The Story of Troy
by Michael Clarke
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

























In this book we are to tell the story of Troy, and particularly of the famous siege which ended in the total destruction of that renowned city. It is a story of brave warriors and heroes of 3000 years ago, about whose exploits the greatest poets and historians of ancient times have written. Some of the wonderful events of the memorable siege are related in a celebrated poem called the Ili-ad, written in the Greek language. The author of this poem was Homer, who was the author of another great poem, the Odys-sey, which tells of the voyages and adventures of the Greek hero, U-lysses, after the taking of Troy.

Homer has been called the Father of Poetry, because he was the first and greatest of poets. He lived so long ago that very little is known about him. We do not even know for a certainty when or where he was born. It is believed, however, that he lived in the ninth century before Christ, and that his native place was Smyrna, in Asia Minor. But long after his death several other cities claimed the honor of being his birthplace.

Seven Grecian cities vied for Homer dead, Through which the living Homer begged his bread.


It is perhaps not true that Homer was so poor as to be obliged to beg for his bread; but it is probable that he earned his living by traveling from city to city through many parts of Greece and Asia Minor, reciting his poems in the palaces of princes, and at public assemblies. This was one of the customs of ancient times, when the art of writing was either not known, or very little practiced. The poets, or bards, of those days committed their compositions to memory, and repeated them aloud at gatherings of the people, particularly at festivals and athletic games, of which the ancient Greeks were very fond. At those games prizes and rewards were given to the bards as well as to the athletes.

It is said that in the latter part of his life the great poet became blind, and that this was why he received the name of Homer, which signified a blind person. The name first given to him, we are told, was Mel-e-sige-nes, from the river Meles, a small stream on the banks of which his native city of Smyrna was situated.

So little being known of Homer's life, there has been much difference of opinion about him among learned men. Many have believed that Homer never existed. Others have thought that the Iliad and Odyssey were composed not by one author, but by several. "Some," says the English poet, Walter Savage Landor, "tell us that there were twenty Homers, some deny that there was ever one." Those who believe that there were "twenty Homers" think that different parts of the two great poems—the Iliad and Odyssey—were composed by different persons, and that all the parts were afterwards put together in the form in which they now appear. The opinion of most scholars at present, however, is that Homer did really exist, that he was a wandering bard, or minstrel, who sang or recited verses or ballads composed by himself, about the great deeds of heroes and warriors, and that those ballads, collected and arranged in after years in two separate books, form the poems known as the Iliad and Odyssey.

Homer's poetry is what is called epic poetry, that is, it tells about heroes and heroic actions. The Iliad and Odyssey are the first and greatest of epic poems. In all ages since Homer's time, scholars have agreed in declaring them to be the finest poetic productions of human genius. No nation in the world has ever produced poems so beautiful or so perfect. They have been read and admired by learned men for more than 2000 years. They have been translated into the languages of all civilized countries. In this book we make many quotations from the fine translation of the Iliad by our American poet, William Cullen Bryant. We quote also from the well-known translation by the English poet, Alexander Pope.

The ancients had a very great admiration for the poetry of Homer. We are told that every educated Greek could repeat from memory any passage in the Iliad or Odyssey. Alexander the Great was so fond of Homer's poems that he always had them under his pillow while he slept. He kept the Iliad in a richly ornamented casket, saying that "the most perfect work of human genius ought to be preserved in a box the most valuable and precious in the world."

So great was the veneration the Greeks had for Homer, that they erected temples and altars to him, and worshiped him as a god. They held festivals in his honor, and made medals bearing the figure of the poet sitting on a throne and holding in his hands the Iliad and Odyssey. One of the kings of Egypt built in that country a magnificent temple, in which was set up a statue of Homer, surrounded with a beautiful representation of the seven cities that contended for the honor of being the place of his birth.

Great bard of Greece, whose ever-during verse All ages venerate, all tongues rehearse; Could blind idolatry be justly paid To aught of mental power by man display'd, To thee, thou sire of soul-exalting song, That boundless worship might to thee belong.



To understand the Story of Troy it is necessary to know something about the gods and goddesses, who played so important a part in the events we are to relate. We shall see that in the Trojan War nearly everything was ordered or directed by a god or goddess. The gods, indeed, had much to do in the causing of the war, and they took sides in the great struggle, some of them helping the Greeks and some helping the Trojans.

The ancient Greeks believed that there were a great many gods. According to their religion all parts of the universe,—the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon, the ocean, seas, and rivers, the mountains and forests, the winds and storms,—were ruled by different gods. The gods, too, it was supposed, controlled all the affairs of human life. There were a god of war and a god of peace, and gods of music, and poetry, and dancing, and hunting, and of all the other arts or occupations in which men engaged.

The gods, it was believed, were in some respects like human beings. In form they usually appeared as men and women. They were passionate and vindictive, and often quarreled among themselves. They married and had children, and needed food and drink and sleep. Sometimes they married human beings, and the sons of such marriages were the heroes of antiquity, men of giant strength who performed daring and wonderful feats. The food of the gods was Am-brosia, which conferred immortality and perpetual youth on those who partook of it; their drink was a delicious wine called Nectar.

The gods, then, were immortal beings. They never died; they never grew old, and they possessed immense power. They could change themselves, or human beings, into any form, and they could make themselves visible or invisible at pleasure. They could travel through the skies, or over earth or ocean, with the rapidity of lightning, often riding in gorgeous golden chariots drawn by horses of immortal breed. They were greatly feared by men, and when any disaster occurred,—if lives were lost by earthquake, or shipwreck, or any other calamity,—it was attributed to the anger of some god.

Though immortal beings, however, the gods were subject to some of the physical infirmities of humanity. They could not die, but they might be wounded and suffer bodily pain the same as men. They often took part in the quarrels and wars of people on earth, and they had weapons and armor like human warriors.

The usual place of residence of the principal gods was on the top of Mount O-lympus in Greece. Here they dwelt in golden palaces, and they had a Council Chamber where they frequently feasted together at grand banquets, celestial music being rendered by A-pollo, the god of minstrelsy, and the Muses, who were the divinities of poetry and song.

In all the chief cities grand temples were erected for the worship of the gods. One of the most famous was the Parthe-non, at Athens. At the shrines of the gods costly gifts in gold and silver were presented, and on their altars, often built in the open air, beasts were killed and burned as sacrifices, which were thought to be very pleasing to the divine beings to whom they were offered.

The greatest and most powerful of the gods was Jupi-ter, also called Jove or Zeus. To him all the rest were subject. He was the king of the gods, the mighty Thunderer, at whose nod Olympus shook, and at whose word the heavens trembled. From his great power in the regions of the sky he was sometimes called the "cloud-compelling Jove."

He, whose all-conscious eyes the world behold, The eternal Thunderer sat, enthroned in gold. High heaven the footstool of his feet he makes, And wide beneath him all Olympus shakes.

POPE, Iliad, Book VIII.

The wife of Jupiter, and the queen of heaven, was Juno, who, as we shall see, was the great enemy of Troy and the Trojans. One of the daughters of Jupiter, called Venus, or Aph-ro-dite, was the goddess of beauty and love. Neptune was the god of the sea. He usually carried in his hand a trident, or three-pronged scepter, the emblem of his authority.

His sumptuous palace-halls were built Deep down in ocean, golden, glittering, proof Against decay of time.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book XIII.

Mars was the god of war, and Pluto, also called Dis and Hades, was god of the regions of the dead. One of the most glorious and powerful of the gods was Apollo, or Phbus, or Smintheus, for he had many names. He was god of the sun, and of medicine, music, and poetry. He is represented as holding in his hand a bow, and sometimes a lyre. Homer calls him the "god of the silver bow," and the "far-darting Apollo," for the ancients believed that with the dart of his arrow he sent down plagues upon men whenever they offended him.

The other principal deities mentioned by Homer are Mi-nerva, or Pallas, the goddess of wisdom; Vulcan, the god of fire; and Mercu-ry, or Hermes, the messenger of Jupiter. Vulcan was also the patron, or god, of smiths. He had several forges; one was on Mount Olympus, and another was supposed to be under Mount Ętna in Sici-ly. Here, with his giant workmen, the Cyclops, he made thunderbolts for Jupiter, and sometimes armor and weapons of war for earthly heroes.

The gods, it was believed, made their will known to men in various ways,—sometimes by the flight of birds, frequently by dreams, and sometimes by appearing on earth under different forms, and speaking directly to kings and warriors. Very often men learned the will of the gods by consulting seers and soothsayers, or augurs,—persons who were supposed to have the power of foretelling events. There were temples also where the gods gave answers through priests. Such answers were called Ora-cles, and this name was also given to the priests. The most celebrated oracle of ancient times was in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, in Greece. To this place people came from all parts of the world to consult the god, whose answers were given by a priestess called Pythi-a.

The ancients never engaged in war or any other important undertaking without sacrificing to the gods or consulting their oracles or soothsayers. Before going to battle they made sacrifices to the gods. If they were defeated in battle they regarded it as a sign of the anger of Jupiter, or Juno, or Minerva, or Apollo, or some of the other great beings who dwelt on Olympus. When making leagues or treaties of peace, they called the gods as witnesses, and prayed to Father Jupiter to send terrible punishments on any who should take false oaths, or break their promises. In the story of the Trojan War we shall find many examples of such appeals to the gods by the chiefs on both sides.

