The Trojan War was a war waged, according to legend, against the city of Troy in Asia Minor, by the armies of the Achaeans, following the kidnapping (or elopement) of Helen of Sparta by Paris of Troy. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, of which the two most famous are the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer. The Iliad relates a part of the last year of the siege of Troy, and the Odyssey describes the journey home of one of the Greek leaders, Odysseus. Other parts of the story were narrated in a cycle of epic poems, which has only survived in fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and the Roman poets Virgil and Ovid.

Ancient Greeks believed that the Trojan War was a historical event. They believed that this war took place in the 13th or 12th century BC, and that Troy was located in the vicinity of the Dardanelles in what is now north-western Turkey. By modern times both the war and the city were widely believed to be mythological. In 1870, however, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated a site in this area which he believed to be the site of Troy, and at least some archaeologists agree. There remains no certain evidence that Homer's Troy ever existed, still less that any of the events of the Trojan War cycle ever took place. Many historians believe that the Homeric stories are a fusion of various stories of sieges and expeditions by the Greeks of the Bronze Age or Mycenean period, and do not describe actual events. Those who think that the stories of the Trojan War derive from a specific historical conflict usually date it to between 1300 BC and 1200 BC, usually preferring the dates given by Eratosthenes (1194 BC – 1184 BC) which roughly corresponds with the burning of Troy VIIa.


The events of the Trojan War were narrated in many works of Greek literature and depicted in numerous works of Greek art. There is no single, authoritative text which tells the entire story of the war. Instead, the story is assembled from many different sources, which sometimes report contradictory versions of events. The most important literary sources are the two epic poems traditionally credited to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, composed sometime between the 8th and 6th centuries BC. Each poem narrates only a part of the war. The Iliad covers a short period in the last year of the siege of Troy, while the Odyssey concerns Odysseus's return to his home island of Ithaca after the sack of Troy. Both epics refer to incidents from other stages of the war, an indication that Homer's audience was familiar with the entire story of the war. Many scholars believe that a flourishing oral tradition, from which the Homeric poems themselves are derived, passed on the mythology of the Trojan War. Jonathan Burgess, however, cautions that the tradition of the Trojan War was transmitted not just through performances of epic poetry, but also through other poetic genres and through non-poetic storytelling, as well as through visual art such as vase-painting.[1]

Several other poems fill the story of the Trojan War that was untold by Homer, these were known as the Epic Cycle or Cyclic Epics. These poems are often dated to the 7th and the 6th century BC.[2] They are the Kypria, which begins with Zeus' decision to reduce the number of people on earth through the Trojan War through the day the Iliad begins. The Aithiopis begins the day after the Iliad and ends with the death of Achilles. The Little Iliad continues until the entry of the Trojan Horse inside the walls of Troy. The Iliou Persis narrates Troy's fall, and the Nostoi relates the return of the Achean heroes (except Odysseus) to their homes and their fates. The Telegony gives Odysseus' adventures after the Odyssey until his death. The Cyclic Epics only survive in fragments. For knowledge of their contents we are dependent on Proclus, a writer of the 2nd or 5th century AD, who gives a summary of the epics with some quotations in his Chrestomathy.

In later ages playwrights, historians and other intellectuals would create works inspired by the Trojan War. The three great tragedians of Athens, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides wrote many dramas that portray episodes from the Trojan War. Poets though would change the myth in order to fit their dramatical needs, thus the myth continued to evolve. Later poets tried to integrate this change by writing new poems which would include them. Among these poems Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica has survived. It deals with the events of the war after the end of the Iliad.

Among Roman writers the most important is the 1st century BC poet Virgil. In Book 2 of the Aeneid, Aeneas narrates the sack of Troy; this section of the poem is thought to rely on material from the Cyclic Epic Iliou Persis.

Date of the Trojan War

Since this war was considered among the ancient Greeks as either the last event of the mythical age or the first event of the historical age, several dates are given for the fall of Troy. They usually derive from geneologies of kings. Ephorus gives 1135 BC [3], Eratosthenes [4] 1184 BC/1183 BC, Plato 1193 BC [5], the Parian marble 1209 BC/1208 BC [6] ,Dicaearchus [7]1212 BC, Herodotus around 1250 BC [8] while Douris 1334 BC [9]. The glorious and rich city Homer describes was believed to be Troy VI by many 20th century authors, destroyed in 1275 BC, probably by earthquake. Its follower Troy VIIa , destroyed by fire at some point during the 1180s, was long considered a poorer city, but since the excavation campaign of 1988 it has risen to the most likely candidate.

