Briseis to Agammemnon
fresco by Tiepolo

The Anger of Achilles
by Jacques-Luis David, 1819

Ambassadors Sent by
Agamemnon to Urge
Achilles to Fight
by Jean Auguste Dominique, 1801

Achilles and Patroclus
by Hamilton

Thetis Bringing the
Armor to Achilles
by Benjamin West, 1806-1808

Continued from page three

His mother Thetis had warned Achilles that the first Greek to land on Trojan soil would also be the first to perish in the war, so Achilles was able to avoid that. It was unlucky Protesilaus who was first to land and he soon died, but not before first dispatching a large number of Trojans, who had gathered at the beachfront in an attempt to repel the Greek invasion.

No luck. Stopping a thousand ships, each filled to the brim with seasoned soldiers, is no easy task. The Trojans soon retreated behind the walls of their city.

The Greeks set up camp right on the beach and prepared for a long siege.

The walls of Troy were heavily fortified and the Trojans had stocked up tremendous stores of supplies so the siege lasted ten years.

During that time Achilles kept busy by sacking and pillaging a large number of surrounding cities, including the islands of Tenedos and Lesbos, and the cities of Thebe, Antandrus, Adramyntium, Lyrnessus, reaching very far to the south and taking also Cyme, Phocaea, Smyrna, Clazomenae and Colophon.

With each conquest the legend of Achilles grew. He was indomitable!

King Agamemnon, leader of the Greek invasion, insulted a seer of Apollo, who had come to claim his daughter Chreisis, who was kidnapped by the Achaeans (Greeks). To punish the king Apollo brought a terrible pestilence upon the army and many Greek warriors died horribly.

It took the seer Calchas to pronounce that it was Agamemnon's pride which brought this evil upon the Greeks. Still Agamemnon chose to insult this seer also, vain man, but was astute enough to announce that he would give up claim to the girl Chreisis.

To show who was boss, however, he took away Briseis, who was Achilles' current sweetheart. This put Achilles into a deep funk and he refused to fight, instead wasting away in his tent while his army of Myrmidons idled their time away getting a tan on the beach.

When the Trojans realized that Achilles and his feared Myrmidons had withdrawn from battle they became emboldened by the great warrior's absence and they launched a series of raids against the Greeks, inflicting severe losses. At Thetis's urging, Zeus permitted this to happen, in order that the Greeks would once again honor Achilles and realize how indispensable to them he truly was.

As time went on and the Trojans became more and more dangerous, Agamemnon came to his senses and agreed to appease Achilles' wrath. And it is for that purpose that he offered him seven tripods, seven women, seven cities, and many other gifts including the  -according to Agamemnon - untouched maiden Briseis.

But Achilles was too upset by Agamemnon and no gift of wealth would sway him to rejoin the battle. He could never control his pride, or the rage that consumed him whenever that pride was challenged.

Pride was Achilles' major character flaw. Poisoned by this attribute, he abandoned his comrades, and he even prayed that the Trojans would slaughter the entire Greek army.

Why? It was all because of a slight by Agamemnon.

The Greeks appeared lost.

Now, Achilles had a best friend called Patroclus. This handsome warrior was Achilles' second-in-command, his personal charioteer, brother-in-arms, and beloved cousin. The two were inseparable.

Hector took full advantage of Achilles' absence by wreaking havoc on the Achaean army. He led a daring assault that finally penetrated the Greek ramparts, and he was the first and only Trojan to set fire to an Achaean ship. 

It was when the Trojans thus became so bold as to actually begin setting fire to the Greek ships, some say, that Achilles consented to send his pal Patroclus to fight, giving him his own famous armor to wear.

Yet others claim that Patroclus acted on his own, because he felt so badly at how the Greeks were faring versus the rejuvenated Trojans. Off to battle he went, wearing the distinctive armor and helmet of his best buddy Achilles, in outward appearance looking identical to him.

The Trojan prince Hector killed brave Patroclus in battle, believing it was Achilles he slew, and took the armor for himself. The death of his best friend devastated Achilles and spurred him into action. He was angry and wanted revenge!

Realizing that he had been wasting his time and skills bitterly pouting by his ships, Achilles asked his mother Thetis to fetch him new armor from the great god of smiths, Hephaestus. His old armor had been taken by Hector, son of Priam, the King of Troy, when he slew Patroclus.

When Thetis delivered the new armor Achilles called a council of war and reconciled with Agamemnon, both agreeing that they had acted foolishly. All the rage and animosity which Achilles had felt towards Agamemnon had now been transferred to prince Hector.

It was payback time!

None could stand before the wrath of Achilles. The night before Achilles returned to combat, Hector, succumbing to overconfidence, had ordered the Trojan army to camp outside the safety of the city walls. This critical tactical error caused his crucial downfall the following day.

At the sight of him the startled Trojans broke ranks and scattered, dividing into two bodies. Achilles and his peerless army of Myrmidons drove one part across the plain towards the city of Troy and penned the other in a bend of the river.

The River-god Xanthus tried to subdue him but Hephaestus came to the aid of Achilles and dried up the waters with a scorching flame. The stunned Trojan survivors hastened back to the safety of their fortified walls like a bunch of scared rabbits.

Now it was Hector's turn.

Achilles continues on page five!



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