The Greek hero Achilles and his mysterious death: Transdisciplinary analysis of the gouty hypothesis

E. Armocida, F. M. Galassi, S. Melintenda, M. Martini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Achilles is a character of Greek mythology whose deeds are mainly told in the Iliad by Homer. Achilles distinguishes himself on the battlefield of Troy with his dexterity and strength, appearing invincible, yet he dies wounded by an arrow in his heel. How could an arrow shot to the heel kill anybody, no matter whether vulnerable or invulnerable? Many researchers have tried to give a medical explanation to this mythological conundrum starting from a literary interpretation of the Homeric text: poisoning, infection, allergy, haemophilia or thyroid storm. In a way, the oldest medical interpretation was suggested by Lucian of Samosata (ca. 120 to after 180 AD). In his parodic tragedy “Gout”, he claimed that the warrior actually died of gout. In this article we consider the gouty hypothesis and analyse the clinical aspects that support it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
Number of pages4
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Volume39
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Achilles tendon
  • Gout
  • History of medicine
  • Mythology
  • Paleopathology

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