Helen had been wooed and carried away from her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta by Paris, prince of Troy. The Greek wanted Helen back and had laid siege on the city of Troy for ten long years. The country side of Troy had been devastated, but the city of Troy was well protected. The Trojans grew their own food and had water sources within the city gates, so the people of Troy could withstand the Greek siege for ever, or so it seemed to the Greeks (Urban planners please note). Anyway, Odysseus had enough of the war. He really wanted to get back home. He knew that Troy could not be won from the outside, the Greek had to get into the city. He thought of many ways in which this could be accomplished and at last hit upon the idea of the Wooden Horse.
A huge wooden horse was to be made, with a well-hidden door in the underbelly of the horse and a latch from the inside. The horse would have to be very large, to make it attractive as a novelty as well as to hide thirty soldiers within it. Carpenters were called and the horse was completed to the satisfaction of the Greeks. And on it Odysseus had a message inscribed, that said that this was a gift to the people of Troy, from the retreating Greeks, in return for letting them sail back safely to their homeland.
Next, the Greeks had to make it look like they had indeed retreated and sailed back home. They uprooted their own military camp and sailed away, but just to the next island, a few miles away from Troy. Here they lay in waiting, to come back under the cover of the next night.
As part of the plan, they also left behind a tattered and beaten up soldier named Sinon. Sinon was to gain the confidence of the enemy with a sad story of having escaped from the wrath of Odysseus. Having done this, it was his job to allay any suspicion that the Trojans may have about taking the horse into the city. He would convince the Trojans that this horse was under the protection of the Goddess Athene and any city that was the home of this horse, would forever be protected from any invasion for all time to come. This would surely be sweet music to the Trojans, who had been under siege from the Greek for ten long years.
The next morning, when the Trojan soldiers looked out from their watch towers on the city walls, they were surprised to see that the enemy had broken camp and left, and in the ruins was a huge wooden horse. They slowly gathered courage to go out and check out the horse. They wondered what this could mean. Then the inscription was found, that said that this was a gift from the Greek in return for not giving them chase and letting them sail home in peace. The news spread like wild fire and soon the whole city was out and looking at the horse in wonder. Could this be true? Was the war over? Was this a gift? Many tired from years of war, were most ready to take the gift at face value. But there were nay-sayers. Among them was Cassandra, but the merry people of Troy just laughed her fears off. There was however a priest from the temple of Apollo called Laocoon. He too warned the Trojans that this horse would cause the destruction of Troy. But the horse stood there gleaming in the morning sun, bringing hope to the siege weary Trojan heart.
King Priam of Troy was trying to make up his mind, when Sinon the soldier made himself visible and played his part to perfection. Now there was more support to take the gift horse in, even if it meant breaking a part of the wall temporarily, as the gift was too big to go through the city gates. The protection of Athene meant a lot to a people who had been under siege for so long.
But Laocoon’s voice was loud and doubts lingered. However in those moments of confusion, a strange thing happened. Two sea serpents came out of the sea and carried away the two sons of Laocoon! That settled the matter. This was seen as a sign from the Gods to silence the principle nay-sayer. The people pulled the Wooden Horse into the city on the wheels that the Greek had obligingly fitted the gift with. That night there was great rejoicing, singing, dancing and merry making throughout the kingdom of Troy, and soon the city slept like it had not slept in a long time. Only Cassandras wails could be heard deep into the night, but the Trojan’s had long learnt to disregard her cries.
As the citizens of Troy gently snored and dreamed, the Greek sailed back to their abandoned camp. The soldiers in the horse, unlatched themselves, jumped out, caught the sleepy sentinels of Troy off guard, killed them and threw the city gates open. The rest of the Greek soldiers trooped in. By the time, the citizens of Troy realized what was happening, it was too late. There was a mass orgy of rape, loot and killing. The streets of Troy that a few hours back had been the scene of much merriment, now flowed with the blood of the men women and children of Troy. The air was rent with the hapless cries of those yet to meet their gory end in the hands of the Greek soldiers. That night, Troy was razed to the ground.
As for Helen and her face that launched a thousand ships, she was taken back by Menelaus. Menelaus had every intention of killing her for her treachery, but one look at that face and he could do nothing but fall in love all over again.
What is it that they say, about never looking a gift horse in the mouth? Fine, don’t… but please do check the underbelly!