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The Trojan War

"… For in confronting the cruel clouds of war, we gave away our years of lovely youth." (Simonides, c. 556-468 BC).

"Madmen, all of you who strive for the glory of combats, and believe that the lances of war will ease the burdens of mortals. Never, if blood be arbitress of peace, strife between cities of men shall find an ending." (Captive maidens in Troy. Euripides, Helen 1150).

"In vain we sacrificed! Yet, had not God overthrown us so, and whelmed beneath the earth, we had faded fameless, never had been hymned in lays, nor given song-themes to posterity." (Hecabe 1, Queen of Troy. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 1240).

"Was unsterblich im Gesang soll leben
Muss im Leben untergehn."
(Friedrich von Schiller 1759-1805. Die Götter Griechenlands).

Athena and her protégé Diomedes 2. 2212: Schlossbrücke, Berlin.

Causes of the war 

Permanence of War

Some believe that lovers, being transient, cannot invent Love, who is immortal and creates them. Others think that lovers invent Love, awakening him with drops of oil or blood. In similar manner, some believe that war creates and inspires warriors, whereas others suppose that they invent war, with drops of oil or blood. There is no agreement on the cause of things. And there is no need of a cause for a war to break out. There is no occurrence, relevant or insignificant, that cannot be turned into a cause of war, with drops of oil or blood. A significant cause, or several, must be found; for they seem to enhance understanding in the human mind. But once found, there is no agreement as to their value or position in the network of events, and the unravelling helps confusion and discord more than it helps discernment.

Multitude of causes

And so some say that Helen caused the war; for she left her husband and her daughter and abandoned her home for a foreign seducer. And since she became the center of fierce struggles which ended many lives, she was called "Lady of Sorrows", and given other titles such as:

"Child of the Haunting Curse, of Envy, of Murder, of Death, of all earth-nurtured plagues!" (Andromache. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 769).

But others say that Paris caused the war; for he, abusing the laws of hospitality, carried off his host's wife, subordinating everything to seduction and the pleasures of love. And so his brother reproached him:

"Paris, you pretty boy, you woman seducer, why were you ever born? Why weren't you killed before your wedding day?" (Hector 1 to Paris. Homer, Iliad 3.39).

Yet others could argue that Paris and Helen would never have met in love if Menelaus, sailing to Crete in order to attend The Funeral of Catreus, had not left them alone in his house, saying to his wife as he departed:

"Look to my affairs, and to the household, and to our guest from Troy ." (Menelaus to Helen. Ovid, Heroides 17.160).

Likewise it may be argued that Paris' seduction of Helen could have remained without consequences, had not the SUITORS OF HELEN previously taken The Oath of Tyndareus, which Odysseus conceived because of his falling in love with Penelope. For it is through this oath that the rulers of Hellas were forced to join the coalition against Troy; and without the oath no alliance, and without alliance no war. To these few set of causes yet a multitude could be added; and many have indeed been added in the course of time. So, for example, those who believe Gold to be the cause of every dispute, being unable to conceive the abduction of a queen to be cause enough, have asserted, in more recent times, that commercial interests were behind this huge conflict which caused the ruin of so many realms, both in Hellas and Asia.

The Will of Heaven

Still others think that all things begin in heaven, and accordingly they say that this war took place because such was the will of Zeus, who wished his daughter Helen to become famous for having caused a conflict between Europe and Asia. And yet others, also claiming to have penetrated the minds of the gods, affirm that this war was ordained by heaven in order to exalt the race of the demigods. And since those who claim knowledge of divine providence often deem their own level of enlightenment higher than anyone else's, there is seldom agreement among the members of this well informed breed of mortals about the will of the gods and their intentions towards mankind.

The Nereid Thetis

It has also been suggested that if Zeus had married the Nereid Thetis, then things had been different. But Themis or Proteus 2, or the MOERAE, or Prometheus 1, or several among them, prophesied that Thetis would become the mother of a child who, when grown to manhood, would be called greater than his father. That is why Poseidon and Zeus, who had been rivals for Thetis' hand, fearing what they heard, desisted, and Zeus bade mortal Peleus to marry her, as a safe measure against the threat posed by the Nereid. However, some have said that Zeus had wished to punish Thetis by marrying her to a mortal, because the Nereid, having been brought up by Hera, would not consort with her nurse's husband.

The Apple of Eris

In any case Thetis was married to a mortal man; and for reasons unknown to mortals, although they may be supposed to derive from the very nature of things, Eris (Discord) was not invited to the wedding party. But since this goddess is difficult to get rid of, she managed anyway to appear at the banquet and throw among the guests a golden apple through the door with the inscription:

"For the fairest"

Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, so they say, started then disputing on that prize, being therefore sent by Zeus to Mount Ida near Troy to have their beauty compared and judged by the shepherd Paris.

Here again some find this tale inconsistent:

"For why should goddess Hera set her heart so much on such a prize? Was it to win a nobler lord than Zeus? or was Athena hunting down among the gods a husband, she who in her dislike of marriage won from her father the gift of remaining unwed?" (Hecabe 1 to Helen. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 979).

The Judgement of Paris

Anyway Paris, who until then had lived as a shepherd but soon was to be recognized as prince and son of Priam 1 and Hecabe 1, chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful, accepting Helen's hand for a bribe. Both an emperor of ancient times and a modern scholar, among others, have found that this was the choice of a "sensual man", and it has been suggested that this very sensuality led to seduction and seduction to war. Yet it is not easy to see how another choice could have led to peace; for Athena had wished to bribe him offering the command of Phrygia and the destruction of Hellas, or victory in war; and Hera had offered him, besides wealth, the dominion over both Asia and Europe.

