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The Trojan War


The Birth of Paris

When Queen Hecuba of Troy gives birth to her son Paris, a prophecy predicts that he will bring about the ruin of Troy. To save his city, King Priam abandons his infant son on Mount Ida, but shepherds find the boy and raise him. Ignorant of his royal birth, Paris marries the nymph Oenone and lives as a shepherd.


The Mischief of Eris

The gods hold a feast to celebrate the wedding of King Peleus and the nymph Thetis. Eris, the goddess of discord, receives no invitation. Offended, she seeks revenge, so she rolls a golden apple inscribed with the words “FOR THE FAIREST” into the banquet hall. Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite argue over which of them deserves the apple. The goddesses select Paris to judge among them. All three goddesses try to bribe him: Hera offers him power; Athena, success at arms; Aphrodite, the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris gives the golden apple to Aphrodite, and in return she informs him of his true parentage and helps him seduce and abduct Helen, the wife of the Spartan king Menelaus and the most beautiful woman in the world.


The Greeks Set Sail

The kings of Greece rally around Menelaus and assemble a formidable army, led by Menelaus’s brother Agamemnon, to take Helen back. The goddess Artemis becalms the Greek ships at Aulis, so Agamemnon is forced to appease the goddess by sacrificing his daughter Iphigenia. The sacrifice enrages Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra.


The Siege of Troy

The Greeks besiege Troy for nine years. The gods take sides in the conflict: Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, and Apollo back the Trojans; Hera, Athena, and Poseidon aid the Greeks. Zeus remains neutral. The Trojan Hector, a son of Priam, and the Greeks Odysseus and Achilles emerge as the mightiest warriors. Achilles is the son of Peleus and Thetis, and his mother dipped him in the river Styx when he was an infant. The treatment rendered his body invincible everywhere except the heel Thetis held when she dipped the baby boy in the river.


The Pride of Achilles

Agamemnon incurs Apollo’s wrath by taking Chryseis, the daughter of a priest of Apollo, as a war prisoner. Apollo’s fiery arrows devastate the Greek army. The soothsayer Calchas tries to persuade Agamemnon to appease Apollo by surrendering the girl. Agamemnon agrees to this plan but then demands that Achilles replace her with one of his own female prisoners. Enraged by this insult, Achilles refuses to fight, and his mother Thetis persuades Zeus to enter the war on the Trojan side. With Achilles removed from the battlefield, the Greeks endure heavy losses and seem near defeat. The Trojans burn the Greek ships and camps. To give the Greeks a morale boost, Achilles’ closest confidant, Patroclus, dresses himself in Achilles’ armor and enters the fray, striking fear in the Trojans’ hearts. Hector kills Patrols in combat, enraging Achilles, who rejoins the battle to avenge his friend. Aided by Athena, Achilles slays Hector. The tide turns in the Greeks’ favor until Paris kills Achilles by striking his vulnerable heel with a poisoned arrow. The mighty Greek warrior Ajax recovers Achilles’ armor but commits suicide out of shame when the armor is awarded to Odysseus. Philoctites, a Greek archer in possession of the arrows of Heracles, assassinate Paris.


The Trojan Horse

Odysseus and Diomedes sneak into Troy and steal the Palladium, a sacred image of Athena that magically protects Troy. Then, Odysseus conceives a scheme to win the war for the Greeks: to build a giant, hollow wooden horse and conceal Greek warriors within it. The Greek army then pretends to abandon their siege and sail homeward. They leave a Greek soldier named Sinon at the gates of Troy to tell the Trojans that the Greeks have presented them the giant horse as an offering to Athena and a symbol of the Trojan victory. The Trojans wheel the horse into the city. By night, while Troy sleeps, the Greek warriors break out of the horse and open the city gates to their waiting army. The cunning Greeks finally burn Troy to the ground. All the warriors of Troy perish except Aeneas, who flees with his father, Anchises, and young son, Ascanius. The conquering Greeks set sail for home, Helen reclaimed.