Tuesday, October 13, 2015

TFBT: Review of the "Destruction of Troy"

Memnon at Hour 25 recently pointed out a on-line posting of Destruction of Troy by an anonymous author.  https://archive.org/details/ExcidiumTroiae [i]

This short piece is apparently a medieval romance written in Latin.  It reviews all the details relating to the epic cycle, starting with the wedding of Peleus and Thetis and ending with the founding of Rome.  Apparently the author had neither Greek or Hesiod, but relies heavily on Virgil. Polyxena betrayed the secret of Achilles heel.  There are numerous typos and confused genealogies, but on occasion the story gives a different bent on our understanding of the epic tales or the perfect phrase.  The bulk of the beautiful language flew off to the tweeter sphere under WilliamMoulton2,  leaving here some thoughts for your consideration and contemplation.
Ares and Paris

The first story to discuss is Paris' expertise in training bulls to fight one another.  Paris is a Trojan prince and the story takes plays when he tended livestock outside the city.


 "Mars (Ares), being in the form of a bull, fought Paris’ bull, and Mars stood as the victor. Then Paris, seeing Mars in the form of a bull, surmounted his bull and gave Mars the crown which he previously put on his bull. And because he served justice and he did not hinder himself, he was called a just judge. This opinion of him spread out."

 I don’t  know this story.  I recall Ares taking the form of a boar to slay Adonis (Nonnus, dionysusica 42.1). But that was a matter of love and jealousy not athletics.  Zeus and Poseidon both take on animal forms occasionally, but that too is for love.  Zeus seduces Leda as swan, Europa as a bull, Antiope as satyr.  Poseidon took on a the form of a horse to rape his sister Demeter.   If I was looking for a comparative myth to understand Ares as a bull in a competition, I needed to think less literally

I vaguely recalled the story of Androgeus. A little explanation here.  King Minos of Crete was supposed to   beautiful bull sent to him by Poseidon, god of the sea.  Instead he kept it.  It went wild and all sorts of problem occurred.  Eventually, as one of his Labors, Heracles came and took the bull way to Greece.  It was released there and became a problem again.  Several heroes tried to deal with the bull including Prince Androgeus of Crete, Minos son while he was attending a funeral there near Marathon.  Androgeus died, Minos attacked Athens in revenge which lead to the Athenian Prince Theseus going to Crete and fighting Androgeus' half-brother the Minotaur, another bull.  But that is another story.  Here is what Apollodorus has to say about Androgeus' death.
"But he himself came to Athens and celebrated the games of the Panathenian festival, in which Androgeus, son of Minos, vanquished all comers. Him Aegeus sent against the bull of Marathon, by which he was destroyed. But some say that as he journeyed to Thebes to take part in the games in honor of Laius, he was waylaid and murdered by the jealous competitors. (Apollodorus Bibliotheca 3.15.7)  

You can find further discussion and explanation at item 332 in “Notes on Book 3 of the Library of Apollodorus” by J. G. Frazer.  So, what the stories have in common is;

  • a divine bull; Ares/Poseidon's Bull,  
  • competition; shepherds with their bulls on Mt. Ida / the competitors at the funeral of Laius  
  • finally two princes who do or do not understand proper behavior in these situations; Paris/Androgeus.  The Cretan prince might have benefitted from the advice of Odysseus as we all might;
(Bk VIII:199-255 ) Noble and long-suffering Odysseus was pleased by her words, happy to find a genuine supporter at the games. He spoke to the Phaeacians now with a lighter heart...if anyone has the courage and the spirit, let him come and prove himself, in boxing, wrestling, running, it matters not: let any of you Phaeacians try, except Laodamas. For he’s my host, and who would quarrel with the one who shows him hospitality? Only a worthless idiot would challenge the man who welcomes him to a foreign land. He would ruin his own good luck… When we Achaeans fought at Troy only Philoctetes surpassed me (at archery). But I count myself the best by far of all the other mortal men on earth, who eat their bread. Still, I would not claim to compete with Hercules, or Oechalian Eurytus, archers who vied with the gods. That’s why great Eurytus died swiftly, and never reached old age in his halls, because Apollo, challenged to an archery contest, killed him in anger.

The Judgment of Paris

Traditionally the story of the judgment of Paris is a as follows as told by Helen and Ovid at Heroides 17: [115]

 "You say Venus (Aphrodite) gave her word for this; and that in the vales of Ida three goddesses presented themselves unclad before you; and that when one of them would give you a throne, and the second glory in war, the third said: “The daughter of Tyndareus shall be your bride!” I can scarce believe "  

I have to agree with the woman who was the admitted first cause of all time and all history.   Can’t believe that the virgin-goddess Athena and the pompous Queen of the Gods would bare it all before a lowly shepherd.  Below is the description of the Judgment from "Destruction of Troy";  
"Venus (Aphrodite), covered with a purple cloak,  holding the cloak before herself with two fingers, went forth towards him, and when she stood before him, with the cloak released she appeared nude to him. She thus said to Paris: ‘I will give you a fairer wife, so judge me the most beautiful.’ He, seeing indeed the appearance of the goddess or virgin, that she has young age, incensed with the rage of lust he said to her: ‘I judge you the fairest of all".

