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WE now arrive at the capital and culminating point of the Grecian epic,—the two sieges and capture of Troy, with the destinies of the dispersed heroes, Trojan as well as Grecian, after the second and most celebrated capture and destruction of the city. It would require a large volume to convey any tolerable idea of the vast extent and expansion of this interesting fable, first handled by so many poets, epic, lyric and tragic, with their endless additions, transformations and contradictions,—then purged and recast by historical inquirers, who under color of setting aside the exaggerations of the poets, introduced a new vein of prosaic invention,—lastly, moralized and allegorized by philosophers. In the present brief outline of the general field of Grecian legend, or of that which the Greeks believed to be their antiquities, the Trojan war can be regarded as only one among a large number of incidents upon which Hekataeus and Herodotus looked back as constituting their foretime. Taken as a special legendary event, it is indeed of wider and larger interest than any other, but it is a mistake to single it out from the rest as if it rested upon a different and more trustworthy basis. I must therefore confine myself to an abridged narrative of the current and leading facts; and amidst the numerous contradictory statements which are to be found respecting every one of them, I know no better ground of preference than comparative antiquity, though even the oldest tales which we possess— those contained in the Iliad—evidently presuppose others of prior date.

The primitive ancestor of the Trojan line of kings is Dardanus, son of Zeus, founder and eponymous of Dardania: in the account of later authors, Dardanus was called the son of Zeus by Elektra, daughter of Atlas, and was further said to have come from Samothrace, or from Arcadia, or from Italy but of this Homer mentions nothing. The first Dardanian town founded by him was in a lofty position on the descent of Mount Ida; for he was not yet strong enough to establish himself on the plain. But his son Erichthonius, by the favor of Zeus, became the wealthiest of mankind. His flocks and herds having multiplied, he had in his pastures three thousand mares, the offspring of some of whom, by Boreas, produced horses of preternatural swiftness. Tros, the son of Erichthonius, and the eponym of the Trojans, had three sons—Ilus, Assaracus, and the beautiful Ganymedes, whom Zeus stole away to become his cup-bearer in Olympus, giving to his father Tros, as the price of the youth, a team of immortal horses.

From Ilus and Assaracus the Trojan and Dardanian lines diverge; the former passing from Ilus to Laomedon, Priam and Hector; the latter from Assaracus to Capys, Anchises and Aeneas. Ilus founded in the plain of Troy the holy city of Ilium; Assaracus and his descendants remained sovereigns of Dardania.

It was under the proud Laomedon, son of Ilus, that Poseidon and Apollo underwent, by command of Zeus, a temporary servitude; the former building the walls of the town, the latter tending the flocks and herds. When their task was completed and the penal period had expired, they claimed the stipulated reward; but Laomedon angrily repudiated their demand, and even threatened to cut off their ears, to tie them hand and foot, and to sell them in some distant island as slaves. He was punished for this treachery by a sea-monster, whom Poseidon sent to ravage his fields and to destroy his subjects. Laomedon publicly offered the immortal horses given by Zeus to his father Tros, as a reward to anyone who would destroy the monster. But an oracle declared that a virgin of noble blood must be surrendered to him, and the lot fell upon Hesione, daughter of Laomedon himself. Heracles arriving at this critical moment, killed the monster by the aid of a fort built for him by Athena and the Trojans, so as to rescue both the exposed maiden and the people; but Laomedon, by a second act of perfidy, gave him mortal horses in place of the matchless animals which had been promised. Thus defrauded of his due, Heracles equipped six ships, attacked and captured Troy and killed Laomedon, giving Hesione to his friend and auxiliary Telamon, to whom she bore the celebrated archer Teukros. A painful sense of this expedition was preserved among the inhabitants of the historical town of Ilium, who offered no worship to Heracles.

Among all the sons of Laomedon, Priam was the only one who had remonstrated against the refusal of the well-earned guerdon of Heracles; for which the hero recompensed him by placing him on the throne. Many and distinguished were his sons and daughters, as well by his wife Hecuba, daughter of Kisseus, as by other women. Among the sons were Hector, Paris, Daiphobus, Helenus, Troilus, Polites, Polyderus; among the daughters Laodike, Kreusa, Polyxena, and Cassandra.

The birth of Paris was preceded by formidable presages; for Hecuba dreamt that she was delivered of a firebrand, and Priam, on consulting the soothsayers, was informed that the son about to be born would prove fatal to him. Accordingly he directed the child to be exposed on Mount Ida; but the inauspicious kindness of the gods preserved him, and he grew up amidst the flocks and herds, active and beautiful, fair of hair and symmetrical in person, and the special favorite of Aphrodite.

It was to this youth, in his solitary shepherd's walk on Mount Ida, that the three goddesses Here, Athene, and Aphrodite were conducted, in order that he might determine the dispute respecting their comparative beauty, which had arisen at the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis,—a dispute brought about in pursuance of the arrangement, and in accomplishment of the deep-laid designs, of Zeus. For Zeus, remarking with pain the immoderate numbers of the then existing heroic race, pitied the earth for the overwhelming burden which she was compelled to bear, and determined to lighten it by exciting a destructive and long-continued war.

Paris awarded the palm of beauty to Aphrodite, who promised him in recompense the possession of Helena, wife of the Spartan Menelaus,—the daughter of Zeus and the fairest of living women. At the instance of Aphrodite, ships were built for him, and be embarked on the enterprise so fraught with eventual disaster to his native city, in spite of the menacing prophecies of his brother Helenus, and the always neglected warnings of Cassandra.

Paris, on arriving at Sparta, was hospitably entertained by Menelaus as well as by Castor and Pollux, and was enabled to present the rich gifts which he had brought to Helen. Menelaus then departed to Crete, leaving Helen to entertain his Trojan guest—a favorable moment which was employed by Aphrodite to bring about the intrigue and the elopement. Paris carried away with him both Helen and a large sum of money belonging to Menelaus— made a prosperous voyage to Troy—and arrived there safely with his prize on the third day.

Menelaus, informed by Iris in Crete of the perfidious return made by Paris for his hospitality, hastened home in grief and indignation to consult with his brother Agamemnon, as well as with the venerable Nestor, on the means of avenging the outrage. They made known the event to the Greek chiefs around them: among whom they found universal sympathy: Nestor, Palamedes and others went round to solicit aid in a contemplated attack of Troy, under the command of Agamemnon, to whom each chief promised both obedience and unwearied exertion until Helen should be recovered. Ten years were spent in equipping the expedition. The goddesses Here and Athene, incensed at the preference given by Paris to Aphrodite, and animated by steady attachment to Argos, Sparta and Mycenae, took an active part in the cause; and the horses of Here were fatigued with her repeated visits to the different parts of Greece.

By such efforts a force was at length assembled at Aulis in Boeotia, consisting of 1186 ships and more than 100,000 men,—a force outnumbering by more than ten to one anything that the Trojans themselves could oppose, and superior to the defenders of Troy even with all her allies included. It comprised heroes with their followers from the extreme points of Greece—from the north-western portions of Thessaly under Mount Olympus, as well as the western islands of Dulichium and Ithaca, and the eastern islands of Crete and Rhodes. Agamemnon himself contributed 100 ships manned with the subjects of his kingdom of Mycenae, besides furnishing 60 ships to the Arcadians, who possessed none of their own. Menelaus brought with him 60 ships, Nestor from Pylus 90, Idomeneus from Crete and Diomedes from Argos 80 each. Forty ships were manned by the Eleians, under four different chiefs; the like number under Meges from Dulichium and the Echinades, and under Thoas from Kalydon and the other Aetolian towns. Odysseus from Ithaca, and Ajax from Salamis, brought 12 ships each. The Abantes from Euboea, under Elephenor, filled 40 vessels; the Boeotians, under Peneleus and Leitus, 50; the inhabitants of Orchomenus and Aspledon, 30; the light-armed Locrians, under Ajax son of Oileus, 40; the Phokians as many. The Athenians, under Menestheus, a chief distinguished for his skill in marshaling an army, mustered 50 ships; the Myrmidons from Phthia and Hellas, under Achilles, assembled in 50 ships; Protesilaus from Phylake and Pyrasus, and Eurypylus from Ormenium, each came with 40 ships; Machaon and Podaleirius, from Trikka, with 30; Aumelus, from Pherae and the lake Boebeis, with 11; and Philoktetes from Meliboea with 7: the Lapitha, under Polypcetes, son of Peirithous, filled 40 vessels; the Enianes and Perrhaebians, under Guneus, 22; and the Magnetes under Prothous, 40; these last two were from the northernmost parts of Thessaly, near the mountains Pelion and Olympus. From Rhodes, under Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, appeared 9 ships; from Syme, under the comely but effeminate Nireus, 3; from Kos, Krapathus and the neighboring islands, 30, under the orders of Pheidippus and Antiphus, sons of Thessalus and grandsons of Heracles.


