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3718: Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, 1751-1829: Achilles 1775. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Das Schloß.

"... Unequal is your birth, my son, and only on your mother's side is the way of death barred for you." (Thetis to Achilles. Statius, Achilleid 1.256).

"For although you have been taught by me thus gently the art of horsemanship, and are suited to such a horse as I, some day you shall ride on Xanthus and Balius; and you shall take many cities and slay many men." (The Centaur Chiron to young Achilles. Philostratus, Imagines 2.2).

"Indeed, my dreaded master, we will once more bring you safely home today. Yet the hour of your death is drawing near; and it is not we who will be the cause of it, but a great god and the strong hand of Destiny." (Xanthus 1, Achilles' horse, to its master. Homer, Iliad 19.408).

"All these nights I am absent from your side, and not demanded back; you delay and your anger is slow." (Briseis to Achilles. Ovidius, Heroides 3).

"For my mother the goddess, silver-footed Thetis, tells me that twofold fates are bearing me toward the doom of death: if I abide here and play my part in the siege of Troy, then lost is my home-return, but my renown shall be imperishable; but if I return home to my dear native land, lost then is my glorious renown, yet shall my life long endure, neither shall the doom of death come soon upon me." (Achilles to Odysseus. Homer, Iliad 9.410).


The Nereid Thetis, Achilles' mother, is known for her multiple interventions in the affairs of both gods and mortals. Thus when Hephaestus was cast from Heaven by Zeus, falling into the sea, he was saved by Thetis (Apd.1.3.5); and when Dionysus 2 was persecuted by King Lycurgus 1 of the Edonians, he sought refuge in the sea with her (Apd.3.5.1); and when the ARGONAUTS, after having met the SIRENS, encountered Charybdis and Scylla 1 and the Wandering Rocks, Thetis, along with the other NEREIDS, put them out of danger by safely steering their ship through those threats (Apd.1.9.25). Even Zeus received Thetis' assistance, for when once a minor conspiracy took place in Olympus, and Hera, Poseidon and Athena plotted against Zeus, planning to chain him, she averted it by calling to Olympus one of the HECATONCHEIRES (Briareus), who, squatting down by Zeus and displaying his force, frightened the rebellious deities away (Hom.Il.1.400).

Son mightier than his father

No wonder then that Zeus and Poseidon once competed for the hand of this enchanting goddess (Apd.3.13.5), who proved so many times her ability to provide valuable services. But it was prophesied by Themis (Apd.3.13.5), as once before with regard to Metis 1 (Apd.1.3.6), that if one of these gods lay with the Nereid, the son born to her would be mightier than his father, wielding a more powerful weapon than the thunderbolt or the trident, and she added:

"Let her accept a mortal's bed, and see her son die in battle, a son who is like Ares in the strength of his hands and like lightning in the swift prime of his feet. My counsel is to bestow this god-granted honor of marriage on Peleus son of Aeacus, who is said to be the most pious man living on the plain of Iolcus." (Themis to the gods. Pindar, Isthmian Odes 8.35).

The secret that set Prometheus 1 free

It is also said that Zeus did not know of this prophecy, or rather that he ignored who the girl was that could endanger his rule. But Prometheus 1—whom the god had chained in Caucasus for having giving fire, along with blind hope, to mankind—did know, and succeeded in exchanging that information for freedom. Otherwise had not Heracles 1 appeared to shoot the eagle that devoured Prometheus 1's liver for many years, setting the prisoner free.

"Truly the day shall come when, although I am tortured in stubborn fetters, Zeus will need me to reveal the new design whereby he shall be stripped of his sceptre and his dignities ... No matter what, this must be kept concealed; for it is by safeguarding it that I am to escape my dishonorable bonds and outrage." (Prometheus 1 to the OCEANIDS. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 170, 525).

Thetis refuses Zeus

But others have said that it was Thetis herself, who, out of respect for Hera who had brought her up, refused to marry Zeus, and that he, as a punishment, decided that she would marry a mortal man. And Hera, in recognition for what Thetis had done—or rather not done—chose Peleus as Thetis' husband, for, according to her, he was the best man on earth at that time.

"For to Zeus such deeds are ever dear, to embrace either goddesses or mortal women. But in reverence for me you did shrink from his love." (Hera to Thetis. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.793).

This is how Peleus, who had been banished from the island of Aegina by his father Aeacus on account of the death of his half-brother Phocus 3 (see Psamathe 1 at NEREIDS), was appointed to be the husband of enchanting Thetis, a greater honour for him than for the goddess, who saw herself—by heaven's decree—bound to a mortal through an inferior wedlock, as she regarded it.

