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First, I will probe the literary passages identifying Thetis. The most prominent representation of her is clearly as protective mother to Achilles. Homer excels at this sort of illustration of the "goddess, silver-footed Thetis." Thirteen times Homer portrays Thetis as a mother in the Iliad, and the sole passage about Thetis in the Odyssey is of her playing the mother role again. This illustration of her is carried through two of Apollodorus' passages. Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis only representation of Thetis is as the mother of Achilles, as is Isocrates'.

The Iliad most focuses on Thetis as protective mother, therefore, I will concentrate on it further and in more detail. Trying to assuage her son's grief at being slighted by Agamemnon in Book I, she goes to Zeus mourning Achilles' fate and seeking help. Zeus is reluctant to help her at first, but like so many of the gods and goddesses, he can not refuse, as seen in the following passage:

And Thetis did not forget the behest [495] of her son, but rose up from the wave of the sea, and at early morning went up to great heaven and Olympus. There she found the far-seeing son of Cronos sitting apart from the rest upon the topmost peak of many-ridged Olympus. So she sat down before him, and clasped his knees [500] with her left hand, while with her right she touched him beneath the chin, and she spoke in prayer to king Zeus, son of Cronos: "Father Zeus, if ever amid the immortals I gave you aid by word or deed, grant me this prayer: do honour to my son, who is doomed to a speedy death beyond all other men; [505] yet now Agamemnon, king of men, has dishonoured him, for he has taken and keeps his prize by his own arrogant act. But honour him, Olympian Zeus, lord of counsel; and give might to the Trojans, until the Achaeans do honour to my son, and magnify him with recompense." [510]

So she spoke; but Zeus, the cloud-gatherer, spoke no word to her, but sat a long time in silence. Yet Thetis, even as she had clasped his knees, so held to him, clinging close, and questioned him again a second time: "Give me your infallible promise, and bow your head to it, or else me, for there is nothing to make you afraid; so that I may know well [515] how far I among all the gods am honoured the least."

Then, greatly troubled, Zeus, the cloud-gatherer spoke to her: "Surely this will be sorry work, since you will set me on to engage in strife with Hera, when she shall anger me with taunting words. Even now she always upbraids me among the immortal gods, [520] and declares that I give aid to the Trojans in battle. But for the present, depart again, lest Hera note something; and I will take thought for these things to bring all to pass. Come, I will bow my head to you, that thou may be certain, for this from me is the surest token among the immortals; [525] no word of mine may be recalled, nor is false, nor unfulfilled, to which I bow my head."

The son of Cronos spoke, and bowed his dark brow in assent, and the ambrosial locks waved from the king's immortal head; and he made great Olympus quake.2


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