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The Trojan War

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During the dark centuries, which have come after the destruction of the Mycenaean civilization, the road of Greece was the main rout for wandering vagrant singers. Owners of houses and palaces invited singers to their homes, treated them behind a table, and after a meal, visitors were able to listen to the stories about gods and heroes. Singers recited verses and accompanied themselves on lyre. Homer was the most known of the Greek epic poets. He is considered the author of Iliad and Odyssey. Many literary critics arrived at the opinion that these poems had been developing and changing for several centuries; therefore, they carried the traces of different epochs. In addition, Homer was a mysterious character. Today, as well as in ancient times, people knew little about his background and life. According to one of the most popular legends, the poet originated from island of Chios and was blind. Until now, cities of Greece at the Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor argue for the right to be called his native land. In any case, Homer lived approximately in 850-750 BC. Scientists consider that both poems of Iliad and Odyssey have already developed as mature works by this time. In Iliad, Homer tells the story of how the city of Troy had been destroyed after a long siege by Achaeans. Even though the story is a combination of myths, legends and facts, this book is the most precise historic document of the military conflict. The paper presents the course of events of the Trojan war, according to Iliad by Homer.

Abduction of Helen, the wife of Menelaus the king of Mycenaean Sparta, by Trojan prince Paris became the main reason of war. On the other hand, it should be mentioned that the dispute between three goddesses was a real motive of the conflict. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite wished to get an apple, sent by Eris, another Greek deity. The gift was addressed for the fairest goddess; therefore, each of them considered that she is the one to receive it. In order to set an argument for the goddesses, Zeus charged Hermes to take them to the mountain to a young and handsome man Paris. He was one of 50 sons of Priam, the king of Troy. The young man grazed herds of his father. Goddesses asked Paris to solve their dispute and decide which of them is more beautiful. To reach their goal, every goddess seduced the prince with different gifts and benefits; Paris, however, named Aphrodite the fairest one. The reason of this decision was Aphrodite’s promise to help him lure the most beautiful among all the mortal women. Helen, the wife of king Menelaus, appeared to be this women; her father Zeus had endowed her with divine beauty and grace. In order to get his prize, Paris came to Greece by the ship and stayed in the house of Menelaus as the visitor. Having taken advantage of the owner’s absence, with the assistance of Aphrodite, he convinced Helen to quit her husband, leave Sparta, and become his wife. The lovers took away children and treasures and destined for Troy.

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This impudent abduction had to be punished. With the help of his brother Agamemnon, a powerful king of Mycenae, Menelaus had got a huge army together, to revenge for the insult. He gathered other kings in Hellas to start a campaign against Troy. Noble heroes, such as Odysseus, Philoctetes, Ajax, Diomedes, Protesilaus, and others, had joined the Achaean army. Even Achilles, the son of nymph Thetis, volunteered for the campaign. Agamemnon, as the most powerful of Achaean rulers, was elected leader of the army. After the unsuccessful attempt of Menelaus to persuade Helen to return with all treasures back home, war was already inevitable. The huge army, numbering 100 thousand soldiers and 1186 ships, gathered in the harbor of Aulis; from this point, they destined for Troy. The long and exhausting war between Achaeans and Trojans begun soon afterwards. It appeared to be much more difficultly to take by storm the city than it seemed to be as it was protected from each side. Besides, the army of Priam comprised, except Trojans, a considerable number of allies. Gods also participated actively in the events under the walls of Troy. Brave Hector, the elder son of Priam, became a leader of the army; he had warded off the attacks of all enemies successfully for many years.

