The History of the Trojan War
Thesis The Trojan War started in c.1200 BC when Aphrodite offered Paris of Troy Helen of Sparta for the apple of discord, He accepted her offer. Aphrodite made a plan to make Helen of Sparta fall in love with Paris; She disguised Paris as a diplomatic emissary. Then he went to Sparta, Helen welcomed him with open arms, while Menelaus was away in Crete, The god of love Eros, shot an arrow at her making her fall in love with Paris. They married and left for Troy. When Menelaus returned home from Crete, he realized that Helen had run off with Paris. He and Odysseus went to Troy to retrieve Helen, But all diplomatic attempts failed So Menelaus invoked the oath of Tyndareus and with help from his brother Agamemnon, Called all Greek leaders who had previously been in line to marry Helen to fulfill their pledge. They also needed the help of Achilles, because of the prophecy that Troy would only fall with his help. Odysseus, Telamonian Ajax, and Phoenix went to Skyros where they knew Achilles was hidden. Achilles was disguising himself as a woman, Then there, they either blew a warhorn, on the sound of which Achilles was the only woman that took a spear in hand; or they appeared as merchants selling jewels and weapons. Achilles was the single woman interested in the weapons
The reason the war started is technically that of Menelaus; he failed to sacrifice one hundred oxen to Aphrodite which began her wrath. The story of Trojan War highlights how deeply the Greeks and Trojans believed that the Gods and the rituals used to appease them affected everything they did in their daily lives.The Cause Of the Trojan WarIt started at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis where Eris, The goddess of discord, threw a golden apple to Aphrodite, Hera and Athena addressed “To the Fairest.” The reason Eris had thrown the apple was that all the Gods and Goddesses were invited attend except Eris. Zeus refused to judge the goddesses and gave the task to Paris, A mortal prince, to choose who was the fairest; He couldn’t decide between the three, so The Goddesses bribed him with gifts. Hera offered to make him king of all men if she had been chosen as the fairest, Athena promised him victory in war, and Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world. Because of her offer he selected Aphrodite, she told him that she would get him, Helen of Sparta, the only catch was that she was married to Menelaus, King of Sparta. Paris went to Sparta while Menelaus was in Crete, Helen welcomed him with open arms. Eros, God of love, shot an arrow at Helen and made her fall in love with Paris, They eloped immediately and went back to Troy.
When Menelaus came back from Crete and found out what happened, He had Odysseus go to Troy with him to retrieve Helen, When all diplomatic attempts had failed he invoked the oath of Tyndareus and with the help of his brother Agamemnon. He called all the Greek leaders who had been in line to marry Helen to fulfill their pledge. They had also needed the help of Achilles because of a prophecy that Troy would only fall with his support. Phoenix, Telamonian, Ajax, and Odysseus went to Skyros where they knew Achilles was hidden. Achilles was disguising himself as a female, Then there, they either blew a warhorn, on the sound of which Achilles was the only woman that took a spear in hand; or they appeared as merchants selling jewels and weapons. Achilles was the only female intrigued by the weaponry. The Siege Of TroyMenelaus’s brother happened to be Agamemnon, who was the most powerful king amongst the Greeks. Menelaus and Agamemnon visited all of the Greek Chieftains and persuaded them to take part in a colossal expedition which they were preparing to take down Troy, Agamemnon had been chosen as commander-in-chief; next to him were the most important Greek heroes, his brother Menelaus, Patroclus, and Achilles. Two unrelated men named Ajax, Nestor and his son Antilochus, Teucer, Idomeneus, Diomedes, Odysseus, and Philoctetes, who, however, at the very start of the expedition had to be left behind. They didn’t appear on the scene of action right until the fall of Troy.
