ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Your Achilles Heel: The History of Achilles Heel

Updated on June 27, 2013

The Achilles Tendon and The Achilles Heel

What is now known as the Achilles tendon, a muscle connecting the heel to the calf, originated from the classic book 'The Iliad' by Homer estimated to be written around 760 BC. The Achilles heel, however, has a totally different and perhaps a dual meaning. This is the history not of 'The Iliad; but of Achilles and of Achilles Heel.

Do you know your Achilles Heel?

In the Beginning

The Opening lines of The Iliad

"Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles".

Translated by Robert Fagles

The Iliad-translated by Robert Fitzgerald
The Iliad-translated by Robert Fitzgerald | Source

Before the Iliad

It is written that Thetis has several children before Achilles and that she wanted them to be immortal like herself. The earlier children where thrown into fire to test their immortality. They all perished in the fire. She then decided to try another method to make them immortal and this is what she tried on her son Achilles.

It is said that Thetis dipped her son in the River Styx, holding him by the ankle, which was a tradition. This made him somewhat immortal, except for the one weak spot on his heel where Thetis held him. This became the legend that the weakness of Achilles was this spot on his heel.


Thetis in 'The Iliad'

Thetis did everything she could think of to protect her son. If the prophecy was correct, she knew he would die and become a hero for all time. He had two choices. He could return home and live a long life, or continue fighting and die a hero.

Thetis was immortal. When her son asks for her help, she ascends Mount Olympus to ask Zeus for his help. Later she asks Hephaistos for new armor for her son, Achilles to protect him in war.

Thetis, knowing the impending doom of her son, runs back and forth between Zeus and Hephaistos and her own sisters seeming much throughout the whole epic trying to find a way to protect Achilles.

Her 'Achilles heel' is the undying love of her son.

Achilles Lycomedes Louvre
Achilles Lycomedes Louvre | Source

Summary of 'The Iliad' and Achilles Heel

The Main Characters

Achilles is the protagonist in the Iliad and Agamemnon is the antagonist. This story is about the Trojan War and the seizing of Troy. It covers much of the ten year war but it really is about the last few weeks of the war.

Achilles is a powerful and almost immortal character and has a close relationship with his immortal mother and is favored by the gods. He is a great warrior, but his pride prevents him from acting like a good commander and from acting with the integrity one would expect from their commander. When his commander, Agamemnon, is forced to return Chryseis at the request of Apollo, Agamemnon immediately goes to Achilles and demands Briseis, also a woman who Achilles considers spoils from the war. This is where Achilles’ true Achilles heel is shown. Achilles is so angered by this insult to his rights that he plays the game of withdrawing from the fight for most of the epic.

Achilles feels so slighted by his commander that he even prays that the Trojans will slaughter them after he abandons the war. His commander Agamemnon is just as prideful as Achilles. His pride dictates that he is entitled to Briseis even though he knows that he once gave her to Achilles. More so, Agamemnon insists on being the commander of the war even though it is his brother whose wife, Helen, has been stolen by Paris. Agamemnon and Achilles both are self centered and self serving individuals.

Hector is another important figure in ‘The Iliad’. He is the brother of Paris. He shows love of family and country as he fights this battle and forgives his brother for his slight in stealing Helen. His weakness could be cowardice as he flees Great Ajax twice and only returns after the taunting from his comrades. He too, like Achilles and Agamemnon comes across as arrogant.

Priam is the king of Troy. He is the one person that influences some type of change in Achilles in this epic. Achilles empathizes with Priam at the lost of his son Hector. He agrees to return the body of Hector and allows Troy to mourn the loss of their hero. This transformation is how the epic ends as we see the anger of Achilles towards Agamemnon has finally subsided.

Summary of Achilles in 'The Iliad'


The Death of Achilles

The movie shows the death of Achilles but in the book, 'The Iliad', this does not happen. In 'The Odyssey', we know that Achilles did indeed die because he is one of the shades that speaks to Odysseus. It is legend and Greek folklore that he did indeed die because of a wound to his unprotected heel.

Although Achilles' weakness is his heel, it is said that his pride is his true weakness. From the beginning of The Iliad, we are told of his self-interests that he himself put above his own people.

Wrath of Achilles
Wrath of Achilles | Source

What is your Achilles Heel?

Do you identify with Achilles' weakness of pride?

See results

Achilles Heel

Although we are not told that Achilles dies in the Iliad, folklore dictates that he did indeed die from the wound inflicted in his weak spot.

Does our own weakness hurt us? Do you know your Achilles heel?

Examples of Achilles heel in today's society would be:

  1. pride
  2. vainness
  3. greed
  4. gluttony
  5. ability to forgive or not
  6. unwavering trust
  7. procrastination

There are many other traits that could be considered our weakness that hurt us or impede us from living a full healthy life.

The legend of the name for these weaknesses all came from the epic classic 'The Iliad' and the hero Achilles.

© 2013 Rebecca Shepherd Thomas

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • rebthomas profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Shepherd Thomas 

      4 years ago from Powell Ohio

      Thanks!

    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 

      4 years ago from USA

      Voted up and I'm pinning it to my "Things You Really Need to Know" board.

    • rebthomas profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Shepherd Thomas 

      5 years ago from Powell Ohio

      Sounds like a perfect morning. Thank you for your comments they made my day!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      5 years ago

      Good morning Rebecca and hello from Colin, Tiffy and Gabriel at lake erie time ontario canada 6:18am with daybreak over the lakea and first cup of coffee and some nice choral music to start the day.

      I really do love and admire how you put your hubs together into a world class presentation and here is another very interesting subject which will be posted with enthusiasm and pride on my FB page for all to see and read.

      Sending to you warm wishes from the three of us.

    • rebthomas profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Shepherd Thomas 

      5 years ago from Powell Ohio

      Thank you! It is well worth the read.

    • samsoul profile image

      SUMIT HEGDE 

      5 years ago from INDIA

      Well written, I wanted to read Iliad but didn't get chance, I read Odyssey. Good piece of information.

    • rebthomas profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebecca Shepherd Thomas 

      5 years ago from Powell Ohio

      Thank you!

    • johnsonrallen profile image

      Robert Allen Johnson 

      5 years ago from Fort Wayne, IN

      Great stuff!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)