Friday, January 22, 2021

Legends of Troy: Hercules Sacks Troy

A very persistent rumor about Troy is that it was sacked.  There are several stories to that effect, including the Iliad.  There are at least three distinct legends about Hercules sacking Troy.  I will review the three I know about.  

The first is told by Dares Phrygius (Darius of Phrygia), who is sometimes called the first historian.  Dares connects the story of Jason and the Argonauts with the start of the Trojan War. Hercules is one of the Argonauts.  

Dares Phrygius, 2-4  

[2] When Jason came to Phrygia, he docked at the port of the Simois River, and everyone went ashore.  Soon news was brought to King Laomedon that a strange ship unexpectedly had entered the port of the Simois, and that many young men had come in it from Greece. On hearing this, the king was disturbed. Thinking that it would endanger the public welfare if Greeks began landing on his shores, he sent word to the port for the Greeks to depart from his boundaries. If they refused to obey, he would drive them out forcibly.
Jason and those who had come with him were deeply upset at the barbarous way Laomedon was treating them; they had done him no harm. Nevertheless, they were afraid to oppose him. They were not ready for battle and would certainly be crushed by the greater forces of the barbarians.
Thus, reembarking, they departed from Phrygia. And set out for Colchis. And stole the fleece. And returned to their homeland.
[3] Hercules was deeply upset at the insulting way Laomedon had treated him and those who had gone with Jason to Colchis. He went to Sparta and urged Castor and Pollux to help him take vengeance against Laomedon, saying that if they promised their aid, many others would follow. Castor and Pollux promised to do whatever he wanted.
He departed with them and went on to Salamis. There he visited Telamon and asked him to join the expedition against Troy, to avenge the ill-treatment he and his people had suffered. Telamon promised that he was ready for anything Heracles wanted to do.
He set out from Salamis and went on to Phthia. There he asked Peleus to join the expedition against Troy. Peleus promised to go.
Next he went to Pylos to visit Nestor. When Nestor asked why he had come, Hercules answered that he was stirred to seek vengeance and that he was leading an army against Phrygia. Nestor praised him and promised his aid.
Hercules, knowing that he had everyone’s support, readied his ships and gathered an army. When the time for sailing was right, he sent letters to those he had asked and told them to come in full force. On their arrival, they all set sail for Phrygia.
They came to Sigeum at night. Hercules, Telamon, and Peleus led the army into the country, leaving Castor, Pollux, and Nestor behind to guard the ships.
When news was brought to King Laomedon that the Greek fleet had landed at Sigeum, he took command of the cavalry himself and went to the shore and opened hostilities.
But Hercules, having gone on to Troy, was beginning to besiege the unsuspecting inhabitants of the city. When Laomedon learned what was happening at home, he tried to return immediately. But the Greeks stood in his way, and Hercules slew him.
Telamon proved his prowess by being the first to enter Troy. Therefore, Hercules gave him the prize of King Laomedon’s daughter Hesione.
Needless to say, all those who had gone with Laomedon were killed.
At this time Priam was in Phrygia, where Laomedon, his father, had put him in charge of the army.  
Hercules and those who had come with him plundered the country and carried much booty off to their ships. Then they decided to set out for home. Telamon took Hesione with him.
[4] When news was brought to Priam that his father had been killed, his fellow-citizens decimated, his country plundered, and his sister Hesione carried off as a prize of war, he was deeply upset to think that the Greeks had treated Phrygia with such contempt. He returned to Troy, along with his wife, Hecuba, and his children, Hector, Alexander, Deiphobus, Helenus, Troilus, Andromache, Cassandra, and Polyxena. (he had other sons by concubines, but only those by lawfully wedded wives could claim a truly royal lineage.) Arriving in Troy, he saw to the maximum fortification of the city, built stronger walls, and stationed a greater number of soldiers nearby. Troy must not fall again, as it had under his father, Laomedon, through lack of preparedness.
He also constructed a palace, in which he consecrated an altar and statue to Jupiter; sent Hector into Paeonia; and built the gates of Troy – the Antenorean, the Dardanian, the Ilian, the Scaean, the Thymbraean, and the Trojan.
When he saw that Troy was secure, he waited until the time seemed right to avenge the wrongs his father had suffered. Then he summoned Antenor and told him he wished him to go as an envoy to Greece. The Greek army, he said, had done him grave wrongs by killing his father, Laomedon, and by carrying off Hesione. Nevertheless, if only Hesione were returned, he would cease to complain.

