When the neighboring kings and chiefs received Menelaus’ message, they were delighted; for fighting was their only occupation, and they enjoyed the din of battle more than anything else. They began to collect their soldiers, polish their arms, and man their vessels. Then, inviting all who wished to join them, they started out for Aulis, where they formed a huge army.
Each of the parties was led by its own king or chief. Some of these chiefs were very brave, and their names are still well known. The leading ones among them were Nestor, the wisest man of his day, to whom every one came for good advice; and Ulysses, the crafty or sly king, who was so clever that he could easily outwit all men.
There were also Ajax, the strongest man of his time; Thersander, the new king of Thebes, who came with the Epigoni; and Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, Menelaus’ brother, who was chosen chief of the whole army.
The Greeks never began any undertaking without consulting the oracles to find out how it would end. Agamemnon, therefore, consulted one of these soothsayers, who said that Troy would never be taken unless Achilles fought with the Greeks.
When they heard this answer, the chiefs immediately asked who Achilles was, and they soon learned all about him. He was a young prince of whom it had been foretold at the time of his birth that he would be the greatest warrior of his age, and that he would die young. His mother, who loved him dearly, shed many tears when she heard these words, and made up her mind to do all she could to prevent this prophecy from coming true.
She first carried Achilles, when but a baby, to the river Styx, for it was said that those who bathed in its waters could never be wounded.
Afraid to let go of her child for fear he might drown, but anxious to make sure that the waters should touch every part of him, the mother plunged him into the rushing tide, holding him fast by one heel.