Deidamia: The Secret Love Interest of the Greek Hero Achilles

DeidamiaDeidamia was the daughter of Lycomedes, king of the island of Scyros who secretly had an affair with Achilles. Thetis, the mother of Achilles, disguised him as a girl and planted him among the daughters of Lycomedes.

This was to prevent him from fighting in the Trojan war because an oracle had prophesied that Achilles would die should he partake in the war. Discover what really happened between Achilles and Deidamia and how Achilles’ cover was blown.

The Deidamia Greek Mythology

There are varying tales of the myth of Princess Deidameia but all have one event in common; Deidamia had a child or two for Achilles. According to one myth, Thetis fearing that her son would die at Troy disguised him as a girl and took him to a small island called Scyros.

She gave him the name Pyrrha, which meant “the Redhead one,” and handed her over to King Lycomedes. Thetis then lied that Pyrrah had undergone extensive military training under the Amazons so she wanted ‘her’ to learn the ways of a lady and be prepared for marriage.

Lycomedes believed Thetis and admitted the disguised Achilles into his court, placing him among his daughters. The young ladies became fond of Achilles completely falling for his disguise and spent a lot of time with him teaching him feminine ways.

Achilles became attracted to Deidamia, the ‘fairest‘ of King Lycomedes’ daughters and the two spent a lot of time together but Achilles did not make his feelings known to her for fear of blowing his cover.

Achilles’ feelings for Deidamia grew so strong that he could not resist it any longer thus, at a festival of Dionysus held at the night, he raped her. That was when Deidamia realized that Pyrrah had been a boy all along and that Thetis had lied to her father.

To prevent his secret from leaking Achilles consoled Deidamia and told her why his mother had disguised him and brought him to Scyros. Deidamia believed Achilles’ explanation and swore to keep his secret and her subsequent pregnancy-safe from everyone.

Odysseus Uncovers Deidamia’s Secret and Achilles’ Identity

According to a prophecy, the Greeks would not win the Trojan War without Achilles leading the charge so they mounted a search for him. The word started going around that he was hiding in the court of King Lycomedes of Scyros, hence Odysseus and his warriors went there looking for him.

Odysseus heard that Achilles had been disguised as a girl and was hiding among the daughters of Lycomedes. When Achilles saw Odysseus, he wanted to reveal himself but Deidamia, who knew of the prophecy and Odysseus’ mission, begged him to stay put.

Thus, Achilles still concealed his identity and behaved like a girl forcing Odysseus to resort to trickery to expose him. The trick involved Odysseus gifting all the king’s daughters with musical instruments, ornaments and weapons then he and his troops pretended to live.

Once outside the court of Lycomedes, Odysseus mimicked an attack on the court by having his troops mimic the noise of an attacking enemy. Odysseus then had the trumpet sound which caused Achilles to pick up one of the weapons Odysseus brought to defend himself and the laid.

Achilles’ action blew his cover and everyone including Lycomedes and his daughters realized that the lady they referred to as Pyrrha was actually Achilles all along. Deidamia, at that moment, wept because she knew it would be the last time she saw the love of her life.

Her long-held secret affair with Achilles additionally came to light and everyone realized Achilles was the father of her child. Some versions of the myth narrate that Deidamia also disguised herself as a man and followed Odysseus and Achilles to go fight the Trojans.

The Mythology of Deidamia and Her Children

Mythology of deidamiaHowever, other myths narrate that Deidamia stayed behind in Scyros and wept bitterly as the husband departed to Troy. Her son she conceived with Achilles, Neoptolemus, soon grew up and decided to join his dad in battle.

Deidamia pleaded with Neoptolemus to rescind his decision since she didn’t want to lose him as well. Neoptolemus listened to his mother’s plea and stayed at home while the war raged on in Troy.

Years later, when Achilles died at the hands of Paris, Neoptolemus rescinded his decision and headed off to war. Unlike his father, Neoptolemus returned to Deidamia as a victor and his mother rejoiced.

He then gave the hand of Deidamia in marriage to a slave called Helenus who he brought back from the war. Helenus was a prince of Troy and a clever augur who led a special Trojan battalion during the battle of Troy.

