Abaris To Achilles (Greco-Roman Mythology)



A priest of Apollo who lived without the need for food and rode upon a golden arrow that was given to him by the god.



1. A son of Celeus, king of Eleusis, and Metaneira; brother of Triptolemus. He mocked the visiting goddess Demeter while she wandered earth in search of her lost daughter, Persephone, for her eagerness in drinking a whole pitcher of barley water. In return Demeter instantly turned him into a lizard, a form in which he, at least, could survive without water.

2. A great warrior and twelfth king of Argos, the grandson of Danaus, the father of the twins Acrisius and Proetus, and the grandfather of Danae. He was renowned for a sacred shield, which originally belonged to his grandfather and had the power to subdue revolt.



A prosperous trading port within Thrace whose inhabitants, the Abderans, were synonymous with stupidity, even though the philosophers Democritus and Protagoras lived among them. The city was reputedly founded by Heracles in honor of his friend Abderus, who had been eaten by the flesh-eating mares of Diomedes during the eighth labor of Heracles when the great hero left the monstrous horses in his care.



Friend of Heracles who during that hero’s eighth labor was left in charge of the flesh-eating mares of Diomedes, a savage king of the Bistones in Thrace, while Heracles repelled the attacking Bistones. He was, however, soon eaten by the monstrous horses. Having killed Diomedes, Heracles threw the king’s corpse to his own mares and then founded the city of Abdera to honor his lost friend before driving the mares back to Eurystheus.



According to some early myths the members of this tribe, allegedly of Greek origin, were the founders of Rome, along with the similar Pelasgians.

A~bsyrtus, ~psyrtus


The son of Aeetes and half-brother of Medea. When Jason and Medea fled Colchis after Jason and the Argonauts had obtained the Golden Fleece, they took Absyrtus with them. Pursued by the furious Aeetes, Medea ruthlessly murdered her young half-brother, cutting him into pieces. These she dropped one by one over the side of the boat so that Aeetes had to stop to collect them for burial, thereby allowing time to escape.



An ancient city in Phrygia, Asia Minor, northeast of Troy, on the southern shore of the Hellespont (modern Dardanelles) at its narrowest point opposite ancient Sestos; home of the lover Leander. Nightly he swam the channel to visit Hero on the opposite shore where she was a priestess to Aphrodite. One night Hero’s signal lamp blew out during a storm, and Leander drowned. In her grief Hero threw herself into the sea.

The settlement lies near the site of an Athenian naval victory over the Spartans in 411 B.C.

Ab~yla, ~ila


The ancient name for Ceuta, the African site of the Pillars of Heracles (Hercules), located at the far northern tip of Morocco and sometimes identified with Mount Acho. It was supposedly a marker, along with Calpe, the opposite of the Pillars of Heracles, of the western boundary of the known world, beyond which lay the legendary Atlantis. The two pillars were supposedly set in place by Heracles during the course of his tenth labor, but according to some versions of the story they were at one time joined; he drove the channel between them, thereby letting the sea flood in to form the Mediterranean.



The name of a garden-park on the River Cephisus on the west side of Athens where a gymnastic school was first established. It was named after the hero Academus, hence "academy."



Hero who revealed the hiding place of their sister, Helen, to the Dioscuri—Castor and Polydeuces—when they invaded Attica in search of her following her abduction by Theseus. They rescued Helen and took Aethra, Theseus’s mother, as her slave. Academus maintained a garden on the west side of Athens, called Academia, where Plato met with his pupils, the association giving rise to the modern usage of the word "academy."

Acamantides Greek

An Athenian tribe named for Acamas, son of Theseus and Phaedra.



The son of Theseus and Phaedra, brother of Demophoon, grandson of Aethra, and the eponym of the Athenian tribe Acamantides. He went with Diomedes to Troy to demand the release of Helen prior to the commencement of the Trojan War. There he fell in love with Priam’s daughter, Laodice. They were married and had a son, Munitus, who was killed while hunting at Olynthus. According to some sources Acamas was said to have taken part in the capture of Troy through the stratagem of the Wooden Horse.

After the Trojan War he and his brother, Demophoon, rescued their grandmother, Aethra, who had been enslaved to Helen by the Dioscuri when they rescued Helen from Theseus, who had abducted her many years earlier.



The son of Alcmaeon who, with his brother, Amphoretus, dedicated the necklace of Harmonia at Delphi. Later he founded the colony of Acarnania, which became the name of an entire region.



