A hero in Greek mythology, Peleus was born to King Aeacus of Aegina and the mountain nymph Endeïs. Alongside his brother Telamon, Peleus was forced to flee his home after the accidental killing of their half-brother Phocus in a hunting accident. In exile, the brothers joined their friend Heracles on a series of famous adventures, fighting the Amazons and King Laomedon, before becoming one of the Argonauts, sailing aboard the Argo on Jason’s epic quest for the Golden Fleece.
Peleus was less lucky in matters of the heart. He first married Antigone, daughter of his fellow Argonaut Eurytion, King of Phthia, and they had a daughter Polydora. Antigone later hanged herself, however, when she was incorrectly told that Peleus was to marry another. This was all caused by Astydamia, the wife of another Argonaut Acastus, who fell in love with Peleus. After Antigone’s death, Astydamia accused Peleus of attacking her. Acastus led Peleus into a forest where Peleus was rescued from a centaur attack by either Hermes or Chiron, a kind centaur. The myths around Peleus dispute which of these two actually rescued him.
Following Antigone’s death, Peleus won the heart of the sea-nymph Thetis with the help of his friend Proteus. Their marriage had repercussions for all of the Greek world and led to two of the greatest epics in Greek mythology. Many of the Greek gods were invited to the wedding, but Eris, goddess of discord, was not. Eris came to the wedding feast anyway and tossed the Apple of Discord into the crowd. The ensuing fight would lead, much later on, to the infamous Trojan War.
The union of Peleus and Thetis also produced one of Greek mythology’s most legendary figures: Achilles. Of their seven sons, he was the only to survive to adulthood. Fearing that he too would die, Thetis dipped the infant Achilles into the fabled River Styx, to make his body immortal. Only his heel, which she held in her hand, did not touch the water. As a great hero of the Trojan War, Achilles would die from a fatal arrow to that heel. That is why to this day, a weakness is often referred to as an Achille’s heel.
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