What follows is an account of the conflict according to Greek and Roman myths


Zeus's master plan

For the foundation of Troy and her first fall to Heracles see Troy

According to Greek mythology, Zeus became king of the gods by overthrowing his father Cronus; Cronus in turn had overthrown his father Ouranos. Zeus was not faithful to his wife (and sister) Hera and had many relationships from which many children were born. Since there were too many people populating the earth already he came up along with Themis with the idea of the Trojan War in order to depopulate the Earth, especially of his demigod descendants [10] [11]

Peleus and Thetis, the apple, and the judgment

See also Judgement of Paris.

Zeus came to learn from either Themis [12] or Prometheus after Heracles had released him from Caucasus, [13], that he himself would be overthrown by a son of his. Within the extent of Greek myth, though, this never happened. Another prophecy said of the sea-nymph Thetis, with whom Zeus had an affair, that her son would be greater than his father [14] [15] [16]. Possibly for one or both of these reasons [17], Thetis was betrothed to a now-elderly human king, Peleus son of Aiakos, either upon Zeus' orders [18] [19], or because Thetis wished to please Hera since she had raised her[20].

All of the gods were invited to Peleus and Thetis' wedding and brought gifts [21], except Eris, or Discord. Insulted, she either attended invisibly and brought a gift of her own or threw it from the door [22]: She cast down upon the table a golden apple on which were inscribed the words Te Kallisti, (To the fairest). The apple was claimed by Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. They quarreled bitterly over it, and none of the other gods would venture an opinion favoring one contender for fear of earning the enmity of the other two. Eventually, Zeus ordered Hermes to lead the three godesses to Paris, a prince of Troy, who, unaware of his parents, was being raised as a shepherd in Mt. Ida [23] because of a prophecy that he would be the downfall of Troy.[24][25] The goddesses tried to bribe the shepherd. Athena offered Paris wisdom, skill in battle, and the abilities of the greatest warriors; Hera offered him political power and control of all of Asia, and Aphrodite offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite, and, after several adventures, returned to Troy and was recognised by his family.

To Peleus and Thetis a son was born, named Achilles[26]. It was foretold that he would either die of old age after an uneventful life, or die young in a battlefield and gain immortality through poetry. Furthermore Calchas had prophesied, when Achilles was nine, that Troy could not fall again without his help [27]. Hoping to have him forever, when he was an infant his mother tried to grant him immortality. First she held him over fire to burned away his mortal parts every night over fire and would rub him with ambrosia during the day[28]. Peleus, who had already lost 6 sons this way[29],discovered this and stopped it. Then she bathed him in the River Styx, making him invincible wherever he had touched the water [30].Unfortunately she had held him by the heel. This part of him remained mortal, and thus he remained human and not a god. He grew up to be the greatest of all mortal warriors.

The elopement of Paris and Helen

The most beautiful woman in the world was Helen, one of the daughters of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. Her mother was Leda, who had been seduced (or raped) by Zeus in the form of a swan;[31] accounts differ over which of Leda's four children were fathered by Zeus and which by Tyndareus. Helen though is usually given as Zeus' daughter[32] [33] and sometimes Nemesis is given as her mother.[34][35] Helen had scores of suitors, and her father was unwilling to choose one for fear the others would retaliate violently. They were:

Ulysses, son of Laertes; Diomedes, son of Tydeus; Antilochus, son of Nestor; Agapenor, son of Ancaeus; Sthenelus, son of Capaneus; Amphimachus, son of Cteatus; Thalpius, son of Eurytus; Meges, son of Phyleus; Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus; Menestheus, son of Peteos; Schedius and Epistrophus, sons of Iphitus; Polyxenus, son of Agasthenes; Peneleos, son of Hippalcimus; Leitus, son of Alector; Ajax, son of Oileus; Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, sons of Ares; Elephenor, son of Chalcodon; Eumelus, son of Admetus; Polypoetes, son of Perithous; Leonteus, son of Coronus; Podalirius and Machaon, sons of Aesculapius; Philoctetes, son of Poeas; Eurypylus, son of Evaemon; Protesilaus, son of Iphiclus; Menelaus, son of Atreus; Ajax and Teucer, sons of Telamon; Patroclus, son of Menoetius. (Apollodorus, Library 3.10.8, edited by Sir James George Frazer)

This list is not complete, even Apollodorus (where this list originates) later mentions Idomeneus king of Crete [36] and Cinyras king of Cyprus.[37] Finally, one of the suitors, Odysseus of Ithaca, proposed a plan to solve the dilemma. In exchange for Tyndareus' support of his own suit towards Penelope,[38] he suggested that Tyndareus allow Helen to choose her husband (instead of their father, as was typical in Greece from the mythical age until the 20th century) require all of Helen's suitors to promise that they would defend the marriage of Helen, regardless of whom she chose. The suitors duly swore the required oath on the severed pieces of a horse [39] although not without a certain amount of grumbling.

