The Siege of Troy


After a temporary truce to facilitate the proper burial and funeral rites for the fallen, the war resumed, the Trojans having been reinforced by the arrival of the Amazons, led by Penthesilea. Once again, Achilles proved too much for the Trojan forces who couldn't stop his onslaught; he killed Penthesilea on his way into the city of Troy.

Achilles and Penthesilea, painted by Exekias, circa 540-30 B.C. British Museum

 Following a decision among the gods that Achilles had to die, Apollo guided Paris' poisoned arrow at Achilles heel. In the ensuing skirmish, Ajax the Great held the Trojan army off Achilles' body while Odysseus dragged it back to their camp.

Achilles' prized armor was handed down to Odysseus, after he was judged to have caused more damage to the Trojans than the Greater Ajax. An infuriated Ajax intended to kill Menelaus and Agamemnon, but was fooled by Athena into attacking two rams instead of the Greek commanders. After realizing what he had done, he committed suicide. At  Achilles funeral, Thetis came from the sea with the Nereids to mourn him. They collected his ashes in a golden urn and raised a monument to his memory.

The Death of Ajax by the Exekias painter

The war was now in its tenth year. Several prophecies about the fall of Troy had begun to weigh on the minds of the Greek forces, and they carried out most of them, hoping to end the war. These included procuring the bow of Heracles, convincing Achilles' son Neoptolemus to join the Greek ranks and stealing the Trojan Palladium.

Finally, Odysseus came up with the famous idea of the Trojan Horse. A giant, hollow, wooden horse (an animal sacred to the Trojans) was built under the directions of Athena. On the horse were inscribed the words:

The Greeks dedicate this thank-offering to Athena for their return home.

The horse contained troops led by Odysseus.

trojan horse
Trojan Horse,
7th century B.C.                                      
(wine jar, oldest know representation of the Trojan Horse )                            Myronos
Museum, Greece
The rest of the army burned their camps and lay in wait at Tenedos. The Trojans, thinking that the Greek armies had finally left dragged the horse back into the city and debated over what to do with it.   Priam's daughter Cassandra, who had been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, warned the Trojans not to keep the horse. Cassandra, however, was also cursed by Apollo for refusing his advances and no one would believe her prophecies.

Late at night, the hidden troops came out of the horse and opened the gates of Troy.  The Achaean army entered.  Eventually all the Trojan soldiers either fled or were killed by the Achaean army and the women were captured as war prize. The Greeks then proceeded to burn the city of Troy.

Priam's death
 Neoptolemus kills King Priam
( Attic black-figure amphora 520–510 BC)

King Priam was killed by Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles. Menelaus killed Deiphobus, a son of Priam and the new consort of Helen.  Cassandra was raped by Ajax the Lesser on the altar of Athena.

Menelaus intends to kill  Helen, but struck by her beauty, he drops his swords. A flying Eros and Aphrodite (on the left) watch the scene.  Attic red-figure crater, ca. 450–440 BC, found in Egnazia, Italy, now in the Louvre.

The Trojan women were rounded up by the Achaeans. Cassandra was awarded to Agamemnon, Neoptolemus took Andromache, the wife of Hector, and Odysseus took Hecuba, the wife of king Priam, as concubines or slaves. The Achaeans killed Hector's infant son Astyanax by throwing him from the walls of Troy, and sacrificed Priam's daughter Polyxena to Achilles and to have favorable winds for the trip home.

With their loot and slaves the Achaeans were now ready to return home.

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