How and Why the Trojan War Happened. (From a Mythological Standpoint)
Throughout my time in Greek Mythology (and now Tragedy) I’ve had a theory that has seen some pretty good support from the stories that have been left for us to examine. The problem I had before (other than a forced word count) was what the purpose of my theory was, I refuse to accept that anything happens ‘just because’ even if an explanation is merely a more detailed form of that response. Causes and Effects are wondrous things that keep me awake on many a night. The theory is that the Trojan war, much like (I feel) all wars before and after it, in the fact that it was inevitable given the events transpiring a while before it. However unlike modern world wars, wars on terror, and wars on rap music (down with yee!) this was a war laid out by the Greek gods themselves.
Who was involved? Physically on the spectrum of humans (and heroes) we likely can involve Hector, Heracles, Helen, Xanthus, Paris, Priam, Philoctetes, Laomedon, Ajax, Helen, Menelaus, Pandarus, and Patrocalus…woo yeah quite a few people most of which word feels are real names. But who amongst the gods are involved? As it stands I feel we can accuse Zeus, Apollo, Eris, Ares, Athena, Artemis, and likely anyone who placed their godly feet at the lands of either Athens or Troy.
So where does it all begin? Well I feel that we can safely start things with the wildly famous son of Zeus (one of many)-Heracles. For those who know a bit about Greek history it is quite obvious that Heracles was not physically a participant, he died a comfortable distance (in time) before the Trojan war. He never even met Paris, who would be the playboy largely accused for the Trojan war (perhaps unfairly), however he did meet and kill someone very important to Paris. Heracles killed a man by the name of Laomedon, who was the father of a man known as Priam, who consequently was the father of Paris. So many years before Paris was alive the involvement of godly entities in his bloodline was present.
I only mention this because it is by Hercules’ own bow and arrows handed down to Philoctetes, that will indeed poison and kill Paris. It would be (to me) ironic likewise that the very Zeus-like attitude of Paris "if it moves, and is sexy, mate with it" that would end up being the final nail in his coffin. A beautiful nymph that Paris originally found himself in the bed of (before his later rendezvous with Helen) could have easily cured him, however by breaking her heart he ended up dying outside the doors of her shack. A bit of a tangent but I found it funny that by acting like the most successful of Greek gods he would suffer such a terrible end. It may have had to do with the fact that Zeus’s own son had killed his grandfather, setting the precedent that their bloodlines did not peacefully sync. But back on track…
Returning back to the time preceding the Trojan war, there is a series of unfortunate (for the Greeks) events transpiring above the clouds. The events of the heroes below tie in like the string of the fates, this is not an accident by any means. This is likely because of the combined powers of Apollo and Prometheus (without whom it is blatantly obvious that the Greek gods would do terribly in their manipulative attempts). Anyone who thinks otherwise would be well to remember that Zeus, powerful enough to defeat his father (Kronos) who was himself powerful enough to defeat one of the original gods of the universe (Ouranos), could not even end the life of humanity (not for naught of trying either). With the previous piece of information in mind we move onto an event that I originally viewed as accidental but now feels very planned, much like the rest of the things you’ll read here. Zeus after a failed interrogation was (for reasons unknown) finally gifted with the information that had terrorized him for quite a while by a Titan known as Prometheus. Prometheus has arguably one of the greatest powers in the entire Greek universe, he can literally see the future, Prometheus is so powerful that unlike Apollo it would appear that Prometheus can even change the future. Prometheus knew that the lust of Zeus would inevitably cause him to bear a child that will be more powerful than him, much like he was the child that defeated his father, and his father was the child that defeated his grandfather. Perhaps on retrospect this is why Paris was defeated by his own lust, he did not have the forethought necessary to defeat a self destructive trait. More on that later.
Zeus would in his limited wisdom (granted greatly by the consumption of his first wife; Metis the goddess of Wisdom. Who was so wise that her essence would grow within Zeus and sprout from his head (with some assistance from his new Wife’s defunct son Hephaestus) as an entirely separate entity; Athena. I don’t think this was a deed that Zeus did actively, it seemed symbolic of his inability to grasp onto Wisdom (as an entity of raw power). It was with his limited wisdom and somewhat sly nature (still retaining some of his Daughter’s military tact) that he decided now knowing the target of his lust that he would marry her with some modern human. Surely doing so would protect him from his own groin from inevitably defeating him. The wonderful woman’s name was Thetis, a gorgeous sea nymph that would turn most male deities hearts to mush. The decision was to marry her to a man named Peleus, if memory serves he was your average farmer, while that might not be accurate the important information is that he’s merely mortal. A lucky mortal to say the least.
