The Trojan Horse, Friend Or Foe?

Laocoon and the Trojan Horse | Courtesy of Dickinson College Commentaries

It all started in ancient Greece, when everyone believed in all the great deities. Three goddesses were sitting, relaxing on Mount Olympus when an apple appeared. This is where it starts to get a bit messy. See, the apple was meant for the most beautiful goddess and of course, who wouldn’t want to be called the most beautiful of the goddesses? The three goddesses were Juno, queen of the gods, Minerva, goddess of wisdom and battle, and Venus, goddess of love and beauty. You probably see the predicament here.1

The Judgement of Paris | Courtesy of The British Museum

Well, all three goddesses wanted to be the receiver of this title and they decided to ask a mortal, one called Paris, a prince of Troy, to be the judge. After much bribing from each of the three goddesses, Paris finally went for the most appealing deal, which came from Venus. She offered him the most beautiful woman in the world, human, mind you, not goddess, because of course Minerva, in her mind, was the most beautiful of all. The most beautiful woman in the world was named Helen.2 The downside of it all was that Helen was married, and the way Paris got her wasn’t fair at all. And that caused the Trojan War, thank you Paris. After years of war, the Greeks knew that their strength was dwindling, and of course they came up with a plan to once and for all defeat the Trojans. This is where the end begins.3

The Greeks began building a horse made of timber, as tall as a hill with its ribs sheathed with plankings of cut pine, an impressive sight that was planned, or so they say, to be offered to the sea in order to achieve a safe return.4

Don’t Be Fooled By Trojan Horse | Courtesy of The New Orleans Tribune

But the real reason for the horse was to hide a number of Greek soldiers inside the horse’s hollow belly, and then give the horse to the Trojans as a gift without them noticing the soldiers inside. Once the horse was finished and ready to play its part, the Greeks left it behind on the grounds near the Dorian campsite, while they sped away on their ships and went into hiding behind a nearby island, waiting for the Trojans to take the horse into their city.5 A wooden horse as tall as a hill is very hard to miss, making the Trojans marvel at its grandeur.

When the Trojans discovered the wooden horse the next morning, there was debate on whether to bring the horse into the city or not. One Trojan named Thymoetes shouted yes, while another named Laocoön did not hesitate to attack the horse’s belly.6 If it weren’t for the gods’ sinister ways, or if they themselves weren’t crazed with pride, the Argive den wouldn’t have made them fools, and with a bloody piece of steel, Troy would still be standing.7 And since they didn’t notice any of that, the Trojans debated whether or not to haul the enormous horse inside and bestowed it upon their king.

Trojan Horse | Courtesy of UT Miners

Just then, an unknown Greek had been discovered. Trojans all around ran to see who it was. This unknown man was an abandoned outcast from the Greeks. With his voice full of misery, the Trojans felt sorry for him and let him speak about his woes.8 This man named Sinon went on to explain where he came from and what had happened with the Danaans. He convinced the Trojans he was innocent, and they accepted his words and continued questioning him. One of the questions was what the horse meant and why it was left behind. The horse was a figure of reparation for what the Greeks had done to one of Minerva’s temples.9 And with this, the Trojans let Sinon live.

Alas, tragedy was meant to strike the Trojans, for in that same day, Laocoön, the man who stabbed the horse, was attacked. Twin snakes came from the sea onto dry land all the way to Laocoön and his two sons. Once there, the snakes began squeezing Laocoön and his sons to death, finishing them off, for that was the curse of Minerva, the patron goddess of the hulk he stabbed.10

Laocoon And His Sons | Courtesy of Wikipedia

Night time finally came and with it the Greeks began to return to the gates of Troy. Who would have known that Sinon, the outcast of the Danaan, was a traitor all along, faking his grief and fear to gain the Trojans’ trust. Once all everyone went to their homes for the night, the Greeks started the last step of their plan to win. The soldiers got out from the horse then opened the gates and let the returning Greeks in. With them came fires all across the town with no one to stop them. The sack of Troy had begun and it met its doom that night.11 The Trojans were no more. They had lost everything. The survivors had to flee their city or face the consequence of death or slavery. And this is how Troy fell at the hands of a wooden horse. Laocoön was right in warning his people to beware of the Greeks, even when they are giving you gifts!

The Fall of Troy | Courtesy of Johann Georg Trautmann
  1. Salem Press Encyclopedia, January, 2017, s.v. “Trojan War,” by Todd William Ewing. The names of these goddesses are from the Roman mythology. Their Greek names were Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.
  2. Salem Press Encyclopedia, January, 2017, s.v. “Trojan War,” by Todd William Ewing.
  3. Salem Press Encyclopedia, January, 2017, s.v. “Trojan War,” by Todd William Ewing.
  4. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 34.
  5. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 34.
  6. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 35.
  7. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 35.
  8. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 36.
  9. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 39.
  10. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 41.
  11. Virgil, The Aeneid, translator Robert Fitzgerald (New York: Vintage Classics, 1983), 43.
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18 Comments

  • The background information is given really made it clear why and how the Greeks managed to get into troy. I had never heard the part of Paris choosing between the three goddesses and the part about Sinon telling history to them. This was a very interesting and enjoyable article to read. It was informative and obviously well researched.

  • I have read about the Trojan Wars multiple times, but it is still an interesting story. I have always been interested on how many soldiers they could fit into the Trojan horse. This article was written well and flowed. It was more of the story and less of the details and facts. It kept me interested even though I have read this story before.

  • I knew a lot about Greek Mythology, and knew a lot about this subject, before reading, but I did not know the specifics of what led to Paris determining the most beautiful of the three goddess’s: Juno, Minerva, and Venus. I do wish it had gone into specifics of how exactly Paris got Helen, but overall, it was a good article.

  • I enjoyed this article and found it interesting because of the description of why they would bring a giant wooden horse into their city that was left under suspicion. Their fear for punishment from the Gods were greater than trying to remain safe. There is no telling how much of this is actually try, especially the part about the snakes coming onto land and killing him and his sons. Much of the time were just stories but always had some truth.

  • I learned about the Trojan horse in elementary school and was intrigued by this tactic but as I grew older I thought it was a fake story. Now, this article tells me that it actually happened! I now know, however, that the Trojans believed the horse to be a gift from the gods and they took it for granted. A simple and creative strategy that is almost unbelievable by today’s standards.

  • I really like the story of the Trojan Horse because it just shows that back then people are still smart enough to set up such an elaborate strategy in order to help win the war and finally end all of the fighting. It is such a shame that no one listened to Laocoon because he was right all along and never wanted them to bring the horse into the city in the first place. Well, it just shows you that you should listen to what everyone thinks about such big obstacles.

  • This is probably one of the most interesting and intriguing stories form Greek Mythology. I mean a long tragic war broke out because Paris present Aphrodite with the Golden Apple instead of Athena or Hera. It Think it interesting to see how one moment can spark a chain of events. It was also very creative idea form the greeks, to ransack the city from within the walls of Troy. This article was well written.

  • I have read lots of articles about the Trojan horse, even read a version of The Iliad and still amuse myself reading about this simple but brilliant strategy. It is true that it was somehow predictable but it was very risky as well, things could have turned out in a completely different way if they were discovered inside the horse

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