The Fall of Troy

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2 Nov 2022
4

Part I
The Iliad is the story of Ilium or Troy, a rich
trading city in Asia Minor near the narrow sea that
leads from the Aegean to the Black Sea. It was well
situated, both for commerce and agriculture. In front
of the city was the sea over which sailed the ships
of Troy, carrying goods and grain. At the back rose
the high peak of Mount Ida, from which flowed many
rivers and streams. The valleys among the hills were
well-watered and fertile, with corn growing in fertile
fields and cattle feeding on the rich grass of the
meadows while sheep fed on the slopes of the hills.
Round their city the Trojans had built a strong
wall so that no enemy should attack them from the
sea. The wall was so broad that people could stand
and sit and walk on it. The great gates stood open,
and people could go to the seashore outside and come
in as they pleased. But in time of war the gates would
be closed; and then the city was like a strong fortress,
quite safe from all attack, protected by the walls
surrounding it, as well as by the hills behind.
Thus, Troy was a strong city, strongly protected
by its walls and strongly defended by its brave
soldiers. But all the kings and heroes of Greece had
declared war against the Trojans, because Paris, a
prince of Troy, had persuaded Helen, wife of a Greek
king Menelaus, to elope with him. He had brought
her to Troy. The Greeks wanted to take revenge on
Troy for the wrong done to Menelaus. They sailed to
Troy and laid siege to the city. The Trojans, too,
fought hard and the siege continued for ten long years.
The fighting went on daily, but the siege did not
end. On the one hand, the Greeks could not take the
city, and on the other hand the Trojans could not
force them to sail away. Every day the Trojans came
out of their gates, and the Greeks came out of their
tents and ships, and the fighting went on. Sometimesthere were great battles between the two armies.
Sometimes there were single fights between two great
heroes. Sometimes the Trojans had the better of it and
sometimes the Greeks. But still the fighting went on.
Great heroes on both sides were killed in the
course of the war. After leading the defence of his
city for nine years, the brave Hector was at last killed
by Achilles, whom none could resist. But Achilles
himself was killed later on by a poisoned arrow that
entered his heel, the only part of his body where he
could be wounded. Still later, Paris himself was killed,
also by a poisoned arrow. The Trojans were tired of
being shut up in their city, and the Greeks were
longing to see their homes again. But still the fighting
went on.


Part II
At last Troy was taken, not by force but by a
trick. It was the cunning Odysseus who thought of a
plan to obtain the victory.
“Let us build a great wooden horse”, he said, “big
enough to hold men inside it, and let some of our
best fighters hide in the horse. Then let us burn our
tents and pretend to sail away in our ships. But instead
of sailing away, we will return in the night. When
the Trojans are asleep, we will attack the city and
burn and kill.”
The Greek leaders decided to follow the advice
of the wise Odysseus. So a great horse of wood was
made by a skilful engineer, and the greatest heroes,
Menelaus, Odysseus himself, and others entered it, the
last man to go in being the architect himself who
knew the secret of opening and shutting the entrance.
That evening the Greeks burned their tents and sailed
away in their ships, but they did not go very far.
Only one man was left behind to persuade the Trojans
to drag the horse into their city.
Next day the Trojans woke up, expecting to go
out and fight as they had done for the past ten years.
What delight and surprise they felt at the sight they
saw on the seashore outside the walls ! It seemed that
the long siege was over at last. The tents had been
burnt. The shore was deserted. The Greek ships had
all gone.
“It’s peace at last,” they cried, and opened wide
their gates and came out in large numbers on the
plain, glad to be free again to go where they pleased.
Then they saw on the sands the huge, wooden horse.
They gathered round it in astonishment, for it was
indeed a wonderful piece of work.
As they were wondering how the horse had been
built and why it had been left behind, they found a
Greek with his hands tied together lying under it.
When the Trojans dragged him out, the man pretended
to be very frightened of them. When he was
commanded to tell them why the Greeks had gone
and why they had left this horse behind, he pretendedto tremble very much and refused to speak. When at
last they threatened to kill him, he spoke and told
them this false tale.
“The Greeks are tired of the long war and have
sailed away in their ships,” he said. “But they are
afraid of the long voyage home too, and so they have
made this horse and left it as an offering to the god
of the sea. They wanted also to kill me and offer me
as a sacrifice to the sea-god; but I escaped and hid
from them.”
“But why did the Greeks make such a huge
horse?” some of the Trojans asked. And the cunning
Greek made this reply : “If they had made a smaller
offering, you might have taken it into your city. Then
the luck would have gone to the Trojans and not to
the Greeks. That is why they made it too big to go
inside your gates.”
The Trojans were delighted to hear this. “The
Greeks have gone,” they said, “and the walls are no
longer necessary. Let us make a hole in the wall and
drag the horse in.”
Their wise priest warned them not to do so. “It
may be a trick that will ruin us,” he said. “You will
bring disaster on the city if you break down the
walls.” But they were so excited that they paid no
attention to his words. They broke down part of their
strong wall in order to drag the horse in.
All that day the Trojans feasted and drank and
celebrated. After all their celebrations, they went to
sleep and slept soundly. But that day of rejoicing was
soon followed by a night of terror and death.
The Greek ships had not sailed far. As soon as
they were hidden by an island, they had lowered their
sails and dropped anchor and waited for the night. In
the darkness the fleet sailed back, and the leading
ship, which was Agamemnon’s, bore a red light high
on its mast. The Greek, who was watching for the
return of the fleet, crept to the wooden horse and gave
the signal. The side of the horse opened, the Greeks
climbed out and opened the gates. The whole Greek
army entered the sleeping city. Immediately the Greeksset fire to houses and towers and palaces, and began
to burn and kill.
Troy was filled with the sight of leaping flames
and the sound of shouting and the noise of weapons
and the cries of weeping women. The sleeping Trojans
sprang out of their beds, but they were taken by
surprise. Their enemies were right inside their walls,
and many of the Trojans were killed before they could
put on their armour and seize their weapons.
A bright light lit up the night sky as palaces and
houses, temples and towers, went up in flames. The
Trojans fought as well as they could, but it was all
in vain. Old King Priam was killed with all his brave
sons. Hector’s wife and his old mother and sister were
carried off as slaves by the conquerors. Their fate was
in contrast to Helen’s when King Menelaus rushed
through the city, looking for her and found her in her
palace. She hung her head in shame and sorrow as
she faced her former husband. Her voice was choked
with emotion and she could not speak. But Menelaus
forgave her and she went back with him, for it was
only Aphrodite who had turned her heart away from
her home and her husband and her child.
When morning came, nothing was left of the
proud, rich city that had resisted attack for ten years.

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