Among this band of heroes were included the distinguished warriors Ajax and Diomedes, and the sagacious Nestor; while Agamemnon himself, scarcely inferior to either of them in prowess, brought with him a high reputation for prudence in command. But the most marked and conspicuous of all were Achilles and Odysseus; the former a beautiful youth born of a divine mother, swift in the race, of fierce temper and irresistible might; the latter not less efficient as an ally from his eloquence, his untiring endurance, his inexhaustible resources under difficulty, and the mixture of daring courage with deep-laid cunning which never deserted him: the blood of the arch-deceiver Sisyphus, through an illicit connection with his mother Antikleia, was said to flow in his veins, and he was especially patronized and protected by the goddess Athene. Odysseus, unwilling at first to take part in the expedition, had even simulated insanity; but Palamedes, sent to Ithaca to invite him, tested the reality of his madness by placing in the furrow where Odysseus was ploughing, his infant son Telemachus. Thus detected, Odysseus could not refuse to join the Achaean host, but the prophet Halitherses predicted to him that twenty years would elapse before he revisited his native land. To Achilles the gods had promised the full effulgence of heroic glory before the walls of Troy; nor could the place be taken without both his cooperation and that of his son after him. But they had forewarned him that this brilliant career would be rapidly brought to a close; and that if he desired a long life, he must remain tranquil and inglorious in his native land. In spite of the reluctance of his mother Thetis, he preferred few years with bright renown, and joined the Achaean host. When Nestor and Odysseus came to Phthia to invite him, both he and his intimate friend Patroclus eagerly obeyed the call.

Agamemnon and his powerful host set sail from Aulis; but being ignorant of the locality and the direction, they landed by mistake in Teuthrania, a part of Mysia near the river Kaikus, and began to ravage the country under the persuasion that it was the neighborhood of Troy. Telephus, the king of the country, opposed and repelled them, but was ultimately defeated and severely wounded by Achilles. The Greeks now, discovering their mistake, retired; but their fleet was dispersed by a storm and driven back to Greece. Achilles attacked and took Skyrus, and there married Deidamia, the daughter of Lycomedes. Telephus, suffering from his wounds, was directed by the oracle to come to Greece and present himself to Achilles to be healed, by applying the scrapings of the spear with which the wound had been given: thus restored, he became the guide of the Greeks when they were prepared to renew their expedition.

The armament was again assembled at Aulis, but the goddess Artemis, displeased with the boastful language of Agamemnon, prolonged the duration of adverse winds, and the offending chief was compelled to appease her by the well-known sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. They then proceeded to Tenedos, from whence Odysseus and Menelaus were dispatched as envoys to Troy, to redemand Helen and the stolen property. In spite of the prudent counsels of Antenor, who received the two Grecian chiefs with friendly hospitality, the Trojans rejected the demand, and the attack was resolved upon. It was foredoomed by the gods that the Greek who first landed should perish: Protesilaus was generous enough to put himself upon this forlorn hope, and accordingly fell by the hand of Hector.

Meanwhile the Trojans had assembled a large body of allies from various parts of Asia Minor and Thrace: Dardanians under Aeneas, Lycians under Sarpedon, Mysians, Carians, Maeonians, Alizonians, Phrygians, Thracians, and Paeonians. But vain was the attempt to oppose the landing of the Greeks: the Trojans were routed, and even the invulnerable Cycnus, son of Poseidon, one of the great bulwarks of the defense, was slain by Achilles. Having driven the Trojans within their walls, Achilles attacked and stormed Lyrnessus, Pedasus, Lesbos and other places in the neighborhood, twelve towns on the sea-coast and eleven in the interior; he drove off the oxen of Aeneas and pursued the hero himself, who narrowly escaped with his life: he surprised and killed the youthful Troilus, son of Priam, and captured several of the other sons, whom he sold as prisoners into the islands of the Aegean. He acquired as his captive the fair Briseis, while Chryseis was awarded to Agamemnon: he was moreover eager to see the divine Helen, the prize and stimulus of this memorable struggle; and Aphrodite and Thetis contrived to bring about an interview between them.

At this period of the war the Grecian army was deprived of Palamedes, one of its ablest chiefs. Odysseus had not forgiven the artifice by which Palamedes had detected his simulated insanity, nor was be without jealousy of a rival clever and cunning in a degree equal, if not superior, to himself; one who had enriched the Greeks with the invention of letters, of dice for amusement, of night-watches, as well as with other useful suggestions. According to the old Cyprian epic, Palamedes was drowned while fishing, by the hands of Odysseus and Diomedes. Neither in the Iliad nor the Odyssey does the name of Palamedes occur: the lofty position which Odysseus occupies in both those poems—noticed with some degree of displeasure even by Pindar, who described Palamedes as the wiser man of the two—is sufficient to explain the omission. But in the more advanced period of the Greek mind, when intellectual superiority came to acquire a higher place in the public esteem as compared with military prowess, the character of Palamedes, combined with his unhappy fate, rendered him one of the most interesting personages in the Trojan legend. Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides each consecrated to him a special tragedy; but the mode of his death as described in the old epic was not suitable to Athenian ideas, and accordingly he was represented as having been falsely accused of treason by Odysseus, who caused gold to be buried in his tent, and persuaded Agamemnon and the Grecian chiefs that Palamedes had received it from the Trojans. He thus forfeited his life, a victim to the calumny of Odysseus and to the delusion of the leading Greeks. In the last speech made by the philosopher Socrates to his Athenian judges, he alludes with solemnity and fellow-feeling to the unjust condemnation of Palamedes, as analogous to that which he himself was about to suffer, and his companions seem to have dwelt with satisfaction on the comparison. Palamedes passed for an instance of the slanderous enmity and misfortune which so often wait upon superior genius.

In these expeditions the Grecian army consumed nine years, during which the subdued Trojans dared not give battle without their walls for fear of Achilles. Ten years was the fixed epical duration of the siege of Troy, just as five years was the duration of the siege of Kamikus by the Cretan armament which came to avenge the death of Minos: ten years of preparation, ten years of siege, and ten years of wandering for Odysseus, were periods suited to the rough chronological dashes of the ancient epic, and suggesting no doubts nor difficulties with the original hearers. But it was otherwise when the same events came to be contemplated by the historicizing Greeks, who could not be satisfied without either finding or inventing satisfactory bonds of coherence between the separate events. Thucydides tells us that the Greeks were less numerous than the poets have represented, and that being moreover very poor, they were unable to procure adequate and constant provisions: hence they were compelled to disperse their army, and to employ a part of it in cultivating the Chersonese,—a part in marauding expeditions over the neighborhood. Could the whole army have been employed against Troy at once (he says), the siege would have been much more speedily and easily concluded. If the great historian could permit himself thus to amend the legend in so many points, we might have imagined that the simpler course would have been to include the duration of the siege among the list of poetical exaggerations, and to affirm that the real siege had lasted only one year instead of ten. But it seems that the ten years’ duration was so capital a feature in the ancient tale, that no critic ventured to meddle with it.