This wedding, much like the birth of Athena, was a huge deal. If you were a god worth mentioning you were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, in fact all the gods were invited to the wedding except for one, Eris, the Goddess of Discord. I thought at first this was because Zeus knew what she would do if she was invited, than overtime it hit me, it’s not that he knew what she would do had she been invited, he knew what she would do had she not been invited. Likely by discussing the situation with Apollo and/or (more likely) Prometheus, seeing as after the events of Prometheus bound the two had a wobbly but peaceful relationship (finally).
Poseidon’s gift to the wedding were two horses known as Xanthus and Barius, with (likely) the obvious knowledge from Prometheus that they’d play a large part in the upcoming war by the very powerful child that the couple would bear. Eris dropped the Apple of Discord into the wedding, this apple was said to be for the "fairest" at the wedding. It would initiate a scuffle between three goddess’ Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Zeus took the apple and handed it off to the human most like him, Paris. This is twofold, Zeus knows that only a complete fool blinded by lust would ever tell any number of Goddess’ (higher than 1) that they are fairer than those around them…short of perhaps getting to bed them all at once and he knew that Paris much like him was someone just horny enough to make such a foolish move.
If all of the gods were in agreement in the war of Athens and Troy the war would be extremely short lived, this was not the desire of the gods (to be explained soon). Aphrodite must like the Trojans was an entity more so of passion than thought (according to the Athenian gods). Zeus likewise knew that if offered power, wisdom, or sex that he’d choose a good lay in a second (albeit for him his own libido is what gave him a powerful Olympian family), likewise if he would so would Paris. The story played out just as he either assumed or was told by his partners. Hera told Paris she’d give him power, Athena told him she’d give him Wisdom, and Aphrodite told him she could get him laid so good he’d be cross eyed. Without a second thought he gave the apple to Aphrodite, at this point one of the world’s oldest (or should be) adages was unleashed. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Except for maybe two woman…who are also goddesses. But I digress.
There are events in Tragedy that are remixed many times over and it is difficult to say which is the truer to its kin. But it is important to note that in the tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis, it is said that Artemis came down just before the death of Iphigenia (being sacrificed by her father) and replaced her with a deer. I feel that events like this were done to add a sense of dread to the war, to remind the humans that the war was unavoidable and that great tragedies would unravel during it, and after it.
Fast forward to the war. Unsurprisingly to anyone, Ares would join up with Aphrodite, not surprising because the two were very intimate. It’s difficult to say no to Aphrodite once you are in her bed. Nothing that unraveled during the Trojan was unplanned, nor was anything a surprise to the gods. This can and likely was in large part because of Prometheus, which may be paradoxical because he’s famous for protecting humanity. However perhaps he foresaw something far worse than the Trojan war had it not happened. Much like killing deer to make certain they don’t starve to death from overpopulation. Hector, much like Odysseus, and Achilles would not want to go to war. None of them were fond of Helen and more so none of them were fond with the idea of dying, it’s just not on the plate of most people, hero or not.
When Paris brought back Helen he had activated an Oath made by all of the men (or most) of Athenian alignment, their oath was that if she ever befell trouble that they’d come to her aid. As is shown in many tragedies related to the situation nobody believed that they’d ever have to actually to do anything about it. Agamemnon says in "Iphigenia at Aulis", Those foolish suitors swore that oath to Tyndareus in their longing to wed; but Hope was the goddess that led them on. Indeed these men all longed for a woman as beautiful as Helen and it was this wildly blind hope that led them to make such a ridiculous oath.
Tyndareus was most likely manipulated by some god, I know not which but considering the way all things fall into alignment it cannot be coincidence. When Paris and Menelaus attempted to settle the war peacefully there would be, much like modern wars, a single shot heard around the world that sparks a battle that costs many lives. That shot would be fired by Pandarus, the male form of Pandora, who is famous for being the first woman gifted by Zeus who would curse the world of Man with misfortune and grief. Pandarus likewise cursed the Greek world with a war of great casualties.