Peleus' uncertain background

When Peleus (who is counted among the ARGONAUTS and the CALYDONIAN HUNTERS) left Aegina, he came to Phthia, in southern Thessaly, where Eurytion 2 was king. He received from his host the third part of the country and the hand of Antigone 1, the king's daughter. This girl, however, killed herself as a result of an intrigue conceived by Astydamia 3, wife of King Acastus of Iolcus, and Eurytion 2 himself was (as they say) accidentally killed by Peleus while they were hunting the Calydonian Boar.
In this way Peleus inherited the kingdom of Phthia, and when time came for him, mortal as he was, to marry Thetis, he could not seize the goddess, for, even when he caught her in a slumber, she, always refusing him, turned herself into a bird and into a tree, and as Peleus still held her, she turned into a tigress, and he in fear let her go. But then Peleus received lessons in changing shapes from Proteus 2, who being a master in that art, told him to hold her whatever form she might take. Following these instructions, Peleus held her, even when she turned into fire and water, until she finally gave up. Noticing that a mortal could not accomplish such a prowess by himself, she asserted:

"It is not without some god's assistance that you conquer." (Thetis to Peleus. Ovidius, Metamorphoses, 11.293).

Some have said, however, that Peleus received these simple, and yet difficult to perform instructions, not from Proteus 2 but from the Centaur Chiron. So having learned to hold the bride, Peleus married the Nereid Thetis, and to the wedding party in Mount Pelion came many gods, from whom Peleus received valuable gifts, among which the two immortal horses Balius 1 and Xanthus 1, who later followed his son Achilles to the Trojan War. Yet the wedding party was spoiled; for Eris (Discord) appeared uninvited, and throwing an apple through the door, exhorted the fairest of the goddesses to take it up. Thus she started a dispute between the three goddesses whose beauty was to be judged by Paris, an until then unknown shepherd from Mount Ida, not far away from Troy.

0813: Thetis dipping Achilles in the waters of the river Styx. Donato Creti, 1671-1749. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.

Birth of the demigod

When Achilles was born, his loving mother Thetis wished to make him immortal, and for that purpose she dipped him in the waters of the river Styx (for this river see Underworld). But others affirm that she, without the knowledge of the child's father, used to put the babe in the fire by night in order to destroy the mortal element which Achilles had inherited from Peleus, while anointing him with ambrosia during the day. But when Peleus saw the child writhing on the fire, he cried out, thus preventing Thetis from accomplishing her purpose (Apd.3.13.6). Then she threw the screaming child to the ground, and leaving both husband and son, departed to the NEREIDS and never returned again to Phthia, though she always kept an eye on her offspring.

His teacher

When Achilles was a child, his father brought him to Chiron, the wise Centaur living in Mount Pelion, who educated him and fed him on the inwards of lions and wild swine, the marrows of bears, milk and honey.

Calchas' prophecy

And when Achilles was nine years old, the seer Calchas, whom Agamemnon has called "prophet of evil," declared that Troy could not be taken without him. This is one of the reasons why Achilles came to Troy; for he, who had not been among the SUITORS OF HELEN, was not bound by the Oath of Tyndareus.

Worries of the loving mother

From then on there was no rest for Thetis, the loving mother. For she knew that the Judgement of Paris would cause the abduction of Helen, which would cause the Trojan War, which would lead to Achilles' death. And yet she looks into the interstices of fate hoping for a way out, and asks Poseidon to send a storm and let the Trojan fleet sink on its way to Sparta. But not even the gods can change what fate has ordained:

"Seek not in vain, Thetis, to sink the Trojan fleet: the fates forbid it, it is the sure ordinance of heaven that Europe and Asia should join in bloody conflict." (Poseidon to Thetis. Statius, Achilleid 1.80).

Teacher cannot control his disciple

For the pious Centaur Chiron, who was not a drunkard like other CENTAURS, and who never had used his weapons against a man, and who spent his Old Age learning about herbs and teaching to play the lyre to his pupils, Achilles proved to be a difficult task. For when the boy had for ever left his tender years behind him, he started wandering wherever he pleased, disobeying his teacher, and indulging in what he thought to be a good time, plundering the homes of neighboring CENTAURS, stealing their cattle, and provoking a growing anger in the whole province. That is why, when Thetis, being afraid of what was being planned by fate and by Zeus (who had issued his decree of war), came to Chiron to see her sweet darling son Achilles, the Centaur begged her to take him away.