Helen chose Menelaus to wed. He had humbly not petitioned for her himself, but instead sent his brother Agamemnon on his behalf. He had promised Aphrodite a hecatomb, a sacrifice of 100 oxen, if he had married Helen but forgot about it, and earned her wrath.[40] The two brothers had been living at Tyndareus' court since being exiled from their homeland of Argos after their father, Atreus, was killed and had his throne usurped by his brother Thyestes and Thyestes' son Aegisthus.[41] Menelaus inherited Tyndareus' throne of Sparta with Helen as his queen when her brothers Castor and Pollux became gods[42][43] and Agamemnon married Helen's sister Clytemnestra and took back the throne of Argos.[44]

On a diplomatic mission to Sparta, Paris fell in love with Helen. Menealus had to leave for Crete[45] to bury his uncle Crateus.[46] Paris with Aphrodite's help, kidnapped[47] or seduced her[48][49] and sailed to Troy carrying part of Menelaus treasure. Hera, still jealous over his judgement sent a storm.[50] The storm made the lovers land in Egypt, where the gods replaced Helen with an liking of her made of clouds, Nephele.[51] The myth of Helen being switched is attributed to 6th century BC Sicilian poet Stesichorus. For Homer the true Helen was in Troy. Then the ship landed in Sidon before reaching Troy. Paris, fearful of getting caught, spent some time there and then sailed to Troy [52]

Menelaus asked Agamemnon to uphold his oath. He agreed and sent him Nestor along with other emissaries to all the kings and princes of Greece, who were called to make good their oaths and retrieve Helen.[53] Paris was not the first hero to elope or kidnap his bride. Medea had left Colchis with Jason.[54] Also the Trojan princess Hesione had been eloped by Heracles who gave her to Telamon of Salamis.[55] So Priam did not expect he had to pay for Paris' elopement.[56]

Map of Homeric Greece

The gathering of Achean forces and the first expedition

Odysseus and Achilles

Odysseus had by this time married Penelope and fathered a son, Telemachus. In order to avoid the war, he feigned madness, and sowed his fields with salt. Palamedes outwitted him by putting his infant son in front of the plough, and Odysseus turned aside, unwilling to kill his son, and so revealed his sanity and joined the war.[57][58]

After Calchas' oracle that the Greeks would not win without Achilles, his mother Thetis, knowing that Achilles would die if he went to Troy, disguised him as a girl in the court of king Lycomedes in Scyros.[59] There he had an affair with the king's daughter Deidameia, resulting in a child, Neoptolemus.[60] Odysseus, Telamonian Ajax, and Achilles' tutor Phoenix went to retrieve Achilles. According to one story they blew a horn, and Achilles revealed himself by seizing a spear to fight intruders rather than fleeing.[61] According to another, they disguised themselves as merchants bearing trinkets and weaponry, and Achilles was marked out from the other women by admiring the wrong goods.[62][63]

Pausanias notes[64] that according to Homer Achilles did not hide in Scyros but rather conquered the island, as part of the Trojan War.

First gathering at Aulis

The Achean forces gathered at Aulis. All the suitors sent their forces except King Cinyras of Cyprus, though he had sworn on Agamemnon's breastplate to send 50 ships, sent only 1 true ship led by the son of Mygdalion and 49 toy ships.[65] Idomeneus was willing to lead the Cretan contingent in Mycenae's war against Troy, but only as a co-commander which he was granted. The last one to arrive was Achilles, who was then 15 years old. During a sacrifice to Apollo the following happened: a serpent darted from the altar beside the neighboring 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 interpreted this as a sign that Troy would fall on the 10th year of the war.[66][67]


When the Greeks left for the war, they were unaware of the route and accidentally landed in Mysia, ruled by King Telephus son of Heracles who had led a contigent of Arcadians to settle there.[68] In the battle, Achilles wounded Telephus,[69] who killed Thersander.[70] The wound would not heal so Telephus asked an oracle "What will happen to the wound?". The oracle responded, "he that wounded shall heal". The Greek fleet then set sail and was scattered by a storm. Achilles landed in Scyros and married Deidameia. A new gathering was set again in Aulis.[71]

