Legacy of The Iliad: Destruction of Athens

Hektor killed Akhilleus’ best buddy Patrocles and then the Trojans debated what to do. This was a pivotal moment in The Iliad.

One Trojan urges them to retreat behind Troy’s walls:

If we can follow my battle plan, though galled by it, tonight we’ll husband strength, at rest in the market place. Towers, high gates, great doors of fitted planking, bolted tight, will keep the town secure… Worse luck then for Akhilleus, if he comes looking for a head-on fight on the field around the wall! He can do nothing but trot back, after all, to the encampment… Rage as he will, he cannot force an entrance, cannot take all Troy by storm. Wild dogs will eat him first!”

But Hektor, the Trojan’s best fighter, the guy making the decisions, and the man who decides Troy’s fate, disagrees:

Now when the son of Kronos Crooked Wit has given me a chance of winning glory, pinning the Akhaians back on the sea–now is no time to publish notions like these to troops, you fool! No Trojan goes along with you, I will not have it!

And so, rather than retreating behind city walls which had kept the Trojans safe during ten years of war with the Akhians, they stay on the plains and await God-like Akhilleus.

Akhilleus comes, and smashes the Trojan forces. Hektor, upon seeing Akhilleus and his might, has doubts and tries to run away from him, but no longer can. Hektor is killed and the Trojans lose the war.

The thing is, the Greeks loved The Iliad. They read it, studied it, memorized it.

I wonder if The Iliad shaped Pericles strategy for the Peloponnesian War. Perhaps Pericles read The Iliad, studied it, and didn’t want to die like Hektor, didn’t want Athens sacked like Troy was.

He may have decided the lesson to take from the Akhilleus vs. Hektor battle was that humility, caution, patience, and staying behind walls, is best. This was the Athens strategy. Rather than confront Sparta on the plains, as was standard in Greek culture, they hid behind Athens’ city walls.

This strategy resulted in Athens getting hit with a plague killing perhaps 25% of their population, getting embroiled in decades long war, and with their ultimate defeat and surrender. A trick of mighty Zeus.

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