The Great Events by Famous Historians/Volume 1/Fall of Troy
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Fall of Troy
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FALL OF TROY
- The siege of Troy is an event not to be reckoned as history, although Herodotus, the "Father of History," speaks of it as such, and it would be quite impossible to understand the history and character of the Greek people without a study of the Iliad and Odyssey poems attributed to "a blind bard of Scio's isle"—immortal Homer. The campaign of the Greek heroes in Asia is to be referred to a hazy point in the past when Europe was just beginning to have an Eastern Question. A vast circle of tales and poems has gathered round this mythical event, and the Iliad—Song of Ilium, or Troy—is still a poem of unfailing interest and fascination.
- Ilium, or Troy, was a city of Asia Minor, a little south of the Hellespont. It was the centre of a powerful state, Grecian in race and language; and when Paris, son of King Priam, visited Sparta and carried off the beautiful wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, all the heroes of Greece banded together and invaded Priam's dominions.
- The twelve hundred ships that sailed for Troy transported one hundred thousand warriors to the valley of Simois and Scamander. Among them was Agamemnon, "king of men," brother of Menelaus. He was the leader, and in his train were Achilles, "swift of foot"; "god-like, wise" Ulysses, King of Ithaca, the two Ajaxes, and the aged Nestor. The narrative of their adventures is told in the Homeric poems with a power of musical expression, a charm of language, and a vividness of imagery unsurpassed in poetry.
- For ten years the besiegers encircled the city of Priam. After many engagements and single combats on "the windy plain of Troy" the great hero of the Greeks, Achilles of Thessaly, is wronged by Agamemnon, who carries away Briseis, a fair captive girl allotted as the spoils of war to the "Swift-footed." The hero of Thessaly thenceforth refuses to join in the war, and sullenly shuts himself up in his tent. It is only when his dear friend Patroclus has been slain by the valiant Hector, eldest son of Priam, that he sallies forth, meets Hector in single combat, and finally slays him. Achilles then attaches the body of Hector to his chariot and insultingly trails it in the dust as he drives three times around the walls of Troy. The Iliad closes with the funeral rites celebrated over the corpse of Hector.
We now arrive at the capital and culminating point of the Grecian epic—the two sieges and captures of Troy, with the destinies of the dispersed heroes, Trojan as well as Grecian, after the second and most celebrated capture and destruction of the city.
It would require a large volume to convey any tolerable idea of the vast extent and expansion of this interesting fable, first handled by so many poets, epic, lyric, and tragic, with their endless additions, transformations, and contradictions,—then purged and recast by historical inquirers, who, under color of setting aside the exaggerations of the poets, introduced a new vein of prosaic invention,—lastly, moralized and allegorized by philosophers. In the present brief outline of the general field of Grecian legend, or of that which the Greeks believed to be their antiquities, the Trojan war can be regarded as only one among a large number of incidents upon which Hecatæus and Herodotus looked back as constituting their fore-time. Taken as a special legendary event, it is, indeed, of wider and larger interest than any other, but it is a mistake to single it out from the rest as if it rested upon a different and more trustworthy basis. I must, therefore, confine myself to an abridged narrative of the current and leading facts; and amid the numerous contradictory statements which are to be found respecting every one of them, I know no better ground of preference than comparative antiquity, though even the oldest tales which we possess—those contained in the Iliad—evidently presuppose others of prior date.
The primitive ancestor of the Trojan line of kings is Dardanus, son of Zeus, founder and eponymus of Dardania: in the account of later authors, Dardanus was called the son of Zeus by Electra, daughter of Atlas, and was further said to have come from Samothrace, or from Arcadia, or from Italy; but of this Homer mentions nothing. The first Dardanian town founded by him was in a lofty position on the descent of Mount Ida; for he was not yet strong enough to establish himself on the plain. But his son Erichthonius, by the favor of Zeus, became the wealthiest of mankind. His flocks and herds having multiplied, he had in his pastures three thousand mares, the offspring of some of whom, by Boreas, produced horses of preternatural swiftness. Tros, the son of Erichthonius, and the eponym of the Trojans, had three sons—Ilus, Assaracus, and the beautiful Ganymedes, whom Zeus stole away to become his cup-bearer in Olympus, giving to his father Tros, as the price of the youth, a team of immortal horses.
From Ilus and Assaracus the Trojan and Dardanian lines diverge; the former passing from Ilus to Laomedon, Priam, and Hector; the latter from Assaracus to Capys, Anchises, and Æneas. Ilus founded in the plain of Troy the holy city of Ilium; Assaracus and his descendants remained sovereigns of Dardania.
It was under the proud Laomedon, son of Ilus, that Poseidon and Apollo underwent, by command of Zeus, a temporary servitude; the former building the walls of the town, the latter tending the flocks and herds. When their task was completed and the penal period had expired, they claimed the stipulated reward; but Laomedon angrily repudiated their demand, and even threatened to cut off their ears, to tie them hand and foot, and to sell them in some distant island as slaves. He was punished for this treachery by a sea-monster, whom Poseidon sent to ravage his fields and to destroy his subjects. Laomedon publicly offered the immortal horses given by Zeus to his father Tros, as a reward to any one who would destroy the monster. But an oracle declared that a virgin of noble blood must be surrendered to him, and the lot fell upon Hesione, daughter of Laomedon himself. Heracles, arriving at this critical moment, killed the monster by the aid of a fort built for him by Athene and the Trojans, so as to rescue both the exposed maiden and the people; but Laomedon, by a second act of perfidy, gave him mortal horses in place of the matchless animals which had been promised. Thus defrauded of his due, Heracles equipped six ships, attacked and captured Troy, and killed Laomedon, giving Hesione to his friend and auxiliary Telamon, to whom she bore the celebrated archer Teucros. A painful sense of this expedition was preserved among the inhabitants of the historical town of Ilium, who offered no worship to Heracles.
