focusing on words and literature

The story about Achilles heel

Achilles heelThe term “Achilles’ heel” means a person’s vulnerable spot or area. It is derived from the Greek myth of Achilles and his mother Thetis.

According to legend, when Achilles was born, his mother, in an effort to make him immortal, took Achilles to the Styx river and dipped him. She held him by one heel. The area where her fingers held him remained dry. As the heel was not touched by the waters of the Styx, it was the one vulnerable place on Achilles.

Achilles became the hero of many battles during the Trojan War. Paris, Prince of the Trojans, shot an arrow in the heel of Achilles. Because the heel was the one spot untouched by immortality, Achilles died.

The mythology of Achilles not only gives us the term “Achilles’ heel,” the tendon connecting the heel to the calf muscles is named the “Achilles” tendon.”

It has been argued that the vulnerability of Achilles did not originally lie in his heel. In Homer’s “The Iliad,” his vulnerable area is his pride. It is suggested his weak spot did not become the heel until the Romans told the story of Achilles in a poem written by Statius.

Whatever the derivation, the term in the English language is written as the “Achilles’ heel” of a person or corporation.

What is the Achilles heel myth?
An Achilles’ heel, is a popular name for a person’s most vulnerable spot or biggest weakness. The term derives from the legend that the great warrior Achilles was dipped in the River Styx by his mother, a sea goddess named Thetis, who held her infant son by one heel, and covered him with the waters that would make him immortal. Because she held his heel, it remained dry, and became the only vulnerable place on Achilles.

Zeus, Greek god of the sky and king of the gods, and Poseidon, god of the sea, earthquakes and horses, were originally rivals for the hand of Thetis. When they learned of a prophecy that Thetis would bear a son greater than his father, they ordained her marriage to Peleus, a mortal human. Thus, Achilles was born a demigod, half human and half immortal.

Although Achilles became the hero of many battles during the Trojan War, he was killed when Paris, prince of the Trojans, shot an arrow into his heel. That arrow was guided by Apollo, god of archery, and gave rise to the term “Achilles’ heel.

Examples include:

  • The CEO of the company is personal friends with his employees. His friendship with them is his Achilles’ heel.
  • Her fondness for flattery has always been her Achilles’ heel.

In these sentences, the term means the subjects can be manipulated by compliments and feelings for their employees.

The English language originated from the Latin language, the language of the Roman empire, and from the Greek. Therefore, it is unsurprising the term “Achilles’ heel” derives from both Greek and Roman myths.