The Abduction of Helen

In any case Paris, having chosen what he thought was Aphrodite's gift of love, came to Sparta, guided by the goddess, with the determination of deluding Menelaus and seducing Helen. And here again there are those who have said that if the story of the three goddesses in Mount Ida had any meaning, Aphrodite herself would have taken Helen to Troy. That is why they add that the goddess was in Paris' and Helen's minds, and nowhere else. For nine days Paris was entertained by Menelaus in Sparta. But on the tenth day Menelaus had to leave on a journey to Crete to attend The Funeral of Catreus. It was during the absence of the lawful husband that Paris persuaded Helen to go off with him; and she, abandoning her daughter Hermione, then nine years old, put most of the property on board and set sail with her lover by night.

The Funeral of Catreus

The death of Menelaus' grandfather Catreus was, some may think, a most unfortunate circumstance; for Menelaus, by sailing to Crete to perform the obsequies, left his guest alone with his own wife at his palace in Sparta. And these two then, taking advantage of the splendid opportunity that Menelaus' absence provided, became lovers and fled away to Troy, filling the ship with Spartan treasures. This is why it could be argued that without The Funeral of Catreus, the Trojan War had never taken place. Yet the death itself of Catreus is not related, as far as humans can perceive, to the chain of events that led to the war. (See also Trojan War: Connected Events.)

The Oath of Tyndareus

Now, the abduction of Helen did not need to lead to war; for, as it has been pointed out, never before had a war broken up for a stolen woman. And those who held this view recalled other abductions, such as that of Medea by Jason, or that of Ariadne by Theseus, or yet others, none of which caused an armed conflict. However, this case proved different; and when Menelaus, on his return to Sparta, became fully aware of his loss, he bade his brother Agamemnon to muster an army in order to sail against Troy, avenge the outrage and secure the restoration of his wife and the stolen property. And Agamemnon, sending a herald to each of the kings, reminded them of The Oath of Tyndareus which they, as SUITORS OF HELEN, had once sworn, warning them and saying that the outrage had been offered equally to the whole of Hellas. And the former SUITORS OF HELEN, kings and princes from many realms, were compelled, on account of their oath, to comply with Agamemnon's request. This oath was conceived because Helen's earthly father King Tyndareus feared, at the moment of marrying his daughter, that choosing one among her many SUITORS might provoke the others to start quarrelling. Odysseus then promised Tyndareus that, if he would help him to win the hand of his niece Penelope, he would reveal a way by which all trouble would be avoided. And when Tyndareus accepted this bargain, Odysseus told him to exact an oath from all the SUITORS that they would defend and protect him who was chosen as Helen's husband against any wrong done against him in regard to his marriage. This is how The Oath of Tyndareus came about and this is why so many rulers in Hellas, bound by treaty, could be forced to help punish Paris and the Trojans who protected him.

The Alliance

In compliance with the oath then, the coalition was formed that was determined to sail to Troy and obtain, by persuasion or by force, the restoration of Helen and the Spartan property that the seducer Paris, breaking all laws of hospitality, had stolen.

The Forces 

Most leaders of these forces are rulers. Rulers no longer participate in battles, but from Homeric times until the 19th century AD rulers had the habit of risking their own lives in the battlefield. See the article Homeric and Post-Homeric War Leadership (also in Greek: ??????? ??? ????-??????? ???????? ??????).

Agamemnon (Achaean forces)

Agamemnon was the leader of the great host that sailed against Troy because he was the most powerful king in the West; and although there were many kings and dynasties in Hellas, he was their overlord. Although the different states appear to have had different degrees of independence, vassal states were common both in Agamemnon's time and more so under the reign of his son Orestes 2, who extended his house's power over new territories.

From left to right: Menelaus, Paris, Diomedes 2, Odysseus, Nestor, Achilles, and Agamemnon. 3715: Sieben Heldenköpfe vor 1800 aus Homerwerk. G. Morghen nach J. H. W. Tischbein. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Das Schloß.

Achaeans, Danaans and Argives

Those who fought under Agamemnon's command are collectively called Achaeans, Danaans or Argives. The Achaeans came originally from Thessaly, in mainland Greece, and settled in Argos and Lacedaemon (southern Peloponnesus). Having mingled with the Danaans (ruled by Danaus 1 and his descendants) they lived there until the return of the HERACLIDES. Achaea proper, however, is in northern Peloponnesus. Danaans were called those who dwell in Argolis for being descendants of the African immigrant Danaus 1, father of the DANAIDS. Fleeing from Egypt, Danaus 1 came to Argos (in Argolis), and the reigning King Gelanor, as it is described, surrendered the kingdom to him. Having made himself master of the country he named the inhabitants Danaans after himself. Finally, for living in Argolis, these peoples were also called Argives. The mingling of Achaeans and Danaans is described through the marriages of two sons of Achaeus 1 (from whom the Achaeans derive their name) with two daughters of Danaus 1. (See also Achaea, Argos, and Map: ACHAEANS & TROJANS).

Agamemnon's army

The navy consisted of ca. one thousand ships and, following the calculations of General Thucydides (see below), the number of men could have been about 100.000. (For the leaders and their contributions to this force see ACHAEAN LEADERS, and for individuals reported to have fought at Troy on the side of Agamemnon see: ACHAEANS.)

