Disguising Achilles as a girl
Neoptolemus. 4111detail: Priam's death. French painting from the 17C (detail). Palais des beaux-arts, Lille.
The nereid Thetis, mother of Achilles, wished to
protect her sweet child from his unavoidable fate,
which was to meet death at Troy and gain unforgettable Fame. With that aim in mind, she disguised him as a girl, and brought him to the court of King Lycomedes 1 of Scyros (the same who is suspected of having treacherously killed his guest, the exiled King Theseus of Athens). Yet some believe this is nonsense and affirm that Achilles was living in that island simply because he had conquered it.
The king's daughter discovers the trick
The king's daughter Deidamia 1, playing with Achilles, who was known by all as the girl Pyrrha 3, discovered his manhood, and making love to him, gave in time birth to Neoptolemus. And because Achilles had been called "Pyrrha", so Neoptolemus was sometimes called Pyrrhus. Thetis' trick concerning Achilles' female
disguise was later revealed by Odysseus, who along
with other Achaeans, came to Scyros looking for
him, at the time when attempts were being made to
form a coalition between all kingdoms of Hellas,
and sail against Troy in
order to restore Helen and
the Spartan property that had been stolen by the
After killing Hector 1, Achilles himself
was slain at Troy, either
by Paris, or by Apollo, or by Paris and his brother Deiphobus 1, the same who married Helen once Paris was killed by Philoctetes' poisoned arrow.
Prophecy calls for Neoptolemus
As Troy could not be
taken regardless of the efforts that were made,
ever new conditions were added by the seers as to what was
necessary to do in order to take the city. So, in
the same way as before it had been declared that Troy could not be taken
without Achilles, now
it was prophesied that Troy could not be taken if Neoptolemus would not come
and fight. So Odysseus and Phoenix 2 came to Scyros to fetch him, and bring him to the war at Troy. His mother failed to
persuade him not to go to the war, and so he sailed
Ajax 1 killed himself
When Neoptolemus arrived to Troy, Odysseus resigned Achilles' armour and
gave it to him. This armour Odysseus had received
as a prize after the death of Achilles. This is the
same armour that caused the death of Ajax 1; for the latter
contended with Odysseus for the honour of owning it, and having lost, he
went mad and killed himself.
Some say that it was Odysseus and
Neoptolemus who sailed to Lemnos in order to fetch Philoctetes and the
Bows & Arrows of Heracles 1 back to the
war at Troy. When about to
perform this task, Odysseus and
Neoptolemus did not agree as to the method to be
applied in order to bring Philoctetes back:
Neoptolemus: It is not in my nature to achieve
anything by means of evil cunning ... But I am
ready to take the man by force and without
Odysseus: I, too, in my youth once had a slow
tongue and an active hand. But now I see that the
tongue, not action, is what masters everything
among men... I command you to take Philoctetes by deceit.
Neoptolemus: Then you
think it brings no shame to speak what is
Odysseus: No, not if the falsehood yields
(Sophocles, Philoctetes 89ff.).
Victor gives way to wrath
When finally the city was taken, Neoptolemus
caught King Priam 1, who
had taken refuge at the altar of Zeus, and dragging him out of the temple, slew him at the gate of his own palace. Neoptolemus is also said to have murdered little Astyanax 2, the baby child of Hector 1, by throwing him down from a tower. Some affirm that Neoptolemus came to this amazing idea by activating his own mind, and that the Achaeans never decreed that the child should be put to death. But others assert that little Astyanax 2 survived the sack of Troy, and that he was taken prisoner by Neoptolemus, who later allowed him to return home from Hellas. Little Astyanax 2, they affirm, became then king of Scepsis near Mt. Ida in the Troad.
The many lives that Neoptolemus took
Neoptolemus killed many Trojans in battle:
Eurypylus 6, who had brought a great force of Mysians to fight for the Trojans against the Achaean invaders.
Agenor 8, who served in the same company as Paris and Alcathous 2 and was son of Antenor 1, the
man who constantly adviced the Trojans to
restore Helen and make peace with the Achaeans. Also Polybus 5, another son of Antenor 1, was
killed by Neoptolemus.
Alcidamas 2 and Melaneus 9, sons of Alexinomus, who lived in Caunus, a city in Lycia in southern Asia Minor.
Antiphonus, Polites 1 and Pammon 1, sons of Priam 1. Polites 1 had once helped his wounded brother Deiphobus 1 out of the turmoil of battle.
Astynous 2, son of Protiaon
Celtus 3 and Eubius, sons of the rich man Meges 3, son of Dymas 2
Coroebus 2, who had come to Troy in order to
fell fighting at Troy by Aeneas' side,
killed by Neoptolemus or by Diomedes 2 or by Peneleus; Coroebus 2 was son of Mygdon, king of the Bebrycians, who once had fought with Priam 1 against the AMAZONS. Mygdon
himself, son of Poseidon &
Melie, had been killed years ago by Heracles 1.
