The Trojan War is partly historical and partly mythological. The war was fought between the Trojans who lived in what is modern day Turkey and the Greeks who lived across the Aegean Sea. The problem began when Paris, a prince of Troy, eloped with or kidnapped Helen, the wife of Menelaus, the King of Sparta in Greece. Menelaus wanted to organize an expedition to get her back.
He asked his brother Agamemnon, King of Mycenae in Greece, to be the leader of the expedition. Greek heroes like Achilles, Ajax, Odysseus, and thousands of warriors joined with them. More than 1000 ships from all over Greece set sail across the Aegean Sea for Troy. They wanted to demand that Priam, the king of Troy, return Helen.
The Greeks laid siege to the city of Troy and camped around its walls for ten years. Individual battles took place outside the walls when Trojan heroes came out to fight Greeks. The Greek hero Achilles chased a Trojan prince Hector around the walls and killed him in revenge. Hector had killed Achilles' best friend Patroclus.
Later, the Trojan prince Paris killed the Greek hero Achilles with an arrow in the only place in his body where he was vulnerable. According to mythology, Achilles' mother had dipped him in the River Styx in the Underworld to protect him from death. However, because she held him by his heel to dip him, his heel was not touched by the water and was not immortal.
After ten years of the siege, the Greek army left. In reality, they sailed just out of sight of Troy. The Greeks left a huge wooden horse on the beach. A Greek deserter named Sinon told the Trojans that the Greeks had left the horse as an atonement sacrifice to Athena because the Greek Odysseus had stolen her statue from a Trojan temple. The Greeks wanted to get back her favor.
The Trojan princess Cassandra, who was a seer or a prophet, warned the Trojans that it was a trick, but she had been cursed by the god Apollo that no one would ever believe her. Also, the god Poseidon sent two serpents out of the sea to strangle his Trojan priest Laocoon and his two sons. Laocoon had warned the Trojans about bringing the horse into the city. Poseidon was angry with the king of Troy. He wanted the city of Troy destroyed.
Sinon told the Trojans that it was so big because the Greeks didn't want the Trojans to be able to take it inside the city. The Trojans decided they wanted it inside the city so broke down the walls and dragged it in. At night, while the Trojans were partying because of the Greeks' departure, a trap door in the horse was opened by men inside. Greeks swarmed out and fought the Trojans all over the city. The other Greeks sailed back, and the city was captured.
Archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann began major excavations at Troy in 1870. Later digs have revealed that one of the layers of the excavation shows remains giving evidence of a war. This can be dated to about 1180 B.C.
Many people say that a series of stories, called an epic cycle, including the Iliad (the story of the Trojan War) and the Odyssey (the story of the Greek Odysseus) was written by a Greek blind poet named Homer in 750-725 B.C. They were written from the oral tradition four hundred years after the war.
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