The Trojan War, according to Greek Myth, pitted the Greeks against the Trojans. The war was at first fought over Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman on Earth.
The Trojan War is arguably the most notable tale from Greek mythology. The war saw the involvement of the Greek gods and goddesses, who took sides as the Greeks battled the Trojans at Troy. Following is a summary of the cause of the Trojan War, and how the conflict began, according to ancient Greek poets, such as Homer and Euripides.
Background and Cause of the Trojan War
At a wedding dinner that the Greek gods and goddesses were attending, which was between a nymph and a king, the goddess Eris, who was associated with discord, was not invited, and decided to instigated conflict because of her own anger. She threw an apple onto the table, and on the fruit she had written that it was to be given to the fairest of the goddesses. This caused the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite to debate which one of them was to receive the apple, and hold the designation as the fairest of goddesses.
The Judgement of Paris and the Cause of the Trojan War
Paris was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, the rulers of Troy. Because Priam had been informed by way of a prophecy that this son would cause the downfall of Troy, he brought Paris out of the city when he was young and abandoned him in the wilderness. Paris grew up a shepherd and cowherd as he lived with a nymph, and he became to be known for his fairness and judgement abilities. Paris had fairly judged a contest among prize bulls that the god Ares had won, and this prompted Zeus, who refused to decide which of the three goddesses was fairest, to enlist Paris of Troy as judge.
Paris was in the land of Phrygia when the goddesses appeared before him and asked him to decide which one was the fairest. Hera offered him sovereignty over Europe and Asia if he chose her, and Athena offered him wisdom, strategy, and skill at war. But it was the goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, that Paris selected, for she offered him the most beautiful woman in the world. His selection was the cause of the Trojan War.
Helen of Troy and the Beginning of the Trojan War
Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was married to King Menelaus of Sparta at the time of Paris' decision. Following Aphrodite's advice, Paris went to the house of Menelaus in the night and abducted Helen, and he brought her to Troy. Helen was renowned throughout Greece for her beauty, and was admired by almost every man. Before she married Menelaus, she there were so many admirers, that Helen’s father feared that Helen would incur trouble from all of the rejected suitors. To protect her, he required every man to take an oath to protect Helen and her chosen groom in order to compete for her hand in marriage. Menelaus was able to convince the majority of her male admirers to join him on his quest to retrieve, especially because they were bound by an oath to protect her and help the king. More importantly, the Greeks felt their reputation and pride had been tarnished with the seduction of Helen and they felt they had to win her back to renew Greece’s status as reigning empire. The Greek fleet then set sail for Troy, with the object of returning Helen to Menelaus.
Agnememnon, brother to Menelaus, led the Greek forces. The fleet of one thousand ships was delayed off the Greek coast. The winds continued to blow west, the opposite direction the Greeks needed to sail to Troy. Agamemnon consulted an oracle which told him to sacrifice his daughter to Artemis and the winds would turn. He complied with the oracle, an act for which his wife never forgave him. After the sacrifice, the Greek ships headed east for Troy.
The epic hero of The Illiad is Achilles. Achilles was the best of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. When Achilles was a baby, his mother dipped him in the river Styx. This made Achilles invulnerable everywhere but on his heels where his mother had to hang on to him while dipping him in the water. “His Achilles heel” is a saying which is often used today for one area of weakness in a person.
Some of the gods chose sides in this epic war. Poseidon supported the Greeks. After he helped build the walls of Troy (as a punishment set upon him by Zeus), Poseidon was not given wages from the Trojan King. Athena and Hera also sided with the Greeks since Paris had picked Aphrodite, not either of them, as “The Fairest.” The Greeks also had Hermes and Hephaestus on their side.
Aphrodite sided with the Trojans to protect Paris who had chosen her as “The Fairest”. Apollo, Artemis, and Ares also sided with the Trojans. Zeus, Hades, Demeter and Hestia stayed relatively neutral during the war.
Achilles was the best of the Greek heroes of the Trojan War. When Achilles was a baby, his mother dipped him in the river Styx. This made Achilles invulnerable everywhere but on his heels where his mother had to hang on to him while dipping him in the water. “His Achilles heel” is a saying which is often used today for one area of weakness in a person.