The Trojan War

29 The End of the War

Philoctetes, a bearded man holding a leaf-like wing on one hand, lies in a cave. Odysseus, in a pointed cap, and Neoptolemus, with wings, peer into the cave from the left. A large fragment is missing from the right-hand side of the disk.
Philoctetes, Odysseus, and Neoptolemus, clay lamp, 1st century CE (British Museum, London)

The Trojan Cycle

The Iliad is just one of many texts that existed in antiquity that dealt with the mythology of the Trojan War. It was part of a larger collection of Ancient Greek epic poems that narrated events that occurred before, during, and after the war. These texts as a whole are called “The Epic Cycle” or sometimes just “The Trojan Cycle,” since “The Epic Cycle” can also refer to a longer mythological cycle that included the Titanomachy, the Theban Cycle (see chapter 37), and the Trojan Cycle.

All but two of the epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are lost. We have only fragments of the other epics, as the myths of the cycle are also recounted by other ancient sources. These sources include Virgil’s Aeneid (book 2) which recounts the sack of Troy from a Trojan perspective; Ovid’s Metamorphoses (books 13-14), which describes the Greeks’ landing at Troy (from the Cypria) and the judgment of Achilles’ arms (Little Iliad); and Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica, which narrates all the events after Achilles’ death up until the end of the war. The death of Agamemnon and the vengeance taken by his son Orestes (part of the Nostoi) are the subject of later Greek tragedy, especially Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy (see chapter 30).

Proclus on the Trojan Cycle

The philosopher Proclus also discussed the epics of the Cycle in his work Chrestomathia. From Proclus, we have summaries of the plots of each work of the Epic Cycle and Trojan Cycle. The works of the Trojan Cycle are the Cypria, the Iliad, the Aethiopis, the Little Iliad, and the Sack of Ilium (or Ilioupersis), the Nostoi, the Odyssey, and the Telegony.

The Cypria (attributed to various authors) tells the events leading up to the Trojan War. It describes the Judgement of Paris, followed by Menelaus and Agamemnon’s mission to recruit allies to go to war with Troy. A compilation of fragments of the Cypria can be found here.

The Iliad of Homer tells of the war itself, and especially the deeds of Achilles.

The Aethiopis (attributed to Arctinus of Miletus) tells of the deeds and death of Penthesilea, and the death of Achilles. A compilation of fragments of the Aethiopis can be found here.

The Little Iliad (attributed to Lesches of Mitylene) tells of the Judgement of Arms, the death of Paris, and the construction of the Trojan Horse. A compilation of fragments of the Little Iliad can be found here.

The Sack of Ilium (Ilioupersis) (attributed to Arctinus of Miletus) tells of the defeat of Troy and the fates of various Trojans, including Laocoon, Andromache, and Priam. A compilation of fragments of the Sack of Ilium can be found here.

The Nostoi, Odyssey, and Telegony recount the events after the war.

For further discussion of the Nostoi, Odyssey, and Telegony, see chapter 30.


Proclus, Chrestomathia, Books 1-2 (trans. H. G. Evelyn-White, adapted by L. Zhang and P. Rogak)

Greek literary handbook, 5th century CE

[content warning for the following source: suicide (On the Little Iliad)]
Proclus was a 5th century CE neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Lycia (on the southern coast of modern day Turkey), studied in Alexandria, and made his way to Athens. Among other works, he wrote the Chrestomathia, a handbook of literary works that exists now only in summary form. From the summary of this handbook, we have a description of the plot of the Cypria, Aethiopis, Little Iliad, and Ilioupersis.


