In Homer’s epic story of the journeys of Odysseus (or Ulysses), The Odyssey, what happened in Troy was over when Homer’s story begins. The very first sentence in Book I, in fact, begins with this notation:
“Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy.”
Homer’s protagonist is Odysseus, a hero of the Trojan War from Greek mythology. According to that myth, Paris, the son of Priam, king of Troy, kidnapped the beautiful Greek woman Helen, wife of Menelaus. The Trojan War was waged by the Greeks (or Achaeans) against the city of Troy for the purpose of retrieving Helen and returning her to Menelaus. In The Odyssey, Odysseus is a Greek hero of the Trojan War who left his wife, Penelope, and infant son Telemachus to fight in the war. Homer’s story treats that period in retrospective fashion, as in the following passage from Book IV, in which the now-grown Telemachus visits his missing father’s old friend Menelaus only to also encounter Helen:
“Do we know, Menelaus," said she, "the names of these strangers who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in your hearts, on account of my most shameless self."
The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus’ ten-year journey to return home to Penelope and Telemachus following his heroic service in the Trojan War. The key to understanding what happened in Troy, however, is not so much found in The Odyssey, as in histories of the Trojan War itself.