By Avery, Ginny, & Kristy
According to Hesiodos, The Trojan Cycle marked the end of the Heroic Age of Man. It also marked the birth of the Romans, as according to the mythology, after the war, the Trojan refugees escaped to Italy and founded Rome - the most powerful empire at that time.
This blog is a review of the film Troy made in 2004 about the Trojan War. In this post, we briefly discuss the various segments of the film that attracted our attention. We look into the role of the gods, as well as the significance of certain characters and their relationships with each other. We also compare some aspects of the film with The Iliad, written by Homer.
The Role of the Gods
As the world of ancient Greece is accompanied with mythical stories, we can clearly see the presence of God’s role in The Iliad as well as in the film. However, the role of Gods in The Iliad differs from that in the film.
In The Iliad, “The Greeks regarded direct involvement by the gods as a daily, uncontrollable part of life” (Role of Greek Gods). The divine intervention can be seen almost everywhere in The Iliad, and it affects almost every aspect of life in the ancient world. According to The Iliad, the acceptance of the Gods’ will is very significant for the Greeks. The Trojan War is actually caused by the gods, who evidently show their biases and have their own reasons for supporting a particular side of the war. In The Iliad, the interference of the deities appears in every single fight. For example, the death of Achilles’ cousin, Patroclus, is under the influence of Apollo, the God of Sun, not by Hector as seen in the film, even though Patroclus is killed by the hands of Hector.
In the film, however, there are two perspectives of the Gods’ influence are demonstrated, one from King Priam, and one from the film director. Firstly, we notice some evidences of the Gods’ existence mostly from the perspective of King Priam. King Priam represents the ancients who blindly believe in the Gods and leave every decision to their hands. He says in the movie, “Let the Gods decide which men to glorify” (Troy (2004) Movie quote). King Priam, along with the majority of his trusted chiefs, strongly believes that the Trojan army is blessed by the Gods and that the city is protected from any invasions from the Greeks. This certainty and overconfidence make them less cautious and more vulnerable to dangers; therefore, the fall of Troy is inevitable.
On the other hand, the director and the scriptwriter had done as much as they could to reduce the influence of the Gods to the Trojan War. To be more specific, the film hints that the causes and consequences of the people’s actions are more dependent on humans themselves. The stubborn and careless love of Paris and Helen and also the avarice of Agamemnon are the reasons for the inevitable war. The Trojan army’s first victory in the Trojan War is because of Hector’s effective strategy and the Spartan army’s blind charge. Thanks to the smart plan laid out by Odysseus, and King Priam’s belief that the Trojan Horse is the offering to the Gods, the invasion of Troy is successful. Therefore, it can be seen that men are the leading factor that determine the outcome of the war.
Although it is most notable that King Priam’s decisions lead to the fall of his nation, there is a side of him that captures our attention: his fatherly love for his sons, Hector and Paris. The film describes King Priam as a caring father. When knowing that Paris has claimed the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, instead of being furious because Paris’s recklessness poses a threat to the safety of his kingdom, King Priam remains calm. He is willing to face the consequences of his treasured son’s decision, fighting against the Greeks, the most fearsome army at that time, led by the ruthless Agamemnon. In The Iliad, it is said that king Priam even abandoned his own newborn son, Paris, for a prophecy. However, both The Iliad and the film depict the scene when after Hector is defeated in the duel with Achilles and gets dragged away to the Greeks’ camp, king Priam goes alone to the camp at night, kisses the hands of Achilles, who took away his son’s life, and begs for him to take Hector’s body home for a proper funeral. This scene, presents in the movie and The Iliad, is truly tear-jerking, and his plea even melts the heart of the stern warrior Achilles. This really adds more depth to the story, as well as shows the fatherly love King Priam gives to his sons, which makes the story really impactful.
The War - The Naive and Impulsive
The film also does a good job in showing the really cruel side of war. The men were slaughtered and hung, the women were captured and raped, the young kids were snatched from their mothers' arms and violently thrown away. The war, it is not all about victory and military strength. One should always be aware that war is chaotic, gruesome, and horrifying. In our modern world, this fact is often forgotten, and the film has reminded us that war is never just about glory.
