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Trojan War

Golden Apple

The events that led to the Trojan War began long before the war itself did. It started with the marriage between Peleus and Thetis, a mortal and a sea-goddess. Almost all gods and goddesses were invited to this rare event except Eris , the goddess of discord. The angered goddess crashed the wedding banquet and threw a Golden Apple inscribed "For the Fairest" among the goddesses.

Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite fought for the apple immediately. Zeus ordered them to take their quarrel elsewhere and instructed Hermes to lead them to Troy, a great walled city on the Aegean coast. He then appointed Paris , a Trojan prince of Troy and reputedly the handsomest man alive, to decide the matter.

All three goddesses attempted to bribe him. Hera promised him dominion over the whole world, Athena promised him certain victory in every battle, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world.

Paris chose Aphrodite, and she promised him that Helen . But Helen was already married to the Menelaus , the Greek king of Sparta. Paris's brother and sister, the seers Helemus and Cassandar warned him not to go. But Paris would not listen and set off for Sparta to get Helen which would eventually trigger the Trojan War.

In Sparta, King Menelaus, husband of Helen, welcome and entertained him for nine days. However, when Menelaus left home to attend his grandfather's funeral, Paris abducted Helen (who may have gone willingly) and a good deal of treasures from the palace as well.

In Troy, Helen and Paris were married. This occured around 1200 B.C.

The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships

Menelaus discovered Helen's disappearance and asked his brother Agamemnon for help. Agamemnon rounded up all of Helen's old suitors, all of whom had made an oath long ago to punish anyone who might steal Helen.

Not all the suitors wish to go to war. Odysseus pretended to be mad but the trick was uncovered by Palamedes. The Greek assemble a fleet of 1,000 ships with Agamemnon as commander-in-chief for the Trojan War.

However, ill winds prevented the ships from setting out. Calchas, a soothsayer, blamed it on Agamemnon for boasting he could hunt better that Artemis and this had offended the goddess. The seer inisisted that Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, must be sacrificed before the fleet could set sail. This was done, and the fleet set out once the winds changed.

Where is Troy ?

No one knew the way to Troy however, and the fleet landed in Mysia, south of Troy. Telephus (a son of Heracles and son-in-law of Priam, king of Troy) led a Mysian force that killed several greeks. But Telephus was wounded by Achilles .

Telephus followed the Greeks to Euboea, where he agreed to show the Greeks the way to Troy if Achilles cured him. After getting underway again, Philoctetes who had inherited Heracles's bow and arrows was bitten by a snake in Aegean islands. He was abandoned on the island of Lemnos due to the stench of his wound and sound of his agony.

Siege of Troy

Before the Greeks landed ot Troy (also called Illium), Menelaus and Odysseus, known for his eloquence, went to appeal to Priam, king of Troy. They demanded Helen and the stolen gold be returned. Priam refused and the Trojan war was inevitable.

The War

The first nine years of the Trojan War consisted of both war in Troy and war against the neighboring regions. The Greeks destroy the surrounding town and cities to cut off the provisions and aid supply to Troy. They looted the surrounding towns of anything they could carry.

The Greeks won many important battles in the Trojan War. The Trojan hero Hector was killed by Achilles. Achilles, the greatest of Greek warriors, and almost invulnerable, killed countless Trojans in battles. Achilles was later felled by Paris who shot an arrow guided by Apollo to Achilles' heel, the only vulnerable part of his body.

How to Win the Trojan War

Helenus, brother of Paris, had been captured by Odysseus. A seer, Helenus told the Greeks that Trojan War could not be won unless:

  1. Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, joined the fighting.
  2. The Greeks used the bow and arrows of Heracles.
  3. One of the bones of Agamemnon's grandfather, Pelops, was brought to Troy
  4. The Palladium, a statue of Athena, was stolen from Troy citadel called the Pergamum.

Odysseus and Diomedes first went all the way back to recruit Neoptolemus. On their way back, the three stopped at Lemnos, where Philoctetes who had the bow and arrows of Hercules, but had been left by the Greek fleet because he had been bitten by a snake and his wound had a horrendous smell.

Philoctetes was bitter, but was finally persuaded to join the Greeks. The four returned to Troy and found the people of Elis had gladly sent the Greeks the shoulder blade of Pelops. Under the cover of darkness, Odysseus infiltrated Trojan defenses and stole the Palladium.

With all the conditions met, they were able to kill Paris with Philoctetes poisoned arrows from Heracles.

The Trojan Horse

Despite losing almost all of its greatest heros, Troy still would not fall. Still seeking to gain entrance into Troy, clever Odysseus came up with an ingenious plan. With the aid of Athena, he ordered a large wooden horse to be built by Epeius, an artisan. When it was completed, Odysseus led a small army of Greek warriors and hid themselves inside. The rest of the Greek fleet sailed away, so as to deceive the Trojans.

When the Trojans found the horse, only two people, Laocoon and Cassandra, warned them of the horse, but they were ignored. One man, Sinon, was left behind with his arms tied and his clothes torn to shreds. He pretended to be enraged with the Greeks, stating that he had escaped being sacrificed to Athena, who had become angry at the Greeks for stealing the Palladium. He assured the Trojans that the wooden horse would appease the goddess and would bring victory to the Trojans.

The Trojans celebrated what they thought was their victory, and breached their own city's walls in order to secure the wooden horse. Later that night, after the Trojans were drunk celebrating, Sinon freed the Greek warriors out from the horse, and sent a beacon to the Greek fleet, which quickly returned. The gates were opened, the Greeks seized the city in a bloody night and the Trojan War was won.

After the Trojan War, those who survived had an arduous trip home. The stories are told in Homer's other book Odyssey .

Myth ?

Until the 19th century it was widely believed that Troy and the Trojan War were myths. Then, in 1871, an archaelogist named Heinrich Schliemann began excavating an ancient city in Turkey and discovered the lost city of Troy.

Nine cities have been found at the site, one on top of the other. The seventh city was destroyed around 1250 BC and appears to be the Troy of legend. You can still see the ruins of its towers and its walls, which were sixteen feet thick.

Thanks to the work of Heinrich Schilemann, almost everyone today agrees that the city was quite real. What started the Trojan War? It has been suggested that the Greeks may have been fighting for economic reasons, or perhaps really over a woman named Helen. The truth is lost in the past.



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