Lycomedes: The King of Scyros Who Hid Achilles Among His Children

LycomedesLycomedes was the ruler of the Dolopians on the island of Scyros during the 10-year Trojan War. His most significant contribution to the cause of the Greeks was to keep Achilles safe by hiding him among his daughters.

However, it all backfired when he found out one of his daughters was pregnant for Achilles and he had been tricked all along. This article will discuss why Lycomedes kept Achilles safe, what happened to his pregnant daughter and other Greek characters bearing the same name.

The Myth of Lycomedes in the Iliad

When Calchas the seer prophesied that Achilles would die in the Trojan War, his mother Thetis took him to the island of Scyros and hid him there. She did that by convincing the king of Scyros, Lycomedes, to disguise Achilles as one of his daughters.

Lycomedes obliged and dressed Achilles in girls’ apparel while teaching him how to adopt feminine mannerisms. Achilles was then given the name Pyrrha which meant the red-haired one.

As time elapsed, Achilles became close to one of Lycomedes’ daughters, Deidamia, and the two became almost inseparable. Eventually, Achilles fell in love with Deidamia and impregnated her and she bore a son named Pyrrhus also called “Neoptolemus.”

However, other versions of the story narrate that Deidamia gave birth to two boys Neoptolemus and Oneiros. A prophecy claimed that the Greeks could only win the war when they had Achilles within their ranks so they started a search for him.

Word started making rounds that Achilles was hiding on the Island of Scyros in the court of Lycomedes. Odysseus and Diomedes went to Scyros in search of Achilles but were told he was not on the island. However, Odysseus knew of the Lycomedes’ secret so he devised a plan to draw Achilles out of his disguise and it worked.

Odysseus Tricks Lycomedes and Achilles

Odysseus gave gifts to the daughters of Lycomedes which included musical instruments, jewelry, and weapons. Following the latter, he then bade farewell to Lycomedes and his daughters and pretended to leave his palace. Once they were outside the palace, Odysseus had his troops make noise as if the palace of Lycomedes was under attack. To make the fake attack more believable, Odysseus had the trumpet blown.

Once Achilles heard of the fake enemy attack, he grabbed some of the weapons Odysseus brought and sprung into action thereby revealing his identity. Odysseus went with him to fight the Trojans while Lycomedes and his daughters looked on.

All except Deidemia, the lover of Achilles, who broke down in tears as she also knew that the love of her life would not return to her. When Achilles died in the war, Neoptolemus, the grandson of Lycomedes was chosen to go and replace his father.

The Roman Version of the Myth of Lycomedes

According to the Romans, Thetis informed Achilles of her plan to hide him in the home of Lycomedes. However, he was uncomfortable with the idea and remained reluctant until he saw the beauty of Lycomedes’ daughter, Deidamia.

He was so fascinated by her charm that he agreed to her mother’s plans to hide him among the daughters of King Lycomedes. Thetis then dressed him up as a maiden and convinced Lycomedes that Achilles was really her daughter who was brought up as an Amazonian.

Thus, Lycomedes did not know that Achilles was male and was hiding from the Greeks. Thetis informed Lycomedes to train Achilles to behave, talk and walk like a lady and to prepare ‘her‘ for marriage.

The daughters of Lycomedes also fell for this lie and accepted Achilles into their company. Achilles and Deidamia grew close and spent more time with each other. Soon, Achilles developed a sexual interest in Deidamia and found it difficult to control his desires.

Achilles and deidamiaLastly, at a feast of Dionysus meant only for women, Achilles, still disguised as a lady, raped Deidamia and revealed his secret. Deidamia understood Achilles and promised him that his secret was safe with her.

Deidamia also swore to keep the eventual pregnancy a secret. Therefore, when Odysseus tricked Achilles into revealing himself, Lycomedes realized he had been deceived.

Lycomedes and Theseus

Though the two men were close, some people wonder why did Lycomedes kill Theseus?

Well, according to the Greek historian Plutarch, Lycomedes feared that Theseus would become more powerful and eventually overthrow him. Theseus had gone to seek refuge in the palace of Scyros after Menestheus took over his throne in Athens. However, given the way the people of Scyros welcomed and treated Menestheus, Lycomedes thought Theseus would usurp his throne so he threw him over a cliff to his death.

Other Characters Named Lycomedes in Greek Mythology

Lycomedes of Thebes and Others

Lycomedes of Thebes was the son of Creon, the King of Thebes, and either his wife Eurydice or Henioche. According to the Iliad, Lycomedes joined the forces of Argos to fight the Trojans in the Trojan War. He was mentioned as a nighttime guard commander at the base of the Greek wall in Book IX of the Iliad. Lycomedes was called into action when Hector, the Trojan hero, pressed against the Greek wall with his army.

He fought gallantly to prevent Hector and his Trojan troops from making incursions into Greek territory but was unsuccessful. During the incursion, his friend, Liocritus was killed which angered him. He then avenged the death of his friend by driving his spear into the bowels of the Trojan warrior, Apisaon.

Later during the fight, Lycomedes suffered injuries to the wrist and ankle at the hands of the Trojan, Agenor. Lycomedes of Thebes was part of the entourage that delivered gifts to Achilles from Agamemnon to help quash the dispute between them.

King Lycomedes Character Traits in the Song of Achilles

Song of Achilles, published in 2011, is the modern adaptation of the Roman version of the myth. Lycomedes’s song of Achilles was tricked into keeping the disguised Achilles as his daughter until he was discovered by Odysseus and taken to fight the Trojan War. Lycomedes was an old king who was often ill and thus was ineffective at running the kingdom. Therefore, Deidamia was left to run the Kingdom of Scyros making it vulnerable.

Due to his weakness and age, Lycomedes was at the whims of Thetis. However, he was a kind man who took many young women into his custody to protect them.

How to Pronounce Lycomedes

The pronunciation of Lycomedes is as follows: |Ly| is pronounced as ‘lai‘, |co| is ‘ko‘, |me| is pronounced ‘me‘ and |des| is ‘diss‘.

Art Depictions of Lycomedes

One of the most famous depictions of Lycomedes is Achilles Among the Daughters of Lycomedes by Peter Paul Rubens in the 16th Century.


Myth of lycomedesSo far, we’ve studied the myth of Lycomedes in both the Greek and Roman versions and other characters bearing the same name.

Here is a summary of all that we’ve discovered:

  • Lycomedes was a king of the Island of Scyros who had beautiful daughters.
  • Thetis who learned that her son, Achilles, would die in the Trojan War decided to hide him away at the palace of Lycomedes.
  • Achilles fell in love with one of Lycomedes’ daughters, Deidamia, and impregnated her.
  • Later, Odysseus discovered Achilles hiding in the court of Lycomedes and tricked him into revealing his true identity.
  • Achilles then left the court of Lycomedes with Odysseus to fight in the Trojan war which broke Deidamia’s heart.

Though there are various versions of the story, the plot covered in this article serves as the spine that runs through all of them including the 2011 adaptation of the Greek myth.

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