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Achilles

Ἀχιλλῆς

The Greatest Warrior of All Time

Achilles

Origins
A Legend is Born
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
Achilles Immortal
Achilles and Homer
Text References
Immortals Index
Previous Page

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.

Origins

Achilles was born to be a warrior ... he inherited his ferocity from his father and his grandfather, Peleus and Aiakos. While Achilles was still an infant, Peleus distinguished himself by becoming an Argonaut and sailing with such men as Herakles and Jason on the Quest for the Golden Fleece. As king of Phthia, Peleus was feared and respected throughout Greece ... the Myrmidons were his subjects and their reputation as brave fighters had been firmly established long before Achilles was born.

Achilles's mother was not an Olympian goddess but she was awe inspiring nonetheless. Named Thetis, she was one of the fifty daughters of an ancient sea-god named Nereus and Doris, a daughter of Okeanos [Ocean] ... Thetis literally had the sea in her blood.

Thetis and her sisters were called Nereids after their father. They had the outward appearance of normal looking human women but that's where all similarity to mortal women ended. They could swim with the agility of dolphins in the sea, yet live comfortably on land for extended periods of time.

Because of his extramarital escapades, Zeus, the father of gods and men, had a tumultuous relationship with his sister-wife Hera. He made no secret of his desire for Thetis, but she very tactfully and wisely evaded his amorous advances. Thetis had the greatest respect for Hera and did not want to incur her wrath ... Hera, as queen of the Immortals, could be very dangerous when provoked.

In order to suitably punish Thetis for her obstinacy, Zeus made arrangements for her to marry a mortal man. Peleus was chosen to be Thetis's husband because of his devotion to the gods of Mount Olympos ... Zeus also knew that Thetis could only be tamed by a forceful man like Peleus. At first, Thetis was not willing to marry Peleus but after a difficult and sometimes violent courtship, she relented.

Peleus and Thetis

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 immortal gods and goddesses.

The goddess Hera made sure the wedding was well-attended. One of the most notable Immortals at the wedding was the goddess of discord and strife, Eris, who came not to celebrate but to cause trouble ... she was quite good at causing trouble. At the wedding, Eris tossed down a golden apple with the inscription, "For the most beautiful one." Zeus's daughter Athene, Hera, and Aphrodite, goddess of love, each assumed that the prize was intended for them. When the inevitable conflict arose, Zeus was placed in an awkward position ... someone had to make the decision as to which goddess was the most beautiful. To resolve the dispute, Zeus sent the three obstinate goddesses with the messenger god Hermes to Mount Ida near Troy. Prince Alexandros, also known as Paris, was chosen to be the judge. Zeus decreed that the judgment of Paris would be final.

Alexandros chose Aphrodite because she promised the most desirable woman in the world, Helen of Argos, the daughter of Zeus, would be his wife. Before Helen could be abducted by Prince Alexandros and become Helen of Troy, Aphrodite and the other Immortals of Mount Olympos needed to coordinate their efforts to be sure the Trojan War would be unforgettable ... they succeeded admirably. Achilles would die gloriously, the walls of Troy would fall thunderously and, even after three thousand years, the war would still be vividly remembered.

A Legend is Born

Thetis and Peleus had a magnificent son whom 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. Without telling Peleus that the baptism of fire would have made Achilles an Immortal, Thetis did as Peleus commanded ... she threw Achilles to the floor and returned to her home in the sea.

The fate of Achilles was only partially known to Thetis ... she knew that Achilles's life would take one of two courses: 1) he could refuse to fight in the Trojan War, 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 long after the gods and goddesses who started the war were forgotten.

Peleus, Achilles and Cheiron

After Thetis deserted Peleus, Achilles was placed in the care of the Centaur Cheiron to be educated. Cheiron and the infant Achilles were on the shore when Peleus set sail with the Argonauts. The voyage of the Argonauts lasted over ten years, so we might reasonably assume that Achilles stayed with Cheiron until he was in his early teens.

Upon returning to his father's home, Achilles was placed under the supervision of a patient and clearheaded man named Phoinix. As Achilles's education continued, he was joined by his older cousin, Patroklos. The two young men became best friends and constant companions. When the Trojan War began, Achilles volunteered ... Phoinix and Patroklos accompanied Achilles to Troy, but they may not have been as enthusiastic as Achilles ... they were probably "volunteered" by King Peleus who needed men he could trust to give good advice to the predictably over-proud Achilles. During the course of the Trojan War, Patroklos indeed tried his best to be a positive influence on Achilles. Although Patroklos was persistent and sincere, he and Achilles would both die before the war ended.

