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Women and the Trojan war

Women played important roles in the Trojan war which occurred about 1200 BCE. They participated as goddesses, warriors, queens, wives, mistresses, prostitutes, sacrifice victims, and servants. The war was particularly romantic because of the central role of Helen. The birth of Helen invloved a story about her mother Leda. The war also involved a contest, called the Judgement of Paris between Hera and Athena against Aphrodite and perhaps Artemis, all goddesses. Athough Artemis was not involved in the judgement of Paris she prevented the ships from leaving for Troy. They were only able to leave after the sacrifice of Iphigenia. Cassandra, the daughter of Priam was involved at several levels. She recognized Paris as her brother initially and this allowed him to go to Sparta. She recognized the Trojan Horse as a trap but no one would believe her. She was raped at the temple of Athena by Ajax and this act so infuriated Athena that Athena caused the destruction of the victorious fleet as it returned home. She was given to Agamemnon as a slave but never revealed his fate to him so they were both killed by his wife Clytemnestra.

The traditional date by Greek writers for the destruction of Troy is
1184/1183 BCE. Archeology seems to point to the date 1220 BCE. The war
was fought for over ten years by the Greek forces of Agamemnon against the
Trojan forces of Priam. The Trojan forces were commanded by Priam and his sons
working as a team. Agamamnon led a group of allies in the temporary position
as commander. Most of the fighting occurred right around Troy in Asia Minor.

The bulk of myth of the ancient Greeks is centered on the Trojan War. It is described as an age of heroes that were superior to the men of the Classical Greek period. The myth cyle can be divided into a number of focus periods:

  1. The rape of Leda by Zeus and the birth of Helen
  2. The marriage of Helen to Meneleus at Sparta
  3. The judgement of Paris
  4. The rape of Helen and removal of Helen to Troy
  5. The gathering of the forces by Agememnon
  6. The attack on Troy
  7. The siege of Troy. Works relating to this include:
  8. The Vengence of Achilles. Works involving these these stories include:
  9. The sack of Troy. Works relating to this include:
    1. Sophocles, Ajax
    2. Euripides, Hecuba
    3. Euripides, The Trojan Women
  10. The return of the heroes to their Home. Works involving these stories include:
    1. Homer, Odyssey
    2. Aeschylus, Agamemnon
    3. Euripides, Andromache
    4. Euripides, Cyclops
    5. Euripides, Helen

A Summary of the Events of the Trojan War and The main Characters Involved?

Answer:

  • Zeus in the form of a swan raped Leda and the result was the birth of Helen.
  • It was foretold that the son of Thetis would be more powerful than his
    father. Zeus avoided Thetis and arranged for her to marry Peleus, a mortal.
  • Helen was so desirable that Tyndareus, her guardian, required all her
    suitors to pledge alleageance to the suitor he selected, which was Meneleus.
  • At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis Eris threw the apple of discord which
    led to the judgement of Paris.
  • Achilles was born to Peleus and Thetis.
  • Aphrodite bribed Paris with the love of the most beautiful woman in the
    world, Helen, who happened to be married to Menelaus. Hera and Athena were
    angry with his choice.
  • Helen left with Paris for Troy, only she may only have gotten as far as
    Egypt.
  • An army was gathered by it could not leave for Troy because Artemis had been angered. Finally Iphigenia was sacrificed and the
    winds blew. A thousand ships left Greece to bring Helen back to Sparta.
  • On the way to Troy the ships stopped at Lemnos where Philoctetes was abandoned because he was bit by a snake and his would would not heal.
  • Initially the ships were able to establish a beachhead and land near Troy.
    But the city of Troy was so well fortified that all the troups could do was
    to set up a seige which lasted 10 years.
  • The Trojan hero Hector lead the defense of Troy until he was killed by
    Achilles late in the 9th year of the seige.
  • Achilles fought the Amazon Penthesilia and killed her.
  • Paris was able to kill Achilles.
  • Ajax killed himself because Odysseus received the armour of Achilles.
  • Philoktetes was recalled from Lemnos and was able to kill Paris.
  • Odysseus proposed the Trojan horse which was pulled inside Troy.
  • Troy was sacked and its people enslaved.
  • Polyxena was sacrificed on the grave of Achilles.
  • Cassandra was raped by Ajax the Locrian in the Temple of Athena.
  • Athena was enraged by the sacriledge committed in her Temple and convinced
    Zeus to send a storm on the returning fleet that killed half the army and
    dispersed the ships.
  • When Agamemnon returned home he was murdered by his wife Cassandra.
  • Menelaus went to Egypt and then came home eight years later with Helen and riches.
  • Odysseus wandered for 10 years before he got home.