Among all the sons of Laomedon, Priam was the only one who had remonstrated against the refusal of the well-earned guerdon of Heracles; for which the hero recompensed him by placing him on the throne. Many and distinguished were his sons and daughters, as well by his wife Hecuba, daughter of Cisseus, as by other women. Among the sons were Hector, Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus, Troilus, Polites, Polydorus; among the daughters, Laodice, Creusa, Polyxena, and Cassandra.
The birth of Paris was preceded by formidable presage; for Hecuba dreamed that she was delivered of a firebrand, and Priam, on consulting the soothsayers, was informed that the son about to be born would prove fatal to him. Accordingly he directed the child to be exposed on Mount Ida; but the inauspicious kindness of the gods preserved him; and he grew up amid the flocks and herds, active and beautiful, fair of hair and symmetrical in person, and the special favorite of Aphrodite.
It was to this youth, in his solitary shepherd's walk on Mount Ida, that the three goddesses, Here, Athene, and Aphrodite, were conducted, in order that he might determine the dispute respecting their comparative beauty, which had arisen at the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis,—a dispute brought about in pursuance of the arrangement, and in accomplishment of the deep-laid designs of Zeus. For Zeus, remarking with pain the immoderate numbers of the then existing heroic race, pitied the earth for the overwhelming burden which she was compelled to bear, and determined to lighten it by exciting a destructive and long-continued war. Paris awarded the palm of beauty to Aphrodite, who promised him in recompense the possession of Helen, wife of the Spartan Menelaus,—the daughter of Zeus and the fairest of living women. At the instance of Aphrodite, ships were built for him, and he embarked on the enterprise so fraught with eventual disaster to his native city, in spite of the menacing prophecies of his brother Helenus, and the always neglected warnings of Cassandra.
Paris, on arriving at Sparta, was hospitably entertained by Menelaus as well as by Castor and Pollux, and was enabled to present the rich gifts which he had brought to Helen. Menelaus then departed to Crete, leaving Helen to entertain his Trojan guest—a favorable moment, which was employed by Aphrodite to bring about the intrigue and the elopement. Paris carried away with him both Helen and a large sum of money belonging to Menelaus, made a prosperous voyage to Troy, and arrived there safely with his prize on the third day.
Menelaus, informed by Iris in Crete of the perfidious return made by Paris for his hospitality, hastened home in grief and indignation to consult with his brother Agamemnon, as well as with the venerable Nestor, on the means of avenging the outrage. They made known the event to the Greek chiefs around them, among whom they found universal sympathy; Nestor, Palamedes, and others went round to solicit aid in a contemplated attack of Troy, under the command of Agamemnon, to whom each chief promised both obedience and unwearied exertion until Helen should be recovered. Ten years were spent in equipping the expedition. The goddesses Here and Athene, incensed at the preference given by Paris to Aphrodite, and animated by steady attachment to Argos, Sparta, and Mycenæ, took an active part in the cause, and the horses of Here were fatigued with her repeated visits to the different parts of Greece.
By such efforts a force was at length assembled at Aulis in Boeotia, consisting of 1,186 ships and more than one hundred thousand men—a force outnumbering by more than ten to one anything that the Trojans themselves could oppose, and superior to the defenders of Troy even with all her allies included. It comprised heroes with their followers from the extreme points of Greece—from the northwestern portions of Thessaly under Mount Olympus, as well as the western islands of Dulichium and Ithaca, and the eastern islands of Crete and Rhodes. Agamemnon himself contributed 100 ships manned with the subjects of his kingdom Mycenæ, besides furnishing 60 ships to the Arcadians, who possessed none of their own. Menelaus brought with him 60 ships, Nestor from Pylus, 90, Idomeneus from Crete and Diomedes from Argos, 80 each. Forty ships were manned by the Elians, under four different chiefs; the like number under Meges from Dulichium and the Echinades, and under Thoas from Calydon and the other Ætolian towns. Odysseus from Ithaca, and Ajax from Salamis, brought 12 ships each. The Abantes from Euboea, under Elphenor, filled 40 vessels; the Boeotians, under Peneleos and Leitus, 50; the inhabitants of Orchomenus and Aspledon, 30; the light-armed Locrians, under Ajax son of Oileus, 40; the Phocians as many. The Athenians, under Menestheus, a chief distinguished for his skill in marshalling an army, mustered 50 ships; the Myrmidons from Phthia and Hellas, under Achilles, assembled in 50 ships; Protesilaus from Phylace and Pyrasus, and Eurypylus from Ormenium, each came with 40 ships; Machaon and Podaleirius, from Trikka, with 30; Eumelus, from Pheræ and the lake Boebeis, with 11; and Philoctetes from Meliboea with 7; the Lapithæ, under Polypoetes, son of Peirithous, filled 40 vessels, the Ænianes and Perrhæbians, under Guneus, 22; and the Magnetes, under Prothous, 40; these last two were from the northernmost parts of Thessaly, near the mountains Pelion and Olympus. From Rhodes, under Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, appeared 9 ships; from Syme, under the comely but effeminate Nireus, 3; from Cos, Crapathus, and the neighboring islands, 30, under the orders of Pheidippus and Antiphus, sons of Thessalus and grandsons of Heracles.