The "port of the Simois " is presumably somewhere on the Dardanelles below Troy, because the Simois is thought to be the river that passes to the north of Hisarlik, now known as the Dumbrek, and sometimes called the Thymbrius or Thimbreck.  That river now exits the Trojan plain alongside the others into the Dardanelle straits.  The "Thymbrean" gate of Troy would presumably have faced Thymbra, which is two miles east of the fortress of Troy, in the valley to the north of Hisarlik, and is home to the Temple of Apollo Thymbrius that is mentioned in stories about the trojan war.   

Hercules is offended by the anti-Greek prejudice of Laomedon.  He raises an army and recruits kings to his cause.  They sail to Sigeum, which is around four miles NW of Hisarlik on the far side of the Scamander valley.  Laomedon takes the cavalry to Sigeum.  But only the Greek navy is there to meet him, because Hercules and his cohorts have already taken the army "into the country."  With Laomedon away at the sea shore, Hercules and the army attack the undefended city.  When Laomedon returns, he and his force are slain.  Priam returns from Phrygia, rebuilds Troy, and begins a process that results in what we know as the Trojan War. According to Darius, the war is provoked by Priam, as revenge for his father's death at the hands of Hercules, and for the kidnapping of his sister, Hesione.  

In a second legend, told by Apollodorus, Hercules, Telamon and an army sack the city for no obvious reason. 

After his servitude, being rid of his disease he mustered an army of noble volunteers and sailed for Ilium with eighteen ships of fifty oars each.  And having come to port at Ilium, he left the guard of the ships to Oicles and himself with the rest of the champions set out to attack the city. Howbeit Laomedon marched against the ships with the multitude and slew Oicles in battle, but being repulsed by the troops of Hercules, he was besieged. The siege once laid, Telamon was the first to breach the wall and enter the city, and after him Hercules. But when he saw that Telamon had entered it first, he drew his sword and rushed at him, loath that anybody should be reputed a better man than himself. Perceiving that, Telamon collected stones that lay to hand, and when Hercules asked him what he did, he said he was building an altar to Hercules the Glorious Victor. Hercules thanked him, and when he had taken the city and shot down Laomedon and his sons, except Podarces, he assigned Laomedon's daughter Hesione as a prize to Telamon and allowed her to take with her whomsoever of the captives she would. When she chose her brother Podarces, Hercules said that he must first be a slave and then be ransomed by her.  So when he was being sold she took the veil from her head and gave it as a ransom; hence Podarces was called Priam.  Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 2.5.9 

This story involves Laomedon going "against the ships" but ending up "beseiged" while Telamon attacked the city, followed by Hercules.  So, in both of these stories Laomedon is drawn to the empty ships instead of attacking the invading army, which then enters the city facing little resistance.  In this second story Hercules "shot down" Laomedon, which is a nice touch because Hercules is an expert bowman.  

A third legend, and apparently the most widely known, has Hercules sacking Troy as revenge for not being paid by its king.  

When Laomedon refused to give the gods Apollo and Poseidon a promised reward for building the walls of Troy, they sent a pestilence and a sea monster to ravage the land. An oracle revealed to Laomedon that the only way to save Troy would be to sacrifice his daughter Hesione, so Hesione was bound to a rock to await her death. But the Greek hero Heracles, who happened to be at Troy, offered to kill the sea monster and rescue Hesione in exchange for Laomedon’s divine horses. (Zeus himself had given the horses to Tros, Laomedon’s grandfather, in exchange for the beautiful youth Ganymede—Tros’s son and Laomedon’s uncle—whom Zeus had kidnapped.) Once Heracles had killed the monster and saved Hesione, however, Laomedon refused to give up the horses. Heracles left Troy and then returned with a band of warriors, captured the city, and killed Laomedon and all his sons except Priam and Tithonus (who was carried off by Eos). Heracles gave Hesione to Telamon, who had fought at his side. (She became the mother of legendary archer Teucer [Teucros, Teucris], who was praised in Homer’s Iliad.) Laomedon was buried near the Scaean Gate, and, according to legend, as long as his grave remained undisturbed, the walls of Troy would remain impregnable. 

