|The Son of Peleus and Thetis|
|Achilles at Troy|
|The Argument with Agamemnon|
|The Death of Patroklos|
|The Shield of Achilles|
|The Bloody Path to Hektor|
|The Death of Hektor|
|The Death Toll of Achilles|
|The Death of Achilles|
|Achilles After Death|
The life of Achilles was a complicated mixture of honor, bravery, hatred and cruelty. His life and death were literally the stuff of legend. From his semi-divine birth to his glorious death, the Immortals of Mount Olympos, led by Zeus, scripted the events of Achilles's life to conform to their unfathomable goals. In that respect, Achilles was nothing more than a pawn, but he was magnificent nonetheless.
Achilles was the son of King Peleus of Phthia and the Nereid, Thetis. His birth was the result of the union between a mortal [Peleus] and an Immortal [Thetis], which made Achilles semi-divine.
King Peleus ruled the Myrmidons and was one of the sons of Aiakos and Endies. A generation before the Trajan War, Peleus accompanied Jason on the Quest for the Golden Fleece as one of the Argonauts. Achilles was only an infant when Peleus sailed with the Argonauts.
The Argonauts were named after their ship, the Argo ... their mission was to retrieve the fleece of a divinely created golden ram that had flown from Greece to Kolchis at the eastern edge on the Black Sea. When Jason assembled the Argonauts, he chose only the most renowned heroes in Greece ... the fact that Peleus was included as a crewman of the Argo indicates his superior manliness.
Thetis was a Nereid ... one of the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris. Nereus is called the Old Man of the Sea, and his daughters are therefore creatures of the sea ... they have the appearance of young women and do not have fins or gills ... that is the reason Thetis was able to live with Peleus as his wife.
Thetis had a very complicated relationship with Zeus and his sister/wife Hera. When Thetis was very young, she came to the notice of Zeus and he made no secret of his desire for her, but she would not submit to his amorous advances. Thetis avoided Zeus for two reasons: 1) because of her respect for Hera and 2) because of her fear of Hera. Zeus finally became disinterested in Thetis when he was advised that one of his immortal sons would dethrone him. He then arranged for Thetis to marry a mortal.
Thetis was given to Peleus because of his undying devotion to the gods on Mount Olympos. The wedding of Thetis and Peleus was the setting for a defining event that set the stage for the Trojan War. This event has come to be known as The Judgment of Paris although at that time, it was just another demonstration of the rivalry between the Immortals.
King Peleus subdues Thetis.
In order to honor Thetis, Hera invited all the Immortals to the wedding. The goddess Eris [Discord/Strife] was in attendance but she did not come to celebrate ... she came to do what she does best ... cause trouble. Eris presented the assembled goddesses with a golden apple that had the inscription, 'For the most beautiful one.' Zeus's daughter Athene, Hera and Aphrodite [goddess of love] all assumed that the prize was for them and when the intended conflict arose, Trojan Prince Paris [Alexandros] was asked to make the final decision as to which goddess deserved the golden apple. Aphrodite promised Paris the hand of the most desirable woman in Greece, Helen. Paris could not refuse such a prize ... he chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess ... Hera and Athene never forgave the insult. The walls of Troy toppled and all of Paris's family paid with their lives for his selfish desire.
Thetis and Peleus had a magnificent son that they named Achilles. Peleus tried to be a good husband and father but he was ignorant of the ways of the Immortals. When Peleus caught Thetis placing the infant Achilles in the fireplace he became enraged and ordered Thetis from his house ... Thetis did as Peleus commanded ... she threw Achilles to the floor and returned to her home in the sea without telling Peleus that the baptism of fire would have made Achilles an Immortal.
The fate of Achilles was only partially known to Thetis in that she knew that Achilles's life would take one of two courses: 1) he could refuse to go to Troy, inherit his father's kingdom and be forgotten or 2) he could die at Troy and be remembered forever as a hero. He chose to go to Troy and die with such glory that his name would be remembered longer than many of the gods and goddesses.
Peleus [left] entrusting Achilles to Cheiron.
After Thetis deserted Peleus and Achilles, the young boy was given over to the Centaur Cheiron for an education. Cheiron was a renowned teacher of young boys. He had successful students like Herakles and Jason to his credit. As a young man, Achilles returned to the home of his father and was placed under the supervision of a patient and clearheaded man named Phoinix. At that time, Achilles became close friends with his cousin Patroklos. Before leaving for Troy, King Peleus made Patroklos swear that he would always give good advice to Achilles. Even though Achilles was of higher birth, Patroklos was older and capable of reasoning with the predictably over-proud Achilles. The death of Patroklos would later play a defining role in the outcome of the Trojan War.
The Trojan War began circa 1250 BCE and was one of the final conflicts inflicted on the human race by the Immortals. The Immortals orchestrated the war and determined its outcome with years of subtle manipulation and direct interference. The spark that ignited the ten bloody years of warfare was when Prince Alexandros [Paris] and Helen fled Sparta and sailed to Troy. The reason so many princes and kings of Greece were willing to go to Troy and fight for Helen was because of a pact they had made when Helen married Prince Menelaos of Mykenai. When Helen reached a marriageable age, her father was besieged with suitors. Before he chose a husband for Helen, he wisely made every suitor swear that if Helen was ever taken from her rightful husband, all the others would come to her aid. Achilles had not been a suitor of Helen ... he went to Troy to fight and win glory.