Trojan Forces 

The supreme leader of Troy was King Priam 1, but he who was in effective command of the Trojan forces was his son the crown prince Hector 1, remembered as the pillar of Troy for his efforts and courage. Trojans were called all those who were under the sway of Priam 1, whether they came from the city of Troy or not. Thus there are those who have counted nine (9) dynasties, which recognized Priam 1 as their overlord and which together ruled a large part of the coastal regions of Asia Minor and beyond. One of these (1) is that of King Mynes 2 of Lyrnessus, a city east of Mount Ida that was sacked by Achilles; it was here that Achilles captured his sweetheart Briseis, wife of Mynes 2. Another dynasty (2) is that of King Eetion 1 of Thebe, father of Andromache, who married Hector 1, crown prince of the dynasty of the city of Troy (3). In Thebe Chryseis 3 was captured. It was she whom Agamemnon kept, refusing to give her back to her father and humiliating him, who came as a suppliant and was a priest of Apollo. That is how Agamemnon called upon himself the wrath of the god who, although being called the bright one, came from heaven darker than night and decimated the Achaean army by plague. King Altes of the Lelegians represents yet another dynasty (4); he was the father of Laothoe 2, mother by King Priam 1, of Lycaon 1, whose cuirass Paris wore in his duel against Menelaus. Lycaon 1 was killed by Achilles. Aeneas, son of Anchises 1 represents the dynasty of Dardania (5), the region about Mount Ida. Pandarus 1, who is remembered for having broken the truce between Trojans and Achaeans by shooting an arrow at Menelaus, is said to represent the dynasty from Zelia (6). The dynasty of Asius 1 (7), son of Hyrtacus, seem to have shared with the dynasty (8) of the sons of Merops 1 (Adrastus 3 and Amphius 1), the region about Abydus and Percote, north of Troy. Hyrtacus married Arisbe, who was Priam 1's first wife, and his son Asius 1 was killed by King Idomeneus 1 of Crete. It is uncertain whether the ninth dynasty (9) is that of the island of Lesbos, which Achilles sacked, or that of the Mysian Eurypylus 6, son of Telephus, son of Heracles 1. Eurypylus 6 was killed by Neoptolemus. (For the leaders see TROJAN LEADERS, and for individuals reported to have fought defending Troy see: TROJANS.)

Trojan allies

In addition to the kingdoms surrounding Troy, others came, mainly from different parts of Asia Minor, to support the city. Among these are the Eastern Ethiopians led by Memnon, the AMAZONS, whose queen was Penthesilia, the Lycians under Sarpedon 1, and others (see Map: ACHAEANS & TROJANS).

Some episodes of the Trojan War 

The Gathering at Aulis

In compliance with The Oath of Tyndareus then, Agamemnon's army gathered two years after the abduction of Helen in the Boeotian harbor of Aulis, opposite the island of Euboea, and, having sailed, they made an attack against Mysia in Asia Minor, where they were defeated by Telephus in the battle of the river Caicus, being forced to return. Some years later (perhaps eight) the Achaeans gathered again at Aulis for the second time. Telephus then appeared in Aulis wishing to be cured of the wound he had received in the Caicus battle, since an oracle had declared that only Achilles could heal him. And in return for this service, which the Achaeans granted, he showed the way to Troy (see below Conditions to take Troy). But before Telephus could show the way, the Achaeans had to leave Aulis; yet the fleet could not sail because of unfavorable wind conditions, and in front of this fastidious inconvenience the seer Calchas conceived a most extraordinary idea: he declared that the fleet would not be able to sail unless the fairest among Agamemnon's daughters were sacrificed to Artemis. For according to his deep insights, the goddess was claiming compensation after having heard some thoughtless words that Agamemnon had uttered while hunting a deer. This is why Iphigenia was lured from Mycenae to Aulis by treachery and false promises; and Calchas was allowed, in order to placate the impatient army or, as the seer said, the angry goddess, to bring Iphigenia to the altar as a victim and there deal a blow with his knife at her throat, as a remedy and method to tame the wind. This drastic measure was not appreciated, and Achilles, who was opposed to it, commented:

"What is a seer? A man who speaks few truths and many lies." (Achilles. Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 955).

When this atrocity had been consummated the fleet could sail away.


The Achaean army came first to the island off the coast of the Troad called Tenedos, where Achilles slew King Tenes, although he had been warned by his mother Thetis not to kill him or else he would himself die by the hand of Tenes' father Apollo. But Tenes was now dead; and since that could not be changed they tried to placate the god with an offering, and while they were performing the ceremony a snake came out from the altar and bit Philoctetes, whom the army later abandoned at Lemnos, not wishing to endure the stench of a sore that would not heal. In the wilderness of this island Philoctetes survived by shooting birds with the Bow & Arrows of Heracles 1 (see below: Conditions to take Troy). Philoctetes did not appear in the front at Troy until the last year of the war, after Achilles' death.

Peace embassy

When the Achaeans reached the Troad, which is the region about Troy, Odysseus and Menelaus were sent as ambassadors with the mission or persuading the Trojans to peacefully restore Helen and the Spartan property. This embassy failed and the Trojans, who had summoned an assembly, not only refused to restore Helen and the property, but also threatened to kill the envoys. However, this particularly treacherous crime was prevented by the intervention of Antenor 1, one of the Elders of Troy. Antenor 1 was of the opinion that Helen should be restored, and during the war he still caused trouble by letting the Trojan assemblies hear what he thought. Later, when Troy was being taken, the Achaeans showed their gratitude and respect by hanging a leopard's skin over the entrance of Antenor 1's house as a sign that his house was to be left unpillaged. And some have believed that Antenor 1 and his sons betrayed the city to the Achaeans, this being the reason why they were spared. That is what they thought, but then those who are eager to fight see cowards and traitors everywhere. In any case the negotiations failed and very soon the Trojans saw themselves trying in vain to prevent the landing of the outraged Achaean invaders.

