Did Achilles really burn Troy and rescue Helen?In The Iliad, Homer recounts the stories of The Trojan Wars. How can we spearate the truth from the myths? And, when we have removed all the...
In The Iliad, Homer recounts the stories of The Trojan Wars. How can we spearate the truth from the myths? And, when we have removed all the exaggeration and dramatisation...
What is the truth about The Trojan War?
There is no sure way to do this. There are no Greek records remaining from the time of the Trojan War. In fact, it is not really even known for sure that the Trojan War ever happened.
I suppose that you could try to separate truth from myths by looking at what things seem plausible and what things do not. You can look at the values of the time in which the Iliad was composed and then try to discount stuff that goes too well with those values. In other words, if Homer's people valued bravery, you can discount accounts of valor to some degree because they might be exaggerating these accounts in order to make the heroes look good.
But that will just be conjecture. There's no way to know.
When The Iliad begins, the Trojan War has gone on for ten years, but this is not fact. There was no single Trojan War that lasted for years. (For a while, it was disputed whether the city of Troy had ever existed, but archaeologists now believe that it did, in some form.) Historians now believe there were a number of much smaller battles over a period of time that occurred when various Greek bands attacked Troy. The Iliad is a wonderful epic poem born of Greek myth, but it is not factual. The mythical characters illustrate the values of the cultures they represent, and the fictional events make for a really good story. Lots of action!
According to the ancient tradition, Achilles died before the stratagem of the wooden horse occurred. Therefore, even if the war were an actual, historical event, Achilles was dead before the fall of Troy took place. Achilles' son, Neoptolemus, however, was present during the fall of Troy, according to the ancient sources, and played a major role in the final destruction of the city. In the end, though, it was Helen's original husband, Menelaus, who "rescues" Helen and takes her back to Greece. In Homer's Odyssey (Book 4), we find the couple back in Sparta and living happily ever after (so it seems).