In “An Account of Egypt” By Herodotus he states:

After him, they said, there succeeded to the throne a man of Memphis,
whose name in the tongue of the Hellenes was Proteus; for whom there
is now a sacred enclosure at Memphis, very fair and well ordered,
lying on that side of the temple of Hephaistos which faces the North
Wind. Round about this enclosure dwell Phenicians of Tyre, and this
whole region is called the Camp of the Tyrians. Within the enclosure
of Proteus there is a temple called the temple of the "foreign
Aphrodite," which temple I conjecture to be one of Helen the daughter
of Tyndareus, not only because I have heard the tale how Helen dwelt
with Proteus, but also especially because it is called by the name of
the "foreign Aphrodite," for the other temples of Aphrodite which
there are have none of them the addition of the word "foreign" to the
name.

And the priests told me, when I inquired, that the things concerning
Helen happened thus:--Alexander having carried off Helen was sailing
away from Sparta to his own land, and when he had come to the Egean
Sea contrary winds drove him from his course to the Sea of Egypt; and
after that, since the blasts did not cease to blow, he came to Egypt
itself, and in Egypt to that which is now named the Canobic mouth of
the Nile and to Taricheiai. Now there was upon the shore, as still
there is now, a temple of Heracles, in which if any man's slave take
refuge and have the sacred marks set upon him, giving himself over to
the god, it is not lawful to lay hands upon him; but this custom has
continued still unchanged from the beginning down to my own time.
Accordingly the attendants of Alexander, having heard of the custom
which existed about the temple, ran away from him, and sitting down as
suppliants of the god, accused Alexander, because they desired to do
him hurt, telling the whole tale how things were about Helen and about
the wrong done to Menalaos; and this accusation they made not only to
the priests but also to the warden of this river-mouth, whose name was
Thonis. Thonis then having heard their tale sent forthwith a message
to Proteus at Memphis, which said as follows: "There hath come a
stranger, a Teucrian by race, who hath done in Hellas an unholy deed;
for he hath deceived the wife of his own host, and is come hither
bringing with him this woman herself and very much wealth, having been
carried out of his way by winds to thy land. Shall we then allow him
to sail out unharmed, or shall we first take away from him that which
he brought with him?" In reply to this Proteus sent back a messenger
who said thus: "Seize this man, whosoever he may be, who has done
impiety to his own host, and bring him away into my presence that I
may know what he will find to say." Hearing this, Thonis seized
Alexander and detained his ships, and after that he brought the man
himself up to Memphis and with him Helen and the wealth he had, and
also in addition to them the suppliants. So when all had been conveyed
up thither, Proteus began to ask Alexander who he was and from whence
he was voyaging; and he both recounted to him his descent and told him
the name of his native land, and moreover related of his voyage, from
whence he was sailing. After this Proteus asked him whence he had
taken Helen; and when Alexander went astray n his account and did not
speak the truth, those who had become suppliants convicted him of
falsehood, relating in full the whole tale of the wrong done. At
length Proteus declared to them this sentence, saying, "Were it not
that I count it a matter of great moment not to slay any of those
strangers who being driven from their course by winds have come to my
land hitherto, I should have taken vengeance on thee on behalf of the
man of Hellas, seeing that thou, most base of men, having received
from him hospitality, didst work against him a most impious deed. For
thou didst go in to the wife of thine own host; and even this was not
enough for thee, but thou didst stir her up with desire and hast gone
away with her like a thief. Moreover not even this by itself was
enough for thee, but thou art come hither with plunder taken from the
house of thy host. Now therefore depart, seeing that I have counted it
of great moment not to be a slayer of strangers. This woman indeed and
the wealth which thou hast I will not allow thee to carry away, but I
shall keep them safe for the Hellene who was thy host, until he come
himself and desire to carry them off to his home; to thyself however
and thy fellow-voyagers I proclaim that ye depart from your anchoring
within three days and go from my land to some other; and if not, that
ye will be dealt with as enemies."

This the priests said was the manner of Helen's coming to Proteus; and
I suppose that Homer also had heard this story, but since it was not
so suitable to the composition of his poem as the other which he
followed, he dismissed it finally, making it clear at the same time
that he was acquainted with that story also: and according to the
manner in which he described the wanderings of Alexander in the Iliad
(nor did he elsewhere retract that which he had said) of his course,
wandering to various lands, and that he came among other places to
Sidon in Phenicia. Of this the poet has made mention in the "prowess
of Diomede," and the verses run thus:

 "There she had robes many-coloured, the works of women of Sidon,
  Those whom her son himself the god-like of form Alexander
  Carried from Sidon, what time the broad sea-path he sailed over
  Bringing back Helene home, of a noble father begotten."
       
