The New Student's Reference Work/Achilles

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For works with similar titles, see Achilles.

Achilles (a-kĭl′lēz) was the bravest of the Greeks in the Trojan war, and the hero of the Iliad. His father, Peleus, was a descendant of Zeus, the king of the gods, and the ruler of the Myrmidons, the warlike people of Phthia, in Thessaly. His mother, Thetis, a sea goddess, is said to have dipped him by the heel into the river Styx to make him invulnerable, as she had been forewarned that he was doomed to an early death. For the same reason, after he had been trained in the arts of war and eloquence by Phœnix, and in the healing art by the centaur, Chiron (ki′ron), his mother had him brought up secretly as one of the daughters of the King of Scyros (si′ros). At the outbreak of the Trojan war an oracle declared that Troy could not be taken unless Achilles were present. So Ulysses, the wisest of the Greeks, came to Scyros disguised as a peddler, and spread out his wares before the daughters of the king. Ulysses sounded an alarm, and while the girls ran away the disguised Achilles betrayed himself by seizing a sword and spear from the peddler’s stock. Achilles went to war with fifty-seven ships, and during the first nine years he sacked twenty-three cities around Troy. He quarreled with Agamemnon over a maid, Briseis, whom he loved. When she was taken from him he sulked in his tent, while his countrymen were hard pressed because their bravest warrior, whom the Trojans dreaded, was not there. At last his friend Patroclus, wearing the armor of Achilles, drove the enemy before him, but was slain by Hector, the leader of the Trojans. Achilles, enraged at the death of his friend, went against the Trojans and drove them within their walls. In single combat he killed Hector, whom he dragged three times around the city at his chariot wheels. Here the Iliad ends, but the story is taken up by the Æthiopis, a poem by Arctinus, which tells of the combat of Achilles, first with the Amazon Penthesilea, and next with Memnon. When Memnon fell, Achilles drove back the Trojans to the Scæn gate, where he was killed by an arrow from the bow of Paris, which pierced his vulnerable heel.