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Trojan War

History -- Military History -- War

The Trojan War centres on the legendary Greek siege of the city of Troy (or Troas or Ilium), located in the close vicinity of the Dardanelles strait in present-day Asiatic Turkey. The war took place around 1200 BC, when cities all across the eastern Mediterranean Sea were being destroyed by various attackers - including those of the Achaeans, so despite the version remembered in Greek mythology, Troy was more likely taken by northern Greeks. The city itself was wealthy and had control of the Dardanelles, a point of great strategic and commercial importance (both Persian and Greek armies would later use this route to dominate the area), so it was a prime target.

Table of contents

The poem on the Trojan War, The Iliad

The Iliad was a poem written by Homer, a blind poet, about the Trojan war.

The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis

The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris (the goddess of strife) had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations.

Eris therefore tossed into the party a golden apple inscribed "Kallisti" - "For the most beautiful one"- provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select the most beautiful. Greek mythological morality being what it was, each of the three goddesses immediately attempted to bribe Paris to choose her. Hera offered political power and control of all of Asia, Athena skill in battle, wisdom and the abilities of the greatest warriors, and Aphrodite the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta. Paris was a red-blooded young man, and while the length of time he meditated on this problem is not recorded, he did eventually award the apple to Aphrodite.

Since Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world, she had had many suitors. To keep the peace between them, Odysseus made them all promise to defend the marriage of Helen and whomever she chose. She chose Menelaus, and when Paris kidnapped her (according to some, she fell in love with Paris and left willingly), all of Greece attacked Troy - the Trojan War.

The War


When the Greeks left for the Trojan War, they accidentally stopped in Mysia, ruled by King Telephus. In the battle, Achilles wounded Telephus, who killed Thersander. The wound would not heal and Telephus asked an oracle who claimed "he that wounded shall heal").

According to others' reports of Euripides' lost play about Telephus, he went to Aulis, pretending to be a beggar, and asked Achilles to help heal his wound. Achilles refused, claiming to have no medical knowledge. Alternatively, Telephus held Orestes for ransom, the ransom being Achilles' aid in healing the wound. 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. This is an example of sympathetic magic.

Agamemnon and Iphigenia

Artemis punished Agamemnon after he killed a (sacred) deer in a (sacred) grove and boasted he was a better hunter than her. On his way to Troy to participate in the Trojan War, Agamemnon's ships were suddenly motionless as Artemis stopped the wind in Aulis. An oracle named Calchis told Agamemnon that the only way to appease Artemis was to sacrifice Iphigenia, his daughter. According to some versions, he did so, but others claim that he sacrificed a deer in her place and Iphigenia was taken to the Crimea to prepare others for sacrifice to Artemis. Still other sources claim he was prepared to sacrifice her, but Artemis whisked her to Taurus in the Crimea. Hesiod said she became the goddess Hecate.

The Role of Helenus and Other Oracles

See also "Achilles Joins The War" below

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.

The Greeks brought Pelops' bones to help them win the war. An oracle said they would be necessary to win.

An oracle 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. Protesilaus, leader of the Phylacians[?], fulfilled this prophesy. His wife, Laodamia, followed him to his death. Alternatively, Hector killed Protesilaus and Laodamia killed herself in grief.

After Protesilaus' death, his brother, Podarces, joined the war in his place.


Philoctetes was Heracles' friend and, because he lit Heracles' funeral pyre when no one else would, he received Heracles' bow and arrows.

He sailed with seven ships full of men to the Trojan War, where he was planning on fighting for the Greeks. They stopped on Chryse for supplies and Philoctetes was bitten by a snake. The wound festered and smelled horrible; Odysseus advised and the Atreidae ordered Philoctetes to stay on Lemnos. Medon took control Philoctetes' men. He was there on Lemnos, alone, for ten years.

Later, though, Helenus, son of King Priam of Troy, was tortured until he revealed that one of the conditions of the Greeks winning the Trojan War was that they had the bow and arrows of Heracles. Odysseus and Neoptolemus retrieved Philoctetes from Lemnos. Philoctetes' wound was healed by Machaon or Asclepius. Philoctetes then killed Paris.

