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The Trojan War was the 10-year long conflict between the city of Troy and the armies of Greece, led by King Agamemnon of Myceanae. The war has been talked about for ages and involved some of the most famous figures in Greek mythology, such as Achilles and Diomedes.


The story of the war is told in a series of poems known as the "Epic Cycle", the most famous of these being the Iliad (named so as Troy was known to the Greeks as Ilion or Ilios).

History

Paris, the Prince of Troy

Paris was the son of the the king of Troy, king Priam. Upon his birth, king Priam received a prophecy about how when Paris grew up, he would cause the downfall of Troy. The oracle who gave the prophecy urged him to kill Paris right then and there, but, king Priam didn't have the heart to do so. So, he came up with a solution, instead of killing Paris, he would send him far away to become a shepherd, little did he know, that he should've killed Paris instead.

Marriage of Peleus and Thetis

It was prophesied that the Nereid Thetis, were she to ever conceive, would give birth to a son who would become even greater than his father. Upon receiving word of this, Zeus and Poseidon, both of whom had previously tried to court Thetis, arranged for her to be married to a mortal man instead. They set their sights on the mortal hero Peleus, who had joined Hercules on the latter’s expedition to Troy and sailed with Jason as one of the Argonauts. Peleus was instructed to ambush Thetis, and once he had her in his grip, to bind her tightly, as she would try to escape by changing shape. Peleus found the nymph lying on a beach shore, and, as instructed, took hold of her — Thetis herself took on a variety of different forms, including that of a lion and serpent, but found herself unable to escape the hero’s grasp. Subdued, she then agreed to marry him. The wedding was held atop Mount Pelion, home of the immortal centaur Chiron, and all of the gods and goddesses were invited to attend, with the only exception being Eris, for she was the goddess of discord. In revenge, during the wedding party, she tossed a golden apple into the room, marked “for the fairest” on it, leading to a quarrel between three goddesses who had laid claim to the apple — namely Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. Zeus, not wanting them to get angry, then sent Hermes to tell the first farmer he found to judge them.

Hera

Athena


Aphrodite

The Judgement of Paris

Hermes eventually found Paris, and chose him to judge the goddesses Zeus then sent Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite down to Paris, so he would judge which of the goddesses was "the fairest" and which of them would receive the golden apple. Each of the goddesses tried to persuade Paris to pick them by saying that if he picked one of them, they would reward him with a gift:

  • Hera offered him the ownership of Asia Minor 
  • Athena offered to give him, his family, and Troy many battle skills that would allow them to overcome their enemies in war if she was picked 
  • Aphrodite offered to give him the most beautiful woman alive (Helen of Troy), if she was picked

Paris thought that both Hera and Athena's gifts to him weren't great because at the time his family and Troy were not at war. However, Aphrodite's promise of the most beautiful woman in the world appeared to him as the best gift he could ask for.

Result of Judgement

Paris refused both Hera and Athena's gifts. He declared Aphrodite was the fairest and rewarded her with the apple. This however, made both Hera and Athena furious as they both disliked Aphrodite, thought that her gift was unfair, and that a mortal such as Paris was a poor choice for judging who the fairest was. Angrily, they transformed into their godly forms and ascended together to Olympus, which left Aphrodite back with Paris on the earth. Paris said that he would've picked them to prevent them from becoming angry. Aphrodite however, rejoiced in the fact that she was now the "fairest" goddess and told him that he should rejoice as well, for he would be given the hand of Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth. Little did he know, that there was one small problem, and that was that Helen already had a husband: the king of Sparta, Menelaus.

The Seduction of Helen

Main article: Helen of Troy

Paris now prepared to sail to Greece to win his prize. Upon arriving in Sparta, he was welcomed by King Menelaus, who offered him hospitality. Soon afterwards, Menelaus sailed to Crete to attend the funeral of Katreus, the king of the island (who was also Menelaus' maternal grandfather), leaving Helen to the care of his guests. Paris took advantage of his absence to court Helen, and as soon as she was willing, he eloped with her, and the two set sail for Troy.

