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The Sack Of Troy






Source: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.

For ten years King Agamemnon and the men of Greece laid siege to Troy.
But though sentence had gone forth against the city, yet the day of
its fall tarried, because certain of the gods loved it well and
defended it, as Apollo and Mars, the god of war, and Father Jupiter
himself. Wherefore Minerva put it into the heart of Epeius, Lord of
the Isles, that he should make a cunning device wherewith to take the
city. Now the device was this: he made a great horse of wood, feigning
it to be a peace-offering to Minerva, that the Greeks might have a
safe return to their homes. In the belly of this there hid themselves
certain of the bravest of the chiefs, as Menelaues, and Ulysses, and
Thoas the AEtolian, and Machaon the great physician, and Pyrrhus, son
of Achilles (but Achilles himself was dead, slain by Paris, Apollo
helping, even as he was about to take the city), and others also, and
with them Epeius himself. But the rest of the people made as if they
had departed to their homes; only they went not further than Tenedos,
which was an island near to the coast.

Great joy was there in Troy when it was noised abroad that the men of
Greece had departed. The gates were opened, and the people went forth
to see the plain and the camp. And one said to another as they went,
"Here they set the battle in array, and there were the tents of the
fierce Achilles, and there lay the ships." And some stood and marveled
at the great peace-offering to Minerva, even the horse of wood. And
Thymoetes, who was one of the elders of the city, was the first who
advised that it should be brought within the walls and set in the
citadel. Now whether he gave this counsel out of a false heart or
because the gods would have it so, no man knows. But Capys, and others
with him, said that it should be drowned in water or burned with fire,
or that men should pierce it and see whether there were aught within.
And the people were divided, some crying one thing and some another.
Then came forward the priest Laocooen, and a great company with him,
crying, "What madness is this? Think ye that the men of Greece are
indeed departed or that there is any profit in their gifts? Surely
there are armed men in this mighty horse; or haply they have made it
that they may look down upon our walls. Touch it not, for as for these
men of Greece, I fear them, even though they bring gifts in their
hands."

And as he spake he cast his great spear at the horse, so that it
sounded again. But the gods would not that Troy should be saved.

Meanwhile there came certain shepherds dragging with them one whose
hands were bound behind his back. He had come forth to them, they
said, of his own accord when they were in the field. And first the
young men gathered about him mocking him, but when he cried aloud,
"What place is left for me, for the Greeks suffer me not to live and
the men of Troy cry for vengeance upon me?" they rather pitied him,
and bade him speak and say whence he came and what he had to tell.

Then the man spake, turning to King Priam: "I will speak the truth,
whatever befall me. My name is Sinon and I deny not that I am a Greek.
Haply thou hast heard the name of Palamedes, whom the Greeks slew, but
now, being dead, lament; and the cause was that because he counseled
peace, men falsely accused him of treason. Now, of this Palamedes I
was a poor kinsman and followed him to Troy. And when he was dead,
through the false witness of Ulysses, I lived in great grief and
trouble, nor could I hold my peace, but sware that if ever I came back
to Argos I would avenge me of him that had done this deed. Then did
Ulysses seek occasion against me, whispering evil things, nor rested
till at the last, Calchas the soothsayer helping him--but what profit
it that I should tell these things? For doubtless ye hold one Greek to
be even as another. Wherefore slay me and doubtless ye will do a
pleasure to Ulysses and the sons of Atreus."

Then they bade him tell on, and he said:

"Often would the Greeks have fled to their homes, being weary of the
war, but still the stormy sea hindered them. And when this horse that
ye see had been built, most of all did the dreadful thunder roll from
the one end of the heaven to the other. Then the Greeks sent one who
should inquire of Apollo; and Apollo answered them thus: 'Men of
Greece, even as ye appeased the winds with blood when ye came to Troy,
so must ye appease them with blood now that ye would go from thence.'
Then did men tremble to think on whom the doom should fall, and
Ulysses, with much clamor, drew forth Calchas the soothsayer into the
midst, and bade him say who it was that the gods would have as a
sacrifice. Then did many forbode evil for me. Ten days did the
soothsayer keep silence, saying that he would not give any man to
death. But then, for in truth the two had planned the matter
beforehand, he spake, appointing me to die. And to this thing they all
agreed, each being glad to turn to another that which he feared for
himself. But when the day was come and all things were ready, the
salted meal for the sacrifice and the garlands, lo! I burst my bonds
and fled and hid myself in the sedges of a pool, waiting till they
should have set sail, if haply that might be. But never shall I see
country or father or children again. For doubtless on these will they
take vengeance for my flight. Only do thou, O King, have pity on me,
who have suffered many things, not having harmed any man."

