Blogs > Cliopatria > What Was the Story of Troy?

May 21, 2004 2:01 pm

What Was the Story of Troy?

Clifford Pugh, in the Houston Chronicle (May 14, 2004):

.. What's the story?

In the 12th-century B.C., Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, is called upon to judge a beauty contest among the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. All three offer him bribes; he gives the prize to Aphrodite, who has promised him the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen.

Although Helen is already married to King Menelaus of Sparta, she and Paris run away together, sparking a 10-year conflict between Troy and the Greeks.

Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, leader of the allied Greeks, gather a force to sail to Troy and recover Helen. The expedition escalates into full-fledged war.

The Iliad begins in the last year of the Trojan War, with a quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. The fierce Greek warrior Achilles sends his friend Patroclus to oppose the Trojans. Patroclus is killed, and Achilles rushes back into battle, slaying Paris' brother Hector, who is the commander of the Trojan army.

That's good news for Achilles, right?

No. Achilles' divine mother, Thetis, warned him that the Fates had determined he would live only as long as Hector did not die. Paris later kills Achilles with a poisoned arrow that strikes his only vulnerable spot: his heel.

When Achilles was born, his mother tried to make him immortal by dipping him in the magic river Styx. She held him by one heel, which was untouched by the water and remained mortal.

To this day, we call any vulnerable point an "Achilles' heel." The strong tendon that connects the muscles of the calf of the leg with the heel bone is known as the Achilles tendon.

So the Trojan War was over?

Not yet. Troy stubbornly held out, so Ulysses, king of Ithaca, devised a ruse. The Greeks pretended to abandon the siege, leaving behind a great wooden horse, intended as an offering to the goddess Minerva. They then sailed away. The Trojans threw open the gates of the city, and the whole population celebrated the end of the war. The horse was filled with Greek soldiers, who signaled their comrades to return and attack. At last, the Greeks secured Troy.

Hence, the phrases "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts" and "Trojan horse," signaling something that is not what it seems, entered the lexicon.

Was there really a Trojan War?

Archaeologists have found historical evidence in the ruins of Troy to support the idea. Modern historians suggest that the war was started over trade between Greece and Asia Minor. Many of the main characters in Homer's account of the Trojan War in The Iliad were based on real people.

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