A state in northwest Greece colonized by Acarnan from Argos; its inhabitants had a reputation for barbarous piracy and for skill with the sling. Later the colony gave its name to the entire region through which River Acheron runs today.



Father of Laodameia, the Argonaut son of Pelias, the usurping king of Iolcos and uncle of Jason. He was cut up and boiled by his daughters after Medea suggested such an operation would rejuvenate the old man. Acastus expelled both Jason and Medea, who had title to the throne. As king of Iolcos, Acastus purified Peleus, his companion during the hunt for the Calydonian Boar, for involuntary parricide during the confusion of that epic struggle. However, Acastus’s wife falsely accused Peleus of trying to seduce her after he had repulsed her advances, and for this Acastus challenged Peleus to a hunting contest; Acastus stole his magic sword and abandoned him on Mount Pelion. Later, having overcome these difficulties, Peleus married Thetis, fathered Achilles, and avenged himself by killing both Acastus and his treacherous wife.

Acca Larentia


1. A Roman goddess originally said to have been a rich prostitute who left her property to the Roman people.

2. Wife of the shepherd Faustulus. She succeeded the she-wolf as nurse to the infants Romulus and Remus after Faustulus found them and brought them home.

Acestes Greco-Roman The son of the river god Crimisus and the noble Trojan refugee Egesta; founded Segesta in Sicily. It was either to Segesta or Drepanum that Acestes welcomed Aeneas and the Trojan refugees after the Trojan War.

Achaea 1. Greek

An area in ancient (and modern) Greece of the north Peloponnesos, on the southern border of the Gulf of Corinth. The Achaeans were the dominant society during the Mycenaean period and, according to Homer, took part in the siege of Troy. The Achaeans, or Achaei, were an ancient Hellenic race originating from the north and modeled, with their Nordic features, the "Greek god" type of manly beauty, contrasting with the shorter, swarthier eastern Mediterranean type. The Greeks were collectively referred to by Homer as Achaeans.

The Achaean League of 12 cities allied for mutual protection in the fourth century B.C. and became politically important after 251 B.C., when membership was extended to additional cities, including Corinth and later Sparta. However, the League fell to the Romans in 146 B.C., and the region became incorporated within the province of Roman Achaea.

The region has also been identified with the region known as Akkaia, named after the city-state of Akkad in Mesopotamia.

2. Roman

A province that included all of the southern part of Greece, that is, the same area as Greek Achaea, following the Roman conquest of Corinth in 146 B.C.

Achaean League Greek

A union between 12 cities within the ancient region of Greek Achaea formed during the fourth century B.C. These cities allied for mutual protection and became politically important after 251 B.C., when membership was extended to additional cities, including Corinth and later Sparta, which they had previously managed to defeat. The League fell to the Romans in 146 B.C.

Achaei Greek

A term used to refers to the Achaeans; inhabitants of Greek Achaea.

Achates Greco-Roman A character from Virgil’s Aeneid, the faithful friend of Aeneas, usually called fidus (Latin: faithful) Achates or faithful friend. His name was absorbed into Roman mythology, as ancient Romans considered Aeneas to be the founder of their state. His name has become a byword for a faithful companion.



The name of a river in Boeotia—modern Aspropotamo. Also the name of the god of the river, the eldest son of Oceanos and Tethys who, like many gods of rivers and seas, could change his form at will. He battled with Heracles for the right to marry Deianeira, a fight that Heracles won. He had a daughter named Callirrhoe who was married to Alcmaeon after Achelous had purified Alcmaeon for the murder of his own mother, Eriphyle.



One of the five rivers within the Underworld realm of Hades, across which the souls of the dead were ferried by the ghostly ferryman Charon. The other rivers within this realm were the Styx, which is alternatively given as the river across which Charon ferries the dead souls, Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Lethe. The banks of the river were said to be peopled by the shades of the dead.

Acheron is also the name of a modern river in Acarnania (Epirus), which occasionally runs underground. Near its mouth there was a famous Oracle of the Dead, at Ephyra, where mortals could obtain advice from the gods of the Underworld. Today, some of the machinery used by the priests of this oracle can still be seen.



The only mortal son of Peleus, king of the Myrmidones at Phthia in Thessaly, and the Nereid Thetis; he grew up to become one of the leading heroes of the Trojan War and the literary hero of Homer’s Iliad, the ninth-century B.C. epic account of the siege of Troy, which probably took place four centuries earlier.