Achilles to Scyros

So Thetis, seeing that it was fated that Achilles should perish in the war, and still looking for a way out, disguised him as a female and entrusted him to king Lycomedes 1 of Scyros ( the island in the Aegean Sea northeast of Euboea), the same man who is believed to have treacherously murdered his guest, the exiled King Theseus of Athens.

Achilles disguised as a girl

4033: Erasmus Quellinus 1607-1678: Achilles among the daughters of Lycomedes. Musée Groeninge.

Achilles, they say, would not accept to be dressed like a girl, no matter how much her mother worked on his rough heart, until he noticed that this was the only way to come closer to the king's daughter Deidamia 1. Having accepted the looks of a girl, he was presented by Thetis to the king as Achilles' sister. And the king swallowed the lie, for a mortal cannot avoid being deceived by a deity. But some have thought that the story of Achilles disguised under the name Pyrrha in Scyros is absurd, and argue that Achilles lived in that island because he had conquered it.

Achilles' true identity discovered

When war approached, the trick of Achilles being his own sister was discovered by Odysseus, who, for the purpose of revealing Achilles' true identity, used a trumpet. He reasoned that a girl would not react to its sound as a man does.

General at fifteen

In that way Achilles, then fifteen years old, became Leader of the Myrmidons, a people of Phthia, to lead them against Troy, along with the other allies. Nevertheless Destiny (so they say) left, at any moment, two courses for Achilles: to stay in the siege of Troy, die and win everlasting Fame, or go home and fameless have a long life. That is how Achilles sailed from Scyros and went to the war, leaving in grief the pregnant Deidamia 1, whom he married before his departure:

"Is this free wedlock? ... You are given to me only to be torn away ... Remember that the fears of Thetis were not in vain." (Deidamia 1 to Achilles. Statius, Achilleid 1.938).

Achilles comes to Aulis

Achilles arrived with his fifty or sixty ships to the harbor of Aulis, opposite to the island of Euboea, where the powerful Achaean fleet was gathering in order to sail against Troy and obtain through persuasion or by force the restoration of Helen and the Spartan property, both stolen by the seducer Paris. (For the first attack, see Telephus.)

Athena stays Achilles' anger. 7323: Achille affronta Agamennone, in pasta vitrea. Pompei, Casa di Apollo. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

The King abuses his name

But because of the inconvenience posed by the winds, the fleet at Aulis could not leave. It was then that the seer Calchas concluded that human sacrifice could make the weather better, and consequently recommended Agamemnon to let his daughter Iphigenia die in the altar. Following the prophet's advice, the king wrote a treacherous letter asking his daughter to leave Mycenae and come to Aulis so that she should marry Achilles, who himself knew nothing about the king's scheming.

Fatal death

When Iphigenia, or the deer which Artemis substituted, was sacrificed at Aulis, the fleet left and came to Tenedos, an island off the coast of the Troad. There Achilles killed King Tenes, though Thetis had warned him not to do so, as it was known that the man who killed Tenes would die by Apollo's hand. As it is said, Thetis even commissioned a servant to always remind Achilles not to kill this man who was honoured by Apollo or perhaps was his son. But Achilles, for whom getting and keeping sweethearts was a matter of the utmost importance, came across Tenes' sister Hemithea 1. When her brother defended her, she escaped, and then Achilles in anger killed Tenes. And having thus done what he should not, he also killed the servant, because he, although present, had not reminded him of his mother's warning.

Protesilaus' death

Thetis also warned Achilles not to be the first to land on Trojan land, for it had been prophesied that the first to land would be the first to die. This Achilles was able to avoid. The first among the Achaeans to land was unlucky Protesilaus, who, having killed several defenders, was also the first to die.

Military situation

Now, it has been conjectured by military expertise, that the Achaeans, on their arrival to enemy land obtained a victory; for otherwise they could not have landed or even less built fortifications. But at the same time, not having enough supplies, they dispersed being obliged to resort to plunder, piracy and perhaps even agriculture. It was lack of supplies, then, that led to the dispersion of the army, making it possible for the Trojans to defend their city for ten years, although many other cities in Asia Minor were destroyed by the invaders. During this phase Achilles sacked the islands of Tenedos and Lesbos, and the cities of Thebe, Antandrus, Adramytium, and Lyrnessus; and reaching far to the south, he sacked also Cyme, Phocaea, Smyrna, Clazomenae and Colophon.

