The Trojan War in Ancient Art



                         Tabula Iliaca Capitolina, Roman artwork Rome1st century AD;  This tablet is dated back to the Augustan period, circa 15 BCE) ((

The Trojan War, replete with its famous stories and heroes, saturated the ancients via the prolific art work etched in many media, whether embedded within its monumental sculptures, the earliest noted within the pediments or metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu, (Weincke) a wall painting or mosaic, the countless vase-paintings both in black and red figure technique, or the Roman codices.  This subject matter was intriguing.  It captivated not only the Greeks, but the Etruscans and the Romans.

Each artistic endeavor renewed an ancient tradition that dated back to the Indo-Europeans.   It also signifies their own autonomous act as a connection from their present time to the past, These artistic endeavors were essentially a reenactment of an long enduring artistic ritual that connected them their predecessors, attesting their faith in the deep truth of their myths and stories, The ancient artist also injected within his own work his own perspectives about love and poetry

The primary texts that convey this fascinating subject was found in Homer’s Iliad and his Odyssey, as well as Vergil’s Aeneid and the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle, of which we only have fragmented portions. Herein lays the source of great contention amongst scholars as to what inspired these artists.  Is the prolific artwork inspired by the great epic poets?  Each artist from every age, from ancient to modern, have matched their own ideologies and religious beliefs embedded within their respective work, creating a plethora of innovation.  (Lowenstam 1)

Of all the particular scenes and heroes of the Trojan War, the most favorite theme was that of the actual Sack of Troy and the death of King Priam.  From the earliest known monumental sculpture that commemorated the death of Priam within its pediment and metope, the temple of Artemis on Corfu, to the countless art media that portrayed the destruction of Troy with its outstanding depictions of the rape of Cassandra, the death of Priam and his grandson, Hector’s son, Astyanax, it was this part of the Trojan War and its corresponding art work that was most popular, even down to the Roman codices.  This portion of this famous war story that is not included in Homer’s Iliad, nor the Iliad is told in one of the lesser poems, the Iliupersis, literally, the “sack of Ilium,”   This was a favorite amongst the ancients.  As I shall detail in the following annotations and abstracts, this subject matter is found in prolific red and black figure vase-paintings, wall painting in the homes of the Roman elite, mosaics, sculptures, as well as within the actual building and temples.  According to Wiencke,  they “supply us with a multitude of legendary motives and variations, which we cannot find in literature, and are the faithful reflex of the fluidity of Greek mythology, which devoid of canon and dogmatism, was a constant flux,:  (Weincke 281) This fascinating theme endured for over a century and a half of Greek art.

(Note: the section on Internet Resources has a myriad of art illustrations from all modes of media.)

Work Cited:

Lowenstam, Steven. As Wintessed by Images The Trojan WAr Tradition in Greek and Etruscan Art. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008. Print.

Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.


                             ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY REFERENCES:


Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.

This in an online source for one of the Epic Cycle poems, but it contains only fragments have survived.  Aside from the Iliad and the Odyssey, these poems tell different stories of the Trojan War that Homer did not address. This poem, Iliou Persis, “The Sack of Troy,” of which only ten lines survive, starts with the Greek’s gift of the wooden horse to the Trojans, details the destruction of Troy, the death of Priam, Cassandra, Astyanax, and concludes with the human sacrifice of Polyxena, Priam’s daughter, at Achilles’ tomb. This poem was the most popular subject matter for artists of all media. The authorship is attributed to Arcticus of Miletus.

Homer, Iliad. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1997. Print.

In the Iliad, Homer details only fifty-eight days of a ten war siege by the Greeks against the Trojans, choosing carefully to narrate scenes other than the ones depicted in the Epic Cycle poems.  Its theme is the consequences and cost of war for those left behind.  Likewise, in keeping with a tragedy it ends with a funeral, that of Hector’s.  This book is the source of prolific artistic inspirations for the Greeks and some of the most popular scenes from the Trojan War are found here. (for example: the countless images of the Judgment of Paris)

Homer, Odyssey. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2000.

The Odyssey addresses life after war for those who survive as they attempt to return home and resume pre-war life.  It is an account of Odysseus, cunning masterful storyteller who manipulates the truth with his web of twisted tales.. Through these we derive more details of the Trojan War omitted in the Iliad.  It also is a story of homecoming, after ten year fraught with obstacles he returns to his beloved wife, Penelope and his son Telemachus, who together rid their home of potential suitors who have long overstayed their welcome. It bears the happy ending of restoration of family and justice served.  Many of the highly favored art depictions, such as the Odysseus and the blinding of Polyphemus, originate from this book.


Virgil, The Aeneid. New York: Random House, Inc., 1981, 1982,1983.

This is story of the Trojan survivors, namely Aeneas and his father and son who escape Troy and set about their destined path  by the gods to found Rome and its illustrious heritage. They escape Troy and are led to seek out a new homeland, Italy, It was written by Virgil, at the bidding of Augustus, in the Golden Age of the Roman Empire, to establish the auspicious founding of the Roman Empire.