The Landing

The negotiations having failed, the Achaeans approached with their fleet, being met on the beach by Trojan units which, protecting the shore, endeavored to prevent the landing by launching stones against the invaders. According to Thetis the first to land would be the first to die. And this man proved to be Protesilaus, a leader from Phylace in Thessaly, who landed first and, after killing several warriors, was himself slain either by a Dardanian leader, or by Hector 1, or by Cycnus 1, king of Colonae, a city in the Troad. His wife, they say, could not find consolation for her loss and, having made an image of him, consorted with it. At this sight the gods, taking pity on her, made Hermes bring up Protesilaus from the Underworld. On seeing him she thought that Protesilaus had returned from the war, and talked with him for three hours; but when her husband was carried back to the Underworld, she stabbed herself to death, not being able to endure him dying twice, or else she let herself burn together with her husband's image. It has been pointed out that if Protesilaus wife was Polydora 3, as some say, then she was the third woman in her family to kill herself on the death of her husband; for so did Polydora 3's mother Cleopatra 4 when Meleager died, and Polydora 3's grandmother Marpessa 1 when Idas 2 died. Protesilaus was buried in Elaeus, in the Thracian Chersonesus. Cycnus 1, whether he killed Protesilaus or not, was slain by Achilles, who choked him; for Cycnus 1 proved to be invulnerable and neither sword nor spear could wound him; yet some have said that Achilles killed him by throwing a stone at his head. On the death of Cycnus 1, who disappeared from inside his armour turned by his father Poseidon into a swan, the Trojans retired and took shelter behind the city walls; and so the Achaeans, having leaped from their ships, filled the plain and besieged the city.

The Country Ravaged

At some point, either before this landing or after it, the Achaeans sacked several other cities. Some believe that, after the landing, Achilles marched against Aeneas, who was defending Mount Ida but fled when the invader advanced. Achilles then, going farther, attacked and took Phocaea, the city in Asia Minor between the Elaitic and the Hermaean Gulfs; and Colophon, where Calchas met his death after the war; and Smyrna, said to have been founded by the AMAZONS. Then the indefatigable Achilles also sacked Thebe, east of Mount Ida, killing King Eetion 1, father of Andromache; and he took Lyrnessus, where he captured Briseis after slaying her husband. And besides these he took Clazomenae, and Cyme, and Adramytium, and Antandrus, and the island of Lesbos, and, as they say, many others. (See also Map: ACHAEAN & TROJANS, where the cities taken by Achilles are marked.)

The Trouble with Chryseis 3

Now the most relevant cities in this list proved to be Thebe and Lyrnessus, not necessarily for any strategical reasons, but because in the first Chryseis 3 was captured by Agamemnon, and in the second Briseis by Achilles, and great was the trouble that was caused for their sake. Agamemnon intended to keep Chryseis 3 as a prize, take her home and turn her into both a slave and a concubine. But her father Chryses 3, a priest of Apollo, came in the tenth year of the war to see the Mycenaean king and, blessing the whole army, offered a generous ransom for her daughter's freedom. The troops applauded the priest, but Agamemnon denied nevertheless Chryses 3's request , threatening the old man, who left the Achaean camp humiliated. But Chryses 3 prayed to Apollo so soon he found himself alone, asking him to let the Achaeans pay with the god's arrows the tears he was shedding. And the god, having learned the outrage his priest had suffered, came down from Olympus, as they say, darker than night, although he is known as the bright one; and shooting his golden arrows against the Achaean camp he caused a plague that decimated the army. When an assembly was called to discuss the plague the seer Calchas declared that the reason for it was to be found in Apollo's anger, which Agamemnon had aroused by insulting the priest and keeping his daughter. On hearing this the king first called Calchas prophet of evil, but he nevertheless accepted to give up his prize, provided another fresh prize was found to replace Chryseis 3; and if not, he said, he would help himself to someone else's prize.

The Wrath of Achilles

Because of this threat Achilles called the king shameless schemer, and accused him of always taking the lion's share and using others to pile wealth and luxuries for himself. But Agamemnon, displaying his authority as commander in chief, answered by letting Achilles know that, in the same way that Apollo was robbing him of Chryseis 3, he was now going to pay a visit to Achilles' tent and, by taking away his sweetheart Briseis, teach him a lesson in power and kingship. And Agamemnon, keeping his word, let Briseis be fetched and taken away from Achilles' tent. This is why Wrath could make its nest in Achilles' heart, keeping him in a dark mood and away from the battlefield. Very soon, when Achilles' host of Myrmidons had become an idle mass, the Trojans came out of the city and attacked the Achaean camp, now behind the wall and ditch that the invaders had built to protect themselves and the ships.

The Truce

But before that other encounters took place. There was an attempt to solve the conflict by a single combat to be fought between Paris and Menelaus. Paris was at first reluctant to fight, but after accepting Hector 1's reprimands, he also accepted the duel. With that purpose a truce was proposed …

"Trojans … and Achaeans … hear from me what Paris , who began this trouble, now proposes. He suggests that all the troops should ground their arms while he and Menelaus fight a duel, between the two armies, for Helen and her wealth. The one who wins…shall have the lady, goods and all, and take them hom with him, while the rest of us make a treaty of peace." (Hector 1 to the two armies. Homer, Iliad 3.85).

… and accepted. Paris fought with Menelaus and got almost killed. But when Menelaus, during the fight, seized him by the horsehair crest of the helmet and began to drag him, Aphrodite came and broke the strap of the helmet, so that it came away empty in Menelaus' hand, and then, to escape Menelaus' renewed attack, the goddess hid Paris in a mist and took him to his own bedroom in the city, where he soon met Helen in a kind of duel that suited him better:

"Come, let us go to bed together and be happy in our love." (Paris to Helen. Homer, Iliad 3.440).