[On the Cypria] This [the Epigoni] is continued by the epic called Cypria which is currently eleven books. Its contents are as follows. Zeus plans with Themis to bring about the Trojan War. Strife arrives while the gods are feasting at the marriage of Peleus and starts a dispute between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite as to which of them is the most beautiful. The three are led by Hermes, at the command of Zeus, to Alexander on Mount Ida for his decision. Alexander, tempted by the promise of marriage to Helen, decides in favour of Aphrodite. Then Alexander builds his ships at Aphrodite‘s suggestion, and Helenus foretells the future to him. Aphrodite orders Aeneas to sail with him, while Cassandra prophecies about what will happen afterwards.

Alexander next lands in Lacedaemon and is hosted by the sons of Tyndareus, and afterwards by Menelaus in Sparta, where during a feast he gives gifts to Helen. After this, Menelaus sets sail for Crete, ordering Helen to provide the guests with all that they need until they depart. Meanwhile, Aphrodite brings Helen and Alexander together, and, after their union, they put very great treasures on the ship and sail away by night. Hera stirs up a storm against them and they are carried to Sidon, where Alexander takes the city. From there, he sailed to Troy and celebrated his marriage with Helen.

In the meantime, Castor and Polydeuces, while stealing the cattle of Idas and Lynceus, were caught in the act, and Castor was killed by Idas, and Lynceus and Idas by Polydeuces. Zeus gave them immortality every other day.[1] Iris next informs Menelaus of what has happened at his home. Menelaus returns and plans an expedition against Ilium with his brother, and then travels on to Nestor. Nestor, on a tangent, tells him how Epopeus was utterly destroyed after seducing the daughter of Lycus, and the story of Oedipus, the madness of Heracles, and the story of Theseus and Ariadne. Then they travel over Hellas and gather the leaders. When Odysseus pretends to be mad in order to avoid joining the expedition, they [ Menelaus and Agamemnon ] see through the trick by (at the suggestion of Palamedes) seizing his son Telemachus for punishment. All the leaders then meet together at Aulis and sacrifice. The incident of the serpent and the sparrows takes place before them, and Calchas foretells what is going to occur. After this, they put out to sea, and reach Teuthrania and sack it, mistaking it for Ilium. Telephus comes to the rescue and kills Thersander, the son of Polynices, and is himself wounded by Achilles. As they set out from Mysia, a storm comes on them and scatters them. Achilles first land at Scyros and married Deidameia, the daughter of Lycomedes. He then heals Telephus, who had been led by an oracle to go to Argos, so that he could be their guide on the voyage to Ilium. When the expedition had regrouped for a second time at Aulis, Agamemnon, while out hunting, shot a stag and boasted that he surpassed even Artemis. The goddess was so angry about this that she sent stormy winds and prevented them from sailing. Calchas then told them of the anger of the goddess and advised them to sacrifice Iphigenia to Artemis. They attempt to do this, sending a message to fetch Iphigenia, claiming she must come to marry Achilles. Artemis, however, snatched her away and transported her to the Tauri, making her immortal, and putting a stag in place of the girl upon the altar.

Next they sail as far as Tenedos. While they are feasting, Philoctetes is bitten by a snake and is left behind in Lemnos because of the stench of his infected wound. Here, too, Achilles argues with Agamemnon because he is invited late. Then the Greeks try to land at Ilium, but the Trojans prevent them, and Protesilaus is killed by Hector. Achilles then kills Cygnus, the son of Poseidon, and drives the Trojans back. The Greeks gather up their dead and send messengers to the Trojans demanding the surrender of Helen and the treasure with her. Because the Trojans had refused, they first assault the city, and then go out and sack the country and cities in the region. After this, Achilles wishes to see Helen, and so Aphrodite and Thetis arrange a meeting between them. The Achaeans next wish to return home, but are restrained by Achilles. Achilles then drives off the cattle of Aeneas, sacks Lyrnessus and Pedasus and many of the neighbouring cities, and kills Troilus [ son of Priam ]. Patroclus carries away Lycaon [ son of Priam ] to Lemnos and sells him as a slave, and out of the spoils Achilles receives Briseis as a prize, and Agamemnon Chryseis. Then follows the death of Palamedes, the plan of Zeus to help the Trojans by detaching Achilles from the Hellenic confederacy, and a catalogue of the Trojan allies.

