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The Wooden Horse

Epeius 2 (holding hammer and chisel), between Athena and Agamemnon (sitting under a tree), presents the WOODEN HORSE. An army representative approaches from the left. RI.1-1279:: Epeius, Athena and Agamemnon. Epeios zwischen Athena und Agamemnon (Vasenbild nach Overbeck, Gall. Taf. 25, 3). Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Göttingen, 1845- Dresden, 1923), Ausfürliches Lexikon der griechisches und römisches Mythologie, 1884.

"If doomed it be indeed that Priam's burg, by guile must fall before the war-worn Achaeans, a great horse let us fashion, in the which our mightiest shall take ambush ... Then shall war's signal unto us be given—to them at sea, by sudden flash of torch, to the ambush, by the cry, 'Come forth the Horse!' when unsuspecting sleep the sons of Troy." (Odysseus to the Achaeans. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.25).

The WOODEN HORSE is the stratagem by means of which Troy was taken. It is usually called "The Trojan Horse," but there is nothing Trojan about it: the horse was built by the Achaeans.


After ten years of fruitless military efforts, the Achaeans realized that Troy perhaps could be taken by cunning instead of by force, and this insight invited them to construct a WOODEN HORSE, which was to become the instrument of their victory. They let an armed force hide itself inside the horse, and in order to induce the Trojans to bring it within the walls, they left it abandoned in the plain, feigning retreat after engraving on the horse a treacherous inscription:

"For their return home, the Achaeans dedicate this thank-offering to Athena." (Apollodorus, Library "Epitome" 5.15).

Idea of Helenus 1

This came about, some say, after the capture or desertion of the Trojan seer Helenus 1, who, after telling the Achaeans that there was no hope left for Troy once the Palladium had been stolen from the city, declared that they should offer a WOODEN HORSE to Athena, making it so large that the Trojans would have to breach the city walls in order to take it in. Having thus been instructed by the seer, the Achaeans brought a great deal of wood, and appointed the architect Epeius 2 and Ajax 2 to supervise the work.

Idea of Odysseus

Others say that it was Odysseus who conceived the construction of the WOODEN HORSE, telling the assembled Achaeans:

"If doomed it be indeed that Priam's burg, by guile must fall before the war-worn Achaeans, a great horse let us fashion, in the which our mightiest shall take ambush." (Odysseus to the Achaeans. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.25).

That horse, Odysseus advised, was to be left abandoned in the plain, and the Achaean army should burn the tents and sail away to Tenedos (the island off the Troad), so that the Trojans, believing that the invaders were gone, should come to the deserted Achaean camp and find the horse. Crouching beneath its shadow, as Odysseus said, a man should be left to tell the Trojans a single deceiving line: that the Achaeans had sailed home, and that the horse was their offering to Athena, to appease her wrath because of the theft of the Palladium, so that she should grant a safe return.

Epeius 2 builds the horse

The man they soon appointed to stay behind while the army feigned retreat was Sinon, now remembered for the great lies he told the Trojans when they met him. But meanwhile, the architect Epeius 2 fell timber on Mount Ida, fashioning the horse with a hollow belly, an opening in the side, and complete in all its details, as they say, in three days. Epeius 2 made it big like a ship. He bespangled the purple-fringed mane with gold; ringed the blood-read amethyst eyes with green beryl gems; set white rows of teeth in the jaws; opened paths in the mouth to let the air come in; fixed pricked up ears; let the flowing tail trail unto the heels; made the hooves of bronze; set a ladder inside and adorned the outside with purple-flowered straps, and the bridle with ivory and bronze. And when the horse had been wrought, Epeius 2 set a wheel under each of its feet.

The serpent has killed Laocoon 2 and his children. The Trojans celebrate triumph and bring the WOODEN HORSE into the city. print015: Laocoon and the Horse of Troy. From the painting by W. Friedrich.

