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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > May 2016 > Myth-busting the Battle of Troy

Myth-busting the Battle of Troy

Forbidden love, bloody battles, that wooden horse... The story of Troy is an enduring one, but how true is it? It’s time to sift fact from fiction
GIFT HORSE According to Homer’s Iliad, the curious Trojans warmly welcomed the strange wooden horse... to their ultimate cost
ALAMY X1, GETTY X1

You could say that one of the biggest box office smashes of the past 15 years was three millennia in the making. When Troy was released in 2004, thousands of movie-lovers across the globe thrilled to the film’s high-octane battle sequences, expansive scenery and, no doubt, the sight of Brad Pitt, Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom running around without many clothes on.

There is, of course, nothing new in this. For the story of the Trojan Wars has been thrilling audiences for almost 3,000 years, ever since it was first brought to life by a shadowy Greek poet called Homer in his epic poem The Iliad.

We don’t know much about Homer. We can’t be sure when he lived, though many historians place him in the eighth century BC. Some have even questioned whether a man named Homer lived at all. But there’s one thing that we do know for sure. And that’s that the tale he popularised all those years ago has proved one of the most irresistible in human history.

“ The whole story of the Trojan War is a compelling one for the ages,” declared the renowned archaeologist Eric H Cline. “It’s love and war, it’s greed, it’s desire. You name it, it has elements that compel the human psyche, and have for millennia.”

This amazing story begins when a Trojan prince, Paris, seduces Helen, the beautiful wife of King Menelaus, and spirits her back to Troy. Menelaus is, unsurprisingly, none too pleased at this turn of events and is hellbent on winning Helen back. So, with the help of his brother Agamemnon, the mighty king of Mycenae, Menelaus assembles a fleet of more than1,000 Greek ships to set sail for Troy and place it under siege.

In this epic clash of kingdoms, Menelaus seemingly holds all the cards: the combined might of much of the Greek world, control of the seas and an unquenchable thirst for revenge. He can also call upon the services of the world’s greatest warrior, Achilles, who is utterly invincible, we’re told – apart from his famously vulnerable heel.

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The May 2016 issue of History Revealed
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