Achilles is one of the most familiar names in Greek Mythology. Achilles is the archetypal Greek hero appearing in Homer’s Iliad and without doubt the greatest warrior in the Trojan War. Being the offspring of Thetis, the sea nymph and the mighty Peleus of Thessaly, Achilles was kind of a half-divine, Greek hero. During his younger days he was tutored by Chiron, the wise centaur. Achilles had a son named Neoptolemus through Deidameia, the Skyrian princess who met him while he was on the island of Skyros.
Achilles was one of the most handsome Greek heroes. When Achilles was a child, his nymph mother dipped him in the mystical river Styx to make him immortal and unconquerable in the battlefield. But while doing so, she held the infant Achilles by the left heel which did not get immersed in the river. As a result Achilles grew up to be a mighty warrior exhibiting great skill and power in the battlefield but for his left heel which turned out to be his weak and fatal spot. During the final battle at Troy, when it was being overtaken by the Greek soldiers, Achilles gets killed by a poisoned arrow hitting his vulnerable left heel.
During the Trojan War, Achilles was assisted by the Myrmidons who were his warriors and a fleet of fifty ships. They succeeded in conquering a number of cities on land as well as by the sea. Achilles withdrew from the battlefield, upset by King Agamemnon’s action of taking custody of his beautiful hostage- Briseis. The Trojans gained ground on the battlefield, causing untold destruction on the Greeks, after the exit of Achilles. Agamemnon and other Greek warriors tried to appease in vain to Achilles to join the war again. Eventually Achilles gave his armor to his friend Patroclus who went to the battlefield in Achilles’ armor to trick the Trojans in believing that Achilles had returned to the battlefield. But Patroclus gets killed by Hector, the Trojan hero who sees through the trick and seizes his armor. Achilles could not bear the death of his dear friend Patroclus and avenges the same by killing Hector and dragging his body down the lanes of the city. Angered by this disrespectful behavior, God Apollo assists Paris, the Trojan prince, to shoot a poisoned arrow at Achilles’ heel- his only mortal or vulnerable spot.
The phrase “Achilles’ heel” in contemporary usage refers to the mighty Achilles and his vulnerable left heel or the principal weakness of a person. It is common for everyone to have some weak area, the proverbial Achilles’ heel. A person may appear outwardly to be mighty and all-powerful but may be having a weak spot which leads to his undoing. In accordance with the Greek myth of Achilles, a person’s weak spot or Achilles’ heel may be acquired genetically or due to some neglect.
What can one learn from the myth of the Achilles’ heel? Well, the sensible thing to do is to identify one’s vulnerable areas and work consciously to remedy them. However in most cases, people fail to put in the desired efforts to eradicate the weak spot due to which it grows beyond one’s control and finally proves to be fatal. With reference to toxins and microorganisms that attack the body, it is usually the weak spots that become easy targets for the deadly attacks. Hence the only way to escape the Achilles’ heel syndrome is to strengthen one’s vulnerable areas or weak spots.