A legendary warrior and hero of the Trojan War, the name Achilles represents the pinnacle of masculine strength and accomplishment as well as the possession of a single, fatal flaw.
Prince of the Sea
Like so many heroes, Achilles was a divine birth. His father, the King of the Myrmidons dallied with Thetis, a sea nymph in some tales, a sea goddess in others and a Titan in still others. Thetis was a highly coveted goddess, beautiful and serene. Brothers Zeus and Poseidon vied for her attentions until a prophecy warned them that her offspring would be greater than his father. No doubt concerned about the potential threat to their power, the brothers abandoned their suits after that.
The Birth of Achilles
Thetis knew that her son, a half-mortal, would be vulnerable to death so she decided to protect him as soon as he was born by dipping him into the River Styx. The waters of the underworld's famous river rendered the boy impervious to harm everywhere the water touched him, save for the heel that Thetis lowered him into the water by. It is for this that the tendon located at the back of the heel is known as the Achilles heel. Chiron the Centaur raised Achilles, like Jason of the Golden Fleece. The wise master instructed his pupil in the art of war, diplomacy and combat.
The tale of Achilles is central to Homer's Iliad. For it was during the wedding of Thetis to Peleus, King of the Myrmidons that the seeds for the Trojan War were planted. Of all the deities invited, Eris, goddess of discord was not. Hermes blocked the goddess from crashing the party on Zeus' orders, but Eris was not to be undone. She tossed a golden apple through the door to roll into the midst of the party with the words 'for the fairest' inscribed upon it.
It was this apple that began the dispute between Athena, Aphrodite and Hera. They chose Paris, a shepherd to choose between them and when the banished prince of Troy chose Athena, she gave him Helen as a bride. Eventually, when the Greeks went to war, Achilles went with them, the greatest of all their warriors.
The Death of Achilles
Achilles fought honorably during the war until a falling out with Agamemnon led the hero to refuse any more battles out of spite. However, when word reached Achilles that his childhood friend Patroclus had been slain by Prince Hector, he dove back into the war. His fury led to the death of many Trojans including Hector himself. So great was Achilles grief that he defiled Hector's body, dragging it behind his chariot for all to see.
High above in Troy, distraught with grief for the loss of his brother, the young shepherd turned prince Paris, strung his bow and shot an arrow that struck Achilles in his only vulnerable spot: his heel.