[On the Aethiopis] The Cypria, described in the preceding book, is followed by the Iliad of Homer, which is followed in turn by the five books of the Aethiopis, the work of Arctinus of Miletus. Their contents are as follows. The Amazon Penthesileia, the daughter of Ares and of Thracian race, comes to aid the Trojans. After showing great skill, she is killed by Achilles and buried by the Trojans. Achilles then kills Thersites for insulting him for his supposed love for Penthesileia. As a result, an argument starts amongst the Achaeans about the killing of Thersites, and Achilles sails to Lesbos. After sacrificing to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto, he is purified by Odysseus from bloodshed.[2] Then Memnon, the son of Eos, wearing armour made by Hephaestus, comes to help the Trojans. Thetis tells her son about Memnon. A battle takes place in which Antilochus is killed by Memnon, and Memnon is killed by Achilles. Eos then receives immortality from Zeus and gives it to her son; but Achilles routs the Trojans, and, rushing into the city with them, is killed by Paris and Apollo. A great struggle for the body then follows, Ajax picking up the body and carrying it to the ships, while Odysseus drives off the Trojans behind. The Achaeans then bury Antilochus and lay out the body of Achilles, while Thetis, arriving with the Muses and her sisters [ the Nereids ], mourns her son, whom she afterwards steals away from the pyre and transports to the White Island. After this, the Achaeans pile a cairn for him and hold games in his honour. Lastly, an argument beginsbetween Odysseus and Ajax over the arms of Achilles.

[On the Little Iliad] Next comes the Little Iliad in four books by Lesches of Mitylene. Its contents are as follows. The judgment of the arms of Achilles takes place, and Odysseus, through the interference of Athena, gets them. Ajax then becomes mad and destroys the herd of the Achaeans and kills himself. Next Odysseus lies in wait and catches Helenus, who prophesies about the capture of Troy, and Diomedes, according to the prophecy, brings Philoctetes from Lemnos. Philoctetes is healed by Machaon, and fights in single combat with Alexander and kills him. The dead body is brutalized by Menelaus, but the Trojans retrieve and bury it. After this Deiphobus marries Helen, Odysseus brings Neoptolemus from Scyros and gives him his father’s weapons, and the ghost of Achilles appears to him. Eurypylus the son of Telephus arrives to help the Trojans, shows his skill, and is killed by Neoptolemus. The Trojans are now in a tight siege, and Epeius, by Athena‘s instruction, builds the wooden horse. Odysseus disguises himself and goes in to Ilium as a spy. Recognized by Helen, he plots with her to take the city. After killing some of the Trojans, he returns to the ships. Next he carries the Palladium out of Troy with help of Diomedes. Then after putting their best men in the wooden horse and burning their huts, the main body of the Hellenes sail to Tenedos. The Trojans, thinking their troubles are over, destroy a part of their city wall and take the wooden horse into their city and feast as though they had conquered the Hellenes.

[On the Sack of Ilium (Ilioupersis)] Next come two books of the Sack of Ilium, by Arctinus of Miletus, with the following contents. The Trojans were suspicious of the wooden horse and, standing around it, debated what they should do. Some thought they should hurl it down from the rocks, others burn it up, while others said they should dedicate it to Athena. At last this third opinion won out. Then they turned to joy and feasting, believing the war was at an end. But at this very moment, two serpents appeared and destroyed Laocoon and one of his two sons, a sign that alarmed the followers of Aeneas so much that they withdrew to Mount Ida. Sinon then raised the fire-signal to the Achaeans, having previously gotten into the city using deception. The Greeks then sailed in from Tenedos, and those in the wooden horse came out and fell upon their enemies, killing many and storming the city. Neoptolemus kills Priam, who had fled to the altar of Zeus Herceius; Menelaus finds Helen and takes her to the ships, after killing Deiphobus. Ajax the son of Ileus, while trying to drag Cassandra away by force, tears away with her the image [statue] of Athena. At this, the Greeks are so angry that they decide to stone Ajax, who only escapes from the danger threatening him by taking refuge at the altar of Athena. The Greeks, after burning the city, sacrifice Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles: Odysseus murders Astyanax [ son of Hector ]; Neoptolemus takes Andromache as his prize, and the remaining spoils are divided. Demophon and Acamas [ sons of Theseus ] find Aethra and take her with them. Lastly the Greeks sail away and Athena plans to destroy them on the high seas.