A period of comparative intermission however was now at hand for the Trojans. The gods brought about the memorable fit of anger of Achilles, under the influence of which he refused to put on his armor, and kept his Myrmidons in camp. According to the Cypria, this was the behest of Zeus, who had compassion on the Trojans: according to the Iliad, Apollo was the originating cause, from anxiety to avenge the injury which his priest Chryses had endured from Agamemnon. For a considerable time, the combats of the Greeks against Troy were conducted without their best warrior, and severe indeed was the humiliation which they underwent in consequence. How the remaining Grecian chiefs vainly strove to make amends for his absence how Hector and the Trojans defeated and drove them to their ships—how the actual blaze of the destroying flame, applied by Hector to the ship of Protesilaus, roused up the anxious and sympathizing Patroclus, and extorted a reluctant consent from Achilles, to allow his friend and his followers to go forth and avert the last extremity of ruin—how Achilles, when Patroclus had been killed by Hector, forgetting his anger in grief for the death of his friend, reentered the fight, drove the Trojans within their walls with immense slaughter, and satiated his revenge both upon the living and the dead Hector—all these events have been chronicled, together with those divine dispensations on which most of them are made to depend, in the immortal verse of the Iliad.

Homer breaks off with the burial of Hector, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arktinus, entitled the Ethiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege. The poem of Quintus Smyrnaeus, composed about the fourth century of the Christian era, seems in its first books to coincide with the Ethiopis, in the subsequent books partly with the Ilias Minor of Lesches.

The Trojans, dismayed by the death of Hector, were again animated with hope by the appearance of the warlike and beautiful queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia, daughter of Ares, hitherto invincible in the field, who came to their assistance from Thrace at the head of a band of her countrywomen. She again led the besieged without the walls to encounter the Greeks in the open field; and under her auspices the latter were at first driven back, until she too was slain by the invincible arm of Achilles. The victor, on taking off the helmet of his fair enemy as she lay on the ground, was profoundly affected and captivated by her charms, for which he was scornfully taunted by Thersites: exasperated by this rash insult, he killed Thersites on the spot with a blow of his fist. A violent dispute among the Grecian chiefs was the result, for Diomedes, the kinsman of Thersites, warmly resented the proceeding; and Achilles was obliged to go to Lesbos, where he was purified from the act of homicide by Odysseus.

Next arrived Memnon, son of Tithonus and Eos, the most stately of living men, with a powerful band of black Ethiopians, to the assistance of Troy. Sallying forth against the Greeks, he made great havoc among them: the brave and popular Antilochus perished by his hand, a victim to filial devotion in defense of Nestor. Achilles at length attacked him, and for a long time the combat was doubtful between them: the prowess of Achilles and the supplication of Thetis with Zeus finally prevailed; whilst Eos obtained for her vanquished son the consoling gift of immortality. His tomb, however, was shown near the Propontis, within a few miles of the mouth of the river Esepus, and was visited annually by the birds called Memnonides, who swept it and bedewed it with water from the stream. So the traveler Pausanias was told, even in the second century after the Christian era, by the Hellespontine Greeks.

But the fate of Achilles himself was now at hand. After routing the Trojans and chasing them into the town, he was slain near the Skaean gate by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the unerring auspices of Apollo. The greatest efforts were made by the Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was however rescued and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valor of Ajax and Odysseus. Bitter was the grief of Thetis for the loss of her son: she came into the camp with the Muses and the Nereids to mourn over him; and when a magnificent funeral-pile had been prepared by the Greeks to burn him with every mark of honor, she stole away the body and conveyed it to a renewed and immortal life in the island of Leuke in the Euxine Sea. According to some accounts he was there blest with the nuptials and company of Helen.

Thetis celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of her son, and offered the unrivalled panoply, which Hephaestus had forged and wrought for him, as a prize to the most distinguished warrior in the Grecian army. Odysseus and Ajax became rivals for the distinction, when Athena, together with some Trojan prisoners, who were asked from which of the two their country had sustained greatest injury, decided in favor of the former. The gallant Ajax lost his senses with grief and humiliation: in a fit of frenzy he slew some sheep, mistaking them for the men who had wronged him, and then fell upon his own sword.

Odysseus now learnt from Helenus son of Priam, whom he had captured in an ambuscade, that Troy could not be taken unless both Philoktetes, and Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, could be prevailed upon to join the besiegers. The former, having been stung in the foot by a serpent, and becoming insupportable to the Greeks from the stench of his wound, had been left at Lemnus in the commencement of the expedition, and had spent ten years in misery on that desolate island; but he still possessed the peerless bow and arrows of Heracles, which were said to be essential to the capture of Troy. Diomedes fetched Philoktetes from Lemnus to the Grecian camp, where he was healed by the skill of Machaon, and took an active part against the Trojans—engaging in single combat with Paris, and killing him with one of the Herakleian arrows. The Trojans were allowed to carry away for burial the body of this prince, the fatal cause of all their sufferings; but not until it had been mangled by the hand of Menelaus. Odysseus went to the island of Skyrus to invite Neoptolemus to the army. The untried but impetuous youth gladly obeyed the call, and received from Odysseus his father’s armor, while on the other hand, Eurypylus, son of Telephus, came from Mysia as auxiliary to the Trojans and rendered to them valuable service—turning the tide of fortune for a time against the Greeks, and killing some of their bravest chiefs, amongst whom was numbered Peneleos, and the unrivalled leech Maehaon. The exploits of Neoptolemus were numerous, worthy of the glory of his race and the renown of his father. He encountered and slew Eurypylus, together with numbers of the Mysian warriors: he routed the Trojans and drove them within their walls, from whence they never again emerged to give battle: nor was he less distinguished for his good sense and persuasive diction, than for forward energy in the field.

Troy however was still impregnable so long as the Palladium, a statue given by Zeus himself to Dardanus, remained in the citadel; and great care had been taken by the Trojans not only to conceal this valuable present, but to construct other statues so like it as to mislead any intruding robber. Nevertheless the enterprising Odysseus, having disguised his person with miserable clothing and self-inflicted injuries, found means to penetrate into the city and to convey the Palladium by stealth away: Helen alone recognized him; but she was now anxious to return to Greece, and even assisted Odysseus in concerting means for the capture of the town.

To accomplish this object, one final stratagem was resorted to. By the hands of Epeius of Panopeus, and at the suggestion of Athene, a capacious hollow wooden horse was constructed, capable of containing one hundred men: the élite of the Grecian heroes, Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Menelaus and others, concealed themselves in the inside of it, and the entire Grecian army sailed away to Tenedos, burning their tents and pretending to have abandoned the siege. The Trojans, overjoyed to find themselves free, issued from the city and contemplated with astonishment the fabric which their enemies had left behind: they long doubted what should be done with it; and the anxious heroes from within heard the surrounding consultations, as well as the voice of Helen when she pronounced their names and counterfeited the accents of their wives. Many of the Trojans were anxious to dedicate it to the gods in the city as a token of gratitude for their deliverance; but the more cautious spirits inculcated distrust of an enemy’s legacy; and Laocoon, the priest of Poseidon, manifested his aversion by striking the side of the horse with his spear. The sound revealed that the horse was hollow, but the Trojans heeded not this warning of possible fraud; and the unfortunate Laocoon, a victim to his own sagacity and patriotism, miserably perished before the eyes of his countrymen, together with one of his sons, —two serpents being sent expressly by the gods out of the sea to destroy him. By this terrific spectacle, together with the perfidious counsels of Sinon, a traitor whom the Greeks had left behind for the special purpose of giving false information, the Trojans were induced to make a breach in their own walls, and to drag the fatal fabric with triumph and exultation into their city.


