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Why the Trojan War Took 10 Years to Complete

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About the Trojan War

The Trojan War, was a series of battles that took ten years to complete. It was fought between the Spartans and the Trojans. The dates of the Trojan War are still debatable and it is unclear what the actual years were. Some experts put the fall of Troy as early as 1334 BC, meaning the battle would have began in 1324 BC. Other historians put the fall of Troy at a later date of 1135 BC, which puts the beginning of the War roughly in 1125. Although the actual dates of the War are not the most important pieces of information it does give historians a better understanding of the time in which the War took place.

The War initially began after Paris, the Prince of Troy, took the King of Sparta’s wife, Helen. If it wasn't for Helen running off with Paris the war would never have started. The King of Sparta, Menelaus, was furious with Paris and sent his armies to capture and return his with back to him.

There are 3 main reasons the Trojan War took so long...

Troy and Greece

A map of the vast distance needed to travel from Athens, Greece to Troy.

A map of the vast distance needed to travel from Athens, Greece to Troy.

Reason 1 - Distance

The distance of travel needed in order for the Spartans to reach Troy was quite significant. The Aegean Sea separated the feuding cities. The forces against Troy, Sparta and Greece, had to meet and travel together in order to reach the city at the same time. While the Spartans were traveling the Greek fleet was gathering at Aulis on the eastern coast of Greece near Thebes.

Using a map from Nagle and Burnstein and basic calculations it was determined that the distance between Aulis and Troy was roughly 300 KM, and that was only if they were able to travel straight from Aulis to Troy.They were not able to do this however because there was an island blocking the way they had to sail around, increasing the travel time.

The Greeks were headed to "the shores of Tory" (Helen of Troy, Hughes, Bettany). This means that Troy was not very far inland and the men did not have to go very far on foot. By using sea travel, the forces were able to arrive at their rally point faster.Although they had the disadvantage of being the ones to travel so very far from their home land they were able to start fighting almost right away.

Smart Strategy: Making it look like a huge army

The men used a smart strategy by having a large group of naval ships to make themselves look like they carried more forces.Leaving all at once also helped with the “team spirit” idea of all leaving at once and going into battle together as one.This is described by Bettany Hughes in Helen of Troy “twenty-nine naval contingents are launched from Aulis”.What also made this a smart strategy was again the idea that they did not waste any energy traveling unnecessarily by land.

Reason 2 - lack of funds

There was a slower start to the war and extreme methods were used in order to proceed. Due to whatever reasons Menelaus had for keeping his men fighting for ten years, it clearly put a strain on the men. Instead of fighting for their King they had to switch to a survival mode in order to last the ten years. Without the eagerness in the men themselves the army would not be able to survive and therefore they would have had to forfeit the war and return home defeated unless they did what was necessary. The fact that they had to spend their time farming their way through the ten years, is a factor all in itself. When the army needed something that could not be farmed they would raid houses and towns to survive. All this was in the name of the King and his fight. If the men did not have the nutrition necessary to fight they would have given into the equal strength of the Trojans.

The Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse was accepted as a gift and signal of surrender.

The Trojan Horse was accepted as a gift and signal of surrender.

Reason 3 - Strategy

The third and final factor of the Trojan War was the idea that the Trojans and the Spartans were matched enemies who fought with each other until a winner was declared by means of an amazing feat of smart strategy. Troy had a hidden strength that allowed them to fight effectively without the Greeks knowing. This hidden strength was an underground water channel could have been used in many ways to help the Trojan’s.

It could have been used to get the men from point A to point B in a quicker amount of time than by foot. Not only did it give them a faster and more efficient method of way of transportation, it gave them cover as it was underground and they would be protected by any of the advances of the Greeks. It also would give the appearance that there were less men ready to fight. The Trojans kept it concealed in order to protect its location and the men inside from an ambush and potential devastating attack.

