Chapter 16, The Trojan War
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♠ Homer, Iliad 9.666-68
And Patroclus laid him down on the opposite side, and by him in like manner lay fair-girdled Iphis, whom goodly Achilles had given him when he took steep Scyrus, the city of Enyeus. Greek Text
♦ Lost painting from Propylaia, Athenian Acropolis:
♠ Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.22.6
On the left of the gateway is a building with pictures… And there is Polyxena about to be sacrificed near the grave of Achilles. Homer did well in passing by this barbarous act. I think too that he showed poetic insight in making Achilles capture Scyros, differing entirely from those who say that Achilles lived in Scyros with the maidens, as Polygnotus has represented in his picture. Greek Text
♦ Naples, Museo Nazionale 9110: Roman wall painting from House of Dioscuri, Pompeii, showing discovery of Achilleus among maidens on Skyros
♠ Papyrus Hypothesis on Euripides, Skyrioi PSI 1286 – Papyrus fragments published in the Papiri Greci e Latini series (Pubblicazioni della Società italiana, Florence 1912- )
♠ Bion of Phlossa, Epithalamium Achillis et Deidameiae 2
♠ Ovid, Metamorphoses 13.162-70
Achilles’ Nereid mother, who foresaw
his death, concealed her son by change of dress.
By that disguise Ajax, among the rest,
was well deceived. I showed with women’s wares
arms that might win the spirit of a man.
The hero still wore clothing of a girl,
when, as he held a shield and spear, I said
‘Son of a goddess! Pergama but waits
to fall by you, why do you hesitate
to assure the overthrow of mighty Troy?’
With these bold words, I laid my hand on him—
and to: brave actions I sent forth the brave. Latin Text
♠ Scholia at Lykophron, Alexandra 277 – Lykophronis Alexandra, vol. 2, pp. 119-20, ed. E. Scheer. Berlin 1908.
♠ Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library) 3.13.8
Bred at his court, Achilles had an intrigue with Deidamia, daughter of Lycomedes, and a son Pyrrhus was born to him, who was afterwards called Neoptolemus. But the secret of Achilles was betrayed, and Ulysses, seeking him at the court of Lycomedes, discovered him by the blast of a trumpet. And in that way Achilles went to Troy. Greek Text
♠ Statius, Achilleis 1.750-920
Long since has a rumour been noised throughout the secret chamber where the maidens had their safe abode, that Pelasgian chiefs are come, and a Grecian ship and its mariners have been made welcome. With good reason are the rest affrighted; but Pelides scarce conceals his sudden joy, and eagerly desires even as he is to see the newly-arrived heroes and their arms. Already the noise of princely trains fills the palace, and the guests are reclining on gold-embroidered couches, when at their sire’s command his daughters and their chaste companions join the banquet; they approach, like unto Amazons on the Maeotid shore, when, having made plunder of Scythian homesteads and captured strongholds of the Getae, they lay aside their arms and feast. Then indeed does Ulysses with intent gaze ponder carefully both forms and features, but night and the lamps that are brought in deceive him, and their stature is hidden as soon as they recline. One nevertheless with head erect and wandering gaze, one who preserves no sign of virgin modesty, he marks, and with sidelong glance points out to his companion. But if Deidamia, to warn the hasty youth, had not clasped him to her soft bosom, and ever covered with her own robe his bare breast and naked arms and shoulders, and many a time forbidden him to start up from the couch and ask for wine, and replaced the golden hair-band on his brow, Achilles had even then been revealed to the Argive chieftains.
 When hunger was assuaged and the banquet had twice and three times been renewed, the monarch first addresses the Achaeans, and pledges them with the wine-cup: “Ye famous heroes of the Argolic race, I envy, I confess, your enterprise; would that I too were of more valiant years, as when I utterly subdued the Dolopes who attacked the shores of Scyros, and shattered on the sea those keels that ye beheld on the forefront of my lofty walls, tokens of my triumph! At least if I had offspring that I would send to war, – but now ye see for yourselves my feeble strength and my dear children: ah, when will these numerous daughters give me grandsons?”