In this version, Hercules helps Laomedon, but Laomedon refuses to pay him (as he had refused to pay Apollo and Poseidon earlier).  The gods took revenge on Laomedon by sending a pestilence and a sea monster.  Hercules takes revenge by sacking the city and slaying Laomedon. 

The third of these tales, involving the sea monster, is referred to by Homer at Iliad book XX, line 144f.  I offer two quite different translations; first by Andrew Lang and Walter Leaf, then by A.T. Murray.  

Thus spake the blue-haired god, and led the way to the mounded wall of heaven-sprung Herakles, that lofty wall built him by the Trojans and Pallas Athene, that he might escape the monster and be safe from him, what time he should make his onset from the beach to the plain. There sate them down Poseidon and the other gods, and clothed their shoulders with impenetrable cloud. 

So saying, the dark-haired god led the way to the heaped-up wall of godlike Heracles, the high wall that the Trojans and Pallas Athene had builded for him, to the end that he might flee thither and escape from the monster of the deep, whenso the monster drave him from the seashore to the plain. There Poseidon and the other gods sate them down, and clothed their shoulders round about with a cloud that might not be rent; and they of the other part sat over against them on the brows of Callicolone, round about thee, O archer Phoebus, and Aries, sacker of cities. 

The Fort of Hercules was supposed to have been built with divine assistance to protect Hercules when he fought the sea monster.  

Homer refers to the tale involving the sea monster sent by Poseidon on two more occasions.  At Iliad VII 451 Poseidon recalls that he and Apollo built the walls of Troy.  On another occasion, the two gods discuss their service and Laomedon's treachery at Iliad XXI, 441

But unto Apollo spake the lord Poseidon, the Shaker of Earth: “Phoebus, wherefore do we twain stand aloof? ... Fool, how witless is the heart thou hast! Neither rememberest thou all the woes that we twain alone of all the gods endured at Ilios, what time we came at the bidding of Zeus and served the lordly Laomedon for a year's space at a fixed wage, and he was our taskmaster and laid on us his commands. I verily built for the Trojans round about their city a wall, wide and exceeding fair, that the city might never be broken; and thou, Phoebus, didst herd the sleek kine of shambling gait amid the spurs of wooded Ida, the many-ridged. But when at length the glad seasons were bringing to its end the term of our hire, then did dread Laomedon defraud us twain of all hire, and send us away with a threatening word. He threatened that he would bind together our feet and our hands above, and would sell us into isles that lie afar. Aye, and he made as if he would lop off with the bronze the ears of us both. So we twain fared aback with angry hearts, wroth for the hire he promised but gave us not. It is to his folk now that thou showest favour, neither seekest thou with us that the overweening Trojans may perish miserably in utter ruin with their children and their honoured wives.” 

By Lang and Leaf: 
Then to Apollo spake the earth-shaking lord: “Phoebus, why stand we apart? ... Fond god, how foolish is thy heart! Thou rememberest not all the ills we twain alone of gods endured at Ilios, when by ordinance of Zeus we came to proud Laomedon and served him through a year for promised recompense, and he laid on us his commands. I round their city built the Trojans a wall, wide and most fair, that the city might be unstormed, and thou Phoebus, didst herd shambling crook-horned kine among the spurs of woody many-folded Ida. But when the joyous seasons were accomplishing the term of hire, then redoubtable Laomedon robbed us of all hire, and sent us off with threats. He threatened that he would bind together our feet and hands and sell us into far-off isles, and the ears of both of us he vowed to shear off with the sword. So we went home with angry hearts, wroth for the hire he promised and gave us not. To his folk now thou showest favour, nor essayest with us how the proud Trojans may be brought low and perish miserably with their children and noble wives.” 

Although he earlier claims that both gods built the walls of Troy, here Poseidon says that he built the walls and Apollo tended trojan flocks on Mt Ida.  At the end of a year, Laomedon, the king of Troy, refused to pay them and threatened to cut off their ears and sell them into slavery in the islands.  For this Troy received a plague from Apollo, and a sea monster from Poseidon.  The sea monster problem then leads to a sacking of Troy and the slaying Laomedon by Hercules.  

Below are pics of the famous bronze of Hercules fighting the river god Archelous who has transformed himself into a snake. 

Update: The following page indexes and quotes a bunch of different versions of the legend of Hercules and the sea monster at Troy.  

Homer mentions Hercules at Troy again at Iliad 5.640 f

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