The Trojan War

The Trojan War is perhaps the greatest battle in Greek mythology. It is written in poetic form in the Iliad. Tons of movies and books have been made about it. It's really long, so I'll explain it in a moderately abridged version.

The roots of the Trojan War began when Peleus and Thetis got married. Everyone was invited to the wedding except Eris, the goddess of discord. Furious, Eris threw a golden apple with the words "for the fairest" inscribed on it, in the midst of the gods. The wedding went into chaos, and three goddesses claimed the prize as the fairest: Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena.
Zeus chose Paris, prince of Troy and son of Priam, to be the judge. Each goddess offered a reward if the prince chose her. Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, Hera offered to make him the ruler of the greatest and richest kingdom, and Athena offered to turn him into the greatest hero or general in Greece. Paris chose Aphrodite, for her offer was the most tempting. But that day, Troy made two very powerful enemies: Athena and Hera. It was a foolish decision, and led to the downfall of Troy.
At that time, Helen of Sparta was the most beautiful woman in the world (it was a small world, after all). She was the wife of Menelaus, who accepted Paris when he came into Sparta, not knowing of Paris's intentions.Helen and Paris fell in love. When Menelaus left to go to a funeral, Paris ran away Helen, taking her to Troy and marrying her.
When Menelaus returned, he became furious. He asked his brother Agamemnon for help, and Agamemnon gathered up hundreds of princes, kings, and heroes who had been previous suitors of Helen. Some tried to hide; Odysseus, for example, pretended to turn insane. Achilles, though not one of Helen's suitors, was forced to go. A prophecy said that the war would be lost without him. He was Thetis' son, and, when a baby, was dipped in the River Styx, making his body impenetrable to all weapons. The only venerable part of his body was his heel, where his mother had held him. Chiron trained him.
Finally, Menelaus and his brother had gathered a thousand ships full of Greek soldiers. They accepted Agamemnon as their leader. Agamemnon sacrificed to all the gods, except Artemis. A seer, Chalcas, foretold that the war would last for ten years. And so, the Greeks set sail.
At first, the sailed into other cities, losing their way. Storms pushed them back to Greece, and when at the harbor in the city of Aulis, Artemis sent mighty winds that were so strong that the Greeks could not sail. This continued for months until Chalcas realized they had offended Artemis by not sacrificing to her. Artemis demanded that Agamemnon sacrifice his own daughter, Iphigenia, to regain her favor. At first, Agamemnon was horrified at the thought, but the other leaders forced him into submission. Just before Iphigenia was to be sacrificed, a heavy fog covered the altar, and Iphigenia was spirited away by the goddess, a fawn being left in her place.
The Greeks made many stops on their way to Troy, but eventually arrived. The Greeks had fine warriors, but among these, Achilles, Ajax, Diomedes, and Odysseus were considered the greatest. The Trojan commander-in-chief was Hector, eldest son of King Priam. Before the battle, Odysseus and Menelaus were sent as ambassadors, to politely ask for Helen's return. A few of the Trojans agreed, but Paris would not see for it. Thus, the war was inevitable.
The war raged on and on for nine years. Troy, being surrounded, had allied nations that would send them provisions. When the Greeks realized this, they sent troops to attack the neighboring cities. They gained food, and other provisions.
The two sides agreed on a truce. They would end the war if Menelaus and Paris would fight a fair duel, for after all, their actions had started the war. Menelaus was proven to be a greater warrior, but before he would strike the killing blow, Aphrodite spirited Paris away. Both sides agreed that Menelaus had won, and so, the two sides were at peace.
But Zeus knew Troy would fall soon, so he sent Athena to break the peace.
Athena tricked Pandarus, the greatest Trojan archer, to shoot Menelaus. Pandarus did so, but Athena guided the arrow so that Menelaus wouldn't be hit. The Greeks thought they had been decieved, and so they plunged back into battle. Diomedes killed many Trojans that day, including Pandarus.
That day, Hector called a duel between the strongest Greek. The Greeks fought over who would fight, but it was eventually decided Ajax would. The fight ended in a draw, and the opponents agreed on a one day truce, so that the dead could be collected and buried. At this time, King Nestor advised that the Greeks should build a defensive wall, so they set to work building.
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Paris Hector
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Odysseus external image sw2880.jpg Achilles and his Sword.