The Insult

Paris' apparent kidnapping of Helen caused Menelaus to be deeply affected by the crime. Menelaus was infuriated, he had offered hospitality to Paris, and this was how he repaid him? By kidnapping his wife? Menelaus thus went to his brother, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to ask him for permission to take war to the grounds of Troy. Agamemnon agreed to his brother's pleas and sent messages all across Greece to gather forces for this expedition. Since all the former suitors of Helen were bound by oath to support her husband were she to ever be taken, most of the rulers and heroes of Greece were obliged to fight as Menelaus' allies. This being so, the Greeks marshall their forces, as Agamemnon is appointed the leader of the expedition.

The Return to Troy

Meanwhile, Paris decided to take Helen back to Troy to have their wedding. The king and queen were overjoyed to see their son and let them stay, in spite of their daughter, Paris's older sister, Cassandra's warnings. Cassandra had the gift of seeing into the future, given by Apollo himself. In exchange for the gift, she had to give him her love and hand in marriage, however, after she received the gift, she broke her promise. Almost every woman Apollo loved, for example, Daphne, and Koronis, all had unfortunate endings. Cassandra didn't want to end up like them. Apollo was infuriated and changed Cassandra's gift into a curse. She would utter true prophecies, but nobody would believe her.

Gathering of the Fleet

The Achaeans gathered at the port-city of Aulis, where the winds needed to set sail had all but ceased. The prophet Calchas stated that this was punishment from the goddess Artemis, whom Agamemnon had angered for killing a deer in her sacred grove, and boasting that he was a better hunter than her. The only way to appease Artemis, he said, was to sacrifice Agamemnon’s eldest daughter, Iphigenia. While he initially refused, Agamemnon eventually relented and performed the sacrifice. Later versions state that before Iphigenia could be slain, Artemis took pity on the girl, and took her up to one of her temples, placing a deer on the altar in her place. Nevertheless, the winds began to blow and the Achaeans set sail for Troy. Book II of the Iliad goes into great detail in describing the exact number of the Achaean forces - this is known as the "Catalogue of Ships". It also lists the various allies who came to the Trojans’ defense — the Dardanians, Pelasgians, Thracians, Ciconians, Paionians, Halizones, Mysians, Phrygians, Maeonians, Miletians, Lycians and Carians. The Trojans themselves were under the command of their prince, Hector, the eldest of King Priam’s sons and heir to the throne as well as their greatest warrior.

The Trojan War

For ten years, the Trojan War raged on, as the Greeks were unable to penetrate Troy's mighty walls; the first nine years consisted of the Achaeans pillaging the surrounding countryside (the “Troad”), sacking a number of cities and towns along the way. Later, in the tenth and final year of the war, the Greeks made an enemy of the god Apollo by killing a favored son of his as well as kidnapping Chryseis, the the daughter of Chryses, one of his priests. Chryses ventured to the Greek ships, where he offered ransom to Agamemnon in return for his daughter, though Agamemnon refused and urged him depart, never again to set foot upon their shore, lest he be slain. In despair, the priest then besought Apollo, who set loose a rain of plague-arrows upon the Argive encampment, resulting in the untimely deaths of hundreds. Achilles, having uncovered the cause wherefore the plague had arisen, convoked an assembly of the Grecian lords, whereupon he urged Agamemnon to return Chryseis to her father; ultimately, Atrides relented and returned the girl. However, he proceeded in the rapture of Achilles' prize, a maid called Briseis, from him as compensation for his loss. This made Achilles wroth, and he, along with the Myrmidons under his command, refused to fight. At the same time, Achilles prayed to his mother, Thetis, that she convince Zeus permit the Trojans gain the advantage in the war, so that he might regain his honor.

