Achilles is the son of a Greek hero, Peleus and a nymph, Thetis. As an infant, his mother bathed him in the River Styx, the boundary between Earth and the Underworld. Thetis knew that her child was either destined to die the death of a glorious warrior or live a long life in obscurity and by bathing him, it would make him all but immortal. Only the heel by which she held him remained vulnerable. However, as prophesized, this proved costly as Achilles eventually died from an arrow wound in that heel.
The Trojan War originated from a quarrel between three goddesses (Hera, the goddess of marriage; Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war; and Aphrodite, the goddess of love) over a golden apple given to them by the goddess of strife and discord, Eris. She inscribed it with the words “for the fairest”. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite argued over who should have the apple, all believing they were the fairest.
Unwilling to settle the dispute Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, sent the three goddesses to Paris, the young prince of Troy, for him to decide who should have the apple. He gifted the apple to Aphrodite in return for the love of Helen, the most beautiful girl in the world. Aphrodite fulfilled her promise and soon after Paris and Helen eloped to Troy.
Helen, however, was already married and her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta, was furious and wanted to kill Helen. He set sail for Troy with his brother and set in motion the events that culminated in the Trojan War. He besieged the city for ten years and saught the help of all the Achean commanders. The last commander to arrive was Achilles, who was then 15 years old.
The Troy army was led by Hector, prince of Troy and considered their greatest warrior. The last fight that Hector had was against Achilles. When he saw Achilles he was suddenly was overcome with fear and started running. Achilles chased him, and Hector finally decided to battle his fear and stopped running after seeing his brother Deiphobus close by. Unfortunately for Hector, it was not Deiphobus but Athena taking on his form in order to dupe Hector. Achilles threw a spear at Hector, who managed to evade it. However, when he turned to get a spear from his brother, he saw no one there and realised that he was about to die. With the last amount of courage he had, he drew his sword; after a fierce duel between the two heroes, Hector died.
Paris, Hector’s cowardly brother, manages to kill the greatest of the great heroes with an arrow hitting Achilles’ heel, the only vulnerable part of his body. Poisoned or not, the arrow was most certainly guided by the god Apollo, since Paris was no archer.
The Achelleion Palace on Corfu was named after this hero. Initially owned by Corfiot philosopher and diplomat, it was known as “Villa Vraila”. In 1888, the Empress of Austria after visiting the place decided that it was the ideal location for her own palace on Corfu, “I want a palace with pillared colonnades and hanging gardens, protected from prying glances – a palace worthy of Achilles, who despised all mortals and did not fear even the gods.” – Elisabeth of Austria
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