"O Father Jove, who rulest from the top Of Ida, mightiest one and most august! Whichever of these twain has done the wrong, Grant that he pass to Pluto's dwelling, slain, While friendship and a faithful league are ours.

"O Jupiter most mighty and august! Whoever first shall break these solemn oaths, So may their brains flow down upon the earth,— Theirs and their children's."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book III.



That part of Asia Minor which borders the narrow channel now known as the Dar-da-nelles, was in ancient times called Troas. Its capital was the city of Troy, which stood about three miles from the shore of the Ę-gean Sea, at the foot of Mount Ida, near the junction of two rivers, the Simo-is, and the Sca-mander or Xanthus. The people of Troy and Troas were called Trojans.

Some of the first settlers in northwestern Asia Minor, before it was called Troas, came from Thrace, a country lying to the north of Greece. The king of these Thracian colonists was Teucer. During his reign a prince named Dardanus arrived in the new settlement. He was a son of Jupiter, and he came from Samo-thrace, one of the many islands of the Ęgean Sea. It is said that he escaped from a great flood which swept over his native island, and that he was carried on a raft of wood to the coast of the kingdom of Teucer. Soon afterwards he married Teucer's daughter. He then built a city for himself amongst the hills of Mount Ida, and called it Dar-dani-a; and on the death of Teucer he became king of the whole country, to which he gave the same name, Dardania.

Jove was the father, cloud-compelling Jove, Of Dardanus, by whom Dardania first Was peopled, ere our sacred Troy was built On the great plain,—a populous town; for men Dwelt still upon the roots of Ida fresh With Qiany springs.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book XX.

Dardanus was the ancestor of the Trojan line of kings. He had a grandson named Tros, and from him the city Troy, as well as the country Troas, took its name. The successor of King Tros was his son Ilus. By him Troy was built, and it was therefore also called Ili-um or Ili-on; hence the title of Homer's great poem,—the Iliad. From the names Dardanus and Teucer the city of Troy has also been sometimes called Dardania and Teucri-a, and the Trojans are often referred to as Dardanians and Teucrians. Ilus was succeeded by his son La-ome-don, and Laomedon's son Priam was king of Troy during the famous siege.

The story of the founding of Troy is a very interesting one. Ilus went forth from his father's city of Dardania, in search of adventures, as was the custom of young princes and heroes in those days; and he traveled on until he arrived at the court of the king of Phrygi-a, a country lying east of Troas. Here he found the people engaged in athletic games, at which the king gave valuable prizes for competition. Ilus took part in a wrestling match, and he won fifty young men and fifty maidens,—a strange sort of prize we may well think, but not at all strange or unusual in ancient times, when there were many slaves everywhere. During his stay in Phrygia the young Dardanian prince was hospitably entertained at the royal palace. When he was about to depart, the king gave him a spotted heifer, telling him to follow the animal, and to build a city for himself at the place where she should first lie down to rest.

Ilus did as he was directed. With his fifty youths and fifty maidens he set out to follow the heifer, leaving her free to go along at her pleasure. She marched on for many miles, and at last lay down at the foot of Mount Ida on a beautiful plain watered by two rivers, and here Ilus encamped for the night. Before going to sleep he prayed to Jupiter to send him a sign that that was the site meant for his city. In the morning he found standing in front of his tent a wooden statue of the goddess Minerva, also called Pallas. The figure was three cubits high. In its right hand it held a spear, and in the left, a distaff and spindle.

This was the Pal-ladi-um of Troy, which afterwards became very famous. The Trojans believed that it had been sent down from heaven, and that the safety of their city depended upon its preservation. Hence it was guarded with the greatest care in a temple specially built for the purpose.

Ilus, being satisfied that the statue was the sign for which he had prayed, immediately set about building his city, and thus Troy was founded. It soon became the capital of Troas and the richest and most powerful city in that part of the world. During the reign of Laomedon, son of Ilus, its mighty walls were erected, which in the next reign withstood for ten years all the assaults of the Greeks. These walls were the work of no human hands. They were built by the ocean god Neptune. This god had conspired against Jupiter and attempted to dethrone him, and, as a punishment, his kingdom of the sea was taken away from him for one year, and he was ordered to spend that time in the service of the king of Troy.

In building the great walls, Neptune was assisted by Apollo, who had also been driven from Olympus for an offense against Jupiter. Apollo had a son named Ęs-cu-lapi-us, who was so skilled a physician that he could, and did, raise people from death to life. Jupiter was very angry at this. He feared that men might forget him and worship Ęsculapius. He therefore hurled a thunderbolt at the great physician and killed him. Enraged at the death of his son, Apollo threatened to destroy the Cyclops, the giant workmen of Vulcan, who had forged the terrible thunderbolt. Before he could carry out his threat, however, Jupiter expelled him from heaven. He remained on earth for several years, after which he was permitted to return to his place among the gods on the top of Mount Olympus.

Though Neptune was bound to serve Laomedon for one year, there was an agreement between them that the god should get a certain reward for building the walls. But when the work was finished the Trojan king refused to keep his part of the bargain. Apollo had assisted by his powers of music. He played such tunes that he charmed even the huge blocks of stone, so that they moved themselves into their proper places, after Neptune had wrenched them from the mountain sides and had hewn them into shape. Moreover, Apollo had taken care of Laomedon's numerous flocks on Mount Ida. During the siege, Neptune, in a conversation with Apollo before the walls of Troy, spoke of their labors in the service of the Trojan king:

"Hast thou forgot, how, at the monarch's prayer, We shared the lengthen'd labors of a year? Troy walls I raised (for such were Jove's commands), And yon proud bulwarks grew beneath my hands: Thy task it was to feed the bellowing droves Along fair Ida's vales and pendant groves."

POPE, Iliad, Book XXI.

Long before this, however, the two gods had punished Laomedon very severely for breaking his promise. Apollo, after being restored to heaven, sent a plague upon the city of Troy, and Neptune sent up from the sea an enormous serpent which killed many of the people.

A great serpent from the deep, Lifting his horrible head above their homes, Devoured the children.


In this terrible calamity the king asked an oracle in what way the anger of the two gods might be appeased. The answer of the oracle was that a Trojan maiden must each year be given to the monster to be devoured. Every year, therefore, a young girl, chosen by lot, was taken down to the seashore and chained to a rock to become the prey of the serpent. And every year the monster came and swallowed up a Trojan maiden, and then went away and troubled the city no more until the following year, when he returned for another victim. At last the lot fell on He-sio-ne, the daughter of the king. Deep was Laomedon's grief at the thought of the awful fate to which his child was thus doomed.

But help came at an unexpected moment. While, amid the lamentations of her family and friends, preparations were being made to chain Hesione to the rock, the great hero, Hercu-les, happened to visit Troy. He was on his way home to Greece, after performing in a distant eastern country one of those great exploits which made him famous in ancient story. The hero undertook to destroy the serpent, and thus save the princess, on condition that he should receive as a reward certain wonderful horses which Laomedon just then had in his possession. These horses were given to Laomedon's grandfather, Tros, on a very interesting occasion. Tros had a son named Gany-mede, a youth of wonderful beauty, and Jupiter admired Ganymede so much that he had him carried up to heaven to be cupbearer to the gods—to serve the divine nectar at the banquets on Mount Olympus.

Godlike Ganymede, most beautiful Of men; the gods beheld and caught him up To heaven, so beautiful was he, to pour The wine to Jove, and ever dwell with them.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book XX.

To compensate Tros for the loss of his son, Jupiter gave him four magnificent horses of immortal breed and marvelous fleetness. These were the horses which Hercules asked as his reward for destroying the serpent. As there was no other way of saving the life of his daughter, Laomedon consented. Hercules then went down to the seashore, bearing in his hand the huge club which he usually carried, and wearing his lion-skin over his shoulders. This was the skin of a fierce lion he had strangled to death in a forest in Greece, and he always wore it when going to perform any of his heroic feats.

When Hesione had been bound to the rock, the hero stood beside her and awaited the coming of the serpent. In a short time its hideous form emerged from beneath the waves, and darting forward it was about to seize the princess, when Hercules rushed upon it, and with mighty strokes of his club beat the monster to death. Thus was the king's daughter saved and all Troy delivered from a terrible scourge. But when the hero claimed the reward that had been agreed upon, and which he had so well earned, Laomedon again proved himself to be a man who was neither honest nor grateful. Disregarding his promise, and forgetful, too, of what he and his people had already suffered as a result of his breach of faith with the two gods, he refused to give Hercules the horses.

The hero at once went away from Troy, but not without resolving to return at a convenient time and punish Laomedon. This he did, not long afterwards, when he had completed the celebrated "twelve labors" at which he had been set by a Grecian king, whom Jupiter commanded him to serve for a period of years because of an offense he had committed. One of these labors was the killing of the lion. Another was the destroying of the Lernę-an hydra, a frightful serpent with many heads, which for a long time had been devouring man and beast in the district of Lerna in Greece.

