Pirra si perde e comparisce Achille.
In this paper I will analyze the episode of Achilles at Scyros with special reference to the lost epic Cypria, trying to reach the narrative substance of the episode by considering it part of an oral tradition.  This traditional story has attracted recent attention  , mostly aimed at the definition of the relationship between the sources and the attribution of the episode to specific poems. It is my belief that, beyond this necessary reconstruction which I myself will deal with in section 1, the story deserves a further and deeper analysis which may help to understand some characteristics of the narrative, composition and elaboration of Cyclic poetry.
1. Sources and versions
This account can be completed with two verses cited by Schol. B Iliad 19.326a1 (IV 636 Erbse) ( = Ilias Parva fr. 24dub [I] Bernabé = Ilias Parva fr. 4 Davies), a fragment whose attribution to the Lesches’ poem is debated (see below):
ἔνθ’ ὅ γ’ ἐς ἀργαλέον λιμέν’ ἵκετο νυκτὸς ἐκείνης.
According to Proclus and this fragment, after the erroneous campaign in Mysia, where Achilles wounds Telephus, a storm scatters the Achaean fleet. Achilles arrives at Scyros, probably driven by the storm itself  ; there he marries Deidameia and next heals Telephus at Argos. This was the story contained in the Cypria, which also mentioned a son of Achilles and Deidameia, whom Lycomedes used to call “Pyrrhus” and Phoenix “Neoptolemus” (Pausanias 10.26.4 = fr. 21 [I] Bernabé).
It is easy to see that the only incompatibilities between the two versions are: 1) the temporal and logical placement of the episode in the fabula (not only in the story) of the Trojan War: before (A1) and after (A2) the departure of the army; 2) the reasons for the arrival at Scyros, either an initiative of one of Achilles’ parents (a detail much reiterated in A1  ) or a storm (A2). For the rest, the obscure details of A2 are in theory fillable with some of the details of A1, as we will better see below. For this reason the sources that do not deal with the cause for the arrival at the island, namely Schol. T Iliad 9.668b (II, 538 Erbse) = Cypria fr. 19 (II) Bernabé (οἱ μὲν νεώτεροι  ἐκεῖ τὸν παρθενῶνά φασιν, ἔνθα τὸν Ἀχιλλέα ἐν παρθένου σχήματι τῇ Δηιδαμείᾳ κατακλίνουσιν κτλ.) or the similar Schol. D Iliad 1.131 might address either version or both. Every possible relationship between these two versions remains to be examined.
- a) a stay on Scyros at the court of Lycomedes
- b) (a wish of the hero to avoid the recruitment [and his fate])
- c) (a disguise [and a cohabitation with girls])
- d) a relationship with Deidameia and the birth of a son who is named after his father’s deeds
- e) an oracle/prophecy by the guide of the Achaeans regarding the need of Achilles in the war
- f) (an unmasking by Odysseus and an unwilling departure to war)
- g) the completion and the gathering of the army and a subsequent departure of the fleet.
We can recognize many of these traits in the episode of the recruitment of Odysseus (O) by simply substituting places and characters.
ἔνθ’ ὅ γ’ ἐς ἀργαλέον λιμέν’ ἵκετο νυκτὸς ἐκείνης
whose wording we may compare with:
189ἐν λιμέσιν χαλεποῖσι, μόγις δ’ ὑπάλυξεν ἀέλλας
(about Odysseus’ fictitious landing at Crete during the journey to Troy)  , are eloquent evidences that in A2 the episode of Scyros acquired some features of an adventure by sea and that its elaboration also followed thematic lines of thought and composition. I consider also the eight year period one of these features.
ξαίνεις ἀρίστου πατρὸς Ἑλλήνων γεγώς;
It is evident here that emphasis is given to the exchange of functions: according to Odysseus’ stimulating reproach (ἐπίπληξις), on Scyros Achilles dedicates his time to needlework and to feminine occupations, instead of accepting a life as a warrior and thus making himself worthy of his valiant father, whose genos is represented as a light that must remain lit. In fact, the “kleos of the father(s)” also marks the eventual acceptance of destiny (after a refusal or a restraint) in Homeric epic  , which is also a step from isolation into the social world: social world and destiny are conceived as absolutely inseparable (see above), and the Father represents both.
inprobus et patria iam se metitur in hasta.
O dolor, o seri materno in corde timores!  .
It is also important not to forget that the same spear that is passed from Peleus to Achilles (see Iliad 16.140–144 = 19.388–389) will also determine Neoptolemus’ initiation (see above). The story of Neoptolemus’ maturity totally coincides with the story of Achilles, since he too will exit from youth when he goes to Troy, leaving Scyros and his mother  and following in his father’s footsteps; the sign of this is the receiving of his fathers’ spear, also in this case from Odysseus, as we see in Iliadis Parvae Argumentum lines 10–11 Bernabé (see also above); at the same time he enters into the social world. In some anthropological examples, the infantile-maternal phase ends precisely when the father symbolically bestows to his son the control of the phallus.