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Dares' Account of the Destruction of Troy

Priam 1 and his son Troilus. 5724: Priam et Troïlos. Apulie "Peintre de Schultess", vers 340 avant J.-C. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Genève.

One Dares is mentioned by Homer, who describes him (Iliad 5.9) as a Trojan priest of Hephaestus, and a rich and blameless man. This Dares (here registered as Dares 1, since there is another Dares, companion of Aeneas in Italy) had two sons: one Idaeus 2, whom Hephaestus saved in battle from Diomedes 2, and one Phegeus 2, who, though skilled in fighting, was slain in battle by the same Diomedes 2.

Dares the Phrygian's History of the Fall of Troy (De Exidio Troiae Historia), known to us through medieval Latin versions, is prefaced by what is believed to be a forged letter written by an historian (Cornelius Nepos, c. 99-c. 24 BC) to another historian (Gaius Sallustius Crispus 86-35 BC) in which he explains how he discovered Dares' work at Athens. The preface credits Dares and states, among other things, that it is improper to believe in Homer, since this poet described the gods as fighting against men, a circumstance regarded by some as impossible. It also states that the work (which purports to be Dares' personal testimony of the war) is a translation from Greek into Latin prose; this last assertion has been accepted by some scholars, who believe that a Greek original was composed around the first century AD (though by no means before Homer, as written in the preface). Yet the composition of the Latin translator has been dated to the early sixth century AD.

A number of scholars and writers have called this work "ridiculous", and of "little merit"; they have also defined it as "a poor fraud", and graded its Latin thus: "of extreme simplicity, verging on stupidity". Yet, along with a similar work (that of Dictys), Dares' account exerted a major influence during the Middle Ages, serving as source for Benoit de Sainte-Maure's Le Roman de Troie (c. 1160), which in turn inspired the Sicilian Guido delle Colonne (Historia destructionis Troiae, 1287), in times when Homer still was out of print in the West. From these accounts Boccaccio is said to have derived his Il Filostrato, regarded as the main source of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, which in turn inspired Robert Henryson's Testament of Cresseid and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida. These are some of the children and grandchildren of Dares, "fraud" being unforeseeable; but many others must be assumed. The story (retold) is as follows:

The ARGONAUTS in the Troad

According to Dares the chain of events that led to the Trojan War started when Jason and the ARGONAUTS, on their way to Colchis, landed in the Troad looking for rest, and were thence expelled by the menacing forces of King Laomedon 1 of Troy, who deemed them to pose a threat to the country.

Heracles 1's punitive expedition

Laomedon 1's outrage was neither forgotten nor forgiven, and after the return of the ARGONAUTS to Hellas, Heracles 1 resolved to punish the king for his violent threats; and with this purpose in mind he organized an expedition against Troy, requesting help from the DIOSCURI (Castor 1 and Polydeuces), Telamon (father of Ajax 1), Peleus, and Nestor (all former ARGONAUTS). Having then coordinated their forces, they sailed against the city with 12 ships arriving to cape Sigaeum in the Troad by night.

Troy seized by Heracles 1

There Heracles 1 left Nestor and the DIOSCURI to guard the ships while he himself marched against Troy. Not knowing this, but being warned of the landing, King Laomedon 1 came with an army and attacked those who were in the beach; but in the meantime the city was sacked by the forces led by Heracles 1. When Laomedon 1 learned that he had been the victim of a stratagem, he returned to Troy, but as the enemy met him on the road he and his sons were defeated and killed by Heracles 1.

Hesione 2 abducted

This is how Heracles 1 seized Troy, and killed the king. Having pillaged the city , plundered and murdered its citizens, and taken many riches, they went back to the ships carrying with them Laomedon 1's daughter Hesione 2, whom Telamon received as a prize for having been the first to come into the city.

Priam 1 rebuilds the city

When Priam 1, who was campaigning elsewhere in Phrygia, learned what had taken place, he returned to Troy with his wife Hecabe 1 and his children by her: Hector 1, Paris, Deiphobus 1, Helenus 1, Troilus, Andromache, Cassandra, and Polyxena 1. Having inherited his father's throne under such unfortunate circumstances, Priam 1, determined not to let himself be lured by enemies as his father had been, walled the city and built a palace, where he consecrated an altar to Zeus the Stayer, so that the Trojans in the future would keep from retreating. And then he built the gates of Troy, called the Antenorian, the Dardanian, the Ilian, the Scaean, the Thymbraean, and the Trojan gates.

