Trojan War Essay - Part 3
The Trojan War is one of the most important Greek mythologies that refer to a war between the Trojans and the surrounding city states - Trojan War Essay introduction. This is a mythology that remains a hallmark in Greek history and continues to elicit scholarly debates and inspiring literature. Although the war is regarded to as have been pitting Greeks against Trojans, it is important to point out that by then, Greece was not yet formed and only a number of city states and various ethnic groups existed. The city states were perpetually locked in a tug of war meant to fight for supremacy. Trojans on the other hand refers to city states in Asia Minor or what is known currently as Turkey. Indeed the Trojan War is an epic story that continues to captivate and arouse scholarly debate; this paper focuses on the various possible causes of the war.
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It is important to reiterate that the Trojan War remains a mythology; it has been based on mere beliefs especially amongst the Ancient Greeks. Only in 1870 did these beliefs begin to get a scholarly foundation thanks to the efforts of Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist who began to conduct an intense study in the region. The identity of Troy and its existence is regarded as a historical fact; however it has not been ascertained of the existence of the Trojan War, the dates of such an occurrence also remain un-established fact with most scholars agreeing the war could have commenced in 1994 and ended in 1884 BC. These are the years tentatively agreed upon by numerous archaeologists that have taken part in these excavations. The story of the Trojan War however is still popularly regarded to as a myth due to the lack of an authoritative text that provides an acceptable historical flow of the events. The existing scholarly works are merely a collection of Greek literature and art (Liu & Rashid 6).
The Trojan War had a multitude of causes and each cause is fronted depending on the biases of the historian. Some see it as the will of the gods especially the Apple of Eris. Others fault the thinking and the consequent judgment of Paris for choosing Aphrodite and for seducing Helen. Others still believe it is the abduction of Helen and the existing alliance that brought the rulers together against Troy (Burgess 16).
To understand the causes of the war, it is better to recap the events that led to the war and the contributions of the key characters in the mythology to the outbreak of the war. The foundations of the war were laid long before Achilles the Greek legendary hero was brought to existence. The plot was hatched when the then two powerful Greek gods, Zeus and Poseidon were competing for the sea-goddess, Thetis. This was in the midst of a prophesy that any male child born by Thetis would overthrow the king and proceed to become the king of the Olympus. It is this prophesy that cut Zeus pursuit of the sea goddess and decided instead to have her married by a mortal. The one lucky enough to have the goddess was a mere elderly king. It is not evident why the goddess agreed to be betrothed to the aged king, it could either be because Zeus had wished it to be so or because the goddess wished to please her elderly mentor. It is in this wedding between Peleus the goddess’ suitor and Thetis that the events that would lead to the Trojan War would begin to unfold (Lochrie 17). All the Greek goddesses attended the wedding apart from Eris, the goddess of discord, whose attendance was prevented by Zeus. It is from a combination of Eris’ anger and utter mischief that she threw an apple describing it as the gift to the fairest goddess in the wedding. Problem arose as the apple was claimed by the three most beautiful goddesses, these being Aphrodite, Athena and Hera. There was a bitter argument that ensued and Zeus was approached to decide the fate. Out of fear of creating enmity with either of the two should he choose one. Zeus opted to have the little known Prince of Troy to pass a judgment on his behalf. Greek literature has created a myth around this man considered the most handsome in the world. It is also claimed that although he was a prince, he was not aware of it yet. Additional literature on him says that a divine prophecy indicated that he would lead to the collapse of troy. It is for this reason that he was being brought up as a shepherd boy. Due to the immense beauty and perhaps the aura of power possessed by the three goddesses, Paris was unable to select the fairest and they resorted to bribes to influence his decision. Offers of wisdom, brevity, political powers and a beautiful woman were put on the table. Paris has been described even by his own brother as a woman-seducer; his choice of the given offers was greatly influenced by this innate characteristic. He chose Aphrodite as the most fairest and in return was awarded Helen of Sparta who by the standards of those days was described as the most beautiful woman in the world. Though Helen was married by then to a king, the Aphrodite would ensure that she fell in love with Paris as a fulfillment to a promise to him, and in return Paris gave her the apple (Winkler & Zeitlin 35).