 He spoke, and seizing the moment crafty Ulysses made reply: “Worthy indeed is the object of thy desire; for who would not burn to see the countless peoples of the world and various chieftains and princes with their trains? All the might and glory of powerful Europe hath sworn together willing allegiance to our righteous arms. Cities and fields alike are empty, we have spoiled the lofty mountains, the whole sea lies hidden beneath the far-spread shadow of our sails; fathers give weapons, youths snatch them and are gone beyond recall. Never was offered to the brave such an opportunity for high renown, never had valour so wide a field of exercise.”
 He sees him all attentive and drinking in his words with vigilant ear, though the rest are alarmed and turn aside their downcast eyes, and he repeats: “Whoever hath pride of race and ancestry, whoever hath sure javelin and valiant steed, or skill of bow, all honour there awaits him, there is the strife of mighty names: scarce do timorous mothers hold back or troops of maids; ah! doomed to barren years and hated of the gods is he whom this new chance of glory passes by in idle sloth.”
 Up from the couches had he sprung, had not Deidamia, watchfully giving the sign to summon all her sisters, left the banquet clasping him in her arms; yet still he lingers looking back at the Ithacan, and goes out from the company the last of all. Ulysses indeed leaves unsaid somewhat of his purposed speech, yet adds a few words: “But do thou abide in deep and tranquil peace, and find husbands for thy beloved daughters, whom fortune has given thee, goddess-like in their starry countenances. What awe touched me anon and holds me silent? Such charm and beauty joined to manliness of form!”
 The sire replies: “What if thou couldst see them performing the rites of Bacchus, or about the altars of Pallas? Ay, and thou shalt, if perchance the rising south wind prove a laggard.” They eagerly accept his promise, and hope inspires their silent prayers. All else in Lycomedes’ palace are at rest in peaceful quiet, their troubles laid aside, but to the cunning Ithacan the night is long; he yearns for the day and brooks not slumber.
 Scarce had day dawned, and already the son of Tydeus accompanied by Agyrtes was present bringing the appointed gifts. The maids of Scyros too went forth from their chamber and advanced to display their dances and promised rites to the honoured strangers. Brilliant before the rest is the princess with Pelides her companion: even as beneath the rocks of Aetna in Sicily Diana and bold Pallas and the consort of the Elysian monarch shine forth among the nymphs of Enna. Already they begin to move, and the Ismenian pipe gives signal to the dancers; four times they beat the cymbals of Rhea, four times the maddening drums, four times they trace their manifold windings. Then together they raise and lower their wands, and complicate their steps, now in such fashion as the Curetes and devout Samothracians use, now turning to face each other in the Amazonian comb, now in the ring wherein the Delian sets the Laconian girls a-dancing, and whirls them shouting her praises into her own Amyclae. Then indeed, then above all is Achilles manifest, caring neither to keep his turn nor to join arms; then more than ever does he scorn the delicate step, the womanly attire, and breaks the dance and mightily disturbs the scene. Even so did Thebes already sorrowing behold Pentheus spurning the wands and the timbrels that his mother welcomed.
 The troop disperses amid applause, and they seek again their father’s threshold, where in the central chamber of the palace the son of Tydeus hd long since set out gifts that should attract maidens’ eyes, the mark of kindly welcome and the guerdon of their toil; he bids them choose, nor does the peaceful monarch say them nay. Alas! how simple and untaught, who knew not the cunning of the gifts nor Grecian fraud nor Ulysses’ many wiles! Thereupon the others, prompted by nature and their ease-loving sex, try the shapely wands or the timbrels that answer to the blow, and fasten jewelled band around their temples; the weapons they behold, but think them a gift to their mighty sire. But the bold son of Aeacus no sooner saw before him the gleaming shield enchased with battle-scenes – by chance too it shone red with the fierce stains of war – and leaning against he spear, than he shouted loud and rolled his eyes, and his hair rose up form his brow; forgotten were his mother’s words, forgotten his secret love, and Troy fills all his breast. As a lion, torn from his mother’s dugs, submits to be tamed and lets his mane be combed, and learns to have awe of man and not to fly into a rage save when bidden, yet if but once the steel has glittered in his sight, his fealty is forsworn, and his tamer becomes his foe: against him he first ravens, and feels shame to have served a timid lord. But when he came nearer, and the emulous brightness gave back his features and he saw himself mirrored in the reflecting gold, he thrilled and blushed together.