The embassy of Antenor 1

Having thus restored the city to its former glory and having regained stability and force in his realm, King Priam 1, who had not forgotten the outraged suffered, sent Antenor 1 to Hellas to demand the restoration of Hesione 2, whom Telamon had taken with him as a prize. Antenor 1 then, following Priam 1's instructions, met Peleus in Magnesia (Thessaly), Telamon in Salamis (the island off the coast of Attica in the Saronic Gulf), the DIOSCURI in Achaea, and Nestor in Pylos. Yet none of them showed a conciliatory disposition; and having thus failed in his purpose, which was to have the girl restored through negotiation, Antenor 1 returned to Troy, feeling more offended than before.

Trojan council and prophecies

When Priam 1 learned through Antenor 1's account that the Achaeans would not restore Hesione 2, he summoned his children (both by Hecabe 1 and by other women), along with a number of allies, among which were the same Antenor 1, Anchises 1, Aeneas, Ucalegon (one of the Elders of Troy), Bucolion 2 (bastard son of Laomedon 1), Panthous (one of the Elders of Troy), and Lampus 2 (another Elder of Troy). It was during this council that Paris narrated what had happened to him while he slept, saying that in his dreams he had been appointed by Hermes to judge the beauty of the three goddesses (Hera, Athena and Aphrodite), being promised by Aphrodite, if he chose her, the hand of a most beautiful woman of Hellas. He therefore, considering his dream a favorable omen, proposed to send a fleet to achieve this purpose, being supported by Deiphobus 1 and Troilus, and warned by the seers Helenus 1, Panthous and Cassandra, who predicted destruction for Troy if such a plan were carried out.

Paris sails to Hellas Despite the warnings of the Trojan seers, a fleet was sent, armed with the troops that Paris and Deiphobus 1 had gathered in Paeonia, and Priam 1 appointed Paris as commander, letting him be accompanied by Polydamas, Deiphobus 1 and Aeneas. When the fleet approached Sparta it passed that of Menelaus, who then sailed to Pylos in order to meet Nestor, but no one of them knew who the other was. Having arrived to the island of Cythera, which is off the southern coast of the Peloponnesus, Paris made an offering to Artemis, and when asked by the people who they were and whence they came, he answered that he was an ambassador of King Priam 1 and that he intended to meet the DIOSCURI. By what is called "a coincidence," also Helen had come to Cythera to offer a sacrifice to the children of Leto; so when Paris learned that Helen was near, he went to meet her. And when they met they fell in love with each other, and Paris abducted her who offered no resistance. Yet the citizens would not allow the foreigners to carry off the woman; and that is why a fight broke up during which the Trojans imprisoned those who opposed them, and after pillaging the shrine, sailed away taking Helen with them.

Paris marries Helen

As the fleet arrived to Tenedos, the island off the coast of the Troad, Paris comforted Helen, and sent emissaries to Troy with the task of informing the king of what had been accomplished. And while Paris soon after returned to Troy, Menelaus, having learned at Pylos what had taken place at Cythera, returned to Sparta accompanied by Nestor, and sent message to his brother Agamemnon, asking for a meeting. Although Priam 1 hoped for a exchange of Helen and Hesione 2, he nevertheless married Helen to Paris; and when this was known, Cassandra prophesied again that these deeds would bring about the ruin of Troy, being believed by no one.

The Achaean coalition










Archesilaus & Prothoenor 1



Ascalaphus 1 & Ialmenus 1



Epistrophus 1 & Schedius 1



Ajax 1 and Teucer 1,
and also Amphimachus 1, Diores 1, Thalpius 1, and Polyxenus 2 from Buprasium (Elis).






