‘The Trojan Horse’ is one of the most well-known episodes of the Trojan War, not only for its intriguing plot but also for its timeless symbolism.
In the tale, we can find different themes such as: the warfare, military glory, deceit and lies.
Whilst being an ancient myth, Trojan Horse’s metaphors remain ageless and universal.
Many people believe that the episode of Trojan Horse is included in Homer’s poem ‘Iliad’, an epic that narrates the battles and events that took place during the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles. Iliad does recount some of the significant events of the Trojan War, however the specific incident is never mentioned. Nevertheless, the story is briefly described in Homer’s ‘Odyssey’, in which the Greek hero Odysseus struggles to return to his kingdom in Ithaca after the fall of Troy.
Homer was a Greek poet, born between the 12th and 8th century BC. He is famous for the epic poems ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’. Not many facts are known about Homer’s life. In fact, one of the greatest literary mysteries is whether he existed at all.
We can find the version of ‘Trojan Horse’ that we know today in a Roman poem by Virgil called Aeneid. Aeneid is a Latin epic tale that portrays the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who flees from his home city in order to reach Italy. Virgil was a Roman Poet, born on October 15th, 70 BC in Andes, Italy. He studied Greek and Roman authors and poets in Milan. His most famous works include Eclogues, the Georgics and Aeneid. In 19 BC, Virgil returned to Italy, after a trip to Greece, with high fever. He died on September 21 of that year. According to legend, Virgil requested the destruction of his poem “Aeneid”, believing perhaps that it was imperfect. Fortunately, with Augustus’ intervention, Aeneid was published.
The imaginative fable of Trojan Horse is also illustrated in the epic entitled ‘The Fall of Troy’, which is also called Posthomerica. Posthomerica is Quintus Smyrnaeus’ attempt to complete the story of Troy, after the end of Homer’s Iliad. Quintus Smyrnaeus or Kointos Smyrnaios was a Greek epic poet, born around the 3rd century in Smyrna. Not many details are known about his life. His book ‘Posthomerica’ is the only work of his that has survived.
In Greek mythology, the event of Trojan Horse takes place during the Trojan War. According to Homer, during the Late Bronze Age (around or before 1200BC), there was a conflict between the Greeks that lasted for 10 years. It starts after the abduction of Queen Helen of Sparta by Paris, who was the prince of Troy. This provoked Agamemnon, who was Helen’s brother-in law, to sail to Troy. For nine years, the Greeks of Achaea ravaged the cities and countryside around Troy. However, they were unable to raid Troy, which was well fortified. Finally, Odysseus came up with a plan: the Greeks would build a large hollow horse, which would be filled with soldiers. After its construction, the Greeks would have pretended to leave. The horse was left outside of Troy and was taken within the city walls by Trojans, who believed that it was a victory trophy. During that night, the Greek troops exited the horse and opened Troy’s gates for the rest of the Greek army. The city was ravaged and the war was over. The story of the Trojan War remains captivating whilst through the themes that it explores, (love, courage, violence, revenge, triumph etc.) it manages to still enrapture the reader.
But was the Trojan War just a myth?
For a long time, Troy and the Trojan War were widely considered as a part of mythology. This view was challenged after the discovery of the ancient city of Troy by an archaeologist called Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann arrived in Hissarlik, Turkey in 1868 with a copy of the Iliad in his luggage, determined to find the lost city of Troy. And he did! His discovery allowed historians and archaeologists to draw conclusions about Troy’s history.
Troy is located on the mound of Hissarlik, close to a narrow strait called Dardanelles. Evidence suggests that it was inhabited from 3000BCE to around 12th century CE. Due to its location, which is considered strategic, it was one of the most prosperous cities in the Bronze Age. One of the most impressive aspects of the ancient city was its huge fortification walls, made of limestone, which were 8 meters high and 5 meters thick and suggest a need for defence. As far as the population is concerned, the size of Troy indicates that its inhabitants could be as many as 10.000. Regarding its economy, Troy seems to have thrived on trade, horse-breeding, fishing and agriculture. Nonetheless, Troy was abandoned in the Iron Age along with other previously wealthy cities. The reasons are not clear; however, it is believed that many factors came into play, such as an internal conflict, a clash, mass immigration and/or a political dispute. The archaeological site of Troy is included in UNESCO World heritage list due to its historical importance. However, whether the site in northwest Turkey is the same Troy described by Homer, remains a matter of debate.
As far as the Trojan War is concerned, available data points to smaller conflicts, rather than a full-fledged war. Although the Trojan War could have been a historical event, Trojan Horse should be seen as a classic tale.
