Achilles Tendon vs. Achilles’ Heel

Achilles heel

Is your Achilles tendon your Achilles’ heel?

The mythical Greek hero Achilles was almost invincible. Almost, because his special powers came from a dipping in the River Styx, the river on which the Ancient Greeks believed people traveled to the afterworld when they died. Achilles’ mother, an immortal nymph named Thetis, held him by the heel and dipped him into this portentous river, and every part of his body that was touched by the inky water became completely immortal.

What Thetis didn’t realize was that the heel that she held didn’t get into the water. She was keeping her fingers dry, apparently, so the baby’s heel also stayed dry. It was not protected, and it became the only part of Achilles’ body that was not immortal.

When Achilles grew up, he led great armies into the Trojan War and was an amazing warrior. However, a warrior named Paris shot him in the heel with a golden arrow, wounding him in the only mortal part of his body. Achilles died.

The legend of Achilles gave us the tendon and the heel.

There’s a lot more to the story. You can get the details in The Iliad. The central point here is that this story gives us the expression “Achilles’ heel.” The one flaw or vulnerable thing about someone is his or her Achilles’ heel.

The Achilles tendon is also named after Achilles, probably because there aren’t that many great stories involving the heel. The Achilles tendon is attached to the heel bone and connects it with the calf muscle. This tendon allows us to walk, run, and jump. It’s the longest tendon in the body. Tendons are fibers, like muscles, but they don’t have much of a blood supply. This makes them vulnerable to injury, and a longer tendon is more vulnerable. So your Achilles tendon could also be your Achilles’ heel.

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