Legends have a way of taking us into worlds that are mysterious, astounding, and unbelievable. Homer was a writer that could weave a legend and make it last more than twenty-nine centuries. That is amazing! The love story that led to the fall of a civilization has never left our hearts. The question then rises up whether or not any of it is real.
The beautiful Helen took everyone’s breath away. The wife of Menelaus was admired by all. The admiration went further when it came to handsome Paris of Troy who decided a little seduction was needed as well as a version of kidnapping. Helen chose to flee with her young lover and leave behind a furious husband. The lust for another man’s wife and the yearning for the attention of a young man gave Homer his story and gave history a mystery.
Paris whisks Helen off to Troy where, despite their feelings of his stupidity, his brother and father rally the country to protect their prince from the price of love’s folly. Menelaus does not hesitate to rush to his brother, King Agamemnon, for help. All of Sparta and beyond come together to avenge the treachery the prince has committed. Ten years of fighting ensues with the results of Troy’s complete destruction, the death of Paris’ brother and father, and a myth that entices us to this day.
From Homer’s writings surrounding the Trojan War we get the legendary Achilles, the most beautiful woman, glorious fighting, the Trojan Horse, defense of honor, the founding of Rome, and the adventures of Odysseus returning home to his lonely wife. One war that might or might not have happened that thrills us and makes our hearts race. To be loved like that! To be defending a brother’s honor! To see the legends come alive! To be there! If it was only fact instead of fiction! Maybe there is no “if”.
Many over the years have believed that Homer’s tales were historical. Maybe not the involvement of the gods, the existence of the Lotus Eaters, or any of the mythological aspects, but many have believed that the men and women lived and died foolishly and gloriously. Even Alexander the Great carried a copy of Homer’s works. As the years went on, it faded more and more into fantasy. How could such fiction have historical fact in it? It was easy with a master story teller. It took one man to hold tight to the dream and show the world that history can be found in myths and legends.
Heinrich Schliemann truly believed that Homer wrote about a place and an event that really happened. Whether the exact actions and dialogue were accurate was not the issue. Was there really a Troy and was there an epic battle? He believed there was. Taking the words of Homer, Schliemann decided to be an historic detective. While scholars scoffed at his ideas, Schliemann in 1871 knocked the historic community flat on its backside. He discovered Troy.
Many did not believe it at first, but during the years since then, historians have had to admit that Troy did exist. They might admit the city once breathed air, but to admit that there was an epic war was another thing. But leave it to archeologists and others in the historical field to show that we should never assume.
Evidence from the ruins of Troy show that Homer described quite accurately, for having written it centuries later. As researchers really begin investigating , they find evidence beyond the Greek and Turkish borders. They found evidence of Troy and the war in the Hittite Empire’s records. More and more evidence appears to say that the Trojan War in fact did occur. Was there as many Greeks attacking it as Homer describes? Maybe not. It is, after all, fiction and a story. Was Helen seduced and taken away? She might not ever have existed. Did Achilles die by an arrow through his heel? Who knows, but the story did contribute to our medical world.
One of the most legendary aspects of the war was the Trojan Horse. The ingenuity of creating a horse large enough to hide soldiers makes a great story. But did it actually happen? Did Greece trick the Trojans with a “gift” that in the end was the fatal stab to the jugular? No evidence has been found, yet do we assume it did not happen?
Too many years have gone by that the world has dismissed heroic writings to be just stories. Yet, through stories truth can be found. Oliver Twist might not ever have walked the streets of London, but the culture lived. Athos, Porthos, and Aremis might never have fought to bring down a bloodthirsty cardinal and save the monarchy, but the musketeers were real and the intrigue made history. Juliet might not have sacrificed herself for the love of Romeo, but the world they lived in and the society they were born into made the world we have today. The characters might be from a vivid imagination and the events wishful thinking, but the events could very well be historical fact.
Troy lived. Troy invoked the wrath of Greece for whatever reason. Troy stood tall and fought to the death. Troy lived through the Dark Age of Greece. Troy was resurrected by Homer.
Never doubt that an event could have occurred. Never doubt that history can be found anywhere.
For more information, check out this five part documentary on the realization of Troy
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