West, Martin L. Greek Epic Fragment. London, England; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print.  (Iliupersis)


Junker, Klaus. Interpreting the Images of Greek Myths. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print

From the Homeric age until late antiquity, Ancient Greece and Rome cultures were saturated by Greek myth image.  Their art was replete with the heroes and the gods whether it be on statue, or vase painting, temple decorations, drinking vessels, or wall paintings or floor mosaics.  In this book Klaus Junker, a professor of Classical Archaeology at Mainz University creates a means by which we can comprehend these pictorial images of the myths.  It would be extremely useful to undergraduate and graduate students studying classical mythology and ancient art.  He includes well executed case studies on Achilles and Patroclus in the Trojan War, as well as an array of many other Trojan War art scenes in various media.

Carpenter, T. H. Art and Myth in Ancient Greece. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 1991. Print.

Excellent art resource for the novice as it is an introductory text of art appreciation of myths in antiquity.  It essentially walks you through how to approach art related to myth.  An entire chapter is devoted to the Trojan War and it covers the full gamut of the war.  It is replete with artistic depictions, whether it be vase paintings, or wall painting, as well as Roman frescoes, floor mosaics and wall paintings, a subject that consumed their collectors, especially that of the Odyssey,   It includes depictions from the Epic cycles poems: and provides gives detailed explanations.   It appears to be extremely helpful for artistic novices and for those wishing to establish a foundational knowledge of mythical art for many cultures.

Woodford, Susan. Images of Myths in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Professor Susan Woodford at the University of London provides a well-illustrated and indexed, thorough handbook useful for decoding the mythical art portrayed in a vast array of artistic media.  She included a great deal of Trojan War themes from the Epic Cycles and Homer.  This text would serve as a ongoing ready reference to the nuts and bolts of understanding myth: formulas and motifs and the creations of composition by which these myths may be adapted and transferred to other contexts.  This book was very helpful for decoding works that bear no inscriptions, especially helpful to artistic novices but equally as helpful to undergraduate students studying this subject matter and for those wishing to establish a foundational knowledge of mythical art for many cultures.  It covers the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, as well as those fragmented portions of The Epic Cycle.


                                              ANNOTATED ARTICLES:

Bulas, Kazimierz. “New Illustrations to the Iliad.” American Journal of Archaeology . 54.2 (1950): 112-118. Print.

At the courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this author was able to publish this article on a new Trojan tablet, that had been unknown to him when he wrote his book on this subject, Les illustrations antiques de l’Iliade. (Lwow 1929)  This article includes a picture (p.XVIII) of this fragmented portion of a well-known group of Trojan tablets that represent Trojan cycle episodes.  They also contain explanatory inscriptions in Greek that were presumably used for teaching.  Its central theme is that of the Sack of Troy and above the actual scenes are actual episodes from individual books of the Iliad.  These scenes are faithful correspondents of the same scenes on the Tabula Capitalina.  The article also includes illustrations from mosaics from Ceccano, Red figured vase fragments by the Peleus painter.  This article is excellent and designed for those who have mastery of the Greek language as there are many references and numbering in Greek.  This would be an excellent reference for graduate students.


Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.

This lengthy and extensively detailed article provides a thorough examination of the most popular epic themes from episodes from the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle and that of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey found in his the study of sixth century vase-painting.  He does, however, devote a section, replete with excellent pictures, of the earliest example in sculpture, dated between 600 B.C. and 580 B.C, the pediment and metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu.  He surmises that the themes from the Iliupersis, the Sack of Troy and the death of Praim, provide a long standing history within art that has been lost in the literature until Virgil’s Aeneid.  He suggests that ancient art was not merely an illustration of literary composition but should be viewed as a relationship between the graphic art and the literature, to be seen as contemporaries.  This resource would be useful to those seeking to narrow the broad field of art depicting the Trojan War down to the discussion of the destruction of Troy and king Priam.  His work would be best suited for a serious art student  and/ or for graduate research.

Susan, Woodford, and Loudon Margot. “Two Trojan Themes: The Iconography of Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles and of Aeneas Carrying Anchises in Black Figure Vase Painting.” American Journal of Archaeology . 84.1 (1980): 25-40. Print.

This co-authored article explores two themes from the Trojan War, the iconography of the sicth century black-figured vase paintings of Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles and that of Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises.  It explores the common and contrasting features of both.  This article is well illustrated indexed, easy to follow regardless of your former knowledge with its copious explanatory notes.  This article evaluates both of these themes separately, and then discusses how each of these themes interacted with one another, so much so that they were sometimes mistaken for one another.  The authors supply a substantial amount of vase pottery to illustrate their points, but what is especially notable is their publishing a previously unpublished neck amphora in San Simeon, where both are depicted on the very same art object, one of each side.   This is an excellent, well-articulated, documented and indexed, which would make for a vital tool for further research into Trojan War art, but especially directed at the time period that seemed most popular, the demise of Troy and Priam.