external image Class_Greece_Mask_of_Agamemnon.jpgAgamemnon's Mask
Earlier, Achilles had left fighting because of a quarrel he had with Agamemnon. Agamemnon sent Nestor, Odysseus, and Ajax to try to persuade to get him back. But Achilles would not stray.
The next day, the fighting ensued, and Oddyseus, Diomedes, and Agamemnon were seriously hurt. The Greeks were driven back behind their protective wall, but the Trojans broke through. The Greeks were brave and fought gallantly, though Hector burned one of their ships. When Achilles saw this, he sent his squire, Patroclus and a troop of warriors out to drive back the Trojans. Patroclus was dressed in his master's armor, pretending to be the great warrior. Achilles' pride left him from joining actual battle.
Patroclus did not return to Achilles after the Greek camp was rid of Trojans. He kept on battling, until Hector killed him. Then Hector took Achilles' god-fashioned armor (see Achilles page).
When Achilles heard of the news, moments later, he was grief stricken. He could not join the fray because Hector had his armor. Athena then told Achilles to go to the top of the wall, without arms, and shout three times. He did so, and with the setting sun behind him, he looked like the sun god. The Trojans were spooked by this act, and ran back to their city. The day's fighting was over.
Achilles was so angry at the Trojans for killing his friend and squire that he decided to return to fighting, if only to avenge his companion's death.
Achilles recieved new armor, fashioned by Hephaestus himself. He was determined to kill Hector in single combat. The great hero would eat nothing until his friend had been avenged, not even a morning meal. Odysseus argued that he would be no match for the well nourished Hector if he didn't eat. The two had a brief argument, but Achilles would not eat.
Zeus heard this conversation, and agreed with Odysseus. He sent Athena to secretly feed Achilles with ambrosia, the food of the gods.
Achilles rushed into the battlefield in a murderous rage, killing every Trojan in sight. He even killed Priam's youngest son, one of Hector's brothers.
Hector saw this act, and plunged into the battle in determination to avenge his younger brother. Achilles would have slain him, too, if Apollo had not spirited him away, as it was not Hector's time to die.
The gods also took part in the war. Hera, Poseidon, Hephaestus, and Athena favored the Greeks, whereas Apollo, Artemis, Ares, and Aphrodite took liking to the Trojans. Fights broke out between the gods. Ares tried to impale Athena with his spear, but Athena threw a rock at his head and knocked him out. Aphrodite tried to attack Athena, but she cooly knocked her unconscious, too. Hera boxed Artemis' ears, sending her crying to Zeus. Zeus, however, sat in amusement, as only an observer could.
Meanwhile, the Trojans were fleeing to get behind their wall. Only Hector was left outside. Achilles raced towards him, and after an amount of running and provocation, the two were face to face in single combat. Athena tricked Hector into doing this, diguised as one of Hector's younger brothers. Just when Hector thought he would be facing Achilles two on one, Athena disappeared.
The two warriors hurled spears at each other, both missing. Athena, who was aiding Achilles, retrieved his spear, while Hector was armed only with a sword. Hector charged Achilles, but to no avail. Achilles stuck him like a pig with his spear. Grimly, Achilles stripped of the stolen armor, and tied Hector to the back of his chariot, dragging him along as he rode back to camp.
Achilles mourned for twelve days over Patroclus. A funeral was held, and twelve Trojan prisoners were sacrificed. Games were held in Patroclus' honor.
However, with Hermes' help, King Priam managed to sneak into the Greek camp at night, and slip into Achilles' tent.
The gods had entered Achilles' dream, and commanded Achilles to give Hector's body back to his father, for burial. Achilles woke up, and though surprised to see Priam in his tent, did not attack. He obeyed the gods' order, and gave Hector's body to Priam. He even allowed Priam to stop fighting to make time for the funeral. Twelve days went by, without battle.

The Trojans, however, brought in allies.
The Amazons and the Ethiopians came to aid them (the Ethiopians came later). Penthesileia, sister of Hippolyte and daughter of Ares, was the Amazonian leader. The Amazons greatly helped the Trojans, and managed to hold the Greeks back. Penthesileia, however, was soon killed. Achilles slayed her, but when he came close and further inspected her, he realized she was a youthful, beautiful woman. He seemed to be obsessed with her, and deeply regretted killing her. Some of the Greeks taunted him, but when a particularly nasty bully came too close, Achilles killed him with a single blow.
The Ethiopians came, their leader being the prince Memnon. When he arrived at the battle, he slew many Greeks, and brought the Trojans courage. King Nestor's son died from Memnon's hand, and the old king confronted Memnon. But the prince saw no honor in killing an old man. Nestor yelled for Achilles, and the great hero came, killing Memnon instantly. The Trojans were discouraged, and ran away into the keep. Achilles was close on their heels.
Achilles was at the gate when Paris, guided by Apollo, shot an arrow that struck Achilles in his heel, the only venerable spot on his body. Achilles was dead.
The Greeks fought the Trojans over the body, and carried the hero to camp for a proper funeral. They argued over who would recieve the armor forged by Hephaestus, but it was decided that it would be given to the greatest warrior. Ajax and Odysseus were both choices, but Odysseus was chosen over Ajax.
Ajax was angry at Odysseus, and decided he would murder him. Athena, however, drove him mad. Ajax insanely attacked a flock of sheep, thinking he was slaying those who had given Odysseus the armor. Ajax killed a mighty ram, thinking it was Odysseus. He returned to sanity, but upon realizing what he had done, and what his intentions were, he committed suicide.
The Greek troops fell downcast, as two of their greatest warriors had died.
The seer Chalcas foretold that the war would not be won if Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, didn't join. Chalcas also said that the bow and arrows of Heracles must be retrieved. Neoptolemus eagerly accepted the offer, though the bow and arrows of Heracles were a different matter. Heracles was a god now, and his bow and arrows were in the possesion of Philoctetes, his friend. The Greeks, however, had abandoned the man on the island of Lemnos on the way to Troy. At first Philoctetes refused, as he despised those who had abandoned him. But Heracles talked to his friend, and the man was swayed. Philoctetes was an amazing archer, and killed Paris.
This action left Helen alone, and the two remaining sons of Priam fought over her. The Trojans favored one, and the other left the city, only to be captured by Odysseus. The son was named Helenus, and had prophetic abilities. The Greeks forced out of him the the Trojans would not be defeated unless the statue of Athena, that was placed in the center of the city, was gone. Diomedes and Odysseus snuck into Troy and stole the statue.
Now that the Greeks had some gain, they realized that if they could get a large amount of soldiers into the city, they could win the war.

Click here to see the Trojan Horse page for information on what happened.

Neoptolemus' crucial role was the murder of King Priam. By dawn, all the Trojan warriors were killed. The Greeks took the women for themselves, and Menelaus had Helen. Most returned home safely. For the Greeks, it was a fairly
happy ending. Odysseus, though, still had many more perils to face.

Click here to go to:
The Odyssey Overview (all Odysseus links go to here) external image trojan_wooden_horse.jpg
Circe (in the Odyssey)
Lotus Eaters
Cattle of Helios

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