The Achaeans feign retreat

When the horse was ready, the Achaeans let the best among them hide inside it, burned their tents, and leaving only Sinon behind, sailed away either to Tenedos or to cape Sigeum where they were to wait for a signal from the same Sinon. At dawn the Trojans beheld, not without surprise, the camp of the Achaeans deserted, and believed that they had fled. So they ran in joy to the shore where they found the marvellous horse standing. It was then that they also found Sinon, who told the Trojans (some say under cruel torture) the same single line over and over again:

"The Achaeans in their ships flee overseas, weary of tribulation of endless war. This horse by Calchas' counsel fashioned they for wise Athena, to propitiate." (Sinon to the Trojans. Quintus Smyrnaeus, The Fall of Troy 12.375).

He later also told them:

"If you allow it to abide her in its place, it is decreed that the spear of the Achaeans shall capture Troy; but if Athena receive it a holy offering in her shrine, then they shall flee away with their task unaccomplished." (Sinon to Priam 1. Tryphiodorus, The Taking of Ilios 296).

Cassandra and Laocoon 2

Sinon's account was defined by Laocoon 2 as "a fraud", and also Cassandra warned the Trojans, declaring that there was an armed force inside the WOODEN HORSE. But no one listened to Cassandra; for the same god who gave her the gift of prophecy in exchange for a promise she never fulfilled, caused her prophecies not to be believed. Laocoon 2 also warned them with well remembered words:

Trojans, trust not the horse. Whatever it be, I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts." (Laocoon 2 to the Trojans. Virgil, Aeneid 2.48).

... and he even cast his spear against the horse. But since Laocoon 2 was overwhelmed by adverse circumstances (among which the snakes that attacked his sons), many argued that the man could not be right, and that he had got what he deserved. So the horse was brought either to the shrine of Athena, in the heart of the city, or stationed beside the palace of Priam 1.

Helen and the horse

It is told that when the WOODEN HORSE was in the city, Helen went round it and called the names of different Achaean commanders, imitating the voices of each of their beloved wives. Such artistry is best performed by a child of Zeus: she did it with such a skill that Anticlus would have answered from the horse's belly, but Odysseus held fast his mouth so hard that Anticlus lost his breath and died. Some may think that Helen was thus inducing the Achaeans to reveal themselves before the time was ripe. Others may think that this was not her intention, since she is also reported to have displayed a torch from her chamber for the Achaean fleet to see and know that they should make the final assault. Still others may think that she found pleasure in helping both Trojans and Achaeans on the same day.

The force come forth

In any case, when night fell and the Trojans, after having celebrated victory, were asleep, Sinon showed his message with a shining brand to the Achaeans. At the same time the horse was unlocked, and the armed force came forth, lighted the walls, and opened the gates of the city for the rest of the army, which, on arriving, slaughtered whomever they found, in homes, streets, temples, or any other place, sacred or not.

Those inside the Wooden Horse 

The Achaeans coming out the WOODEN HORSE. RIV-0941b: The Wooden Horse. Das hölzerne Pferd (nach Baumeister, Denkm. d. klass. Altert. Bd. 1 S. 742 Abb. 794). Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (Göttingen, 1845- Dresden, 1923), Ausfürliches Lexikon der griechisches und römisches Mythologie, 1884.

Acamas 1 fled when the DIOSCURI attacked Athens. Later he went to Troy together with Diomedes 2 to ask for the restoration of Helen. After the war he brought back his grandmother Aethra 2 who was captive in Troy. Acamas 1 was son of Theseus and Phaedra, daughter of Minos 2. He married Laodice 3, daughter of Priam 1, and had by her a son Munitus, who was killed by the bite of a snake while hunting at Olynthus in Thrace (Apd.Ep.1.18, 1.23, 5.22; Dio.4.62.1; Eur.Hcl.115ff.; Hyg.Fab.108; Parth.16.1; Pau.10.10.1, 10.26.2; QS.4.332, 12.314ff., 13.497ff.; SI.4; Try.177, 662; Vir.Aen.2.62).

Agapenor. King of the Arcadians. Agapenor was one of the SUITORS OF HELEN. After the war he founded Paphos in Cyprus. Agapenor was son of Ancaeus 1 and Iotis. Ancaeus 1, one of the ARGONAUTS, was son of King Lycurgus 2 of Arcadia, son of Aleus, son of Aphidas 1, son of Arcas 1, son of Zeus and Callisto (Apd.3.10.8; Hom.Il.2.609; Pau.8.5.2; QS.12.314ff.).

