(Ἀχιλλεύς). (1) A son of Earth, to whom Her fled from the pursuits of Zeus, and who persuaded her to return and marry that deity.
(2) The teacher of the centaur Chiron (q.v.).
(3) The inventor of the ostracism (q. v).
(4) A son of Zeus and Lamia, whose beauty was so great that, in the judgment of Pan, he bore away the prize in every contest. This so offended Aphrodit that she inspired Pan with a fruitless passion for the nymph Echo (q.v.), and further gave him a hideous appearance.
(5) The famous son of Peleus, king of Phthiotis in Thessaly, by Thetis, the sea-deity. According to Lycophron, Thetis became the mother of seven male children by Peleus, six of whom she threw into the fire, because they were not of the same nature with herself, and because the treatment she had received was unworthy of her rank as a goddess. The scholiast on Homer, however, states, that Thetis threw her children into the fire in order to ascertain whether they were mortal or not, the goddess supposing that the fire would consume what was mortal in their natures, while she would preserve what was immortal. The scholiast adds that six of her children perished by this harsh experiment, and that she had, in like manner, thrown the seventh, afterwards named Achilles, into the flames, when Peleus, having beheld the deed, rescued his offspring from this perilous situation. Tzetzes assigns a different motive to Thetis in the case of Achilles. He makes her to have been desirous of conferring immortality upon him, and states that with this view she anointed him with ambrosia during the day, and threw him into fire at evening. Peleus, having discovered the goddess in the act of consigning his child to the flames, cried out with alarm, whereupon Thetis, abandoning the object she had in view, left the court of Peleus and rejoined the nymphs of the ocean. Dictys Cretensis makes Peleus to have rescued Achilles from the fire before any part of his body had been injured but the heel. What has thus far been stated in relation to Achilles, with the single exception of the names of his parents, Peleus and Thetis, is directly at variance with the authority of Homer, and must therefore be regarded as a mere postHomeric fable. Equally at variance with the account given by the bard is the more popular fiction that Thetis plunged her son into the waters of the Styx, and by that immersion rendered the whole of his body invulnerable, except the heel by which she held him. There are several passages in the Iliad which plainly show that the poet does not ascribe to Achilles the possession of any peculiar physical defence against danger.
The care of his education and training was intrusted, according to the common authorities, to the centaur Chiron, and to Phoenix, son of Amyntor. Homer specifically mentions Phoenix as his first instructor. Those, however, who pay more regard in this case to the statements of other writers, make Chiron to have had charge of Achilles first, and to have fed him on the marrow of wild animals; according to Libanius, on that of lions. Calchas having predicted, when Achilles had attained the age of nine years, that Troy could not be taken without him, Thetis, well aware that her son, if he joined that expedition, was destined to perish, sent him disguised in female attire to the court of Lycomedes, king of the island of Scyros, for the purpose of being concealed there. At the court of Lycomedes, he received the name of Pyrrha (Πυρρά, Rufa), from his golden locks, and became the father of Neoptolemus by Dedamia, one of the monarch's daughters. In this state of concealment Achilles remained until discovered by Odysseus, who came to the island in the disguise of a travelling merchant. The chieftain of Ithaca offered, it seems, various articles of female attire for sale, and mingled with them some pieces of armor. On a sudden blast being given with a trumpet, Achilles discovered himself by seizing upon the arms. The young warrior then joined the army against Troy. This account, however, of the concealment of Achilles is contradicted by the express authority of Homer, who represents him as proceeding directly to the Trojan war from the court of his father. ( Il.ix. 439.) The Greeks, having made good their landing on the shores of Troas, proved so superior to the enemy as to compel them to seek shelter within their walls. No sooner was this done than the Greeks were forced to turn their principal attention to the means of supporting their numerous forces. A part of the army was therefore sent to cultivate the rich vales of the Thracian Chersonesus, then abandoned by their inhabitants on account of the incursions of the barbarians from the interior. But the Grecian army, being weakened by this separation of its force, could no longer deter the Trojans from again taking the field, nor prevent succour and supplies from being sent into the city. Thus the [p. 11] [figure in text: Priam before Achilles. (Relief by Thorwaldsen, Munich.)]
siege was protracted to the length of ten years. During a great part of this time, Achilles was employed in lessening the resources of Priam by the reduction of the tributary cities of Asia Minor. With a fleet he ravaged the coasts of Mysia, made frequent disembarkations of his forces, and succeeded eventually in destroying eleven cities. Among the spoils of one, Achilles obtained the beautiful Brises, while, at the taking of Theb, Chryses, the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo at Chrysa, became the prize of Agamemnon. A pestilence shortly after appeared in the Grecian camp, and Calchas, encouraged by the proffered protection of Achilles, ventured to attribute it to Agamemnon's detention of the daughter of Chryses, whom her father had endeavored to ransom, but in vain. The monarch, although deeply offended, was compelled at last to surrender his captive; but, as an act of retaliation, and to testify his resentment, he deprived Achilles of Brises. Hence arose the anger of the son of Peleus, on which is based the action of the Iliad. Achilles, on his part, withdrew his forces from the contest, and neither prayers nor entreaties, nor direct offers of reconciliation, couched in the most tempting and flattering terms, could induce him to return to the field. The death of his friend Patroclus, however, by the hand of Hector, roused him at length to action and revenge, and a reconciliation having thereupon taken place between the two Grecian leaders, Brises was restored. As the arms of Achilles, having been worn by Patroclus, had become the prize of Hector, Hephaestus, at the request of Thetis, fabricated a suit of impenetrable armour for her son. Arrayed in this, Achilles took the field, and after a great slaughter of the Trojans, and a contest with the god of the Scamander, by whose waters he was nearly overwhelmed, he met Hector, chased him thrice around the walls of Troy, and finally slew him by the aid of Athen. According to Homer, Achilles dragged the corpse of Hector at his chariot-wheels thrice round the tomb of Patroclus, and from the language of the poet he would appear to have done this for several days in succession. Vergil, however, makes Achilles to have dragged the body of Hector twice round the walls of Troy. In this it is probable that the Roman poet followed one of the cyclic or else the tragic writers. The corpse of the Trojan hero was at last yielded up to the tears and supplications of Priam, who had come for that purpose to the tent of Achilles, and a truce was granted the Trojans for the performance of the funeral obsequies. Achilles did not long survive his illustrious opponent. According to the more generally received account, as it is given by the scholiast on Lycophron, and also by Dictys Cretensis and Dares Phrygius, Achilles, having become enamoured of Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, signified to the monarch that he would become his ally on condition of receiving her hand in marriage. Priam consented, and the parties having come for that purpose to the temple of the Thymbraean Apollo, Achilles was treacherously slain by Paris, who had concealed himself there, being wounded by him with an arrow in the heel. The ashes of the hero were mingled in a golden urn with those of his friend Patroclus, and were said to repose at Sigaeum.
(5) Achilles Tatius, a native of Alexandria, commonly assigned to the second or third century A.D., but probably much later. He is author of the novel entitled The Loves of Leucipp and Clitophon (Τὰ κατὰ Λευκίππην καὶ Κλειτοφῶντα), an interesting and graceful production, though marred by much licentiousness of phrase and allusion. Few works have been so often imitated. A good edition is that by Jacobs (Leipzig, 1821); and the text with a Latin version is given in the Erotici Scriptores of the Didot collection edited by Hirschig (Paris, 1856). Eng. trans. by Smith (London, 1855). See Novels and Romances.