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Things that led to the Trojan War (Mythology)
Category: Classical Mediterranean and Europe
Poseidon once sent a monster to the coasts of the area around Troy. King Laomedon of Troy consulted the oracle of Zeus Ammon in Egypt about how to get rid of the monster. According to the oracle the answer to this problem was the sacrifice of Hesione, the kings daughter to the monster. Laomedon told the nobles of Troy that he was willing to do this, but only if all of the other Trojans sacrificed their daughters too. Most of the Trojan men didn't agree with this solution and sent their daughters somewhere else. But the nobleman Phoinodamas, who had three daughters himself, came up with the idea to let fate decide who would be sacrificed. King Laomedon thought the chance that he had to sacrifice his daughter would be very small, so he decided to do what Phoinodamas proposed. Ironically enough Hesione was the person that had to be sacrificed.
Hesione was chained to a rock on the coast, only wearing her precious jewelry. Herakles, who was returning from his expedition into the land of the Amazons, saw her hanging there and decided to do something. So he broke her chains and together they went to king Laomedon. Herakles offered a deal to the king. He would kill the monster in return for two immortal horses that Zeus had given Laomedon. Happy about the rescue of his daughter, the Trojan king agreed to Herakles' offer.
In full armor Herakles awaited the monster. When the thing came close enough, he jumped into the beak of the beast. He returned three days later, bald because of the sour environment inside the monster, but he killed the beast, so he claimed his reward. Because the king really didn't want to give his horses away, he gave Herakles mortal horses. Back at home Herakles found out what he had gotten and declared war on Troy. Together with some of his friends, who where leaders of Greek cities, he sailed away to the coast of Asia Minor.
Telamon was the first of his friends to make a hole in the walls of Troy. Because he feared the jealousy of Herakles, he used the stones from the wall to make an altar in honour Herakles. All of the male members of the Trojan royal family were slaughtered, except for one, Podarkes, who had always supported Herakles rightfull claim for the horses. Podarkes and the women of Troy were made slave by Herakles. Because of the hole in the wall and the altar he made, Telamon was given Hesione. Herakles gave Hesione the right to free one of the slaves, and she choose Podarkes, who after that had the name Priamos, meaning 'he who has been bought'. All that was valuable was taken away from Troy, Priamos was made king, and the Greeks could return home.
A few days befor the boy who would later be called Paris was born, his mother, Hekabe had a nightmare. She dreamt that she gave birth to a flaming bundle of branches, and in that bundle were thousands of snakes. Priamos, the father of the child, consulted another son of his, who could see into the future. This son told him to kill the child immediately after it was born. A few days later he added: "The woman from the royal family who gives birth to a child today must be killed together with the child." Priamos did what he was told to do, and killed his sister Killa, who had gotten a child earlier on the same day.
A few hours later Hekabe gave birth to her son. Priamos decided to spare the woman and child, but all seers of the city gave Hekabe the advice to kill the child. She couldn't put herself to doing this horrible thing, so she gave the kid to Agelaos, the leader of the kings shepherds. He was supposed to kill the child, but he also was unable to do this. So he put the child down in it's basket in the middle of the wilderness, assuming that nature would finish his job. When he returned to the same spot five days later, he saw a bear was nursing and guarding the child. He viewed this as a sign of good fortune and decided to take the young boy into his own home. Because he took the child with him in his knapsack, he was called Paris, the Greek word for knapsack.
Paris grew up in the family of Agelaos, believing he was the shepherd's real son. He became friends with the forest-nymph Oinone, and when he got older, his adoptive father let him herd the cows sometimes. When he was herding the cows he liked to make the bulls of the herd fight eachother. One of the bulls appeared victorious out of every fight he was in, as soon as Paris noticed this, he invited his neighbours to let their bulls fight his, but none of them could defeat the strong bull from Agelaos' herd. Because of this, he offered a golden crown to the owner of the bull who could defeat his champion. Ares, the god of war, heard this, and changed himself into a bull. Of course he defeated Paris' bull, but even after he had presented himself as a god, Paris let him have the golden crown. This caused Ares to greatly admire Paris.