The destruction of Troy, according to the decree of the gods, was now irrevocably sealed. While the Trojans indulged in a night of riotous festivity, Sinon kindled the fire-signal to the Greeks at Tenedos, loosening the bolts of the wooden horse, from out of which the enclosed heroes descended. The city, assailed both from within and from without, was thoroughly sacked and destroyed, with the slaughter or captivity of the larger portion of its heroes as well as its people. The venerable Priam perished by the hand of Neoptolemus, having in vain sought shelter at the domestic altar of Zeus Herkeios; but his son Deiphobus, who since the death of Paris had become the husband of Helen, defended his house desperately against Odysseus and Menelaus, and sold his life dearly. After he was slain, his body was fearfully mutilated by the latter.

Thus was Troy utterly destroyed — the city, the altars and temples, and the population. Aeneas and Antenor were permitted to escape, with their families, having been always more favorably regarded by the Greeks than the remaining Trojans. According to one version of the story, they had betrayed the city to the Greeks: a panther’s skin had been hung over the door of Antenor’s house as a signal for the victorious besiegers to spare it in the general plunder. In the distribution of the principal captives, Astyanax, the infant son of Hector, was cast from the top of the wall and killed, by Odysseus or Neoptolemus: Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, was immolated on the tomb of Achilles, in compliance with a requisition made by the shade of the deceased hero to his countrymen; while her sister Cassandra was presented as a prize to Agamemnon. She had sought sanctuary at the altar of Athene, where Ajax, the son of Oileus, making a guilty attempt to seize her, had drawn both upon himself and upon the army the serious wrath of the goddess, insomuch that the Greeks could hardly be restrained from stoning him to death. Andromache and Helenus were both given to Neoptolemus, who, according to the Ilias Minor, carried away also Aeneas as his captive.

Helen gladly resumed her union with Menelaus: she accompanied him back to Sparta, and lived with him there many years in comfort and dignity, passing afterwards to a happy immortality in the Elysian fields. She was worshipped as a goddess with heir brothers the Dioskuri and her husband, having her temple, statue and altar at Theraptnae and elsewhere, and various examples of her miraculous interventions were cited among the Greeks. The lyric poet Stesichorus had ventured to denounce her, conjointly with her sister Clytemnestra, in a tone of rude and plain-spoken severity, resembling that of Euripides and Lycophron afterwards, but strikingly opposite to the delicacy and respect with which she is always handled by Homer, who never admits reproaches against her except from her own lips. He was smitten with blindness, and made sensible of his impiety; but having repented and composed a special poem formally retracting the calumny, was permitted to recover his sight. In his poem of recantation (the famous palinode now unfortunately lost) he pointedly contradicted the Homeric narrative, affirming that Helen had never been to Troy at all, and that the Trojans had carried thither nothing but her image. It is, probably, to the excited religious feelings of Stesichorus that we owe the first idea of this glaring deviation from the old legend, which could never have been recommended by any considerations of poetical interest.

Other versions were afterwards started, forming a sort of compromise between Homer and Stesichorus, admitting that Helen had never really been at Troy, without altogether denying her elopement. Such is the story of her having been detained in Egypt during the whole term of the siege. Paris, on his departure from Sparta, had been driven thither by storms, and the Egyptian king Proteus, hearing of the grievous wrong which he had committed towards Menelaus, had sent him away from the country with severe menaces, detaining Helen until her lawful husband should come to seek her. When the Greeks reclaimed Helen from Troy, the Trojans assured them solemnly, that she neither was, nor ever had been, in the town; but the Greeks, treating this allegation as fraudulent, prosecuted the siege until their ultimate success confirmed the correctness of the statement, nor did Menelaus recover Helen until, on his return from Troy, he visited Egypt. Such was the story told by the Egyptian priests to Herodotus, and it appeared satisfactory to his historicizing mind. “For if Helen had really been at Troy (he argues) she would certainly have been given up, even had she been mistress of Priam himself instead of Paris: the Trojan king, with all his family and all his subjects, would never knowingly have incurred utter and irretrievable destruction for the purpose of retaining her: their misfortune was, that while they did not possess, and therefore could not restore her, they yet found it impossible to convince the Greeks that such was the fact”. Assuming the historical character of the war of Troy, the remark of Herodotus admits of no reply; nor can we greatly wonder that he acquiesced in the tale of Helen's Egyptian detention, as a substitute for the “incredible insanity” which the genuine legend imputes to Priam and the Trojans. Pausanias, upon the same ground and by the same mode of reasoning, pronounces that the Trojan horse must have been in point of fact a battering-engine, because to admit the literal narrative would be to impute utter childishness to the defenders of the city. And Mr. Payne Knight rejects Helen altogether as the real cause of the Trojan war, though she may have been the pretext of it; for he thinks that neither the Greeks nor the Trojans could have been so mad and silly as to endure calamities of such magnitude “for one little woman”. Mr. Knight suggests various political causes as substitutes; these might deserve consideration, either if any evidence could be produced to countenance them, or if the subject on which they are brought to bear could be shown to belong to the domain of history.


The return of the Grecian chiefs from Troy furnished matter to the ancient epic hardly less copious than the siege itself, and the more susceptible of indefinite diversity, inasmuch as those who had before acted in concert were now dispersed and isolated. Moreover the stormy voyages and compulsory wanderings of the heroes exactly fell in with the common aspirations after an heroic founder, and enabled even the most remote Hellenic settlers to connect the origin of their town with this prominent event of their ante-historical and semi-divine world. And an absence of ten years afforded room for the supposition of many domestic changes in their native abode, and many family misfortunes and misdeeds during the interval. One of these heroic “Returns”, that of Odysseus, has been immortalized by the verse if Homer. The hero, after a series of long-protracted suffering and expatriation, inflicted on him by the anger of Poseidon, at last reaches his native island, but finds his wife beset, his youthful son insulted, and his substance plundered, by a troop of insolent suitors; he is forced to appear as a wretched beggar, and to endure in his own person their scornful treatment; but finally, by the interference of Athene coming in aid of his own courage and stratagem, he is enabled to overwhelm his enemies, to resume his family position, and to recover his property. The return of several other Grecian chiefs was the subject of an epic poem by Hagias, which is now lost, but of which a brief abstract or argument still remains: there were in antiquity various other poems of similar title and analogous matter.

As usual with the ancient epic, the multiplied sufferings of this back-voyage are traced to divine wrath, justly provoked by the sins of the Greeks; who, in the fierce exultation of a victory purchased by so many hardships, had neither respected nor event spared the altars of the gods in Troy; and Athene, who had been their most zealous ally during the siege, was so incensed by their final recklessness, more especially by the outrage of Ajax, son of Oileus, that she actively harassed and embittered their return, in spite of every effort to appease her. The chiefs began to quarrel among themselves; their formal assembly became a scene of drunkenness; even Agamemnon and Menelaus lost their fraternal harmony, and each man acted on his own separate resolution. Nevertheless, according to the Odyssey, Nestor, Diomedes, Neoptolemus, Idomeneus and Philoktetes reached home speedily and safely: Agamemnon also arrived in Peloponnesus, to perish by the hand of a treacherous wife; but Menelaus was condemned to long wanderings and to the severest privations in Egypt, Cyprus and elsewhere, before he could set foot in his native land. The Lokrian Ajax perished on the Gyraean rock. Though exposed to a terrible storm, he had already reached this place of safety, when he indulged in the rash boast of having escaped in defiance of the gods: no sooner did Poseidon hear this language, than he struck with his trident the rock which Ajax was grasping and precipitated both into the sea. Kalchas the soothsayer, together with Leonteus and Polypoetes, proceeded by land from Troy to Kolophon.


