A brief summary of the life of the mythological warrior Achilles.
Achilles, according to Greek mythology, was the son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the Nereid, or sea nymph, Thetis. He was the bravest, handsomest and greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan War. According to Homer, Achilles was brought up by his mother at Phthia with his cousin and inseparable companion Patroclus. One of the non-Homeric tales of his childhood relates that Thetis dipped Achilles in the waters of the River Styx, by which he became invulnerable, except for the part of his heel by which she held him – the proverbial “Achilles’ heel”.
The later mythographers related that Peleus, having received an oracle that his son would die fighting at Troy, sent Achilles to the court of Lycomedes on Scyros, where he was dressed as a girl and kept among the king’s daughters (one of whom, Deidamina, bore him Neoptolemus). Hearing from the soothsayer Calchas that Troy could not be taken without Achilles, the Greeks searched for and found him.
During the first nine years of the war, Achilles ravaged the country around Troy and took 12 cities. In the 10th a quarrel with Agamemnon occurred when Achilles insisted that Agamemnon restore Chryseis, his prize of the war, to her father, a priest of Apollo, so as to appease the wrath of Apollo, who had decimated the camp with a pestilence. An irate Agamemnon recouped his loss by depriving Achilles of his favorite slave, Briseis.
Achilles refused further service, and consequently the Greeks floundered so badly that at last Achilles allowed Patroclus to impersonate him, lending him his chariot and armor. Hector, the oldest son of King Priam of Troy, killed Patroclus, and Achilles, having finally reconciled with Agammemnon, obtained new armor from the god Haphaestus and killed Hector. After dragging Hector’s body behind his chariot, Achilles gave it to Priam at his earnest entreaty. The Iliad concludes with the funeral rites of Hector. It makes no mention of Achilles, though the Odyssey mentions his funeral. He is said to have been killed when Priam’s son Paris, shot an arrow into his vulnerable heel.