When Achilles was first born his mother, Thetis, prepared to make him immortal. Two versions of her attempt exist: The earlier version has her placing the infant on the fire (as Demeter did with the baby Demophoon); the later, better known version has her dipping Achilles into the River Styx, one of the five rivers of the Underworld. According to the earlier version, Peleus caught her in the act and cried out, thus breaking the taboo that forbids mortals to speak to their mermaid wives. Thetis fled back to her undersea world, and Achilles remained a vulnerable mortal. In the latter story Thetis was undisturbed in her task, but the heel by which she held Achilles did not come into contact with the waters of the River Styx; this point alone remained vulnerable, thus giving rise to an adage still used today, the "Achilles’ heel."

Achilles was brought up on the slopes of Mount Pelion by the wise centaur Cheiron, who taught him how to catch animals without nets through native cunning and, so it appears, to eat their entrails uncooked. This latter aspect appears to combine Greek ephebic rites and naturistic savagery, setting the tone for the later life of this impatient and violent hero. Having been taught all the skills of the centaur, Achilles returned to his father and was educated by a tutor, Phoenix, and became renowned for his strength, fleetness of foot, and courage. At about this time Patroclus, the son of Menoetius, arrived at Peleus’s court, and the pair became inseparable. Later accounts of their friendship commonly hint at a homosexual relationship, although Achilles had numerous other male and female lovers.

Thetis, able to foresee Achilles’ future, knew that he was fated to die at Troy and, in an attempt to save his life, sent him into hiding at the court of Lycomedes on the island of Scyros. Here he was dressed as a girl and hidden among Lycomedes’ own daughters, one of whom, Deidameia, later bore Achilles a son, Neoptolemus, or Pyrrhos.

However, Odysseus, accompanied by Nestor and Ajax the Greater, came to the island of Scyros to recruit for the Trojan War and uncovered Achilles’ disguise by bringing with him a collection of presents for the girls— ornaments, jewelry, and beautiful clothes but also a shield and spear. Naturally the youthful Achilles picked the latter and was taken off to Troy, along with the tutor Phoenix and friend Patroclus. He was just 15 years old.

Having set out from Aulis, the Greek fleet, en route to Troy, first landed, mistakenly, in Mysia, where Achilles wounded Telephus, the Mysian king and son of Heracles and Auge, in battle. Apparently Achilles was able to inflict this injury only after Telephus had first repelled the Greeks, but Dionysos caused Telephus to stumble over a vine, thereby allowing Achilles to spring upon him. The wound refused to heal; consulting an oracle, Telephus was told that only the inflictor of the wound could cure it. Dressing in rags, Telephus went as a supplicant to Achilles, who was at a loss to understand the meaning of the oracle. At last he came to realize that the true inflictor of the wound was the spear; by scraping some rust from the spear into the wound Telephus recovered. The Greeks now consulted an oracle and were told that they could not take Troy without Telephus, and in return for being cured of his wound Telephus showed the Greeks the route they should follow.

Following the advice of Telephus, the Greek fleet landed on the island of Tenedos, within sight of Troy. Here Achilles killed King Tenes and his father, Cycnus. Finally proceeding from Tenedos, Achilles became the second to land on Trojan soil and soon distinguished himself as the most courageous and formidable warrior among the Greek host. It was through Achilles that Aeneas entered the war. At first Aeneas had remained sublimely neutral, even though he was the son of Priam’s cousin, Anchises. But when Achilles raided his herds on Mount Ida, he led his Dardanian forces against the Greeks and distinguished himself in battle. His mother, Aphrodite, frequently helped him and once carried him out of harm’s way when he was wounded by Diomedes; Poseidon, although hostile to Troy, also saved him, this time from Achilles.

For the first nine years of the Trojan War the city of Troy remained impregnable to the besieging Greek hordes, so they contented themselves by sacking neighboring cities and islands allied with Troy. In Thebes, in Cilicia, Achilles killed Eetion, the father of Hector’s wife, Andromache; in the tenth year of the war, during one such raid on Lyrnessus, Achilles carried off the beautiful Briseis to be his concubine and slave. This single event is the main plot within Homer’s classic work, Iliad. Chryseis, the daughter of the Trojan priest Chryses, had been taken prisoner and assigned to Agamemnon, but when Chryses came to ransom her he was roughly repulsed. In revenge Apollo sent a plague among the Greek armies, and, on Calchas’s advice, Agamemnon reluctantly sent Chryseis back.

