War, in Greek legend, famous war waged by the Greeks against the
city of Troy. The tradition is believed to reflect a real war
between the Greeks of the late Mycenaean period and the
inhabitants of the Troad, or Troas, in Anatolia, part of
present-day Turkey. Modern archaeological excavations have shown
that Troy was destroyed by fire sometime between 1230 BC and 1180
BC, and that the war may have resulted from the desire either to
plunder the wealthy city or to put an end to Troy's commercial
control of the Dardanelles.
Legendary accounts of the war traced its origin to a golden apple, inscribed “for the fairest” and thrown by Eris, goddess of discord, among the heavenly guests at the wedding of Peleus, the ruler of Myrmidons, and Thetis, one of the Nereids. The award of the apple to Aphrodite, goddess of love, by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, secured for Paris the favor of the goddess and the love of the beautiful Helen of Troy, wife of Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Helen went with Paris to Troy, and an expedition to avenge the injury to Menelaus was placed under the command of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Agamemnon's force included many famous Greek heroes, the most noted of whom were Achilles, Patroclus, the two Ajaxes, Teucer, Nestor, Odysseus, and Diomedes.
After the Trojans refused to restore Helen to Menelaus, the Greek warriors assembled at the Bay of Aulis and proceeded to Troy in 1000 ships. The siege lasted ten years, the first nine of which were uneventful. In the tenth year, Achilles withdrew from battle because of his anger with Agamemnon; Achilles' action furnished Homer with the theme of the Iliad. To avenge the death of his friend Patroclus, Achilles returned to battle and killed Hector, the principal Trojan warrior. Subsequent events, described in later epic poems, included Achilles' victories over Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, and Memnon, king of Ethiopia, and the death of Achilles at the hands of Paris.
The city of Troy was captured at last by treachery. A force of Greek warriors gained entrance to the city by hiding in the interior of a large wooden horse. Subsequently the Greeks sacked and burned the city. Only a few Trojans escaped, the most famous being Aeneas, who led the other survivors to what is present-day Italy; this story is told by Virgil in the Aeneid.
The return of the Greek warriors to Greece inspired epic poems, the most celebrated being that of Odysseus, whose 10-year wanderings and arrival in Ithaca are told in Homer's Odyssey.