This is a short presentation on an obscure character of the Homeric Epics, Peleus, according to greek legends and folklore!
During the 8th century BC, the minstrel Homer, wrote the famous epos of Iliad and Odyssey. These stories, truth mixed with mythos and Greek legend, were kept and embraced by the Greeks and later the Romans as sacred texts, something like the Bible is for the Christians. The characters of the stories became the archetypes of the ancient Greeks and became the inspiration for many great personas of ancient Greece, like Alexander the Great. But more importantly, the poems of Homer became the inspiration for many later poets and writers, to extend the myths and mix them up with other traditions, that were preserved from the oral traditions of ancient Greek cultures. That way, Iliad in particular was extended and gave the story more depth and content for the generations to come.
One of the main concerns of many of the writers after Homer, was to describe at length the characters surrounding the epic stories of the Homeric Epics. Many characters are introduced, like Agamemnon, Menelaus, Achilles and many others. That’s why we got many works of poetry and theatrical plays of later writers like “Agamemnon” by Aeschylus, “Helen” by Euripides etc. But many of the characters although mentioned, they are not recognized or are not very well known to the “fanbase” of the genre. One of these characters, is the father of the godlike and legendary Achilles, Peleus. Of course, he is mentioned in the Iliad, mostly in the title of Achilles, who is introduced as a “son of Peleus” and later we learn, from king Priam (when we went in order to take the body of Hector), that he is the old king of Pthia, the homeland of Achilles.
But apart from that, not much is known. And we are here to change that!
Peleus’ Early Life
Peleus was a prince of Aegina, son to the king of Aeakos and the queen Endieda. He had many brothers and sisters, but the poets refer to Phokos. He was the most beloved by Peleus, but unfortunately, he was accidentally killed. Many were those who framed Peleus for murder, and he was forced out of Aegina. He managed to find refuge at the kingdom of Pthia. There, the king of the region, welcomed Peleus and gave him a new home. Soon Peleus and the king, whose name was Eurytrion, became really good friends, to the point where the king gave Peleus his daughter, Antigone, as his bride. He also, as was his right as king, he purified him (forgave his crimes) of the death of his dear brother, giving an end to this chapter of Peleus’ life.
Sometime later, unfortune stroke again in the life of Peleus. The king decided to go on a hunting expedition, in order to kill the Caledonian Boar. During the hunt, Peleus threw a javelin towards a bush, where he thought that a deer was hiding. But after he approached the bush, in his horror, he realized that he had pierced the body of his good friend Eurytrion. Ashamed he left the kingdom of Pthia, his mind clouded with grief and regret.
Peleus Rise to Power
Peleus ashamed, went to the kingdom of Thessalia and sought refuge from the king Acastus. But things never got better for Peleus. Astydameia, the wife of Acastus, tried to seduce Peleus into her bed. Due to the fact that he was in love with Antigone still, he refused her advances. For retaliation, she wrote a letter to Antigone, telling her that Peleus had abandoned her and embraced herself as his lover. This letter resulted in the suicide of Antigone. Soon, Peleus learnt of this treachery and with the help of Chiron and the centaurs of Thessalia, they attacked the kingdom of Acastus, killing them both.
After the events of Thessalia, Peleus went to the mountains, to live with the centaurs, under the guidance and mentorship of Chiron, the chief centaur. With hus help, we overcame his grief and found his former self. Many years later, the king of Phtia died and a small delegation was sent to Peleus, to take the throne. The people of Phtia, knowing that the death of Eurytrion was an accident, justified the actions of Peleus at the kingdom of Thessalia and asked him to become their king. Although he refused at the beginning, Chiron pressed him on the matter and changed his mind.
Soon, Peleus became renowned for his abilities as a king, a warrior and a strategist.
When he became a king, Chiron called him again and told him that now he is a king, he needed a wife. So, he proposed to give him his daughter, Thetis, who had become a nymph of the sea. This is the reason that we know her as a daughter of Nereus. It was not necessary for a girl to be a biological offspring of Nereus, in order to devote herself to him. But the catch was that Peleus had to fight, in order to be with her. Due to her godly powers, she was difficult to catch her, but Peleus endured. Later he found her inside a cave. She tried to escape by turning into fire and water, but the grip of Peleus was too strong. At last, she let herself go and they got together. By that union, Thetis became pregnant.
Soon their marriage occurred, with all the Gods of Olympus being there as guests. All but one. Iris, the goddess of jealousy. Everything was going fine, until Iris passed from the wedding, while being invisible and let an apple fall in the middle of the room, with a note that was saying “to the most beautiful”. Immediately, the goddesses Hera, Athens and Aphrodite started to argue on whom was this apple referring to. Later, Paris was the one to decide that, decades later. But then, in order to save the wedding from catastrophe, Zeus interrupted the ceremony and took the gods up to Olympus. Peleus then, took his wife and went back to Phtia.
The Birth of Achilles
Before the great Achilles was born, Thetis and Peleus had six children together. But the king of Phtia, never got to meet them. Thetis was living for long periods of time away from the palace, in order to be close to the sea. This happened especially when she was going to give birth to a child. And mysteriously, when she returned, the born child was already dead. By the passing years, Peleus grief got the best of him. He lost his energy and became a shadow of his prior self. Although, he still wanted to have a child, to take the throne after his death. After Thetis became pregnant with their 7th son, his curiosity got the best of him.
He walked up to the sea temple that Thetis used to go. She found her inside, holding their baby on a sacred fire, in order to make him immortal. Peleus then immediately realized what was going on. All the previous sons that he had, died in the hands of Thetis, in her try to make them all immortal. In his fury, Peleus drew his sword and took the baby away from her. He would have killed her, if she didn’t escape in the sea.
Later, the baby was about to become the greatest warrior ever to walk the earth. Achilles!