The Literary work: Trojan horse
‘Trojan Horse’ is a myth and it is a part of the Greek Mythology. Myths belong in the folklore genre and they often use supernatural elements in their narrative. Their content does not mirror real events; however, they do have a significant impact on culture and society. Myths are symbolic by nature and ‘Trojan Horse’ does not diverge from that rule.
Its European, or even international dimension (inspiration, literary current, posterity)
“Trojan Horse” can be used to describe metaphorically a person or an object that is deceptive. Moreover, “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” is a Latin phrase from Aeneid (II, 49), written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC; paraphrased in English as the proverb “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” and it is used as an advice against being too trustful, even when the other person looks innocent and friendly. It came up exactly from the incident with the Trojan Horse and it is widely known and used.
The concept of Trojan Horse is also used in computing to refer to a malware, designed to misuse the victim’s files. In that sense we could say that the hacker is comparable to the Achaeans, the malware is the wooden horse, Troy is the computer and the victim is analogous to the Trojans.
It goes without saying that this epic tale is represented widely in culture and the world of arts. Some instances of this representation are the following:
Painting: The fable has inspired countless of painting throughout history. Some of the most famous ones are The Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy by Giandomenico Tiepolo and Trojan Horse by Roderick Mead.
Pottery: There have been retrieved countless ancient items, made of clay or ceramic materials, in Greece and Italy depicting the Trojan Horse. One of the most famous representations is found in a pithos called the Mykonos Vase which was found in 1961 in the island of Mykonos.
Sculpture: Trojan horse has inspired many sculptors. One of them is artist Babis Panagiotidis, who has created an impressive sculpture of the Trojan Horse using 18.000 computer keys, possibly winking at trojan horse’s use in computing.
Television: The fable has been included in popular television programmes such as “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Helen of Troy”.
Opera: The episode of Trojan Horse has been referenced in Opera plays “Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria “by Claudio Monteverdi, “Les Troyens” by Hector Berlioz and more.
Cinema: The most notable adaptation of the episode can be found in the movie “Troy”, starring Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom.
Comics: The fable has been encapsulated in various comics and graphic novels such as The Iliad and The Trojan War by Marvel Illustrated.
Videogames: The concept of the Trojan Horse has been featured in a variety of popular Videogames. Some notable examples are: Age of Mythology, Age of Empires online and Total War Saga: Troy.
Major issues/problems of the time addressed
The story brings to light some of the issues that people faced in Ancient Greece. The most prevalent one is War. In the ancient times, Greece was made up of smaller states, called city-states, that often fought with each other. Greek Warfare was mostly organized and tactical and it was seen as a necessary evil. The conflicts could last for years.
Another issue is the impact that religion had on the ancient Greeks. The divine intervention of the god Athena in the story implies the importance and influence of deities in that time period. The Greeks believed that gods had total control of their life and they would punish or benefit the mortals at will.
The gallery of characters
Trojans: The people of Troy. Their king was King Priam. His son, Paris, abducted Helen and this event triggered the Trojan War.
Achaeans: A Greek tribe, inhabitants of the region of Achaea in Peloponnese. They led the expedition to Troy in order to retrieve Helen, whose husband was king Menelaus of Sparta.
Odysseus: He comes up with the plan to build the Trojan Horse. He is an ingenious, resourceful leader (not represented in the eBook).
Epeius: He is the one who builds the wooden horse. He was a master carpenter and pugilist. (not represented in the eBook).
Athena: She is the goddess associated with wisdom, handicraft and warfare. She is very protective of Odysseus and helps with the construction of the Trojan Horse (not represented in the eBook).
The episode takes places in the region of Troy, in the northwest of Asia Minor. The island of Tenedos is also alluded to, as the hiding spot of the Achaeans’ army. Tenedos is located in the north-eastern part of the Aegean Sea. It is at the entrance of the Dardanelles and this fact rendered it an extremely strategic location.
Iconography in the eBook
The illustrations that accompany the eBook are evidently posterior to the story. However, they are connected either directly or loosely to the fable. The iconography transmits the atmosphere of the myth. Some of the works that adorn the pages of the eBook are created by the following artists:
- Romare H. Bearden (1911-1988) was an American artist, widely known for his collage art and his activism. He addressed social issues using his art. In 1977 Bearden created 20 different collages, based on The Odyssey by Homer. It was called A Black Odyssey and likened the struggles of Odysseus to the struggles faced by African-Americans.
- Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was a French painter. He is known as “the painter for France” and he is most famous for his mural painting.
- Giulio Bonasone (1498-1574) was an Italian painter, specialised in engravings and etchings. His themes are inspired by religion and mythology.
