Achilles

“Achilles” by Nicholas Kay

ACHILLES (gr. Achilleús)

in Greek mythology (1) the son of ➚ Gaia, who gave shelter to ➚ Hera inside his cave, when she was fleeing from ➚ Zeus but persuaded her to marry the god. Finally he succeeded in bringing about the first connection of Hera and Zeus, and the grateful god promised to make everybody named after his benefactor famous [1].

‚(2) Son of ➚ Peleus and ➚ Thetis, the greatest hero of the ➚ Trojan war, in which he took part as the leader of the ➚ Myrmidons [2]. To provide her son with immortality Thetis placed him in fire at night and during the day she rubbed him with ➚ ambrosia (acc. another version mother tried to burn Achilles as she did to his six older brothers, but thanks to Peleus intervention only the child’s ankle got burned, which ➚ Chiron replaced with the ankle of a quickfoot giant ➚ Damysos; [1]). Because Peleus did not allow his wife to complete the magical treatment, Thetis left her husband. His father gave Achilles to Chiron to be educated. The tutor fed him with lion and boar intestines as well as bear marrow. Chiron named the boy Achilles (until then he was named Ligyron), “because he did not touch mother’s breast with his lips” [3] (“folk” etymology: alpha privativum + cheílē “lips”; most probably the name Achilles is connected with Indo-European *akwā- “water”). When the boy turned 9 years, ➚ Calchas announced that Troy could never be taken without his participation (Achilles wasn’t on the list of ➚ Helen’s suitors, but apparently he was supposed to demand her hand from ➚ Tyndareus [4]). Foreseeing the future Thetis dressed her son in girl’s raiment and under the name Pyrrha (Kerkysera, Issa [5]) hid him at Skyros among the ➚ Lycomedes’ daughters. One of them, Deidamia bore him ➚ Neoptolemus (known also as Pyrrhus [6,7]), according to another version Neoptolemus and Oneiros [8]. The Achilles hideout was discovered by ➚ Odysseus who persuaded the young man to participate in the Trojan expedition [9]. Achilles was accompanied by ➚ Phoenix (2) and ➚ Patroclus [10]. During the first invasion on Troy the hero wounded ➚ Telephus and unsuccessfully protested against sacrificing ➚ Iphigenia in Aulis and exploitation of his name by ➚ Agamemnon, who brought his daughter to the Greek encampment under the false pretence of marrying Achilles. The hero healed Telephus and during the second expedition to Troad he killed Tenes (see CYCNUS-2), forgetting his mother’s warning to not do it as he might draw the anger of ➚ Apollo [11]. After landing in Troad Achilles killed ➚ Cycnus (1) [12]. During the first 9 years of the war he conquered Lyrnessus and took ➚ Briseis into captivity [13], razed Placia Thebes and killed ➚ Eetion [14], captivated ➚ Lycaon (2) [15], defeated ➚ Aeneas at mount Ida and took his cattle [16]. On the tenth year of the siege Achilles withdrew from fighting because of the argument with Agamemnon about Briseis, which immediately gave the Trojans the upper hand. When the victorious Trojans set one of the Greek ships on fire, Achilles agreed to the participation of Patroclus in battle and lent him his armour. Upon his friend’s death he turned his anger against the Trojans and ➚ Hector. Wearing new armour, made by ➚ Hephaestus at the request of Thetis, the hero went to battle and killed Hector in a decisive duel. He dishonoured the body of his enemy and, having made his vengeance, returned it to ➚ Priam for a huge ransom. Then he organized the funeral games in honour of Patroclus. In the course of the following battles Achilles killed ➚ Penthesilea [17] and ➚ Memnon [18]. He fell hit with an arrow in the heel by ➚ Paris, whose hand was guided by Apollo [19,20] (according to another version Paris was assisted by ➚ Deiphobus [21,22]). Achilles was mourned by the Greeks, Thetis and ➚ Nereids. His ashes were buried together with Patroclus’ ashes on the Sigeion Cape [23]. The soul of Achilles resided at ➚ Leuke (1), where he married Helen [24]; the fruit of this relationship was ➚ Euphorion. According to another version, after death Achilles married ➚ Medea [25,26]. The Achilles cult, primarily the Thessalian hero, spread across the whole of Greece and the Greek colonies.

References

[1] P t o l.  H e p h., 152 a; [2] H o m., Il., II, 681 ff.; [3] A p d., III, 13, 6; [4] P a u s., III, 24, 10; [5] P t o l.  H e p h., 147 a; [6] H y g., Fab., 97; [7] P a u s., X, 26, 4; [8] P t o l.  H e p h., 148 b; [9] O v i d., Met., XIII, 162 ff.; [10] A p d., III, 16, 8; [11] A p d., Epit., III, 26; [12] A p d., Epit., III, 31; [13] H o m., Il., II, 688 ff.; XIX, 294 ff.; [14] H o m., Il., VI, 414 ff.; [15] H o m., Il., XXI, 34 ff.; [16] H o m., Il., XX, 90 ff.; XX, 187 ff.; [17] A p d., Epit., V, 1; [18] A p d., Epit., V, 3; [19] A p d., Epit., V, 3; [20] O v i d., Met., XII, 600 ff.; [21] D i c t.  C r e t., IV, 10 ff.; [22] H y g., Fab., 110; [23] H o m., Od., XXIV, 36 ff.; [24] P a u s., III, 19, 13; [25] A p. R h o d., IV, 811 ff.; [26] A p d., Epit., V, 5.

I.I. T o l s t o y, Myth o brakiye Achilla na Belom Ostrove, S. Peterburg 1908; E. P a t z i g, Die Achillestragödie der Ilias im Lichte der antiken und der modernen Tragik, “Neue Jahrbücher für das klassiche Altertum” 52, 1923; A. d e  V i t a, Il mito di Achille, Torino 1932; H. P e s t a l o z z i, Die Achilleis als Quelle der Ilias, Zürich 1945; W. S a l e, Achilles and Heroic Values, “Arion” 2,3, 1963; Ch.P. S e g a l, Nestor and the Honor of Achilles (Iliad I, 247-284), “Studi micenei ed egeo-anatolici” 13, 1971; H. H o m m e l, Achill-bog “Vestnik drevnej istorii” 1, 1981; A.M. K e m p i ń s k i, Achilles i kobiety, “Meander” 2/3, 1990.