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Meaning of “The Heel of Achilles” phrase of Idiom, definition and synonyms use in sentence.

The Heel of Achilles

“Hanover—the Achilles’ heel to invulnerable England.”


To “bruise the heel of Achilles” is to attack a person, or a nation, at its weakest point. It used to be said of Ireland that she was “the Achilles’s heel of the British Empire,” doubtless on account of her internal dissensions and her alleged disloyalty.

Invulnerability was ever the one desideratum of the gods and heroes of mythology. Many stories are told of such invulnerability. Ajax was considered invulnerable except in one spot on his body. At his birth, Alcides clothed him in a lion’s skin, but she overlooked the hole caused by the spear of Hercules. Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungs, bathed his body in the blood of a dragon, but failed to perceive that a leaf had fallen between his shoulders.

When Thetis dipped her baby, Achilles, in the River Styx, in the belief that his body would thus be rendered impervious to all attacks from without, it is said that she held him by the tendon of the heel, and the part covered by her thumb and fingers was nut touched by the water. He was thus unable to withstand the arrow shot by Paris outside the walls of Troy, and the wound proved his undoing.

To be physically invulnerable is one thing; yet one may be so weak psychically as to be most vulnerable, and thus prone to defeat in the hour of trial ; for the battle of life is not simply a question of the power of muscular endurance. “He alone is invulnerable,” said Seneca, “who is struck and not hurt”; meaning thereby, as Descartes once expressed it; that he is able, when offended, to raise his soul so high that the poisoned shaft cannot reach it.


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