And King Priam had pity on him, and bade them loose his bonds, saying,
"Whoever thou art, forget now thy country. Henceforth thou art one of
us. But tell me true: why made they this huge horse? Who contrived it?
What seek they by it--to please the gods or to further their siege?"

Then said Sinon, and as he spake he stretched his hands to the sky, "I
call you to witness, ye everlasting fires of heaven, that with good
right I now break my oath of fealty and reveal the secrets of my
countrymen. Listen then, O King. All our hope has ever been in the
help of Minerva. But from the day when Diomed and Ulysses dared,
having bloody hands, to snatch her image from her holy place in Troy,
her face was turned from us. Well do I remember how the eyes of the
image, well-nigh before they had set it in the camp, blazed with
wrath, and how the salt sweat stood upon its limbs, aye, and how it
thrice leapt from the ground, shaking shield and spear. Then Calchas
told us that we must cross the seas again and seek at home fresh omens
for our war. And this, indeed, they are doing even now, and will
return anon. Also the soothsayer said, 'Meanwhile ye must make the
likeness of a horse, to be a peace-offering to Minerva. And take heed
that ye make it huge of bulk, so that the men of Troy may not receive
it into their gates, nor bring it within their walls and get safety
for themselves thereby. For if,' he said, 'the men of Troy harm this
image at all, they shall surely perish; but if they bring it into
their city, then shall Asia lay siege hereafter to the city of Pelops,
and our children shall suffer the doom which we would fain have
brought on Troy.'"

These words wrought much on the men of Troy, and as they pondered on
them, lo! the gods sent another marvel to deceive them. For while
Laocooen, the priest of Neptune, was slaying a bull at the altar of his
god, there came two serpents across the sea from Tenedos, whose heads
and necks, whereon were thick manes of hair, were high above the
waves, and many scaly coils trailed behind in the waters. And when
they reached the land they still sped forward. Their eyes were red as
blood and blazed with fire and their forked tongues hissed loud for
rage. Then all the men of Troy grew pale with fear and fled away, but
these turned not aside this way or that, seeking Laocooen where he
stood. And first they wrapped themselves about his little sons, one
serpent about each, and began to devour them. And when the father
would have given help to his children, having a sword in his hand,
they seized upon himself and bound him fast with their folds. Twice
they compassed him about his body, and twice about his neck, lifting
their heads far above him. And all the while he strove to tear them
away with his hands, his priest's garlands dripping with blood. Nor
did he cease to cry horribly aloud, even as a bull bellows when after
an ill stroke of the axe it flees from the altar. But when their work
was done, the two glided to the citadel of Minerva and hid themselves
beneath the feet and the shield of the goddess. And men said one to
another, "Lo! the priest Laocooen has been judged according to his
deeds; for he cast his spear against this holy thing, and now the gods
have slain him." Then all cried out together that the horse of wood
must be drawn to the citadel. Whereupon they opened the Scaean Gate and
pulled down the wall that was thereby, and put rollers under the feet
of the horse and joined ropes thereto. So in much joy they drew it
into the city, youths and maidens singing about it the while and
laying their hands to the ropes with great gladness. And yet there
wanted no signs and tokens of evil to come. Four times it halted on
the threshold of the gate, and men might have heard a clashing of arms
within. Cassandra also opened her mouth, prophesying evil; but no man
heeded her, for that was ever the doom upon her, not to be believed,
though speaking truth. So the men of Troy drew the horse into the
city. And that night they kept a feast to all the gods with great joy
not knowing that the last day of the great city had come.

But when night was now fully come and the men of Troy lay asleep, lo!
from the ship of King Agamemnon there rose up a flame for a signal to
the Greeks; and these straightway manned their ships and made across
the sea from Tenedos, there being a great calm and the moon also
giving them light. Sinon likewise opened a secret door that was in the
great horse and the chiefs issued forth therefrom and opened the gates
of the city, slaying those that kept watch.