The entire army consisted of 100,000 Greek warriors and 1,186 ships assembled in the harbor of Aulis. Before they left for the expedition, they made sacrifices to secure the favor of the gods for the voyage to Troy. While making the sacrifice, a snake darted out from under the altar, went up a tree, devoured eight young sparrows, and the mother had finally turned into stone. This omen Calchas, the seer of the host, interpreted that it meant the war would last nine years and end in the tenth year with the fall of Troy. Agamemnon had previously met an oracle from Delphi that Troy would fall when the heroes of Greece fought amongst each other. In Homer, the crossing to Troy starts immediately, but in the following story, the Greeks accidentally land in Mysia, in the country of Telephus, They’re scattered by a storm and driven back to Greece, and then assemble anew at Aulis. Once they had arrived, they learn divine disfavor is preventing them from crossing into Troy until Agamemnon agrees to sacrifices his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the enraged gods, this was an incident that was entirely unknown to Homer. After landing, skirmishing, and setting up their camp. Odysseus and Menelaus proceed as ambassadors to Troy, to demand the surrender of Helen, in spite of the inclination of Helen herself and the warning of the Trojan Antenor, never takes hold, owing to the opposition of Paris.
War was declared, the amount of the Trojans numbered less than one-tenth of the Greeks. Even though they had many brave heroes such as Glaucus, Aeneas, Sarpedon, and especially Hector, in fear of Achilles, they didn’t dare to engage a general attack and remained holed up behind massive walls protecting the city. The Greeks couldn’t do anything against the well-fortified and defended town, and see themselves confined to laying ambushes and devastating the surrounding area, and compelled by the lack of provisions, had to resort to foraging expeditions in the surrounding by sea and land by general Achilles. As the last decisive tenth year reaches, The Iliad narrates the events of this year, restricting itself to the space of fifty-one days. During the war, the Greeks have taken multiple war prizes from the encompassing countryside. One of these prizes is Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo. He came in priestly garb into the camp of the Greeks to redeem his daughter from Agamemnon. He is rudely put down, and Apollo consequently visits the Greeks with a plague. In an assembly of the Greeks requested by Achilles, the seer Calchas declares the only means of the appeasing the god to be the surrender of the girl without ransom.
Agamemnon consents to the general wish. But, in the way of compensation, takes from Achilles, who he considers to be the instigator of the whole lot, his favorite slave Briseis. Achilles withdraws, furious, to his tent and implores his mother, Thetis to attain a promise from Zeus that the Greeks should meet with disaster in fighting the Trojans until Agamemnon returns the girl and restores Achilles” honor. The Trojans immediately take the open ground, and Agamemnon is induced by a promise of victory, conveyed in a lying dream from Zeus, to start the fight. The armies are standing opposing to one another, prepared to fight when they agree to a treaty that the entire conflict will be decided by a battle fought between Paris and Menelaus. Paris is defeated in the battle and is only saved from death by the interference of Aphrodite. When Agamemnon presses for the attainment of the treaty, the Trojan Pandarus breaks the truce by shooting an arrow at Menelaus, and the treaty breaks apart. The first open pact in the war begins, in which, under the safeguard of Athena, Diomedes performs marvels of courage and damage even Ares and Aphrodite. Diomedes and the Lycian Glaucus are on the verge of fighting when they recognize one another as genealogical guest-friends and stop their fight, an indicator of how important the concept of hospitality, XENIA, in Greek. The day ends with a tentative duel between Hector and Ajax son of Telamon. They make a truce to bury their deceased, and the Greeks, acting on the input of Nestor, surrounding their camp with a wall and trench.
