The Evolution of Achilles: Background information when reading The Song of Achilles

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The Song of Achilles

A Novel

By Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2012,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2012,
    384 pages.

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Evolution of Achilles

The name Achilles has become synonymous with great strength and invulnerability, however to the ancient Greeks it had quite a different meaning. "Achilles" itself is a Westernization; the hero's name is better translated Akhilleus and pronounced "a-hee-LAY-us," and is of unknown and possibly pre-Greek origin. It is a combination of two words: Akhos ("grief") and Laos ("people or tribe"). It's possible that the name is derived from the Akheloos River in in western Greece, although several sources have interpreted it to mean that Achilles was the "embodiment of the grief of the people" or that he was the "hero of grief;" others construe it to mean "grief to the enemy."

The tale of Achilles and the Trojan War is one of the most well-known and influential stories in Greek mythology. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica:

Achilles tending the wounded Patroclus In the traditional accounts, Paris, son of the Trojan king, ran off with Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta, whose brother Agamemnon then led a ...

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