Agamemnon, commander in chief of the Greek forces, compensated himself by claiming Briseis. In a furious rage Achilles stormed off to his tent and refused to take any part in further fighting, though some accounts attribute this behavior to the fact that Achilles had fallen deeply in love with Priam’s daughter, Polyxena, and that his refusal to fight was an attempt to curry favor with Priam. This led to a series of Greek misfortunes that led Agamemnon to offer to return Briseis to Achilles—an offer Achilles firmly but courteously declined—and Patroclus to go into battle wearing his friend Achilles’ armor in an attempt to turn the tide. Rather it is the death of Patroclus at the hands of Trojan Prince Hector, aided and abetted by Apollo, that leads Achilles back into battle, and this redresses events back in favor of the Greeks. At one stage Achilles even fought the River Scamander before he avenged the death of Patroclus by killing Hector in single combat. Still mourning the death of Patroclus, Achilles dishonored Hector’s body by tying it to the back of his chariot and dragging it around the walls of Troy three times before concealing it in his tent. He then built a huge funeral pyre for Patroclus and slaughtered 12 Trojan youths on it. Eventually Priam, Hector’s father and the king of Troy, led by Hermes, made his way to Achilles’ tent under cover of darkness, pleading for the return of his son’s body. Achilles relented at such an exhibition of love and devotion, and Iliad ends with Hector’s funeral.

Some accounts vary these last events, saying that Hector was chased three times around the walls of Troy before being killed, and that Achilles, tying the corpse by the ankles, simply dragged it ignominiously back to the Greek lines. Each morning at dawn he would drag the body three times around the tomb of Patroclus, until at last Priam is led by Hermes to ransom his son’s body for burial.

The further battles of Achilles are described in other epics and include his fight with Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons and the daughter of Otrere and Ares. It is said that Penthesilea and Achilles fell in love at the very moment that he killed her, and his grief over her death was ridiculed by Thersites, until Achilles felled him with a single blow. This action angered Diomedes, a kinsman of Thersites, and he flung the body of Penthesilea into the River Scamander, but it was rescued and given an honorable burial, some accounts saying this was performed by Achilles himself.

Achilles next engaged Ethiopian Prince Memnon in single combat while Zeus weighed their fates in the balance. Achilles won the fight, and at the request of Eos, Memnon’s mother, Zeus caused birds, called Memnonides, to rise from his funeral pyre in his honor until they fell back onto it as a sacrifice. They were said to visit the hero’s tomb on the Hellespont every year. Achilles was also said to have killed Priam’s son, Polydorus, and Troilus, whom he lusted after. Finally the prophecy of Thetis came true, and Achilles was killed by a poisoned arrow shot by Paris, aided by Apollo, who in revenge for the killing of Troilus guided the arrow, which struck his vulnerable heel during a battle near the Scaean Gate. His body was recovered by Odysseus and Ajax the Greater, but the pair quarreled over possession of his armor. Homer, in Odyssey, says that Odysseus killed Ajax the Greater, whereas Sophocles, in his tragedy Ajax, tells that Ajax was sent mad when he offended Athene after the armor had been awarded to Odysseus, slew the sheep of the Greeks (believing them to be his enemies), and finally killed himself by falling on the sword that Hector had given him. Achilles’ ashes were buried along with those of his greatest friend, Patroclus, in a barrow by the sea.

The ghost of Achilles demanded the sacrifice of Polyxena, a duty carried out by Ne-optolemus to ensure favorable winds for the Greeks’ journey home from the war. Some accounts say that this took place at Troy, others that it happened only after they had reached Thrace and were becalmed.

According to some versions, after his death Achilles was transported by Thetis to the White Island in the Black Sea, where he lived with other fallen heroes, married Helen, and spent his time brooding on how he might have revenge over the Trojans. A local legend tells that he once beset a passing merchant and asked him to bring a particular girl to the island, the last descendant of the Trojans. Thinking that Achilles was in love with the girl, the merchant complied, but as he sailed away from the island he looked back and saw the ghostly image of Achilles tearing the unfortunate maiden limb from limb.

Astronomical: The name Achilles has been applied to one of the asteroids.

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