Taken from:

After the Iliad

The Death of Achilles

The body of Achilles, wrapped in a shroud, lies on a bench. Thesis, a woman with loose, messy hair, stands over him and clutches his body. A group of nereids, similar to Thetis in appearance, stand by, pulling their hair. A shield decorated with a Gorgoneion, along with a plumed helm, is propped up against the bench. Achilles is represented in black, while the women are painted in white.
Thetis mourning Achilles, black-figure hydria, ca. 550 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

Although Achilles death is not included in the Iliad, the poem hints at the future in Book 22, during Hector’s death scene.


Homer, Iliad, Book 22 (trans. A. S. Kline)

Greek Epic Poem, ca. 8th century BCE

These lines are the climactic moment in the Iliad, at the end of the fight between Hector and Achilles, where Achilles has just dealt the death blow to the Trojan hero and Hector ekes out his last request.

[337-366] Then Hector of the gleaming helm replied, in a feeble voice, “At your feet I beg, by your parents, by your own life, don’t let the dogs devour my flesh by the hollow ships. Accept the ransom my royal father and mother will offer, stores of gold and bronze, and let them carry my body home, so the Trojans and their wives may grant me in death my portion of fire.”

But fleet-footed Achilles glared at him in answer, “Don’t speak of my parents, dog. I wish the fury and the pain in me could drive me to carve and eat you raw for what you did, as surely as this is true: no living man will keep the dogs from gnawing at your skull, not if men weighed out twenty, thirty times your worth in ransom, and promised even more, not though Dardanian Priam bid them give your weight in gold, not even then will your royal mother lay you on a bier to grieve for you, the son she bore, rather shall dogs, and carrion birds, devour you utterly.”

Then Hector of the gleaming helm spoke at the point of death, “I know you truly now, and see your fate, nor was it mine to sway you. The heart in your breast is iron indeed. But think, lest the gods, remembering me, turn their wrath on you, that day by the Scaean Gate when, brave as you are, Paris kills you, with Apollo’s help.’

Death enfolded him, as he uttered these words, and, wailing its lot, his spirit fled from the body down to Hades, leaving youth and manhood behind. A corpse it was that noble Achilles addressed, “Lie there then in death, and I will face my own, whenever Zeus and the other deathless gods decide.”


Taken from:

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved

In antiquity, Achilles’ death was dramatized by the Aethiopis, a five book epic which focused on the Ethiopian hero, Memnon, who fought on the Trojan side in the war. The epic only survives now as brief mentions and summaries in the works of other authors. The surviving epitomes (summaries) of the Aethiopis can be read here.

The Judgement of the Arms

Agamemnon stands between Ajax and Odysseus, who lunge at each other. Two other warriors also grab at them, either holding back or participating in the fight.
Ajax, Agamemnon, and Odysseus during the Judgement of Arms, black-figure oinochoe, ca. 520 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

The Judgement of the Arms was the contest over who should get the armour of Achilles after his death. There were two contenders, Odysseys and Ajax. They were the ones who rescued Achilles’ body from the battlefield after he was killed by Paris and they each had a substantial claim to being the second best of the Achaean heroes after Achilles.

The Judgement of the Arms was narrated in the lost epic the Little Iliad. The surviving fragments and epitomes of the Little Iliad can be read here.

