|“||What really killed me was my own arrogance.||”|
–Achilles, about his death in The Last Olympian.
Achilles was a hero of the Trojan War and the central character of Homer's epic poem, the Iliad. He was the son of the Nereid Thetis and the mortal hero Peleus. Achilles was considered to be one of the greatest Greek warriors who ever lived, sometimes said to be the "shield of an army." He is most famous for being the first child to be dipped in the River Styx by his mother Thetis, making his body invulnerable to any weapon, except for the only part of his body that wasn't dipped into the river - his heel since his mother dipped him into the river by grabbing him by the heel. He was killed in the Trojan War by Paris of Troy, when the latter shot him in the heel with an arrow. As such, the term "Achilles' heel" had come to mean a fatal weakpoint, and the Achilles tendon is a tendon located at the back of the calf, just above the heel.
Achilles' mother, Thetis, foresaw his death in Troy, so she disguised Achilles as a girl among the daughters of King Lycomedes of Scyros, so he wouldn't have to battle in the war. He hid as a girl for years until Agamemnon found him. Odysseus devised a trick to procure the identity of Achilles by appearing as a merchant, selling many wares, and of these objects, a sword was included. The daughters of Lycomedes went to see the beautiful clothing and jewelry, but Achilles took up the sword; with this trick, Odysseus uncovered Achilles. Initially he refused to fight in the war, but after a convincing speech, he agreed. When they finally reached Troy, Achilles proved to be, quite possibly, the greatest of all the Achaean warriors, proclaimed aristos Achaion ("best among the Greeks").
In the ninth year of the war, he withdrew from battle after he felt he was dishonored by Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek forces. Agamemnon had taken a woman named Chryseis as his slave. Her father Chryses, a priest of Apollo, begged Agamemnon to return her to him. Agamemnon refused and threatened him, and thus an enraged Apollo unleashed a devastating plague upon the Greeks, which as described in the Iliad, killed many mighty soldiers and made them a feast for dog and vultures. The prophet Calchas knew the source of the troubles, but would not speak unless Achilles vowed to protect him. Achilles did so and Calchas declared Chryseis must be returned to her father. Agamemnon consented, but then commanded that Achilles' war prize, Briseis, be brought to replace Chryseis. Wroth at the dishonor and at the urging of his mother Thetis, Achilles refused to fight or lead his troops alongside the other Greek forces. At this same time, burning with rage over Agamemnon's theft, Achilles prayed to Thetis to convince Zeus to help the Trojans gain ground in the war, so that he may regain his honor.
As the battle turned against the Greeks, due to the influence of Zeus, it was declared that the Trojans were winning because Agamemnon had angered Achilles, and the king was urged to appease the warrior. Agamemnon agreed and sent Odysseus and two other chieftains, Ajax the Greater and Phoenix (one of Achilles' five commanders), to Achilles with the offer of the return of Briseis and other gifts. Achilles rejected all Agamemnon offered him, and simply urged the Greeks to sail home as he was planning to do.
The Trojans, led by Hector, subsequently pushed the Greek army back toward the beaches and assaulted the Greek ships. With the Greek forces on the verge of absolute destruction, Patroclus, Achilles' comrade, friend and speculated lover, begged Achilles permit him don his armor, to which Achilles consented. Patroclus succeeded in pushing the Trojans back from the beaches, slaying many Trojan allies including (but not limited to):
- Pyraechmen (slain by a spear through the right shoulder)
- Areilycus (slain by a spear through the thigh)
- Pronous (slain by a spear through the chest)
- Thestor (slain by a spear through his right jaw, knocking out his teeth)
- Euryalus (slain by a rock, which broke his head in two parts)
- Sarpedon (slain by a spear to the heart)
- Sthenelaus (slain by a rock to the neck)
But was killed by Hector as he tried to pursue the Trojans to Ilion, against the decree of Achilles, effecting the sovereign doom of Zeus. When Antilochus, prince of Pylos, son of Nestor, brought word of Patroclus' death to Achilles' tent, in a frenzy of grief, Achilles would have committed suicide, had his faithful companions not held him back from doing so. He then resolved to kill Hector, although his mother Thetis warned him he would perish. Then she went to Hephaestus , who forged for him new armor and a shield of immeasurable beauty, which contained many scenes of earth and heaven, out of gold and tin. A feast was then held, and Odysseus convinced Achilles to let the men rest after a weary battle. Achilles forgave Agamemnon, acknowledging it was the will of Zeus which impelled the former injustice.
