Saturday, March 20, 2021

Comparing the Aeneid and the Excidium Troiae

After looking at the Excidium Troiae, I decided to examine the Aeneid, which is its main source.  Virgil wrote this in the late first century bce, so, around 1200 years after the bronze age collapse. Only a small slice of it deals with the fate of Troy.  There are several places in which the Excidium sounds like the Aeneid.  I will review a few of those below. 

The story begins with Aeneas at sea, having left the destroyed city of Troy.  He arrives in Carthage, where he tells his tale to Queen Dido.  

"By destiny compell'd, and in despair,
The Greeks grew weary of the tedious war,
And by Minerva's aid a fabric rear'd,
Which like a steed of monstrous height appear'd:
The sides were plank'd with pine; they feign'd it made
For their return, and this the vow they paid.
Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side
Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:
With inward arms the dire machine they load,
And iron bowels stuff the dark abode.
In sight of Troy lies Tenedos, an isle
(While Fortune did on Priam's empire smile)
Renown'd for wealth; but, since, a faithless bay,
Where ships expos'd to wind and weather lay.
There was their fleet conceal'd.  (Aeneid, II,17f)

Minerva would be Athena in Homer's vernacular. Virgil describes Tenedos as an island that was formerly wealthy but has fallen on hard times.  The Excidium follows him here.  

Agamemnon and Menelaus prayed to Minerva so that she would answer them on how Troy could be approached. To them the goddess responded that they had to prepare deceptions, and as if spreading out they should carry themselves with ships and army from Troy about to return to their province, and at the island of Tenedos they should hide themselves, and a wooden horse should there be secretly built according to Minerva's instruction in order that Troy may be penetrated with it. Hearing that answer, they obeyed Minerva and brought themselves to the island of Tenedos with ships and army, as Virgil described it: Within sight is Tenedos, an island well noticed by fame, full of activities when Priam's regime stood, now only a bay and harbor unsafe for keels of ship. When they arrived at Tenedos, in a hidden bay they gathered, and a wooden horse began to be constructed by them.  (Excidium print edition page 13)

They give similar descriptions of Tenedos.  They are also similar on the matter of the Trojans celebrating when the Greeks sailed to Tenedos. 
We thought, for Greece
Their sails were hoisted, and our fears release.
The Trojans, coop'd within their walls so long,
Unbar their gates, and issue in a throng,
Like swarming bees, and with delight survey
The camp deserted, where the Grecians lay:
The quarters of the sev'ral chiefs they show'd;
Here Phoenix, here Achilles, made abode;
Here join'd the battles; there the navy rode.
(Aeneid, II 30f)

And as this was happening in Tenedos, the day being bright, the Trojan citizens spread out through the walls where the armies and ships of the Greeks used to be, they saw no one and they were filled with joy. Thinking that they were free of enemies, they started to sing in Virgil's tongue: 'Here lay the Dolopian bands, there stern Achilles had pitched tent, here with fleets, here armies accustomed to fight.'  (Excidium, print edition page 14)

Both texts describe Trojans exiting the city and surveying the former Greek camp.  They also tell similar stories about Sinon, the Greek smooth talker.  

Meantime, with shouts, the Trojan shepherds bring
A captive Greek, in bands, before the king;
Taken to take; who made himself their prey,
T' impose on their belief, and Troy betray;
Fix'd on his aim, and obstinately bent
To die undaunted, or to circumvent.
About the captive, tides of Trojans flow;
All press to see, and some insult the foe.
Now hear how well the Greeks their wiles disguis'd;
Behold a nation in a man compris'd.
Trembling the miscreant stood, unarm'd and bound;
He star'd, and roll'd his haggard eyes around,
Then said: 'Alas! what earth remains, what sea
Is open to receive unhappy me?
What fate a wretched fugitive attends,
Scorn'd by my foes, abandon'd by my friends?'
He said, and sigh'd, and cast a rueful eye:
Our pity kindles, and our passions die.
We cheer youth to make his own defense,
And freely tell us what he was, and whence:
What news he could impart, we long to know,
And what to credit from a captive foe.
"His fear at length dismiss'd, he said: 'Whate'er
My fate ordains, my words shall be sincere:
I neither can nor dare my birth disclaim;
Greece is my country, Sinon is my name.
Tho' plung'd by Fortune's pow'r in misery,
'T is not in Fortune's pow'r to make me lie.
If any chance has hither brought the name
Of Palamedes, not unknown to fame,
Who suffer'd from the malice of the times,
Accus'd and sentenc'd for pretended crimes,
Because these fatal wars he would prevent;
Whose death the wretched Greeks too late lament-
Me, then a boy, my father, poor and bare
Of other means, committed to his care,
His kinsman and companion in the war.

Here Virgil begins the saga of Sinon Palamedes, who convinces the king of Troy that the horse is a sincere sacrifice that ought to be brought into the city to the temple.  The Excidium also emphasizes this character. 