Thoas 2



Nireus 2



Ajax 2



Antiphus 5 & Phidippus



Idomeneus 1 & Meriones






Eumelus 1



Protesilaus & Podarces 2



Podalirius & Machaon



Achilles & Patroclus 1



Tlepolemus 1



Eurypylus 1



Antiphus 5 & Amphimachus 1



Polypoetes 1 & Leonteus 1



Diomedes 2, Euryalus 1 & Sthenelus 2






Guneus 2



Prothous 4






Menestheus 1



Palamedes (joined later)



In the meantime, Agamemnon convoked the leaders of many states in Hellas, and a powerful fleet assembled at Athens. The Achaeans then sent Achilles to Delphi to inquire about the outcome of the enterprise, and the oracle declared that the they would obtain victory and take Troy after ten years.
The ACHAEAN LEADERS, the kingdoms ruled by them, and the amount of ships each one added to the coalition that sailed against Troy (see other lists at ACHAEAN LEADERS).


Now, while Achilles was at Delphi consulting the oracle, Calchas arrived, having been sent there by the Trojans (for according to Dares, that was the origin of Calchas) to make offerings to Apollo and receive instructions; but when Calchas consulted the oracle, the god answered that he should join the Achaean fleet and sail with the Achaeans against Troy, helping them in everything.

Fleet assembled at Athens, leaves from Aulis

The fleet left first from Athens, but very close to the city they were prevented to sail farther by a storm. It was then that the Achaeans resolved, following the instructions of the seer Calchas, to gather again in Aulis (which is in Boeotia), where Agamemnon was to placate Artemis in order to get favorable winds. And when this was accomplished, they sailed to Troy from Aulis being guided by the experienced pilot Philoctetes (whom Dares alone has counted among the ARGONAUTS).

Destruction of Tenedos and invasion of Mysia

After occupying Tenedos, which the Achaeans left desolate through fire, pillage and murder, Agamemnon, now based in this island, sent Odysseus and Diomedes 2 to Troy as ambassadors in order to demand the restoration of Helen. And while the envoys were on their way to the city, Achilles and Telephus campaigned in Mysia (the country in Asia Minor near the river Caicus and the city of Pergamum), defeating the army of King Teuthras 1, who was wounded by Achilles but saved by Telephus, who was obliged towards this king; for Teuthras 1 had protected Telephus when he was a child, giving him a home. But Teuthras 1 died of his wound, and on dying he left the kingdom to Telephus, who, from then on, sent provisions to the Achaeans from Mysia.

Failure of the Achaean embassy

Achilles returned to Tenedos, and so did the envoys that Agamemnon had sent to Troy; but whereas Achilles returned carrying the spoils of his recent campaign, the ambassadors came back empty-handed. For instead of having Helen restored they had to listen to the list of reproaches that Priam 1 laid in front of them: the violations and outrages of the ARGONAUTS, the death of his father, the abduction of Hesione 2, and finally the contempt with which his own ambassador Antenor 1 had been received in Hellas. This is how no agreement was reached, and many allies, coming from different parts of Asia Minor, prepared themselves to resist the invaders and join the defence of Troy, led by the high commanders whom Priam 1 appointed: Hector 1 first, and then Deiphobus 1, Paris, Troilus, Aeneas, and Memnon.

Invasion of the Troad

After the arrival of Palamedes to Tenedos (for he, having been sick had not joined the fleet at Athens), the army landed in the Troad, where a great battle took place, in which Protesilaus (who was the first to land) was killed by Hector 1. The intervention of Achilles gave victory to the Achaeans that day, but on the next the Trojans sallied out, and in the battle that ensued Hector 1 killed Patroclus 1 and Meriones, being himself wounded by Menestheus 1.

Ajax 1 and Hector 1

Nevertheless Hector 1 kept attacking and slaying many, and Dares says that he would have routed the Achaeans and put fire to the ships, had not Ajax 1 confronted him. Now, says Dares that Ajax 1 and Hector 1 were cousins, asserting that Ajax 1 was the son of Telamon, not by Periboea 2 (as others say), but by Hesione 2, the sister of Priam 1. It was now, he says, that Ajax 1 and Hector 1 gave each other gifts; and although Dares gives no details, it is known through other accounts, that Hector 1 gave him the sword with which Ajax 1 later killed himself, and Ajax 1 gave Hector 1 the belt by which he was later dragged by Achilles. But these gifts were probably not those meant by Dares; for according to him neither Ajax 1 committed suicide, nor Achilles dragged Hector 1.

