Thetis gives her son Achilles his weapons newl...
Thetis gives her son Achilles his weapons newly forged by Hephaestus, detail of an Attic black-figure hydria, ca. 575 BC–550 BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Achilles is an ancient Greek warrior and hero who, in Homer’s Iliad, fought in the Trojan wars.

The son of Peleus and Thetis, at birth Achilles’ mother held him by the heel and dipped him in the fiery river Styx so he’d gain magical protection from his enemies. Achilles’ heel remained dry where his mother held him, becoming his vulnerable spot.

Often savage, Achilles killed Hector and mangled his body. Achilles also offered human sacrifices. The violent aspect of the Achilles legend brings to mind historical killers who find temporary satisfaction by expressing turbulent psychological forces.

English: Triumphant Achilles: Achilles draggin...
Triumphant Achilles: Achilles dragging the dead body of Hector in front of the gates of Troy.details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Achilles is also be seen as a brilliant, if undisciplined, military commander. But he eventually was killed by Paris‘ poisoned arrow to the heel.

He was worshipped in the ancient world, with a temples and oracles dotted along cities near the Black Sea. At least one of these existed in Roman times. His worship continued right into the modern era:

In the region of Gastouri (Γαστούρι) to the south of the city of Corfu Greece, Empress of Austria Elisabeth of Bavaria also known as Sissi built in 1890 a summer palace with Achilles as its central theme and it is a monument to platonic romanticism. The palace, naturally, was named after Achilles: Achilleion (Αχίλλειον). This elegant structure abounds with paintings and statues of Achilles both in the main hall and in the lavish gardens depicting the heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan war

Antonio Balestra’s (1666-1740) oil on canvass depicts Thetis dipping Achilles, head-first, into a cauldron of water, presumably drawn from the river Styx. More recently Brad Pitt played a convincing Achilles in the film, Troy.


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