Achilles Joins The War

An oracle, Calchas, stated that the Greeks would not win without Achilles but his mother, Thetis, knew he would die there. His mother thus hid him at the court of Lycomedes in Scyros[?], disguised as a woman. There he had an affair with Deidamea resulting in a child, Neoptolemus. He was found out, however, by Odysseus, Ajax the great and Phoenix, who arrived disguised as a peddler with trinkets and weaponry. Achilles was marked out from the other women by admiring the wrong goods. Alternatively, he was found out by a blast of the trumpet, whence instead of cowering he grabbed a spear to ward off the attackers. From there he needed little convincing to go to Troy, accompanied by his best friend Patroclus and his tutor, Phoenix (this is the same Phoenix that accompanied Odysseus to Scyros in a different, much later version).

The Death of Patroclus


Achilles abducted a woman named Briseis to keep as a concubine. After an oracle forced Agamemnon to give up a woman he had captured, Chryseis, Agamemnon took Briseis to compensate himself. Apollo forced Agamemnon to do this because he had taunted Chryseis' father, Chryses, when he tried to buy his daughter back. Achilles pouted and refused to fight.

Achilles and Patroclus

Achilles and Agamemnon argued and Achilles refused to fight any longer; Patroclus donned his armor and took his place and was killed by Hector (who also took Achilles' armor). Enraged, Achilles killed Hector (after his mother acquired new armor from Hephaestus and Hector was injured by Ajax) and dragged his body around Troy three times before allowing Priam (Hector's father and king of Troy) to bury it.


During the Trojan War, Xanthus, a magical horse, was rebuked by Achilles for allowing Patroclus to be killed. Xanthus responded by saying that a god had killed Patroclus and a god would soon kill Achilles too. The Erinyes struck the horse dumb.

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 after killed by Paris- either by an arrow to the heel, 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 valor, and Achilles remains undefeated on the battlefield. His bones are mingled with those of Patroclus, and funeral games are held. Like Ajax; he is represented as living after his death in the island of Leuke[?] at the mouth of the Danube.

Achilles' Armor/Death of Ajax

Achilles' armor 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.


Diomedes almost killed Aeneas in battle but Aphrodite, Aeneas' mother, saved him. Diomedes wounded Aphrodite and she dropped her son, fleeing to Mt. Olympus. Aeneas was then eneveloped in a cloud by Apollo, who took him to Pergamos, a sacred spot in Troy. Artemis healed Aeneas there.

Later in the war, Diomedes fought with Hector and saw Ares, the war-god, fighting on the Trojans' side. Diomedes called for his soldiers to fall back slowly. Hera, Ares' mother, saw Ares' interference and asked Zeus, Ares' father, for permission to drive Ares away from the battlefield. Hera encouraged Diomedes to attack Ares and he threw his spear at the god. Athena drove the spear into Ares' body and he bellowed in pain and fled to Mt. Olympus, forcing the Trojans to fall back.

The Trojan Horse

The Greek siege of Troy had lasted for ten years. The Greeks devised a new ruse - a giant hollow wooden horse. It was built by Epeius and filled with Greek warriors 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 the horse was a gift despite the warnings of Laocoon and Cassandra. The Trojans celebrated hugely and when the Greeks emerged from the horse the city was in a drunken stupor. The Greek warriors opened the city gates to allow the rest of the army access and the city was ruthlessly pillaged.

The Death of Palamedes

Odysseus never forgave Palamedes for sending him to the Trojan War (Palamedes exposed Odysseus as a fake when he pretended to be insane). When Palamedes advised the Trojans to return home, Odysseus accused him of being a traitor and forged false evidence and found a fake witness to testify against him. Palamedes was stoned to death.

The Aftermath

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

According to one story, Menelaus' couldn't sail because the wind was calm. He 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.

Hecuba was enslaved by the Achaeans.

Lycaon was enslaved by Achilles. He was later killed trying to escape.

After the war, Idomeneus' 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. (Virgil III, 400)

In an alternate version, his own subjects on Crete sent him in exile because he brought a plague with him from Troy. He fled to Calabria, and then Colophon, Asia Minor, where he died.