Telephus went to Aulis, and either pretended to be a beggar, asking Agamemnon to help heal his wound,[72] or kidnapped Orestes and held him for ransom, demanding the wound be healed. Achilles refused, claiming to have no medical knowledge. Odysseus reasoned that the spear had inflicted the wound and the spear must be able to heal it. Pieces of the spear were scraped off onto the wound, and Telephus was healed.[73] Then Telephus led the second campaign to Troy.[74]

The second gathering

Eight years after the storm had scatrered them,[75] the fleet of more than a thousand ships was gathered again. But when they had all reached Aulis, the winds ceased. The prophet Calchas stated that the goddess Artemis was punishing Agamemnon for killing a sacred deer (or a deer in a sacred grove) and boasting that he was a better hunter than she.[76] The only way to appease Artemis, he said, was to sacrifice Iphigenia that was either the daughter Agamemnon [77] or of Helen and Theseus entrusted to Clytemnestra (Agamemnon's wife) when Helen married Menelaus.[78] Originally he refused and the other commanders threatened to put Palamedes instead as cammander of the expedition. [79] Thus he relented. According to some versions, he did so, but others claim that he sacrificed a deer in her place, or that just before Agamemnon slayed her, Artemis took pity on the poor girl and took her to be a maiden in one of her temples, replacing her with a lamb.[80] Hesiod said she became the goddess Hecate.[81]

The Greeks also brought the bones of Pelops, father of Atreus and grandfather of Agamemnon and Menelaus to help them win the war. An oracle said they would be necessary to win.

The Greek forces are described in detail in the Catalogue of Ships in the second book of the Iliad. They consist of 28 contingents from mainland Greece, the Peloponnese, the Dodecanese islands, Crete and Ithaca made of 1168 pentekontoroi, that is ships with 50 rowers. As Thucydides mentions [82] according to tradition there were about 1200 ships, the Boeotian ships had 120 men while Philoctetes ships only the fifty rowers, these probably being maximum and minimum. Thus the total force numbered between 70,000 and 130,000 men. Another catalogue of ships is given by Apollodorus that differs somewhat but agrees in numbers. Some scholars have claimed that Homer's catalogue is an original Bronze age document, possibly the Achean commanders order of operations.[83][84]. Others though believe it was a fabrication of Homer

The Trojan forces are also listed in the second book of the Iliad, consisting of the Trojans themselves, led by Hector, and various allies listed as Dardanians led by Aeneas, Zeleians, Adrasteians, Percotians, Pelasgians, Thracians, Ciconian spearmen, Paionian archers, Halizones, Mysians, Phrygians, Maeonians, Miletians, Lycians led by Sarpedon and Carians. Only the Carians are specifically mentioned by Homer to be barbarian-speaking.

Nine Years of War



Philoctetes was Heracles' friend and, because he lit Heracles's funeral pyre when no one else would, he received Heracles' bow and arrows.[85] He sailed with seven ships full of men to the Trojan War, where he was planning on fighting for the Greeks. They stopped either Chryse for supplies,[86] or in Tenedos along with the rest of the fleet.[87] In either of these locations Philoctetes was bitten by a snake. The wound festered and smelled horrible; Odysseus advised and the Atreidae ordered Philoctetes to stay on Lemnos.[88] Medon took control of Philoctetes's men. On Tenedos Achilles killed king Tenes son of Apollo with his spear even though he was warned by his mother that if he did so he would be killed by Apollo himself.[89] From Tenedos Agamemnon sent an embassy to Priam composed of Menelaus, Odysseus and Palamedes asking for Helen's return. Priam refused.[90]

Philoctetes stayed on Lemnos for ten years, which was a deserted island according to Sophocles' tagedy Philoctetes but according to earlier tradition was populated by Minyans.[91]


Calchas had prophesied that the first Greek to walk on the land after stepping off a ship in the Trojan War would be the first to die.[92] Thus even Achilles hesitated to land. Finally Protesilaus, leader of the Phylaceans, landed first.[93]. Achilles jumped second and killed Cycnus. The Trojans then fled to the safety of the walls of their city.[94] Protesilaus had killed many Trojans but was killed by Hector[95] or Aeneas,Achates or Ephorbus.[96] The Greeks buried him as a god on the Thracian peninsula, across the Troad.[97]. Hermes was sent to show him his wife one last time before going to Hades. His wife, Laodamia, followed him to his death. Alternatively, Hector killed Protesilaus and Laodamia killed herself in grief.[98] His grave on Eleus which included considerable treasure was looted by Xerxes.[99] After Protesilaus' death, his brother, Podarces, joined the war in his place.

