Causes, heroes and myths of the Trojan War

The history of the destruction of Troy after many years of siege by the Achaeans is described in the poem (rhapsody) “Iliad”. The famous ancient Greek singer Homer is considered to be its author. The poem intricately intertwines military events, the fate of heroes and the decrees of the gods. In short, the Trojan War began because of the abduction of Helen, the wife of the Spartan king Menelaus. Her captor was the son of the king of Troy, Paris.

 History of creation

Legends about the capture of Troy were widespread in Ancient Greece in the 11th-9th centuries BC They reflected the centuries-old enmity between the Hellenes and the inhabitants of Asia Minor. These songs were composed by itinerant rhapsody singers. They were invited to palaces and simple houses, treated to dinner, and then listened to their stories of gods and heroes.

The singers recited hexameter verses, playing along with their lyre. The most famous rhapsode was Homer. It is believed that he created 2 epic poems about the Trojan War: The Iliad and The Odyssey. According to literary scholars, the cycle of songs and myths about the fall of Troy, which became the basis of these works, was composed over several centuries. Thus, the author of the Iliad assumes that his listeners are well acquainted with the main events of the Trojan War and its heroes: Hector, Achilles, Atreus, Ajax, Odysseus and many others.

Little is known about Homer himself. According to Herodotus, he lived about 850 BC.  There is no information about his nationality and place of birth, and many cities on the Greek coast of Asia Minor argue for the right to be called the homeland of Homer. It is possible that Homer is only a pseudonym for the singer, since according to one version this name means “blind.”

Helen’s abduction

The area in the northwest of Asia Minor became the arena of the war. The Greeks called its inhabitants Teukras, Trojans or Dardanians. The largest city there was Troy, or Ilion, where King Priam ruled. He had 49 sons, the most famous of whom are the handsome Paris and the brave Hector.

The summary of the poem “Iliad” is as follows. According to Homer, the plot of the story was the incident at the wedding of the Argonaut Peleus and the nymph Thetis. All the Olympic gods were invited to the feast, only Eris, the goddess of discord, was not invited. In retaliation, she threw an apple with the inscription “fairest”, which they brought to Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. The goddesses immediately began to argue who it was intended for. Paris was chosen as the judge. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, who promised him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world.

The most beautiful of mortals at that time was considered Elena, the queen of Sparta. When she was a girl, many kings and heroes sought her hand. To prevent strife, her father, the Spartan king, allowed her to choose a husband herself. Helen chose Menelaus, brother of the Mycenaean king Agamemnon. All other suitors swore an oath that they would help her chosen one if someone tried to kidnap his wife.

Paris arrived in Sparta, where he was warmly received by Menelaus. Aphrodite helped the guest win Elena’s heart. The king of Sparta unconditionally considered Paris to be his friend and when he urgently needed to leave, he left his wife in his care.

The lovers, taking with them the treasures of Menelaus, boarded the ship and left for Troy. This abduction, according to Homer, was the cause of the Trojan War.

Returning home, the Spartan king was beside himself with grief. His friend, the king of Ithaca Odysseus, came to him, and the men went to Troy to return Elena. But the gates of the city remained closed in front of them. Elena did not want to meet with her abandoned husband, and Paris did not want to talk with her former friend.

The beginning of the war

Menelaus was outraged by this gross violation of the laws of hospitality and an outrage against his honor. He appeals for support to his brother, King Agamemnon of Mycenae. He agreed to help take revenge on the “vile Tevkr”, as they called Paris.

But Troy is a well-defended city, fortified with walls and towers, and the Tevkras are brave and experienced warriors. Neither Menelaus nor Agamemnon lacked the strength to capture it. Then they remembered the oath binding the former suitors of Helena, and turned to the Greek kings with a request for help. They agreed, albeit without much eagerness. So, in order to avoid participation in the war, the recently married Odysseus even pretended to be crazy, but his deception was revealed.

Homer’s listeners knew well the names of brave heroes, participants in the war on the side of the Achaeans, as the supporters of Menelaus and Agamemnon were called. They are as follows:

  • Achilles, son of the sea nymph Thetis;
  • Nestor, who ruled in Pylos;
  • Diomedes, king of the state of Argos;
  • Idonemeus, Cretan ruler;
  • Palamed from Euboea.

Before leaving, the soothsayer Kalakhant predicted how long the war would last 9 years and end in victory only in the tenth year. Having heard the gloomy prophecy, the Achaeans sadly wandered towards the ships, and the armada set off.

The trip to Troy began unsuccessfully. The ships were carried to the shores of the Mission, where King Telefos ruled. The locals attacked the Achaeans, but Achilles killed Telefos, after which his army fled from the battlefield.

The ships set sail from the enemy coast. Only after long misadventures, the army of Agamemnon was able to land on the shores of Ilion. The Achaeans moved to Troy. They were met by a detachment of Tevkras, led by the king’s son Hector, a mighty and brave warrior. A desperate slaughter began, in which the king of Filaki Protesilaus, the first to die of a noble family, was killed. After that, the Trojans retreated outside the city walls.

The murder of Hector and the Trojan horse

Achilles bitterly mourned his friend and vowed to take revenge on his killer. His mother Thetis asked Hephaestus to forge new armor for him. In the morning Achilles challenged Hector to fight. He pierced his enemy with a spear, tied him by the legs to a chariot and took him to the camp of the Greeks.

Desperate battles began again. In one of them, Achilles fell from the arrow of Paris. She hit the hero in the heel – his only weak spot. After the death of Hector and Achilles, the forces are equalized. The Greeks invite the hero Philoctetes, who possesses the arrows of Hercules. This does not give a military advantage, but one of them kills Paris.

Odysseus’s advice helps to win the war. He suggested making a large wooden horse and placing the best warriors there. All the others will board ships and sail from the coast. The Achaeans did so. In the morning, the inhabitants of Troy saw that the enemies had left their coast, and a huge wooden horse remained on the seashore. A friend of Odysseus, disguised as a beggar, told the Trojans that this was a gift from the Achaeans to the goddess Pallas.

The huge horse was dragged over the walls of Troy. At night, the Greeks got out, plundered the city and staged a massacre. King Priam was killed, the widow of Hector Andromache was taken away as a slave, her son was thrown from the wall. Cassandra, daughter of Priam, was given as a spoil to Agamemnon. Helen, the culprit of the Trojan War, appeared before Menelaus. He wanted to hit the traitor, but he was disarmed by her beauty. Of the Trojan leaders, only Aeneas survived, who, according to legend, later became the founder of Rome.

This adventure of the Greek heroes did not end there. On the way back, they had to experience many troubles:

  • The ship of Menelaus was overtaken by a storm, after which it was carried to Egypt.
  • Returning home, Agamemnon was killed by his own wife.
  • Odysseus returned from the war the longest. Another poem by Homer, The Odyssey, was written about his wanderings.

What caused the Trojan War in reality is difficult to judge today. But the poem about her was the first work of art that has survived to this day. Many generations of people have been brought up on it, and the names of its heroes are known to everyone.

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