Since Antenor, Priam's brother-in-law, had supported giving Helen back to the Greeks, he was spared.

Cassandra was raped by Ajax the lesser, then taken as a concubine by Agamemnon.

Neoptolemus took Andromache and Helenus as slaves and married Andromache.

Creusa was killed escaping Troy. Her husband, Aeneas, with his trumpeter Misenus, father Anchises, healer Iapyx, wife Creusa, son Anchises, all the Lares and Penates and Mimas as a guide, escaped to Italy. Aeneas went on to found Rome, making this one of the most important events of the Trojan War.

The Trojan War In Art

The story of the siege of Troy provided inspiration for many pieces of art, most famously Homer's Iliad, set in the last year of the siege. Some of the others include Troades by Euripides, Troilus & Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer and Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz (1855-1858).


Participants on the Greek Side

  1. Acamas
  2. Achilles
  3. Agamemnon
  4. Ajax the great
  5. Ajax the lesser
  6. Alcmaeon
  7. Antilochus
  8. Asclepius
  9. Athena
  10. Automedon
  11. Canopus
  12. Diomedes
  13. Glaucus
  14. Epeius
  15. Eteoneus
  16. Eumelus
  17. Euryalus
  18. Eurybatus
  19. Eurypylus
  20. Halaesus
  21. Hera
  22. Idomeneus
  23. Machaon
  24. Medon
  25. Menelaus
  26. Meriones
  27. Neoptolemus
  28. Nestor
  29. Nireus
  30. Odysseus
  31. Patroclus
  32. Philoctetes
  33. Podarces
  34. Polidarius
  35. Polypoetes
  36. Scamander
  37. Sinon
  38. Stentor
  39. Sthenelus
  40. Teucer
  41. Thersander
  42. Thersites
  43. Xanthus

Participants on the Trojan Side

  1. Aeneas
  2. Ainia
  3. Anchises
  4. Andromache
  5. Antibrote
  6. Antiphus
  7. Aphrodite
  8. Ares
  9. Ascanius
  10. Astyanax
  11. Cassandra
  12. Cebriones
  13. Cleite
  14. Coroebus
  15. Cycnus
  16. Deiphobus
  17. Dolon
  18. Eurypylus
  19. Eurytion
  20. Hector
  21. Hecuba
  22. Helenus
  23. Hicetaon
  24. Iapyx
  25. Lycaon
  26. Memnon
  27. Mygdon
  28. Pandarus
  29. Paris
  30. Penthesilea
  31. Phorcys
  32. Polites
  33. Poludamas
  34. Polyxena
  35. Poseidon
  36. Priam
  37. Rhesus
  38. Sarpedon
  39. Telamon
  40. Tenes
  41. Teucer
  42. Troilius
  43. Two sons of Merops (names?)

Armies on the Greek Side

  1. Achaea
  2. Aegina
  3. Argos
  4. Crete
  5. Iolcus
  6. Ithaca[?]
  7. Locris
  8. Lycia
  9. Myrmidones
  10. Pherae[?]
  11. Phylacians[?]
  12. Sparta
  13. Thessaly

Armies on the Trojan Side

  1. the Amazons
  2. Colonae[?]
  3. Ethiopia
  4. Phrygia
  5. Thrace
  6. Troy


  1. Achilles
  2. Ajax
    • Suicide
  3. Antilochus
  4. Antiphus
  5. Ascalaphus
    • ???
  6. Astyanax
  7. Cebriones
  8. Cycnus
  9. Deiphobus
  10. Dolon
  11. Eurypylus
  12. Hector
  13. Medon
  14. Patroclus
  15. Penthesilea
  16. Phorcys
  17. Polites
  18. Polyxena
  19. Priam
  20. Protesilaus
  21. Sarpedon
  22. Thersander
  23. Thersites
    • ???
  24. Troilius
  25. Two sons of Merops (names?)

Unknown Side (Someone help?)

  1. Ascalaphus
  2. Meges, commander of the Epeans or Dulichians.
  3. Mentes, King of the Cicones
  4. Mentes, King of the Taphians

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