In respect however to these and other Grecian heroes, tales were told different from those in the Odyssey, assigning to them a long expatriation and a distant home. Nestor went to Italy, where he founded Metapontum, Pisa and Herakleia: Philoktetes also went to Italy, founded Petilia and Krimisa, and sent settlers to Egesta in Sicily. Neoptolemus, under the advice of Thetis, marched by land across Thrace, met with Odysseus, who had come by sea, at Maroneia, and then pursued his journey to Epirus, where he became king of the Molossians. Idomeneus came to Italy, and founded Uria in the Salentine peninsula. Diomedes, after wandering far and wide, went along the Italian coast into the innermost Adriatic gulf, and finally settled in Daunia, founding the cities of Argyrippa, Beneventum, Atria and Diomedeia: by the favor of Athene he became immortal, and was worshipped as a god in many different places. The Lokrian followers of Ajax founded the Epizephyrian Lokri on the southernmost corner of Italy, besides another settlement in Libya.

I have spoken in another place of the compulsory exile of Teukros, who, besides founding the city of Salamis in Cyprus, is said to have established some settlements in the Iberian peninsula. Menestheus the Athenian did the like, and also founded both Elaea in Mysia and Skylletium in Italy. The Arcadian chief Agamenor founded Paphus in Cyprus. Epeius, of Panopeus in Phocis, the constructor of the Trojan horse with the aid of the goddess Athene, settled at Lagaria near Sybaris on the coast of Italy; and the very tools which he had employed in that remarkable fabric were shown down to a late date in the temple of Athene at Metapontum. Temples, altars and towns were also pointed out in Asia Minor, in Samos and in Crete, the foundation of Agamemnon or of his followers. The inhabitants of the Grecian town of Scyon, in the Thracian peninsula called rankle or Pellene, accounted themselves the offspring of the Pellenians from Achaea, in Peloponnesus, who had served under Agamemnon before Troy, and who on their return from the siege had been driven on the spot by a storm and there settled. The Pamphylians, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, deduced their origin from the wanderings of Amphilochus and Kalchus after the siege of Troy: the inhabitants of the Amphilochian Argos on the Gulf of Ambrakia revered the same Amphilochus as their founder. The Orchomenians under Ialmenus, on quitting the conquered city, wandered or were driven to the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea; and the barbarous Achaeans under Mount Caucasus were supposed to have derived their first establishment from this source. Meriones with his Keeton followers settled at Engyion in Sicily, along with the preceding Cretans who had remained there after the invasion of Minos. The Elyminians in Sicily also were composed of Trojans and Greeks separately driven to the spot, who, forgetting their previous differences, united in the joint settlements of Eryx and Egesta. We hear of Podaleirius both in Italy and on the coast of Caria; of Akamas, son of Theseus, at Amphipolis in Thrace, at Soli in Cyprus, and at Synnada in Phrygia; of Guneus, Prothous and Eurypylus, in Crete as well as in Libya. The obscure poem of Lycophron enumerates many of these dispersed and expatriated heroes, whose conquest of Troy was indeed a Cadmeian victory (according to the proverbial phrase of the Greeks), wherein the sufferings of the victor were little inferior to those of the vanquished. It was particularly among the Italian Greeks, where they were worshipped with very special solemnity, that their presence as wanderers from Troy was reported and believed.

I pass over the numerous other tales which circulated among the ancients, illustrating the ubiquity of the Grecian and Trojan heroes as well as that of the Argonauts,—one of the most striking features in the Hellenic legendary world. Amongst them all, the most interesting, individually, is Odysseus, whose romantic adventures in fabulous places and among fabulous persons have been made familiarly known by Homer. The goddesses Kalypso and Circe; the semi-divine mariners of Pheacia, whose ships are endowed with consciousness and obey without a steersman; the one-eyed Cyclopes, the gigantic Laestrygones, and the wind-ruler Eolus; the Sirens who ensnare by their song, as the Lotophagi fascinate by their food—all these pictures formed integral and interesting portions of the old epic. After the suitors had been buried by their relatives, he offered sacrifice to the Nymphs, and then went to Elis to inspect his herds of cattle there pasturing: the Eleian Polyxenus welcomed him hospitably, and made him a present of a bowl: Odysseus then returned to Ithaca, and fulfilled the rites and sacrifices prescribed to him by Teiresias in his visit to the underworld. This obligation discharged, he went to the country of the Thesprotians, and there married the queen Kallidike: he headed the Thesprotians in a war against the Brygians, the latter being conducted by Ares himself, who fiercely assailed Odysseus; but the goddess Athene stood by him, and he was enabled to make head against Ares until Apollo came and parted them. Odysseus then returned to Ithaca, leaving the Thesprotian kingdom to Polypcetes, his son by Kallidike.

Homer leaves Odysseus reestablished in his house and family; but so marked a personage could never be permitted to remain in the tameness of domestic life: the epic poem called the Telegonia ascribed to him a subsequent series of adventures. Telegonus, his son by Circe, coming to Ithaca in search of his father, ravaged the island and killed Odysseus without knowing who he was. Bitter repentance overtook the son for his undesigned parricide: at his prayer and by the intervention of his mother Circe, both Penelope and Telemachus were made immortal: Telegonus married Penelope, and Telemachus married Circe.

We see by this poem that Odysseus was represented as the mythical ancestor of the Thesprotian kings, just as Neoptolemus was of the Molossian.


It has already been mentioned that Antenor and Aeneas stand distinguished from the other Trojans by a dissatisfaction with Priam and a sympathy with the Greeks, which is by Sophocles and others construed as treacherous collusion,—a suspicion indirectly glanced, though emphatically repelled, by the Aeneas of Virgil. In the old epic of Arktinus, next in age to the Iliad and Odyssey, Aeneas abandons Troy and retires to Mount Ida, in terror at the miraculous death of Laocoon, before the entry of the Greeks into the town and the last night-battle: yet Lesches, in another of the ancient epic poems, represented him as having been carried away captive by Neoptolemus. In a remarkable passage of the Iliad, Poseidon describes the family of Priam as having incurred the hatred of Zeus, and predicts that Aeneas and his descendants shall reign over the Trojans: the race of Dardanus, beloved by Zeus more than all his other sons, would thus be preserved, since Aeneas belonged to it. Accordingly, when Aeneas is in imminent peril from the hands of Achilles, Poseidon specially interferes to rescue him, and even the implacable miso-Trojan goddess Here assents to the proceeding. These passages have been construed by various able critics to refer to a family of philo-Hellenic or semi-Hellenic Eneads, known even in the time of the early singers of the Iliad as masters of some territory in or near the Troad, and professing to be descended from, as well as worshipping, Aeneas. In the town of Skepsis, situated in the mountainous range of Ida, about thirty miles eastward of Ilium, there existed two noble and priestly families who professed to be descended, the one from Hector, the other from Eneas. The Skepsian critic Demetrius (in whose time both these families were still to be found) informs us that Skamandrius son of Hector, and Ascanius son of Eneas, were the archegets or heroic founders of his native city, which had been originally situated on one of the highest ranges of Ida, and was subsequently transferred by them to the less lofty spot on which it stood in his time. In Arisbe and Gentinus there seem to have been families professing the same descent, since the same archegets were acknowledged. In Ophrynium, Hector had his consecrated edifice, and in Ilium both he and Aeneas were worshipped as gods: and it was the remarkable statement of the Lesbian Menekrates, that Eneas, “having been wronged by Paris and stripped of the sacred privileges which belonged to him, avenged himself by betraying the city, and then became one of the Greeks”.

