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Achilles was a hero in Greek mythology and one of the
main characters that participated in the Trojan War. He was also the
protagonist of Homer’s epic, the Iliad. He was the son of Peleus, king of the
Myrmidons, and Thetis, a nymph. Both Zeus and Poseidon were in love
with Thetis, however Prometheus warned them of a prophecy that said
the son of Thetis would be greater than his father; so, the two gods
decided to withdraw, and Peleus ended up marrying her. When Achilles was
born, his mother wanted to make him immortal and thus, dipped him in the river
Styx. However, she did not realise that his heel, by which she held him, was
not touched by the waters, and so that was the only part of his body that
remained mortal. According to another version, Thetis covered Achilles’
body in Ambrosia and put him on top of a fire to burn away his mortality;
however, she was enraged because she was interrupted by Peleus and
abandoned them.
When the Trojan War started, Achilles commanded
50 ships, each having 50 Myrmidons. He also appointed five commanders; Menesthius,
Eudorus, Peisander, Phoenix and Alcimedon. After departing, they landed in
Mysia by mistake, which was then ruled by Telephus. Telephus was
wounded in the battle by Achilles, and could not be healed. After
consulting an oracle, he was told that he who inflicted the wound would be able
to heal it; so, Telephus asked Achilles to heal him, and in
return he guided them to Troy.
The Iliad starts the narrative of the Trojan War with Agamemnon,
leader of the Achaeans, having acquired a woman called Chryseis as his slave.
Her father, being a priest of Apollo, begs the god to help him, and Apollo sends
a plague among the Greeks. Calchas identifies the source of the problem
and Agamemnon reluctantly consents; however, he demands that Achilles hand
over his own prize, another woman called Briseis. Achilles, furious that
he was dishonoured in such a way, withdraws from battle and asks his mother to
convince Zeus to help the Trojans, so that he may prove himself again
in the battlefield. The Trojans manage to repel the Greeks back to the shore;
Patroclus, Achilles’ friend, wearing Achilles’ armor, successfully
leads the Myrmidons against the enemy, but is subsequently killed by Hector,
the Trojan prince. Enraged by his friend’s death, Achilles joins the
battle and tracks down Hector, whom he kills in a face to face duel. He
then drags Hector’s lifeless body with his chariot during the funeral
games he held for Patroclus.
The death of Achilles is not narrated in the Iliad,
although it was predicted by Hector with his dying breath. Paris, the
brother of Hector, managed to kill the hero with an arrow that landed
on Achilles’ heel, the only vulnerable part of his body. The arrow was
poisoned and some sources say that it was guided by the god Apollo. Achilles was
cremated and his ashes were mingled with those of Patroclus.

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