Iliad: How the War with Troy Began

Church's adaptation of Homer's Iliad begins with the events the lead up to the war. The story you will read here about how Menelaus became King of Sparta and why the Greeks went to war with the Trojans is not included in Homer's Iliad, but it is important information you need to know for the events to come.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Iliad unit. Story source: The Iliad retold by Alfred J. Church (1907).

Of How the War with Troy Began 


ONCE upon a time there was a certain King of Sparta who had a most beautiful daughter, Helen by name.




There was not a prince in Greece but wished to marry her. The King said to them: "Now you must all swear that you will be good friends with the man whom my daughter shall choose for her husband, and that if any one is wicked enough to steal her away from him, you will help him get her back." And this they did.

Then the Fair Helen chose a prince whose name was MenelaĆ¼s, brother of Agamemnon, who reigned in Mycenae, and was the chief of all the Kings of Greece. After a while Helen's father died, and her husband became King of Sparta.

The two lived happily together till there came to Sparta a young prince, Paris by name, who was son of Priam, King of Troy. This Paris carried off the Fair Helen, and with her much gold and many precious stones.

MenelaĆ¼s and his brother Agamemnon sent to the princes of Greece and said, "Now you must keep your oath, and help us to get back the Fair Helen." So they all came to a place called Aulis, with many ships and men. Others also who had not taken the oath came with them. The greatest of these chiefs were these: Diomed, son of Tydeus; Ajax the Greater and Ajax the Less, and Teucer the Archer, who was brother of Ajax the Greater; Nestor, who was the oldest man in the world; the wise Ulysses; Achilles, who was the bravest and strongest of all the Greeks, and with him his dear friend Patroclus.

For nine years the Greeks besieged the city of Troy, but they could not break through the walls, and as they had been away from their homes for all this time, they came to be in great want of food and clothes and other things. So they left part of the army to watch the city, and with part they went about and spoiled other cities. Thus came about the great quarrel of which I am now going to tell.



(400 words)




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