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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Achilles January 7, Mythology

Achilles: When Achilles was little his mother, Thetis, dipped him into the River Styx to make him immortal.  Unfortunately, she held him by the heel, and… well, you get the idea.  Towards the end of the Trojan War Achilles got into an argument with Agamemnon.  Achilles insisted Agamemnon return the comely maiden Chryseis, whom he’d taken slave, to her father.  Agamemnon said okey-doke, but you’ve got to give me Briseis, the comely maiden whom you’ve taken slave in return. 1    Achilles did not care for this arrangement and went to his tent and pouted. 2 Following a surprise attack from the Trojans, it was left to Achilles’ BFF Patrolcus to don Achilles' armor and beat back the Trojans – Patrolcus was killed by Hector, and now Achilles was really mad.  Just before Achilles went to avenge Patrolcus, Thetis had a special suit of armor made by Hephaestus to protect him in battle – you’d have thought she’d be satisfied with dipping him in the River Styx, but she wasn’t.  Her biggest fear was that Achilles would have to go to battle.  She wasn’t thinking clearly: making a man invulnerable and giving him a magic suit of armor is guaranteed to send him into battle.  If she wanted him to stay clear of battle, she should have dipped him in a river that made him nearsighted and gave him flat feet and then made him dress in corduroy. 3 In a grand exciting chase scene, Achilles chased Hector three times around the gates of Troy before the goddess Athena got tired of it and tricked Hector into turning around so Achilles could put a spear in him. 4  Achilles was finally killed by a lucky – or unlucky, depending on your point of view – shot when Hector’s brother Paris managed to get an arrow into Achilles’ heel. 5 Oddly, Paris is viewed as a coward whereas Achilles and Hector are praised for their bravery.  But Achilles, in spite of being invulnerable, spends most of the Iliad sulking or possibly pouting in his tent, and Hector’s big scene is running away.   Go figure.

1. Achean soldiers didn't receive a salary in those days and were paid in comely maidens.
2. Some scholars claim he sulked.
3. She did try cross-dressing him, but that's another story.
4. Actually, it wasn't all that exciting.  The Acheans were more excitable than we are.
5. Say!  "Achilles Heel," that's where that comes from!

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