Ajax 2.

Amphidamas 6 (Try.182).

Amphimachus 7 (QS.12.325).

Anticlus (see main text above).

Antimachus 6. A Cretan warrior who came with King Idomeneus 1 of Crete to fight against Troy. Antimachus 6 was killed by Aeneas (QS.6.622, 12.314ff.).

Antiphates 5 (Try.180).


Cyanippus. King of Argos, son either of Adrastus 1, the leader of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES, and Amphithea 1, or of Aegialeus 1 and Comaetho 4. Cyanippus died childless (Apd.1.9.13; Pau.2.18.4-5; Try.159).

Demophon 1, who later became King of Athens was brother of Acamas 1 (see above). He asked Agamemnon for the freedom of his grandmother Aethra 2 and Agamemnon granted his request after receiving Helen's consent. After the war he asked Agamemnon for the freedom of his grandmother Aethra 2, who after the misadventure of Theseus with Helen and the destruction of Aphidnae by the DIOSCURI, had become Helen's maid. Agamemnon granted his request after receiving Helen's consent.

On his return from Troy Demophon 1 came with a few ships to the land of the Thracian Bisaltians. There he became the lover of the king's daughter Phyllis 1, and her father gave her to him with the kingdom for her dowry. However, the wedding could not take place immediately because Demophon 1 wished to return to Athens, but he swore to return. When he departed Phyllis 1, who was desperately in love with this man, made with him part of the road and when they parted company she gave him an enchanted casket containing a sacrament of the Mother of the Gods, which he was not to open until he knew for certain that he would not return to Thrace. Some say that he should had returned on an appointed day, and that on that day Phyllis 1 ran down to the shore nine times to see whether his sail showed up. When it became clear that Demophon 1 would not return, she hanged herself after cursing her lover. It is also said, however, that she died out of longing for him, and that round the tomb that her parents made for her, trees sprang that, at a certain season, grieve for her, their leaves growing dry and blowing away. And then again some say she prepared her own epitaph:

"Demophon sent Phyllis to her doom. Her guest he was, she loved him well. He was the cause that brought her death to pass. Her own the hand by which she fell." (Ovid, Heroides 2.145).

In any case it is said that she thought that this would be a good inscription to be written under the image of Demophon 1 in Athens:

"This is he whose wiles betrayed the hostess that loved him." (Ovid, Heroides 2.75).

By the time Phyllis 1 died Demophon 1 was in Cyprus, and so soon he opened the casket she had given him he felt invaded by panic. So, out of control, he mounted his horse, and when the animal stumbled he was thrown, fell on his sword and died.

Diomedes 2.

Echion 4 died when he jumped from the WOODEN HORSE (Apd.Ep.5.20).

Epeius 2 is the architect who constructed the WOODEN HORSE, with the help of which the Achaeans could take Troy; he was himself among those warriors who hid inside it. He was victorious in boxing at the games celebrated in honour of Patroclus 1. Epeius 2 was son of Panopeus 1, son of Phocus 3, son of Aeacus (Apd.Ep.4.7, 5.14; Eur.Tro.10; Pau.2.29.4; Pla.Rep.620c; QS.12.81, 12.138ff., 12.314ff.; Try.57; Vir.Aen.2.264).

Eumelus 1. Leader of Pherae, a city in Thessaly, and son of Admetus 1 and Alcestis. Eumelus 1, who had been one of the SUITORS OF HELEN, married Iphthime 1, sister of Penelope (Apd.3.10.8; Hom.Il.2.715ff.; Hom.Od.4.797; QS.12.314ff.; Try.172).

Euryalus 1. Leader from Argos, son of Mecisteus 1. Euryalus 1 is counted among the ARGONAUTS, and the EPIGONI (Apd.1.9.16, 3.7.2; Hom.Il.2.565; QS.12.314ff.).

Eurydamas 6. Son of Pelias 4 (Try.181).

Eurymachus 5 (QS.12.321).

