10 Facts About Achilles – The Most Important Hero In Greek Mythology
Whether you know Achilles from the Iliad or from Brad Pitts’ rendition in “Troy”, he is no doubt the most well-known hero in Greek mythology. But how much do you really know about him? Did you know he might have had a male lover or that he spent time disguised as a girl? These facts about Achilles might surprise you.
Achilles Was A Demi-God
Achilles wasn’t just any hero. Among the facts about Achilles that you need to know is that he wasn’t just a hero, he was a demigod and having immortal blood was one of the major contributing factors to his immense success. Achilles was the son of King Peleus and Thetis. Peleus was a descendent of Zeus and Thetis was a sea nymph. So, his heritage made him incredibly powerful.
☞ Related: 5 Olympian Gods And Their Greek Island
His Mother Tried To Make Him Invincible
Like most mothers, Thetis had a fierce desire to protect her son from any harm that could come his way. To protect Achilles from danger she tried to make him invincible. She did this by dipping him in the waters of the River Styx, the only part of him that did not get touched by its powerful water was his heel where she held him. Although this wasn’t mentioned in the Iliad this post-Homeric legend has become a well-known tale today and is why this part of our heel is called the Achilles. It is also why we call someone’s weakness their “Achilles heel.”
He Once Disguised Himself As A Girl
This fact about Achilles might surprise you, but it is yet another example of the length that Thetis would go to protect her son. The tragic death of her son in the Trojan war was predicted by a seer at an early age and Thetis refused to let that happen. In order to protect him, she sent him away to live on the Greek island of Skyros where he lived with the royal family. Here she forced him to hide his true identity by dressing up as a girl.
He Couldn’t Escape His Destiny
Of all the facts about Achilles, I imagine that we can both agree that destiny in Greek mythology is unavoidable and Achilles couldn’t dodge his forever. His identity was soon revealed when Odysseus came to Skyros and offered the daughters of Lycomedes some beautiful gifts. Among the precious jewels and exquisite clothes was a helmet and sword. Achilles, being the born warrior that he was, couldn’t help himself and upon choosing them immediately revealed himself to Odysseus.
☞ Related: The Women Of Ancient Greece You Need To Know
Achilles Was Most Well Known For His Role In The Trojan War
The Trojan war was where Achilles really began to shine. While facts about Achilles vary in the Iliad when compared to later writings, one thing is certain. He was the greatest warrior in Greek mythology and his involvement in the war was paramount to its success. For ten years he fought against the Trojans and was instrumental in Greece’s fight and the eventual fall of Troy.
Achilles Was Stubborn
This fact about Achilles probably won’t surprise you. Being the powerful figure that he was, you could say he was used to getting exactly what he wanted. It also meant he was extremely stubborn when he did not. When Agamemnon stole Briseis from Achilles, a beautiful Trojan slave, he refused to continue fighting in the war. Despite the fact his men were dying around him, no one could persuade him otherwise.
☞ Related: A List Of The Worst Greek Gods In Mythology
Patroclus’ Death Devastated Him
Because Achilles refused to fight, Patroclus decided to step up. He adorned himself in Achilles armour and took to the battlefield. But unfortunately, because Patroclus was not half the fighter that Achilles was, he was killed by Hector who was the son of King Priam of Troy. Upon hearing of his death Achilles was devasted. Enraged, he returned to the war killing Hector and dragging his body behind his chariot.
Many People Believed That Patroclus Was His Lover
Patroclus was Achilles closest friend and confidante. They grew up together and although it was never mentioned in the Iliad many believed that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers. This fact about Achilles might be surprising but same-sex relations in ancient Greece were common and not discriminated against.
Achilles Was Honourable
In Ancient Greece, the customary funeral rites that took place after a loved ones death were incredibly important. The women would wash and anoint the body with oil and dress them. Priam the King of Troy and father of Hector was desperate to return his dead son’s body home so he could receive a proper burial.
After the death of Patroclus, it is one of the well-known facts about Achilles that he was stricken with grief and incredibly angry. But in the end, Achilles decided to do the honourable thing and send Hector’s body back to Troy.
Achilles Fate In The Iliad Is Unknown
Despite being the protagonist in these epic poems the Iliad does not mention how Achilles dies. Later legends however point to Achilles vulnerable heel as his downfall. Most versions recount Paris, the brother of Hector, shooting Achilles in the heel with a fatal arrow.