HEROES AT WAR: THE TROY SAGA
The ancient Greeks certainly believed that the Trojan War, in some form, was a
historical event. Likewise, modern scholars think that the
has some loose
basis in fact.
Archaeological evidence indicates that around 1250
., a settlement, which we
label “Troy VIIa,” was looted and burned. The identity of the attackers is not
certain, much less the motivation for the attack.
Zeus has arranged a wedding between Thetis, a minor sea goddess, and a mortal
man, Peleus; all the gods are invited except Eris, the goddess of strife, who
shows up anyway with a golden apple “for the fairest.”
NOTE: The theme of the goddess who is not invited and who shows up with a curse is a
familiar folklore motif: Sleeping Beauty (Grimm: Little Briar Rose) sleeps because the
thirteenth Wise Woman who was not invited to a feast in Beauty’s honor (twelve were
invited, because the king had twelve gold plates) cursed her with death, a curse
ameliorated by the other women. In folklore, goddesses or fates often punish people with
curses for their neglect.
Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite quarrel over the golden apple, so Zeus throws it off
Mount Olympus. It lands in a field outside of Troy, where King Priam’s son
Paris is tending sheep.
The goddesses offer him gifts in exchange for the golden apple: Hera offers
power over Asia Minor, Athene offers wisdom, and Aphrodite offers the love of
the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris gives the apple to Aphrodite.
Priam sends Paris on a diplomatic mission to Sparta; he meets Helen, wife of
King Menelaus, daughter of the mortal woman Leda, and of Zeus, who visited
Leda in the shape of a swan.
While Paris is a guest in their home, Menelaus leaves on a trip, and Paris seduces
or abducts Helen. When Paris refuses to return her, Priam feels honor-bound to
defend him; Menelaus has allies who come to his support, and the Trojan War
The implications of the story of the judgment of Paris involve sequels, because
Greek myth is essentially open-ended.
Myths occur in a timeless or nonchronological world. Thus, Achilles, son of
Thetis and Peleus, would be too young to take part in the battle of Troy, but he is
a renowned hero at its beginning. Human time cannot be meaningfully applied to