In book III of the Iliad, the Trojans marched out from Troy and met the Greeks in open field. However, Paris challenged one of the Greeks to single combat, if any would step forward, promising that Helen would be given to the victor. When Menelaus accepted, Paris fled the fight, but after being increpated by Hector for being a coward, he returned. Menelaus would have slain Paris, were it not for Aphrodite, who bore him up away from the battle, and back to bed with Helen. Agamemnon, because the Trojans had broken their truce, incited his soldiers towards war.

During the battle, Diomed, aided by Athena, slew many Trojans and did great deeds of valor. He was given the ability by her to see through the gods' disguises (who were fighting amongst the mortals), and told to meet them in combat. After wounding both Ares and Aphrodite, Apollo warned him not to seek conflict with the gods again. Hector and Ajax also engaged in a duel, with neither of them being killed, being interrupted by nightfall, whereupon both armies retired to their camps. The Greeks, at the counsel of Nestor, erected a wall around their ships.

The next day, Zeus hurled down a hail of lightning-bolts on the Greeks, letting the scale tip in the favor of Troy. The Greeks were pushed behind their fortifications, and when night had fallen, Hector commanded his men to set up camp outside the wall, while their campfires are described by Homer to be like the stars: "The troops exulting sat in order round, And beaming fires illumined all the ground. As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night, O'er heaven's pure azure spreads her sacred light, When not a breath disturbs the deep serene, And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene, Around her throne the vivid planets roll, And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole."

Hector, wanting to know whether the Greeks planned to escape, sent a scout with the name Dolon to see, promising him Achilles' horses and chariot. While creeping through the night, he encountered Diomed and Odysseus, who were on a similar mission. When Diomed had gained the information he needed from Dolon, he killed him, and took his armor. They proceeded to the Trojan camp, killing a few men and taking their spoils back to fleet.

The next morning, the Greeks sustained grave casualties. Since they had dug a trench around their fort, nor horses could cross, and thus Hector commanded a foot-assault to be made. Even after Zeus sent forth an eagle bearing a serpent, which Polydamas interpreted to be a sign that they should not attack, Hector still held his course. The Trojans then broke into the fort after the gate had been thrown down, slaughtering many Achaeans. Zeus, satisfied by this turn of events, took leave of the battle, whereupon Poseidon seized the chance to aid the Greeks, giving Agamemnon (who was preparing to depart from Troy) hope. Hera, in order to make sure Zeus did not notice, tricked Aphrodite into giving her a magical garment of clothing of Love, and bribed the god Sleep with a beautiful maiden in marriage. She then seduced Zeus and he fell into a calm slumber. At this point, the Achaeans were renewed in vigor and strength, being led by Poseidon, and slaughtered great numbers of Trojans. Hector was seemingly slain by Ajax.

When Zeus awoke, beholding the Achaeans' victories, he recalled Poseidon from the field. Poseidon initially refused, but when Zeus threatened him, he relented. Although Hera attempted to lay the blame on Poseidon, Zeus told her that Ilion was destined to fall, and that he himself did not have any desire for Troy to be victorious. Hector was then reinvigorated by Apollo (seeming to rise from the dead), and Apollo led an assault on the Greek wall, destroying it as easy as "when ashore an infant stands, and draws imagined houses in the sands; The sportive wanton, pleased with some new play, sweeps the slight works and fashioned domes away."

Having gained the upper hand, the Trojans began to push the Greeks back toward the beaches and wreak attack on the Greek ships. With the Greek forces on the verge of ruin, Patroclus, Achilles' companion, begged that he take his stead in battle to frighten the Trojans, by wearing his armor, to which Achilles agreed. Hector, who believed Patroclus to be Achilles, confronted him in battle. Nor was Patroclus inferior in warlike deeds, and perhaps might have dealt death to Hector, were it not for the intervention of Apollo. Just as he was about to deliver the fatal strike and slay the Trojan prince, Apollo stunned Patroclus and stripped him of his arms, allowing Hector to transfix him with his lance. A fight then ensued over Patroclus' body, and though the Greeks managed to recover his corpse, Hector had spoiled him of Achilles' armor, and bore it away as a his own.