Having accomplished his twelve great labors and ended his term of service, Hercules collected an army and a fleet, and sailed to the shores of Troas. He then marched against the city, took it by surprise, and slew Laomedon and all his sons, with the exception of Po-darces, afterwards called Priam. This prince had tried to persuade his father to fulfill the engagement with Hercules, for which reason his life was spared. He was made a slave, however, as was done in ancient times with prisoners taken in war. But Hesione ransomed her brother, giving her gold-embroidered veil as the price of his freedom. From this time he was called Priam, a word which in the Greek language means "purchased." Hesione also prevailed upon Hercules to restore Priam to his right as heir to his father's throne, and so he became king of Troy. Hesione herself was carried off to Greece, where she was given in marriage to Tela-mon, king of Sala-mis, a friend of Hercules.

Priam reigned over his kingdom of Troas many years in peace and prosperity. His wife and queen, the virtuous Hecu-ba, was a daughter of a Thracian king. They had nineteen children, many of whom became famous during the great siege. Their eldest son, Hector, was the bravest of the Trojan heroes. Their son Paris it was, as we shall see, who brought upon his country the disastrous war. Another son, Hele-nus, and his sister Cas-sandra, were celebrated soothsayers.

Cassandra was a maiden of remarkable beauty. The god Apollo loved her so much that he offered to grant her any request if she would accept him as her husband. Cassandra consented and asked for the power of foretelling events, but when she received it, she slighted the god and refused to perform her promise. Apollo was enraged at her conduct, yet he could not take back the gift he had bestowed. He decreed, however, that no one should believe or pay any attention to her predictions, true though they should be. And so when Cassandra foretold the evils that were to come upon Troy, even her own people would not credit her words. They spoke of her as the "mad prophetess."

Cassandra cried, and cursed the unhappy hour; Foretold our fate; but by the god's decree, All heard, and none believed the prophecy.


The first sorrow in the lives of King Priam and his good queen came a short time before the birth of Paris, when Hecuba dreamed that her next child would bring ruin upon his family and native city. This caused the deepest distress to Priam and Hecuba, especially when the soothsayer Ęsa-cus declared that the dream would certainly be fulfilled. Then, though they were tender and loving parents, they made up their minds to sacrifice their own feelings rather than that such a calamity should befall their country. When the child was born, the king, therefore, ordered it to be given to Ar-che-laus, one of the shepherds of Mount Ida, with instructions to expose it in a place where it might be destroyed by wild beasts. The shepherd, though very unwilling to do so cruel a thing, was obliged to obey, but on returning to the spot a few days afterwards he found the infant boy alive and unhurt. Some say that the child had been nursed and carefully tended by a she-bear. Archelaus was so touched with pity at the sight of the innocent babe smiling in his face, that he took the boy to his cottage, and, giving him the name Paris, brought him up as one of his own family.

With the herdsmen on Mount Ida, Paris spent his early years, not knowing that he was King Priam's son. He was a brave youth, and of exceeding beauty.

"His sunny hair Cluster'd about his temples like a god's."


He was skilled, too, in all athletic exercises, he was a bold huntsman, and so brave in defending the shepherds against the attacks of robbers that they called him Alexander, a name which means a protector of men. Thus the young prince became a favorite with the people who lived on the hills. Very happy he was amongst them, and amongst the flocks which his good friend and foster father, Archelaus, gave him to be his own. He was still more happy in the company of the charming nymph -none, the daughter of a river god; and he loved her and made her his wife. But this happiness was destined not to be of long duration. The Fates[A] had decreed it otherwise. none the beautiful, whose sorrows have been the theme of many poets, was to lose the love of the young shepherd prince, and the dream of Hecuba was to have its fulfillment.

The Fate That rules the will of Jove had spun the days Of Paris and none.


[Footnote A: The Fates were the three sisters, Clotho, Lache-sis, and Atro-pos, powerful goddesses who controlled the birth and life of mankind, Clotho, the youngest, presided over the moment of birth, and held a distaff in her hand; Lachesis spun out the thread of human existence (all the events and action's of man's life); and Atropos, with a pair of shears which she always carried, cut this thread at the moment of death.]


It was through a quarrel among the three goddesses, Juno, Venus, and Minerva, that none, the fair nymph of Mount Ida, met her sad fate, and that the destruction of Troy was brought about. The strife arose on the occasion of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis. Peleus was a king of Thessa-ly, in Greece, and one of the great heroes of those days. Thetis was a daughter of the sea god Nere-us, who had fifty daughters, all beautiful sea nymphs, called "Ne-rei-des," from the name of their father. Their duty was to attend upon the greater sea gods, and especially to obey the orders of Neptune.

Thetis was so beautiful that Jupiter himself wished to marry her, but the Fates told him she was destined to have a son who would be greater than his father. The king of heaven having no desire that a son of his should be greater than himself, gave up the idea of wedding the fair nymph of the sea, and consented that she should be the wife of Peleus, who had long loved and wooed her. But Thetis, being a goddess, was unwilling to marry a mortal man. However, she at last consented, and all the gods and goddesses, with one exception, were present at the marriage feast.

For in the elder time, when truth and worth Were still revered and cherished here on earth, The tenants of the skies would oft descend To heroes' spotless homes, as friend to friend; There meet them face to face, and freely share In all that stirred the hearts of mortals there.

CATULLUS (Martin's tr.).

The one exception was Eris, or Dis-cordi-a, the goddess of discord. This evil-minded deity had at one time been a resident of Olympus, but she caused so much dissension and quarreling there that Jupiter banished her forever from the heavenly mansions. The presence of such a being as a guest on so happy an occasion was not very desirable, and therefore no invitation was sent to her.

Thus slighted, the goddess of discord resolved to have revenge by doing all that she could to disturb the peace and harmony of the marriage feast. With this evil purpose she suddenly appeared in the midst of the company, and threw on the table a beautiful golden apple, on which were inscribed the words, "Let it be given to the fairest."

"This was cast upon the board, When all the full-faced presence of the gods Ranged in the halls of Peleus; whereupon Rose feud, with question unto whom 'twere due."


At once all the goddesses began to claim the glittering prize of beauty. Each contended that she was the "fairest," and therefore should have the

"fruit of pure Hesperian gold That smelt ambrosially."

But soon the only competitors were Juno, Venus, and Minerva, the other goddesses having withdrawn their claims. The contest then became more bitter, and at last Jupiter was called upon to act as judge in the dispute. This delicate task the king of heaven declined to undertake. He knew that whatever way he might decide, he would be sure to offend two of the three goddesses, and thereby destroy the peace of his own household. It was necessary, however, that an umpire should be chosen to put an end to the strife, and doubtless it was the decree of the Fates that the lot should fall on the handsome young shepherd of Mount Ida. His wisdom and prudence were well known to the gods, and all seemed to agree that he was a fit person to decide so great a contest.

Paris was therefore appointed umpire. By Jupiter's command the golden apple was sent to him, to be given to that one of the three goddesses whom he should judge to be the most beautiful. The goddesses themselves were directed to appear before him on Mount Ida, so that, beholding their charms, he might be able to give a just decision. The English poet, Tennyson, in his poem "none," gives a fine description of the three contending deities standing in the presence of the Trojan prince, each in her turn trying, by promise of great reward, to persuade him to declare in her favor. Juno spoke first, and she offered to bestow kingly power and immense wealth upon Paris, if he would award the prize to her.

"She to Paris made Proffer of royal power, ample rule Unquestion'd. . . . . . . . 'Honor,' she said, 'and homage, tax and toll, From many an inland town and haven large.'"

Minerva next addressed the judge, and she promised him great wisdom and knowledge, as well as success in war, if he would give the apple to her.

Then Venus approached the young prince, who all the while held the golden prize in his hand. She had but few words to say, for she was confident in the power of her beauty and the tempting bribe she was about to offer.

"She with a subtle smile in her mild eyes, The herald of her triumph, drawing nigh Half-whisper'd in his ear, 'I promise thee The fairest and most loving wife in Greece.' She spoke and laugh'd."

The subtle smile and the whispered promise won the heart of Paris. Forgetful of none, and disregarding the promises of the other goddesses, he awarded the prize to Venus.

He consign'd To her soft hand the fruit of burnished rind; And foam-born Venus grasp'd the graceful meed, Of war, of evil war, the quickening seed.

COLUTHUS (Elton's tr.).

Such was the famous judgment of Paris. It was perhaps a just decision, for it may be supposed that Venus, being the goddess of beauty, was really the most beautiful of the three. But the story does not give us a very high idea of the character of Paris, who now no longer took pleasure in the company of none. All his thoughts and affections were turned away from her by the promise of Venus. He had grown weary, too, of his simple and innocent life among his flocks and herds on the mountain. He therefore wished much for some adventure that would take him away from scenes which had become distasteful to him.

The opportunity soon came. A member of King Priam's family having died, it was announced that the funeral would be celebrated by athletic games, as was the custom in ancient times. Paris resolved to go down to the city and take part in these games. Prizes were to be offered for competition, and one of the prizes was to be the finest bull that could be picked from the herds on Mount Ida. Now it happened that the bull selected belonged to Paris himself, but it could not be taken without his consent. He was willing, however, to give it for the games on condition that he should be permitted to enter the list of competitors.

