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The following is a guest post from Benjamin Marris. He writes at the site The First Civilizations about ancient societies in the period from 3,000 BC to 500 AD. 

Odysseus, the legend, the myth, the hero, and the king. Odysseus was known as an excellent speaker and a brilliant strategist. You have probably heard about him from the story of the Trojan horse. It is the stunning story of Agamemnon’s armies and their use of deception. Agamemnon sought revenge because the Trojan prince Paris took the wife of his brother, king Menelaus of Sparta. They fought for years against the Trojans, but the war seemed lost for Agamemnon and his allies. That is until Odysseus came to the rescue. Here’s his story.


Let’s start with the man behind this myth. Odysseus grew up as the son of Laertes and Anticlea. According to the myths Odysseus was the king of Ithaca and the leader of the Kephallenians. He was married to Penelope and had a son, named Telemachos. Odysseus was fortunate enough to be the favorite of Athena, the goddess of wisdom and battle. She was his savior many times and helped him through impossible situations. Athena also had a soft spot for Odysseus’ son, Telemachos, but Odysseus was her clear favorite. Odysseus can be described as ‘patient-minded’ and even as Zeus alike. Contrary to most thinkers, Odysseus was also a warrior, and a good one.

The Trojan war is one of the most popular myths about ancient-Greece. Let’s start with how the Trojan war began. Like many things in Greek mythos, it began with the gods.

The queen of Troy, Hecuba, gave birth to a child. She called him Alexander. After the birth, Hecuba dreamed about the downfall of Troy because of her newborn baby. She had to give him away, and wolves took him to a shepherd. He grew up as a part of that Shepard family under the name ‘Paris’. Paris was chosen to decide whom to give a golden apple. He could choose from three goddesses: Hera queen of the gods, Athena, goddess of war, or Aphrodite, goddess of love. The last one promised him the most beautiful woman alive. He chooses Aphrodite. The other ones were furious and wanted to get revenge.

His destiny found him and he arrived at the city of Troy, where he challenged Prince Hector of Troy.  He lost that duel and Hector were going to kill Paris when Hecuba saw the birthmark on Paris’ chest. He was taken into the family and the downfall of Troy began.

After that Paris went to Sparta to strengthen their bonds with king Menelaus. The woman promised by Aphrodite was queen Helen of Sparta, Menelaus’ wife. They fell madly in love and Paris took her. Menelaus was furious and so was his brother, Agamemnon. Menelaus wasn’t much of a fighter; he didn’t even win Helen himself: Agamemnon did that for him. So Agamemnon went with his allies, to retrieve Helen trough diplomatic solutions. Paris wasn’t willing to let her go. So Agamemnon gathered his allies, the Achaean kings; Achilles, Idomeneus, Ajax, and of course, Odysseus.

The Trojan war lasted for nine years, Agamemnon and his armies couldn’t take Troy because of the strategic location, thick walls, and impressive army, so they besieged it. Achilles and Ajax’s armies raided Trojan allies and farmers. Homerus said that Achilles conquered around 11 cities and 12 islands.

After nine years of besieging Troy, the armies mutinied because they wanted to go home.  Paris eventually fought a duel with Menelaus. Menelaus was winning and Aphrodite snatched him away from the battlefield, against all agreements between the gods. Because of that, the armies went fighting again.

So all seemed lost, and Troy seemed invincible until Odysseus came with one brilliant, final plan – the Trojan horse, a giant wooden horse. They left it at the beach with the inscription: ‘The Greeks dedicate this thank-offering to Athena for their return home’. The Trojans had to think that the armies were leaving and admitted that they could never conquer Troy. But in fact, it was filled with soldiers led by Odysseus himself. The rest of the armies burned down the camp and sailed away. The trick worked exactly as planned… Troy took the horse inside of their walls and started feasting, not knowing that they had just brought in their deaths. While all soldiers were getting themselves drunk, Odysseus and his soldiers got out of the horse and opened the gates just when Agamemnon’s whole army had returned.

A great massacre happened that night and day, and Troy was fallen thanks to the ingenious strategist Odysseus, king of Ithaca.

This article is part of our larger selection of posts about Ancient Greece. To learn more, click here for our comprehensive guide to Ancient Greece.

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