This Google image site has a vast array of artistic works from many mediums, from paintings, and sculptures and wall paintings and floor mosaics etc. but they are not indexed according to the actual time period representative within the Trojan War Cycle.  They are, however, once selected, provide a well identified reference as to its original author and source and present location.  (ie: museum)  This site would best be used to serve as a reference tool once you had a piece of art in mind.

This site originates from the Roman and Greek Classics department from Temple University but it actually is a collective resource/link for outside sources such as Perseus.  It is well organized and thorough re: Trojan War.  It indexes each section of the war, pre and post war, as well as the homecoming of Odysseus. It  provides an adequate selection of art for each section.  Once selected the artist, dating, time period within the Trojan War cycle and its present whereabouts etc, are provided for each.

Beautifully executed index by artists and by selected artistic mediums, for example, an indexed section of black figure vases with the subject matter listed.  who depicted scenes from the Trojan War.  Next to the artist is the depiction, once selected the artist, time of creation and present location is provided.  This site covers artists throughout historical periods, from the geometrical to the modern era, which shows the continued interest of this particular subject throughout history.  The Trojan War has intrigued generation after generation.

Article Abstracts:


Wiencke, Matthew I. “An Epic Theme in Greek Art.” American Journal of Archaeology. 58.4 (1954): 285-306. Print.

This lengthy and extensively detailed article provides a thorough examination of the most popular epic themes from episodes from the lesser poems of the Epic Cycle and that of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey found in his the study of sixth century vase-painting.  He does, however, devote a section, replete with excellent pictures, of the earliest example in sculpture, dated between 600 B.C. and 580 B.C, the pediment and metope of the Temple of Artemis at Corfu.  He surmises that the themes from the Iliupersis, the Sack of Troy and the death of Priam, provide a long standing history within art that has been lost in the literature until Virgil’s Aeneid.  He suggests that ancient art was not merely an illustration of literary composition but should be viewed as a relationship between the graphic art and the literature, to be seen as contemporaries.  This resource would be useful to those seeking to narrow the broad field of art depicting the Trojan War down to the discussion of the destruction of Troy and king Priam.  His work would be best suited for a serious art student and/ or for graduate research.

Susan, Woodford, and Loudon Margot. “Two Trojan Themes: The Iconography of Ajax Carrying the Body of Achilles and of Aeneas Carrying Anchises in Black Figure Vase Painting.” American Journal of Archaeology. 84.1 (1980): 25-40. Print.

The focus of this article is the iconography of two themes from the Trojan War: Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles and that of Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises.  Both of these themes were favorites with 6 century B.C.  Black figure vase painters.   Both of these found their way to the neck amphora in San Simeon. The authors divided this subject matter into three sections:   the themes are examined separately; secondly, they discuss how the two intertwine; lastly, they draw some conclusions as to how these affected the vase painters.  Included within this well documented and thorough examination of this subject are detailed indexes within the article itself and followed by an extensive detailed attached appendix of all pertinent information.  It was excellent work, easy to follow, well-constructed argument.  It would be excellent resource for undergraduate research and especially a graduate student who could appreciate the unique nuances of vase composition

                                       RESEARCH NARRATIVE:

I selected this topic experimentally.  Knowing very little of art, nor possessing the tools by which to best decipher it and its appreciation for its subtle nuances and  equally a novice to the epics we read this semester,  I set out to see what could be found of the Trojan War via the medium of ancient art.  I am simultaneously taking a upper level Greek art course, that spans from the ancient to the modern and was absolutely intrigued by all that could be said and brought to life via a paint brush on a static medium.  I got to experience firsthand what seems to be a highly contested issue regarding the source of ancient art.  Who inspired who?  Did the artists merely depict what the epic poets wrote of, or vice versa, or was it a combination of both, or they were contemporizes, each influenced by the work of the others?    In this course we immersed ourselves within the words while in my other course; I was gleaning a unique perspective, a reflection of a long tradition of oral transmission of the magic of myth.

My research, therefore, comes from the perspective of learning the trade of what art portrayed versus the literary world.  In this I found books to be far more helpful to me as they were more explanatory and instructive, easier to determine the level of complexity and necessity of prior knowledge on the subject matter. It was easier with books to determine exactly what would be discussed and how. This was the most pleasurable and productive part of this task, the many books I found user-friendly to a novice and yet beneficial to all levels of researchers.  I found countless books on the subject and they were engaging, thorough, and replete with images for all of the various accounts of the Trojan War, whether they be depictions from the Epic Cycle Poems like the Kypria or the Iliou Persis for all level of researchers, I found these the most enlightening and instructive as they taught me how to approach the study of these myths, especially those that have no inscriptions contained.

