|“||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 was the son of the Nereid Thetis, and the mortal hero and king of Phthia; Peleus. The Fates ordained that Thetis would have a son greater than the father, so Zeus and Poseidon (who had earlier desired Thetis), out of fear, married Thetis off to Peleus, a mortal, as to restrict the child’s power.
It is claimed that Thetis attempted to make Achilles invulnerable by dipping him into the River Styx, however she held him by the left heel, so it was not exposed to the magic of the river, so he had that one place as his vulnerable spot.
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.
Achilles was the most prominent soldier in the Trojan War, even being called Aristos Achaion, meaning Best of the Greeks. He arrived at Troy with fifty ships, each containing 50 Myrmidons. The Achaeans not knowing their way to Troy at first, landed on Mysia, ruled by Telephus, who Achilles wounded in battle. The wound would not heal, so Telephus consulted an oracle, who told him that the one who wounded him would heal him. So Telephus was healed by Achilles, who scraped parts of his spear into Telephus’ wound, healing him. Telephus then showed the Achaeans the way to Troy. Achilles sacked many cities there (he conquered 11 cities and 12 islands, according to Homer), and killing many, and gaining the maid Briseis as his spoil of war and new bride. He killed Cycnus, a son of Poseidon, who according to Ovid, slew one thousand warriors. He was also invulnerable to all sword and spear attacks, so Achilles crushed him with a boulder. He also killed one of Apollo’s sons Tenes, earning the god’s wrath, and dooming himself to be slain by Apollo (for Apollo guided Paris’ arrow which slew Achilles).
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, 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.
Later, Achilles continues to kill more heroes, including the Amazon Penthesilea and the son of Eos (personification of the Dawn) Memnon, who was also gifted with Hephaestus-wrought armour. After slaying Memnon, he rushes into Troy, and his death is ordained by the gods. Paris is guided by Apollo, and shoots Achilles with a poisoned arrow, which strikes the latter in the heel, killing him. A great contention arises over Achilles’ body, but Ajax holds the Trojans back, while Odysseus carries Achilles back to the Achaean’s ships. He is buried with honour, his bones mingled with Patroclus’ own, and their ashes mixed in the same urn.
There is a contention between Ajax and Odysseus over who would win Achilles’ armour, and both present their speeches, but Odysseus makes the better one, and the armour is given to him. Ajax in grief attempts to slay Agamemnon and Menelaus, but is tricked by Athena, instead slaying two sheep. In despair, Ajax kills himself, running a sword through his arm.
|“||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.
|Not part of Riordanverse|
|“||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.
- In the original myths (Iliad) Achilles is in fact not portrayed as invincible; rather an extremely gifted fighter. The story of him being invincible due to his Stygian Bath is about a thousand years younger, and was written by a Roman poet.
- 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.