Achilles' campaigns

Greek Mythology

Battle Scenes, Ambrosian Iliad Pictures 20, 21

The Acheans besieged Troy for nine years. This part of the war is the least developped among surviving sources, which prefer to talk about events in the last yar of the war. After the initial landing the army was gathered in its entirety again only in the tenth year, due to lack of money as Thucydides deduces. They raided the Trojan allies and spent time farming the Thracian peninsula.[100]

Achilles raided the land of Aeneas in the Troad region and stole his cattle.[101] He also captured Lyrnassus and Pedasus and many of the neighbouring cities, and killed Troilus, son of Priam who was 19 and was said that if he reached 20 Troy would not fall. Then:

He also took Lesbos and Phocaea, then Colophon, and Smyrna, and Clazomenae, and Cyme; and afterwards Aegialus and Tenos, the so-called Hundred Cities; then, in order, Adramytium and Side; then Endium, and Linaeum, and Colone. He took also Hypoplacian Thebes and Lyrnessus, and further Antandrus, and many other cities. (Apollodorus, Epitome 3.33 edited by Sir James George Frazer)

Among the loot from these cities was Briseis that was awarded to him and Chryseis that was awarded to Agamemnon.[102] Achilles captured Lycaon, son of Priam[103] while he was cutting branches in his father's orchards. Patroclus sold him a slave in Lemnos [104] where he was bought by Eetion of Imbros and brought back to Troy. Only 12 days later Achilles slew him again (after the death of Patroclus).[105]

Aias' campaigns

Aias the Telamonian attacked the town of the Phrygian king Teleutas, and carried off his daughter Tecmessa. He also laid waste the Thracian peninsula of which Polymestor, a son-in-law of Priam, was king. Polymestor surrendered Polydorus, one of Priam's children, of whom he had custody. Aias also hunted the Trojan flocks, both on Mount Ida and in the countryside.

Palamedes' end

Odysseus was sent to Troy to return with grain but came back empty handed. When scorned by Palamedes he challenged him to do better. Palamedes set out also and returned with a shipload. On seeing this, Odysseus who had never forgiven him for threatening the life of his son conjured a plot. He compelled a Phrygian him to write a letter of treasonable purport ostensibly sent by Priam to Palamedes. Then he buried gold in the quarters of Palamedes and he dropped the letter in the camp. Agamemnon read the letter, found the gold, and delivered up Palamedes to the allies to be stoned as a traitor.[106] Pausanias quoting the Cypria though puts the conspiracy differently:[107] Odysseus and Diomedes drowned him when he was put out to catch fish. Palamede's father Nauplius sailed to the Troad and asked for justice from Agamemnon. Agamemnon refused and protected Odysseus. In revenge Nauplius traveled to the lands of the Acheans and told the wives of the kings that they were bringing Trojan concubines to dethrone them. In vengeance many of them stared cheating on them, most significantly Clytaemnestra with Aegisthus, son of Thyestes.[108]

The Iliad

Main article: Iliad

Chryses, a priest of Apollo and father of Chryseis, comes to Agamemnon to ask for the return of his daughter. Agamemnon refuses, and insults Chryses, who prays to Apollo to avenge his ill-treatment. Enraged, Apollo strikes the Achaean army with plague. Agamemnon is forced to return Chryseis to avert the plague, and takes the concubine Briseis from Achilles. Enraged, Achilles withdraws from battle.

After the withdrawal of Achilles, the Achaeans are without their best warrior. Even so, the Achaeans are initially successful. Diomedes, with the assistance of Athena, nearly kills Aeneas, and wounds the gods Aphrodite and Ares. Nevertheless, the Trojans soon have the upper hand. They break into the Achaean camp, and are on the verge of setting fire to the Achaean ships, when Achilles allows his close friend Patroclus to go into battle wearing Achilles' armor. Patroclus drives the Trojans back all the way back to the walls of Troy, and is only prevented from storming the city by the intervention of Apollo. Patroclus is then killed by Hector, who takes Achilles' armor from the body of Patroclus.

Achilles, maddened with grief, decides to return to battle. He receives a new set of arms, forged by the god Hephaestus, and returns to the battlefied. He slaughters many Trojans, and kills Hector. The Achaeans then conduct funeral games for Patroclus. Afterwards, Priam comes to Achilles' tent, guided by Hermes, and asks Achilles to return Hector's body. The armies make a temporary truce to allow the burial of the dead, and the Iliad ends with the funeral of Hector.

