Achilles Heels: A Greek Mythology

An Achilles heels is a weakness in spite of overall strength, which can lead to downfall. While the mythological origin refers to a physical vulnerability, idiomatic references to other attributes or qualities that can lead to downfall.

The Achilles tendon is a tough band of fibrous tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone (calcaneus). It is also called the calcaneal tendon.

Greek Mythology

The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles (calf muscles) unite into one band of tissue, which becomes the Achilles tendon at the low end of the calf. The Achilles tendon then inserts into the calcaneus. Small sacs of fluid called bursae cushion the Achilles tendon at the heel. 

The Achilles tendon is the largest and strongest tendon in the body. When the calf muscles flex, the Achilles tendon pulls on the heel. This movement allows us to stand on our toes when walking, running, or jumping. Despite its strength, the Achilles tendon is also vulnerable to injury, due to its limited blood supply and the high tensions placed on it.

Greek Mythology

In Greek Mythology, when Achilles was an infant, it was prophesied that he would perish at a young age. To prevent his death, his mother Thetis took Achilles to the River Styx which was supposed to offer powers of invulnerability, and dipped his body into the water. However, as Thetis held Achilles by the heel, his heel was not washed over by the water of the magical river. Achilles grew up to be a man of war who survived many great battles.

The large and prominent tendon of the gastrocnemius, soleus, and plantaris muscles of the calf is called the tendo achilleus or Achilles tendons. This is commonly associated with the site of Achilles’ death wound. Tendons are avascular, so such an injury is unlikely to be fatal; however, the myth has the arrow poisoned with the blood of the Lemaean Hydro.

Greek Mythology

Although the death of Achilles is predicted by Hector in Homer’s Iliad, it does not actually occur in the Iliad, but is described in later Greek and Roman poetry and drama concerning events after the Iliad, later in the Trojan wars. In the myths surrounding the war, Achilles was said to have died from a wound to his heel, ankle, or torso, which was the result of an arrow—possibly poisoned—shot by Paris.

Achilles, is the son of the mortal Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, and the Nereid, or sea nymph, Thetis. Achilles was the bravest, handsomest, and greatest warrior of the army of Agamemnon in the Trojan war. According to Homer, Achilles was brought up by his mother at Parthia with his inseparable companion Patroclus. Later non-Homeric tales suggest that Patroclus was Achilles’ kinsman or lover.

The Trojan War Begins When Helen, the wife of the Greek King Menelaus, was taken by the Trojan Prince Paris, the Greeks went to war to get her back. Achilles joined the battle and brought along a group of powerful soldiers called the Myrmidons. Achilles Fights Troy During the Trojan War, Achilles was unstoppable. He killed many of Troy’s greatest warriors. However, the battle raged on for years. Many of the Greek gods were involved, some helping the Greeks and others helping the Trojans. Achilles Refuses to Fight At one point during the war, Achilles captured a beautiful princess named Briseis and fell in love with her. However, the leader of the Greek army, Agamemnon, became angry with Achilles and took Briseis from him. Achilles became depressed and refused to fight.

The greatest warrior of Troy was Hector and no one could stop him. Achilles’ best friend was a soldier named Patroclus. Patroclus convinced Achilles to lend him his armor. He entered the battle dressed as Achilles. Thinking that Achilles was back, the Greek army was inspired and began to fight harder. Just when things were improving for the Greeks, Patroclus met up with Hector. The two warriors engaged in battle. With the help of the god Apollo, Hector killed Patroclus and took Achilles’ armor. In order to avenge his friend Achilles meets Hector on the battlefield and defeated him.

Achilles continued to battle the Trojans and it seemed like he could not be killed. However, the Greek god Apollo knew his weakness. When Paris of Troy shot an arrow at Achilles, Apollo guided it so that it struck Achilles on the heel. Achilles eventually died from the wound. The term “Achilles’ heel” is used today to describe a point of weakness that could lead to ones’ downfall.

Greek Mythology


Achilles was predicted to die a hero in battle.

He was burned and dipped in River Styx by his mother.

Achilles was dressed in Ambrosia and a sword by Hephaestus as per his mother’s request.

He retreated from the Trojan war when Agamemnon took Briseis, his wife in replacement of Chryseis.

Achilles returned to the battlefield when his best friend Patroclus died

He was killed by Paris, when the latter shot an arrow to his heels ( though guided by Apollo.)

Achilles killed Hector to avenge the death of his friend, Patroclus.

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