King Agamemnon of Mykenai led the expedition against Troy. He was acting on behalf of his brother Menelaos, who was Helen's lawful husband. Kings, warriors and adventurers joined Agamemnon and Menelaos with hopes of winning the glory and riches that the conquest of Troy promised to yield. The greatest warrior in Agamemnon's army was Achilles. He joined Agamemnon with fifty ships and 2,500 Myrmidon soldiers.
When the Greeks, commonly known as the Achaeans or Argives, were massing at the city of Aulis, contrary winds prevented them from leaving the harbor and proceeding to Troy. A seer named Kalchas observed a blood-red snake eating eight baby sparrows and the mother. He reasoned that the nine birds symbolized a weakening of the Trojans and that the tenth year would bring victory for the Achaeans. He also predicted that the fleet could not leave Aulis until Agamemnon appeased Artemis [goddess of the hunt] with the blood sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon cared more for the riches of Troy than he did for the life of his daughter ... he sent for Iphigenia on the pretext that she was to be married to Achilles. Achilles was used as bait because he was hansom, wealthy and renown for his virility.
Iphigenia was brought to Aulis and Agamemnon prepared her for the sacrifice. The goddess Artemis did not permit the completion of the sacrifice ... she substituted a stag for Iphigenia and transported her to Tauris where she was made immortal.
There seemed to be a problem for the Achaeans in that they did not know the exact location of Troy ... they needed a guide. The help they needed came to them in a roundabout way. After the fleet left Aulis, they put in at Teuthrania to sack the city. A man named Telephos went out to defend the city and was wounded by Achilles. Telephos was given an oracle that he should go to Achilles to be healed of his wounds. Included with the other teachings Achilles received from the Centaur Cheiron, was the art of healing. Achilles healed Telephos and, in accordance with the oracle he had been given, Telephos led the Achaeans to Troy.
When the Achaean fleet was scattered by storms, Achilles landed on the island of Skyros and married Deidamia. Their son Neoptolemos would eventually inherit Achilles's armor and participate in the final battle for Troy.
Achilles was the fastest, bravest, and most bloodthirsty warrior at Troy. No man alive could match his fighting skills or rival his utter contempt for death. It is no exaggeration to say that Achilles killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Trojans and Trojan allies. The Trojan War made Achilles an immortal hero and his bloody reputation has never be equaled.
The Iliad opens with an argument between Agamemnon and Achilles. Both men were proud and obstinate but the blame for their dispute clearly fell on Agamemnon.
During the tenth year of the war, the Achaeans came under attack from the god Apollon. True to his title, Lord of the Silver Bow, Apollon stood offshore and unleashed arrow after arrow into the Achaean encampment. After nine days of constant bombardment, Achilles called an assembly of the Achaeans and demanded to know why Apollon was angry with them. The seer Kalchas said that he knew why the god was angry but he was reluctant to speak out for fear of being punished by Agamemnon. Achilles quickly assured Kalchas that no one would harm him if he spoke the truth. Achilles glared at Agamemnon to emphasize his promise to Kalchas.
Kalchas told the assembled Achaeans that Agamemnon's treatment of Apollon's priest Chryses was the cause of Apollon's wrath, and that the punishment would only end when Agamemnon returned Chryses's daughter Chryseis, and made appropriate sacrifices to Apollon. Chryseis had been taken captive on one of the numerous raids the Achaeans made to replenish their supplies of food and slaves. Chryses had come to Agamemnon as a supplicant and begged for the return of his daughter. Agamemnon not only refused to give Chryses his daughter but insulted the poor man and threatened to kill him if he did not leave the Achaean encampment.
As a priest of Apollon, Chryses used his office to inflame the god against the Achaeans. Apollon was clearly on the side of the Trojans and needed very little encouragement to vent his wrath on the Achaeans. Agamemnon was not pleased with Kalchas's pronouncement but quickly thought of a way to appease Apollon and still have a new captive girl for his entourage. Agamemnon announced that Chryseis would be returned to her father and that he would take Achilles's captive girl Briseis as compensation for his loss.
Achilles was furious. He rose to his feet and called Agamemnon a coward and a pitiful excuse for a king. As Achilles continued to rant against Agamemnon, the goddess Athene stood invisibly beside him and tried to sooth his anger. Achilles could sense Athene's presence but no one else at the assembly knew she was there. She said that it was the will of Hera and herself that Achilles contain his anger. Achilles was so inflamed that he could barely comply with Athene's wishes. He told Agamemnon that he would no longer fight the Trojans unless they threatened to burn his ships ... the Achaeans would have to fight without him and his Myrmidon soldiers. Finally, Achilles regained his self-control and sat down.
Achilles surrendered Briseis to Agamemnon's heralds without a confrontation but his anger was simmering. He went to the seashore and called to his mother, Thetis. She emerged from the sea and listened sympathetically to her son's problems. She promised that she would go to Zeus and ask that Achilles be compensated for his humiliation. Thetis went to Zeus on Mount Olympos and he agreed to help her ... Zeus liked Thetis and at the risk of upsetting his sister/wife Hera, promised that Achilles would have glory and honor before he died in the Trojan War.
The captive girl Briseis.
With Achilles out of the fighting, the tides of war turned against the Achaeans. The Trojans pushed the Achaeans back to the defensive ditch they had dug and were attempting to set fire to the Achaean ships. Many of the best Achaean warriors were wounded including Menelaos and Odysseus. Agamemnon was getting desperate. He sent Odysseus, Telamonian Aias, Phoinix and Nestor to Achilles's elaborate shelter and offered many gifts including land, gold and a wife if he would only return to the fighting. Achilles refused and said that he would not fight against the Trojans ... furthermore, Agamemnon's troubles did not concern him and he did not care about the dying or wounded Achaeans.