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It wasn’t until the Greeks used a strategy known as the Trojan Horse that was used to finally bring down the Trojans. Homer, the great Greek poet, explains the horse, “What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, where in all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate!" It is clear that it took men of great strength and might to build such a fabulous creation. The Trojan’s built the horse with wood that was most likely taken from one of the ships used to get the men from Greece to Troy.

The story behind the Trojan Horse goes like this; the horse was built by the men in roughly three days. It was given to the Trojans as a sign of surrender but had many Greek men hidden inside of it. The Trojans took the bait and proceeded to drink and celebrate the final win against the Greeks. However, as they were all in a drunken somber the Greeks snuck out of the horse, letting in the rest of the army and leading the final battle which declared the Greeks the winner of the Trojan wars.

The Horse was shown to be a valuable method which led to the completion of the Trojan Wars after a very long ten years. If it wasn’t for the horse it is impossible to tell when Troy would have finally been seized and if the Greeks would even have been victorious. Not only was it due to the strategy of the Greeks but also the eagerness of the Trojans to take the victory instead of being cautious and carefully examining the horse instead of accepting it and celebrating their victory. A victory in which they would not have actually earned it, instead they chose to accept victory without question.

Conclusion and Summary

The Trojan War’s were a series of battles that took place sometime between 1125 to 1334 BC. It was fought between the Trojans and the Spartans when Paris of Troy took Helen from the King of the Sparta, Menelaus. The war remains famous today due the ten years it took to complete and the poems that focused on it. There were three major factors that contributed to the length of time the war took to complete. First of the factors is the land and water that had to be traveled in order to reach the final destination. The men were leaving from Aulis to head to Troy, a location roughly 300 km away. Men had to be gathered from different areas and set out as one fleet in order to attempt to get back Helen and defeat Troy in the process. The second factor was that the Greek army was not prepared to last so long at war. They had to accommodate for lack of money and supplies by farming and raiding. The final, and what it to be believed the most obvious reason of the war lasting for so long was the strategy of each army in the war. Both sides were well matched, thereby making each battle just as difficult to complete as the one before. It wasn’t until the Greeks used a strategically impressive move by way of the Trojan Horse to finally siege Troy and end the ten year long battle. All of these reasons bound together to lengthen the amount of time it took to complete the Trojan War.


Richard on January 07, 2020:

If the first guesstimate of the fall of Troy is 1134 B.C., the start of the war would have been 1144 B.C., not 1124.

Julian Marsh on January 27, 2019:

Hard to say where to begin-a bad sign for you, Matt. But let's start.

1) it was not the Spartans vs Trojans. Menelaus was the king of Sparta and Helen was his wife but it was Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, the most powerful of the Mycenae palace cities that organized and led the Greek host.

2) distance is relative. The Greeks, who did not sail at night, needed those Aegean islands as a place to anchor for the night and to acquire fresh supplies of food and water. And, 300 km is less than 200 miles. With a favorable wind and men at the oars, a typical Greek ship of the day could probably cover that distance in say, 10 days--not that much a hardship. It is the genius writing of Homer that makes it seem as though this was a great distance, just like the Bible's account of the wanderings of the Hebrews through the Sinai for so many years, makes it seem that desert must be as large as the Sahara; it isn't.

Greek strategy (actually, Mycenae) is suspect. They brought no siege engines with them and built none for ten years (!). They never laid real siege to the city; i.e., never surrounded it to cut it off from outside support, which continued to trickle in. But did the land fighting even last close to 10 years?

Bottom line: Robert Graves compiled a reasonable guess as to the nature of the Trojan War--that it took 10 years because first the Greeks had to spend many years wearing down the Trojan navy before it was safe to land. Graves' idea is that Homer is actually beginning at the end of the 9th year of fighting because that is when they finally landed--which explains why Agamemnon ordered construction of a wall to protect their camp so late in the war, and why Priam asked Helen to point out the most important Greek heroes to him--how he could he have not already known that after 9 years of fighting? He would have, unless the real fighting did not come until almost the beginning of the 10th year. Well, that's enough.

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