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Trojan War

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In Greek legend, the Trojan War was a 10-year battle fought by the Greeks to recover Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, who had been kidnapped by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy.

Historians suggest that the legend stems from the war between the Achaean Greeks and the Phrygio-Thracians (1193-1184 BC), which resulted in the destruction of Troy. The war was probably fought for control of the Black Sea's commercial interests.

By tradition the war had its origins in a dispute among the gods. The marriage of Peleus and Thetis brought about the wrath of Eris, goddess of discord, who had not been invited to the celebrations. Eris threw a golden apple, inscribed 'to the fairest', among the guests. The mortal Paris, son of King Priam, was asked to judge among the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera and Athena.

Aphrodite promised Paris the most beautiful woman on Earth as his prize when he awarded her the apple. Paris later visited Sparta and fell in love with Helen. When his wife was taken from Sparta King Menelaus assembled a force of 100,000 warriors led by his brother, Agamemnon, the King of Mycenae. The Greeks were aided by the gods Hera, Athena and Poseidon and in their army were the strongest Greek heroes, Achilles, Diomedes, Odysseus and Ajax. The Trojans had the Olympian support of Ares, Apollo and Aphrodite and the heroes Hector, Paris and Aeneas.

Agamemnon was forced to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the gods and obtain favorable winds. Upon reaching Troy the Greeks fought for nine years while gaining little ground. When Achilles withdrew from battle over the seizure of his favorite slave girl the war turned in favor of the Trojans. As Homer related in the Iliad, Achilles returned to the field only when his best friend, Patroclus, was slain by Hector. Achilles avenged his friend's death, repulsed the Trojan forces and killed Memnon, the King of Ethiopia, and Penthesilea, the Queen of the Amazons, both Trojan allies. Achilles was killed by Paris with the aid of Apollo. When the dead hero's armour was given to Odysseus, Ajax, son of Telamon, killed himself in rage at the choice. To defeat the Trojans the Greeks had first to steal the image of Pallas Athena, the Palladium, from the temple, where it guarded the city's safety. The Greeks enlisted the aid of Neoptolemus and Philoctetes who, using Heracles' weapons, slew Paris.

The Trojan horse was a strategy suggested by Odysseus and built by Epelos. It was a huge, wooden horse that contained a number of Greek warriors. It was left outside the gates of Troy as an offering while Greek forces pretended to sail for home.

Sinon, a Greek who feigned desertion, persuaded the Trojans to drag the horse inside the walls as an offering to Athena. By night the Greeks returned and the warriors inside the horse crept out to open the city gates. The Greeks quickly defeated the Trojans, King Priam was killed by Neoptolemus and the city was burned to the ground. The Trojan women were given to the Greek leaders. Agamemnon received Cassandra, Odysseus received Queen Hecuba and Polyxena, daughter of Priam, was allotted to Achilles and slaughtered on his grave. According to later tradition Aeneas, a survivor of Troy, fled to Italy to become the ancestor of the Romans.

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