Achilles lifelong companion Patroklos went to Achilles and begged him to fight the Trojans. Patroklos told Achilles of the continuous defeats the Achaeans were suffering and recounted the growing list of wounded soldiers. Achilles was moved by his companion's impassioned pleas and finally agreed to let Patroklos don his [Achilles's] armor, mount his chariot and ride into the Trojan battle-lines. The strategy behind this was to make the Trojans think that Achilles was back in the fighting, and thus retreat. Also, the Achaeans would assume that Achilles was back in the fighting and regain their courage. The plan worked. The Trojans pulled back and the Achaeans made advances.
As Patroklos charged through the Trojan ranks, it became obvious to the Trojans and the Achaeans that it was actually Patroklos in Achilles's armor. As he moved closer to the walls of Troy, Patroklos confronted Zeus's son Sarpedon, and killed him. Zeus permitted Sarpedon's death but then led Patroklos on a deadly path straight to Trojan Prince Hektor. Apollon slammed Patroklos in the back and loosened his armor. Hektor stepped forward and delivered the deathblow. Hektor stripped Achilles's armor from Patroklos and Zeus fitted it to its new owner's body. The Trojans and the Achaeans began to fight for possession of Patroklos's body.
At this point, Achilles was oblivious of Patroklos's death. Finally, a messenger came from the fighting and gave Achilles the bad news. Without armor, Achilles could not charge out to rescue Patroklos's corpse and without his help the Trojans would surely win the fight. The goddess Iris told Achilles to make his presence known by going to the battlements and screaming his outrage.
To make sure that he could be seen from the battlefield, the goddess Athene put a golden cloud around Achilles's head and infused it with a flame so bright it could be seen from the offshore islands. After seeing the sun-bright halo around Achilles's head and hearing his third terrifying scream, the Trojans retreated in fear and the Achaeans were able to drag Patroklos's body from the battlefield.
The fight for Patroklos's body.
The ghost of Patroklos came to Achilles and asked his dear friend for several favors. Patroklos asked that his body be burned without delay so that he could go to the House of Hades and have peace. He also told Achilles that his own death was going to come very soon and he wanted their bones to be buried together. Achilles promised Patroklos that he would comply with his wishes. Before the ghost departed, Achilles tried to embrace his lost friend one last time but he grasped only vapor.
Achilles had a massive funeral mound built for Patroklos but the cremation would have to wait until Achilles had his revenge on Hektor for killing Patroklos.
Patroklos had been wearing Achilles armor when Hektor killed him, and Achilles could not enter the fighting without armor. When Achilles told his mother about Patroklos's death and the sad fate of his armor, she told him that she would go to the artificer of the Immortals, Hephaistos, and have new armor made. Thetis had cared for Hephaistos when he had been thrown from Mount Olympos and as repayment for that debt, she knew that he would help her in any way he could.
Thetis went to Hephaistos's workshop where he made intricate devices and designed magnificent structures for the Immortals. Thetis told Hephaistos of Achilles's plight, and the god readily agreed to make new armor for her son. Hephaistos was clearly on the side of the Achaeans in the Trojan War and occasionally fought on the battlefield against the Trojans.
Setting to work with his robot assistants, Hephaistos began to make truly divine body armor and a shield for Achilles. The shield he made for Achilles was similar to the one he had previously made for Herakles and differed only slightly in its complexity. Achilles's shield was massive and made of bronze and tin, with three folds on the rim and five in the center ... the strap was made of silver. Hephaistos inscribed the earth, the sea, the sun, the moon and the stars on the face of the shield. Two cities were also visible on the face of the shield. In one city, the animated population was engaged in various forms of public activities ... a wedding ceremony with dancers and singers ... apart from the wedding, two men were arguing in the marketplace before an assembly of elders. The other city was being besieged by two armies ... Athene and Ares [god of War] were on the battlefield ... Eris [Discord/Strife] stalked through the bloody throng dragging three men ... one was wounded, one was unhurt and the other was dead ... her clothing was stained with blood.
The shield of Achilles also had majestic scenes with noblemen, farmers, and children. The figures were made of gold and animated to reflect the work of men and kings in everyday life. There were scenes where lions were eating the torn flesh of oxen while the herdsmen's dogs bayed ineffectually at the savage beasts. There was a dancing floor with young men in tunics and women dressed in long, light robes. The dancers ran or formed rows that crisscrossed one another. Two acrobats led the spectators in song.
Finally, Hephaistos rimmed the shield with Okeanos [Ocean] for strength. He then turned his craft to the armor that would protect Achilles's body. He made a bright corselet, an intricate helmet with a gold top-ridge and grieves of pliable tin to protect Achilles's legs. With the work complete, Hephaistos laid the armor and shield before Thetis.
When Thetis went to Achilles with the new armor and shield, she unceremoniously dropped them at his feet. She knew well that her son would soon die in that glorious armor. The armor was so bright that Achilles's henchmen, the Myrmidons, could not look directly at it. Achilles was now ready to mete out death to countless Trojans and, finally, Hektor.
