The Trojan War was the 10-year long conflict between the city of Troy and the armies of Greece, led by King Agememnon of Myceanae. The war has been talked about for ages and involved some of the most famous figures in Greek mythology, such as Achilles and Diomedes. The story of the war is told in a series of poems known as the "Epic Cycle", the most famous of these being the Iliad (named so as Troy was known to the Greeks as Ilion or Ilios).
Marriage of Peleus and Thetis
It was prophesied that the Nereid Thetis, were she to ever concieve, would give birth to a son who would become even greater than his father. Upon receiving word of this, Zeus and Poseidon, both of whom had previously tried to court Thetis, arranged for her to be married to a mortal man instead. They set their sights on the mortal hero Peleus, who had joined Hercules on the latter’s expedition to Troy and sailed with Jason as one of the Argonaunts. Peleus was instructed to ambush Thetis, and once he had her in his grip, to bind her tightly, as she would try to escape by changing shape. Peleus found the nymph lying on a beach shore, and, as instructed, took hold of her — Thetis herself took on a variety of different forms, including that of a lion and serpent, but found herself unable to escape the hero’s grasp. Subdued, she then agreed to marry him. The wedding was held atop Mount Pelion, home of the immortal centaur Chiron, and all of the gods and goddesses were invited to attend, with the only exception being Eris, for she was the goddess of discord. In revenge, during the wedding party, she tossed a golden apple into the room, marked “for the fairest” on it, leading to a quarrel between three goddesses who had laid claim to the apple — namely Athena, Hera and Aphrodite. Zeus, not wanting them to get angry, then sent Hermes to tell the first farmer he found to judge them.
The Judgement of Paris
Hermes eventually found Paris, a young shepherd, son of the Trojan king Priam. Zeus then sent Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite down to Paris, so he would judge which of the goddesses was "the fairest" and which of them would receive the golden apple. Each of the goddesses tried to persuade Paris to pick them by saying that if he picked one of them, they would reward him with a gift:
- Hera offered him the ownership of Asia and Europe if she was chosen.
- Athena offered to give him, his family, and Troy many battle skills that would allow them to overcome their enemies in war if she was picked.
- Aphrodite offered to give him the most beautiful woman alive (Helen of Troy) if she was picked.
Paris thought that both Hera and Athena's gifts to him weren't great because at the time his family and Troy were not at war. However, Aphrodite's promise of the most beautiful woman in the world appeared to him as the best gift he could ask for.
Result of Judgement
Paris refused both Hera and Athena's gifts. He declared Aphrodite was the fairest and rewarded her with the apple. This however, made both Hera and Athena furious as they both disliked Aphrodite, thought that her gift was unfair, and that a mortal such as Paris was a poor choice for judging who the fairest was. Angrily, they transformed into their godly forms and ascended together to Olympus, which left Aphrodite back with Paris on the earth. Paris said that he would've picked them to prevent them from becoming angry. Aphrodite however, rejoiced in the fact that she was now the "fairest" goddess and told him that he should rejoice as well, for he would be given the hand of Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth.
The Seduction of Helen
- Main article: Helen of Troy
Paris now prepared to sail to Greece to win his prize. Upon arriving in Sparta, he was welcomed by Menelaus, Helen's husband, who offered him hospitality. Soon afterwards, Menelaus sailed to Crete to attend the funeral of Katreus, the king of the island (who was also Menelaus' maternal grandfather), leaving Helen to the care of his guests. Paris took advantage of his absence to court Helen, and as soon as she was willing, he eloped with her, and the two set sail for Troy.
Paris' apparent kidnapping of Helen caused Menelaos to be deeply affected by the crime. Menelaos thus went to his brother, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to ask him for permission to take war to the grounds of Troy. Agamemnon agreed to his brother's pleas and sent messages all across Greece to gather forces for this expedition. Since all the former suitors of Helen were bound by oath to support her husband were she to ever be taken, most of the rulers and heroes of Greece were obliged to fight as Menelaus' allies. This being so, the Greeks marshall their forces, as Agamemnon is appointed the leader of the expedition.
Gathering of the Fleet
The Achaeans gathered at the port-city of Aulis, where the winds needed to set sail had all but ceased. The prophet Calchas stated that this was punishment from the goddess Artemis, whom Agamemnon had angered for killing a deer in her sacred grove, and boasting that he was a better hunter than her. The only way to appease Artemis, he said, was to sacrifice Agamemnon’s eldest daughter, Iphigenia. While he initially refused, Agamemnon eventually relented and performed the sacrifice. Later versions state that before Iphigenia could be slain, Artemis took pity on the girl, and took her up to one of her temples, placing a deer on the altar in her place. Nevertheless, the winds began to blow and the Achaeans set sail for Troy. Book II of the Iliad goes into great detail in describing the exact number of the Achaean forces - this is known as the "Catalogue of Ships". It also lists the various allies who came to the Trojans’ defense — the Dardanians, Pelasgians, Thracians, Ciconians, Paionians, Halizones, Mysians, Phrygians, Maeonians, Miletians, Lycians and Carians. The Trojans themselves were under the command of their prince, Hector, the eldest of King Priam’s sons and heir to the throne as well as their greatest warrior.