Among this band of heroes were included the distinguished warriors Ajax and Diomedes, and the sagacious Nestor; while Agamemnon himself, scarcely inferior to either of them in prowess, brought with him a high reputation for prudence in command. But the most marked and conspicuous of all were Achilles and Odysseus; the former a beautiful youth born of a divine mother, swift in the race, of fierce temper and irresistible might; the latter not less efficient as an ally, from his eloquence, his untiring endurance, his inexhaustible resources under difficulty, and the mixture of daring courage with deep-laid cunning which never deserted him: the blood of the arch-deceiver Sisyphus, through an illicit connection with his mother Anticleia, was said to flow in his veins, and he was especially patronized and protected by the goddess Athene. Odysseus, unwilling at first to take part in the expedition, had even simulated insanity; but Palamedes, sent to Ithaca to invite him, tested the reality of his madness by placing in the furrow where Odysseus was ploughing his infant son Telemachus. Thus detected, Odysseus could not refuse to join the Achæan host, but the prophet Halitherses predicted to him that twenty years would elapse before he revisited his native land. To Achilles the gods had promised the full effulgence of heroic glory before the walls of Troy; nor could the place be taken without both his coöperation and that of his son after him. But they had forewarned him that this brilliant career would be rapidly brought to a close; and that if he desired a long life, he must remain tranquil and inglorious in his native land. In spite of the reluctance of his mother Thetis he preferred few years with bright renown, and joined the Achæan host. When Nestor and Odysseus came to Phthia to invite him, both he and his intimate friend Patroclus eagerly obeyed the call.
Agamemnon and his powerful host set sail from Aulis; but being ignorant of the locality and the direction, they landed by mistake in Teuthrania, a part of Mysia near the river Caicus, and began to ravage the country under the persuasion that it was the neighborhood of Troy. Telephus, the king of the country, opposed and repelled them, but was ultimately defeated and severely wounded by Achilles. The Greeks, now discovering their mistake, retired; but their fleet was dispersed by a storm and driven back to Greece. Achilles attacked and took Scyrus, and there married Deidamia, the daughter of Lycomedes. Telephus, suffering from his wounds, was directed by the oracle to come to Greece and present himself to Achilles to be healed, by applying the scrapings of the spear with which the wound had been given; thus restored, he became the guide of the Greeks when they were prepared to renew their expedition.
The armament was again assembled at Aulis, but the goddess Artemis, displeased with the boastful language of Agamemnon, prolonged the duration of adverse winds, and the offending chief was compelled to appease her by the well-known sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. They then proceeded to Tenedos, from whence Odysseus and Menelaus were dispatched as envoys to Troy, to redemand Helen and the stolen property. In spite of the prudent counsels of Antenor, who received the two Grecian chiefs with friendly hospitality, the Trojans rejected the demand, and the attack was resolved upon. It was foredoomed by the gods that the Greek who first landed should perish: Protesilaus was generous enough to put himself upon this forlorn hope, and accordingly fell by the hand of Hector.
Meanwhile, the Trojans had assembled a large body of allies from various parts of Asia Minor and Thrace: Dardanians under Æneas, Lycians under Sarpedon, Mysians, Carians, Mæonians, Alizonians, Phrygians, Thracians, and Pæonians. But vain was the attempt to oppose the landing of the Greeks: the Trojans were routed, and even the invulnerable Cyncus, son of Poseidon, one of the great bulwarks of the defense, was slain by Achilles. Having driven the Trojans within their walls, Achilles attacked and stormed Lyrnessus, Pedasus, Lesbos, and other places in the neighborhood, twelve towns on the sea-coast, and eleven in the interior: he drove off the oxen of Æneas and pursued the hero himself, who narrowly escaped with his life: he surprised and killed the youthful Troilus, son of Priam, and captured several of the other sons, whom he sold as prisoners into the islands of the Ægean. He acquired as his captive the fair Briseis, while Chryseis was awarded to Agamemnon; he was, moreover, eager to see the divine Helen, the prize and stimulus of this memorable struggle; and Aphrodite and Thetis contrived to bring about an interview between them.
At this period of the war the Grecian army was deprived of Palamedes, one of its ablest chiefs. Odysseus had not forgiven the artifice by which Palamedes had detected his simulated insanity, nor was he without jealousy of a rival clever and cunning in a degree equal, if not superior, to himself; one who had enriched the Greeks with the invention of letters of dice for amusement of night-watches as well as with other useful suggestions. According to the old Cyprian epic, Palamedes was drowned while fishing by the hands of Odysseus and Diomedes. Neither in the Iliad nor the Odyssey does the name of Palamedes occur; the lofty position which Odysseus occupies in both those poems—noticed with some degree of displeasure even by Pindar, who described Palamedes as the wiser man of the two—is sufficient to explain the omission. But in the more advanced period of the Greek mind, when intellectual superiority came to acquire a higher place in the public esteem as compared with military prowess, the character of Palamedes, combined with his unhappy fate, rendered him one of the most interesting personages in the Trojan legend. Æschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides each consecrated to him a special tragedy; but the mode of his death as described in the old epic was not suitable to Athenian ideas, and accordingly he was represented as having been falsely accused of treason by Odysseus, who caused gold to be buried in his tent, and persuaded Agamemnon and the Grecian chiefs that Palamedes had received it from the Trojans. He thus forfeited his life, a victim to the calumny of Odysseus and to the delusion of the leading Greeks. The philosopher Socrates, in the last speech made to his Athenian judges, alludes with solemnity and fellow-feeling to the unjust condemnation of Palamedes as analogous to that which he himself was about to suffer; and his companions seem to have dwelt with satisfaction on the comparison. Palamedes passed for an instance of the slanderous enmity and misfortune which so often wait upon superior genius.