Neoptolemus then allowed Helenus to found the city of Buthrotum also known as Butrint where he later prophesied that Aeneas would found Rome. Neoptolemus was killed by Orestes, a son of Agamemnon when the two struggled over the hand of Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy. According to other versions, Achilles and Deidameia had another child called Oneiros who was murdered by Neoptolemus over a piece of land.

Other Characters in Greek Mythology Named Deidamia

The ‘Deidamia‘ name is quite popular in Greek mythology with several characters bearing the nomenclature.

Deidamia Also Referred to as Hippodamia the Wife of Pirithous

According to legend, this Deidamia was the wife of King Pirithous, ruler of the legendary Lapiths who occupied the valley of Peneus under Mt. Pelion. She is known by other names such as Laodamia, Hippoboteia, or Ischomache. During the ceremony of her marriage to Pirithous, they were attacked by the centaurs in a bid to kidnap her and some women. This angered Pirithous who waged a war against the centaurs with his army, the Lapiths.

Aided by his close friend Theseus, Pirithous gained victory over the centaurs in the battle of Centauromachy. The couple gave birth to the Greek warrior Polypoetes who fought in the Trojan War. Sadly, Deidamia passed on shortly after giving birth to Polypoetes.

Deidamia of Lycia

In addition, there also was Deidamia the Princess of Lycia who got married to Evander of the same city. They had one son, Sarpedon, who also became famous for his bravery in the Trojan War. Other legends have it that Deidamia married Zeus and mothered Sarpedon.

Deidamia of Messinia

There is also Deidamia, a princess from Messinia who married King Thetis of Pleuron and mothered Iphiclus, Leda, and Althaea.

Meaning and Pronunciation

According to several sources, the Deidamia name means ‘she who is patient in battle‘. It is not commonly used compared to other names but it is a great name for females. This is how to pronounce Deidamia: Dei is pronounced ‘Day‘, da is pronounced ‘duh‘, and mia is pronounced ‘me-a‘.

Deidamia and Patroclus

In the original Greek myths, Patroclus and Deidamia never crossed paths but a modern adaptation tells a different story. According to the adaptation, Achilles was in love with Patroclus before he met Deidamia.

In the Iliad, the love of Achilles for Patroclus was so intense that many literature enthusiasts have theorized that they were lovers though Homer, the writer of the Iliad, never mentioned it. Thus, drawing inspiration from the theory, the modern adaptation portrays a desireful love between Achilles and Patroclus.

The story continues that when Achilles was sent to Lycomedes dressed as a girl, he fell in love with Deidamia. Later, Patroclus came looking for Achilles and when he found him, he introduced himself as the husband of the disguised Achilles.

Deidamia felt jealous as Achilles’ affection shifted to Patroclus. She eventually sleeps with Patroclus probably in the hopes that he’d understand her pain and leave Achilles for her.

However, Patroclus left with Achilles for Troy leaving Deidamia scorned and jilted. Note that this story is just a recent adaptation and is not a real reflection of original Greek legends or myths. The author may just be exploring the popular question “Did Achilles love Deidamia or Patroclus?“. Thus, students are reminded not to cite this version of the Deidamia myth when discussing the classic Deidamia myth in class.

Conclusion

Myth of deidamiaThis article has explored the myth of Deidamia and Achilles along with the stories of other Greeks who bore the same name.

Here is a summary of what we’ve covered so far:

  • Deidamia was one of the seven princesses of Scyros born to King Lycomedes and was known as the most beautiful.
  • When Achilles was brought to Scyros by his mother, Thetis, disguised as a girl, he grew fond of Deidamia and eventually fell in love with her.
  • According to one legend, Achilles raped Deidamia which caused her to discover Achille’s true identity.
  • Achilles pleaded with her to keep his secret and told her why he was disguised as a female and brought to King Lycomedes.
  • When Achilles’ cover was blown by Odysseus, Deidamia felt heartbroken and wept as she saw the love of her life head to a war from which he would never return.

The myth of Deidamia explores the themes of love, sacrifice, and a sense of duty to the state as displayed by Deidemia and her love interest, Achilles.

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