One tale thus among many respecting Aeneas, and that too the most ancient of all, preserved among the natives of the Troad, who worshipped him as their heroic ancestor, was, that after the capture of Troy he continued in the country as king of the remaining Trojans, on friendly terms with the Greeks. But there were other tales respecting him, alike numerous and irreconcilable: the hand of destiny marked him as a wanderer, and his ubiquity is not exceeded even by that of Odysseus. We hear of him at Aenus in Thrace, in Pallene, at Eneia in the Thermaic Gulf, in Delus, at Orchomenus and Mantineia in Arcadia, in the islands of Kythera and Zakynthus, in Leukas and Ambrakia, at Buthrotum in Epirus, on the Salentine peninsula and various other places in the southern region of Italy; at Drepana and Segesta in Sicily, at Carthage, at Cape Palinurus, Cumae, Misenum, Caieta, and finally in Latium, where he lays the first humble foundation of the mighty Rome and her empire. And the reason why his wanderings were not continued still further was, that the oracles and the pronounced will of the gods directed him to settle in Latium. In each of these numerous places his visit was commemorated and certified by local monuments or special legends, particularly by temples and permanent ceremonies in honor of his mother Aphrodite, whose worship accompanied him everywhere: there were also many temples and many different tombs of Aeneas himself. The vast ascendency acquired by Rome, the ardor with which all the literary Romans espoused the idea of a Trojan origin, and the fact that the Julian family recognized Aeneas as their gentile primary ancestor,—all contributed to give to the Roman version of his legend the preponderance over every other. The various other places in which monuments of Aeneas were found came thus to be represented as places where he had halted for a time on his way from Troy to Latium. But though the legendary pretensions of these places were thus eclipsed in the eyes of those who constituted the literary public, the local belief was not extinguished: they claimed the hero as their permanent property, and his tomb was to them a proof that he had lived and died among them.

Antenor, who shares with Aeneas the favorable sympathy of the Greeks, is said by Pindar to have gone from Troy along with Menelaus and Helen into the region of Cyrene in Libya. But according to the more current narrative, he placed himself at the head of a body of Eneti or Veneti from Paphlagonia, who had come as allies of Troy, and went by sea into the inner part of the Adriatic Gulf, where he conquered the neighboring barbarians and founded the town of Patavium (the modern Padua); the Veneti in this region were said to owe their origin to his immigration. We learn further from Strabo, that Opsikellas, one of the companions of Antenor, had continued his wanderings even into Iberia, and that he had there established a settlement bearing his name.

Thus ended the Trojan war; together with its sequel, the dispersion of the heroes, victors as well as vanquished. The account here given of it has been unavoidably brief and imperfect; for in a work intended to follow consecutively the real history of the Greeks, no greater space can be allotted even to the most splendid gem of their legendary period. Indeed, although it would be easy to fill a large volume with the separate incidents which have been introduced into the “Trojan cycle”, the misfortune is that they are for the most part so contradictory as to exclude all possibility of weaving them into one connected narrative. We are compelled to select one out of the number, generally without any solid ground of preference, and then to note the variations of the rest. No one who has not studied the original documents can imagine the extent to which this discrepancy proceeds; it covers almost every portion and fragment of the tale.

But though much may have been thus omitted of what the reader might expect to find in an account of the Trojan war, its genuine character has been studiously preserved, without either exaggeration or abatement. The real Trojan war is that which was recounted by Homer and the old epic poets, and continued by all the lyric and tragic composers. For the latter, though they took great liberties with the particular incidents, and introduced to some extent a new moral tone, yet worked more or less faithfully on the Homeric scale: and even Euripides, who departed the most widely from the feeling of the old legend, never lowered down his matter to the analogy of contemporary life. They preserved its well-defined object, at once righteous and romantic, the recovery of the daughter of Zeus and sister of the Dioskuri—its mixed agencies, divine, heroic and human—the colossal force and deeds of its chief actors—its vast magnitude and long duration, as well as the toils which the conquerors underwent, and the Nemesis which followed upon their success. And these were the circumstances which, set forth in the full blaze of epic and tragic poetry, bestowed upon the legend its powerful and imperishable influence over the Hellenic mind. The enterprise was one comprehending all the members of the Hellenic body, of which each individually might be proud, and in which, nevertheless, those feelings of jealous and narrow patriotism, so lamentably prevalent in many of the towns, were as much as possible excluded. It supplied them with a grand and inexhaustible object of common sympathy, common faith, and common admiration; and when occasions arose for bringing together a Pan-Hellenic force against the barbarians, the precedent of the Homeric expedition was one upon which the elevated minds of Greece could dwell with the certainty of rousing an unanimous impulse, if not always of counterworking sinister by motives, among their audience. And the incidents comprised in the Trojan cycle were familiarized, not only to the public mind but also to the public eye, by innumerable representations both of the sculptor and the painter,—those which were romantic and chivalrous being better adapted for this purpose, and therefore more constantly employed, than any other.

Of such events the genuine Trojan war of the old epic was for the most part composed. Though literally believed, reverentially cherished, and numbered among the gigantic phenomena of the past, by the Grecian public, it is in the eyes of modern inquiry essentially a legend and nothing more. If we are asked whether it be not a legend embodying portions of historical matter, and raised upon a basis of truth,—whether there may not really have occurred at the foot of the hill of Ilium a war purely human and political, without gods, without heroes, without Helen, without Amazons, without Ethiopians under the beautiful son of Eos, without the wooden horse, without the characteristic and expressive features of the old epical war,—like the mutilated trunk of Deiphobus in the underworld; if we are asked whether there was not really some such historical Trojan war as this, our answer must be, that as the possibility of it cannot be denied, so neither can the reality of it be affirmed. We possess nothing but the ancient epic itself without any independent evidence: had it been an age of records indeed, the Homeric epic in its exquisite and unsuspecting simplicity would probably never have come into existence. Whoever therefore ventures to dissect Homer, Arktinus and Lesches, and to pick out certain portions as matters of fact, while he sets aside the rest as fiction, must do so in full reliance on his own powers of historical divination, without any means either of proving or verifying his conclusions. Among many attempts, ancient as well as modern, to identify real objects in this historical darkness, that of Dio Chrysostom deserves attention for its extraordinary boldness. In his oration addressed to the inhabitants of Ilium, and intended to demonstrate that the Trojans were not only blameless as to the origin of the war, but victorious in its issue—he overthrows all the leading points of the Homeric narrative, and re-writes nearly the whole from beginning to end: Paris is the lawful husband of Helen, Achilles is slain by Hector, and the Greeks retire without taking Troy, disgraced as well as baffled. Having shown without difficulty that the Iliad, if it be looked at as a history, is full of gaps, incongruities and absurdities, he proceeds to compose a more plausible narrative of his own, which he tenders as so much authentic matter of fact. The most important point, however, which his Oration brings to view is, the literal and confiding belief with which the Homeric narrative was regarded, as if it were actual history, not only by the inhabitants of Ilium, but also by the general Grecian public.

The small town of Ilium, inhabited by Eolic Greeks and raised into importance only by the legendary reverence attached to it, stood upon an elevated ridge forming a spur from Mount Ida, rather more than three miles from the town and promontory of Sigeium, and about twelve stadia, or less than two miles, from the sea at its nearest point. From Sigeium and the neighboring town of Achilleium (with its monument and temple of Achilles), to the town of Rhoeteium on a hill higher up the Hellespont (with its monument mid chapel of Ajax called the Aianteium), was a distance of sixty stadia, or seven miles and a half in the straight course by sea: in the intermediate space was a bay and an adjoining plain, comprehending the embouchure of the Skamander, and extending to the base of the ridge on which Ilium stood. This plain was the celebrated plain of Troy, in which the great Homeric battles were believed to have taken place: the portion of the bay near to Sigeium went by the name of the Naustathmon of the Achaeans (i.e. the spot where they dragged their ships ashore), and was accounted to have been the camp of Agamemnon and his vast army.

