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Mythman's Greek Mythology Today
MYTH MAN'S GREATEST HEROES OF MYTHOLOGY

THE LIFE & DEATH OF ACHILLES

WARRIOR AND LEGENDARY TROJAN WAR HERO


A Nereid
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Nereids
by Gaston Bussieres
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ACHILLES PART ONE - HIS PARENTAGE

Achilles was the greatest hero of the Trojan War, a celebrated warrior whose name and glory has endured throughout the eons. His battle skills were unmatched, and all who challenged him met a swift and vainglorious death.

His mother was the Nereid Thetis, one of the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris, sea gods in the retinue of the great Poseidon, lord of the seas. Collectively the fifty beautiful girls were known as the Nereids.

These lovely creatures lived peacefully with their parents deep in the oceans, and they were known and beloved for the many instances in which they had assisted both mortals and gods. Thetis in particular had a number of interventions herself, in which she proved exceedingly useful.

For example, when the god Hephaestus was cast by Zeus - or Hera, as most say - from Mount Olympus, and fell into the sea, he was saved by Thetis. Zeus had just presented Hephaestus to his wife and, revolted by the sickly looking baby, the queen of the Olympians had disgustedly tossed him off Heaven. Thetis rushed to his rescue and nursed him back to health, but industrious Hephaestus has ever since walked with a limp, the fall from Olympus having made him lame.

When Dionysus, celebrated god of wine, was persecuted by King Lycurgus of the Edonians, and appeared certain to be captured, he found refuge in the sea with Thetis.

When Jason and the Argonauts, returning home with the Golden Fleece in their possession, met the alluring Sirens; and when they encountered the dreadful monsters Charybdis and Scylla and the Wandering Rocks, it was none other than Thetis - along with her sister Nereids - that put them out of danger by steering their ship through those threats.

Thetis even helped Zeus, the king of the Olympians - One time a palace revolt took place at Olympus and the deities Hera, Poseidon and Athena plotted against Zeus, conspiring to chain him, and even taking away his awesome thunderbolts.

Thetis averted the uprising by urgently summoning to Mount Olympus the Hecatoncheire (One-Hundred-Handed) giant named Briareus who, squatting down by Zeus and displaying his force, frightened the other gods away and undid Zeus' binds, freeing him.

Zeus and his brother Poseidon, the two most powerful deities, both were in love with Thetis and tried to win her hand in marriage. But the respected Titaness Themis made a prophecy that the son of Thetis would grow up to become mightier than his father.

That's all the two Olympian gods had to hear! The word of Themis was highly valued, and neither Zeus nor Poseidon wanted to marry a woman whose son would grow up to supplant them, so in no time they changed their minds about her. Instead Thetis married a man named Peleus.

Others say that Hera had raised Thetis as a child, and out of respect for her benefactress, Thetis herself refused the offer of marriage by Zeus. To punish her for spurning him the dejected Olympian god decided that she would not marry a god, but instead would have to settle for a mortal man.

Zeus did not stop pursuing Thetis until he learned the prophecy from Themis. And Hera, in recognition for what Thetis had done, or rather not done, chose Peleus as Thetis' husband, for according to her, he was the best man on earth at that time.

Still, Thetis was not happy to wed a mere mortal and complained that it was an insult to her status. So when Peleus tried to claim his bride she refused him and changed her form, first into a bird, then a tree, and finally into a tigress, scaring Peleus into letting go of her.

But Proteus, a son of Poseidon, instructed Peleus to not release Thetis no matter what form she took. When Thetis turned into fire and water and yet Peleus still held on, in admiration of his perseverance she finally grudgingly relented and agreed to be his wife.

Achilles continues on page two!

 

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