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The Anger of Achilles

Updated: 4 days ago

Known as the swift-footed, the godlike, the lionhearted, the breaker of armies, and the shepherd of people, join us to find out about the Greek hero Achilles!


The Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus depicting the Romans at war with the Goths (3rd century CE)
Marble relief of Achilles, ca. 240 CE. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

DISCOVER


The son of Peleus, King of Phthia, and the sea nymph Thetis, Achilles is well known for having been the greatest Greek soldier to fight in the legendary Trojan War. But in the tenth and final year of the war, just when the Greeks needed him most, Achilles refused to fight. He was angry with the leader of the Greeks, Agamemnon, for dishonouring him and so, despite knowing that hundreds of Greeks were dying on the battlefield, he refused to help.


This was until the death of Patroclus, his closest and dearest friend, at the hands of the Trojan prince, Hector.  When Patroclus had led his men into battle, he was wearing Achilles’ armour. Hector mistook Patroclus for Achilles, so it was Hector who fought Patroclus and Hector who killed him. Enraged, Achilles could no longer sit back and watch – he needed vengeance! He grabbed his flashing bronze armour and prepared for battle, but little did he know that the gods had other plans.


Watching from Olympus, Zeus realised that if Achilles began fighting now, he would defeat the Trojans and bring an end to the war before it had been fated by the gods. So, Zeus allowed the gods to come down into battle and interfere.


First, Apollo tried to stop Achilles by approaching the Trojan hero Aeneas and persuading him to challenge Achilles. After a brief fight, when Achilles was about to strike a fatal blow to Aeneas, the god Poseidon swooped Aeneas away.


Next, the god of the Scamander River called on Apollo to defend the Trojans from Achilles. Achilles, however, heard the river god make this plea, and so ran to attack the river! It doesn’t matter how great a soldier you are, no mortal is a match for a god. The god of the Scamander River dragged Achilles downstream, and nearly drowned him, but Hephaestus – the god of the forge – used his power over fire to start boiling the river until it let Achilles go.


With Achilles now free, the Trojans fled inside the walls of Troy. Apollo, disguised as the Trojan prince Agenor, fought with Achilles to give the Trojans a chance to get away. But after Achilles chased off Apollo, there was still one Trojan on the battlefield: Hector, the bravest of Troy’s princes.


Achilles recognised Hector as the murderer of Patroclus, and chased him around the walls of Troy. Meanwhile, Zeus on Mount Olympus weighed up the fortunes of the two warriors, to see who was fated to die...


Want to know what happens next? Watch out for our next blog, where we’ll continue the story of Achilles and Hector!


 
Frieze of the Pergamon Altar depicting Nike and Athena battling Alkyoneus
An interpretation of Achilles' shield by Angelo Monticelli, c. 1820. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

CREATE


Achilles’ most recognisable piece of armour was his shield. This was forged by the god Hephaestus and is said to have contained on its surface a depiction of the entire universe. As in the picture above, the images moved circularly around the shield, including depictions of the sun, moon and stars, a battle scene, a wedding, a king’s estate, a herd of cattle being attacked by lions and defended by farmers, a dancing floor, and other scenes.


That’s quite impressive! But what about your own shield? Have a think about what you would want to be depicted, and have a go designing your own shield – one to outshine even Achilles’!


Until next time,

λεῖος πλόον!

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