The king's arrogance

In the tenth year of the war, King Agamemnon delivered himself to arrogance, humiliating a priest of Apollo who had come to ransom his daughter, Agamemnon's prize. So Apollo, though called "the bright one," came down from Olympus darker than night, and let a pestilence decimate the Achaean army, thus avenging the humiliated priest. When the seer Calchas declared that Agamemnon's way of treating Apollo's priest was to blame, the king, though insulting the seer too, agreed to renounce his girl, but at the same time annouced his intention of compensating himself by taking someone else's prize.

Achilles loses his sweetheart

Thetis brings the new armour to Achilles who mourns his friend Patroclus 1.. Engraving by Benjamin West, 1738-1820.

On hearing the king's threat, Achilles called him a shameful schemer and a man always ready to take the lion's share and to profit by others' efforts piling wealth for himself. Agamemnon was then utterly displeased, and answered by letting Achilles know that, by taking away his sweetheart Briseis, he would teach him a lesson in both power and kingship. Having heard the new threat, Achilles considered killing Agamemnon, but while he pondered, Athena came from heaven, and, invisible to the others present, seized him by his hair and stayed his anger. Keeping his word, Agamemnon let Achilles' sweetheart Briseis be fetched and taken away from his tent. This is what allowed wrath to make its nest in Achilles' heart, keeping him in a dark mood and away from the battlefield. Accordingly, the host of Myrmidons that had followed him to Troy became an idle mass.

Thetis meets Zeus

But in the view of Thetis nothing could be more unfair. For Achilles' life was fated to be short, and she could not see any justice in letting it be miserable too. So in order to redress what she deemed to be an unjust state of affairs, she went to see Zeus, and putting her left arm round his knees while her right hand touched his chin, asked of him compensation for her son:

"Avenge my son, Olympian Zeus, lord of counsel; and give might to the Trojans, until the Achaeans pay him due respect, and magnify him with recompense." (Thetis to Zeus. Homer, Iliad 1.507).

Zeus both listened to this prayer and granted it, and that is why the Achaeans suffered many defeats in the battlefield; for the god resolved that they should learn to honour the man they had outraged.

Achilles does not care for wealth

As time went by and the Trojans became more and more dangerous, Agamemnon agreed to appease Achilles' wrath. It is for this purpose that he offered him the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities, and many other gifts including Briseis, whom Agamemnon claimed he had not touched (and no one has ever contradicted his assertion). But gifts, profit and riches were the same as nothing to Achilles, for whom friendship, honour, and being of one heart, was far more important. And so, convinced that the king would for ever lack the means to appease his offended heart, he turned down the gifts of the man who had committed against him the kind of crime they had come to Troy to avenge:

"Why has he gathered and led here his host, this son of Atreus? Was it not for Helen's sake? Do they then alone of mortal men love their wives, these sons of Atreus? No, for he who is a true man loves his own and cherishes her, as I too loved Briseis with all my heart." (Achilles to Agamemnon's envoys. Homer, Iliad 9.340).

And because no agreement was reached between the king, who thought that wealth is coveted by all, and the warrior, who was proud of his own heart, new defeats fell upon the Achaeans.

Killed by Achilles


A Boeotian, son of Ephippus.

Mydon 1.
Ophelestes 2.
Thrasius 1.

Paeonian allies of the Trojans.

Hippothoe 4.

AMAZONS who came with Queen Penthesilia to the Trojan War. The Queen herself was killed by Achilles, who fell in love with her after her death.

Areithous 2.

The squire of Rhigmus (see below).


A warrior serving in the ally army of Sarpedon 1. Asteropaeus was son of Pelegon, son of the river god Axius and Periboea 7, the daughter of Acessamenus. The river Axius is in Macedonia.

Cycnus 1

King of Colonae, a city in the Troad. Cycnus 1 was son of Poseidon and Calyce 2, daughter of Hecato. Cycnus 1 married Proclia, sometimes called daughter of King Laomedon 1 of Troy, and had by her, according to some, a son Tenes and a daughter Hemithea 1. Cycnus 1 married a second wife Philonome, daughter of Tragasus, but she fell in love with her stepson Tenes, and being rejected by him, falsely accused him before her husband of having made love to her. However, Cycnus 1 discovered the truth and let her be buried alive. Some say that Cycnus 1 was turned into a swan.

Dardanus 2.

Sons of Bias 2, son of Priam 1.

Demoleon 2.
Thersilochus 1.

Sons of the Elder of Troy Antenor 1.


Son of Philetor.

Dryops 2.
Hector 1.
Hippodamas 2.
Hipponous 2.
Lycaon 1.
Mestor 2.
Polydorus 3.

Children of Priam 1.