Another goddess, Athena, came soon along looking for Pandarus 1 to make him break the truce. And assuming the shape of Laodocus 3, a Trojan spearman, she induced Pandarus 1 to shoot an arrow at Menelaus. The wound was shallow, for the same goddess protected Menelaus, whom Asclepius' son Machaon healed, but the hostilities were resumed.

Aphrodite wounded by Diomedes 2

Pandarus 1 was later killed by Diomedes 2, who would have also killed Aeneas had Aphrodite not intervened, but then the goddess herself was wounded by him. She then handed over Aeneas to Apollo, and as Diomedes 2 persisted in his attack, Apollo shouted at him:

"… Give way! Do not aspire to be the equal of the gods. The immortals are not made of the same stuff as men that walk on the ground!" (Apollo to Diomedes 2. Homer, Iliad 5.440).

Ajax 1 vs. Hector 1

Another single combat was fought between Ajax 1 and Hector 1, and it lasted until the heralds parted them when Night approached. The enemies, then, exchanged gifts, Hector 1 giving him his sword and Ajax 1 his belt. But as Fortune later turned her back on Ajax 1, he found reasons to say:

"Ever since I took into my hand this gift from Hector , my greatest enemy, I have gotten no good from the Greeks. Yes, men's proverb is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts and bring no good." (Ajax 1. Sophocles, Ajax 660).

This proved to be so because Ajax 1 gave Hector 1 the belt by which he was dragged by Achilles, and Hector 1 gave Ajax 1 the sword with which he killed himself.

Trojan offensive

In the meantime the trouble with Achilles' refusal to fight was not yet solved; and Zeus, having promised Thetis to honour Achilles for the outrage he had suffered on account of Briseis, showed the Achaeans—by defeat's bitter lesson—the value of the man they had offended, letting the Trojans approach the defence wall and threaten the Achaean camp. Zeus even sent Iris 1 with a message to Hector 1, letting him learn that when Agamemnon would be wounded, that was the signal for him to attack and slay warriors until he reached the Achaean ships. That is how Hector 1 won a day of glory and victory; for the defences were broken and the Achaeans were driven in rout among the ships. Having achieved this Zeus turned his eyes elsewhere, deeming that no other god would ever dare to intervene, as he had strictly forbidden them to help anybody in battle. But Poseidon, seeing that Zeus' attention was not in the battlefield, came to where the fight was, and assuming the seer's Calchas shape, gave the Achaeans renewed courage. When Zeus discovered what had happened, and that even the life of Hector 1 had been in danger, he soon reestablished the line of action he had decided, letting the Trojans reach the Achaean ships and Hector 1 win a victory, in order to fulfill the prayer of Thetis. But Zeus was only waiting for the glare of a burning ship; for from that time forth, he would grant glory to the Achaeans and let the Trojans be defeated.

Appeasing gifts

However, it was not before the military situation had considerably deteriorated that Agamemnon tried to appease Achilles' wrath so that he would fight again, by offering him the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities, and many other gifts which included Achilles' sweetheart Briseis, whom Agamemnon swore he had not touched. Nestor then appointed envoys to meet Achilles, and among these were Odysseus, Ajax 1, and Phoenix 2. But gifts, profit and riches were the same as nothing to Achilles, for whom friendship, honour, and being of one heart, was far more important. And so, convinced that the king would for ever lack the means to appease his offended heart, he turned down the gifts of the man who had committed against him the kind of crime they had come to Troy to avenge; for Agamemnon, he reasoned, had taken Briseis from him just as Paris had taken Helen from Menelaus. And since no agreement was reached between Agamemnon, who relied in wealth as means of persuasion, and the warrior proud of his own heart, new defeats fell upon the Achaeans.

Patroclus 1 witnesses disaster

While Achilles' mind and heart were controlled by his wrath, the Myrmidons, including Patroclus 1, did not participate in the fight, and it is because of this that the Achaeans suffered heavy losses and the Trojans were able to attack the Achaean ships. However, when Achilles thought he had seen Machaon from Tricca (a city in western Thessaly), the son of Asclepius, wounded and being carried by Nestor, he started to pity the Achaeans and sent Patroclus 1 to find out whether the wounded man was indeed Machaon. It was then that Patroclus 1 met Nestor, who exhorted him to persuade Achilles to fight again or let him fight in his stead, informing him of the distress of the army and the many wounded, among which were Diomedes 2, Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Eurypylus 1. Having also met the wounded Eurypylus 1, who alarmed him with his words…

"Patroclus, there is no salvation for the Achaeans now." (Eurypylus 1 to Patroclus 1. Homer, Iliad 11.825).

Patroclus 1 hasted to return to his tent, begging Achilles, with tears in his eyes, to fight or let him fight in his stead and with his armour, just as Nestor had suggested.

Patroclus 1 joins the fight and dies

And Achilles, who had come to change his mind to some extent, gave Patroclus 1 his armour and sent him to the battle at the front of the Myrmidons, advising him just to remove the Trojans from the Achaean ships, and under no circumstances go in their pursuit. But as, thanks to the intervention of the Myrmidons, the Trojans were being defeated, Patroclus 1 disobeyed Achilles' advice, going in pursuit of the Trojans. Then, in the middle of the battle, Apollo stroke his back, knocking off his helmet and undoing his corslet. And when Patroclus 1 was defenceless, Euphorbus struck him with a spear between the shoulders; and as Patroclus 1 crept wounded, Hector 1 killed him with a short spear-cast, taking Achilles' armour, which Patroclus 1 had worn.

