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Achilles

Achilles (əkĭlˈēz) [key], in Greek mythology, foremost Greek hero of the Trojan War, son of Peleus and Thetis. He was a formidable warrior, possessing fierce and uncontrollable anger. Thetis, knowing that Achilles was fated to die at Troy, disguised him as a girl and hid him among the women at the court of King Lycomedes of Skyros. He was discovered there by Odysseus, who persuaded him to go to Troy. One of Lycomedes' daughters, Deidamia, bore Achilles a son, Neoptolemus. According to Homer, Achilles came to Troy leading the 50 ships of the Myrmidons. In the last year of the siege, when Agamemnon stole the captive princess Briseis from him, Achilles angrily withdrew and took his troops from the war. Later he allowed his friend and lover Patroclus to borrow his armor and lead the Myrmidons to aid the retreating Greeks. When Hector killed Patroclus, Achilles was filled with grief and rage and returned to the battle, routed the Trojans, and killed Hector, viciously dragging his body back to the Greek camp. Achilles died of a wound inflicted by Paris. According to one legend, Thetis attempted to make Achilles immortal by bathing him in the river Styx, but the heel by which she held him remained vulnerable, and Paris inflicted a fatal wound in that heel. Other legends state that Achilles was struck from behind and killed by Paris when he went to visit Priam's daughter Polyxena, with whom he had fallen in love. Achilles, the object of widespread hero worship, is the main character of Homer's epic The Iliad.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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