Upon his discovery of Patroclus' death, Achilles, mad and stricken with grief, vowed retribution on Hector, despite the prophecy saying that if Achilles effected the death of Hector, it would make certain his own. Thetis, thus asked Hephaestus to make her son a new armor of celestial working, since Hector still had his as a prize. The armor was crafted of gold and tin, and Homer describes at great length the manifold shield that the fire-god forged.

When Achilles returned to the battle, he easily dealt death upon every Trojan he encountered, until the Trojan army began to despair, retreating from the fury of Achilles. Seeking Hector, he piled the river Scamander with bodies and darkened its clear waters, while capturing twelve Trojan youths to sacrifice before Patroclus' funeral pyre. Apollo interfered once again, disguising himself as a Trojan Agenor and taunting Achilles to lead him astray, which gave the Ilians ample time to reenter into their city's fortifications. When Apollo revealed himself a god, the only Trojan left out was Hector, who stayed to face Achilles' wrath, despite the entreaties of his father and mother. He pondered to himself whether he should attempt to make peace, but decided against it, thinking that only young children and women talk: it is the custom of men to fight. Hector fled at the sight of Achilles, as the hero then made pursuit, circling him thrice around the city until Athena appeared to Hector in the form of his brother, Deiphobus. Now believing himself to have the support of his brother, Hector finally chose to face Achilles in combat. Achilles threw his spear at Hector, who managed to repel it; Athena returned the spear to Achilles' hand. Hector then hurled his spear at Achilles, though it merely bounced off his shield (of godly workmanship). He then turned to Deiphobus to grab his spear, only to see that he had never stood beside him. Realizing his demise to be imminent, Hector decided he would not be slain helpless. He drew his sword, and again requested that the victor would return the other's body to their family for a proper funeral. Achilles refused, proclaiming: "Detested as thou art, and ought to be, Nor oath nor pact Achilles plights with thee: Such pacts as lambs and rabid wolves combine, Such leagues as men and furious lions join," and attacked.

They fought, but Hector wore Achilles' old armor and thus, Achilles knew of it weaknesses. Achilles threw his spear once more, this time driving it through Hector's neck; the Trojan prince fell to his knees and, with his dying breath, once again asked if Achilles would return his body to his family for a funeral (his vocal chords had not been ruptured). Achilles refused and Hector promised he would pay for it.

Achilles, still in anger over Patroclus' death, tied Hector's corpse to his chariot and dragged it around the city of Troy, until the face was marred with gore and the body defiled with dust. For twelve days, Achilles did this, much to the dismay of the gods, who detested such unworthy actions. It was only by the efforts of Apollo and Aphrodite that Hector's body was preserved from being eaten by dogs and vultures. Finally, led by Hermes, Priam, king of Troy, made his way to Achilles' tent, where he besought that Achilles return his son's body to him in order to be given a funeral. Moved to tears, recalling of his own sire Peleus, Achilles relented and surrendered Hector's corpse to him. A truce was made for ten days, while the Trojans prepared Hector's funeral pyre and the Greeks mourned Patroclus. On the final day, the pyre was burned, and Hector's soul was at last put to rest. Here ends the Iliad.

Later in the war, Paris loosed a poisoned dart, directed by Apollo, at Achilles, striking him in the heel (which brought his death because of his Stygian bath). Soon after, Paris was mortally wounded by one of Heracles' poisoned arrows, shot by Philoctetes. Either Helen or Paris himself went to Paris' first lover, a mountain nymph named Oenone, and begged her for a cure to the poison that was killing Paris. Oenone refused, still heartbroken that Paris had left her. When she heard the news of Paris' death, mad with grief, she threw herself onto his funeral pyre. Helen was then forced to marry another Trojan prince, Deiphobus, until he too was murdered by Helen's first husband, Menelaus.