When the Grecian host set forth, Homer likens them to a flurry of snowflakes, so great in number they were. Before the battle, Thetis gave speech to Achilles' steed Xanthus, warning him again of his fate, to whom Achilles replied, "It fits not thee thus proudly to presage / My overthrow. I know my selfe it is my fate to fall / Thus farre from Phthia; yet that Fate shall faile to vent her gall / Till mine vent thousands." Achilles set loose his wrath on the Trojan army, creating carnage among the Trojans. He filled up a river so full of bodies that it overflowed. When Scamander, a river-god who fought for the Trojans, attempted to kill Achilles, Hera commanded her son Hephaestus to unleash his divine fire onto him, nearly causing the stream to completely burn up in vapor. However, Achilles wanted but one death - that of Hector. As the Trojans retreated to the safety of their city's walls, Hector lingered and fought Achilles. Achilles was victorious and after having transfixed Hector's throat with his lance, proceeded to tie the body to the back of his chariot and drag it around the city of Troy. Hector's father, King Priam, later made his way to Achilles' tent (guided by Hermes) as he begged Achilles to give him back Hector's body so he could be given a proper funeral. Though he initially refused, Achilles eventually relented and granted Priam's request, as he weeped alongside the aging king.
Achilles would not live for much longer, for an oracle had predicted that if he slew Hector, he would die soon after. Paris, the abductor of Helen, came to the field and shot a poisoned arrow at his heel. The arrow was guided by Apollo, and Achilles fell and met his demise.
After his death, Ajax the Greater and Odysseus fought over the armor of Achilles. Odysseus was granted the armor and Ajax became mentally unstable, eventually committing suicide, after the fierce strife.
He seemed to regret his choice when Odysseus met him in the Underworld saying he would rather choose to live on earth as a servant, and live a long life than be lord over all the dead.
|“||I stunk at Greek names, but even I knew the greatest warrior of all time, who had died from a wounded heel.||”|
–Percy Jackson, thinking about how well he knew Achilles' myth.
Achilles' ghost appears before Percy Jackson to warn him about the dangers of bathing in the River Styx, something he warns all those that attempt the task (including Luke). He explains that if Percy is successful at surviving the bath in the Styx, his prowess in combat would be greater than any other mortal, but his weaknesses would increase as well. Percy at first thinks he is talking about his weak heel which was his only vulnerable spot, but Achilles claims that the heel was only his physical weakness and what really killed him was his own arrogance.
As Percy listens to the warning, he could tell that Achilles was trying to save his life as the curse left him with bitterness and regret. However, Percy explains to the ghost that he has to gain the curse if he has any hope of defeating Kronos. Knowing that he can't stop him, Achilles explains that Percy must think of one vulnerable spot on his body - as no one can be completely invulnerable - and it will tie him to the mortal world. If Percy loses sight of what keeps him in the mortal world, the River Styx will burn him to ashes. Percy wonders if Achilles can inform him of Luke's weak point, but Achilles only scowls at him. Achilles gives Percy one final warning before vanishing.
|“||For a second, I thought he was Ares, because this guy looked exactly like the god of war—tall and buff, with a cruel scarred face and closely shaved black hair.||”|
Achilles is described as looking like the god of war, Ares; tall and buff with closely shaved black hair (although it is described as flaxen in the Iliad). What sets him apart from Ares was that his eyes looked human, being a shade of pale green, instead of hollow sockets filled with flames.
Abilities and Tools
- Prowess in Battle: Having been trained by the immortal centaur Chiron since childhood, Achilles was an exceptionally formidable and very skillful warrior.
- Curse of Achilles: Due to his' bathing in the River Styx, Achilles was almost completely invulnerable. His only weak point was his heel, which was also the cause of his death.
- Impenetrable Armor: Achilles possessed a suit of armor forged for him by the god Hephaestus at the request of his mother, Thetis. It was made entirely of gold, and was impervious to any weapon.
- Spear: In battle, Achilles wielded a massive, polished spear - the shaft itself was made from an ash tree found atop the slopes of Mount Pelion, and the tip, fashioned by Hephaestus, was made of solid bronze. It was passed down to Achilles from his father, Peleus, who was given the spear as a wedding gift from the immortal centaur Chiron.
- Achilles was a legacy of Zeus, as his grandfather Aeacus was a son of Zeus.
- Achilles' father, Peleus, was the brother of Telamon, who was the father of Teucer and Ajax the Greater. Achilles, Teucer, and Ajax the Greater were thus cousins.
- After Achilles was slain, and his funeral held, his ashes were placed in a golden urn forged by Hephaestus. Patroclus' ashes had previously been placed in the urn, in accordance with a vow that he and Achilles made
- Although Rick Riordan portrayed him as having black hair, Homer described him as having blonde/golden hair.