The condition was agreed to, and so the shepherd prince parted from none and went to the funeral games at Troy. He intended, perhaps, to return sometime, but it was many years before he saw the fair nymph of Mount Ida again,—not until he was about to die of a wound received from one of the Greeks in the Trojan War. none knew what was to happen, for Apollo had conferred upon her the gift of prophecy, and she warned Paris that if he should go away from her he would bring ruin on himself and his country, telling him also that he would seek for her help when it would be too late to save him. These predictions, as we shall see, were fulfilled. none's grief and despair in her loneliness after the departure of Paris are touchingly described in Tennyson's poem:

"O happy Heaven, how canst thou see my face? O happy earth, how canst thou bear my weight? O death, death, death, thou ever-floating cloud, There are enough unhappy on this earth, Pass by the happy souls, that love to live: I pray thee, pass before my light of life, And shadow all my soul, that I may die. Thou weighest heavy on the heart within, Weigh heavy on my eyelids: let me die."

At the athletic games in Troy everybody admired the noble appearance of Paris, but nobody knew who he was. In the competitions he won all the first prizes, for Venus had given him godlike strength and swiftness. He defeated even Hector, who was the greatest athlete of Troy. Hector, angry at finding himself and all the highborn young men of the city beaten by an unknown stranger, resolved to put him to death, and Paris would probably have been killed, had he not fled for safety into the temple of Jupiter. Cassandra, who happened to be in the temple at the time, noticed Paris closely, and observing that he bore a strong resemblance to her brothers, she asked him about his birth and age. From his answers she was satisfied that he was her brother, and she at once introduced him to the king. Further inquiries were then made. The old shepherd, Archelaus, to whom Paris had been delivered in his infancy to be exposed on Mount Ida, was still living, and he came and told his story. Then King Priam and Queen Hecuba joyfully embraced and welcomed their son, never thinking of the terrible dream or of the prophecy of Ęsacus. Hector, no longer angry or jealous, was glad to see his brother, and proud of his victories in the games. Everybody rejoiced except Cassandra. She knew the evil which was to come to Troy through Paris, but nobody would give credit to what the "mad prophetess" said.

Thus restored to his high position as a prince of the royal house of Troy, Paris now resided in his father's palace, apparently contented and happy. But the promise made to him on Mount Ida, which he carefully concealed from his family, was always in his mind. His thoughts were ever turned toward Greece, where dwelt the fairest woman of those times. This was Helen, wife of Men-e-laus, king of Sparta, celebrated throughout the ancient world for her matchless beauty. Paris had been promised the fairest woman for his wife, and he felt sure that it could be no other than the far-famed Helen. To Greece therefore he resolved to go, as soon as there should be an excuse for undertaking what was then a long and dangerous voyage of many weeks, though in our day it is no more than a few hours' sail.

The occasion was found when King Priam resolved to send ambassadors to the island of Salamis to demand the restoration of his sister Hesione, whom Hercules had carried off many years before. Her husband, Telamon, was now dead, but his son Ajax still held her as a prisoner at his court. Priam had never forgotten his sister's love for himself, for she it was, as will be remembered, who redeemed him from slavery and placed him on his father's throne. He now determined that she should be brought back to her native country, and Paris earnestly begged permission to take charge of the expedition which was to be sent to Salamis for that purpose. Priam consented, and a fleet worthy to convey the son of the king of Troy and his retinue to Greece was built by Phere-clus, a skillful Trojan craftsman, whom the goddess Minerva (Pallas) had instructed in all kinds of workmanship.

For loved by Pallas, Pallas did impart To him the shipwright's and the builder's art. Beneath his hand the fleet of Paris rose, The fatal cause of all his country's woes.

POPE, Iliad, Book V.

Before the departure of the fleet, Cassandra raised her voice of warning, but as usual her words were not heeded, and so Paris set sail. He reached the shores of Greece in safety; but instead of proceeding to Salamis to demand Hesione from King Ajax, he steered his vessels to the coast of Sparta. This he did under the guidance and direction of Venus, who was now about to fulfill the promise by which she had won the golden prize on Mount Ida.

Landing in Sparta, Paris hastened to the court of Menelaus, where he was hospitably received. The king gave banquets in his honor and invited him to prolong his stay in Sparta, and the beautiful Queen Helen joined in her husband's kind attentions to their guest.

Soon after the arrival of Paris, the king of Sparta received an invitation to take part in a hunting expedition in the island of Crete. Having no suspicion of the evil design of Paris, he accepted the invitation. He departed for Crete, leaving to his queen the duty of entertaining the Trojan prince until his return. Then Paris, taking advantage of the absence of Menelaus, induced Helen to desert her husband and her home, and go with him to Troy. He told her of the promise of Venus, and assured her that she would be received with great honor in his father's palace, and protected against the anger of Menelaus.

From her husband's stranger-sheltering home He tempted Helen o'er the ocean foam.

COLUTHUS (Elton's tr.).

Helen having consented, Paris carried her off in his fleet. At the same time he carried away a vast quantity of treasure in gold and other costly things which belonged to King Menelaus. On the voyage homeward the ships were driven by a storm to the shores of the island of Crana-e, where Paris and Helen remained for some time. When at last they reached the Trojan capital they were cordially welcomed by King Priam and Queen Hecuba, and in a short time they were married, and the event was celebrated with great rejoicing.

But all the people of Troy did not take part in this rejoicing. Hector, the son of Priam, and others of his wisest counselors, strongly censured the conduct of Paris, and they advised the king to send Helen back to Sparta. But Priam would not listen to their prudent advice, and so she remained in Troy.

The great beauty of Helen has been celebrated by poets in ancient and modern times. Tennyson, in his "Dream of Fair Women," introduces her as one of the forms of the vision he describes:

"I saw a lady within call, Stiller than chisell'd marble, standing there; A daughter of the gods, divinely tall, And most divinely fair."


The carrying off of Helen was the cause of the Trojan War. Menelaus, upon hearing what Paris had done, immediately returned to Sparta, and began to make preparations to avenge the wrong. He called upon the other kings and princes of Greece to join him with their armies and fleets in a war against Troy. They were bound to do this by an oath they had taken at the time of the marriage of Helen and Menelaus.

Helen was the daughter of Tynda-rus, who was king of Sparta before Menelaus. Some say that she was the daughter of Jupiter, and that Tyndarus was her stepfather. But from her infancy she was brought up at the royal palace of Sparta as the daughter of Tyndarus and his wife, Leda. When she became old enough to marry, the fame of her great beauty drew many of the young princes of Greece to Sparta, all competing for her favor, and each hoping to win her for his wife. This placed Tyndarus in a difficulty. He was alarmed at the sight of so many suitors for the hand of his daughter, for he knew that he could not give her to one without offending all the rest. He therefore resolved to adopt the advice of Ulysses, the prince of Itha-ca (an island on the west coast of Greece). Ulysses, also named O-dysseus, was famed for great wisdom as well as valor in war.

Ulysses, man of many arts, Son of Laertes, reared in Ithaca, That rugged isle, and skilled in every form Of shrewd device and action wisely planned.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book III.

Ulysses had himself been one of the suitors for Helen, but he saw that among so many competitors he had little chance of success. Besides, he had fallen in love with Pe-nelo-pe, the niece of Tyndarus. He therefore withdrew from the contest, and he offered to suggest a plan for settling the difficulty about Helen, if Tyndarus would give him Penelope to be his wife. Tyndarus consented. Ulysses then advised that Helen should choose for herself which of the princes she would have for her husband, but that before she did so, all the suitors should pledge themselves by oath to submit to her decision, and engage that if any one should take her away from the husband of her choice, they would all join in punishing the offender.

If any dared to seize and bear her off, All would unite in arms, and lay his town Level with the ground.

EURIPIDES (Potter's tr.).

The Grecian princes consented to this proposal. They all, including Ulysses himself, took the required oath. Helen then made choice of Menelaus, to whom she was immediately married with great pomp and popular rejoicing. On the death of Tyndarus, Menelaus became king of Sparta, and he and his beautiful queen lived and reigned together in prosperity and happiness until the ill-fated visit of Paris.

Menelaus was the brother of Ag-a-memnon, king of My-cenę, one of the most powerful and wealthy of the kings of Hellas, as Greece was anciently called. Their father, Atreus, was a son of the hero Pelops, who conquered the greater part of the peninsula named from him the Pel-oponnesus, and who was the grandson of Jupiter. Agamemnon, or A-trides (son of Atreus), as he is often called, was commander in chief of all the Greek armies during the siege of Troy. From his high rank and authority Homer calls him the "king of men" and the "king of kings." He is sometimes also called "king of all Argos," a powerful kingdom near Mycenę, and from this name the Greeks are sometimes called "Argives." The royal scepter which Agamemnon bore in his hands when addressing his soldiers was made by Vulcan for Jupiter.