It was about the same time that Peleus and Thetis got married. Initially both Zeus and Poseidon wanted to marry Thetis, but because of the prophecy that the son of Thetis would be far greater than his father, the gods got afraid they might be dethroned by their son and decided to search a noble mortal man to marry her. Because they both considered Peleus to be the most noble of all men, they presented him as the husband of Thetis. But Thetis didn't want to marry Peleus and ignored him. Peleus really wanted to marry Thetis, so when nothing else helped, he went to the wise centaur Cheiron. Cheiron told him in what cave Thetis went to sleep every afternoon and told him what to do when he had found her. He was to wait until she slept, then take her in his hands and hold her tight, whatever terrifying form she would take on.
Peleus did this, and even though she changed into fire, water, a lion, a snake en eventually even a giant octopus, he held on to her and she accepted to marry him. The wedding was not much later. Every god and goddess was present, except for Eris, the goddess of discord. When this goddess found out she wasn't invited, she thought up a plan to ruin the wedding for everyone else. Everybody at the party was having a good time, and Athena, Afrodite and Hera were chatting friendly with eachother, when all of a sudden an apple was thrown between them (by Eris). On the apple was written: "for the most beautiful". All of the three goddesses claimed this title for themselves, but because there was no one at the party that dared to give his opinion because of fear of upsetting the other two, a solution had to be found. Ares was the one who came up with an idea. The honest young shepherd he met near Troy would be the judge in this contest.
Together with Hermes the goddesses went to Troy. Hera promised to make Paris ruler of all of Asia if he would choose her. Athena guaranteed him victory in every fight and promised to make him the wisest man on the world if he would choose her. But Afrodite presented the best offer in his opinion. She would make sure he married the most beautiful mortal woman on the world, Helena, the wife of king Menelaos of Sparta. Paris elected Afrodite and thus sealed the fate of Troy.
Some time later a huge festival was organised in Troy. King Priamoshad sent some of his servants to get a bull to sacrifice at the festival. When they arrived at the house of Agelaos they were immediately impressed by the size and strength of the one bull that had won all of the contests. This was the bull they wanted to sacrifice at the festival. Paris wanted to go with the men to the city, not only because of pride of his bull, but he was also curious what Troy was like. Agelaos didn't want him to go, but because he couldn't convince Paris to stay with him, he decided that he should go with him to protect him.
When they were in the city Paris saw the boxing contests. He immediately wanted to compete in this event. Even though he didn't know anything about the technique of boxing, he won every match because of his courage and strength. This made two Trojan Princes, Hektor and Deiphoibos jealous and they wanted to kill Paris. Paris didn't see any danger, but as Agelaos saw his stepson was cornered he jumped up to the stage where the king sat. He told the king everything about his origins and showed him a toy Paris had had with him when he took him into his family. Priamosrecognised this toy and called his two sons back.
The joy because of the return of the lost son was great. When Priamos a few days later was putting together a taskforce to get his sister Hesione back from Telamon, Paris spontaneously volunteered to lead the men. Some days before Paris would leave Troy, Menelaos, the king of Sparta arrived in Troy. According to a prophecy he had to go to Troy to be sanitised of the guilt of a murder in Troy. The first man he saw there was Paris. The Trojan prince sanitised him and offered him gifts.
A few days later Paris was on his way to Greece together with his cousin Aeneas. When he arrived in Sparta he told Menelaos that he had accidentally killed his nephew with a toy sword, and he needed to be sanitised in Sparta for this deed. The Spartan king did what Paris wanted and invited him to stay some time with him. During his stay it was clear that Paris was in love with Helena, but Menelaos was too good of confidence to suspect anything. When Paris had been in Sparta for some time Menelaos had to go to Crete to be present at the celebration of his grandfathers birthday. Paris seized the opportunity and kidnapped Helena. Because he feared Menelaos might be after him, he staid in Egyptian and Phoenician waters for some time.