Polydorus 3 is also said to have been killed by Polymestor 1, king of the Bistonians, who should have taken care of him, when his father sent him far away from war. However, Polymestor 1, tempted by the treasure Polydorus 3 had brought, murdered him. Yet sometimes it is said that he killed his own son by mistake, and was instead killed by Polydorus 3. Polymestor 1 was blinded before his death, either by Queen Hecabe 1 of Troy, or by Polydorus 3 himself.

Echeclus 2.

Son of Agenor 8, son of Antenor 1.

Eetion 1.

King of Cilician Thebe, killed by Achilles when he sacked this city. He is the father of Andromache and Podes, a man of wealth killed by Menelaus.

Epistrophus 2.

Leader of the Alizonians, Trojan allies, inhabiting the Troad. He was son of Mecisteus 3.

Hicetaon 2.
Pisidice 4.

Men from Methymna, Lesbos. They were killed by Achilles, when he was attacking the islands close to the mainland.

Pisidice 4 is the Princess of Methymna who was killed by Achilles' soldiers. She fell in love with Achilles when he was besieging the city, and promised to put the town into his possession if he would take her to wife. Achilles accepted, but when the town was in his power he bade his soldiers stone her.

Iphition 1.

Leader of a large contingent of Trojans. Son of Otrynteus and a Naiad.


Founder of a town called Las near Gythium in Laconia. This man was killed in Hellas before the Trojan War (see also Patroclus 1).


King of the Ethiopians who came with a great force to defend Troy. Memnon is son of Tithonus 1 and Eos. The father of Tithonus 1 is Laomedon 1, who is also father of Priam 1. After his death, Memnon was made immortal by Zeus at his mother's request.

Menoetes 2

A Lycian ally of Troy.

Mentes 3.

Warriors in Memnon's army.

Mynes 2.

King of the city of Lyrnessus which was sacked by Achilles. Here Achilles captured his sweetheart Briseis.


A comrade of Hector 1. Achilles had already been wounded by Apollo when he killed Orythaon.


A Thracian ally of Troy, son of Peiros, son of Imbrasus, also killed at Troy


King of Tenedos, killed with a sword-cut in the breast (see main text above). Some say Tenes was son of Apollo; others call him son of Cycnus 1 and Proclia.


Ugly Thersites laughed at Achilles' love for Penthesilia after her death, and for that laughter Achilles killed him. Thersites is son of King Agrius 3 of Calydon, son of Porthaon.


This man is said to be the son of Telamon. He resisted Achilles' invasion of Lesbos.

Tros 2.

Son of Alastor 2, who was also killed at Troy, though by Odysseus.


Achilles also killed the Trojans Alcathous 5, Deucalion 3 and Mulius 3.

Wrath overcome by sorrow

But when the Trojans, having come closer, succeeded in setting fire to the ships, Achilles consented to send his close friend Patroclus 1 to battle again in order to stop their offensive. And when Patroclus 1, according to heaven's decree, was killed by Hector 1 in battle, Achilles came back to life again, although life had no more meaning for him:

"It is true that Zeus has done that much in my behalf. But what satisfaction can I get from that, now that my dearest friend Patroclus is dead? I have no wish to live unless Hector falls by my spear and dies." (Achilles to Thetis. Homer, Iliad 18.80).

Achilles asked his mother to let him go and seek death, since he had not been able to save Patroclus 1 from dying. She then, knowing that heaven had decided that Achilles would die shortly after Hector 1's death, began to accept her son's fate.

Achilles' regrets

It is then that Achilles regretted bitterly to have sat idle by his ships, wasting his force and eluding his duty. For, as it has been said, Achilles forgot that he had come to Troy, not to have a good time with girls, but in order to fight. Consequently, he now felt that, by letting himself be deluded by the poisoned honey of anger, he had acted like a man with no wit, and that, though always resenting that mistake, he could still put things aright, by coming back to battle and seeking Hector 1, the destroyer of his dearest friend Patroclus 1. That is why he begs her:

"And you, Mother, as you love me, do not try to keep me from the field. You will never hold me now." (Achilles to Thetis. Homer, Iliad 18.126).

On hearing this, Thetis promised to fetch a new armour from Hephaestus for him, since the first one had been taken by Hector 1 when he killed Patroclus 1, who wore it.

