Last Update: 01 May 2021
The Birth of Achilles
Achilles was a child of Thetis, one of the Nereids in Greek mythology, and Peleus, king of Fthia in Thessaly.
When Peleus met Thetis, the Centaur Chiron advised him to seize her and hold her tightly. In order to avoid Peleus, Thetis turned first into fire, then into water, and later into a wild animal. But Peleus loosened his grip only when she had returned to her original form.
Thus the couple married at Mount Pelion and the gods celebrated the wedding with great splendor.
Soon Thetis bore a child by Peleus, and wished to make it immortal. So she buried the child in the fire one night to destroy the mortal element in his nature that came from its father, and then rubbed it with ambrosia. But Peleus kept an eye on her, and when he saw the child wriggling in the fire, he cried out and seized the child, who had only burnt his lips and the ankle of his right foot.
The origin of the name "Achilles" is derived from this story (A-Hilla = one who has no lips).
Thetis, frustrated in her purpose, abandoned her infant son and went back to the Nereids.
Peleus delivered the child to the Centaur Chiron, who took the child in, fed him on the entrails of lions and boars and the marrow of bears, and taught him temperance, resistance to the evil passions, and resistance to pain.
According to another myth, however, Thetis bathed Achilles in the waters of the River Styx, the river of Hades. The water of the Styx had the ability to make anything invulnerable. Nevertheless,the heel by which Thetis held her child was untouched by the magic waters and remained vulnerable.