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"Come then, set the ambush, you which be our mightiest, and the rest shall go to Tenedos' hallowed burg, and there abide until our foes have haled within their walls us with the horse, as deeming that they bring a gift unto Athena" (Odysseus to the assembled Achaeans. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.233).

"This work for which you crave will I performâ€"yea, though they torture me, though into fire living they thrust me; for my heart is fixed not to escape, but die by hands of foes, except I crown with glory your desire." (Sinon to the Achaeans, volunteering for his dangerous task. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.243).

Sinon, a great liar, is the man who was in charge of abiding by the WOODEN HORSE and lighting a beacon lamp as a signal to the Achaeans for their final assault against Troy.


After ten years of fruitless military efforts, the Achaeans realized that Troy perhaps could be taken by cunning instead of by force, and this insight invited them to construct a WOODEN HORSE, which was to become the instrument of their victory. They let an armed force hide itself inside the horse, and in order to induce the Trojans to bring it within the walls, they left it abandoned in the plain, feigning retreat after engraving on the horse a treacherous inscription:

"For their return home, the Achaeans dedicate this thank-offering to Athena." (Apollodorus, Library "Epitome" 5.15).

The Achaeans succeeded with their intent; for the Trojans found the horse, and being blinded by fate, they thought themselves victorious. And being likewise deaf to Cassandra's and Laocoon 2's warnings, they dragged the WOODEN HORSE within the walls. The armed force inside the horse was thought to come forth in the middle of the night and open the gates for the rest of the army, which, after burning their own tents in front of Troy, was waiting with their fleet off the island of Tenedos, or perhaps near cape Sigeum, for a signal to attack. And the man in charge to give that signal to the army was Sinon.

Sinon's signal

Everything went as planned, for as they say fate itself wished it. And when the sounds of feast and music died away, Sinon unlocked the WOODEN HORSE, letting the armed force come forth, and started signalling with a shining brand beside the tomb of Achilles, since the gates would soon open, and it was time for the Achaeans to return and make the final assault.

Sinon captured

Also this was done according to plan. But some say that, the day before, when the fate of the WOODEN HORSE, whether to destroy it or to keep it, was yet to be decided, Sinon was captured by some Trojan shepherds, who brought him handcuffed into the king's presence. This happened outside the city just after Laocoon 2 hit the horse with his spear, warning his countrymen not to trust the enemy's gift. The prisoner Sinon, who had deliberately put himself in the path of his captors (for one of his tasks was to abide by the horse), did not deny that he was one of the Achaeans, but swore that he would tell the whole truth, asseverating:

"... if Fortune has cast Sinon for tragedy, she shall not wantonly shape me into a liar as well." (Sinon to the Trojans. Virgil, Aeneid 2.79).

Crimes of the Achaeans

He began his speech by recalling the fate of Palamedes, whom the Achaeans had put to death as traitor, for being, Sinon said, against the war. And himself, he added, being a poor man, had served the same Palamedes as a squire, enjoying distinction for as long as his master's authority was unshaken. But when, through Odysseus' intrigues, Palamedes died, he himself was ruined, and in his bitterness he promised to take revenge. But when Odysseus heard the threat, said Sinon to the Trojans, he started to persecute him with new slanders, conspiring against him in every possible way, and even putting such important persons as Calchas under his influence.


Having come that far in his story, Sinon told the Trojans that there was no point in delaying them any longer with sorry tales, and played his trumpcard, telling them that if they thought all Achaeans were alike they could as well condemn him, and added that Odysseus would love that, and the sons of Atreus would pay them handsomely.

Sacrificial victim

But now the Trojans wished to hear more, and Sinon was only eager to please them. He told them that the Achaeans often longed to withdraw and return home, but the winds were always against them; that finally they sent one of them to Apollo's oracle to inquire, and that the god had answered that by the same way they had appeased the winds at Aulis when sailing against Troy, they should do now. That is, through human blood; for before, the Achaeans, for the sake of a favorable wind, had sacrificed Iphigenia. Now Sinon told the Trojans that Odysseus, wishing to frame him, had pulled Calchas forth to tell the god's will; but Calchas, not wishing to commit to death anyone by his utterance, was reluctant to follow Odysseus' vicious advice, and the latter, having lost his patience, pointed out Sinon as sacrificial victim nevertheless, a decision promptly approved by all since it absolved everyone else.

Moral burden

This is the reason, continued Sinon, why he was forced to desert the Achaean camp, carrying besides a moral burden: for he knew that the Achaeans would exact reprisals on his innocent father and sons because of his escape. And having thus touched their hearts, he asked for mercy, which the Trojans granted.


Then Priam 1 ordered the handcuffs to be struck off and asked him:

"Why did they build this huge monster of a horse? Who advised it? Is their object religious? or was it to be some engine of war?" (Priam 1 to Sinon. Virgil, Aeneid 2.150).