The king of kings his awful figure raised; High in his hand the golden sceptre blazed; The golden sceptre, of celestial flame, By Vulcan formed, from Jove to Hermes came: To Pelops he the immortal gift resign'd; The immortal gift great Pelops left behind.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

The kings and princes of Hellas, who met at the call of Menelaus, decided, after some discussion of the matter, that before declaring war against Troy it would be well to try to obtain satisfaction by peaceful means. They therefore sent ambassadors to Troy to demand the restoration of Helen and the treasures which Paris had carried off. Dio-mede, king of Ę-tolia, and the wise Ulysses, were chosen for this mission. Menelaus volunteered to accompany them, thinking that he might be able to persuade his wife to return to her home.

When the Greek ambassadors arrived in the Trojan capital they were respectfully received by the king. During their stay in the city they were entertained at the residence of An-tenor, one of Priam's ministers of state, who had the wisdom to disapprove of the action of Paris, and to advise that the Spartan queen should be given back to her husband. Antenor much admired the appearance and eloquence of Ulysses, which are thus described in the Iliad:

"But when Ulysses rose, in thought profound, His modest eyes he fixed upon the ground; As one unskilled or dumb, he seem'd to stand, Nor raised his head, nor stretch'd his sceptred hand; But, when he speaks, what elocution flows! Soft as the fleeces of descending snows, The copious accents fall, with easy art; Melting they fall, and sink into the heart!"

POPE, Iliad, Book III.

But the eloquence of Ulysses was of no avail. King Priam, blinded by his love for his son, saw not the threatened danger, and he refused the demand of the ambassadors. Menelaus was not even permitted to see his wife. Ulysses and his companions then returned to Greece, and at once preparations for war with Troy were commenced.

These preparations occupied a very long time. Ten years were spent in getting together the vast force, which in more than a thousand ships was carried across the Ęgean Sea to the Trojan shores, from the port of Aulis on the east coast-of Greece. Some of the Hel-lenic (Greek) princes were very unwilling to join the expedition, as they knew that the struggle would be a tedious and perilous one. Even Ulysses, who, as we have seen, had first proposed the suitors' oath at Sparta, was at the last moment unwilling to go. He had now become king of Ithaca, his father, La-ertes, having retired from the cares of government, and he would gladly have remained in his happy island home with his young wife, Penelope, and his infant son, Te-lema-chus, both of whom he tenderly loved.

But the man of many arts could not be spared from the Trojan War. He paid no heed, however, to the messages sent to him asking him to join the army at Aulis. Agamemnon resolved, therefore, to go himself to Ithaca to persuade Ulysses to take part in the expedition. He was accompanied by his brother Menelaus, and by a chief named Pal-a-medes, a very wise and learned man as well as a brave warrior. As soon as Ulysses heard of their arrival in Ithaca, he pretended to be insane, and he tried by a very amusing stratagem to make them believe that he was really mad. Dressing himself in his best clothes, and going down to the seashore, he began to plow the beach with a horse and an ox yoked together, and to scatter salt upon the sand instead of seed.

Palamedes, however, was more than a match in artifice for the Ithacan king. Taking Telemachus from the arms of his nurse, he placed the infant on the sand in front of the plowing team. Ulysses quickly turned the animals aside to avoid injuring his child, thus proving that he was not mad but in full possession of his senses. The king of Ithaca was therefore obliged to join the expedition to Troy. With twelve ships well manned he sailed from his rugged island, which he did not again see for twenty years. Ten years he spent at the siege, and ten on his homeward voyage, during which he met with the wonderful adventures that Homer describes in the Odyssey.

Ulysses had his revenge upon Palamedes in a manner very unworthy of a brave man. In the camp before Troy, during the siege, he bribed one of the servants of Palamedes to conceal a sum of money in his master's tent. He then forged a letter, which he read before a council of the Greek generals, saying that Palamedes had taken it from a Trojan prisoner. This letter was written as if by King Priam to Palamedes, thanking him for the information he had given regarding the plans of the Greeks, and mentioning money as having been sent him in reward for his services. The Greek generals at once ordered a search to be made in the tent of Palamedes, and the money being found where it had been hidden by direction of Ulysses, the unfortunate Palamedes was immediately put to death as a traitor.

Palamedes, not unknown to fame, Who suffered from the malice of the times, Accused and sentenced for pretended crimes.


It is said that Palamedes was the inventor of weights and measures, and of the games of chess and backgammon, and that it was he who first placed sentinels round a camp and gave them a watchword.

There was another of the Greek princes whose help in the Trojan War was obtained only by an ingenious trick. This was the famous A-chilles. He was the son of Peleus and Thetis, at whose marriage feast Eris threw the apple of discord on the table. The prophecy that Thetis would have a son greater than his father was fulfilled in Achilles, the bravest of the Greeks at the Trojan War, and the principal hero of Homer's Iliad.

Thetis educated her son with great care. She had him instructed in all the accomplishments fitting for princes of those times. When he was an infant she dipped him in the river Styx, which, it was believed, made it impossible for any weapon wielded by mortal hands to wound him. But the water did not touch the child's heel by which his mother held him when she plunged him in the river, and it was in this part that he received the wound of which he died.

Notwithstanding his being dipped in the Styx, Thetis was afraid to let Achilles go to the Trojan War, for Jupiter had told her that he would be killed if he took part in it. For this reason, as soon as she heard that the Grecian princes were gathering their forces, she secretly sent the youth to the court of Lyc-o-medes, king of the island of Scyros. Here Achilles, dressed like a young girl, resided as a companion of the king's daughters. But Calchas, the soothsayer of the Grecian army, told the chiefs that without the help of Achilles Troy could not be taken.

Calchas the wise, the Grecian priest and guide, That sacred seer, whose comprehensive view, The past, the present, and the future knew.

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

Calchas, however, could not tell where Achilles was to be found, and when they applied to Peleus, he too was unable or unwilling to tell them. In this difficulty the wily king of Ithaca did good service. After much inquiry he discovered that Achilles was at Scyros with the king's daughters. He soon made his way to the island, but here there was a new difficulty. He had never seen the young prince, and how was he to know him? But he devised a scheme which proved entirely successful. Equipping himself as a peddler, he went to the royal palace, exhibiting jewelry and other fancy articles to attract the attention of the ladies of the family. He also had some beautiful weapons of war among his wares.

As soon as he appeared, the maidens gathered about him and began examining the jewels. But one of the group eagerly seized a weapon, and handled it with much skill and pleasure. Satisfied that this was the young prince of whom he was in search, the pretended peddler announced his name and told why he had come. Achilles, for it was he, gladly agreed to take part with his countrymen in their great expedition, and he immediately returned to Phthia, the capital of his father's kingdom of Thessaly. There he lost no time in making all necessary preparations. Soon afterwards he sailed for Aulis with the brave Myrmi-dons, as his soldiers were called, accompanied also by his devoted friend and constant companion, Pa-troclus.

Full fifty ships beneath Achilles' care, The Achaians, Myrmidons, Hellenians bear; Thessalians all, though various in their name; The same their nation, and their chief the same.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

Agamemnon, the commander in chief of the great host, sailed with a hundred ships from his kingdom of Mycenę, and his brother Menelaus, eager for vengeance upon the Trojans, sailed with sixty ships and a strong force of brave Spartans.

Great Agamemnon rules the numerous band, A hundred vessels in long order stand, And crowded nations wait his dread command. High on the deck the king of men appears, And his refulgent arms in triumph wears; Proud of his host, unrivall'd in his reign, In silent pomp he moves along the main. His brother follows, and to vengeance warms, The hardy Spartans, exercised in arms: . . . . . . These, o'er the bending ocean, Helen's cause, In sixty ships with Menelaus draws.

POPE, Iliad Book II.

Among the other great warriors of Hellas who joined the expedition was Nestor, the venerable king of Pylos, distinguished for his eloquence, wisdom, and prudence.

In ninety sail, from Pylos' sandy coast, Nestor the sage conducts his chosen host.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

The ancients believed that Nestor outlived three generations of men, which some suppose to have been three hundred years. From this it was a custom of the ancient Greeks and Romans, when wishing a long and happy life to their friends, to wish them to live as long as Nestor.

Experienced Nestor, in persuasion skill'd; Words, sweet as honey, from his lips distill'd; Two generations now had pass'd away, Wise by his rules, and happy by his sway; Two ages o'er his native realm he reign'd, And now the example of the third remain'd.

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

The two Ajaxes were also renowned warriors of the Grecian army,—Ajax Telamon and Ajax O-ileus, so called from the names of their fathers. Telamon was the king of Salamis, to whom, as has been told, Hercules gave Laomedon's daughter, Hesione. His son Ajax, a man of huge stature and giant strength, was, next to Achilles, the bravest of all the Greeks who went to the Trojan War.

With these appear the Salaminian bands, Whom the gigantic Telamon commands; In twelve black ships to Troy they steer their course, And with the great Athenians join their force.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

Ajax Oileus, king of Locris, was less in stature than his namesake, but few excelled him in the use of the spear or in swiftness of foot. He commanded forty ships in the great expedition.

Fierce Ajax led the Locrian squadrons on, Ajax the less, Oileus' valiant son; Skill'd to direct the flying dart aright; Swift in pursuit, and active in the fight.

POPE, Iliad, Book II

Two other valiant warriors, who led eighty ships each to the great muster, were Diomede, king of Argos, and I-dome-neus, king of Crete,—the "spear-renowned Idomeneus."

