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The Trojan Horse

Written for the KidsKnowIt Network by:
Brandon Guymon

The Trojan horse, the very word has come to mean a sneaky trick. It was a military strategy used by the Greeks to take over the City of Troy in a war that may not have actually taken place. The Trojan War is one of the most important events in Greek Mythology. Because it was an event in mythology, many historians and archaeologists wonder if the war really took place; but in 1869, two archaeologists named Henrich Schleimann and Frank Calvert found the remains of an ancient city in the right place to be Troy. However, the debate goes on and on without signs of stopping.

Ruins of the ancient city of Troy.







We know about the Trojan War because of ancient writers. These writers wrote about the war hundreds of years after it was supposed to have taken place. The most important of these writers were the poets Homer and Virgil.

Homer
Homer.

Homer was a Greek poet. His most famous works deal with the Trojan War. The names of his very long poems are the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad describes the last year of the Trojan War and ends with the death of the Trojan ruler, Hector, but before the Greeks take and destroy the city of Troy. The Odyssey talks about the Greek hero Odysseus' trip home. Homer talks about the Trojan horse in the Odyssey, not the Iliad; the Iliad ended before the horse was used.

The Roman poet Virgil wrote the most about the Trojan Horse. Virgil collected Greek stories hundreds of years after the death of Homer. From those stories he wrote epic poems about the Trojan War. In Virgil's poems we learn how the Greeks used the Trojan Horse.

Virgil
Virgil.

Here's how the story goes: The Greeks had nearly surrounded the city of Troy, trying to cut the Trojans off from their food and allies. No matter how hard the Greeks tried they couldn't take over one last little piece of land. This last little spit of land was the window of hope that kept Troy going. The Trojans were able to sneak food and supplies into their city so they wouldn't starve to death. Also, the Trojan's were able to sneak in allies to help them fight off the Greeks. The siege of Troy lasted 10 years and the Trojan's almost won. The Greeks were about to give up. In fact, many of the common soldiers in the Greek army refused to take orders from their leaders. They demanded to go home. The leaders of the Greeks convinced their men to try one more thing.

That one more thing was an idea thought up by Odysseus. Odysseus said that the Greeks should build a hollow wooden horse. The horse was symbol of the city of Troy; so, the Greeks believed the Trojans would think it was a gift. The Greeks would hide soldiers, led by Odysseus, in the horse and the rest of the army would sail their ships just out of sight. When the Trojans brought the horse inside the city, the Greeks inside the horse would jump out of the horse, open the city gates and let the rest of the army inside.

The Trojan Horse was a cunning battle trick.

Since this was the first time the trick had been used in war, it worked. Although, according to the story, it almost didn't. One of the leaders of the Trojans came down from the temple on the hill and said something to the effect of “fear Greeks even bringing gifts,” but nobody listened. Odysseus and his men under the cover of night leapt from the wooden horse, killed the guards, opened the gates allowing the Greeks to pour into the city and sack it.

The Trojan Horse brought down the city of Troy.

In modern times the term Trojan Horse has been used to talk about computer programs that on the outside seem to be a good program but really it is a damaging computer virus, spyware, or other type of malware. Like the mythical Trojan Horse, these computer programs seem to be gifts but once they get past your computer's defenses they open up and wreak havoc on your machine. So when you see a program on the Internet that seems too good to be true, watch out! - it could be a Trojan Horse.

Watch out for Trojan Horses!

       


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