The scholastic articles were not so.  I found the most difficulty in finding articles that actually narrowing down a specific time period or a particular theme on the accounts of the Trojan War art in the ancient world. If I did find a good article, that was succinct and directly suited for my purpose, it was usually a review of a book or a text that I might have already selected.  The databases appeared to collect too broad a field regardless of my countless attempts to narrow it.  I tried from many angles and different subject titles and still I met with great difficulty.  Some of the best articles that seem to fit my subject perfectly, like B. A. Spark’s article on Trojan Horse, (JSTOR) that I had counted on, as I did with several others, when I got to the library to copy there was a fee   I searched through many articles on Trojan War art but I found these to be more narrowed in scope and likewise, very detailed and most suitable to one doing graduate research or a specific time period or theme within the Trojan War theme.

As a result I found myself drawn to  narrow my too broad a topic to that of the Sack of Troy, and the death of King Priam, a subject that is best described in the literary world via the Iliupersis, one of the lost Epic Poems that address this specific time period.  In retrospect, had I to do it again, I would have limited my studies to this topic period as I, much like the ancients, found the art work of  this time segment of the Trojan War to be especially fascinating.   The pictures and illustrations that I did find in the articles were replete with a great selection of art work in all forms of media, whether it be a wall mosaic or a pediment or metope of the Temple of Artemis.  Clearly, these were episodes that intrigued the ancients as well as me.

I am a living testimony to the power of both the words of these great epics and the bountiful depictions in art of so intriguing a subject as the Trojan War, with its deeper message about the cost of war and its tumultuous aftermath throughout history..  In one semester my appreciation for a subject that had never interested me whatsoever, drew me in, and at times moved me to tears through the words and the art of Homer’s epics.  I regret my lack of knowledge in these areas, as well as my technological inability to access countless online resources available, to better represent what has the capacity to move the human soul, even now, thousands of years later.  And yet, I find it most telling that this course and my short conversation with Homer this semester, as not only a novice to these epics, but essentially void of the tools requisite to fully appreciate the prolific art of a long enduring oral tradition via the Greek bards, and the extensive literary and graphic art on the Trojan War, significantly changed my perspective on what I once found lacking.  I had no idea what possibilities lay between those pages.


Iliupersis:   Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.

Homer – Odyssey:







Brandon Prince

Professor Joel Christensen

Classics 4973

8 May 2012


Lord, Albert B., “Homer, the Trojan War, and History” (Aug. – Dec., 1971), pp. 85-92 Journal of the Folklore Institute, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.

            At the outset of this article Albert Lord states his intention to test the authenticity of the Trojan War by examining modern oral traditions for clues that could unlock the strange and sometimes disjointed language of the epic itself.  His focus in this article begins with him giving due credit to the scholars that preceded him in examining the topic of History and the Trojan War and he finishes with the dilemma of using the catalogues from Book 2 in the Iliad to test the historicity of the Trojan War.

            Lord begins by comparing the language of the epic to the modern oral tradition of the Balkan Peninsula. But before diving in to comparisons between modern oral tradition and what we know of the ancient Greek tradition, Lord first highlights the intricacies of the complicated oral tradition we are going to be dealing with in this article.  The oral tradition of epic poetry is by its very nature difficult to comprehend for those who are not acquainted with it. Its structure is always in flux and certain elements can be added or subtracted at will on the whim of the performer in the moment of performance.

            Lord argues that the catalogues in Book 2 of the Iliad are not verbatim recreations of the battle orders of the Achaeans and the Trojans who lined up for battle on the plain of Troy.   He supports this by showing us modern oral tradition catalogues from Kosovo that vary their catalogues not only from singer to singer but sometimes the same singer will even vary the catalogue within his own song.  Sometimes the catalogues are merely a collection of important names and personages that go nicely with the audience and the intent of the song itself.  Lord does not state that he is discounting the importance of the catalogue in finding the history of the Trojan War, but that oral tradition catalogues can be misleading if taken completely verbatim.

            According the Lord, cataloguing itself is a special dynamic force that exists within the framework of the epic.  When in the course of the mythic cycle it becomes necessary for the forces of “good” to gather against the forces of “evil” cataloguing begins.  And when this point is reached in an epic oral poetic tradition, a gradual accretion of the important states and historical heroes will eventually find their way into the epic tradition itself.

            By the end of the article Lord states that he does believe that the catalogue present in Homeric epic can be taken as proof that there was a conflict between the Greeks and Trojans.  What the catalogues cannot tell us is whether the conflict happened on the grand scale Homer described or what the casus belli was.  But at the very least we can say that there once was a Trojan War in the time that Homer described it.


Brandon Prince

Professor Joel Christensen

Classics 4973

8 May 2012


Bryce, Trevor R., “The Trojan War: Is There Truth behind the Legend?”, Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 182-195, The American Schools of Oriental Research, Boston, MA

This was a fun article to read, Trevor Bryce does an excellent job of combining different attempts to delineate the historicity of the Trojan War into one well-organized narrative.  Bryce states that in his attempt to prove the existence of a Trojan War he must do so independent of the Iliad and the Odyssey, however this does not preclude the use of those texts when comparing his findings to the details that Homer described.