Palamedes' ambition

After these encounters, a truce was agreed during which Palamedes came into conflict with Agamemnon, by declaring that he, whose merits were greater than those of Agamemnon, should command the troops. For it was by his own initiative and genius that the army was properly organized, enjoying a system of signals, the fortification of the camp, and other clever devices of his own invention.


After the truce the Achaeans, commanded by Agamemnon, Achilles, Diomedes 2 and Menelaus, launched a new attack, being confronted by Hector 1, Troilus and Aeneas. In this battle the Boeotians Archesilaus and Prothoenor 1 were killed by Hector 1, and on the next day Menelaus was wounded by Paris with an arrow. Seeing that the dead threatened to be more than the living and that it was not possible to bury the large amount of casualties, Agamemnon sent Diomedes 2 and Odysseus to Troy to ask for a three years long truce, which was granted by the Trojans. At then end of the third year Hector 1 and Troilus came out with the army, and attacked the Achaeans fighting for thirty consecutive days. And then the Trojans proposed a truce; and after this truce the fight was resumed for twelve days causing the death of many warriors on both sides, and after this truce there was more fighting and a new truce.

Death of Hector 1

When the time to fight came again, Andromache dreamt that her husband Hector 1 should not return to the fight; she told him her dream, but Hector 1, believing that this was just a woman's fancy, paid no attention. So she went to her father-in-law, who, on hearing the dream, sent Paris, Helenus 1, Troilus and Aeneas as commanders, forcing Hector 1 to remain in the city. It was then that Agamemnon, Achilles, Diomedes 2, and Ajax 2, seeing that Hector 1 was absent, caused great carnage among the Trojans. But Hector 1, measuring the consequences of his absence, joined the fight again, and after having killed many and even wounded Achilles, was slain by him.

Palamedes commander in chief

After these events a two-months long truce was agreed, during which Palamedes challenged once more Agamemnon's authority, this time successfully: for the Achaean assembly, with the sole exception of Achilles, deposed Agamemnon and appointed Palamedes commander in chief. It was after the end of this truce that Sarpedon 1 killed Tlepolemus 1, being himself wounded and thereby forced to leave the battlefield. As the Trojan losses were huge, Priam 1 asked for a new truce, during which the dead were buried, the wounded healed, and scenes of fraternization were seen, the enemies visiting each other.

Achilles in love

One year after Hector 1's death, Achilles caught sight of Polyxena 1, who along with her parents had come to make offerings at her brother's grave. And love pierced him in such a way, Dares says, that he came to hate life itself; and putting together his love for the girl and his dislike of Palamedes, he sent message to the Trojan king, asking for the hand of the princess, and promising that he and his Myrmidons would leave the coalition and return home, as soon as he had married Polyxena 1. However, Priam 1 answered that he would not give his daughter in marriage to Achilles before the Achaeans had left; and this is why Achilles, whose mind was fully occupied by the thought of a woman (Polyxena 1) began to plead for retreat, arguing that it was an absurdity that so many evils should fall upon the whole of Hellas for the sake of a single woman (Helen).

Death of Palamedes

When the truce was ended, Achilles refused to fight, suggesting with his posture that the madness inspired by a woman can only be cured by another madness inspired by another woman . In the meantime, Palamedes, still leading the army, killed Deiphobus 1 and Sarpedon 1; or so says Dares, but others have said that Sarpedon 1 was killed by Patroclus 1 in battle, and Deiphobus 1 by Menelaus, when Troy was sacked. In any case these were Palamedes' last deeds, according to Dares; for immediately after, Paris shot him dead with an arrow; or so says Dares, but others have said that Palamedes was stoned to death as a traitor by the Achaeans themselves.

Agamemnon commander in chief

Seeing that Palamedes was dead, the Trojans attacked the Achaean camp and would have put fire to the ships, had not Ajax 1 stopped them. When night finally parted the contendors there was a new assembly during which Agamemnon was once more elected commander in chief.