The End of the War (The Trojan Horse and the Sack of Troy)

The end of the war is described in Book II of the Aeneid. After the deaths of many heroes, including the Achaeans Achilles and Ajax, along with the Trojans Hector and Paris, the Greeks came up with the ruse of the Trojan Horse, planned by Odysseus. The Greeks hid their best warriors inside a wooden horse that they had built, while the remaining fleet sailed off, just out of sight of the Trojans. The Greeks left a note saying that they admitted defeat and were offering the horse to them as a gift. Laocoön, the priest of Poseidon, tried to warn the Trojans that it was a trap, uttering the famous line: timeō Danaōs et dōna ferentēs, meaning roughly "I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts". Enraged, he hurled his spear at the horse, which struck it, though not piercing the oak. He and his sons were then strangled by sea-serpents sent by Athena (various other sources said that the sea-serpents were sent by either Apollo, or Poseidon). Seeing no harm, the Trojans then took the horse into the city. The horse was too large to fit through the city gates, so, the Trojans had to tear down a large section of the city walls. The Trojans rejoiced, and held a party to celebrate. In the middle of the party, princess Cassandra burst through the doors, holding a torch and axe. "This is a trap!" she shouted, and tried to burn the wooden horse with the torch. The guards restrained her, pleading with her to not do anything rash. Cassandra then tried to destroy the horse with her axe, and was again restrained. She gave up, what was the point of doing all this, when nobody will listen to me? she thought.

When night fell, the Achaeans inside the horse came out and opened the city gates, letting the rest of the army inside, which wasn't hard, since the Trojans had already destroyed part of the city walls for the Trojan Horse (The Achaeans built the horse too large for the city gates on purpose, it was part of the plan).The Achaeans burned Troy to the ground, slaughtering all of the men, with the women and children being sold into slavery; a number of the Greeks even desecrated the gods' temples, angering them.

Return

After Troy was razed and the spoils were given, the Greeks sailed for home. The tales of their journeys are recounted in the sixth poem of the Epic Cycle, Nostoi ("Returns"), and are as follows:

  • Nestor (who had had the best conduct in Troy and did not take part in the looting) was the only hero who had a fast and safe return.
  • Ajax the Lesser (who had endured the gods' wrath more than the others) never returned. His ship was wrecked by a storm sent by Athena, who borrowed one of Zeus' thunderbolts and tore it to pieces. He himself was carried up by a storm and thrust upon a sharp rock, with a fire bursting from his open chest. He was buried by Thetis in Mykonos or Delos.
  • Teucer (son of Telamon and half-brother of Ajax) returned to Salamis, but he was disowned by his father for having failed to return his brother's body. He then left with his army (who took their wives) and founded the city of Salamis in Cyprus.
  • Diomedes was first thrown by a storm and land on the coast of Lycia where the king, Lycus, planned to offer him as a sacrifice to Ares. But Callirrhoe, Lycus's daughter, took pity upon him and assisted him in escaping. Then he accidentally landed in Attica, near the town of Phalerum. The Athenians (unaware that they were allies) attacked them. Many were killed and the Palladium was taken by Theseus' son, King Demophon. He finally landed at Argos only to discover that his wife, Aegialia, had committed adultery against him with a man mamed Kometes. The two tried to kill Diomedes upon his return, but he escaped with help from Athena and fled to Italy; there he found refuge in the court of Daunus, king of Apulia, who gave Diomedes his daughter, Euippe, to be his wife. The two of them lived happily together, and Euippe bore him two sons, Diomedes and Amphinomus. Diomedes died some years latet; according to Roman tradition he founded ten or more cities during his time in Italy.
  • Philoctetes (due to a sedition) was driven from his city and emigrated to Italy where he founded the cities of Petilia, Old Crimissa, and Chone, between Croton and Thurii.
  • In Homer's depiction, Idomeneus reached his home of Crete safe and sound. Another tradition was formed later where after the war, Idomeneus' ship hit a horrible storm. He promised Poseidon that if he saved him and his ship, he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home. The first living thing was his son whom Idomeneus duly sacrificed. The gods became angry at this and they sent a plague to Crete; his people expelled him and so he went him into exile, first to Calabria in Italy, and then Colophon in Asia Minor where he died.
  • Agamemnon reached his home of Mycenae safe and sound. Unbeknownst to Agamemnon, his wife, Clytaemenstra, still angered at Agamemnon for having sacrificed their daughter, planned to kill him upon his return. She quickly drew him a bath, after which she came in with an axe and hacked Agamemnon to pieces. Years later, she was killed by her son, Orestes, in order to avenge his father's murder.
  • Odysseus went through many trials at sea before he could return home to Ithaca. The tale of his journey home is recounted in the Odyssey, named after him.

