What Epic Included The Story Of The Trojan Horse?

by Amy

The story of the Trojan Horse is one of the most captivating and enduring legends from ancient Greek mythology, immortalized within the epic poem the Aeneid, written by the Roman poet Virgil in the late 1st century BC. While Homer’s Iliad recounts the events of the Trojan War leading up to the conceptualization of the horse, it is in the Aeneid that we find a more dramatized account of the wooden horse’s construction, its use as a deceptive tool to gain entry into Troy, and the ensuing destruction of the city. The tale serves as a pivotal moment not only in the epic itself but also in the wider narrative of ancient literature, symbolizing themes of cunning over strength, the dire consequences of trust misplaced, and the intricate dealings of the gods in the affairs of mortals.

Myth Meets History: The Trojan War

The Trojan War, as detailed by ancient sources, was a protracted conflict between the city of Troy and the Achaeans (Greeks), sparked by the elopement of Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta, with Paris of Troy. This event, interwoven with the machinations and desires of the gods, led to a ten-year siege of Troy, marked by heroic deeds, immense suffering, and the eventual downfall of the city. The historical existence of Troy, corroborated by archaeological findings, and the possible reality of a war bear testimony to the complex interplay between myth and history in ancient Greek culture.

The Tale of the Trojan Horse

Virgil’s account in the Aeneid, intended as both a continuation and a response to Homer’s works, embellishes the story of the Trojan Horse. According to the epic, the Greeks, unable to breach the walls of Troy, resort to a stratagem devised by Odysseus. They construct a massive wooden horse, hiding a select force of men inside, while the remainder of the Greek army feigns retreat to a nearby island. The Trojans, believing the horse to be an offering to Athena for a safe voyage home and a symbol of their victory, bring it into the city despite warnings from the priest Laocoön and the prophetess Cassandra. Celebrations follow, but at night, the Greek warriors emerge from the horse, open the gates for their returning comrades, and initiate the destruction of Troy.

Themes and Symbolism: The Horse as an Archetype

The Trojan Horse transcends its narrative role, embodying themes of deception, the duality of gifts, and the downfall of pride. It serves as a poignant reminder of the Greeks’ cunning and the Trojans’ tragic gullibility. Additionally, the horse symbolizes the idea that the greatest threats often come from within or are admitted by the very hands they seek to destroy. This motif has permeated various cultural narratives, emphasizing the timeless relevance of the story.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

The legacy of the Trojan Horse is vast, influencing not only literature and art but also modern vernacular and psychological concepts. The term “Trojan horse” has become synonymous with any trick or stratagem that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or space, often used in the context of software malware. Furthermore, the story has been explored and reinterpreted in numerous works, from Renaissance paintings to contemporary films and literature, showcasing its enduring appeal and adaptability to different contexts and moral lessons.

Virgil’s Mastery: The Aeneid as a Cultural Monument

Virgil composed the Aeneid at the behest of Augustus, the first Roman emperor, aiming to trace the origins of Rome’s greatness and to provide it with a foundation myth as glorious and profound as those of Greece. Through the character of Aeneas, who escapes the fall of Troy to eventually found the Roman people, Virgil links Roman history with the heroic narratives of the Greek past, embedding the Trojan Horse within the very identity of Rome. The epic thus serves not only as a literary masterpiece but also as an instrument of cultural and political significance.


The tale of the Trojan Horse, as immortalized in the Aeneid, remains a testament to the complexities of human nature, the double-edged sword of cunning, and the profound impact of mythology on cultural identity and history. It invites readers to ponder the nature of victory and defeat, the ephemeral quality of glory, and the price of hubris. As we continue to revisit and reinterpret this ancient story, it retains its power to fascinate, warn, and inspire, proving that the legends of old still hold valuable lessons for the modern world.


How Many Greek Epics Are There?

Determining the exact number of Greek epics is a challenge due to the passage of time and the nature of ancient literature. The most renowned Greek epics are those attributed to Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey. These works stand as pillars of ancient Greek literature, detailing the story of the Trojan War and the subsequent adventures of Odysseus. Beyond these, there were other epic poems part of the Epic Cycle, related to the Trojan War and its heroes, including:

  • The Cypria, detailing events leading up to the Trojan War.
  • The Aethiopis, covering events after the Iliad, including the death of Achilles.
  • The Little Iliad, focusing on events leading to the fall of Troy.
  • The Sack of Troy, depicting the destruction of Troy.
  • The Returns, narrating the return home of the Greek heroes.
  • The Telegony, telling the story of Odysseus’s last voyage and his death.

Apart from the Trojan cycle, there were also the Theogony by Hesiod, which recounts the origins of the gods, and the Works and Days, also by Hesiod, offering advice and mythology. The Homeric Hymns, a collection of poems celebrating individual gods, could also be considered part of the broader epic tradition.

However, many of these works survive only in fragments or are known through summaries in later texts, making it difficult to ascertain their original number and scope fully.

Who Killed Achilles?

Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Greeks during the Trojan War, was prophesied to die in battle. His death is not depicted in Homer’s Iliad, which concludes before the war’s end, but later traditions and sources, including the Aethiopis (now lost but known through summaries), detail his demise.

According to these later sources, Achilles was killed by Paris, prince of Troy. Paris, guided by the god Apollo, shot an arrow that struck Achilles in the only vulnerable part of his body, his heel. This spot was vulnerable because his mother, Thetis, had held him there while dipping him in the River Styx as a child to render him invulnerable. This act of killing Achilles with a single arrow to his heel gave rise to the term “Achilles’ heel,” referring to a singular but fatal vulnerability in an otherwise invulnerable person or entity.

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