Bryce starts from the beginning, focusing on whether Troy existed at all and if so where it’s located. He states that the ancients did not hesitate in identifying Hisarlik as the location of fabled Troy. And despite the shoddy track record that the ancients often displayed in regards to geography Trevor Bryce is convinced they are right in this case.  He points out the archaeological facts of Troy VIh in comparison to certain scenes in the epic do strengthen his case.

After deciding upon Hisarlik as the site of the ancient city, Bryce then turned to a different city nearby, Ugarit on the Levantine coast. The reason he chose Ugarit as his city for comparison is because it has a much clearer and well-delineated archaeological record than Hisarlik does. He then compared the archaeological remains at Hisarlik to the remains of its ancient contemporary in order consider the question of whether the real Troy’s wealth and magnificence equaled that of the Troy Homer described. Based on the shared archaeological context and artifacts found at both sites Bryce concluded that Troy was indeed a large, wealthy city worthy of inclusion in the Homeric epic.

After this he turns his attention to the inhabitants of Troy itself, he postulates that they were Luwians, one of three Proto-Indo-European people to settle the Anatolian plateau. Thus, he believes the Trojans were distant, distant cousins of the Achaean Greeks that conquered them.  He bases this theory on a discovery of a Luwian seal found on Troy VIIb.  It is the only writing that has been recovered from the dig at Hisarlik and since it was found in the archaeological context of a later Troy he believes that evidence for this idea is far less conclusive than the other claims he has made.  

Finally he turns to the work of Emil Forrer who examined ancient Hittite historical texts in order to find independent, third-party evidence that a great war between the Greeks and the Trojans did exist.  Emil Forrer was more successful than he could have hoped, and Bryce believes that when the Hittite texts tell of a city called Wilusa they in fact refer undoubtedly to ancient Troy itself.  And upon further analysis of the Hittite texts Forrer found even more text referring to conflicts that occurred between the Bronze Age Greeks and the Trojans.

By the end of this article Bryce is convinced that the city of Troy did once exist, it’s even in the exact spot where the ancients said it was. He is also convinced that the city of Troy was a city of consequence in the region much like Homer described it. And he believes that there was a Greco-Trojan War, probably not on the scale that Homer described but it did in fact exist.


Topic Summary

Brandon Prince

Professor Joel Christensen

Classics 4973

8 May 2012

Topic Summary

            The Trojan War has always occupied a special place in history.  It exists outside of time in a place where man and myth meet and the ancient gods and goddesses preside over everything.  But it is also a historical event replete with dates, locations and historical evidence to be sifted through.  This nexus between myth and ancient history exists for all cultures and can be as ancient as the culture itself.  As long as cultural memory exists there will always be a time before time, when the foundational stories that laid the groundwork for a society will have taken place.  One defining characteristic of our culture is that we have to know the truth value in everything, especially those things which have influenced us as greatly as the Homeric epics have influenced us.  So in our contemporary context examining the historicity of the Trojan War is a topic of great interest. 

            There once was an ancient city called Troy much like the Troy that Homer describes in his epics.  There likely was a Trojan War waged by the Mycenaean Greeks against the Trojans; it is even more probable that there were several.  And Troy VI-h, the Troy Homer brings to mind, that Troy was destroyed catastrophically.  But beyond those generalized, non-specific statements not much more can be definitively stated in regards to actual facts we know about the Trojan War.

But regardless of its historicity Troy exists.  In the hearts and minds of people across the world there has always been an Achilles and a Hector.  The influence of these epics is undeniable and regardless of the truth content that the Iliad or the Odyssey provide, the lessons they have taught for over two millennia in western society are still being taught today.  Homer’s Troy needs no Hisarlik, no Schliemann at Knossos. The Troy that Homer built still stands today.

Research Narrative

Brandon Prince

Professor Joel Christensen

Classics 4973

8 May 2012

Research Narrative:

My research began by reading some the articles posted on Blackboard related to my topic of choice. The article by Casey Dué was very helpful in finding additional sources relating to my topic and a quick online search brought the articles and books he mentioned to the forefront. The Dué article also pointed me to the Raaflaub article about finding history in epic, this article was not specifically targeted towards the Trojan War myth but was still quite useful. After this I went to the library and tried to pick up some books that looked at the history of the Trojan War and how the Trojan War has influenced history itself.  This task was a bit harder and I feel I taxed the John Peace Library to it’s limit regarding hard copy book sources but I was nonetheless successful. Finding internet resources was difficult because there doesn’t seem to be as much online relating to my topic that isn’t already in print somewhere else.  The best thing about online resources regarding the Trojan War is the availability of the texts and the corroborative capabilities that an online forum for discussion provides

In all my research about this topic I found a common strain of concern from most of the modern writers on this topic regarding the historicity of the Trojan War itself. There is a certain uneasiness in considering the Trojan War epic and being unable to place it definitively in history. And the fact that the epic exists primarily as myth and that divine figures are heavily involved is held against the work’s historical authenticity. But regardless of the historicity of the Trojan War epics, the vast scope of it’s influence is extraordinary. Nearly every person of importance in western history can place themselves in agreement with or opposition to the ideas or the message of the epic itself.

