On this day in 1184 BC according to legend, the ancient city of Troy was sacked.
The ancient story of Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, who was stolen by Paris, son of King Priam of Troy, to the rage of the Greeks who came in force to win her back, is impossible to verify.
It seems more likely that the Greek expedition was some kind of trade war because the supposed site of Troy was on the Bosporos, the great sea trade route between the East and the West.
The legend of Troy is nevertheless one of the world’s greatest stories, immortalised by Homer, as the Roman Poet Horace put it so well:
Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Multi sed omnes illacrimabiles
Urgentur ignotique longa
Nocte carent quia vate sacro.
(Many great men lived before Agamemnon
But they all lie through the long night
Unmourned and unrecognised,
Because they lacked a sacred bard).
Many subsequent writers have drawn on Homer’s work.
Here are Marlowe’s famous lines on Helen of Troy, from his play Dr Faustus:
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss. [Kisses her.]
Her lips suck forth my soul; see where it flies!—
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for Heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
Today I will remember Dr Faustus and not allow instant gratification to deflect me from my long term needs.
Image credit: The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo