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What is the story of Achilles?

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Quick Answer

Achilles, who is characterized as one of the greatest warriors in Greek mythology, was invincible except for the heel of his foot. This vulnerable spot led to his death during the Trojan War, where he fought on the side of the Greeks.

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Full Answer

Myths and legends paint Achilles as a generous and courageous warrior. His mother, Thetis, was desperate to ensure her son's immortality. She tried various methods when he was a baby, including burning him over a fire and dressing his wounds with an ointment made of ambrosia. Eventually, she decided to dunk him in the River Styx, which was said to give mortals the same invincibility as gods. She held him by his heel as she dunked him in the water, which caused his famous vulnerability.

When Achilles was nine, a seer predicted that he would die while fighting the Trojans. Thetis continued using various methods to attempt to ensure her son's survival. She dressed him as a girl and sent him to live on the island of Skyros. When he left and joined the Greek army, she commissioned Hephaestus to design powerful armor to protect him.

"The Illiad" depicts Achilles as a more flawed hero, who was vengeful and quick to anger, as well as brave and loyal. He is sent by the Greek king Menelaus to fight the Trojans after Helen of Troy flees Greece with the Trojan prince, Paris. Achilles remains undefeated in battle throughout the 10-year war.

Achilles' death is not implicitly depicted in "The Iliad," but it is referenced in later texts, including "The Odyssey." Paris, who was notoriously unskilled in battle, ambushed Achilles as he entered Troy and was told about his vulnerable heel by Apollo. Paris then shot an arrow into his heel, killing Achilles.

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