In ‘The Iliad,’ Achilles Had A Prophetic Talking Horse

(Xanthus and Achilles, modified and edited from Triumph of Achilles, c. 1892, by Franz Matsch, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)


Homer’s ancient epic poem, The Iliad, is filled with oddities of all sorts. From dramatic mythological stories to bizarre battles between men and gods, The Iliad has very few dull chapters. Out of all the strange events in Homer’s first epic poem, one of the most peculiar could arguably be Achilles’ talking horse, Xanthus.

Mind you, the horse is only given the ability of speech by the goddess, Hera, and only speaks for a short time before furies come and mute the beast. Before the horse Xanthus was muted, he delivered a prophesy of Achilles’ demise, stating the great Greek warrior was “destined to fall in battle at the hands of a god and of a man” (Homer’s The Iliad, chapter 19).

The prophesy of the horse proved to be true, but that would take place in Homer’s next epic poem, The Odyssey, where even more oddities of divine and mundane nature awaited the Greek warriors returning home from war.

Written by C. Keith Hansley.


  • The Iliad by Homer, translated by E. V. Rieu and translated by Peter Jones. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

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