After the Iliad

The death of Achilles

Shortly after the death of Hector, Achilles defeated Memnon of Ethiopia, Cycnus of Colonae and the Amazonian warrior Penthesilia (with whom Achilles also had an affair in some versions). He was very soon killed by Paris — either by a poisoned arrow (the arrow was guided by Apollo; Paris did not do it by himself), or in an older version by a knife to the back (or heel), while visiting a Trojan princess, Polyxena, during a truce. Both versions conspicuously deny the killer any sort of valour, saying Achilles remains undefeated on the battlefield. His bones were mingled with those of Patroclus, and funeral games were held. Like Ajax, he is represented as living after his death in the island of Leuke at the mouth of the Danube.

Achilles' armour and the death of Ajax

Achilles' armour was the object of a feud between Odysseus and Ajax. They competed for it and Odysseus won. Ajax went mad with grief and vowed to kill his comrades; he started killing cattle (thinking they were Greek soldiers), and then himself.

The Greeks captured Helenus, son of King Priam of Troy, a prophet, and tortured him until he told them under what circumstances they could take Troy. Helenus said they would win if they retrieved Heracles' arrows (which were in Philoctetes's possession); steal the Trojan Palladium (they accomplished this with the Trojan Horse; or Odysseus and Diomedes did so one night) and persuade Achilles' son (Neoptolemus) to join the war. Neoptolemus was hiding from the war at Scyros but the Greeks retrieved him. Alternatively, he told them that they could win if Troilius, Helenus' half-brother, son of Apollo and Hecuba, was killed before he turned twenty. Achilles ambushed Troilius.

Odysseus and Neoptolemus retrieved Philoctetes from Lemnos. Philoctetes' wound was healed by Machaon or Asclepius.

Trojan Horse

Main article: Trojan Horse

The end of the war came with one final plan. The Greeks (or, in some versions of the tale, Odysseus on their behalf) devised a new ruse — a giant hollow wooden horse, an animal that was sacred to the Trojans. It was built by Epeius and filled with Greek archers led by Odysseus. The rest of the Greek army appeared to leave and the Trojans accepted the horse as a peace offering. A Greek spy, Sinon, convinced the Trojans that the horse was a gift despite the warnings of Laocoon and Cassandra. The Trojans, who were understandably overjoyed that the ten-year siege had lifted, entered a night of mad revelry and celebration, and when the Greeks archers emerged from the horse they killed the guards. The Greeks opened the city gates to allow their fellow soldiers in, and the city was utterly destroyed — every single man and boy killed (including infants), every woman and girl enslaved, all its wealth pillaged, and the city itself reduced to rubble.

There is much question as to whether a wooden horse was even created. Homer's stories are believed by many to be the merging of many wars fought on Troy. In his merging, he creates many characters out of the gods and uses many metaphors. It is suggested that the Trojan Horse actually represents an earthquake that occurred between the wars that could have weakened Troy's walls and left them open for attack. Structural damage on the city believed to be Troy — its location being the same as that represented in Homer's Iliad and the artifacts found there suggesting it was a place of great trade and power — shows signs that there was indeed an earthquake. Other scholars, including several ancient sources, suggest that the "Trojan horse" was in fact a battering ram.


The ghost of Achilles appeared before the survivors of the war, demanding that the Trojan princess Polyxena be sacrificed before anybody could leave. Neoptolemus did so.

According to the Odyssey, Menelaus's fleet was blown by storms to Crete and Egypt where they were unable to sail away because the wind was calm. Menelaus had to catch Proteus, a shape-shifting sea god to find out what sacrifices to which gods he would have to make to guarantee safe passage. Proteus also told Menelaus that he was destined for Elysium (Heaven) after his death. Menelaus returned to Sparta with Helen. According to some stories the Helen who was taken by Paris was a fake, and the real Helen was in Egypt where she was reunited with Menelaus at this point. They had a daughter, Hermione.

After the war, Idomeneus's ship hit a horrible storm. Idomeneus promised Poseidon that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home if Poseidon would save his ship and crew. The first living thing was his son, whom Idomeneus duly sacrificed. The gods were angry at his murder of his own son and they sent him in exile to Calabria in Italy. (Aeneid 3.400). In an alternate version, his own subjects on Crete sent him into exile because he brought a plague with him from Troy. He fled to Calabria, and then Colophon, in Asia Minor, where he died. In yet a third version, used by Virgil, the plague was visited upon Crete as punishment for Idomeneus' act.

