In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has been narrated through many works of Greek literature, most notably through Homer's ''Iliad''. The ''Iliad'' relates a part of the last year of the siege of Troy; the ''Odyssey'' describes the journey home of Odysseus, one of the war's heroes. Other parts of the war are described in a cycle of epic poems, which have survived through fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and for Roman poets including Virgil and Ovid.
The war originated from a quarrel between the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, after Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, gave them a golden apple, sometimes known as the Apple of Discord, marked "for the fairest". Zeus sent the goddesses to Paris, who judged that Aphrodite, as the "fairest", should receive the apple. In exchange, Aphrodite made Helen, the most beautiful of all women and wife of Menelaus, fall in love with Paris, who took her to Troy. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and the brother of Helen's husband Menelaus, led an expedition of Achaean troops to Troy and besieged the city for ten years because of Paris' insult. After the deaths of many heroes, including the Achaeans Achilles and Ajax, and the Trojans Hector and Paris, the city fell to the ruse of the Trojan Horse. The Achaeans slaughtered the Trojans (except for some of the women and children whom they kept or sold as slaves) and desecrated the temples, thus earning the gods' wrath. Few of the Achaeans returned safely to their homes and many founded colonies in distant shores. The Romans later traced their origin to Aeneas, one of the Trojans, who was said to have led the surviving Trojans to modern-day Italy.
The ancient Greeks treated the Trojan War as a historical event that had taken place in the 13th or 12th century BC and believed that Troy was located near the Dardanelles in what is now Turkey. As of the mid-19th century, both the war and the city were widely believed to be non-historical. In 1868, however, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann met Frank Calvert, who convinced Schliemann that Troy was at Hissarlik and Schliemann took over Calvert's excavations on property belonging to Calvert; this claim is now accepted by most scholars.〔In the second edition of his ''In Search of the Trojan War'', Michael Wood notes developments that were made in the intervening ten years since his first edition was published. Scholarly skepticism about Schliemann's identification has been dispelled by the more recent archaeological discoveries, linguistic research, and translations of clay-tablet records of contemporaneous diplomacy. 〕 Whether there is any historical reality behind the Trojan War is an open question. Many scholars believe that there is a historical core to the tale, though this may simply mean that the Homeric stories are a fusion of various tales of sieges and expeditions by Mycenaean Greeks during the Bronze Age. Those who believe that the stories of the Trojan War are derived from a specific historical conflict usually date it to the 12th or 11th centuries BC, often preferring the dates given by Eratosthenes, 1194–1184 BC, which roughly corresponds with archaeological evidence of a catastrophic burning of Troy VIIa.〔Wood (1985: 116–118)〕
The events of the Trojan War are found in many works of Greek literature and depicted in numerous works of Greek art. There is no single, authoritative text which tells the entire events of the war. Instead, the story is assembled from a variety of sources, some of which report contradictory versions of the events. The most important literary sources are the two epic poems traditionally credited to Homer, the ''Iliad'' and the ''Odyssey'', composed sometime between the 9th and 6th centuries BC.〔Wood (1985: 19)〕 Each poem narrates only a part of the war. The ''Iliad'' covers a short period in the last year of the siege of Troy, while the ''Odyssey'' concerns Odysseus's return to his home island of Ithaca, following the sack of Troy.
Other parts of the Trojan War were told in the poems of the Epic Cycle, also known as the Cyclic Epics: the ''Cypria'', ''Aethiopis'', ''Little Iliad'', ''Iliou Persis'', ''Nostoi'', and ''Telegony''. Though these poems survive only in fragments, their content is known from a summary included in Proclus' ''Chrestomathy''.〔It is unknown whether this Proclus is the Neoplatonic philosopher, in which case the summary dates to the 5th century AD, or whether he is the lesser-known grammarian of the 2nd century AD. See Burgess, p. 12.〕 The authorship of the Cyclic Epics is uncertain. It is generally thought that the poems were written down in the 7th and 6th century BC, after the composition of the Homeric poems, though it is widely believed that they were based on earlier traditions.〔Burgess, pp. 10–12; cf. W. Kullmann (1960), ''Die Quellen der Ilias''.〕
Both the Homeric epics and the Epic Cycle take origin from oral tradition. Even after the composition of the ''Iliad'', ''Odyssey'', and the Cyclic Epics, the myths of the Trojan War were passed on orally, in many genres of poetry and through non-poetic storytelling. Events and details of the story that are only found in later authors may have been passed on through oral tradition and could be as old as the Homeric poems. Visual art, such as vase-painting, was another medium in which myths of the Trojan War circulated.〔Burgess, pp. 3–4.〕
In later ages playwrights, historians, and other intellectuals would create works inspired by the Trojan War. The three great tragedians of Athens, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, wrote many dramas that portray episodes from the Trojan War. Among Roman writers the most important is the 1st century BC poet Virgil. In Book 2 of the ''Aeneid'', Aeneas narrates the sack of Troy; this section of the poem is thought to rely on material from the Cyclic Epic ''Iliou Persis''.
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