Atlas Physical Therapy

Atlas Physical Therapy

June 2017



Homer, Achilles, and Education What I’ve Learned From ‘The Iliad’

You might be wondering why the story of Achilles reminds me of physical therapy, but I think the connection is instructive. Your body is not a series of disparate parts, but rather a connected system. When you are suffering from back pain, you can feel its effects all the way from your head to your toes. If you have an injury, an Achilles’ heel, you cannot ignore it, no matter how strong or fit you are. Greek mythology is full of stories that still inspire us to this day, and the story of Achilles is among the most memorable. It’s a reminder that no matter how powerful we are, we are not perfect. Education is about improvement, and one of the surest ways to improve is by identifying where you are weakest. I don’t think I’ll ever be content with the amount I’ve learned. Whenever I notice an Achilles’ heel in my knowledge, I educate myself in order to improve upon it. – Sam Dimitrakis

and to read it in the most faithful version connected me to a cultural tradition thousands of years old. There’s one character from “The Iliad” who actually serves as a potent metaphor for the work I do as a physical therapist: Achilles. Achilles is the main character of the epic and the hero of the Trojan War. For a large portion of the poem, Achilles refuses to fight on behalf of the Greeks, and the Trojans begin to amass an advantage. Eventually, though, Achilles is stirred to battle and ends up slaying Hector, Troy’s greatest warrior. Even the strongest of heroes, however, are not without weakness. As a boy, Achilles’ mother Thetis dipped him into the river Styx, granting him invulnerability against injury. She submerged all of his body except for one heel. Achilles died when an arrow pierced his heel, hitting the only patch of flesh that could suffer a mortal wound. This story gives a name to both the Achilles tendon and the phrase “Achilles’ heel.”

“The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” Whenever I think about the importance of education, this quote from Greek philosopher Diogenes pops into my head. The power of learning cannot be overstated, and my mind is always returning to things I studied decades ago. I feel lucky that I had a family and teachers who valued intellectual curiosity and urged me to pursue my passions. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the time I spent in classrooms. One thing I remember vividly from my years at school was reading “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Homer’s two great epic poems are the most central texts of ancient Greece, and they are a staple of curricula across the world. When I was in school, we had to read them in ancient Greek, which bears essentially no resemblance to the modern language. It was definitely tough, but it was also incredibly rewarding. The fact that people still read Homer today speaks to the beauty and power of his work,

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