Once the battle begins again, Zeus forbids the gods to take part in it and imposes that the fight shall end with the defeat of the Greeks. On the following night, Agamemnon already begins to think about fleeing, but Nestor advises reconciliation with Achilles. Agamemnon sends an embassy, including Odysseus, to make amends with Achilles. The efforts of ambassadors are, however, fruitless. Then Odysseus and Diomedes go out on a night-time reconnaissance mission, kill many Trojans, and capture a Trojan spy. On a succeeding day, Agamemnon’s bravery drives the Trojans back to the walls of the town; but he, Odysseus, Diomedes, and other heroes leave the battle wounded, and the Greeks retreat behind the camp’s walls. The Trojans advance and attack the Greek walls. The resistance of the Greeks is daring, but Hector breaks the rough gate with a rock, and the stream of enemies pours itself free into the camp. Once again the Greek heroes who are still adequate and can take part in the battle, especially the two Ajaxes and Idomeneus. They become victorious with the help of Poseidon in repelling the Trojans, while Telamonian Ajax makes Hector dash to the ground with a stone; but the latter soon reappears on the battlefield with the new strength given to him by Apollo at the order of Zeus. Poseidon is obliged to leave the Greeks to their fate; they retire again to the ships, which Ajax in vain defends. The Trojans advance still further to where they can begin torching the Greek ships. Hector and Achilles this point, Achilles allows his friend Patroclus to borrow his armor and enter the battle with their set of soldiers to help the distressed Greeks. Supposing it to be Achilles himself, the Trojans in fear flee from the camp before Patroclus, who chases them to the town and lays low vast numbers of the enemy, including the brave Sarpedon, whose corpse is only rescued from the Greeks after a relentless fight.
At last Patroclus himself is killed by Hector with the help of Apollo; Achilles” arms are lost, and even the corpse is with difficulty saved. And now Achilles repents of his anger, reconciles himself to Agamemnon, and on the following day, furnished with new and splendid armor by Hephaestus at the request of Thetis, avenges the death of his friend on countless Trojans and finally on Hector himself. The Iliad closes with the burial of Patroclus and the funeral games initiated in his honor, the restoration of Hector’s corpse to Priam, and the burying of Hector, for which Achilles allows an armistice of eleven days. Immediately after the death of Hector, the following legends bring the Amazons to the help of the Trojans, and their queen Penthesilea is killed by Achilles. Then arrives Memnon at the head of an Ethiopian contingent. He slays Antilochus son of Nestor but is also killed by Achilles. Death of Achilles now comes to the fulfillment of the oracle given to Agamemnon at Delphi; for at a sacrificial banquet a violent quarrel arises between Achilles and Odysseus, the latter declaring craft and not valor to be the only means of destroying Troy. Soon after, in an attempt to force a way into the hostile town through the Scaean gate, Achilles falls, killed by the arrow of Paris, directed by the god. After his burial, Thetis offers the arms of her son as a prize for the bravest of the Greek heroes, which provokes a fight among the Greeks for the title and the arms. Odysseus wins, and his main competition, the Telamonian Ajax, kills himself.
Trojan Horse: An Analysis of Accepting Such a ‘Gift’
The Hollow Horse
One of the main stories told throughout Greek mythology is the story of the Trojan War. In the story, the Greeks and The Trojans battle for the fair Helen. When it appeared that the Greeks had lost, they set sail, leaving behind a wooden horse. When Troy decided that they were victorious, they accepted the giant wooden horse into the gates of the city. Little did the Trojans know that inside the hollow horse, Greek soldiers were hiding, awaiting nightfall. The decision of the Trojans to accept the horse was ultimately a bad decision.
When the Trojans saw the magnificent horse, they looked upon it as a trophy. Although Cassandra the prophetess and Laocoön the priest of Apollo had both argued against allowing the horse into the gates, the Trojans ignored the warnings (“The Trojan War: c. 1200 BCE”). Cassandra was cursed by Apollo to always predict the truth but to never be believed. She warned Paris not to go to Sparta. She “continued to predict the calamities in store for the Trojans” but was never listened to (Bell 161). Laocoön also warned the Trojans not to allow the horse into the gates when he said, “I fear the Greeks even when they offer gifts” (Laocoön 633). He too was ignored and was punished by the gods for his warnings (Laocoön 634). The giant horse loomed outside of the gates while the soldiers inside held their breath, waiting for victory. When the Trojans had come upon the statue, “they believed it meant that the Greeks had withdrawn, leaving them the victors” (“The Trojan War: c. 1200 BCE”). The tremendous statue was allowed into the city of Troy. When day turned to night, the Greeks snuck out of the statue and destroyed the city of Troy. Fires were created and men were killed. Women and children were stolen from their homes and sent or sold away.
