Achilles at the Palace of
by Louis Gauffier
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The Sacrifice of Iphigenia
by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
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Sailing to Troy!
ACHILLES PART THREE - THE RUSE
Continued from page two
Thetis knew that if Achilles fought at Troy, he would never
return alive. She did her utmost to preserve the life of
Achilles, even going so far as to disguise him as a girl and
sending him away to Lycomedes, king of Scyros.
There he lived
under the name of Cercysera, Aissa, or Pyrrha, it is said.
Achilles wanted nothing to do with dressing like a girl but he
realized that it was the only way to get close to King
Lycomedes's beautiful daughter, with whom he had become
This affair with the king's
daughter, Diedameia, produced a son named Pyrrhus, later called
Thus disguised as a young woman Achilles lived
quietly at Scyros until the leaders of the Greek expedition
against Troy, who were Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax, arrived
unexpectedly at the island and asked to urgently speak to
Achilles. They wanted him to join them in the Trojan War.
King Lycomedes, who had no clue that Achilles was living inside
his palace, let alone sleeping with his daughter, indignantly insisted that he wasn't there,
even offering the men a
search of the palace.
The search failed to expose Achilles, so
clever Odysseus resorted to trickery. The Greeks had brought a
pile of gifts to Scyros, mostly jewels, girdles, fancy
embroidered dresses and colorful cloth.
Odysseus asked the
ladies of the palace to pick their choice of any gift, but
instructed his men to sound a sudden trumpet blast and clash of
arms outside the palace.
All the girls had gathered around the
gold and finery, ooohing and aaahing, but one girl showed
absolutely no interest in the jewels, but instead seemed
fascinated by the swords, spears and arms that were part of the
So when the trumpet blew and the sounds of fighting were
heard, as per the instructions of Odysseus, one of the young
"girls", the disguised Achilles, instinctively stripped to the
waist and grabbed the sword and shield, readying for battle.
Thus was Achilles exposed, and truth be told, he wasn't at all
unhappy to be discovered. It was nice lounging around the palace
and spending precious time with Deidameia, but the young warrior
had been bred for battle.
Achilles promptly agreed to join the
Greek expedition, and lead to Troy his army of Myrmidons, which
was what his feared and loyal-to-the-death warriors were called.
The ploy of Odysseus had worked, and the Greek army was now
Before he left Achilles married his sweetheart, the by then pregnant Deidameia.
Commandeering a fleet of fifty or sixty ships, he set sail to
join his fellow Greeks at Aulis. He was fifteen years old at the
When he arrived at Aulis, the winds were not favorable for the
fleet to sail and much time was wasted, making the gathered
armies restless. The seer Calchas then lied, using Achilles's
He told the Greek leader Agamemnon that the gods would only
co-operate if he were to sacrifice to them his daughter,
The callous King tricked his daughter by telling her to sail to Aulis;
was to be married to the great Achilles, who naturally was
unaware of Agamemnon's scheming.
Just imagine poor Iphigenia's state of mind when she arrived to
the island and the devious plan was revealed!
Not only was she not going to marry Greece's most eligible
bachelor, but, horror of horrors, instead she would be
sacrificed at the altar to appease the gods!
That was just wrong! You're supposed to be married, not buried,
at the altar! But the hapless maiden was helpless.
Just as Iphigenia was about to be sacrificed, however, the
goddess Artemis took pity on her and substituted a deer in her
place, permitting the young innocent to escape.
The winds blew and
the Greek fleet was finally able to sail to war.
Achilles was exhilarated - It was Troy or bust, by Jove!
Achilles continues on