In these expeditions the Grecian army consumed nine years, during which the subdued Trojans dared not give battle without their walls for fear of Achilles. Ten years was the fixed epical duration of the siege of Troy, just as five years was the duration of the siege of Camicus by the Cretan armament which came to avenge the death of Minos: ten years of preparation, ten years of siege, and ten years of wandering for Odysseus were periods suited to the rough chronological dashes of the ancient epic, and suggesting no doubts nor difficulties with the original hearers. But it was otherwise when the same events came to be contemplated by the historicizing Greeks, who could not be satisfied without either finding or inventing satisfactory bonds of coherence between the separate events. Thucydides tells us that the Greeks were less numerous than the poets have represented, and that being, moreover, very poor, they were unable to procure adequate and constant provisions: hence they were compelled to disperse their army, and to employ a part of it in cultivating the Chersonese—a part in marauding expeditions over the neighborhood. Could the whole army have been employed against Troy at once (he says), the siege would have been much more speedily and easily concluded. If the great historian could permit himself thus to amend the legend in so many points, we might have imagined that a simpler course would have been to include the duration of the siege among the list of poetical exaggerations and to affirm that the real siege had lasted only one year instead of ten. But it seems that the ten years' duration was so capital a feature in the ancient tale that no critic ventured to meddle with it.
A period of comparative intermission, however, was now at hand for the Trojans. The gods brought about the memorable fit of anger of Achilles, under the influence of which he refused to put on his armor, and kept his Myrmidons in camp. According to the Cypria this was the behest of Zeus, who had compassion on the Trojans: according to the Iliad, Apollo was the originating cause, from anxiety to avenge the injury which his priest Chryses had endured from Agamemnon. For a considerable time, the combats of the Greeks against Troy were conducted without their best warrior, and severe, indeed, was the humiliation which they underwent in consequence. How the remaining Grecian chiefs vainly strove to make amends for his absence—how Hector and the Trojans defeated and drove them to their ships—how the actual blaze of the destroying flame, applied by Hector to the ship of Protesilaus, roused up the anxious and sympathizing Patroclus, and extorted a reluctant consent from Achilles to allow his friend and his followers to go forth and avert the last extremity of ruin—how Achilles, when Patroclus had been killed by Hector, forgetting his anger in grief for the death of his friend, reëntered the fight, drove the Trojans within their walls with immense slaughter, and satiated his revenge both upon the living and the dead Hector,—all these events have been chronicled, together with those divine dispensations on which most of them are made to depend, in the immortal verse of the Iliad.
Homer breaks off with the burial of Hector, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arctinus, entitled the Æthiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege. The poem of Quintus Smyrnæus, composed about the fourth century of the Christian era, seems in its first books to coincide with Æthiopis, in the subsequent books partly with the Ilias Minor of Lesches.
The Trojans, dismayed by the death of Hector, were again animated with hope by the appearance of the warlike and beautiful queen of the Amazons, Penthesilia, daughter of Ares, hitherto invincible in the field, who came to their assistance from Thrace at the head of a band of her country-women. She again led the besieged without the walls to encounter the Greeks in the open field; and under her auspices the latter were at first driven back, until she, too, was slain by the invincible arm of Achilles. The victor, on taking off the helmet of his fair enemy as she lay on the ground, was profoundly affected and captivated by her charms, for which he was scornfully taunted by Thersites; exasperated by this rash insult, he killed Thersites on the spot with a blow of his fist. A violent dispute among the Grecian chiefs was the result, for Diomedes, the kinsman of Thersites, warmly resented the proceeding; and Achilles was obliged to go to Lesbos, where he was purified from the act of homicide by Odysseus.
Next arrived Memnon, son of Tithonus and Eos, the most stately of living men, with a powerful band of black Ethiopians, to the assistance of Troy. Sallying forth against the Greeks, he made great havoc among them: the brave and popular Antilochus perished by his hand, a victim to filial devotion in defence of Nestor. Achilles at length attacked him, and for a long time the combat was doubtful between them: the prowess of Achilles and the supplication of Thetis with Zeus finally prevailed; while Eos obtained for her vanquished son the consoling gift of immortality. His tomb, however, was shown near the Propontis, within a few miles of the mouth of the river Æsopus, and was visited annually by the birds called Memnonides, who swept it and bedewed it with water from the stream. So the traveller Pausanias was told, even in the second century after the Christian era, by the Hellespontine Greeks.