Achilles fights again and dies

It is now that Achilles, nurturing a grief greater than his wrath, came to life again, and while Thetis fetched the new armour for his son, he called a council and in it, without asking anything in return, ended his feud with Agamemnon, who acknowledging that he himself had been the one whom the gods blinded, declared that he was ready to make amends and pay Achilles the compensation of the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities and all other magnificent gifts which included Achilles' sweetheart Briseis. And when the new armour arrived Achilles sought Hector 1 and killed him and outraged many times his body, intending to give it to the dogs, until by the will of the gods he was convinced to accept a ransom from King Priam 1 of Troy, who humiliated himself in front of the warrior who had killed his son. And as it had been predicted, shortly after the death of Hector 1, Achilles was killed. And what brave Hector 1, though he was the pillar of Troy, could not accomplish in close combat, was done by Paris from the distance. For it was he who, using weapons adapted to what has been thought to be his less audacious nature, put an end to Achilles' life, shooting him in the ankle and thus avenging the brother who had once despised him.

Death of Ajax 1

Achilles being dead his arms were offered as a prize to the bravest. Ajax 1 and Odysseus competed for them, the latter being preferred by the judges. As a revenge, Ajax 1 planned an attack on the army, but Athena drove him mad, and he slaughtered the cattle with the herdsmen, taking them for the Achaeans. And when he came to his senses he let himself fall upon the sword he had received as a gift from his enemy Hector 1 and died.

Philoctetes' Bow

In the meantime Philoctetes, instead of fighting at Troy, had spent many years in Lemnos, using the deadly weapon he had received from Heracles 1, not to slay Trojans but to shoot birds in the wilderness which he turned into meals in order to survive. For the army had abandoned him clad with a few rags, as though for a beggar, and leaving very little food. But now it was prophesied that it could only be possible to take the city if the Bow of Heracles 1, which Philoctetes owned, were brought to Troy. That is why an embassy was sent to Lemnos, where Philoctetes stayed because of his hideous sickness, in order to fetch the Bow (see below Conditions to take Troy).

Death of Paris

Philoctetes was persuaded or forced to come to Troy and, having arrived, he was healed by Podalirius or by Machaon, sons of Asclepius. Philoctetes then shot Paris who, seriously wounded by a poisoned arrow, came back to Oenone 1 (his first beloved from Mount Ida). But she, still grieving for his betrayal, refused to heal him and he died.

More conditions to take the city

As time went by and the city was still standing more conditions were added by the prophets. Now it became necessary to know the oracles that protected the city. In order to get them the Achaeans captured the Trojan seer Helenus 1 and forced him to speak out. And it is because of what this seer revealed that the Bone of Pelops 1 was fetched, Neoptolemus was brought to Troy, and the Palladium was stolen by Odysseus.


At last a stratagem invented by Odysseus made it possible to take the city. The Achaeans let the architect Epeius 2 fall timber on Ida and construct a WOODEN HORSE with a hollow interior and an opening in the side. Following the advice of Odysseus they introduced the best warriors into this dangerous piece of art and, after appointing Odysseus their leader, they engraved on the horse a treacherous inscription:

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

This is how the Achaeans pretended to give up. The next day the Trojans, finding the Achaean camp deserted and believing that they had fled, dragged the horse, and stationing it beside the palace of Priam 1 deliberated what they should do. sThe seeress Cassandra declared that there was an armed force in it, but her words had no effect since she was fated not to be believed in her prophecies. She was confirmed by the seer Laocoon 2, but he died killed by serpents. As a result the majority was in favor of sparing the WOODEN HORSE, and so they did.

Gates opened

In this way the Trojans themselves dragged the enemy into the city. The fleet was guided back by Sinon, who had been left behind by the Achaeans during their pretended retreat, in order to light a beacon lamp as a signal to them. Also Helen, they say, was awake that night and signalling from her chamber to the Achaean fleet to return; for the WOODEN HORSE was inside the walls, the gates would soon open, and it was time for the Achaeans to launch the final assault. And when those who were inside the WOODEN HORSE thought that the Trojans were asleep, they opened the horse and came forth with their arms, lighted on the walls, and opened the gates for the rest of the army, which had already returned from Tenedos, the small island off the Troad, and landed.

The Sack of Troy

Cassandra dragged from Athena's temple on the night of the fall of Troy. 4412: Antoine Rivalz 1667-1735: Cassandre tirée hors du temple de Pallas. Musée des beaux arts, Rouen.

The Achaeans then proceeded to slaughter the people in their own beds. King Priam 1 himself was killed by Neoptolemus while Ajax 2 found the confusion favorable in order to rape the princess and seeress Cassandra, who was clinging to the wooden image of Athena, which is believed to have been knocked over from its stand, as he dragged her away from the sanctuary. Little Astyanax 2, the child of Hector 1 and Andromache, was thrown from the battlements and slaughtered, and Priam 1's daughter Polyxena 1 was sacrificed on the grave of Achilles. Cassandra and Andromache were given respectively to Agamemnon and Neoptolemus as special awards, and Queen Hecabe 1 sailed away with Odysseus, to whom she had been assigned in servitude; and when they were passing the Hellespont, she threw herself into the sea and, according to some, she was turned into a bitch. Menelaus led Helen to the ships after killing Deiphobus 1 who had married her after Paris, and the sons of Theseus, Demophon 1 and Acamas 1, liberated Aethra 2, Theseus' mother, who had become Helen's slave years ago. When the Achaeans had divided the spoil, they put fire to the city.

"… The flame that consumed it will itself never be consumed." (G. K. Chesterton). 