Crete's hundred cities pour forth all her sons. These march'd, Idomeneus, beneath thy care.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

When at length all the kings and princes were assembled at Aulis, the vast fleet numbered 1185 ships, according to the account given by Homer. The total number of men which the ships carried is not known, but it is probable that it was not less than 100,000, as the largest of the vessels contained about 120, and the smallest 50 men each.

Such was the mighty host that Hellas marshaled to punish Troy for the crime committed by Paris. Before setting out on so important an expedition the Greek chiefs deemed it proper, according to the custom of the ancients, to offer sacrifices to the gods, that their undertaking might have the favor of heaven. Altars were therefore erected, and the sacred services were carried out in due order. On these occasions animals—very frequently oxen—were killed, and portions of their flesh consumed by fire, such sacrifices being supposed to be very pleasing to the gods.

While the Grecian chiefs were engaged in their religious ceremonies, the greater part of the army having already gone aboard the ships, they were startled at beholding a serpent dart out from beneath one of the altars, and, gliding along the ground, ascend a plane tree which grew close by. At the top of the tree was a nest containing eight young birds. The serpent devoured them, and immediately afterwards seized and devoured the mother bird, which had been fluttering around the nest. Then suddenly, before the eyes of the astonished Greeks, the reptile turned into stone. Amazed at this occurrence, and believing it to have some connection with their expedition, the assembled chiefs asked the soothsayer Calchas to explain what it meant. The seer replied, telling them that it was a sign that the war upon which they were about to enter would last ten years.

"For us, indeed," said he, "Jupiter has shown a great sign. As this serpent has devoured the young of the sparrow, eight in number, and herself, the mother of the brood, was the ninth, so must we for as many years wage war, but in the tenth year we shall take the city."

This story was eloquently told by Ulysses in the Greek camp before Troy, when in the tenth year of the siege, many of the troops, having grown weary of the war, desired to return to their homes.


The Greek chiefs, nothing daunted by the words of Calchas, now set sail with their immense fleet. Though the war was to be a long one, they were encouraged by the prophecy that they were to be the conquerors.

Their first experience was not very fortunate. They safely crossed the Ęgean Sea, but instead of steering for Troy, the pilots, through either ignorance or mistake, brought the vessels to the shore on the coast of Teu-thra'ni-a, a district in the kingdom of Mys'i-a, lying southeast of Troas. Here the Greeks landed, but they were at once attacked by Tel'e-phus, the king of that country, who came down upon them with a strong force, and drove them back to their ships after a battle in which many of them were killed. They would probably have fared much worse had it not been for the friendly aid of Bacchus, the god of wine. While Telephus was fighting at the head of his men he tripped and fell over a vine, which the god had caused to spring up suddenly from the earth at his feet. As he lay flat on the ground Achilles rushed forward and severely wounded him with a thrust of his spear.

The Greeks, however, were obliged to take to the sea, and soon afterward a great storm arose, which destroyed many of their vessels. Owing to this misfortune they had to return to Aulis, where they set about repairing their damaged ships and getting ready to start again. While the Greeks were thus engaged, they were surprised by the appearance of King Telephus, who came to their camp to beg Achilles to cure his wound, an oracle he had consulted having told him that he could be cured only by the person who had wounded him.

Achilles was at first unwilling to comply with the request of Telephus, but Ulysses advised him to do so. Telephus was one of the sons of Hercules, and it had been decreed that without the help of a son of that hero Troy could not be taken. Moreover, he was a son-in-law of Priam, and his country lay close to where the war was to be carried on. For these reasons Ulysses wished to make him friendly to the Greeks, and so he persuaded Achilles to cure the Teuthranian king. Achilles did this by dropping into the wound portions of the rust from the point of his spear. Telephus was so grateful that he joined the expedition against Troy, and undertook to pilot the Grecian fleet to the Trojan coast.

But another difficulty now stood in the way of the Greeks. Their fleet was once more ready for departure, but the winds were unfavorable. In ancient times they could not make a sea voyage when the winds were against them. Their ships were very small, and were moved only by oars and sails. Homer gives us a good idea of the ancient system of navigation, where he tells, in the Odyssey, about young Telemachus setting out on a voyage in search of his father, Ulysses:

Telemachus went up The vessel's side, but Pallas first embarked, And at the stern sat down, while next to her Telemachus was seated. Then the crew Cast loose the fastenings and went all on board, And took their places on the rowers' seats, While blue-eyed Pallas sent a favoring breeze, A fresh wind from the west, that murmuring swept The dark-blue main. Telemachus gave forth The word to wield the tackle; they obeyed, And raised the fir-tree mast, and, fitting it Into its socket, bound it fast with cords, And drew and spread with firmly twisted ropes The shining sails on high. The steady wind Swelled out the canvas in the midst; the ship Moved on, the dark sea roaring round her keel, As swiftly through the waves she cleft her way.

BRYANT, Odyssey, Book II.

For many days the Greek chiefs at Aulis waited for favoring breezes, but none came.

"The troops Collected and embodied, here we sit Inactive, and from Aulis wish to sail In vain."

EURIPIDES (Potter's tr.).

At last the soothsayer Calchas told them that the easterly winds which prevented them from sailing were caused by the anger of Di-ana. Diana was the goddess of hunting, and there was one of her sacred groves in the neighborhood of Aulis. In this grove King Agamemnon went hunting during the time the ships were being repaired after the storm, and he killed one of Diana's favorite deer. He even boasted that he was a greater hunter than Diana herself. This enraged the goddess, and Calchas said that her anger could be appeased only by the offering up of Agamemnon's daughter, Iph-i-ge-nia, as a sacrifice.

The feelings of the father may be easily imagined. He heard the announcement of the soothsayer with the utmost horror, and he declared that he would withdraw from the expedition rather than permit his child to be put to death. But Ulysses and the other princes begged him to remember that the honor of their country was at stake. They said that if he should withdraw, the great cause for which they had labored for ten years would be lost, and the Trojan insult to his own family and to all Greece would remain unpunished.

At last Agamemnon consented, and messengers were sent to Mycenę to bring Iphigenia to Aulis. The king was even persuaded to deceive his wife, Clyt-em-nestra. Knowing that she would not allow her daughter to be taken away for such a purpose, he wrote a letter to the queen, saying that Iphigenia had been chosen to be the wife of Achilles, and that he wished the marriage ceremony to be performed before the departure of the young prince for Troy.

"I wrote, I seal'd A letter to my wife, that she should send Her daughter to Achilles as a bride Affianc'd."

EURIPIDES (Potter's tr.).

Clytemnestra agreed to the proposal, happy at the thought of her daughter being married to so great a prince as Achilles. Iphigenia accordingly accompanied the messengers to the Greek camp at Aulis. When she learned of the terrible fate to which she had been doomed, she threw herself at her father's feet and piteously implored his protection. But her tears and entreaties were in vain. The agonized father had now no power to save her, for the whole army demanded that the will of the goddess should be obeyed. Preparations for the awful sacrifice were therefore made, and when everything was ready, the beautiful young princess was led to the altar. Tennyson, in his "Dream of Fair Women," has these lines about Iphigenia at Aulis:

"I was cut off from hope in that sad place, Which men called Aulis in those iron years: My father held his hand upon his face; I, blinded with my tears,

Still strove to speak: my voice was thick with sighs As in a dream. Dimly I could descry The stern, black-bearded kings with wolfish eyes, Waiting to see me die."

But Iphigenia was not sacrificed after all. Her innocence excited the pity even of Diana, and at the last moment the goddess snatched the weeping maiden away in a cloud, and left in her place a beautiful deer to be offered up as a sacrifice. She carried the princess off to Tauri-ca, a country bordering the Black Sea, and there Iphigenia remained for many years, serving as a priestess in Diana's temple.

The anger of Diana being appeased, favorable winds now began to blow, and the Greeks again set sail. This time they had a more fortunate voyage. Piloted by Telephus, the fleet crossed the Ęgean Sea, and safely reached the coast of Troas. But here Calchas made another discouraging prophecy. He declared that the first Greek who stepped on Trojan soil would be killed in the first fight with the enemy. This the oracle at Delphi had also foretold. There was some hesitation, therefore, about landing, for the army of King Priam was ranged along the beach prepared for battle with the invaders.

This was the occasion of an heroic act by Pro-tes-i-laus, king of Phyla-ce in Thessaly, who boldly leaped ashore as soon as the vessels touched the land. The prediction of Calchas was soon fulfilled. Protesilaus was struck dead in the first fight by a spear launched by the hands of the Trojan leader, Hector. The bravery of the Thessalian king, and the grief of his queen, La-od-a-mia, when she heard of his death, have been much celebrated in song and story.

Protesilaus the brave, Who now lay silent in the gloomy grave: The first who boldly touch'd the Trojan shore, And dyed a Phrygian lance with Grecian gore; There lies, far distant from his native plain; And his sad consort beats her breast in vain.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

Laodamia in her sorrow prayed to the gods that she might see her husband again on earth. Jupiter heard her prayer, and he ordered Mercury to conduct Protesilaus from Hades, the land of the dead, to Thessaly, to remain with Laodamia for the space of three hours.

