TROY, the minstrel sang, was the greatest of the Cities of men; it had been built when the demi-gods walked the earth; its walls were so strong and so high that enemies could not break nor scale them; Troy had high towers and great gates; in its citadels there were strong men well armed, and in its treasuries there were stores of gold and silver. And the King of Troy was Priam. He was old now, but he had sons that were good Captains. The chief of them all was Hector.
Hector, the minstrel sang, was a match for any warrior the nations could send against Troy. Because he was noble and generous as well as brave, the people were devoted to him. And Hector, Priams son, was commander in the City.
But Priam had another son who was not counted amongst the Captains. Paris was his name. Now when Paris was in his infancy, a soothsayer told King Priam that he would bring trouble upon Troy. Then King Priam had the child sent away from the City. Paris was reared amongst country people, and when he was a youth he herded sheep.
Then the minstrel sang of Peleus, the King of Phthia, and of his marriage to the river nymph, Thetis. All the gods and goddesses came to their wedding feast. Only one of the immortals was not invited--Eris, who is Discord. She came, however. At the games that followed the wedding feast she threw a golden apple amongst the guests, and on the apple was written "For the fairest."
Each of the three goddesses who was there wished to be known as the fairest and each claimed the golden apple--Aphrodite who inspired love; Athene who gave wisdom; and Hera who was the wife of Zeus, the greatest of the gods. But no one at the wedding would judge between the goddesses and say which was the fairest. And then the shepherd Paris came by, and him the guests asked to give judgment.
Said Hera to Paris, Award the apple to me and I will give you a great kingship. Said Athene, Award the golden apple to me and I will make you the wisest of men. And Aphrodite came to him and whispered, Paris, dear Paris, let me be called the fairest and I will make you beautiful, and the fairest woman in the world will be your wife. Paris looked on Aphrodite and in his eyes she was the fairest. To her he gave the golden apple and ever afterwards she was his friend. But Hera and Athene departed from the company in wrath.
The minstrel sang how Paris went back to his fathers City and was made a prince of Troy. Through the favor of Aphrodite he was the most beautiful of youths. Then Paris went out of the City again. Sent by his father he went to Tyre. And coming back to Troy from Tyre he went through Greece.
Now the fairest woman in the world was in Greece; she was Helen, and she was married to King Menelaus. Paris saw her and loved her for her beauty. And Aphrodite inspired Helen to fall in love with Paris. He stole her from the house of Menelaus and brought her into Troy.
King Menelaus sent to Troy and demanded that his wife be given back to him. But the people of Troy, thinking no King in the world could shake them, and wanting to boast that the fairest woman in the world was in their city, were not willing that Menelaus be given back his wife. Priam and his son, Hector, knew that a wrong had been done, and knew that Helen and all that she had brought with her should be given back. But in the council there were vain men who went against the word of Priam and Hector, declaring that for no little King of Greece would they give up Helen, the fairest woman in all the world.
Then the minstrel sang of Agamemnon. He was King of rich Mycenæ, and his name was so high and his deeds were so renowned that all the Kings of Greece looked to him. Now Agamemnon, seeing Menelaus, his brother, flouted by the Trojans, vowed to injure Troy. And he spoke to the Kings and Princes of Greece, saying that if they all united their strength they would be able to take the great city of Troy and avenge the slight put upon Menelaus and win great glory and riches for themselves.
And when they had come together and had taken note of their strength, the Kings and Princes of Greece thought well of the word of Agamemnon and were eager to make war upon Troy. They bound themselves by a vow to take the City. Then Agamemnon sent messages to the heroes whose lands were far away, to Odysseus, and to Achilles, who was the son of Peleus and Thetis, bidding them also enter the war.
In two years the ships of all the Kings and Princes were gathered into Aulis and the Greeks, with their leaders, Agamemnon, Aias, Diomedes, Nestor, Idomeneus, Achilles and Odysseus, sailed for the coast of Troy. One hero after another subdued the cities and nations that were the allies of the Trojans, but Troy they did not take. And the minstrel sang to Telemachus and his fellow-voyagers how year after year went by, and how the host of Greeks still remained between their ships and the walls of the City, and how in the ninth year there came a plague that smote with death more men than the Trojans killed.
So the ship went on through the dark water, very swiftly, with the goddess Athene, in the likeness of old Mentor, guiding it, and with the youths listening to the song that Phemius the minstrel sang.