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Ancient Greece - Index

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1185 - 1200 BC - The Trojan War

 

Characters from the epics of Homer, Virgil, and others

 
  • Achilles : Greek soldier who is the greatest warrior in history. No man can stand against him, but his excessive confidence (called hubris) gets him into trouble. He is the son of Peleus and a sea nymph named Thetis.
  • Aeneas : Brave and powerful Trojan warrior.
  • Agamemnon : King of the Mycenaeans and commander-in-chief of the Greek armies.
  • Ajax the Great : Hulking giant who is second only to Achilles in battlefield skills.
  • Aphrodite : Goddess of love and beauty who sides with the Trojans.
  • Apollo : Highly revered and feared sun god who sides with the Trojans.
  • Ares : God of war who sides with the Trojans.
  • Artemis : Goddess of archery and hunting who sides with the Trojans.
  • Astyanax : Son of Hector; was sacrificed at the end of the war.
  • Athena : Goddess of wisdom and war who favors the Greeks.
  • Briseis : Beautiful captive of Achilles, who is later taken by Agamemnon as his “war bride”.
  • Calchas : Prophet (soothsayer or seer).
  • Cassandra : Prophet (soothsayer or seer).
  • Chryseis : Daughter of the god Apollo’s priest. She became a captive of Agamemnon. 
  • Diomedes : Greek warrior of extraordinary valor and ability.
  • Eris : Goddess of discord (lack of harmony; disagreement) who starts this whole thing.
  • Hector : Bravest and most accomplished of the Trojan warriors; son of Priam.
  • Hecuba : Mother of Paris and Hector.
  • Helen : Wife of Menelaus and the most beautiful woman in the world.
  • Helenus : Prophet (soothsayer or seer).
  • Hephaestus : God of the forge (blacksmith) who favors the Greeks.
  • Hera : Wife of Zeus and queen of the gods who favors the Greeks.
  • Laocoon : Tried to convince the Trojans to reject the Trojan Horse, but was crushed by snakes.
  • Laodamia : Wife of Protesilaus, who committed suicide after the death of her husband.
  • Menelaus : King of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. After his wife, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was taken by a Trojan named Paris , the Greeks declared war on Troy .
  • Nestor : Wise old king who advises Agamemnon.
  • Odysseus : King of Ithaca and brilliant strategist. He is unsurpassed in cunning (quick-witted and imaginative strategy).
  • Paris : Trojan prince who took Helen from Menelaus; son of Priam.
  • Patroclus : Greek warrior and beloved companion of Achilles.
  • Peleus : King who is the father of Achilles.
  • Philoctetes : Greek warrior who was bitten by a snake and marooned by the army. He had the bow and arrows of Hercules.
  • Polyxena : Daughter of King Priam; was sacrificed at the end of the war.
  • Priam : King of Troy and father of Paris and Hector. 
  • Protesilaus : Greek warrior who was the first to fight, and first to die, in the war.
  • Sinon : Greek warrior who tried to convince the Trojans to accept the Trojan Horse into their city.
  • Telephus : King of the Teuthranians.
  • Thetis : Sea nymph who is the mother of Achilles.
  • Zeus : King of the gods who prefers to remain neutral in the war but joins the fight after a plea for help.

 

The War

 

Sparta and the rest of mainland Greece declares war on Troy (Ilium) in Asia Minor over the kidnapping of Helen of Argos, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy.

  • Homer Iliad, 3, p. 73. Menelaus prays to Zeus, "Grant me revenge, King Zeus, on Paris, the man who wronged me in the beginning. Use my hands to bring him down..."

After nine years of the war, Homer's Iliad begins a record of the events of a few months during the tenth year.

  • Homer Iliad, 2, p. 48-9. Odysseus convinces the Achaeans (Greeks) to renew their resolve to conquer Troy saying, "Nine, then, is the number of years that we shall have to fight at Troy, and in the tenth its broad streets will be ours...stand your ground till we capture Priam's spacious town."

According to myth, the gods of Mt. Olympus played a hand in the war, but the humanistic gods bickered too much amongst themselves to mount an effective defense or offense on either side.