And in the Odyssey also he has made mention of it in these verses:
       
 "Such had the daughter of Zeus, such drugs of exquisite cunning,
  Good, which to her the wife of Thon, Polydamna, had given,
  Dwelling in Egypt, the land where the bountiful meadow produces
  Drugs more than all lands else, many good being mixed, many evil."
      
And thus too Menelaos says to Telemachos:
      
 "Still the gods stayed me in Egypt, to come back hither desiring,
  Stayed me from voyaging home, since sacrifice due I performed not."
 
In these lines he makes it clear that he knew of the wanderings of
Alexander to Egypt, for Syria borders upon Egypt and the Phenicians,
of whom is Sidon, dwell in Syria. By these lines and by this passage
it is also most clearly shown that the "Cyprian Epic" was not written
by Homer but by some other man: for in this it is said that on the
third day after leaving Sparta Alexander came to Ilion bringing with
him Helen, having had a "gently-blowing wind and a smooth sea,"
whereas in the Iliad it says that he wandered from his course when he
brought her.
 
Let us now leave Homer and the "Cyprian Epic"; but this I will say,
namely that I asked the priests whether it is but an idle tale which
the Hellenes tell of that which they say happened about Ilion; and
they answered me thus, saying that they had their knowledge by
inquiries from Menelaos himself. After the rape of Helen there came
indeed, they said, to the Teucrian land a large army of Hellenes to
help Menelaos; and when the army had come out of the ships to land and
had pitched its camp there, they sent messengers to Ilion, with whom
went also Menelaos himself; and when these entered within the wall
they demanded back Helen and the wealth which Alexander had stolen
from Menelaos and had taken away; and moreover they demanded
satisfaction for the wrongs done: and the Teucrians told the same tale
then and afterwards, both with oath and without oath, namely that in
deed and in truth they had not Helen nor the wealth for which demand
was made, but that both were in Egypt; and that they could not justly
be compelled to give satisfaction for that which Proteus the king of
Egypt had. The Hellenes however thought that they were being mocked by
them and besieged the city, until at last they took it; and when they
had taken the wall and did not find Helen, but heard the same tale as
before, then they believed the former tale and sent Menelaos himself
to Proteus. And Menelaos having come to Egypt and having sailed up to
Memphis, told the truth of these matters, and not only found great
entertainment, but also received Helen unhurt, and all his own wealth
besides. Then, however, after he had been thus dealt with, Menelaos
showed himself ungrateful to the Egyptians; for when he set forth to
sail away, contrary winds detained him, and as this condition of
things lasted long, he devised an impious deed; for he took two
children of natives and made sacrifice of them. After this, when it
was known that he had done so, he became abhorred, and being pursued
he escaped and got away in his ships to Libya; but whither he went
besides after this, the Egyptians were not able to tell. Of these
things they said that they found out part by inquiries, and the rest,
namely that which happened in their own land, they related from sure
and certain knowledge.
 
Thus the priests of the Egyptians told me; and I myself also agree
with the story which was told of Helen, adding this consideration,
namely that if Helen had been in Ilion she would have been given up to
the Hellenes, whether Alexander consented or no; for Priam assuredly
was not so mad, nor yet the others of his house, that they were
desirous to run risk of ruin for themselves and their children and
their city, in order that Alexander might have Helen as his wife: and
even supposing that during the first part of the time they had been so
inclined, yet when many others of the Trojans besides were losing
their lives as often as they fought with the Hellenes, and of the sons
of Priam himself always two or three or even more were slain when a
battle took place (if one may trust at all to the Epic poets),--when,
I say, things were coming thus to pass, I consider that even if Priam
himself had had Helen as his wife, he would have given her back to the
Achaians, if at least by so doing he might be freed from the evils
which oppressed him. Nor even was the kingdom coming to Alexander
next, so that when Priam was old the government was in his hands; but
Hector, who was both older and more of a man than he, would certainly
have received it after the death of Priam; and him it behoved not to
allow his brother to go on with his wrong-doing, considering that
great evils were coming to pass on his account both to himself
privately and in general to the other Trojans. In truth however they
lacked the power to give Helen back; and the Hellenes did not believe
them, though they spoke the truth; because, as I declare my opinion,
the divine power was purposing to cause them utterly to perish, and so
make it evident to men that for great wrongs great also are the
chastisements which come from the gods. And thus have I delivered my
opinion concerning these matters.

