The city of Troy withstood a 10-year siege by gods, demigods and the ardent suitors of the most beautiful woman in the world. The city finally fell with the deployment of a large wooden horse, known as the Trojan horse.
What was the Trojan War?
The Trojan War was a war, in Greek Mythology, between the inhabitants of Troy and the Greeks, or Achaeans as they were known. The war occurred during the 13th century BC and lasted 10 years.
In the 8th century BC, the Greek poet Homer wrote about the Trojan War in his poem the Iliad. The story of the war was also passed down from generation to generation through Greek culture. One of the reasons for the war was Zeus’ desire to reduce the number of his children on Earth: the demigods. He may have feared one of them would try to overthrow him, as he had his own father, and as his father had his grandfather. Another major motive appears to have been the return of Helen, who had been kidnapped by Paris, a prince of Troy.
The Trojan War was set in motion when all the gods attended the wedding ceremony of Peleus, a mortal, and Thetis, a sea nymph and the goddess of water. One immortal, Eris, the goddess of discord, had not received an invitation and was not even allowed in the venue’s door by Hermes. She decided to exact revenge for her unfair treatment and threw a gift into the room before she left. The gift was an apple with the words “to the fairest” inscribed on it. The three goddesses – Hera, Athena and Aphrodite – each believed the apple should be theirs. They fought over the piece of fruit, with no intervention from the gods. The gods feared the wrath they may incur from the two remaining women if they helped select one as the fairest.
Zeus eventually made a shepherd, Paris, choose between the three beauties. Though Paris was a shepherd by trade, he was a Trojan prince by lineage. This knowledge had been kept secret from him, however, to save his life. The three goddesses all appeared naked before Paris to win his favor, but he was also unable to choose between them. The goddesses, desperate to claim the title of fairest, resorted to bribing him. Paris chose Aphrodite’s proposal, as she promised him the love of Helen of Sparta, the most alluring woman in the world. Later, when the shepherd returned to his ancestral home, he was recognized as a true royal.
Due to her remarkable beauty, Helen of Sparta had many suitors. Her father could not chose which to accept, as the wrong choice may have resulted in retribution from those men not chosen. To resolve the deadlock, a pact was made by all Helen’s suitors. They would support anyone her father chose as her husband. After much deliberation, he chose Menelaus. Menelaus and Helen got married, but shortly afterwards, Paris arrived in Sparta to take Helen for himself. Aphrodite came through with her promise, making Helen fall immediately in love with Paris, through the assistance of Cupid’s arrow. She gave herself over to love and went with Paris back to Troy.
Menelaus and Odysseus went after Helen, but were unsuccessful on their first attempt to bring her back. Menelaus then insisted the oath be upheld and had Odysseus gather together all Helen’s suitors. The forces, including the demi-god Achilles, gathered to attack Troy. The army first landed at Mysia and attacked the town, but were defeated. The warring Greeks left Mysia and became disoriented in a storm at sea. The Trojan War only continued eight years later. Over a thousand ships gathered and attacked Troy for a period of nine years. At the end of the ninth year, the Greek army led a mutiny, as they were tired and had insufficient supplies, but Achilles stopped them. The Greeks had a successful spurt, after Achilles left the war for a brief period. He was sulking over his concubine being stolen away from him. Achilles later rejoined the Trojan War effort and the battles continued.
The Trojan Horse
The Trojan War raged on for another year and culminated in the Greeks pretending to surrender and leaving behind a farewell gift. Inspired by the goddess, Athena, the Greeks built a giant wooden horse. The horse was hollow and filled with Greek soldiers. The Trojan warriors, believing the Greeks had surrendered and sailed away, brought the gift inside the city and celebrated their victory with a drunken feast. When the people of Troy were far into their feast, the Greeks climbed out and allowed their fellow soldiers entry into the city. The Greek soldiers destroyed the city and slew all the inhabitants, except Aeneas, who later founded Rome. Helen was taken to Argos on one of the Greek ships. The gods, however, punished the Greeks as they returned home by sinking most of their ships through violent storms at sea. For those that made it all the way home from the Trojan War, they encountered further strife there.
Modern Location of Troy
A city existed, up to 1300 BC, called Troy VI, and was built upon the ruins of several older cities. The city sported high walls and other fortifications, similar to how it appears in Homer’s descriptions. The lower region of the town covered nearly three million square feet, large enough for a town like Troy. Spear tips and arrow heads have been found in the area, suggesting an ancient war or conflict. The items date back to approximately 1250 BC, the period Herodotus, a Greek historian, stipulated the Trojan War took place. Herodotus was an admirer of Homer’s work, but still questioned Homer’s account of the lengthy war between the Greeks and the people of Troy.
The intertwined fate of the gods, their demi-god offspring and mortals provided sufficient chaos to sustain the 10-year-long Trojan War. Was it all for the love, or lust, of a beautiful woman? Perhaps the gods were merely entertaining themselves or maybe Zeus felt compelled to kill off the numerous children he’d spawned. The gods and mortals both seemed incapable of making choices, which led to the death of thousands. The only clear victor in the battle in the Trojan War was deception, if the story is true.