Trojan War in Film and Television


Trojan War tradition has seen a great deal of transformation since the dawn of the myth. From oral epic to tragedy and later in plays, Trojan War myth and narratives explore new themes and new aspects of the myth. The ever changing tradition has even seen some transitions, albeit rather painful ones, into the 20th century’s most significant genre of cinema. Trojan War myth has been adapted in several films, the most popular of which are Mario Camerini’s Ulysses, Wise’s Helen of Troy, and Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy. It has also made a transition into television, where shows like The Odyssey, and The Private Life of Helen of Troy present an audience with new artistic interpretations of the myth. And on the other hand shows can also be educational, such as Michael Woods’ In Search of the Trojan War a 6 part series on archaeological, historical and mythical aspects of the Trojan War tradition.

Unfortunately, the Trojan War tradition has had some growing pains that have prevented the tradition from being explored in film and television to the full extent of the genre. This may be due to the dying enthusiasm for classics (which is quite a shame), but may also be due a number of different factors, such as a disconnect between the Homeric epics and new interpretations of the Trojan War. Many works have been lost in obscurity, and it evident in the choice of myths used in these films and television. I don’t believe that there are many film adaptations of Sophocles’ Ajax or Philoctetes. Aeschylus’ Oresteia has also been woefully absent from any cinematic adaptations, though it has seen some time on stage in Operas. 

Recently though, Hollywood has become interested in ancient history and myth, so it seems that there might still be a chance for Trojan War tradition. Petersen’s Troy (2004) is among the list of historical films that have been produced in the last decade. But maybe there isn’t a chance for Trojan War tradition in film? At least not if directors refuse to do some thorough research on the Trojan War. Things would be much different if they sat down with a copy of the Odyssey or the Iliad, or even The Trojan Women. There are so many texts which are vivid and readily transferable to cinema and film, that is just doesn’t make sense that some films and television series can fall so short from delivering great adaptations of these texts. But alas, I suppose this what Hollywood has done to cinema. 

Annotated Bibliography

Brandon Prince

Professor Joel Christensen

Classics 4973

7 May 2012

Annotated Bibliography – The Trojan War in History

Primary Resources:

Iliad. London: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.

-This is our generative text of the Trojan War, traditionally credited to Homer which in our current understanding is best described as a broad poetic tradition rather than an individual writing with a singular purpose. The story presented in the text is set near the end of the 10-year Trojan War and it focuses on the rage of Achilles and the consequences that ensue from this. But the scope and breadth of the text is vast and diverse touching on vital cultural issues such as when to make war, how to deal with political disagreements and what the purpose of life is.

Vergil, Sarah Ruden. The Aeneid. Yale Univ Pr, 2010. Print.

-This work by Vergil draws heavily from the story, motifs, and tone of the Greek epic tradition that preceded it to create a uniquely Roman, latinized compendium of epic that reframed the conflict between the Greeks and Trojans. The hero of this tale is Aeneas, a prince of Troy, and it follows his flight from the flames of Troy to Carthage and finally to the Italian peninsula where his descendants will eventually found Rome. This work cast the conflict on the plains of Troy in a new light, as the protagonist of this tale is a Trojan and not a Greek. During the middle ages when western Europe was heavily Latinized and much of the Greek influence had been lost this epic preserved the concept of an ancient war between the Greeks and Trojans.

West, Martin. Greek Epic Fragments. 497. Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print.

-This book contains what remains of the surviving text from the Little Iliad and the Iliou persis in addition to the summary provided by Proclus in his Chrestomathy of the Greek Epic cycle. These texts follow the Iliad chronologically in describing the remainder of the Trojan War. The Little Iliad focuses on the Greek situation after the deaths of both Achilles and Telamonian Ajax. Sacrifices are made to the gods, prophecy is spoken, and special items are retrieved as needed. Proclus concludes this text at the ruse of the Trojan horse. In Iliou persis the trap of the Trojan horse is sprung and Troy suffers its untimely destruction. The text details the rape and slaughter of the Trojan people and the excesses of victory that the prideful Greeks practiced upon their defeated foes.


Strauss, Barry S. The Trojan War, A New History. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

-This book is an enjoyable, romanticized telling of the Trojan War that tries to incorporate the myth of the Iliad along with the factual archaeological evidence linking the two in an attractive prose narrative that seeks to introduce readers who might not have more than a basic understanding of the Greek myth of the Iliad. Rather than bore the reader with the scholastic minutiae of the Little Iliad or the Iliou persis, Strauss incorporates these disparate threads of narrative into a larger story of an actual, ancient war.

Wood, Michael. In Search of The Trojan War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Print.

