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History of Medicine


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

1, 2, 3, 4


  1. Department of Medicine and Surgery, University of Parma, and FAPAB Research Center, Avola, Italy.
  2. FAPAB Research Center, Avola, Italy, and Archaeology, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia.
  3. FAPAB Research Center, Avola, and Specialisation School in Archaeology, University of Catania, Italy.
  4. Department of Health Science, University of Genova, Italy.

2021 Vol.39, N°1
PI 0017, PF 0020
History of Medicine

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PMID: 32573422 [PubMed]

Received: 22/03/2020
Accepted : 27/04/2020
In Press: 12/06/2020
Published: 05/02/2021


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.


Rheumatology Article