  • Homer Iliad, 8, p. 154. The goddess Athena complains that her father, Zeus, is always "meddling" with her plans to intervene in the war.
  • Homer Iliad, 15, p. 271. Zeus is disgusted that Hera and the other gods are playing a part in the war (more precisely that they are playing a part on the opposite side of his liking). Zeus says to Hera, "Hera...you are incorrigible: I am sure this is your doing...I have half a mind to strike you with my bolt and let you be the first to reap the fruits of your unconscionable tricks."

Finally, according to Homer's mythical element of the Iliad, Zeus allows the gods to enter the battle on whichever side they choose. This leads to further fighting between the gods, but hastens the conclusion of the war.

  • Homer Iliad, 20, p. 366. Zeus says, "...I propose to stay here and seat myself in some Olympian glen from which I can enjoy the spectacle. The rest of you have my permission to join the Trojans and Achaeans, and to give your help to either side as your sympathies dictate."

The dual between Achilles and Hector is one of the most memorable in history. Achilles' victory leads to the sacking of Troy.

  • Homer Iliad, 22, p. 406-7. Achilles kills Hector in a great dual. Hector's death and the hubris filled victory of Achilles are recorded. Achilles says, "The swift Achilles scowled at him. ' You cur...I only wish that I could summon up the appetite to carve and eat you raw myself..."

The Iliad ends in an unstable truce between the warring parties after Achilles agrees to return the body of Hector to King Priam.

  • Homer Iliad, 24, p. 450-2. King Priam convinces Achilles to return the body of Hector. After some pleading, Achilles agrees because of the memory of his deceased father.

The Odyssey is Homer's account of the extremely long, yet adventurous, journey of Odysseus, one of the heroes of the Trojan War, back to his home at Ithaca in Greece. The Odyssey begins several years after the fall of Troy.

King Nestor, one of the survivors of the Trojan War and a friend of Odysseus, tells Telemachus, Odysseus' son, the story of Nestor's last contact with Odysseus.

  • Homer Odyssey, 3, p. 53-4. According to Nestor, after the war, "Zeus planned disaster for [the Greeks] on the homeward run." A quarrel ensued between the "two sons of Atreus," Agamemnon and Menelaus, which divided the Greek fleet. According to Nestor, "It was the followers of Odysseus, that wise and subtle king, who thus saw fit to renew their allegiance to Agamemnon son of Atreus. But I, well aware of [Zeus'] sinister designs, fled on with the massed ships that formed my company." Nestor then tells Telemachus that he never saw Odysseus again. Nestor also sheds some light on the homecomings of other Trojan warriors.

With the help of his son Telemachus, Odysseus slaughters the suitors who have squandered his estate in a vain attempt to marry his wife Penelope. Homer writes of the grizzly manner in which Odysseus took vengeance on the suitors.

  • Homer Odyssey, 22, p. 340. "Next Melanthius was dragged out across the court and through the gate. There with a sharp knife they sliced his nose and ears off; they ripped away his privy parts as raw meat for the dogs, and in their fury they lopped off his hands and feet."

The Odyssey ends with a civil war in response to the slaughter of the suitors. Zeus end hastens an end to the conflict through Athena. Odysseus resumes as king of Ithaca.

  • Homer Odyssey, 24, p. 365. "Zeus let fly a flaming bolt, which fell in front of the bright-eyed Daughter of the formidable Sire. Athena called out at once to Odysseus by his royal titles, commanding him to hold his hand and bring this civil strife to a finish... Odysseus obeyed her... And presently Pallas Athena... established peace between the two contending forces."

 

Some Trojan War web pages containing summaries of the epic poems

 

http://www.stanford.edu/~plomio/history.html
http://www.enl.umassd.edu/InteractiveCourse/Homer/homer.html
http://sites.micro-link.net/zekscrab/books.html
http://novaonline.nvcc.edu/eli/eng251/virgilstudy.html#story
http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/literature/iliad.htm
http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/religion/myths/trojanhorse.htm
http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/ent/A0849474.html
http://www.timelessmyths.com/classical/trojanwar.html



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