Meanwhile there came a vision to AEneas, who now, Hector being dead,
was the chief hope and stay of the men of Troy. It was Hector's self
that he seemed to see, but not such as he had seen him coming back
rejoicing with the arms of Achilles or setting fire to the ships, but
even as he lay after that Achilles dragged him at his chariot wheels,
covered with dust, and blood, his feet swollen and pierced through
with thongs. To him said AEneas, not knowing what he said, "Why hast
thou tarried so long? Much have we suffered waiting for thee! And what
grief hath marked thy face, and whence these wounds?"

But to this the spirit answered nothing, but said, groaning the while,
"Fly, son of Venus, fly and save thee from these flames. The enemy is
in the walls and Troy hath utterly perished. If any hand could have
saved our city, this hand had done so. Thou art now the hope of Troy.
Take then her gods and flee with them for company, seeking the city
that thou shalt one day build across the sea."

And now the alarm of battle came nearer and nearer, and AEneas, waking
from sleep, climbed upon the roof and looked on the city. As a
shepherd stands and sees a fierce flame sweeping before the south wind
over the corn-fields or a flood rushing down from the mountains, so he
stood. And as he looked, the great palace of Deiphobus sank down in
the fire and the house of Ucalegon that was hard by, blazed forth,
till the sea by Sigeuem shone with the light. Then, scarce knowing what
he sought, he girded on his armor, thinking perchance that he might
yet win some place of vantage or at the least might avenge himself on
the enemy or find honor in his death. But as he passed from out of his
house there met him Panthus, the priest of Apollo that was on the
citadel, who cried to him, "O AEneas, the glory is departed from Troy
and the Greeks have the mastery in the city; for armed men are coming
forth from the great horse of wood and thousands also swarm in at the
gates, which Sinon hath treacherously opened." And as he spake others
came up under the light of the moon, as Hypanis and Dymas and young
Coroebus, who had but newly come to Troy, seeking Cassandra to be
his wife. To whom AEneas spake: "If ye are minded, my brethren, to
follow me to the death, come on. For how things fare this night ye
see. The gods who were the stay of this city have departed from it;
nor is aught remaining to which we may bring succor. Yet can we die as
brave men in battle. And haply he that counts his life to be lost may
yet save it." Then, even as ravening wolves hasten through the mist
seeking for prey, so they went through the city, doing dreadful deeds.
And for a while the men of Greece fled before them.

First of all there met them Androgeos with a great company following
him, who, thinking them to be friends, said, "Haste, comrades; why are
ye so late? We are spoiling this city of Troy and ye are but newly
come from the ships." But forthwith, for they answered him not as he
had looked for, he knew that he had fallen among enemies. Then even as
one who treads upon a snake unawares among thorns and flies from it
when it rises angrily against him with swelling neck, so Androgeos
would have fled. But the men of Troy rushed on and, seeing that they
knew all the place and that great fear was upon the Greeks, slew many
men. Then said Coroebus, "We have good luck in this matter, my
friends. Come now, let us change our shields and put upon us the armor
of these Greeks. For whether we deal with our enemy by craft or by
force, who will ask?" Then he took to himself the helmet and shield of
Androgeos and also girded the sword upon him. In like manner did the
others, and thus, going disguised among the Greeks, slew many, so that
some again fled to the ships and some were fain to climb into the
horse of wood. But lo! men came dragging by the hair from the temple
of Minerva the virgin Cassandra, whom when Coroebus beheld, and how
she lifted up her eyes to heaven (but as for her hands, they were
bound with iron), he endured not the sight, but threw himself upon
those that dragged her, the others following him. Then did a grievous
mischance befall them, for the men of Troy that stood upon the roof of
the temple cast spears against them, judging them to be enemies. The
Greeks also, being wroth that the virgin should be taken from them,
fought the more fiercely, and many who had before been put to flight
in the city came against them and prevailed, being indeed many against
few. Then first of all fell Coroebus, being slain by Peneleus the
Boeotian, and Rhipeus also, the most righteous of all the sons of
Troy. But the gods dealt not with him after his righteousness. Hypanis
also was slain and Dymas, and Panthus escaped not for all that more
than other men he feared the gods and was also the priest of Apollo.