The Trojan War
For ten years, the Trojan War raged on, as the Greeks were unable to penetrate Troy's mighty walls; the first nine years consisted of the Achaeans pillaging the surrounding countryside (the “Troad”), sacking a number of cities and towns along the way. Later, in the tenth and final year of the war, the Greeks made an enemy of the god Apollo by killing a favoured son of his as well as kidnapping Chryseis, the the daughter of Chryses, one of his priests. Chryses ventured to the Greek ships, where he offered ransom to Agamemnon in return for his daughter, though Agamemnon refused and urged him to leave lest he be killed. Desperate, the priest then prayed to Apollo, who began to rain down arrows of plague into the Greek camp. Achilles, having unconvered the reason for the plague, calls a meeting of the Greek leaders, where he urges Agamemnon to return Chryseis; ultimately, the son of Atreus relents and returns the girl, however, he proceeds to take Achilles' prize, a maiden named Briseis, from him as consolation for his loss. This angered the hero and for the remainder of the war, he, along with the Myrmidons under his command, refused to fight. At the same time, Achilles prays to his mother, Thetis, to convince Zeus to let the Trojans gain the advantage in the war, so that he may regain his honor.
Having gained the upper hand, the Trojans begin to push the Greeks back toward the beaches and assault the Greek ships. With the Greek forces on the verge of destruction, Patroclus, Achilles' companion, steals Achilles' armor and, disguised as the hero, leads the army into battle. Hector, who believed Patroclus to be Achilles, confronted him in battle. Patroclus would've certainly killed Hector in their encounter were it not for the intervention of Apollo, who favored the Trojans. Just as he was about to deliver the fatal blow and slay the Trojan prince, Apollo stunned Patroclus and stripped him of his armor, allowing Hector to run him through with his spear. A fight then ensued over Patroclus' body, and though the Greeks managed to recover his corpse, Hector had taken Achilles' armor as a war prize.
Upon his discovery of Patroclus' death, Achilles, mad and stricken with grief, vowed vengeance on Hector, despite the prophecy said that if Achilles killed Hector, it would insure his own death. Thetis, Achilles' mother, thus asked Hephaestus to make her son new armor since Hector still had his as a prize.
When Achilles returned to the battle, he easily slaughtered every Trojan warrior he found, until the Trojan army started to retreat from the fury of Achilles. Apollo interfered once again, disguising himself as a Trojan and taunting Achilles to lead him away, which gave the real Trojans time to get back into their city walls. When Apollo revealed himself, the only Trojan left out was Hector, who stayed to face Achilles' wrath. Hector fled at the sight of Achilles, as the hero then gives chase, circling him around the city three times until Athena appears to Hector in the form of his brother, Deiphobos. Now believing himself to have the support of his brother, Hector finally decides to face Achilles in combat. Achilles threw his spear at Hector, who managed to dodge; Athena returned the spear to Achilles' hand. Hector then throws his spear at Achilles, though it merely bounces off his shield. He then turned to Deiphobos to grab his spear, only to see that he is not there. Realizing he is going to die, Hector decided he would go down fighting. He drew his sword, and again requested that the victor would return the other's body to their family for a proper funeral. Achilles refused and attacked.
They fought but Hector wore Achilles' old armor and thus, Achilles knew of it weaknesses. Achilles throws his spear once more, this time driving it through Hector's neck; the Trojan prince falls to his kness and, with his dying breath, once again asked if Achilles would return his body to his family for a funeral. Achilles refused and Hector promised he would pay for it.
Achilles, still in anger over Patroclus' death, tied Hector's corpse to his chariot and dragged it around the city of Troy. For twelve days, Achilles does this, much to the dismay of the gods. It was only by the efforts of Apollo and Aphrodite that Hector's body is preserved from harm. Finally, led by Hermes, Priam, king of Troy, makes his way to Achilles' tent, where he begs Achilles to return his son's body to him in order to be given a funeral. Moved to tears, Achilles relented and surrendered Hector's corpse to him.
Later into the war, Achilles attempted to scale the city's walls, but failed and is forced to retreat. Paris then shot a poisoned arrow, guided by Apollo, at Achilles, striking him in the heel which killed him. Soon after, Paris was mortally wounded by one of Herakles' poisoned arrows, shot by Philoktetes. Either Helen or Paris himself went to Paris' first lover, a mountain nymph named Oenone, and begged her for a cure to the poison that was killing Paris. Oenone refused, still heartbroken that Paris had left her. When she heard the news of Paris' death, mad with grief, she threw herself onto his funeral pyre. Helen was then forced to marry another Trojan prince Deiphobos, until he too was murdered by Helen's first husband, Menelaus.
