What was the process by which Achilles became immortal?

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By Kristy Tolley

The Legend of Achilles

Achilles is a legendary hero of Greek mythology who represents courage, strength, and honor. He is the central figure of Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, which narrates the story of the Trojan War. Achilles’ fame and glory were immortalized by his heroic deeds in the battlefield, but his name also became synonymous with his weakness – his heel. Nevertheless, his legacy as a warrior, leader, and legend has survived for centuries, and his story continues to inspire and captivate audiences.

Childhood and Early Life of Achilles

Achilles was the son of Peleus, the king of Phthia, and the sea nymph Thetis. His mother was aware of his destiny to become a great warrior but also knew that he would die young. To protect him, Thetis dipped Achilles in the River Styx, which was believed to make him invulnerable. However, she held him by the heel, which remained untouched by the water and would later become his weakness.

Training with Chiron: The Centaur

Achilles was sent to Mount Pelion to train under the guidance of the wise centaur Chiron. He learned the arts of hunting, medicine, music, and combat, and became a skilled archer, charioteer, and swordsman. Chiron also taught him the virtues of courage, loyalty, and honor, and instilled in him a sense of destiny and purpose.

Bravery and Heroism in the Trojan War

Achilles joined the Greeks in the Trojan War, which lasted for ten years. He led the Myrmidons, a group of elite warriors, and fought bravely in several battles, including the siege of Troy. His most famous feat was killing Hector, the Trojan prince, and dragging his body around the walls of Troy. Achilles’ glory and fame spread throughout Greece, but his arrogance and anger also caused conflicts with his comrades and the gods.

Death of Achilles: The Heel Myth

During the war, Achilles’ beloved friend Patroclus was killed by Hector. In revenge, Achilles killed Hector and desecrated his body. However, he was also wounded in the battle and later died from an arrow shot by Paris, Hector’s brother. According to legend, the arrow hit Achilles’ heel, the only vulnerable spot on his body. This gave rise to the expression "Achilles’ heel," which refers to a person’s weakness or vulnerability.

The Quest for Immortality

Achilles’ death was not the end of his story. His soul descended to the underworld, where he was reunited with his ancestors. However, his body was left behind on Earth. This prompted his mother Thetis to seek a way to make him immortal.

Bathing in the River Styx

According to the legend, Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx again, this time holding him by the heel and dipping him in its waters. This was supposed to make him invincible and immortal. However, some versions of the story claim that Achilles died during the ritual, while others say that he was only partially protected.

The Burning of Achilles

Another version of the myth says that Achilles’ body was burned on a pyre, and his ashes were mixed with those of Patroclus and buried together. This was supposed to symbolize their eternal friendship and loyalty, and also to honor Achilles’ heroic deeds.

Immortality Granted by the Gods

In any case, Achilles’ immortality was not achieved through human means but by the intervention of the gods. According to some versions of the legend, Achilles was granted immortality by Zeus himself, who was impressed by his bravery and skill in battle. This meant that Achilles became a god-like figure, revered and worshipped by his followers.

Legacy of Achilles

Achilles’ legacy as a hero and a legend has endured for more than two millennia. His story has been retold in numerous works of literature, art, music, and film, and has inspired countless generations of people. His name has also become synonymous with courage, strength, and determination, as well as with vulnerability and weakness.

Historical Significance of the Legend

The myth of Achilles reflects many of the values and beliefs of ancient Greek culture, such as the importance of heroism, honor, and destiny. It also illustrates the complex relationships between mortals and gods, and the role of fate in human life. Moreover, the legend of Achilles has had a lasting impact on Western civilization, influencing art, philosophy, politics, and sports.

Conclusion: The Immortal Achilles

The story of Achilles is a timeless tale of heroism, tragedy, and immortality. It transcends time and space, and speaks to the universal human desire for greatness and glory. Despite his flaws and weaknesses, Achilles remains a symbol of courage and inspiration, and his legacy continues to inspire and challenge us.

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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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