Achilles refuses to fight

The day after, the fight was resumed. It is now that Troilus appeared as a new Hector 1, routing the Achaeans and forcing them to seek refuge behind the fortifications. A new truce was then agreed, having being requested by Agamemnon, who then gave burial to Palamedes and other chiefs. During this truce, Agamemnon sent Odysseus, Nestor and Diomedes 2 as envoys to persuade Achilles to fight again. But he, being bound by his promises to the parents of the girl he loved, refused to fight and declared, confusing his wishes, not that he desired the girl but that he wanted perpetual peace.

Achilles fights again

Despite Achilles' defection the Achaeans continued the fight, experiencing the might of Troilus, who wounded Menelaus, Diomedes 2, and Agamemnon himself. During a truce Agamemnon visited Achilles in order to persuade him to fight again; but once more Achilles refused, although this time he allowed his Myrmidons to go to battle. These, however were routed by Troilus, causing Achilles to fight again; yet he was wounded by Troilus and had to return to the camp. After having put his troops in order again, Achilles charged against Troilus and succeeded in killing him; and as Memnon appeared to prevent him to spoil the body, Achilles, though wounded, killed him too.

Death of Achilles

The death of Troilus, added to that of Hector 1, grieved Hecabe 1, to whom Achilles had promised, on account of Polyxena 1, to abstain from fighting. That is why she, in the course of a new truce, plotted against Achilles' life, promising him a separate peace and the hand of Polyxena 1, while at the same time instructing Paris to wait for Achilles in an ambush. So when Achilles received Hecabe 1's message, asking him to come to the temple of Apollo Thymbraeus for the sake of peace and the hand of Polyxena 1, he answered gladly that he would come to the meeting. This he did in the company of Antilochus, son of Nestor; but when they entered the temple, Paris and his men slew them both. Such was the end of Achilles and Antilochus, and Paris would have cast their bodies to the wild beasts and the birds, had not his brother Helenus 1 prevented him.

Ajax 1 and Paris kill each other

On the death of Achilles the Achaean council decided to give his arms and property to Ajax 1, but the latter refused saying that Achilles' son Neoptolemus should be called to the army and afforded his father's property. This was in fact agreed, and Menelaus sailed in order to fetch Neoptolemus in Scyros (the Aegean Sea northeast of Euboea), where his maternal grandfather King Lycomedes 1 was king. In the meantime, the same Ajax 1 and Paris killed each other, the former dying in the Achaean camp of the wound he received. Paris was buried in Troy with pomp and honor and with many tears shed by Helen, whom, Dares says, Priam 1 and Hecabe 1 loved as if she were their own daughter.

The AMAZONS defeated

It was at this moment that the Achaeans surrounded the city for the first time; for Priam 1 did not wish to fight outside the walls before the arrival of his ally Penthesilia and her AMAZONS. But when she arrived the siege was broken, and the Achaeans were forced to retreat behind their own fortifications, where they remained for a while; for in the same way as Priam 1 had waited for Penthesilia, now Agamemnon awaited the return of Menelaus, who had been sent to fetch Neoptolemus. But when these returned, the Achaeans came out and Neoptolemus slew Penthesilia; and when the AMAZONS were defeated, the Achaeans surrounded the city and the Trojans could not longer come out.

Antenor 1 pleads for peace

Since it was perceived that this was a definitive siege, the Trojans assembled to discuss their plight, and in the council Antenor 1 reasoned that the best captains among the Trojans, as well as among their allies, had been killed; that many among the sons of Priam 1 had as well left this world; that at the same time many brave among the Achaeans, such as Agamemnon, Menelaus, Neoptolemus, Diomedes 2, Ajax 2, Nestor, and Odysseus, still remained alive. Taking those reasons into account, and concluding that Troy was weakened, Antenor 1 said that the time had come to restore Helen along with the property that Paris had taken, and to make peace.

Priam 1 rebukes Antenor 1

Amphimachus, one son of Priam 1, opposed Antenor 1, but when in his purposes Antenor 1 was supported by Aeneas, they were both criticized by Priam 1 who recalled their own responsibility in starting the war, since Antenor 1, said Priam 1, had made a great deal of the outrage he had received as an ambassador, and Aeneas had sailed with Paris when Helen was abducted. Therefore, Priam 1 argued, they had no authority to pledge for peace, who before had been so eager to avenge the injuries inflicted by the Achaeans, when they took the city the first time and abducted Hesione 2.