Achilles at Troy

Achilles at Troy

The Trojan War, which began circa 1250 BCE, was one of the most horrific conflicts ever inflicted on the human race by the Immortals of Mount Olympos. With years of subtle manipulation and direct interference, the Immortals made certain the Trojan War would be unavoidable.

The beginning of the war can be traced to the kidnapping of Helen by Trojan Prince Alexandros. Helen was the daughter of Zeus, but her de facto father was King Tyndareus of Sparta. When it came time for Helen to marry, Tyndareus choose Prince Menelaos of Mykenai to be her husband.

Menelaos was chosen from dozens of fervent suitors, men of wealth and influence who offered lavish gifts to Tyndareus. Before he chose Menelaos, King Tyndareus made the suitors swear a solemn oath stipulating that if Helen was ever taken from her rightful husband, they would come to her rescue. The oath he made them swear was administered while they stood on the bloody remains of a sacrificial horse.

After the Judgment of Paris, Aphrodite waited a suitable amount of time before she honored her promise to give Helen to Alexandros. Helen was living in Sparta with her husband Menelaos ... she had a daughter, and by all outward appearances, lived a happy and fulfilling life. Using enchantments, Aphrodite arranged for Alexandros to be in Sparta when Helen's husband was "unexpectedly" called away on business. With Menelaos out of the way, the two enchanted lovers took Helen's considerable dowry and fled in the night. Once the kidnapping became apparent, the call went out for the kings and princes who had once been Helen's suitors to honor their oath. Achilles had not been a suitor of Helen, as he was too young.

When Helen was abducted, Menelaos was duty-bound to bring her back home ... to do that, he needed an army. He went to his brother, King Agamemnon of Mykenai, for assistance. Capitalizing on Agamemnon's wealth and influence, an army of kings, princes, warriors, and adventurers joined Agamemnon and Menelaos to free Helen from her Trojan captors. The greatest warrior in Agamemnon's army, by all accounts, was Achilles. He joined Agamemnon with fifty ships and 2,500 Myrmidon soldiers.

The Greeks, commonly known as the Achaeans or Argives, were massed at the city of Aulis. Agamemnon, however, was a proud man and sometimes prone to excess. During one of his self-aggrandizing tirades about his prowess as a hunter, he offended the goddess Artemis ... she called up the winds and made it impossible for the fleet to leave Aulis.

A reliable seer named Kalchas saw the problem and told Agamemnon that a grand sacrifice was needed to appease the goddess ... Agamemnon would be required to sacrifice one of his children or the winds would never relent. Agamemnon sent for his daughter Iphigenia on the pretext that she was to marry to Achilles. Achilles was used as bait because he was handsome, wealthy and renown for his virility. When Iphigenia arrived, she was led to the sacrificial altar, but Artemis spirited her away at the last moment and substituted a stag in her place. Satisfied with the proceedings, the goddess let the winds become favorable ... as the Trojan War could be delayed but not prevented.

Kalchas made another prediction before the fleet left Aulis. He and many other men observed a blood-red snake crawling out from under the altar of Zeus. The snake climbed up a nearby tree to a birds-nest and began eating the chicks. The mother sparrow was powerless to stop the snake as it devoured her eight chicks. The snake then ate the mother bird too, after which the snake turned to stone to the amazement of the onlookers. Kalchas correctly reasoned that the nine birds symbolized nine years of warfare at Troy, and that the tenth year would bring victory for the Achaeans.

Even though the winds were favorable, the fleet was still unable to sail for Troy because the Achaeans simply did not know its exact location ... they needed a guide. The help they needed came to them in a roundabout way. After the fleet left Aulis, the Achaeans became lost and put in at Teuthrania with the intention of sacking 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, and Achilles did indeed heal Telephos. In accordance with the oracle he had been given, Telephos in turn agreed to lead the Achaeans to Troy.

Phthia and Troy

With Telephos as their guide, the Achaeans returned to Aulis and then proceeded north towards Troy. A violent storm scattered the fleet, and Achilles was forced ashore on the island of Skyros where he married a woman named Deidamia. Achilles stayed on Skyros long enough to father a son named Neoptolemos.

Arriving at Troy was like a dream come true for Achilles. He quickly proved himself to be the fastest, bravest, and most bloodthirsty warrior on the battlefield. No man alive could match his fighting skills or rival his utter contempt for death. The Trojan War made Achilles an immortal hero and his bloody reputation has never been equaled.

The Argument with Agamemnon

The Iliad by Homer documents the last year of the Trojan War. The story begins with the god Apollon standing offshore bombarding the Achaeans with arrows. True to his title, Lord of the Silver Bow, Apollon unleashed arrow after arrow into the Achaean encampment. After nine days of constant bombardment, Achilles called an assembly in an effort to find out how they had angered the god and what they must do to stop the punishment.