Hippomedon 3, son of Hippasus 6 & Ocyrrhoe 3, born beside the river Sangarius.
Menalcas 1, a Trojan spearman, son of Medon 9, a craftsman from Cilla, a city in northwestern Asia Minor
Menes, son of the Lycian King Cassandrus.
The Phrygians Hippomedon 2 and Morys 2.
The Lycian Laodamas 4.
The same thing happened to the Trojans Cestrus, Eioneus 4, Elasus 2, Evenor 3, Galenus, Amphinous 1, Cebrus, Harmon 2, Agenor 13, Hysminus, Imbrasius, Iphition 2, Mnesaeus, Oenops 2, Nirus, Pasitheus, Perilaus 3, Perimedes 6, Phalerus 2, Phasis 2, Phleges, Schedius 4 and Ennomus 2.
Reward for his zeal
In any case, when all resistance was crushed and
the city was destroyed, the Achaeans divided the
spoils, and Neoptolemus got, as a special reward, Hector 1's wife Andromache.
When it was time to return home, Neoptolemus, following the advice of Thetis, who knew that the gods wished to cause trouble to the returning Achaean fleet, stayed two days in the island of Tenedos, and then set out for Epirus by land (see Map: The Returns), burying Phoenix 2, son of Amyntor 1 and companion of Achilles, who died
on the way.
Battle in Thrace
Passing through Thrace during his return from Troy, Neoptolemus engaged in battle with King Harpalycus 1, who was severely wounded by him. The king was saved from death by his daughter Harpalyce 1, thought to be his successor on the throne. For she had been fed by cows and mares, and had been later trained in arms by her father. However, this family project did not become a reality because Harpalycus 1 was later killed during a civil insurrection. Harpalyce 1 then had to retire to the woods, where she lived by plundering cattle, being finally killed by shepherds.
His new kingdom
On arrival to Epirus (the Adriatic coastal region of Greece between the Ambracian Gulf and Illyria, today called Albania), Neoptolemus defeated the Molossians, reigned over them during a brief time, becoming also king of the islands off Epirus. Neoptolemus gave Deidamia 1 as wife to the seer Helenus 1 (son of
King Priam 1), whom he
had brought as a prisoner, and Helenus 1 founded a
city in Molossia.
While Neoptolemus was king, Odysseus, who had been
accused by the families of the SUITORS OF
PENELOPE he slaughtered, submitted the case to
him, and Neoptolemus condemned him to exile,
because, it is suspected, through the exile of Odysseus he expected to
gain control over the island of Cephallenia.
Neoptolemus also ajudged that the relatives of the SUITORS should
pay to Odysseus a
yearly recompense for the injuries that the SUITORS had done
to his estate. For the SUITORS, during Odysseus' absence, had
a great time with many banquets at the expense of Odysseus' fortune. So
while Odysseus was
exiled in Italy, the recompense was paid to his son Telemachus, and
consisted of barley, wine,
honeycombs, olive-oil, salt, and animals for
Inherits his grandfather
During these times, Neoptolemus' grandfather Peleus was expelled from
Phthia by the sons of Acastus and died, but
Neoptolemus managed to succeed his grandfather as
ruler of Phthia. Yet, it has also been said that Peleus survived
Old conflict in new form
The conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon for the sake
of a woman experienced a revival in their sons. For
Neoptolemus married Andromache, but based
in Menelaus' promises,
he claimed the hand of the latter's daughter Hermione, whom Menelaus had given as
wife to Orestes 2 (his
nephew) at his return from Troy. Menelaus then,
recalling his promise, took Hermione from Orestes 2, and gave her
The "Punishment of Neoptolemus"
But Orestes 2, son
of Agamemnon, came
with an armed force to Delphi when Neoptolemus was there and killed him. To suffer what a man has himself done to another is called "The Punishment of Neoptolemus," for Neoptolemus killed King Priam 1 in a temple and was himself killed in a temple. In spite of this, the Delphians have ever since sacrificed to Neoptolemus as to a hero. It is also said that Pylades, friend of Orestes 2, planned the murder of Neoptolemus (see the reasons Pylades could have for plotting against Neoptolemus in the notes about the nereid Psamathe 1 at NEREIDS). Some affirm, however, that Neoptolemus came to Delphi to demand
satisfaction from Apollo,
who some say killed Achilles, and that he
set fire to the temple, and for doing that he was
killed by Machaereus, a Phocian. The bones of
Neoptolemus were scattered through Ambracia, a
district of Epirus, but others think he was buried