Achilles was inconsolable in his grief for Patroklos and when he received his new armor, wanted to charge straight into the Trojan defenses and kill every Trojan he encountered. Odysseus was a man with considerable negotiating skills. He explained to Achilles that the army was weary and hungry and that they needed to rest before the next assault could begin. Achilles respected Odysseus and contained his impulses. As Achilles waited, the goddess Athene came invisibly to him and placed ambrosia and nectar in his breast so that he would be able to fight when the time came.
When the Achaeans were ready to fight, Achilles took the forefront of the battle formation. Two immortal horses, Xanthos and Balios and a mortal horse named Pedasos, pulled Achilles's chariot. The goddess Hera gave voice to Xanthos and told Achilles that he was destined to die at Troy. Achilles was undaunted. His new armor flashed like a bright star as he moved into the ranks of the Trojans. When Apollon saw Achilles, he went to Aineias in the guise of King Priam's son Lykaon and encouraged him to fight Achilles. Even though he was the son of the goddess Aphrodite, Aineias was hesitant to face Achilles because Achilles had once chased him from Mount Ida, but Apollon goaded Aineias forward. When the two demigods came face to face, Aineias boasted that he was the son of Aphrodite [goddess of love] and therefore of higher birth than Achilles ... Achilles was unimpressed. Achilles respected Aineias's fighting abilities but he did not fear him. As a precaution, Achilles held his shield further out in front of his body in case Aineias's spear passed through it, but he did not retreat.
Hera, Athene and Poseidon [lord of the sea] watched the impending fight with great concern. They knew that Achilles would kill Aineias and that Zeus had decreed that Aineias was destined to survive the Trojan War and continue the bloodline of Dardanos. Aineias had to be saved but Hera and Athene had sworn never to help a Trojan ... the task fell to Poseidon.
Poseidon arrived invisibly beside the two men just after Achilles had lodged his spear in Aineias's shield and was drawing his sword to kill him. Poseidon wrapped Achilles in a mist and hurled Aineias to a safe distance ... he then pulled the spear from Aineias's shield and laid it at Achilles feet. Achilles was outraged ... his anger was at its peak.
The Trojans fled in panic but in the confusion of the battle, not all of them could avoid Achilles. He was fast ... he was the fastest runner in either army ... many Trojans simply had no choice but to fight or be stabbed in the back with Achilles's massive spear.
Hektor had been watching Achilles and decided that since a confrontation was inevitable; he would fight Achilles before he advanced any closer to the city walls. When Apollon encouraged Aineias to fight Achilles, he was disregarding the will of Zeus but now that Hektor and Achilles were approaching each another, he knew that Zeus would not approve of Hektor's death before its appointed time. Apollon went to Hektor and warned him not to fight with Achilles but Hektor was determined to proceed. Hektor threw his spear at Achilles but Athene turned it aside with her breath. Achilles furiously charged at Hektor but before he could land a blow, Apollon wrapped Hektor in a cloud ... Achilles lunged into the vapor three times but struck nothing. Finally, Achilles charged into the cloud but found no sign of Hektor.
With the frustration of Aineias and Hektor escaping his spear, Achilles let his rage guide him onto the heart of the fighting ... the slaughter of the Trojans had just begun. Men of semi-divine birth were killed, sons of King Priam were killed ... any man who came within stabbing distance fell to Achilles's spear. When Achilles reached the banks of the Xanthos River, the slaughter became unimaginable. The river-god Xanthos chose the Trojan ally Asteropaios to stop Achilles. Xanthos placed valor in Asteropaios's breast and persuaded him to stand against Achilles. When Asteropaios was killed instantly, his men turned and ran. Achilles chased them down and killed them without hesitation. Achilles continued to throw dead bodies into the river until Xanthos rose from his banks and commanded Achilles to stop clogging his waters with dead Trojans. Achilles said that he would stop throwing bodies in the water but he would not stop killing Trojans until Hektor was dead.
Xanthos was still angry ... he rose up and sloshed the dead bodies from his waters. He then hurled a giant wave against Achilles and washed him into a whirlpool. Achilles leapt from the waters of Xanthos and ran the distance of a spear-cast, but Xanthos still pummeled Achilles with violent waves. Zeus was watching Achilles's ordeal and decided that in order for Achilles to survive the onslaught of Xanthos, the Immortals had to become directly involved. He sent Athene and Poseidon to Achilles's side. Poseidon assured Achilles that he was not going die by the devices of Xanthos because he was destined to kill Hektor. The goddess Hera sent her son Hephaistos to save Achilles by using fire against Xanthos. Hephaistos burned the corpses that Achilles had left on riverbank and then turned his fire on Xanthos. The river-god begged Hephaistos to stop the fires and said that he would no longer fight with Achilles.
Achilles charged back into the Trojan lines and started killing men and chariot horses without discrimination. As Achilles approached the walls of Troy, Apollon devised a way to temporally stop him ... Apollon drove courage into the heart of a man named Agenor. He stood his ground as Achilles approached but after he made a vain spear-cast, Apollon knew that he was doomed to die if he fought Achilles. Apollon shrouded Agenor in mist and hid him from Achilles. Apollon then assumed the guise of Agenor and began to run. Achilles gave chase until he finally realized that he had been tricked and purposefully led away from the fighting.
Achilles saw the object of his intense hatred standing at the Skaian Gates. Hektor stood resolute as the other Trojan soldiers ran to safety inside the city.