Fate of the Trojans

  • Cassandra had taken refuge in Athena's temple, where she was found by Ajax the Lesser; she was ultimately given to Agamemnon as a prize and upon his return home to Mycenae, she was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra.
  • King Priam was killed by Achilles' son Pyrrhus, who "dragged the king, trembling and slipping in the blood of his son, towards the altars. He grabbed Priam by the hair with his left hand, drew out his glittering sword with his right, and buried the blade in his flank, all the way to the hilt."[1] Priam's wife, Queen Hecuba, was given to Odysseus as a prize; just as Odysseus and his crew were passing through the Hellespont, Hecuba leaped off the ship into the sea in despair, after which she was transformed into a dog.
  • Hector and Andromache's infant son, Astyanax, had been hidden away in his father's tomb; there the Greeks found him while sacking the city and decided that he could not be allowed to live. Odysseus then took the infant and flung him from atop the city's walls.
  • Andromache, Hector's wife, was given to Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, to be his concubine; she bore him a son, Molossus.

The few Trojans that managed to escape met with Aeneas, son of Aphrodite and the Trojan prince Anchises, far away from the beaches. Aeneas and the other survivors sailed away and eventually, after many trials and long suffering, on the account of Juno's wrath, landed in Italy, where they settled in the region of Latium; This journey is described in detail in the Aeneid, an epic poem composed by the Roman poet Virgil. Centuries later, Aeneas' descendant Romulus founded a new city in Italy, called Rome.

Known Combatants

Greeks

  • Achilles
  • Patroclus
  • Nestor
  • Ajax the Lesser
  • Greater Ajax (also known as Telamonian Ajax or just Telamon)
  • Teucer
  • Odysseus
  • Menelaus
  • Agamemnon
  • Diomedes
  • Philoctetes
  • Idomeneus

Trojans

  • Hector
  • Paris
  • Queen Penthesilea of the Amazons
  • King Memnon of Aethiopia
  • Aeneas
  • Sarpedon
  • Glaucus

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

The Lightning Thief

Chiron mentions that the war between Zeus and Poseidon will make the Trojan War look like a water balloon fight while giving Percy the analysis of the quest. While on the quest to find the Master Bolt, Percy Jackson asked Annabeth Chase if the gods would split up the same way they did during the Trojan War, with Poseidon against Athena.

The Titan's Curse

When Percy meets Aphrodite for the first time in a white limo driven (or borrowed) by Ares, he is so surprised by her beauty that he is mouth-struck and can't speak. She politely asks him to hold up a mirror which he does for over a long time while he speaks with her. Aphrodite tells him that she is interested in him because she sees that he and Annabeth are likely to love each other eventually. Percy asks why and she tells him that the she has not seen a tragic love story for eons since the love of Helen and Paris which started the Trojan War.

The Last Olympian

When communicating with Percy, Dionysus compares the Battle of Manhattan to the Trojan War, with the situation reversed, as did Prometheus.

References

  1. Vergil, Aeneid, ii. 550-553
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