A second event happens when Hector attempts likewise to lessen the destruction and challenge any member of the Trojan people to a battle, whoever wins would (hopefully) take credit and perhaps be considered the victor. Ajax would take up the challenge and after a very impressive battle it ended with both deciding it was a draw and handing each other a gift, to Hector came Ajax’s girdle and to Ajax came Hector’s sword. Much like the bow of Achilles, these items would also have greatly important presence later in the war. Symbols of how peace amongst man cannot exist when their destruction is decided amongst the gods.
Apollo would come to the aid of Hector after Ajax felled him with a stone, and explained to him the morbid truth of the war (one side of the truth that is) that no good deed of god would be left without great punishment of a rival god. There would be no gift that did not end with tragedy. Indeed the gift from Hephaestus of Armor for Achilles, with which Patrocalus would wear to his death, was likely done with the knowledge that if Patrocalus the gem of Achilles’ heart were to die that the relatively level headed (for a warrior/hero) nature of Achilles would unravel and leave nothing but a destructive beast. A killing machine that is nigh unstoppable. Likewise the horses gifted well before, Xanthus and Barius, would also be greatly upset and aid Achilles in quick travel and great devastation. Hector would end up being the one that kills Patrocalus, and indeed he would find that the gift from Ajax would be used in his destruction (post mortem). Hector would add insult to injury by donning the armor of Achilles on himself after the murder of Patrocalus, essentially he was wearing the very skin of not only Achilles but Achilles greatest love, an act of Hubris that could not be erased. Hephaestus would then create a second set of armor for Achilles, again a gift from one cannot go without an evil.
Achilles’ rage was in no way masked, Hector would flee in terror around the city of Troy from Achilles. This symbolic chase was to exemplify the end of Troy and the conclusion of the goal of the Greek gods. For those who can’t possibly wait any longer I’ll explain once and for all (I wish) what the goal of the Trojan war was, quoted from the Greek tragedy Orestes by Euripides.
‘Twas I that saved her and snatched her from beneath thy sword at
the bidding of her father Zeus; for she his child must put on immortality,
and take her place with Castor and Polydeuces in the bosom of the
sky, a saviour to mariners. Choose thee then another bride and take
her to thy home, for the gods by means of Helen’s loveliness embroiled
Troy and Hellas, causing death thereby, that they might lighten mother
Earth of the outrage done her by the increase of man’s number. Such
is Helen’s end.
To those who catch the point here. Apollo states that Helen was created to cut the population of humanity that was dealing great levels of stress on the planet that supports them. In other words, we are the deer to the gods and they are trying to thin our numbers in order to protect us. A brutal strategy but one that historically has worked for certain with numerous animals. But back to the war since it’s very interesting to see how far this goes.
Athena, a fan of Achilles, would end up tricking Hector into stopping his fleeing (he was quite a runner) and because of her trickery Achilles would catch and slay Hector quite easily. The gift of the girdle to Hector would be the tool of his blasphemous post mortem treatment, Achilles in his passionate rage dragged the corpse of Hector around (with the aid of Barius and Xanthus) with the girdle he had been handed in good faith by Ajax. Just as the girdle would be the undoing of Hector, likewise the sword he had given Ajax would be the device that killed Ajax (once and for all). To make a long story short, Ajax jumped onto the sword himself and ended his life after an embarrassing event that I seem to remember was created by Athena. I digress like a drunk driver speeding on a thin road I apologize.
Interestingly this point is when Achilles transitions from Athena to Ares in his mindset, this perhaps an example of the worry the gods had gathered. If such a transition can happen so easily with one great man, what’s to say it wouldn’t happen with vast amounts of men? Supporting their decision to lessen the numbers of men (in modern day world wars this appears to have been a reasonable fear).
The Trojan War was planned many years before it unfolded by the Greek Gods, through the aid of powerful entities like Prometheus and Apollo the gods were able to take the most efficient form of control (death) and use it to help lessen the great and destructive numbers of man. As I stated before, this fear is well documented in our own history with entire cities suddenly vanishing beneath the great power of single bombs. We have now reached the period that the gods of old literature had feared to such a great degree that they created the most amazing conspiracy that I’ve ever read about.