PHASE 1: ENTERING THE EBOOK: UNIVERSE, ATMOSPHERE AND HYPOTHESES
Activity: Launching into Troy
Entry activity in ebook
- Printed Images from the eBook or other sources
- Printed words/quotes taken from the eBook
Before the session (if relevant):
– It is a scientific fact that music sets the mood and that the emotions of the audience are affected by music. Therefore, it would be a great idea to play some music in order to set the atmosphere and create a certain vibe. It would be a good idea to choose epic battle music, since it fits the nature of warfare, combat and conflict.
-The images and the quotes should be printed before the session.
In the workshop:
– For most effective learning, the group should be divided into smaller ones. A group of 3-4 participants is ideal.
-In order to set the atmosphere, turn on the music and allow the participants to become absorbed by it.
-Start distributing the materials.
-Explain to them that the materials that they have in their hands create a story. Ask them to match the quotes to the images and to assemble them in a way that they create a story.
-Each group (according to their language level) can make a mini presentation of their story and then the stories of each group are compared and contrasted.
-A discussion follows, about the reasons that led the learners to arrange the pictures and the quotes in the way they did. Encourage the participants to make more assumptions or come up with additional, alternative versions of their stories.
Depending on the participants’ language level, you can omit the quotes and ask them to create a story by merely arranging the images.
PHASE 2: DIVING INTO THE EBOOK
Activity 1: Getting to know the characters
Preparation activity for global understanding
- Post-it notes in 2 different colours
Before the session:
-Distribute the post-it notes. Each participant should have 2 notes in 2 different colours.
In the workshop:
-Divide the group in smaller ones (around 4 people).
-Explain that each different colour represents a different tribe. Hence, one colour represents the Trojans while the other one represents the Achaeans.
-Write on the board key-words such as emotions (happy, sad, sleepy, angry), characteristics (heroes, clever), traits, present, winners, losers etc.
-Ask the participants to work in their group and write on their post-it notes the key-words that are more suitable for each tribe.
-At the end, you can compare the answers of each group and see if they match. The participants can also read the story individually.
Activity 2: Familiarisation with the story
Global understanding activity
- Sheets of Paper
- Colorful Markers/Crayons
- Blu-Tack or tape
Before the session:
-Distribute A4 sheets and colourful markers/crayons to the participants
In the workshop:
-Ask the participants to read the story again.
-Invite them to draw a scene from the tale, using their imagination.
-Ask them to re-write any relevant word learned in the previous activity that comes to their mind, which is associated with the picture they drew.
-Call the participants to discuss their choice of words. What made them draw the particular scene? Why did it stand out to them? Why did they associate the scene with certain words?
-Ask the participants to stick their drawings on the wall in chronological order, so that it recreates the story (make sure that all scenes are chosen at least ones).
Activity 3: Genius or Fraud?
Fine-grained comprehension activity
- Post-it notes
Before the session:
-Distribute the pens and post-it notes.
In the workshop:
-Request from the participants to read the story again.
-Ask them to reflect on the method of the Trojan Horse for invading Troy by using specific adjectives or adverbs such as: ungodly, immoral, unethical, genius, ingenuine, inventive. Explain these words and give an example within a sentence. Then group these words in 2 groups (e.g: ungodly, immoral, unethical) or (genius, ingenuine, inventive)
-Call them to write these words on their post-it notes, showing their opinion.
-Ask the participants to create two groups, divided by whether they condone or condemn the use of the Trojan Horse in the combat.
– (if possible based on students level) The groups can start a debate, backing up their opinion using arguments (trainers/ facilitators’ guidance is welcome).
To go further
You can start a conversation about the tradition of gift giving in the cultures of the participants. Encourage them to exchange their personal experience and ask them if they have received a gift that turned out to be a surprise (either because of the person it came from, or if the date was unexpected, or if the content was a surprise).
PHASE 3: THE CREATIVE STAGE
Activity: Creative thinking and (re)imagination
Activity of appropriation of the reading experience
- Sheets of A4 paper
- Colourful markers/crayons
Before the session:
Putting on some epic music will be suitable for this session. Music can trigger the participants’ imagination. Moreover, you should make sure that each student has an A4 sheet and there are many different colourful markers/crayons available
In the workshop:
-Talk about the story with the students. Explain to them that there are some alternative interpretations regarding the trojan horse. Some historians believe that the horse that is referenced in the story is not an actual horse made of wood, but rather a different object. Some believe that it was a battering ram, while others suggest it was some sort of siege engine or even a ship.
-Ask them to imagine their own creation and what form it would have had. Let them discuss their ideas and exchange their insights with each other (alternatively use pictures of other « trojan horses », as explained above (battering ram, engine, ship, etc) in order to help students to understand).
-Now you can ask them to draw their own version. You can also encourage them to write a short description about the mechanics of their model.
-Some volunteers can present their drawing and explain how their own design of the creation functions.
You can ask from the students to construct their creation using other materials such as Play-Doh, clay, leaves, straws, sand, sticks etc.