Treason and tragedy | Daily News

Treason and tragedy

How Trojan War tragedy unfolded on June 11, 1184 BC

About 10 years back, a strange virus hit the Windows systems across the globe. It had a strange name: Trojan Horse. The laptops were yet to dominate the human lifestyle and the desktops had to be the sitting duck.

The Trojan was a type of malware which affected the desktops under the guise of legitimate software. It was the cyber-thieves’ sweetheart used as a proxy to enter vulnerable systems. Once the pen drive is inserted to the system, an icon named Picture_of_the_world’s_most_wanted_person.exe pops up. The bad sectors would increase in numbers before invading the system. The users are then tricked by some form of social engineering into loading and executing Trojans on their systems.

Who is this Trojan? The word is all too familiar for anyone fond of western classics. As the Greek mythology maintains, a Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen away. Menelaus, Helen’s husband and the king of Sparta, pursued his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, to pilot a mission to take her back. Agamemnon was joined by the Greek heroes Achilles, Odysseus, Nestor and Ajax (now known as a JavaScript technique). The war inspired every nook and corner of Greek mythology. It remained an ever-present element in Greek literature. Homer’s Iliad is the most notable work, consisted of several books leading to its reputation as the epic of the western classics.

Between Books II and XXIII, Homer takes pains to offer a graphic description of the four days and two nights in the tenth year of the decade-long siege of Troy. It is the Odyssey that journeys the reader to the home of Odysseus, a war hero. In fragments, Homer poetises various segments of the war.

Aesthetics may die a natural death over time. But classics may not have the same fate. Their influence withstands decades and centuries. And Greek Classical literature is obviously no exception. Its characters have survived and continue to haunt us even in this millennium. Trojan Horse, noteworthy among them, has entered spheres we least imagine. Not only the technology but other spheres too depend on classical allusions to offer a modern rendering.

On a day like today in 1184 BC, the tragedy of the Trojan War came to pass. The Troy was sacked and burned, Eratosthenes, an ancient Greek scientist born in the town of Cyrene in about 276 BC, notes.

As Kamani Jayasekara, Western Classics Professor at Kelaniya University, remarks, Homer may have had his own reasons to glorify the war in his epic poem.

“The glorification may mean that he did hate the war. The glorification includes graphic details, which make the readers loathe the elements of the very war. By glorification, his intention was to create a loathsome effect on the war.”

Professor Jayasekara compared this situation to the contemporary media role in portraying the graphic details of any gruesome incident. The intention is quite in contrast to the celebration.

Professor Jayasekara adds that Iliad represents a generation of balladeers. Long before the communication medium expanded with sophisticated elements, the poetry was the only weapon with which the people could express their emotions. The poems, or songs, narrating a story in short stanzas were read out in the public. This tradition passed on – orally, at first – from one generation to the next.

That said, the authorship of The Iliad also remains a question to a certain extent. The Iliad was written down in the mid-8th century, hence considered the earliest poem in the western classical tradition. Iliad remains obscure (even more than Shakespeare) to the contemporary readers, yet loved by the fans of western classics. As Professor Jayasekara remarks, The Iliad contains stirring scenes of bloody battle, the wrath of Achilles and the constant interventions of the gods as Homer digs into themes of glory, wrath, homecoming and fate, and has provided subjects and stories for the later Greek, Roman and Renaissance scribes.

The Iliad apparently belongs to an older oral tradition. The scholars could well surmise that the work is an offshoot of a collective inheritance of many singer-poets over a long period of time. digs further into this.

“Homer was probably one of the first generations of authors who were also literate, as the Greek alphabet was introduced in the early 8th Century BCE, and the language used in his epic poems is an archaic version of Ionic Greek, with admixtures from certain other dialects such as Aeolic Greek. However, it is by no means certain that Homer himself (if in fact such a man ever really existed) actually wrote down the verses. The Iliad was part of a group of ancient poems known as the “Epic Cycle”, most of which are now lost to us, which dealt with the history of the Trojan War and the events surrounding it. Whether or not they were written down, we do know that Homer‘s poems were recited in later days at festivals and ceremonial occasions by professional singers called “rhapsodes”, who beat out the measure with rhythm staffs. The Iliad itself does not cover the early events of the Trojan War, which had been launched ten years before the events described in the poem in order to rescue Helen, the wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, after her abduction by the Trojan prince, Paris. Likewise, the death of Achilles and the eventual fall of Troy are not covered in the poem, and these matters are the subjects of other (non-Homeric) “Epic Cycle” poems, which survive only in fragments. The Odyssey, a separate work also by Homer, narrates Odysseus decade-long journey home to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War.”

The story of the Trojan War recounts the Bronze Age conflict between the kingdoms of Troy and Mycenaean Greece. This age inspired many scribes beyond Homer to Herodotus, Sophocles and Virgil.

Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,

Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks

Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls

Of heroes into Hades’ dark,

And left their bodies to rot as feasts

For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done

Begin with the clash between Agamemnon

The Greek warlord—and godlike Achilles.

(The Iliad, Book I, Lines 1-15)

What we get to read as Homer’s is the translations done by several classic scholars. Greek words form the base for English. When we speak in English, we have no idea how many Greek words we utter.

Though that statement is true, the majority of us know no proper Greek. That compels us to satiate ourselves with the English translations. 


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