The Trojan captain Poulydamas advised Hektor to withdraw the army inside the city walls. Hektor agreed but remained outside the gates because he knew that the widows and orphans inside the city would blame him for the deaths of so many Trojans if he did not stand and fight Achilles. Hektor even considered laying aside his weapons and offering to return Helen to the Achaeans but he knew in his heart that he and Achilles would have to fight to the death.
When he saw the onslaught of Achilles and his unrelenting anger, Hektor lost his nerve and began to run. Every time Hektor tried to reach the safety of one of the city gates, Achilles would block his way and force him back to open ground. King Priam watched the spectacle from the city walls but was powerless to help his doomed son. Achilles chased Hektor four times around the city until finally he stopped and faced Achilles, ready to fight.
As Achilles drew close, the goddess Athene disguised herself as Hektor's brother Deiphobos and appeared beside Hektor. She told Hektor that the two of them could fight and defeat Achilles. Hektor stood his ground, and when Achilles was close enough the hear him, asked if they could agree that the victor would not strip the loser of his armor and that the body of the loser would be returned to those who could give it a proper burial. Achilles refused any conditions and swore to Hektor that his body would be the sport of the Achaean dogs.
Hektor made a valiant spear-cast but Achilles's god-made armor deflected the blow. Achilles hurled his spear at Hektor but missed. The goddess Athene placed the spear back in Achilles's hands. Hektor turned to Deiphobos for support but when he saw that his brother was not there, realized that Athene had tricked him and that he was now going to die.
Achilles lunged at Hektor and wounded him severely in the throat. Hektor fell to the ground and before he died, again asked Achilles that his body be given to his parents for a suitable burial. Achilles was in no mood for mercy. He vaulted over Hektor's prone body and said that, instead of a hero's burial, his body should butchered and eaten.
When the other Achaeans arrived on the scene, they despoiled the corpse of Hektor in full view of the Trojans who were watching from the walls. Achilles then pierced Hektor's ankles, and using a leather strap, tied the body to his chariot and raced around the city to further humiliate and inflame the Trojans.
Appalled at the spectacle, various Immortals came secretly to Hektor's body and covered it with ambrosia and oils so that the rough treatment inflicted by Achilles would not tear or mutilate the dead flesh.
Hektor at the feet of Achilles.
Achilles was determined to disgrace the body of Hektor in every way he could imagine. His primary form of degradation was to tie Hektor's body to the back of his chariot and drag it through the Achaean camp and around the burial mound of Patroklos.
Now that Hektor was dead and his body was continually dishonored, Achilles proceeded with the cremation of his dear friend, Patroklos. After Patroklos had been killed, Achilles asked his mother Thetis to protect Patroklos's body from decay until the body could be burned. Thetis promised that even if Patroklos's body was not burned for a whole year, there would be no decomposition.
Patroklos's body was placed on the funeral pyre but before the wooden framework could be set alight, elaborate sacrifices had to be prepared. Achilles killed sheep, oxen and nine of Patroklos's dogs so that their blood and flesh could be placed on the pyre. As a gruesome but seemingly necessary addition to the blood sacrifice, twelve young Trojan men that Achilles had captured on the banks of the Xanthos River were ceremoniously killed and placed on the pyre.
Also, as a gesture of respect and self-sacrifice, Achilles and the other Myrmidons cut their hair and placed it on Patroklos's body.
In order for the body to be consumed completely, a strong wind was needed. Achilles earnestly prayed to the North and West winds, Boreas and Zephyros, to come to his assistance. The goddess Iris conveyed Achilles's prayer to the winds and they willingly obliged. As the flames did their work, Achilles laid down to rest for the first time since Patroklos had been killed. Hektor's body was not put on Patroklos's funeral pyre ... it was kept under Achilles's bed.
The grief for Patroklos was not restricted to Achilles and the Myrmidons ... the entire Achaean army was despondent at the loss of such a noble and dependable comrade. Achilles organized a series of athletic events in honor of Patroklos so that the soldiers could compete and win prizes. Funeral games were a traditional form of paying tribute to fallen warriors. Achilles was the judge and referee ... he also provided generous prizes for the winners and consolation prizes for those who exhibited determination or exemplified the competitive spirit by which he personally lived.
After the funeral games were finished, Achilles continued to indulge his hatred ... Hektor's dead body was the focus of that hatred.
Achilles lounges over Hektor's body.
Finally, Zeus had seen enough depravity and ordered Thetis to go to her son to say that it was the will of Zeus that Hektor's body be returned to his family. Zeus then sent the messenger-goddess Iris to King Priam to tell him to prepare a ransom to take to Achilles in exchange for Hektor's corpse. Priam was given specific instructions not to go alone ... he was to take an elderly man with him. Priam loaded a wagon with suitable gifts for Achilles and began the dangerous trek towards the Achaean encampment.
Fearing for the life of King Priam, Zeus commanded his son Hermes to meet Priam on the plain and escort him to Achilles. Hermes assumed the guise of a mortal man and told Priam that he was a henchman of Achilles and that he had been sent to escort the king and the ransom to Achilles's shelter. Priam more or less guessed that the young man who was guiding him was no mere mortal but he kept his suspicions to himself. Hermes took Priam through the Achaean defenses without incident and left him inside the fence that surrounded Achilles's elaborate shelter. Hermes then revealed his true identity and assured Priam that Achilles would not harm him.
