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Who was Achilles?

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Achilles was one of the great warriors and heroes on the Greek side in the Trojan war, about which Homer wrote in the <i>Iliad</i>.

Before Achilles was born the Fates had foretold to his mother Thetis, who was a sea-nymph, that he would die young, and so she was very anxious to keep him safe. When he was a baby she carried him to the River Styx whose magic waters were supposed to give protection from all wounds and diseases and dip in him in it. But the waters did not touch one part of Achille's body, the heel by which his mother held him.

Years later, when the Trojan war broke out, Thetis was afraid Achilles would have to fight, and so she dressed him up as a girl and hid among the women at the court of the King of Scyros. However he was discovered there by the Greek warrior Odysseus, or Ulysses, and willingly went off with him to the war.

Achilles soon became famous among the Greeks as the bravest and most daring of them all. Then in the tenth year of the war, he quarreled with the Greek leader Agamemnon over a slave named Briseis, and in his anger he refused to go on fighting. The Greeks were helpless without him, and the Trojans rejoiced. In the end, the Greeks persuaded Achilles to lend his armor to his friend Patroclus, who led Achilles' men into battle to make the Trojans believe the great warrior had returned. Patroclus was killed by the Trojan Hector, however, and Achilles was so filled with grief that he came back to fight to avenge him. Achilles slew Hector and dragged his body around the walls of Troy.

His own death was near, however, for soon afterwards Hector's brother Paris shot a poisoned arrow at him. The god Apollo guided the arrow and it pierced the one part of Achilles' body that the water of the Styx had not touched - his heel, and Achilles died from the wound.

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