Where’s the horse?

Homer The Iliad   Book 24 Scene: Hektor’s funeral, he’s just been cremated. This passage is taken from the last page, part of the final paragraph. 1950 version translated by E.V. Rieu, 2003 amendments Peter Jones. 

‘…They took the bones, wrapped them in soft purple clothing and put them in the golden coffin. This coffin they immediately lowered into a hollow grave which they covered with a close-set layer of large stones. They hurriedly piled up earth over it to mark the grave-mound, posting guards all round in case the Greeks launched a premature attack. When they had piled up the mound, they returned into the city and reassembled for a magnificent funeral feast in the palace of Priam their Olympian-bred ruler.

Such were the funeral rites of horse-taming Hektor.’

Priam had stolen into the Greeks camp and retrieved his son’s body from Akhilles. The Greek champion promised the king they will grant twelve days for funeral rites, and fighting ceased. During this time, the Greeks played games, a version of the Olympics, while the Trojans gathered to honour their hero. That’s it. Nothing more.

For those who are not familiar with Homer’s story, he never mentioned a Trojan Horse. It was a later invention by storytellers long after Homer. It doesn’t mean something like that never happened but if Homer didn’t have it in his rendition, chances are it wasn’t part of the original story.

So why include it? Why does a writer tell stories? To entertain and for excitement.

In Virgil’s Aeneid, which describes the siege of Troy, his character Laocoon tells the doomed citizens of Ilium ‘don’t trust the horse, Trojans! Whatever it is, I fear Greeks even when they are bringing gifts’. Hence the phrase, ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.’

Now, I am novice historian, but have read books and watched documentaries about Troy and the myths. If there was a hint of truth about the ‘Trojan Horse’, it probably be more siege towers. The Greeks camped out on the plains of Troy for ten years, anything is possible. Trees were cut down to make temporary huts so why not build siege towers.

I prefer Homer’s version, though a variation always makes the story interesting.


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  1. pauladkin

    There is no mention of the horse story in the Iliad, but Homer does talk about it in the Odyssey. When Menelaus recounts the exploits of Ulysses he says: “what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring the death and destruction upon the Trojans… (and continues).” (I’ve used the Samuel Butler translation here). It seems strange that there is no mention of it in the Iliad, and perhaps your thesis is correct if we accept that Homer did not write both books. I still have very grave doubts that he did (they are just so different), but then that would be resurrecting an age old debate, wouldn’t it?


    • cav12

      They are very different and I will re-read the Odyssey, it’s been a while since I’ve picked it up. I guess it also comes down to the number of different interpretations of the stories too and the period they were done.
      Whether he told both stories, is a good point. The original texts when written have long since gone so who knows?
      Thank you for stopping by.


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