Helen of Troy | Part 4
(Having failed to get Helen back peacefully, Menelaur decided to wage war on Troy. He requested all the Greek princes to join him in the expedition. He had the right to ask for their help, but many were reluctant to join the tour. Odys. Seus pretended to be insane. Without whom the expedition would have been impossible, Achilles disguised himself like a lady. Still, the trip took place, and the Greek ships touched land near Troy.)
PROTESILAUS was the first to land from the Greek ships. Achilles and the rest of the Greek warriors followed him. Then there was a great fight between the Greeks and the Trojans.
Among the Trojans, there was one Cycnus who was invulnerable. He would not die either by sword or spear. In the first battle, he killed several hundred Greeks. Finally, Achilles confronted him. They fought for a long time, and then Cycnus stumbled on a stone and fell. Promptly Achilles knelt on his chest and strangled him to death. After the death of Cycnus, the Trojans broke and fled back to their city, closely followed by the Greeks.
Then the Greeks anchored their ships behind a fence and laid siege to Troy. This siege lasted for ten years. During the first nine years, there was minimal fighting between both sides, but several incidents occurred during this lull.
King Priam of Troy had two wives, of whom Hecabe was the second. She was the mother of Paris. Hector, the greatest of Trojan warriors, was her eldest son.
Among her nineteen sons, there was one Troilus. It was predicted that Troy would not fall if Troilus reached the age of twenty.
So Achilles decided to kill Troilus at any cost. He searched for Troilus, found him exercising his horses in the temple’s precincts and killed him with a spear. The Trojans mourned for Troilus as much as they did for Hector sometime later.
Lycaon was another son of Priam. One night, he was in the garden, cutting fig-tree shoots for chariot rails, when Achilles sneaked up to him and captured him. Then he took him to his camp.
The Greeks sold Lycaon as an enslaved person to a king who supplied the Greek forces with wine. Later, someone at the King’s court saw him, took pity upon him and paid his price. Thus liberated, Lycaon was returning to Troy when Achilles saw him and killed him.
There was no fighting. Having nothing to do, Achilles took a band of soldiers with him and began to ravage the country around Troy. When Achilles went with his band of soldiers to Mount Ida, he found Aeneas with his cattlemen and flocks. Aeneas was a cousin of Paris. He had accompanied Paris to Sparta when Paris went there to abduct Helen and had helped him in the act. He was an abettor. Yet, when the Greeks declared war on Troy, Aeneas remained neutral. Neither he nor his soldiers took any part in the fight.
Achilles and his band of soldiers fell upon the cattlemen, killed them, and took the flocks.
In the fight, another son of Priam got killed, but Aeneas escaped and took refuge in a city. He had to run once again when Achilles sacked this city.
After this incident, Aeneas could no longer remain neutral, leading his forces to Troy and joining the war. He was one of the greatest warriors. Achilles, who made light of anyone, never despised him. As for the Trojans, they respected him almost as high as they did Hector. During the war, Aeneas was wounded several times, but he survived.
Aeneas was not destined to die in this war. His descendants were to become rulers of Troy.
Several cities were allies of Troy, and many of them were sacked and taken by Achilles. One of the kings who fell victim to Achilles was the father-in-law of Hector. He was killed along with seven of his sons.
Not always did the victims belong to the enemy camp.
Once Agamemnon sent Odys- seus to Thrace on a foraging expedition. Odysseus obeyed Agamemnon and went, but he returned empty-handed.
Palamedes, one of the Greek warriors, said to Odysseus, “You are a slothful and cowardly man!”
“It was not my fault,” cried Odysseus, “that no corn could be found. If Agamemnon had sent you in my place, the same thing would have happened to you.”
Palamedes took up the challenge, set sail at once and came back with a ship-load of grain. Odysseus’s honour was wounded. He brooded for several days and finally hit upon a plan by which he might be avenged on Palamas.
One day, he sent the following message to Agamemnon:
“Last night, the gods appeared to me in my dream and warned me that treachery is afoot. The camp must be moved for a day and a night.”
Agamemnon accepted the suggestion of Odysseus and gave the necessary orders to move the camp.
The Greeks left their camp and passed a day and a night elsewhere. Odysseus secretly entered the deserted camp and buried a sackful of gold in the tent of Palamedes.
Then he got hold of a prisoner of war and forced him to write a letter, as if from Priam to Palamedes, saying, “The gold that I have sent is the price you asked for betraying the Greek camp.”
“Take this and deliver it to Palamedes at once,” Odysseus told the prisoner. But he got the prisoner killed outside the camp before the letter was delivered to Palamedes.
When, the following day, the Greeks were returning to their old camp, they discovered the dead prisoner and found the letter on him. It looked severe, and the letter was sent to Agamemnon.
Agamemnon saw this letter, sent for Palamedes and charged him with treason. Palamedes replied that he was not a traitor and neither Priam nor anyone else ever gave him any gold.
Odysseus suggested that Palamedes’ tent should be searched to know the truth.
The tent was searched, and the gold was discovered. Palamedes was proven a traitor. The usual punishment for a traitor was stoning him to death. So all the Greeks stoned Palamedes to death. He died crying, “Truth, you died before I did!”
Killing Palamedes was a dangerous thing. He was not only innocent, but he was also a gifted man.
He had invented dice for his comrades to spend time with during the siege of Troy. He had created several other things. Among them were lighthouses, scales, measures, the alphabet and the art of posting sentinels.
In Greece, the father of Palamedes heard about the horrible murder of his son and journeyed to Troy to seek justice. “On what grounds did you kill my son?” he asked Agamemnon. “How could you prove that he was a traitor?”
Agamemnon likely knew that Palamedes was innocent and that Odysseus had had him killed treacherously. But because of his regard for Odysseus, he refuses to listen to the older man.
Having failed to secure justice, the father of Palamedes journeyed back to Greece. He then went to the wives of some Greek warriors and said to each one of them, “Your husband is bringing back a Trojan concubine as his new queen.”
Some of the women were so upset that they commit- ted suicide. Thus the treacherous murder of Palamedes was avenged. (To be continued)