Laodamia was happy for the brief time allowed her to enjoy again the companionship of her beloved Protesilaus, and she listened with pride to the story of his brave deed on the Trojan shore.

"Thou know'st, the Delphic oracle foretold That the first Greek who touched the Trojan strand Should die; but me the threat could not withhold: A generous cause a victim did demand; And forth I leapt upon the sanely plain; A self-devoted chief—by Hector slain."


But the happy moments flew swiftly by, and when the three hours had passed, Mercury returned to take the hero back to the world of shades. The parting was too much for the fond Laodamia. She died of grief as her husband disappeared from her sight.

Protesilaus was buried on the Trojan shore, and around his grave, it is said, there grew very wonderful trees. These trees withered away as soon as their tops reached high enough to be seen from the city of Troy. Then fresh trees sprang up from their roots, and withered in like manner when they reached the same height, and so this marvelous growth and decay continued for ages.

Upon the side Of Hellespont (such faith was entertained) A knot of spiry trees for ages grew From out the tomb of him for whom she died; And ever, when such stature they had gained That Ilium's walls were subject to their view, The trees' tall summits withered at the sight; A constant interchange of growth and blight!


The heroic act of Protesilaus was the beginning of the great war. Before he fell himself he slew many of the enemy, and hosts of his countrymen, encouraged by his example, poured from their ships and encountered the Trojans in fierce conflict. In this first battle the Greeks were victorious. Though Hector and his brave troops fought valiantly they were driven back from the shore, and compelled to take refuge within the strong walls of the city.

The Trojans were well prepared for the war. King Priam had not been idle while the Greek leaders were mustering their forces. From all parts of his kingdom he had gathered immense supplies of provisions, and the princes and chiefs of Troas came with large armies to defend their king and country. The most celebrated of these chiefs was the hero Ę-neas, son of An-chises and the goddess Venus. He commanded the Dardanian forces, and had as his lieutenants the two brave warriors, Aca-mas and Ar-chilo-chus.

Divine Ęneas brings the Dardan race. Archilochus and Acamas divide The warrior's toils, and combat by his side.

POPE, Iliad, Book II.

The Trojans had numerous and powerful allies. Troops were sent to them from the neighboring countries of Phrygia, Mysia, Lyci-a and Cari-a. The Lycian forces were led by Sar-pedon, a son of Jupiter, and a renowned warrior.

A chief, who led to Troy's beleaguer'd wall A host of heroes, and outshined them all.

POPE, Iliad, Book XVI.

But the greatest of the heroes who defended Troy, and, with the exception of Achilles, the greatest and bravest of all who took part in the Trojan War, was the famous Hector.

The boast of nations, the defense of Troy! To whom her safety and her fame she owed; Her chief, her hero, and almost her god!

POPE, Iliad, Book XXII.

So long as Hector lived Troy was safe. When he died, his great rival, Achilles, by whose hand he was slain, rejoiced with the Greeks as if Troy had already fallen.

"Ye sons of Greece, in triumph bring The corpse of Hector, and your pęans sing. Be this the song, slow-moving toward the shore, 'Hector is dead, and Ilion is no more.'"

POPE, Iliad, Book XXII.

But though led by the great Hector, the Trojans, after their first defeat, were unable to keep up the fight in the open field against the vast numbers of the Greeks. Seeing, therefore, that they must depend for safety on the strong walls which Neptune had built, they drew all their forces into the city, leaving the enemy in possession of the surrounding country.

Then the famous siege of ten years began. The Greeks hauled their ships out of the water, and fixed them on the beach in an upright position supported by props. Close to the vessels, on the land side, they erected their tents, which extended in a long line, one wing, or end, of which was guarded by Achilles, and the other by Ajax Telamon. Between this encampment and the walls of Troy—a distance of three or four miles—many a fierce conflict took place, and many a brave warrior fell during the great contest. For the Trojans, headed by Hector or some other of their chiefs, often came out from the city through the principal gate, called the Scęan Gate, which faced the Grecian camp, and fought the enemy in the open plain, on the bank of the celebrated river Simois.

And from the walls of strong-besieged Troy, When their brave hope, bold Hector, march'd to field, Stood many Trojan mothers, sharing joy To see their youthful son's bright weapons wield; And to their hope they such odd action yield, That through their light joy seemed to appear, Like bright things stain'd, a kind of heavy fear.

And from the strond of Dardan, where they fought, To Simois' reedy banks the red blood ran, Whose waves to imitate the battle sought With swelling ridges; and their ranks began To break upon the galled shore, and then Retire again, till, meeting greater ranks, They join and shoot their foam at Simois' banks.



For over nine years the siege was carried on without one side or the other gaining any important victory. The Trojans were protected by their walls, which the Greeks were unable to break down, for the ancients had no such powerful engines of war as those used in armies of the present day. The strongest buildings may now be easily destroyed by cannon; but in those days they had no cannon or gunpowder or dynamite. Success in war in ancient times depended almost entirely on the bravery of the soldiers or on strategy and artifice, in which, as we shall see, the king of Ithaca was much skilled.

The Greek and Trojan warriors fought with swords, axes, bows and arrows, and javelins, or long spears tipped with sharp iron points. Sometimes they used huge stones which the heroes hurled at the foe with the full strength of their powerful arms. They had shields of circular or oval shape, which they wore on the arm to ward off blows, and which could be moved at pleasure so as to cover almost any part of the body. Their chests were protected by corselets or breastplates made of metal, and metal greaves, or boots, incased their legs from the knees to the feet. On their heads they wore helmets, usually of brass.

The chiefs fought in chariots, from which they darted their spears at the enemy with such force and so true an aim as to wound or kill at a considerable distance. The chariots were two-wheeled, open at the back, and often drawn by three horses. They usually carried two warriors, both standing, and the charioteer, or driver, was generally the companion or friend, and not the servant, of the fighters who stood behind him. Sometimes the warriors came down from their chariots and fought hand to hand at close quarters with the enemy. The common soldiers always fought on foot. There were no horse soldiers.

But in the Trojan War success or defeat did not always depend on the bravery of the soldiers or on the skill or strategy of the generals. Very much depended on the gods. We have seen how those divine beings had to do with the events that led to the war. We shall also see them taking part in the battles, sometimes giving victory to one side and sometimes to the other. The Trojan War was in fact as much a war of the gods as of men, and in Homer's story we find Jupiter and Juno and Apollo and Neptune and Venus and Minerva mentioned almost as frequently as the Greek and Trojan heroes. In the beginning of the Iliad we find Apollo sending a plague among the Greeks because of an insult offered to his priest, Chryses; for the daughter of Chryses, a beautiful maiden named Chry-seis, was carried off by Achilles after the taking of Thebe, a town of Mysia.

During the long siege the Grecian chiefs extended the war into the surrounding districts. While part of their forces was left at the camp to protect the ships and keep the Trojans cooped up within their walls, expeditions were sent out against many of the towns of Troas, or of the neighboring countries which were allies and supporters of Troy. When the Greeks captured a town they carried off not only the provisions and riches it contained, but also many of its inhabitants, whom they sold as slaves, according to the custom of the time, or kept as slaves in their own service. In one of these expeditions Priam's youngest son, Troi-lus, the hero of Shakespeare's play of "Troilus and Cressi-da," was slain by Achilles.

It was in the tenth year of the war that Thebe was taken, and the maiden Chryseis was captured. About the same time the town of Lyr-nessus was seized by an expedition, also led by Achilles, and among the prisoners was a beautiful woman named Bri-seis. In the division of the spoils among the chiefs, Chryseis fell to the share of Agamemnon, and the maiden Briseis was given to Achilles, who took her to his tent with the intention of making her his wife. But the priest Chryses was deeply grieved at the taking away of his daughter, and he came to the Grecian camp to beg the chiefs to restore her to him. In his hand he bore a golden scepter bound with fillets, or green branches, the emblems of his priestly office, and he also carried with him valuable gifts for King Agamemnon. Being admitted to the presence of the warrior chiefs assembled in council, he begged them to release his child.

He sued to all, but chief implored for grace The brother-kings, of Atreus' royal race. "Ye kings and warriors! may your vows be crown'd, And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground. May Jove restore you when your toils are o'er Safe to the pleasures of your native shore. But, oh! relieve a wretched parent's pain, And give Chryseis to these arms again."

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

Hearing the prayer of the venerable priest, many of the chiefs were moved to pity, and they advised that his request should be granted, but Agamemnon angrily refused.

He dismissed The priest with scorn, and added threatening words:— "Old man, let me not find thee loitering here, Beside the roomy ships, or coming back Hereafter, lest the fillet thou dost bear And scepter of thy god protect thee not. This maiden I release not till old age Shall overtake her in my Argive home, Far from her native country."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Chryses then departed from the Grecian camp, and as he returned home in sorrow, walking along the shores of the sea, he prayed to Apollo to punish the insult thus offered to his priest.

"O Smintheus! if I ever helped to deck Thy glorious temple, if I ever burned Upon thy altar the fat thighs of goats And bullocks, grant my prayer, and let thy shafts Avenge upon the Greeks the tears I shed."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Apollo heard the prayer of Chryses, and he sent a deadly plague upon the Grecian army. With his silver bow, every clang of which was heard throughout the camp, the archer god darted his terrible arrows among the Greeks, smiting them down in great numbers.