The End of the War (The Trojan Horse and the Sack of Troy)
After the deaths of many heroes, including the Achaeans Achilles and Ajax, along with the Trojans Hector and Paris, the Greeks came up with the ruse of the Trojan Horse, planned by Odysseus. The Greeks hid their best warriors inside the horse, while the remaining fleet sailed off, just out of sight of the Trojans. The Greeks left a note saying that they admitted defeat and were offering the horse to them as a gift. Laocoön tried to warn the Trojans that it was a trap, but he and his sons were devoured by sea serpents. (various sources said that the sea serpents were sent by either Apollo, Athena, or Poseidon) Seeing no harm, the Trojans then take the horse into the city. When night fell, the Achaeans inside the horse came out and opened the city gates, letting the rest of the army inside. The Achaeans then burned Troy to the ground, slaughtering the Trojans (except for some of the women and children whom they kept or sold as slaves) and desecrating the temples, thus earning the gods' wrath for each one. The return of the Greeks after the destruction of Troy is recounted in the sixth poem of the Epic Cycle, called "The Returns":
- Nestor (who had had the best conduct in Troy and did not take part in the looting) was the only hero who had a fast and safe return.
- Ajax the Lesser (who had endured the gods' wrath more than the others) never returned. His ship was wrecked by a storm sent by Athena, who borrowed one of Zeus' thunderbolts and tore it to pieces. His crew managed to land on a rock, but Poseidon struck it, and Ajax fell in the sea and drowned. He was buried by Thetis in Mykonos or Delos.
- Teuker (son of Telamon and half-brother of Ajax) stood trial by his father for his half-brother's death. He was disowned and wasn't allowed to land. He was at sea near Phreattys in Peiraeus. He was acquitted of responsibility but found guilty of negligence because he did not return his dead body or his arms. He left with his army (who took their wives) and founded Salamis in Cyprus.
- Diomedes was first thrown by a storm on the coast of Lycia where he was to be sacrificed to Ares by King Lycus. But Callirrhoe (the king's daughter) took pity upon him and assisted him in escaping. Then he accidentally landed in Attica at Phalerum. The Athenians (unaware that they were allies) attacked them. Many were killed and the Palladium was taken by Demophon. He finally landed at Argos where his wife Aegialia was committing adultery. In disgust, Diomedes left for Aetolia. According to Roman traditions he had some adventures and founded a colony in Italy.
- Philoktetes (due to a sedition) was driven from his city and emigrated to Italy where he founded the cities of Petilia, Old Crimissa, and Chone, between Croton and Thurii.
- For Homer's depiction, Idomeneus reached his house safe and sound. Another tradition was formed later where after the war, Idomeneus' ship hit a horrible storm. He promised Poseidon that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw when he returned home if the god would save his ship and crew. The first living thing was his son whom Idomeneus duly sacrificed. The gods became angry at his murder of his own son and they sent a plague to Crete. His people thus sent him into exile to Calabria in Italy, and then Colophon in Asia Minor where he died.
- Agamemnon actually reached his home of Mycenae safe and sound. His wife, Clytaemenstra, still angered at Agamemnon for having sacrificed their daughter, planned to kill him upon his return. As Agamemnon is set to prepare his bath, Clytemnestra comes in with an axe and hacks him to pieces. She, along with her lover, Aigiosthos, is then killed by her son, Orestes, so as to avenge his father's murder.
- Odysseus went through many trials at sea before he could return home to Ithaca. The tale of his journey home is recounted in the "Odyssey", named after him.
- The Trojan princess Cassandra, Hector and Paris' sister, was raped by Ajax the Lesser, while taking refuge in Athena's temple; she was then taken by Agamemnon as a war prize, in consolation for his loss of Briseis.
- King Priam was killed by Achilles' son, Neoptolemos, on Zeus' altar, and Hektor and Andromecha's infant son, Astyanax, was thrown from the top of the city's walls. The few people that escaped tried to meet with Aeneas, the son of Aphrodite and Anchises, far away from the beaches. In the end, Troy was destroyed. Aeneas and the other survivors, eventually landed in Italy; their descendants came to be known as the Romans.
Known fighters on both sides
- Ajax the Lesser
- Greater Ajax (also known as Telamonian Ajax)
- Penthesilea (the Amazons)
- King Memnon of Aethiopia
Chiron mentions that the war between Zeus and Poseidon will make the Trojan war look like a water balloon fight while giving Percy the analysis of the quest. While on the quest to find the Master Bolt, Percy Jackson asked Annabeth Chase if the gods would split up the same way they did during the Trojan War, with Poseidon against Athena.
When Percy meets Aphrodite for the first time in a white limo driven (or borrowed) by Ares, he is so surprised by her beauty that he is mouth-struck and can't speak. She politely asks him to hold up a mirror which he does for over a long time while he speaks with her. Aphrodite tells him that she is interested in him because she sees that he and Annabeth are likely to love each other eventually. Percy asks why and she tells him that the she has not seen a tragic love story for eons since the love of Helen and Paris which started the Trojan War.