The idea only sprouted because the Greeks were losing the battle of Troy. Helen had been stolen from the Spartans and Menelaus was furious. His army was determined to get her back for their king. The giant horse was created by the Greeks under Odysseus’ command. Odysseus knew that trickery would be the only way to win against Troy. Odysseus had “ordered a gigantic wooden horse to be built, hollow inside to accommodate many Greek soldiers.” (“The Trojan War: c. 1200 BCE”). With the hope of tricking the Trojans into accepting the horse, Odysseus and other Greek soldiers hid in the hollow horse while the rest of the Greek soldiers were sent home on their ships. Just Sinon was left behind in order to trick the soldiers into accepting the gift (“The Trojan War: c. 1200 BCE”). The Trojans were so overcome with excitement, that they accepted the horse as a trophy with little thought.
Allowing the horse into Troy was a bad decision because Troy was taken over and fell with the Trojan War. The Trojan War “lasted ten years and was successful only because of the Trojan Horse, a work of deception” (“War Engines: Land and Sea”). If Odysseus had not thought of the giant statue, the Trojans would have won the war. Despite the multiple warnings toward the Trojans, the “gift” was accepted into the gates of the city. The Trojans “dragged the horse inside the walls and held a raucous celebration. Late in the night, after the drunken revelers had fallen asleep, Odysseus and his men climbed out of the horse and sacked the city. Menelaus returned home with Helen” (“The Trojan War: c. 1200 BCE”). The city of Troy fell and the Greeks were victorious. The lesson the Trojans learned with their ten years war was that things aren’t always what they appear and that one should always look a little deeper into what appears to be a victory. They also learned that Cassandra had been right all along (Cassandra 209). This helped lead to the classic Greek mythological idea of fate and destiny.
The famous Greek myth of The Trojan War is an excellent example of a decision gone wrong. The decision of the people of Troy led to the downfall of the city. Ignoring the warnings of those who opposed the giant horse, Troy was destroyed by the clever Greek men hiding inside. The one decision that was made completely changed the outcome of many lives.
Trojan War, Homer and the other Historical Embracements of Iliad
For centuries, Homer’s epic Iliad was taken as literal interpretation of the Trojan War. Only rather recently has the reliability and accuracy of the Iliad in terms of depicting the war come into question. Modern historians and scholars have come to the same conclusion that the Iliad is not to be perceived as entirely historically accurate. In order to assess the amount of historical knowledge that is present, and the reliability of the epic as a literary source, the Homeric Question comes into play, along with the perspectives historians and scholars hold of the poem and the archaeological evidence of the Trojan War in correlation to the Iliad.
The Homeric Question calls into question the identity of Homer and the authorship of the Iliad (and the Odyssey). The origin and authorship of the poem is vital in this discussion as it depicts the reliability of the literary work. All known information on Homer was derived from the knowledge of the ancient Greeks; hence, it is most likely biased material as Homer’s work was deeply admired and was highly influential on the Greek culture. Ancient historians and scholars disagreed on the time frame of his life, yet everyone believed that he was blind, a statement based solely on a character in the Odyssey who was written as a blind bard. It was also generally assumed that Homer composed his epic poems with the aid of writing; however, in the eighteenth century the possibility of Homeric illiteracy was proposed. Scholar Robert Wood suggested that Homer had been as illiterate as his own characters from the Iliad. This proposal raised the question of how Homer composed the long poems he was credited with, if he was illiterate. It was later answered by Friedrich August Wolf’s thesis that the Iliad originally was an oral composition, and that, preserved by memory, it was eventually compiled into a form similar to the current Iliad. The Iliad being regarded as an oral history and being passed down by word of mouth are factors that immediately change its validity, as oral histories are significantly less reliable than those written down; memory can be easily manipulated, causing such history to be imperfect and subject to change. Thus, oral histories have the ability to be fluid and changeable. Similarly, Giambattista Vico claims that the Homeric poems were not the creation of one man, but rather the products of generations of nameless bards that refined the epics, a theory that dispels Homer as the true author. This theory is the most plausible, as it explains the inconsistences of the narrative and the poetic language used in the Iliad. Therefore, if the Homeric Question raises valid doubts and the epic poem was based on numerous differing perspectives and went through a process of refinement, it affects the overall reliability and accuracy of the depiction of the Trojan War.