He came as comes the night, And, seated from the ships aloof, sent forth An arrow; terrible was heard the clang Of that resplendent bow. At first he smote The mules and the swift dogs, and then on man He turned the deadly arrow. All around Glared evermore the frequent funeral piles.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

For nine days the arrows of death were sent upon the Greek army, and the funeral piles of the victims were continually burning, for it was the custom in those times to burn the bodies of the dead. On the tenth day of the plague Achilles called a council of the chiefs to consider how the anger of the god might be appeased, and he spoke before them, saying:

"Let us consult some prophet or priest who will tell us why Phbus Apollo is so much enraged with us, and whether he may, when we shall have offered sacrifices upon his altar, take away this pestilence which is destroying our people."

Then Calchas, the soothsayer, arose and said:

"O Achilles, I can tell why the god is wroth against us, and willing I am to tell it, but perhaps I may irritate the king who rules over all the Argives, and in his anger he may do evil to me. Promise me, therefore, your protection, and I will declare why this plague has come upon the Greeks."

"Fear nothing, O Calchas," answered Achilles. "While I am alive not one of all the Greeks, not even Agamemnon himself, shall harm you."

"Fear nothing, but speak boldly out whate'er Thou knowest, and declare the will of heaven. For by Apollo, dear to Jove, whom thou, Calchas, dost pray to, when thou givest forth The sacred oracles to men of Greece, No man, while yet I live, and see the light Of day, shall lay a violent hand on thee."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Thus encouraged, Calchas announced to the chiefs that Apollo was angry because his priest had been dishonored and insulted by Agamemnon. This was why the people were perishing, and the wrath of the god could be appeased only by restoring Chryseis to her father, and sending a hundred victims to be offered in sacrifice to the god. Upon hearing these words Agamemnon was filled with anger against Calchas.

"Prophet of evil," he exclaimed, "never have you spoken anything good for me. And now you say I must give up the maiden. I shall do so, since I wish not the destruction of the people, but another I must have, for it is not fitting that I alone of all the Argives shall be without a prize."

To this Achilles answered that there was no prize just then that Agamemnon could have. "How can we give you a prize," said he, "since all the spoils have already been divided? We cannot ask the people to return what has been given to them. Be satisfied then to let the maiden go. When we have taken the strong city of Troy we will compensate you fourfold."

"Not so," replied Agamemnon. "If the Greeks give me a suitable prize, I shall be content, but if not, I will seize yours or that of Ajax or Ulysses. This matter, however, we will attend to afterwards. For the present let the maid be sent back to her father, that the wrath of the Far-darter may be appeased."

At this Achilles was very angry, and he said:

"Impudent and greedy man, how can the Greeks fight bravely under your command? As for me, I did not come here to make war against the Trojans because of any quarrel of my own. The Trojans have done no wrong to me. It is to get satisfaction for your brother we have come here in our ships, and we do most of the fighting while to you is given most of the spoils. But now I will return home to Phthia. Perhaps you will then have little treasure to share."

Greatly enraged at this speech, Agamemnon replied in wrathful words: "Go home, by all means, with your ships and your Myrmidons. Other chiefs there are here who will honor me, and I care not for your anger."

"Thus, in turn, I threaten thee; since Phbus takes away Chryseis, I will send her in my ship And with my friends, and, coming to thy tent, Will bear away the fair-cheeked maid, thy prize, Briseis, that thou learn how far I stand Above thee, and that other chiefs may fear To measure strength with me, and brave my power."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Furious at this threat, Achilles put his hand to his sword with the intention of slaying Agamemnon, and he had half drawn the weapon from its scabbard, but just at that moment the goddess Minerva stood behind him and caught him by his yellow hair. She had been sent down from heaven by Juno to pacify the hero, for Juno and Minerva were friendly to the Greeks. Ever since the judgment on Mount Ida they hated Paris, and the city and country to which he belonged, and therefore they wished that there should be no strife amongst the Greek chiefs, which would prevent them from taking and destroying the hated city.

Achilles was astonished when he beheld the goddess, who appeared to him alone, being invisible to all the rest. He instantly knew who she was, and he said to her: "O goddess, have you come to witness the insolence of the son of Atreus? You shall also witness the punishment I shall inflict upon him for his haughtiness."

But Minerva spoke soothing words to the hero:

"I came from heaven to pacify thy wrath, If thou wilt heed my counsel. I am sent By Juno the white-armed, to whom ye both Are dear, who ever watches o'er you both. Refrain from violence; let not thy hand Unsheath the sword, but utter with thy tongue Reproaches, as occasion may arise, For I declare what time shall bring to pass; Threefold amends shall yet be offered thee, In gifts of princely cost, for this day's wrong. Now calm thy angry spirit, and obey."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Thus Minerva spoke, and Achilles, answering her, said: "Willingly, O goddess, shall I observe your command, though in my soul much enraged, for so it is better, since the gods are ever favorable to those who obey them."

So speaking he put his sword back into its scabbard, while the goddess swiftly returned to Olympus. Then the hero again addressed Agamemnon in bitter words, and he took a solemn oath on the scepter he held in his hand, that he would refuse to help the Greeks when they next should seek his aid for battle with the Trojans.

"Tremendous oath! inviolate to kings; By this I swear:—when bleeding Greece again Shall call Achilles, she shall call in vain."

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

The venerable Nestor then arose to speak, and he begged the two chiefs to cease quarreling with each other, for the Trojans, he said, would greatly rejoice to hear of strife between the bravest men of the Greeks. He advised Achilles, though of a goddess-mother born, not to contend against his superior in authority, and he entreated Agamemnon not to dishonor Achilles, the bulwark of the Greeks, by taking away the prize which had been allotted to him.

"Forbid it, gods! Achilles should be lost, The pride of Greece, and bulwark of our host."

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

But the wise Nestor advised and entreated in vain. Agamemnon would not yield from his purpose of taking away the prize of Achilles, and so the council of the chiefs came to an end.

Rising from that strife of words, the twain Dissolved the assembly at the Grecian fleet.

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Immediately afterwards, by order of the king, the maiden Chryseis was conducted to her father's home, and sacrifices were offered to Apollo. The anger of the god being thus appeased, the army was relieved from the plague. Then Agamemnon proceeded to carry out his threat against Achilles. Calling two of his officers, or heralds, Tal-thybi-us and Eu-ryba-tes, he commanded them thus:

"Go ye to where Achilles holds his tent, And take the fair Briseis by the hand, And bring her hither. If he yield her not, I shall come forth to claim her with a band Of warriors, and it shall be worse for him."

BRYANT, Iliad, Book I.

Achilles received the heralds respectfully. He had no blame for them, since they were but messengers. Nor did he refuse to obey the command of the king. He delivered Briseis to the heralds, and they conducted her to the tent of Agamemnon. Thus was committed the deed which brought countless woes upon the Greeks, for Achilles, in deep grief and anger, vowed that he would no more lead his Myrmidons to battle for a king who had so dishonored and insulted him.

"Let these heralds," said he, "be the witnesses before gods and men of the insult offered to me by this tyrant king, and when there shall be need of me again to save the Greeks from destruction, appeal to me shall be in vain."

Such was the origin of the wrath of Achilles, which is the subject of Homer's Iliad. The Iliad is not a complete story of the Trojan War, but an account of the disasters which happened to the Greeks through the anger of Achilles. The poem, indeed, relates the events of only fifty-eight days, but they were events of the highest interest and they were very numerous. It is remarked by Pope that the subject of the Iliad is the shortest and most single ever chosen by any poet. Yet Homer has supplied a vaster variety of incidents, a greater number of councils, speeches, battles, and events of all kinds, than are to be found in any other poem.

The Iliad begins with the wrath of Achilles, which in the first line of the first book is announced as the poet's theme:

Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring Of woes unnumber'd, heavenly goddess, sing! That wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy reign The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain; Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore, Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore: Since great Achilles and Atrides strove, Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove!

POPE, Iliad, Book I.

The heavenly goddess here invoked was Calliope, the patroness of epic song, and one of the nine Muses. These were sister deities, daughters of Jupiter, who presided over poetry, science, music, and dancing. Apollo, as god of music and the fine arts, was their leader. They held their meetings on the top of Mount Par-nas'sus in Greece. On the slope of this mount was the celebrated spring or fountain of Cas-tali-a, whose waters were supposed to give the true poetic spirit to all who drank of them.

The epic poets usually began their poems by invoking the aid of the Muse. Homer does this in the very first line of the Iliad, the word for word translation of which is: "O goddess, sing the wrath of Achilles, the son of Peleus."

So also the English poet, Milton, begins his great epic poem, "Paradise Lost," which tells about the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste Brought death into the world, and all our woe, With loss of Eden, till one greater Man Restore us, and regain the blissful seat, Sing, heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top Of Oreb or of Sinai, didst inspire That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed In the beginning how the heavens and earth Rose out of Chaos; or, if Sion hill Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flow'd Fast by the oracle of God, I thence Invoke thy aid to my advent'rous song.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse