer’s Iliad and the mightiest of the Greeks who fought in the Trojan War. Achilles’ father was the mortal Peleus and his mother was the nereid Thetis.
According to myth, his mother Thetis attempted unsuccessfully to make her son immortal. In the most well-known version of the myth, Thetis held the young Achilles by the heel and dipped him in the river Styx; everything the sacred waters touched became invulnerable, but while she was dipping him in the water she had to hold him by the heel so the heel remained dry and therefore unprotected (hence the experession “Achilles’ heel”).
When Achilles was a young boy, the seer Calchas prophesied that the city of Troy could not be taken without his help. Thetis knew that if her son went to Troy he would die an early death, so she tried to hide him in the court of Lycomedes, in the island of Skiros, disguised as a young girl. During his stay in Skiros Achilles had an affair with Lycomedes’ daughter, Deidameia, and she had a son, Pyrrhus (or Neoptolemus), by him. Achilles’ disguise was finally uncovered by Odysseus, who placed arms and armor amidst a display of women’s finery and seized upon Achilles when he was the only “maiden” to be fascinated by the swords and shields.
Achilles then went willingly with Odysseus to Troy, leading his father’s Myrmidons and accompanied by his close friend Patroclus. At Troy, Achilles distinguished himself as an unbeatable warrior. When Agamemenon took away the woman Briseis (a war prize) from Achilles this sparked the central plot of the Iliad. Achilles became enraged and refused to fight for the Greeks any further. After the withdrawal of Achilles the war started going badly for the Greeks who offered handsome reparations to their greatest warrior, however, Achilles still refused to fight in person, but he agreed to allow his friend Patroclus to fight in his place, wearing his armor. The next day Patroclus was killed and stripped of the armour by the Trojan hero Hector, who mistook him for Achilles.