Achilles is most famous as the Greek hero of the Trojan War. He is the son of Thetis, a powerful sea goddess who tried to make her son immortal and came very close. One myth has her dipping baby Achilles into the sea while holding his heel. Everywhere ocean water touched became invulnerable; his only remaining weak spot was the heel she held. The term, Achilles’ heel, indicating someone’s sole profound vulnerability, has entered common language: this is its origin. Achilles, star of the Iliad, is the subject of innumerable myths, films, fiction, and plays. He’s standing in the alley in Bob Dylan’s 1966 song, “Temporary Like Achilles.” His golden good looks and warrior skills are godlike; he is brave, strong, reckless, passionate, and impulsive. His prime characteristics are rage and pride. A revisionist perception is found in Christa Wolf’s 1988 novel, Cas san dra, where he is not the hero.
Achilles may be petitioned for help with hemophilia or any other health condition involving difficult-to-control bleeding. He may also be able to provide assistance with AIDS, toxemia, or other blood-related disorders.
In Greek mythology, Achilles is a liminal character, someplace between human and deity. He has a direct line to the divine via his mother. He goes into battle wearing armor crafted for him by Hephaestus. He is a god among men, albeit often a self-centered, merciless one. He is kind to his men and those for whom he feels responsible. He is a master healer who can staunch wounds and bleeding. Achilles is omnisexual. He is extremely close to his mother. His primary relationship is with his cousin/lover, Patroclus, whose death at Troy filled Achilles with such grief and rage that he rejoined the war he had previously spurned. In death, Achilles became a full-fledged deity. Some believe he always was one; that beneath the Greek myths is a Thracian sea-spirit whom the Greeks claimed as a hero. That Thrace fought on the side of the Trojans may explain some of Achilles’ ambivalence to the war. Achilles’ sacred island is what the Greeks called Leuce Island (White Island), but is now Snake Island in the Black Sea, off the coasts of Romania and Ukraine. Once upon a time it was called Achilles’ Isle and was the center of his veneration. In some versions of his myth, after death, Achilles married Medea. They live on Snake Island together. Thetis brought Achilles’ and Patroclus’ ashes to this little island and had a sanctuary built. Some myths suggest that she herself raised the island specifically for this purpose. Ruins of a large square temple found in 1823 are believed to be his shrine, which featured an oracle and was tended by sea birds who flew out to sea, wet their wings, and returned to sprinkle the shrine clean. (The shrine was also staffed by priests.) Achilles is Master of the Black Sea. He protects, guides, and advises those who navigate its waters. He appears in dreams offering advice regarding healing or even to personally perform healings. He is a bargainer and may not take someone’s first offer, holding out for more. In life, he was a prince and a hero, son of a powerful goddess: as a spirit, he does not come cheap. His old shrine on Snake Island was filled with offerings of precious metals and jewels. He may expect comparable offerings to be maintained on an altar for him. (This can be a personal altar. In other words, you are the caretaker for his property.) Alternatively, perhaps a substantial offering on behalf of preservation of the sea will suffice. Inadequate offerings are met with silence. Up the ante: when he’s satisfied, there will be a clear response.
Plant: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Gulls and other sea birds
Achilles is a gregarious spirit. Keep him in company with those he loves: Patroclus, his mom, Medea. Keep a nautical, marine theme. Place a vessel of saltwater on his altar, as well as some miniature boats and mermaids to frolic with. (Young, handsome mermen, too; he likes variety.)
To honor Achilles, honor Patroclus. That’s the key to getting into Achilles’ good graces. Otherwise, keep the offerings generous, lavish, and impressive. If you wish to offer him food, make it a feast.
Aeacus; Aegina; Chiron; Hephaestus; Iphigenia; Medea; Orpheus; Thetis
ACHILLES In Greek mythology, the son of PELEUS and THETIS; married to DEIDAMIA; father of NEOPTOLEMUS. Achilles is the central figure of HOMER’s ILIAD, the story of the TROJAN WAR, a 20-year battle between the Greeks and the Trojans after the abduction of HELEN by PARIS. Writers after Homer further developed the story of Achilles and around this figure grew a series of great legends. A soothsayer prophesied that without the aid of Achilles the Greeks would never defeat the Trojans. Achilles went bravely into battle and indeed the Greeks won the war. Achilles was a hero in battle, and he has become a symbol of the fighting man doomed to die in war but glorying in the fulfillment of heroism and achievement. He is a vivid A 1 Achilles, the great hero of the Trojan War. (New York Public Library Picture Collection) character, given to rages and revenge, such as his barbarous treatment of the body of the slain Trojan hero HECTOR. The Childhood of Achilles Thetis, the mother of Achilles, was a sea nymph who had been wooed by ZEUS and POSEIDON. She reluctantly married Peleus and left him soon after the birth of Achilles. Knowing that Achilles was destined to be a hero who would win glory but also die in battle, she bathed the infant in the river STYX, trying to make him invulnerable to wounds. But the heel by which she held the child remained dry, and it was from an arrow wound in the heel that Achilles eventually died. The arrow was shot by either APOLLO or Paris, in a battle near the end of the Trojan War. As the child Achilles grew, Thetis put him in the care of CHIRON, the gentle and wise CENTAUR. Chiron fed the lad the entrails of lions and the marrow of bears to make him brave, and taught him the arts of riding and hunting as well as of music and healing. When the Greek leaders began to prepare for war with TROY, Peleus, knowing that Achilles faced certain death in Troy, hid his son in the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, and disguised him as a girl. However, since the seer CALCHAS had prophesied that without Achilles the Trojans would never be defeated in the war, the Greeks were determined to seek out the young man. ODYSSEUS, another Greek hero, sent presents to the “girl,” among them a superb spear and shield. When Achilles promptly and expertly took up these objects in a battle alarm, the Greeks recognized him for the man that he was and they led him off to the battlefield. Achilles at War Achilles had had early training in the arts of war (as well as of music and healing) from Chiron. When he went to war against the Trojans, Achilles led his own army, unlike the rest of the Greeks, who acknowledged AGAMEMNON as their leader. It had been prophesied that without Achilles the Trojans would triumph over the Greeks. Therefore there was much dismay when Agamemnon and Achilles quarreled over the beautiful captive BRISEIS, who had been stolen away from Achilles by Agamemnon. In a fury, Achilles withdrew his army from the war, with disastrous results for the Greeks. This is the quarrel from which the events described in the Iliad commence. When the Greeks began to lose ground in the battle against the Trojans, Achilles finally sent his troops back into war under the leadership of PATROCLUS, his dearest friend. Patroclus was killed by the Trojan hero HECTOR. Achilles then went back into the war and routed the Trojans. He slew Hector. Despite the anguished pleas of PRIAM (king of the Trojans and father of Hector), Achilles dragged the body around the wall of Troy and the tomb of Patroclus. Achilles finally gave the mutilated body of Hector to Priam in return for the warrior’s weight in gold.
Taken from : Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z, Revised Edition – Written by Kathleen N. Daly and Revised by Marian Rengel – Copyright © 2004, 1992 by Kathleen N. Daly
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