Eurypylus 1. Leader of the Ormenians, who got a cursed chest after the war and on seeing it went mad. He was one of the SUITORS OF HELEN, and among those who hid inside the WOODEN HORSE. Eurypylus 1 was son of Evaemon 1, son of Ormenus 3, son of Cercaphus 2, son of Aeolus 1, and of Opis 2 (Apd.3.10.8; Hyg.Fab.97; Pau.7.19.6, 10.27.2; QS.12.314ff.; Try.176).

Ialmenus 1 led the troops of Aspledon and Minyan Orchomenus. Ialmenus 1 is counted among the ARGONAUTS, and the SUITORS OF HELEN (Apd.1.9.16, 3.10.8; Hom.Il.2.494ff.; Hyg.Fab.97; QS.12.314ff.).

Idomeneus 1 was Leader of the Cretans. At his return from the war he was driven out of Crete by the usurper Leucus 1 who besides had become the lover of Idomeneus 1's wife Meda 2, whom Leucus 1 later killed, along with Idomeneus 1's daughter Clisithyra. Nothing is told about Idomeneus 1's son Orsilochus 4. Idomeneus 1, who is counted among the SUITORS OF HELEN and those who hid inside the WOODEN HORSE, was son of Deucalion 2, son of Minos 2 (Apd.3.3.1; Apd.Ep.3.11ff., 6.10; Hom.Od.13.260; Hyg.Fab.81; QS.12.314ff.; Try.168).

Iphidamas 3. Brother of Eurydamas 6 (see above) (Try.181).

Leonteus 1 is a Lapith Leader against Troy, who buried Calchas at Colophon (Asia Minor) after the war. Leonteus 1 was son of Coronus 1, son of Caeneus 1, he who once was a woman called Caenis, but was turned into an invulnerable man by Poseidon, and for being invulnerable was buried alive in the earth by the CENTAURS (Apd.3.10.8; Apd.Ep.6.3; Hom.Il.2.726ff., 2.746, 12.128; QS.7.484, 12.314ff.; Try.176).

Machaon. This son of Asclepius, who came from Tricca, a city in western Thessaly Tricca, was, as his father, a healer, and he took care of the wound that the arrow of Pandarus 1 inflicted on Menelaus when the truce was broken during the Trojan War. He practised surgery while his brother treated sicknesses. He also healed the wound of Philoctetes. Machaon married Anticlia 3, daughter of Diocles 1, son of Orsilochus 1, son of the river god Alpheus. Some say that Machaon was killed at Troy by Eurypylus 6 from Mysia, but others say he was killed by the Amazon Penthesilia (Apd.3.10.8; Apd.Ep.5.1; Dio.4.71.4; Hom.Il.2.732, 4.215ff.; Hyg.Fab.97, 108; Pau.2.11.5, 2.23.4, 2.29.1, 2.38.6, 3.26.9, 4.30.3; Prop.2.1.59; QS.6.408; SI.5; Vir.Aen.2.63).

Meges 1 was a leader against Troy from Dulichium, and commander of the Epeans. He was son of Phyleus 1, son of King Augeas of Elis. Meges 1 is counted among the SUITORS OF HELEN (Apd.3.10.8; Eur.IA.285; Hom.Il.13.692; Hyg.Fab.97; QS.12.314ff.; Try.180).


Menestheus 1 was given the sovereignty of Athens by the DIOSCURI and became Leader of the Athenians against Troy. After the sack of Troy, Menestheus 1 went to Melos and reigned as king, because the king there, Polyanax, had died. He was son of Peteos, an Egyptian, who later obtained Athenian citizenship, but who had to migrate from Athens to Phocis when pursued by Aegeus 1. However it is also said that Peteos' father, Orneus 1, was a son of King Erechtheus of Athens. Menestheus 1 was one of the SUITORS OF HELEN (see Athens) (Apd.3.10.8; Apd.Ep.1.23, 6.15b; Hes.CWE.68.42; Hom.Il.2.536ff., 2.552; Pau.1.23.8; QS.12.314ff.).