But the fate of Achilles himself was now at hand. After routing the Trojans and chasing them into the town, he was slain near the Scæan gate by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the unerring auspices of Apollo. The greatest efforts were made by the Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was, however, rescued and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valor of Ajax and Odysseus. Bitter was the grief of Thetis for the loss of her son; she came into the camp with the Muses and the Nereids to mourn over him; and when a magnificent funeral-pile had been prepared by the Greeks to burn him with every mark of honor, she stole away the body and conveyed it to a renewed and immortal life in the island of Leuce in the Euxine Sea. According to some accounts he was there blest with the nuptials and company of Helen.
Thetis celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of her son, and offered the unrivalled panoply which Hephæstus had forged and wrought for him as a prize to the most distinguished warrior in the Grecian army. Odysseus and Ajax became rivals for the distinction, when Athene, together with some Trojan prisoners, who were asked from which of the two their country had sustained greatest injury, decided in favor of the former. The gallant Ajax lost his senses with grief and humiliation: in a fit of frenzy he slew some sheep, mistaking them for the men who had wronged him, and then fell upon his own sword.
Odysseus now learned from Helenus, son of Priam, whom he had captured in an ambuscade, that Troy could not be taken unless both Philoctetes and Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, could be prevailed upon to join the besiegers. The former, having been stung in the foot by a serpent, and becoming insupportable to the Greeks from the stench of his wound, had been left at Lemnos in the commencement of the expedition, and had spent ten years in misery on that desolate island; but he still possessed the peerless bow and arrows of Heracles, which were said to be essential to the capture of Troy. Diomedes fetched Philoctetes from Lemnos to the Grecian camp, where he was healed by the skill of Machaon, and took an active part against the Trojans—engaging in single combat with Paris, and killing him with one of the Heracleian arrows. The Trojans were allowed to carry away for burial the body of this prince, the fatal cause of all their sufferings; but not until it had been mangled by the hand of Menelaus. Odysseus went to the island of Scyros to invite Neoptolemus to the army. The untried but impetuous youth, gladly obeying the call, received from Odysseus his father's armor; while, on the other hand, Eurypylus, son of Telephus, came from Mysia as auxiliary to the Trojans and rendered to them valuable service turning the tide of fortune for a time against the Greeks, and killing some of their bravest chiefs, among whom were numbered Peneleos, and the unrivalled leech Machaon. The exploits of Neoptolemus were numerous, worthy of the glory of his race and the renown of his father. He encountered and slew Eurypylus, together with numbers of the Mysian warriors: he routed the Trojans and drove them within their walls, from whence they never again emerged to give battle: and he was not less distinguished for good sense and persuasive diction than for forward energy in the field.
Troy, however, was still impregnable so long as the Palladium, a statue given by Zeus himself to Dardanus, remained in the citadel; and great care had been taken by the Trojans not only to conceal this valuable present, but to construct other statues so like it as to mislead any intruding robber. Nevertheless, the enterprising Odysseus, having disguised his person with miserable clothing and self-inflicted injuries, found means to penetrate into the city and to convey the Palladium by stealth away. Helen alone recognized him; but she was now anxious to return to Greece, and even assisted Odysseus in concerting means for the capture of the town.
To accomplish this object, one final stratagem was resorted to. By the hands of Epeius of Panopeus, and at the suggestion of Athene, a capacious hollow wooden horse was constructed, capable of containing one hundred men. In the inside of this horse the elite of the Grecian heroes, Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Menelaus, and others, concealed themselves while the entire Grecian army sailed away to Tenedos, burning their tents and pretending to have abandoned the siege. The Trojans, overjoyed to find themselves free, issued from the city and contemplated with astonishment the fabric which their enemies had left behind. They long doubted what should be done with it; and the anxious heroes from within heard the surrounding consultations, as well as the voice of Helen when she pronounced their names and counterfeited the accents of their wives. Many of the Trojans were anxious to dedicate it to the gods in the city as a token of gratitude for their deliverance; but the more cautious spirits inculcated distrust of an enemy's legacy. Laocoon, the priest of Poseidon, manifested his aversion by striking the side of the horse with his spear.
The sound revealed that the horse was hollow, but the Trojans heeded not this warning of possible fraud. The unfortunate Laocoon, a victim to his own sagacity and patriotism, miserably perished before the eyes of his countrymen, together with one of his sons: two serpents being sent expressly by the gods out of the sea to destroy him. By this terrific spectacle, together with the perfidious counsels of Simon—a traitor whom the Greeks had left behind for the special purpose of giving false information—the Trojans were induced to make a breach in their own walls, and to drag the fatal fabric with triumph and exultation into their city.
The destruction of Troy, according to the decree of the gods, was now irrevocably sealed. While the Trojans indulged in a night of riotous festivity, Simon kindled the fire-signal to the Greeks at Tenedos, loosening the bolts of the wooden horse, from out of which the enclosed heroes descended. The city, assailed both from within and from without, was thoroughly sacked and destroyed, with the slaughter or captivity of the larger portion of its heroes as well as its people. The venerable Priam perished by the hand of Neoptolemus, having in vain sought shelter at the domestic altar of Zeus Herceius. But his son Deiphobus, who since the death of Paris had become the husband of Helen, defended his house desperately against Odysseus and Menelaus, and sold his life dearly. After he was slain, his body was fearfully mutilated by the latter.
