The All-Thing

All carrot and no stick, since ought-three.

梅花絕句 (陸遊)


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Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Achilles's other name

What song the Sirens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women though puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.

— Sir Thomas Browne, Dedication to Urn-Burial (referring to the questions of Emperor Tiberius to his professors of Greek literature)

My friend posed the question about Achilles to her classics-educated sister, after having heard me recite the above quote thrice in a single day, and she said, 'Pyrrha':

The name Pyrrha is most likely derived from Pausanius' account of Achilles hiding, where he refers to a son that Achilles had with Deidamia as Pyrrhus. The name Pyrrha was the feminine version of the son's name and there is a general trend in ancient literature to use the feminine or masculine version of a name belonging to a son, mother, friend, etc. when the actual name of their associate is not mentioned or known. (Note that the son is also referred to by several other names, depending on who you read, so even the name Pyrrhus is spurious.)

From Pausanius:

"When Achilles was nine years old, Calchas declared that Troy could not be taken without him; so Thetis, foreseeing that it was fated he should perish if he went to the war, disguised him in female garb and entrusted him as a maiden to Lycomedes. 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."

Other versions of the story of Achilles hiding are told in Apollodorus 3.13.8, Ovid Metamorphoses XIII 162, and Statius Achilles i 247.

A contact of hers referred us to Hyginus' Fabula 96, kindly translating the Latin for us:

"Thetis, the Nereid, since she knew that her son Achilles, whom she had by Peleus, if he went to sack Troy, would die, delivered him to the island Skyros, to King Lycomedes, whom he (Achilles) served in feminine garb among his unmarried daughters, with his name having been changed; for the maidens called him Pyrrha, since he had sandy-colored hair and in Greek, red head (or blonde) is 'pyrrhon'."


There is also a reference to Sidonius Apollonaris (Carmen 9.138), but I couldn't find a text of that in short order, so I gave up. Either way, both of these sources are fairly late Roman so the name Pyrrha is not classical.

So there you have it. A great mystery resolved.

Posted at 13:53 | /lit/myth | (leave a comment) | permalink

Predictive response caching

I just noticed that I've started preemtively typing in replies when I chat with certain people on aim (and by the way, let me point out that I never thought they day would come when I'd be regularly using a service with a name starting in AOL). So I'll ask a question, e.g.

  me: jesus christ, could you stop being a dumbass for just one second?

and while waiting for the actual reponse, i'll start typing in my witty reply, such that when they finally respond, i'm able to reply with blinding quickness and great wit:

them: no
  me: ho ho! always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits,
      fo shizzle.

which makes for some very quick conversations.

Posted at 13:07 | /internet | (leave a comment) | permalink


If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it. -- Ernest Hemingway