Sinon did not hesitate: he swore that the sole purpose of the WOODEN HORSE was to placate Athena, angry at the Achaeans after the theft of the Palladium; that Calchas had pronounced retreat, for Troy no longer could be destroyed since Diomedes 2 and Odysseus snatched up the goddess' sacred image and massacred the sentries on the citadel. That Troy (said Sinon that Calchas had declared) could never be taken unless the Achaeans sailed back home to fetch new luck. And he added:

"So at this moment they're running free towards Mycenae ... they built this horse to dispel the curse of guilt for stealing Athena's image and wounding her godhead."

And then Sinon tempted the Trojans thus:

"But Calchas bade them built the horse of enormous size ... so that it could not get through your gates or be towed within the walls, and thus become your guardian ..." (Sinon to the Trojans. Virgil, Aeneid 2.180ff.).

This is how Sinon, by cunning and crocodile tears, saved the WOODEN HORSE and the armed force within, inducing the Trojans to spare it and drag it into the city, so as to win, by its presence, the protection of Athena that they had lost when the Palladium was stolen. Moreover, the horse would make them stronger than ever, enabling them to bring their host to Hellas and conquer her.


Such were the lies that Sinon told the Trojans. But others have said that the Trojans found him on the shore near the WOODEN HORSE, and tortured him for a long time, shearing ears and nose away, and tormenting him in every wise, and asking him for "the truth," a philosophical concept that does not fail to enchant every torturer each time he finds a victim (for otherwise he does not care a whit about it): "And where have all the Achaeans gone? And what is this horse?" they asked. But Sinon had a single string of words to provide:

"The Achaeans in their ships flee overseas, weary of tribulation of endless war. This horse by Calchas' counsel fashioned they for wise Athena, to propitiate." (Sinon to the Trojans. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.375).

... to which he added that he had fled the Achaeans because he was marked for slaughter, to be sacrificed to win the army a safe return.

"A deadly fraud is this" (Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.390).

... said the Trojan seer Laocoon 2, when he heard Sinon's account. But when they all witnessed how circumstances overwhelmed this seer, seeming to punish his unfriendliness towards the horse, they led Sinon in friendly wise to Troy, even repenting for what they had done to him while they brought the horse into the city.

Lover of Fame

But at night, when sleep had come upon the city, Sinon lifted high a blazing torch to tell the army that the time had come to return, and unlocking the horse, let his fellows come forth. For this prowess, for having lured the enemy and have endured torture, for knowing how to tell lies, or for being able to keep a secret Sinon won much praise at the hour of victory. And they say that he cared much more for Fame than for his lost nose and ears, since they chant thus:

"And for his own misfeaturing sorrowed not. For the wise and prudent man renown is better far than gold, than goodlihead, than all good things men have or hope to win." (Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 14.112).

The Performer's make-up

Others have said that Sinon, in order to perform his role properly, scarred his limbs with stripes, letting blood flow over his shoulders from wounds that he inflicted to his own body; for only then the Trojans would come closer to believe that he was the enemy of his own people. In that shape, with weals all over, he appealed to Priam 1 as a suppliant, grovelling before the king's feet, touching his knees, and accusing the Achaeans for what they had done to Achilles (from whom they snatched away his sweetheart Briseis); for their pitiless ways when they abandoned the wounded Philoctetes; for the treacherous framing of Palamedes, whom they slandered and stoned to death. He could reproach the Achaeans many things, Sinon; he nevertheless put up with each and all of them. But when he came to himself, Sinon said that the Achaeans had punished him because he had refused to flee. It was then a brave man that now begged Priam 1 for mercy, arguing that if the king killed a suppliant, the Achaeans would rejoice.

The shining brands

Priam 1 pardoned him, but (as others also say) the king asked about the horse. And here Sinon is reported to have answered:

"If you allow it to abide her in its place, it is decreed that the spear of the Achaeans shall capture Troy; but if Athena receive it a holy offering in her shrine, then they shall flee away with their task unaccomplished." (Sinon to Priam 1. Tryphiodorus, The Taking of Ilios 296).

On hearing that, Priam 1 ordered the horse to be taken into the city. But at night, the same Sinon showed his message with a shining brand. They say that he was not the only one signalling that night: also Helen displayed a torch from her chamber to her friends, who speedily returned either from Sigeum or from Tenedos, and coming in full armour into the city, slaughtered whomever they found, parents and children alike, in homes, streets, temples, or any other place, sacred or not..



Aesimus & unknown

Pierre Grimal reports Aesimus as brother of Anticlia 1, mother of Odysseus. In fact Lycophron, in his obscure Alexandra (344), calls Sinon cousin of Odysseus.

Related sections

Apd.Ep.5.15; Pau.10.27.3; QS.12.243, 12.360, 12.424, 13.23, 14.107; Try.220, 293, 511; Vir.Aen.2.79, 2.195, 2.257, 2.329.