The Iliad remains a subject of debate to historians and scholars alike in regards to its historicity. Modern historians generally agree that the Iliad reflects a set of historical events but that the accuracy of the Iliad regarding those events varies. Nevertheless, it is not possible to separate fact from pure myth in the poem because there is not enough evidence produced about those historical events. Historian Moses Finley notes that the Iliad was not a contemporary and historical work, but rather one of reflection and nostalgia. It is believed by countless others that the epic poem was a subjective piece of literature, due to its glorification of war. In contrast, Herodotus and Thucydides gave weight to Homer’s words in the Iliad and used the Homeric epics as a source of information about ancient Greece and its past, as the poem reflected upon the ideals and morals of Greek society. Both historians believed that the Iliad did illustrate the events of the Trojan War, yet even so, Herodotus disagreed with Homer’s account of the abduction of Helen and accused him of favouring that version in order to suit his narrative and to enhance the drama. This disparity signifies the variety of possible versions of the Trojan War, in the absence of knowledge of the accurate account. Consequently, this reading impacts the validity of Homer’s Iliad, as there is no supporting evidence that his depiction of the events is entirely accurate. The viewpoints of modern and ancient historians differ as they are influenced by their historical periods, along with their own values and perspectives that lead to opposing opinions in the ongoing debate about the historicity of the Iliad. As more is discovered of the Bronze Age, Finley concludes that the Iliad contains historical knowledge of the Greek Dark Age, or of Mycenaean Greece. Historians similarly analyze the bardic traditions of ancient Greek in order to assess the historicity of the epic poem. Being that the Iliad was an oral composition, bards spoke and sang the story, naturally causing it to be subject to slight changes and improvisations during the course of reciting and delivering. This reflects on the aforementioned unreliability of oral histories. Bards rely on improvisation each time they deliver the narrative, without regards to historical accuracy or linguistic consistency; they follow the outline of the story but the oral text itself is changeable. It is impossible to identify which version of the Iliad was written down and recorded in history. Through an analysis of the different perspectives that historians and scholars hold of the Iliad, it is evident that there is a discrepancy among the perspectives. This discrepancy is due to the absence of independent evidence about the historical events that occurred in ancient Greece in terms of the Iliad’s reliability.
Passages in the Iliad seem to correspond with the archaeological evidence found of the Trojan War, which supports the debate about the epic poem holding some form of reliable historical accuracy in its contents. Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist, had complete faith in the historicity of the Iliad; he took it as the literal truth and set out to discover the city of Troy using the poem as a map of the area. Schliemann’s biased expectations inadvertently lead him to destroy the remains of other possible artefacts that supported Homer’s Troy. However, Schliemann’s excavations at Troy and Mycenae revealed newfound information about a previously unknown Bronze Age civilization; its weapons, bronze armor, and various other objects seemed to correspond to Homer’s descriptions and the date of these artifacts coincided with the theorized date of the Trojan War. Modern archaeologists currently understand Troy VIIa as the Troy depicted in the Iliad. The cause of the fall of Troy Vlla appears to have been caused by warfare, perhaps from the Trojan War. The size of the city correlates with the size of Troy depicted in the Iliad, thus further validating the possible historical knowledge present in the epic tradition. The Iliad corresponding to the archaeological evidence found among Hissarlike disproves the theory that the Iliad is purely legendary; however much it romanticizes and glorifies, it does in fact hold some significant historical basis of a city similar to Homer’s Troy existing at the same time as the assigned date of the Trojan War.
