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A Trojan War Crash Course

This war has bellowed throughout history with mythical proportions. A story of forbidden love, unbridled tragedy, and one very large horse, the Trojan War contains so many legends and myths we know today from Greek history. The ten year battle has been the subject of numerous stories, adaptations, and references, from Homer’s The Iliad to the 2004 film Troy, and even the band Atlas Genius’ 2013 single Trojans. It’s clear that the story of Troy is no stranger to pop culture across mediums, past and present.

An Iliad, a stunning adaptation of Homer’s epic poem, arrives at ArtsEmerson next week, bringing with it the reverence of history and the tradition of excellent oral storytelling. Denis O’Hare’s magnificent performance offers a painful yet eerily beautiful depiction of one of the most horrific and stunning wars, straddling fact and fiction.

But what actually happened during the Trojan War? It is hard to say, since many accounts of the war dip into Greek mythology and historians have been debating for centuries over the fact versus fiction of the Trojan War. However, we’ve compiled some of the key elements and figures of this story to help you along this epic. Keep reading below to learn more and be sure to join us for An Iliad (NOV 20-24) at the Emerson Paramount Center!

Before the War

Menaleus, the King of Sparta (now part of modern day Greece) was married to Helen, who was considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. However, Helen eloped with Paris, the Trojan prince, and left Sparta. Menaleus was so infuriated he recruited several of his allies to lay siege to Troy.

Who was on Team Greece?

  • Agamemnon
  • Menelaus
  • Achilles
  • Odysseus
  • Ajax
  • Athena, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, and Poseidon

Who was on Team Troy?

  • Priam
  • Hecuba
  • Hector
  • Paris
  • Aeneas
  • Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, and Zeus

So… what happened?

The Trojan War lasted for a full ten years, with the Gods and mortals fighting not just for Helen, but for their honor. During this time, many other myths we know were born, like the death of Achilles where an arrow was shot through his —you guessed it — achilles heel. The war is clouded with death, with he Gods essentially playing chess with the people down on Earth. From loose alliances to brutal battles, it is one of the most notable and devastating wars known.

The war finally ended with the Trojan Horse. Odysseus devised a ruse where the Greeks built a massive wooden horse — a sign of surrender to give to the Trojans. However, once the Trojans brought the presumed gift within the city walls, Greeks poured out from inside the horse and sacked the city. It was the final act, destroying what was once an incredible fortress.

The Trojan War contains several moving parts and pieces, with politics abound. As with most wars, it is a messy and bloody history that for a full decade devastated families, communities, and even an entire city. Regardless of the specifics, stories like An Iliad remind us of the travesty. Even amongst Gods, war is never glorious.

Join us for An Iliad NOV 20-24 at the Emerson Paramount Center for this magnificent and ever relevant retelling.

And if you are interesting in learning more about how this tale was communicated through Greek art, we are hosting a conversation between director Lisa Peterson and art curator Barbara Martin from the Museum of Fine Arts on Friday, NOV 22. For more information, click here.

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