Winning mostly Fame

After one decade of efforts Troy was destroyed and the ACHAEAN LEADERS could return home; but, with a few exceptions, home was no more, since their kingdoms had been infected by sedition, revolt and betrayal. Some never returned; for the gods sent storms and contrary winds because the Achaeans had despoiled the shrines and Ajax 2 had dragged Cassandra from the sanctuary of Athena. Others perished on their return, and still others went through many difficulties before they could settle again (see Map & Text: The Returns of the Achaean Leaders).

Conditions to take Troy
(prophesied before and during the war) 


When Achilles was nine years old, the seer Calchas declared that Troy could not be taken without him. Calchas, who followed with the army to Troy, was the son of the prophet Thestor 1. Calchas died, after the fall of Troy, when he met a wiser diviner than himself. This was Mopsus 2, son of Manto 1, daughter of the seer Tiresias

Ten years

When the Achaean army was in Aulis, after a sacrifice to Apollo, a serpent darted from the altar beside a nearby plane-tree in which there was a nest; and having consumed the eight sparrows in the nest, together with the mother-bird, which made the ninth, it was turned to stone. Calchas said that this sign was given them by the will of Zeus and he inferred, from what had happened, in a way that only a seer could, that Troy was destined to be taken in a period of ten years.


The Achaeans received an oracle telling that Troy could not be taken without the leadership of Telephus, son of Heracles 1. Telephus had defeated the Achaeans in the battle of the river Caicus when they, by mistake, landed in Mysia after their first gathering at Aulis. In this battle, however, Telephus was wounded by Achilles. And since, according to another oracle, he could only be healed by the spear that had wounded him, Telephus appeared in Aulis, where the Achaeans were gathering for the second time, and begged Achilles to heal him. The Achaeans granted this service because of the oracle concerning Telephus, and Achilles healed him by scraping off the rust of his spear. Telephus leadership consisted then in showing accurately the way to Troy, which he did.

Conditions revealed by Helenus 1

Helenus 1, Trojan seer captured by the Achaeans, was forced to tell how Troy could be taken. First, if the Bones of Pelops 1 were brought to them; second if Neoptolemus fought for them; and third, if the Palladium, which had fallen from heaven, were stolen from Troy, for while it was within the walls the city could not be taken.

The Bone of Pelops 1, a shoulder blade, was brought from Pisa. As they were returning home from Troy, the ship carrying the bone was wrecked off Euboea in a storm. Many years later, Damarmenus, a fisherman from Eretria in Euboea, drew up the bone. Marvelling at its size he kept it hidden in the sand. The bone was afterwards given to the Eleans following the oracle in Delphi.

Neoptolemus was in the island of Scyros. His father Achilles had been left there before disguised as a girl by his mother Thetis who wished to prevent him to go to war. During this time Achilles met Deidamia 1, daughter of King Lycomedes 1 of Scyros, who discovered his manhood, and Neoptolemus was born. Odysseus and Phoenix 2, a companion of Achilles, came to Scyros following the prophecy and persuaded Neoptolemus to come with them to Troy.

The Palladium is the wooden statue that fell from heaven and was kept at Troy; for so long as it was preserved, the city was safe. It was stolen by Odysseus and Diomedes 2, or perhaps removed by Aeneas.

Philoctetes and the Bow & Arrows of Heracles 1

When the war had already lasted ten years, and no results could be seen, Calchas prophesied to the Achaeans that Troy could not be taken unless they had the Bow & Arrows of Heracles 1 fighting on their side.

The story of this bow is as follows: When Heracles 1 had chopped off the immortal head of the Hydra and buried it, he slit up the body of the beast and dipped his arrows in the gall. One of this now poisoned arrows wounded the Centaur Chiron when Heracles 1, fighting with the CENTAURS, shot him by accident. Heracles 1 drew out the arrow and applied a medicine that Chiron himself prescribed, but the wound was incurable and Chiron retired to his cave wishing to die without being able to. However, Prometheus 1 offered himself to Zeus to be immortal in his stead, and so Chiron died.

At another time Heracles 1 shot the Centaur Nessus 2 when this one tried to rape his wife Deianira 1. Before dying Nessus 2 gave her an amulet containing his spilt blood saying that it was a love charm, which would help her to keep Heracles 1 with her. So when Deianira 1 learned about the love affair between her husband and Iole, she smeared a tunic with it and gave it to Heracles 1. When he put it on, no sooner was the tunic warmed than the poison of the Hydra began to corrode his skin. Heracles 1 understood he was going to die and, ascending the funeral pyre, asked each one who passed by to put fire to the pyre, but nobody had the courage to do it. Finally Poeas, Philoctetes' father, passing by to look for his flocks, set a light to it, and on him Heracles 1 bestowed his bow. But some say that Philoctetes himself lighted the pyre and received, in return for his compliance, the bow and arrows of Heracles 1.

Now, on his way to the Trojan War the army landed in Tenedos and there a snake bit Philoctetes, and as the wound did not heal and nobody could endure the stench, they put him ashore on the island of Lemnos, with the Bow & Arrows of Heracles 1, which he had in his possession. In Lemnos Philoctetes survived in the wilderness by shooting birds with the bow. But when the prophecy was uttered concerning the bow the Achaeans sent Odysseus and Diomedes 2 (some say Neoptolemus) to Philoctetes in Lemnos, and having by craft got possession of the bow and the arrows they persuaded him to sail to Troy.

Back in the war Philoctetes shot Paris dead with his bow and arrows. At the end of the war Philoctetes returned home to Meliboea, a city in Thessaly, only to discover that there was a sedition there. So not being able to stay at home he emigrated to Campania in Italy, and after making war on the Lucanians, he settled in Crimissa in southern Italy, near Croton and Thurium, and there he founded a sanctuary of Apollo, to whom he dedicated the bow.