The seer Kalchas again used his skills to deduce the problem but 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 said that Agamemnon had insulted one of Apollon's priests. To be disrespectful to a priest or priestess was tantamount to sacrilege. The incident that angered Apollon was initiated by one of the Achaean plunder-raids.

To sustain their army, the Achaeans frequently pillaged the neighboring islands and cities for food, equipment and slaves. On one such raid, several young women were taken as prisoners ... a woman named Chryseis had been awarded to Agamemnon as a "prize." Another young woman named Briseis had been awarded to Achilles.

When Chryseis's father came to Agamemnon to beg for the return of his daughter, Agamemnon not only refused to return the girl, he threatened the man with violence. Agamemnon did not care that Chryseis's father was a priest of Apollon.

Kalchas told the assembled Achaeans that Apollon's wrath would only end when Agamemnon returned the girl to her father and made appropriate sacrifices to appease the god. Agamemnon was not pleased with Kalchas's pronouncement but quickly thought of a way to placate 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 ... he debated whether he should just let the insult pass or draw his sword and kill Agamemnon in front of the entire assembly. The drama was being watched closely from Mount Olympos by the goddess Hera. She cared deeply for Agamemnon and felt compelled to protect him. To avert violence, Hera sent the goddess Athene to calm Achilles.

Athene swooped down and stood beside Achilles ... she tugged at his hair to get his attention ... he recognized her and saw her clearly, but no one else could see her.

Achilles told Athene that Agamemnon's arrogance was going to cost him his life. The goddess told Achilles that it was the will of Hera and herself that he quell his anger ... she said that he could rebuke Agamemnon but not resort to violence. Achilles was so inflamed he could barely comply with Athene's wishes. With uncharacteristic self-restraint, Achilles told Agamemnon that he would no longer obey his commands or fight the Trojans unless they tried to burn his ships. Succumbing to the calming influence of the goddess Athene, Achilles regained his composure 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 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 knew that Zeus would help her, but she also knew that she had to be careful not to upset Hera. When she arrived on Mount Olympos, Thetis found Zeus sitting apart from the other Immortals ... she clasped his knees and begged for justice for her son. Zeus listened sympathetically but knew he had to proceed carefully ... he wanted to help Thetis but he did not want to provoke Hera ... he did not fear Hera but her displeasure could be bothersome. To indicate his compliance with Thetis's wishes, Zeus nodded his head ... Olympos trembled, and Hera was indeed annoyed.

Briseis

With Achilles and his Myrmidons refusing to fight, the tides of war turned against the Achaeans. The Trojans pushed their way to the defensive ditch that protected the Achaean ships. If the ditch was breached, the ships could easily be set afire. To make matters worse, several of the best Achaean warriors were wounded, including Menelaos and Odysseus. At the prompting of his commanders, Agamemnon assembled a delegation of men Achilles respected ... their mission was to offer Achilles splendid gifts and plead with him to muster his troops for battle. Achilles was polite to the delegation but remained adamant ... he did not want gifts and he did not care about the dead and wounded Achaeans.

The Death of Patroklos

Agamemnon's delegation had no effect on Achilles but Patroklos felt compelled to speak up. Patroklos was the older cousin of Achilles. They grew up together and were as close as brothers. Achilles's father, King Peleus, made Patroklos swear to always give good advice to Achilles, and with the Achaeans on the verge of defeat, Patroklos could not remain silent. He reminded Achilles of the continuous defeats the Achaeans were suffering and the growing list of wounded soldiers. Although Achilles had been unmoved by Agamemnon's delegation, Patroklos's impassioned pleas inspired a response. Achilles ordered his men to prepare his armor and chariot ... he instructed Patroklos to don the armor and ride out onto the field of battle. Everyone would assume that Achilles was in the chariot. The strategy was twofold ... the Trojans would retreat in fear and the Achaeans would regain their resolution.

Patroklos played his part brilliantly. The Trojans scattered and the Achaeans charged forward behind Achilles's chariot. The Immortals watched the drama unfold as Patroklos moved dangerously close to the walls of Troy. He had been warned to withdraw as soon as the Trojans were away from the ships but his vanity drove him on. Zeus's son Sarpedon placed himself directly in the path of Patroklos ... by doing so, he sealed his own doom. Patroklos killed Sarpedon and continued his reckless charge towards the walls of Troy.