 Then quickly went Ulysses to his side and whispered: “Why dost thou hesitate? We know thee, thou art the pupil of the half-beast Chiron, thou art the grandson of the sky and sea; thee the Dorian fleet, thee thy own Greece awaits with standards uplifted for the march, and the very walls of Pergamum totter and sway for thee to overturn. Up! delay no more! Let perfidious Ida grow pale, let they father delight to hear these tidings, and guileful Thetis feel shame to have so feared for thee.”
 Already was he stripping his body of the robes, when Agyrtes, so commanded, blew a great blast upon the trumpet: the gifts are scattered, and they flee and fall with prayers before their sire and believe that battle is joined. But from his breast the raiment fell without his touching, already the shield and puny spear are lost in the grasp of his hand – marvellous to believe! – and he seemed to surpass by head and shoulders the Ithacan and the Aetolian chief: with a sheen so awful does the sudden blaze of arms and the martial fire dazzle the palace-hall. Mighty of limb, as though forthwith summoning Hector to the fray, he stand in the midst of the panic-stricken house: and the daughter of Peleus is sought in vain.
 But Deidamia in another chamber bewailed the discovery of the fraud, and as soon as he heard her loud lament and recognized the voice that he knew so well, he quailed and his spirit was broken by his hidden passion. He dropped the shield, and turning to the monarch’s face, while Lycomedes is dazed by the scene and distraught by the strange portent, just as he was, in naked panoply of arms, he thus bespeaks him: “’Twas I, dear father, I whom bounteous Thetis gave thee – dismiss thy anxious fears! – long since did this high renown await thee; ‘tis thou who wilt send Achilles, long sought for, to the Greeks, more welcome to me than my might sire – if it is right so to speak – and than beloved Chiron. But, if thou wilt, give me thy mind awhile, and of thy favour hear these words: Peleus and Thetis thy guest make thee the father-in-law of their son, and recount their kindred deities on either side; they demand one of thy train of virgin daughters: doest thou give her? or seem we a mean and coward race? Thou dost not refuse. Join then our hands, and make the treaty, and pardon thy own kin. Already hath Deidamia been known to me in stolen secrecy; for how could she have resisted these arms of mine, how once in my embrace repel my might? Bid me atone that deed: I lay down these weapons and restore them to the Pelasgians, and I remain here. Why these angry cries? Why is thy aspect changed? Already art thou my father-in-law” – he placed the child before his feet, and added: “and already a grandsire! How often shall the pitiless sword be plied! We are a multitude!”
 Then the Greeks too and Ulysses with his persuasive prayer entreat by the holy rites and the sworn word of hospitality. He, though moved by the discovery of his dear daughter’s wrong and the command of Thetis, though seeming to betray the goddess and so grave a trust, yet fears to oppose so many destinies and delay the Argive war – even were he fain, Achilles had spurned even his mother then. Nor is he unwilling to take unto himself so great a son-in-law: he is won. Deidamia comes shamefast from her dark privacy, nor in her despair believes at first his pardon, and puts forward Achilles to appease her sire. Latin Text
♠ Hyginus, Fabulae 96
ACHILLES: When Thetis the Nereid knew that Achilles, the son she had borne to Peleus, would die if he went to attack Troy, she sent him to island of Sckyros, entrusting him to King Lycomedes. He kept him among his virgin daughters in woman’s attire under an assumed name. The girls called him Pyrrha, since he had tawny hair, and in Greek a redhead is called pyrrhos. When the Achaeans discovered that he was hidden there, they sent spokesmen to King Lycomedes to beg that he be sent to help the Danaan. The King denied that he was there, but gave them permission to search the palace. When they couldn’t discover which one he was. Ulysses put women’s trinkets in the fore-court of the palace, and among them a shield and a spear. He bade the trumpeter blow the trumpet all of a sudden, and called for clash of arms and shouting. Achilles, thinking the enemy was at hand, stripped off his woman’s garb and seized shield and spear. In this way he was recognized and promised to the Argives his aid and his soldiers, the Myrmidons. Latin Text
♠ Kypria fr 21 PEG – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 57, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.
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Artistic sources edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, September 2021
Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, January 2023
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