The Fall of Troy

Odysseus came up with a plan to get the Greeks into Troy. Under Athena's direction, the Greeks built a gigantic wooden horse with a hollow body. Odysseus and an elite group of Greek warriors hid inside the horse. Their Greek companions took the horse to the city gates and left it there with an inscription explaining it was dedicated to Athena.

The Greek army then withdrew from sight, pretending to sail away. The Trojans weren't quite sure what to do with the horse. Some wanted to destroy it. Others wanted to bring it inside, and still others could hardly contain their curiosity.

A raggedly dressed Greek soldier appeared. He said his name was Sinon and that the Greek army had planned to sacrifice him to Athena, but he had escaped. Athena was furious with the Greeks, he explained, because they had stolen the Palladium. As if disclosing a great secret, Sinon told the Trojans that the Greeks had built the great wooden horse as an offering to Athena, but that they'd purposely built it to be too big to fit through the city's gates. The horse would replace the Palladium and bring the Trojans victory.

Most of the Trojans agreed that they should try to get the horse inside the city walls. One man, however, spoke out against the idea. The prophet Laocoon, wary of what the horse would bring, warned the Trojans not to trust the Greeks. To emphasize his point, Laocoon threw his spear at the horse. Just then a huge monster rose up from the sea and devoured Laocoon and his sons.

To the Trojans, Laocoon's death appeared to be a direct result of his attack on the horse. They reasoned that the horse must indeed be an offering to Athena; when Laocoon attacked the horse, she was offended and sent the sea monster to punish him. Athena did send the sea monster to kill Laocoon, but not because he had desecrated her monument — she just wanted to shut him up.

Some myths say that Helen suspected the Greeks' trick. At night, she ventured out to inspect the horse and mimicked the voices of some of the Greek warriors' wives, trying to get the men to respond. Odysseus was able to keep his men quiet, and they were not discovered.

The Trojans decided to bring the horse into the city. When the horse was inside Troy's walls, they celebrated what they believed was their sure victory. No one noticed Sinon release the Greek warriors who hid inside the horse.

Outside Troy, the Greek army, which had only pretended to sail away, quickly reassembled. The warriors who'd hidden in the horse opened the city gates — and in rushed the Greeks. They sacked Troy, destroying the city completely and killing or capturing all the Trojans they could find. Priam tried to take refuge at the altar of Zeus, but he was brutally murdered by Neoptolemus, Achilles' son. Hector's infant son Astyanax was thrown from Troy's high walls. Trojan women — including Hecuba (the queen), Andromache (Hector's wife), and Cassandra (a Trojan princess) — were enslaved. Some myths say that Ajax of Locris raped Cassandra on the altar of Athena.

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