In the midst of these unfolding events, Thetis gave birth to a son who according to the existing prophesy was to either succumb to old age or be killed while still young in the battlefield and be immortalized through songs and poems. Indeed as the legend goes, Achilles grew up to be a great warrior. He remains a significant figure as it is his immense skills that would lead to the collapse of troy (Sansone 58)
Some scholars have blamed Helen as the cause of the Trojan War for her agreement to elope with Paris and the subsequent abduction. This is because it is the events that followed the abduction that would see the formation of an alliance of kings to recapture Helen. The significance of Helen in the war indeed cannot be underestimated; it is around her that the war revolved. The beauty and the social status of Helen meant that she was not short of suitors. It was being alleged that she was the daughter of Zeus raising her profile further. Her father was in a dilemma over who to choose as the potential suitors were powerful and wealthy men, his father feared that choosing one of them would see him suffer the wrath of the rest. It was then agreed that the suitors would take an oath swearing to protect the chosen suitor. Helen consequently was married to Menelaus. With Aphrodite’s promise to Paris being in effect, Paris sailed off to Sparta on the guise of being on an official mission to the king, he was consequently accorded hospitality by Menelaus (Safire 44). Helen out of the influence of Aphrodite’s powers fell in love with Paris on sight and started plotting to elope. Paris was able to convince Helen to elope with him to troy in the absence of Menelaus who had left for a close relative’s burial. It should be noted here that the practice of abducting women was a common phenomena then. Helen herself had been a victim on numerous occasions and several other rulers had gotten their wives through abductions. There was an assumption then by Paris that the abduction would not be catastrophic but rather would be seen as an act of heroism. Unknown to him, it would lead to the downfall of Troy and also to one of the longest war in the land. Indeed as many scholars have pointed out the abduction could not have led to a war, there had been several abductions before even of important women. None of these abductions had resulted to an all out war. The main culprit behind this conflict hence can be said to be the existing oath that was taken by the suitors to protect the winner against any harm. It is for this reason, and bound by the treaty, that many rulers were willing to enter into the war to attack Trojan and recapture Helen. The existing alliances would witness a high number of conscripts into the forces, into a war that would last for several decades. Amongst those conscripted into the force was Odysseus, considered by many as a cunning, deceptive and brave soldier, and Achilles whose mastery of the art of war and skills with sword remain unmatched. Though the war would take a couple of decades due to the spirited fight put up by the Trojans, its end would be brought about by the entrance of the wooden horse into Troy. It is important to point out that Trojans considered Trojan horses to be sacred, they were greatly revered and the war Trojan horse trick by Odysseus succeeded because of this. The Trojan horse unknown to the Trojans was full of soldiers; it was carted into the center of the city where these soldiers attacked the unsuspecting guards (Strauss 221).
Indeed taking a look at the Trojan War, it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the war. There was a multiplicity of factors that however were interlinked. The decision by Eris to vent her mischief upon the three goddesses triggered these events as it brought Paris into the picture and led to the abduction of Helen, around whom the greater part of the mythology revolves. The existing alliances between the various suitors of Helen and the subsequent oath to protect the successful suitor led to the unity of the various rulers and a massive conscription of troops. This is besides the fact that abductions in Sparta were a common occurrence and did not often erupt into a war.
The story of Trojan War has dominated Greek literature for long now and has formed an important component of Greeks’ history. Its literature is contained in some of the most renowned books in literary studies. The Iliad has elaborately outlined the process through which Troy was captured and fell while Odysseus describes the brevity and accomplishments of one of the key figures in the Trojan War. This remains an important story that has been captured elaborately by these great books. Having read the above books, I have had immense interest of exploring the topic further especially with an intention of validating the various claims that exist on the causes of the war. This is a war that has been hailed not only due to its longevity and the tactics employed but also due to the compelling characters involved. It is only prudent that one analyses the events leading to the war to get a better understanding of the various factor that led to the war.
Burgess, Jonathan S. The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle. Johns Hopkins, 2004, 16
Liu, Glory & Rashid, Aatif. Trojan War: Acheans vs.Trojans, 6. Retrieved on April 6, 2009 from http://mun.berkeley.edu/Conference/TrojanWar.pdf .
Lochrie, Karma. Heterosyncrasies: female sexuality when normal wasn’t. U of Minnesota Press, 2005, 17- 23
Safire, William. The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge: A Desk Reference for the Curious Mind. Macmillan, 2007, 44-49
Sansone, David. Ancient Greek civilization. Wiley-Blackwell, 2004, 17
Strauss, Barry S. The Trojan War: A New History. University of Virginia. Simon & Schuster, 2006, 221
Wood, Michael. In Search of the Trojan War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998, 56-78
Winkler, John J & Zeitlin, Froma I. Nothing to do with Dionysos?: Athenian drama in its social context. Princeton University Press, 1992, 33-37