Achilles and Agamemnon reconciled

While Thetis fetched the new armour for his son, Achilles called a council and in it, without asking anything in return, he ended his feud with Agamemnon, who acknowledging that he himself had been the one whom the gods had blinded, declared that he was ready to make amends and pay Achilles the compensation of the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities, and all other magnificent gifts which included Achilles' sweetheart Briseis. And this is how much Achilles was interested in all that wealth:

"Your Majesty, the gifts can wait. Produce them, if you like, at your convenience; or keep them with you. But now let us turn our thoughts to battle." (Achilles to Agamemnon. Homer, Iliad 19.145).

And concerning his sweetheart Briseis—the reason of their dispute—he dared say:

"Has it proved a good thing, either for you or for me, to keep up this desperate feud about a girl? I only wish that Artemis had killed her ... that day I chose her for myself." (Achilles to Agamemnon. Homer, Iliad 19.55).

Towards the end

When the new armour arrived, Achilles sought Hector 1 and, having killed him, outraged his body, intending to give it to the dogs, until, by the will of the gods, he was convinced to accept a ransom from King Priam 1 of Troy, who humiliated himself in front of the man who had killed his son. And as it had been predicted, shortly after the death of Hector 1, Achilles himself was killed. But before that, Achilles slew many others (see table).


Some say that Achilles was slain by Paris and Apollo at the Scaean gate at Troy. But others say that it was Apollo alone who took his life. Still others say that Achilles fell in love with Polyxena 1, daughter of Priam 1, and when Achilles, who had sought her in marriage, came for an interview, he was treacherously killed by Paris' men of by Paris and Deiphobus 1:

is killed by Paris and Apollo, as Hector 1 foretells in Hom.Il.22.359, and also the immortal horse (Xanthus 1) says "by a god and a mortal" in 19.416. Yet we also learn that Thetis had foretold Achilles that he would die by the arrows of Apollo (Hom.Il.21.275ff.), a prophecy that Quintus Smyrnaeus evokes in Fall of Troy 3.95.

Apollo guides Paris' shaft in Ov.Met.12.605, and Vir.Aen.6.56-58. But Hyginus (Fabulae 107) says that Apollo himself killed
Achilles, having taken the form of Paris.

No mention of Paris is made by Sophocles: (Philoctetes 334:
"Dead—not by a mortal hand, but by a god's," says Neoptolemus), or by Euripides (Andromache 1108: "I demanded once that the god pay the penalty for my father's death," says Neoptolemus), or by Quintus Smyrnaeus:

"From mortal sight he [Apollo] vanished into cloud,
And cloaked with mist a baleful shaft he shot
Which leapt to Achilles' ankle..."
(The Fall of Troy 3.70)

However, Euripides, in Andromache 655, mentions only Paris as the slayer of
Achilles, and in his Hecuba, he makes Hecabe 1 say:

" was I that bore Paris, whose fatal shaft laid low the son of Thetis."

Achilles is said to have been killed in the temple of Apollo when he was about to meet Polyxena 1 (Hyg.Fab.110, Dictys 4.11, Dares 34, etc.).

After death

According to some Achilles came, after death, to the White Isle or to the Islands of the Blest. It is said that there he lives in all happiness, either with Iphigenia, or with Helen, or with Medea.

Yet it is also told that when Odysseus descended to Hades, he met Achilles' soul who complained thus:

"Do not speak soothingly to me of death, Odysseus. I should choose to serve as the hireling of another, rather than to be lord over the dead that have perished." (Achilles' soul to Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.486).

Details, for the most part not included in the narrative above.

First years

It is told that Achilles was born in Pharsalus (Thessaly), and that he was the seventh child of Thetis and Peleus. The previous children died when their mother dipped them in simmering water to test their immortality, a procedure which Peleus could prevent in Achilles' case.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 24. 18-30 (Schol. Il. 23.144; Schol. Il.16.37; Lycophron 178; Pto.Heph. 6).

Otherwise it is said that Thetis attempted to burn her children mortal parts. They all died, but when she was about to repeat the ritual with Achilles, she was caught red-handed by Peleus, who took the child. Some have said that she did that by night while anointing the child with ambrosia by day.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 24. 31-41 (Schol. Il.16.37; Arg.4.869; Apd.3.13.6).

According to some, only the ankle of the right foot was burnt. So when Achilles was living with Chiron, the centaur sought the body of the giant Damysus (the fastest among the giants), which was buried under a mountain in Pallene, took his ankle and replaced the burnt one in Achilles' foot.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 24. 41 (Pto.Heph. 4).