Thus was Troy utterly destroyed—the city, the altars and temples, and the population. Æneas and Antenor were permitted to escape, with their families, having been always more favorably regarded by the Greeks than the remaining Trojans. According to one version of the story they had betrayed the city to the Greeks: a panther's skin had been hung over the door of Antenor's house as a signal for the victorious besiegers to spare it in general plunder. In the distribution of the principal captives, Astyanax, the infant son of Hector, was cast from the top of the wall and killed by Odysseus or Neoptolemus: Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, was immolated on the tomb of Achilles, in compliance with a requisition made by the shade of the deceased hero to his countrymen; while her sister Cassandra was presented as a prize to Agamemnon. She had sought sanctuary at the altar of Athene, where Ajax, the son of Oileus, making a guilty attempt to seize her, had drawn both upon himself and upon the army the serious wrath of the goddess, insomuch that the Greeks could hardly be restrained from stoning him to death. Andromache and Helenus were both given to Neoptolemus, who, according to the Ilias Minor, carried away also Æneas as his captive.
Helen gladly resumed her union with Menelaus; she accompanied him back to Sparta, and lived with him there many years in comfort and dignity, passing afterward to a happy immortality in the Elysian fields. She was worshipped as a goddess, with her brothers, the Dioscuri, and her husband, having her temple, statue, and altar at Therapnæ and elsewhere. Various examples of her miraculous intervention were cited among the Greeks. The lyric poet Stesichorus had ventured to denounce her, conjointly with her sister Clytemnestra, in a tone of rude and plain-spoken severity, resembling that of Euripides and Lycophron afterward, but strikingly opposite to the delicacy and respect with which she is always handled by Homer, who never admits reproaches against her except from her own lips. He was smitten with blindness, and made sensible of his impiety; but, having repented and composed a special poem formally retracting the calumny, was permitted to recover his sight. In his poem of recantation (the famous Palinode now unfortunately lost) he pointedly contradicted the Homeric narrative, affirming that Helen had never been at Troy at all, and that the Trojans had carried thither nothing but her image or eidolon. It is, probably, to the excited religious feelings of Stesichorus that we owe the first idea of this glaring deviation from the old legend, which could never have been recommended by any considerations of poetical interest.
Other versions were afterward started, forming a sort of compromise between Homer and Stesichorus, admitting that Helen had never really been at Troy, without altogether denying her elopement. Such is the story of her having been detained in Egypt during the whole term of the siege. Paris, on his departure from Sparta, had been driven thither by storms, and the Egyptian king Proteus, hearing of the grievous wrong which he had committed toward Menelaus, had sent him away from the country with severe menaces, detaining Helen until her lawful husband should come to seek her. When the Greeks reclaimed Helen from Troy, the Trojans assured them solemnly that she neither was nor ever had been in the town; but the Greeks, treating this allegation as fraudulent, prosecuted the siege until their ultimate success confirmed the correctness of the statement. Menelaus did not recover Helen until, on his return from Troy, he visited Egypt. Such was the story told by the Egyptian priests to Herodotus, and it appeared satisfactory to his historicizing mind. "For if Helen had really been at Troy," he argues, "she would certainly have been given up, even had she been mistress of Priam himself instead of Paris: the Trojan king, with all his family and all his subjects, would never knowingly have incurred utter and irretrievable destruction for the purpose of retaining her: their misfortune was that, while they did not possess and therefore could not restore her, they yet found it impossible to convince the Greeks that such was the fact." Assuming the historical character of the war of Troy, the remark of Herodotus admits of no reply; nor can we greatly wonder that he acquiesced in the tale of Helen's Egyptian detention, as a substitute for the "incredible insanity" which the genuine legend imputes to Priam and the Trojans. Pausanias, upon the same ground and by the same mode of reasoning, pronounced that the Trojan horse must have been, in point of fact, a battering-engine, because to admit the literal narrative would be to impute utter childishness to the defenders of the city. And Mr. Payne Knight rejects Helen altogether as the real cause of the Trojan war, though she may have been the pretext of it; for he thinks that neither the Greeks nor the Trojans could have been so mad and silly as to endure calamities of such magnitude "for one little woman." Mr. Knight suggests various political causes as substitutes; these might deserve consideration, either if any evidence could be produced to countenance them, or if the subject on which they are brought to bear could be shown to belong to the domain of history.
The return of the Grecian chiefs from Troy furnished matter to the ancient epic hardly less copious than the siege itself, and the more susceptible of indefinite diversity, inasmuch as those who had before acted in concert were now dispersed and isolated. Moreover, the stormy voyages and compulsory wanderings of the heroes exactly fell in with the common aspirations after an heroic founder, and enabled even the most remote Hellenic settlers to connect the origin of their town with this prominent event of their ante-historical and semi-divine world. And an absence of ten years afforded room for the supposition of many domestic changes in their native abode, and many family misfortunes and misdeeds during the interval. One of these historic "Returns," that of Odysseus, has been immortalized by the verse of Homer. The hero, after a series of long protracted suffering and expatriation inflicted on him by the anger of Poseidon, at last reaches his native island, but finds his wife beset, his youthful son insulted, and his substance plundered by a troop of insolent suitors; he is forced to appear as a wretched beggar, and to endure in his own person their scornful treatment; but finally, by the interference of Athene coming in aid of his own courage and stratagem, he is enabled to overwhelm his enemies, to resume his family position, and to recover his property. The return of several other Grecian chiefs was the subject of an epic poem by Hagias which is now lost, but of which a brief abstract or argument still remains: there were in antiquity various other poems of similar title and analogous matter.