Only Aphrodite got naked!  That’s a lot more believable than the usual version.

Thetis and Fairy Lore
"Achilles, was son of Peleus and  (Thetis) that when his mother had been struggling, holding his heel with her two fingers, with his head down she dipped him in the water of the underworld which is called Styx. And then he was made to stand, thus iron could not pierce him in any way, unless only in the heel where his mother’s fingers held him when she dipped him."  

According to Wikipedia (Iron in Folklore) "..,iron is historically believed to repel, contain, or harm ghostsfairieswitches, and/or other...supernatural creatures. ". Thetis the primer "fairy wife" seems to be protecting her halfing son from the affects of iron specifically.  Ironically, the Destruction of Troy mentions no iron tip on the arrow that killed Achilles. " Paris the king’s son, Hector’s brother shot his arrow at Achilles in his heel, and because he had toxified the arrow with poison, the poison stung through Achilles’ limb." No mention of iron 

Not Xanthus and Balius 

"Achilles commanded two untamed horses be joined to a chariot, and Hector’s body be bound by his ankles behind the chariot and be dragged past the walls."  This is an interesting point.  Would Xanthus and Balius agreed to this!  The horses that showed so much sensitivity at the death of Patroclus (Homer, Iliad 17. 426 ) They would participate in the desecration of Hector's handsome frame?  

Raptured Ganymede  

The text makes referenced to “raptured Ganymede’s honors."  This is a nice euphemism for rape and immortality.  I mention it here, because of  my favorite painting by Rubens; Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus.  Greek mythology is full of references to “rapes”.  The word is used universally, but I’ve never thought always accurately.  In Rubens work, Castor and Polydeuces discover their cousins Hilaria and Phoebe out skinny-dipping in the middle of nowhere.  (Greek goddesses did this surprising often.)  The twins are not ripping of their own clothes and joining the ladies as one would expect in a “rape” .  Rather they are using the girls beach towels to hoist them aboard their horses.  The take the girls home, introduce them to their mother whom they already knew and wed. Oh, they all and their sons became goddess and goddesses. Besides calling this a rape, we could call it a traditional bride abduction.  Likewise the rape of young Ganymede, admittedly a rape by our standards also involved abduction and immortalization.  “Rapture” just adds another variation on rape for us to consider.


In short Destruction of Troy offers us a new myth about Paris and Ares and a new way to consider the death of Androgeus, son of Minos, a more believeable version of the Judgment of Paris,  fairy tale twist on Achilles,  variation on his horses Xanthus and Balius and another perspective on the word “rape” in Greek mythology. 

[i] Translated by Muhammad Syarif Fadhlurrahman[ http://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~0104febefc5dbc9ddb ] Sponsored by http://mitologia.blogs.sapo.pt Dedicated to João A. 


  1. I like the detail about Aphrodite.
    From my fiction: Aphrodite on the proverbial meadow, taking off her famous feromone-soaked girdle and the other garments:
    "Other goddesses were shy and preferred to keep their clothes on even when taking a sea bath, but Aphrodite enjoyed being nude. And it was no wonder. No one else had her perfect outer envelope."

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi, Mr. Moulton.

    I am the translator employed in the translation project. I'm just here to make a remark or two.

    You said: "I don’t know this story."

    Well, in the source of the original Latin, the editors admit that Excidium Troiae is the only extant material where the competing bull is Mars, all the others seem to indicate the bull that won over Paris was just 'a strange bull'. So perhaps the divinity of the bull is not as integral to the story.

    You can find it at under the heading "3. Life of Paris as a Herdsman."

    You also said: "Thetis the primer "fairy wife" seems to be protecting her halfing son from the affects of iron specifically. Ironically, the Destruction of Troy mentions no iron tip on the arrow that killed Achilles."

    My take is that 'iron' here represents weapons in general. When I was translating it, I noticed a clue towards this direction in this passage:

    "Because he will kill many with sword, he will likewise die by iron."

    This also seems to parallel a saying by Jesus in Matthew 26:52. I think it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that this is due to the writer of the Excidium Troiae being a Christian monk who intentionally put a christian twist to it; although I might be wrong.

    By the way, I think you would notice another christian insertion to this otherwise pagan storytelling: the birth and death of Jesus in the reign of Augustus and Tiberius respectively. A neat climax at the end of the story, don't you think?

  5. Syarif,

    Thanks for the comments. Clearly, the insertion of reference to iron is late, but it still kind of jarring in reference to a bronze age hero.

    As to the stories about my Lord and Savior. I have argued before that the Gospel writers had to write (in Kione Greek) in terms their audience would understand. If they were writing today they would probably be emphasizing different aspects of ahis life story.