Patroklos had been on the battlefield long enough for the astute soldiers of both armies to realize that he was not Achilles. Oblivious to his impending doom, Patroklos charged straight into the hands of Prince Hektor. The god Apollon had been anticipating this moment. He positioned himself near Hektor, and when Patroklos dismounted the chariot to fight, 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 retreated into the Trojan ranks so that he could discard his old armor and put on Achilles's. Zeus fitted the armor to its new owner's body.

With Patroklos dead in the dirt and Hektor wearing Achilles's armor, the bloodiest fight of the war began. The Trojans wanted Patroklos's body as a trophy ... the Achaeans wanted to retrieve their beloved comrade for the sake of honor. The fight raged ... men on both sides were injured and killed.

The fight for Patroklos's body

Still brooding in his shelter, Achilles was unaware of Patroklos's death. Finally, a messenger came from the fighting and gave him the bad news. Achilles was enraged but powerless ... without his armor, he could not charge out to rescue Patroklos's corpse from the Trojans. Yet before he was overwhelmed by his impotency, the goddess Iris descended into the Achaean encampment. She approached Achilles and told him to make his presence known by going to the battlements and screaming his outrage.

To make sure he could be seen from the battlefield, the goddess Athene put a golden cloud around Achilles's head and infused it with a flame that could be seen from the offshore islands. Upon seeing the sun-bright halo around Achilles's head and hearing his third terrifying scream, the Trojans gave ground. The brief respite allowed Odysseus to plunge into the Trojans and hold them back while Telamonian Aias dragged Patroklos's body to safety.

Later that night, the ghost of Patroklos came to Achilles and asked for several favors. Notably 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, although the cremation would have to wait until Achilles had his revenge on Hektor for killing Patroklos.

The Shield of Achilles

Patroklos had been wearing Achilles armor when he died and it now belonged to Prince Hektor. Achilles lamented to his mother, Thetis, about Patroklos's death and the sad fate of his armor; she told him that she would have new armor made by Hephaistos, the artificer of the Immortals. Hephaistos loved Thetis because she had once helped him when the other gods and goddesses of Mount Olympos left him for dead. Thetis knew that he would help her no matter what she asked him to do.

Thetis went to the workshop of Hephaistos 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. On the face of the shield, Hephaistos inscribed the earth, the sea, the sun, the moon and the stars. 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 including 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 and 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 included 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

The Bloody Path to 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.

Not being permitted to fight with Aineias or Hektor, 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 humbly agreed to end his assaults against Achilles.

Achilles charged back into the Trojan lines and started killing men and chariot horses without discrimination. The god Apollon did not want Achilles to get too close to the city walls so he devised a clever plan to divert Achilles away from the thick of the fighting. Apollon put courage in the heart of a man named Agenor and placed him in Achilles's path. Achilles charged at Agenor as the doomed man made a vain spear-cast. It was obvious that his fate was sealed unless Apollon somehow removed him from harm's way. Shrouding Agenor in mist, Apollon assumed the man's appearance and began to run away. Achilles gave chase but soon realized that he had been tricked and turned back towards to walls of Troy.

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 Death of Hektor

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 he finally 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 but 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 be 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

Achilles was determined to disgrace the body of Hektor in every way he could imagine. His primary form of mistreatment 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.

Achilles

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.

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, 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.

Achilles and King Priam

The Death Toll of Achilles

This list of the men, and the one woman, who were killed by Achilles is in a pseudo-chronological order because there is no way to be precisely sure when some of the deaths occurred.

Eetion and his seven sons

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.

Kyknos

Achilles killed Kyknos, the son of Poseidon, at the very beginning of the war. Kyknos was perhaps the first man Achilles killed in the Trojan War.

Briseis's husband, her father Briseus and her two brothers

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.

Epistrophos and Mynes

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.

Tennes

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.

A son of Nomion

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

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

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.

Hippodamas

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

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.

Dryops

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

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 was laying helpless in the dirt.

Dardanos and Laogonos

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

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

Echeklos was the son of Agenor. Achilles struck Echeklos in the head, and with one quick stroke of his sword, killed him.

Deukalion

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

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

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

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

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 war-craft 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.

Thersilochos

After killing Asteropaios, Achilles chased his men and killed them as he overtook them. Thersilochos was the second Paionian to die.

Astypylos

Astypylos was the third Paionian to die.

Mydon

Mydon was the forth Paionian to die.

Mnesos

Mnesos was the fifth Paionian to die.

Thrasios

Thrasios was the sixth Paionian to die.

Ainios

Ainios was the seventh Paionian to die.

Ophelestes

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.

Hektor

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

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.

Penthesilea

Thersites

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.

Twelve Young Trojan Men

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

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

The Death of Achilles

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.

