The Legend Of The Trojan War

Learn about the fascinating events of the Trojan War, which culminated in the sacking of Troy by the Greek armies.

Many, many years ago, so legend has it, the Trojan King Priam had a son, whom he named Paris. When Paris was but a babe, King Priam was warned by his prophetic daughter, Cassandra, that unless he was killed, he would ultimately destroy Troy. King Priam thought long and hard over this dilemma, but eventually decided that his son must be killed. Paris was taken to be killed, but was rescued by shepherds at the last moment. He grew up away from Troy, where he experienced an encounter with three goddesses. Hera, Athena and Aphrodite visited him one night and told him he must decide which one of them was the most beautiful. Hera offered Paris power if he chose her, Athena military glory and wisdom and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world as his wife. Paris chose Aphrodite. Later, as a young man, he returned to Troy, was recognised and accepted again into the royal family. He was chosen to visit Sparta, as a Trojan diplomat. His visit would spark what legend would later refer to as the Trojan War.

Helen was an extremely beautiful woman, considered one of the fairest that walked the earth. Her father didn't know who he should let marry her, because he feared jealous reprisals from those that had lost out. Ingeniously, he made all the Greek principalities agree that they must join together should anyone be disrespectful to her. Following the agreement of the principalities, he let Menelaus, the King of Sparta take her hand in marriage.

It was while Menelaus was away from Sparta that the Trojan Paris visited. Immediately, he and Helen fell in love and he whisked her away to Troy, via Egypt among other places. He also took with him a large amount of treasure. Upon hearing this, Helen's father, Tyndareus, called upon the Greek principalities to unite in order to facilitate the safe return of his daughter. Their commander in chief was Agamemnon, the brother of Menelaus, and with him one thousand Greek ships, packed to the hilt with warriors, set sail for Troy.

Unfortunately for them, Agamemnon had angered the goddess Artemis, who, as a punishment, cast down winds that made the ships sail in any direction other than Troy. In desperation Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter to appease Artemis. The goddess relented and immediately they were able to continue their journey.

Troy was reached and battle commenced. For the first nine years both sides enjoyed victories, but none was decisive. In the tenth year, according to legend a great many happenings occurred in the Trojan War. Achilles was on the side of the Greeks and he was a great warrior. His father, a mortal, married a divine sea nymph called Thetis. The Gods ruled that as a consequence, any child they had must be killed in war. Obviously Thetis didn't want this to happen, so when Achilles was a baby she took him to the River Styx and bathed him. This made him immune to any type of human made weapon. Even so, when the Greek principalities were drawn together, she remained worried, so hid her son as a girl. Before the Greek army set out, Agamemnon as told by a prophet that they would not defeat Troy without the warrior named Achilles. He sent out Odysseus to find him, which he promptly did, by means of a wily trick (Odysseus, known to the Romans as Ulysses, was a past master at this sort of trickery).

A key point in the war occurred when Agamemnon stole from Achilles his slave girl. He had earlier done the same thing to Apollo, who cast down a plague on the Greek army for nine days. Achilles' response was to withdraw himself and his armies. In his anger, he also asked his mother to aid the Trojans. She agrees. This aid is apparent in a later battle between the two lovers, Paris and Menelaus. The latter gained the upper hand and was about to kill Paris, until Aphrodite intervened to save him from death - the goddess still remembered that Paris had chosen her as the most beautiful.

It wasn't until Achilles' great friend Patroclus was killed in the war, that the great hero returned to do battle. He killed many Trojans, including their leader Hector. Ironically though, after asking his mother to aid the Trojans, Achilles was killed by one of them. Paris, guided by Apollo, killed him with an arrow to the heel. It was the only part of his body that hadn't been dipped in the River Styx.

Meanwhile, Odysseus and Diomedes managed to sneak into Troy and steal the sacred statue of the goddess Athena, which gave the Trojans strength. Subsequently, Odysseus formulated a plan whereby they would build a giant wooden horse, and leave it outside the gates of Troy. The Greeks did this and then feigned as if to retreat in their ships. One Greek soldier stayed, claiming to the Trojans that he wished to swap sides, and also that the Greeks had built the horse, later to be known as the Trojan Horse, as a tribute to Athena. He said it had been built purposefully large so as to prevent the Trojans from taking it into their city. Cassandra and another prophet warned King Priam not to accept the horse, but finally it was wheeled into the city. Unbeknownst to them, Greek soldiers hidden inside the Trojan Horse slipped out in the dead of night and opened the city gates. The Greek army returned and set about sacking Troy. Achilles' son slaughtered King Priam on an altar, whilst Hector's baby child was thrown off the battlements. Women of importance, such as Cassandra, were taken prisoner.

The Gods were unhappy at the destruction of Troy, and punished many of the Greek leaders, several suffering death. Perhaps most famously is the punishment of Odysseus, by Poseidon, forced to endure ten years of misfortune travelling the seas.

The Trojan War is an ancient legend similar in content to the Old Testament. What makes it better for me is the fact that it pits epic heroes against one another, many different gods walk the land, and there is a good sense of adventure throughout.

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