The question of the reliability of Homer’s epic Iliad and the authenticity and dependability of the poem in relation to its depiction of the historicity of the Trojan War can be analyzed through the Homeric Question, in regards to the possibility of the Iliad being composed by an assembly of people. This question frames the perspectives of historians and scholars, the debate that arises over historical accuracy, and the consideration of how descriptions in the Iliad coincide with archaeological evidence of the Trojan War. One may conclude that this debate about the Iliad as an accurate source is ongoing, so long as much information about Homeric Age is still unknown and lost in history.
The Archetypical Character of the Trojan War: Its Reflection in Art
There have been many iterations of the tale of the Trojan War, with the Iliad being the most referenced account of the heroes that fought. William Shakespeare, having borrowed heavily from fellow writer Geoffrey Chaucer, recounts the Trojan War with the same events and heroes. However, in true Shakespeare style, the famous playwright offers his own spin on such events and heroes, introducing a very distinct sense of realism throughout the conflict in his play Troilus and Cressida. The Greek deities’ roles in the retelling are reduced to the point of non-existence, only referred to by name to those involved. Shakespeare’s break from tradition with the Homeric Iliad is evident in how Shakespeare portrays the heroes on either side of the conflict, his abandonment of the Greek deities’ actions, and the various anachronisms he introduces in his play. Shakespeare takes the legendary Iliad and draws the epicness out of it, replacing it, in his play, with a deep sense of realism in the heroes and plot.
The first hero of note to display Shakespeare’s break from tradition also happens to arguably be the most powerful warrior in the conflict, Achilles. In Mark Edwards’ take on the Iliad, the god Apollo’s rage-fueled plague against the Greeks “based not only on his support for Hector and Troy but probably also on the tale that Achilles killed young Troilus, Priam’s son, in the temple of Apollo” (304). The fact that Homer initially depicted Achilles as Troilus’s murderer apparently did not sit well for the plot of Shakespeare’s play as Troilus is one of the titular and thus significant characters. Interestingly, Achilles, by comparison, is given a minimized role in the play. This is interesting because the Iliad is sometimes referred to as the rage of Achilles, so the break from tradition in this instance of Achilles is clear.
Achilles’s relationships with others form an important part of the Iliad: his hatred of Agamemnon, his respect for Priam, his disgust with Thersites; but Shakespeare too breaks from tradition with this subject as well. In the Iliad, for example, according to Robert Fagles’s version, in regards to Thersites, supposedly the truth teller of the common Greek warrior, “Achilles despised him most” (II.256). Because of Thersites’s brutal honesty in how the Greek commanders are faring, there are very few among the leadership that hold him in high regard. In Troilus and Cressida however, upon one of the interactions with Thersites, Achilles offers him to feast with him. After a particularly deep lone lamentation on the part of Thersites, Achilles later asks why he has not joined him in feasts, “Where…Art thou come?…why hast thou not served thyself in to my table so many meals? Come, what’s Agamemnon?” (II.iii, 40-43). Achilles first asks where has Thersites been in his railing against the Greek leadership, extends a warm embrace in including Thersites in his feasts, and then empathetically asks what is Agamemnon to Thersites in a spirit of understanding. This represents a difference in relations between the Iliad and in Troilus and Cressida. In the Iliad, as plainly stated, Thersites is despised by all, including Achilles who is said to despise him most, yet in Troilus and Cressida, he extends the hand of friendship and understanding because they both, in reality, share the same message: this is not their war, this is Agamemnon and Menelaus’s war. Thus, Shakespeare openly breaks from tradition by including Achilles’s near brotherly manner towards Thersites, despite the insults occasionally slung his way.