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

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.

Achilles After Death

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 disembodied spirit 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 disembodied spirit 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 disembodied spirit 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 disembodied spirit 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 disembodied spirit of Agamemnon encountered the disembodied spirit 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.

Achilles and Aias

Achilles Immortal

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 lives on.

Achilles and Homer

Homer

Homer was a poet who flourished in the middle of the 8th century BCE. The epic poem the Iliad by Homer begins with the poet asking the Muses to sing of the wrath of Achilles. It would not be unrealistic to say that the Iliad is the story of Achilles with the Trojan War as the backdrop. Homer, in a very real sense, immortalized Achilles. No hero in history has a more elegant and enduring tribute as the one given to Achilles by Homer. Alexander the Great is reputed to have said he regretted the fact that, unlike Achilles, he did not have someone like Homer to document his deeds. Practically speaking, we know more about Achilles than about Homer.

Yet when we try to discuss Homer, we are facing a wall of darkness. No historical record exists of a man named Homer that can prove conclusively he composed the epic poems known as the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are mentions of his birth, travels and death but they all come hundreds of years after he supposedly lived. After the Iliad and the Odyssey, there were many poems written about the Trojan War and its aftermath. These poems are usually included in a collection known as the Epic Cycle, which are attributed to various authors. The Iliad and the Odyssey seem unique in that, in ancient times, they were always attributed to one man, the poet Homer.

It has been suggested that Homer was blind. Those who encourage that notion imagine Homer traveling throughout Greece and Asia Minor reciting his epic poems at public festivals or simply writing poems for patrons who gave him a bed and a meal. As romantic as this sounds, it's probably not true. That Homer was blind can be convincingly disputed by citing the eloquent and vivid way in which he related visual phenomena such as the sun glinting from bronze armor or the way Eos [Dawn] reddened the morning sky.

The renown classicist Friedrich August Wolf [1759-1824] was the first modern scholar to dissect the Iliad and the Odyssey to determine their linguistic composition and origin. His conclusions were not reassuring to the one-man theory. Professor Wolf concluded that the dialects used in the Iliad and the Odyssey were Ionic and Aeolian, as used in Asia Minor. He further asserted the poems were probably a collection of many poems united to form the epics we enjoy today. Regardless of whether we accept or reject Homer as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the fact remains that his name has been enduringly linked to these masterpieces and will remain so until some new, definitive evidence is unearthed to prove otherwise.

The respect given to Homer by the Hellenistic and Classical writers should not be underestimated ... their admiration bordered on reverence. The overwhelming desire to understand Homer's origins was hampered by the lack of solid evidence, but there seemed to be no shortage of groundless assertions about Homer's life but the scholars who were seeking facts were not easily fooled and sincerely did their best to sort out the truth from the fantasy.

Despite the differences of opinion on Homer's birth and travels, there at least seemed to be some agreement as to how and where Homer died. Presumably at an early stage of his life, he was told by an oracle that he would die on the island of Ios from an illness caused by a riddle posed by some boys. As strange as this may seem, it was "common knowledge" during the Classical Period [circa 500-323 BCE] that when Homer was on the island of Ios he encountered some Akadian boys returning from a day of fishing. When Homer inquired as to how their luck had been. The boys replied, "The ones we caught, we left behind, the ones we missed we carry." The boys were jokingly referring to the fact that the fishing had been unproductive and that they had spent their idle time removing lice from their clothing. Unable to grasp the subtle humor, Homer became distraught and fell into a depression so deep that he couldn't eat or sleep. Finally, he died. The people of Ios erected a grave marker that said: "Here the earth conceals that sacred head, the adorner of warrior heroes: the godly Homer."

The preservation of the Iliad and the Odyssey can be credited to a rather unlikely source. Peisistratos was the last great tyrant of ancient Greece. He was flamboyant, politically astute and, most importantly, he was well educated. He ruled Athens in the mid-fifth century BCE and was responsible for collecting the widely dispersed books of the Iliad and the Odyssey and preserving them as unified works. The twenty-four books of each epic were finally labeled with the letters of the Greek alphabet, [Alpha through Omega], by the scholars of Alexandria, Egypt. They were then passed down to us in their current form. If it were not for Homer's prolific eloquence and Pisistratus's recognition of the importance of the Iliad and the Odyssey, we would not have these wonderful epics and the tantalizing mystery that surrounds their author.

When Homer called upon the Muses to sing of the wrath of Achilles, the goddesses undoubtedly knew that their song would be sung for thousands of years, and that Achilles's wrath would immortalize heroes, heroines, gods, and goddesses who would have otherwise been forgotten.

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