Historical Ilium was founded, according to the questionable statement of Strabo, during the last dynasty of the Lydian kings, that is, at some period later than 720 BC. Until after the days of Alexander the Great—indeed until the period of Roman preponderance —it always remained a place of inconsiderable power and importance, as we learn not only from the assertion of the geographer, but also from the fact that Achilleium, Sigeium and Rhoeteium were all independent of it. But inconsiderable as it might be, it was the only place which ever bore the venerable name immortalized by Homer. Like the Homeric Ilium, it had its temple of Athene, wherein she was worshipped as the presiding goddess of the town: the inhabitants affirmed that Agamemnon had not altogether destroyed the town, but that it had been reoccupied after his departure, and had never ceased to exist. Their acropolis was called Pergamum, and in it was shown the house of Priam and the altar of Zeus Herkeius where that unhappy old man had been slain: moreover there were exhibited, in the temples, panoplies which had been worn by the Homeric heroes, and doubtless many other relics appreciated by admirers of the Iliad.

These were testimonies which few persons in those ages were inclined to question, when combined with the identity of name and general locality; nor does it seem that any one did question them until the time of Demetrius of Skepsis. Hellanikus expressly described this Ilium as being the Ilium of Homer, for which assertion Strabo (or probably Demetrius, from whom the narrative seems to be copied) imputes to him very gratuitously an undue partiality towards the inhabitants of the town. Herodotus relates, that Xerxes in his march into Greece visited the place, went up to the Pergamum of Priam, inquired with much interest into the details of the Homeric siege, made libations to the fallen heroes, and offered to the Athene of Ilium his magnificent sacrifice of a thousand oxen: he probably represented and believed himself to be attacking Greece as the avenger of the Priamid family. The Lacedaemonian admiral Mindarus, while his fleet lay at Abydus, went personally to Ilium to offer sacrifice to Athene, and saw from that elevated spot the battle fought between the squadron of Dorieus and the Athenians, on the shore near Rhoeteium. During the interval between the Peloponnesian war and the Macedonian invasion of Persia. Ilium was always garrisoned as a strong position; but its domain was still narrow, and did not extend even to the sea which was so near to it. Alexander, on crossing the Hellespont, sent his army from Sestus to Abydus, under Parmenio, and sailed personally from Elaeus in the Chersonese, after having solemnly sacrificed at the Elaeuntian shrine of Protesilaus, to the harbor of the Achaeans between Sigeium and Rhoeteium. He then ascended to Ilium, sacrificed to the Eliean Athene, and consecrated in her temple his own panoply, in exchange for which he took some of the sacred arms there suspended, which were said to have been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were carried before him when he went to battle by his armor-bearers. It is a fact still more curious, and illustrative of the strong working of the old legend on an impressible and eminently religious mind, that he also sacrificed to Priam himself, on the very altar of Zeus Herkeius from which the old king was believed to have been torn by Neoptolemus. As that fierce warrior was his heroic ancestor by the maternal side, he desired to avert from himself the anger of Priam against the Achilleid race.

Alexander made to the inhabitants of Ilium many munificent promises, which he probably would have executed, had he not been prevented by untimely death: for the Trojan war was amongst all the Grecian legends the most thoroughly Pan-Hellenic, and the young king of Macedon, besides his own sincere legendary faith, was anxious to merge the local patriotism of the separate Greek towns in one general Hellenic sentiment under himself as chief. One of his successors, Antigonus, founded the city of Alexandreia in the Troad, between Sigeium and the more southerly promontory of Lektum; compressing into it the inhabitants of many of the neighboring Eolic towns in the region of Ida, — Skepsis, Kebren, Hamaxitus, Kolonae, and Neandria, though the inhabitants of Skepsis were subsequently permitted by Lysimachus to resume their own city and autonomous government. Ilium however remained without any special mark of favor until the arrival of the Romans in Asia and their triumph over Antiochus (about 190 BC). Though it retained its walls and its defensible position, Demetrius of Skepsis, who visited it shortly before that event, described it as being then in a state of neglect and poverty, many of the houses not even having tiled roofs. In this dilapidated condition, however, it was still mythically recognized both by Antiochus and by the Roman consul Livius, who went up thither to sacrifice to the Iliean Athene. The Romans, proud of their origin from Troy and Aeneas, treated Ilium with signal munificence; not only granting to it immunity from tribute, but also adding to its domain the neighboring territories of Gergis, Rhoeteium and Sigeium—and making the Ilieans masters of the whole coasts from the Peraea (or continental possessions) of Tenedos (southward of Sigeium) to the boundaries of Dardanus, which had its own title to legendary reverence as the special sovereignty of Eneas. The inhabitants of Sigeium could not peaceably acquiesce in this loss of their autonomy, and their city was destroyed by the Ilians.

The dignity and power of Ilium being thus prodigiously enhanced, we cannot doubt that the inhabitants assumed to themselves exaggerated importance as the recognized parents of all-conquering Rome. Partly, we may naturally suppose, from the jealousies thus aroused on the part of their neighbors at Skepsis and Alexandreia Troas—partly from the pronounced tendency of the age (in which Krates at Pergamum and Aristarchus at Alexandria divided between them the palm of literary celebrity) towards criticism and illustration of the old poets—a blow was now aimed at the mythical legitimacy of Ilium. Demetrius of Skepsis, one of the most laborious of the Homeric critics, had composed thirty books of comment upon the Catalogue in the Iliad: Hestiaea, an authoress of Alexandreia Troas, had written on the same subject: both of them, well-acquainted with the locality, remarked that the vast battles described in the Iliad could not be packed into the narrow space between Ilium and the Naustathmon of the Greeks; the more so, as that space, too small even as it then stood, had been considerably enlarged since the date of the Iliad by deposits at the mouth of the Skamander. They found no difficulty in pointing out topographical incongruities and impossibilities as to the incidents in the Iliad, which they professed to remove by the startling theory that the Homeric Ilium had not occupied the site of the city so called. There was a village, called the village of the Ilieans, situated rather less than four miles from the city in the direction of Mount Ida, and further removed from the sea; here, they affirmed the “holy Troy” had stood.

No positive proof was produced to sustain the conclusion, for Strabo expressly states that not a vestige of the ancient city remained at the Village of the Ilieans: but the fundamental supposition was backed by a second accessory supposition, to explain how it happened that all such vestiges had disappeared.

Nevertheless Strabo adopts the unsupported hypothesis of Demetrius as if it were an authenticated fact—distinguishing pointedly between Old and New Ilium, and even censuring Hellanikus for having maintained the received local faith. But I cannot find that Demetrius and Hestiaea have been followed in this respect by any other writer of ancient times excepting Strabo. Ilium still continued to be talked of and treated by everyone as the genuine Homeric Troy: the cruel jests of the Roman rebel Fimbria, when he sacked the town and massacred the inhabitants—the compensation made by Sylla, and the pronounced favor of Julius Caesar and Augustus,—all prove this continued recognition of identity. Arrian, though a native of Nicomedia, holding a high appointment in Asia Minor, and remarkable for the exactness of his topographical notices, describes the visit of Alexander to Ilium, without any suspicion that the place with all its relics was a mere counterfeit: Aristides, Dio Chrysostom, Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch hold the same language. But modern writers seem for the most part to have taken up the supposition from Strabo as implicitly as he took it from Demetrius. They call Ilium by the disrespectful appellation of New Ilium—while the traveler in the Troad looks for Old Ilium as if it were the unquestionable spot where Priam had lived and moved; the name is even formally enrolled on the best maps recently prepared of the ancient Troad.