This struggle had lasted for a long nine years with variable success. However, the tenth year of the war witnessed numerous conflicts between the leaders of Achaeans. Nobel Agamemnon and the bravest of all Achaean heroes, Achilles, quarreled because of the spoils of war. Agamemnon had stolen Brizeida from Achilles’ tent. He was going to return the girl to her father, Apollo, to prevent the anger of gods. Achilles refused to take part in the battle, and his mother Fetid persuaded Zeus to take good luck away from Achaeans. Hector managed to outflank Achaeans to the ships. Agamemnon tried to return Achilles back to the fight; he sent Odysseus and Ajax, to move him to pity and persuade to rejoin the battle. All the pains and effort, however, were in vain; Achilles stayed in the tent. Only when the flame had captured one of Achaean ships, Achilles changed his mind. Patroclus, a faithful friend of Achilles, had borrowed his attire, and gone to fight with the Trojans. The Trojans, which frightened of imaginary Achilles, left the camp. However, Patroclus came too far, into the very heart of the battle, and was killed. After the death of a friend, Achilles reconciled with Agamemnon. He put on the new armor that was made for him by Hermes, and had rushed to the fight furiously. The grief overtook those soldiers, who came across Achilles’ hand. Soon, the scared and demoralized Trojans returned to the city walls. However, Hector did not listen to the pleases of his parents and remained on the other side of the gate, waiting for the enemy to come. Excessive bravery betrayed him, and he fell a victim to Achilles’ spear. The hero's fury was so great, that he tied the prince's dead body to the chariot and dragged it in front of the walls of Troy. After the burial of Patroclus, however, he had taken pity over the tears and requests of Priam; Hector's body was returned to his parents and solemnly buried. Achilles had rejoiced to his victory over Hector for a short time. Soon, he was hit in a heel by Paris’ arrow and fell in the field of fight. At Achilles’ birth, his mother bathed him in a special liquid, which made his body impregnable. Only one heel, of which mother held him, remained not moistened. Therefore, by advice of Apollo, Paris directed a killing arrow to the only vulnerable part of a body of Achilles.

 
 
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Desperate fight was fought for Achilles’ body. Greeks spent a lot of time and efforts to win back his dead body. For seventeen days and nights, gods and people had mourned over the death of the incomparable hero. On the eighteenth day, they burnt his body and put ashes in an urn together with remains of Patroclus. Mother of Achilles decided to arrange pompous funeral games in honor of her brave son. She decided to give his armor to the bravest men, who tried to win back his body from Trojans. Odysseus and Ajax were among those, who declared the right for the armor. As they did not wish to come of second best, the final decision was given to the captured Trojans. Athena induced them to vote in favor of Odysseus; Ajax, however, could not accept his loss. The king was killed; his death had even worsened the affairs of Greeks. They were compelled to think of a reinforcement of the military forces; therefore, Odysseus rushed for Hellas to recruit new soldiers. He managed to persuade the son of Achilles, mighty Neoptolemus, and handsome Philoctetes to come to the aid of Greeks. However, fresh forces did not helped an army to get over the city walls. Then Odysseus had designed an unusual plan. With the help of skilful Epeus, Greeks built a wooden horse of such size that it could hold the group of soldiers. Odysseus in the guise of a beggar made the way to the city; he learnt its local plan and returned to his camp. He persuaded Greeks to burn their tents and put to the sea, demonstrating Trojans that they had decided to raise a siege. Odysseus together with Menelaus, Agamemnon, Diomedes, Neoptolemus and several other heroes hide themselves in a belly of a horse, which was worshiped by Trojans as a marvelous image of a deity. Despite cautions of the prophet, Trojans had broken a wall and dragged a horse into the city. The next night, the heroes who had been hiding in it left their cover and let the Greek army enter the city. It was a bloody night, a massacre of the Trojans, who were caught napping. Priam, all his relatives, and the best citizens were killed; the city was burnt; wives, children, and treasures became the spoils of war. Helen also had been found and delivered to the ship without any harm. Now, it was possible to come back home. However, returning to home was a sad event for many heroes. Ajax, the Locri's son, drowned during an awful storm created by Poseidon. Menelaus had been travelling the remote seas for a long time. Agamemnon had been killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her criminal accomplice Egisteem right after the homecomings. Even smart Odysseus had experienced a lot of suffering before he had managed to return to Ithaca. The storms that were sent to him by the angered gods had carried him across the seas for many years.

Modern scholars assume that economic rivalry between Troy and Union of Mycenaean kingdoms could be the real cause of the Trojan War. Nevertheless, the ancient Greeks believed in the veracity of the myths of the Trojan War. Indeed, if one removes acts of the gods from the Iliad, the poem looks like detailed historical chronicles of a military conflict. Archaeological excavations confirm the existence of the city, or maybe even a few cities, some of which were destroyed near the end of the 18th century BC. Today, the archeological excavations of Troy are still a subject to disputes between the archaeologists. At all accounts, the story of the Trojan War has remained in memory of the Western civilization for many centuries. The stories about it are an inexhaustible source for not only history and archeology, but also literature and art.

   

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