As usual with the ancient epic, the multiplied sufferings of this back voyage are traced to divine wrath, justly provoked by the sins of the Greeks, who, in the fierce exultation of a victory purchased by so many hardships, had neither respected nor even spared the altars of the gods in Troy. Athene, who had been their most zealous ally during the siege, was so incensed by their final recklessness, more especially by the outrage of Ajax, son of Oileus, that she actively harassed and embittered their return, in spite of every effort to appease her. The chiefs began to quarrel among themselves; their formal assembly became a scene of drunkenness; even Agamemnon and Menelaus lost their fraternal harmony, and each man acted on his own separate resolution. Nevertheless, according to the Odyssey, Nestor, Diomedes, Neoptolemus, Idomeneus, and Philoctetes reached home speedily and safely; Agamemnon also arrived in Peloponnesus, to perish by the hand of a treacherous wife; but Menelaus was condemned to long wanderings and to the severest privations in Egypt, Cyprus, and elsewhere before he could set foot in his native land. The Locrian Ajax perished on the Gyræan rock. Though exposed to a terrible storm, he had already reached this place of safety, when he indulged in the rash boast of having escaped in defiance of the gods. No sooner did Poseidon hear this language than he struck with his trident the rock which Ajax was grasping and precipitated both into the sea. Calchas, the soothsayer, together with Leonteus and Polypoetes, proceeded by land from Troy to Colophon.
In respect, however, to these and other Grecian heroes, tales were told different from those in the Odyssey, assigning to them a long expatriation and a distant home. Nestor went to Italy, where he founded Metapontum, Pisa, and Heracleia: Philoctetes also went to Italy, founded Petilia and Crimisa, and sent settlers to Egesta in Sicily. Neoptolemus, under the advice of Thetis, marched by land across Thrace, met with Odysseus, who had come by sea, at Maroneia, and then pursued his journey to Epirus, where he became king of the Molossians. Idomeneus came to Italy, and founded Uria in the Salentine peninsula. Diomedes, after wandering far and wide, went along the Italian coast into the innermost Adriatic gulf, and finally settled in Daunia, founding the cities of Argyrippa, Beneventum, Atria, and Diomedeia: by the favor of Athene he became immortal, and was worshipped as a god in many different places. The Locrian followers of Ajax founded the Epizephyrian Locri on the southernmost corner of Italy, besides another settlement in Libya.
The previously exiled Teucros, besides founding the city of Salamis in Cyprus, is said to have established some settlements in the Iberian peninsula. Menestheus, the Athenian, did the like, and also founded both Elæa in Mysia and Scylletium in Italy. The Arcadian chief Agapenor founded Paphos in Cyprus. Epius, of Panopeus in Phocis, the constructor of the Trojan horse with the aid of the goddess Athene, settled at Lagaria, near Sybaris, on the coast of Italy; and the very tools which he had employed in that remarkable fabric were shown down to a late date in the temple of Athene at Metapontum.
Temples, altars, and towns were also pointed out in Asia Minor, in Samos, and in Crete, the foundation of Agamemnon or of his followers. The inhabitants of the Grecian town of Scione, in the Thracian peninsula called Pallene or Pellene, accounted themselves the offspring of the Pellenians from Achæa in Peloponnesus, who had served under Agamemnon before Troy, and who on their return from the siege had been driven on the spot by a storm and there settled. The Pamphylians, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, deduced their origin from the wanderings of Amphilochus and Calchas after the siege of Troy: the inhabitants of the Amphilochian Argos on the Gulf of Ambracia revered the same Amphilochus as their founder. The Orchomenians under Iamenus, on quitting the conquered city, wandered or were driven to the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea; and the barbarous Achæans under Mount Caucasus were supposed to have derived their first establishment from this source. Meriones, with his Cretan followers, settled at Engyion in Sicily, along with the preceding Cretans who had remained there after the invasion of Minos. The Elymians in Sicily also were composed of Trojans and Greeks separately driven to the spot, who, forgetting their previous differences, united in the joint settlements of Eryx and Egesta. We hear of Podalerius both in Italy and on the coast of Caria; of Acamas, son of Theseus, at Amphipolus in Thrace, at Soli in Cyprus, and at Synnada in Phrygia; of Guneus, Prothous, and Eurypylus, in Crete as well as in Libya. The obscure poem of Lycophron enumerates many of these dispersed and expatriated heroes, whose conquest of Troy was indeed a "Cadmean" victory (according to the proverbial phrase of the Greeks), wherein the sufferings of the victor were little inferior to those of the vanquished. It was particularly among the Italian Greeks, where they were worshipped with very special solemnity, that their presence as wanderers from Troy was reported and believed.
I pass over the numerous other tales which circulated among the ancients, illustrating the ubiquity of the Grecian and Trojan heroes as well as that of the Argonauts—one of the most striking features in the Hellenic legendary world. Among them all, the most interesting, individually, is Odysseus, whose romantic adventures in fabulous places and among fabulous persons have been made familiarly known by Homer. The goddesses Calypso and Circe; the semi-divine mariners of Phæacia, whose ships are endowed with consciousness and obey without a steersman; the one-eyed Cyclopes, the gigantic Læstrygones, and the wind-ruler Æolus; the Sirens, who ensnare by their song, as the Lotophagi fascinate by their food,—all these pictures formed integral and interesting portions of the old epic. Homer leaves Odysseus reëstablished in his house and family. But so marked a personage could never be permitted to remain in the tameness of domestic life; the epic poem called the Telegonia ascribed to him a subsequent series of adventures. Telegonus, his son by Circe, coming to Ithaca in search of his father, ravaged the island and killed Odysseus without knowing who he was. Bitter repentance overtook the son for his undesigned parricide: at his prayer and by the intervention of his mother Circe, both Penelope and Telemachus were made immortal: Telegonus married Penelope, and Telemachus married Circe.