The traitors assemble

And since Priam 1 was now resolved to either be victorious or perish, he discussed with his son the possibility of slaying both Antenor 1 and Aeneas; for they feared that treason could come from these novel peacemakers. In the meantime Antenor 1, Polydamas, Ucalegon and others met and wondered at the king's obstinacy, who preferred, as they saw it, to ruin the whole country before making peace. It was then that Antenor 1 conceived the idea of betraying Troy, and in agreement with Aeneas and the others, they all decided to sent Polydamas as messenger to Agamemnon.

Treason verified

When Polydamas came to the Achaean camp, he related to Agamemnon what he and his fellow plotters had decided. Some among the Achaeans, such as Odysseus and Nestor, did not trust Polydamas, but others, such as Neoptolemus, did. After a long discussion, they bade Polydamas to give them a watchword and thereafter sent Sinon to the city, where he, after communicating with Antenor 1 and Anchises 1 by the walls, confirmed Polydamas' account.

Troy taken

And as the Achaeans guaranteed the security of the traitors and their families, Antenor 1 and Aeneas came to the walls by night, and receiving Neoptolemus, opened the Scaean gate (where a horse was sculptured) and lighted a beacon as a signal for the Achaeans to enter the city. Antenor 1 then led Neoptolemus to the palace, where the defence had its stronghold, and the latter, having assaulted the palace, came upon Priam 1 and cut his throat at the altar of Zeus. In the meantime, Aeneas met the fugitives Hecabe 1 and Polyxena 1 and gave protection to the princess, taking her to his father's house. And while Andromache and Cassandra found refuge in Athena's temple, the Achaeans gave themselves to devastation and murder throughout the whole night.

Postwar arrangements

The next morning, Agamemnon assembled the Achaeans, who resolved to respect the traitors and their property. In this assembly Antenor 1, being allowed to speak, asked for mercy on behalf of Cassandra and Helenus 1; for they, he argued, had always favored the cause of peace, and even the body of Achilles himself had been saved thanks to Helenus 1, who had opposed Paris when the latter wished to cast the corpse to the beasts. And when Helenus 1 was pardonned, he in turn obtained clemency for his mother Queen Hecabe 1 and for Andromache.

Death of Polyxena 1

During four days the Achaeans sacrificed to the gods and on the fifth, when they were about to sail for Hellas, a storm broke out, because, as Calchas explained, the gods below had not been honoured. This reminded Neoptolemus of Polyxena 1; for she should have been at the palace. And so, when the Achaeans demanded her, Antenor 1 fetched her, who was hidden at Anchises 1's house, and gave her to Agamemnon, who gave her to Neoptolemus, who sacrificed her upon his father's grave.

Helen restored

As for Helen, the cause of the war, she was restored to Menelaus, her lawful husband. And Helenus 1 migrated to the Chersonese together with Cassandra, Hecabe 1, and Andromache.

Death toll and exiles

According to Dares the war lasted 10 years, six months and twelve days, and in it 886.000 Achaeans and 676.000 Trojans were killed. After the war Aeneas departed, along with 3.400 men, with the same 22 ships that Paris had brought to Hellas when he abducted Helen, while Antenor 1 was followed in his exile by 2.500 men, and 1.200 followed Helenus 1 and Andromache in theirs.

Additional note

R. M. Frazer (see sources below) has counted the truces reported by Dares, adding their durations; they lasted, all told, more than seven and a half years, which means that Achaeans and Trojans fought only three out of the ten years of war.

Related sections

Dares' Latin text may be retrieved in the www at <>. There is a Latin edition: Ferdinand Meister, Leipzig, 1873.

Among the translations of Dares' work is found that of Thomaso Porcacchi (into Italian, 1570), which also includes the work of Dictys, as well as some short biographies of ancient historical personalities. More recently R. M. Frazer (Assistant Professor of Classics in the Dept. of Classical Languages at Tulane University) translated both Dares and Dictys into English; this is a fully referenced work, with introduction, bibliography, etc. (Indiana University Press, Bloomington & London, 1966).