Strabo has here converted into geographical matter of fact an hypothesis purely gratuitous, with a view of saving the accuracy of the Homeric topography; though in all probability the locality of the pretended Old Ilium would have been found open to difficulties not less serious than those which it was introduced to obviate. It may be true that Demetrius and he were justified in their negative argument, so as to show that the battles described in the Iliad could not possibly have taken place if the city of Priam had stood on the hill inhabited by the Ilieans. But the legendary faith subsisted before, and continued without abatement afterwards, notwithstanding such topographical impossibilities. Hellanikus, Herodotus, Mindarus, the guides of Xerxes, and Alexander, had not been shocked by them: the case of the latter is the strongest of all, because he had received the best education of his time under Aristotle—he was a passionate admirer and constant reader of the Iliad—he was moreover personally familiar with the movements of armies, and lived at a time when maps, which began with Anaximander, the disciple of Thales, were at least known to all who sought instruction. Now if, notwithstanding such advantages, Alexander fully believed in the identity of Ilium, unconscious of these many and glaring topographical difficulties, much less would Homer himself, or the Homeric auditors, be likely to pay attention to them, at a period, five centuries earlier, of comparative rudeness and ignorance, when prose records as well as geographical maps were totally unknown. The inspired poet might describe, and his hearers would listen with delight to the tale, how Hector, pursued by Achilles, ran thrice round the city of Troy, while the trembling Trojans were all huddled into the city, not one daring to come out even at this last extremity of their beloved prince—and while the Grecian army looked on, restraining unwillingly their uplifted spears at the nod of Achilles, in order that Hector might perish by no other hand than his; nor were they, while absorbed by this impressive recital, disposed to measure distances or calculate topographical possibilities with reference to the site of the real Ilium. The mistake consists in applying to Homer and to the Homeric siege of Troy, criticisms which would be perfectly just if brought to bear on the Athenian siege of Syracuse, as described by Thucydides; in the Peloponnesian war— but which are not more applicable to the epic narrative than they would be to the exploits of Amadis or Orlando.

There is every reason for presuming that the Ilium visited by Xerxes and Alexander was really the “holy Ilium” present to the mind of Homer; and if so, it must have been inhabited, either by Greeks or by some anterior population, at a period earlier than that which Strabo assigns. History recognizes neither Troy the city, nor Trojans, as actually existing; but the extensive region called Trills, or the Tread (more properly Troias), is known both to Herodotus and to Thucydides: it seems to include the territory westward of an imaginary line drawn from the northeast corner of the Adramyttian gulf to the Propontis at Parium, since both Antandrus, Kolenae, and the district immediately round Ilium, are regarded as belonging to the Troad. Herodotus further notices the Teukrians of Gergis (a township conterminous with Ilium, and lying to the eastward of the road from Ilium to Abydus), considering them as the remnant of a larger Teukrian population which once resided in the country, and which had in very early times undertaken a vast migration from Asia into Europe. To that Teukrian population he thinks that the Homeric Trojans belonged: and by later writers, especially by Virgil and the other Romans, the names Teukrians and Trojans are employed as equivalents. As the name Trojans is not mentioned in any contemporary historical monument, so the name Teukrians never once occurs in the old epic. It appears to have been first noticed by the elegiac poet Kallinus, about 660 BC, who connected it by an alleged immigration of Teukrians from Crete into the region round about Ida. Others again denied this, asserting that the primitive ancestor, Teukrus, had come into the country from Attica, or that he was of indigenous origin, born from Skamander and the nymph Idaea—all various manifestations of that eager thirst after an eponymous hero which never deserted the Greeks. Gergithians occur in more than one spot in Aeolis, even so far southward as the neighborhood of Kyme: the name has no place in Homer, but he mentions Gorgythion and Kebriones as illegitimate sons of Priam, thus giving a sort of epical recognition both to Gergis and Kebren. As Herodotus calls the old epical Trojans by the name Teukrians, so the Attic Tragedians call them Phrygians; though the Homeric hymn to Aphrodite represents Phrygians and Trojans as completely distinct, specially noting the diversity of language; and in the Iliad the Phrygians are simply numbered among the allies of Troy from the far Ascania, without indication of any more intimate relationship. Nor do the tales which connect Dardanus with Samothrace and Arcadia find countenance in the Homeric poems, wherein Dardanus is the son of Zeus, having no root anywhere except in Dardania. The mysterious solemnities of Samothrace, afterwards so highly venerated throughout the Grecian world, date from a period much later than Homer; and the religious affinities of that island as well as of Crete with the territories of Phrygia and Eolis, were certain, according to the established tendency of the Grecian mind, to beget stories of a common genealogy.


To pass from this legendary world,—an aggregate of streams distinct and heterogeneous, which do not willingly come into confluence, and cannot be forced to intermix,—into the clearer vision afforded by Herodotus, we learn from him that in the year 500 BC the whole coast-region from Dardanus southward to the promontory of Lektum (including the town of Ilium), and from Lektum eastward to Adramyttium, had been Aeolized, or was occupied by Eolic Greeks—likewise the inland towns of Skepsist and Kreben. So that if we draw a line northward from Adramyttium to Kyzikus on the Propontis, throughout the whole territory westward from that line, to the Hellespont and the Egean Sea, all the considerable towns would be Hellenic, with the exception of Gergis and the Teukrian population around it,—all the towns worthy of note were either Ionic or Eolic. A century earlier, the Teukrian population would have embraced a wider range—perhaps Skepsis and Kreben, the latter of which places was colonized by Greeks from Kyme: a century afterwards, during the satrapy of Pharnabazus, it appears that Gergis had become Hellenized as well as the rest. The four towns, Ilium, Gergis, Kebren and Skepsis, all in lofty and strong positions, were distinguished each by a solemn worship and temple of Athene, and by the recognition of that goddess as their special patroness.

The author of the Iliad conceived the whole of this region as occupied by people not Greek,—Trojans, Dardanians, Lycians, Lelegians, Pelasgians, and Cilicians. He recognizes a temple and worship of Athene in Ilium, though the goddess is bitterly hostile to the Trojans: and Arktinus described the Palladium as the capital protection of the city. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of identity between the Homeric and the historical Aeolis, is, the solemn and diffused worship of the Sminthian Apollo. Chryse, Killa and Tenedos, and more than one place called Sminthium, maintain the surname and invoke the protection of that god during later times, just as they are emphatically described to do by Homer.

When it is said that the Post-Homeric Greeks gradually Hellenized this entire region, we are not to understand that the whole previous population either retired or was destroyed. The Greeks settled in the leading and considerable towns, which enabled them both to protect one another and to gratify their predominant tastes. Partly by force—but greatly also by that superior activity, and power of assimilating foreign ways of thought to their own, which distinguished them from the beginning—they invested all the public features and management of the town with an Hellenic air, distributed all about it their gods, their heroes and their legends, and rendered their language the medium of public administration, religious songs and addresses to the gods, and generally for communications wherein any number of persons were concerned. But two remarks are here to be made: first, in doing this they could not avoid taking to themselves more or less of that which belonged to the parties with whom they fraternized, so that the result was not pure Hellenism; next, that even this was done only in the towns, without being fully extended to the territorial domain around, or to those smaller townships which stood to the town in a dependent relation. The and Ionic Greeks borrowed from the Asiatics whom they had Hellenized, musical instruments and new laws of rhythm and melody, which they knew how to turn to account: they further adopted more or less of those violent and maddening religion rites, manifested occasionally in self-inflicted suffering and mutilation, which were indigenous in Asia Minor in the worship of the Great Mother. The religion of the Greeks in the region of Ida as well as at Kyzilus was more orgiastic than the native worship of Greece Proper, just as that of Lampsacus, Priapus and Parium was more licentious. From the Teukrian region of Gergis, and from the Gergithes near Kyme, sprang the original Sibylline prophecies, and the legendary Sibyll who plays so important a part in the tale of Aeneas. The myth of the Sibyl, whose prophecies are supposed to be heard in the hollow blast bursting out from obscure caverns and apertures in the rocks, was indigenous among the Gergithian Teukrians, and passed from the Kymaeans in Aeolis, along with the other circumstances of the tale of Aeneas, to their brethren the inhabitants of Cumae in Italy. The date of the Gergithian Sibyl, or rather of the circulation of her supposed prophecies, is placed during the reign of Croesus, a period when Gergis was thoroughly Teukrian. Her prophecies, though embodied in Greek verses, had their root in a Teukrian soil and feelings; and the promises of future empire which they so liberally make to the fugitive hero escaping from the flames of Troy into Italy, become interesting from the remarkable way in which they were realized by Rome.