It is also told that Thetis gave the newborn Achilles the wings of Arce (Arke), which she had received as a wedding present from Zeus. This accounts for Achilles proverbial speed. Arce was the daughter of Thaumas (son of Pontus and Gaia), and resembles Podarge (one the HARPIES--daughters of Thaumas. For the HARPIES see BESTIARY and Phineus 2).
Roscher, Lex. 1. 24. 41, 1. 553. 51.

Paris, guided by Apollo, shoots Achilles' vulnerable heel. 3924: Achilles' death. Peter Paul Rubens 1577-1640: Paris doodt Achilles. Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Later accounts have affirmed that Thetis dipped Achilles in the river Styx to make him immortal, but the heel by which she held him was never touched by the waters of the Styx, and therefore remained vulnerable.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 24. 58 (Stat.Achil.1.269; Fulg.Myth. 3, 7; QS.3.62; Hyg.Fab.107; Serv. on Vir.Aen.6.57).

The birth of Achilles separated the couple, and the boy was henceforth educated by the Centaur Chiron, along with Asclepius, Protesilaus, Palamedes and Ajax, the son of Telamon. The centaur instructed them in the fear of the gods, justice, noble habits, disinterestedness, the contempt of earthly matters, the art of healing, and music (lyre and song). Thus Achilles grew up separated from his father, but Peleus was shown his child when Chiron came to the beach to say farewell to the ARGONAUTS.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 25. 3-17, 1. 25. 30.

It is also told that Heracles 1 was Achilles' lover when they met at Chiron's home.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 26. 13. (Eratosthenes, Catast. 40).

Achilles grew up hunting lions and boars, catching stags without nets or dogs, and in general rejoicing in weapons and music. Later but while still being with Chiron, he also attacked the CENTAURS, pillaged their abodes and robbed their cattle.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 25. 48-57.

Concerning Achilles' musical talent, it is told that the Muse Calliope (see MUSES) appeared to him in a dream, and promised that his skill would be great enough to placate his sorrow one day (but as we later learn, only war and revenge placated him). The Muse said that his deeds at war, not his songs, would gain him fame, and that she alone would inspire the song that would give eternal fame to his deeds. So Achilles learned to sing and play the lyre without difficulty.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 25. 60.

His education being completed, Achilles returned to his father's house, and as Patroclus, the son of Menoetius, came to Phthia, they became close friends. At this time, Achilles and Patroclus defeated Paris in Thessaly, near the banks of the Spercheius, but Hector 1 marched against Troezen, plundered the city and carried away Aethra (Theseus' mother), but Plutarch finds the latter anecdote "very doubtful".
Plutarch, in Theseus 34, quoting Ister's "Attic History".

When Achilles was nine years old, Thetis brought him to the court of King Lycomedes 1 in Scyros (the island in the Aegean Sea, northeast of Euboea) to protect him from the coming war. There he lived disguised as a girl. Following an oracle uttered by Calchas, which said that Troy could not be taken without Achilles, the Achaeans (some say Odysseus, Phoenix 2, and Nestor; others say Ajax 1, or Odysseus and Diomedes 2) came to Peleus' house looking for him. Having been rejected, they went to the hiding place that Calchas had pointed out. In Scyros, they showed (following Odysseus' advice), a basket to the disguised Achilles and to the king's daughter containing weapons and domestic appliances. As it may be guessed, Achilles seized the former and the girl the latter. Others say that Odysseus blew a trumpet, causing Achilles to reveal himself by reacting in a warlike manner. It has also been told that Achilles feared Hector 1 and death, being this the real cause of his sejour in Scyros.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 27. 9-68, 1. 28. 5.

Others (Philostratus, Heroicus 731), however, believing the Scyros tale unworthy of the hero, affirm that Peleus sent Achilles to Scyros to avenge Theseus, who had been murdered by King Lycomedes 1. Achilles then captured the island and its king, and married his daughter Deidamia 1, begetting by her a son, Neoptolemus. Thetis kept her son in Scyros after his marriage, but sent him back to Peleus when the Achaeans were gathering the fleet in Aulis (the Boeotian city opposite Euboea) with the purpose of sailing against Troy.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 28. 9, 1. 28. 62.

While in his father's house, Achilles received from Thetis exceptional weapons, and, as later authors say, his immortal steeds. These horses (Xanthus 1 and Balius 1) were Poseidon's wedding present to Achilles' parents, whereas the armour and the sword were presents of Hephaestus.
Roscher, Lex. 1. 28. 66-1. 29. 7.

As Achilles joined the fleet at Aulis, Thetis ordered a slave called Mnemon to follow her son at all times to warn him, in accordance with an oracle, not to kill a son of Apollo. For should he did so, then he would die by the hand of the god. But the slave failed, and later Achilles killed Tenes, king of Tenedos (the island off the Troad).
Roscher, Lex. 1. 29. 8, Plu.GQ.28.