-This book gives the reader an honest archaeological and historical perspective on what ancient Troy truly was. Filled with large and detailed photographs, it is an archaeologically focused work that seeks to find the reality behind the romance of the stories we have been told about the Trojan War. This book also does an good job of updating the reader as to the modern state of academic belief regarding the authenticity of the events depicted in the ancient Greek literature that has survived to today.

Thomas, Carol G., and Craig Conant. The Trojan War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. Print.

-This book examines how the two primary cultures of antiquity understood and interpreted the Trojan War. Although many scholars from both the Greek and Roman periods doubted the actual historicity of Trojan War from time to time, for the most part the people of those cultures entirely accepted the fact that they were the progeny of those who fought on the Greek side or the Trojan side in that ancient war. This belief in the existence of factual ancestors present in mythological lore that would form a large part of the Roman or Greek self-concept.


Dué, C. (2008) “Homer’s Post-Classical Legacy”, in A Companion to Ancient Epic (ed J. M. Foley), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK.

-This article will give you a systematic recounting of the reception of the Homeric epics in western history starting with the Greeks themselves in the ancient age and finishing with our current conceptions of the Trojan War tale. This article also provides relevant examples and extant reading on the art and literature that each subsequent culture has created in response to the Trojan War narrative. What is most interesting to notice in this article is the modernist recreations of the themes and motifs from the Trojan War epic in both art and literature of the period.

Raaflaub, K. A. (2008) “Epic and History”, in A Companion to Ancient Epic (ed J. M. Foley), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK.

-This article examined the question of whether we can glean history from an artistic work like an epic, and one of the examples he uses is the Trojan War epic of early Greek myth. The article draws a stark, dividing line in the Trojan War myth by separating such works as the Aeneid and the Iliad/Odyssey due to the differing contexts into which the works were birthed. By reading into the epics to find history often the best information that can be gathered is mere suggestions and cultural memories of archetypical conflicts that shaped an ancient people’s self-concept.

Lord, Albert B., “Special Issue: Folklore and Traditional History” (Aug. – Dec., 1971), pp. 85-92 Journal of the Folklore Institute, Vol. 8, No. 2/3, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.

-This article deals directly with the historicity of the events depicted in the Trojan War by examining the language used in the epic itself and the oral tradition into which it was born. By
citing modern examples found by philologists and linguists of today Lord argues that the cataloguing so prevalent in Homer should be seen as evidence of the war’s authenticity. In Lord’s argument, the cataloguing through repeated oral performances forms an historical composite of what was once many different Trojan wars.

Bryce, Trevor R., “The Trojan War: Is There Truth behind the Legend?”, Near Eastern Archaeology, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 182-195, The American Schools of Oriental Research, Boston, MA

-This is an excellent article because it ties together many different threads of evidence regarding the historicity of the Trojan War. The focus in this article is upon fact and what can we reliably say about the conflict represented in Homer’s Iliad. This article was written for those who know the story but want to know where the scholarly communities sentiments lie in regards to the historicity of the Trojan War.

Internet Resources:

Crane, Gregory R., Perseus Digital Library. Dept. of Classics, Tufts University, 10 Apr 2012. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <>.

-This website provides a convenient online compendium of ancient texts in their original language along with a translation or notes for help in translating. There is also a large of amount of secondary sources for open use on the website along with a large photo collection of ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture. In addition to the Greek and Roman materials there is also a sizable collection of Arabic, Germanic, and Renaissance material as well.

“Publications”, Center for Hellenic Studies. Harvard University, 2009. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <;

-This website is a large, multi-faceted web resource available for anyone who is interested in the classical world. The publications portion of the site has a great collection of recent scholarly articles that should give the reader an excellent grasp of where modern scholars are focusing their study of the ancients. The focus of the website itself is to get more people involved in the study of the classical world either through the scholarly materials they provide online or by organizing and promoting trips to Greece itself so that students and scholars of any education level can participate.

Rutter, Jeremy B. Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology. Dartmouth College, 2009. Web. 16 Apr 2012. <;

-This is a good resource for the archaeologically minded person who would like to see pictures of the ancient Aegean world plus it has a good explanation of the excavations that have taken place at Hisarlik. From Schliemann to today the actual site of Troy has been a place of historical significance; the origins of archaeology were born pre-mature from the exertions of men who believed in myth enough to make it a reality for us today.

Research Narrative – Epic Genre

The first difficulty I encountered with this assignment, was deciding on a topic. Due to my lack of background knowledge and general experience in Classics, I did not know where to start. Eventually, I turned to my previous assignment, an abstract of an article discussing the epic genre, which I found rather interesting.

From here, it did not become much easier. I began my research journey with my first article and a few suggestions from a source much more knowledgeable in the field of Classics than I. First, I used databases, such as the UTSA library databases and JSTOR, to find relevant books and articles. At this point, I found myself overwhelmed by thousands of results, most of which were much too focused on minor details of specific epics, whereas my intent was to research the genre of epic itself and its characteristics and its relationships to other forms of poetry. After narrowing the results down to a more manageable number and focusing them on my particular needs, I discovered that the epic genre is more difficult to define than I had thought, so I proceeded to narrow down my topic further to ancient epic poetry only.

