fall of troyPreviously Balladeer’s Blog examined three of the neglected tales from the Epic Cycle which dealt with the Trojan War. First came Cypria, then after skipping The Iliad because of how well-known it is I moved on to Aethiopis and then last week I examined Iliad Minor.

SACK OF TROY aka Sack of Ilion is credited to Arktinos of Miletos in the 770’s BCE. The previous epic Iliad Minor wrapped up with the Greek warriors springing out of the Trojan Horse and at last triumphing over King Priam and his Trojans. Sack of Troy rehashes a few story elements, backing up to cover the construction of the Trojan Horse and the Trojans ignoring the prophet Cassandra’s warnings about the Horse. New elements are the arguments the Trojans have about possibly burning the Horse or rolling it off a cliff into the sea before deciding to take it inside the city gates.

During the celebrations for what the Trojans think is their victory over the Greeks two serpents bit and killed the priest of Apollo named Laocoon and one of his sons. The Trojans called an end to the feast and retired for the evening, their spirits dampened. The Greek soldiers emerged from the Trojan Horse after most of the Trojans were asleep and started slaying the Trojans, taking time out to allow their returned comrades to enter Troy to bring their numbers up.

Much pride was taken over which Greek warrior killed which Trojan and also, given the time period, which Trojan woman or women they took as sex-toys. Taking Trojan women who had been aristocrats was a particular sign of status. To name just a few Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, killed King Priam and Odysseus killed Astyanax (Hector’s son) by throwing him from the top of the city walls to his death. Neoptolemus then seized Astyanax’s wife Andromache.

Philoctetes, still wielding the poison-tipped arrows of Herakles, killed Deioneus, Peirasus and Medon. Menelaus killed Deiphobus, the Trojan who had taken possession of Helen after Paris, her abductor, had been killed earlier in the war. With Helen thus freed and returned to the arms of her husband Menelaus the original cause of the war was resolved. Meanwhile Demophon and Acamus took the Trojan woman Aethra. 

Contradicting the account given in Iliad Minor Ajax (Aias) is shown still alive and not fully losing his sanity until the carnage during the destruction of Troy. As I’ve often pointed out, every belief system in the world has contradictory elements in their sacred texts. Even the Koran and the Bible are loaded with differing accounts that are impossible to reconcile. (To further complicate the issue many accounts claim that Ajax the Lesser is the figure  behind the events in The Sack of Troy. I’ll detail Ajax the Lesser much more in the next epic in the cycle)    

Other contradictions between Sack of Troy and Iliad Minor:

* Ajax (Aias) is not only still alive in the Sack of Troy but he drags Cassandra from the Temple of Athena in Troy, damaging a figure of the goddess in the process. The other Greeks want to stone him for this offense but he seeks shelter in the temple and avoids this fate.

* The figure of Athena that Ajax disfigured is said to be the REAL Palladion and we’re told the one that Odysseus and Diomedes stole in Iliad Minor was a fake. This contradicts not only the original event but also the entire purpose for stealing the Palladion in the first place. In Iliad Minor the Palladion is “the luck of Troy” and stealing this charm dooms the city-state to destruction. 

* Aeneas was captured in Iliad Minor but in Sack of Troy is still within the walls of Troy. He interprets the death of Laocoon and his son as a bad omen and flees Troy with his followers before the Greeks unleash destruction. (Of course centuries later the Roman poet Vergil – in his epic poem The Aeneid – would use the survival of Aeneas as the basis for his mythic depiction of the Romans being descendants of the Trojans via Aeneas.)  

* The doctors Machaon and Podalirius are both alive in Sack of Troy, even though Machaon was killed in Iliad Minor. In a further contradicition the two healers are depicted as sons of Poseidon in this epic rather than as sons of the medicine god Asclepius. They are also given specialties this time around with Machaon strictly a surgeon and Podalirius strictly a diagnostician and pharmaceutical healer. (And thus the “surgeons vs doctors” rivalry on Scrubs was born. I’m kidding.) 

Returning to the narrative with all resistance finally stamped out the Greeks divide up the rest of the spoils and women. They also sacrifice the Trojan woman Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles. Euripides’ tragedy The Trojan Women is a good source for other bits of business about the fall of Troy and its aftermath including the fate of Hecuba.

The Greeks burn what is left of Troy and prepare to depart. An air of doom hangs over their presumed victory as the goddess Athena plans to punish all of the Greeks for Ajax’s defilement of her temple. This leads into the next epic in the cycle, which I’ll examine next.


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  1. Pingback: ILIAD MINOR: THE ANCIENT GREEK EPIC | Balladeer's Blog

  2. Years later Odysseus’ son Telegonus of Circe came from the sea and plundered the island thinking it was Corcyra. Odysseus and Telemachus, defended their city and Telegonus accidentally killed his father with the spine of a stingray . He brought the body back to Aeaea and took Penelope, Odysseus’ widow, and Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, with him. Circe made them immortal and married Telemachus, while Telegonus made Penelope his wife. This is where the tale of the Trojan War for Greek mythology ends. According to a Roman tradition Odysseus did not die this way: when old he took a ship to sea and, crossing the Pillars of Heracles he discovered the estuary of the Tagus river and found there the city of Lisbon .

  3. Odd and obscure shit! Love the Trojan War!

  4. Stephen: I am interested in your Letters in the Mail subscription. I am a high school English teacher, and that i believed this could be a excellent way to get my students to write responding to the letters. Nonetheless, We have to be certain that the topics from the letters will likely be appropriate for my students 9, 10, and 11th graders. Will you please comment on what the topics are going to be in general? Thank you.

  5. there are some stories that will actually make a difference in your life. epics and mythology stories are one of them.

  6. there are some stories that will really make an impact on person’s life, & epics and mythology stories are one of them.

  7. Chang

    Any chance of you looking at more Chinese epics outside of Yi the Divine Archer?

  8. Eileen M

    I like this! I never knew that all of this was not in the Illiad.

  9. Darrick

    Ugly stuff going down here!

  10. Merle

    This is a excellent blog, would you like to do an interview with me so I can run it at my blog?

  11. Deon

    Loving these ancient epics!