We see by this poem that Odysseus was represented as the mythical ancestor of the Thesprotian kings, just as Neoptolemus was of the Molossian.
It has already been mentioned that Antenor and Æneas stand distinguished from the other Trojans by a dissatisfaction with Priam and a sympathy with the Greeks, which was by Sophocles and others construed as treacherous collusion,—a suspicion indirectly glanced at, though emphatically repelled, by the Æneas of Vergil. In the old epic of Arctinus, next in age to the Iliad and Odyssey, Æneas abandons Troy and retires to Mount Ida, in terror at the miraculous death of Laocoon, before the entry of the Greeks into the town and the last night battle: yet Lesches, in another of the ancient epic poems, represented him as having been carried away captive by Neoptolemus. In a remarkable passage of the Iliad, Poseidon describes the family of Priam as having incurred the hatred of Zeus, and predicts that Æneas and his descendants shall reign over the Trojans: the race of Dardanus, beloved by Zeus more than all his other sons, would thus be preserved, since Æneas belonged to it. Accordingly, when Æneas is in imminent peril from the hands of Achilles, Poseidon specially interferes to rescue him, and even the implacable miso-Trojan goddess Here assents to the proceeding. These passages have been construed by various able critics to refer to a family of philo-Hellenic or semi-Hellenic Æneadæ, known even in the time of the early singers of the Iliad as masters of some territory in or near the Troad, and professing to be descended from, as well as worshipping, Æneas. In the town of Scepsis, situated in the mountainous range of Ida, about thirty miles eastward of Ilium, there existed two noble and priestly families who professed to be descended, the one from Hector, the other from Æneas. The Scepsian critic Demetrius (in whose time both these families were still to be found) informs us that Scamandrius, son of Hector, and Ascanius, son of Æneas, were the archegets or heroic founders of his native city, which had been originally situated on one of the highest ranges of Ida, and was subsequently transferred by them to the less lofty spot on which it stood in his time. In Arisbe and Gentinus there seem to have been families professing the same descent, since the same archegets were acknowledged. In Ophrynium, Hector had his consecrated edifice, while in Ilium both he and Æneas were worshipped as gods: and it was the remarkable statement of the Lesbian Menecrates that Æneas, "having been wronged by Paris and stripped of the sacred privileges which belonged to him, avenged himself by betraying the city, and then became one of the Greeks."
One tale thus among many respecting Æneas, and that, too, the most ancient of all, preserved among natives of the Troad, who worshipped him as their heroic ancestor, was that after the capture of Troy he continued in the country as king of the remaining Trojans, on friendly terms with the Greeks. But there were other tales respecting him, alike numerous and irreconcilable: the hand of destiny marked him as a wanderer (fato profugus) and his ubiquity is not exceeded even by that of Odysseus. We hear of him at Ænus in Thrace, in Pallene, at Æneia in the Thermaic Gulf, in Delos, at Orchomenus and Mantineia in Arcadia, in the islands of Cythera and Zacynthus, in Leucas and Ambracia, at Buthrotum in Epirus, on the Salentine peninsula and various other places in the southern region of Italy; at Drepana and Segesta in Sicily, at Carthage, at Cape Palinurus, Cumæ, Misenum, Caieta, and finally in Latium, where he lays the first humble foundation of the mighty Rome and her empire. And the reason why his wanderings were not continued still further was, that the oracles and the pronounced will of the gods directed him to settle in Latium. In each of these numerous places his visit was commemorated and certified by local monuments or special legends, particularly by temples and permanent ceremonies in honor of his mother Aphrodite, whose worship accompanied him everywhere: there were also many temples and many different tombs of Æneas himself. The vast ascendancy acquired by Rome, the ardor with which all the literary Romans espoused the idea of a Trojan origin, and the fact that the Julian family recognized Æneas as their gentile primary ancestor,—all contributed to give to the Roman version of this legend the preponderance over every other. The various other places in which monuments of Æneas were found came thus to be represented as places where he had halted for a time on his way from Troy to Latium. But though the legendary pretensions of these places were thus eclipsed in the eyes of those who constituted the literary public, the local belief was not extinguished; they claimed the hero as their permanent property, and his tomb was to them a proof that he had lived and died among them.
Antenor, who shares with Æneas the favorable sympathy of the Greeks, is said by Pindar to have gone from Troy along with Menelaus and Helen into the region of Cyrene in Libya. But according to the more current narrative, he placed himself at the head of a body of Eneti or Veneti from Paphlagonia, who had come as allies of Troy, and went by sea into the inner part of the Adriatic Gulf, where he conquered the neighboring barbarians and founded the town of Patavium (the modern Padua); the Veneti in this region were said to owe their origin to his immigration. We learn further from Strabo that Opsicellas, one of the companions of Antenor, had continued his wanderings even into Iberia, and that he had there established a settlement bearing his name. Thus endeth the Trojan war, together with its sequel, the dispersion of the heroes, victors as well as vanquished.