The manner in which Achilles handles such insults, whether directed at him or to his cousin Patroclus, also shows Achilles rather cool headed demeanor in contrast to the fiery wrath portrayed in Homer’s Iliad. When invited to join Achilles in his feasts, Achilles seeks to understand Thersites’s views more completely and bids him to talk. The roles that Achilles, Thersites, and even Patroclus have is brought up for discussion, but it does not appear as though Achilles allows these words to affect him even as Thersites turns the subject into a slight against Patroclus. “Peace, fool! I have not done,” Thersites exclaims to Patroclus, to which Achilles responds “He is a privileged man. Proceed Thersites” (Act II.iii 56-57). Thersites had just railed on Patroclus, calling him a fool and both Patroclus and Achilles know well of Thersites’s vehement hatred towards Agamemnon along with most of the leaders of the Greek army. While Patroclus is quick to shut Thersites down, Achilles is the sympathetic voice, and perhaps it is because in truth, Achilles and Thersites share the same viewpoints on the Trojan War: that it is a useless war based on ego and greed. Achilles welcomes Thersites’s continued criticisms if for no other reason but to understand him better than he may understand himself perhaps. It is with this relationship with Thersites that Shakespeare perhaps offers one of the more acute breaks from tradition.
Finally, near the end of Troilus and Cressida, the differences of Achilles’s actions and character are completed as Shakespeare rewrites how Achilles ends Hector’s life. In the Iliad, Homer states that Achilles had a divine intervention: Athena had disguised herself as Hector’s ally, Deiphobus, in his frantic duel with an enraged Achilles. It was only after the illusion disappeared, that Achilles killed Hector, who was still completely armed and thus died an honorable death (XXII.248-432). However, Shakespeare has decreed that there would be no mystic forces or deities in his play Troilus and Cressida; he once again departs from tradition by offering a different rendition of Hector’s death.
Hector’s end, as depicted in the Iliad compared to the scene from Troilus and Cressida, does not come nearly so honorably on the part of Achilles who has ample assistance against an unarmed Hector. Near the end of another day of battle, Hector prematurely begins to disarm himself “Rest, sword, thou hast thy fill of blood and death.” Not one moment passes by when Achilles and his gang of Myrmidons interrupts Hector in his apparent reverie, “Look, Hector, how the sun begins to set…To close the day up, Hector’s life is done.” Hector pleads with Achilles to face him when he is armed, “Forgo this vantage, Greek.” Achilles, uncaringly, commands his men to attack “Strike, fellows, strike! This is the fellow I seek,” and Hector is then killed (V.viii, 4-10). It is clear here that Achilles does not care whether Hector’s death is honorable or not, and there is no confirmation even that Achilles was the one who had dealt the deathblow to Hector. Whether Patroclus’s death earlier in the play enraged Achilles to the point of not caring about honor or Achilles thought that Hector was admittedly foolish to disarm on the field and thus deserved his death all the more is quite open to interpretation. However, it is clear that Achilles’s killing of Hector was completely devoid of mysticism and honor, bravery and glory as told in the epic, thus confirming once more of Shakespeare’s break from the story told in The Iliad.
On the discussion of characters, one of the main characters in Troilus and Cressida, Pandarus, varies greatly from the play as compared to the epic of the Iliad. Pandarus, in the Iliad, is an archer who was a keen hunter and, following a brief truce between the opposing forces, is tempted by Athena with promises of glory and prizes were he to fell Menelaus with a single arrow. However, once the arrow is launched, Athena turns what may have been a fatal shot into a wounding one and thus the brutal war begins anew (IV.99-153). Comparing to the smooth talking, shady panderer that Shakespeare portrays in Troilus and Cressida, one could almost assume that it was a different Pandarus mentioned in the Iliad by how different the two are in their roles. The only similarities between the two depictions of Pandarus is that the Trojan warriors in the Iliad sought to block the view of Pandarus’s shot from the Greeks so he may aim critically without being seen, and perhaps there is some symbolism for that in Troilus and Cressida as Pandarus’s motives too are hard to truly derive. In a way, Shakespeare twists the character of Pandarus to suit his own needs to tell the story. While Pandarus was only famous for his missed shot in the Iliad as an archer, he is known to have hidden aims and is known to be a master manipulator in the Shakespeare’s play: a break from tradition most assuredly, but somewhat of a symbolic gesture one could assume.