Trojan War: Connected Events

Contextual Charts

Zeus is said to have wished to empty the earth, to exalt the heroes, or to make his daughter Helen famous for having being the cause of a great war between Europe and Asia. So different events pointed during a number of years in the same direction: the Trojan War and its sequels. This chart shows the connections between The Marriage of Thetis, The Apple of Eris, The Dream of Hecabe 1, The Judgement of Paris, The Oath of Tyndareus, The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, the Vengeance of Nauplius 1, The Funeral of Catreus, The Curse of Myrtilus, and other events.

Contextual Charts (14)"for literary reference $20
High resolution

Comments on the Trojan War by General Thucydides

hek017a: Büste des Thukydides. Holkham Hall (England). Die Bildniskunst der Griechen und Römer, von Anton Hekler (1912).

Thucydides lived approximately between 460 and 399 BC. The following is an excerpt of his History of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).
Translated by C. F. Smith

Power of Agamemnon

"(…) What enabled Agamemnon to raise the armament was more, in my opinion, his superiority in strength, than the oaths of Tyndareus, which bound the Suitors to follow him. Indeed, the account given by those Peloponnesians who have been the recipients of the most credible tradition is this. First of all Pelops, arriving among a needy population from Asia with vast wealth, acquired such power that, stranger though he was, the country was called after him; and this power fortune saw fit materially to increase in the hands of his descendants… [Agamemnon] had also a navy far stronger than his contemporaries, so that, in my opinion, fear was quite as strong an element as love in the formation of the confederate expedition. The strength of his navy is shown by the fact that his own was the largest contingent, and that of the Arcadians was furnished by him; this at least is what Homer says, if his testimony is deemed sufficient. Besides in his amount of the transmission of the sceptre, he calls him: 'Of many an isle, and of all Argos king'. Now Agamemnon's was a continental power; and he could not have been master of any except the adjacent islands (and these would not be many), but through the possession of a fleet. And from this expedition we may infer the character of earlier enterprises.

Ancient powers estimated

Now Mycenae may have been a small place and many of the towns of that age may appear comparatively insignificant, but no exact observer would therefore feel justified in rejecting the estimate given by the poets and by tradition of the magnitude of the armament. For I suppose if Lacedaemon were to become desolate, and the temples and the foundations of the public buildings were left, that as time went on there would be a strong disposition with posterity to refuse to accept her Fame as a true exponent of her power. And yet they occupy two-fifths of Peloponnesus and lead the whole, not to speak of their numerous allies without. Still, as the city is neither built in a compact form nor adorned with magnificent temples and public edifices, but composed of villages after the old fashion of Hellas, there would be an impression of inadequacy. Whereas, if Athens were to suffer the same misfortunes I suppose that any inference from the appearance presented to the eye would make her power to have been twice as great as it is. We have therefore no right to be skeptical nor to content ourselves with an inspection of a town to the exclusion of a consideration of its power; but we may safely conclude that the armament in question surpassed all before it, as it fell short of modern efforts; if we can here also accept the testimony of Homer's poems, in which, without allowing for the exaggeration which a poet would feel himself licensed to employ, we can see that it was far from equalling ours.

Ships and warriors

He has represented it as consisting of twelve hundred vessels; the Boeotian complement of each ship being a hundred and twenty men, that of the ships of Philoctetes fifty . By this, I conceive, he meant to convey the maximum and the minimum complement: at any rate he does not specify the amount of any others in his catalogue of the ships. That they were all rowers as well as warriors we see from his account of the ships of Philoctetes, in which all the men at the oar are bowmen. Now it is improbable that many supernumeraries sailed if we except the kings and high officers; especially as they had to cross the open sea with munitions of war, in ships, moreover, that had no decks, but were equipped in the old piratical fashion. So that if we strike the average of the largest and smallest ships, the number of those who sailed will appear inconsiderable, representing, as they did, the whole force of Hellas.

Problems with supplies

And this was due not so much to scarcity of men as of money. Difficulty of subsistence made the invaders reduce the numbers of the army to a point at which it might live on the country during the prosecution of the war. Even after the victory they obtained on their arrival --and a victory there must have been, or the fortifications of the naval camp could never have been built-- there is no indication of their whole force having been employed; on the contrary, they seem to have turned to cultivation of the Chersonese and to piracy from want of supplies. This was what really enabled the Trojans to keep the field for ten years against them; the dispersion of the enemy making them always a match for the detachment left behind. If they had brought plenty of supplies with them, and had persevered in the war without scattering for piracy and agriculture, they would have easily defeated the Trojans in the field; since they could hold their own against them with the division on service. In short if they had stuck to the siege, the capture of Troy would have cost them less time and less trouble.

Some sequels of the war

(…) Even after the Trojan war Hellas was still engaged in removing and settling, and thus could not attain to the quiet which must precede growth. The late return of the Hellenes from Ilium caused many revolutions, and factions ensued almost everywhere; and it was the citizens thus driven into exile who founded the cities. Sixty years after the capture of Ilium the modern Boeotians were driven out of Arne by the Thessalians, and settled in the present Boeotia, the former Cadmeis; though there was a division of them there before, some of whom joined the expedition to Ilium. Twenty years later the Dorians and the HERACLIDES became masters of Peloponnesus; so that much had to be done and many years had to elapse before Hellas could attain to a durable tranquillity undisturbed by removals, and could begin to send out colonies, as Athens did to Ionia and most of the islands, and the Peloponnesians to most of Italy and Sicily and some places in the rest of Hellas. All these places were founded subsequently to the war with Troy (…)"

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