Achilles, Hero of Courage
Mars Retrograde: December 20, 2009 through March 10, 2010
Mars is still retrograde, i.e. moving backward in the sky. Because this is a time when the hero is called forth in all of us, I’m telling stories of heroes from Greek and Roman mythology as examples of heroic virtues. Today’s virtue is courage, the ability to face the enemy with a strong mind as well as a strong body. The best example of that is valiant Achilles, hero of the Trojan war.
Legends of Achilles
Achilles, central character in the Iliad, was one of the best-known heroes in Greco-Roman mythology. He was considered to be the paragon of manly valor and gorgeousness. For Achilles, courage was based in fearlessness, because his whole body was literally invulnerable, except for one small part—his heel. Yet he is known to us mainly by that vulnerability. In modern-day, we speak of an ‘Achilles heel’ as a person’s chief, or only, weakness.
And how exactly did he come to have an ‘Achilles heel?’ According to the mythology, Achilles was the child of a mortal man and an immortal sea-nymph. When he was an infant, his mother foresaw his death and gave him invulnerability by dipping him in the river Styx. The Styx was the river that the dead must cross to get to the underworld. In bathing the child in the river of the dead, she was giving him an early experience of death and rendering him, if not immortal, at least invulnerable. But she held him by one heel and so that was the only part of him that never touched the underworld’s waters. It thus became his only weakness.
Heroic Virtue #2: Courage
Not much of a weakness for battle purposes, you might think, as perhaps his mother did. Who would think to shoot Achilles in the heel? Yet someone did, with a poisoned arrow, and that’s how he finally perished. But on the way to that death he performed incredible feats of courage, which were bolstered by the kind of fearlessness that comes from repeated experiences of surviving when others around you are falling. So Achilles stands for courage, because he fought bravely, without giving in to fear.
What Mars is Asking of You
During this Mars retrograde period, Mars wants to know:
Where have you forgotten to have courage? Have you been listening to your fearful inner voices instead of your encouraging ones?
Are you focusing on your weakness (the heel) instead of your strength?
Have you been whining and complaining, when you could put your complaints aside and meet the obstacle more bravely?
Next: Resourceful Odysseus
Articles in this thread:
Mars Retrograde: The Hero’s Journey
Hercules, Hero of Strength
Achilles, Hero of Courage
Resourceful, Clever Odysseus
There’s Still Time To Be A Hero
Castor & Pollux: Brotherhood in the Trenches
Alexander the Great & the Gordian Knot
Orpheus: Going The Distance For Love