The Returns 


The story of the Trojan War does not end with burning and looting of Troy, there are legends of the return of the Achaeans back to their various kingdoms.

The only king to return home safely was Nestor, who conducted himself honorably and did not take part in the looting and pillaging. The others faced trials and tribulations on the way home as the gods were displeased by their conduct in Troy. The Lesser Ajax, who had raped Cassandra, had his ship struck by  a thunderbolt from Athena, but he survived with some of his men by clinging to a rock. He boasted that even the gods could not kill him and Poseidon, upon hearing this, split the rock with his trident causing Ajax to drown.

Menelaus' fleet was blown off course in the storm to Egypt. Only five of his ships remained. Finally he caught Proteus, a shape-shifting sea god, and found out what sacrifices to make in order to get home safely. Having fulfilled the conditions, he was then able to return home with Helen.

Agamemnon returned home with Cassandra. His wife, Clytemnestra, peeved over the sacrifice of her daughter Iphigenia, conceived, with Aegisthus, a plot to kill Agamemnon. Cassandra warned Agamemnon, but like the Trojans, Agamemnon did not believe her. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus killed both Agamemnon and Cassandra. Later on, Agamemnon's son Orestes, along with his sister Electra, killed both Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, thus avenging his father. The Oresteia, a trilogy of plays written by Aeschylus in the 5th century BC tells that story.

Odysseus' journey back to Ithaca is the subject of the epic poem Odyssey attributed to Homer. Having been blown off course, Odysseus wandered the Mediterranean sea for ten years, eventually reaching his home, Ithaca, twenty years years after he had left.

Julius Caesar later claimed ancestry dating back to the Trojans and commissioned Virgil to write The Aeneid , completed in 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas a Trojan survivor who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans.

The Trojan War, usually dated it to the 12th or 11th centuries BC, inspired countless works of art. Not only in Classical Greece, Rome, but in the Renaissance and the 19th century.   In our times TV series, books and movies retell the story of the Trojan War.  Probably the most popular example in recent times was the 2004 movie Troy. To me the most important recent work is The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso.  In this brilliant work Calasso recaptures the magic of Greek literature. For example, he takes the scene from The Odyssey where the Achaeans soldiers hiding inside the hollow wooden horse, not knowing if the Trojans would accept the gift or burn it to with them inside, when Helen approaches. She walks around the hollow horse making her voice sound like the wives of the men inside.  Here is Calasso's version, with which I end this module:

"Night fell, and hidden in the horse the warriors no longer heard the sound of voices arguing. Instead there was the hubbub of a party. Then the hubbub faded. The party was coming to an end. Shuffling footsteps, voices growing fainter. It was then that Helen arrived, escorted by Deiphobus, her new husband.

She stopped in front of the horse. Complete silence now. She went around it, slowly. Then with her hand, she began to touch that belly packed with warriors. And all of a sudden, as Helen's hand slid  over the wooden planks, knocking softly as though at a lover's door, they heard her voice. She was calling names. She called Menelaus, Diomedes, Odysseus, Anticlus. For each  name she found a different voice. In the darkness, careful not to bang their shin guards together, some of the heroes began to get excited. There was a chorus of suffocated groans. It was the least appropriate time and place for nostalgia and desire. Yet Menelaus and Diomedes were on the point of getting to their feet. Anticuus couldn't help himself and opened his mouth to answer Helen's voice. But Odysseus stopped his mouth and tightened strong hands around his neck. Helen's voice went on calling names as Anticlus slowly expired, strangled. There was a last convulsion; then, moving carefully, the other heroes laid him down on the wood and stretched a blanket over him."                                                                (page 362)