The contest for Achilles’ armour and Ajax’s madness after he loses is also the plot of Sophocles’ tragic play, the Ajax, which can be read here.

The Bow of Philoctetes

There was a prophesy, gained under torture and duress from the Trojan seer, Helenus, that the Greeks would not be able to win the war without the bow of Philoctetes, given to him by Heracles. Unfortunately, the Achaeans had abandoned Philoctetes on the island of Lemnos on their way to Troy because he had an enchanted wound on his foot from a snakebite that would not heal and which gave off a horrendous stench. According to some sources, there was another part of the prophesy which said that the Greeks would not be able to win without the aid of Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles.

So Odysseus went on a mission to get the bow of Philoctetes. This story is dramatized in Sophocles’ tragic play called Philoctetes, which also features Neoptolomus as part of the embassy which goes to Lemnos to fetch the bow. The Philoctetes can be read here.

The Trojan Horse

The story of the Trojan Horse was told in the Little Iliad and the Sack of Troy, neither of which survive. It is also referred to in the Odyssey. The longest version of the story that survives from the ancient world is not Greek, but Roman. It appears in the second book of the Aeneid.


Homer, Odyssey, Book 8 (trans. A. S. Kline, adapted by P. Rogak)

Greek Epic Poem, ca. 8th century BCE

At this point in the poem, Odysseus has arrived at the island of Phaeacians. While at the court of the King Alcinous and Queen Arete, he asks the blind bard Demododus to sing about the Trojan horse and sack of Troy.

[485-520] [. . .] when they had satisfied their desire for food and drink, resourceful Odysseus spoke to the bard, saying, “Demodocus, I praise you above all mortal men, one taught by the Muse, Zeus’ daughter, or perhaps by Apollo, for you sang the Achaeans’ fate with truth and feeling, all of their actions and their suffering, all the efforts they exerted, as if you had been there, or heard it from one who was. Now, come, change your theme, and sing of the making of the Wooden Horse, that Epeius fashioned with Athena’s help, that noble Odysseus contrived to have dragged inside the citadel, filled by cunning with warriors who then sacked Troy. Tell the tale as it happened, and I will say to all mankind that the god has given you freely of the power of divine song.”

At his words the bard, inspired by the god, began, and raising his voice picked up the tale at the point where the Argives had burned their camp, boarded their oared ships, and sailed some way off, leaving glorious Odysseus and the rest sitting inside the Horse, at the Trojan’s meeting place. The Trojans themselves had dragged it into the citadel. There it stood, while the people sat round it, discussing it endlessly to no conclusion. Three suggestions were considered: to cut through the hollow timber with pitiless bronze, or drag it to the edge of the rock and over the cliff, or let it stand there, as a grand offering to the gods, in propitiation, which is what happened in the end. For it was their destiny to be destroyed when the city accepted that huge horse of wood, where the best of the Argives lay hidden, bringing death and ruin to Troy.

Then he sang how the Achaeans left their hollow hiding place, and poured from the horse, to sack the city. He sang how the other warriors dispersing through the streets, laid waste high Troy, but Odysseus, the image of Ares, together with godlike Menelaus, sought Deiphobus’ house. There, said the tale, Odysseus fought the most terrible of fights, but conquered in the end, with the help of great-hearted Athena.


Taken from:

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved


Virgil, Aeneid, Book 2 (trans. A. S. Kline)

Latin epic poem, 19 BCE

In Book 2 of the Aeneid, Aeneas and his men, fleeing the destroyed city of Troy, have landed at the city of Carthage, in North Africa. They are being hosted by Dido, the Queen of Carthage, who asks Aeneas to tell her his story. In the following section, he recounts the trick of the Trojan horse.