As soon as he found out what had happened Menelaos and his brother Agamemnon called upon all the Greek kings who once wanted to marry Helena. This was the consequence of a union the Greek kings that wanted to marry Helena had made. When Helena was a girl at the right age to marry, many of the Greek kings wanted to marry her. Her father, Tyndareos saw that there was going to be some form of conflict if he made a decision himself, because of the envy between the kings. It was Odysseus who came up with a solution for this problem. Every man there present was forced to swear not to act against the man who would finally marry Helena. Together the Greek kings would protect Helena's husband. Achilles had to be present to, because an oracle had told the Greeks that the city of Troy wouldn't fall without the help of the son of Peleus.
The first king who caused a problem was Odysseus. He had just gotten a son en wasn't planning on going away to war leaving his child. When Agamemnon and Palamedes, a clever king arrived, he pretended to be crazy. He was ploughing his land and instead of seeds he used salt to saw. The two kings watched him plough nine lanes. When Odysseus had just started the tenth lane Palamedes thought of something. He grabbed the young son of Odysseus from the arms of his mother and put him in front of Odysseus' plough. Odysseus stopped ploughing to spare his son, and so Agamemnon and Palamedes found out Odysseus wasn't really crazy.
Getting Achilles to come with the Greeks was a tough job too. Because his mother Thethis had heard a prophecy that her son would live short and great, or dull and long, she hid him on an island among the young daughters of a local king. Odysseus and Nestor, who where sent to get him, at first couldn't recognise him. They thought of something however that would surely expose Achilles. To the king they offered a chest full of jewellery for his daughters. But under these jewels were a sword and a shield. As soon as the girls were looking at the gifts, Odysseus had an alarm sounded. Quickly Achilles grabbed the sword and shield and stormed out. This way the men found out which one of the 'girls' was Achilles.
The Greek leaders were gathered in Aulis on the coast. But because there was no one who could show them which way they had to go, they went the wrong way and debarked in Mysia. Because they were convinced they had arrived in the region around Troy, they started fighting the local king. One Greek warrior, Thersander, was killed by the Mysians, but he was avenged by Achilles who stabbed the Mysian king to death. By then it had become clear that the Greeks were not anywhere near Troy. They had no idea how to get there, so they decided to go back to Aulis together. A heavy storm however dispersed them and every one decided for himself to go back home.
At a council later that year the Greeks decided to give it another try, so every one returned to Aulis one year after the last trip. But there was a problem with the weather. Because Agamemnon had insulted Artemis on one occasion, this goddess held them in the harbour by making sure there was no wind. The prophet Kalchas presented the solution. Agamemnon had to sacrifice his daughter Iphigeneia to the goddess. Agamemnon lured his daughter to the harbour by telling her she was going to marry Achilles, so she came fast and eagerly. When she arrived, she was soon tied up upon the alter to be stabbed to death. Then suddenly the goddess Artemis arrived and took her away to become her priestess in a far sanctuary.
After this happened the Greeks could go to Troy unharmed. The had also found someone would could tell them the way to Troy: the son Paris had with the forest nymph Oinone had been sent by his mother because she was jealous of Helena. Thanks to this boy the Greeks reached the coast of Troy safely. When the fleet neared the coastline, it was seen by people on the shore, who quickly alarmed the king. Soldiers started throwing down volley after volley of rocks, and all of the Greeks, including Achilles who was warned by his mother that the fist Greek who would set foot on Trojan soil would be the first one who got killed, didn't dare to go out of the ships. Protesilaos was the first one to debark after some time, and after slaying some Trojan soldiers he was killed by Hektor. The Trojan had begun.