Friday, 8 March 2013

Legend of the Trojan Horse

My most recent post got me thinking about more of the biggest mistakes people have made in history. I realised that one such mistake, which probably deserves a place on the list I made is the legend of the Trojan Horse.

The Trojan Horse is a large wooden horse from the Trojan War in Greek mythology. In the Trojan War, the Greeks were fighting against the city of Troy, located on the coast of Asia, across the sea from the Greek city-state of Sparta.. The war started when Helen, the queen of Sparta, was kidnapped by Paris, prince of Troy. The Grecians waged war on Troy to win Helen of Troy back.

The Greeks could not enter the city or win the war, because in those days most cities had walls of up to 20 feet high surrounding them. Along the wall, inside of the city, a set of stairs wound up to the top. Warriors could stand at the top of the stairs and shoot arrows down at intruders who were trying to get inside the city. There were also holes built high on the wall, which archers could shoot arrows through. If the wall was high enough and strong enough, it could do a pretty good job keeping intruders from coming inside. 

According to legend, the Greeks tried for ten years to get over the wall around the city of Troy, to no avail. Similarly, the Trojans could not drive the Greeks away. One day, Odysseus, one of the Grecian generals, thought of a way to trick them. The Greeks pretended to admit defeat and decide to give up. In those days, whenever one side surrendered, it was custom to give a gift to the 'enemy'. This could have been money, art or slaves. As the Greeks were famous for their art, they decided to build a wooden horse and present it to the Trojans. Odysseus chose a horse so that Poseidon (God of the sea and creator of horses) would ensure them a safe trip back to Greece.

The Greeks left the horse outside the city walls, and set sail. Seeing this, the Trojans dragged the horse inside their city and closed the gates, thinking it was a victory gift from the Greeks. They then had a festival to celebrate their victory. Some Trojans wanted to burn the horse, which would have been a sad fate for the Greek soldiers hidden inside of it, but most of the Trojans, famous for their bragging (or so legend has it) wanted to display the magnificent horse. After the Trojan victory festival ended, the Greeks, who were hiding inside the horse, silently crept out at night while the Trojan people slept soundly, tired from all their celebrations. They opened the gates of Troy and let the Greek army inside. The Greeks easily overpowered the unsuspecting Trojans and took control of the city. Because of the Trojan Horse, the Greeks won the Trojan War.

Today the word "Trojan horse" is used for things that are similar to that story: something that looks good and okay, but in truth has another purpose, usually bad. An example for this is the computer virus Trojan horse.