Peleus & Thetis

Peleus is son of Aeacus, son of Zeus and Aegina. Peleus and his brother Telamon, both sons of Aeacus and Endeis, were accused by their father of having killed their half-brother Phocus 3, son of Aeacus and Psamathe 1 (see this name among the NEREIDS for more details). Because of this intrigue, Telamon, father of Ajax 1, settled in the island of Salamis, while Peleus settled in Phthia. King Eurytion 2 of Phthia received and purified Peleus of his crime, giving him the third part of the country.
Peleus married first the king's daughter Antigone 1, but later he killed (as they say accidentally) the king himself, when they were hunting the Calydonian Boar (see Calydon). Peleus had by Antigone 1 a daughter Polydora 1, who is the mother of Menesthius 1, who later was to lead a company of Myrmidons against Troy.
Now it happened that Astydamia 3, wife of King Acastus of Iolcus, fell in love with Peleus and sent him a proposal for a meeting but he refused. So, feeling scorned, she sent a word to Antigone 1, in which she explained that Peleus was about to marry Sterope 5 (daughter of Acastus and Astydamia 3). When Antigone 1 received the message, she killed herself. Because of this ugly trick, when Peleus, together with Jason and the DIOSCURI, attacked Iolcus, he slaughtered Astydamia 3 and, having divided her limb from limb, he led the army through her into the city. (Acastus is counted among the ARGONAUTS, being the son of King Pelias 1 of Iolcus, who was killed by Medea.)
Peleus also married Thetis, and it was at their wedding party that Eris (Discord) threw the famous Apple.
Peleus survived his son Achilles and his grandson Neoptolemus, and dwells, after his own death, in the Islands of the Blest.
(For Thetis see also NEREIDS.)

Deidamia 1


Deidamia 1 is daughter of King Lycomedes 1 of Scyros, the island in the Aegean Sea northeast of Euboea. She discovered Achilles' female disguise, and much later, after Achilles' death, she tried to persuade Neoptolemus not to go to the Trojan War. After the war, when Neoptolemus was reigning over the Molossians in Epirus (the Adriatic coastal region of Greece between the Ambracian Gulf and Illyria, today called Albania), he gave Deidamia 1 as wife to Helenus 1, the Trojan seer, son of King Priam 1, whom he had brought as a prisoner.



Briseis is daughter of Briseus. She was given as a prize to Achilles. On account of her, Achilles refused to fight, when Agamemnon took her away from him.

Diomede 3


Diomede 3 was a girl, whom Achilles brought from Lesbos.

a) Iphigenia



a), b), etc. stand for different versions.

After death Achilles married either Iphigenia or Helen in the White Isle, or else he married Medea in the Islands of the Blest.

b) Medea



c) Helen


Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Abas 2, Achilles, Acrisius, Aeacus, Aegina, Aegyptus 1, Alcmena, Amphialus 1, Andromache, Asopus, Astyanax 2, Belus 1, Cleodaeus 2, Danae, Deidamia 1, Doris 1, Eetion 1, Electryon 1, Endeis, Epaphus 1, Gaia, Hector 1, Heracles 1, Hyllus 1, Io, Ladon 1, Lanassa, Libya, Lycomedes 1, Lynceus 2, Metope 1, Molossus, Neoptolemus, Nereus, Peleus, Pergamus, Perseus 1, Pielus, Pontus, Priam 1, Pyrrhus 2, Thetis, Zeus.

Related sections Peleus, Chiron, Agamemnon, Iphigenia, Briseis, Patroclus 1, Hector 1, Telephus, Dares' account of the destruction of Troy, Trojan War

Aes.Pro.170, 525; AETH.1; AO.387; Apd.3.13.5; Apd.Ep.3.14; Arg.4.793; Cal.Ap.20; CYP.1; Dio.4.72.6; Eur.And.655; Eur.Ele.439; Eur.IA. passim; Hes.The.1006; Hom.Il.1.405, 19.408 and passim; Hom.Od.11.467; Hyg.Fab.110; Lib.Met.27; Ov.Fast.5.407; Ov.Her.3; Ov.Met.11.221ff.; Pau.3.18.12, 3.19.13; Phil.Im.2.2; Pin.Nem.3.43ff.; QS.3.60ff.; Stat.Achil.1.80, 1.256, 1.938, 2.96ff., 4.1ff., 5.3; Try.270; Val.1.255.