[228-297] Then in truth a strange terror steals through each shuddering heart,

and they say that Laocoon has justly suffered for his crime

in wounding the sacred oak-tree with his spear,

by hurling its wicked shaft into the trunk.[3]

“Pull the statue to her house”, they shout,

“and offer prayers to the goddess’s divinity.”

We breached the wall, and opened up the defences of the city.

All prepare themselves for the work and they set up wheels

allowing movement under its feet, and stretch hemp ropes

round its neck. That engine of fate mounts our walls

pregnant with armed men. Around it boys, and virgin girls,

sing sacred songs, and delight in touching their hands to the ropes:

Up it glides and rolls threateningly into the midst of the city.

O my country, O Ilium house of the gods, and you,

Trojan walls famous in war! Four times it sticks at the threshold

of the gates, and four times the weapons clash in its belly:

yet we press on regardless, blind with frenzy,

and site the accursed creature on top of our sacred citadel.

Even then Cassandra, who, by the god’s decree, is never

to be believed by Trojans, reveals our future fate with her lips.

We unfortunate ones, for whom that day is our last,

clothe the gods’ temples, throughout the city, with festive branches.

Meanwhile the heavens turn, and night rushes from the Ocean,

wrapping the earth, and sky, and the Myrmidons’ tricks,

in its vast shadow: through the city the Trojans

fall silent: sleep enfolds their weary limbs.

And now the Greek phalanx of battle-ready ships sailed

from Tenedos, in the benign stillness of the silent moon,

seeking the known shore, when the royal galley raised

a torch, and Sinon, protected by the gods’ unjust doom,

sets free the Greeks imprisoned by planks of pine,

in the horses’ belly. Opened, it releases them to the air,

and sliding down a lowered rope, Thessandrus, and Sthenelus,

the leaders, and fatal Ulysses, emerge joyfully

from their wooden cave, with Acamas, Thoas,

Peleus’ son Neoptolemus, the noble Machaon,

Menelaus, and Epeius who himself devised this trick.

They invade the city that’s drowned in sleep and wine,

kill the watchmen, welcome their comrades

at the open gates, and link their clandestine ranks.

It was the hour when first sleep begins for weary mortals,

and steals over them as the sweetest gift of the gods.

See, in dream, before my eyes, Hector seemed to stand there,

saddest of all and pouring out great tears,

torn by the chariot, as once he was, black with bloody dust,

and his swollen feet pierced by the thongs.

Ah, how he looked! How changed he was

from that Hector who returned wearing Achilles’ armour,

or who set Trojan flames to the Greek ships! His beard was ragged,

his hair matted with blood, bearing those many wounds he received

dragged around the walls of his city.

And I seemed to weep myself, calling out to him,

and speaking to him in words of sorrow:

“Oh light of the Troad, surest hope of the Trojans,

what has so delayed you? What shore do you come from

Hector, the long-awaited? Weary from the many troubles

of our people and our city I see you, oh, after the death

of so many of your kin! What shameful events have marred

that clear face? And why do I see these wounds?’

He does not reply, nor does he wait on my idle questions,

but dragging heavy sighs from the depths of his heart, he says:

“Ah! Son of the goddess, fly, tear yourself from the flames.

The enemy has taken the walls: Troy falls from her high place.

Enough has been given to Priam and your country: if Pergama

could be saved by any hand, it would have been saved by this.

Troy entrusts her sacred relics and household gods to you:

take them as friends of your fate, seek mighty walls for them,

those you will found at last when you have wandered the seas.”

So he speaks, and brings the sacred headbands in his hands

from the innermost shrine, potent Vesta, and the undying flame.

Meanwhile the city is confused with grief, on every side,

and though my father Anchises’ house is remote, secluded

and hidden by trees, the sounds grow clearer and clearer,

and the terror of war sweeps upon it.

I shake off sleep, and climb to the highest roof-top,

and stand there with ears strained:

as when fire attacks a wheat-field when the south-wind rages,

or the rushing torrent from a mountain stream covers the fields,

drowns the ripe crops, the labour of oxen,

and brings down the trees headlong, and the dazed shepherd,

unaware, hears the echo from a high rocky peak.

