Helen of Troy was jaw-droppingly
beautiful. When she was abducted by the Trojans, the Greeks went to
the rescue in force; according to legend hers was the face that
launched a thousand ships. Even today some people use the story to
measure beauty; a one-milli Helen face is beautiful enough to launch
The Greeks besieged the city
of Troy for ten years, according to the poet Homer, and then Odysseus
worked out a cunning plan to get in. He organized the building of an
enormous wooden horse, which one night they parked outside the gates
with a posse of armed warriors hidden inside. Then the others set fire
to their camp and disappeared just out of sight.
When the Trojans woke up they
were glad the Greeks had gone, but were suspicious of this wooden
horse, although some thought it was dedicated to the goddess Athene –
perhaps because there was a carved inscription saying so.
Cassandra the soothsayer said
the horse would bring doom – but she said that about everything; so no
one believed her. Another seer called Laocoon said that whatever this
thing was he was scared of the Greeks, even when they brought gifts.
But he had hardly finished his sentence when a great serpent whooshed
out of the sea and strangled him and his two sons to death. Perhaps
the gods did not approve of his scepticism?
So the Trojans took the horse
in, and next night the Greek posse climbed out and opened the gates
for the rest of the army. Thus the Greeks captured Troy.
All this was a wonderful story
– I even enjoyed reading it in Greek at school - but nobody took it
seriously, apart from a German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann. All
his life loved the stories told by Homer, but unlike everyone else he
believed they were true. So in 1870, after he retired, he decided to
be an archaeologist and set off with a trowel in search of Troy. He
found the remains of what turned out to be nine cities on top of one
another, and sure enough one of them was the Troy of legend.
Now the wheel has turned full
circle, for armed with the latest high-tech equipment, and not trying
to find the facts to fit the myth, a new team of German archaeologists
may have come closer than ever before to revealing the truth behind