However, there seem to be people who cannot understand the true purpose of a war. Despite their high position in society who do not have to directly suffer from the war itself, but rather starting or enjoying it, both Paris and Patroclus do not understand the harshness of war, as shown in their reckless behaviors.
Patroclus knows how to fight, but he just wants to get on the battlefield to prove himself as a true warrior, to bring back the glory. He certainly does not consider that the fighters in the war are mere expendables of their leaders, and that death can come in a blink of an eye. On the other hand, we have Paris, who seems to only thinks of himself and makes light of the war. Paris seems content to allow the Trojans to fight for him. He is reprimanded for this by Hector more than once, but he does not seem to take any responsibilities seriously and also quite easily gives up while fighting Menelaus. His smoothness and glibness are not admired by the warriors of either side, and they often accuse him of cowardice. His blind young love for Helen influences him to take spontaneous decisions in the name of love, which brings trouble to his family and the people of Troy. That turns him into the major trigger of the Trojan War.
Comparison of the Two Men
After the discussion about Paris, it is important that we look into the more notable men, Achilles and Hector, and their roles in the war.
Achilles seems to be the protagonist of the film. He is the greatest warrior, but he is bad-tempered, self-centered and has excessive pride. In the film, more focus is placed on his love for his cousin, and there is another side of him shown when he meets Briseis, who is Achilles’ reward for the war and it seems like they develop feelings for each other. However, Achilles’ love for Briseis does not prove to be stronger than his revenge, proven when he hurts her as she tries to stop him from his retaliation. This shows that his passion to achieve revenge is unbeatable. In both The Iliad and the film, his short-temperateness and excessive pride is quite evident. Driven by vengeance and pride, after defeating Hector, Achilles refuses to give him a peaceful death, ignoring the cultural norms of his society. However, his heart does melt when Priam comes to him asking for his son’s body to give him traditional burial rites.
On the other hand, Hector is the greatest of the Trojan warriors and one of the noblest characters in the movie. He is always conscious of his duty and his responsibilities to his people and his family. As a mature man with a family and with strong feelings about his responsibilities, Hector is a contrast to Achilles' frustrations and passionate outbursts of emotion. Hector has dedicated his life to the service of others and he is an example of an ideal man, while Achilles seems superhuman because of his extremes and excesses. Not only that, Hector has a great concern for virtue which is evident when he rebukes Paris for kidnapping Helen, the act that perpetrated the war. However, it is socially necessary to protect Paris. Thus, the heroic code binds Hector into an uncomfortable, untenable position.
In The Iliad, Hector is not as great as he is portrayed in the movie. He is actually more cowardice, running away when facing the great warrior Achilles. But in the movie, it seems like the writer wants to build Hector as a contrast to Achilles, and therefore, Hector is portrayed as more brave and virtuous, and his death is shown to be more impactful and traumatizing to the viewers.
In short, the movie shows Hector and Achilles as extreme characters, whereas in The Iliad, Hector is not that perfect and Achilles is not that arrogant.
The film does not only demonstrate the highlights of the Trojan War but also adds more characters to each mythology figure and lessens the gods’ influence in the story. As two of the members in our group have already read The Iliad when we were young, it is really fascinating to watch the movie and relive the experience in a different way. The movie makes many changes to The Iliad and depicts it as a typical Hollywood movie where there are perfect love, an ideal hero, and an evil villain. This seems more relatable to the modern world, as it alters the way in which we perceive history.
Hesiod, the Homeric hymns, and Homerica (1914). By Hesiod & Hugh G Evelyn-White. Retrieved from HathiTrust (Login Required).
The History of Rome by Titus Livius. Translated from the Original with Notes and Illustrations by George Baker (1797). Retrieved from Online Library of Liberty.
Role of Greek Gods In the Illiad. Retrieved from Novelguide.
Trojan War (2013, May 13). By Mark Cartwright. Retrieved from Ancient.eu
Trojan War excerpted from Mythology by Edith Hamilton, from Abandon All Hope (2004). By Tony Ford. Published by Nephilim Books. Retrieved from Google Books.
Troy (2014) the movie and the posters and screenshot © Warner Bros. Pictures