There is no archaeologialc evidence to verify any story of the Trojan war. The excavations of Troy have been unable to verify the date of the war their. The best verification my be the stories of the ‘sea peoples’ of egypt which seem to have happened about the same time as the Trojan War. See Sea Peoples. Though the end of the Trojan war corresponds roughly to the end of the Mycenaean culture this result is just the opposite of the implication of the stories of the Trojan War. The stories of the Trojan war describe the destruction of Troy by victorious Achaean while the archeological record support the detruction of the Achaean Culture by some other culture, perhaps the Trojan. See The Mycenaean World

Movies and DVD’s about the Trojan War.

  1. Helen of Troy(2003), Helen (Sienna Guillory), Agememnon (Rufus Sewell), John Kent Harrison (Director).
  2. Helen of Troy(1956), Helen (Rossana Podestà), (Paris) Jacques Sernas Director: Robert Wise.
  3. Troy(2004) ,DVD 163 min, Achilles (Brad Pitt) Helen (Diane Kruger) Director Wolfgang Peterson Eric Bana
  4. Troy – Unearthing The Legend(2004) – DVD, 319 Min includes RISE AND FALL OF THE SPARTANS, ANCIENT MYSTERIES: THE ODYSSEY OF TROY, TREASURE! THE ANCIENT GOLD OF TROY, THE TROJAN CITY, Michael Greenspan,Stanley Anderson,Harry Chase,Andrew Sachs (II),Richard Kiley
  5. Troy: For Love and War(2005) part no.820337816071, Director: Liam Dale (Documentary)DVD, 60 minutes
  6. Troy: Myth or Reality? (2004) DVD 50 Minutes, Documentary
  7. HERCULES AND PRINCESS OF TROY, DVD (1965), Hercules (Gordon Scott )
  8. In Search of the Trojan War 2-DVD Set 330 minutes. National Geographic.
  9. The Private Life of Helen of Troy (1927) silent film, based on a novel by John Erskine. Director: Alexander Korda, Helen (Maria Corda), Menelaus (Lewis Stone) , Paris (Ricardo Cortez}.
  10. The Trojan Horse (The Trojan War) [DVD] (1961), Aeneas (Steve Reeves), John Drew Barrymore, Juliette Mayniel and Mimmo Palmara. 105 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English (dubbed), Director: Giorgio Ferroni.
  11. Beyond The Movie: Troy [DVD] (2004) National Geographic Documentary.

Resources:

  • “Battles that Changed the World – The Trojan War”, VHS Release date:
    1/13/1998, A look at the war waged by the Greek principalities on the city of Troy, as recorded in Homer’s famous works, THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY.
  • Wood, Michael, “In Search of the Trojan War”, ISBN: 0520215990 /
    Paperback / 5/1/1998, The legend and lore of the Heroic Age is brought to life
    in an archaeological adventure that sifts through the myths and speculation to
    provide a fresh view of the riches and the reality of ancient Troy.
  • McLaren, Clemence, “Inside the Walls of Troy: A Novel of the Women Who
    Lived the Trojan War”, ISBN: 0440227496 / Paperback / 9/1/1998, Helen and
    Cassandra, two legendary women of Greek mythology, grippingly relate the
    dramatic, romantic story of the Trojan War as they lived it.
  • Little, Emily; Eagle, Michael, “The Trojan Horse: How the Greeks Won the
    War”; ISBN: 0394896742 / Paperback / 9/1/1988.
  • Women of the Trojan War.
  • Coolidge, Olivia E./ Collidge, Olivia, “Trojan War”, Houghton Mifflin
    Company, October 2001, ISBN: 0618154272, Juvenile Fiction/Legends,

Women and the Trojan War

Questions and Answers

Question: Was Athena involved in the Trojan war? What was her involvement?

Answer: First and foremost the ancient Greeks believed that wisdom,
including spying and strategy, were keys to victory in war. Since Athena was
the goddess of wisdom she was involved by the Greeks in every war. Secondly
the Trojan war was originally conceived by the Greeks as an attempt to wrest
a stolen Helen from Paris. Paris was able to steal Helen with the help of
a bribe from Aphrodite so she would be declared the most beautiful by Paris.
Hera and Athena were incensed that Aphrodite would pull such a sneaky trick.
As a result they encouraged the Greeks to get Helen back. As a result the
Trojan war became a challenge of Pride and Wisdom against sex and lust.

Question: Fate of Trojan women after teh defeat

Answer: Some escaped. Some were killed. Many were enslaved. Not all
remained a slave. Andromache became a queen.

Question: Which three goddesses were involverd in the start of the Trojan
War?

Answer: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite contended for the golden apple of
Eris, the goddess of discord.