Shakespeare’s handling of characters is not in the least what changes when comparing the Iliad to Troilus and Cressida; being a man of his times, Shakespeare twists his retelling of the events of the Iliad to relate to the audience by eschewing the Greek deities’ interventions and references to titles and sayings of religious nature. These anachronisms serve to further part Homer and Shakespeare in their respective tales. First, it is important to note that absolutely nowhere within Troilus and Cressida are there divine interventions of any kind. The mortals of the play only mention the deities by name, and only then by their Roman names. This is significant because it is theorized the survivors of Troy went on to found Rome, thus many believe that Shakespeare went so far as to favor the Trojans, supported by the cowardly acts of Achilles and the brutish demeanors of the Greeks towards Cressida.
One could even note that, given Shakespeare’s hinted religious affiliations in nearly all of his plays, that the connection made to Rome holds special significance in Troilus and Cressida. Rome, after all, is the birthplace of Catholicism, and once again, in true Shakespeare style, the playwright offers many small references to the faith. What’s more is it is entirely possible to complete the analogy of comparing to the Trojans to Rome by comparing the Greeks to England. It is no secret that in the 16th century, Henry VIII severed all ties from the Catholic Church after several disputes over the annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Therefore, the comparison is now complete: covertly, the Trojans represented Rome and Catholicism while the Greeks represented the onslaught of Protestantism in the hearts and minds of the English led by King Henry VIII. It is important to note that this may be one of the subtler, yet controversial changes to the tone of the events originally portrayed by Homer as Shakespeare may have intended to spread his own views throughout the play.
Various anachronisms introduced by Shakespeare serve to further differentiate Homer’s work from the famous playwright. On the subject of religion, the characters of Troilus and Cressida, as indicated earlier, introduce the saying of amen in agreement or assertion of a point, something purely Christian in nature. Achilles, as a matter of fact, makes a reference to the Virgin Mary, perhaps hinting at Shakespeare’s own religious preference as Achilles begins talking of the visit by Hector and oncoming lottery. “Marry, this, sir, is proclaimed” (II.i, 120). Marry is taken to mean as though Achilles is stating ‘by the Virgin Mary’, in the same manner as one might say ‘by God’ in today’s time. Lastly, the introduction of the title of knight throughout Troilus and Cressida is another anachronism for the term knight implies nobility, honor, and chivalry and while this may have been a romantic term well known to the audience, such a title simply did not exist back in Homer’s era. These anachronisms, as a whole, assist Shakespeare in taking Homer’s Iliad and evolving it into a story more suited for his own needs and telling in Troilus and Cressida.
By portraying the Trojan War as thus, Shakespeare makes a statement of sorts: that sometimes heroes an audience glorifies are nothing more than mortals who share many of the same flaws and misgivings as the audience. The Greeks did not gain the honor they sought by attacking and sacking Troy in Troilus and Cressida, rather it is possible Shakespeare made an example of the Greeks’ lecherous and cowardly ways. Shakespeare morphs the heroes he depicts in his adaptation to more closely reflect his vision of realism in such times. More than that, Shakespeare perhaps introduces a bit of his own spirituality by the mentions of amen to seal powerful sayings, and even calling on the icon of the Virgin Mary. In the end, these anachronisms serve to further divide the play of Troilus and Cressida from the epic of Homer’s Iliad, and though Shakespeare may have been a fan of the epic, he clearly also had his reservations and critiques. By adapting Chaucer’s earlier work, Shakespeare gets to reinvent Homer’s epic in his own personal interpretation while dialing back the ferocity and power of both sides’ heroes to more realistic levels and removing all divine intervention save calling of Greek deities’ names. Plainly stated, Shakespeare’s telling of Troilus and Cressida can be described as an anti-Homeric Iliad, and perhaps he sought by taking the epic out of the epic, his audience could more closely connect with the heroes and ideals in this ancient war of pride, lust, and greed.