Meriones was a Leader from Crete against Troy and the squire of King Idomeneus 1 of Crete. Some call him son of Minos 2, and others a bastard son of Deucalion 2 (Hom.Il.7.166; Hyg.Fab.81, 97; QS.12.314ff.).



Peneleus. A Boeotian leader during the Trojan War, also counted among the ARGONAUTS and the SUITORS OF HELEN. Peneleus was son of Hippalcimus 2, son of Itonus 2, son of Boeotus, after whom the Boeotians are called. Peneleus was killed at Troy by Eurypylus 6. His grandson Damasichthon 2 was chosen to be king at Thebes on the departure of Autesion 1 (Apd.1.9.16, 3.10.8; Hom.Il.2.494; Hyg.Fab.97; Pau.9.5.15-16; QS.7.104; Try.180).


Podalirius. This son of Asclepius healed Philoctetes, when this one returned from Lemnos, and after the Trojan War settled in the Carian Chersonese (Apd.3.10.8; Apd.Ep.3.11ff., 5.8, 6.18; Dio.4.71.4; Hom.Il.2.732; Pau.2.29.1, 3.26.10; QS.12.314ff.; SI.5).

Polypoetes 1. Leader of the Gyrtonians against Troy. He buried Calchas at Colophon after the war. Polypoetes 1 is son Pirithous, he who had the brilliant idea of marrying Persephone and for her sake descended to the Underworld where he is still sitting on the Chair of Forgetfulness. Polypoetes 1 is one of the SUITORS OF HELEN (Apd.3.10.8; Apd.Ep.6.3; Dio.4.63.1; Hom.Il.2.670ff., 12.182; Pau.10.26.2; QS.12.314ff.).

Sthenelus 2. Once one of the EPIGONI and one of the SUITORS OF HELEN Sthenelus 2, from Argos, became one of the ACHAEAN LEADERS. His father was Capaneus, one of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES (Apd.3.7.2, 3.10.8; Apd.Ep.6.10; Eur.IA.246; Hom.Il.2.564; Hyg.Fab.97, 108; Pau.2.18.5; QS.12.314ff.; Vir.Aen.2.61).

Teucer 1. This is Telamon's bastard son, Leader of the Salaminians against Troy and later King of Cyprian Salamis. His mother was Hesione 2, daughter of the Trojan king Laomedon 1. Teucer 1 had been one of the SUITORS OF HELEN (Apd.3.10.8; Eur.Hel.87 and passim; Hom.Il.8.285ff.; Hyg.Fab.97; Pau.1.23.8, 2.29.4; Pin.Nem.4.46; QS.12.314ff.; Soph.Aj. passim; Try.170).

Thalpius was Leader of the Eleans against Troy, son of Eurytus 1, one of the MOLIONIDES (Apd.3.10.8; Hom.Il.2.536ff., 2.620; Pau.5.3.4; QS.12.314ff.).

Thersander 1, son of Polynices, became King of Thebes after the war of the EPIGONI. Some say he was killed by Telephus when the Achaean fleet against Troy arrived by mistake in Mysia. But if that were true he could not be inside the WOODEN HORSE (Apd.3.7.2; Apd.Ep.3.17; CYP.1; Hdt.4.147, 6.52; Hyg.Fab.71, 108; Pau.9.5.14-15; Pin.Oly.2.43; Vir.Aen.2.61).

Thoas 2. Leader of the Aetolians against Troy. Odysseus in exile after having killed the SUITORS OF PENELOPE came to him and married his daughter. Thoas 2 was King of Pleuron and Calydon and grandson of Oeneus 2, the negligent king who forgot Artemis in his sacrifices, causing the wrath of the goddess who sent the Calydonian Boar (see Calydon) to ravage the country (Apd.Ep.3.11ff., 7.40; Hom.Il.13.216; Hyg.Fab.81, 108; Pau.5.3.6; QS.12.314ff.; Vir.Aen.2.62).

Thrasymedes 1. This son of Nestor is known for having been commander of a group of sentinels during the Trojan War (Hyg.Fab.97).

Related sections

Apd.Ep.5.14; Hom.Od.11.523; Hyg.Fab.108; QS.12.314ff.; Try. 57ff.