On their quest for the Golden Fleece, Jason and the Argonauts land briefly at Troy, but are asked to leave by king Laomedon. After completing their mission, Hercules seeks revenge for this insult, returning to Troy with the Greek kings Castor and Pollux, Telamon and Nestor. Laomedon is slain, the city sacked, and his daughter, Oxonie (Hesione), taken as Telamon’s concubine.
Laomedon’s son, Priam, rebuilds the city, where he reigns with his wife Hecuba, their five sons (Hector, Paris, Deiphebus, Helenus, and Troilus) and three daughters (Creusa, Cassandra, and Polyxena). The Trojan noble Antenor travels to Greece to demand reparations and Oxonie’s return, but is treated with scorn. Many Trojans, including Hector and Cassandra, are reluctant to declare war, but Paris, who has been promised a Greek bride by Venus, urges action, backed by Deiphebus and Troilus. As revenge for the rape of Oxonie, Paris abducts Helen, wife of king Menelaus, whom he meets during a festival of Venus. The Trojans celebrate the couple’s arrival: only Cassandra weeps, predicting the fall of Troy.
Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon gather the kings of Greece. Achilles and Patroclus consult the Oracle at Delos and, assured of victory, return with Calchas, a former Trojan priest who has deserted his countrymen. The Greeks set sail, establishing a base at Thenedon and gathering provisions, before moving on to Troy itself. Despite the efforts of Hector and Priam’s army, they anchor their ships and pitch camp on the shore.
The siege of Troy begins. Hector slays Patroclus and innumerable other Greeks, performing great feats of bravery. However, when the Trojans are on the point of victory, Hector’s Greek cousin Ajax, son of Oxonie and Telamon, begs him to withdraw from their camp. Hector complies, and an eight week truce is agreed.
When the battle recommences, Hector and the Greek champion Achilles meet several times, neither defeating the other. The Greek council encourages Achilles to use trickery, but despite attempting to catch Hector at a disadvantage, he fails to better him. The conflict rages for several days, Hector’s valour inspiring the Trojans. With the help of a supernatural archer, they chase the Greeks into their camp again, but are foiled by Diomedes. After another day, during which only Hector’s bravery prevents a Trojan defeat, Agamemnon sends Diomedes and Ulysses to negotiate a truce.
During this reprieve, Hector visits the Greek camp. He and Achilles decide to resolve the war by single combat, but are prevented by the Greek kings. When fighting recommences, the rejuvenated Greeks perform well, but Hector refuses to abandon the battle, despite his wounds. The advantage shifts back and forth: Achilles and Hector are separated by Troilus, who is in turn unhorsed by Diomedes and rescued by Hector. Agamemnon and his men press the Trojans back to the city walls, where Hector and Achilles fight until the Greek hero, almost overcome, is rescued.
After thirty days of conflict, Hector is badly wounded and Priam negotiates a truce. Hector recovers in Troy’s hall, an architectural wonder, and when fighting resumes in spring, he is so fierce that even Achilles is afraid to challenge him. Twelve days later, Priam foolhardily agrees to another truce, during which Andromache, Hector’s wife, foresees his death. She begs Priam to prevent him leaving the palace, but when Achilles’ troops, the Myrmidons, slay his half-brother, Hector rushes out of the city, terrorising the Greeks. Achilles, approaching him from behind, runs him through with a spear: the Greeks celebrate, while the Trojans mourn their champion, placing his embalmed corpse on a golden monument in Apollo’s temple.
Priam himself leads the Trojans into battle, slaying many Greeks, then requests another truce. Achilles visits Hector’s monument, and falls in love with Priam’s daughter, Polyxena. Lovesick, he offers to lead the Greeks away in return for her hand. Hecuba and Priam sadly accept, but Achilles fails to persuade the Greeks to depart. As a result, he and his men do not rejoin the battle, even when the Trojans plunder the Greek camp.
For seven days the Greeks are in turmoil and debate abandoning the war. When the Trojans gain the upper hand, wounding Diomedes, Menelaus and Agamemnon, however, Achilles returns the Myrmidons to service: they drive the Trojans back, but are almost overcome by Paris and Troilus. A week later, when the Trojans again enter the Greek camp, Achilles forgets his promise and fights like a lion, wounding Troilus and putting the Trojans to flight.
After another truce, Achilles returns fully to battle. He pursues Troilus, beheading him and desecrating his corpse. The Trojans fight bitterly to regain the body and withdraw into their city. During the following pause, the distraught Hecuba lures Achilles into Troy, promising him Polyxena, and Paris, now her only surviving son, slays him in the Temple of Apollo. Learning of the death of their hero, some of the Greek kings prepare to return home, but are dissuaded when Agamemnon sends for Achilles’ son Pirrhus.
The war resumes, and Ajax and Paris slay one another in combat. The Trojans again retreat into the city in mourning, remaining enclosed as the Greeks move closer to the walls. Support arrives from Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, who rallies the Trojans and attacks the Greeks, besting Menelaus, Diomedes and Telamon, and driving them back to the sea. After many more days of battle, Pirrhus arrives. Leading his father’s Myrmidons, he wreaks havoc on the Trojan forces, who are held together by Penthesilea. She and Pirrhus meet several times, but neither is victorious. Four more weeks of war and another truce follow, before the final battle begins. Pirrhus overcomes Penthesilea, and the fleeing Trojans bar the gates of their city. As the Greek forces surround Troy, Antenor, Aeneas, Anchises and Polydamas decide to betray Priam and urge him to negotiate peace. Despite suspecting their treachery, he reluctantly agrees.
Antenor and Aeneas negotiate with Ulysses and Diomedes, secretly informing them of their plan. Priam weeps, but consents to Greek demands for settlement. Antenor steals the Palladin, a relic which protects Troy from treachery, and sends it to the Greeks. The Trojans’ celebratory sacrifices are met with unfavourable omens; nevertheless, when the Greeks present an enormous brass horse as an offering to Minerva, the Trojans accept it into the city. The Greeks pretend to depart, but that night they are admitted into Troy by soldiers concealed inside the horse. They sack the city, Pirrhus brutally slaying Priam in his palace temple.
The Greeks destroy Troy, leaving only the property of the traitors. Agamemnon distributes the treasure, taking Cassandra as his wife and sparing Priam’s grandchildren. However, when a tempest prevents the Greeks’ departure, Calchas remarks that the death of Achilles remains unrevenged. Hecuba and Polyxena, whom Aeneas had attempted to rescue, are sacrificed by Pirrhus at his father’s monument. The Greeks finally sail home.
From: J.E. Wülfing, ed., The Laud Troy Book, EETS o.s. 121, 122 (London: 1902, 1903; rpt. 1973).
Manuscript: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 595
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