Cassandra was sexually assaulted by Locrian Ajax, then taken as a concubine by Agamemnon. Agamemnon returned home to Argos. His wife Clytemnestra (Helen's sister) was having an affair with Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, Agamemnon's cousin who had conquered Argos before Agamemnon himself retook it. Possibly out of vengeance for the death of Iphigenia, Clytemnestra plotted with her lover to kill Agamemnon. Cassandra foresaw this murder, and warned Agamemnon, but he disregarded her. He was killed, either at a feast or in his bath according to different versions. Cassandra was also killed. Agamemnon's son Orestes, who had been away, returned and conspired with his sister Electra to avenge their father. They killed Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. Orestes married Hermione and retook Argos, becoming king over all the Peloponnese.

Neoptolemus took Andromache and Helenus as slaves and married Andromache. He feuded with Orestes, because Menalaus had promised his daughter Hermione to him, but now wanted her to marry Neoptolemus. They fought, and Neoptolemus was killed. Helenus then married Andromache and they ruled over a colony of Trojan exiles in what had once been Achilles' kingdom. There Aeneas encountered them on his journey to Italy.

Queen Hecuba of Troy was enslaved by the Achaeans. Lycaon was enslaved by Achilles. He was later killed trying to escape. Since Antenor, Priam's brother-in-law, had supported giving Helen back to the Greeks, his life was spared.

Aeneas led a group of survivors away from the city, including his son Ascanius, his trumpeter Misenus, father Anchises, the healer Iapyx, all the Lares and Penates and Mimas as a guide. His wife Creusa was killed during the sack of the city. They fled Troy with a number of ships, seeking to establish a new homeland elsewhere. They landed in several nearby countries that proved inhospitable and finally were told by a Sibyl that they had to return to the land of their forebears. They first tried Crete, where Dardanus had once settled, but found it ravaged by the same plague that had driven Idomeneus away. They found the colony led by Helenus and Andromache, but declined to remain. After seven years they arrived in Carthage, where Aeneas had an affair with Dido. Eventually the gods ordered him to continue onward (Dido committed suicide), and he and his people arrived at the mouth of the Tiber in Italy. There a Sibyl took him to the underworld and foretold the majesty of Rome, which would be founded by his people. He negotiated a settlement with the local king, Lavinius, and was wed to his daughter, Lavinia. This triggered a war with other local tribes, which culminated in the founding of the settlement of Alba Longa, ruled by Aeneas and Lavinia's son Silvius. Three hundred years later, according to Roman myth, his descendants Romulus and Remus founded Rome. The details of the journey of Aeneas, his affair with Dido, and his settling in Italy are the subject of the Roman epic poem The Aeneid by Virgil.

Odysseus, attempting to travel home, underwent a series of trials, tribulations and setbacks that stretched his journey to ten years' time. These are detailed in Homer's epic poem the Odyssey.

Historicity of the Trojan War

Main article: Historicity of the Iliad

Whether the Trojan War was a true event or a complete fabrication of the human imagination is still subject to debate. Most classical Greeks thought that the war was a historical event, but many thought that the Homeric poems had exaggerated the events to suit the demands of poetry. For instance, the historian Thucydides, who is known for his critical spirit, considers it a true event but doubts that 1186 ships were sent to Troy. Euripides started changing Greek myths at will, including those of the Trojan War. Around 1870 it was generally agreed in Western Europe that the Trojan War was myth and Troy never existed. Then Heinrich Schliemann discovered the ruins of Troy and of the Mycenaean cities of Greece. Many scholars would now agree that the Trojan War is based on a historical core of a Greek expedition against the city of Troy, but few would argue that the Homeric poems faithfully represent the actual events of the war.

Trojan War in art and fiction

Greek Mythology

Main article: Trojan War in fiction

The siege of Troy provided inspiration for many works of art, most famously Homer's Iliad, set in the last year of the siege. Some of the others include Troades by Euripides, Troilus and Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare, Iphigenia and Polyxena by Samuel Coster, Palamedes by Joost van den Vondel and Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz.

The war has also been featured in many books, films, television series, and other creative works.


