Trojan War

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Ajax carrying the dead Achilles, protected by Hermes (on the left) and Athena (on the right). Side 1 from an Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 520-510 BC. The Louvre, Paris
Map of Homeric Greece.

The Trojan War was one of the greatest wars in the history of Ancient Greece. It probably happened between the Trojans and the Achaeans. It is mostly known through the Iliad an epic poem written by the Ancient Greek poet Homer.

The site of ancient Troy has been found, across the Aegean Sea on Asia Minor. The war may have taken place in the 12th century BC.[1]

Mythic origin of the War[change | change source]

The origins of the war (in the Iliad) started at the wedding of King Peleus and the nereid (sea-nymph) Thetis. They had invited almost all the gods to their wedding. But they did not invite Eris, goddess of strife. She was angry and she threw a golden apple among the guests on which was written "To the Fairest". The goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite caught the apple at the same time and fought over who was the most beautiful. Because they could not end the fight by themselves, they went to Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus chose Paris to decide, and give the apple to who he wanted. Each of the three goddesses offered Paris gifts so he would choose her. Hera offered Paris all of Asia. Athena offered him wisdom. Then Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful woman. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite. Of course, Aphrodite had not thought about the fact that the most beautiful woman, Helen, Queen of Sparta, already had a husband (King Menelaus of Sparta). But Aphrodite had her son, Eros, shoot Helen with a golden arrow and fall in love with Paris. Then the pair left for Troy. Menelaus, Helen's husband, declared war on Troy to retrieve his queen. This began the Trojan war. Achilles was one of the great heroes of the war, the other being Hector.

The Trojan Horse[change | change source]

The war went on for ten years. Some famous people were Achilles, Paris, and Hector. The Greeks won by building a big wooden horse. This became named the Trojan Horse. Some Greek people hid inside the horse, and the rest put the horse on the shore and left in their boats. The Trojans saw the horse and thought that the Greeks had surrendered (stopped trying to win the war). They thought that the horse was a present. They dragged the horse into Troy and celebrated their victory. When night fell, the Greeks hiding inside the horse opened the city gates and set fire to the houses. The Greeks who had left in their boats, had just pretended to leave to trick the Trojans. They had actually just hidden behind islands. They returned and won the war. The trick was thought up by Odysseus (or Ulysses as he was also known), King of the small island of Ithaca.

What Really Happened[change | change source]

The Hittite empire, about 1300 BC is in light red. The city called Wilusa is probably Troy.

The war probably did happen, but in the telling the events were exaggerated and mythic elements were added. These changes fit the needs of oral poetry. In the mid-19th century the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the ruins of a city which he identified as Troy.[2]

Some Hittite and Egyptian texts also talk about the war. They say that a confederation of 22 cities went to war.

Stories, books, movies[change | change source]

These are stories, books, movies, etc., that are about the Trojan War, or tell parts of its story:

  • the Iliad by Homer, does not tell the story of the Trojan War from the beginning, but only a part of the last year of the siege of Troy. Other parts of the war were told in a cycle of epic poems, which has only survived in fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and for Roman poets like Virgil and Ovid.
  • the Odyssey by Homer, the main character Odysseus tells of the ten-year journey home after the Trojan War.
  • the Aeneid by Virgil, the story of Aeneas, who fled from Troy at the end of the war.

Other links[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Strauss, Barry. 2006. The Trojan War: a new history. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-6441-X).
  2. Wood, Michael. 1998. In search of the Trojan War. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21599-0 London: BBC Books 1985. ISBN 0-563-20161-4.