King Priam entered Achilles's shelter and fell to his knees. He embraced Achilles as a supplicant and kissed the same hands that had killed his son. Achilles was truly amazed at the king's bravery and marveled at his godly appearance. Achilles was fully aware that he could kill Priam with his bare hands but he was fearful of Zeus's commandment and remained civil. Both men wept ... Priam for his beloved son and Achilles for his dead companion. Achilles ordered his serving-women to wash Hektor's body so that the king would not see the filth caused by the constant abuse. With little or no ceremony, the ransom was offloaded from the wagon and King Priam returned Hektor's body safely to Troy with Achilles's promise of an eleven day truce so that Hektor could be given a funeral befitting a hero.
King Priam bargains with Achilles for the return of the dead body of Hektor.
This list of the men, and the one woman, who were killed by Achilles is in an pseudo-chronological order because there is no way to be precisely sure when some of the deaths occurred.
Eetion was the king of Thebes when Achilles plundered the city. After killing Eetion, Achilles honored him by not taking his armor and constructing a funeral pyre suitable for a king. Achilles then placed Eetion's body under a grave mound. Achilles also killed Eetion's seven sons in one day. He took the queen as hostage and accepted a ransom for her but the goddess Artemis then killed her. Andromache was the daughter of Eetion but she had married Prince Hektor and was already at Troy when Achilles killed her father and brothers.
Achilles killed the son of Poseidon, Kyknos, at the very beginning of the war. Kyknos was perhaps the first man Achilles killed in the Trojan War.
When Achilles sacked the town of Lyrnessos, he killed Briseis's husband, her father Briseus and her two brothers. Briseis was taken captive and became the crux of the dispute between Achilles and Agamemnon.
When Achilles sacked the town of Lyrnessos and killed Briseis's family, he also killed the furious spearmen, Epistrophos and Mynes. They were the sons of Euenos and grandsons of Selepios.
The islanders of Tenedos worshiped King Tennes as a god because of his virtues and the fact that he was washed ashore on their island by divine guidance. Tennes went to Troy to assist the Trojans but was killed by Achilles. The Tenedians passed a law that no man should ever pronounce the name of Achilles in Tennes's sacred precinct.
Nastes and Amphimachos were the sons of Nomion ... one of the young men was killed by swift-running Achilles. After he killed Nastes or Amphimachos, Achilles stripped him of his golden armor, which was more suitable for a girl to be wearing. It's not clear as to which of the brothers Achilles killed because of the way the pronoun HE is used after the names are given in the Greek text. Achilles might have killed Nastes or Amphimachos but the majority of the translators say that it was Nastes. The translation of the Iliad by Peter Green states clearly that it was Amphimachos who wore the golden armor and killed by Achilles.
Iphition was a Trojan ally from Hyde. He was the son of Otrynteus and a Naiad Nymph, i.e. a Nymph of a spring, river or lake.
When Achilles encountered Iphition, he struck him in the middle of the head. Iphition's head split into two pieces and he fell thunderously to the ground. Achilles stood over the nearly-dead man and took pride in the deed. As Iphition died, the Achaean chariots plowed over his body and cut it to pieces.
Demoleon was the son of a Trojan elder named Antenor. Antenor advised King Priam to return Helen to her rightful husband Menelaos so that war with the Achaeans could be avoided. King Priam did not heed Antenor's advice and Demoleon was required to fight in the Trojan army. Achilles stabbed Demoleon in the temple, driving his spear point through Demoleon's head. His brains splattered from the smashed bones, and Demoleon died instantly.
Achilles vaulted from his chariot and stabbed Hippodamas in the back as the doomed man tried to run away. As the spear struck Hippodamas, he bellowed like a bull being led to sacrifice.
Polydoros was the youngest son of King Priam and the most beloved by his family. King Priam forbade Polydoros to enter the fighting but Polydoros disobeyed because he foolishly thought that he could dash through the fighters and not be injured. Polydoros was very quick on his feet but he was not faster than Achilles's spear. When Achilles saw Polydoros, he aimed his spear for the young man's back and hit him squarely. The point of the spear went through Polydoros's body. His entrails spilled out into his hands as he died.
Achilles had just tried to fight with Hektor but Apollon shrouded Hektor in mist and Achilles could not find him. Enraged, Achilles turned back to the fighting and attacked Dryops with a spear thrust to the neck. Dryops fell at Achilles feet and died.
Demouchos, the son of Philetor, was a large and powerful man but fell quickly to the ground when Achilles stabbed him in the knee with his spear. Achilles then pulled his sword and killed Demouchos as he lay helpless in the dirt.
Dardanos and Laogonos were the sons of Bias. The two men were together in their chariot when they encountered Achilles. He knocked them from the chariot and killed one with his spear and the other with his sword.
Tros was the son of Alastor and one of the youngest soldiers to fight for the Trojans. When he met Achilles on the battlefield, he threw himself at Achilles's feet and begged for pity because of his youth. Achilles did not give mercy a second thought as he plunged his sword into Tros's body, dislodging the young man's liver. Tros quickly bled to death.
Echeklos was the son of Agenor. Achilles struck Echeklos in the head, and with one quick stroke of his sword, killed him.
Achilles stabbed at Deukalion with his spear and struck him in the elbow. While Deukalion was transfixed with the spear, Achilles drew his sword and cut off Deukalion's head with one stroke. The head flew away as Deukalion's body fell full-length on the ground.
Rhigmos and Areithoos were in their chariot when they encountered Achilles on the battlefield. As they charged past Achilles, he stabbed Rhigmos in the stomach with his spear, and the mortally wounded man fell from the chariot. Areithoos turned the chariot to ride away but Achilles stabbed him in the back, killing him.
