The Night Horses

Tamworth things to do: The Night of the Horse at AELEC
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Night Horse

To know when to move, the Greeks would look for a lighted-torch signal, to be given by a Greek in Troy who had pretended to turn traitor and desert. Signals were used often in ancient battles, most famously at Marathon BC , when a Greek traitor in the hills flashed a shield in the sunlight to communicate with the Persians.

In the clear skies of the Mediterranean, fire signals could be seen from far off. They were visible as smoke signals during the day and as beacons at night. Tests show that the signals were visible between mountaintops up to a distance of miles. At the sign, the Greeks would row back rapidly to Troy. The final part of the plan required a few men inside Troy to open the city gate.

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These men might either have been Trojan traitors or Greeks who had sneaked into the city. Compare the set of tricks by which the south Italian port city of Tarentum was betrayed in turn to Hannibal and then to the Romans. In pro-Carthaginian citizen of Tarentum arranged BC a for Carthaginian soldiers to come back with him from a nighttime hunting expedition.

The soldiers wore breastplates and held swords under their buckskins; they even carried a wild boar in front, to appear authentic. Although these events took place 1, years after the Trojan War, they could easily have been carried out with Bronze Age technology. The Greek plan at Troy was to trick the enemy into dropping his guard.

It worked: the Trojans relaxed. At that point, one Greek inside the city lit a signal fire to bring the Greek fleet back and then others opened a gate. The island of Tenedos now Bozcaada lies about seven miles six nautical miles from the Trojan harbor. At a rate of about five knots about that of a oared Scandinavian longship traveling miles , they could have covered the distance in little more than an hour.

That is, in daylight; the trip would no doubt have taken longer at night. But the Sack of Ilium claims it was a moonlit night, and, anyhow Bronze Age armies knew how to march by night. So the trip from Tenedos took perhaps no more than two hours. From the Trojan harbor it was another five miles by land to Troy. It was nighttime, and the road was primitive, but the Greeks knew it well.

They could have covered the distance in three hours.

Athenian sources claim the month was Thargelion, roughly modern May. At that time of year, sunrise at Troy is a. If the Greeks left Tenedos at, say, 9 p. A forced march may have gotten the Greeks to Troy an hour or so earlier. To carry out their plan, the Greeks had had to infiltrate a small group of soldiers into the city.

But they did not need the Trojan Horse to do so. Odysseus had already sneaked in and out of the city on two separate occasions shortly before. People came and went through the gates of Troy throughout the period of the war, making it all the easier now to trick the gatekeepers into letting in a handful of disguised Greek warriors. Once inside the city, all the Greeks needed was arms, which a determined man would not have found difficult to get.

Hardened commandos could easily have overpowered a few Trojan soldiers and seized their shields and spears. Ancient cities under attack were also often betrayed from within. Troy no doubt had its share of Trojans who preferred dealing with the Greeks to prolonging the misery of war. The Trojan Horse would certainly be more believable if ancient history recorded another occasion on which a similar ruse was employed.

But how could it? The Trojan Horse was such a famous trick that it could have been used only once. According to Homer, it was Odysseus who conceived of the idea and Epeius, known otherwise as the champion boxer at the funeral games of Patroclus, who built the Horse. Certainly the Greeks had the technology to build it.

Ancient fleets usually sailed with shipwrights because wooden ships constantly need repairs, and Linear B texts ancient inscribed clay tablets refer both to shipwrights and carpenters as professions. There would have been no shortage of men in the Greek camp to do the job. Bronze Age monarchs liked animal imagery. A Babylonian king of the s BC, for example, had specifically asked the pharaoh for a gift of realistic figures of wild animals, with lifelike hides, made by Egyptian carpenters. But which animal should the Greeks build at Troy?

But a horse symbolized war, privilege, piety, popularity and Troy itself. Horses are expensive, and in the Bronze Age they were usually used in military context, rarely as farm animals. Rulers of the era often sent horses as a gift between kings, while ordinary Trojans might cherish a figure of a horse. In the Late Bronze Age, horse figurines, made of baked clay, were collected throughout the Near East.

Excavators recently found a clay model of a horse in Troy of the s BC. Finally, there was the religious connotation: As a votive offering, the horse was all but an admission of Greek war guilt, a symbolic submission to the gods of the horse-taming Trojans. The Horse could have been used to smuggle a small number of Greek soldiers into the city, but the chances of detection were very high. Although the traditional story of the Trojan Horse cannot be ruled out, it seems more probable that, if the Horse did exist, it was empty.

There were simpler and less dangerous ways of smuggling soldiers into the city.

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Epic tradition has some Trojans accepting the Horse as a genuine sign that the Greeks had given up while others remain skeptical. The debate lasted all day, according to Virgil, or three days, according to Homer. The Sack of Ilium identifies three camps: those who wanted to burn the Horse, those who wanted to throw it down from the walls and those who wanted to consecrate it to Athena.

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The length of the debate was in direct proportion to the stakes. The safety of the city as well as individual careers were hanging on the decision. This story does not appear in Homer, or what we have of the Epic Cycle. The Sack of Ilium apparently places this event after the Horse had already been brought into town. Hittite literature made the snake a symbol of chaos and the archenemy of the Storm God. The Troad, meanwhile, is rich in fossil remains of Miocene animals such as mastodons and pygmy giraffes, and these objects might have made their way into myth.

For example, an Iron Age Greek painter probably used a fossilized animal skull as a model for a monster that Heracles is supposed to have defeated on the shore of Troy. Virgil famously tells a different story, in which Aeneas stays in Troy, fights the Greeks and then at last escapes the burning city while carrying his elderly father, Anchises, on his back.

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Aeneas would not have been eager to die for Priam, a king who had never given Aeneas the honor that he felt he was due. His homeland was south of the city, in the valley of Dardania beside the northern slopes of Mount Ida.

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These basic guidelines will help you stay safe and have fun night or day. To subscribe, click here. Feb 07, metaphor rated it really liked it. If the battle began in darkness it no doubt would have continued into the daylight hours. Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. And he was given a crown, and he rode out to overcome and conquer.

What better place to regroup if Aeneas believed that Troy was doomed? Helen played a double game. She had helped Odysseus on his mission to Troy and learned of his plan of the Horse. Now she tried to coax the Greeks out of the Horse, but Odysseus kept them silent—or perhaps the Horse was empty.

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Helen is supposed to have gone back home that night and prepared herself for the inevitable. She had her maids arrange her clothes and cosmetics for her reunion with Menelaus. Whether or not there was a Trojan Horse, and whether or not the Trojans brought it into town and dedicated it to Athena, it is easy to imagine them celebrating the end of the war. They treated themselves to a night of partying, according to the Sack of Ilium. It was now, when the Trojans were occupied, that Sinon supposedly gave the prearranged torch signal. Once watchers on Tenedos saw it, the expedition to take Troy rowed rapidly back to the mainland.

Surprise, night and Trojan drunkenness would have given the Greeks substantial advantages, but taking Troy would require hard fighting nonetheless.

Experienced warriors, the Trojans would have recovered quickly after their initial shock. If the battle began in darkness it no doubt would have continued into the daylight hours. Stick to known trails.