Now the truth is obvious, and the Greek plot revealed.

Now the vast hall of Deiphobus is given to ruin

the fire over it: now Ucalegon’s nearby blazes:

the wide Sigean straits throw back the glare.

Then the clamour of men and the blare of trumpets rises.

Frantically I seize weapons: not because there is much use

for weapons, but my spirit burns to gather men for battle

and race to the citadel with my friends: madness and anger

hurl my mind headlong, and I think it beautiful to die fighting.

Now, see, Panthus escaping the Greek spears,

Panthus, son of Othrys, Apollo’s priest on the citadel,

dragging along with his own hands the sacred relics,

the conquered gods, his little grandchild, running frantically

to my door: “Where’s the best advantage, Panthus, what position

should we take?” I’d barely spoken, when he answered

with a groan: “The last day comes, Troy’s inescapable hour.

Troy is past, Ilium is past, and the great glory of the Trojans:

Jupiter carries all to Argos: the Greeks are lords of the burning city.

The horse, standing high on the ramparts, pours out warriors,

and Sinon the conqueror exultantly stirs the flames.

Others are at the wide-open gates, as many thousands

as ever came from great Mycenae: more have blocked

the narrow streets with hostile weapons:

a line of standing steel with naked flickering blades

is ready for the slaughter: barely the first few guards

at the gates attempt to fight, and they resist in blind conflict.”

By these words from Othrys’ son, and divine will, I’m thrust

amongst the weapons and the flames, where the dismal Fury

sounds, and the roar, and the clamour rising to the sky.

Friends joined me, visible in the moonlight, Ripheus,

and Epytus, mighty in battle, Hypanis and Dymas,

gathered to my side, and young Coroebus, Mygdon’s son:

by chance he’d arrived in Troy at that time,

burning with mad love for Cassandra, and brought help,

as a potential son-in-law, to Priam, and the Trojans,

unlucky man, who didn’t listen to the prophecy

of his frenzied bride! When I saw them crowded there

eager for battle, I began as follows: “Warriors, bravest

of frustrated spirits, if your ardent desire is fixed

on following me to the end, you can see our cause’s fate.

All the gods by whom this empire was supported

have departed, leaving behind their temples and their altars:

you aid a burning city: let us die and rush into battle.

The beaten have one refuge, to have no hope of refuge.”


Taken from:

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved

The Death of Priam

Neoptolemus, wearing a plumed helm and armour and carrying a shield, stands over Priam. Priam, wearing a himation and no armour, stumbles backwards onto an altar with an arm thrown up over his head. Neoptolemus wields a small child like a weapon to attack Priam.
Neoptolemus and Priam, black-figure amphora, ca. 520 BCE (Louvre Museum, Paris)

Priam is killed by Neoptolemus during the sack of Troy. This story is also narrated in Book 2 of the Aeneid, the full text of which can be read here.

In a Greek vase painting from the Classical period, Neoptolemus is shown clubbing Priam to death with the body of the dead infant, Astyanax, the son of Hector and Andromache.

Media Attributions and Footnotes

Media Attributions

  1. After their deaths, Castor and Pollux had to split their immortality between the two of them, and were thus each only half immortal. They were said to spend half their time on Mount Olympus, and half their time in the Underworld.
  2. "Purified" here refers to the Greek concept of miasma, the idea that death defiles someone or makes them impure. For further explanation, see Mythology Unbound.
  3. This passage refers to Laocoon's suspicion of the Trojan Horse. Laocoon was said to have tried to convince the Trojans to destroy the horse. Athena, favouring the Greeks, visited a series of punishments upon him (first blinding him, and then sending two large snakes to eat him and his children). An account of Laocoon can be found in Quintus of Smyrna's Posthomerica, 12. 418-538.


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