Lykaon was a son of King Priam and a concubine named Laothoe. As Achilles was killing Trojans and taking prisoners at the Xanthos River, he encountered Lykaon as he was escaping from the river. Achilles knew Lykaon because he had once captured the young man while he was outside the walls of Troy cutting wood for his chariot rails. Achilles had taken Lykaon to the island of Lemnos and sold him. After being bought and sold several times, Lykaon was finally returned to Troy and his family. He had been home twelve days when Achilles caught him at the river.
Lykaon was without his helmet, shield or spear when Achilles burst upon him at the edge of the river. Lykaon fell to his knees and begged Achilles for mercy. Without hesitation, Achilles tried to drive his spear downward into Lykaon's kneeling body but missed and jabbed the spear into the dirt behind Lykaon. Lykaon grasped Achilles's knees with one hand and held the spear shaft with the other. Again, Lykaon begged for his life.
Achilles took no heed of Lykaon's pleas. He drew his sword and plunged it down through Lykaon's body from the collarbone the full length of the blade. He exalted over Lykaon and said that he would show no mercy to any Trojan. Finally Achilles grabbed the dead youth by the foot and hurled him into the river.
Ennomos was a seer and one of the Mysian captains, but his auguries could not ward off black fate when he encountered Achilles on the banks of the Xanthos River. He died with many other Trojans as they fled Achilles's murderous assault.
Asteropaios was the son of Pelegon and the grandson of the river-god Axios. When he stood against Achilles he had no fear because he was inspired to valor by the river-god Xanthos, on whose banks he stood. He brandished two spears as he faced Achilles. Achilles was the first to speak ... he asked Asteropaios who he was and why he would dare match his warcraft against him. Asteropaios proudly announced that he was from Paionia and descended from Axios.
Asteropaios threw both spears simultaneously because he was ambidextrous. One spear hit Achilles's shield but did not pierce it. The other spear grazed Achilles's right forearm and stuck in the ground behind Achilles. Bleeding from the wound, Achilles threw his spear but missed Asteropaios and buried half its length in the riverbank. Achilles drew his sword and charged at Asteropaios.
Asteropaios tried three times to pull Achilles's spear from the riverbank but could not. He then tried to break off the spear shaft but could not do that either. Achilles stabbed Asteropaios in the belly with his sword and spilled his guts on the ground. Achilles sprang on Asteropaios's chest and stripped him of his armor. Achilles coldly informed the dead man that he was descended from Zeus and that no man descended from a river-god could stand against him. Achilles then threw Asteropaios's body in the river for the eels and fish to devour.
After killing Asteropaios, Achilles chased his men and killed them as he overtook them. Thersilochos was the second Paionian to die.
Astypylos was the third Paionian to die.
Mydon was the forth Paionian to die.
Mnesos was the fifth Paionian to die.
Thrasios was the sixth Paionian to die.
Ainios was the seventh Paionian to die.
Ophelestes was the eighth Paionian to die. Achilles would have killed more Paionians but the river-god Xanthos rose from his waters and confronted Achilles. Xanthos, whom the mortals call Skamandros, told Achilles that he must stop his killing rampage because his waters were clogged with corpses.
The death of Hektor was the crowning achievement for Achilles. Hektor's death had been destined from the beginning of the war. He died in a manner suitable for a prince and future king of Troy.
Penthesilea was an Amazon warrior and the daughter of Ares. She went to Troy as an ally of the Trojans and was killed by Achilles.
Achilles carrying the body of Penthesilea.
When Achilles killed the Amazon Penthesilea, an Achaean soldier named Thersites reviled Achilles saying that, although he killed her, he was actually in love with Penthesilea. In his rage, Achilles killed Thersites ... the Achaeans were outraged. To seek forgiveness, Achilles sailed to the island of Lesbos and made sacrifices to Apollon, Artemis and Leto. After the sacrifices were completed, Odysseus purified Achilles of his bloodguilt.
As Achilles was slaughtering Trojans at the banks of the Xanthos River, he pulled twelve young men from the river and took them captive instead of killing them. He had no intentions of sparing their lives ... he only wanted to make their deaths more ceremonial.
When the funeral pyre was being prepared for Patroklos, Achilles killed the twelve young Trojans and put their blood and bodies on the pyre.
Memnon was the son of Eos [Dawn] and King Tithonos of the Aithiopians. He went to Troy as a Trojan ally and after surviving nine years of bitter fighting, finally came face to face with Achilles. Memnon was one of the last defenders of Troy to be killed by Achilles.
Memnon with Achilles's spear plunged in his stomach.
The Iliad ends with the return of Hektor's body to his parents. We don't find out until the Odyssey that the Achaeans won the war by using the Trojan Horse to gain entrance to the city. The fragmented remains of the Returns and The Epic Cycle give us some insight about the aftermath of the war but the exact circumstances of Achilles's death are still a mystery.
The above image shows Thetis and the Nereids with the body of Achilles.
There are several different versions of Achilles's death.
The ancient Greek version says simply that Apollon and Paris [Alexandros] killed Achilles. No details are given. Later authors, who did not believe in the actual existence of Apollon, insisted that Paris killed Achilles in the temple of Apollon. This belief suggests that Apollon had no hand in the death of Achilles.
As time passed, the Romans began to re-record the events of the Trojan War. We cannot be sure whether the Romans were using documents that are no longer available to us or whether they were embellishing stories they found to be incomplete. Regardless, the Roman versions of Achilles death are considered to be what actually happened.
