Achilles is a character from ancient Greek mythology, who is best known for his role in the epic poem the Iliad, written by the poet Homer. Achilles was the son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the sea nymph Thetis. When Achilles was born, Thetis attempted to make him immortal by dipping him in the River Styx, the river that forms the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. However, she held him by his heel, which was not touched by the water and thus remained mortal, which is the basis for his famous vulnerability – the “Achilles’ heel”.
Achilles is portrayed as a great hero with unrivaled martial prowess, but he is also flawed in that he is subject to fits of rage and periods of inaction. His most famous action takes place during the Trojan War, a major conflict between the kingdoms of Troy and a coalition of Greek states. In the Iliad, Achilles’ anger and his withdrawal from battle are pivotal events. His close friend Patroclus is killed by Hector, the prince of Troy, while wearing Achilles’ armor, which drives Achilles to return to the battle and ultimately kill Hector in revenge.
The Iliad ends before the conclusion of the Trojan War, and it does not depict the death of Achilles. Later myths and plays suggest that Achilles was killed by an arrow to the heel, his only vulnerable spot, shot by Paris, Hector’s brother, and guided by the god Apollo.
Achilles’ life and death have been themes in various works of art, literature, and popular culture. His character represents the archetype of the tragic hero – powerful yet flawed and subject to an early death.