Student Question

In the Iliad, is Achilles aware of his invincibility except for his heel?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The various legends concerning Achilles' invulnerability are wildly contradictory. The most famous relates to his mother, Thetis, dipping him into the River Styx but failing to fully submerge the heel by which she held him--thus, the Achilles heel legend. Other tales relate that Thetis bathed her son in ambrosia and then burned him with fire--also creating an invulnerable state. Other stories, including Homer's The Iliad, mention that Achilles was wounded more than once in battle, which would seem to rebuke the invulnerability aspect entirely. In any case, there seems to be no mention that Thetis told her son of this special condition, and Achilles' ferocity in battle appears to be due to his boldness--not because of a knowledge of his own invulnerability.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial