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By Rider, 31 July 2007; Revised
Category: Classical Mediterranean and Europe
Troy is a movie based on the Trojan War. It makes a wonderful watch, although some of its elements are a little bit different than they are presented in the Iliad. One of the first things that come to mind is the use of the word ’Greek’, whilst in a sense the Trojans were Greeks too. Homeros uses ’Achaeans’ and it is most logical that it should’ve been used too (instead of the ’Greek’).
The single reason for war (or rather two reasons) that is brought out is that Menelaos wanted to regain his wife, Helena. The other would be that Agamemnon wanted more power. The Greek epics mention almost nothing about the latter – in it, it is a question of honour, to get Helena back.
Also, in the Greek myths, Paris got Helena due to declaring Aphrodite the most beautiful of the goddesses – in the movie, gods are seldom touched and none appear as character (if we don’t consider Thetis a god, that is).
’Troy’ does show us a variety of infantry-based battles, but, in the Iliad, what we see most are combats were chariots race against each other and people fight from the chariots. This is seldom (never) seen in ’Troy’. However, the general state of a spear and sword fighting is correct, based on what we know of the time (and what has been written in the Iliad).
The characters are taken from the epics but some are heavily fictionalized.
Being the leader of the Achaean forces, this great king deserves a first mention. In the movie, he is shown as an arrogant king – in the Iliad, he is a great warrior and he performs many great feats. Also, his death is terribly misplaced – he was (actually) killed by his wife and her lover when he reached his home, not by Briseis in Troy.
Menelaos might have been a bit younger than what he is shown in the movie. Nevertheless, he is fearless. Although he faced Paris in the Iliad, the duel didn’t end with his death.
Achilles is portrayed quite the same way as he is in the book. Yet, a few inconsistencies remain: Achilles (in the Iliad) isn’t a person desperately seeking glory or recording his name; yet, he is as arrogant as in the movies. Also, Achilles ordered Patroklos to go into battle against the Trojans in the Iliad, although he warned Patroklos to stay away from Hector and not go near the city walls. Achilles also dragged the body of Hector around Troy a couple of times before returning to the camp.
Besides, the movie mentions he was from Larissa and, yet, he was from Argos. Also, he brought 50 ships instead of a mere one. It is also true that Achilles’ father Peleus was alive and not dead.
As said before, in the Iliad, Achilles allows Patroklos to go into battle. Also, it is so that, after the death of Patroklos, a terrible combat began for his body and gear. In the movie, peace is made for the day.
Ajax can’t be more terribly wrong... besides, one Ajax has been left out. We never know which one though – the Iliad had two Ajax, one of them son of Oileus and the other was son of Telamon. It is true that one of the Ajax dueled with Hector (many times), but all those times, victory was left unachieved. One of the Ajax died by killing himself though.
Hector, in general, is portrayed truthfully and so is Paris. Paris is in both works (when it comes down to fighting with a sword and spear, a pathetic wimp). Hector gives him a good headache in the Iliad with it saying that it was he who brought the war upon them. Truth again. However, Paris does not escape the city as in the movie, but is killed by Philoktetes, a legendary Greek archer.
The portrayal of Aeneas is quite horrifying – Aeneas, in the movie, is a youngster who barely manages to hold a sword. He is seen once and that is when he escaped with someone. In the Iliad, Aeneas is the second best slayer of Achaeans and a great captain of Troy. He is said to have come in aid to Ilion from Mt. Ida.
There are many other characters who would deserve a mention. Glaukos, who appears as an elderly man in Troy and leader of its armies, besides Hector, was in the Iliad a commander of Lykia (alongside Sarpedon) and honoured in Troy. He also was not that old. The great Achaen heroes Diomedes, Idomeneus and Trojans, such as Sarpedon and Helenos, never get a mention in the movie.