Trojan Horse: fact or fiction?

I saw some damn car commercial last night which used the Trojan horse as some half-assed analogy about how slick their car is. I can’t remember what the car was, but it got me thinking—was the T.H. an urban legend? Is there any hard evidence that the event really took place? Sounds awfully fishy to me . . .

Don’t know for a fact, or whether it can be proved either way.

The only record of it, I believe, is from Homer (whoever he/they was/were), and postdates the Trojan War by a couple hundred years.

Well since everybody who was there is dead, and nobody thought to take a photo, this question is essentially unaswerable. Probably a great debate.

An explanation I read says that the Trojan horse was probably a siege engine of one kind. While the Greeks didn’t have siege engine technology, the Hitites did, and it’s quite possible they either picked up the idea or got some help from these guys.

The best candidate is an engine used for protecting a force while it scales a wall. This siege engine also looks quite a bit like a horse.

The tail is a ladder that soldies climb up onto the first main covered deck (which coincides with the body of the horse. A second ladder (the neck)leads to a second covered deck (the head.)

Put the whole apparatus on wheels, fill it with soldiers, and wheel it so that the head is at the level with the top of the wall.

Soldiers will be protected from arrows, spears, boiling oil, and such while they climb the ladders and disembark onto the top of the wall.

The theory goes that an unschooled observer would have the impression of a giant horse spewing forth soldiers into the heart of the city.

Give it a few centuries of retelling, and there is your Trojan Horse story.

The version I heard was that it was actually a giant rabbit, on wheels, and that it didn’t work because the Greeks pushed it up to the door of Troy, but forgot to get inside.

Remember, everyone thought Homer had made the whole Trojan War story up until Schillerman (sp?) went and dug up Troy.

I like the siege engine idea. I hadn’t heard it before but it makes a certain amount of sense and one could easily see the story coming down to Homer that way.

Unverifiable, but my guess is true.

It’s a common military strategem. When Nazi Germany invaded Norway, they hid inside oil tankers which were guided into harbor by Norway’s tugs, waited for nightfall and suprised the hell out of the poor dock workers, who I’m sure looked at the strange soldiers ushering out of the dark oil tankers and then looked down at their bottle of Vodka and proceeded to throw it to the ground, muttering something about laying off that demon alcohol.

Also, the art theives did it in the Thomas Crown Affair, so it MUST have happened.

Wow, Scylla, that was slick—I gotta remember to ask you any of my ancient history questions (maybe I’ll write a bio of Theodora someday . . .).

I don’t know about the Trojan Horse, but I know that the Trojan Bunny was a fact. I know because I saw film of this one and since I believe everything I see, it must be true.


Eve wrote:

It was pretty slick the Scylla retold the plot of “Vengeance of Orion” by Ben Bova as a theory he read somewhere.

I’d hate for someone to think that it was a theory presented by a historian rather than a science fiction writer.

I could be wrong (classical scholars, please help!), but I’m not sure Homer mentions the horse at all. The version of the story most people know comes from Virgil’s Aeneid, which was written still later, between 29 and 19 BCE. (Plautus, who wrote around 200 BCE, also mentions the horse in passing.) If it’s a late addition to the Troy story, my guess is that it’s almost certainly not true.


Do you get all your information from comic books?

It’s not a theory (which needs evidence to back it up.) It’s a speculation. It was also presented by a classical historian in the context I read it. If you had asked me nicely, I probably would look for a cite for you when I got home.

If a science fiction writer found it interesting enough to write a book about it, how does that reflect on its validity?

Writers of speculative fiction traditionally borrow heavily from scholarly sources.

Please feel free to take your attitude and stick it.

Bang on Scylla! I don’t know which classical historian either but the same theory is outlined in Michael Woods’ book “In Search of the Trojan Wars”. It was only a companion to a BBC series here in the UK so may be a bit low brow but the author is at least a professional archeologist. If I recall correctly it also suggested the story predates Aeneid citing pictorial evidence on pottery - I try to dug up the details and follow up this post if anyone is interested.

On another tack I also seem to recall that they having failed with the attempted wooden rabbit trick somebody suggested a giant wooden badger might fool 'em…

The Trojan Horse was mentioned (in passing) by Homer, but it was in the Odyssey, not in the Iliad. Vergil gave us much more information about it than Homer ever did.

The man who discovered the ruins of Troy was named Heinrich Schliemann.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn there might be at least sa grain of truth to the story, but I’m not aware of any evidence in favor of it.

The Hittite word for “siege engine” is “wooden animal.”

But still, all speculation.

Possible, but not proof.

Heck, we can’t even find the composition (or prove the existence) of “Greek Fire,” and that was a lot more recent.

We are missing large parts of the Illead. However, other sources give a “Cliff notes” version of the missing parts, including the Trojan Horse. Originally, Archaeologists thought the whole thing was just a story, but every discovery confirms more, and nothing major has been disproved. So, it is likely that something like that occured.

I have been studying the Odyssey, by Homer, for the past 2 months in my Myths of the World class and have read the Odyssey from front to back twice. The description that the character Odysseus provides of the TH was quite clear, at least in my mind. But first you must realize that the book I read was the English translation of the Greek poem so if the translation got screwed up then there’s not much I can do about that.

Anyway, Odysseus described the TH as a giant wooden horse that they built and set outside the city of Troy with hopes that it would be taken into the city. There is a long description of how he and his men sat inside of it for many hours before the horse was actually taken into the city. Then there was an intense part where the King of Troy talks about burning the horse and asks his stolen wife Helen wheher he should or not. Helen knew that Odysseus and his men were inside however she said nothing so the king accepted the TH. Another intense moment is when one of Odysseus’ men is about to cry out from frustration at how long they have been inside the horse and Odysseus clamps his mouth shut with his hand. Anyway, later that night Odysseus and his men came out of the horse, opened the gates to Troy and Greek army marched in and took the city.

Now whether you believe the story or not, that is up to you. I would recommend that anyone who can should read it, it is an excellent book.

If properly poked and prodded (sp?) I might be convinced to cite some of the passages from the book, however I can not do that tonight and it would require LOTS of poking and prodding because the damned book is long winded and it would take about an hour to find and copy the correct passges.


Many Trojans later said “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”

Others said “Beware of gifts bearing Greeks.”

The Trojan horse is mentioned in books IV, VIII, and X of the Odyssey. The descriptions are more detailed than I remembered.

The Trojan horse is discussed in depth in book II of the Aeneid and perhaps in other parts of the poem.

Arthur: “Now what?”
Beddimere: “Well, my liege, we could build a giant wooden badger…”

I earlier wrote:

I’ve now found the reference and it seems that whilst seige engines looking a bit like a horse (but more like a trunkless elephant to me) are depicted on Assyrian reliefs dating from the 12th century BC there is no evidence they were in use in the 13th century BC (usual accepted date for seige of Troy) Aegean.

The earlier known pictorial representation of the wooden horse image (complete with window thru which armed men can be seen) is on an 8th century BC vase from Mykonos.

The Trojan Horse story was evidently current some time before the Odyssey.