With enough time, it was not too difficult finding several relevant book and article sources. There are a good number of books and articles on ancient epic alone, on epic throughout history and on specific epic poems, especially the Iliad and Odyssey. However, finding applicable internet resources was the most difficult part of this assignment. For one, there is the problem of the vastness of the internet and, thus, the sheer amount of possible sites and sources, which makes looking for a good online resource feel like searching for a needle in a hay stack.

All things considered, the most challenging aspects of this assignment were finding a suitable topic and finding relevant internet resources. The question of where and how to begin took some time to contemplate, but otherwise it was resolved with few lingering issues. The finding of internet resources, on the other hand, required more than just time; it was a rather arduous process of sifting through many links and websites to finally find the ones selected.

Abstract of Jasper Griffin’s “The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer”

Griffin, Jasper. “The Epic Cycle and the Uniqueness of Homer.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 97 (1977): 39-53. JSTOR. Web. <>.

In this article Jasper Griffin analyzes and contrasts the Greek Epic Cycle and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. He reaches the conclusion that the latter two epics lack (or rather, purposely leave out) certain features of the cycle and that this makes them unique and superior to the poems of the cycle. In particular, the aspects of the fantastic, the miraculous and the romantic are all diminished in the Iliad and Odyssey, which are more heroic and realistic, since, for example, there is no murdering of women and death is clearly final and inevitable.

The article fits in Trojan War scholarship as a literary work which contrasts the Homeric epics with other poems about the Trojan War, namely the Epic Cycle. Griffin shows that the Cycle contains more details about many events surrounding the Trojan War, whereas the Iliad and Odyssey leave out many of these details for the sake of being more realistic. He argues that the latter two epics are superior to other poems, like the Cycle, and unique, because their content is carefully constrained, but well-chosen.

The article contrasts the Homeric epics and the other poems and stories of the Epic Cycle surrounding the Trojan War in a well organized and concise manner, which allows the reader to form a clear picture of the important distinctions. Griffin describes in sufficient detail many instances which are part of the Cycle, but not of the Homeric epics, and he argues that the latter are better off without these details, but he does not address the other side, that is, whether there are any descriptions or details in the Epic Cycle which might have added to the Iliad or Odyssey in a positive manner.

I would have liked to hear some positive aspects about the Epic Cycle, perhaps even a feature of the Cycle in which it is superior to other epic poems. Further, I would be interested to know whether there is anything which is mentioned only in the Iliad or Odyssey, but do not occur in the Cycle.

Abstract of John Foley’s “Epic as Genre”

J. M. Foley. “Epic as Genre.” The Cambridge Companion to Homer, Robert Fowler (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, 171-87.

In his article “Epic as genre,” John Foley discusses the fundamental diversity of epic narratives and highlights the similarities and differences of various epics by comparing the Homeric epics to other long narratives from cultures around the world. He points out that, while varying in length from a few thousand to several hundred thousand lines, in general, epics contain distinctive diction and narrative patterns, examples of heroism, and the feature of ‘omnibus genre,’ meaning that epic incorporates other poetic genres, such as proverbs and catalogues. Further, each epic creates a sense of national character and group identity for its respective culture. However, Foley argues that the details of these common characteristics, such as idiomatic expressions, typical scenes and patterns, attitudes and values, depend on the particular tradition and cultural background of each individual epic.

The article fits in Trojan War scholarship as a literary work which examines the characteristics and uniqueness of the Homeric epics. Foley addresses the long disputed question of Homer’s identity and argues that Homer is “an anthropomorphisation of the epic tradition” (186), an idealized, legendary representation of epic poetry rather than a real individual. He also criticizes the assumption of many scholars that ‘the epic’ is “a universal, archetypal form identical or extremely similar to the Iliad and Odyssey” (172).

By comparing and contrasting the Homeric epics with a significant number of other long narratives representing cultures spread all over Europe, Asia and Africa, Foley makes clear the fundamental diversity of the genre. Further, he acknowledges the difficulty this creates in presenting a working definition for epic as a genre, which he manages to work around, but not solve, by giving multiple broad definitions, which in turn combine to form a larger framework for epic instead of a concrete definition. His ideas and arguments are presented in a clear and well-structured manner; first, he discusses each of the other narratives individually, pointing out particular characteristics with stand out, and then, he examines the Homeric epics with respect to the others texts, focusing on common characteristics as well as features unique to the Homeric epics.

I would have liked to hear more about the oral tradition of the Homeric epics and the extent to which oral tradition applies to epic in general. Otherwise, Foley’s arguments were rather convincing, especially those on the fundamental diversity of epic and on the identity of epic poets as legendary figures rather than real individuals.