Then was AEneas severed from the rest, having with him two only,
Iphitus and Pelias, Iphitus being an old man and Pelias sorely wounded
by Ulysses. And these, hearing a great shouting, hastened to the
palace of King Priam, where the battle was fiercer than in any place
beside. For some of the Greeks were seeking to climb the walls, laying
ladders thereto, whereon they stood, holding forth their shields with
their left hands and with their right grasping the roofs. And the men
of Troy, on the other hand, being in the last extremity, tore down the
battlements and the gilded beams wherewith the men of old had adorned
the palace. Then AEneas, knowing of a secret door whereby the unhappy
Andromache in past days had been wont to enter, bringing her son
Astyanax to his grandfather, climbed on to the roof and joined himself
to those that fought therefrom. Now upon this roof there was a tower,
whence all Troy could be seen and the camp of the Greeks and the
ships. This the men of Troy loosened from its foundations with bars of
iron, and thrust it over, so that it fell upon the enemy, slaying many
of them. But not the less did others press forward, casting the while
stones and javelins and all that came to their hands.

Meanwhile others sought to break down the gates of the palace,
Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, being foremost among them, clad in shining
armor of bronze. Like to a serpent was he, which sleeps indeed during
the winter, but in the spring comes forth into the light, full-fed on
evil herbs, and, having cast his skin and renewed his youth, lifts his
head into the light of the sun and hisses with forked tongue. And with
Pyrrhus were tall Periphas, and Automedon, who had been armor-bearer
to his father Achilles, and following them the youth of Scyros, which
was the kingdom of his grandfather Lycomedes. With a great battle-axe
he hewed through the doors, breaking down also the door-posts, though
they were plated with bronze, making, as it were, a great window,
through which a man might see the palace within, the hall of King
Priam and of the kings who had reigned aforetime in Troy. But when
they that were within perceived it, there arose a great cry of women
wailing aloud and clinging to the doors and kissing them. But ever
Pyrrhus pressed on, fierce and strong as ever was his father Achilles,
nor could aught stand against him, either the doors or they that
guarded them. Then, as a river bursts its banks and overflows the
plain, so did the sons of Greece rush into the palace.

But old Priam, when he saw the enemy in his hall, girded on him his
armor, which now by reason of old age he had long laid aside, and took
a spear in his hand and would have gone against the adversary, only
Queen Hecuba called to him from where she sat. For she and her
daughters had fled to the great altar of the household gods and sat
crowded about it like unto doves that are driven by a storm. Now the
altar stood in an open court that was in the midst of the palace, with
a great bay-tree above it. So when she saw Priam, how he had girded
himself with armor as a youth, she cried to him and said, "What hath
bewitched thee, that thou girdest thyself with armor? It is not the
sword that shall help us this day; no, not though my own Hector were
here, but rather the gods and their altars. Come hither to us, for
here thou wilt be safe, or at the least wilt die with us."

So she made the old man sit down in the midst. But lo! there came
flying through the palace, Polites, his son, wounded to death by the
spear of Pyrrhus, and Pyrrhus close behind him. And he, even as he
came into the sight of his father and his mother, fell dead upon the
ground. But when King Priam saw it he contained not himself, but cried
aloud, "Now may the gods, if there be any justice in heaven,
recompense thee for this wickedness, seeing that thou hast not spared
to slay the son before his father's eyes. Great Achilles, whom thou
falsely callest thy sire, did not thus to Priam, though he was an
enemy, but reverenced right and truth and gave the body of Hector for
burial and sent me back to my city."

And as he spake the old man cast a spear, but aimless and without
force, which pierced not even the boss of the shield. Then said the
son of Achilles, "Go thou and tell my father of his unworthy son and
all these evils deeds. And that thou mayest tell him die!" And as he
spake he caught in his left hand the old man's white hair and dragged
him, slipping the while in the blood of his own son, to the altar, and
then, lifting his sword high for a blow, drove it to the hilt in the
old man's side. So King Priam, who had ruled mightily over many
peoples and countries in the land of Asia, was slain that night,
having first seen Troy burning about him and his citadel laid even
with the ground. So was his carcass cast out upon the earth, headless
and without a name.





Next: Beowulf And Grendel

Previous: The Story Of Iphigenia



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