  1. ^ Burgess 2001, pp. 3-4.
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  3. ^ FGrHist 70
  4. ^ Chronographiai FGrHist 241
  5. ^ Timaeus 125
  6. ^ Fragment 24
  7. ^ Bios Hellados
  8. ^ Histories 2,145
  9. ^ FGrHist 76
  10. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 3.1
  11. ^ Proclus, Chrestomathia 1
  12. ^ Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.757
  13. ^ Aescylus, Prometheus Bound 767
  14. ^ Scholiast on Homer’s Iliad
  15. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 54
  16. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses 11.217
  17. ^ Apollodorus, Library 3.168
  18. ^ Pindar, Odes Nemean 5 ep2
  19. ^ Pindar,Odes Isthmian 8 str3-str5
  20. ^ Hesiod, Catalogues of Women 57 & Homerica, Cypria Frag 4 (from Herculaeneum Papyri 2.8.104)
  21. ^ Photius, Myriobiblon 190
  22. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 92
  23. ^ Pausanias, Guide to Greece 15.9.5
  24. ^ Euripides Andromache 298; Div.i. 21
  25. ^ Apollodorus, Library 3.12.5
  26. ^ Homer, Iliad Y 207
  27. ^ Apollodorus, The Library 3.174
  28. ^ Apollodorus, The Library 3.117
  29. ^ Lycophron, Alexandra 178
  30. ^ Statius, Achilleid 1.25
  31. ^ Apollodorus 3.10.7
  32. ^ Pausanias 1.33.1
  33. ^ Apollodorus 3.10.7
  34. ^ Apollodorus 3.10.5
  35. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 77
  36. ^ Epitomy 3.13
  37. ^ Epitome 3.9
  38. ^ Apollodorus, Library 3.10.9
  39. ^ Pausanias, 3.20.9
  40. ^ Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk4 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)
  41. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 2.15
  42. ^ Pindar,Pythian 11 ep4
  43. ^ Apollodorus,Library 3.11.15
  44. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 2.15
  45. ^ Proclus Cherstomathia 1
  46. ^ Apollodorus,Epitome 3.3
  47. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 92
  48. ^ Homer, Iliad Γ.441
  49. ^ Homer, Odyssey 4.261
  50. ^ Proclus Cherstomathia 1
  51. ^ Euripides, Helen 40
  52. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 3.4
  53. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.6
  54. ^ Herodotus, Histories, 1.2
  55. ^ Apollodorus Library 3.12.7
  56. ^ Herodotus Histories 1.3.1
  57. ^ Proclus, Chrestomathy i
  58. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 3.7
  59. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 96
  60. ^ Statius, Achilleid 1.25
  61. ^ Apollodorus, Library 3.13.8
  62. ^ Scholiast on Hom. Il. xix.326
  63. ^ Ovid Metamorphoses 13.162ff.
  64. ^ Descriprion of Greece 1.22.6
  65. ^ Apollodurus, Epitome 3.9
  66. ^ Ploclus, Chrestomathy i
  67. ^ Apollodotus, Epitome 3.15
  68. ^ Pausanias, 1.4.6
  69. ^ Pindarus Isthmian 8
  70. ^ Pausanias, 9.5.14
  71. ^ Proclus Chrestomathy i
  72. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.20
  73. ^ Pliny, Natural History xxv.42, xxxiv.152
  74. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.20
  75. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.19
  76. ^ Proclus Chrestomathy 1
  77. ^ Philodemus, Piety
  78. ^ Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 27
  79. ^ Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk5 (as summarized in Photius, Myriobiblon 190)
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  81. ^ Pausanias 1.43.1
  82. ^ History of the Pelloponesian War 1,10
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  84. ^ Pantelis Karykas, Μυκηναίοι Πολεμιστές (Mycenian Warriors), Athens 2003
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  88. ^ Proclus, Chrsetomathy 1
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  90. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 3.28
  91. ^ Herodotus 4.145.3
  92. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.29
  93. ^ Pausianias 4.2.7
  94. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.31
  95. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.30
  96. ^ Eustathius on Hom. Il. ii.701
  97. ^ Scholiast on Lycophron 532
  98. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.30
  99. ^ Herodotus 9.116.2
  100. ^ Thucydides 1.11
  101. ^ Apollodorus, Epitome 3.32
  102. ^ Proclus Chrestomathy 1
  103. ^ Apollodorus, Library 3.12.5
  104. ^ Proclus, Chrestomathy 1.
  105. ^ Iliad Φ 35-155
  106. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 3.8
  107. ^ Description of Greece 10.31.2
  108. ^ Apollodorus Epitome 6.9

Greek Mythology


  • Timeless Myths - Trojan War A full summary of the Trojan War.
  • Was There a Trojan War? Maybe so. From Archeology, a publication of the Archeological Institute of America. May/June 2004
  • Crossing into Enemy Lines: Military Intelligence in Iliad 10 and 24
  • The Trojan War cycle
  • Iliad in Stamps

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