Then one of the people by the name of Palamedes Sinon said: 'I will make it so that the horse be led to Troy.' To him they said: 'By what way?' Sinon answered: 'Cudgel me and go around before a slope, and send me in the marshes of Troy through the night.' And it was done. Indeed, the day being bright the shepherds of Troy as usual went out in the marshes with their herds and stocks, where they found Sinon cudgeled and girded lying before the slope, whom with great clamor they brought to king Priam with hands tied to the back. After he had been brought to king Priam, his fame traveled throughout all Troy. And a congregation of Trojans was formed before the king. The king started to ask him about the present crowd. To him he thus said: 'Tell us, from what origin are you, and what is your kindred.' To him Sinon thus answered: 'From the kin of king Palamedes, whom the Greeks killed; and when I wanted to assume something before his death, I devised hostilities among the Greeks.  ...  Meanwhile, they made a horse of marvelous size, which they wanted to offer to the temple of Minerva which was built outside the wall for the sake of their return. That fear he hopes your kingdom to be already here. Therefore have it be taken from the temple of Minerva which is outside the wall, and there send that horse to the temple of Neptune which is inside the city [and in his protection Troy was built]; and it will be necessary that Apollo and Minerva, due to a promise to them is seen to be broken, are angered, and when they start to sail they would rouse tempestuous power and sink them in the main. And you will be deprived of enemies. And with such a plot and in Sinon's manner of perjury she (Troy) was captured which neither ten years nor a thousand ships managed to vanquish. (Excidium print edition page 15

Sinon is integral to the plot in both the Aeneid and the Excidium.  This passage makes clear that there was a temple to Neptune/Poseidon inside the city, and that Troy was built around the temple.  

In the following passage, Aeneas recounts the night Troy was taken.  He was asleep, and dreamed of Hector, then awoke to find the city aflame.   

"'T was in the dead of night, when sleep repairs
Our bodies worn with toils, our minds with cares,
When Hector's ghost before my sight appears:
A bloody shroud he seem'd, and bath'd in tears;
Such as he was, when, by Pelides slain,
Thessalian coursers dragg'd him o'er the plain.
Swoln were his feet, as when the thongs were thrust
Thro' the bor'd holes; his body black with dust; ...
His hair and beard stood stiffen'd with his gore;
And all the wounds he for his country bore
Now stream'd afresh, and with new purple ran.
I wept to see the visionary man,
And, while my trance continued, thus began:
'O light of Trojans, and support of Troy,
Thy father's champion, and thy country's joy!
O, long expected by thy friends! from whence
Art thou so late return'd for our defense?
Do we behold thee, wearied as we are
With length of labors, and with toils of war?
After so many fun'rals of thy own
Art thou restor'd to thy declining town?
But say, what wounds are these? What new disgrace
Deforms the manly features of thy face?'

This passage is recognizable as the inspiration for a similar passage in the Excidium, in which Hector appears to Aeneus while Troy is in flames.  

Behold, before my eyes the most mild Hector seen come to me shedding many tears, with stiffening and rough beard, having thong of swelling feet. Thus he said like this: 'You sleep, oh goddess-born; your enemy holds the walls, rushes down from the high summit on Troy. We are no longer Trojans, Ilium and the great glory of Troy no longer exist.' (print edition page 18)

Virgil does not refer to "the high summit on Troy" mentioned by the Excidium.  The words acropolis and citadel do not appear in Book II of the Aeneid.  So, Virgil is not the source of the Excidium's distinction between the city and the citadel at Troy.  

I also do not see in the Aeneid any mention of marshes outside the gates or walls of Troy.  So, Virgil does not appear to be the source of that detail from the Excidium.  

In the Excidium the Greeks build a temple of Minerva outside the gates of the city of Troy. 

Agamemnon and Menelaus besieged Troy with a thousand ships and ten dukes, where they erected a temple of Minerva outside the walls, and sought counsel on what should be the future for them. The answer to them was: unless through Achilles, son of Peleus and Tethys, there will be no way that Troy could be breached. (Excidium print edition page 9)

In the account by Dares Phrygius there is a temple of Apollo outside the gates.  

Hecuba, bewailing the loss of Hector and Troilus, her two bravest sons, both slain by Achilles, devised, like the woman she was, a treacherous vengeance. Summoning her son Alexander, she urgently begged him to kill Achilles, and thus to uphold the honor of himself and his brothers. This he could do in an ambush, catching his victim off guard. She would summon Achilles, in Priam’s name, to come to the temple of the Thymbraean Apollo in front of the gate, to settle an agreement according to which she would give him Polyxena to marry. When Achilles came to this meeting, Alexander could treacherously kill him. Achilles’ death would be victory sufficient for her.  ...  Accordingly, on the next day Achilles, along with Antilochus, Nestor’s son, came for the meeting. Upon entering the temple, he was treacherously attacked. Spears were hurled from all sides, as Alexander exhorted his men. Achilles and Antilochus counterattacked, with their left arms wrapped in their cloaks for protection, their right hands wielding their swords; and Achilles slew many. But finally Alexander cut down Antilochus and then slaughtered Achilles, dealing him many a blow. Such was the death of this hero, a treacherous death and one ill-suiting his prowess.  (Dares Phrygius 34

This temple of Apollo is "in front of the gate".  So, the Excidium agrees with Dares that there is a temple outside the walls of the city.  They disagree about the temple's deity.   They probably disagree about who built it. The Greeks built the temple in the Excidium, the Trojans surely built the temple of Apollo in Dares' account.  


No comments:

Post a Comment

24 Anomalies in the Plain of Troy

"From Hısarlık, we can see several other mounds." In Search of the Real Troy