It seems to be "common knowledge" that Achilles was shot in the heel with an arrow by Paris. Achilles's heel was the only vulnerable part of his body and the wound inflicted by the arrow caused Achilles to bleed to death. Achilles heel was vulnerable for one of two reasons: 1) his divine armor left his heel exposed or 2) when his mother Thetis dipped the infant Achilles in the river Styx to immortalize him, she held him by the ankle of one foot and the river's water did not touch his heel, which left it vulnerable.
In his narrative poem Metamorphoses, the Roman poet Ovid [circa 1 CE] suggested that Achilles had a vulnerable part on his body but he was not specific as to what that vulnerability might have been. The Roman poet Statius [circa 45-96 CE] was the first to imply that Achilles's vulnerability was his heel.
After Achilles was mortally wounded and died, a terrible fight arose for possession of his corpse. The Achaeans wanted Achilles's body to pay tribute to their greatest warrior but the Trojans wanted his body so they could disgrace it as retribution for Hektor and the countless other Trojans killed by Achilles.
Telamonian Aias and Odysseus were at the forefront of the fighting. When the Achaeans finally gained the advantage, Aias lifted Achilles's body and carried it to safety while Odysseus kept the Trojans at bay.
As befitting the death of a hero, Achilles's body was placed on a pyre and burned. Achilles's mother Thetis, her sister Nereids and the Muses attended the solemn occasion. Achilles's bones were placed in the same urn that held the bones of Patroklos. A tomb was built but its size and location are unknown. After Troy was leveled, King Priam's daughter Polyxena was taken to Achilles's tomb and ceremonially sacrificed.
Polyxena being led to the sacrificial altar.
The armor that Hephaistos made for Achilles became the focus of a bitter dispute. Telamonian Aias and Odysseus both believed that they deserved Achilles's armor ... both men had risked their lives to save Achilles's body from the Trojans and both men felt that they had earned Achilles's armor. When Nestor heard the men arguing, he suggested that they send a spy to the walls of Troy to eavesdrop on the Trojans and find out which warrior they respected more, Aias or Odysseus. A spy was sent and overheard a Trojan woman praise Aias for carrying Achilles's body out of the fray, another woman, at the contrivance of the goddess Athene, said that anyone, even a woman, could carry a body but only a real warrior like Odysseus could fight off such a fierce attack. Whether or not that was the deciding factor is not clear but Odysseus was finally awarded Achilles's armor ... he did not keep it. He gave the armor to Achilles's only son Neoptolemos. The fate of Aias is somewhat disputed after this episode but it is generally believed that he took his own life in a fit of depression.
After the Trojan War, the Achaean soldiers began to return to their homes. Many of them arrived without incident, some were killed on their way home but Odysseus was destined to endure ten years of hardship before he could embrace his wife and son again. The story of Odysseus is told in the Odyssey and one of his adventures led him to the 'shade' of Achilles at the entrance to the Underworld.
Odysseus went to the entrance to the Underworld to consult the dead Theban seer Teiresias, but he encountered numerous other Underworld inhabitants. Odysseus was heartened to see that Achilles had been reunited with his companion Patroklos, but he was distressed to see that Telamonian Aias had not forgiven him for the dispute over Achilles's armor.
Odysseus had been a true friend of Achilles and was one of very few men Achilles respected. Odysseus told the 'shade' of Achilles that he had been one of the greatest of the Achaeans at Troy and that he was honored even after his death. Odysseus told the 'shade' of Achilles about the bitter dispute he and Aias had over the armor but he consoled Achilles by saying that all aspects of the Trojan War and its aftermath had been the work of Zeus.
Odysseus then told the 'shade' of Achilles that they had fought fiercely to have his body returned to the Achaeans and that they treated it with reverence ... after being burned on the pyre, his bones were placed in a jar with the bones of Patroklos.
After his death, Achilles returned to Troy in the form of a ghost to warn Agamemnon that his wife Klytemnestra was plotting to murder him when he returned to Mykenai. Agamemnon and Achilles had a rocky relationship but in the end, Achilles gave Agamemnon the respect he deserved as a king and leader of men. When the 'shade' of Agamemnon encountered the 'shade' of Achilles in the Underworld, Agamemnon told Achilles that mankind would always honor his name.
Since it is generally believed that Achilles was shot in the heel with an arrow, the tendon of the heel has become known as Achilles Tendon and the term Achilles's Heel has become a metaphor for vulnerability of any sort. Achilles Heel entered the English lexicon in 1810 CE as a reference by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in an essay in the weekly paper The Friend.
The only thing worse than being forgotten, is to be remembered as a fictional character ... such is the case with Achilles. The Trojan War actually happened and Achilles, like the other men and women who fought or died at Troy, were not fictional characters fighting in a fictitious war ... they were as real as anyone you've ever known.
Some of the events that took place during the Trojan War may have come down to us in an exaggerated form but the essence of the story related in the Iliad is accurate and reliable. Achilles was in fact the most formidable warrior on the battlefield ... his companions respected and feared him ... his enemies simply feared him.
The attempts by Achilles's mother to make him an Immortal by bathing him in fire did not succeed but thanks to the brilliance of the poet Homer, Achilles became immortal none the less. After 2500 years of success, it seems likely that the Iliad will be a part of human culture until our species is either extinguished or transmigrates ... until then, Achilles will live on.
Achilles gestures as Telamonian Aias moves a gaming piece.